The Lehigh Valley’s DIY music scene is often underrated. Yet, there are dozens of bands and artists right under our noses, adding important layers to the vibrance of our local music community. 2016 was no exception to that rule.
Lehigh Valley Underground invited Matt Molchany and Shamus McGroggan of Tape Swap Radio to share their thoughts on the Valley’s DIY scene in 2016. The local DIY experts selected a total of ten releases that you should check out. Read what Matt and Shamus had to say below, and don’t forget to visit Tape Swap Radio online.
It’s been an incredible year for music in the Lehigh Valley’s DIY scene. We saw bands we’ve known for years making the best music of their lives, along with new bands starting up and reminding us why we keep going to shows. This is a list of our favorite releases in 2016, and we want to stress that this is just a snapshot of the bands in our music scene embodying the Do-It-Yourself spirit. There are many more!
It’s always fulfilling when there are more releases than slots for you Top 10 list. Dig into 10 of the Lehigh Valley’s best here (albums, EPs, and singles are all eligible) in alphabetical order. –Matt and Shamus
- Bad American – Scuzz
Released: April 16, 2016
Although this is clearly a Lehigh Valley best of list, I stress the LV-ness of this hardcore punk outfit born of the spiritual mecca that is Double Decker/Allentown/Lost Soul Skateboards/Ray Gurz. From lumbering to breakneck beats, and hypnotic to screaming guitars, Ray takes the chip on your shoulder and distills it to idyllic east coast hardcore. –Matt
- Broski – Prank Yourself
Released: July 20, 2016
Broski have been turning out instrumental post-punk jams for around seven years now, starting as a two-piece in drummer Jordan’s garage. “Prank Yourself” is Broski’s fourth album, and it shows a band that continues to grow musically while not losing its penchant for off-the-wall song titles (“Hoody Doo,” “Wife by Friday”). Playing as a four-piece on “Prank Yourself,” two guitars intertwine with bass and drums across 14 minutes. Broski’s strength lies in their brevity; none of the songs overstay their welcome, and in the end, we’re left with an album that’s just a lot of fun to listen to with plenty of replay value. –Shamus
- Daytime Cleaners – Daytime Cleaners EP
Released: April 1, 2016
If you ask the four members of Daytime Cleaners, they’ll probably tell you about their love for Flying Nun Records, the New Zealand record label which left an indelible mark on college radio in the 1980’s. Continuing in this tradition, Daytime Cleaners’ short and sweet five-song EP is their first release, and it hits all the right places, pulling together jangly guitars and catchy vocals. The refrain in the EP’s final track, “Cowboy Song,” almost serves as a hopeful introduction to the listener, “And I hope you don’t mind if I hang around.” We’re certainly hoping Daytime Cleaners hang around in the Lehigh Valley scene. –Shamus
- Goat Wizard – The Book of Goat Wizard
Released: December 1, 2016
This four-piece band from Bethlehem has been one of the groups leading the charge of the Lehigh Valley’s burgeoning doom metal/doom rock scene. On The Book of Goat Wizard, the band’s second proper release, Goat Wizard brings to life songs about witches, demons, the devil, and even blasting off into outer space, all set to heavy riffs in the vein of the classic metal sound pioneered by the likes of Black Sabbath and Mötorhead. When listening to this album, you won’t be able to see Potato, the ominous lead singer dressed in sun mask and cloak, but this album proves the band is more than just a live spectacle; they have the musical talent to back it up. –Shamus
- Handheld – Humble Beginnings EP
Released: July 2, 2016
Northern-ish Lehigh Valley kids making earnest, indie punk. I saw them at the now-defunct Warhouse Collective in Phillipsburg, NJ last March, a few months before they released their EP, “Humble Beginnings.” Live, vocalist Olivia Bellito has a bell-clear, matter-of-fact voice that rests above the jangly, intertwined guitar and bass melodies that carry the album from upbeat two steppers like “Dive,” to more downbeat and melancholic “Sugar Coated.” If this is their humble beginning, we can’t wait to hear what’s next. –Matt
- Nate Marks – “99.9 The Hawk” [Single]
Released: February 22, 2016
According to Nate Marks, “99.9 The Hawk” is hoped to be a hit. I’ve randomly come across Nate and his music over the past six years and began realizing that, by listening to his work, you’re allowed access to his world of constantly subverting normalcy through performance art. –Matt
Nate on the impetus behind composing “99.9 The Hawk”:
This song is a response to the mind-controlling monopoly of the same ole, same ole that you hear on the radio. This song is designed to remind listeners that music is alive and well, without the constraint of commercial airwaves. Clear Channel can lick the rock ‘n roll from my balls!
- Poor Luther’s Bones – Tall Tales
Released: June 6, 2016
Bluesy, irreverent punk rock coming out of Berks County. Poor Luther’s Bones’ hometown of Oley is slightly outside of the Lehigh Valley proper, but they are mainstays in the Valley’s scene from years past, so we are making an exception.
Poor Luther’s Bones have come back in a big way this year with this album. Make no mistake, this is a band firing on all cylinders. Listening to this album is like a religious experience, with singer Garth Forsyth as your unhinged, charismatic preacher. You never quite know what this band will do from song to song – or even from moment to moment – which makes Tall Tales all the more exciting to listen to. –Shamus
- Slingshot Dakota – Break
Released: March 11, 2016
Quitting your day job to focus on music full-time is a dream many DIY bands have that few pull off successfully, but that’s the plunge that Carly Commando and Tom Patterson from Slingshot Dakota took in 2014. “Break” is the band’s first album since then, and the singular dedication to their music shows. The Bethlehem keyboard-and-drums duo keep things engaging, with powerful instrumentation and heartfelt songwriting. –Shamus
- Today, We Fight with Peace – The Red Album
Released: November 15, 2016
Wisdom and inspiration can often come from places you didn’t expect. For me this year, it was from 10 year-old Annabellie from Allentown singing and playing a ukulele. Young Annabellie and dad Miguel “Lito” Torres packed our Tape Swap Radio tent during a rain-soaked weekend this year at Allentown ArtsFest with just their ukuleles, voices, and contagious positivity. “The Red Album” is the first in a series of albums Lito hopes to help his daughter create as she grows up, with each album being named after a ROYGBIV color in the rainbow. –Shamus
- Under the Clothesline – Cigarette Sandwich EP
Released: August 11, 2016
Thick and fuzzy, bluesy and spaced-out psychedelic rock that could find itself the backing band for a Tarantino movie or your last hazy night out. Tunes like “Headchange” are your second wind, and the closer (and oh-too-short title cut) “Cigarette Sandwich” make it clear it’s time to go home. –Matt