When I look below at the list of my Top 10 Albums from Northeast, Ohio in 2009, I find it notable for both who is included and who is missing. Notable albums released during the past year include Unsparing Sea’s sophomore release, In the Diamond Caverns, a band and an album both deserving of more ears, as well as Mystery of Two’s, self-titled second release. Again, I find Mystery of Two to be a case of the right band in the wrong zip code. While their blend of art-punk is distinctly Cleveland and can be traced quickly back to Cleveland legends like Pere Ubu, it’s another case of what does a band have to do in this town to get noticed, and I don’t mean just Clevelanders, but the listening public at large.

Also, you’ll find some familiar names in unfamiliar places. There’s Dan Auerbach’s solo album, Keep it Hid, recorded with the aid of his partners is old time sounds, Hacienda, is an album which answers the question, “What if the Black Keys were more than a two man band?” The answer of course, is that they’d still be treading in that muddy, blues-rock sound.

Blakroc, on the other hand, answers a question no one had bothered to ponder, “What if the Black Keys were the house band for a rap album?” If you haven’t heard, guitarist Dan Auerbach and drummer Pat Carney are a more than capable backing band, easily transitioning from ragged, rave-ups to deep, smooth grooves.

Conspicuous by their absence, (Besides a proper release from The Black Keys) is all the new talent in town. Bands like Casual Encounters, Freedom, and Prisoners are all starting to gain some underground buzz, but their recorded output has been sparse and hard to find. Hopefully, that’ll change in ’10.

And speaking of ’10, if the early releases are any indication of what Northeast, Ohio has in store for us, then next year may be one of the best years for local rock in ages. February will mark the official release date for This Moment in Black History’s latest long-player, Public Square (It’s available now at Music Saves in Cleveland and through the Smog Veil Records website). I’ve heard it, on marbled green vinyl, nonetheless, and in one word, it shreds. Plus, we’ll have a new Black Keys album, and an album from Sweet Apple, the project which pairs John Petkovic and Tim Parnin of Cobra Verde with Dinosaur, Jr’s Dave Mascis and Witch’s Dave Sweetapple. From early indications, and one pre-release MP3, it sounds as if that one is gonna shred.

2009’s Top NEO Albums:

1. Unsparing Sea – In the Diamond Caverns
2. Mystery of Two – S/T
3. Dan Auerbach – Keep it Hid
4. Keelhaul – Triumphant Return to Obscurity
5. Other Girls – Perfect Cities
6. Blakroc – S/T
7. Hot Cha Cha – The World’s Hardest Working Telescope…
8. Coffinberry – S/T
9. Beaten Awake – Thunder$troke
10. Afternoon Naps – Parade