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2018 in Review | Tinnitist’s Top DIY Discoveries

The best independent music that I found — or that found me — in 2018.

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The DIY Discovery feature is one of my favourite components of Tinnitist. After sifting and sitting through so much mass-marketed major-label music over the decades, I really love getting independent tunes straight from the source. I love it even more when the music is as good as the entries below. Here are the five most popular DIY Discovery posts on the site in 2018, along with three of my personal faves that flew slightly lower on my readers’ radar. If you want to see and hear more of this year’s acts, just click on the DIY Discovery tag at the bottom of the page. Thanks to everyone who sent me songs or listened to any of these artists this year. I look forward to getting and sharing even more great independent music in 2019.


READERS’ TOP FIVE

1 | THE CROOKED

HOME: Toronto, Ont.

LATEST RELEASE: First Place Silver EP

MY PITHY DESCRIPTION: Putting their own slant on indie-rock.

THREE ADJECTIVES FOR THEIR MUSIC: Aggressive, complex, crunchy.

IN THEIR OWN WORDS: “The band was founded in early 2017 by friends and long-time comrades in the Toronto music scene J.C Sandoval (Former Die Mannequin/Dearly Beloved guitarist) and Dell’ Orso (The Joy Arson/Of The Bear Bookings). They were soon joined by Mississaugan bassist Russ Shipman and British-German import Neelesh V. on lead guitar. Although still a new band, the known profiles of The Crooked’s members created anticipation among Toronto circles. The band held their debut concert at Lee’s Palace in April 2017. In the following months, they performed well attended shows at various Toronto venues such as The Phoenix, The Baby G, The Bovine, and The Mod Club. With their second release First Place Silver, the band aims to rise from the local scene, and enter the national and international stage.”

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2 | DESTROY BOYS

HOME: Oakland, Calif.

LATEST RELEASE: Make Room

MY PITHY DESCRIPTION: Mosh-pit anthems for a new generation.

FIVE ADJECTIVES FOR THEIR MUSIC: Rambunctious, cathartic, muscular, confident, unfiltered.

WHAT THEY SOUND LIKE: The best band in your town’s all-ages punk club.

IN THEIR OWN WORDS: “Ever since crossing the radar of music fans after a mention by Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong in the pages of Rolling Stone, we’ve conquered venues and festivals throughout the country. The title of our forthcoming sophomore record, Make Room, applies not only to traditionally misogynistic music scenes, but also to our personal balancing acts as both college students and a rock duo. The struggles addressed in these songs are about self-realization and issues in our environment, as opposed to just relationship problems. We really dug deep into the core of ourselves and each other while making this record…and we found a lot of great stuff in there. The perfect soundtrack for slaying the patriarchy or going skating with your friends, Make Room is officially yours.”

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3 | THE 1984 DRAFT

HOME: Dayton, Ohio

LATEST RELEASE: Makes Good Choices

MY PITHY DESCRIPTION: Heartland punk with heart

FOUR ADJECTIVES FOR THEIR SOUND: Propulsive, crunchy, anthemic, sincere

SOUNDS A LITTLE LIKE: The Hold Steady, Replacements, Superchunk

IN THEIR OWN WORDS: “For those unfamiliar with The 1984 Draft, or its primary singer/songwriter Joe Anderl, few Ohio-based musicians have enjoyed the opportunity to support as broad and diverse a list of nationally and internationally recognized musicians as Anderl has with his various solo and band endeavors over a 20-year career. The 1984 Draft released their Heisman Trophy Winner EP via Gas Daddy Go! (the boutique label of former Guided By Voices drummer Don Thrasher) on Nov. 6, 2015. They were also one of 24 Ohio bands featured on the 10th anniversary Aquabear Legion double vinyl compilation that year. In 2014, The 1984 Draft released their EP Bo Jackson Up The Middle, via We Want Action. Bo Jackson Up The Middle saw the light of day in advance of the release of an NFL Network documentary on the actual 1984 NFL Draft, in which the band is featured.”

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4 | TELEMONSTER

HOME: Chattanooga, Tenn.

LATEST RELEASE: Their grandly ambitious sophomore album Introspecter (Part 1)

MY PITHY DESCRIPTION: Beautifulfilling orchestralchemy

SEVEN ADJECTIVES FOR THEIR MUSIC: Gorgeous, lush, layered, sophisticated, understated, poised, literate

MY REVIEW: Referring to most pop and rock songs as compositions is a bit of a stretch. Not this time. Even the most casual spin of Telemonster‘s second full-length leaves no doubt that this Tennessee orch-pop quartet — led by singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer, arranger, engineer, mixer, label owner, graphic designer and (one can only assume) butcher, baker and candlestick maker Ben VanderHart — operates at a level far above and beyond that of your typical indie band. These songs clearly have been slowly, lovingly and painstakingly crafted with the utmost care and attention to mood, tone, texture, detail and effect. Set to delicately syncopated rhythms and stirring melodies, fashioned out of a rich amalgam of genres from pop and rock to jazz and classical, dotted with strings and horns, stylishly and atmospherically produced, and — perhaps most importantly — delivered with tender sincerity and intelligent wordplay (Sample song title: Promise of Walking / Premise of Waking), Introspecter (Part 1) is the sonic equivalent of an engrossing novel by a master wordsmith. Not bad for a band that shares a name with an anime series about a werewolf, a frog and a robot.

IN THEIR OWN WORDS:Introspecter (implying both “one who looks inward” and “a ghost within”) explores the darker side of human nature. Against the backdrop of workaday life, it grapples with those insidious impulses that most of us hide or perhaps refuse to acknowledge altogether. Drawing comparisons to Sufjan Stevens, Animal Collective, Grizzly Bear and Vampire Weekend, the music reflects the many influences at work in the band. The songs are melodic like classical and catchy like pop, but underscored by complex jazz rhythms and the raw energy of rock ’n’ roll.”

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5 | McGUFF & THE DUMPSTER FIRES

HOME: Dayton, Ohio

LATEST RELEASE: Their third disc, the six-track Trip Gone Wrong

MY PITHY DESCRIPTION: Blazing a mile-wide trail through a midwestern landscape of punk, rockabilly and blues — with a freaking Valkyrie at the wheel.

SIX ADJECTIVES FOR THEIR MUSIC: Turbocharged, propulsive, dynamic, muscular, driving, gritty.

WHO THEY SOUND LIKE: Your brother’s basement band, equipped with better riffs and cooler songs — and fronted by a female vocalist whose hurricane-force pipes could destroy a brick wall.

IN THEIR OWN WORDS: “If The Clash got together with Janis Joplin, they would all love McGuff and the Dumpster Fires… and you might like them, too! Based in Dayton, Ohio, this foursome brings new music to life with influences from punk, funk, rockabilly, and cheap beer. Since forming in 2012, MDF has become a rising name in the Ohio music scene.

“Led by Taylor and Emily McGuff, their shared roles as lead vocalists bring a broad range of styles to their songwriting. Old-school bassist Keith Klein lends an experienced hand and road-tested pop sensibilities to this emerging band. Phil Doncaster brings the noise with his intense, diverse style on the drums. He also performs improv comedy, making him the perfect backline for the fun-loving McGuffs.

“Taylor, an Air Force veteran, drives the group forward with his fierce approach to the guitar. Emily’s poetic and intellectual writing style is the perfect counter-balance to his raw energy. Together, their voices bring real kinetic power to the stage. This band is having a good time whether you like it or not, and everyone is invited to the party.

“MDF is a band that prides itself on never sounding the same from one song to the next. Between fiery guitar licks, a funky rhythm section that blasts full speed ahead, and soaring dual-vocal lines, McGuff and the Dumpster Fires is here to make you move.”

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MY PICKS

1 | NOTHING CONCRETE

HOME: Toulouse, France

LATEST RELEASE: The strikingly original and completely essential genre-hopping sophomore album Jumble Shop Tales.

MY PITHY DESCRIPTION: Folk … no, blues … no, jazz … no, soul … no, all of it. And so much more.

SIX ADJECTIVES FOR THEIR MUSIC: Bohemian, catholic, proletarian, inclusive, life-affirming, authentic.

WHAT THEY SOUND LIKE: A Gypsy wedding, a French soiree, a Scottish wake, a Vaudeville matinee, a folk workshop, a workers’ rally and a swing-jazz jam — all sharing the stage in a Prohibition-era speakeasy.

IN THEIR OWN WORDS: “In the shadows of the Pyrenees in Southern France, away from the glow of the crystal bucket and constant flow of social media, resides a collective which has purposefully chosen this remote locale from which to strike out in all directions with their extraordinary music. As is befitting a band which counts a Scot, an Italian, a Frenchman, and a brace of female tap-dancing sax players (one English, one Belgian) among its number, this is not a project that is without its disregard for convention and with a willingness to accept diversity as one of its pillars.

Fergus McKay & Nothing Concrete have the bohemian swagger of prime Dexy’s but with a more irreverent edge, an acoustic-led combination of folk, ’30s swing jazz and a bluesy country cabaret polka which is quite unlike anything else. Their sound reflects their lifestyle, shunning technology where possible and returning to all things elemental, embracing acoustic instruments and the ancient art of storytelling through song.

“Having busked extensively over the years all around Europe, crossing paths with musicians from all walks of life, from life-long street musicians to a spell on tour as solo support for Joan Armatrading, Fergus has soaked up the lives of many who he has observed and has woven so many of them into his songs. The band’s ethos is to inspire those who crave tranquillity away from the rat race to follow their hearts and to take the leap of faith as they have. Having built their own studio in an old semi-abandoned farm house surrounded by gypsy wagons, and embracing sustainable living, the album was recorded in a truly organic way.

“The follow up to 2015’s Ever The Forager, Jumble Shop Tales is a selection of 11 tracks that weave their way through various fusions of genre, comprising protest songs, tales of renegades on the run, drunken waltzes, folky tunes and brass-heavy lopsided instrumentals.”

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2 | RARE AMERIANS

HOME: Vancouver, B.C.

LATEST RELEASE: Their self-titled debut album.

MY PITHY DESCRIPTION: Clever Canuckleheads colouring outside the fine line between genius and insanity.

SEVEN ADJECTIVES FOR THEIR MUSIC: Idiosyncratic, foul-mouthed, cathartic, unorthodox, subversive, witty, infectious.

WHO THEY SOUND LIKE: All your favourite indie-rock outliers joining forces on the soundtrack to an Adult Swim cartoon series.

IN THEIR OWN WORDS: “It started by my brother Jared & I taking a trip to the Caribbean in the spring of 2017. I was in another touring band at the time called The Lunas, and I told Jared it might be fun to try writing a song together on our trip. Being a big-thinker, Jared said, “A song? Fuck that, why don’t we write an album?” I laughed in the moment, but sure enough 10 days later the first 15 Rare Americans songs were born. Jared is 10 years my senior and I’m proud to have him as a big brother. The band is rounded out by longtime collaborator and guitar virtuoso Lubo Ivan, who grew up in the sticks of Slovakia and finally just got his Canadian PR after two long years of battling the Canadian government.

“Flash forward six months, we contacted Joe Chiccarelli, a 10-time Grammy winning producer who’d worked with artists such as The White Stripes, The Strokes, Arkells, Spoon, The Raconteurs, Alanis Morrissette, Morrissey, and a list far too long to include in this bio. To fill out the band we called up Joe Plummer of Modest Mouse, Cold War Kids and The Shins, and Yuuki Matthews from The Shins on bass.

“We’re crooked and catchy. Not crooked in the sense we’re criminals, in fact we barely have a speeding ticket between us. Crooked in the sense that we see the world a little crooked, we tell stories with slants. We sing for characters who rarely take the straight path. Catchy because we like catchy music and this way if no one else likes it at least we can enjoy belting out these classics at family dinner. That’s highly unlikely however, this record is fucking good. Our fans tell us we sound like one big mixture of Twenty One Pilots, Weezer, Cake and Gorillaz. We blend genres, generally do whatever we want, and don’t try to play within industry lines.

Rare Americans: Two Canadian brothers who’d never written a song together until a year ago and a crazy Slovakian guitar virtuoso named Lubo. Go figure.”

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3 | JOE KANE / RADIOPHONIC TUCKSHOP

HOME: Glasgow, Scotland

LATEST RELEASE: Joe Kane / Radiophonic Tuckshop

MY PITHY DESCRIPTION: Freewheeling & fabulously freaky.

FOUR ADJECTIVES FOR THEIR MUSIC: Weird, vibrant, eclectic, kaleidoscopic.

MY REVIEW: “I’ve been drifting out of phase with the 21st century,” Joe Kane admits. It’s not hard to understand why. On the ridiculously magnificent debut album from his Radiophonic Tuckshop project, the idiosyncratic Scottish pop-rocker channels a range of 20th-century sounds and styles, from psychedelic ’60s Beatle-pop to ’70s glam-slam to ’80s synth-pop and ska. But Kane isn’t just some musical Xerox machine. He’s mixing, matching, melding, molding and mutating these vintage elements and influences into cool new combinations and irresistibly hooky hybrids. So make no mistake: Kane may not have been made for these times, but between his earwormy songwriting and ear-candy production, he’s making pure pop for now people. It’s straight barry.

IN THEIR OWN WORDS: “Psych pop/rock polymath Joe Kane releases his new album on Last Night From Glasgow under his Joe Kane / Radiophonic Tuckshop guise. Following on from the Running Commentary EP and The Winter Garden Playtest album, also released on LNFG, this is a step further into the swirling pop mind of Mr Kane.

“A hugely respected figure in the Scottish music scene, as an artist and producer, Joe has played a part in the musical stylings of The Owsley Sunshine, Dr. Cosmo’s Tape Lab, Ette and the BMX Bandits. Furthermore Joe’s musical mastery has also been called upon by Neil Innes (The Rutles), Joey Molland (Badfinger) and the Bootleg Beatles.

“The album weaves around from the glam stomp of Don’t Forget To Breathe to the Rundgrenesque A Glorious Noise to the epic Human League/New Order lovechild that is Love Is A Powerful Game and the wonderful pop closer of Fatal Eruption (a track to match one of McCartney’s eccentric best).

Joe Kane is a man buzzing with musical ideas. Join him on this glorious album and take a tour of his world. It’s dog-gone-out-of-sight, so just enjoy the ride.”

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YOUR TURN

If you’d like to get in on this action, no problemo: Just go to the Submit Music page, fill out the form and hit send. Or email me directly. I can’t promise I’ll feature you, but if you’re as awesome as you think you are, it could happen. You never know.