Top Tunes ’18: Michelle Waters

Posted on:

< < Back to

Wow! 2018 has come and gone, and it’s about time we reflect on our favorite sounds of the past year. Leading up through the end of the year, WOUB Culture will be spotlighting what various music-centric people throughout the region have been enjoying the most for the past 12 months.

Michelle Waters (Submitted)

On any given week day, Michelle Waters is probably thinking of new ways to advocate for local music.

She’s probably on her laptop with her dog (snuggled up so close to her that there’s no room for even a hand in between them), while her daughter is at school. She may be planning a family or portrait or art photo session, scheduling meetings, working out lunch dates, selecting images for her next art exhibition, searching for her next concert photo assignment or finding memes to make her husband laugh. She might even be doing all of these things at once.

She’ll probably experiment with a new recipe for dinner or spend an hour at the grocery store, looking at new food ideas, and will later at night brainstorm ways to go to Scotland again next summer. She is determined to see The Cure play with Mogwai in Glasgow in 2019.

Originally from NE Ohio, Michelle has lived in West Virginia for 15 years now, and doesn’t see herself moving again any time soon. She’s running a local, home state (OH and WV) online community called Hold the Note, hosts a live talk show once a month called Live at the Stage Door (where she interviews bands and shares some of their music,) and has organized a couple of small music festivals in the Mid-Ohio Valley called Undercurrent.

She’ll probably do more.

I set out a month ago to make a list of the music I gravitate towards when I’m driving, since I’m on the road a lot. Come to find out, I listen almost exclusively to Ohio and West Virginia music, these days. So I chose to only list my most played 10(ish) Ohio and West Virginia albums from this year’s travels. I also stuck with 2017/2018 releases, and only the ones I play on repeat, to the point where people might think my car is broken if they road with me, because otherwise I would have had easily dozens of albums listed as my “Super Favorites.”

Okay, this was still way harder than I expected. Wow.


Cutler Station – “Roller Rink Spider” from Happy Campers (Vincent, OH)

Genre: Dad Rock/Sloggy Pop & Roll

This is easily one of my and my daughterʼs favorite songs to sing together. I canʼt help but find a harmony part to sing along to this one, and the CD is actually wearing out, ‘cause we play it so much. The simplicity and purity of the vocals on this track, along with their often whimsical and fun messages always leave me in a light place and I keep going back. Theyʼve been called “Dad Rock”, and maybe I just get it because Iʼm a mom? I donʼt know and I donʼt care. I love it and them. Looking forward to diving into their new album that just came out (this one came out last year).


Counterfeit Madison – “I Hope itʼs Alright” from Opposable Thumbs (Columbus, OH)

Genre: Funk/Punk with Gospel Feelings

Okay honestly, you need to hear this entire album to collect the heart and experience that is Counterfeit Madison. I fell in love with them at Nelsonville in 2017, and have never been the same. I picked “I Hope itʼs Alright” because this song really represents the freedom and power that I think Sharon Udoh shares so well. But she is equally adept at hitting your heart with a hug as she is with a sledge hammer. Again, I recommend the entire album, but this song always makes me so, so happy. Also, be prepared for all of the swearing. All of it. Itʼs part of the charm.


Lung – “Subhuman Nation” from All the Kingʼs Horses (Cincinnati, OH)

Genre: Not-Your-Typical Rock

Again, this entire album is so, so good. Lung is beyond impressively powerful-especially for being a two-piece band. Kateʼs voice flows between dreams and pointed, gorgeous nightmares, and is capable of sounds Iʼve not yet heard in music. The romantic edginess of Kateʼs electric cello and Daisyʼs powerful drums are all I need to be happy. I feel notes of Tori Amos, Rasputina, and even hints of Nine Inch Nails when I listen to them, but theyʼre so much more than that. Go see them live. Seeing them live drew me in and hooked me for life. And I picked this song because Iʼve never enjoyed the words “Shut Up” so much in a song in my entire life.


small disco – “Hide UR Mind” from floralscent (Portsmouth, OH)

Genre: Chillwave/Indie/Electronic.

This is such a great, fizzy way to start off small discoʼs album, floralscent. This song is electrically infused into my brain. And even though Iʼve been listening to all of the artists Iʼm writing about repeatedly over the past few days, this song keeps creeping in, and I love it. Another two-piece band, this time an electronic duo. small disco also sound larger than the sum of their parts. Their layered harmonies are rich and full, their songs are well-composed, and they get stuck in my head for days. Love them.


Starset – “Ricochet” from Vessels (Columbus, OH)

Genre: Cinematic Rock

I first saw Starset perform as an opening act for Halestorm a few years back, and was SO excited to discover they were from Columbus! Starset brings so much to their live shows: elaborate costumes, an interesting backstory/theme, cinematic interludes that sound like they walked right off of a superhero movie soundtrack, and an engaging, see-through screen that Dustin (lead vocals) uses while performing, that seems to function as a live mixing station, all only serve to enhance the catchy, immense songs of Starset. Itʼs a great album, but I feel like Ricochet showcases many of the facets of their music in one place. Iʼd definitely recommend seeing them live.


Yearling – “Cosmos” from Better Weather (Charleston, WV)

Genre: Post-Rock/Emo

Every single part of this album is perfect. I love the way I feel immersed into their songs when I listen to them. I love how open they are to collaboration with other artists, and I just smile thinking about Yearling. I can’t for the life of me figure out why more people don’t know about them, as they could easily play with a plethora of other well-done post rock and emo bands and carry their own. Seriously. I love them. Listen to this entire album.


Homesick – “Allora” from Dead Reflections (Huntington, WV)

Genre: Spoken Word/Indiecore

I love everything about Homesick, and have since the first time I saw them perform live. I honestly donʼt know what I love most about them, but I know it probably has something to do with their honest and real vocals, haunting guitar and strong drums. Iʼm so proud that theyʼre from West Virginia. This song is just a small example of how great they are, and Iʼm already ready for their next album. Take my money, Homesick.


Blake Skidmore – “Blame Benji” from Running Dream (Columbus, OH)

Genre: Indie/Folk

This song makes me feel like Iʼm under water, or in a huge vat of soothing maple syrup, and okay with it. I find myself listening to this on repeat, getting lost in how dreamy it all bubbles together, like Iʼm drifting away on a summer day. I love everything about it, and the whole album is pretty solid.


Embracer – “Holy Ghost” from No Gospel (Charleston, WV)

Genre: Emotive Rock

This was a sleeper album for me, because I loved their previous album so much. Embracer is known, at least in part (and at least in my own mind), for their sweeping, cinematic sound, and the vast range of Jordanʼs vocal ability to seamlessly sweep from fragile and soft to gritty and fierce, all while carrying a perfect tune. I played this album in my car one day, and found I never wanted to take it out, loving every single song more and more each time I play it/them. Itʼs beautiful, haunting and has been a regular in my travels for weeks, now. Also, definitely go see them live. Yep.


Hello June – “Fight, Donʼt Fight” from Spruce (Morgantown, WV)

Genre: Indie Rock

It almost doesnʼt seem fair to have so much Hello June music to pick from within the two years Iʼm searching through, because I just love them both/all. Sarahʼs voice is like raw honey, coming at me in waves and weaving in between what feels like a throwback to ’90s alt-rock and more current art that I need in my head. I picked Fight, Donʼt Fight because I donʼt feel like it gets enough credit, and I just love, love it. I love their dreamy guitars. I love the teetering balance in Sarahʼs voice, and the dance between sway and bob in Hello June sounds. Give them so much listen.


Joshua Lee – “Until Next Spring” from Promise Land (Marietta, OH)

Genre: Indie Folk Rock

From the very first time I heard this one, it hooked me. Thereʼs a realness in Joshuaʼs voice in this song, that feels like a distant relative to John Denver (who has a warm place in my heart), and a range that finds comfort in a calming lower register, and a strong, beautifully toned higher range. The arrangement, the build up from the tender observations that gradually build to the sweeping guitar in the center… all of it is perfection. I find myself rocking my head, dropping my shoulders, feeling sure, and wanting to drive forever when I hear this one. And this is another album that Iʼd definitely recommend be fully taken in. So very good.