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Rockin' Our Turntable: The Best Local Music of 2008 According to Tankboy

By Tankboy in Arts & Entertainment on Dec 23, 2008 6:25PM

The following ten groups released albums or EPs that we believe launched them far above the roiling masses making up the Chicago music scene. While these are our favorites it should be noted that this was an amazingly strong year for the local scene, and we could have easily made a top 50 list without much of a problem. In fact, just reviewing the bands while making this list we realized how thankful we are to be located in such a musically fertile city!

1. Tom Schraeder and His Ego
tom.jpgLying Through Dinner EP

On his latest EP Schraeder often mixes Americana with the feel of a humid New Orleans bordello. Boozy, swinging strains spill out of darkened nightclubs into puddle-splashed streets. Rouged nipples brush inches away from the unshaven crevices of a miner's chin on the boozy sing-along "When You're Not Around," an excellent compliment to the soaring hopeful organ strains permeating "Guadalupe Cries." Schraeder expertly mixes the dark with the light creating a chiaroscuro effect on his compositions.

2. Local H
localh.jpg12 Angry Months

12 Angry Months deals with the intensely personal cycle of the demise of a major relationship and the year of fall-out that follows. It's not like break-ups are exactly unusual territory in pop music, but Local H's Scott Lucas has the undeniable talent to take an individual experience and expand its relevance to universally touch. Lucas still has a gift for injecting a darkly pretty melody into even the most abrasively angry guitar lines, and Brian St. Clair's drumming is both massive and tasteful. This is the near perfect album Local H has been threatening to make for years ... all it took was something deeply personal to allow them to make a universal statement.

3. Milk At Midnight
mam.jpgLess love More Acid

Milk At Midnight's sound is chimeric, with the primary sonic tether between tunes being the group's ability to graft memorable melodies onto craggy surfaces. The other connecting point is angry lyrics that both condemn and soar. The sunshine is there if you really quint and search it out, but eventually your eyes are going to tire and the light will temporarily slip from your vision again. It's the hope that keeps us going even as we stare wide-eyed at the horrors around us.

4. Grammar
grammar_ep_02.jpgThe Grammar Self-Titled Short Player

Grammar has the potential to grow into kings (and queen) of Chicago's orch-pop particular scene. The band's debut self-titled EP contains six songs of wistful and airy pop that flickers and twinkles, delighting the ears. Jaunty piano numbers melt into choirs of intertwining vocal melodies, politely restrained rockers descend from above, sparse and cutting acoustic odes seep in underfoot, and pleas for inclusion are folded into tiny synthetic symphonies and plinking xylophone runs. Sound like an earful? It is, but it'll leave you wanting more. Not bad at all for a debut EP.

5. Walter Meego

Voyager is one hell of a first album. It's slinky, sexy guitar and synthesizer lines kiss and cuddle with each other, while the underlying beats seem destined to unleash a whole new class of freaky line-dancers getting ready to make babies. Their urbane, sophisticated delivery gives off images of disco balls, DeLoreans, glow sticks and day-long lollipops.

6.Fall Out Boy
fob.jpgFolie à Deux

Shut up, we don't care what you think. Once you get past Pete Wentz's celebrity antics and allow yourself to become enveloped by Patrick Stump's powerhouse vocals that forsake emo delivery for good old fashioned soul you'll begin to realize why Fall Out Boy's albums actually seem to be getting better as they get more famous instead of the other way around.

7.Prairie Cartel
pc.jpgEP 1

The Prairie Cartel's debut 12" successfully lays out the group's sonic manifesto in two original tracks, a cover, and a remix. Think of it as punk blood coating a Go-Go cage. The highlight of the EP is the cover of 999's "Homicide" since it does the best job of offering the group a chance to let their talents for truly mixing the big rock with the surging dance. In our opinion it also does the best job of capturing the group's electric at times careening live show.

8. Textbook
textbook.jpgBoxing Day Massacre

Boxing Day Massacre is equal parts All, Uncle Tupelo, and Cheap Trick. "Desperation Free" is the sort of song that lyrically appeals to the eternal 15-year-old in us, while sporting a a musical envelope that would fit equally well on Fuse or in the back room of Hideout. Textbook is one of those weird beasts that we could see the kids going gonzo over while the older crowd hangs near the back by the bar and tips perspiring bottles of PBR the band's way in admiration.

9. Big Science
bigscience.jpgThe Coast Of Nowhere EP

Big Science came out of nowhere during the latter quarter of this year to blindside us with their glam-pop. Their '80s-inflected pop would have put them in permanent rotation on 120 Minutes between vintage Cure, INXS, and XTC. And believe us, we mean that as one of the highest compliments we can offer to a pop band. [Download the EP for free]

10. Parks and Gardens
parksandgardens.jpgAvec Cloture

Parks and Gardens doesn't really deviate from the form of loop and sample laden rockin' designed with the discotheque in mind, but instead of utilizing those elements to create a cliche they inject an angular artsiness into their songs. In effect this creates a minor agitation in the listener, and we think that's kind of a bold move for any band trying to ingratiate themselves with a crowd not particularly interested in anything beyond basic Sybaritic pleasure.