COVID-19 has taken an unfathomable amount of lives, and its reverberations have disrupted our most cherished industries—the music business included. The onset of the pandemic brought studio sessions, live performances, and large-scale concerts to a screeching halt, rendering musicians, promoters, and venue and tour crews without reliable income.
But time off the road also afforded musicians the space to create. Inherently, art serves as a means to process life and its experiences. The music that resonates the most does so because it absorbs the world around us and reflects it back in a way that makes it more digestible. The proliferation of music that’s come out of quarantine takes many forms, from cross-country virtual collaborations to surprising covers.
In some instances, lockdown inspired artists to try new things (COVID remixes, anyone?) or caused them to rely on the tools they had on hand—it’s not uncommon to hear household objects being repurposed as instruments. As a result, surprise album drops and self-releases flourished this year. Artists in our own community have been hard at work, too—and they need our help now more than ever. If you can, purchase music, purchase merch, and spread the word. Here’s a slice of central Virginia’s creative output in 2020.
A.D. Carson, i used to love to dream (hip-hop)
Angelica Garcia, Cha Cha Palace
(indie, pop, synth)
Becca Mancari, The Greatest Part (dream pop, indie folk)
Butcher Brown, #KingButch (funk, jazz, hip-hop)
Chamomile and Whiskey, Red Clay Heart (Americana, folk-rock, alt-country): Spearheaded by Nelson County’s Koda Perl and Marie Borgman, Chamomile and Whiskey has been a mainstay on the central Virginia music scene for years. But on Red Clay Heart, the group turned to Music City and the production work of Ken Coomer (former drummer of Wilco and Uncle Tupelo) for a honed-in sound. “I had never arranged and recorded in the studio,” Kerl told C-VILLE of the album’s process.“It was something new—just creating in there with everyone together.”
Choose Your Own Adventure, Roos In Space (jazz, funk, fusion)
Deau Eyes, Let It Leave (indie, pop)
Diane Cluck, Common Wealth (folk)
Dogwood Tales, Closest Thing to Heaven (Americana)
Dropping Julia, In My Sleep (funk, rock, fusion)
Erin Lunsford, The Damsel (indie, pop)
Gold Connections, Ammunition (indie rock)
Tim Heidecker, Fear of Death (indie): Though Tim Heidecker is best known as one-half of the comedic duo Tim & Eric, his new album is no joke. Tapping into his affinity for the ’70s sounds of Laurel Canyon, he collaborated with indie-pop heavy hitters like Weyes Blood, Jonathan Rado of Foxygen, and The Lemon Twigs’ Brian and Michael D’Addario to create an existential meditation on life and death for his Spacebomb Records debut.
Jana Horn, Optimism (indie folk)
John Kelly, In Between (Americana)
Kate Bollinger, A word becomes a sound
(indie rock, dream pop)
Keith Morris & The Crooked Numbers,
American Reckoning (folk)
Kendall Street Company, The Stories We Write For Ourselves (rock, jam)
Laquinn, LaQwinning (hip-hop)
Nathaniel Star, Eros (neo-soul): To describe Nathaniel Star’s output as dynamic would be an understatement. The Charlottesville native has dabbled in almost any genre you can think of (Afrobeat, country, and R&B to name a few), but Eros is more than just his sixth full-length album; it’s his magnum opus. “Love is crazy. It makes you feel that anything is possible,” he told C-VILLE when discussing the 20-song collection.
Mary Chapin Carpenter, The Dirt and the Stars (rock, Americana)
Molly Murphy, Call Me Elsewhere (indie folk)
Nan Macmillan, August and the In Between
Night Teacher, Night Teacher (indie folk)
Pale Blue Dot, Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species (prog-rock)
Restroy, Sketches (Experimental, electronic, ambient, prog-rock)
Rattlebag, Change of View (rock, R&B, zydeco)
Rob Cheatham and Co., Sons and Daughters (Americana)
Ruth Good, Haunt EP (indie rock)
Shagwüf, Trendy Weapon, Dog Days of Disco (pop, rock, fusion)
The Shrugs, Junk Days And Radio Zones
Vacation Manor, Thoughts In Progress Pt. 1
Various Artists, A Little Bit at a Time:
Spacebomb Family Rarities (indie, folk, pop)
David Wax Museum, The Persimmon Tree (10th Anniversary Edition)
J. Roddy Walston, “Brave Man’s Death” (COVID Remix)
Larry Keel, American Dream (bluegrass): On his latest solo effort, the legendary bluegrass flatpicker is a one-man band, playing every instrument across the album’s 10 tracks. As the title suggests, Keel draws on global events to craft a self-aware exploration of race and policy in the U.S.
Lowland Hum, Singing Other People’s Love Song (indie folk)
Sons of Bill ft. Molly Parden, “In Your Eyes” (Peter Gabriel cover; Americana)
Summer Starved, Library Card: Volume 1 (pop, synth, prog): Richmond musician/producer Kevin Burtram’s collection of instrumentals, which was composed during lockdown, is a patchwork quilt of layered sounds and samples that entertain the music nerd in all of us.
Singles…and a peek at what’s to come in 2021
Prabir Trio, “Light Up In The Name Of Love” (rock)
The Steel Wheels, “When To Say Goodnight” (Americana)
Good Dog Nigel, “Strawberries” (indie, rock)
Stray Fossa, “For What Was,” and “Are You Gonna Be Okay” (alternative, indie)
Will Overman, “Living Wage,” and “Living Things” off of his upcoming LP The Winemaker’s Daughter
Mitchel Evan, “Band Aid” and “Leeches” off of his upcoming self-titled LP
Tyler Meacham, “Nightwalking” (pop)
Hatcher’s Run, “Wisteria,” “Delilah,”
“Stronger Than Blood,” “Silos and Skylines” (Americana, alt-country)
trout baseline, (a)round EP (indie pop, synth)