BREAKOUT: The blogosphere slobbered over Marissa Nadler in 2007 — and so did we.
Mark it, dude: another banner year for the Boston music scene. It saw the triumphant return of local alt-rock masters Dinosaur Jr. and Buffalo Tom. Most of our biggest exports — Dropkick Murphys, the Dresden Dolls, Killswitch Engage — continued to kick ass and take names. And pop-punk/emo/whatever-you-wanna-call-it outfits Boys Like Girls and the Receiving End of Sirens had huge albums and went on major tours.
But bubbling just beneath the surface were dozens of artists — some familiar, many new — making compelling music, throwing killer dance parties, taking chances. There isn’t space for me to go on about everyone that made me excited about Boston music this year. But, with a nod to those I didn’t include, here’s my top 10.
Local vets Dana Colley, Monique Ortiz, and Larry Dersch (also known as Colley/Ortiz/Dersch — get it?) make for a low-rock supergroup if there ever was one. Hearing former Morphine saxophonist Colley’s beefy bari lines with Ortiz’s glassy, heavy-groove bass and low-register croon prompts comparisons with Colley’s old band. But more important is the songwriting on the trio’s 2007 debut, Happiness, particularly Ortiz’s distinctively dense lyrics and snaky melodies. Haunting stuff.
Earlier this year, drummer Joe Vickers told the Phoenix that Caspian’s music “sounds like the Atlantic Ocean.” Pretentious? Perhaps, but it’s not a bad description of the band’s vast, climactic instrumental music. Along with buds Junius and Constants, Caspian are leading a Boston post-rock renaissance that’s garnering national notice.
Born of a burgeoning romance between singers/guitarists Sarah Cronin and Tommy Allen and brought to fruition with the help of a talented group of friends from Apollo Sunshine, the Dead Trees, the Lot Six, and Tulsa, Drug Rug sideswiped the local scene with the laidback charm, retro-fied sound, and shiny pop hooks of their homonymous debut album. A few high-profile press plaudits and packed high-energy shows later, the band are a good bet for a big national breakthrough.
Husband-and-wife psych-guitar gods Wayne Rogers and Kate Biggar have long been respected by denizens of rock’s way-underground — they’ve been at it for more than two decades, with Crystalized Movements, Vermonster, and Magic Hour, among others. But now with Major Stars’ sixth album — Mirror/Messenger, probably their most accessible, and possibly their best — and the backing of well-known indie label Drag City, Biggar, Rogers, and company seem poised to make wider inroads into indiedom’s consciousness.
Speaking of indiedom’s consciousness: 2007 saw Needham native Marissa Nadler burst into the upper echelons of the blogosphere, with Stereogum and Gorilla Vs. Bear (not to mention Pitchfork) slobbering all over the singer-songwriter’s elegant third album, Songs III: Bird on the Water (Kemado). Stereogum even included Nadler’s spare, spine-tingling cover of Radiohead’s “No Surprises” on its OK Computer tribute album. Google it if you haven’t heard it yet.
7L & Esoteric
The city’s longest-running hip-hop duo didn’t put out anything as “7L & Esoteric” this year, but with 15 years of tag-teaming under their belts, it’s hard to extricate one from the other, especially since 7L contributed beats to Esoteric’s party-rocking new “solo” disc, Egoclapper (Fly Casual). It was a busy 2007 for Eso: he also flexed his producer nuts — and his love for late-’70s/early-’80s synth-pop — with the spaced-out Esoteric Vs. Gary Numan: Pterodactyl Tubeway.
Another trio who deserve the “supergroup” tag: Boston hip-hop elder statesman Edo G, former Kreator Jaysaun, and one of the city’s most buzzed-about rappers of the last few years, Slaine, whose profile recently got a big boost thanks to a prominent role in Ben Affleck’s Gone Baby Gone. Special Teamz’ first full-length, Stereotypez (Duck Down), has collabos with Devin the Dude and members of Boot Camp Clik, as well as production from such heavy hitters as DJ Premier and Pete Rock — a stellar album that mixes “golden age” sounds with modern mixtape æsthetics. And it’s hard to hate on a disc that ups Beantown as much as this one.
When the sorta-monthly Thunderdome parties started happening about a year ago, it made me nostalgic for the Hollertronix parties in Philly that I never went to: heaping helpings of booze and bass at non-club-like venues, first the Cambridge Elks Lodge and now the Greek American Political Club. Throw in killer guest DJs like Detroit ghetto-tech pioneer DJ Assault (“Ass-N-Titties”) and Fool’s Gold co-honcho/Fader editor Nick Catchdubs and just try to stop your rump from shaking. Who said Boston doesn’t dance?
Carter Tanton may have the best set of pipes of any newish band in town — “His indie-seraphim voice is not of this world,” as David Fricke wrote in Rolling Stone. Huge and resonant, it’s the driving force behind Tulsa’s reverb- and delay-laden music, which is marked by a push-pull between melody and dissonance, concision and unhinged sonic exploration. Bully for us that Tanton moved here from Baltimore two years ago.
Who doesn’t love sex, drugs, and the Rolling Stones? Fronted by dynamic odd couple Chris Warren and Dave Vicini — leaders of the defunct Dirty Holiday and Lot Six, respectively — Viva Viva channel all three into their scuzzy, thrilling, dance-floor fire bombs. Despite their DIY MO, they have one overriding goal: to “get famous,” as Warren told me earlier this year. Don’t put it past them.