Favorite Nebraska Albums of 2014 | The Scene List

To encapsulate 2014 as best we could, we asked nearly two dozen Nebraska musicians, journalists and scene figures about their favorite albums, songs, shows and events of the year. Catch up on the other categories and keep an eye out throughout this week for more reflections and predictions from this crew.

Read on for some of the most well-loved Nebraska albums released in the last year. There are a handful of repeat-favorites, but the sheer distance in style between them is a testament to the creative energy we cultivated in 2014. Here’s to a new year as fruitful as the last.

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Rebecca Lowry | All Young Girls Are Machine Guns

We Are The Rattlesnake by Universe Contest

I’ll be honest. It’s a conflict of interest. Because my part of it was recorded in summer 2013. I had so much fun in that one sweaty day, I did. I didn’t even know Brenton or Jon Dell, but I walked away so in love with them, and with Timmo and Joe and John Freidel, and with Jenna Morrison and Shannon Claire. I know all of the words to all of the songs. I know all of the solos. I know every breakdown. I know every break and blunder and solid bit of structure that was the beautiful mess it sounded like before it was mixed and mastered and the amazing piece of art Matt Hova dug through and shined up to turn it into what you all hear today. It reminds me of my favorite boys in Lincoln and how much I find Lincoln an escape and it certainly reminds me of my favorite shows of 2014.

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Marq Manner | OEAAs Music Chair, Omaha Dispatch

Nishnabotna by Matt Cox

I have been following Matt Cox since he started playing here in Omaha many years ago. He is one of the most genuine artists we have in our area and his live performances are always spot on. He has made some very good solo and band albums in the past, but I think Nishnabotna tops them all. This is his most personal album to date and while a solo album for the most part he lets his musician friends prop up up area’s of the album where he saw fit. One of the most solid front to back albums I have heard come out of this state.

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Ben Brodin | Recording Engineer/Producer at ARC Studios

Doom Abuse by The Faint

Despite knowing The Faint personally for years, I’m regularly surprised and challenged by the output of both the band and their members. Todd Fink, for example, is one of the most genuinely thoughtful and deliberately creative people I’ve ever met. Doom Abuse is, to me, a grower. Great art takes time to comprehend and seems to unfold slowly and through repeated exposure; the music I enjoy immediately is rarely the music I’m still enjoying years later, so I’ve found myself feeling pretty excited when I’m exposed to music I don’t really ‘get’. Doom Abuse is no exception. Despite my penchant for dissonant, unsettling and lyrically-dense music, this spins in my living room over and over…and over. What a great, strange and exciting record!

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Spencer Munson | DJ Spencelove, Marketing and Booking at The Bourbon

Living By The Minute by Josh Hoyer and The Shadowboxers

The fact that something this soulful and funky is coming from Lincoln, NE makes me so happy.  Having Josh as part of the Nebraska music scene has been rewarding on so many levels.  His booking, his music, and his ability to excite others about great music is second to none around here.  Many of the members of his band have been staples in so many local bands too. Benji and Justin are so tight and effortless and Tommy maybe one of the most underrated musicians in Nebraska.

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Lucas Wright | Founder/Operator of Black Heart Booking

Mutants of Omaha by M34N STR33T

One thing that I’ve noticed recently is that a lot of music that I really enjoy is heavily influenced by 50’s and 60’s era music: pop punk (such as the Queers, Masked Intruder, Social Distortion); rockabilly (Tiger Army, the Horrorpops, the Reverend Horton Heat); outlaw country [Hank III, Wayne “The Train” Hancock, Bob Wayne & the Outlaw Carnies); indie rock (Tennis, She & Him, the Honorary Title, It’s True).  M34N STR33T’s Mutants of Omaha is no different.  The doo-wop influence on this album is undeniable and when mixed with Conchance’s smooth flows and verbose vernacular, a new and very interesting hybrid is created.

When I got the album it literally didn’t leave my car’s CD player for a solid 2-3 months.  Very infectious and catchy album overall.

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Hanna Guenther | Hear Nebraska Summer 2014 Intern

Youth Revisited by Hers

Youth Revisited is a vulnerable album with lyrics and emotions revisiting memories of the past, which any listener can relate to. There is a sense of simplicity in each song, but give a closer listen and you’ll hear vast layering of guitar, vocals, bass and drums. This album is full of thought and honest emotion alongside short songs and repetitive lyrics creating an unassuming depth.

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Laura Fortney | Host of KZUM’s “Every Kind of Blue”

Heavy Soul & Boogie Trance by Kris Lager Band

Kris Lager Band’s latest album Heavy Soul & Boogie Trance reflects a new level of maturity for the group; this album rocks even harder with a psychedelic feel that we all knew was just chillin’ under the surface. I love the Jimi, Janis, and other influences, as well as the guests on vocals, sax, and more. They got this one in just under the (2014) wire, but I just can’t stop listening to it!

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Ryan McKeever | Telepathy Problems, Staffers, Skeleton Man

Music for the Midwest by The Subtropics

The Subtropics were here. After that I’m pretty sure some of them moved to California and the rest of them stayed in Omaha. While in existence, the Subtropics wrote and recorded an hour long masterpiece that features songs by Megan Siebe, Noah Sterba, Zach La Grou and Alek Erickson. I don’t really know what more to say. This record leaves you speechless. BUY THIS RECORD ON UNREAD.

Key Tracks: “Feelin’ No Good,” “Sleepy Lagoon,” “Get Up and Go,” “If It Makes You Feel Alright,” “No Coast Kalypso,” “Both Ways,” pretty much the entire thing.

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Raws Schlesinger | Plack Blague, Vickers

Funky God by Powerslop

The best part about this record is that it had four record release shows, two of them being the cassette version and two of them being the vinyl version.  Talk about hyping your record up!  Powerslop covers everything awesome about blast beat and riffing hardcore punk, including the fuck you attitude and “boy in a dress” singer.  This album is perfect for drinking beers with your buddies, taking your shirts off and circle pitting in the living room.

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Michael Todd | Former Hear Nebraska managing editor

Mutants of Omaha by M34N STR33T

You could say M34n Str33t creates a universe with this album. That it’s through-composed, weaving overarching themes together over 18 tracks of incisive but relatable, catchy but challenging hip-hop. But then again, that universe had already been created, between 33rd and 34th streets in Omaha, in the Gifford Park neighborhood. M34n Str33t brilliantly and honestly excavates a uniquely Nebraskan story across mediums: from the record, to the music videos like the stunning “Nite Owl,” all the way to an 8-bit video game. While it will be interesting to see where the group takes the project next, we have an intricately produced work of art with continual surprises hidden in rapper Conchance’s lines, Haunted Gauntlet’s production, and DJ Really Real’s scratching.

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Günter Voelker | Jack Hotel, Sower Records

Nishnabotna by Matt Cox

The year was chockablock with good releases, but Matt Cox’s Nishnabotna never leaves my listening rotation for very long.  I heard the digital version before the CD was actually released and all I wanted to do was hold the sleeve in my hands, read the liner notes, see the cast of players and engineers responsible for what I was hearing.  Matt couldn’t have chosen a better song to start the album than “Country Rose,” which showcases Nishnabotna’s best qualities.  It’s timeless.  The production is immediate, warm, and punchy, the playing expert.  All of the notes are true.  The pedal steel and electric guitar combine to create that classic “choir of strings” effect.  The rhythm section drives the tune like a Peterbilt down a highway in your mind.  None of it is too neat or too messy.  Matt’s singing is spot on.  The song sounds exactly like the nostalgia it is meant to evoke, that perfect marriage of tone and content that is called “good songwriting.”  Matt’s albums have always been excellent, but somehow this one just sounds a cut above–to me, anyway.

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Anna Gronewold  | Hear Nebraska contributor

Oquoa’s self-titled debut

I like that I get the same lazy indifferent feel as I do listening to the Smiths on a summer afternoon. I like the open space, and the way the chords hang open and careless in “Yellow Flags.” Favorites aside, Oquoa LP is my most-listened this year.

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Tom Flaherty | Teetah, Routine Escorts, //FITNESS founder

Snake Hymns by Bus Gas

It’s probably bias for me to have this as my favorite NE record because I mastered it, but even having listened to each track up 40 times in a row, this tape still astounds me. It paints these hues of emotion that only Bus Gas could execute. It was a joy to master and even now, I have yet to tire from listening to it.

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Chris Dinan | Hear Nebraska contributor

Blue Dream by Orenda Fink

A lot of people seem to be talking a lot about this album, and for good reason.  It’s an ethereal trip through comfort and heartbreak.

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Molly Misek | Hear Nebraska Spring 2014 intern

Mutants of Omaha by M34N STR33T

 M34N STR33T’s glorious creation, Mutants of Omaha, sounds like the lovechild of Aesop Rock, “The Monster Mash,” and the guy who talks about pomegranates in that Bright Eyes album. And it is absolutely the kind of music Omaha needs.

 Mutants of Omaha comes off as both experimental and familiar, philosophical and lighthearted, creepy and alluring. From the brilliant first beats of “M34n Old World” to the Kanye-esque choral sampling that steers “Mac & Trees,” to the haunting melody of “Silhouette,” the dudes of M34N STR33T have created a monstrous work of art that balances poignant lyrics, heavy beats and expertly employed samples. The trio of Conchance, Haunted Gauntlet and DJ Really Real infuse as much life into their studio album as they do in their live sets, which are highly recommended if you want to gaze lovingly into Conny Franko’s eyes. But I’ve never done that or anything.

I could talk about M34N STR33T for days, but I’ll leave it at this: listen to your conchance. Check out this album, ‘cause it will haunt your gauntlet. For really real, though.

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Andrew Stellmon | Hear Nebraska Fall 2014 intern

Upside Down Mountain by Conor Oberst

Maybe it’s the perfect traveling companion, and in the elenventh hour I chose to listen to it on a road trip and it didn’t so much hook me as invite me into its clever warmth. Conor Oberst is a lyricist of the highest order, displaying tenderness on “You Are Your Mother’s Child” and a reserved hopefulness on “Zigzagging Towards The Light.” But what sticks out to me just as starkly is the upbeat nature of the musicianship and use of supplemental instrumentation. His earthy Americana is peppered with twangy electric guitar, airy keys, and big, soulful brass, as on “Governor’s Ball.”

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James Fleege | BZZZ, Oketo, Silver Street producer

Living By The Minute by Josh Hoyer and the Shadowboxers.

A great record from a bunch of good folks. Josh wrote a solid batch of tunes for this one.

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Jeremy Fifield | Hear Nebraska contributor

Josh Hoyer and the Shadowboxers by Josh Hoyer and the Shadowboxers

This is one of those albums that would be difficult to release a single from, because every song on it has the potential to be a great single.  The melodies are catchy and have the potential to float around in the heads of anyone who hears them for a long time after listening to the record. The messages in singer/keyboardist/songwriter Josh Hoyer’s lyrics are ones that anyone can relate to, especially the themes of love and being willing to keep pushing forward even if people put you down. And the way the songs are orchestrated speaks to the sophistication of Hoyer’s writing and arranging abilities. The vocal harmonies and the horns are very tight throughout the record, and the interplay between the guitar and the horns in “Illusion” is very well thought out.

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Derek Pressnall | Eyeball Promotions, Icky Blossoms

Leather Band by Plack Blague

In my opinion Plack Blague is the most exciting thing that’s happening musically in Nebraska at the moment.