It’s time once again for your friendly neighborhood GO! music reporter to pick the top local albums of the past year. (I always hesitate to call these lists a top anything, since there’s no way I heard everything that came out last year, but a horse by any other name and all that. Your mileage may vary depending on your music consumption.)
This time around I had my work cut out for me. Central Oregonians made a lot of music in 2018, so much that it actually pains me a little to narrow it down to five. Counting down to No. 1:
5. “Something on the Surface,” Travis Ehrenstrom Band (September, self-released)
Sisters native and Americana Project alum Ehrenstrom put the five years between releases to good use, assembling a killer band of Central Oregon players and honing the 10 songs on “Something on the Surface” through lots of live work. It paid off on a record that’s somehow simultaneously rock-solid tight and filled with freewheeling jams.
Key tracks: “Wouldn’t Have it Any Other Way,” “Holding on to Nothing”
4. “This Can’t End Now,” Bony Chanterelle (April, self-released)
One of last year’s most daring rock albums came from this scrappy trio led by former Chinups guitarist Chris Fraser. Shades of Wilco at its alt-country best collide with unexpected chord changes, ’70s classic-rock grit, ’50s rockabilly and punk-rock swagger.
Key tracks: “Laundromat Snake Skins,” “Highway 2”
3. “Termini,” Ze Rox (June, self-released)
Elektrapod’s frontwoman stepped into the solo spotlight this year, recording this compact set before moving to Arizona for school. Rox wrote, performed and produced everything on the album herself, melding hip-hop, pop, jazz, soul and electronica into an infectious and often righteously angry mix.
Key tracks: “Me Too,” “All the Time”
2. “This Remedy,” Larry and His Flask (October, Xtra Mile Recordings)
The boys are back in town (and beyond) after a five-year recording hiatus, and was the wait ever worth it. This is the long-running roots-punk band’s definitive statement, a joyous celebration that resembles its live show more than any of its previous releases.
Key tracks: “This Remedy,” “Behind the Curtain”
1. “Creature Comforts,” The Roof Rabbits (December, Keg Records)
Big hooks and bigger guitars from the folks who brought you Harley Bourbon, Tuck and Roll and Boxcar Stringband. Leader Johnny Bourbon channels existential angst and anger into a classic breakup album that can (and should) go toe-to-toe with the very best of the form. My favorite album of the year by any band or musician anywhere, and that’s not hyperbole.
Key tracks: “Another Night,” “Baby Blue Mercury,” “Mayday”
— Brian McElhiney, The Bulletin