The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

buzz’s top ten local albums of 2018

10. Lonely Trailer – “Battle of Duh”

Alternative/Indie group Lonely Trailer is back again to grace its listenership with another spunky and unique album. Following their 2012 album, “Secret Information Booth,” they just released their newest eclectic album, “Battle of Duh.” “Battle of Duh” is chock-full of catchy songs, while staying true to their classic sound. Just as they describe themselves on their Bandcamp website, their sound definitely gives off a Beach Boys vibe. Lonely Trailer has a classic and nostalgic feeling to their music, likely due to this uncanny comparison.
The album encapsulates this classic sound and offers listeners a variety in their songs – quick paced and slower paced, intermixed throughout the album. These songs are then backed by a solid, rhythmic guitar. Their cords are unique, sometimes clashing but still being cohesive to the rest of the sound. Their instrumentals for their music adds another layer of depth to their music.
Some of their best songs from the album would subjectively be “Mantis,” “Americano,” and, “Time is Tight.” Although you really can’t go wrong with any of the songs from the album. Lonely Trailer provides a listening experience that is engaging, fulfilling, and leaves the listener wanting more.
– Taylor Cygan

9. The Uncreatures – “We Were Never Here”

Local underground rockers, the UnCreatures released “We Were Never Here” this past July, The entire record successfully places the listener in the time and space of its creation. Each song conjures up vivid images of a laid-back garage jam session. Lead vocalist Wayne Gibbous, whose voice is akin to a lo-fi Alex Turner, adds his harmonica skills to each track offering a bright and vivacious layer to the group’s sultry punk rock. The vitality of the instrument comes through with particular strength on “Bummer Express” where it mimics a homemade train whistle and sets up the movement and urgency behind the track. An impressive solo on “Polly Ethelyne” adds an energetic and polished element to the underground sound. The powerful and prominent lead guitar from Tom Spraingler stands out on every single track as it provides an element of classic rock and roll. But it feels particularly impressive and important on “Roll the Dice” and “Always Rock N Roll.”

– Katie Powers

8. Winder – “GONE, FOR GOOD”

Having grown up in Champaign-Urbana and being and feeling well acquainted with the local music scene, I was surprised to learn of many new bands from the area that I’d never heard of. While many blew right by me, one that caught my attention was the band who describes themselves as “Fuzzy, fractured pop from Illinois” – Winder. Winder is a “Post-hardcore” band, though I’d simply describe them as alternative rock, that indeed capture a fuzzy, pop-rock sound that fans of alternative rock would love. In 2018, they released a 5-track EP titled “GONE, FOR GOOD.” This record is attention-grabbing due to the solid riffs and guitar-heavy songs that make you feel like you’re in the front row at a rock club. The production value is also great and could be mistaken for an A-list band, rather than a small rock group that only formed in the past few years.

“GONE, FOR GOOD” is comprised of five rockin’ tracks, each with a different feel, while still having a unifying sound that brings together the EP. Lots of static-y guitar sounds and reverb create what could be described as the “Winder” signature sound. Additionally, booming drums and heavy basslines back the dirty riffs in excellent fashion. On top of the instrumentals lie vocals that would sound similar next to Kurt Cobain or Atlas Genius.

The EP’s opening two tracks give off late-90’s or early 2000’s rock vibes almost reminiscent of early Foo Fighters or Bush. After that comes the more mellow and psychedelic tracks, which add a variety to the sound, packing as much punch and interest into this nearly 25-minute release. For a great alternative record, and band, be sure to check out Winder, because they might just be an undiscovered gem.

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    – Ben Tschetter

    7. Bristle – “On Tap”

    Getting their start in Champaign, music rock group Bristle formed in 2015. Best known for their up-tempo, powerful rock sound, Bristle has harnessed their unique sound into a new album, “On Tap.” Before even listening to the album, the cover art is inherently appealing. The cover art is a hand holding a beer- even before listening to the album, it draws you in with a great looking beverage.
    The album itself is relatively short, only being 6 songs long and each song ranging from 1-3 minutes. However, what Bristle doesn’t have in quantity, they make up for in quality. Each of the songs that makes up their album has a great instrumental backing with a powerful guitar. Their sound is well-rounded, their guitar perfectly matching their lyrics and vocals. A few of my favorites from the album would be their songs, “So Far Away,” “Can’t Be Friends,” and “Through.”
    These songs have a nostalgic, classic rock feeling; however, are topped off with Bristle’s own unique flair. This is one of the best things about Bristle, they take something that sounds familiar and revamp it to make it their own. Classic rock gets a new face with Bristle’s newest album, “On Tap.” If this sounds like it would be up your alley, then Bristle’s “On Tap” might just quickly become one of your favorite albums.
    – Taylor Cygan

    6. Truth AKA Trouble – “Cornfield Waves”

    This September, local rapper and MC Truth AKA Trouble released his album “Cornfield Waves” following an impressive career in the Champaign Urbana music scene and beyond, including notable collaborations with local artists and producers, an appearance at Summer Camp Music Festival in the summer of 2016 and a deal to have his song, “I’m a Winner” featured on Fox Sports NBA broadcasts. “Cornfield Waves” is his first solo project in recent years and it’s a valuable contribution to hip-hop and rap, with each of the 19 tracks offering polished soaring beats and lyrical raps. Despite his placement in the Midwestern cornfields, the album’s sound is distinctly west coast as though it was created to provide an escape to a high-class California summer. In November, Truth AKA Trouble hosted a release party at the Canopy Club where performed the album in its entirety with support from Jarrel Young, DJ Belly, FiDlin, among others.

    Katie Powers

    5. Motes – “Crash the Day”

    Motes has really impressed with their new album, “Crash The Day.” Released on June 8, the trio successfully combined their post-punk influences with the world of dream-pop to create a fascinatingly surreal universe listeners can escape to. “Crash The Day” opens with “Montana,” which establishes itself as one of the most recognizable songs on the album while simultaneously setting the stage for a trance-like journey to follow.

    At some points of the album, the music in the background appears to be louder than it should be. But contrary to this, the band controls the background well with a balance of instrumentals and vocals to avoid sounds becoming too overbearing. Almost every song on the album is tranquil because of the way guitarists Elizabeth Majerus and Matt Mitchell compliment the instruments with their soft and peaceful voices. Thanks to “Crash the Day,” you could confuse Motes for a mainstream alternative rock band, and odds are it’s for the better.

    – Jillian Little

    4. Earthholder – “There Will Be a Future”

    The four-piece rock band Earthholder melds together haunting and ambient instrumental elements that result in an incredibly moving album. The entire album consists of no vocals, making the focus of the album solely on the instrumentals. Every song is distinct and engaging, contributing to the overall reflective theme of the album. The record is heavy and dark, but it’s still beautiful and calming in many respects. Despite the album being driven only by instrumentals, each song tells its own story, and they all come together into a very cohesive release.

    “Above Water / Under Current” is a standout track for its stringy guitar intro, which eventually dives into a harder rock piece that makes for a captivating listen. Many songs on the album almost feel like they would belong in a movie due to their climatic and atmospheric elements. While this album is more ambient and not as hardcore as their previous release “Don’t Worry, We Feel It Too,” it’s exciting to see where Earthholder will go as a band. This local album stands out for its refreshing songwriting and engaging execution. It is for those looking for a heavenly yet dark rock instrumental album. “There Will Be a Future” brings its listeners on a meditative journey.

    – Eunice Alpasan

    3. Melvin Knight and the Amber Sky – “Shades of Us”

    “Shades of Us” is a comforting breath of fresh air that everyone needs in their life. The local R&B artist plays around with jazz and pop in the title track, which is sure to immediately catch the listener’s attention. Knight shows off his range and style paired with the lyrics to make the listener feel a sense of nostalgia. It’s a song you’d listen to in the summer, chilling with some friends outside. It’s a great way to get into Melvin Knight if you’re unfamiliar with his music.

    Knight brings the jazzy, soulful undertones of “Shades of Us” into “Butterfly Bed,” which is more toned down and contains more instrumentals. Like “Shades of us,” “Butterfly Bed” contains lyrics with metaphors about nature that give the song warm, comforting vibe that anyone can enjoy. “Everything is Everything” briefly steps away from the jazzy brass instruments and instead focuses on a single piano and Knight’s soothing voice. The song continues into “Magic (Interlude),” which can almost be seen as an “Everything is Everything” part two. “Promised Land” has a groovy feel to it, as harmonies and funkier instruments make their way into this song. The groove continues in “Paradise in Spring,” which reminds listeners not to stress out or worry because “Wherever you are/Patience will find you there.”

    Knight has a clear path with his music. It will take listeners back to their childhood when they were hanging out with friends in the summer or enjoying a nice walk through the city. If you’re looking for a way to relax while listening to some good music, Knight is a great place to start.

    – Carolina Garibay

    2. Nectar – “Knocking at the Door”

    Nectar, comprised of Aaron Shults (guitar and bass), Kamila Glowacki (lyrics and vocals), Isabel Skidmore (bass), and Jake Mott (drums), might be the royalty of Champaign’s punk-derivative scene. The band started out as a creative outlet for Glowacki and blossomed into one of the most genuine homemade projects of self-determined music.

    Nectar toured multiple cities in the Midwest, East Coast, and Canada this past June. “Knocking at the Door,” which Nectar pegs as a “cassette,” was released shortly before in April. The digital album, “Knocking at the Door,” sounds like 1999. They sound a bit like a wide-eyed version of the Cranberries. Glowacki carefully packages punk and pop, sprinkled with a sweet voice and honest lyrics. The cover art for the album, which she created herself, resembles a Tumblr-esque rendition of Van Gogh’s Room.

    The songs, with titles like “Birthday,” “Fishy,” “January,” and “Smile” are able to speak for themselves. Nectar, which sells hot pink cassette tapes of “Knocking at the Door” and “Nectar” (their 2014 debut) still believes in the simplicity of pop-punk.

    “My Room,” from their earliest cassette, is a perfect exemplification of Nectar’s lyrical purity and poetry. She sings of living in a room with no windows, unable to feel sunny days or wind. An example that simplicity is reflective in itself. It’s prose-like. Glowacki’s personal mantra is posted on Nectars Bandcamp website, commenting that the band is her “personal exercise in self-assurance,” and “an outlet to process her experiences and move forward.”

    – Casey Daly

    1. Zzo – “Telling Other People’s Stories”

    Local artist and fellow student at the University of Illinois Zoe Willott, better known by her stage name zzo, released “Telling Other People’s Stories” this year and rightfully earned her place at the top of our list of Best Local Albums of the year. “Telling Other People’s Stories” is a shy and quiet dream-pop album, which, with a rich and layered instrumentation and luxurious vocals, creates the absolute sensation of closing one’s eyes and falling through a bed of clouds. It’s difficult not to be instantly enchanted with every track that passes, and it’s even harder to stop yourself from being swept away by all of it.

    “Telling Other People’s Stories” is what it claims to be: a collection of separated stories, each placed carefully into the album as their own carefully constructed and quiet vignette. From “Double Life,” a song about waiting outside the house of someone who has left your life in hopes they come back, to “Steal the Show,” a song about overcoming the petty jealousy of loss in friendly rivalries, this album is a collection of charmingly told suburban stories that you can’t help but fall in love with.

    – Nilly Kumar

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    About the Contributor
    Taylor Cygan, Assistant buzz Editor
    My name is Taylor and I’m a senior studying English. I am also pursuing minors in public relations and leadership studies. I have a passion for the written word and am ecstatic to get the chance to channel that as one of the assistant editors at buzz this year. Whilst writing or editing things for buzz, I can most likely be found at the local Starbucks or Dunkin' Donuts. To be even more specific: I can be found ordering an excessively sized iced coffee. I am a coffee lover and book nerd. I am so grateful to start this journey and to work with a great group of writers who produce such creative, thoughtful and insightful coverage of the arts and culture sector in the Champaign-Urbana area. [email protected]
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