Bloomington, Indiana has an amazingly impressive music scene, and not just for being located in the agricultural center of the US. The sheer volume of creative people in this town is unbelievable, from musicians and visual artists to authors and technology buffs, this town is overflowing with innovators just waiting to roll out something new. I started a list last month of albums released by Bloomington musicians/bands and came up with at least fifty-five albums/EPs, and if you have ever set foot in our small college town, you’d understand why that is an incredible amount of new music for only one year (and I know there are probably at least 5 albums that I missed). Sorting through all of the sounds, here are the albums that stole my attention.
1. Enemy/Lover – Dreamers Of The Ghetto [Temporary Residence Limited]
Already listed as one of my top albums of the year (#3), it’s clear that I was highly impressed by Enemy/Lover. Dreamers Of The Ghetto took this scene and the nation by storm with its debut album, not only showcasing the musical talents of the Jones family (plus drummer Marty Sprowles), but a unique and buzz-worthy blend of rock and electronic music. Compared to the likes of Bruce Springsteen, U2, Arcade Fire and more, Enemy/Lover leaves nothing behind but the desperate desire for more.
Recommended Tracks: “Always”, “Night Hawks”, “Regulator”, “Dark Falcons”
2. New World Orphan – Millbranch String Theory [Roots Capacitor Records]
This local album surprised me the most last year. I have never really branched out into string bands or bluegrass music, but this collection of songs was unable to be ignored. To call Millbranch String Theory a bluegrass band is nearly taboo. The instrumental trio does indeed utilize the typical bluegrass string instruments: banjo, upright bass/cello, mandolin, and guitars), however, the talented musicians take the genre limitations and throw them to the wind. New World Orphan infuses the styles of bluegrass, jazz, latin, and even funk to spell out a sound that has no boundaries. It’s a masterpiece of an album that will leave you standing in awe and pressing the ‘repeat’ button.
Check out “Ethos, Pathos, Logos”:
Recommended Tracks: “Ethos, Pathos, Logos”, “Ol’ Bill Monet”, “…Flux…”
3. Without Hesitation – Good Luck [No Idea Records]
Another album that made it onto my year-end list (#4), Good Luck’s Without Hesitation is a triumph among local records this year. After such a strong debut with 2007’s Into Lake Griffy, fans on a local and national scale were craving more of the catchy, hard-rocking, pop-punk blend that this trio brought to many stages and basements. The four-year wait was well-received with the release of Without Hesitation. The eleven tracks of this sophomore release are anything but a slump, showcasing a more focused band with a more developed and mature sound.
Recommended Tracks: “Contact”, “A Song to Comfort the Sick”, “Significant Day”
4. Sleeping Bag – Sleeping Bag [Joyful Noise Recordings]
Everything you need to know about my thoughts on this album and band can be found here.
Recommended Tracks: “Rental”, “Slime”, “Beside”, “Acer”
5. Foot of Love – Fat Shadow [Houseplant Records]
Foot of Love came splashing into the local scene in the early Spring and was a breath of fresh air after a long, cold winter. Supergroup Fat Shadow consists of many local talents and familiar voices whom when put together become an unstoppable musical force. With a sound that is as much punk as 90s alternative, Foot of Love features ten tracks of solid, hard-hitting rock, draped in the angelic vocals of Daun Fields.
Recommended Tracks: “Waves”, “Feelers”,”New Armor”, “Water’s Edge”
6. Holiday Band – Memory Map [Joyful Noise Recordings]
Listening to Holiday Band is like putting a puzzle together. Taking a lot of pieces together to make a brilliant big picture is what happened when the supergroup of Memory Map formed and released its first album. A band full of recording engineers/musicians, this town wasn’t ready for the force which this band packed. The dynamic, heavy, mess of sound that this band creates (with three guitars, a drum set, and NO BASS) will make a fan out the most unsuspecting passerby. The album reads like one continuous song full of twists, turns, solid drumwork and spiraling guitars. If the music doesn’t send your head spinning, the poly-chromatic color scheme of the band definitely will.
Recommended Tracks: “Serpent Wings”, “Stowaway”, “Big City”
7. You’re A Liar – You’re A Liar [Self-Released]
This was one of the first albums to tip me off that 2011 was going to be an impressive year for local music. A band that had been struggling to find its hold in the local scene, You’re A Liar made a fierce comeback in late 2010-early 2011 with a new band member and a more full sound. You’re A Liar, released in January, was the band’s first album with a second guitarist (Gabriel Garber formerly of Impure Jazz), who seemed to fit perfectly into the experimental/hardcore style of the band. The sound was heavy and full of flavor, but also carefully crafted with a sense of musical flexibility that most instrumental bands lack. Where many instrumental bands fail to create an album that is consistently challenging and exciting over the course of a whole record, You’re A Liar prevails with music that is complex, dynamic, and refreshing to the ear.
Recommended Tracks: “Charlie Bugs”, “Chew-E”, “Spring Break”
8. Visits – Tammar [Suicide Squeeze Records]
An album years in the making, local band Tammar finally graced the world with its debut album Visits this year. The world was rocked with the band’s captivating sound, a unique blend of psych rock with bold guitar lines, articulate percussion, trance-setting keyboards, and soothing vocals. (Does ANYONE out there know what Dave Walter is singing?) It’s an album that you will put on repeat and find yourself grooving to for hours. And you will probably make up your own nonsensical lyrics.
Recommended Tracks: “Yung Jun”, “The Last Line”, “Heavy Tonight”
9. Sweetie EP – The Hollows [Self-Released]
The aptly named Sweetie EP brought The Hollows back to our ears.The band’s first release since 2006’s Darlings of Naught and the untimely death of band member Evan Farrell, Sweetie brought back the band’s soft and pleasing neo-country/folk stylings led by the warm vocals and beautiful songwriting of Kate Long. With such a strong return, we can only hope that the departure of drummer Pete Schreiner won’t stop this band from continuing to create its magic.
Recommended Tracks: “Terrifying Things”, “Trains”, “The Hum”
10. Labor of Love – Community Currency [Self-Released]
It’s truth that Bloomington is full of musicians, but what’s even better, is that it is full of musical families. When it comes to the Romy brothers (Matt and Nick), the combination of both their skills as musicians and vocalists is simply amazing. Their chemistry has come together in a number of musical projects over the years, but Community Currency, mostly the songwriting of Matt Romy, brought the brothers and their talented musical friends together for a collection of songs about life’s simple lessons. Mixing their multiple-genre influences, Labor of Love features every style from country to jazz to even punk. Also, the fierce fiddling of Susan Anderson is not to be taken lightly.
Recommended Tracks: “One Of The Greatest Things”, “Life On Earth”, “All That Stuff”
*There are so many albums out there that didn’t make it into the “Top Ten”, I am just honored to live in this town among so many creative people! You all make people feel inspired everyday through your creativity, your presence, and your art so please keep making it and keep sharing it!