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Ben Abrahamson, EVV, Flowerstalks, Taylor James Donskey, Greentop, The Key Kids, Hawt Glü, Alexander Natalie, Baumgardner, and Oftener | LMR

It's the first (and hopefully not last) Local Music Round-up of 2020! The passage of time is meaningless! My first column of the year tends to end up focusing on what I missed from the last couple of months in 2019, whether it was due to a focus on our year-end content or the fact that I can't manage my time properly. I missed a bunch of great music, so now is the time to catch up. Here's some gems of 2019 (plus one from 2018 and also Oftener).

Ben Abrahamson - "Fireflies" (self-released)

I can say with full confidence that I never expected to be writing about an acoustic Americana instrumental, but here we are! Ben Abrahamson is a local guitarist with a more extensive background than I think anyone has a right to have - I mean, he studied flamenco in Barcelona. His latest song "Fireflies" is a winding, idyllic snapshot of a humid August sunset. Rich chords trade playful blows with a smiling banjo line. Like the slowly-building clouds before a thunderstorm, the track crescendos to a hanging release. Clouds pass by and the rain hides away, revealing the brief return of the sun. For anyone who wants to relive the no-longer-that-recent days of summer, listen to "Fireflies."

"Fireflies" will appear on Abrahamson's forthcoming record Neolithic. If you want to support Ben (and get a pre-release copy of the album), check out his Kickstarter page.

EVV - "I'm Not Your Woman" (self-released)

It seems like everyone in the scene has a solo/side project, even if they're already in three bands. That's not remotely a bad thing, it just makes our job more interesting. Plus, if that's the reason why songs like EVV's "I'm Not Your Woman" exist, then bring on the solo albums. Eve, guitarist of Allergen, released their debut single in early December. In a word, it's an anthem. They played and recorded everything and absolutely kill the vocals. Eve's voice would probably collapse the basement if they ever played a house show. Maybe this has already happened? Can't confirm. Regardless, "I'm Not Your Woman" is a beautiful, defiantly soulful song. This scene is so stupidly full of talented polymaths. EVV is another artist to watch for this year. I feel like there isn't anything they can't do.

Flowerstalks - Fig. 1 (self-released)

This album came out in 2018, but I didn't actually check it out until yesterday, so it might as well be new. If it wasn't so special, I wouldn't feel any need to cover it now. Flowerstalks is a local sextet making wide-ranging rock music. The band has been steadily releasing music since 2012, operating mostly under the radar. It would be impossible to capture the depth found on Fig. 1 in a mere paragraph, so my best recommendation would be to just listen to the record yourself. Singer/guitarist/lyricist Chris Vogel drives much of the record, whether he's bursting into technicolor on opener "Emergent Monarch," going solo on "Enemies," or vividly depicting the guilt of a drone strike operator on "Videogames." Gentle highlight "Five Notes" is a Fleet Foxes-esque meditation featuring gorgeous harmonies from Emma and Anna Neighbors. Other tracks go from country-inflected defiance to blues-y indie. Nothing stays in place. It may be an older (and underappreciated) album, but it is still just as worth your time.

Taylor James Donskey - "Friend, You're Too Far Away" (self-released)

It seems to be the week of beautiful, acoustic music. The second single from Taylor James Donskey's forthcoming record, "Friend, You're Too Far Away," is without time. It's nearly six minutes long not by design; it's nearly six minutes long because it has to be. Donskey exudes warmth and comfort through every second of the song. His years playing in other bands and teaching lends itself to a natural friendliness. "Friend" is seeded in your heart and it grows into a comrade to help you through the season. Even on my first listen, it feels like home. It's rare to find a songwriter capable of such things, and Donskey has a record full of it, coming on Jan. 16th. My writing cannot capture the sentiments of the song; they are too pure and undiluted. The best recommendation I can offer is to sit with the song, have a conversation with it, hear what it has to say to you. It'll give you wisdom you didn't know you needed.

Greentop - Resolved EP (self-released)

I unfortunately missed Greentop when they put out their debut record Dumb Luck in fall 2018. It was one of the first albums I wanted to cover for the column, but I never found the time. Just about a year later, the band released Resolved. Suffice to say, this EP hooked me. Vocalist/guitarist Isaac Jahns dove into his psyche to dig up the extremely personal experiences that made the EP. The paralysis of depression is unlike anything else and Jahns evokes it, depicts it as the ordeal it is. Musically, Resolved creates a stage for these tales. However, it's the furthest thing from a solo performance. Each member of the quintet brings each other to life in a fully-formed sphere of tasty indie rock influences. Flourishing bursts of musical color explode alongside Jahns as he weaves the yarn of his own mental health. This is another release that gives progressively more with each listen, so take your time with it.

The Key Kids - Townie (self-released)

Music can be fun sometimes. I think we can all agree on that, yeah? The debut record from Northfield duo the Key Kids is really fun. Both Charley and Madelyn do/play everything (songwriting, guitar, bass, drums, vocals) and together they made a solid record of harmony-drenched rock. I'm like 90% sure this album was beamed in from another decade. Townie is full of beautiful, simple songs that are automatic sing-a-longs. It's such a smile-inducing listen. Let it keep you company in the cold months ahead.

Hawt Glü - "Waves" (self-released)

The bassline for this song immediately qualifies it as a total bop.

Hawt Glü is the new(ish) project of Aaron (Bob Ross Mob Boss/Getting By) and their partner George. Hawt Glü is güd. Debut single "Waves" combines the aforementioned electro-bass with swells of glorious shoegaze guitar. Oh, and killer vocal harmonies. I really love the harmonies. The sonic landscape the duo makes is completely different from virtually anything else I've heard in the scene lately. Based on how compulsively listenable "Waves" is, I can't wait for an EP or album. If we don't get a Hawt Glü full-length in 2020, I might cry. In the meantime, "Waves" is one of the best songs of 2019 and you should have it in your life.

Alexander Natalie - Tennessee. (Hollowed Out)

I always feel like I'm intruding on someone when I listen to the music of Alexander Natalie (who is not one person, but a band of six people). Songwriter Noah Topliff crafts extremely deliberate songs. They capture particular, usually mournful emotions. The only new full song on Tennessee. is the title track. Uncertainty blows through like an elegiac gust. Heavy realizations come and weigh down youthful optimism with no regard for time or God - "there's no guarantee that young life is good," "there's no guarantee that young love is true." Topliff accesses a part of our souls that we tend to repress and unlocks it with his skeleton key. These are things we technically know to be true, but it hurts so much when acknowledged. The EP is completed by a haunting demo of 2018's single "P(s)alms." and a delicate intro track.

Baumgardner - Tar EP (self-released)

This has been out for a hot second, but we saw Baumgardner live two weeks ago and they shredded our faces off (shout-out to Braden of BRMB for subbing in on bass). If you've listened to Ted's other band, Keep for Cheap, this is probably going to be really surprising! Baumgardner makes extremely sludgy noise rock. Sometimes that's just what you need, both as a musician and as a listener. Listening to this EP makes me want to commit property destruction and drive an e-scooter into a cop car, even though I am weak and have anxiety. That's the power of music, baby! The drumming of Nick Corcoran punches me through my headphones and I am grateful for it. While the recording is extremely lo-fi, it benefits the DIY intensity of the music. If there's one takeaway from a listen of Tar, it's that these are songs that need to be experienced in a basement where you're sandwiched between a washing machine and dryer (but you don't mind because Baumgardner is so good).

Side note: Ted sounds weirdly similar to Kurt Cobain on "The Sow???" I genuinely thought that an extra-heavy Nirvana demo had been accidentally uploaded as part of the EP.

Oftener - "Daydream" (Live Session)

We don't normally include live sessions in our coverage (for unclear reasons), but I'm like 99% sure this is a new song and also it is very good. Filmed as a part of Drifter Music Group's "Pardon the Noise" series, "Daydream" brings Oftener into a new light. Everything is still as woozy as it was on 2018's Or More Often EP, so don't worry. The song itself is striking. Whether it's the live setting or some ethereal difference in auto shop air quality, "Daydream" hits different. There's no need for complexity when the basic elements work together so well, intersecting like the world's easiest (and best) puzzle. I can only hope that the studio recording retains the same beautiful ambiance of this performance.


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