2015 was a fantastic year for local music with several great releases that not only put on full display the immense talent that lives here but also shows the great diversity of music available in the community. Whitefish Community Radio and This Week in the Flathead ranked our top 10 local albums of the year, and also give you our most anticipated albums for 2016.
1. Mike Murray — “Tumbleweed”
Released June 30
“Tumbleweed” was an easy pick for our No. 1 album of 2015. Mike Murray had a breakout year and “Tumbleweed,” his third and strongest album, is the punctuation. “Tumbleweed” was written around the song, “Bury Me In Montana,” and is a Montana album through and through. Murray isn’t taking any breaks and is already working on a fourth album while playing gigs almost daily, and he will soon launch a regional tour.
2. Moonshine Mountain — “Movin’ On”
Released April 9
Moonshine Mountain’s “Movin’ On,” is the group’s second album and No. 2 on our list. The band toured extensively this summer, garnering a reputation up and down the coast as a must-see act. The band hopes to get back on the road soon and bring the show to Colorado, known as the bluegrass capitol of the world.
3. Minus Tim — “The Struggle” EP
Released Dec. 11
After only forming six short months ago, Minus Tim has found its sound on its second EP, an all-killer, no-filler blast called “The Struggle,” which should garner some national attention and radio play in my opinion. My personal favorite track is “Lost At Sea;” however, all the tracks are very tightly written and performed flawlessly.
4. MT Souls — “Souls Of Ceremony”
Released May 2
Montana’s Wu-Tang Clan finally dropped its first album, “Souls Of Ceremony,” after years of rapping and performing together, and have built an incredibly devoted fan base that packs their live shows anywhere they go. Many in the powerhouse group are working on solo albums, with Beeznest and Hectic also releasing their own projects in 2015.
5. Halladay Quist — “The Ballad of Pretty Mae”
Released May 22
Like father like daughter. Halladay Quist is the daughter of the legendary local performer Rob Quist. Her debut release, “The Ballad of Pretty Mae,” defies genres, invites you to sing along, and leaves you with a fuzzy good feeling.
6. Dean & Riley — “Clouds Roll By”
Released Sept. 18
Kyle Dean and Amelia Riley Thornton joined forces after meeting and recognizing they had a strong musical connection and shared vision. “Clouds Roll By” is a wonderfully diverse display of musicianship, with each song being distinctly different from the previous.
7. Electroflux — “Amalgam”
Released March 30
Holy Montana, Batman! What’s an electronic music album doing in the land of the fiddle? All jokes aside, Electroflux’s “Amalgam” is a welcome addition to a music scene dominated by bluegrass. Electroflux is the brainchild of Keith Nemeroff and reincarnation of the band called Shapeshifter. “Amalgam” features enchanting vocals from Caitlin Hebert, which perfectly complement Nemeroff’s chilled-out electronic sound.
8. Throne of Malediction — “Dead In Dreams”
Released Aug. 24
Lead vocalist Eric “Sartana” Horner’s haunting vocals are eerily reminiscent of Layne Staley’s (of Alice In Chains fame). Horner displays excellent range on “Dead In Dreams” by instantly switching to a deep grovel when the track demands it. “Dead in Dreams” is the third release from the self-described “blacked doom metal” group.
9. The Left Ready — “Ghost”
Released May 7
The Left Ready’s second EP “Ghost” released shortly after the group played SXSW in Austin, Texas. Despite the EP being better, in my opinion, than the first self-titled EP, it has yet to garner the same attention nationally as the first release, which enjoyed heavy airplay on many college radio stations.
10. Beeznest — “Stronghold”
Released: Dec. 1
Just in time for the new year, Beeznest of the MT Souls crew released “Stronghold,” where his silky-smooth rhymes takes center stage. “Stronghold” is full of reflective and socially conscious lyrics matched with masterful beats from several different local producers, such as DJ Genetics and Triple-T, who also lends his guitar skills on “What Do You Live For.”
Some other notable albums of 2015 include:
The Kenny James Miller Band — “Live At 11th & Grant.” Recorded on the famous Montana PBS show “11th & Grant with Eric Funk,” the album is blues rock at its finest.
Molly Mitchell — “Pretty Bird” EP. “Pretty Bird” is a short but sweet tease into the immense talent of Molly Mitchell, whose soothing voice leaves you wanting to hear what’s next.
Hectic — “Melodious Rarity.” A solid first release from Hectic, also a member of the MT Souls crew, with party tracks, reflections on life, and of course melodies.
Uncommon Evolution — “Live Now Pay Later” EP. Uncommon Evolution’s second EP continues where its first self-titled release in 2014 left off, with more fun, trashy “Viking” rock.
Jamie Wyman — “Scream With Me Now” EP. Wyman’s first release is both a socially conscious spotlight on the local social services crises and a celebration of love.
Fox & Tiger — “Time For Adventure” EP. Creative beats and one of a kind delivery make twin brothers Jairus (Fox) and Jordan (Tiger) a must-see act. In 2015 they opened for both the Nappy Roots and Obie Trice locally. The duo is currently working on a third release.
Despite how many great albums were released in 2015, 2016 is shaping up to be even better. We are truly in the middle of a musical renaissance in the Flathead Valley. Here are our most anticipated albums of 2016:
Sapphire Shakedown — One of the most anticipated albums of 2016 would have to be the debut release from the all-female power trio of Sapphire Shakedown. Heads turn when you walk in the door at a venue and these rockin’ ladies are playing.
Jameson & The Sordid Seeds — Brent Jameson, front man for the Sordid Seeds, confirmed they are currently working on their third album. Jameson & The Sordid Seeds have showed their longevity and popularity by continually packing in the crowds wherever they go with their unique blend of soul, rock, and reggae.
Marshall Catch — Brace yourselves Catch Nation, when they’re not watching the new Star Wars movie, Marshall Catch is hard at work on their third album.
Kevin Van Dort — Baring a harmonica and a deeply soulful voice, Van Dort is authentic blues at its core. “KVD,” as he known in the music community, is currently working on his first album.
The Flip Wilsons — After five long years since “The Flips” last release, “The She” EP, the band is currently in the finishing stages of their third album.
Old Sap — “Old Sap is at least a bearded man with a banjo” reads his bio from his website. Taking inspiration from heartbreak, Old Sap and his banjo might be the happiest sad music you hear.
DJ Tonality — Yes, believe it. The valley’s most skilled turntabilist, DJ Tonality, is currently working with local producer Triple-T on his very own album.
20 Grand — Montana’s funkiest band, 20 Grand, has started writing for a possible 2016 release according to founding member and drummer Vincent Rannazzisi. Let’s keep our fingers crossed for this one.
BRAH! — A band that describes themselves as a drinking band with a punk rock problem and who started as a joke between friends messing around and jamming at Old School Records, is making it official with their first album.
Wizzerd — The doomy and gloomy metal band is currently working on their first album, expected in the first half of 2016.
We’re also keeping an eye out for albums from Luke Dowler, Don Caverly, and Bear Keg.
This should not be considered a definitive list! Ultimately we probably missed someone, which is a testament to the burgeoning local music scene and in no way was intentional. We encourage everyone to support local music. Keep an eye out for shows at your favorite local venue and go support your local performers.
If we did forget someone, please send us an email at email@example.com, and we will update the online version of this article and give them a shout out on Facebook.
Eric Waier is the station manager at Whitefish Community Radio. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.