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The Pretenders, “My City is Gone” Akron’s Chrissie Hynde formed this band in London but never forgot her Northeast Ohio roots (and came back to her city to own a terrific restaurant in Akron for several years). With its plodding bass riff and bluesy guitar riffs, this classic tune represents Hynde’s experience of seeing Akron in decline. “Oh way to go Ohio,” she croons sarcastically, making the song into a terrific anti-anthem.
Raspberries, “Go All the Way” With its harmony vocals and clipped guitar chords, the Raspberries’ first major hit practically created a template for power-pop. Though the band didn’t last long, its impact was undeniable and launched the careers of Wally Bryson and Eric Carmen.
Sons of Elvis, “"Formaldehyde" This catchy pop song was a big enough hit that the group was invited to play it live on the Jon Stewart Show. The group reunited to play the Grog Shop last year and sounded as sharp as ever.
Michael Stanley Band, “My Town” While the song borrows a bit too heavily from Springsteen, you can’t deny the righteousness at its heart. “This town gonna be here long after I’m gone,” Stanley passionately sings before the chanted chorus kicks in. Every bit as much of an anthem as “Cleveland Rocks.”
The Waitresses, “I Know What Boys Like” Led by sarcastic singer Patty Donahue, this Akron New Wave group only existed for six years but songs like this one have a distinctive sound — dig the woozy mid-song sax solo. The band’s complete catalog was just reissued last year.
The Black Keys, “I’ll Be Your Man” Watching this garage blues duo from Akron become one of the country’s biggest rock acts has been a true joy. This grunge-y number from their 2002 debut The Big Come Up was used as the theme song for the HBO series Hung.
Chimaira, “Nothing Remains” This single from the local metal band’s self-titled 2005 effort — the last album it would record for Roadrunner Records — shows just how hard and heavy the band’s music could be. The tune slowly builds into an aural assault. Powerful stuff.
Cloud Nothings, “Hey Cool Kid” This jangly tune with its distinctive, droning vocals accurately represents what Cloud Nothings are all about. Simultaneously sounding retro and contemporary, Cloud Nothings’ front man Dylan Baldi comes off as Northeaat Ohio’s answer to Beck. Look for a new studio album this spring.
Cobra Verde, “Play with Fire” The Cleveland indie rock band’s cover of the Stones tune successfully reimagines the tune as a moody ballad. Appropriately, the song was used in an episode of HBO’s True Blood and even appears on the official soundtrack.
Kid Cudi, “Cleveland is the Reason” Cudi’s career took off after he moved from Northeast Ohio to Brooklyn, but the guy still has deep roots here. “I come from Cleveland, ya’ll can really here it now,” he raps on this slow-mo tune that shows off his distinctive vocal style.
The Lighthouse and the Whaler, “The Field Song” This Cleveland indie rock outfit caught national attention after “The Field Song,” a folky track from its 2008 debut, wound up on a sampler put out by trendy Paste magazine. The guys eventually would enlist a big-time PR firm to handle their press and have been going strong ever since.
DJ EV, “Good Time” Local DJ E-V teams up with locals Lorine Chia and Machine Gun Kelly on this catchy new dancefloor-ready anthem. Sounding a bit like Nicki Minaj, Chia dominates the track but MGK shows up mid-song to drop some rhymes. "I'm trying to change the world with one drink, motherfucka," he aggressively raps on the club hit.
Machine Gun Kelly, “Alice in Wonderland” Machine Gun Kelly made his debut in 2010 with the release of this single that appeared on the Midwest Block Starz compilation. A rather esoteric song that announces him as “Cleveland’s own,” it also caught the attention of Sean Combs who subsequently signed him to his Bad Boy Records.
Jessica Lea Mayfield, “Oblivious” We’ve been fans of Kent-based singer-songwriter Jessica Lea Mayfield since the days when she used to record and tour as Chittlin. This, the new single from her forthcoming studio album, is a noisy track that sounds a bit like a cross between the Black Keys and Neil Young, albeit with a female vocalist.
The Modern Electric, “David Bowie (Save Us All)” Not sure if this catchy song was heard outside of Cleveland but its stuttering vocals and melodramatic piano riffs serve as wondrous tribute to the Thin White Duke, an appropriate subject given that he was popular in Cleveland before the rest of the States took to his space age music.
Mr. Gnome, “House of Circles” Don’t fault this Cleveland hard rock duo for not playing in town often. The group spends the majority of the year on the road. The group’s music — a cross between PJ Harvey and Queens of the Stone of Age — is incredibly compelling, even if it’s not entirely accessible. And be sure to check out the cool music video the group created to go along with the tune. It looks like something from a Resident Evil movie.
Mushroomhead, “Come On” Since welcoming original singer Jason Popson back into this fold, this veteran local metal got a good second wind and has been working hard on its new studio album, due out sometime this year. The raucous single from 2010’s Beautiful Stories for Ugly Children, features some fantastic percussion (and the accompanying music video has a cool Fight Club-like vibe to it).
Uptown Sinclair, “Girlfriend” Who would have guessed that Uptown Sinclair frontman Dave Hill would have turned into a successful comedian and author? Judging from this catchy, Matthew Sweet-like song the band released as a single in 2002, we would have figured he would have become famous for his music. Not that he’s stopped playing — the guy still fronts the power pop group Valley Lodge and they’re big in Japan, or so we’re told.
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