2020 Sucked, But the music didn’t

It was a wild ride for me in 2020. Some may have read I was one of the unlucky ones who contracted COVID-19 and got hit hard. I’m still on the road to recovery but am looking at life differently these days. After not being able to breath on my own, being in a medical induced coma and having strokes from the labor on my heart I have learned to focus more on presences in this thing called life. As always music was a salvation and a motivator. So Here is to a better 2021 folks. Just keep breathing.

So… My list

10) Kind – Mental Nudge  (Ripple Music)

This album took a bit to grow on me. It kinda slipped through the cracks. I discovered it again on a spotify playlist and it really hit me. Killer grooves and badass tones. The track “Trigger Happy” is a highlight.

Kind Bandcamp link

9) Mountain Tamer – Psychosis Ritual (Heavy Psych Sounds)

These dudes have been on my radar since the Santa Cruz days. I also got lucky and caught them on tour with Mondo Generator and Doors To No Where at Loaded in Hollywood a week after I moved there years back. It was a fantastic show and the Tamer boys slayed.  “Psychosis Ritual” smashes big time. Its doom psych and groovy with all the right feels. The boys in Mountain Tamer are on the rise! Highlight track is “Death In The Woods”

Mountain Tamer Bandcamp Link

8) Mondo Generator – Fuck It (Heavy Psych Sounds) 

It really is a shame for Mondo on the timing of the release of this album. It really is one of the best records they have put out. No doubt front man Nick Oliveri is an absolute legend and “Fuck It” only adds to his legacy. Mondo right now has an incredibly strong line up and I hope when the dust settles Nick keeps this lineup and gives us another album. Highlight track is “Kyuss Dies!”

Mondo Generator Bandcamp

7) Brant Bjork – Self Titled (Heavy Psych Sounds)

Like Nick and Mondo, Brant was really hurt by this album coming out during the Covid-19 pandemic. This is a really rad and groove driven album that is simple and tasteful. The solo effort shows what Brant does best. Just hits a mellow groove that is styled and jives. Brant is definitely an ambassador of stoner rock and he may just also be an ambassador of cool. I really enjoyed this album. Highlight track is “Duke Of Dynamite” 

Brany Bjork Bandcamp Link

6) King Buffalo – Dead Star 

King Buffalo’s 6 song EP Dead Star blew me away. In fact the last thing I was working on before I got sick was an interview with frontman Sean McVay. I hope to revisit that soon. Dead Star is a beautiful and adventurous record. The King Buffalo dudes should be very proud of Dead Star. Great tones, great production and amazing use of dynamics and tension. I highly suggest you listen to this album top to bottom and enjoy the ride. Highlight track is “Eta Carinae”

King Buffalo Bandcamp link

5) Slift – Ummon (Stolen Body Records)

This 3 piece from France went full on beast mode on this record. It is a masterpiece full of magic and skill. The craft of the musicianship is unreal. It rocks hard with bits of pysch and jazz mixed in. The guitar has a bit of that old surf guitar vibe going on and I dig that. Put this record on. Crank it and get lost in it. So much going on. Highlight track is “Citadel On A Satellite”

Slift Bandcamp Link

4) Elephant Tree – Habits (Sheep Tooth Records)

Everything about this record is amazing. These dudes crushed and have become one of my favorite bands. Habits really helped me get through the grind of Covid recovery and push myself in rehab. It was a very pleasant escape from reality and I hope one day to see Elephant Tree live. I also hope this record gets more recognition and the credit it deserves. It’s heavy with depth and great melodies.   Highlight track is “Bird”   

Elephant Tree Bandcamp link

3) Big Scenic Nowhere – Vision Beyond Horizon (Heavy Psych Sounds)

This was actually my most played record of the year. The guitar tones move me. This music speaks to my soul. The super group led by Bob Balch (Fu Manchu) and Gary Arce (Yawning Man) are onto something very special. What I really love about Big Scenic Nowhere is that they push the boundaries of their sound. You can hear the desert roots but they don’t hold back. They play with soundscapes and don’t limit themselves into a cookie cutter stoner rock format. The songs are beautiful and timeless. I hope we get more and more music from Big Scenic Nowhere. They also just released a 3 song EP titled “Lavender Blues” that is great. Highlight track is “Shadows From The Alter”

Big Scenic Bandcamp link

2) All Them Witches – Nothing As The Ideal (New West Records) 

Love that All Them Witches went heavy on this one without losing that woody blues vibe. This record has a great feel and amazing tones. The vocals and the lyrics also shine. All Them Witches seem to get better and better and I love how diverse they are album to album without losing that All Them Witches vibe. This band is truly inspiring. I can’t wait to hear what they do next. Highlight track is “Enemy Of My Enemy”

All Them Witches Bandcamp Link

  1. Lowrider – Refractions (Blues Funeral Recordings)

I waited 20 years for this band to surface with new music. The wait was more than worth it. Holy shit this album thumps. Killer riffs, grooves and arrangements. Even though Lowrider only had one full length and a split under their belt I put them up near the top of the stoner rock mountain. Refractions only solidified this for me. I have a feeling Lowrider made the top of a lot of 2020 best album lists. As they should have! Highlight track – “Sernanders Krog”  

Lowrider’s Bandcamp link

So that is my list for 2020. Hope you all have wonderful holidays and take health and peace into 2020. Below is My 2020 playlist that includes bands from my top ten along with some other tracks I dug.

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King Buffalo’s Dead Star

Something special and very intriguing is happening out in Rochester New York. That is where the fast rising three piece band known as King Buffalo roam. The bands sound is not easily defined and does to fit nicely into one category of music. They shape shift through many elements of sounds and genre. On the bands social media pages they define themselves as heavy blues, psychedelic and stoner Rock. In my opinion though, that is selling themselves short. I also have to admit, I can’t really get the pulse of what their sound is. I love that about them.  If I were forced to throw out names of bands that I find in the same wheel house I would say, All Them Witches, Tool, and The Well. King Buffalo are masters of melody and layers and have already made a name for themselves with their previous releases “Orion” and “Longing To Be The Mountain.” They also have an killer little EP tilted “Repeater” under their belt.

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On March 20th King Buffalo will release yet another great record called “Dead Star.” The album features six songs that are nothing short of epic. First off, I have to say the album as a great sound and a wonderful mix. The drums sound fat and punchy, The bass cuts through and the guitar as all the fuzz and balls you could wish for. The albums kicks off with “Red Star” parts one and two and its a sixteen minute journey. The low end rumble and bluesy guitar riff grabbed my attention right away. It just builds so much tension. Drummer Scott Donaldson tribal style drumming work creates such a cool dynamic. When the guitar hit its first big ring out followed by the big drum roll I literally dropped a “fuck yeah” out loud. Sean McVay’s guitar work is brilliant and his vocals fit so well. The bass playing by Dan Reynolds is the glue that holds it all together. What a way to start an album!

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The albums second track “Echo of a Waning Star” as that All Them Witches vibe to it. I dig the quirky little guitar riff its built around. The vocals sound great and sit in the pocket perfectly. Again, Reynolds kills it on bass. King Buffalo then shift sonically into “Ecliptic” which starts off with some extremely epic synth work. The song beats along under the synth in an almost action move suspense thriller vibe. Think Rocky fighting zombie Vikings.

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“Dead Star” then really hits high gear for me on “Eta Carinae.” This is by far my favorite track off the album. The band clicks on all levels on this one. The feel                     on “Eta Carinae”  and push are badass. I love the guitar riff and triplet style to it.  It shuffles along with a James Bond vibe to it. The twin guitar solo work is brilliant and Donaldson kills it on drums. “Eta Carinae” on the surface level sounds like a simple song but if you listen closely there is a lot of little details going on that all build on each other. The song then slams hard into a Tool style riff and McVay’s vocals fit over the top like a glove. The sabbath style lead on guitar is a very nice touch. I also love how the band pounds you into submission with the riff while some synth work chokes you out.

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The album then down shits into the title track “Dead Star.” This song has folk vibe to it and features some great acoustic guitar work. The song builds like a swell with layers being added to create a . The different guitar parts work so well together. This track is a bold and brilliant way to end the album. It gives a conclusion to the story that is “Dead Star” in a way.  I really dig this album and this band. I highly suggest you check them out and if you get the chance catch them live. King Buffalo are defiantly going places.

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