This is about as unscientific as it gets. For this year’s Top 20 list we’re submitting our teams, ur … bands, and letting you sort it out. The criteria? For me, the band has to be either: 1) actively recording music, 2) actively touring, and/or 3) actively playing gigs in the Omaha/Lincoln area. If asked at gunpoint, I’d guestimate there are somewhere north of 100 bands in the Omaha/Lincoln area that fit the above criteria, and I’ve seen and/or heard from only half. And that half plays indie and/or garage rock, because that’s the genre I most closely cover in my blog at lazy-i.com. So, no pop-punk bands, no metal/death metal, no hip-hop, no country and western.
That’s a long-winded way of saying this ain’t a “best bands in Omaha” list. It’s a list of my favorite bands in Omaha. Your mileage may vary.
So, in no particular order:
Lodgings — The five-piece indie rock act just released Water Works, an eight-song LP recorded and mixed by the legendary Steve Albini at Electrical Audio in Chicago. Gritty indie punk.
David Nance Group — Playing a unique blend of psychedelic, garage and heavy rock, the band released Peaced and Slightly Pulverized last fall on Chicago label Trouble in Mind Records and has been on the road off and on since.
Thick Paint — Fronted by Graham Patrick Ulicny (of Reptar fame), their trippy, proggy sound hinges on his eccentrically high voice and inventive song structures. Their first formal album, A Perennial Approach to Free Time, was released in April.
Cursive — One of the original Saddle Creek Records’ crown jewels, the band (centered on Tim Kasher, Matt Maginn and Ted Stevens) released its latest album, Vitriola, on its own 15 Passenger label.
Conor Oberst — The former frontman of Bright Eyes, which is another of the Saddle Creek crown jewels, joined forces with indie wunderkind Phoebe Bridgers to form Better Oblivion Community Center, whose self-titled debut was released on Dead Oceans Records this year.
The Faint — Last of the three Saddle Creek crown jewels, the No Wave New Wave electro-rock act returned to the Creek fold this year with the release of Egowerk and then hit the road (in Todd Fink’s case, permanently).
Those Far Out Arrows — The Nuggets-flavored psych-garage act broke out last year with Part Time Lizards, its full-length debut on Kansas City’s High Dive Records.
See Through Dresses — Omaha’s shoe-gaze darlings recently re-emerged after a brief performance hiatus that begun after touring nationally in support of their 2017 release Horse of the Other World (Tiny Engines Records).
Matt Whipkey — One of the area’s most prolific singer/songwriters self-released his Driver LP last year and then switched genres, forming punk-protest act Unexplained Death, whose debut LP is slated for later this year.
Domestica — The trio of former Mercy Rule members Heidi & Jon Ore and Sideshow drummer Pawl Tisdale continues to blaze new paths of anthemic punk rock on Lincoln and Omaha stages.
Wagon Blasters — Fronted by former Frontier Trust and Monroes band leader Gary Dean Davis, with William Thornton, Jesse Render and Kate Williams, the Omaha tractor punk powerhouse released the four-song Pandemonium Paradise EP last year on Speed! Nebraska Records.
The Lupines — This soaring garage-rock four-piece is working on a follow-up to 2017’s Mountain of Love LP, which you can hear portions of as they burn down one Omaha stage after another with their incendiary live show.
Twinsmith — One of the only Omaha-based Saddle Creek Records bands in recent years, the indie-pop act released a new single, “Feels,” in April.
Brad Hoshaw — The singer/songwriter headed to Redwood Studio in Denton, Texas, to record the formal follow-up to 2014’s Funeral Guns, and it should see a release later this year.
Matthew Sweet — The nationally recognized indie rocker followed his 2017 return, Tomorrow Forever, last year with Tomorrow’s Daughter, released on his own Honeycomb Hideout Records.
Josh Hoyer — After the 2017 season of The Voice, Hoyer and his band, Soul Colossal, recorded the 10-song LP Do It Now, released this year on Silver Street Records.
Jason Steady — Omaha’s most lovable singer/songwriter rejoined forces with former colleague in The Cuterthans and Talking Mountain — Chris Twist of Nobunny — to record and release The Return of the Paisley Angels, and then they hit the road on tour.
Simon Joyner — One of Omaha’s longest-running singer/songwriters continued touring last year in support of his 2017 album Step into the Earthquake, released on Shrimper Records.
Clarence Tilton — The Americana/alt-country act released the six-song EP World Rolled In last year and continued to be a staple on Omaha stages.
Little Brazil — The long-running and hardest-rocking indie act last year saw the release of Send The Wolves on Max Trax Records — its first new LP in nine years.