The process of compiling our fifth annual lists of the area’s Top 20 Bands and the up-and-coming Next 10 felt a little different this year. In a local musical landscape that’s seen an abundance of breakups, stalled ensembles and splintered side projects, it was tougher to make decisions. But there is still considerable talent among us, as our lists (in no particular order) reveal. Perhaps we’re spoiled by past success, our diamond shoes fitting a little too tight for us to appreciate what the local scene has going for it. In the spirit of appreciation, our Top 20 reflects the acts we feel made the biggest impact and the best noise this year; and the Next 10 is a registry of local bands you can expect to hear more from in 2011. Are we right on track? Dead wrong? Did we forget your favorite local band? We welcome both praise and reproach at — Sarah Wengert, Managing Editor Instrument guide: A-accordian, B-bass, BJ-banjo, CL-cello, C-clarinet, D-drums, G-guitar, H-harmonica, K-keys, LT-laptop, M-mandolin, P-percussion, S-saxophone, SG-steel guitar, T-trumpet, TP-tap dancing, U- ukulele, V-vocals, VI-various instruments, VL-violin TOP 20 Little Brazil Players: Landon Hedges (V, G), Greg Edds (G), Danny Maxwell (B), Oliver Morgan (D) Recordings: You and Me (2005), Tighten the Noose (2007), Son (2009) Why You Care: A spry Omaha four-piece that manages to stay lighthearted while singing about some heavy stuff, Little Brazil has churned out three solid full-lengths. Founder Landon Hedges left equally rocking Desaparecidos in 2002 to venture on his own and came up with this vibrant group. OEAA-nominated and Conor-approved, their sound is awash in sunny, anthemic guitars layered under lyrics that Hedges croons with blameless sincerity. Check Out: “Separated” on — Jarrett Fontaine Talking Mountain Players: Jason Meyer (V,VI), Bradley Turk (G,B,V), Daniel Lehmann (B,G,K,V) Recordings: Old Gold, Ancient Jamz EP (2008), The Nature of Magic and the Magic of Nature (2010) Why You Care: If ever there was a local band that would cause the kids in your basement to erupt into an epic dance party, Talking Mountain is it. Masterminded by Jason Meyer, a sort of musical mad scientist usually residing behind a microphone and a drum machine, the group is more than the sum of its upbeat, poppy tunes and color-coordinated outfits (and sometimes monster masks). An ever-evolving live set adds a synchronized light show, fog machine and even LCD-screen sunglasses donned by band members to the mix. Who else in town brings it like that? No. One. To support its debut LP, Talking Mountain spent a good deal of 2010 piled in its van embarking on a seemingly endless number of weekend shows throughout the Midwest. Check Out: Music videos for “I’m Kind of Leaves” and “Screaming into the Witches Cauldron” at — Will Silvey Simons Southpaw Bluegrass Band Players: David Fleming (G,V), Steve Hoiberg (BJ), Hal Cottrell (M,V), Josh Krohn (VL,V), Chris Hunke (B) Recordings: Southpaw Bluegrass Band (2008), Place Back Home (2010) Why You Care: Omaha isn’t exactly known as a bluegrass town, but that doesn’t mean one of the city’s best ensembles can’t be fast-pickin’, whiskey drinkin’ madmen. Yep, Southpaw Bluegrass Band mightily fills the void of an otherwise bleak “Nebraska-grass” scene, even going as far as helping organize the first annual Applegrass Bluegrass Festival at Ditmar’s Apple Orchard outside Council Bluffs earlier this year. According to guitarist/vocalist David Fleming, the festival was a success and everyone involved hopes to expand next year. Making something out of nothing, now that’s entrepreneurship. Fleming also says the group plans to release both a live album and a disc of Southpaw originals next year, in addition to trips to Alaska, Nashville and elsewhere. Check Out: Podcast from NPR’s “River City Folk” broadcast at — Will Silvey Simons Matt Cox Band Players: Matt Cox (G,V,H), Ben Zinn (G), Seth Ondracek (B), Nick Semrad (K), Andrew Tyler (D) Recordings: Stick Your Neck Out (2006), Folker’s Travels (2007), My Last Dollar (2009). Why You Care: With songs full of rich imagery, imagination and a grasp of songwriting craft beyond his years, Matt Cox leads one of the area’s best bands. This team of crack players can really take spine-tingling flight, giving a joyous new dimension to Cox’s fine tunes, which range from folk and Americana to country-blues. Cox’s distinctive voice is full of grit and heart, steeped in back roads and bar rooms. Cox is a must-hear artist for those interested in Nebraska’s roots scene. His music takes the traditions of real American music on down the road while honoring influences from artists like John Prine, Neil Young and Townes Van Zandt. Check Out: “River Song” and “Riches to Rags” at — B.J. Huchtemann Brad Hoshaw & the Seven Deadlies Players: Brad Hoshaw (V), Matt Whipkey (G,H), Craig Balderston (B,V), J. Scott Gaeta (D,V) Recordings: Brad Hoshaw & the Seven Deadlies (2009) Why You Care: A singer-songwriter who’s as cool and laid-back playing solo shows as he is with his band, Hoshaw was named Artist of the Year by the 2010 OEA Awards. With a beard you could get lost in, Hoshaw and company play bittersweet Americana folk tunes that would make Johnny Cash proud. The band’s built up a solid regional audience and shared the stage with national acts such as Black Francis of the Pixies, Cursive and Pete Yorn. Check Out: “Another Man” and “Tik Tok” (amazing Ke$ha acoustic cover, just trust us) at — Jarrett Fontaine Darren Keen Players: Darren Keen (V,VI), Josh Miller (K), Saber Blazek (B), Mark Hinrichs (D) Recordings: Radboyz Only!!! (2005), Gymnasia (2007), Wet Fist (2009), Big Smaller Presents: GOOD SPEAKERS (2010) Why You Care: Prolific musical journeyman Darren Keen seems to be everywhere these days, most notably in The Show Is The Rainbow, known for encouraging audience interaction while rocking faces off. Keen plays shows at a frenzied pace, and is always willing to shake up his sound, as seen with his new Aphex Twin-esque “Bad Speler” moniker. His style varies from the eclectic renderings of The Show Is The Rainbow, to his laptop-improvised electronic sets, to his solo album, which features what Keen calls his “nice” music. Check Out: “Who He Says He Is” and “Made of Cardboard” on — Jarrett Fontaine Son of 76 & The Watchmen Players: Joshua Hoyer (V/S/K), Werner Althaus (G), Justin G. Jones (D), Brian Morrow (B), Nick Semrad (K), Luke Sticka (G) Recordings: Shake & Howl (2006), Imaginary Man (2008), Letters from Shangri-La (2010). “Take Me To New Orleans” appears on the 2009 national compilation Love Song To New Orleans ; Why You Care: Bandleader Joshua Hoyer is the Son of 76. He creates a remarkable, vibey, contemporary R&B sound rooted in influences from Morphine to Dr. John to old-school New Orleans blues. The accomplished players are stellar individually and create the throbbing rhythms of saxophone, keys and dueling guitars that are the sonic heartbeat of Son of 76 and the Watchmen. At the band’s core, Hoyer’s rich, baritone vocals are soul personified. This powerful group can make you boogie but isn’t afraid to present lyrics that confront social conditions or darker, introspective songs about characters on the fringes of life. Hoyer’s depth as a songwriter continues to be evidenced with new songs like “Starkweather Son.” Hoyer is an occasional Reader contributor. Check Out: “Take Me to New Orleans” and “Starkweather Son” at — B.J. Huchtemann Brent Crampton Players: Brent Crampton (DJ) Recordings: Download free mixtapes at Why You Care: Crampton’s done more for the Omaha DJ scene than any two people together. He masterminds loom events alongside collaborators, plays a wide variety of local venues and has the musical knowledge and taste to expertly mix a plethora of sounds and styles into a grooving bombast of sound that keeps the dance floor bumping all night. His motto is “Mixing Life/Bringing People Together/Connecting Thru Music/Releasing in Dance” and that is exactly why he’s such an integral part of the local music world. His expertise behind the turntable has brought him gigs countrywide and beyond, including a recent spot at the Mi Casa Holiday showcase in Mexico. Check Out: Video of Crampton at — Jesse D. Stanek Capgun Coup Players: Sam Martin (V, G), Greg Elsasser (K,V), Jesse Machelvy (G,V), Sean Pratt (B,V), Eric Ohlson (D,V) Recordings: Brought To You By Nebraskafish (2007), Maudlin (2009) Why You Care: Steadily gaining momentum over the past few years in Omaha’s tight indie rock circle, Capgun Coup quickly secured a loyal fan base and Team Love Records’ ears perked up. It’s latest record, Maudlin , is a brilliant example of Dylan-esque scribbles and delivers a modern take on ’70s rock. Recorded in one room in the now infamous Hotel Frank, Maudlin is as DIY as it gets. Playing shows here and there with groups like Cursive and Neon Indian, Capgun Coup is currently penning its next release. Stay tuned. Check Out: “Sitting on the Sidewalk” and “Bad Bands” at — Kyle Eustice Conor Oberst Players: Conor Oberst (G,V,K) Recordings: Conor Oberst (2008), Outer South (2009), recordings w/ Bright Eyes, Mystic Valley Band, Monsters of Folk and more. Why You Care: Honestly, you know why you care. Oberst’s heart-on-sleeve songwriting put him at the forefront of the local music explosion and he’s been featured in damn near every national (and plenty of international) music publication, even being even dubbed “the next Dylan” by Rolling Stone magazine. Known best for his groundbreaking work with Bright Eyes, Oberst also made lasting music with Desaparecidos, Monsters of Folk and recently with his Mystic Valley Band. He organized the Fremont-aimed Concert For Equality in Benson this year, which was arguably the most relevant local concert of the last 10 years and featured a reunited Desaparecidos, among a host of other notables. His piercing songwriting keeps evolving and his most recent work with MVB has a fresh Bob Dylan and The Band feel. Check Out: “Slowly (Oh So Slowly)” and “Danny Callahan” at — Jesse D. Stanek Landing On The Moon Players: Matthew Carroll (G), Eric Harris (B), John Klemmensen (G, V, T), Megan Morgan (K, V), Oliver Morgan (D, V) Recordings: We Make History Now (2010) Why You Care: LOTM has, up until recently, quietly served as one of Omaha’s great bands nobody really knows about. But with the release of an excellent record this year, a national tour and a well-deserved side stage spot at this year’s MAHA Festival that’s quickly changing. The five-piece plays an edgy-pop with harder undercurrents mixing with lush arrangements and great vocals on the parts of both Morgans and Klemmensen. The record is an excellent sampling of the LOTM sound. If things fall into place this band is easily capable of taking things to the next level and gaining a notable national following. Check Out: “She Wants” and “Time Is Gone” at — Jesse D. Stanek Satchel Grande Players: Chris Klemmensen (V,P,K,VI), Bob Rasgorshek (B,VI), Adam Johnsen (G,K,P,VI), Andy Kammerer (K, V, P, VI), Ben Zinn (G,P,K,VI), Matt McLarney (T,K,V,P), Andrew Tyler (D,P,VI), James Cuato (S,P,VI), Willie Karpf (S,P,VI) Recordings: Plus One (2006), Dial M for Mustache (2009) Why You Care: The gentlemen of Satchel have long since established themselves as Omaha’s premier good time, funk, and party band. With shades and pimp mustaches, this nine-piece doesn’t just take the stage, they own it. Keys, percussion, deep bass, clapping, fiery guitar work and sing-along lyrics make a Satchel show one to remember. The sounds owes a nod to both George Clinton and Steely Dan, yet Satchel manages to not only wear its influences on its sleeve but to also take those influences and turn them into something unique. As far as promoting booty-shaking goes, Satchel is the undisputed local king. Check Out: “Shake It Like It’s Overload” and “Hand, Foot and Mouth” at — Jesse D. Stanek Cursive Players: Tim Kasher (V,G), Ted Stevens (G,V), Matt Maginn (B), Patrick Newbery (VI,K) Recordings: Such Blinding Stars for Starving Eyes (1997), The Storms of Early Summer: Semantics of Song (1998), Domestica (2000), The Ugly Organ (2003), Happy Hollow (2006), Mama, I’m Swollen (2009), “Discovering America” single (2010). Why We Care: They may not have released an album this year, but the boys in Cursive have kept busy, releasing “Discovering America” in March, with all profits from the single benefiting the Denver-based American Indian College Fund. The band also joined Bright Eyes, Desaparecidos and a slew of other superstars at the Concert for Equality in Benson, July 31. Cursive will close 2010 performing its classic opus Domestica in its entirety at Subterranean in Chicago, marking the 10th anniversary of the album’s release. Check Out: “The Martyr” and “A Gentleman Caller” at — Tim McMahan The Faint Players: Joel Petersen (B), Clark Baechle (D), Dapose (G), Jacob Thiele (K), Todd Fink (V) Recordings: Media (1998), Blank-Wave Arcade (1999), Blank-Wave Arcade Remixes (2000), Danse Macabre (2001), Danse Macabre Remixes (2003), Wet From Birth (2004), Fasciinatiion (2008) Why You Care: Simply put, The Faint puts on the most dynamic live concert experience of any local band. Its infectious brand of dance-punk is not only a singular sound on the local scene but The Faint are doing something unique in terms of music the world over. After starting its own record label, blank.wav records, and rehabbing a midtown building into band headquarters/Enamel Studio, the band’s been laying low while a few members work on a new project called Depressed Buttons. While The Faint hasn’t been playing a lot of shows of late, the band’s performance at this summer’s MAHA Festival was a highlight and proved the band can own a large outdoor stage every bit as well as they do smaller inside venues. Check Out: “Machine In The Ghost” and “Dropkick The Punks” at — Jesse D. Stanek Digital Leather Players: Shawn Foree (V,G,K), Jeff Lambelet (D), John Vredenburg (B), Annie Dilocker (K), Austin Ulmer (G) Recordings: Monologue (2006), Hard At Work (2007), Sorcerer (2008), Warm Brother (2009) Why You Care: Arizona native Shawn Foree has settled into Nebraska and his Omaha-based line-up appears rock solid. Steady touring and positive press for Warm Brother kept Digital Leather in demand both in the U.S. and abroad. The band just returned from an extensive European trek. Foree and his crew are now biding their time until the right deal comes along for their supposedly finished follow-up to 2009’s Warm Brother , which was released on the big-time indie Fat Possum. His speed-freaked live band twists his synth punk into snarled garage-bred menace, but it’s still unknown if the forthcoming record will spew the same venom. Check Out: “Not Now” and Urinals cover “Hologram” at — Chris Aponick Noah’s Ark Was A Spaceship Players: Andrew Gustafson (V,G), John Svatos (G,V), Ricky Black (B), Rob Webster (D) Recordings: My Name Is What Is Your Name (2008) Why You Care: Noah’s Ark Was A Spaceship is on the cusp of releasing its first full-length on Slumber Party Records, and that’s not the only thing that has the trajectory of Noah’s Ark pointed upwards. The band is quickly expanding its touring reach, preparing to trek out in the spring with fellow locals Yuppies. The fuzzy ode to that nebulous era betwixt college rock and alternative/grunge explosion is pop-smart, anthemic but just ripped up enough to show the genuine heart underneath. Despite not having any wide releases to add fuel to the press clipping fire, the band is stacking up blog mentions and alt.weekly recommendations, including one from St. Louis’ revered Riverfront Times . Check Out: “Wish You Weren’t Here” and “Adult-Sized Skeletal” at — Chris Aponick The Mynabirds Players: Laura Burhenn (K,V) Recordings: What We Lose In The Fire We Gain In The Flood (2010) Why You Care: The Mynabirds is the most exciting and promising addition to Saddle Creek’s stalwart stable of bands. Following the split of D.C. based duo Georgie James, songbird Laura Burhenn headed to the hills of Oregon and recorded what would become The Mynabirds debut record. A pleasant and engaging mix of soul, country and R&B, the record proved to be one of this year’s most complete releases. Burhenn since took her show on the road with a rotating cast of backing musicians and the live experience proved every bit as danceable as the record. Burhenn fills out her band with a revolving cast of players that’s included Dan McCarthy, John Kotchian, Pearl Lovejoy Boyd and Ben Brodin. Check Out: “LA Rain” and “Numbers Don’t Lie” at — Jesse D. Stanek Simon Joyner Players: Simon Joyner (G,V) Recordings: Umbilical Chords (1992), Iffy (1993), Room Temperature (1993), The Cowardly Traveler Pays His Toll (1994), Heaven’s Gate (1995), Songs For The New Year (1997), Yesterday, Tomorrow and In Between (1998), The Lousy Dance (1999), Hotel Lives (2001), Here Comes The Balloons 1992-1999 (2002), Lost With The Lights O n (2004), Beautiful Losers: Singles and Compilation Tracks (2006), Skeleton Blues (2006), Out Into The Snow (2009) Why You Care: That Joyner crafts exquisite songs is beyond dispute, that he carves ragged and often beautiful images and stories with his songs is a given. Joyner is the patriarch of the indie-songwriting scene in Omaha, his records have influenced the sound and style of writing that made Omaha a hotbed of original songwriting. Along with the 14 recordings listed above Joyner has released countless singles and limited edition pressings, including this year’s Spiritual Rags limited edition vinyl, which he recorded when in residence at The Bemis. In recent years, Joyner’s punk-folk has given way to a more reflective country-folk sound that adds a classic texture to his impeccable songwriting. Check Out: “The Only Living Boy in Omaha” and “Out Into The Snow” at — Jesse D. Stanek Matt Whipkey Players: Matt Whipkey (G,V), Scott “Zip” Zimmerman (D), Travis Sing (B) Recordings: Instant Heart (2009) Why You Care: Whipkey has been a major player in the Omaha/Lincoln music scene since his days in the late ’90s fronting roots rock band Anonymous American. Since then the singer-songwriter went on to play in a host of projects including current bands The Whipkey Three and Brad Hoshaw & The Seven Deadlies (where he plays an inspired sideman electric guitar). His solo work is also of note. His solo release, Instant Heart , is a solid record that featured stylish packaging and caught many local critics attention in 2009. Whipkey counts Springsteen and Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy as major influences but doesn’t blatantly rip either off, choosing to instead incorporate their styles into his own. Check Out: “26” and “Here With Me (Home Come December)” at — Jesse D. Stanek Box Elders Players: Clayton McIntyre (V,B), Jeremiah McIntyre (G,V), Dave Goldberg (D, VI) Recordings: Alice and Friends (2009) Why You Care: Alice is still one of the most vibrant local records to be released in recent memory. The trio’s take on retro garage rock is authentic yet not contrived, dirty yet clean in all the right ways and the short, catchy tunes and memorably simple hooks make the songs pop. As part of the Memphis based Goner Records stable, The Box Elders have made a name for themselves on the national front this year with a relentless touring schedule. And while the record is superbly solid, it’s the high-energy live show that really sets this band apart. Whether it’s Goldberg pulling double duty on organ and drums or Clayton stepping to the mic clad in an alligator codpiece, Box Elders put on a show to remember. Check Out: “Hole In My Head” and “Tiny Sioux” at — Jesse D. Stanek *************************** NEXT 15 Conduits Players: J.J. Idt (G), Nate Mickish (G), Mike Overfield (B,K), Roger L. Lewis (D), Jenna Morrison (V) Recordings: None released as of yet Why You Care: Emerging this year as a next-level success story, this supergroup of local heroes plays epic masterpieces, tonal ambient journeys into dark yet familiar worlds decorated in ’90s shoe-gaze, low-hum dream-noise. Look for their debut EP in the very near future. — Tim McMahan All Young Girls Are Machine Guns Players: Rebecca Lowry (U, V), Travis Sing (B), Scott “Zip” Zimmerman (D) Recordings: The Secret Attic Recordings (2010) Why You Care: Lowry crafts innovative tunes on her ukulele and performs with the passion and grace of someone who loves what they do and simply wants to share herself with the audience. Check Out: “Before We Know (Live)” at — Jesse D. Stanek Conchance Players: Conchance AKA Daddy Woozbucks (V) Recordings: Food For Thought (2009) Why You Care: With opening slots for Mac Lethal and Qwel of Typical Cats, Conchance is generating some heat in the local hip-hop scene. Check Out: “Hipster Bitches” and “How Ancient Can You Get” at — Kyle Eustice The So-So Sailors Players: Chris Machmuller (K,V), Alex McManus (G,V), Dan Kemp (D), Dan McCarthy (K), Brendan Greene-Walsh (B,V) Recordings: None released as of yet Why You Care: You know every one of these players from other projects, but this band sets itself apart with memorable melodies and passionate playing. Expect some recordings soon. Check Out: “This Girl” and “Young Hearts” at — Jesse Stanek Honey & Darling Players: Sara Bertuldo (V,G,B), Matt Carroll (V,G,D), Robert Little (B,D) Recordings: What Became of What I Love EP (2009) Why You Care: Two fresh faces (Bertuldo, Carroll) team up with an established scene vet (Little) to punch out dreamier-than-dreamy power pop tunes that coalesce into gaze-at-your-Chucks epiphanies. Check Out: “Little Coat” and “Summer of Love” at — Will Silvey Simons Baby Tears Players: Todd Stup (V,G), Ethan Jones(V,B), Jeff Shadoan (D,V) Recordings: Baby Tears EP (2010), Hot Lettuce cassette (2010) Why You Care: Because rock music isn’t supposed to be safe. Baby Tears is all about extremity of noise and expression. It’s music made for small batch consumption by guys who remember what its like to starve for something different. Check Out: or for more information. — Chris Aponick Once A Pawn Players: Catherine Balta (D, V), Eric Scrivens (G) Recordings: Do You Feel Like This? (2008), Mission Accomplished (2010) Why You Care: While the Lincoln two-piece defies easy description, they manage to rock with a simple and engaging grace carried by a heavier edge and conscious lyrics. Check Out: “As You Wish” and “Say Uncle” at — Jesse D. Stanek Dim Light Players: Cooper Moon (V,G), Boz Hicks (D), Tom Barrett (B) Recordings: None released as of yet. Why You Care: Cooper Moon is finally working with a cohesive trio to tease out the creaking, bleary, bleak vision inside his head, as he melds together broken-down country and folk with claustrophobic shoe-gaze and throbbing post-punk. It’s hard to imagine these played anywhere but in the dead of night in a pitch-black nothingness. Check Out: “Long Cold Way Down” and “For You” at — Chris Aponick Platte River Rain Players: Ashley Rayne Boe (V,G), George Prescott (G,BJ,V), Ed “Willie Nilly” Spencer (V,H), David Downing (CL), Mike Nabity (B), Pat Kelly (B,G,V), Daniel Dean “Bueno” Leonard (D,P) Recordings: Barefoot on Concrete (2009), new CD in progress. Why You Care: An ever-evolving ensemble of musicians helps Ashley Rayne Boe and George Prescott bring to life some of the most sparkling, heartfelt and often magical roots-pop songs in town. The band is currently working on a second disc. Check Out: “Colors” and “Hungry Hippos” at — B.J. Huchtemann Yuppies Players: Noah Sterba (V,G), Jack Begley (V,K,G), Kevin Donahue (D), Jeff Sedrel (B) Recordings: I’ve Been Touched single (2010) Why You Care: Yuppies has twisted its trashy lo-fi pop into an angular, sharper garage-slop odyssey, now sounding at times like The Fall and more and more, like something entirely its own. The band is at the forefront of a crop of other similar-minded bands in town, including Cheap Smokes and the Prairies. Check Out: “What Myth Are You Listening To” and “Getting Out” at — Chris Aponick

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