Columbus produced honest-to-God stars
When the Josh Krajcik Band released the blistering blues-rock set “Atavistic” to minimal fanfare in February, no one knew Krajcik would go on to become the most famous musician in Columbus. But Simon Cowell’s approval will do that for you. The burly rocker made it to the finals of Fox’s “The X Factor” — his fate will be decided Thursday — and looks set to launch a promising full-time music career.
Less prominent but no less impressive was country rocker Lydia Loveless, whose sharp (and sharp-tongued) songwriting made her Bloodshot debut “Indestructible Machine” a widespread critical smash.
Columbus’ rap renaissance bloomed
The new wave of hip-hop talent was in full bloom this year. Much of the best stuff came from the scene orbiting Short North boutique Sole Classics: Fly.Union’s chilled-out night on the town “The Greater Than Club,” LxE for the Uncool’s ace singles (“Paper Rocket” FTW!) and P. Blackk’s tremendous, tumultuous coming-of-age story “Blackk Friday.”
Fly.Union’s pal Freaky Franz shouted his way through the Fool’s Gold-approved “The Freaky Tales.” Lax bro Meechie Nelson oozed personality on his “Hot Chicks and Lacrosse Sticks.” Path stayed on his grind with numerous strong releases and set himself up for an even bigger 2012.
Renee Dion tapped The Liquid Crystal Project to concoct two quality R&B releases — props especially to the bizarre “The City That Sleeps.”
Hip-hop veterans were resurgent
Not content to let the kids hog the spotlight, established rappers and producers had banner years. Blueprint’s long-gestating “Adventures in Counter-Culture” proved worth the wait. His former Weightless cohorts Envelope and Zero Star showed they can thrive out from under his wing.
On the production side, The 3rd’s Rashad lent rich, immersive production to Stalley’s underground smash “Lincoln Way Nights,” while J. Rawls unveiled his first solo album in a decade, the back-to-basics success “The Hip-Hop Affect.”
The old guard hit hard
Rappers weren’t the only veterans going hard; the old-school Used Kids illuminati flourished. Consider Psandwich’s mystical punk master stroke “Northren Psych,” the best album in Ron House’s illustrious career, or The Black Swans grimly poignant “Don’t Blame the Stars.” Moviola cut a series of resonant singles, soon to be collected on vinyl.
Although they run in different circles, Bicentennial Bear’s “Lost Summers” was another welcome blast from the past.
The indie rock elite grew up
Many breakout talents from five years back returned older, wiser and slightly more sedated. Times New Viking moved to Merge and released the refined but still suitably slapdash “Dancer Equired.” Psychedelic Horseshit aligned with FatCat to release the sometimes dreamy, sometimes nightmarish head trip “Laced.” The Lindsay didn’t have the benefit of a record label, but “Deep In the Queue” was awesome anyway.
The new faces of folk made power moves
Saintseneca stomped, shouted and strummed through their stunning debut LP, “Last.” Max Sollisch launched the solo project Dolfish (and got signed to Afternoon Records) with “Your Love Is Bummin’ Me Out,” a short-but-sweet collection of trembling country twee. Moon High turned in a soft whisper of an album, “Six Suns.”
We just wanted to dance
DJs took over the Columbus nightlife. Some of them released excellent records in the process, including roeVy’s ecstatic “The Demons EP” (not as dark and demented as you’d think), Cassius Slay’s Moombahton workout “The Tree House EP” (acclaimed by Diplo’s Mad Decent) and DJ Self Help’s exultant “Cape Cassandra” single (also Mad Decent-approved).
Columbus stayed heavy
I’m not going to pretend to be fully versed on metal in Columbus, but two albums I enjoyed were EYE’s galactic opus “Center of the Sun” and Lo-Pan’s “Salvador,” which streamlined their formerly spacey sound into brutal earthbound bursts.
Angela Perley & the Howlin’ Moons and the ever-popular Salty Caramels maintained the cute side of country and folk; Mooncussers explored its darker side, as did solo releases from Two Cow Garage’s Shane Sweeny and Micah Schnabel.
The rise of the new garage rock hedonists
Cadaver Dogs unveiled their “On All Fours” EP and a slew of other party-rock powerhouses (The George Elliot Underground, The Up All Nights, Dirty Girls) congealed into what seems like a movement.
Classic rock reared its head
Columbus continued to crank out classic-rock-inspired offerings, from Motown acolytes Nick Tolford & Company’s continued dominance to Sundown’s post-Crazy Horse platter “Mansion Burning!” Even former pop-punks Tin Armor sounded more and more like The Band on “Life of Abundance.”
Genre-jumping was hot
Many a band melded and meandered through genres, most thrillingly the A.D.H.D.-proof spazz-pop of Twenty One Pilots’ “Regional At Best.” Maza Blaska’s “Storyteller” took the exotic route, while The DewDroppers plowed through old-timey genres with pizzazz. Bum Wealthy applied the trick in a jam-band context. MojoFlo turned heads everywhere, including the ComFest main stage.
Columbus invaded SXSW
A slew of Columbus bands including The Floorwalkers, Andy Shaw Band, G. Finesse & the N.S. and Karate Coyote trekked to Austin for the “We Are Columbus” showcase.
A trend toward one-man bands begat satisfying releases from The Saturday Giant (“When Death Comes”), Professional Wrestling (“Professional Wrestling”) and Monster Rally (“Coral”).
More exciting young bands released projects this year: post-punk revivalists Narrow & the Brights, post-“O.C.” accumulators Indigo Wild and blustery blues-rockers Lionel the Jailbird.
Saturation ensued for Alive cover models
Alive’s Bands to Watch seemed to be everywhere, but they managed to accomplish a few things in between playing some major event every night of the week. The Wet Darlings delighted their cult with the “So Long, Lover” EP; The Town Monster kicked out Reznor-worthy single “Bela Lugosi;” Way Yes signed to Lefse Records, which released their effervescent “Oranjudio” 7-inch.
Alive’s 2010 ComFest cover models Phantods and 2011 honorees Old Hundred were a constant presence, too.