POSTED ON DECEMBER 21, 2011:
Reason for the Season
To think and shop local -- and spread the Oklahoma music
No matter how prepared you are for Christmas it seems there are always those last few gifts to choose and purchase right before the holidays arrive. While some of you may have started your shopping months in advance, others will be doing everything in the last few days and that's fine -- everyone is wired differently. When you're getting those last minute gifts though, (whether it be just a couple finishing items or tearing through the entire list) I'd suggest you think local --- both in your stores and your gifts.
A quick trip to Brookside or the Blue Dome district will lay a small plethora of items at your feet, from Cain's Ballroom memorabilia at Ida Red to locally minded T's at Boomtown T's or a variety of goods at Dwelling Spaces. While you're there, you might as well stock up on stocking stuffers with the local tunes for your friends, which might also call for a stop at Starship Records or Whole Foods (now has a local music section).
What does Tulsa music have to offer, you might ask? It's been a busy and fruitful year for the local scene in 2011 with a little something for every taste and we've got a few suggestions to keep a lookout for while you're finishing up.
Old School Rock & Roll
Anyone who loves rock history will love Cain's Ballroom, so you ought to start with a stop at Ida Red to get your music lover a Cain's Ballroom T-shirt and pick from the variety of styles. Anyone who loves rock history will also love some fresh tunes and Tulsa rendered a few classic rock infused highlights over the past few months with Brandon Clark Band and Philip Zoellner Band, both have released the strongest records of their career so far.
For fans of Brandon Clark Band, Stars and Stripes is a must have CD. After years of playing with a constant presence on the local scene, this visit to the studio finally caught what the band is all about and is the best representation of the group to date. A little country, a little honky-tonk and a whole lot of straight up rock and roll give it the rollicking, loose feel that the band is known for. From the signature sound of opening track "Change Your Mind" to the guitar rock of "Pistolero," this disc encapsulates what everyone loves about one of Tulsa's most beloved bands and gives the group a great release to back up its live show when traveling outside of Green Country. You may need to catch Clark at one of his local gigs to grab this disc, but what better way to wrap up your shopping than with a CD, a quick drink and a few tunes?
Lean On, by Philip Zoellner Band, is another of the year's highlights, but for another set of reasons. Zoellner has always been a strong songwriter, but he's finally found his swagger and let the band come out of its shell with the new CD. Yes, there are still touches of The Beatles, Pete Yorn and Ryan Adams, but this is the disc where Zoellner finally lets loose and allows the Led Zeppelin and Rolling Stones flow freely as well, making it his most rocking and enjoyable disc to date.
If you're out and about and see Age of the Underdog by Stephen Speaks, don't buy just one copy, buy three. In my book, this is one of the best pure pop records of the year, local or national. From the swing of the title track to the funkiness of "Dangerous," this disc hits all of its marks and "She Said No" is easily amongst my favorite singles of the year. It's only a matter of time and circumstance before Stephen Speaks blows up again.
Perhaps RadioRadio's Esprit De Corps is more rock than pop, but the group is in touch with its pop sensibilities with huge hooks and soaring melodies. The two singles that have appeared on consecutive Edge Homegroan compilations aren't even the strongest of the bunch. Another notch in the band's belt, this disc raises the bar once again for a band that could settle in on the radio (or live stage) right next to The Killers or Snow Patrol.
Left of Center
I'm honestly not sure how to classify the new Panda Resistance CD, Oh Helen!, although the band calls it 'post-rock.' I just call it damn cool. Ethereal, slightly jazzy, subliminally melodic and indie-chic, all rolled into one package; this is the CD to grab for the indie kid or "so cool I can't keep up with you" someone on your shopping list. Even jazz fans will find something intriguing about this one.
If you've been looking for some cool new Christian and/or worship music, but are tired of the same old formula, then you need to seek out Sacred Songs by Ben & Noelle Kilgore. Classic themes are approached with a new perspective and fresh musical turn on a disc that can cross genres. Although Ben Kilgore is reason enough for many people to buy this disc, wife Noelle proves to be the secret weapon, balancing Ben and stealing the spotlight when she steps to the forefront. You may have to make a stop at Shoe Gypsy (the Kilgores' shop on Cherry St.), but it will be more than worth the trip.
RL Jones' self-titled EP just came in last week, but that means you can prove just how on top of it you are when you slide this into your favorite rocker's stocking. Reference points are Stone Temple Pilots and Queens of the Stone Age, but this is really just an introduction to the straight forward, hard rocking band that the Tulsa music scene has been missing. Fronted by Matt Wright (formerly of The Feds) along with Tom Pritner (My Solstice) and Shawn Kintz (Swampfox, Fiddlebacks), this is the band that will be turning heads in 2012.
If you've got a more metal inclined teen on your shopping list, then be sure and grab Parallels' self-titled EP. Comprised of 5 teens from Union High School, the band classifies itself as "melodic metalcore." Even if that seems like an oxymoron, the fact is that even though these kids are young, they can throw down. They've already scored opening slots for a handful of nationally touring acts at The Marquee and with the release of this disc, word is officially out. Now I'll expect to see and hear bigger things from them next year.
Of course, 2011 has also yielded a few CD's with more widespread appeal and distribution that deserve to land under the tree this year as well. New label 598 Records has released two killer CD's by Oklahoma natives in the latter half of the year that Red Dirt and Oklahoma music fans in general should love. Damn Quails' debut, Down the Hatch, marries country overtones with a decidedly rock attitude and just debuted at No. 26 on the national Americana charts.
That was just a teaser, though, for the latest Mike McClure Band disc, 50 Billion. McClure has always been known as a great writer and garnered the respect of his peers, with most of them keeping McClure songs in their catalogs. With 50 Billion, however, McClure has produced the best (and most rocking) Red Dirt album of the year. Don't ask. Just buy it. Listen first on Spotify, if you must, then grab one for the Red Dirt fan on your list.
Ties That Bind.
The most impressive album to come out of Tulsa this year is easily The Race Riot Suite by Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey. Intelligent and technical enough to engage hardcore jazz fans, yet cool and emotive enough to win over rock fans and the indie crowd, The Race Riot Suite is a new pinnacle for JFJO. If you ever thought music couldn't tell a story without lyrics, you haven't heard this album. It's a lesson on both Tulsa's history and human interaction, rolled up in one sonic masterpiece. The only let down with this disc is that it got overlooked for a Grammy nomination. Yes, it's that good.
Finally, if you're looking for something special for the audiophile on your list that seems to have everything already, you can't go wrong with the deluxe edition, gatefold vinyl release of The Colony Presents: The New Tulsa Sound. The CD was released in 2010, but the whole thing was remastered for vinyl and expanded with five additional tracks, adding OK Sweetheart, Moai Broadcast and Adam Lopez to the mix. The music's great, the sound is stellar and the packaging is exceptional, making it a can't miss for any serious music lover with Tulsa ties.
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