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Arts & Entertainment

Best Local Release 

Starless, Shiner (Owned and Operated Recordings)

Now signed to the Colorado-based label Owned and Operated, the always-innovative Kansas City-based quartet Shiner returned to action this spring with an album that ranks among the year's best -- locally and nationally. Relentlessly melodic and stealthily heavy, Starless pairs a steady wall of guitar noise with art harmonies. On standout tracks such as "Giant's Chair" and "Glass Jaw Test," Shiner staggers irrepressible hooks between intervals of ambitious experimentation. Singer/guitarist Allen Epley's refreshingly clear delivery assures that such lines as It's always good to be king/It's never good to be me/I'll drive your friends away land with devastating impact.

Shiner edges out such impressive competition as The Buddy Lush Phenomenon, whose self-titled rockabilly romp inches past Parlay's raucous Border Scum as Best Album by a Former Member of Tenderloin; the mysterious Reggie and the Full Effect, who according to rumor hails from Memphis, Tennessee, but whose roster might well include a couple of Get Up Kids; Paw, who stormed back from hiatus with the fierce EP Home Is a Strange Place; Rex Hobart and the Misery Boys, whose aptly named Spectacular Sadness contains a dozen engaging expressions of sorrow; and DVS Mindz's Million Dolla Broke Niggaz, which compiles six years' worth of the lyrically gifted Topeka hip-hop crew's nicest cuts.

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