Jasper's Best Records of 2015

1117 Magnolia This is what it comes down to at the start of every New Year. We Columbia music fiends must look back and take stock of all that happened in the past twelve months. A lot of music was hurled at the listening public and, as the case always is, some of it stuck and some of it slid sadly to the floor. And so, Jasper proudly brings to you our list of the top ten favorite records coming out of our city in 2015. Remember, this list is not the product of one mind, but of many – a rag-tag team of editors, artists, and general ne’er-do-wells. Dozens of albums got votes, but these are the ones we (mostly) agreed on. As always, we hope you enjoy or at least satisfied by our conclusions. Good, bad, or ugly, all comments and criticisms are welcome and can be directed to michaelcspawn@gmail.com.

Cheers,

Michael Spawn, music editor

10. Ugly ChordsHarbinger

True to the band’s name, Harbinger isn’t always pretty. It’s sometimes dissonant, often cacophonous, but never, ever, dull. The odd moment of quiet intricacy is nothing more than the tornado’s eye, with a dust storm of howling vocals and frenetic guitars lurking only moments away.

9. Debbie & the SkanksLive & Buck Wild

The philosophy behind Live & Buck Wild exemplifies what Debbie & the Skanks are all about in a way that a ‘proper’ studio debut could never match – hit the Jam Room, gather your friends, stock the cooler, set up the mics, and hit Record. It’s both a studio recording and a live album from one of the few bands cavalier enough to ignore the pitfalls and smart enough to see the rewards inherent in such a venture.

8. ColorBlindColorBlind

This is easily one of Columbia’s most satisfying hip-hop releases of the year. On paper, the pairing of local hip-hop don Fat Rat da Czar and singer/songwriter Justin Smith might seem a bit strange, but it’s hard not to get behind a project whose entire reason for being is the promotion of racial equality and an honest look at how we, as both Americans and southerners, take stock of our past and present. And it doesn’t hurt a bit that the record shirks none of the sonic quality we’ve come to expect from da Czar.

7. ET AndersonET2

There’s some debate as to whether this sophomore release lives up to its predecessor, Et Tu,____?, but as valid as either view might be, an equally strong case can be made that it really doesn’t have to. As a standalone record, ET2 finds mastermind Tyler Morris allowing his musical paranoia stretch to potentially dangerous limits while never losing or altering his innate gift for indie-rock songcraft.

6. Abacus En Theory

It can be safely said that no Columbia metal band had a better year than Abacus, and En Theory is the unapologetically rotten fruit of their labors. For listeners who aren’t wool-dyed devotees of hardcore heavy metal, it can be difficult to digest something this aggressive and impenetrable. It’s even more difficult, however, to deny it when a given record has sufficiently rocked one’s ass clean off.

5. New SCMore Success

New SC’s debut, New Success, introduced Columbia to this six-deep collective of emcees, guided by Fat Rat da Czar. As solid as the mixtape was, More Success finds New SC a little older, a little wiser, and draped regally in the sort of swaggering confidence perfectly suited to a group with the single-minded, sink-or-swim-together mentality that defines their latest work.

4. fk. mt.fertilizer

The best kind of punk rock always arises when a band simply wants to rock as best they can, only to find that they can’t repress their natural penchant for raunchy aggression and a spitfire attitude. fk. mt. may not consider themselves a punk band, but neither did Nirvana, the band’s closest aesthetical antecedent.

3. Danny Joe MachadoD A N A S C U S

With Danascus, Daniel Machado gave us not only another document of his exceptional songwriting, but the most lovably unlikeable musical character since Tony Clifton. It’s a pie-eyed treatise on the egos and insecurities of creative people and, like all good satire, the truths it illuminates are funny and uncomfortable and brilliant and sad.

2. Marshall BrownSecond Childhood

Reviews of Marshall Brown’s early work were prone to Jeff Buckley comparisons because of his extraterrestrial vocal range and light musical touch, but Second Childhood’s pop adventurousness reveals an artist more in stride with Sergeant Pepper-era Paul McCartney or Pet Sounds’ Brian Wilson. This may well sound like bold praise, but it’s also a bold record, and one that only gets better with each listen.

1. Brian Robert1117 Magnolia

At least from a male point of view, appreciating Brian Robert’s solo debut is a dual exercise in catharsis and masochism. On one hand, his everyman tales of late-night bars, unreachable women, and the painful process of getting to know oneself transcend those of most country and Americana artists of any level. On the other hand, to uncover bits of your life in his lyrics is to confront the aspects of yourself most of us would prefer to sweep aside. Brian Robert sings on behalf of every well-intentioned asshole among us, and does so with a vocal sadness that all but wrings out the heart.

Ballots collected from Kyle Petersen, David Travis Bland, Greg Slattery, and Michael Spawn. All words by Michael Spawn.

 

Jasper Magazine September 2015 Release Party: The Music

  artbarWe've got a great evening of music to celebrate the release of our new magazine that covers, among other things, giants of modernism like Georgia O'Keeffe, crazy wigs made by some talented folk working at Trustus, dystopian depictions of mutant hogs conjured up by Julia Elliott, and the worst local musician of all time, that asshole Danny Joe.

Come out tonight, September 17th, to the Art Bar to check out the new magazine, socialize, and hear some great local tunes. Here's some of what we've said before about the acts playing, along with links to their music:

Pray for Triangle Zero

"...the heavily reverbed melancholy and hazy melodies he writes are well within the lineage of chillwave, even as he tends towards busier productions and more urgent tempos than would be the norm. He also incorporates some lovely R&B-inflected moments, like on 'Her Bath Salts' and 'Easy, Girl,' which win him easy comparisons to Toro y Moi.

Those tunes are undeniably likeable, but the best stuff here is when Sams is tinkering on the edges of that signature style, when he tries out a more laconic delivery on the bustling 'Ferris Wheeler' or veers into The Soft Bulletin-era Flaming Lips territory on 'Call Out Your Name.'" -Kyle Petersen, Jasper Magazine May 2015

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qCtYGWrx7FA

Post-Timey String Band

"A duo composed of vocalist/guitarist/kazoo player Kelly McLachlan and multi-instrumentalist Sean Thomson, PTSB are more Gillian Welch & David Rawlings than She & Him, with a love of the most time-worn idioms of classic folk and blues songs and a blazing authenticity to support their claim as a “string band.”

The songs themselves range from lonesome country to ramshackle blues, but McLachlan’s voice is best suited to wrenching the nuance out of individual syllables in the most simplistic of country ballads or sad-eyed blues songs. Here, “I Do” and “Tightrope” serve as the best showcases, although “Blues for Charley” and “Lauren’s Song” are the best examples of the group’s songwriting prowess." - Kyle Petersen, Jasper Magazine May 2013

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qHogwSjUur8

Marshall Brown

"...Within these fifteen tracks, we find Brown fully embracing and perfecting the anything-goes Neverland pop he began courting on 2013’s Through Vivaldian Colored Glasses. Describing any song or album as ‘Beatle-esque’ runs the very real risk of embarrassing all parties concerned—the artist, the listener, Paul, Yoko, etc. (Ringo would likely remain ambivalent)—but sometimes it’s just the most accurate possible description for a piece of artful pop music, so I’m using it now in what I hope is the best possible way. Second Childhood is the sound of Sergeant Pepper diving headlong into the toybox and treating every discovery like the treasure it is. It’s Marshall Brown being himself completely, while making no bones about his influences and how he can twist them to suit his needs." -Michael Spawn, Jasper Magazine September 2015

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OAQtse6IIyE

Danny Joe Machado

"He’s an asshole musician with delusions of grandeur." - Daniel Machado on his alter-ego Danny Joe Machado, Jasper Magazine September 2015

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ogls-FyahM

Line-up for Jasper Volume 002, Number 001 Release Event this Thursday

If you've been hearing about the big shindig Jasper is planning to celebrate the release of the first magazine in VOLUME TWO of our little publication, then you know how excited all of us on the Jasper staff and in the Jasper Family* are. The event is this Thursday night at the Arcade Studios on Main and Washington Streets in downtown Columbia -- we'll start about 7 and proceed through the night with food, fun, adult beverages, and all kinds of art.

Here is a rundown of what to expect and when to expect it.**

7:00 -- Doors Open -- Open house in Jasper Studios #75 upstairs

7:30 -- World Premiere Film, THE CRICKET TRIAL, starring Scott Stepp and Trey King, directed by Jeff Driggers; Drew Baron, producer (Jasper Studios #75)

8:00 -- Don McCallister will be reading from his new novel, Fellow Traveler, coming in October from Muddy Ford Press   (Jasper Studios #75)

8:00 -- Countertenor Danny Jenkins will perform in the Arcade Atrium (Washington Street side)

8:30 -- Centerfold signing by surprise artist (Jasper Studios #75)

8:30 -- Marshall Brown performs (Arcade Atrium, Washington Street Side)

9:00 -- Don McAllister second reading (Jasper Studios #75)

9:30 -- THE CRICKET TRIAL second showing with repeat showings throughout the remainder of the evening (Jasper Studios #75)

9:30 -- Devils in Disguise band performs (Arcade Atrium, Washington Street Side)

Throughout the Arcade, please visit the following Arcade Studio Artists who will have their studios open at times of their own discretion during the evening:

Blue Sky     Bonnie Goldberg     Tish Lowe     Eileen Blyth     Beth West

Mike Spotts     Payton Frawley     Leah Avery     Walton Selig

Martha Thomas     Suzi Shealy     Page Morris

Bryce Dixon     Whitney LeJeune     Veronica Jeffcoat

Guest Artists from the September issue of Jasper will also be on hand showing samples of their work.

Chef Joe Turkaly will be serving up the results of the fine art of BBQ ($).

The Jasper EconoBar will be in full swing with cheap beer $3, decent wine $4, and big spender craft brew $4***

Paradise Ice will have their cart of cold sweet yumminess ($).

Artisanal jewelry and candles will be available via LA Ti Da and Southern Baked Candles.

Learn about upcoming arts events from Trenholm Artists Guild and the Rosewood Arts Festival, Columbia City Ballet, and more.

And here's one more thing --

Against the likely good advice of our friends and family, Jasper has decided to continue to put together these lovely celebrations free of charge. It's important to us that everyone be able to get in the door and experience this fascinating amalgam of performing and visual arts that we get to write about and photograph for Jasper Magazine on a daily basis.

At the end of our first year, we are delighted that issue No. 001, Volume 002 is the first issue that has paid for itself (before paying out commissions and honoraria to our talented staff of writers, photographers, and our heart-of-gold designer). We've come a long way in a year and we're very proud of the work we do.

That said, it's a labor of love.

If you love our labor and would like to pitch 10 cents or 10 bucks into the pot to help Jasper continue to grow healthy and strong, we'd like to help you do that -- and we'd like to publicly give you credit for having done so!

Please visit the Jasper Studios in the Arcade upstairs in suite #75 Thursday night and see one of our staff members about publicly supporting the arts magazine that supports your city's arts. We won't be able to put your name in lights, but we can put it in print. 

We're calling it the Jasper Guild and you can learn more about it Thursday night.

See you then!

____________________________

*We're an affectionate bunch. And sometimes when we meet another arts organization, or even an advertising client, that shares our mission of nurturing Columbia as the Southeastern arts destination it was born to be, we get all chummy with them. They become "Family."

**Please keep in mind that these times are represented (rather than in EST or DST) in CAT (Columbia Artists' Time). Our artists keep a chronograph all of their own making -- and Jasper loves this about them.

***The Jasper EconoBar is a fundraising arm of Jasper Magazine -- all prices are suggested donations. Please be prepared to show ID to partake of adult beverages.

Show Preview: Free Times Music Crawl

 

Every year Columbia’s (rather under-appreciated) alt. weekly puts on a locals-centered music festival designed to illustrate just how much music gets made around these parts. This year, the crawl spans 2 days, features 41 bands, and takes place across 6 stages—all of which means any reasonably interested music fan is gonna have a hard time not finding some local music to blow their socks off. With so many options though, how does one choose where to be and when? Well, this week’s Free Times has provided extensive coverage to give you a feel for the bands here, but we thought we’d also tell you what Jasper recommends…

 

Friday Night: Arts & Draughts at the Columbia Museum of Art

 

This is the easy night, since none of the bands overlap. However, Jasper would like to HIGHLY recommend coming out tonight for the following reasons: 1) Arts & Draughts is always a good time—good beer on tap, the Bone-In BBQ food truck will be there, and you are supporting our thoroughly awesome art museum, 2) Jasper’s editor-in-chief is giving a unique perspectives tour of the museum’s permanent collection tour (see previous blog here), and 3) these bands are just awesome.  The night kicks off at 7 pm with a great buzz band out of Denver, CO, The Lumineers, who remind us of The Head and the Heart mixed with Mumford & Sons.

 

Listen to the Lumineers here.

 

Following them up are Columbia’s own Say Brother, who play amped-up blues and country tunes with punk rock fervor.

 

Listen to Say Brother here.

 

Mac Leaphart and his Ragged Company take the stage at 9 pm, and Leaphart’s songs are written with the poignancy and humor of John Prine, but this a band that takes it cues from Gram Parsons and The Rolling Stones.

 

Listen to Mac Leaphart here.

 

And, most, importantly, South Carolina’s most badass musical duo closes the show, Charleston’s Shovels & Rope. I could go on for pages about Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent, the husband-and-wife team who power through their amazing songs with minimal accompaniment in a way that is simply breathtaking. Seriously, you only need to hear Ms. Hearst’s voice once live to be forever taken with the band’s music.

 

Listen to Shovels and Rope here.

 

 

Saturday Night: Free Times Music Crawl, the Main Event

 

Alright, where to begin? First off, it is worth noting that the stages are set up roughly to accommodate a music fan’s particular interests. Wet Willie’s features R&B and Hip-Hop acts (including joke rappers Sweet Vans, who might actually appeal more to the indie rock crowd), Flying Saucer has mainly bluegrass/alt. country bands (with Myrtle Beach’s new wave-ish Octopus Jones being the odd man out), and Art Bar, Kelly’s, and the Tin Roof are the primary rock stages, with each venue having a pretty thorough mix of acts. Jasper always has a difficult time getting down to Wet Willie’s at these events despite best intentions, largely because the distance between that stage and the rest of the venues eats up valuable time. Anyway, let’s get down to the schedule:

 

7:10-7:40pm – Pinna (Kelly’s)

 

Even if you are the kind of person who hates jam bands, this is still an act worth checking out. Lead guitarist and singer George Fetner (who has a degree in music composition from USC) is one of the town’s most gifted guitar players, and he and his band mates, more than most jam bands, actually engage and surprise their listeners with their adventurous improvisational forays.

 

7:30-8:00pm – Those Lavender Whales (Art Bar-indoors)

 

A quirky indie pop act who don’t quite sound like anyone else, this is a group also worth checking out because they run Fork & Spoon records, one of the most admirable record label/collectives in town.

 

Check out Those Lavender Whales here.

8:10-8:40pm – Ye Mighty! (Kelly’s)

 

Although it might seem silly to call a band “buzz worthy” within the confines of a local scene, it’s easy to call Ye Mighty! just that. Featuring the wonderful vocals of Beth Dickerson and a cast of well-known scene members backing her up, the group plays swirling post-punk that threatens to burst into full-blown anthems.

8:40-9:10pm – Marshall Brown (Tin Roof)

 

Brown is a singer/songwriter whose music is absolutely drenched in 60s and 70s psychedelia, mixed with a bit of the bedroom pop eclecticism that sprouted up in the 90s. Even in a town with a music scene as diverse and quirky as Columbia’s, Brown stands out for forging his own, singular path.

 

Here's some Marshall Brown

 

9:20-9:50pm – Fayth Hope (Wet Willie’s)

 

Hope makes music in the neo-soul tradition, which means an earthy mix of soul and R&B with a decidedly retro feel. She has a gorgeous voice, and the advance tracks from her forthcoming LP are positively tantalizing.

 

9:30-10:00pm – Death Becomes Even the Maiden (Art Bar – indoors)

 

This overlaps a bit with Hope, and could not be more different, but Jasper is also equally excited to see the heavy, complex post-rock of DBETM again as well—although, full disclosure, guitarist Heyward Sims is our design editor. Even if he wasn’t, though, it would be hard not to champion dark, propulsive tunes and formidable chops.

 

Listen to DBETM here.

 

10:10-10:40pm – Elonzo (Kelly’s)

 

A Rock Hill family band with a definite Southern vibe, these guys make dreamy, grandiose indie folk-pop with a hint of Americana. This is the kind of music that tends to disarm even the most cynical of us with its buoyant, cathartic musical releases into the stratosphere.

 

10:50-11:20pm – The Unawares (Flying Saucer)

 

Jasper has previously reviewed the band’s new record  here, and we are psyched to see some of these new songs played in action.

 

11:00-Midnight – Magnetic Flowers (Art Bar outdoors)

 

Kinetic, literary indie folk/rock at its finest.  Built around three songwriters, four singers, and the dizzying keyboard parts of Adam Cullum, the band’s well-layered sound and penchant for capturing the unvarnished truth about their generation (for better or worse) in their lyrics makes them one of the scene’s most powerful acts.

 

12:10-12:40am – Junior Astronomers (Kelly’s)

 

Built upon the ferocity and dynamics of emo, Charlotte’s Junior Astronomers can credit their success to incorporating classic rock arrangements and energetic, prog-like guitar parts. That, and the unfettered passion of lead singer Terrrence Richard’s vocals and on-stage charisma.

 

Here's some Junior Astronomers.

 

1:00-1:45am – The Restoration (Art Bar – indoors)

 

This is where we are closing out the night (unless John Wesley Satterfield is still playing over at Kelly’s). The Restoration are one of our favorite bands in the city. Their 19th century concept is heartfelt  and authentic, the stories are told with complexity and death, and Daniel Machado and Adam Corbett just write great songs. This ambitious, chamber pop-meets-old-time folk band deserves to be a national name—and we here in the Capitol City should just count ourselves lucky that they happen to sprout up here, and are willing to share with us their tunes in the wee hours of Sunday morning…

 

And it's The Restoration

 

-- Kyle Petersen is the Music Editor of Jasper -- The Word on  Columbia Arts