Top Tunes ’19: Emersynn McGuire & Willie Spires

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Every year WOUB Culture spotlights what music-centric folks in the region have been listening to all year round right in time for the holidays in our annual Top Tunes feature. 

Emersynn McGuire is a 21-year-old local musician active in Athenian progressive rock band, The Infinite Improbability Drive. Starting at the age of seven, she has studied under pianist Katie Fisher, percussionists Turner Matthews and Seth Alexander. She is currently studying guitar with local jazz guitarist John Horne and has been since she was nine years old. Some albums of this list (5-7) are curated by Willie Spires, the bassist of The Infinite Improbability Drive and 21-year-old Ohio University music production student.

(Photo by Adam Remnant)

Here is our curated list of some of the best albums of 2019 (with some oldies, of course!)

1. IGORTyler, the Creator
A concept that Tyler Okonma had in his back pocket since the late 2010s was finally resurrected in May of this year. An album unlike anything he’d done before, it delivers a healthy mixture of his older horrorcore style of rapping through WHAT’S GOOD and NEW MAGIC WAND, while experimenting further from his Flower Boy days with GONE, GONE / THANK YOU. This album was everything my 12 year-old self just finding Tyler’s music for the first time wanted.


2. DissolverDissolver
Hailing from Columbus, Ohio, Dissolver released their first self-titled extended play, Dissolver. Released in September of 2019, Dissolver reminds me of a cleaner, 1989 Nirvana. With tracks like “Path of Least Resistance” and “The Sound,” their guitar riffs and lyricism are hound to get stuck in your head. Check them out when they play in Athens next!


3. Ripping off the Tagsno stars*
Locally known act no stars* released their first extended play in June of this year. Although sounding soft, front-woman Emma Schultz knows how to strike one’s heart and soul through her words. With my personal favourites, “Never at All,” and “Potentiality,” no stars* has the perfect balance of heavy meanings and soft but sometimes hard-hitting guitar riffs.


4. ARIZONA BABYKevin Abstract
In Abstract’s third studio album, he raps about topics such as social media, his struggle with fame, and, as always, his relationships while being a queer man of colour. With tracks like “Peach” and “Baby Boy,” Abstract knows how to pull the softie out of the listener through romanticism. This album makes you feel good, simply put … almost like you’re falling in love.


5. Help Us StrangerThe Raconteurs
The Raconteurs valiant return came this year after a decade-long hiatus. Fronted by both Jack White and Brendan Benson, The Raconteurs combine their influences; roots rock, blues, and Mr. White’s signature wailing guitar solos all into one little package. Seeing them live this past summer at Riot Fest made me love the new songs even more. Some favorites of mine from the album would be “Help Me Stranger,” “Sunday Driver,” and “Bored and Razed.”


6. Beneath the EyriePixies
One of my all time favorite bands, Pixies, recently released their seventh studio album, Beneath The Eyrie this year. Being my favorite of the three since their 2014 reunion (without Kim Deal, sadly), the band really shines on this record. Paz Lenchantin is now an official member of the Pixies in both my eyes as well as the band, not just a replacement. She brings something different to the table and the curves some of the overall sound of the band for the better. That being said, this album is rich with classic Pixies sound as well. Black Francis (or Frank Black, or Charles Thompson, whichever you prefer) still has his powerful, deep screech of a voice. Joey Santiago still has some of the most memorable guitar riffs in the business. David Lovering kills it on drums, as usual. Some of my favorites on this album would be “On Graveyard Hill,” “Catfish Kate,” and “Los Surfers Muertos,” which Lenchantin wrote about a friend she used to surf with who tragically died while doing so.


7. You Deserve LoveWhite Reaper
Where to begin with the Louisville-based band White Reaper. They should be more popular would be a good opening statement. Since their 2015 debut album, hilariously titled “White Reaper Does It Again,” I have been hooked. They pull from garage rock, classic rock, and punk influence, throwing in some synthesizer for good measure. This band has energy, both live and in their songs. Keep an eye on them as they just recently signed to Elektra (after being on Polyvinyl since 2015) and have been landing dream worthy opening slots for bands such as The Killers, Weezer, Alice Cooper, as well as a variety of huge festival slots. I think we will be hearing a lot of them in the coming years. It has been cool to personally have seen them grow over the years and move from label to label as well as grow musically but never losing what makes them White Reaper; the loud, driving Thin Lizzy-esqe dual guitar riffs/solos, a tight rhythm section (must be because they’re twin brothers), and a hype man/synth enthusiast combination. These five guys have a promising career ahead of them. Some of my favorites off You Deserve Love would be “Might Be Right,” “Real Long Time,” and “1F.”


8. Science Fiction (2017) – Brand New
Despite the controversies surrounding frontman Jesse Lacey, he is an incredible songwriter, and this album shows his strengths as a lyricist and musician overall. Unlike anything Brand New has ever done before, we have a submerging tale interwoven between each track of this album. Imagery like nuclear war, the depths of the ocean, and what happens after we die is sprinkled often throughout this album. Combined with the build up of each track, the album never fails to make me feel something each time I listen to it.


9. Electra Heart (2012) – MARINA
MARINA, formerly known as Marina and the Diamonds and known as Marina Diamandis, came out with her first album in four years in 2019, named LOVE + FEAR. Although, in my opinion, not as good as her predecessors FROOT or The Family Jewels, her rebranding and resurgence as one of the original true pop icons of the 2010s has had me listening to her 2012 album Electra Heart all over again. With true bubblegum and electro-pop tracks such as “Primadonna Girl,” “Teen Idle,” and “How to be a Heartbreaker,” Diamandis really knows how to make others feel like they’re a teenager, experiencing all of the ups and downs of girlhood all over again.


10. Led Zeppelin II (1969) – Led Zeppelin
Arguably one of the most important albums in music history, Led Zeppelin II is one album I’ve been listening to this past year a ton. A staple album of mine since I was 12, this album truly never gets old for me. With tracks “Whole Lotta Love,” “Heartbreaker,” and, of course, “Ramble On,” this album screams at the top of its lungs with the classic, dirty rock and roll guitar riffs, insane drum chops, crazy vocal melodies, and groovy bass lines Zeppelin is known for still to this day.