Five local music picks that you can—should—physically gift to your friends this year
It’s more important to buy locally this holiday season than ever.
With the amount of setbacks small businesses, independently run bars, restaurants, venues, galleries, and various self-employed creative types have suffered because of COVID-19, they need a lot of help from their communities.
This especially applies for local music scenes, starting with everything we have right here in Boston. Independent musicians, bands, and artists have just started to get back on their feet and need the boost. Outside of purchasing a ticket or paying the admission to their next show, the best way to support is to buy a record they put out.
A lot of work goes into making a full-length album, an EP, or even a single, especially when it’s being done in a DIY fashion or while dropping money on a recording studio and a producer with a limited amount of time. To celebrate these arduous efforts while ringing in the holidays, here are five local records that came out this year to consider as a gift for your favorite music fan, or for yourself for the sake of self-care and such.
You’re worth it. And so is the scene.
Free Country (Ward Hayden & The Outliers)
Formerly known as Girls, Guns & Glory, the alt-country band really turned up the amplification with their first output of original music under their current name that came out in August. Hayden on guitar and vocals established an edge along with bassist Greg Hall, guitarist and pedal steel player Cody Nilsen, and drummer Josh Kiggans. Eric “Roscoe” Ambel did a masterful production job as well during the band’s sessions at Mad Oak Studios in Allston. There’s genuine storytelling in the lyrics which relate to life during the COVID-19 pandemic, relationships, and the current societal landscape. “Nothing To Do (For Real This Time),” “Shelly Johnson,” “All Gone Mad,” and “When The Hammer Falls” highlight an album that’s ideal for anyone who likes a bit of twang in the ears.
The Hermit EP (The Arcanauts)
I had the pleasure of interviewing drummer, percussionist, and synth player David Moore about the record for DigBoston back in February so I might be biased, but it comes with good reason because this EP is so damn good. While listening to this multidimensional take on jazz-funk, it’s amazing to realize that each part was recorded remotely because of the pandemic. Moore, guitarist Tom Dowd, woodwind and electric wind instrument player Joe Albano, keyboardist Evan Waarmaa, and bassist Greg Toro bring an improvisational vibe to music that has all premade parts. It’s a testament to their collective talents and how cohesive they can be even while not being in the same room. “The Magic (Is You)” features the legendary Wali Ali on guitar, who has played with the likes of Marvin Gaye, Rick James, and Aretha Franklin, along with vocalist Robbie Pate and violinist Chris Tedesco. “TRATAKAFUNK!,” “For a Daughter of Yansá (Kelly’s Tune),” and the title track round out a stellar variety of songs.
You Ain’t Unlucky (Veronica Lewis)
It’s easy to refer to any act who abides by past styles as a throwback in this day and age, but this New Hampshire transplant does that term justice. Lewis is a female Jerry Lee and Fats Domino with her vintage take on piano-driven rock ’n’ roll. Everything about her debut, which came out on Feb. 19, embodies this aesthetic from the tone of the keys to the rhythmic structure of the songs to her soulful voice. This record is gonna make you dance and feel all sorts of energetic. “Clarksdale Sun,” “Put Your Wig On Mama,” and “Whoo Whee Sweet Daddy” are great tracks to get moving along with.
Standout Boston hip-hop artist Oompa has been getting a lot of acclaim for her third album, which came out in October along with an impressive stock of supporting anthemic singles and videos. The songs knock, while Oompa continues to soar as a lyricist, detailing the struggles as well as the triumphs that come with personal growth in the industry—all over fresh, infectious beats of course. Unbothered is a record that’s both introspective and relatable while also getting you amped when the rhythms hit. “Lebron,” “Outta Patience,” “It Ain’t Safe,” and “Deep” set the vibe in fearless fashion.
Between The Richness (Fiddlehead)
In the liner notes it says that the punk rock supergroup of Have Heart vocalist Patrick Flynn, guitarists Alex Henery from Basement and Alex Dow from Big Contest, Have Heart drummer Shawn Costa and Youth Funeral bassist Casey Nealon weren’t even supposed to make their second album, which came out on May 21. It also says that they weren’t even supposed to make their first one, so take what you will from that. Their most recent release is a continuation of the band’s blending of post-hardcore and post-punk with ’80s alternative, and they pull it off pretty well. Melodic intensity is a hard thing for any band to harness but it’s definitely a shining quality within this record. Any punk purist or person who likes their music loud should enjoy the tracks “Million Times,” “Eternal You,” “Down University,” and “Get My Mind Right.”
Rob Duguay is an arts & entertainment journalist based in Providence, RI who is originally from Shelton, CT. Outside of DigBoston, he also writes for The Providence Journal, The Connecticut Examiner, The Newport Daily News, Worcester Magazine, New Noise Magazine, Northern Transmissions and numerous other publications. While covering mostly music, he has also written about film, TV, comedy, theatre, visual art, food, drink, sports and cannabis.