As the year comes to a close, it's time to reflect on the past. After all, 2008 was a pretty strong year for Tulsa's music scene. Unity within the music community continues to grow along with a sense of optimism that something positive is going on here. And we've seen some great shows, both large and small, grace the stages of Tulsa.
As a rule, I abhor "Best of" lists. Yes, I enjoy perusing others' lists but prefer not to create them myself. After all, those lists are largely subjective anyway, just as our taste in music is. Looking back on 2008, however, I find there are a handful of local releases that found a place in my CD rotation.
For that, I believe they deserve a mention. Longevity is the key to sustaining a music career; and these CD's found a solid place in the soundtrack of my life during the past year. I won't be so audacious as to call them the best of the year, but they are definitely the ones that I found myself turning to when I'm "going back to the well."
With that in mind, a few of my favorites, in no particular order:
Thin One and the Red One, Dead Sea Choir: Probably the most ambitious album to come out of Tulsa in 2008, this is one that should have tripped over its own aspirations and fallen on its face. It's epic, grandiose, over the top and gives you every excuse needed to hate it just for the sake of hating it. Somehow, though, it works. It's not just an album; it's music that has a life of its own, that you can feel breathe. Only time will tell if Costa Stasinopoulos is a genius or savant. The real question, however, is whether The Thin One and the Red One will be his masterpiece or simply a foundation for something greater.
The Great State of Denial, Vandevander: The second installment in Matt Fisher's trilogy may not have initially hit me as hard as the first, but the lasting impact is just as great. Visceral and packed with raw emotion, Vandevander teeters on the edge of self-pity and despair. Denial walks through the black hole of emptiness that follows a nasty heartbreak. It's authentic and exhausting, and I can't wait for The Great State of Redemption, the conclusion to the trilogy. It looks like we'll have to wait; there's a live DVD on the horizon.
Luna Despierta EP, MWK: Instead of the full album that should have followed Incoherent with Desire to Move On, we ended up with a four song, digital-only EP for MWK's final (for now) release. Darker than MWK's previous material, it's no less commercially appealing. Everything is still there- the hooks, the vocal melodies and the emotion.
In a world where Nickelback continues to go multi-platinum, it still baffles me that MWK never got picked up by a major label.
To Have Heroes, To Have Heroes: Perhaps Andy Skib's solo debut is the flip side to Luna Despierta. To Have Heroes is more acoustic-based, to showcase his vocals and show off the simplicity of the songs. Unlike Luna, however, which plays as four inter-related songs, this disc plays more like MWK's Incoherent disc. Skib's voice has never sounded better, though, and the songs are pure pop perfection. Fans will remember "Fairweather Friend" from MWK and "LA Girl" from The Pearls, but they aren't filler by any means. And lest you think pop music is necessarily cold and emotionless, think again. These six songs hit home and one, which shall remain nameless, even made an 8-year-old cry (literally).
Everyone knows by now that Neal and Skib are touring with David Cook, but that doesn't mean we won't hear more from them. Count these two releases as a bookmark until they come back to write the next chapter.
Persistence of Vision, My Solstice: Despite what some people think, commercial rock doesn't have to be dumb or ambitionless. By picking up where they left off with its debut, My Solstice raised the bar the second time around with better songwriting and better production (courtesy of Stephen Egerton) to create one of my favorite modern rock albums of the year. These guys aren't messing around. With ten cuts all clocking in at four minutes or under, My Solstice is ready to get in the game. Now, if it can get some airplay for lead single "Let Me Stay" outside of Tulsa, the band may be on the brink of something bigger.
First Lady Assassins, First Lady Assassins: Okay, I told you this wasn't a "Best of" list, right? Nevertheless, I've got a soft spot for anyone willing to follow their hearts and put out a punk record in 2008. It's everything you'd expect from a punk band: loud, fast, raw, sarcastic and, most importantly, fun. And if you haven't heard the acoustic rendition of "Paper, Rock, Scissors" you're missing out. All the sarcasm rises to the top, including "I want to be an American on my knees, staring at the President's piece..."
Stars Go Dim EP, Stars Go Dim: If you don't know Stars Go Dim yet, you will this time next year. Don't expect another hard rock record from Pillar's old rhythm section. Mike Wittig and Lester Estelle have hooked up with guitarist/songwriter Joey Avalos and singer Chris Cleveland to form a pure pop band that skirts the edges of dance rock and R&B. This is merely a teaser to hold an already growing fan base over until the proper debut, Love Gone Mad, comes out in March. When the first two gigs are opening slots for Switchfoot and Daughtry, you swing for the fences. I expect a homerun in 2009. For now, however, I'm happy living with one of the biggest surprises of 2008.
So, that's my list. Yes, I'm a sucker for pop hooks and commercial rock. Perhaps the biggest disappointment of the year? We didn't get a proper release from Black Swan before it departed for Portland. I still miss those guys. Now that 2008 is over, however, I can look forward to 2009 and a whole new stack of local releases.
Well, well. It seems that all the New Year's revelry has got everyone worn out and in hibernation mode as our concert calendar for the weekend is relatively sparse to begin 2009. That doesn't mean there's nothing going on, however. It just means you'll have to dig a little deeper to find the good stuff or fall back on your reliable hangouts to get your live music fix.
Nevertheless, after a little digging and some time scouring MySpace sites of local bands until they all became a blur, I found a few pointers to get you going again this weekend.
Thursday evening can be written off as a blur as everyone tries to soften the blow from New Year's Eve. If you've got to get out, however, you can always count on Dustin and Jesse's Higher Education to pick your spirits up on Thursday evening at McNellie's.
Friday night, January 2, Dancing with the Stars comes to the BOK Center. The Ballas Hough Band (featuring Mark Ballas and Derek Hough, as seen on the TV show) play a gig at Bob's. Doors at 9pm and show at 10pm with an opener to be announced, so you can assume the boys will be pulling double duty an ready to cut loose by the time they hit the club stage.
Elsewhere around town on Friday night, Wink and Jeff keep the beer flowing at Arnie's, Hosty Duo keeps things rowdy at Exit 6C and Travis Kidd keeps Dirty's from being an afterthought. And if you're willing to roll down to 18th and Boston, Mercury Lounge makes it worth your time with Brian Dunning and the Rock'n'Roll Trio.
Saturday, January 3, sees the Mercury stage turned over to local regulars Brandon Clark Band for a night of beer slinging and honky-tonk singing. If you're looking for a more indie vibe, however, you've got a few different options. First up is Here Is There with Scales of Motion at The Collective. For a harder edge, you can check out Nailed to Eternity with Vore and an additional opener to be named at The Marquee. For a great free show, you can always settle in at Soundpony for Amo Joy! with The Memphis Pencils.
Perhaps the most fun you'll get out of the local scene on Saturday night, however, is the "Dancestravaganza" at Monolith with Guardant, Kamikaze Slut, Jesus Mazarati and Fantastic Drastic. Doors at 8pm and cover is only $5.
The Monolith seems to be the only club in action for the majority of the rest of the week, featuring Acts of Sedition and The Separation on Sunday, January 4, and Fare Thee Well on Monday the 5th. Otherwise, you'll be good to settle in and take advantage of the standing weekly gigs like Beau and Wink at McNellie's on Tuesdays or Matt Fisher's Songmaker's Night at The Colony. This Tuesday's guests will be Abi Robbins (from St. Louis) and Jess Parsons (from Denver). Whatever you do, take advantage of the week to kick back, relax and enjoy.
Share this article: