There’s a real temptation to simply rewrite the same things I write every year about the Cleveland music scene: It’s under-appreciated and the shows are under-attended, no one notices what great talent we have in Northeast, Ohio, and that no one includes those living in the scene and those on either coast and all places in between, and we’re still that one band away from getting noticed on the national stage.
Yet, as I look back on 2008, and look at the wide range of local musicians who’ve released albums this year — from scene veterans like The Black Keys, Cobra Verde and Prisonshake, to the emerging talents of Jessica Lea Mayfield, Hot Cha Cha, and State Bird, I’ve come to the conclusion that the scene remains strong, and instead of complaining that no one breaks it big from Cleveland, maybe, just maybe, it’s time we push our Cleveland bred pessimism aside and appreciate our accomplishments.
The Black Keys released their most commercially successful and artistically diverse album in Attack & Release. It set multiple sales records for the band, and with the help of noted producer Danger Mouse behind the controls, it featured a much wider range of sounds than their standard guitar and drum rumble.
Jessica Lea Mayfield, with the help of The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach, released her album, With Blasphemy So Heartfelt, to staggering reviews (Pitchfork included), even earning herself album of the year on Blurt.
Lastly, lets not forget one of my personal favorites, Prisonshake, and although they’re now based in St. Louis, those old enough to remember the early ’90s in Cleveland, received a real treat when their long threatened double album, Dirty Moons, finally saw the light of day. And not only can we celebrate the fact Dirty Moons exists, we can also celebrate the fact that it was one of the finest guitar rock albums released in 2008, period.
I can’t promise this looking on the bright side trick will work on all things Cleveland (No amount of optimism can erase the pain of the Cleveland Browns’ 2008 season, and its hard to be upbeat about the local economy, and all those foreclosed and boarded up homes, and the medical mart, and that bridge threatening to collapse in downtown, and you get the point), but as far as the music scene goes, things could hardly be better.
I Rock Cleveland’s Top 10 Albums From Northeast, Ohio in 2008
1. Prisonshake – Dirty Moons (Website/Label)
2. Black Keys – Attack and Release (Website/Label)
3. The Dreadful Yawns – Take Shape (Website/Label)
4. Jessica Lea Mayfield – With Blasphemy So Heartfelt (Website)
5. Cobra Verde – Haven’t Slept All Year (Website/Label)
6. Hot Cha Cha – Rifle, I Knew You When You Were a Pistol (Website/Label)
7. Trouble Books – The United Colors of Trouble Books (Website)
8. Bears – Simple Machinery (Website)
9. Houseguest – Welcome, All That’s Difficult (Website/Label)
10. State Bird – Mostly Ghostly (Website/Label)