#3: The Wall and the Window-The Years EP
This folk duo came out of nowhere in December, just when I thought I had my top 11 list finished. Though this 5-song EP was recorded using a 4-track cassette tape recorder, I wouldn’t call it lo-fi in the least. But I wouldn’t call it polished either. Honest is the word I think fits best. On The Years, the Wall and the Window combine beautifully warm harmonies and genuine songwriting to create an EP that holds up to the best songs from many of folk’s giants like Simon and Garfunkel or Peter, Paul, and Mary.
#2: Minor Characters-Minor Characters EP
Not many bands can sound like Radiohead and the Beach Boys both in the same song (“Burden”). Minor Characters’ debut EP is equal parts experimental and equal parts pop music, a formula that has allowed them to craft 5 extremely intricate and well thought out songs, none sweeter than the Wilco-driven “Come Break My Heart.” (If I was doing a list for best 11 songs, this would be #1)
#1: The Orwells-Remember When LP
This LP is all over the place. There’s garage, glam, girl groups, punk, and blues-all seen through the lens of five pissed off teens. This band keeps busier than most, seemingly recording and releasing a song every few weeks or so. And it shows because on Remember When, the Orwells have gone from good (last year’s Oh! Well) to great.
Uh Bones begin their lazy garage/blues tune “My Mistake” with the universally recognizable line, “When you’re on your own/have nowhere to go.” Anybody with a Blind Willie Mc Tell or Robert Johnson album has most likely heard the line or something similar somewhere. As I listened, I was reminded of something Little Steven said in my early garage rock schooling days. He said that garage music was just white guys butchering black blues. Welp, by Little Steven’s standards, Uh Bones appears to be the garagiest of the garage. Gloria times ten. The aptly named Uh Bones has taken the progressions and themes of somebody like Blind Willie McTell, turned them inside out so you can see its bare bones–so you can see that lonlieness, the blues aint pretty. This song may be sloppy, but it’s one hell of a garage tune.
Highlight: The sloppy solo that moves along as quickly as an underwater jog.
You can catch Uh Bones Thursday, Dec. 29 at Panchos with Those Howlings, Charming People, and Little Boy Jr.
The amount of quality songs The Orwells have turned out this year is amazing, considering nobody in the band is over 18. “Under the Flowers,” one of the band’s most recent and best singles is a slow-burning garage tune that doesn’t really go anywhere, instead, it seems content to linger on its one simple, solid hook. The song revolves around a quickly-paced, recurring lead line and angst-driven lyrics. Orwells singer, Mario Cuomo sings, “I need you to know, if you let me go, I’m gonna die,” naively believing, as we all have at some point or another, that a failed relationship at 18 is the end of the line. As I’ve said since I first heard Oh! Well earlier this year, keep an eye out for these guys. Check out the video for “Under the Flowers,” directed by Eddie O’Keefe.