Well hello there, 2020! Just like that, a new year – and, for that matter, decade – is on our doorstep, and while I can’t wait for the Thompson’s Point concert announcements for next summer to start rolling in, I would be remiss if I didn’t pause for a few moments to take a look back at 2019 through the lens of local music.

Over the past couple weeks, I started jotting down notes about some of my favorite songs, EPs and albums released this year by Maine artists. I took another listen to some of what came across my desk, both here at the Press Herald and as host of the local music show Music from 207 on 98.9 WCLZ, and compiled this highlight reel of what musicians in Maine put out over the past year.

Jenny Lou Drew’s “Rockbiter” cover Photo courtesy of the artist

When “Rockbiter” by Jenny Lou Drew came out this summer, I declared it my favorite local album of the year, and I’m sticking by that. Drew’s got the kind of voice that could sing tax returns, and I’d love it. But she’s also a profoundly accomplished lyricist. “Her ancient eyes sunken deep inside shine like diamonds in a waterfall” from “American Beauty” is one example. Add to this the lapsteel guitar from Drew’s husband, Scott Morgan, and “Rockbiter” slays me.

Greg Klein is an Americana guy. His band Dark Hollow Bottling Company has been on a bit of a hiatus but is thinking about scheduling some winter shows. Klein also joined Gunther Brown Band about a year ago. I love Klein’s album “Dead Man’s Motto” for its songwriting and his dusty voice. There are 14 tracks, and they’re all solid, especially “Wasted” and “Too Late, I’m Sorry.”

Claire Donnelly, Fiona Robins and Courtney Naliboff of Bait Bag. Photo courtesy of the artist

“Girl Pushups” and “Hot Garbage” by North Haven feminist punk trio Bait Bag stand out as sock-it-t0-me fireballs of female empowerment and were my introduction to the band. “Girl Pushups” is 90 potent seconds about rejecting societal beauty norms, and “Hot Garbage” calls out catcalling in a scorching we’re-not-gonna-take-it way that comes packaged in a high-energy, fist-pumping, 3-1/2 minute song.

Lady Lamb’s “Even in the Tremor” made my list because, even though Aly Spaltro now lives in Brooklyn, New York, she moved to Maine from Portsmouth, New Hampshire, as a teenager and got her start in music here. Plus, she wrote some of the songs for the album while living in Portland. Spaltro’s songwriting is its own galaxy as she performs lyrical surgery on self-discovery. Her homecoming show at the State Theatre in June was a full-on lovefest in which she came out into the audience and sang a song surrounded by friends, fans and her mom.

Rustic Overtones’ self-titled album, released the day after Thanksgiving, is both a musical master work and a fitting tribute to the band’s late trombone player, Dave Noyes, who died in March and was also honored in a tribute show at the State Theatre on April 3. Never have I seen such a public display of love at a live music event. Tears were shed by many, and the performances by Rustic Overtones, The Fogcutters, Royal Hammer, Kenya Hall, Jaw Gems, The Ghost of Paul Revere, Lyle Divinsky, Model Airplane, Red Eye Flight Crew, Micromassé, Raging Brass and others will go down as one of the most enthralling nights of music the city has ever seen.

Kidhimself is a local lo-fi pop artist who I had never heard of until the day in March when he sent me the song “Sorry.”  Since that day, I have probably played the song to random friends during random situations at least 10 times, and everyone who hears it loves it. In September, I put in writing that it was my favorite local single of the year. At just 2-1/2 minutes, “Sorry” is mesmerizing with hypnotic beats, laid-back keys and surprisingly arresting vocals. Kidhimself followed it up with the nearly as good “Dumb Motto,” and I can’t wait to hear what he comes up with in 2020.

Anni Clark is a wonderful folk singer who has been doing her thing in Maine since the ’80s. She’s one of the most affable people you could ever hope to meet, and I’ve always admired her. This all got kicked up about a million notches when Clark released the song “I’m With You, Greta” a couple months ago. Inspired by 16-year-old Swedish climate activist and Time’s Person of the Year, Greta Thunberg, the song is a hopeful wake-up call to those who think climate change isn’t among the most critical issues of our time. Clark also made a video for the song that you can watch on YouTube.

An Overnight Low is an indie rock band led by Chad Walls and Sam Anderson. Walls sent me the song “Tameside” just a few days ago and I am beside myself over it. One of my colleagues said it reminded him of early ’80s pop, and he’s not wrong. I’d add a little British twist to that. With guest vocalist Monique Barrett singing with Walls, the song is pure, upbeat sunshine. Walls said it was inspired, in part, by a conversation he had with friends while in Ireland a few years ago about female vocalists of the ’60s, including Dusty Springfield and Petula Clark.


MORE LOCAL MUSIC HIGHLIGHTS FROM 2019

ALBUMS:
Bill Chinnock, “Badlands” (re-issue of the 1977 album)
The Reconstructed, “Great North Wind”
Emily and Jake, “St. Augustine”
Lauren Crosby, “I Said Take Me To The Water”
John Hughes Radio, “Heardbreak, Repeat”

EPs:
Tom DiMenna, “You Know Me, My Devil Says”
Oshima Brothers, “Under The Same Stars”

SINGLES:
Mallett Brothers Band featuring Kenya Hall, “Low Down”
Dead Gowns, alternate version of “Lyon”
GoldenOak, “Poet and the Painter” and “River”
Dearing, “Once Loved,” “Walk With Me” and “Wasted (Wasted)”
Pretty Sad, “Blue” and “Insomniac In Love”
Sara Hallie Richardson with Amarantos Quartet, “Carry On” and “A New Result”
Weakened Friends, “What You Like”
Muddy Ruckus “From The Floor,” “Perfectly Aligned” and “Brimstone”
Builder of the House, “Whoever You Want Me to Be”
Brooke Lachance, “Let Her Down Easy”
Caitlin McGarvey, “Don’t Worry Baby”
Jordan Stowell, “Second Chances”
Joel Thetford Band, “The Truth”
King Kyote, “Warriors” and “North Country Shakedown”
Jason Spooner Band, “All Things Equal”
Jeanette,”When I Was Yours,” “Superwoman” and “Summer of 1985”
Genevieve Stokes, “Morning Dove” and “Portland Nights”
Stephanie Atkins, “Skinny Jean Bonfire” featuring her daughter Sydney Atkinson on lead vocals
Sean Morin & Fort Gorgeous featuring Allie Moss, “It’s A Car!”


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.