Top 10 CDs of 2010

10. Todd Burge and The Odd Urges -- Distraction Packed

Todd Burge, “the dean” of West Virginia songwriters, as Mountain Stage host Larry Groce called him, debuted his new band The Odd Urges with “Distraction Packed,” following up on his last solo effort, 2008’s “My Lost and Found.” With his friend Billy Matheny (plus Joseph Hale and Rodney Crihfield) coming along for the ride, Burge takes listeners on a pretty wild (sometimes sad) ride through middle age over the course of ten songs worth of Americana, alt-country, and rockin’ folk flavored ditties. More than anything, Burge’s intelligent lyrics and witty word play keep the songs in your head months after hearing them.

Standout tracks: “Live it Up,” “I’m a Shark,” “Intervene,” “Whiskey Heaven”

--- Read the review here

9. Librarians -- Present Passed

The 10-song sophomore release from this Morgantown-based “baroque pop” four-piece sounds like no other CD we’ve got at WVRockscene this year, or years past. Sometimes approaching new wave (“Cranberry Palace,” “Hard To Unwind”) with some trippy acoustic-based material (“Candy Season”) thrown in but mostly always sung in hushed tones ala Leonard Cohen, these guys (Trey Curtis, Ryan Hizer, Billy Parsons, Kyle Vass) have a sound that isn’t exactly something you’d hear on the radio, and that’s what makes it great.

Standout tracks: “Candy Season,” “Cranberry Palace,” “Hard To Unwind,” “Kid Stuff”

--- Read the review here

8. Pat Pat -- Wizard of This

This new Morgantown-based trio, led by It’s Birds’ Brian Spragg, lay down nine songs of high energy post-punk indie rock (and sometimes grungy) type songs on one of the better debuts of 2010. Like he did on It’s Birds 2010 release “My Bloodless Wife,” Spragg incorporates a lot of challenging chord progressions and changes into the songs. But on the whole, the songs on “Wizard of This” are just a little more catchy. Not sure what Pat Pat (named after bassist Patrick Spragg?) are wizards of, exactly, but the tunes are rockin’.

Standout tracks: “Windham,” “WOEFAS,” “Dup,” “The Wavemaker Falters”

--- Read the review here

7. The Demon Beat -- 1956

Lyrically an ode to Carl Perkins, but with their own version of distorted, bluesy garage rock, this Shepherdstown-based trio sneaks into the top 10 with “1956,” not so surprisingly considering their previous material. Recorded over a few days during November and fittingly enough, mastered in Nashville, The Demon beat continue to expand their musical boundaries and explore new ground, conceptually. Not even 40 minutes long, “1956” is laid out in five movements, meant to be listened to as a record; talk about rolling back the clock. Singer-guitarist Adam Meisterhans still has his alternately soulful, guttural singing, as he tells Perkins’ story in his own words throughout. Everybody who loves rock and roll has pretty much fell in love with these guys, and this release will further extend the love affair.

--- Read the review here

6. Attack Flamingo -- Exit Anthem

The follow-up to 2008’s “No Star Could Be As Large” finds these Huntington-based electronic rockers expanding their sonic landscape (more acoustic) and expounding on their message of persecution, strength through faith, and ultimately, flight. Evoking something like Muse with Billy Corgan singing, it’s a superb sophomore effort that follows on the heels of their debut concept CD. Lyrically, “Exit Anthem,” is a concept album that places AF in a Stalinesque, New World Order-type prison planet, and the only thing that can save them is their music and faith. One of the more highly anticipated releases of the year at WVRockscene did not disappoint.

Standout tracks: “Counterfeit,” “Nothing,” “Y/our Kingdom/Cosmos,” “Remind These Wings of Infinite Skies”

--- Read the review here

5. Jeff Ellis -- The Forgetting Place

Huntington’s Jeff Ellis isn’t sneaking up on anyone anymore. Together with his friend Bud Carroll and the Southern Souls, Ellis, over 13 songs worth of rockin’ Americana, bluegrass and alt-country, put out another great record in 2010. Just throw it on the pile; with 2008’s “Covering The Distance” and 2007’s “A Front Seat For The End of the World,” added to his previous efforts, Ellis further cements himself as the pre-eminent rocker in West Virginia. Depending on your taste in music, you could put this record at number one on your list and you’d get no argument from anyone at WVRockscene -- because they’ve all been laid off.

Standout tracks: “If He’s So Good To You,” “Russell and Honeybee,” “Still Ain’t Over You Yet,” “Fooled”

--- Read the review here

4. John Lancaster -- Phantom Moon

The solo debut for the longtime Chum frontman and Huntington resident is great not just because of the songs; 14 songs of melodic, atmospheric hard rock, but because “Phantom Moon” is more than the sum of its parts. Pulling together an all-star list of guest musicians including Bud Carroll (among others) and guest singers including Dug Pinnick and Dave Angstrom, and collaborating over the web, the Huntington native proves he’s not done on “Phantom Moon,” an even better effort looking back on it after a few months. Conceptually nebulous, sonically coherent, with overtones of apocalypse and 24-hour alarmism permeating the lyrics, and a 90-second instrumental track thrown in, it is indeed one of the best releases of 2010.

Standout tracks: “A Burning Farewell To Us All,” “Liars,” “When Shadows Grow Teeth,” “This Fire Has Just Begun”

--- Read the review here

3. J Marinelli -- Pre-Emptive Skankery Sessions

Proving that punk rock is what you make of it and that you can make your own scene, the Morgantown native and Lexington, Kentucky resident returned in 2010 with 14 songs worth of his angry one-man band’s version of “maximum stomp and swing” on this vinyl release. Keeping things weird but always rockin’ with his caveman guitar, makeshift drum kit, harmonica, kazoo, and plug-in-and-go attitude, Marinelli revamps songs longtime fans know and love in echo-soaked, overdriven fashion, save for the stellar, stripped down version of “Pomade Years.”

Seeing someone sit down behind a skeleton drum kit with a guitar in hand, some might think Marinelli is some sort of novelty act; something silly or fake. Nothing is further from the truth. In an age of punk rock as fashion and a commoditized music culture, J Marinelli is a rock and roll rebel.

Standout tracks: “Rebel Without Applause,” “Hey Pinkerton,” “She’s My Cheerwine,” “Pomade Years”

--- Read the review here

2. Spirit Night -- What We Will Be

Shepherdstown native and Morgantown resident Dylan Balliett transforms his years at WVU into 11 catchy songs of intensely personal, acoustic-based atmospheric bedroom indie rock. With help from his friend, FOX Japan drummer Pete Wilmoth, who adds so much to the sound in the percussion department, and a few other friends contributing, “What We Will Be” sounds like a soundtrack to Balliett’s college years. This is a duo that played together in Morgantown’s Russian Tombstones, but absolutely came out of the blue this year with a great CD that you can download for free at the Spirit Night bandcamp site.

That these dudes can make a debut CD recording in various bedrooms, have something that competes with these acts sandwiched around it and put it up for free is a testament not only to Balliett’s songwriting, but what bands can do these days if they just have good songs and an internet connection.

Standout tracks: “Bear Costume,” “Brains,” “Don’t Miss Me,” “Gone Down,” “125”

--- Read the review here

1. The Fox Hunt -- Long Way To Go

Sometimes putting together a “best of” local CD releases can be tough. Sometimes, though, when it comes to picking the top release, it’s pretty darn easy. On their third full-length (and fifth overall) release since forming in 2006, this Martinsburg-based band makes it a no-brainer for 2010.

Released way back in February, over twelve great songs worth of drunken, lovelorn, and road weary Americana, bluegrass and country, with their traditional “fiddle-centric” (no drums) and acoustic (mandolin/banjo upright bass) sound, The Fox Hunt tells the story of living a rock band lifestyle, and all it entails.

The amazing thing is that pretty much all of the songs are “standout” tracks. Between the shared singing and songwriting duties of John R. Miller and Matt Kline, there are, simply put, no weak links on the record. The songs feature introspective lyrics (sometimes painful, sometimes uplifting) with great vocal harmonies. Great musicianship, superb production, awesome songs; this CD is the total package.

2010 found these guys not only playing South by Southwest and Mountain Stage, but touring Scotland, Ireland, and Japan, among other highlights. Maybe fittingly enough, keeping with the hard scrabble, travelin’ band narrative in the songs, Matt Kline left the band in October. But The Fox Hunt will no doubt keep making great music, and they’ll always have this great CD to show for their efforts.

--- Read the review here


Anonymous said...

Thanks for this WVRockscene!
Happy New Year
Todd Burge

WVRockscene! said...

Thank YOU for hooking me up with the CD! It was great getting to interview you for the Gazette and the cassette days feature. Happy New Years to you and yours!