Pop, skuzz & new respect for jam bands

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

As usual, this year Columbus music saw familiar faces saying goodbye, exciting new voices popping up in their wake and capable veterans continuing to work wonders. The crackling skuzz-pop genius of Times New Viking stole headlines globally, and they're honored elsewhere in this issue. Now let's recall some of the brilliance bubbling further beneath the surface.

Best debut

Do I have to choose between Our Cat Philip's twee treatise Apart of Someone, Karate Coyote's propulsive Move EP and the epic Americana of The Lost Revival's Homemade Confetti? It's my list, so I'm calling this one a tie.

Best swansong

Miranda Sound's self-titled fourth album found the band spinning off in new directions and delivering a few of their greatest songwriting achievements.

Best debut that was also a swansong

Pirate has done the supernova thing twice now, building local heat just in time to burn out and break up. This time they left us with 4041, a cold, crystalline reminder of the potential they were only beginning to tap.

Best rap/R&B release

Golden-voiced Middle Child and ace producer J. Rawls collaborated luminously on Rawls & Middle. Only Shark Bolt, everyman rapper Envelope's triumphantly weary partnership with hip-hop head honcho Blueprint, shined brighter.

Best seven-inch

Seems like everybody's releasing vinyl singles these days, but nobody did it better than The Unholy Two with their take-no-prisoners debut, "Kutter." RTFO Bandwagon came close with "New Jack," though.

Best hip-hop mixtape

Catalyst's F--- the Radio is hot, but Fly.Union's Close Doors, Open Windows gets the top spot for its pop instincts because, hey, sometimes I like the radio.

Best disc describable as "rollicking"

Two Cow Garage continued to dominate this department with Speaking in Cursive. But reunited cowpunks Ugly Stick presented a worthy offering as well with comeback album Still Glistening.

Best reissue

Although Raven's Back to Ohio Blues was reissued in 2007, it deserves mention alongside Ego Summit's The Room Isn't Big Enough and Tommy Jay's Tom's Tall Tales of Trauma as towering reminders of our town's haphazard rock history.

Best pop-rock release

I didn't play on The Kyle Sowashes' superb Yeah Buddy!, but I would feel weird honoring it because I occasionally fill in for the band on bass. I feel no qualms, however, about endorsing Super Desserts' twee dream sequence Barefoot in the Disenchanted Forest. Nor do I mind calling The Proper Nouns' A Million Hurtful Things runner-up.

Best reason to play air guitar

Phantods' fantastic metal circus finally got its due on the band's self-titled debut. That album is only bested among Columbus heavy-hitters by Black Dove's sublime hardcore LP, No Future/No Fate.

Best mellow fellows

Electro-acoustic duo Melty Melty's Rise of the Birdmen was sweet, and whispery folkies Moon High's self-titled debut succeeded even without the band's light show. But for introspection, you can't beat Hal Hixson's headphones masterpiece The Whistling Ones.

Most epic soundscapes

Brainbow's long-awaited first LP gets heavy consideration for the post-rock crown, but Sinkane's spectacular Color Voice ultimately gets the nod.

Best argument not to be a music snob

I was pleased to discover Look Both Ways by Jakob Freely, a backyard pop band that works the outdoor festival circuit. I was even more satisfied by Bum Wealthy's truly diverse Bumper Crop, which gave me a new respect for jam bands and the groups they rub elbows with.

Best offering from the teenage scene that has been blowing up under the noses of old fogeys around Columbus

Attack Attack's Someday Came Suddenly showed that the nationally touring Westerville teens are the most inventive scene kids in these parts.

Best 2007 album I didn't hear until 2008

I had to create this category just so I could properly honor Tin Armor's A Better Place Than I Have Been. The bouncy breakup album splits the difference between pop-punk and indie rock; it rarely leaves my car stereo these days.