Fifteen years ago this week, the paper formerly named The Weekly was enjoying its first year as Orlando Weekly with a crew that included exactly two staffers who are still here — arts editor Lindy Shepherd and salesman Dan Winkler. We railed against Newt Gingrich and sang the praises of local college-rock group Braille Closet between ads for now-shuttered CD stores Peaches and Camelot.
Much has changed about us and the music scene and our city in general since then, but great songs never go away, especially those penned by our friends and neighbors. What better time than the dregs of an armpit-hot summer to revisit those melodies still floating through our heads?
What follows is a by-no-means-comprehensive playlist of our favorite local songs from the last decade-and-a-half, as well as near-and-dear cuts from some of the area's faces that have helped Orlando music continue to grow over the years. They might not be the best songs the city has produced since OW became OW — in fact, some are delightfully dated — but they all have personal relevance and, like dusty pictures in a shoebox, they all contain stories between the notes.
Jeff Nolan, the Ludes:
• Precious: "Youth and the Drug Explosion"
Steve Garron is brilliant. There are a number of Precious songs that are worth mentioning, but this was always my favorite. Steve has a real knack for writing quirky riffs and combining them with lyrics that seem funny at first but are really deeply melancholy. I wish I could do that.
• John David Baldridge: "Into the Bars"
This is probably the best honky-tonk song written by anyone in the last 15 years. Unfortunately, John David never plays live anymore due to a crippling hand injury. I don't think this town realizes what a loss that is for our music community. The song is a classic breakup tune with a fantastic lyrical hook — "I'm out of the bedroom, and into the bars."
• John Gallagher: "Sweet Woman High Above Me"
Probably John's best ballad — and he's got a lot of killer ballads. It takes a classic "I'm no good for you, woman" theme and combines it with '50s-style ice cream changes, but the capper is the bridge. John put an incredibly dark and menacing middle eight on this song that really underscores the lyric. Through a simple key change, he manages to show that the protagonist isn't just a bad guy; he's probably actively evil. Gallagher is easily one of the best lyricists in Central Florida.
• The Little Debbies: "Punks in Convertibles"
A "running from the law" tale set to a musical blend of staccato mid-tempo rock ‘n' roll and a sweet '60s girl group-style chorus. It's their most infectious jam, and they had a lot of those. I miss this band. They could have gone the distance.
Dave Scott, drummer, Adrenalin O.D.:
• Nutrajet: "December Drowning"December Drowning by orlandoweekly
• The F-Pipes: "The Matador"
Sean Moore, Viernes:
• The Band of the Name: "F. Marks the Spot"
This nearly 12-minute cut embodies all that the Band of the Name were capable of sonically and conceptually. Serving as the closing statement on their second and final record, Please Step Off the Miracle and Turn to Your Left, "F. Marks the Spot" traverses through multiple movements and fragments, only to end on a fittingly subdued choral arrangement. To craft chaos and organize it this well is a testament to their unparalleled work ethic as a band.F... Marks The Spot by thebandofthename href="http://soundcloud.com/thebandofthename">thebandofthename
• Nutrajet: "Celebrity Fist"
Hearing this song clinched my decision to move to Orlando, so you can either blame or thank Greg Reinel for that one. Any city that could produce a duo that meshed Jucifer-size volume assaults with punk rock that split the difference between Cheap Trick and Stiff Little Fingers was all right by me.Celebrity Fist by orlandoweekly
• Bloom: "Remote Control"
Another nostalgic pick but also easily defensible: Bloom was the first local band I saw upon arriving in town. Between frontman Devin Moore's smartass attitude, his brother's fanatical devotion to mind-blowing guitar tones, and the spot-on arrangements of dark power-pop nuggets like "Remote Control," I knew I had made a pretty good decision.Remote Control by orlandoweekly
• New Mexican Disaster Squad: "Coughing Up Blood"
This song was in a close race with the Attack's "Getaway Car" for "Local Punk Song That Makes Me Want To Be A Teenage Hooligan." NMDS won out due to the fact that this little anthem flies the middle finger, punches the sky and is sort of gross.
• The Punching Contest: "Fire, Bitches"
The tightly wound spazzcore of the Punching Contest was a sight to behold. The band managed to pack an unbelievable number of ideas and structures and changes and sounds and wildness into their songs. "Fire, Bitches" is seven-and-a-half minutes long (nearly twice the length of most of their songs), so it's got a lot to say. Revelatory, brutal, assaultive, beautiful, angry, dramatic and completely exhausting.Fire, Bitches by orlandoweekly
• Summerbirds in the Cellar: "The Machines Won't Fail"
It's definitely not their best song, but this three-minute instrumental opening to the Summerbirds' 2005 debut album is a warm bath in Eno-blessed waters of swirling analog keyboards. And I can listen to it all day, every day. As a statement, it's not only bold but also declarative, as it positioned their formidable skills with melody and songcraft as secondary to a thoughtful and near-artful sense of atmosphere.The Machines Won't Fail by orlandoweekly
Christopher Sapone, founder, Slow January Records:
• The Holsteins: "Kennedy"
• The New Lows: "The Thrill"
• Dristan: "Tucker, A Man and His Dreams"
John Guidry, founder, UMP Recording Studio:
• Big Jef Special: "Wishes"Wishes by orlandoweekly href="http://soundcloud.com/jstrout">orlandoweekly
• The Groans: "Happy Birthday 21"
• Yield: "Is It Pop?"
John "Hex" Carter, Executive Director, Nerdapalooza:
• Marc with a C: "No London In Brazil"No London In Brazil by orlandoweekly
• MC Wreckshin of Emergency Pizza Party: "Bird Life"Bird Life by orlandoweekly
• Killer Robots!: "I AM ROBOT"I AM ROBOT by orlandoweekly href="http://soundcloud.com/jstrout">orlandoweekly
• Summerbirds in the Cellar: "Lonely Sleeping Giant"
Complexly crafted but effortlessly fluid, this wonderfully accomplished song is one of the moodiest, most driving bits of melodic and tectonic perfection ever penned. It's nocturnal, dreamy and gorgeous, Summerbirds at their apex.Lonely Sleeping Giant by orlandoweekly
• The Hex Tremors: "Kill Kill Kill"
There's a reason this now-defunct blues-punk duo are underground legends around here, and this scalping attack is just one of the rawest, sickest songs to ever spring from Orlando's bowels.Kill Kill Kill by orlandoweekly
• Solillaquists of Sound: "New Sheriff in Town"
Breathing down your neck with high-tension hype and bravado, the pressure-cooking jump of this jam is fierce but funky as shit. By far, the biggest, most single-worthy rap song to ever come out of this region.
• Mumpsy: "Sir Lancelot"
This simply adorned folk-pop gallop relies on nothing but its pure hooks. Just so happens, those charming little hooks have the radiance of a supernova. It's unmitigated joy without an ounce of fat.Sir Lancelot by orlandoweekly
• Bananafish: "The Owl's Refrain"
They're new jacks but they've already hit the bull's eye with a singularly majestic slice of modern folk. As if composed for a rustic symphony, it's evocative and sky-filling enough to score a spaghetti Western.
• Summerbirds in the Cellar: "Ugly Inside"
Singer Brad Register has never sounded better than on this mid-tempo synthesis of everything that makes Orlando indie rock just as viable as any other city's: heart, musicianship and mood.
• Andromeda: "Raw"
I remember shooting a "music video" for this Big Daddy Kane-sampling track on a handheld camcorder back when this duo's MC, Carlos Ramirez, was one of the most exciting personalities in town and its DJ, SPS, was just a quiet guy with skills and not yet a world-champion turntablist. How things change.
• Terri Binion featuring Lucinda Williams: "Gayleanne"
A wistful narrative, vocal assistance from one of Nashville's greatest and Binion's graceful bluegrass picking make this one a must for anyone wondering what Orlando sounds like at its best.GayleAnne (with Lucinda Williams) by orlandoweekly
• Wes Fif and B.O.B.: "Haterz Everywhere"
Before B.O.B.'s Billboard stardom inevitably buried local kid Wes Fif's contribution (Fif was even replaced on the track years later by Interscope signee Rich Boy), "Haterz" was a rave-rap breakthrough bursting at the seams with raw talent and invigorating danceability.Haterz Everywhere by orlandoweekly
• Kaleigh Baker: "Old News"
What starts as a soulful Otis Redding run builds momentum until Baker's voice reveals its full intent as a chill-inducing monster of Aretha Franklin/Sarah Vaughan proportions. She's only gotten better since then as local jazz musicians got wise and gathered behind her.Old News by orlandoweekly
Katie Ball, arts advocate:
• Thomas Wynn & the Believers: "It's Alright"
Thomas' gift for writing honors the Texas greats whose words and music remain vital long after they're gone. This is a song about really living — the highs/the lows, the gains/the losses. It poses more questions than answers but that in itself is truth. There's a little redemption in there, but at its core level it's a gut-wrenching call for acceptance — self-acceptance, acceptance for others, acceptance for the things we can't control and a kick in the pants to change the things we can. This song is a healing thing and has been a companion in some of my darkest hours.
• Terri Binion: "Abilene"
This track from the 1996 record Leavin' This Town still stands as a beacon of hope for what Nashville could and should be. It's a boot-scootin' song of empowerment, with Binion's crystalline voice chiming out a mantra for change. But fair warning: play this tune in the car and you may end up headed toward Texas before giving it a second thought.
• Matt Butcher: "Keep it Together"
It beautifully encapsulates someone looking at his life and looking for ways to make things right. No easy answer, no quick fix — much more a constant series of checks and balances with darts forward and stumbles back. This tune starts out deceptively simple and sweet, with tandem guitar work weaving in and around Butcher's gentle voice. It then swerves into a slightly trippy nod to Pink Floyd and then reverts back as clean as you please. It all works remarkably well and is a balm for the ears — but more importantly, it eases the soul and tells you you're not alone as you try to find your way in this world.
Kyle Raker, formerly of XOXO
• Andy Matchett & the Monorail: "Last Minute Love Song"
Andy writes some of the best lyrics in town, and I think this song really demonstrates that. He's great at showing you a scene rather than shoving it down your throat.
• Summerbirds in the Cellar: "Behold the Wolf"
I chose this Summerbirds song because, to me, it sort of demonstrates the best of everything I liked about this band: Their use of rising and ebbing dynamics, Brad's hooks, Tyson's drumming, great synth tones.Behold the Wolf by orlandoweekly
Chris Cucci, founder, Post Records:
• Tooth & the Enamels: "Brush Your Teeth"
Great song and Tooth's choreography when he does this one live makes it a local classic.
• The Band of the Name: "You Can Redo Anything If You Put Your Mind To It"
My favorite track on the last release from these guys. I love everything about this album; it's short, perfect from start to finish and this song is my favorite by far.You Can Redo Anything If You Put Your Mind To It by thebandofthename href="http://soundcloud.com/thebandofthename">thebandofthename
• Mumpsy: "Waiting To Be Disappointed"
The first track from the first Mumpsy album, The Exuberance of Peachtree. I met `singer` Jeff `Ilgenfritz` in 2005, and he gave me the demos for this album. A few months later, it was the fifth Post Records release and one of my favorites from those very early releases.early releases.
Thomas Wynn, frontman, Thomas Wynn & the Believers:
• Shak Nasti: "My Mia"
• The Ludes: "She Got Me"
• Kaleigh Baker: "Peace, Love and All That"Peace, Love and All That by orlandoweekly
Greg Leibowitz, booker, Stardust Video and Coffee:
• Tonstartssbandht: "An When"
With the future of Orlando music in mind, look up these Edgewater grads now living in New York. It came out this year and it is amazing.it is amazing.
John Youngman, Fly South Music Group:
• My Friend Steve: "Carflips"
This was the closing track off the album they made for Mammoth Records. Another Orlando band once well known around here that deserved to find a bigger audience.
• Solillaquists of Sound: "Look"
Much has already been said in OW about the greatness of this group, and it's all true.
• My Hotel Year: "6 a.m."
I was starting to feel old for a second when I realized that I don't hear MHY playing on the jukebox at Bar-BQ-Bar as much these days, but then I realized that's because there is always some DJ playing crunk music in there now. Will someone please turn My Hotel Year back on?
Tierney Tough, singer-bassist, the Pauses:
• Great Deceivers: "Curses"Curses by orlandoweekly
• Summerbirds in the Cellar: "Wooden Lions"
• Backstreet Boys: "I Want It That Way"
Brooding boys in an airplane hangar echoing rhymes of "fire" and "desire" against a world finally ready to take the newly mature Boys seriously. Sure, it's more Max Martin melody massaging, but "I Want It That Way" remains an epic skyscraper of clumsy and endearing sentimentality.
• Seven Mary Three: "Man in Control?"
Grumbler Jason Ross unencumbered himself, if only slightly, for this hidden gem on 2001's Economy of Sound release. Ross used to pull this one out at local open mic nights, stripped bare of its later Westerberg trappings, and bring small rooms to tears — his tears about the late-night-razor similarities between love and loss. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JlSVCAvZfd0music@orlandoweekly.com