Step aside, Mannheim Steamroller. Same to you, Bright Eyes.

Lawrence music is where it's at this Christmas season, and Omaha's stale cookies are due for a certified bitch-slapping (just kidding fellas -- ease up on the hate mail, see below).

Yes, 2004 was another banner year for Lawrence music. From the barstool ballads of Arthur Dodge to the hip-hop head-bobbers of Nezbeat, Lawrence musicians churned out enough buttery concoctions to grease the choosiest of ears.

So instead of helping Courtney Love pay off her legal bills this Christmas, skip the Nirvana boxed set (do we really need three more crappy versions of "Polly"?) and pick up one of our favorite local releases of 2004:


1. Arthur Dodge & the Horsefeathers "Room #4"

If Paul Westerberg had a heart; if Randy Newman had a guitar; if John Mellencamp had a clue: then Arthur Dodge might not have to exist. As it is, Dodge is as much an essential part of growing up in Larryville as any of the above songwriters. Dodge's fourth full-length captures everything the versatile songwriter does best tear-stained ballads, whiskey-soaked rockers and gentle love songs. His husky voice (more "hoarse" than "feathers") presents a standalone argument for overturning the smoking ban, and his band's nimble chops would make any Johnny-come-lately bar band jealous. Screw the Red Sox 2004 was the year of the Dodger. Full review, mp3s, and more on Arthur...


2. Minus Story "The Captain is Dead, Let the Drum Corpse Dance"

While Brian Wilson was resurrecting his lost masterpiece, Minus Story was busy creating its own on a bargain-basement budget. Sans symphonies and psychologists, the band employed a pawn-shop palette of instruments to bring its "corpse" to life bells, drum machines, horns, detuned acoustic guitars and random furniture beatings. The result is a pearl of a record that channels the choicest chunks of Neutral Milk Hotel, John Vanderslice and Modest Mouse and makes you "Smile" all the while. Full review, mp3s, and more on Minus Story...


3. The Only Children "Change of Living"

Dude, the new Anniversary record totally rules! Ha ha, just kidding. Actually, the new Only Children album totally rules. Former Anniversary members Josh Berwanger, Jim David and Christian Jankowski hooked up with blues guitarist T.K. Webb, pedal steel wizard Casey Prestwood and singer-keyboardist extraordinaire Heidi Lynne-Gluck to form a unit that sounded deceptively well-oiled (the group had its first practices together just weeks before recording). The result is an album described by one user (RickSutclif2001) as "KJ meets KY" sort of like an indie rock "Sticky Fingers," with plenty of overt classic-rock influences but enough unique voice to keep it legit. Full review, mp3s, and more on the OC...

4. The Get Up Kids "Guilt Show"

The last thing The Get Up Kids should feel is guilty. Lawrence's most worldly band (with dedicated masses in Japan, Europe and beyond) weathered bile-spewing critics, fickle fans and music industry hoop-jumping to release their finest album to date. "Guilt Show" proved to be the "On a Wire" that GUK fans hoped for smart and mature, but mostly just fun. Keyboardist James Dewees earned his stripes with some Meatloaf-caliber piano licks, and Matt Pryor cloaked lyrics like "Trespass fits you like a charm / A scarlet letter on your arm" in the catchiest melodies this side of Bikini Bottom. Full review, mp3s, and more on TGUK...

User playlists Mourn the lazer a little less with local music radio as DJ'd by your online peers. Create, store and listen to customed playlists mp3 vault The full glory of all mp3s stored on this here spread of cyberspace. Top downloaded mp3s Most recently added

5. Architects "Keys to the Building"

Dude, the new Gadjits album totally rules! Ok, this is all too easy: Though the name changed, the band's show-stopping revival rock didn't. "Keys to the Building" reminded us why The Black Crowes don't totally suck and why rock and roll still has a few feathers that need to be beaten out of its proverbial pillow. Less consciously hip than any of the "The" bands of '02 (Strokes, Hives, Mooney Suzuki) but nearly as capable, Architects delivered some big-league goods on this independently released album (the band had signed with RCA but was promptly shown the door when the label consolidated : what was Clive Davis thinking?) Full review, mp3s, and more on the Architects

6. Nezbeat "From the Huge Silence"

If URB magazine makes any of the usual 'witty' Kansas jokes in its 2004 year-end issue, it won't be Nezbeat's fault. The local producer's "From the Huge Silence" was the cream of the crop in a healthy hip-hop harvest that also yielded "The Find," "Al Japro" and a nationwide re-release of Approach's "Ultra Proteus." The album displayed remarkable breadth and experimentation, from the N.E.R.D.-esque big beats of "Clear Water Revival" to the indie-rock, trip-hop of "Fade Away to Silence" (featuring The Capsules). Though each track's success was largely dependent on the efforts of its tenants (nearly a dozen local MCs put in guest spots), the landlord kept a pretty tidy house. Full review, mp3s, and more on Nez...

7. Old Canes "Early Morning Hymns"

While The Appleseed Cast hibernated, Old Canes drank like fish and puked out "Early Morning Hymns." AC frontman Chris Crisci ditched the amps but kept the intensity, investing Old Canes' folk-informed ditties with as much morning-after bile as the Cast's most vitriolic breakup anthems. Crisci's acoustic guitar begged for mercy as he strummed it like an outcast from a Pogues Tribute band, soothed only by the chimes of Jordan Geiger's bells, trumpet and toy piano. It wasn't punk and it sure as heck wasn't emo, but it contained healthy reminders of why those genres existed in the first place. Full review, mp3s, and more on the Canes...

8. Split Lip Rayfield "Should Have Seen It Coming"

Eventually, Split Lip Rayfield's records had to catch up with the band's exhilarating live show. "Should Have Seen It Coming" isn't a total blister-busting blitzkrieg of bluegrass, but neither is Split Lip Rayfield. The band can still shred all Kirk-Hammett-meets-Deliverance style, but it can also weep like an alcoholic baby with a broken rattle. "Should Have Seen It Coming" did both with gusto, and Split Lip retained its throne as the area's most potent string band. Full review, mp3s, and more on Split Lip

9. Sam "Miracles"

It's ok to feel, people. Feel sorry, feel sad, feel happy, feel mad just feel. Sam Billen of The Billions isn't afraid to express his feelings, and his solo debut just happens to set those feelings to heavenly melodies that recall Starflyer 59, Built to Spill and Grandaddy. Billen's gentle, reassuring voice could just as easily be singing lullabies to babies. If you like babies, you'll love "Miracles." Full review, mp3s, and more on Sam

10. Ad Astra Per Aspera "Cubic Zirconia"

One the year's best local releases was also one of its most ambitious. "Cubic Zirconia" mixed the art punk of early Sonic Youth with the sublime tunefulness of Blonde Redhead, delivering four thickly layered songs that were equally rewarding and disturbing. If you really want to hit the New Year in style, throw on "Cubic Zirconia" and howl at the midnight moon. Full review, mp3s, and more on Ad Astra

Honorable mentions

Approach "Ultra Proteus" (re-release)
Drakkar Sauna, "rover"
Midday Ramblers "Bluegrass Music is Fun"
The Golden Republic "People" EP
SoundsGood "Money / Pacin'"
The Belles "Idle Acres"
Al Japro "Seasoned By"
Namelessnumberheadman "Your Voice Repeating"
The Life on Earth "Your Karma Is Coming"
The Capsules "Something for Everyone"
Josh Powers "Scenebooster SoundSystem, Vol. 1"
Filthy Jim "Ride with Death"
Rex Hobart and the Misery Boys "The Good Ain't Gone"
Aubrey (self-titled)


Editor's note

OK Jones, "Middletown"
Though the above writer can't rightly include his own band in his own list of the year's best releases, it would be inane not to mention it here - to say nothing of being unfair to the other musicians on the album - because it is indeed one of the year's best Lawrence releases. Conceived, recorded and released in just weeks following songwriter Richard Gintowt's mutual departure with Ghosty, "Middletown" claims some of Lawrence's best talent: Jeff Jackson on pedal steel, Joe Rankin on drums, Cody Walters on bass, and guest appearances by Charile Rose on banjo, Andrew Connor on guitar, and "Clamp" Erlinger on dobro. The result is like a choice cheap beer (that is, not elitist nor whatever the current hipster beer is, rather like a Hamm's, an Old Style, or an Old Milwaukee's non-alcoholic). The unencumbered Americana rock goes down right smooth on first taste, and continues to satisfy even after continual consumption. It wears well daily, and can - if truth be told - become habit forming. It's exceedingly likeable because the songwriting is mature, the instrumentation is tight, and above all it's unconsciously faithful to its own personality, not a contrived concoction of whatever the herd currently thinks is hip. Hopefully this won't be read as a biased plug for a coworker all the homies genuinely dig the album. Perhaps it should be noted that we've given Mr. Gintowt plenty of shit for his not-so-awesome affected twang on a few tracks. Phil Cauthon

Discs reviewed in 2004

Find these and more local music in our Music section
Filthy Jim "Ride with Death"
Architects "Keys to the Building"
Reach "Joys, Disappointments and the In-Between"
The Ants "Victory Side"
Only Children "Change of Living"
Kirk Rundstrom "Same Ugly Town"
Midday Ramblers "Bluegrass Music is Fun"
Andy Graham and the Moment Band "The Tyrant is Free"
Aubrey self-titled
Rex Hobart and the Misery Boys "The Good Ain't Gone"
Split Lip Rayfield "Should Have Seen It Coming"
The Golden Republic "People" EP
Apollo 13 "Brave New World"
SoundsGood "Money / Pacin'"
Nezbeat "From the Huge Silence"
Old Canes "Early Morning Hymns"
The Belles "Idle Acres"
Kelley Hunt "New Shade of Blue"
Al Japro "Seasoned By:"
Kill Creek "The Will to Strike"
Approach "Ultraproteus"
Namelessnumberheadman "Your Voice Repeating"
The Life on Earth "Your Karma Is Coming"
Arthur Dodge and the Horsefeathers "Room #4"
Ad Astra Per Aspera "Cubic Zirconia"
Mad Awkward "Rain Closet"
Evan Saathoff "Sure I Guess So and Maybe We'll See"
Choad "It's All Over Now"
Minus Story "The Captain is Dead, Let the Drum Corpse Dance"
Easterday "1993-1995"
The Capsules "Someone for Everyone"
Jumbos Killcrane "The Slow Decay"
The Find
This Building Is Cursed "Demographic"
The Get Up Kids "Guilt Show"
Primetime Heroes "A Date With Destiny"
Sam "Miracles"
Anything But Joey "Necessary, But Not Cool"
Josh Powers "Scenebooster SoundSystem, Vol. 1"

Top local releases of 2003

Read about last year's top releases.


Rob Gillaspie 18 years, 6 months ago

Yeah, Omaha might be lame, but I don't believe it exists. As for Lawrence, I've seen it, it's real, and I KNOW it sucks. C;mon, Monkeywrench, there's just as much (if not more) unlistenable sobbing coming from L-town.

Tim vonHolten 18 years, 6 months ago

omaha and the fictional music scene they've created deserve a little shit. but "piss off?" such venom will certainly cause the tiny, sunken chests of the entire saddle creek roster to heave indignantly. surely we have more unlistenable sobbing to look forward to from that label.

smerdyakov 18 years, 6 months ago

While "Omaha music scene" may be an oxymoron, at least Conor and Co. aren't from Missouri. Now those guys are dipshits (not necessarily the bands from Missouri -- I refer to those sports superfan jackasses who hold on to the border war like they actually have a history to be proud of...dipshits!) Alrighty then, I'll leave it to someone else to take on the Okies and Colorawdo...

jmeier66 18 years, 6 months ago

Don't worry I'm not gonna jump in on this Omaha thread because I don't know much about the scene their. I just know that I don't like the music that comes off of the Saddle Creek rooster. I like my music to have a little bit more balls to it then those bands will EVER have.

Anyway, while I do agree with some of your picks on the list for best local release's this year it's a shame you didn't get a chance to review the following disks (but they are KC bands so that's probably why). I just wrote on all of these for the February first edition of a KC print zine called Dandercroft and I would pick them over several of the ones you listed any day.

Pendergast- The Truth About Saturday Night The Gaslights- Midwest Hotel The Pornhuskers- The Pornhuskers The Lust-R-Tones- Lookin' Back

Seek all for of these out if you can. But I will give you props for mentioning The Split Lip Rayfield, Aurthor Dodge and The Horsefeathers and The Architects cd's as all of those are very good and easily amoung the best local stuff to come out this year.

And also PLEASE stop beating the dead horse about the fact that The Architects used to be The Gadjits (and for that matter how The Only Children is the new Anniversary). Yes it is the same 4 guys playing the same style of rock n' roll, but get with the now Richard. The constant mentioning of their old band name and what happened to them REALLY cheapens your writing about them. The band has moved way past that and so should you.

Devin Vermeulen 18 years, 6 months ago

Omaha's music scene only seems big. There are only like 10 musicians on the saddle creek roster and they just reshuffle them once a month and pass them off as new bands. It's the faint (a saddlecreek anomloe) and then like 30 Connor Oberst and/or Tim Kasher side projects.

richard 18 years, 6 months ago

thanks for the input jmeier66. i have the pendergast cd on my desk and i'll look out for the others you mentioned.

as for "moving past" the gadjits and the anniversary, i think it's important to remember that not everybody in this town is as hip to local music scene as us scenesters. there are plenty of people out there who still need to be reminded that the only children and architects contain members of the anniversary and the gadjits - if they've even heard of those bands.

by the way, i think saddle creek is great...

Joseph Murphy 18 years, 6 months ago

You know, I like the Omaha music scene, as they created a label out of their friends, and it is insanely succesful, and pretty much all of the bands on the label are talented. But that being said, Lawrence holds its own. We have such better venues, and people, and our bars don't close at 1 a.m. Viva Lawrence, and all of the local music that is being made. What are we going to do tonight at the show at the bottleneck (The '89 Chicago Cubs / Andrew Connor)? Omaha vs. Lawrence! Throw down, suckaz!

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