So it’s already time for a 2020 wrap-up! I’d say this has been a pretty interesting year, right? A worldwide pandemic, the nation fighting against racial injustice, and a very interesting presidential election. Throughout time, there has always been music to create the soundtracks of our times, and though people weren’t able to perform live this year, it doesn’t mean that they didn’t create some pure and emotive music as a reflection.
There is no denying that this has been a tough and transformative year for everyone. People losing jobs, family members, and mortgages. Venues have been struggling because they have needed to close their doors for long periods of time and change their business models for the time being. Two venues even closed their doors permanently. The Zodiac and The Triple Nickel decided it was too hard to open back up in the spaces they were in so instead decided to combine forces to bring you a great new space next year. Unfortunately, venues aren’t the only thing we lost. We have also lost members of our community. Had I Known mastermind Brian Eastin passed in May as did local rapper and visual artist Dustin Hansen, known by the moniker Observe23. We also lost many other people close and dear to our hearts, ranging from tattooists to bartenders, musicians and family members. As we continue to rebuild our broken music community, these key players will remain in our hearts.
Though there has been a lot of darkness and loss, this has also been a useful time for transformation and reflection — reflecting on where we are in life and using it as motivation for change. Moments like this can put us in our place and encourage us to move forward and accomplish new things, or things we have put off to the side for a while.
Local bands have been releasing some killer albums on vinyl, tape and CDs. Colorado Springs smokelords Dust Lord released their debut LP Machine Cult, and death doom trio Alone released a powerful, depressive and pummeling album, Useless Existence. It is available on cassette through Oakland tape label Transylvanian Tapes. We also saw great releases from Chuck Snow, Crotalus, Elay Arson, Voltaic, Sun of Grey and Xanthe Alexis.
Xanthe is a wonderful folk artist, residing here in Colorado Springs. In August, she released her newest full-length album, The Offering. It was produced and engineered by Conor and Ian Bourgal and was even nominated for Album of the Year in online roots-centric magazine No Depression. Xanthe also just released another track with the Bourgal bros for a Joni Mitchell tribute compilation.
“We are all really big fans of Joni Mitchell, and for me, she is my mother’s favorite musician, and since childhood I have had a fascination with her,” Xanthe says. “Hands down my biggest musical influence.”
Xanthe’s rendition of “All I Want” starts off the album. You can find the compilation on the Gemma Gin Records Bandcamp and her new album The Offering at xanthealexis.com.
Denver is only an hour away, (more like three now with our wonderful new traffic) and they have some bands that are taking over the world in the metal charts! Death metal trio Of Feather and Bone and doom metal giants In the Company of Serpents both released new albums this year that were listed in Decibel Magazine’s Top 40 Albums of 2020, while Primitive Man even made the Billboard charts for their new, insanely heavy and chaotic album, Immersion. Other Denver bands released excellent albums this year too, such as Wayfarer, Velnias, Stormkeep and BleakHeart.
BleakHeart is a dark-folk project with members of Dreadnought, In the Company of Serpents and Vermin Womb. Along with their album Dream Griever, they recently released a hauntingly beautiful video for their song “The Visitor” (tinyurl.com/Decibel-mag).
There have been some amazing new releases this year across the world as well. My favorite was the return of ’90s alternative/shoegaze band HUM with their crushing, yet beautiful album, Inlet. Salem, Oregon’s MSW also released a beautifully heavy concept album tackling addiction titled Obliviosus. We also saw a great collaboration album from Thou and Emma Ruth Rundle titled May Our Chambers Be Full. Canada’s Gregory Pepper and His Problems released an incredibly fun rock ’n’ roll/indie/hip-hop album called I Now Know Why You Cry. Clipping released a noise rap banger called Visions of Bodies Being Burned, and the U.K.’s champion grinders Napalm Death released an absolutely insane album perfect for these times called Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism.
Like any year, when the clock strikes midnight, it doesn’t mean everything is suddenly going to change. That is still up to us. The year could bring loss and heartbreak, but it is what you do with that loss and heartbreak that makes the difference. Try and make every year your best year, even if it throws you a worldwide pandemic.