There’s a lot of musical activity flying around the internet these days—live streams, artist collaborations, and lots of new music being released. We obviously don’t need to rehash why all this musical activity is staying digital for the next forseeable future (stay safe and healthy out there folks). But in these uncertain times, things are really uncertain for artists, of all trades but of the music world especially.
With the closing down of venues large and small, and the cancellation or postponement of tours and festival appearances and the like, musicians are facing a tough road right now, specifically the up and comers who may really rely on live gigs for means of income, exposure, and relevance.
That’s why it’s important now more than ever to support musical artists, certainly the big ones but the little ones no doubt. You’ve probably heard it elsewhere: If you were going to purchase, or already purchased, tickets to see your favorite artists at shows that have been cancelled, consider getting that money into the artists’ pocket by buying their merchandise or one of their albums.
We can help you with the albums part, at least a little bit. In the spirit of supporting music artists, we put together a small list of our favorite recent releases, some of them live and some studio made, with a preview track to check out below each one.
Note: A number of these albums are available to purchase (or pre-order for soon-to-be released) via the artists BandCamp page, which is a good option today since the streaming platform has announced that all sales will go directly to the artist. All of these offerings, however, can be ordered and listened to via pretty much any streaming platform available. To keep it simple, we put a link to the band’s personal webpages.
1. Leslie Mendelson: If You Can’t Say Anything Nice
Only just a few years ago, Leslie Mendelson was a pretty as of yet undiscovered artist, busking hard at small clubs around Europe. Fast track to today, and the singer-songwriter has shared albums and shared full-length tours with legends like Jackson Browne, Steve Kimock, and Bob Weir. It’s not undeserved in any way: Leslie is a gifted performer, in command of a one of a kind, disarmingly beautiful voice. Her latest solo album, If You Can’t Say Anything Nice, comes out next month, and from the title track it seems she’s really coming into her own in terms of unique musical output.
2. SkyFoot: Live at The Myrna Loy
Putting together a twenty-track live album is a feat all in its own. Having all twenty of those tracks be original songs? Now that’s impressive. And the twenty songs of Live at The Myrna Loy are really great. Catchy hooks, pristine sound and precise playing from the start of the show to the end keeps the live magic flowing tune after tune. Recorded at a concert hall in Helena, Montana, this recent release is probably the fullest, most satisfying dose of Boston-based groove rock band Skyfoot you can get.
Skyfoot website: http://www.skyfoot.net/
3. Px3: Lefthand
Did you know that Alt J’s mega-hit tune “Left Hand Free” was written after a vision about the future jazz-fusion release from the musical duo Px3? Well, you can’t really prove to us that this wasn’t the case……At any rate, Lfthand is a wild musical product that combines jazz, funk, electronic beats and more into a single artistic expression, and it was all made up on the spot. Recorded live in a studio space in a single take, the record is a masterful accomplishment of improvisational expertise.
Px3 website: https://www.facebook.com/Px3Px3/
4. Garcia Peoples: One Step Behind
If you frequent music venues anywhere in the greater NYC area, you may have heard the name Garcia Peoples being thrown around in recent months. The six-piece psychedelic rock band has been hitting the live music scene hard and have been leaving an indelible impression on the minds of those in their increasingly large audiences. Listen to One Step Behind, this studio composition that stretches past thirty minutes in length, and it immediately becomes clear as to why. (And when you’re done with that, check out the band’s gnarly live rendition of the composition from music club Nublu, which blasts it over fifty minutes long and which is featured on the band’s BandCamp page.)
5. Great Grandpa: Four of Arrows
Decades later, Seattle, WA remains a cornerstone musical scene of the country, and not just out of nostalgia, but via new(er) bands coming out of the area, such as Great Grandpa for instance. The five-member outfit are self-dubbed as snack rock. What the heck is snack rock? Well put on some headphones, close your eyes and listen to the emotionally and sonically satisfying recent release that is Four of Arrows, and find out.
6. John Cragie: Asterisk The Universe
Ah, John Cragie. Swoon. A voice like no other, a sense for the craft of songwriting keener than most. This is the one cover song we’ll include on this list, a version of The Flaming Lips’ “Ego Tripping At The Gates of Hell” that, if you know Cragie, is as smooth as you’d hope it to be. The cover is featured on the folk troubadour’s upcoming release Asterisk The Universe, and from the sounds of this we can’t wait for the whole thing.
7. Eggy: Live at Stage One
Being that Eggy has recently toured in support of and shared the stage with jamband giants like Twiddle, Spafford and more, it’s no surprise that they are keeping up on the trend of releasing live shows via BandCamp. The groove rock quartet has actually done this for all the time they’ve been a band, and it’s because each next show from them, full of new and staggering rock improvisation, is a mind-bending differentiation from what’s come before. While there are many choices in their selection of live shows, in our humblest of opinions, Live at Stage One, with it’s gorgeously played acoustic set, and then it’s door-busting electric jams, it’s the best representation of what this four-member group is all about.
8. Marco Benevento: Live at Levon Helm Studios
Nobody dazzles the ivories of both grand pianos and electric keyboards quite so majestically, and so quixotically, as Marco Benevento. That’s clear to from his work with Joe Russo and their band JRAD. But these days it’s most apparent in the man’s solo outfit, the groovy pop trio which has him beside bassist Karina Rykman and drummer Dave Butler. Live at Levon Helm Studios is the most recent release on this list (aside from the ones that haven’t come out yet), and that’s because it came out just today. It is a surprise release from the keyboardist which features the trio at their funky indie prime, from a show last year at the legendary Woodstock venue.
9. Horizon Wireless: Welcome To The Network
For all those trying to keep up on their cardio workouts during these days of quarantine (and we highly suggest you do!), try spinning Welcome To The Network in the background to really get you moving. This one, which is debut original record from NYC-based electronic duo Horizon Wireless, melds weird sounds with great rhythms and instrumentation and is definitely ear candy. It was mixed in part by none other than Lotus bassist Jesse Miller, so you know there’s something that’s really recognized here.
10. Airlooms: Live at Pacific Standard Tavern
On your list of up and coming electro-funk bands (you have one of those, right?), Airlooms should rank near the top. Born out of the fertile music scene of New Haven, CT, this adventurous four-piece band has also been releasing lots of live shows over time, documenting for a quickly expanding fan base how unique and thrilling their shows can be. Airlooms members themselves have cited their August 2019 performance at hometown venue Pacific Standard Tavern as one of their best recent offerings, so that’s where we suggest starting.
11. King Zeek: “Good Day”
This one isn’t so much an album plug, as there’s only one track here as of yet. Instead it’s a nod to something we recommend you look out for in the near future. King Zeek is a pseudonym of multi-instrumentalist Pappy Biondo, perhaps best known as the banjo player for the jamgrass band Cabinet. The gorgeous, dreamy preview that is this song “Good Day,” along with snippets Biondo has shared on his instagram page, leaves us really anticipating what’s to come.
12. Ricky Mier: The New Age Connection
Ricky Mier is an eccentric guy—just follow his social media pages for awhile and you’ll see that. But he’s also a brilliant musician, and honestly the musical brilliance and the eccentricity are probably all part of the same unified package—take it or leave it. Most notable is Mier’s unquestionable virtuosity on the banjo, but his debut original record The New Age Connection, released this week, introduces his surprise knack for laying down riffs on bass guitar, electronic beats, and more. It all comes together on this splendid collection of eccentrically groovy instrumentals.
13. Circles Around The Sun: Circles Around The Sun
For instrumental jams of a different but no less inspiring variety, the newest one from bay-area psychedelic groove masters Circles Around The Sun is a no-brainer. Released last week, this self-titled record will forever stand as one of the last musical offerings of the late Neal Casal, in addition to being a bold new direction for his band that forges on into the future with their own musical journey ahead.