Favorite Local Releases of 2011

Now that the official lists came out in the Free Times, I’ll add here my list of favorite Columbia, South Carolina releases–it was a banner year for local stuff, with several current and former residents making my overall “national” list (see the above link), but just because the following are mostly known just around here doesn’t make them any less enjoyable musically. In fact, I’d stack up the Capitol City’s talent against almost any city of its size and expect it to come out on top.
A couple notes about this list: First, I was surprised at the number of these which were not full albums but EPs, a trend which I hope continues as several acts were able to put out more than one set of new songs during the year–less music at more frequent intervals seems to be translating into better material making the final cut. Also, I’m a little disappointed in myself for not having any hip-hop or anything really heavy metal or hardcore listed, knowing there have been singles, videos, and other recordings released from several noteworthy local artists in those genres. Truth is, I just didn’t hear any enough to rate them as “favorites” for me this year..
Here, then, is my own very personal list–remember this is a list of ‘Favorites’ for me, meaning these got the most airplay in my own sphere of existence–the car, the computer, live shows, etc.

1. Say Brother, All I Got is Time
Imagine finding The Band‘s Music From Big Pink and Creedence Clearwater Revival‘s Bayou Country in a thrift store bin and hearing them for the first time; that’s the kind of vibe Say Brother gives off with every note of this rollicking country-fried rock ‘n’ roll release.

2. Sea Wolf Mutiny, The Last Season EP, The Apple Tree EP
As epic as drama on the high seas, The Sea Wolf Mutiny jumps ship on convention and artifice to probe both the depths and the stratosphere, musically speaking.

3. Treadmill Trackstar, Leaving Ohio
An introspective song cycle that is more about the potholes than the road.

4. Whiskey Tango Revue, Seersucker Soldiers
Genteel southern country gentlemen they’re not, but this is about as country as a rock ‘n’ roll band can get in South Carolina.

5. American Gun, Therapy
Singer and principal songwriter Todd Mathis uses his band for therapy but he’s the only one paying the bill; the rest of us just get the benefit of the confessions.

6. Marshall Brown, Blue Shades EP
Wherein flights of lyrical fancy turn a regular-looking dude into Jeff Buckley and Rufus Wainwright‘s bastard musical love child.

7. Haley Dreis, Taking Time EP
To borrow a song title from her polished-to-perfection EP, Haley Dreis is like candy in the summertime, an irresistible musical confection that sticks with you for a long time.

8. Ghosts of the Great Highway, Wrestle It Down
Spare, stark, and somewhat haunted songs delivered with understated conviction.

9. Hot Lava Monster, Weed Sessions
Glad these recordings, the most professionally produced the band has done to date, finally surfaced in official form.

10. The Lovely Few, The Perseids
The plainspoken, vaguely electric indie pop of The Lovely Few is the kind of sound that sneaks up on you, coming over the horizon when one least expects it, bursting into your consciousness and back out again in the time it takes for, say, a meteor to streak across the sky.

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