Our List of 2014's Top Local Releases 

What's great in the 208

If you want to give the gift of music this holiday season but would rather eat wrapping paper than buy Darius Rucker's new Christmas record, we have a solution: Go local. Boise-based bands released great albums in 2014, and below are some of our top picks:

Hollow Wood, Seasons EP

The only problem with Hollow Wood's debut EP is a breathy, old-timer rasp that lead singer Adam Jones sometimes affects. It's unnecessary—his lyrics about yearning, existential dread and resilience do enough to establish him as an uncommonly thoughtful, mature young man.

Of course, thoughtfulness or maturity alone wouldn't have made Seasons this year's top-selling local release at The Record Exchange. Credit for that should go to Hollow Wood's dreamy tunes, exultant chants and rousing stomps. Mark Doubleday deserves props, too, for his pristine production, which captures the warmth, intimacy and irrepressible good spirits of the band's live performances.

Jones doesn't need to sound so old so soon. He'll get there naturally because, most likely, he and his bandmates have long lives and careers ahead of them. hollowwood.bandcamp.com

Edmond Dantes, Juno EP

One nice thing about getting older is that you learn to be more considerate. Electro-soul duo Edmond Dantes exemplified this truism with debut EP Etta (2013). On "Decade," a man ponders years past and love lost before heading into the night. On "I Don't Like You," a nightclubbing guy disses a bimbo, who then fires back and makes him look like the lesser person.

Edmond Dantes' follow up EP, Juno, didn't pack any of those same punches but the duo of Andrew Stensaas and Ryan Peck delivered equally catchy tunes, funkier beats and even more hooks (some courtesy of keyboardist Todd Dunnigan). There's another nice thing about getting older: You find your groove and build on it. (Scroll down to the bottom of this page to watch the video for Edmond Dantes' "Drive.") edmonddantesband.bandcamp.com

The Country Club, An Idaho Dozen

The most hyped country album of 2014 was Sturgill Simpson's Metamodern Sounds in Country Music. Boiseans who liked it might find the homegrown stuff just as fresh.

If you flipped for Simpson's Waylon Jennings-esque ode to agnosticism "Turtles All the Way Down," try The Country Club's Willie Nelson-inspired anti-Monsanto diatribe "The Great Cornspiracy." Elsewhere, Jonah Shue's pen and nasally croon do well by love and prison (sometimes both at once). He gets help from Dave Manion's James Burton-like guitar and a saucy cameo from Catherine Merrick, whose own band, a.k.a. Belle, put out an excellent album this year, too. thecountryclub.bandcamp.com

Tracy Morrison, Dancing Through Medbury

Doing no-frills traditional country is tougher than it sounds. Many times, musicians who try come off as staid, corny, self-important or reclusive. With her indelible melodies, warm voice and spare, winningly plain-spoken lyrics, Pinto Bennett protege Tracy Morrison gets it just right. tracymorrison.org

Ugly Hussy, Host

While it sticks in the mind, the name "Ugly Hussy" is a bit of a misnomer. In fact, the music of Alex Maddalena's one-man guitar-and-loops project is frequently quite lovely. His "Luk," the third track on Host, popped up this past September on Stereogum, which called it "gorgeously discordant and jarringly beautiful," an apt description of the whole album. uglyhussy.bandcamp.com

Bread and Circus, Fortune Favors the Bold

Question: What kind of jam band covers The Decemberists and name-checks The Smiths, Billy Bragg and Oscar Wilde in the liner notes of its debut album? Answer: A jam band worth listening to.

Brady Myers' mandolin gives the music a suitably rustic, laid-back feel; Jon England's bass and Garrett Finley's drums give it forward motion; and Michael Blumenstein's guitar solos give it liftoff. As the Billy Bragg name-check might suggest, Blumenstein's lyrics have a socially conscious streak. Check out the eco-collapse warning "Sucker in a Suit" or "Road Less Traveled," in which a footloose drifter gets robbed and killed while a hard-working family man changes the world for his kids. reverbnation.com/breadcircusboiseid

Afrosonics, Afrosonics

This band's mix of funk, reggae, rock and African music adds some welcome spice to the Boise scene. Dayo Ayodele and company sound a little too contained on this debut EP, but their smooth grooves, assured musicianship and upbeat spirit are enjoyable throughout. At the least, these recordings should encourage people to see Afrosonics live (the band's next show is Saturday, Dec. 20, at Neurolux). reverbnation.com/afrosonics

Coba, Coba

Getting Steve Fulton and Curtis Stigers to co-produce your album probably means you have something special, which young jazz-prog-rock musician Andrew Coba definitely has. Sharp tempo shifts, supple drumming and nimble guitar blend with wistful melodies, tender piano and clean, strong vocals making Coba easily one of 2014's best local albums. facebook.com/pages/Andrew-Coba

Other notable local releases: a.k.a. Belle, The Devil Loves You; Storie Grubb and the Holy Wars, Storie Grubb and the Holy Wars; Aaron Mark Brown, Grow Something in the Ground; Dying Famous, 40 Minutes Late; The Very Most, Things Too Obvious to Sing; Sleepy Seeds, Sleepy Seeds; Possum Livin', What Are We Working For; Audra Connolly, Slowly; James Coberly Smith with LeAnne Town, Living Room Songs; The Dirty Moogs, Songs for Clones

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