Every year there are those who lament the lack of exciting new music. Perhaps this comes from a place of cramped personal style where we think that there can be no better music than the music when we were teenagers or the songs we listened to in college or the sonic landscape when we were dating. It is very easy – seductively easy – to become set, fixed, so focused on the music from a particular time and refuse or become unable to move beyond our individual experience. We all have our interests that shape the music we love and that is all right. The point is to avoid pigeonholing ourselves.
Therefore, with that in mind this brief commentary on local music demonstrates that 2019 was a banner year in local Dayton area music! From the release of the first records by several exciting yet different musicians, there is tremendous music arising from the Miami Valley and Dayton in particular that needs to be heard! This year we had exciting first records from the bouncy bucolic Age Nowhere (Airport Sounds), the amazingly fierce vocals of Amber Hargett (Paper Trail), the quirky indie pop of The Paint Splats’ eponymous disc to name a few new entries into the scene.
We are also fortunate to have the twenty-five year stalwarts in Shrug releasing their terrific (Easy is the New Hard). This year also included the second record from the pop-punk majesty of Brat Curse (Brat Curse II). Fresh Hip-Hop courtesy of K. Carter (NBX and The Pack live), and some of the best representation of real country music from Charlie Jackson and the Heartland Railway with an EP called EP. Mr. Jackson is not the only area musician exploring the country side of the music equation. The country soul wailing of Mack McKenzie’s tremendous (Kill the Buffalo) demonstrates that real country music is alive and well. If there is a more evocative country song than ‘Woe is Me’ this writer has not heard it.
This year also marked the return of sensual electronic soundscapes care of Dirty/Clean’s (Stereo) and one of the great local bands of 2019, Goodnight Goodnight released their passionately awaited new record (I Love you Fiercely). The hard to define industrial noise rock of HEXADIODE captured the musical imagination with their latest (Metaxy). Roley Yuma released their explosive self-titled record in 2019. Listen to those records and try not to feel. It is not possible.
While Dayton’s music scene is unbelievably strong. There has been some fine music created south of town from Frontier Folk Nebraska who released an excellent new record (Teenage Freaks) that captures the grime and grit of everyday life. Wussy driving force Chuck Cleaver’s superb Send Aid demonstrates that the drone can captivate our interest just as well as the pristine; if not even more so! Although not exactly Dayton releases, these first-rate records illustrate the outstanding music in the area. Consider it close enough. Perhaps in an additional article I will discuss the amazing music coming from the Columbus and Cincinnati area music scenes in much more detail.
Local songwriters made a strong showing in 2019. The quirky good-natured songs of John Dubuc’s Guilty Pleasures illustrated that music can both explicate real lived experience and sardonically laugh about it all. Max B. Greene released his evocative and excellent record (My Head Broke Open) that explored the dark side of the human balance. David Payne’s late 2019 release (Orange Glow) captured a welcome life affirming perspective that demonstrates the versatility of local songwriters. This year also marked the return of songwriter par excellence Mike Bankhead with his single, Little Light. That song demonstrated the depth of storytelling in Mike’s approach. I would be remiss in my duties if I did not explain that Mike also recorded a split record with Brandon Berry of The Paint Splats (Defacing The Moon).
Demonstrating both the power of songwriting and song craft, Overthought Musik’s appropriately entitled record appropriately entitled ‘Album’ is surprisingly cohesive considering that each song has a different vocalist and approach. Derl Robbins Overthought Musik is consistently releasing extraordinary music that moves from rock to pop to indie to songs that quite honestly defy facile categorization. Each song on this dynamite collection is a new discovery. While discussing Overthought, we also have to consider the fact that Dayton has a thriving set of record labels that are consistently releasing excellent music. Magnaphone Records, Poptek and Overthought Musik are creating legacies not just collections of songs. In fact, the samplers from Magnaphone Records should be explored by anyone who enjoys music. The Repeating Arms also contributed new music to the fantastic Magnaphone Records Sampler Vol. 3 (which also include David Payne, The Boxcar Suite, Shrug and others).
Sadbox released their first record in 2019, The Magic Nothing. The Magic Nothing is far from nothing. From start to finish, this record captures every growl, yell and vocal from Paul Levy and combines it with the musical alchemy courtesy of Ray Owens, Eli Alban and XXX along with the afore mentioned Mr. Levy and together these gentlemen have crafted a record that deserves to be heard and cherished.
Capturing another level of music is the power trio – in the greatest and grandest tradition in rock and roll – of Salvadore Ross (The Transfiguration of Salvadore Ross). In a fair world, this band would be playing stadiums and we would all close our eyes tight and let the psychedelic power music made by them wash over us and transport us somewhere else. Somewhere lovely, bright and kind.
Scary Hotel (Love Like Your Lonely) are making the kind of emo laden indie pop that just makes you smile. Until you notice that the lyrics are often heavy and dark, yet you keep right on smiling because the music makes you feel good, warm, and comforted. The Story Changes (To Hell With This delicate Equation) returned this year with a record that hit as hard as anything being made anywhere. Period.
Seth Canan & The Carriers released a tour de force with the rocking melancholy of change and transition (Strange Forces). The majesty in these songs lay in the direct arrangements and powerful emotions. Sympathetic buzz constructed a fantastic record in the glorious tradition of Midwestern rock (Superbloom). The Typical Johnsons continued their domination of first-rate exploration of delicate efforts to avoid being undone by the overwhelming nature of life and the choice we make or fail to make (wreckage).
Experimentation also was a key component to brilliant local music. Okay Lindon released their reggae-inspired collection (Participation this year), Seth Gilliam & The Fake News traveled the soulful side of the indie rock canon (Misconstrued) and Starving in the Belly of the whale released a remarkable achievement in the reflection of and study of memories whether real or perceived (A Memory Preserved). Gabbard & Perkins released a song celebrating local culture and food (Donuts at Bill’s). Zachary Gabbard’s project (Sunday Fed Creek Birds) released the tremendous Driving Away. Wells & Watson created the cover of the year with their version of Mike & The Mechanics ‘Silent Running’ that is more haunting than the original.
Lo Fi rocking indie is alive and well in Dayton courtesy of the prolific Smug Brothers who released three powerful records in 2019 (Attic Harvest, All Blur and Spark and Serve A Thirsty Moon). This band continues making good catchy music at a pace that would put most to shame.
Moreover, all of this from a music community still influenced by local legends Guided by Voices who released several exciting albums in 2019 (Sweating the Plague). Here is looking forward to the local music created in 2020.