Miami Valley gems: Top local albums of 2023



Let’s start by acknowledging Robert Pollard, like the NBA’s LeBron James, is defying father time. Forty years after forming Guided By Voices, the Daytonian is creating some of the most vital music of his career. In 2023 alone, the group released three incredible records: “La La Land” (January), “Welshpool Frillies” (July) and “Nowhere To Go But Up” (November).



To put it in perspective, those are albums 37, 38 and 39 for Pollard and company. He also returned in October with Circus Devils’ “Squeeze the Needle,” the side project’s first release since 2016.

With a musical role model like that, it’s not surprising Dayton had another outstanding year of original music. Last week, I had a roundup of the top local singles and EPs of 2023. Here’s a look at the top full-length albums.

1. R.Ring: “War Poems, We Rested” INDIE ROCK

It has been too long since the last release from the long-running project from Kelley Deal of the Breeders and Mike Montgomery of Ampline. This album, the highly anticipated follow-up to “Ignite the Rest” (2017), didn’t disappoint. It’s darker and more angular than the duo’s other projects but still wholly accessible. Deal’s vocals are always a big draw but Montgomery more than holds his own taking the lead on “Stole Eye” and “Lighter Than a Berry.”

2. Andrew Gabbard: “Cedar City Sweetheart” COUNTRY

The longtime member of Buffalo Killers and more recently the Gabbard Brothers has released several indie-pop solo records over the years. He took a different route on this album, an excursion into country music inspired by the Byrds, Gram Parsons and other Nashville outsiders. Gabbard recorded his guitar, bass and drum parts in his Dayton home but also got assistance from some friends.

3. YelloPain: “Bloody Summer” RAP

The Dayton rapper has been focusing on singles and EPs for the last several years. He released numerous non-album singles in 2023 but those tasty offerings didn’t diminish the power of “Bloody Summer.” YelloPain adds some sweetness to the festivities with guest appearances from R&B singers MarMonroe (“Success”), Tiffany Evans (“Lost Ones”) and Raheem DeVaughn (“Stand With Me”).

4. Amber Hargett: “Coal Mine Canary” AMERICANA

Recording a sophomore album can be a difficult undertaking when your debut received the attention Hargett’s “Paper Trail” did in 2019. That was no concern for the local artist’s Magnaphone Records debut. She confidently crafted a compelling and fully engaging concept album with producer Patrick Himes at Reel Love Recording Company.

5. Jesse Remnant: “Another Freak of the Flood” INDIE POP

This homemade acoustic-pop album, his first release since Rex Apple’s EP “Barrett School” (2018), is another killer offering. Remnant handled all lead vocals and most of the instrumentation except for three tracks featuring Emily Remnant and Jon Helm (backing vocals), Colin Croom (pedal steel guitar) and Ryan Stolte-Sawa (piano).



6. Keigo Hirakawa: “Pixel” JAZZ

This is the second album as bandleader for the Dayton-based pianist, who moved from Japan to the United States at the age of 11. The material was recorded in Detroit with Cincinnati-based Brandon Scott Coleman (guitar) and Motor City musicians Robert Hurst (bass) and Rafael Statin (drums). This is the follow-up to Hirakawa’s album, “And Then There Were Three” (2015), and his first release with Origin Records.

7. Joe Mullins & the Radio Ramblers: “Let Time Ride” BLUEGRASS

This is the first of two 2023 full-length releases from the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Entertainer of the Year in 2019. A new holiday album came out in November, but this is the album that shows what the local group can do. Mullins is a second-generation bluegrass musician and radio broadcaster, and the Radio Ramblers’ sonic scope for this album explored traditional bluegrass, southern gospel and traditional country.

8. Life In Idle: “Continuity Error(s)” EMO

I’m not the target audience for the Dayton band’s blend of emo and pop-punk, but I love this album from top to bottom. I’m a song guy and a sucker for strong pop hooks and these cats have those attributes in spades. This is a massive leap sonically, melodically and in songwriting from Life In Idle’s very respectable debut, “Out to Get Me” (2018).

9. Alec Snead and Noah Fogg: “Telegraphic” FOLK, AMERICANA

I was a massive fan of Alec Snead’s solo debut, “Another Day” (2021) and I’m equally enamored by this full-length collaboration. This is the first offering from the two friends, who began cowriting sessions in 2016. Producer Michael Rabb in Seattle embellished the initial tracks Snead and Fogg recorded in Dayton to offer a lush but understated batch of melodically rich acoustic songs.

10. The 1984 Draft: “Best Friends Forever” INDIE

Every time this band releases a new album, I’m convinced it’s the best one yet. That’s no small feat for an indie rock act that has been at it as long as these dudes. The follow-up to 2018′s “Makes Good Choices” is overflowing with big guitars and bigger hooks with relatable tales of Midwestern life from frontman Joe Anderl.



Notable goodness

Other noteworthy albums include a pair of excellent sophomore offerings: “This Old World” from Greenville-based Americana act Shannon Clark & the Sugar and “Strange Fruit” from Luv Locz Experiment, Dayton’s purveyors of reggae, R&B and funk.

Atom Records released a pair of strong Americana albums with Mark Cantwil’s “Newport News” and “Personal Pain” from Golden Guy and His Bucking Bloviators. Rad Girlfriend Records had essential punk albums like the Raging Nathans’ “Still Spitting Blood” and “No Casket 1993,” the highly anticipated debut from Yardboss.

In addition, there were rap albums like C-Money Baby’s “Liability,” “Still Talkin My Shhhh” from SleekoGotBars and Joe Eid’s “Eternal Barricade.” The self-titled debut album from local noise rockers Elite Terrorism Modulus and “Songs I Imagined” by Dayton electronic artist Mt. Analogue are also significant.

That’s a sampling of what Dayton artists released in 2023 and 2024 is shaping up to be equally as strong.

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