#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.
The Orwells begin their 3rd LP, Remember When with angelic choir harmonies. If you’ve heard anything from these Elmhurst garage punks prior to reading that statement, you know why that’s funny. It doesn’t take long for them to cut through the irony and go into a quick recording of the shower scene from Psycho.
When “All the Cool Kids” actually begins, they deliver a fuzzy Stooges-style, good old-fashioned peer pressure sing along. Singer, Mario Cuomo, yells, “Just hit it. All the cool kids did it.” And just like that, peer pressure never sounded so good. The Orwells never sounded so good either. I made a comment when I first heard their last LP, Oh! Well that, although I loved the album for what it was, I felt that “Righteous One” was the only tune the band took the time to make it as good as it really could be. “All the Cool Kids, ” the whole new LP for that matter has that same nurtured sound to it while still keeping it just as sloppy as they want it to be.
Remember When is available as of 10/28 for FREE download on the band’s bandcamp page.
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.