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IBG CONTRIBUTOR JAMES WILSON’S TOP 5 RELEASES OF 2020

It’s easy to say that 2020 will be a year not easily forgotten. For many, music has been a massive help to get people through these challenging times. As much as it has been tough for musicians too, we would like to thank them for creating songs that have been a support throughout it all. 

Like previous years, I have challenged myself to select the five albums or EP’s which have stood out the most. Honestly, I didn’t think there would be many. However, when compiling the list, I was surprised by how many there were. 

Now to the top five. Each artist/band offer something different from the others. Some will make you ponder things in your life, while others will absorb the listener within their stories, while others will make you smile and dance. Let the list begin! 

5) The Far North with Songs for Gentle Souls

There was high expectation for The Far North‘s debut album after the release of their single “This House is Ours”. Well, Songs for Gentle Souls did not disappoint. It stands out due to the way they connect with their music. As a result, it gives each song a soul and pulls in the listener. There are so many moments which this quality shines. Of them all, “Branches”, “Sleep Tight Songbird” and “1994” steal the spotlight the most. It is one of those releases which has an irresistible charm that is hard to resist.

4) Mark Ridout with Bravery

Mark Ridout has built himself a reputation for his laid back acoustic style of sound. However, his latest album shows a different side to his songwriting with a collection of songs which feels personal to him. There is a warmth to his tone as he shares each of his stories, which float along so effortlessly. Here is an album that is a beautiful listen from beginning to end. Along the way, you get to experience extra special moments with “Bravery” and “Flood”.

3) Half Deaf Clatch with Every Path Leads Here

Regular readers will know that I’m always on the lookout for blues artists who haven’t appeared on my radar. I was delighted to stumble across Half Deaf Clatch (aka Andrew McLatchie). This guy embodies what blues music is all about, not only that but the way he makes his guitar sing is stunning. I have bought a lot of his albums this year, including his latest offering Every Path Leads Here. He has described it as “10 deeply personal songs”. There is something special about the lyrics, how they are delivered and its soundtrack supplied by his six-string friend. Here is an album is essential listening, especially the flawless track “The Endless River”. 

2) Gitta De Ridder with To Our Children

It has been a pleasure to hear the music by Gitta De Ridder evolve over the years. The quality of her songwriting has never failed to impress, along with her voice. These talents have excelled further on her latest album To Our Children. It offers a slightly different tone to her previous releases as it offers a wider range of sounds. What makes this release shine further, is the added depth and personal quality about her lyrics. Her delivery is mesmerising as the song “Hypothetical You or I” can testify. Just give it a listen as it will not disappoint. 

1) Smoove and Turrell with Stratos Bleu

The number one spot was an easy choice as Smoove and Turrell brought the feel-good factor. It has been a crazy year, but these guys have delivered the happy vibes with their album Stratos Bleu. It offers something a little different to their prior albums due to the addition of electronic elements. This addition to their winning formula ensured that once you press play, they make it difficult for the listener to stay still. The energy it gives off makes you want to dance, even if you think you can’t. The perfect example of this is the tracks “Do It”, “It’s You” and the funkalicous “Never Wanted You More”. Just press play and let the good times roll.

2020 has been outstanding for new music, even if other things have not. Let’s look forward to the New Year, which is already teasing some exciting releases.

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Beelzebub Jones Rides Into The Sunset With ‘Doomsday Desperado!’

Andrew McLatchie is better known for his bluesy persona Half Deaf Clatch. However, a few years ago, he decided to do something a little different. After a discussion with author Richard Wall, they began work on a musical and literary collaboration. 

What started as a fun idea grew into a project which would see them create their own Spaghetti Western. An idea focused around the character Beelzebub Jones. McLatchie designed the theme for the album which creates a captivating soundtrack blending a dark americana style with a western backdrop. Wall wrote a short story based on a synopsis of the album’s theme.

Under the name of Beelzebub Jones, they released the first part of what would become a trilogy, A Good Day To Be A Bad Guy. Its opening track “Nicotine, Liquor & Blasphemy” instantly sets up the mood with a compelling instrumental arrangement. As you would expect from any good western movie. Then McLatchie’s growly vocals come in to let the story begin.

Each song progresses the story with the lyrics painting so many scenes but, it is his musical talents which steal the show, none more than the outstanding moments “Never Take Me Alive” and “Vultures”. If you read the accompanying story after hearing the album, these will come to mind when reading the chapter “The Getaway”.

Beelzebub Jones is the bad and ugly but the soundtrack to his story is definitely the good

The Forsaken Territory continues the story. It takes a 10-year jump from the first instalment as we see Beelzebub Jones and his trusty horse continue their journey. Again, McLatchie sets the mood with more of his instrumental arrangements. From then the songs start to flow naturally and with more confidence compared to A Good Day To Be A Bad Guy. Taken nothing away from the debut, but this is a case when the sequel is better.

There are so many more exceptional moments such as “Bastard of the Badlands” which is the perfect description of the leading character Beelzebub Jones. “The Town of Trinity” has more of a playful manner, but the lyrics shine as they describe the backdrop for the next part of the tale. But, no songs stand out more than “Hangman’s Hill” (part one and two). The atmospheric sound and its emotional tone are captivating from beginning to end. As the story ends with To Be Continued, it leaves the listener/reader wondering how this trilogy will end.

Now to the newly released Doomsday Desperado! The final instalment of the Beelzebub Jones trilogy. Its opening track has a different tone to the albums prior. The musicianship shines yet again as McLatchie’s arrangement enriches the release’s storytelling tone. His guitar intertwines with the various other instruments to create a darkly atmospheric soundtrack.

As Doomsday Desperado! progresses, McLatchie storytelling qualities with his lyrics get some time to shine. When they do, it draws in the listener as “The One of Four” and “The Dead Man’s Hand” can testify. The depth and imagery they provoke add so much to the listening experience.

Listen to “Doomsday Desperado!” below

However, to hear this album at its best, its finale “The Final Showdown” has it all. Running just over 20 minutes, this has a captivating cinematic feel that has a lot to offer. It begins with yet another instrumental intro before McLatchie sets the stage Beelzebub Jones showdown with his arch-nemesis. His guitar as always has so much to say. It also does a sublime job of reflecting the mood of the scene. Like the rest of the songs throughout this trilogy, the use of the various layers of music combines to create a soundtrack which guarantees to hold the listener’s attention with its ever-changing mood. As for how the story ends, you will have to find out by listening to the album and reading the accompanying book. 

Overall, the Beelzebub Jones trilogy is an outstanding adventure that deserves your time. Personally, listening to the music first followed by reading the short stories is the best way to go. As reading the words gives it a running soundtrack in your head. Whatever your preference, these albums are essential listening.

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VALLEY Says It “Sucks To See You Doing Better”

Indie-pop outfit VALLEY have released their six-song EP sucks to see you doing better.

Who Is Valley?

Valley is the newest band out of Toronto you should be paying attention to. Comprised of Rob Atlas, Karah James, Mikey Brandolino, Alex DiMauro – the group have formed an organic buzz through a personal and intimate connection with their fans. That relationship has helped the band generate nearly 54 million streams on Spotify alone. While their breakout single, “There’s Still A Light In The House,” has gathered 16 million streams on its own

Watch The Latest Video…

Rooted in a white-knuckle work ethic, VALLEY tirelessly strives to create juxtaposition. Comprised of four perfectionists going to painstaking efforts to ensure that every note they create can impact a listener and every word they write can positively affect the world, their self-assigned obsessions often leave them feeling paralyzed by the weight of the expectations.

Their Sound…

Their upbeat and sparkling indie-pop hooks, which are built to vibrantly spiral around a listener’s headphones noticeably contrast the deeply-profound emotionally charged lyrical imagery they create. However, despite lingering in conversations about mental health trouble spots, like feelings of hopelessness, dusting off after heartbreak, and feeling insignificance in a digital world, VALLEY have rejected apathy, despair and lethargy, choosing instead to use their music to construct a platform of positivity to help transition through the complexities of young adulthood.

Driven by the complexities of finding stability in a somewhat unsteady world, VALLEY is the first to acknowledge that because life is complicated, so are they.

~Press

Motivated by a desire to normalize conversations about raw emotions, the band admits that “sucks to see you doing better was born from our obsession of continuing to raise the bar with honesty and directness in our songs.” They explain, expanding on the direction of the new EP, “sucks to see you doing better really doesn’t have one identity. We wanted it to feel isolated and alone but also like a giant hug when you listen to it in headphones. sucks to see you doing better should remind everyone that we’re going through the same mundane shit and struggling to deal with our day to day emotions whether it’s with ourselves or with other people.” 

It is this vivid irony that actually leads to the beauty of VALLEY. Sure, they think it sucks to see you doing betterbut they’re also doing everything in their power to make sure that you do.  

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LANY – Not Your Typical Mama’s Boys

To me, LANY always sounds like the end of summer. They usually put out dreamy love songs, or poppy breakup tunes. The kind of music that makes you feel like you’re floating through a coming of age story. Their latest release mama’s boy is a bit of a departure from that. This album is a love letter to the listener as much as it is to a love interest.

“There was only one person in the world I cared about hearing Malibu Nights,” says Paul. “Now, there’s not one person in the world I don’t want to hear mama’s boy.”

Paul Klein

The album begins with one of my favourite songs “you!” Get ready to cry for tracks like “if this is the last time” which will have you grabbing your phone to call your mom. There are also some more upbeat traditionally pop sounding songs as well. For fans of LANY’s usual sound “i still talk to jesus” and “sharing you” follow sonically the path of their previous music. It’s obvious this release is more mature, the band trying to explore different sounds. They set out to talk about their roots in this one. How they feel like midwestern boys caught up in the LA scene. Whereas in the past they have stuck to more synth-pop “LA” sounding songs. This new direction is most prevalent in the lyrics of “good guys” and “cowboy in LA.”

If anything, their Cali indie-pop roots are still showing through with stylistic decisions such as all the song titles being in lower case. Very aesthetic. but the tone of the album is more mature than those past. Instead of being all relationship/breakup songs, the band has tried to convey where they come from. their midwestern upbringings and real issues we all face.

Heart Won’t Let Me

“Someone asked me where I was from and somewhere, out of my spirit, I just said ‘Man, I’m from Oklahoma!’ It was a weird sense of pride, to be from the middle of nowhere,”

Paul Klein

Getting Back To Their Roots…

After finishing the last leg of their world tour behind Malibu Nights, Paul—the band’s primary songwriter, lyricist and producer who was born and raised in Oklahoma before moving with the band to L.A.—decamped to a studio in the country outside Nashville where he began working on an outline for mama’s boy. Over those two weeks in Nashville, Paul began to put into words and music the cognitive dissonance between the L.A. persona he’d adopted over the band’s rise and his Great Plains heritage.

What’s Next For LANY

LANY’s breakthrough came with their 2017 self-titled debut, amassing an international fanbase and selling out multiple nights at arenas across the world. Their 2018 follow-up Malibu Nights sealed the deal. Its heartbreak anthems cracked the Billboard Album Chart and connected in a huge way across the globe. The statistics speak for themselves: LANY have a social media following of 5.8 million people, have sold over 415,000 tickets worldwide and played sold-out shows from L.A.’s Greek Theatre to London’s Brixton Academy, with arena shows in major cities planned for this album. Their songs have been streamed over three billion times and they’ve had over 430 million video views to date.

But all of this is just the beginning.

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“You Look So Good” To Molly O’Malley

Indie rock artist Molly O’Malley has a new single out September 16, 2020. While past releases from the singer have fallen into the Bedroom Pop category, Molly has a feeling this one may sound a little different to fans.

“I kind of just let my emotions run wild on this one. I wasn’t too worried about fitting into a genre, or what would happen if this release sounded a bit different from the last. I had a lot of emotions brewing inside of me. This song just kind of made them all come to life.”

EP art designed by Molly O’Malley

“You Look So Good describes the feeling of falling in love, marrying together alternative rock and synth pop, to perfectly capture the fun, flirty beginnings of a relationship. Molly’s style of music has been heavily shaped by punk, R&B, and a nostalgia for the sounds of the 80s, and that influence is definitely heard loud and clear in this latest release.

Self describing her music as guitar based indie-pop for people who don’t want to leave their bedrooms Molly has given us music perfect to jam out to while we’re all confined to bedrooms anyways. So shake off the boredom and fall in love with some new music.

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High Notes: The Next Podcast That Can Truly Change Your Life

It’s no secret that while ineffable joy and connection can grow through the music industry, so can a deep-seeded relationship with our vices. For decades, fans, friends, and families alike have watched some of our greatest musical icons battle addiction and recovery. Despite it having an effect on so many, addiction still remains an heavy taboo. Haulix has teamed up with Heartsupport and the Global Recovery Initiatives Foundation to help put an end to this stigma, thus High Notes Podcast was born.

High Notes was created to help tell the true inside story on the “rockstar lifestyle” that has become so synonymous with touring musicians especially. Each episode highlights a different artist in rock and alternative music, and shines light on their personal stories and experiences throughout their careers. The first season launched on July 28th and has already shown a profound ability to allow artists to connect with their fans in the most genuine way.

Guests featured on the first season of High Notes include:

  • Bert McCracken of The Used
  • Anthony Green of Circa Survive
  • Nick Martin of Sleeping With Sirens
  • Brian ‘Head’ Welch of KoRn
  • Tommy Vext of Bad Wolves
  • Justin Furstenfeld of Blue October
  • Ronnie Winter of Red Jumpsuit Apparatus
  • Haley Butters of absinthe father

Throughout listening to High Notes you can expect to get a clearer picture of how one industry can allow people to experience the most genuine of emotional high’s, while simultaneously bringing some to their lowest of lows. But more important than that, you’ll find hope. Each story, every memory, building up to a place where things can and will get better.

“The conversations we have on HIGH NOTES can be tough to hear at times,” Shotwell adds, “but there is a lot of hope to be found as well. Our guests have overcome incredible odds to be where they are today, both as musicians and former addicts, and we hope listeners discover that they too possess the strength to make a positive change in their lives.” – James Shotwell, High Notes creator and host

With every episode, there are new lessons to be learned and new ways to be moved by the stories you’ll hear. No matter your relationship with addiction, High Notes provides a safe space to listen, discuss, and learn about addiction and how the music industry ties into that.

You can find more information about Haulix, Heartsupport, and Global Recovery Initiatives Foundation below.


ABOUT HAULIX:

Haulix.com is the music industry’s leading digital promotional distribution platform. Hundreds of record labels, publicists, and independent artists use Haulix every month to share their new and unreleased music with members of the media on the company’s secure, customizable service.

ABOUT HEARTSUPPORT:

Late one night, Jake Luhrs sat outside the Chicago House of Blues Stories of addiction, depression, self-harm, heartache, war, fear, and hopelessness echoed in his mind. Every night, a fan would share a different story. Although Jake was the well-recognized frontman of August Burns Red, he was at a loss for how to help. He wasn’t a mental health specialist and he screamed into a mic for a living. Not exactly the picture of expertise his fans needed. Deep in thought and prayer, all Jake knew was that something had to change

.Every year we help men and women brave their wounds, find purpose, and discover healing. Our goal is to create a legacy of life-transformation, freeing them from suicide, addiction, abuse, and mental health issues while empowering them with the realization they are loved unconditionally and supported by a community that believes in them. We do this by creating a safe space where people can come as they are and explore healing and providing resources. 


What we do: We provide a community space where people can find healing. One way we do this is through our support wall where people can share what they are going through and receive support and encouragement at forum.heartsupport.com . In addition we have self-help workbooks geered towards people who are struggling with self-harm and depression as well as an online anxiety course. Lastly, we stream on twitch 5 days a week to provide support and have dozens of YouTube videos with your favorite metal bands where guys like Ricky Motionless, Garrett Russell, and Matty Mullins open up about their experiences to remind you, you’re never alone. 

ABOUT THE GLOBAL RECOVERY INITIATIVES:

The Global Recovery Initiatives Foundation (GRI) is the first and only national community foundation dedicated to building a philanthropic source of funding for organizations to expand their capacity to provide people with SUD recovery support services. 

GRI supports organizations using evidence-based programs that have demonstrated success in:

  • Engagement of philanthropy leaders to invest in recovery focused non profit initiatives 
  • Reducing the stigma around substance use disorders, and recovery.
  • Deploy public, private and pop culture resources to strengthen the field of recovery.

For more information visit: https://globalrecoveryinitiatives.org/

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Asking By Small Ruin to ‘Take Me With You’

‘Take Me With You’ from By Small Ruin is a classic summer song. By Small Ruin is truly a master storyteller, and this song is an incredible example of his talent. This tune is all about finding one’s way in the present while letting go of the past. It is a song about freedom and a song about loss.

‘Take Me With You’ is also a tune that needs to be analyzed for its lyrics. One of the most frustrating trends in the modern music scene is the stereotype that pop music is soulless and without any fire. This is a song that proves that wrong. The lyrics are truly a poem on their own. Perhaps the most beautiful moment in the song occurs in the final verse – 

“Don’t Know How I Ever Let You Slip Away”

“We lost touch just out of school / And I forgot about the golden rule / Wanted you to call, but never called myself / So point a finger and I’ll take the blame / Glad to hear you’re done with what’s his name / Don’t know how I ever let you slip away.”

This moment expertly captures the feeling of losing love you should have held on to. Growing up and moving on from one’s youth can be wildly exciting. It can open you up to a myriad of new adventures, and By Small Ruin examines this in his music. However, it can also mean mourning all of the doors that you closed when that time ended.

‘The song somehow manages to effortlessly combine nostalgia, the desire for freedom, and a sense of grief. Small Ruins prides himself on living his life to the fullest. The adventures that this artist takes on are a major inspiration to his music, and there is no better example of this than ‘Take Me With You.’

For many of us, summer is a time of adventure and finding ourselves. I do not think I have to tell anyone why this summer is so different. If we cannot actually go on adventures, we can find them through music. By Small Ruin is the kind of artist many of us wanted to be growing up – free and wild. If alternative pop interests you, By Small Ruins’ ‘Take Me With You’ will not disappoint. 

Full Lyrics for ‘Take Me With You’

I got your DM tonight Gotta say it took me by surprise Cause my lips haven’t said your name in years That old pic took me back as well Thoughts of loving you and raising hell Don’t know why you want to stroll down memory lane But hey

Take me with you Damn sure, take me with you Cause right now you’re messing with my head Take me with you Now you gotta take me with you Don’t leave me dreaming by myself

Up late here we go again I see you typing and I start to grin I’ve been wondering what was on your mind all day These little sessions are a crazy drug You got me glowing like a lightning bug The trip put me on is such a world away I have to say

Take me with you Damn sure, take me with you Right now you’re messing with my head Take me with you Now you gotta take me with you Don’t leave me dreaming by myself

You keep on hinting Might be pretending I’ll play along even if it’s just fun Don’t keep me waiting Stop hesitating I hope this convo’s not a hit-and-run

We lost touch just out of school And I forgot about the golden rule Wanted you to call, but never called myself So point a finger and I’ll take the blame Glad to hear you’re done with what’s his name Don’t know how I ever let you slip away

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A Rose-Tinted From of ‘The Past (Romanticized)’

D.K. Lyons’ and His Rose-Tinted Glasses

D.K. LyonsThe Past (Romanticized) is one of the most exciting alternative rock albums of the summer. Perhaps the best thing about this album and the songs is the extremely coherent themes that Lyons focuses on. The Past (Romanticized) is all about making peace and making sense of one’s past and youth through rose-colored glasses.

D.K. Lyons is stunningly open about the struggles and the joys of his childhood through this album. Having lost his father at a young age, one of the sole connections to his memory was their shared love of Tom Petty. One can clearly hear Petty’s influence on Lyons and on The Past (Romanticized).

Three Stand-Out Tracks

Three of the stand-out songs of the album are ‘Shades Of Amber,’ ‘Sleep With The Lights On,’ and ‘Long Way Home.’ ‘Shades Of Amber’ perhaps best exemplifies the rose-tinted glasses concept of the album. It is a song about memory and the bittersweet process of looking back on an old love.

‘Sleep With The Lights On’ captures the feeling of being young and discovering the realities of life – both good and bad. This is a song about having to grow up and leave one’s childhood behind. Lyons’ reminds us that our anxieties may never go away, but that we can overcome them.

‘Long Way Home’ may well be the most nostalgic and emotional track of the album. This is a song about one’s desperation to get back to their youth. It is also about our inability to find a way there. Any listener can hear Lyons longing here. We hear it and it is almost impossible not to relate to it.

‘Long Way Home’ captures the conflict between over-romanticizing your past, realizing that your childhood is gone forever, and acknowledging that your youth will never live up to your rose-tinted memories of it. If you are interested in alternative-rock, you will not want to miss Lyons and the lovely masterpiece that is The Past (Romanticized).

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