ICYMI Edition: 10 Standouts From The 1st Half Of 2020


We’re exactly halfway through what may be both the longest and shortest year in history. I hope you and those close to you have managed to survive the first six months of 2020 in one piece. Thankfully, there has been no shortage of great new music (recorded, not live, sadly) to give us something great to listen to, hopefully easing our stress and woes a little bit. Hopefully you’ve maybe even discovered some new favorites, either here at the RecommNeds or elsewhere. As a bit of recap, you can find all the 2020 weekly recs in this single Spotify playlist here. I’ve also put together a playlist of 50 or so of my favorite releases from the first half of the year here, as well as this one with 80 or so great tracks I’ve been digging.

Lots of awesome tunes, no doubt. As is the tradition here at the Weekly RecommNeds, I like to take a pause here at the midway point of the year and do my “in case you missed it” recap, which always includes five albums I’ve already featured in the column that I want to make sure you’ve checked out as well as five albums I didn’t get to that, if you haven’t heard them yet, well, you’ve just got to give ‘em a listen, friends!

Without further ado, the annual ICYMI edition of the weekly picks, in alphabetical order, hopefully something for all tastes. Back next week with our regular shenanigans. Until then, enjoy!

Arbor Labor Union: New Petal Instants

This one from the Atlanta rock band came out back in February and if, for some reason, it hasn’t made it into your ears yet, well no time like the present. There’s a lot to love from Arbor Labor Union, no caveats, no gimmicks, just great propulsive rock and roll, a little cosmic country, a little psych-rock, great songs, awesome energy.

Jennah Barry: Holiday

That fragile human soul is capable of some serious emotional range and Barry’s latest is the salve for the whole gamut from the happiest of the happies to the saddest of the sads and all points in between. Each track seems to be better than the last, a singer-songwriter tour de force. If you missed this one when I first wrote about it this spring, please don’t miss it. I’m in love with this one and I hope you will be, too.

James Elkington: Ever-Roving Eye

I hope this guitarist/songwriter is already on your radar, but you never can be too sure, so just in case. Elkington is often the guy playing in someone else’s band, spending a lot of time lately backing Steve Gunn, but he’s grown into his own as a solo performer and this one is a beaut of spectacular acoustic guitar playing and his own take on English-country folk music. This is a gem that’s not to be missed!

Ezra Feinberg: Recumbent Speech

This one actually just came out this past Friday, but I honestly couldn’t wait another day to make sure you’re listening to it. Seriously, this is an absolute masterpiece of minimialism, absolutely gorgeous, compelling, soul-stirring music of the highest order. Building on the triumph of the RecommNed’d Pentimento and Others from a couple years back, Feinberg, with the help of some friends, is on top of his game here. A must listen.

Harrington, Gustin, Zahn: Tura Lura

This New York City-based trio had a semi-regular monthly gig in a tiny room in Brooklyn for a few months and I guess that was all it took to source the magic found on this album. I featured this as part of my “good vibes” column a few weeks ago, writing “It’s an exciting synthesis of sounds, rounded corners of jazz improv and folky Frisellian textures. It’s heartswelling vibe and then some.” Yeah, that’s about right.

Hollow Ship: Future Remains

I somehow made it halfway into this list without any cosmic Eurojams for you. Well, wait no longer. If you overlooked these Swedes the first time I mentioned them, don’t make the same mistake twice. I described them as “Pink Floyd meets the Family Stone,” and if that doesn’t pique your interest, what even are you doing this deep into this column? No, but seriously, this is one of my favorite discoveries of the year so far, a fully-formed debut, with hopefully more to follow.

Early James: Singing For My Supper

If you’re looking for something a little less esoteric than the last few, look no further than the real-deal sounds of Early James. Ostensibly, he’s a country singer, but this rather audacious debut manages to synthesize a whole host of sound, an oversized package wrapped with a bow of seasoned songwriting. If you’re looking to hitch your wagon to an up-and-comer with some serious crossover appeal and have not yet happened upon him yet, James is absolutely one to watch.

L.A Takedown: Our Feeling Of Natural High

This one came out back in March, but I haven’t had a chance to feature it yet, but definitely not for lack of love. Yes, much love for the latest from Aaron Olson, a cinematic adventure of instrumental music. Highly accessible, munch-a-snack addictive melodies featuring layers of instruments and sounds. I definitely think you’ll dig this one.

Libby Rodenbough: Spectacle of Love

Rodenbough is one quarter of the North Carolina Americana outfit Mipso, but she clearly has had a lot of music brewing inside of her. Another debut for the list, I hesitate to put a label like “singer-songwriter” on this release, it sells it short. She wraps her arms around so many genres and styles and manages to kind of nail them all, every track on this record is a delight, surprises galore, with a cozy, familiar warmth. This feels like a grand statement to me, another must-hear, and hopefully the first of many more to come. Really, really like this album.

The Sorcerers: In Search Of The Lost City Of The Monkey God

Haven’t hit anything too groovy yet, so, let’s fix that. This one from these RecommNeds veterans, featured back in March, is a good one to end on. The dark funksters from Leeds, U.K. are at their booty-shake psychedelic best, playing a soundtrack to a movie that exists nowhere but your own imagination. If you missed this one or any of these over the course of the first half of the year, load up the playlist and get caught up. There’s 6 more months of new-music discovery to be had, looking forward to sharing the journey with you.