What the hell just happened?!

2020 clearly went off the rails and as this was happening, we found solace, like many, in the fact that our favorite artists found ways to prevail. Independent songwriters started writing and recording new music in their living room, bathroom and backyards. Bigger live acts were able to release a live album or 2 from previous tours. Lastly, some had an album on the shelf that found its way to daylight during a pandemic which will be remembered for ages to come. The year became a whole lot more inspiring once we’d discovered new artists, new albums and some new gems from musicians that already had found their way to our record collections. Since artists are unable to tour and sell their merchandise or records to us personally in the live-music venues, it’s even more important to support those hard-working road dogs, by buying their music via their own websites, band camps and such. We have to make sure we keep supporting the independent music scene with all we got. Buy that vinyl or digital download! We need them to step on those stages in 2021 and play their hearts out for both you and me. Per annual tradition, Rudy has compiled his favorite releases of the year! Hopefully these tunes will bring relaxation, enjoyment and much more! Don’t forget to check out the playlist ‘End of An Error 2020’ on Spotify!

Tim Hill - Payador 

Rudy heard this record for the 1st time in 2019 but didn’t quite get into it until later in Summer ’20. Probably because this album oozes summer and that a tequila blanket on the mind goes hand in hand with Tim Hill’s ‘Payador’. Payador’s tracklist guides you in a lysergic dream of never-ending summers, days that start around midday and blurry Mexican nights fuelled with tequila.

Tim Hill is Los Angeles born, but drifts through the West-Coast in his Volkswagen-van with his dog and sees the world through many eyes. Well, at least that’s what Rudy got from this album. He also made many miles as a keyboardist touring with artists such as Curtis Harding and the Allah Las. Tim Hill’s full-length solo release, 'Payador' makes one understand the urge for travelling to warmer coasts to feel the salty breeze. Listening to this album is like living in Mexico-City in the ‘70s, one story up from a Mexican poet having late-night parties with his drifter friends. Sit back and enjoy the ride.

 

Cass McCombs – Tip of The Sphere

Cass McCombs can create tightly locked ‘in-the-pocket’ grooves with improvisation-like jams on top of it. It’s exactly that aspect makes ‘Tip of The Sphere’ just as pleasant whether you’re listening passively or actively. This album doesn’t demand attention, the gratification is immense either way. It’s the perfect background record during a lockdown night with a bottle of Mezcal. Yet, it sounds equally amazing as a full-on live show. You’d be totally sucked in, for sure. The well-played out rhythm sequence of drums, bass and melodic rhythm guitar, topped with druggy vocals become truly hypnotic. A note worth mentioning, Dan Horne’s bass on the record brings magic between McCombs’ guitar and his groovy bass parts for more upbeat tracks, like “Train Robbery” or “Rounder”. 

Tip of The Sphere’ is heavier and darker than McCombs earlier records, especially records like “Rounder” are dark and trippy but never cloudy. They just breeze by. It often reminds one of J.J. Cale or even Dire Straits, when it comes to keeping it mellow and easy to the ear.

 

Desure – Pollen (EP)

Los Angeles singer-songwriter Desure is turning a new page with his sound. Transitioning from ‘70s radio-lite rock to country-disco romantics. In the first release from his 'Pollen' EP, 'Masochist', he pictures the burned-out era of Los Angeles nightlife that was fuelled by the indulgence of cocaine, sex and parties. The goth-like, sex-driven backdrop to a disco radio tune becomes electric in this song co-written by Midland’s Cameron Duddy and Jonathan Tyler. ‘Pollen' EP is filled with songs that are every bit as colourful as his outfits. Ranging from pink cowboy suits to black finger polish and lacquered loafers. Included is 'On Me', a duet with Nashville country-star and ‘Highway Queen’ Nikki Lane. Ensuring Desure will steal our hearts. 

Amo Amo – S/T

When hearing Amo Amo’s dance-rock track 'Antidote' for the first time, Rudy couldn’t stop being hyped up. It flirts with the Grateful Dead’s ‘Shaking Street’ and features deep-bass drops that only Ibiza house songs can pull off with vocals that would be fitting for a hipster goth group. What’s not to love? Lead singer, Femme, proudly worked her way into the band by impressing them in a video shoot of the bandmates' previous group, the Mother Tongues. There was talk about her singing on some of their studio recordings, but it didn’t really happen until the Mother Tongues finally found themselves in the studio with My Morning Jacket's Jim James (Holy Shit!). Omar Velasco is the lead writer of this space-dance-rock outfit. You might know him from the lead-guitar tracks for Jonathan Wilson live shows. Velasco’s songs put an emphasis on connecting your body to your mind through movement. Experience a fantastic, psychedelic, genre-breaking pack of songs, produced by one of this decade’s most ground-breaking and influential musicians, Jim James. Together with Amo Amo, it truly is a Cosmic Feel-Good hit of the Summer.  

 

Gardens & Villa – Gordon von Zilla Presents

Gardens & Villa are an Indie Rock formation from So-Cal, producing dark, yet uplifting, magical and hazy dream pop. Their sophomore album ‘Gordon von Zilla Presents’ carries some distinguishable hits such as opener ‘Disco Kitchen’, ‘Soaked’ and ‘Curious Sun’. Gardens and Villa have offered their following an album which they have been patiently waiting for. All-over, the records bring a translucent spectrum with lots of cuts and turns that swing by many memorable songs that you’re unable to put your finger on. Soulful grooves, soothing women’s vocals, dreamy synths and hi-pitched choirs. Imagine the Bee Gees being an ‘80s Synth Goth band. A cosmic journey through the heavenly skies of a parallel universe.

 

Nicole Atkins - Italian Ice

Nicole Atkins calls her own creations “pop-noir” which is pretty darn close but doesn’t quite embody her immense qualities. Her songwriting is so diverse that it’s basically impossible to stick her into a box ‘o genre as such. 

A production like The Beatles’ White Album, paired with mysterious Lee Hazelwood-esque songwriting, Nancy Sinatra elegance and some '60s dark electro-shock therapy on top of it. From '70s radio soul-rock with ‘AM Gold’ to my personal favourite, ‘Domino’, which could’ve been a Wilson Pickett classic funk-riff. All of this comes together when you find out that both bassist, David Hood, and keyboard legend, Spooner Oldham, from the famed Muscle Shoals Sound Studio crew, contributed along with Dap-Kings guitarist, Binky Griptite. If they don’t ring a bell… Muscle Shoals Sound Studio is where Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, Cat Stevens and many '70s soul classics were recorded and backed by the Muscle Shoals Studio house-band ‘The Swampers’. With this, Atkins brings perfect pop with greasy funk, howlin’ backing vocals and a classic orchestral multi-layered production. Chapeau.

Kikagaku Moyo - Masada Temples

Born in 2012, Kikagaku Moyo is a Japanese 5-piece psychedelic Jazz-Rock band that has consistently developed themselves over their 4-studio album run. Masada Temples definitely bends heavier into the bands psychedelic sense, yet without losing an eye on their fuzzy riff-heavy roots. The album explores a lot of boundaries and never shies away from trying to challenge one’s limits. This Japanese 5-piece flows through the songs so fluently, that it leaves you in awe of how 40 minutes flew by so fast. They dive from acid-folk to funk, to traditional Indian inspired rock, with use of the sitar and heavy synths, while shifting in tempos. Recorded in Portugal, Masana Temples is produced by jazz musician Bruno Pernadas. Pushing their own limits to an extent, by searching for a producer with such a different background from them themselves. This leaves nothing but growth for both the band and the listener.

 

Mapache - From Liberty Street 

 You had me at ‘Cosmic Cowboy’. LA-based folk guitar duo Sam Blasucci and Clay Finch released their second studio album ‘From Liberty Street’ on March 20th. Right after the world was held hostage. In a period where the news revolved around one thing only, Mapache premiered their first single, 'Life on Fire', accompanied by a sun-drenched video. This quickly became that beam of light and happiness for many. ‘From Liberty Street’ puts emphasis on the importance of gathering, sharing stories of adventure and travelling, yet always searching for ways to settle down. The duo spent most their time writing in their communal space in LA’s Echo Park neighbourhood. Cultivating themselves in a musical creative melting pot with befriended musicians from groups like Dawes, Jonathan Wilson and such. ‘From Liberty Street’ shares and in-sight to their creative space where friends and fellow-musicians collaborate in their in-house studio, pushing artistic boundaries with like-minded souls. The album is produced by Dan Horne (which they also form a Grateful Dead cover band with, appropriately named, Grateful Shred).

 “This record is about as close to the sound of home as you can get,” said Blasucci. “We recorded it with a bunch of our friends in the house where we were living in a neighbourhood that we loved. It’s a family vibe through and through.”

The songs mostly started on the road, coming together in late-night motel sessions. Their words tell stories of longing for home while being influenced by the trip they are partaking in together. Find warm, sun-overloaded folk songs with LA-Mexican influences. Songs which are driven by personal experience of Sam B. living in Mexico, as well as experiencing the cultural blend in LA. Songs like 'Me Voy Pa’l Pueblo', and 'Me Da Muerte', take you on a trip to Baja California. Listen to this perfect folk record and escape to another continent during another time. 10/10.

Swim Mountain – If

If you have ever read Rudy’s previous playlist compilations for TdN before, you might’ve realized that he’s not that high on electronically or DJ-produced releases. That’s exactly why up and coming London-based artist, composer, and producer, Swim Mountain, drew his attention and most of all crushed his prejudice opinion. With this 6-track EP, Swim Mountain manages to blend in the sparking elements of 60’s-psych and post-punk in a dreamy, sonic experience. Soaked with catchy drum beats, these tracks are heavily built on groove and rhythm but with a lush-silky vocal glancing. Expect a six-track EP loaded with funky, retro guitar vibes with tight RnB –like arrangements, layered with electronic synth soundscapes creating something surprisingly interesting.

Neil Young – Homegrown

A Lost album? Written and recorded during his probably artistic pinnacle decade, this album never left the shelves and got forgotten. 46 later, Neil Young releases ‘Homegrown’, a collection of quirky, humble, raw and stripped-back love songs.

Still mysterious and not clear why it never got released, Young has told a few myths himself. Yet, it still isn’t clear how this became lost. “Sometimes life hurts”, Neil Young wrote in a blog post announcing that he was about to release 'Homegrown'. One story is that during the break-up with the mother of his child Zeke, Carrie Snodgress, “..it all became a bit too personal and painful, it scared me.” (Young’s 1975 Interview for Rolling Stone). One of the reasons it quickly becoming a personal favorite is the fact that a great cast of superstars is part-taking in the recording, The Band’s frontman, Levon Helm, on the drums and the mesmerizing Emmylou Harris on vocals. Musically, ‘Homegrown’ might be the best thing 2020 had to offer!

Listen to the 'End of an Error 2020' playlist HERE!