An Abridged Roundup of WV Music (2016)

An Abridged Roundup of WV Music (2016)

 

25 Gems From 2016

First off, I love the West Virginian music scene and all that has poured forth from it this past year. I was taken aback as I was compiling this list as to how much new music has been generated statewide, and I am sure I missed out on some true gems. Secondly, this list is in no particular order. I love what all of these musicians have to offer and bring to the table, and enjoy them for different and varying reasons, and want to encourage them all to keep doing what they are doing. Lastly, I urge you to at the very least go listen to these songs, catch these bands and artists live, and cultivate your local music scene. It can only flourish if we all support each other and champion each other forward. Now! Here’s the list:

25) Rookscare - Ecotone [EP] (Milton, WV)

 

Technically only two tracks, this dark ambient/doom metal triumvirate present a multi-faceted rhapsody. The first track taking you on a nearly 14-minute journey, it continually changes up its pace to keep you entranced from beginning to end. Top Tracks: "Ecotone", "The Binding of Ka-Tet/Arboreal Impedance"

 

24) Hurl Brickbat - The Stamp [EP] (Charleston, WV)

 

Reminiscent of the 90's alt-rock/grunge movement, this endeavor is still quite a creative and original take on the genre. With clever turns of phrase, catchy hooks and clean-cut tunes, there’s not one lazy track on here. Top Tracks: "Subliminals", "Don’t Break Me"

 

23) Seethruskin - Cigarette Breathe + Cigarette Clothes [EP] (Charleston, WV)

 

A name paying homage to Jawbreaker, this emo/folk-punk artist rides a wave of emotion through each song present on this EP. Raw and vulnerable, it’s a refreshing expression of angst and the workings-through of new seasons. Top Tracks: "My Dad Was My Age in 1989", "Sometimes I’m Strawberry. Sometimes I’m Blue."

 

22) Forever Strong - Fantasies & Fiction [EP] (Morgantown, WV)

 

A mixture of pop-punk & early 2000's emo, this vulnerable outpouring squeezes as many lyrics as it can in its four tracks. Kicking off with a nod to Holden Caulfield, "In the Rye" expresses how fiction frequently finds its way into reality. It continues to touch on relatable experiences we’ve all had, such as being friend-zoned ("Best Friends") and the helplessness that often comes with adulthood ("It’s Not As Easy As It Looks"), all the questions posed on this album are destined to resonate with all of its listeners. Top Tracks: “Waiting”, “In The Rye”

 

21) Cumberland - The Darkest Days (Huntington, WV)

 

An endeavor divergent from member’s past projects, this alt-rock foursome brings some high-energy tunes to the table. As a whole, this record touches on many different genres, but in the end it’s a heavy-hitting rock and roll record. Well-crafted and a pleasure to listen to, give this record a spin. Top Tracks: "It’s Alright", "By the Way"

 

20) Codename: Cricketman - Whoa! Is Me (Huntington, WV)

 

I love when musicians take creative leaps with their art, and this hits the nail on the head (and then some). Punk rock with electronic elements, I definitely get a Devo vibe when I pop this album in (especially on R34L1ty Check). Replete with catchy and fun-loving tunes, I have yet to tire of Whoa! Is Me. Top Tracks: "Caffeine and Hi-C", "Errybody W1ns!"

 

19) Tim Browning & the Widowmakers - Bad Intentions (Logan, WV)

 

With members from all over the tri-state area, this powerhouse of musicians brings to you alt-country tunes with a punch. With songs so full, it’d be hard to pack much more into them than what is already present. Every track is a journey with each tune carrying its own personality. Not being a huge country fan myself, I had put off listening to this album, much to my current chagrin. Don’t make the same mistake yourself! Top Tracks: "Gasoline", "L.S.O.K."

 

18) Under Surveillance - Savannah Moon (Charleston, WV)

 

Do you like getting punched in the crotch? Because that’s what this album will do…to your ears. Kicking off with the post-punk "99 Reasons", the riffing guitars sweep you into an earwig of a chorus, and the album continues to build. "Crisis" launches you into a hard rock spin, kicking into a higher gear as Eve’s vocals drop in to every song. With energy never waning throughout this play-through, you’ll find yourself singing along in no time. Top Tracks: "Better Now", "Crisis"

 

17) Trielement - Self Titled (Charleston, WV)

 

These local legends have previously performed jazz, metal, funk, rock & roll…just about any genre imaginable. With this album they have craftily taken all of these flavors and formed an amalgam of sounds to funnel into their instrumental prog-rock core. Intelligent and captivating, you’ll be picking apart these tunes and discovering new layers with each listen. Top Tracks: “Mind Frenzy”, “Into the Ether”, “Blue Flamingo”

 

16) Cassius at Best - The Dead Weight [EP] (Parkersburg, WV)

 

Indie rockers and masters of the catchy pop hook, this EP will surely stick with you. These guys continue to pop out new songs, and although they’ve already created a new arsenal of tunes, I’m still stuck on this one.  Tight knit tunes and instrumentation that is never oversaturated, these guys just know how to write a damn good song. Top Tracks: “Separate Identity”, “Friends & Counterweights”

 

15) We Are Funhouse – Pillowtalk (Parkersburg, WV)

 

I take notice when musicians take the time to hone in their sound and care about the little details in the structure of a song or the tone of their instrument. And to have a live show that outdoes an already well-produced album is an added bonus. These guys have quite the database of songs, but I believe that they found their stride with this release. Blending rock ‘n’ roll, hip-hop and blues, this album is a pleasure to listen to on all fronts. Top Tracks: “Follow”, “Ghost” 

 

14) After Atlas - Transit [EP] (Morgantown, WV)

 

This EP is reminiscent to me of the early-to-mid 2000’s music scene, back when I first started getting invested in music and going to shows. It invokes emotions I hadn’t felt in a very long time, and for that, I am grateful.  With melodic tunes overlaid by clean, cozy vocals and accessible lyricism, my only qualm is that it’s merely three tracks! Hope to hear much more from these guys come 2017. Top Tracks: “Gonzo”, “Amity”

 

13) Miniature Giant - Terrible People/Tyrannosaurus Rad (Charleston, WV)

 

A double-feature, these twelve collective tracks are in your face from beginning to end. “Jale Dunior” has to be one of my favorite album openers of all time. With lyrics that often play on words and cleverly turn phrases, there’s still a depth and intelligence behind them that may come to surprise you. Mini G has always had a fresh take on punk rock, and these releases solidify their creativity with challenging the boundaries of the genre. My hat is off to these guys. Hell, I’d put it back on, just to take it off again for them. Top Tracks: “Bret Michaels Extravaganza!”, “Not My Way”, “Jackass”

 

12) The Settlement - Self-Titled (Huntington, WV)

 

Jazz, funk, rock ‘n’ roll; the palette is full and almost splitting at the seams on this release. Kicking off with the beautiful, almost mournful riff in “Only Love”, each track has a different personality, yet they are all strung together in a magnificent sweep of melody, instrumentation and cozy vocals. I had been awaiting an official release from these guys for quite some time now, and it has been in a constant rotation for me since its release. But don’t take my word for it, check it out for yourself! (Thanks, Lavar!) Top Tracks: “Take It in Stride”, “Be Yourself”

 

11) Dino Drive - Origins [EP] (Parkersburg, WV)

 

I often get surprised at all the music that comes out of West Virginia. Everyone is so different in what they bring to the table. DD is no different here, either. The first time I saw them, I had no idea what to expect, but (as with most local acts I have witnessed) I was pleasantly surprised. It’s not very often a hard rock band features a dominant keyboard, but it’s snug in the mix of the songs, and brings a welcome aesthetic. This is another EP I wish was just a bit longer, but I’ll always take what I can get. Top Tracks: “Burn Them Down”, “Mezmerette”

 

10) Cognition - Procession of Thoughts (Fairmont, WV)

 

A perfect embodiment of progressive metal, this album cuts loose and reels through an aural journey that I have yet to happen upon in the local WV scene. I was highly impressed by the quality of recording and the well-crafted masterpiece that is this album. I’ll be spinning this album for years to come, I am sure. Top Tracks: “Desolation”, “Last Call”

 

9) Roy F. Bush/Townsel Turner – Split (Charleston, WV/Richmond, KY)

 

A perfect pairing of musicians, I’ve been a fan of the respective artists bands and solo projects for a long time now. Although I’ve never been a huge fan of acoustic/singer-songwriter type tunes, if it contains a certain dark and haunting vibe and poignant lyrics like this split does, I am all on board. It also goes perfectly with the time of year it was released, as it exudes a feeling of the onset of winter; for myself, at least. It’s a definite must-hear. Top Tracks: All of Them!

 

8) Left Behind - Seeing Hell (Huntington, WV)

 

There really is no other band around WV like Left Behind. They’re a tight-knit grouping of musicians, and they’ve brought a true spirit of heavy music back to the scene. Although they may have given me tinnitus with earplugs in, their blend of old school hardcore and metal has a refreshing spin on it. The haunting, clean vocals that commence “Convulse” was quite divergent from their older material, and the album as a whole was a step forward in maturity and a honing-in of the band’s sound. Flawless start to finish, this album is worthy of your attention. Top Tracks: “Snakes”, “Headhunter”

 

7) Years End - Ring of Bone (Martinsburg, WV)

 

I only recently happened upon these guys, and lucked out that they decided to drop a brand new full-length mere weeks ago. Upon discovery, I’d only heard some of their older material, which I enjoyed, but 2016 was truly a year of local musicians hitting their stride and creating some remarkable art. You can hear the chemistry between members of this band on this record, and it flows impeccably. A perfect post-hardcore play-through. Top Tracks: “Black Lodge”, “Stargazer”

 

6) A Story Told - Keep Watch (Huntington, WV)

 

These guys have been slaving away in the scene for a while now, but recent years have been reimbursing their hard work with great reward. This album is a victory for them on all accounts. Pop-punk in nature, the intricacies and detail that went into this album proves that their skilled musicianship and songwriting goes far above and beyond a stigmatized genre. Full of melody and emotion, don’t miss out on this earwig of an album. Top Tracks: “Criminal”, “Check, Please!”, “Keep Watch”

 

5) Horseburner - Dead Seeds, Barren Soil (Parkersburg, WV)

 

I’ve always been fairly partial to sludge and stoner metal, but these guys incited a whole new affinity in me for it. They took my favorite parts of early Pelican, Mastodon, Red Fang (and many other staples of the genres), added their flare to it and created what is, to me, a perfect album. It’s one of my favorite records to pop in on my commute to work, as it’s replete with involuntary air-guitar riffing and drumming, and it wraps up right as I’m pulling in to the front door. And the album just sounds so full, it feels as if it’s going to burst at any moment. I can’t get enough of it. Top Tracks: “Into Black Resolution”, “David”

 

4) The Danger of Falling - Hope/Well [EP] (Morgantown, WV)

 

Consisting of five dudes you’d be happy to take home to Mom, don’t be swayed by the charm and good looks emanating from these gentlemen. These guys pack a punch to your aural gut. The opening track crescendos and bleeds into “Still Vacant”, and the energy and passion present is sustained for the remainder of the album. Replete with tasty riffs, gut-wrenching vocals and a message we all need to hear: Hope. Top Tracks: “Myself/Alone”, “Distant Despair”

 

3) Youth - Self Titled [EP] (Charleston, WV)

 

Rising from the ether, seemingly out of nowhere, this powerhouse of musicians recently hit the scene running, bringing quite an original sound to the table. I love a band that challenges definition of immediate genre. Instrumental in nature, don’t be misguided; these songs are all over the place creatively. Traversing through melodic riffs to the thrash of a breakdown and the time signatures of your Dad’s favorite prog-rock record, this album truly is pure genius. 10/10. Top Tracks: “Torrents”, “One Click”, “Johnny Plaid”

 

2) Meet Me in the Matinee - Lucid Dreams One (Logan, WV)

 

The last thing you would think to hear come from Logan, WV, this pleasant surprise is a welcome change of musical pace. A unit with already quite the discography under their belts, this EP is quite divergent from their former years, yet still beholds the signature sound that they have endlessly work to hone in. Plus, the record just sounds fantastic on any platform I play it on, so kudos on taking the time on making a quality record. Top Tracks: “Existential Reflections”, “Rare Teeth”

 

1) Down in Round Three - Sidelined [EP] (Huntington, WV)

 

Shifting gears from post-hardcore to pop-punk, you’d think the engine would explode, but not with these guys. A seamless transition has proven that these guys can do anything that they put their mind to, and do it well. An album full of could-be radio singles, I haven’t heard an record this catchy from end to end in many years. Powerful, proficient and palpable, I instantly fell in love with this EP. Top Tracks: “I Think I Might Be Nobody”, “Amen”, “Something in the Water”

 

Honorable Mention (Singles):

- Homesick: Disdain

- The Dividends: Ain’t Been Missing You

- Let the Guilty Hang: Show Your Teeth

- Yearling: Safe

- Feverwar: Bullsh*t

- Speedsuit: Seven Days

- Skincarver: Hell Born

- Embracer: Below

- Time & Distance: Something More

- Basie: Olivia

- Tin Pan Parade: The Balance of Youth

- Advent/Ascended: Rise

- The Kind Thieves: On the Rocks (Ordinary Fish)

- Shenanagram - Mayor of Where

 

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