Best of 2021: New music from Dayton artists

Local rapper YelloPain was king of the singles in 2021 with memorable songs like “Once You Cheat,” “Hold My Faith” and “Yello Wonka.” His latest, “Happy Thanksgiving,” hit streaming on Nov. 24.

Credit: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

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Local rapper YelloPain was king of the singles in 2021 with memorable songs like “Once You Cheat,” “Hold My Faith” and “Yello Wonka.” His latest, “Happy Thanksgiving,” hit streaming on Nov. 24.

Credit: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

There’s plenty of uncertainty in the modern world but one thing you can count on each year is a large number of high quality music releases from Dayton artists. Here’s a look at some of the best local full-length albums and singles from 2021.

Albums

Pollard World

Robert Pollard, one of the planet’s most prolific songwriters, continued to flex his creativity in 2021. “Earth Man Blues,” released on April 30, is the 33rd album from Guided By Voices and the 10th since the new lineup solidified in 2017. Another full-length — “It’s Not Them. It Couldn’t Be Them. It Is Them!” — followed on Oct. 19.

Pollard also introduced the new side project, Cub Scout Bowling Pins, in 2021. The group debuted in January with the EP, “Heaven Beats Iowa,” followed by the full-length, “Clang Clang Ho,” on July 2. More info: guidedbyvoices.com.

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Singer Robert Pollard of Guided By Voices. (Photo by Matt Cowan/Getty Images for Coachella)

Singer Robert Pollard of Guided By Voices. (Photo by Matt Cowan/Getty Images for Coachella)

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Singer Robert Pollard of Guided By Voices. (Photo by Matt Cowan/Getty Images for Coachella)

Magnaphone Family

Like in 2020, some of the city’s strongest albums of 2021 wore the Magnaphone Records imprint, including “Every Side of the Abyss” from the Boxcar Suite. The killer album was released on March 5 and follows the power pop-infused Americana path laid out on 2018′s “Further In and Farther Out.”

After a year of COVID delays, Neo American Pioneers released the superb album, “Into the Deep,” on July 17. Like its predecessor, 2018′s “Beginning to Unfold,” this material was recorded with Patrick Himes at Reel Love Recording Company but has a fuller, more nuanced sound.

The Repeating Arms recorded the material on “Higher Than Lonesome” live in Reel Love with over two days in July 2019. The release of the already completed album was held until Aug. 13 but it was well-worth the wait. It is a stunning collection of original bluegrass songs that finds the modern string band at the top of its game.

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“Age Nowhere Strikes Again!” is the follow-up to 2019′s “Airport Sounds,” the debut from Age Nowhere. The band’s sophomore LP and first offering on Magnaphone was released on Oct. 22 and has a more traditional, hard-country sound than the contemporary, atmospheric overtones of the roots rock act’s first album.

Local rockers Sadbox released its sophomore album, “Future Copy,” on Dec. 10. It is the band’s second project recorded with Patrick Himes and it’s first for Magnaphone. More info: www.magnaphonerecords.com.

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Tim Pritchard, Trevor Bell and Phil Caviness of power-pop infused Americana act the Boxcar Suite released music this year on Magnaphone Records label.

Credit: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Tim Pritchard, Trevor Bell and Phil Caviness of power-pop infused Americana act the Boxcar Suite released music this year on Magnaphone Records label.

Credit: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

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Tim Pritchard, Trevor Bell and Phil Caviness of power-pop infused Americana act the Boxcar Suite released music this year on Magnaphone Records label.

Credit: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Credit: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Smoking Debuts

Debut albums come in many forms and some of this year’s best featured some familiar names. TV Queens is an enchanting new synth-pop project from Darryl Robbins, Nathan Peters and Maria Dixon. The band’s debut album, “Bad Fiction,” was released on Feb. 19, and is a modern mix of ‘80s new wave, R&B and synth-pop. More info: overthoughtmusik.com.

Alec Snead, the former Manray bassist, struck out on his own with the fabulous “Another Day.” The collection of country-rock tunes was released on April 23 on Really Real Recordings, the label Snead runs with former bandmate Joey Beach. This was one of the biggest pleasant surprises of the year for me. More info: reallyrealrecordings.bandcamp.com.

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After nearly a decade of high energy live shows, Nick Testa’s rap-rock party band Nightbeast released its debut album, “Actually,” on April 16. Half of the album is comprised of songs that have been in the group’s set for years, while the other half was written and recorded in the middle of the pandemic. More info: www.facebook.com/thenightbeast.

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In April, former Manray bassist Alec Snead is released his first full-length solo album, “Another Day,” a magnificent collection of country-rock originals. CONTRIBUTED

In April, former Manray bassist Alec Snead is released his first full-length solo album, “Another Day,” a magnificent collection of country-rock originals. CONTRIBUTED

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In April, former Manray bassist Alec Snead is released his first full-length solo album, “Another Day,” a magnificent collection of country-rock originals. CONTRIBUTED

Best of the rest

Andrew Gabbard’s incredible “Homemade” came out on Karma Chief Records on Dec. 3. The imprint, part of the Colemine Records family, should help take Gabbard’s ultra-catchy pop-rock songs to a wider audience. The artist played all of the instruments on the piano-heavy compositions, which were indeed recorded in his Dayton residence in the early days of the pandemic. More info: coleminerecords.com.

After sitting on an amazing new album for more than a year, Paige Beller released “I’ll Be Better,” (SofaBurn Records) on Sept. 3. Like her EPs, “Sad Sack” (2017) and “Space Cadet” (2018), she plays almost all of the instruments on her highly anticipated full-length, which was recorded at Reel Love. Artist info: www.sofaburn.com.

The multi-talented Brett Hill released his amazing new Brother Hill album, “Blackfish,” on March 12, his 30th birthday. While he presents his songs in the folk tradition, with tasteful arrangements, there are echoes of modern acts like Beirut, Jens Lekman and Babybird. His childhood obsession with Radiohead also rears its head in unexpected but interesting ways. More info: brotherhill.bandcamp.com.

The pandemic prevented Issa Ali from touring in support of his 2020 debut, “Book of Issa,” but the local rapper turned his focus to a follow-up album. In November, he released “Book of Issa Verse II.” Ali not only wrote all his rhymes on the tremendous new album but also created all of the musical tracks. More info: twitter.com/issabeats.

Oh Condor released the long-awaited “Emergency Psychic” on Dayton’s Blind Rage Records on May 21. It is an excellent collection of songs, written and recorded by the band members over a number of years and the hard work shows. The songs are powerful and slick but have just the right amount of dissonance without obscuring the melodies. More info: ohcondor.bandcamp.com.

On June 4, the Raging Nathans released its fourth full-length studio LP, “Waste My Heart” (Rad Girlfriend Records). It is the follow-up to the Dayton punk stalwarts’ 2020 album, “Oppositional Defiance.” The material was recorded by Luke McNeil of Hospital Job and Starter Jackets, two acts with ties to Rad Girlfriend. More info: radgirlfriendrecords.com.

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Local electronic musician/producer/rapper Isicle released the new album, “Bedroom,” in late January. Isaac Williams was recording music under this moniker long before his debut album, “Remember to Forget,” was released in April 2014. Aside from “DNA,” his 2020 collaborative single with Pagu, “Bedroom,” is his first release since the 2019 EP, “Living Room.” It’s his first full-length since “About Female” in 2017. More info: isicle.bandcamp.com.

Chad Wells and his bandmates in Cricketbows decamped to Candyland Recording Studio in Dayton, Kentucky to record the follow-up to Cricketbows’ 2017 EP, “Communion.” The sessions with Mike Montgomery of R.Ring and Ampline became the full-length, “Raised on Rock and Roll,” which was released on April 20. It’s the band’s strongest and most cohesive album yet. More info: cricketbows.bandcamp.com.

Like so many acts on this list, folk-rock duo The Touchy Feelys recorded the infectiously upbeat material on its new album with Patrick Himes. “Break-Up Songs About Staying Together,” the debut from Andrea Dawn Courts and Jason Trout, was released on December 11. More info: thetouchyfeelys.bandcamp.com.

There were plenty of pandemic albums but few like Daniel M. Griffin’s “You’re Gonna Lose Your Mind.” The local musician played most of the instruments on the ‘60s-inspired psychedelic rock album, which was recorded in his house in the St. Anne’s Hill neighborhood. It released to streaming services on May 22. More info: danmcgriffin.bandcamp.com.

Singles

Here are some of the artists who released some of 2021′s best non-album singles.

YelloPain

YelloPain is king of the singles. The much buzzed about rapper rode the momentum from 2020 into a year filled with memorable songs. His productive 2021 began with “Once You Cheat,” an understated examination of romantic relationships. YelloPain followed that with the digital singles “Hold My Faith,” “Handsome,” “Praying 4 Love” and “Yello Wonka,” which was produced by Mannie Fresh. The latest, “Happy Thanksgiving,” was released to streaming on Nov. 24. More info: facebook.com/officialyellopain.

TV Queens

Just months after its full-length debut, “Bad Fiction,” TV Queens returned with new music. The electro-pop group featuring Darryl Robbins, Nathan Peters and Maria Dixon released the digital single, “Thank God for the Future,” on Aug. 4. The follow-ups, “Too Cruel the Thunder” and “Reverence,” were released Sept. 22 and Dec. 8, respectively. More info: overthoughtmusik.com.

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Dayton-based TV Queens, (left to right) Nathan Peters, Maria Dixon and Darryl Robbins, is following up its early 2021 debut album, “Bad Fiction,” with a run of new digital singles and remixes.

Credit: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Dayton-based TV Queens, (left to right) Nathan Peters, Maria Dixon and Darryl Robbins, is following up its early 2021 debut album, “Bad Fiction,” with a run of new digital singles and remixes.

Credit: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

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Dayton-based TV Queens, (left to right) Nathan Peters, Maria Dixon and Darryl Robbins, is following up its early 2021 debut album, “Bad Fiction,” with a run of new digital singles and remixes.

Credit: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Credit: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

The Paint Splats

Brandon Berry’s indie rock outfit the Paint Splats rocked in 2021 with the Jan. 1 release of the digital single, “Ballpoint Pen.” The organ-drenched song is another infectious power-pop nugget. In November, Berry released another single, “From Oakes Rd (Working Overtime).” The material was recorded with Cody Wopshall, who not only performs on the song but also co-engineered and co-produced it. Rachel Rosen enlivens the track with her vocal contribution. More info: thepaintsplats.bandcamp.com

Jimmy Psycho

Dayton’s high concept maestro of mayhem, Jimmy Psycho, released three horror-themed singles for the Halloween season each from a different project. The Abominable Dr. Psycho’s “Halloween Theme” is an instrumental organ cover of theme to the John Carpenter film. With vocalist Peggy Nadramia, the Jimmy Psycho Experiment delivered a reworking of “Lullaby from Rosemary’s Baby.” “Vampira, Baby!” is a rockabilly ode to the horror host from Psycho Charger. Artist info: www.jimmypsycho.com.

Best of the rest

A few more notable singles include “People Get Ready,” Shirley Murdock’s soulful take on the Impressions’ 1960s song. Acoustic duo the Katawicks released the evocative single, “Dark Cloud.” Heather Redman of Neo-American Pioneers stepped out on her own for the digital single, “Broken Bones,” a cover of a song by Magnaphone Records labelmates Salvadore Ross.

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Shirley Murdock

Credit: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Shirley Murdock

Credit: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Combined ShapeCaption
Shirley Murdock

Credit: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Credit: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

“Run It Up Sis” is the clean version of the slamming single from local rapper Candy Barz. Another local rapper, Eman Jones, released “Tippin’ Still,” a remake of a Mike Jones track that features an appearance from Mike Jones himself. The Story Changes released “The Longest Year,” a hard-hitting blast of angst-driven punk. Zac Pitts, the television news anchor and founder of Sound Valley, stepped out on his own with his first single, “Let Go,” a pop-punk look at anxiety and depression.

Contact this contributing writer at 937-287-6139 or e-mail at donthrasher100@gmail.com.

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