Rewind 

A year’s worth of music worth spinning again

Filthy Gem

The Lights’ Diamonds and Dirt (Wäntage USA) is a lot like the Seattle-based trio’s October set at the Elk’s Club: dirty, loud, compelling from start to finish and over too soon. Whether listeners are drawn to the witty (and often overlooked) lyrics, the subtly gorgeous hooks hiding in the garage-rawk scrum, the sixth-sense synchronicity of a band that’s played together 10 years or just that killer opening to “Caged Man’s Blues,” this album—like that show—bears repeating. (SB)

Up and Downer

With just an acoustic guitar, the occasional harmonica and his gravelly vocals, David Boone fashions vivid stories of red barns, broke-down cars, empty bottles and hard living. Hard Enough to Bend (self-released) is about Montana life at its darkest, its frayed edges revealed by razor-sharp storytelling. When Boone sings, “I worked the mill day and night/you worked the diner on the side/we met each other in our minds,” you know this isn’t the insipid outdoor Montana the media loves, but a stark interior landscape of heartbreak and fierce love. As depressing as it is, it’s equally edifying. (EF)

Homesick Blues

Former Missoulian Nate Schweber went to New York City, recruited a band called The New Heathens and cut a heck of an album called Hea-thens Like Me (self-released). The Heathens’ songs are inspired affairs, raucous when joyful and soulful when gritty, and Heathens Like Me manages to share the stories of beautiful, bitter drunks (“When She’s Wasted”), gasoline-equipped teenage pranksters (“July 1 Near Helena Montana”) and a declining American city (“Goodnight Patterson”) with equal measures of verve and musicality. (JW)

Road Songs

Punk-cum-folkie Graham Lindsey breezed through Western Montana last winter for a few dates as the opening act for Wayne “The Train” Hancock. The tour may have been fleeting, but the album Lindsay was promoting, Famous Anonymous Wilderness (Catamount Records), remains in well-deserved rotation. Next time you’re in the mood for Bob Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited, try popping in Lindsey’s album instead. He pulls off a lyrically busy and fresh take on that vintage 1960s sound. (CK)

The Revolution Was Not Televised

There are multiple reasons to embrace The Coup’s latest: the head-bobbing beats of DJ Pam the Funkstress, the funked-out instrumentation (think James Brown’s JBs) of a full-on band, the soulful female backing vocals of Silk E and the intelligent rhymes of frontman Boots Riley. But more than anything, Pick a Bigger Weapon (Epitaph) merits inclusion for its pinpointed political messaging and timely antiestablishment rants, which Riley has a gift for delivering in a package that’s both light (“Laugh/Love/Fuck”) and poignant (“Captain Sterling’s Little Problem”). All of the above was on full display during The Coup’s May show at The Other Side, highlighted by a 10-minute version of the hit “My Favorite Mutiny,” earning the band props for one of the year’s best albums and concerts. (SB)

Hometown Heroes

On Cobra Blood Hangover (Australian Cattlegod Records) The International Playboys pull no punches: instead, they ham it up, kick it loose, slug it back, burn it down and throw in a country tune as the cherry on top. It’s a superficially chaotic album, but you can tell the Playboys secretly have all their dirty rock ducks in a row, because each gang vocal, smart-ass joke and gratuitous guitar solo is in just the right place. (EF)

For Old-Time’s Sake

This year the Flat Mountain Girls, Portland, Ore.’s first ladies of old-time music, won the Northwest String Summit’s best band contest just before touring through Missoula, Bozeman and Gardiner. For those who witnessed this band’s fiddling frenzy firsthand, a listen to Honey Take Your Whiskers Off (self-released) will certainly call up images of guitarist Nann Alleman’s memorable facial contortions (Neil Young wouldn’t stand a chance in a scowl-off) and perhaps even induce yodeling. (CK)

Those Were the Days

Conventional wisdom would give a spot on this list to The Decemberists and their major-label debut, The Crane Wife (Capitol). They’re one of the year’s unquestioned alt-pop darlings, racking up features in every rock rag from here to Jann Wenner’s bathroom, consistent mainstream radio play and what sure smells like a scripted cross-media “battle” with Comedy Central’s Steven Colbert—and the album’s not bad, either. In fact, some songs may be the band’s most adventurous yet.

That’s all fine and good (especially if you’re 15, read Tolstoy and think Colin Meloy’s just dreamy), but it feels just a little like overkill. What’s imminently more embraceable is the January rerelease of old Tarkio material, Omnibus (Kill Rock Stars). The double-disc features Meloy as a UM student, still finding his vocal and lyrical footing, and often excellent accompaniment from the likes of guitarist Gibson Hartwell. It’s the opposite of overexposed, but with songs like “Save Yourself” and “My Mother Was a Chinese Trapeze Artist,” this rare college-band resurrection gets our vote. (SB)

Discount Baggage

John Hoeffleur, the songwriter behind Champaign, Ill.-based trio The Beauty Shop, has issues. He says as much on “I Got Issues,” a track on Yard Sale (Snapper Music): “I wrote ‘fuck’ on all my clothes, but that’s the life I chose.” Be glad Hoeffleur chose it. The album contains selections remarkable for their sardonic wit, telling detail and twangily unpretentious musicality. More than one person I’ve played this album for mentioned Uncle Tupelo by way of comparison. That’s not bad company to be in, but Hoeffleur’s lyrics, at least to my ear, are better. (JW)

Instrumentally Yours

Ever since Talkdemonic’s 2002 inception, the instrumen- tal duo comprising drummer Kevin O’Connor and violist Lisa Molinaro has carved out its own wickedly cool niche in the Northwest music scene. 2004’s Mutiny Sunshine was widely praised for its mix of O’Connor’s trip-hop beats, Molinaro’s strings, and laptop trimmings, but somehow Beat Romantic Local Boys Make Good

From the guitar/key- board melody of “Divvy it Up,” which sounds like rays of sunlight exploding from the clouds, to the darker, raise-your-PBR ballad “Grey Skies,” Oblio Joes’ Let’s Decompose and Enjoy Assembling! (Twisted Kite/Yak Herder) is a vibrant banquet of shimmery, edgy pop. Previous recordings wielded some memorable songs, but this album is professional and rousing—easily the band’s most fully realized effort. (EF)

Fancy Fretwork

Mike Compton and David Long’s Stomp (Acoustic Disc) was a 2006 nominee for the International Bluegrass Music Association “Recorded Event of the Year” award, and it’s an absolute riot. And don’t be confused—this album is totally devoid of Broadway dancers beating on trashcan lids. Instead, mandolin nerds Compton (Nashville Bluegrass Band, John Hartford, etc.) and Long (Karl Shiflett’s Big Country Show) geek out on tunes that were making the rounds long before Bill Monroe ever plucked a G-string. The material is given a raucous treatment full of furious picking, right up to a bittersweet gospel/drinking tune closer. (CK)

Character-Driven

You should meet the man with a gleam in his eye that can’t be extinguished by a morning appointment with the gallows. He’s the main character of “Leavin’ in the Morning,” the first track of Fort Collins, Colo. country outfit Drag the River’s latest album, It’s Crazy (Suburban Home Records). He’s also just one of the players populating an album that’s the aural equivalent of brown liquor seasoned with sawdust. The songs might burn a little going down and choke you up or make you shout, but they’re all well-executed examples of stout and sturdy songwriting. (JW)

Copping a Feel

The Touchers generate plenty of comparisons to the Pixies, which are accurate and complimentary, but Pretty Baby (self-released) remains its own wild amalgam of serpentine riffs, mutinous drumming and riveting vocals polished alternately by aggression and amour. Saying that this oddly magnetic album merely “rocks” would be a gross understatement. It’s an addictive substance derived of slicked-back ’50s rock ’n’ roll, smothered in Seattle grungecore and spat into a vat of rocky Americana. (EF)

Turn ’Em Up to 11

It’d been nearly four years since the last Volumen release, so when Science Faction (Wäntage USA) dropped—at a March all-ages show featuring high-school and middle-school band openers, no less—fans of Missoula’s favorite band (as voted by Indy readers) finally had something new to digest. Well, mostly. “Dune” and “Pandemonium,” both well-known to live audiences and included in previous side projects, finally landed on a formal Volumen album alongside newer tracks like the heavy “Side of a Box.” It was worth the wait. (SB)

Reviews by Skylar Browning, Erika Fredrickson, Caroline Keys and Jason Wiener.

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