1. Parker Millsap and Michael Rose
While its been
another great year of quality Oklahoma releases, no one had quite the
star-making performance that Millsap did with Palisade. The humble,
19-year-old Purcell native went from unknown to local favorite in less
than half a year, thanks to his Tom Waits howl of a voice tearing
through masterfully crafted ditties like Seed and Farmers Lament.
Palisade is bare and stripped down to the essentials: a guitar, a
stand-up bass and that voice. When you are this good, thats all you
You can practically hear Apocalyptic Behavior before you press play. Its just as fiery, fierce, chaotic and concussive as the title promises. Its also brilliant the type of brilliance you can only achieve if youre not trying to do anything brilliant at all. Windshield Wiper, Voyeur and Meat By Product harken back to Black Flag, the Dead Kennedys and Bad Brains not a derivative, but a direct extension. Punk aint dead its gone through hell and back, and woke up in Oklahoma.
3. John Fullbright
From the Ground Up
Oklahomans have known that Fullbright was special since the first raspy note he let out in his and Woody Guthries hometown of Okemah, but with the newly Grammy-nominated From the Ground Up, now the whole world is taking notice. Its a studied set of powerful and smart folk tunes, and with Gawd Above and Jericho, it felt like Guthrie was among us again.
4. Defining Times
Lots of bands reach out for that big, airy, atmospheric aesthetic of a Radiohead or U2, but crash and burn in an awkward, Grape Lady-like fall. Defining Times not only keeps its feet, but finds itself in Separate Tongues, a seven-song effort anchored by the Bon Iver-esque Outlaw that has the OKC act sounding right at home up in the clouds.
5. Josh Sallee
Much like Kevin Durant, its hard to appreciate just how impressive Sallees feats are because he makes them look so damned easy. He glides over beats like he learned to rap before talk. Put Out is hilariously clever; Ew boasts an infectious bounce; and Big Kid Bars is radio-ready. It is only a matter of time before OKCs Sallee makes a national splash; hes one Donald Trump away from being a household name.
6. Chelsey Cope
A Deeper Root
Its hard to find a way to shine in a city flush with remarkable female singer-songwriters, but Cope does just that with A Deeper Root, a devastating and determined collection of Cat Power-style tunes. Its imperfect, but decidedly so, embracing the cracks, twists and turns for all the character they reveal, best heard in The Fall and Gotta Lot of Nerve.
7. Myke Brown
Dont Forget the Y
It was great to see Brown, more noted for his slick guest verses than own material, step into the spotlight with Dont Forget the Y. I dont see him willing to let it go, either, given the strength of this disc. Atlantis is the best local hip-hop track of the year; Hey I (also featuring Sallee) is equally strong; and another Oklahoma hip-hop heavyweight is born.
8. Young Readers
When an album comes wrapped in a coloring sheet and packed with a set of crayons, you get an idea of where youre headed. Family Trees is as gentle and polite as you expect, but its not childish more trying to remember, a few years and a few heartbreaks later, what being a kid was like. Songs like Boxcar are quaint, lovely and warm your heart like little else could.
9. Colin Nance
No one in Oklahoma is making the music Nance is, and with Warmth, hes creating bigger, bolder and more inventive sounds by himself than most bands ever could. Dream Cove and Awakening fall sonically in line with M83 and Toro y Moi, but boasting a voice that recalls Twin Shadow. Warmth is of-the-moment, but something of its very own.
No one cut loose the way Cosmostanza did on its debut, Rad Vibes, which Im assuming is the result of translating a pizza-fueled Super Smash Bros. tourney into tunes. Beneath the fuzz of Dance Party and You Make Things Fun are some of the catchier melodies of the year. Raw, yes, but Rad Vibes sees Cosmostanza brimming with potential.
Hey! Read This:
The Black Jack Gypsys' 3:1 album review
Chelsey Cope's A Deeper Root album review
Colin Nance's Warmth album review
Copperheads' Apocalyptic Behavior album review
Cosmostanza's Rad Vibes album review
Cusp's Nothing Proper album review
Defining Times interview
John Calvin interview
John Fullbright interview
Josh Sallee's Probable Flaws album review
Myke Brown's Dont Forget the Y album review
Parker Millsap and Michael Rose's Palisade album review
Rob Vader interview
Young Readers interview