Autumn has set in, the state fair is past, and football is in full swing. As hard as it is to imagine, especially considering the fact that the weather has just recently broken and made way for cooler temperatures, Christmas is just a couple short months away and holiday concerts have already started popping up on the calendar. Before winter arrives, however, there's one more seasonal tradition that comes due this time of year: the annual Edge Homegroan CD, showcasing the best of our local music scene.
Now in its fourth incarnation since being resurrected in 2009, the Homegroan Sampler may not be an all-inclusive picture of the local music scene, but it has consistently provided a snapshot of what may be Tulsa's most promising bands with a distinctly commercial appeal, distilled down to a dozen tight tracks.
One of the perks of this gig is that instead of having to chase down a remote to get my copy, I'm fortunate enough to have it sent to me. Most of the time, however, the song selection is one I'd be willing to go out of my way to track down. Well, the season is here and my copy just arrived and I'm happy to report that it's once again a measured success, even if it seems to be falling into formula.
Each year this disc follows a slightly different track, and although personal taste will dictate your favorite tracks, it's pretty obvious where the strongest string of songs falls. In past years, the disc has started out strong then gone flat and finished on a strong note or created a slight bell curve, building into the best tracks and slowly sliding out on a weaker note. This year, the strongest tracks and best surprises come mid disc, then return to close the disc on a positive note.
As was the case last year, the 2012 compilation opens with a close representation of what alt-rock radio is known for: big guitars, big riffs and a more "commercial" sound. Last year that opening came courtesy of Aranda; this year it's Morgan Ganem & Sownds opening with "Heart of Stone." And although it's exactly what we've come to expect from radio and a strong enough start to the disc, I'm not sure just how representative it is of what's really going on in our clubs and on the local music scene.
The first big surprise pops next with Fight the Fade (who I've not crossed paths with, but will be watching for) and "House of Cards." FM Pilots follows with yet another catchy pop tune, "Eyes Open," before the disc hits its most interesting stretch.
A mix of new and known quantities ties together a solid five track string of cuts that summarizes the best of this year's disc, beginning with La Moustache and "Who I Am" -- an intriguing mix of indie rock aesthetic and pop sensibility. Able the Allies returns for an encore appearance on this year's sampler and steps up its game with "All The Same" proving that there's more than meets the eye with this band. Sure, the pop sensibilities are there, but the band also has a distinct rock backbone and this track also throws a funky, Lenny Kravitz type vibe into the ring. Tracks like this are the reason I'll continue to keep an eye on this band and look forward to the group shedding covers for an all original set in the future.
Perhaps the best reason to look up this year's disc comes next as Young Lyons makes its public debut on this year's sampler. "Kill (Pt. 1)" is a great pop song with a modern rock edge that sees front man John Lyons shed the baggage of his past band, Ziff, and start fresh. By recruiting bassist Paul Cristiano (formerly of RadioRadio) and drummer Kayle Greiman, it appears that Lyons finally has a lineup that will allow him to move forward and be able to combine his classic pop and modern rock influences to create something fresh and compelling. A debut EP produced by Brad Mitcho is reportedly on the horizon, but for now you can use this to get a sample of what's to come. If you dig this, you'll want to mark Nov. 17 on your calendar as the trio makes its live debut opening for The Secret Post at The Vanguard for the headliner's CD release party.
In a one-two punch, The Bourgeois follows Young Lyons' modern pop with the modern rock of "Mi Amor." I've admittedly missed catching this band live, but will be remedying that soon, as Zach Mobely seems to have finally found a solid lineup to help him follow his vision and strengthen his songwriting. The group is scheduled to start recording at Bell Labs in just a few weeks, so we should have fresh tunes coming out way by spring and a lot more activity on the live scene once the new tracks have been finished.
The next surprise of the disc wraps up the strongest stretch with "Hideous Hideaways (for gruesome twosomes)" by For the Wolf. I'd never seen nor heard this band previously, but will be tracking them down in the near future. All I could find is that the group is fronted by Kristy Emory. All you need to know is that it looks like we've finally got another strong female voice on the local rock scene. I'll be most interested to see if Emory and her band can deliver well in a live setting and if the rest of the band's songs are as well crafted and concise. There's plenty of room for growth here, but this may well be the band with the most raw potential on this year's collection.
The disc rides itself out with the smooth groove of Red Wood Rising's "Set Adrift" and a little garage rock punch from Kick Tree with "That1Song" before the disc's final bump.
There always seems to be a little gem hidden near the end of these compilations and this year it's the welcome return of Tony Romanello with his current band The Black Jackets on "The Way It Goes." This track will ultimately mean more to older fans and OU grads as it's loaded with Norman references, but it's also a welcome return by an old friend. This also serves as a little preview for the Black Jackets' coming EP, Pleased to Meet Us, which will be released next week with a show at The Shrine on Nov. 3.
Finally, the disc closes out on a heavy note and makes sure to represent our local metal scene with "Defy the Idea" by Beneath.
Overall, this year's compilation is a mixed bag and an overall success with a mix of pros and cons. The pros: the disc uncovers a small handful of new acts worth checking out in La Moustache, Fight the Fade, Young Lyons and For The Wolf and even gives a nod to our sorely overlooked metal and hard rock scene by including a concise and definitive track by Beneath.
The cons: This year's disc also falls dangerously close to formula and cliché. Although tracks by Able the Allies and The Bourgeois are amongst the strongest of the compilation, five of this year's twelve tracks are by bands that appeared on last year's disc and three of them are making their third consecutive appearance: Sownds, FM Pilots and The Bourgeios (if you consider Zach Mobely's Popular Culture, solo and current band as an extension of the same).
You can't lay all shortcomings on The Edge, however. The station can only work with what is submitted and choose from the strongest tracks and best quality recording that they have submitted. Still, I know there are quality tracks by acts like John Moreland, Chase Stites, Zeke Duhon and Refund Division, amongst others that could have rounded this year's disc out and made it far more fresh and interesting. Even so, it's a solid snapshot of what Tulsa has brewing and worth tracking down.
If you're looking to pick up your copy of this year's Homegroan disc, make sure to listen to The Edge for more information on remote broadcasts where they will distribute the disc or check edgetulsa.com to find out when and where you can find yours.
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