Smile Politely

The Year in Local Music

For just one, well two towns, Champaign-Urbana sure has a lot of music in and around its borders. Countless shows have been played in clubs, bars, churches and basements these past twelve months from a countable but large amount of artists who call this place home. A lot of it, thankfully, has been outstanding.

Bands like Common Loon and Organic Flow put on some of the best sets around town this past year and Smile Politely is eagerly awaiting their 2009 releases. “Commercial Paper” by Casados and “Landlocked” by Elsinore (both on their respective Myspaces) are also pretty good indications 2009 will be a good year for local music.

But since it’s still 2008, here’s a small sampling of some of the best stuff put out by local artists this past year. Enjoy.

Cherry Tulips – Headlights> (from Some Racing, Some Stopping)

It’s hard to pick just one track from Headlights’ latest album, but when these guy’s play live the crowd really reacts to this one. On the sing-a-long chart, this one’s the outlier.

A Pattern among Aimlessness – Post Historic> (from Memory Banks of Blue)

On this high energy, rabble rousing track off of Post Historic’s debut full length, the trio sounds like an octet. This Broken Social Scene-esque song really showcases Post Historic’s talent as musicians and producers.

Panda Sorrow Part One – Hathaways> (from Hand Me Down)

This track nicely sums up the Hathaways sound. The centerpiece of this song, more than any other on the duo’s debut EP, is Kate Hathaway’s superb charango skills. James and Kate’s harmonizing vocals give the song a depth and darkness not expected from the furry image its title conjures.

Alright – Dr. Doctor PhD> (unreleased)

Dr. Doctor is easily the best cover band on campus. Not always concerned with note for note song recreations, the quartet favors turning up their amps and challenging their frat bro, silly string covered crowds to be as enthusiastic and intoxicated as they are on stage. Not only that, the band can write some ridiculously catchy original stuff. “Alright” has been stuck in my head more than any other local song this year.

Undertow – Tall Tale> (from Pirate Ship)

Tall Tale won’t be around in 2009, but at least we’ll have their 2008 album Pirate Ship to enjoy. Undertow slowly builds up to a female-fronted Fray-like emotional height. It’s a great track from a band that left a big mark on the scene in a short time.

I Refute Technology (Hypocrite Version) – Jared Bartman> (from I Refute Technology)

Though the whole song is great, its greatest moment comes at 3:45 in. Something gets knocked over and, as if the plugs get pulled out on Bartman’s arsenal of keyboards, everything temporarily cuts out except for a chorus of “no’s” and handclaps.

In the Front Seats, In the Back Seats – Santa> (from the Blue Bonnet Demos)

People have shouting along to this song’s chorus since it’s debut early last semester. It’s so simple and participatory while feeling totally original. It’s like C-U’s version of “Get Low.”

Photo of Headlights by Justine Bursoni

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