Most of the time in this city, bands rise and fall based on who they know and how exciting they are live. But for this list, I’ve considered only what is contained on their recordings. Over the course of the year I’ve given roughly 75 records from inside the perimeter a spin, and these are the essential twenty that I recommend listening to most. There are actually many records that I really liked that just missed the cut, so this was very tough to piece together, especially the final spots.
Looking at this list and comparing it back to my favourite local stuff over the two years before, it’s apparent that music in this city just keeps getting better. Atlanta’s independent music scene is running deeper than ever both in terms of quality and quantity of music being produced. Outside of Brooklyn, you’d need quite a compelling argument to convince me anywhere else in America has a better scene right now. Promising young bands keep popping up out of nowhere, and the veterans keep delivering the goods. It sure makes my job here a lot easier to have so much great music to blog about.
On a technical note, anything that has been released over the holidays I’m grouping in with my 2010 lists, and so a couple of albums on this list were released over the holidays last year. Take a gander:
20. Noot d’ Noot: Cash For Gold
19. Harken The Hands Askew: Thou
18. Slushco: Sometime Tonight
17. Sound On Film: The Eloquent Reginald
16. Thy Mighty Contract: Thy Mighty Contract
15. Club Awesome: Dynamos
14. Jungol: Places
13. Lee Harvey Oswald: Lee Harvey Oswald
12. The Selmanaires: Tempo Temporal
11. Tealights: Take Us By Sea
10. Deerhunter: Rainwater Cassette Exchange
9. Slushco: The Silver Surface Demos
8. The Orphins: Wish You Well
7. Mastodon: Crack The Skye
6. Lotus Plaza: Floodlight Collective
5. From Exile: Monolith
4. Nomen Novum: Paradises
3. Untied States: Instant Everything, Constant Nothing
2. Atlas Sound: Logos
1. Nomen Novum: November
In the Atlanta music scene, 2009 was the year of Nomen Novum. While most musicians take a whole year to scrap together enough decent songs to fill a good EP, the prolific Nomen Novum were able to drop two virtually perfect full-lengths, plus a great live EP, and they’re already posting new stuff to their myspace.
Although, all five records at the top of my list were legitimate contenders for Atlanta album of the year, and I would have probably been content with any ordering between them. The other 3 records to round out my top 5 each happened to be crafted over about 2 years, and the extra time and care in putting them together just right payed off. A big mistake I notice younger bands make is trying to push out a record too quickly on some arbitrary time scale and in the end get stuck with something that is less than what they are capable of producing. Atlas Sound, Untied States, and From Exile all spent more time than they probably wanted to on their respective albums, but the extra effort was well worth it in the end.
Looking back over this list after I finished it, I noticed that it is almost entirely dominated by veterans of the scene, and mostly by artists I was already familiar with before starting this blog. There is only one true first recording from its respective musicians to make the list. If I were to make a “Best Atlanta Artists of the Decade” shortlist, most of those artists would have an album included on this list, so I feel like it is a good snapshot of not just where the scene is at today, but where it has been heading for the latter part of the ’00s. There is so much diversity in sound and so much talent in this city, and if you have any interest at all in Atlanta’s music scene, don’t let anything on this list slip by you, because all twenty are well worth giving a listen.
- Posted by Davy Minor on December 13, 2009 at 10:20 pm
- 3 Comments
Photo by Kevin Griggs
The rain has been causing death and destruction across Atlanta for nearly two weeks now, and it tried its hardest to dampen the fun at The Other Sound Festival last Saturday. I got to Little Five Points early enough to get some grub and catch Today The Moon, Tomorrow The Sun kick off the event, but unfortunately the outdoor stage they were slated to play on got rained out for the day. It was quite unfortunate that the weather washed out so many great acts on the lineup, but there was still plenty of top notch artists left to perform. And while TTMTTS didn’t get to play a set, I did learn that they are just finishing up their next record, an EP which is set to drop next month, so that’s exciting news.
This Piano Plays Itself opened the fest inside of Criminal Records and sounded really nice on the great PA system there. They played a similar set to what they unleashed on Corndogorama, comprised of 3 new, long songs that will be on their forthcoming record. Only three months into their current 5 piece incarnation, and the band is becoming clearly more and more tight and consistent in this formation. I recently listened to some rough mixes of parts of the new album that they have been recording since returning from their summer tour, and it sounded very impressive. Look for that to drop around the beginning of next year. I know regular readers around here are painfully aware I’m squarely on this outfit’s bandwagon, but they continue to make the most of their vast potential and exceed my high expectations for them.
After that I celebrated the time honoured tradition of free PBRs at Criminal Records in-store performances. It seemed just about everyone was suffering various degrees of a hang over, including myself, and a few PBRs helped get me ready for a nice mid-afternoon Yo La Tengo set. By the time they went on, the entire store was completely packed full of people all the way back to the front door. They played a stripped down electric set that included a couple from the new record, a Beatles cover, and they finished it off with a great “Mr. Tough”. I didn’t get any of my personal faves from them, but I didn’t expect to in this setting, so it wasn’t really a disappointment at all. As always, they accompanied their wonderful music with charming banter between songs. Afterwards they signed things for people and did lots of record digging before and after their set. They are one of the rare bands that are both phenomenal musicians and extraordinarily nice people, and I hope they return to Atlanta again very soon.
A few PBRs later, The Orphins took the stage and jammed out a set full of tunes from the new record and classics from back in the day. There are not many bands in this city that want to make me dance, but these guys and gal are definitely one of them. They are able to combine punk intensity with mathy precision unlike almost anyone. Also, I can never get enough of the “steel drum” guitar sound. The Orphins are just such a consistently stellar live band, and The Other Sound was no exception for them.
The Criminal Records portion of the festival closed out with a solo set from Jeffrey Butzer, who did a typically enjoyable set. Mr. Butzer is the master of between song banter with his audience, and he had several humourous things to say this time as well. His easily likable stage presence enhances his live shows, but I have to say that there is something about a one man band setup that makes it hard to capture and hold on to the attention of an audience. While Jeffrey Butzer plays this role almost better than anyone I’ve ever seen utilizing so many instruments at the same time, it still seems to work against him a bit in tandem with music so light and minimalistic. Overall it doesn’t manage to engage me as much as I would like it to, but despite that, a Jeffrey Butzer solo live performance is still pretty damn good.
I took a brief break from the action to go back to my house and recharge a little bit and afterwards headed to the Star Bar for the second half of the fest. After more alcohol consumption, I caught Los Buenos, a new project from former members of the now defunct Batata Doce. Despite the name, this Justin Sias lead group was more reminiscent of Elevado than the world music centric Batata Doce. For a very new band, I thought they sounded great and I hope this line up sticks around for a while.
After some drunken conversations, I only caught the very end of Author’s Apology, and really didn’t hear enough to make any sort of judgment whatsoever. I went back upstairs and caught Untied States next. This was the standout set for me of the entire festival. I’m probably going to be talking about their new, yet to be released record a lot in the next few months, but obviously I think it is pretty amazing, and their live show was of the same caliber. The now 5 piece lineup behind Untied States masterminds Colin Arnstein and Skip Engelbrecht is completely different than last time I saw them, and probably the best supporting cast they have ever had. The drummer alone brings so much to this group. Colin was dressed in an army nurse uniform for this one, and it’s interesting how theatrical this band comes off just simply playing their hearts out on their instruments. These guys are criminally underrated and represent the pinnacle of serious and artful music in this city, so if you haven’t looked into them yet you are losing.
I caught a few songs of Falcon Lords downstairs, but they were a joke, literally. I then tried to wait it out to see Club Awesome next, but the steady supply of beers all day finally took its toll and I had to head back to the house.
Even though the weather tried to sabotage the fest as much as possible, it was still a very fun event overall. Getting Yo La Tengo dropped on the bill was a pretty awesome boost to help counteract the rain. I think The Other Sound was a great snapshot of what’s going on in the local indie scene right now. There is so much great music happening in this town at the moment that it would be impossible to gather it all together for one day, but they did about as good a job as they could. I have to give everyone involved with the fest mad props for assembling such a great lineup. Outside of Yo La‘s time slot, the turnout wasn’t spectacular, but there was a good crowd throughout the entire time I was there, especially considering everything else going on the city that it was competing against. I noticed a ton of ATL superstars in attendance, and I got to meet some new folks and chat it up with some cool peeps I already knew. I saw many of the different artists I like mingling together. The whole thing gave me a very positive feel on where things are heading right now in Atlanta. Between the many musicians and artists and the various people supporting the scene in a multitude of different ways, there is a lot of talent out there right now, and it feels to me like it is coalescing together into something special.
- Posted by Davy Minor on September 27, 2009 at 3:21 am
- 1 Comment
Photos: The Other Sound Festival 2009: Jeffrey Butzer, The Orphins, Yo La Tengo, This Piano Plays itself @ Criminal Records
- Posted by Kevin Griggs on September 24, 2009 at 5:36 am
- 2 Comments
The Orphins were one of the very first bands to get me interested in Atlanta’s music scene. They were really the first band where I thought, I would get into this act even if they weren’t local. When I picked up their 2004 full-length release, Drowning Cupid, I listened to it non-stop for months. I had been anxiously awaiting a follow up for 5 years now, and just as I had begun to lose hope and start to believe that The Orphins may just have become a forgotten relic of the scene’s past, they have reemerged with an outstanding new record. Where Drowning Cupid had an almost monochrome feel to it, Wish You Well sees the band becoming much more dynamic and varied in their approach. The sound is still unmistakably their own distinct brand, but there is a maturity present that greatly compliments what they do. All and all, it was well worth the wait. Wish You Well is also the first release on Atlanta’s newest local label, Adair Park, which will also be putting out This Piano Plays Itself‘s next record. Here’s a taste of the newest tunes from one of Atlanta’s greatest bands of the last decade:
I interviewed Orphins‘ guitarist/vocalist Thomas Barnwell via email, so check it out:
Me: 5 years have elapsed since your last album, I’m curious about the
reasons for such an unusually long break between records?
TB: We had a number of pitfalls. We originally did the recording with Keith Vogelsong from Goodnight records who put out our first record, and he was going to put out our second one. Believe it or not, we started recording this record about a year after Drowning Cupid came out. We tracked everything and tinkered with it for about 6 months before deciding that it really wasn’t the sound we were going for. We wanted everything to sound big, meaning loud vocals, thick bass, and heavy drums. We really wanted it to represent what we do live more than the last record did. The first recording of Wish You Well had a very clean and polished sound to it and the instruments sounded overly isolated.
So we began the process of re-tracking the instruments, when our producer, Keith, suddenly decided to move to New York. We tried for awhile to mix and produce from afar but realized the process was too tedious.
So, after awhile of sitting around wondering what we should do, round three of the recording consisted of us buying some nice mics and pre-amps, re-tracking everything ourselves, and mixing the album at my house. It perhaps became a bit of a record that we didn’t know when to stop working on. We almost had too much freedom to do what we wanted to with it, and with no producer to answer to, the process went on and on. Daniel took it upon himself to really learn how to mix properly, and I think he really did a great job. It was a long exhaustive process, but we finally landed on something we really liked, and we learned how to record an album in the process. We sent the final tracks to Goodnight Records who had apparently dried up since it’s move to New York. So we sat on the record for a few months until I spoke with Gavin from Stickfigure who decided to released it on his indie label called Adair Park.
So we recorded it almost three times and took a long time to polish it. Other than that.. jobs, school, relationships, other bands, houses.. all I can say is that life took over for a minute.
Me: You are also in Thy Mighty Contract. Do you approach writing music differently for TMC than The Orphins, and if so, could you describe the differences in how you approach each?
TB: I intentionally go for a different sound when I write for Thy Mighty Contract. While The Orphins play on The Pixies, Deerhoof, The Smiths, and The Flaming Lips side of my music tastes, with Thy Mighty Contract I look to stuff more like Emperor, Mika Miko, At The Gates, and old hardcore acts like Union of Uranus for inspiration. When we started Thy Mighty Contract, I decided that if I was going to be in two bands, I wanted them to sound distinctly different from one another, because what’s the point in being in two bands that sound exactly the same? I tend to do a lot more piecing together of songs bit by bit in Thy Mighty Contract, where as in The Orphins, its not uncommon for one of us to write a song completed with lyrics before we even present it to the band. Neither band has a real definitive way in which we write songs. In both bands, everyone tends to bring stuff to the table. On Wish You Well, a number of the songs were written by Daniel on his computer as midi tracks.
Me: You’ve been involved in the Atlanta music scene for at least a decade now, how has the scene changed over that time and how do you feel about it right now?
TB: The scene seems to come in waves, with lots of great moments. 2001-2003 was a great time for music in Atlanta with lots of house shows and excellent bands. 6 months ago I thought the scene was really happening with bands like Vera Fang and Fagstatic. We still have a ton of great bands, but overall the tide seems to be out at the moment.
Me: What do you think about the current state of music and the music industry as a whole?
TB: We have always either done our releases on small labels or as DIY releases, so I am kind of disconnected from the formal music industry. I can tell you that I know CD sales are suffering, and therefore labels are suffering, and small labels especially seem to be hit hard by the lack of CD sales. Because of this, small labels are more reluctant to put stuff out unless they think it really has a chance of doing well. Actual physical CDs seem to be becoming an unnecessary counterpart or gesture when it comes to musical releases since everyone listens to the music on their computer and their mp3 players anyways. We print CDs more so we can have something to send to radio and press, and to have something that someone can buy at our shows. But from what I can tell, music sales really seem to happen more online these days. I think we are at a strange time in which all labels, big and small, are going to have to reevaluate how they do what they do.
Me: What do The Orphins have planned next and do you have any new projects on the horizon?
TB: No new projects on the horizon for me. Two active bands is enough for now. The Orphins have an EP in the works we want to record and release to keep the flow of new stuff coming. We want to get out there and play some out of state shows once the new record picks up a bit. Thy Mighty Contract is planning to record again, and we hope to release that recording by the end of the year. And most importantly… no more 5 years break.
The Orphins play The Other Sound Festival this Saturday at Criminal Records following Yo La Tengo‘s in-store performance.
Photo by Clint Miller
- Posted by Davy Minor on September 15, 2009 at 5:04 pm
- 1 Comment
I plan to stop by Lenny’s and check out the breast cancer research benefit going down this evening. The Orphins, The Liverhearts, Fag Static and Strezo all on the same bill is pretty sweet. Should be a fun time.
- Posted by Davy Minor on September 6, 2008 at 11:17 am
- No Comments
Supergroups can range anywhere from terrible (Velvet Revolver) to ridiculously awesome (Loose Fur, Swan Lake). So far from what I have heard of Thy Mighty Contract, made up of members of Atlanta institutions such as Blame Game, Fag Static, The Orphins, I Would Set Myself On Fire For You, and Narcolepsy, they are definitely leaning in the awesome direction. I think one of the coolest things about this collective is how well each different sound seems to compliment the others. Their self-titled album should be available later this summer, but until then, you can catch them tonight at WonderRoot. Here’s a track from the forthcoming record to jam:
- Posted by Davy Minor on July 8, 2008 at 6:25 pm
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Two of the best bands in this city are doing a few OTP dates over the extended weekend. If you read Ohmpark regularly, you know we are big Nomen Novum fans, but we don’t talk about The Orphins nearly enough, mostly because they haven’t been the most active band since releasing their first full-length, Drowning Cupid, back in 2004. I just recently purchased another copy of it because I had lost my original, and have had it back in my listening rotation. It has got to be one the best albums to ever come out of the A.
The Orphins : Drowning Cupid : Camp Cryotop
Both bands are working on albums right now and I can’t wait to hear them. If you are in one these lucky cities, you are required to catch the show:
May 9 – Knoxville, TN @ The Birdhouse
May 10 – Charlotte, NC @ Yauhaus
May 12 – Athens, GA @ Caledonia Lounge
- Posted by Davy Minor on May 8, 2008 at 4:20 pm
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Sunday I went to The Earl for Dunch and caught The Jupiter Watts doing a really nice, chill performance:
Check out this video of Mastodon in the studio working on their follow up album to 2006′s Blood Mountain:
Deerhunter are doing a show in New York this weekend where they will play the new album they are currently recording, Microcastle, in its entirety. I really hope they do the same thing here in the A soon.
The Lasch will be at Lenny’s tonight.
HEALTH : Triceratops
Club of Rome : Let’s Go USA
Thursday night you can catch Colin Meloy (The Decemberists) at The Variety Playhouse or go local and check out The Howlies, The Orphins, and The Hotpipes at The Earl.
The Orphins : Camp Cryotop
Colin Meloy : We Both Go Down Together
Friday night I highly recommend going to the This Piano Plays Itself CD release party at Under The Couch. I can’t wait to hear their album.
This Piano Plays Itself : There Are Segments Of Revolving
And Sunday night is the Explosions In The Sky show at The Variety Playhouse. The originally scheduled show is sold out, but they added an afternoon show that same day, so go get your tickets before it sells out too.
There are some cool DIY shows going this week too if you like house parties:
141 Moreland Ave is hosting Pool Party, P. S. Elliot, Bandolier!, it’s Elephant’s, Wrister Tuesday night.
I Can Fly House is hosting Capsule, Furnace, Fag Static, The Sunglasses Wednesday night.
- Posted by Davy Minor on April 8, 2008 at 3:27 am
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Photos: Club Awesome, The Orphins, Brass Castle and Nomen Novum played a benefit for Sarah Nope on 2-22-08 at Lenny’s Bar – Atlanta, GA
- Posted by Clint Miller on February 25, 2008 at 9:26 pm
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- Posted by Clint Miller on March 5, 2007 at 3:23 pm
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