Iowa


I didn’t realize how good music was in 2011 until I started making my year-end lists. Though I had trouble deciding just what would make the awards podium, the wealth of remarkable material is, well, remarkable. You’ll probably notice, when it’s all said and done, there are a number of high profile omissions, that says more about the quality of music this year than what may have been “lacking” in those releases–also, I didn’t want to have 30 or 40 honorable mentions in addition to a top 20. Without further ado, let’s open the flood gates with a list of EPs, splits, and LPs that were great but didn’t quite fit in my top 20. In other words, I really enjoyed these and got tired of trying to assign numbers, but felt these in need of a spotlight. (Don’t read anything into the order, it’s all alphabetical, folks.) (more…)

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T’bone
Mt. Trashmore
Clown Ethics Recordings

Chicago math rockers T’bone make complex grooves for the kids who just barely passed Algebra II. Mt. Trashmore tracks tend to fall into one of two categories: pulsating jams with fairly conventional structures and completely or largely instrumental exercises punctuated with bellowed non-sequiturs.  The trio–Ed Bornstein on drums, Pat McPartland on guitar, and Leland Meiners on bass–pack a lot of ideas into a song, time signature and key changes abound, but they went for the populist jugular on the lyrics. (more…)

We’re already over halfway through 2011. I wanted to highlight a few fine records I’ve gotten into so far. I wrote up a list of my favorite Iowa City releases for Little Village Magazine already, so I won’t be rehashing that, I’ll just single out some stellar releases and unnecessarily pigeon-hole and qualify them cause, why not?

Peaking Lights
936
Not Not Fun

Madison, Wisconsin’s Peaking Lights became a reggae band so gradually, I hardly even noticed. But now that they make the coolest, lemonade-sippin’, flip-flop-wearing drone music in the Western Hemisphere, you just have to have this thing spinning when things get chill, the sun starts going down and you begin to ironically roast vegan marshmallows–yeah I laid it on thick there, sorry. (more…)

Iowa’s greatest musical treasure*, William Elliott Whitmore is less than a month away from unleashing his fifth full-length offering, Field Song. (more…)

It’s been five years since Ed Gray last laid tracks to tape. That resulted in one of my favorite albums of the last 10 years, the lo-fi stunner The Late Gray Ed Great. The long-awaited follow-up to Gray’s 2006 masterstroke, Old Bending River is considerably more polished. Before you start bellowing “sell out” or some such nonsense, that doesn’t mean Gray is penning tunes for Train or Matchbox 20; River is still dark and gruff, it’s just recorded on some better microphones. (more…)

(Screen capture from “All The Sun That Shines” video)
One of the coolest collaborations Iowa City ever produced was the shifting collective known as Cuticle. Originally the brain child of Brenden O’Keefe (Nimby) and Daren Ho (ex-Raccoo-oo-oon, Driphouse), Cuticle has also been a trio with the added clout of Jeff Witscher (Rene Hell, Marble Sky, etc). Recently, most of the work has been done Witscher and O’Keefe (Ho will occassionaly Skype-in from NYC). Regardless of the construction, the results are usually pretty sweet. (more…)

Ryan Garbes (ex-Raccoo-oo-oon, Wet Hair) looks mighty prolific lately. Dude had two knock-out releases–a cassette and 7″–in 2010, an upcoming full-length, due out on Hello Sunshine, and a yet-to-be released cassette from Smeraldina-Rima tentatively slated for a June release. Right now, everyone’s, rightfully so, fixed on his new slab, Sweet Hassle, out on Woodsist offshoot Hello Sunshine. (more…)

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