Tim Kasher

Players: Tim Kasher (G,V)

Recordings: The Game of Monogamy (2010, Saddle Creek); “Cold Love” b/w “Just Don’t Get Caught” 7-inch (2010, Saddle Creek); “Delirium Tantrums” (w/Conduits) b/w “Tightropes, Guillotines, Thin Ice, Landslides” 7-inch (2010, Saddle Creek); Bigamy: More Songs from the Monogamy Sessions (2011, Saddle Creek)

Why You Care: Between his primary gig in Cursive and his side gig in The Good Life, Kasher has spent most of his adult life chronicling his personal view of this fractured world we live in, but rarely on such a personal level as on his recent solo albums. The 7-song Bigamy… continued where Kasher left off on Monogamy, and was supported by a 23-date summer tour and a 29-date fall European tour. Next year he returns to his old ways when Cursive releases its new record, I Am Gemini, Feb. 21.

Check Out: “The Jessica” and “Cold Love” at saddle-creek.com/timkasher

– Tim McMahan

Bright Eyes

Players: Conor Oberst (VI, V), Mike Mogis (G, M), Nate Walcott (K)

Recordings: Eleven albums beginning with A Collection of Songs Written and Recorded 1995-1997 (1998, Saddle Creek) to The People’s Key (2011, Saddle Creek)

Why You Care: Seemed like the entire indie music world spent 2011 sounding a death knell for Bright Eyes, thanks to Conor Oberst letting it slip in a 2009 interview that he wanted to close the door on the band, once and for all. Well, looks like the entire indie music world got it wrong. With the February release of The People’s Key, Oberst and his band of merry pranksters hit the road for the balance of the year, performing one of his strongest stage shows in the band’s career, and telling everyone along the way that they haven’t seen the last of Bright Eyes… probably. 

Check Out: “Shell Games” and “Jejune Stars” at saddle-creek.com/brighteyes

– Tim McMahan

All Young Girls Are Machine Guns

Players: Rebecca Lowry (U), Travis Sing (B), Scott Zimmerman (D), Kristin Pikop (K)

Recordings: All Young Girls Are Machine Guns (2011, Nectar & Venom)

Why You Care: Rebecca Lowry took up songwriting pretty much at the same time she picked up her first ukulele. After honing her playing and her songs during countless Benson-area open mic nights, Lowry connected with Scott Zimmermann and Travis Sing, two seasoned Omaha musicians to form a full-band to carry out her swinging, indie pop tunes. Lowry’s debut album shows a spirited take on the ukulele that skews much closer to the 60s pop revivalism of She & Him than it does to the novelty strums of Tiny Tim.

Check Out: “How the Night Ends” and “Swing Back Baby Blues” at reverbnation.com/allyounggirlsaremachineguns.

– Chris Aponick


Players: Brett Smith (G, LT), Jesse Hodges (D), Andy Marker (D, P), Troy Lieberth (B, K)

Recordings: More Shapes (2008), Sine Language (2010), EP402 (2011), all self-released

Why You Care: Entering year six of being Lincoln’s premier live electronica band, Somasphere is showing no signs of slowing down. When not performing with the band, both Brett Smith (inflect) and Jesse Hodges (DJesse) have flown solo behind the DJ booth, creating an expanded wealth of influences that help the band continue to evolve its sound. Getting the crowd to the dance floor is deifintely at the top of Somasphere’s list of priorities, and once you’re there, you’ll hear everything from house and jungle to mid-tempo and hip-hop.

Check Out: “Wolf Country 2.0” and “AKA (Bentone remix)” at somasphere.bandcamp.com

– Jeremy Buckley

The Show Is the Rainbow/Darren Keen

Players: Darren Keen (G, V, VI)

Recordings: Radboyz Only!!!! (2005, Tsk Tsk Records), Gymnasia (2007, SAF Records), Wet Fist (2009, Retard Disco), Tickled Pink (2011, It Are Good)

Why You care: The Show Is the Rainbow a.k.a. Darren Keen continues to quietly conquer new audiences with a one-man performance style that can only be called audacious. He headlined this year’s prestigious Dundee Day celebration, capping off the evening by climbing a tower of speakers on the edge of the stage, like a big pink bear. The following week he left America to conquer Europe as part of his 10-month “Honeymoon Tour” in support of his latest release, Tickled Pink, a set of abstract, art-damaged polyrhythmic “songs,” whose topics include paying the cover, faux indie angst, and learning how to think, to grow, to love. 

Check Out: “Pay the Cover” and “Don’t Vote” at soundcloud.com/darrenkeen/sets/the-show-is-the-rainbow

– Tim McMahan


Players: J.J. Idt (G), Nate Mickish (G), Mike Overfield (B, K), Roger L. Lewis (D), Jenna Morrison (V), Patrick Newberry (K).

Recordings: “Misery Train” split 7-inch (2011, self-released)

Why You Care: Emerging in 2010 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. The band spent most of ’11 playing local shows as well as a couple opening gigs on Bright Eyes’ tour. All the while, fans waited for the eventual release of the band’s already recorded debut album — a release that never came. But all that is about to change as rumor has it a very familiar label has finally agreed to release the album in early 2012.

Check Out: “Blood” and “Limbs and Leaves” at soundcloud.com/conduits

– Tim McMahan

The Mynabirds

Players: Laura Burhenn (G, V, K)

Recordings: What We Lose in the Fire We Gain in the Flood (2010, Saddle Creek); “All I Want Is Truth (for Christmas)” b/w “This Will Be Our Year” 7-inch (2010, Saddle Creek)

Why You Care: One could argue that Laura Burhenn, the singer/songwriter at the center of The Mynabirds, made her biggest impact in 2010, when her debut album was released on Saddle Creek, followed by a year’s worth of touring. In 2011, Burhenn put her project on the back burner when she became a member of Bright Eyes’ touring band, performing alongside Conor Oberst and Co. throughout most of the year. With Bright Eyes’ tour finally winding down, Burhenn is poised to begin the next chapter of The Mynabirds’ saga.

Check Out: “All I Want is Truth (for Christmas)” and “Numbers Don’t Lie” at saddle-creek.com/themynabirds

– Tim McMahan


Players: Jack ‘Boogs’ Begley (V,G,K), Noah Sterba (V,G), Kevin Donahue (D), Jeff Sedrel (B)

Recordings: Bitches/Yuppies split (2011, Palmist), I’ve Been Touched single (2011, Grotto)

Why You Care: Yuppies themselves are a talented foursome, skewing their sprightly, angular indie garage punk with plenty of lo-fi noise-mongering. Yuppies has a figurehead represent the most visible band in a local wave of young, melody-minded tape-hissers that includes bands like the Prairies and the Dads and  who delight in deconstructing their heavenly pop hits faster than you can say “Tally ho!”

Check Out: “Getting Out” and “Sunglasses” at yuppies.bandcamp.com.

– Chris Aponick

Magic Slim

Players: Magic Slim (V, G)

Recordings: Magic Slim has over 20 recordings to his credit, his most recent is Raising The Bar (Blind Pig, 2010)

Why You Care: As we hashed out this year’s Top 20 it occurred to us that we’ve never recognized this blues legend living in our midst. Chicago blues icon Magic Slim has made his home in Lincoln for many years now. On the road nationally and internationally, he still tours with his Chicago band The Teardrops. You’ll likely see him around Lincoln or Omaha backed by his son Shawn Holt’s Lil’ Slim Blues Band. With a 30-plus year career, Magic Slim introduced many folks to straight up Chicago blues back in the early days of the Zoo Bar and the old Howard St. Tavern.

Check Out: “I’m a Bluesman” and “Pretty Girls Everywhere” at myspace.com/magicslim.

B.J. Huchtemann

Brad Cordle Band

Players: Brad Cordle (V), Craig Balderston (B, V), Dave Steen (G, V), Johnny Gomez Jr. (K), Andrew Brookings (D)

Why You Care: Vocalist Brad Cordle has led some of the most talented blues and soul bands around. Formerly the leader of notable local band The Jailbreakers, Cordle spent a stint working in the Las Vegas scene. Last year he returned to Omaha and assembled a new band of accomplished, powerhouse players. Cordle has emotive range and vocal power on par with national artists. Guitarist and vocalist Dave Steen provides much of the original material. Steen has had songs covered by artists from Coco Montoya to Maria Muldaur and the late Junior Wells. As good or better than many touring bands, these guys pair polished musicianship with plenty of soul.

Check Out: youtube.com for videos from the band’s summer 2011 Playing With Fire set.

– B.J. Huchtemann

Matt Cox

Players: Matt Cox (V, G, H, BJ)

Recordings: Stick Your Neck Out (2006), Folker’s Travels (2007), My Last Dollar (2009), Tracks in the Sound (2011)

Why You Care: Matt Cox has solidly expanded his audience while moving from a solo artist to a full band and now back to solo work. Cox has remarkably skillful songwriting talents and excellent guitar chops. His rich vocals sound older than his years. Cox crafts memorable songs grounded in the best Americana, folk nd country blues traditions. Cox’s refreshing, heartfelt music is a must-hear for roots music fans.

Check Out: “River Song” and “Waiting on the Rain” at myspace.com/crookedroadblues.

– B.J. Huchtemann

Kris Lager Band

Players: Kris Lager (G, V), Jeremiah Weir, (K), John Fairchild (D, V), Brandon Miller (B)

Recordings: Roots Revival (2006), Transient (2007), The Mighty Quinn (2009), backing Mato Nanji as Indigenous on Broken Lands (Vanguard Records, 2008)

Why You Care: Kris Lager Band has grown to be one of the top local bands, spending much of their time touring around the country. The Kris Lager Band isn’t limited by styles, mixing blues, rock, soul, R&B, gospel, jam-band and world music. This musical fusion and their instrumental expertise has forged a sound that is distinctive, powerful and heartfelt. They cut their touring chops with several years of road work as Indigenous, backing Mato Nanji. This year, led by bassist Brandon Miller, they also launched Hullabaloo, a first annual local three-day music and camping event.

Check Out: “Can’t Go On” and “Sweat Butter” at reverbnation.com/krislagerband.

– B.J. Huchtemann


Players:  Patrick Wilson (V), Justin McCain (G), Lance Dowdle (G), Alan Larson (B), Dylan Woods (D), Jeff Fenn (K,)

Recordings: Damaged (2011), Atlantic Records

Why You Care: Recently signed to Atlantic Records, this hard rock outfit is bouncing on the fringes of major success. If only they could get their line-up straight. Emphatic has been plagued by hasty and unexpected line-up changes since its inception. However, with a nationwide, headlining tour under its belt, Emphatic is only gaining steam and widely broadening its fan base.

Check Out: “Bounce” at www.atlanticrecords.com/artists/emphatic

– Kyle Eustice

Brent Crampton

Players: Brent Crampton (LT), various guests

Why You Care: Possibly Omaha’s most prolific DJ, Crampton is a 27-year old renaissance man that comes off more as a community organizer than just a disc jockey. He started loomweaves, a recurring multicultural dance party, which now has a permanent base at the House of Loom he opened up this year. He has also won the Best DJ award at the OEA’s several years running, and employs a staggeringly diverse selection of music during his sets.

Check Out: No formal records yet, but take in the loom experience sometime at House of Loom, 1012 S 10th St downtown. Also feel free to go to brentcrampton.com

– Jarrett Fontaine


Players: Graham Burkum (V, G), Michael Childers (G, V), Gabriel Burkum (VL, V), Kyle Christensen (A, K, V), Ryan Menchaca (D)

Recordings: Lay Low and Pretty (2008), Down In Our Song live acoustic EP (2010), skypiper (2011)

Why You Care: With lush songs that sneak up and kiss you on the cheek, Skypiper are comfortable playing tunes that range from indie folk pieces to brooding, anthemic love songs. These five local guys met in high school and have been writing music ever since. They’ve matured their sound a bit for their self-titled sophomore album, which was recorded in an old north Omaha church sanctuary.

Check Out: “The Devil Is Real” on myspace.com/skypipermusic

– Jarrett Fontaine

Digital Leather

Players: Shawn Foree (V,G,K), Jeff Lambelet (D), John Vredenburg (B)

Recordings: Sponge (2012, Crash Symbols), Infinite Sun (Volar, 2011), Warm Brother (2009, Fat Possum)

Why You Care: The always-prolific Shawn Foree hasn’t slowed down, even in the midst of leaving Fat Possum Records and having his new label, Absolutely Kosher, go under. The last two Digital Leather releases have seen Foree retreat into his two best selves – quick-hitting lo-fi noisemaker and synth-wielding death-rock experimenter. Foree continues to work with local musicians, turning his latest twists and turns into hurtling garage rock.

Check Out: “Hurts So Bad” and “Kisses” at youtube.com

– Chris Aponick

Depressed Buttons

Players: Todd Fink (DJ, LT), Clark Baechle (DJ, LT), Jacob Thiele (DJ, LT )

Recordings: Qwerty EP (2010), Qwerty Remix EP (2011), both on Mad Decent

Why You Care: Three of the five Faint members meet their most futuristic selves to date in this purely electronic adventure into samples, unrelenting synthesizers and infectious dance beats. Recently signed to Diplo’s Mad Decent label, Depressed Buttons are armed with endless energy to deliver some bangin’ beats and saucy sound bites for your taste buds.

Check Out: “Hit Me Like A Rock (CSS Remix),” “Ow!” and “Jack (Herr Styler Remix)” at www.spotify.com 

– Kyle Eustice

Noah’s Ark Was A Spaceship

Players: Andrew Gustafson (G), John Svatos (G), Ricky Black (D), Rob Webster (B)

Recordings: My Name Is What Is Your Name (2009), Hanga Fang (2010), both on Slumber Party Records

Why You Care: The 90’s was an incredible decade for garage rock. These guys sound like Mudhoney just met Sonic Youth and they all decided to start a band together. Surprisingly, the foursome is fairly young and has only begun to tap into its potential.

Check Out: “Wish You Weren’t Here” and “Flamingos Our Father” at www.myspace.com/noahsarkwasaspaceship

– Kyle Eustice

Simon Joyner

Players: Simon Joyner (G,V)

Recordings: The last three of more than a dozen full length releases, Beautiful Losers: Singles and Compilation Tracks 1994-1999 (Jagjaguwar, 2006), Skeleton Blues (Jagjaguwar, 2006), Out Into The Snow (Team Love, 2009)

Why You Care: While Joyner hasn’t released a studio album since 2009, he has step into the role of label owner with the Grapefruit Record Club. Curated by Joyner and Ben Goldberg, the club is subscription service that releases exclusive and limited-edition vinyl records. Meanwhile, Joyner continues to play around town, keeping in touch with the city’s house show scene.

Check Out: “The Only Living Boy In Omaha” and “Medicine Blues” at myspace.com/simonjoyner.

– Chris Aponick

McCarthy Trenching

Players: Dan McCarthy (G,V), James Maakestad, Ben Brodin, Bram Rosenfeld

Recordings: Fresh Blood (Slumber Party, 2011), Calamity Drenching (2008), McCarthy Trenching (2007), both on Team Love.

Why You Care: Just when it seemed like Dan McCarthy had gotten busy as a member of the rapidly-rising So-So Sailors, he quietly issued a new album, Fresh Blood, on Slumber Party Records. McCarthy has been a longtime fixture on the Omaha indie-folk scene, unraveling direct, rustically rural songs armed with an acoustic guitar and a low-key vibe.

Check Out: “Cassette Tape Massacre” and “Hard Heart” at myspace.com/mccarthytrenching.

– Chris Aponick

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