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What we LOVED this year: Local music

What we LOVED this year: Local music

The Capital Region’s music scene won’t be forgetting 2010 anytime soon.

The Capital Region’s music scene won’t be forgetting 2010 anytime soon.

This year saw probably the two biggest local breakouts since Super 400 or The Figgs. First it was Phantogram, whose debut album, “Eyelid Movies,” pushed the duo from local darlings to indie rock stars (see below for more). And last month, Sean Rowe got a much-deserved leg up from Epitaph subsidiary Anti-Records, which will be re-releasing his 2009 album “Magic” early next year.

But really, everyone on the local scene was fired up this year, with some killer releases by artists both new and old. Never mind the naysayers mourning the death of the album as we know it at the hands of the digital revolution. These 10 releases from local artists of all stripes will reaffirm your faith in the long-player format. And don’t be surprised if we see more of these guys joining Phantogram and Rowe in the big leagues next year.

“Phantom Power Trip” by Rob Skane No gimmicks. No empty hype. Not particularly flashy. But the 11 songs that make up veteran Niskayuna rocker Skane’s third proper solo album rank among the strongest to be released by any artist, anywhere, this year. This is just flat-out good songwriting in the mold of The Beatles or The Replacements’ Paul Westerberg, backed with muscular, no-nonsense rock ’n’ roll arrangements.

“Eyelid Movies” by Phantogram The Saratoga Springs duo’s debut album, released on Barsuk Records, took them national this year, and it’s easy to hear why. Innovative, smart sonics that draw on everything from trip-hop to electro pop frame melodies that will haunt you even after just one listen.

“A Beast Among the Civilized” by Tom McWatters The former Sense Offender can still offend, as the album’s nine cleverly written musings on pop culture, society and science fiction show. But he’ll also make you laugh, think and, most importantly, get up and groove with this varied rock ’n’ roll pastiche, where no one song sounds like another.

“Stranger on a Damned Staircase” by Skeletons in the Piano There’s the old “thinking man’s metal” cliche, and then there’s this Saratoga Springs four-piece’s twisted vision of a second album. The songs go from fist-pumping hard rock one minute, spaced-out keyboard, violin and guitar soundscapes the next, all framed by frontman Elijah Hargrave’s massive vocal presence.

“Tern Rounders” by Tern Rounders This rootsy five-piece has really come into its own on this, their second album, which heavily emphasizes the country elements and the lovable twang of Kim Kilby’s vocals. While one-half of the band’s songwriting force, Marc Clayton, has since left the group, we should all be thankful that this collaborative effort saw the light of day first.

“Big American Godzilla Party” by Beware! The Other Head of Science It’s ridiculously over-the-top and just plain ridiculous, but it rocks like no other and doesn’t let up. Albany’s resident oddball band stitches together punk rock muscle with just about anything else they can find, coming up with a truly unique debut fitting of their wild live show.

“February Sessions” by Mike Grutka After 2009’s long-labored-over “Ria,” Saratoga Springs songwriter Grutka took the RPM Challenge, writing and recording all of these 11 songs during the shortest month of the year. It’s raw and unpolished, but these songs are perhaps the best Grutka has ever written, his friendly melodies and vocals feeling completely at ease and lived in.

“Before the Street Lights Come On” by John Scarpulla This blue-eyed soul singer can hold a crowd all by himself, but his second album features a huge, textured full-band sound that perfectly frames these 14 hard-luck tales. While a bit on the long side, the album connects more often than not, especially on the slow burners that really let Scarpulla’s voice cut loose.

“Portrait of MLS” by Michael-Louis Smith The Saratoga Springs jazz man (he now divides his time between here and New York City) shows his mastery of the guitar on seven original compositions that are more than just vehicles for improvisation, finding innovation in every melodic line and solo. Some of these tracks stretch past the 11-minute mark and still leave you wanting more.

“Almost Always Never” by Flakjacket What began as a stripped-down duo project reaches a new level on this, the band’s second release. The full-band arrangements maintain an acoustic backbone, but this is acoustic rock with an edge, powered by Liam Irwin’s solid strumming and Alex Hyatt’s impassioned vocals.

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