Favorite Musician Discoveries of 2020
The understatement for a lot of us is that the year 2020 has been mostly downs with a couple ups. I’m here to help improve that with awesome artists I have discovered through the year. A couple of the musicians on the list were before quarantining and lockdowns, but they count in my book. Majority I found through the past eight months of livestreams and streamed concerts.
I know for many of you, it is a lukewarm prospect to go watch these streams while you miss the live experience. However, I’m here to contrast that with the fruits of checking out these live streamed concerts. I have found artists that I may have never been exposed to in a normal year through my running around to the many shows I do, they may have never toured in Arizona or at all. An additional argument for streams, I enjoy the more intimate interactions with artists you don’t always get at a live show due to various factors. Regardless your views on the current digital situation of concerts, here’s a few artists I highly recommend you go check out that should help cheer up your disposition on the year. I included links in their headers to their Bandcamp where possible and websites otherwise to help.
I actually caught them this year when we could watch live bands safely. They were here with The Toasters and Mustard Plug on tour. Their set brought an energy and fun spirit to their ska tunes. That included adding quirky hats and dress to their stage presence. That performance inspired me to pick up all four discs of music they had at the time. Since then, they’ve been very active with new singles, collaborations and releases like their fabulous new single “Shine.” It doesn’t hurt that one of those collaborations was Tara, lead vocals, doing an excellent cover with Millington on one of my favorite Less than Jake songs, “Look What Happened.” If Half Past Two isn’t already someone on your radar, you should totally put them on it.
This is another one I discovered before we were all stuck inside our homes, but not from catching the Orange County band live. Prompting me to see what all the hubbub was about the band, was a double punch of their songs popping up on both Ska Parade and Viva Ska Radio. While a young band with a small catalog so far, they are all bangers. High energy, tracks like “Strippers on a Sunday” bring humor, and the band has deep roots into the Ska scene in a couple members. I couldn’t go without including mention that their music videos, I think mostly done by Chris Graue, bring an additional lighthearted and humor filled look at the band. I highly recommend Bite Me Bambi, keep loving to put their catalog on a Spotify loop, and I hope that when things are safe they can make it to Phoenix after.
I first caught their style of punk rock on a January tour stop at the Trunk Space. It was another example of a band I threw money at for an album after watching live. Since then they have been very proactive in online performances and streams. The next time I would see them was in the fundraising stream for Gilman Street and since has been on countless others including a favorite mostly weekly stream with the Fest at Home. They have brought out an awesome self-titled album on Asian Man Records on top of all this. Sarchasm deserves your attention while you are stuck at home looking for something new to listen to.
This is a band that I don’t know how they slipped under my radar. They are one of the first I found directly through the streams of 2020. Their short streamed set on the Gilman Street fundraiser had me immediately going to listen to them. Grumpster brings a kind of garage rock and punk rock sound that I immediately thought was rocking. I find their lyrics are very relatable with an energy that is just so wonderful. I could keep their music on loop and be totally fine the rest of the night. Go give them a listen, you shouldn’t be disappointed.
You are probably noticing a theme of Ska in here and it sure seems like my Ska listening increased more than my punk listening these past few months of quarantine. Catbite is a band I discovered, to my memory, through the digital Supernova Ska Festival stream. They are out of Philadelphia and lean more to the 2 tone and rocksteady sounds. They have done a great job capturing those sounds and making their own music to it. Every time I have managed to catch them on a multiple amount of streams this year, I always come away loving it. They’ve been a part of a couple cool collaborations themselves, including where their vocalist, Brittany, did a song with a Ska legend, Mike Park. Catbite is a super cool discovery that I can’t wait until I can catch hopefully making a stop in Arizona when touring is safe.
This is a punk band I discovered more recently just clicking around the #IVoted digital festival at a time block there were no artists I was familiar with on the schedule. They are long established punk band from New York that has been around over ten years that just made it to my attention in 2020. Their released songs over their Bandcamp seem to sound like influenced by and or just reminding me of the Donnas and their label founder’s band, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts. I grabbed both their LP’s and have to appreciate they cover my favorite Rancid song, “Fall Back Down,” too. In just the two weeks since hearing Jackknife Stiletto, I have listened to them a lot and had to throw them on this list.
Apes of the State are a band that I know I should have on my radar. I missed their last time stopping here in Phoenix for whatever overlapping commitments and wish I had caught them sooner. This is a discovery not through concert streams, but on a day I just wanted to listen to something new. They turned up in my list of music my friends are listening to on Spotify. I was hooked from the first song I listened to. This folk punk band is direct, honest and political in their lyrics and it is glorious. There is no way I couldn’t mention Apes of the State on this list.
It is no hidden secret I am a massive fan of Less than Jake. I have all their albums, a tattoo, a hot sauce, etc. Why is that important? That would be because from the moment I first heard them on the Supernova Ska Festival stream they immediately reminded me of that sound I love. Clearly, it would be hard for me not to love another band in the same style of my favorite Ska band. Kill Lincoln delivers a good sound, high energy and fantastic vocals with their own take on a Ska Punk sound I love. They have a brand new album this year too, “Can’t Complain,” that you should go check out for yourself as they make my list of favorites discovered this year.
My tastes are eclectic and maybe a little more than most that consider their favorite genres punk and ska. Of course, if you follow me, you shouldn’t find it too surprising as I always share my love the Nerdcore Hip Hop. A genre I’ve been listening to for almost two decades because I can relate to a lot of it. Through the Four Eyed Horsemen streams of genre staples, MC Frontalot, MC Lars, Mega Ran, and Schaffer the Darklord, I discovered Lex as an opener a couple months ago. She is a newer artist in the spectrum, but a unique take with a sharp bluntness and excellent sound to her raps. I have dug everything she has been releasing since and that’s why Lex the Lexicon Artist is on this list.
The hardest sounding representative on this list of favorite bands I’ve discovered in 2020 is Street Jail. I found though because it includes the talents of Robert Selandar, of another favorite hardcore band Tartar Control. More straightforward a band than the latter, this band of his straddles the line of hardcore and melodic chords with vocals I found very familiar. The music video they put out is just as fun and creative as you found in his other band. They make the list with enthusiasm from me on favorites I’ve discovered in this year.