2016 is finally behind us. Despite the fact that I still hear people saying silly things like “There is no new music that is any good” 2016 brought us some truly fantastic albums by people like Two Cow Garage, Matt Woods, the Dexateens, Beach Slang and many many more. For every one of those albums we review here there are at least three or four that slip through the cracks that really deserve to be mentioned. So here are a few things I heard this past year that I wanted you to know about.
When RSV first invited me to write for 9b it was partially to bring some attention to bands from the West Coast, so here is one of the best we have to offer from out here. The Turkey Buzzards have been hitting the stage all across California and North Carolina (home state of guitarist Dylan Nicholson) pretty much non-stop since they formed so it’s fitting that their second release is a live one. This record does a great job of capturing the sound that this guitar and upright bass duo is becoming increasingly known for. They are just as at home playing with folk bands or loud rock groups. I’m gonna go ahead and suggest that these guys will be more widely known in the very near future. They are currently wrapping up work on their next studio album. Get on board now.
I first encountered Derek in his husband and wife duo “The Wedding Industrial Complex”. They played simple but somehow sophisticated pop rock with tremendously catchy hooks and lyrics from a unique perspective (I may be misremembering but I believe the song “The Drinky Drink” comes from this era). Since then Derek has upped his game and recorded a very well received folk pop record, TheTechnological Breakthrough, with producer/musician John Vanderslice. Two years after that record comes his latest, Avuncular, and it is a deeper dive the territory he explored previously. Derek’s songwriting voice is quirky in all the right ways. By putting oddball spins on otherwise mundane slice of life stories Derek manages to make very specific situations universal. His voice is calming and assured, I often hear a similarity to Grant Lee Phillips. The music is polished without being cookie cutter. Give it a spin on a rainy day and see what you think.
Speaking of somewhat quirky folk pop we find ourselves at Brad Armstrong’s “Empire”. I knew of Brad as a member of the Dexateens, his guitaring and singing brought much to the band. Much like that band’s album from this year Brad’s solo record rewards multiple listens. On first pass it sounded like a very competent record with strong songs ( No Vain Apology and Cherokee Nose Job top that list), however when I listened to it on headphones I began to realize that it was far more complex than I initially thought. There is something “off” on almost every track. Some sound, some instrument, some left turn in the arrangement that keeps me coming back to this album. The album stomps around and rocks out in some spots and is gentle and soothing in others, maintaing a natural flow throughout. If this entire record was just Brad’s voice and guitar it could easily survive on those elements and the strength of the songs but the added sonic treats make for a very pleasurable and rewarding album.
American Dirt guitarist (and occasional singer) Jon Bartel is fronting a new band called Creston Line that mines similar territory to American Dirt with a bit more emphasis on the alt.country side of things. This is facilitated greatly by Pedal Steel player Brenneth Stevens who shines on this EP. Creston Line has already enjoyed some success with the title track but for me the real killer is the third track, “Oildale”. Easily the strongest track Bartel has written the song feels immediately familiar but reveals hidden depths upon repeated listens. Creston Line is currently working on a full length follow up.
We get a lot of submissions from bands unknown to us here at Nine Bullets. We try to check out every submission but it’s very hard to give every release attention due to the sheer volume of submissions. Echolocation got my attention though. Their three song EP is rough around the edges (some of my favorite recordings are ) but the songwriting is solid and the energy is ferocious. History has proven that taking a chance on a young band from Ohio can yield positive results, give these guys a listen if you like your rockin’ on the grungey side.