I vowed I wouldn’t write this but I ended up doing it by another method and figured If I’m going to do the work why should stupid social media have it all right?
I so have new rules. No more countdowns. No more rankings. It’s all meaningless bullshit anyway. Who the hell am I to say that this band is 10 and this one 8? It’s nonsensical .
Another rule is, I am sure, about two days after I publish this, that I will have forgotten something I love. That’s on me and I will agonize about my obvious omission but nobody gives a shit what I think anyway and why should they? Music is what moves YOU and what I like may not be what you like. We are all just singing a song and doing a dance and I am so grateful for it.
Another rules, singles and albums have equal standing.
Another rule, some of these artists are friends of mine and I am proud to celebrate their accomplishments this year, If you are looking for objectivity you have come to the wrong place but you should know that by now. I write about what I love.
So here, in no particular order is some of the best local music I have heard this year.
Lowlight – Endless Bummer
I was lucky enough to get to see Asbury Park’s Lowlight when they were in town supporting Major Player this fall at Funk n Waffles and immediately fell in love with them. Their latest album “Endless Bummer” is like being given access to singer Renee Maskin’s private diary. The sound is an infusion of synthy keyboard melodies and jangly guitars all backed up by a freight train of a rhythm section. Ok not really local, but I’m adopting them because I love them. My blog my rules.
Major Player – Game Time
Major Player seemed to lay low for most of the year but this June released, what for me, is one of the quintessential summer jams out there. Game Time is one of those infectious tracks custom made for the slow, easy days, and chilled out backyard party nights of summer. Capping the year off with a mind blowing live show this fall at Funk N’ Waffles. With a new album and accompanying podcast lined up for the new year, 2020 is going to be a big one for Major Player. Game Time sounds great coming from your car on a summer night that much I know.
Root Shock – Waves
Root Shock never ceases to amaze me, they fill my soul and honest to god if you haven’t seen them play yet, you have to make it a priority. The next time I will be seeing them is 1/25 at the Auburn Public Theater. Close to my birthday and Fionn’s too! (my son and I share a birthday) Kid friendly venue. see you there.
The Drugstore Radio – Boxcar Joyride
The Drugstore Radio is everything I love about rock ‘n’ roll. Loud and full of attitude and hooks at every turn. Think The Strokes meets The Dead Boys. Young, loud and snotty The Drugstore Radio came storming into the Syracuse scene this year and I am hoping for an even bigger 2020 for these guys.
The Black River – Gypsy Winnebago
A magnificent collection of roots rock by one of the hardest working players in Syracuse. Excellent blue eyed soul style vocals and top notch playing make this album not just one of the best local releases in 2019, but one of the best releases in general.
Austin MacRae – Better Devil
The balladeer of the NY’s southern tier. A teller of stories, a singer of songs. With his heart on his sleeve and a voice that melts your heart be it on your sleeve or otherwise. Those of us who remember the Oscar nominated film “Brother’s Keeper” will love “The Ballad of Delbert and Bill” If you know Austin’s music, you know he can conjure up a story about a college town barfly dude, or a bunch of bachelor farmers and make it captivating.
And for my money, any time you get Austin’s beautiful voice, paired up with the glorious harmony of Jen Cork you cant help but get goosebumps. Put the music on, close your eyes and let Austin take you on a journey.
Strange to Look At – October
One of my favorite bands around, full stop, and they keep getting better, which after their excellent debut EP I did not think was possible. October was the first in series of monthly single releases, it takes their windswept, darkly romantic sound to a new level with top notch musicianship and masterful storytelling vocals, more along the lines of synchonized dialog than a duet. (If that makes sense). This is a fantastic song that defies genre assignment and stylistic pigeonholing.
Ronnie Dark – Sky
A true believer in Rock n Roll at his most introspective. A man who has his own take on music while at the same time honoring all that came before him. A great CD to hear blasting from care speakers.
Melissa Gardiner – Empowered
When she’s not playing to sold out audiences at Madison Square Garden with Vulfpeck, sometimes you can get lucky enough to see Melissa Gardiner’s world class jazz combo MG3 around town, if you do, count yourself as blessed to see them. Melissa’s CD Empowered is a statement of female empowerment in a world of so much misogyny. Guesting on this are some of the Jazz world’s finest female players like Ingrid Jensen and Tia Fuller payers that Gardiner has brought to Syracuse for shows.
Spoken word interludes set the theme for the album and are a reminder of where we are and where we as a society need to be.
Melissa Gardiner never forgets the home town. We in Syracuse should be grateful we have this amazing player in our music community.
SFB – Loud, Fast is Our Salvation – Live at Funk n Waffles
I was at this show and it was blisteringly hot and one hell of a lot of fun.
SFB play the kind of music that made me a music fanatic in the first place. Melodic, loud, punk rock that you can yell along to from the pit. These guys turned Funk n Waffles into CBGBs for the night. Loud Fast Rules!
Screen Test – End of the Line
Another one of the bands I grew up with, every once in a while they crank out a little gem of power pop perfection, this is one of those. By now you’re aware that my measure of a truly great song is how it sounds blasting from the car. This one is perfect that way plus my 11 year old likes it. Screen Test will celebrate it’s 40th anniversary next year. I’m hoping for a show. (hint hint guys..)
This is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio All Stars – Waterloo Sunset
This one is special. This is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio has been keeping the flame alive on Spark Syracuse and have just finished their 1000th show. (Johnny Carson only dis around 600..piker) To say they run on a shoestring budget is to over value shoestring but they need stuff, infrastructure so some of the great and generous rock n roll artists they feature banded together and did a version of the Kinks classic thats will bring tears to your eyes.
So in summary..
I had some other more nationally known acts listed here for my good old year end review, but honestly, other than the few I have up already I’d rather give the attention to the local Syracuse area artists. Everyone and his brother has a best of list that includes Hot Chip, Cage the Elephant, Angel Olsen, and Brittany Howard, who are all amazing, but you can get that anywhere.
If I somehow missed your CD or single I’m sorry. I jammed this together last minute.
I write what I love and I love what we have in our music community.
Seek out what moves you and see some of what goes on in Syracuse. You will be amazed.
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