Between the lovingly crafted four-CD Rosalie Sorrels tribute and outstanding releases by groups like Sun Blood Stories, Western Daughter, Tispur and Lounge on Fire, 2017 was the best year for local albums in recent memory. One might have expected that this year would be a fallow period, but 2018 yielded an even more diverse crop of first-rate work. Check out the LPs and EPs listed here and keep an ear out for new albums by Thomas Paul, Marshall Poole and others in 2019.
Spiritual Warfare and the Greasy Shadows, ad hoc (self-released)
For an album so obsessed with death—its songs have titles like "R U My Killa?" and "Death Was An Olympic Speedskater"—ad hoc bursts with life. This is thanks partially to project mastermind Joel Marquard's idiosyncratic musical taste. Using Indian percussion loops as the foundation for the 11 tracks on the album, Marquard piles on layers of swooning vocals, jangling guitars, keyboards, strings and who knows what else. Meanwhile, his cryptic, playful lyrics revel in existential absurdities. It all adds up to make ad hoc one of the strangest and most delightful albums ever made by an Idaho-based artist.
Tracy Morrison, Heirloom (self-released)
On her second full-length album, folk-country songwriter Morrison fleshes out the austere beauty of Dancing Through Medbury (self-released, 2014). Producer Thomas Paul's warm sound and elegant lead guitar give her soothing vocals, gorgeous melodies and vivid portraits of historical and contemporary women the showcase they deserve. Morrison's mentor Pinto Bennett also contributes a nice cameo on "Black Coffee."
David Robert King, Idaho (self-released)
King may live in Georgia now, but on his first album in seven years, the Idaho-born songwriter brings it all back home. Idaho isn't some rose-tinted retrospective, though—its 10 songs explore death, loss, heartache and guilt. King's cavernous, murmured vocals suit the dark mood but also suffuse it with warmth and grace.
Trevor Powers, Mulberry Violence (Baby Halo)
With Youth Lagoon, Trevor Powers had the kind of runaway success that could easily spoil a young artist. To his credit, he ignored the temptation to remake The Year of Hibernation (Fat Possum Records, 2011) ad nauseum—each successive release got weirder and more challenging while retaining the dreamy melodiousness that made him popular.
On Mulberry Violence, the first album released under his own name, Powers continues this trend. Its strangulated, distorted vocals and panoply of screeches, whooshes, plunks and crinkles make it his most abrasive work to date. At the same time, Mulberry Violence's plaintive tunes and percolating beats offer listeners a way in. On repeated listens, all the noise blends together and takes on a unique kind of beauty.
Storie Grubb, Storie Grubb Covers... (self-released)
Even by his prolific standards, 2018 was a productive year for Storie Grubb. In addition to this eclectic batch of unmastered covers, he released a handful of singles, a three-song EP and two LPs, one of which is long enough to qualify as a double album. All of the above are good—especially the 21-song Special Ghost (self-released)—but Storie Grubb Covers... is the most revelatory, with Grubb giving voice to his acerbic yet romantic sensibility through the songs of others. Highlights include Neil Young and Leonard Cohen obscurities, surprisingly heartfelt Badfinger and Moody Blues numbers, an amped-up take on Ewan MacColl's "Dirty Old Town" and an inspired Bangles-Violent Femmes medley.
Jonathan Warren and the Billy Goats, Cletus (self-released)
Warren and company have been on a roll lately. Bless My Soul (self-released, 2015) featured their sharpest lyrics and most polished tunes up to that point. Cletus builds on that achievement with songs like the spiteful "If You're Going, Go Then" and "Follow," which sounds like a cross between Steve Earle and The Velvet Underground. On the wistful closer, "Sparse," Warren does some of the most restrained and affecting singing of his career.
Z.V. House, Given to the Wind (self-released)
With recordings by 2x2, Dark Swallows, Red Hands Black Feet, Jetski and several others on his CV, Zach Von House has quietly established himself as the most exciting young producer in the Treasure Valley. On Given to the Wind, the former A Seasonal Disguise leader steps up to the mic again. His aching vocals, hypnotic country tunes and terse, mournful lyrics get support from Will Gillett's weeping pedal steel and Louis McFarland's steady drums.
Other Great Local Releases: Jetski, 2am (self-released); Bread & Circus, Titanic Love Affair (self-released); Andrew Sheppard, Steady Your Aim (Wood River); queen boychild, candid colors (self-released); CMMNWLTH, How Can We Really Know For Sure? (self-released); Sleepy Seahorse, Shellfish Ambition (self-released); Mantooth, OU81TOOTH (self-released); Sick Wish, but you love electricity (Hi-Fi Mantra); Thick Business, The Big Eagle (self-released); The Acrotomoans, The Casketface Journals (1332 Records); Storie Grubb, The Swill Herds (self-released) and am i the devil? (self-released)