10. Cold Cave – Cherish the Light Years
The title of this album suggests that there is glimmering feeling transmitted when you push play. After opening track “The Great Pan is Dead” entered my brain for the first time, I quickly realized that the light years were being cherished because they did not exist. This album is for a dimly lit room with plenty of space to get up and bang out. The quest for one shining moment is the message that I am left with every time I listen to this record. This record leaves me empty in a good way. I feel like I am stuck in the mines of Chile, face full of dust, yearning for salvation. The fact that I enjoy this dark musical dungeon is reason alone why Cherish the Light Years makes this list. As I look around my apartment I find a handful of light builds that need to be replaced. I think it can wait.
9. The Rural Alberta Advantage – Departing
This album is a void filler. We all understand what it feels like to be the rebound, but albums like this make it feel comfortable. Lines like “I will hold you tight enough to crush your veins” in opening track “Two Lovers” sends a gripping message to me. This album is about loss and The Rural Alberta Advantage brilliantly makes me ok with the topic. Losing anything in life can be a personal challenge, but songs like “Tornado 87” make it relatable. There are few records that should be used as medicine or a coping mechanism and Departing certainly is my remedy for any thrashing defeat. Although the scars of defeat remain, Departing gives us a direction to head in order to mend.
8. The Bonesetters – SAVAGES!
It is absolute honor to put a local album on my list. The Bonesetters deserve this one. Rob’s review was laid out so brilliantly that I can’t possible think of anything more to say about it. I am so excited to be in the space for this band’s escalation. The ceiling is high for the Bonesetters, and believe me, we will let you know about their every move. They have earned it with this initial gift to Indianapolis.
7. The Drums – Portamento
The proud sophomore effort that sings like a plea but is as confident as the class president. I feel like I am walking the halls of my high school, but the era is the 80s. This album is the answer to all of The Smiths requests from years back. Lines like “The people look at me with a little sympathy” make me think that The Drums were the underappreciated youth of their respective schooling systems. A subtle popularity to own and I am glad Portamento drives this under the radar status symbol in the proper direction.
6. Cults – Cults
A book of snippets laid out more like a photo album than a record. I see before I hear when I visualize this record. This drastic switch in my experience flips the script while changing my outlook on music. “Go Outside” was the first song I heard from this record and it has paved the road and painted the lines into my 2012. The writing is on the wall in lyrics, “You really want to hole up, you really want to stay inside and sleep the light away.” A relatable situation where Cults step in a presents me with a challenge. Why not yonder outdoors, I will turn the page because there are plenty of pretty pictures.
5. Girls – Father, Son, Holy Ghost
The guys from Girls write about relationships. Their debut Album and EP Broken Dream Club taught me this. These two first releases was the coaching that allowed me to truly appreciate what Girls was all about. After listening to Father, Son, Holy Ghost for the past few months I feel like I finally understand Girls enough to pass their test. These guys rarely have the answer to their own female problems, but they use music as an elixir. Song, ‘Die’ yells “No, nothing’s gonna be alright, no we’re all gonna get fucked up tonight, no, nothing’s gonna be okay, no it’s all going down the drain tonight”. Certainly, the remedy to any post relationship blues.
4. Yuck – Yuck
It feels like this album has been with me the longer than any release of the year. It feels like an old pair of ripped jeans that I just can’t part with. While some doubt the authenticity of Yuck because of their homage to a collection of indie rock forefathers, I continue to feel genuine comfort with each successive spin. Describing each of their songs might take so long that it puts another hole in my Wranglers. As the winter continues, Yuck will inevitably provide me warmth. Even as the oncoming snow storms enter the air, Yuck sews a patch on my jeans as the ball drops on 2011.
3. Smith Westerns – Dye It Blonde
Smith Westerns grew up a lot with Dye It Blond. Although, these guys are not of legal drinking age I feel like they are so musically mature that they deserve a free pass in any bar in America. Dye It Blond is like a fake ID. It not only makes the band look older than they may appear, but also serves as evidence that they belong in the same scene as the older kids. The guitars on “Still New’”are perfectly placed and layered. The lyrics of “Imagine Pt. 3” are the work of an old savvy songwriter. The tips that they convey on “End of the Night” can be used by any man, of any age, regardless of circumstance. Straight to the point “Oh, it’s the end of the night, it’s the end of the night, are you going to go home?” I wish I had this kind of courage. I guess I will listen to Dye It Blonde a couple more times for inspiration.
2. Bon Iver – Bon Iver
It is rare that I describe an album as beautiful, but this is one of those times. It does not feel right to listen to this record on anything, but vinyl. It was made for the time. I feel cold as I listen to every single lyric of Justin Vernon. Bon Iver released this masterpiece in June, but it is peaking now because it embeds itself in the blistering winter months on the horizon. The tip of the icicle has yet to be formed for this record for me. The point is that this album has withstood a half a year and traveled through many different locations on my musical map. Minnesota, WI, Hinnom, TX, and Lisbon, OH to name a few. Authentic or not these are all places we have all traveled. This record is just a means to bring us all back these spaces at the same time. I feel like I am riding in a sled and Bon Iver is the driver. Who knows where we are heading next? I have my coat and mittens. Thrilled to me along for the ride.
1. Real Estate – Days
Real Estate Days is me. It is everything I look for in a record and more. The melodic guitars carry me from beginning to the end. It is Alpha and the Omega and I’m stuck in between. They build a comfortable space for me each and every time I reach for a listen. Tracks like “Green Aisles” challenge me not only to explore myself but my surroundings. Lyrics “All those wasted miles, all those aimless drives through the green aisles, our careless lifestyle, it was not so unwise, no” provide validity to my own personal cause. This album teaches me that it is completely acceptable to mess up, because it will point me in another direction. Days is a seasonal inspiration to me. Days is my lotion in the sunlight and winter jacket in the snow. It is the perfect protector. It is the compass that directs my next move. This album teaches me to tighten my strings, even if my first attempt is a bit out of tune.
Written by Brett McGrath
At long last it’s here. The Bonesetters SAVAGES!. An album that nearly never saw the light of day. Were it not for a successful Kickstarter campaign and the generous lip service of blogs like Musical Family Tree, there was a significant chance that we never would have heard this album. That result would have been an unacceptable travesty.
For those of you that don’t know, this album has been in the can for quite sometime, but after the close of Mossback Records left the lion’s share of the recording costs on the shoulders of the band, the SAVAGES! release was in jeopardy. Fortunately for us, our ears need not fret. The Bonesetters are here.
The album opens with the title track. A soothing serenade of ahhs gives way to a rollicking guitar riff. Enter lead singer Dan Snodgrass. I happen to know that Dan spends his days as an assistant librarian. His station in life bleeds into his writing. Snodgrass’ songs contain full story arcs. The characters are rich and the descriptions vivid. He understands irony, symbolism and all of the other literary tricks of the trade, and he knows how to make them do his bidding. His writing is the type that only comes after long days spent thumbing through tomes written by men who have already conquered the beast that is the blank page.
Snodgrass’ knack for painting clear pictures in his listener’s mind is on display in the first verse of “Savages”, when he sings: “I have been a dead man, / But since those nights I’ve stretched to keep a level head / If I’ve learned one good lesson, / It’s how to keep an eye or two open while in bed.” These clever turns of phrase are littered throughout the album.
One aspect of SAVAGES! that appeals to me the more than any other is that it is completely vacant of gimmicks. Too many bands amongst the indie scene seem so intent on creating the appearance of complete originality that they wind up colluding their songs with layers of looping, incoherent sound effects. The Bonesetters don’t sound concerned with such frivolous pursuits. We all know that music, for the most part, is a medium that is shared and borrowed amongst its members. Originality proves an elusive dream. So The Bonesetters refuse to dress their songs up, leaving their stories and melodies to stand on their own. The result serves as a refreshing change of pace.
Choosing favorite tracks from SAVAGES! proves difficult. Mixed by Tyler Watkins of Margot and the Nuclear So and Sos, the album has an air of maturity that seems beyond a group that should still be discovering its identity. At the risk of sounding like a cheerleader, I’ll go ahead and say that there isn’t a single song that I dislike. Even the brief, instrumental, circus-like “Shakespeare” that appears on the latter half of the disc works for me as a nice intermission of sorts—as if allowing the listener to escape for a cigarette before the band brings this baby home.
I’m not going to waste your time by breaking this album down track for track. I would rather you listen and discover what they mean to you. See what Dan and the boys have to say. There’s an oft quoted Kurt Vonnegut line that goes, “I trust my writing most and others seem to trust it most when I sound like a person from Indianapolis, which is what I am.” Though Dan is from New Palestine and his band gained their footing in Muncie, this too is a Hoosier voice worth hearing and one that others across the country can trust.
Written by Rob Peoni
From The Bonesetters:
“Muncie-bred and Indianapolis-raised, we make music in old duplexes and share them with all kinds of alternative environs. We breathe in quiet sounds, and exhale louder sounds. A good mixture of western swing, surf rock, blues and images meant for dreams. We like you!”
Any time I get the opportunity to promote one of my favorite local bands I will capture the moment. The Bonesetters have been nothing short of brilliant for those of us watching. Their ability to continually get gigs while being proactive in the social media community is extremely developed for a local indie band. Lead singer, Dan Snodgrass is not only extremely talented as a musician, but also admirably talented when it comes to engagement. Snodgrass promotes his band, shares video clips of songs he loves, and shares his opinions on certain local topics. He understands his ability to self-market with free tools and executes. He is a bonafide marketer who just happens to front a great band and has amazing writing skills coupled with a Jeff Buckleyesque inflection.
Thought on Tracks friends The Bonesetters will be on Indiana Public Radio’s The Scene on Saturday, December 3 at 10 p.m. with Chicago’s Santah. This performance was recorded live at the now defunct Vollrath Tavern in Indianapolis.
Congratulations to the Bonesetters on a flawless year of music from a local standpoint. Let’s hope 2012 gets you guys recognized on the national stage. You deserve it.
Written by Brett McGrath