The 20 Best Daytrotter Sessions of 2018

Daytrotter recorded more than 200 sessions this year. Here are some of our favorites.

Music Lists Best of 2018
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11. Caroline Says
Aug. 10
The sound of Caroline Sallee’s music seems to be rooted in whimsy. Yet, for Sallee, who makes music with her band as Caroline Says, making her sophomore record No Fool Like an Old Fool was no light-hearted task. She recorded much of the album in her dingy basement apartment, dodging noisy upstairs neighbors and simultaneously working three jobs. It’s miraculous, then, that No Fool should feel so bright and light, despite the circumstances and often dark subject matter. The Alabama native and her band stopped by Daytrotter in August to play the first three tracks off No Fool, “First Song” “Mea Culpa” and “Sweet Home Alabama,” plus an older favorite, “Winter Is Cold.” —Ellen Johnson

Read Paste’s list of the 20 best folk albums of 2018

12. The Shacks
Aug. 17
The Shacks’ widespread influences surface much more in their music than that of most bands. The New York City group finds inspiration in everything from glittery dream pop, doomy psych-rock, jazz-leaning pop and ’60s blues and soul. The band came into the Daytrotter Studio to perform tracks from their debut album, Haze, released earlier this year via Big Crown Records. Haze is characterized by frontwoman Shannon Wise’s airy, ribbon-like vocals and guitarist Max Shrager’s timeless songwriting—fluttering between delicate, jiving sweetness and a peppy grab bag of unpredictable keyboards and charming guitars. Watch their full Daytrotter session below with numbers like “My Name Is” and “Blue and Grey.” —Lizzie Manno

13. River Whyless
Aug. 23
Hailing from an Appalachian metropolis—Asheville, N.C.—River Whyless are skilled at pasting traditional bluegrass sounds onto whatever musical canvas catches their fancy. On their excellent sophomore LP, they chose the whole world as their sonic starting point, incorporating flute, bongos and even sitar into their experimental folksy stylings. With their third album, Kindness, A Rebel, the quartet expand the horizons of folk music even more. Their captivating Daytrotter session, during which they play three tracks from that record, switches from casual rock show to a be-fiddled barn-raising at a moment’s notice. I can’t name all the instruments River Whyless use during this 20-minute set, but there is a word for how it sounds when they all blend together: seamless. —Ellen Johnson

14. Native Sun
Sept. 5
Native Sun caught our attention with their 2017 debut EP, Songs Born from Love and Hate, which showcases the band’s untamed energy and garage-rock bona fides. They also landed on our list of NYC Bands You Need to Know in 2018, and we included them in our best Paste Studio sessions of 2017 list, where Matthew Oshinsky wrote, “This quartet from Brooklyn has been around for all of six months and positively gives no fucks—and that’s what you need in a young band: hunger, amplifiers, and something to scream about.” Before this year’s blistering Daytrotter session, the band dropped another EP, Always Different, Always The Same—a six-track release full of dusty, snotty rock ‘n’ roll. They popped into the Daytrotter Studio to play cuts from the new EP like “Hippie Speedball” and “Big Succ(ess).” —Lizzie Manno

15. Elizabeth Moen
Sept. 15
Maybe you’ve never heard her records before, but after watching Elizabeth Moen’s Daytrotter session, you just might find yourself Googling her tour dates. The singer/songwriter and ace guitarist brought along a team of equally talented musicians, including a trumpeter, to her set where they played a few tunes from her latest album, A Million Miles Away. Hers looks like the kind of live show you could dance and move to even if you didn’t know a lick of lyrics. After opening for artists like Lake Street Dive, Margaret Glaspy and Lucy Dacus, the Iowa native is one to watch out for on the road. —Ellen Johnson

16. Illuminatti Hotties
Sept. 23
On their Facebook page, Illuminati Hotties’ genre description reads “post-naptime burrito-core.” Jokes aside, the L.A. band’s jubilant rock would probably pair well with Mexican foods of all varieties, but not so much a midday nap. The group, whose only permanent member is longtime studio musician Sarah Tudzin, released Kiss Yr Frenemies, Tudzin’s first record under the moniker, in May. Tudzin, along with her band, stopped by Daytrotter in September to play a few songs from the record including ”(You’re Better) Than Ever,” “Shape Of My Hands,” “Cuff” and “Paying Off the Happiness.” —Ellen Johnson

17. Yonder Mountain String Band
Oct. 24
Any time there’s more than three or four musicians in the Daytrotter studio, something interesting is bound to occur. At this session, the five string-fluent musicians forming Yonder Mountain String Band arranged themselves in a half-moon shape before shooting again for the stars: They start the set with a delightful cover of King Harvest’s “Dancing in the Moonlight,” and if you think acoustic instruments don’t hold the power to move mountains and control jam sessions, just watch. The Colorado bluegrass band impressively manage with no rhythm assistance whatsoever, and they still know how to rock out. —Ellen Johnson

18. Odetta Hartman
Oct. 26
In August, experimental folk artist Odetta Hartman released her second album, Old Rockhounds Never Die, a follow-up to her 2015 debut, 222. Though “experimental folk” feels like an appropriate tag, Hartman’s music is not just one thing: She’s a whiz at the bass guitar, but she’s also fierce on the electric banjo; she sings with gospel soul, but her accompaniment is often a drum machine, an electronic warp or maybe even a gun shot. During her set, she bounced through four songs from Old Rockhounds Never Die—the spooky almost-a-title-track “Old Rockhounds,” shivery stomper “You You,” plucky banjo number “Misery” and the rambling ranch poem “Cowboy Song”—plus two 222 tracks, “Batonebo” and “Dreamcatchers.” But the most impressive part of her set wasn’t the amount of songs she played, it was the amount of instruments she wielded. Hartman started the session with a bass, then switched to the violin for a blazing string solo, then finished out on the banjo. The sounds ranged from jittery to soulful to grimy—but never boring. Hartman is a hot-blooded performer and deft instrumentalist. —Ellen Johnson

19. Ron Gallo
Nov. 3
Ron Gallo made an appearance in the Daytrotter studio in November, a month after the release of his second full-length LP, Stardust Birthday Party, which follows Really Nice Guys, an EP that arrived earlier this year. The wise-cracking garage rocker (and part-time philosopher) played four songs from the new record during his set: “Happy Deathday,” “Always Elsewhere,” “Prison Décor” and “Love Supreme (Work Together!).” Gallo and his band throw a righteous “Deathday” party, complete with thrashing drums and Gallo’s own witty narration between songs. —Ellen Johnson

20. Axis: Sova
Nov. 13
With the transportive sound of Chicago psych-rockers Axis: Sova, they may as well have teleported into the Daytrotter Studios for their session this past November. They were promoting the release of their third album, Shampoo You, which follows 2015’s Early Surf and 2016’s Motor Earth. The new album was released via Drag City imprint, God? Records and it’s the first Axis: Sova album entirely performed and recorded live to tape as a trio. In this session, they played four songs from Shampoo You—“Terminal Holiday,” “New Disguise,” “Dodger” and “Same Person Twice.” The opening warped guitars of “Dodger” are tantalizing, but if you lean in too close, its groove will lock you into a hypnotic state, and the slow tempo of “Same Person Twice” will similarly trick you into a false sense of security, trapping you in its blustery guitar maelstrom. —Lizzie Manno

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