Best Local Music of 2009

From indie-pop to hip-hop, the decade in local music came to an abundant end

Sometimes it pays to be patient. We could have run our best-of-2009-local-music list in early December like the rest of the world, but then we would have missed a killer Kinetiks record that snuck in right smack on the butt-end of the decade. Yes, that's why we waited until now. It had nothing to do with Jägermeister eggnog bombs.

As always, ranking local releases is a fool's errand: There are always more than 10, and there are always some that slip through the cracks. All we can offer is 10 albums that we truly, wholeheartedly enjoyed — and a nice long list of honorable mentions. Viva la música local!

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I Think I'll Stay Inside


Katlyn Conroy – “I Think I’ll Stay Inside”

With four years of shows under her belt, Lawrence's Katlyn Conroy (also of the band Another Holiday) had already established herself as one of the most promising new voices on the local scene. All that remained was translating her sweet melodies and sharp couplets to an album, and with "I Think I'll Stay Inside" she hit a home run. Featuring accompaniment from her Another Holiday mates and members of Cowboy Indian Bear and Hospital Ships, the disc is an instant pop charmer for ears that perk up to the tune of Rilo Kiley, Metric and Bright Eyes. Check out our full podcast preview of the album.

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Headphones and Cellphones


Sam Billen – “Headphones & Cellphones”

Not since the Postal Service has a record so seamlessly married synthesizers and electronic beats to indie-pop songcraft. "Headphones & Cellphones" is the result of Billen's fascination with computer music: from the smooth beats of modern R&B; to the endless possibilities of push-button orchestras. Like Sufjan Stevens, Billen delights in dramatic contrasts and orchestral-minded arrangements. But after listening to "Headphones & Cellphones," one gets the sense that he also gets a kick out of R. Kelly and Michael Jackson. Check out our full podcast preview of the album.

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Tragic Boogie


Life and Times – “Tragic Boogie”

Kansas City's most consistent purveyors of blissed-out heavy sounds delivered their "Soft Bulletin" of soaring guitars and drums from Planet Awesome. More so than the group's previous releases, "Tragic Boogie" took root because the songs were as memorable as the drum fills. A decade after the dissolution of his former band Shiner, singer and guitarist Allen Epley is still proving that his best is yet to come. Watch Life and Times on Turnpike.

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No Mercy


Max Justus – “No Mercy”

No one sounds like Max Justus: not locally, and not even nationally. Plenty of kids with keyboards and hijacked software attempt to be as effortlessly cool as mullet-rocking Max Spransy, but they don't know nearly as much about vintage synthesizers, and they don't make modern dance-floor music that's classically informed. When he wasn't busy infiltrating the Internets with remixes of Kanye West and C&C; Music Factory, K.C.'s Justus cooked up "No Mercy" - a goofy-fun electro record that offers a modern soundtrack for first-generation Nintendo lovers.

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Theirs & Ours


The Danny Pound Band – “Theirs and Ours”

Lawrence songwriter Danny Pound's second solo album flew a bit under the radar thanks to his group's infrequent performances in 2009, but those who heard it knew Pound hadn't been slacking in the songwriting department. Produced piecemeal with help from engineer Steve Squire, the disc captures Pound's unique voice in intimate detail. While his songs are rootsy in presentation, they're far from cliché thanks to his acute lyrics and far-out arrangements. Check out our full podcast preview of the album.

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Yonder Goes the Light


Rusty Scott – “Yonder Goes the Light”

If you find yourself recoiling in horror at the term "singer-songwriter," Rusty Scott might just revive your faith in what one guy can do with an acoustic guitar. The Lawrence songwriter has a leg up on the competition thanks to his high-reaching voice, but it's his urgent delivery that sticks. It's no coincidence that he made "Yonder Goes the Light" with Old Canes' Chris Crisci on the dials; Scott shares a similar aesthetic aimed at capturing spirited performances and lightning-in-a-bottleneck guitar. Fans of Langhorne Slim, The Avett Brothers and The Felice Brothers would be remiss to let this one pass them by. Check out our full podcast preview of the album.

The Kinetiks – “Science is Magic”

The Kinetiks have always been a fun live band, but they hadn't really succeeded in translating that spunkiness to tape until "Science is Magic." Each member sounds like they've grown in leaps and bounds since the release of 2007's "Music History" - you might think you were listening to Blondie or The Sounds during a blind taste-test of the songs "Dig a Hole" and "In Your Head." With top-notch production to match, "Science Is Magic" gives these Lawrence gals (and two guys) a fighting chance to break out in a big(ger) way.

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Land of Plenty


Continents – “Land of Plenty”

The home-recording project of Kansas City tunesmith Jim Button grew its sea legs in 2009 and turned into a full-fledged band. This collection was entirely performed by Button in his home studio - a remarkable accomplishment given the seamless way it hangs together. Evoking flower-pop acts like the Kinks and Donovan in equal measure with modern groups like My Morning Jacket and Animal Collective, "Land of Plenty" is a record that can sneakily work its way deep inside your skull. Check out our full podcast preview of the album.

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O Foolish Pride EP


Ghosty – “A Mystic’s Robe” and “O Foolish Pride” EPs

In lieu of waiting for an album's worth of material to be recorded, Ghosty delivered its new treats directly to its local faithful in the form of two digital EPs (a third is forthcoming). The results documented the influence of the Big Star, Zombies and Fleetwood Mac cover bands they've been inhabiting -'70s-tinged pop goodness with stellar musicianship that's effortless in presentation but intricate in construction. (Full disclosure: I used to play drums for this K.C.-via-Lawrence troupe many years ago, but I would have been a fan regardless.)

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Style Like Mind


Steddy P - "Style Like Mind"

While numerous local rappers revealed their new works in EP form, K.C. emcee Steddy P put together the most cohesive full-length collection of the year. With production that reflected the influence of staples like KRS-One and the Def Jux crew, P's exasperated delivery sounded like a battle cry. He took his act on the road with Approach and Earthworms, doing his part to keep Midwest hip-hop on the map. Check out our full podcast preview of the album.

Very honorable mentions

Antennas Up — “Antennas Up”
Calamity Cubes — “Long Cold Winter”
Adam Lee and the Dead Horse Sound Co. — “Ghostly Fires”
London Transit — “Digital Kid”
Stik Figa and D/Will — “Hello, Goodbye”
Tech N9ne — “K.O.D.”
Greg Enemy — multiple EPs
Drakkar Sauna — “20009”
Coalesce — “OX”
Cowboy Indian Bear — “Cowboy Indian Bear” EP
The Appleseed Cast — “Sagarmatha
Old Canes — “Feral Harmonic”
The Dactyls — “The Dactyls” EP
Krizz Kaliko — “Genius”
Andrew Morgan — “As Long As We’re Together” EP
Rooftop Vigilantes — “Carrot Atlas”
Capybara — “Try Brother”
Be/Non — “A Mountain of Yeses”
Soft Reeds — “Three Songs” EP
Pet Comfort — “Paperdolls” EP
Doby Watson — “22”
Oriole Post — “Silver City”
Deadman Flats — “Read ‘Em and Weep”


hankscorpio74 12 years, 5 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

Handsome_Rob 12 years, 5 months ago

well I know where my vote would go...

and that would be to a lot of these bands.


thare 12 years, 5 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

alm77 12 years, 5 months ago

Wow. Two comments removed? I've only seen that ONCE in my entire 5+ year readership and even then I coaxed (okay, I complained loudly) Phil into reposting the comments just to prove to me that they were indeed awfully offensive (and indeed they were). But anyway...

Yes, Katlyn Conroy's CD is AMAZING. I listen to it regularly and would recommend it to anyone. I think Rooftop should have gotten a bigger mention, but hey, the new album coming out in April (I think) will top your list for 2010.

Excellent piece. Looks like I've got some checking out to do.

knayte 12 years, 5 months ago

Gah, this makes me realize how much local music I've been missing over the last year. Will definitely be checking this stuff out.

Did Suzannah Johannes release anything this year?

Kyle Chandler 12 years, 5 months ago

Suzannah Johannes didnt release anything this year actually...she did record a full lengths worth of material a few years back, a friend gave me a copy and it was damn good. I thought the 7inch that was 'officially' released was gonna be even newer tracks, but it was just botched versions of those recordings. too bad. great vocalist.

The Ghosty EPs are quite a nice listen. Probably the most delightfully consistent group in town.

The Dactyls EP is totally rocking, i play 'A Widow Knows' at least once a day on my work computer. They could be the best band in lawrence for me right now.

I wish Danny Pound was as prolific as Ghosty....i didnt even realize he had a new one out....i didnt see it at the garden.

what else can i say except

lawrence rules!

theinvisiblehand 12 years, 5 months ago

thank god Mohandas Roelofs didn't all into this little list

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