RGJ Best Local Songs of 2018: The almost winners and honorable mentions
These are songs that — in this year of extraordinarily steep competition — nearly made it into the pool for the judges’ consideration.
Almond Mocha, indie electronica, “Almond Mocha (Feat. Giant Fighting Robots)”
Whether grooving to this chill dose of bliss in an EDM-oriented club like the BlueBird on Reno’s East Fourth Street, or on a device at home, you likely will experience feelings of deep comfort to the beat of MotorHome Music (Ryan VanDuyn) and ethereal vocalist Kelly Proud.
Andrew Owen Wasson, funk/instrumental, “Rat in the Kitchen”
Keyboard riffs, tasteful drum and hand percussion and a solid bass bottom underpin tasteful and clean jazz-guitar licks and improvisations that never stray too far from the pleasing main motif. Background music suitable to play any time of the night or day. Wasson is an accomplished and constantly booked guitarist in a number of regional acts.
Anna Marie, singer-songwriter/folk, “Perfect Heartbeat”
A 12-year-old brightly strumming a ukulele and singing in a sunny, innocent voice full of control and concentrated emotion is a winning combination (a la Grace VanderWaal). Anna Marie carries off her buoyant, jazz-pop ditty — which has an old-timey feel like “You Are My Sunshine” — live in a single take with barely a muffed note or missed beat. Anna Marie’s bio says she also plays violin and guitar and is learning piano, and wrote “Perfect Heartbeat” for her best friend.
Buffalo Moses, Americana, “T. Bodett’s Bedtime Blues”
Bryan Jones — one of the guitarists, vocalists and songwriters in the late, lamented local Americana quintet Buster Blue — is Buffalo Moses in his solo project. The tragic yearning and angst in his voice through this slow-developing, spacious track — augmented with steel guitar and strings — conjures up the mournfulness of a lovelorn wanderer in the vast, rootless West in the 19th century . . . or the 21st.
Carl Elizondo & The Royal Union of Architects, retro Brit rock, “Pauper Millionaire”
A grandiose ticket back to 1966, when the British Invasion greats (the Beatles, the Stones, the Kinks) were pushing pop’s boundaries — as were two American Beach Boys named Brian Wilson and Mike Love. Carl Elizondo takes listeners on a harmonious journey back to that halcyon era. “Pauper Millionaire” clocks in richly at 5:41 and elicits singalong “ahs.”
Eddie Mandala, folk punk, “Vainilla”
This janky, ska-beat song is off-kilter yet compelling — Mandala’s oddball voice somewhat like Gordon Gano’s, the emotion bleeding through.
Eric Stangeland, guitars instrumental/lullaby, “Fall Asleep Elliot Layne”
Long recognized as one of the region’s premier guitarists and teachers, Stangeland is a potent composer, as well. On this track, his warm and nuanced acoustic-guitar virtuosity spins a gentle, slumber-lulling spell for listeners young and old alike.
Frankly Fictitious, alternative rock, “I Wanna Be Famous”
In the tradition of silly, singalong, anti-authority rock anthems running from Chuck Berry through Alice Cooper and Aerosmith, Van Halen, the Beastie Boys and the Offspring, Frankly Fictitious earns an A for effort with its guitar-riffing, drum-smashing, noggin-bobbing paean to pubescent rock-god dreams. This is a spirited power trio on the rise in Reno.
RGJ Best Local Songs of 2018 results: The top 30 music entries
Hot Rod Rebellion, rockabilly, “Outlaws”
Manic vintage kicks for revved-up retro-rebel partiers. The video with its surf-guitar riff and brilliantly animated musicians won’t let you sit still; it will get you up and bopping like the two girls in Fifties dresses who invade the set.
Lucas Paul, indie folk, “Heavy Low”
A longtime beloved local artist known for captivating, reverb-driven guitar and vocals, and lyrics rife with empathy for the human condition, Paul now is one-fourth of Cowboy Indian (whose alt-country “Love Song” is No. 19 on this year’s RGJ list). This solo effort is a bluesy ballad conjuring the mental state of losing a lover. Eric Stangeland (whose instrumental “Fall Asleep Elliot Layne” is also on the Bubbling Under chart) handles the blues-scale guitar licks Clapton style.
Michael Tegio, retro-pop rock/bubblegum pop, “Love You Just the Same”
Just charming, chiming ode to innocent teen love in the mode of Tegio’s listed influences of the Beatles, Beach Boys and Monkees — whose songbooks are rich, shimmering veins of pure melodic 1960s pop mined by each new generation of tunefully adventurous songsmiths. According to his bio, Tegio is a 17-year-old multi-instrumentalist whose musical interest has been nurtured by the curriculum of the Washoe County School District: a stalwart incubator for countless Reno-Sparks youth over the decades.
One Ton Dually, garage rock, “No Matter”
This quartet of hometown heroes manifests the best and worst of Reno arts and social culture: ultra-clever and spunky in wit and spirit, while saluting the dive-bar scene’s endless cycle of doomed and dangerous, low-rent romances. Thee (spelled with two e’s) Rev. Rory Dowd’s lyrics proudly, nakedly declare: “No matter what you drink/No matter what you think/This has never been about you, girl/This has always been about me.” The other members of One Ton Dually are Spike and Jackson and multi-instrumentalist and ubiquitous member of multiple bands Nick Ramirez. Another shot of the lyrics: “Silver hills and shot gun shells/Sudafed and wedding bells/Home means Nevada to me.”
People with Bodies, indie rock/indie folk, “Leviathan Man”
This is a melodic, if adenoidally abrasive, track that assails autocratic rulers — and the masses who would be ruled by such — in minstrel style, on a level that casts them in a historical, even biblical, light. Because history repeats itself, the song resonates with relevance. (“When they feel weak, people seek the biggest a—hole to rule them.”)
Pink Awful, indie rock, “Painting with Black”
The quintet released its debut CD, “Potboiler,” the past summer, branding its self-described “noise pop” as blending “rock guitars, atmospheric soundscapes, dissonance, and sophisticated yet catchy melodies.” “Painting with Black” showcases this hybrid pastiche that constantly shifts between juddering to ear-pleasing. Similarly, vocalist Ashley Costelloe’s vocals continually shift from a mellow Natalie Merchant storytelling timbre to a gritty, Patti Smith-like growl. “Painting with Black” is a five-minute mood piece that never lets the listener relax.
Raindaddy, classic rock, “Merry Go Round”
A compelling classic-rock call-back to the potent hit-making of Foreigner, circa 1980.
Sage Creek, bluegrass instrumental, “Quartz Thief Trail”
This Americana quintet formed at the Bowers Mansion Bluegrass Festival, in Washoe Valley, in summer 2015. The pickin’-and-a-grinnin’ mandolin on “Quartz Thief Trail” can’t help but lift your spirits like a hike on a sunshine-dappled mountain path.
RGJ Best Local Songs of 2018: The past winners
Silverwing, country, “I’ll Give You Everything”
Fallon’s favorite country ensemble delivers a sweet ballad with the old familiar theme of a man trying to win back his woman: “I’ll give you everything/Heart and soul, a diamond ring, the moon and stars above/When you give me back your love.” Mel Warstler’s deep-as-a-well baritone rings with classic honesty and regret.
33 Black, country, “Shut My Mouth”
This Reno three-piece led by gifted vocalist Travis Rigsbee has a solid if stripped-down sound somewhat reminiscent of Dwight Yoakam’s band. The catchy if too-short “Shut My Mouth” may presage more developed songs and a bright career.
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A Ghost for All Seasons, metalcore, “Unbreakable”
Basement Tapes, folk rock, “Sender Receiver”
Biggest Little Band, adult contemporary, “Friday Sucked Then It Got Better”
Boss’s Daughter, punk rock, “Ace of Bac/Dc”
Chad Flores, indie rock, “Always Falling”
Chris Kay, folk rock, “I’m Just a Gun”
Craig Crow, rock, “Butterfly”
DarkEnergyMatter, rock, “Reno”
Dashel Milligan, singer-songwriter, “Love You”
Donald Leblanc, singer-songwriter, “Setting Sun”
Eddie & the Subtitles, post-punk rock, “I Hate You”
Gene Slayton, pop-rock, “Every Heart Needs a Friend”
Gene Sweet, light jazz instrumental, “It Don’t Bother Me”
Given My Goodbye, indie folk, “Anywhere”
Harmony, poetic music, “Possessive”
Ichthyosaur, alternative rock/jazz-rock, “Lost and Found”
Idiot, art rock, “Black Floorboards”
Jake Williams, lo-fi electronica, “I Can’t Wait to Be Sober”
Kanawha, hard rock/sludge rock, “The Boat”
Larry Lee, singer-songwriter, “Three Angels”
Living Proof, Christian rap/electro, “Let’s Be Real”
Luke Morse, singer-songwriter/pop, “Dream”
Rapid, rap, “Mumble Rap Diss”
Robert Lazaneo & Anything Goes, blues-rock, “Dishwasher Blues”
Sacred Moon, alternative rock, “Duh”
Savage, rock, “Colors”
Sherwood Kirk, Tex-Mex/rock ’n’ roll, “Such a Night”
Sky Cats, chillwave, “Golden Fool”
Solterona, dream pop, “Fairytale”
St. Nicolas, rap, “Courage”
Subasement, rock, “War”
The Tailpipe Troubadours, Americana, “American Freedom”
Tom Munoz, folk-rock, “Lovers Melody”
The Tunesmith's Apprentice, roots rock, “The Boy Next Door”
The Ugly, dream pop, “Astronave (Feat. Makeekats)”
RGJ Best Local Songs of 2018: These artists are making it in the biz