2010 IN REVIEW: Shannon Cleary's Favorite Local Releases Of 2010

Posted by: Necci – Dec 31, 2010


I might say this year after year, but Richmond music accomplished quite a bit this year. Several new groups emerged with impressive full-lengths, seven-inches and EPs. New collaborations formed amongst many of Richmond’s finest. 2010 set the bar much higher than I could have anticipated. We are all the better for the excellent year of music that this city had to offer.

Seas - Now My Home is a Beech Tree

Although the band hails from Washington DC, their debut full-length was released by local label Decoration Day Recordings. Now My Home is a Beech Tree is a nuanced amalgam of several genres. The album jumps from spacey post-hardcore to folk sensibilities while still delivering clever hooks and remarkable instrumentation. Unfortunately, I have missed every one of the band's numerous Richmond shows throughout 2010. This will not be a mistake I make again in the New Year.

Jonathan Vassar and the Speckled Bird - Signs and Wonders

It took a while to get here, but all the time and effort put into Signs and Wonders was more than worth the wait. Vassar and company have created a record that not only reflects the group’s growth, it also harkens back to traits found in Vassar’s earlier material. As far as subject matter is concerned, it isn’t the happiest of records. Yet this sense of sadness conveyed through the honest storytelling found on Signs and Wonders will do just fine, I think.

Bermuda Triangles - Reptilian Intervention

Reptilian Intervention just gets better with each listen. I initially found myself drawn to “Riddles in the Sand” and “Cannibal Island.” Several months later, I think my favorite track on the record may be “Sleepwalking.” This wonderful collective of musicians cultivate an engaging sound throughout this record. When I listen to this record from front to back, one thought comes to mind immediately. Reptilian Intervention is representative of Bermuda Triangles' approach to songwriting. For all of the members, this may be some of the most melodic stuff they have ever unveiled. Yet, they can't shake away all the weird tinges that help illustrate their personalities so enthusiastically.

Sports Bar - Sports Bar EP

When I think of Sports Bar, a few thoughts come immediately to mind. I think about how much time has passed since Stuart Holt and Kemper Blair were in Rabbits. Rabbits were a band that I was incredibly fond of. I bring this up because, as years have passed and the two of them have been involved with Dead Goats and Cubscout And The Rhinoceros, something became utterly clear--regardless of how limited my time is as a result of my work and personal life, I will always make time to listen to a new musical effort from the two of them. Sports Bar may be the best thing the two of them have ever worked on. The melodies found in Cubscout And The Rhinoceros’s Greetings From Holly Street Park and the dirty rock’n’roll found on Dead Goats’s Tennessee People are fully intact. If anything, they may be more realized as a result of the guitar talents of Cliff Boyd. His inclusion in the group has brought Holt and Blair’s craft to a whole new level. Also, something must be said about putting a new release on and just listening to it endlessly until the songs can't escape your thoughts. That was what I did on the day after Thanksgiving with the Sports Bar EP.

Ultra Dolphins - Alien Baby

This record felt like it took an eternity to arrive. When it arrived though, man, was I in love with Alien Baby. If I were to make a list of my favorite songs from this past year, “Groundnest” would be up there. I know Ultra Dolphins have been together for a long time, but I can only hope that the mastery found on Alien Baby is enough to justify how important it is that these three people continue to make music together. Somehow, someway, please!

The Itchy Hearts - Do Ya Best

When I first heard people raving about the Itchy Hearts, it wasn’t that I didn’t get it, but I just hadn’t been introduced to them in the proper fashion. Their album release show at The Camel won me over. It’s not that Andy Cobb has a penchant for writing songs about dreamers and lovers. It is that he is a truly honest voice that fronts a wildly energetic group. There are lines that exist to either make you ponder a moment or devastate you for a single second. There was a time when I couldn’t stop listening to the live closer “I’ve Been Walking.” If there were one thing about the song that I can say, it's that I don’t want it to ever change. I'm not sure a properly recorded version could convey the same idea to me as a listener. I’m sorry it took so long, but I’m a believer now.

Ophelia - Ophelia

Everything about the lineup of this group is perfect for a listener like me. You take equal parts Jonathan Vassar and David Shultz, while throwing in current and former members of Mermaid Skeletons, River City Band, Thao with the Get Down Stay Down and the Diamond Center, and you get one of my favorite releases of the year. Between Shultz and Vassar, we see new sides of each songwriter, which truly exemplify their roles in the Richmond music scene. It’s unfair to even consider Ophelia a side project. Nothing about this album and their subsequent live performances would suggest that this were just something to do for the sake of doing it. There was a wonderful idea at play in getting two of Richmond’s more prominent songwriters together to show each other what they may have never realized they were capable of. If songs like “Bakersfield,” “Nowhere, No Way,” and “Too Far” are any indicators as to what the future holds for Ophelia and each component of the group, then I am excited to see what they all come up with for a follow-up.

Nick Coward and the Last Battle - Kings EP

When it comes to the literary tendencies of musicians from this city, it’d be hard to top that of Nick Coward and the Last Battle. Their Kings EP is an engaging tale that encompasses the valour of the group and the talent of Nick Coward at the helm. Nothing on this EP should be taken for granted, and everything interpreted is earned through multiple listens on a great set of headphones. Word of mouth has lead me to believe that Coward and the Last Battle may have a large quantity of material in development for multiple releases in 2011. If Kings is any indicator of what’s to come, Richmond is all the better for it.

Amazing Ghost - Igetuppa/Tiny Raindropz

As much as I loved Face Job/Body Blow, there was always that sense that greater things were ahead. What began as a release of home recordings by Edward Prendergast has now fully realized itself on this 45 RPM 7 inch release. Every player in Amazing Ghost is represented, and the end result is a two-song single that should bring the group much deserved attention outside of these city limits. Here’s hoping that a full-length is in store for the New Year.

Lobo Marino - Keep Your Head Up

After a long journey through South America, Jameson Price and Laney Sullivan returned to Richmond with the intentions of chronicling their musical endeavors. That release, Keep Your Head Up, also acted as a starting point for one of the busiest bands in the city. Their live performances have reflected their strong work ethic as a band with wonderful finesse, and the adornment of new audiences after every show. It's no surprise that Lobo Marino intends on departing from Richmond for a longer than usual tour. By their standards, I can only see the group reaching the rest of the world with their songs of the melancholy and hopeful. Catch them before they leave the area for their incredible journey.

Honorable Mentions
Orioles - The Basement Tapes
Prabir/Goldrush - An Introduction to…
Sundials - The First Six Songs
The Riot Before - Rebellion
Fuzzy Baby - Bread, Butter and Champagne Single
Pedals On Our Pirate Ships/The Wild - Split
La Mere Vipere - Final Audit of Mammon
Murk One - Tricycle EP
Ballpoint Pens - Symphony
NO BS Brass Band - NO BS

The Diamond Center - My Only Companion

-The Low Branches
-Herschel Stratego
-The Trillions
-Amazing Ghost
-Nick Coward and the Last Battle
-Homemade Knives
-Anousheh Khalili
-The Catnip Dreams
-The Diamond Center
-Hot Lava
-Lobo Marino
-The Veins
-Fuzzy Baby
-Double Rainbow
-Tyrannosaurus Awesome

By Shannon Cleary