Editor's note: The following are Nathan Poppe's best ‘Okie' albums for 2011, as selected for Look@OKC.
1. “Earthbound Blues” by John Moreland (self-released)
Track five of John Moreland's stupendous album “Earthbound Blues” was enough to have me floored. The song is called “Ancient Youth,” and the slow-burning country tune propelled the Tulsa singer's album to become my favorite 2011 Okie release. “Youth” is so good that I explored the song at a molecular level. Strip away the song's electric guitars. Remove the stunning back up vocals from Ali Harter, Samantha Crain and Kelly Johnson. Forget about Choctaw-based producer Matt Street's stellar production values. What you have left is Moreland's heavy, raspy voice tenderly reflecting on the death of a friend he regretted losing touch with before his death. You won't find another Okie album this year containing the emotional punch and songwriting prowess of “Earthbound Blues.”
2. “Tamer Animals” by Other Lives (TBD Records)
There are few 2011 success stories in the music world that can dwarf the impact of Other Lives' “Tamer Animals.” The Stillwater quintet spent about 18 months building their sophomore album and wound up snagging an opening gig for indie heavyweight Radiohead. “Animals” is one part spaghetti western film score and two parts mystery novel. Why is it a mystery? Because it's so hard to believe Oklahoma is lucky enough to have this album made within its borders.
3. “Can't Get Past the Lips” by Broncho (self-released)
If I could elect a leader for the emergence of abnormally good punk music coming out of Norman then it would be Broncho. The band's debut clocks in at a brisk 20 minutes but good luck listening to songs such as “Try Me Out Sometime” and “I Don't Really Want To Be Social” just once. This feverish collection of punk tunes will leave you almost as bruised as the band's rowdy live shows.
4. “My _____ is Pink” by Colourmusic (Memphis Industries)
The sophomore album from everyone's favorite Stillwater/OKC/England-based rock act is a departure from Colourmusic's debut and all expectations I had for the band. Every track belches scuzzy, bombastic guitar sounds and an emphasis on strangeness. I like how brave it sounds, but I love how mean it is. “Pink” is the equivalent to a bully turning you upside down, holding your feet and shaking out your preconceived notions of rock music. Turn this one up and hold on.
5. “Grow Deep, Grow Wild” by Horse Thief (self-released)
Think of Horse Thief's debut album as a war cry. Namely, the standout track “Warrior.” It's a four-minute psychedelic folk trip that explores the beauty of Oklahoma and the power of the human mind. More than anything, it's a testament to how good a local release can sound and a refreshingly smart album full of detailed stories fit for a best-selling novel.
6. “Depth & Current” by Depth & Current (Nice People)
Norman's shoegaze powerhouse released a spooky gem so scary and booming that it can't help but shake the shingles off of your neighbor's roof.
7. “Signs and Signifiers” by JD McPherson (Hi-Style)
Tulsa's JD McPherson successfully re-creates and revives rockabilly songs so fresh that it makes the '50s jealous.
8. “Crown Imperial EP” by Crown Imperial (Sundae Records)
This EP is not only a taste of the band's Velvet Underground/Cure infused potential but also it's a tease of what could be an incredible full-length album.
9. “O You, Stone Changeling” by Brine Webb (self-released)
Brine Webb released a collection of moody ballads that act like heartfelt farewells. Once they end, it's not always easy to shake off the final impression. Good thing you won't want to either.
10. “World War Fun” by The Boom Bang (Nice People)
The beachy fun of a California surf rock band and the crunchy sounds of a New York garage act found a happy Oklahoma home in the form of The Boom Bang's full-length debut.
“Great Western Civilization” by Modern Rock Diaries (self-released)
“Hack & Saw Nation” by Ryan Lawson (self-released)
“Awakening” by The Pretty Black Chains (self-released)
“Chrome Pony EP” by Chrome Pony (self-released)
“Make Muscles” by Lizard Police (Little Mafia)
“Battlefield Darlins” by Black Canyon (self-released)
“Feathers” by Riley Jantzen and The Spirits
“Summer Fever” by Colin Nance (self-released)
“Turns” by The Wurly Birds (self-released)
“Extra Virgin Olive Oil” by Junebug Spade (self-released)