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Counting Down the Top 10 Local DIY Songs of 2020

Photo credits, L-R from top row down: Rachel DeSouza, Bad Cloud Media, Michael Spangler, Savanna Blu, Nicole Kubizne, Hailee Ostapko, & Stephen Helfrich.

Note from the Editor: Artie Gardella has been an incredible asset to Flagler-based DIY musicians over the last half decade. His expertise in local music is unparalleled and the work he put in for this article is astounding. I had Artie compile this list for this reason, but also because my own work was up for consideration, and I wanted an impartial voice to take the reins. Myself and AskFlagler sincerely thank Artie for all the love and care he puts in to elevating local musicians. Chris Gollon

Introduction

Every artist who released music in 2020 deserves double honor for pressing through the creative crushing COVID-19 crisis and managing to come up with new tunes for us to enjoy during our many hours of downtime. With this in mind, I first want to spotlight ALL of the 2020 local releases with links in order to give these original artists in our community the exposure they desperately need & deserve, especially in the absence of live shows. This review is not an exhaustive list of all local original artists who released works in 2020 but only the ones on our radar in Flagler & surrounding areas.

The Nominees:

These are each of the DIY releases in Flagler County from 2020. The top ten list was chosen from the very best out of this list.

  • Alta Loma – So Bad & Two Faced (singles): These outstanding musicians give us their brand of hard rock that is, in my opinion, the most marketable for rock radio play out of the entire lot. High-energy with sick shredding guitar work!
  • Atom Dive – Wheatley Park & Fire, Works (singles): One never knows what to expect with Atom Dive…their unique fusion of garage punk & noise keeps it exciting and feeds the artsy soul!
  • Blüm – AMENDS & Sirens (singles): Flagler’s favorite boy band is back and they are all the buzz! Pretty melodies, relative lyrics and catchy choruses makes Blüm the most anticipated comeback in town!
  • Chris Gollon – Winter (EP): With one of the best male voices in the lot, singer-songwriter Chris Gollon ups his game in this mellifluent release, adding a full band and even a featured vocalist Amber McCaslin. These relaxing tunes about love, loss, broken hearts and moving forward float about in your head long after listening.
  • Cønør – Fade (single): A simple and soulful, chill jam with honest lyrics that vibe with vulnerability and a melancholy sweetness that personally strikes a chord in my heart…one of my favorites, it was on repeat in my car for an embarrassing amount of time.
  • Depressed – Before A.C. (album): Heavy and gritty, this feeds my metal loving soul! With lyrics that vacillate from light-hearted sarcasm to self introspection, Depressed delivers this hard rocking work which was self produced at their own Broken Step Studio in Bunnell!
  • Flo.wav – No Good ft. HUAN (single): From the boys who brought us Flo.wav Music & Art Festival, the biggest and best original music fest in the County, comes this fun, danceable jam. The video is riveting, an absolute must-see!
  • Gentlemen’s Crow – Backwind, All There Is & You Were Never Really There (singles):
    With one of the most unique vocals in the scene, Gentlemen’s Crow definitely gets your attention with these bluesy jams with comfortable chord progressions & excellent guitar work!
  • Home Is Where – The Scientific Classification Of Stingrays (single): One of the hottest local bands, Home is Where has recently caught the attention of some major national tastemakers with this single. A personal favorite of mine, stay tuned for their much anticipated full album out soon.
  • Kings Canvas – Tug Of War: A Flagler County favorite, Kings Canvas surprised us all with this unexpected delightful release. It’s road trip worthy & so patible that you can even study for that final to it without distraction.
  • Matt Curley – Black Cat (album): Matt Curley, who usually presents us with guitar instrumentals, ventures into new territory with this release, adding ambient synth, drums and he even tests his vocal chops with lyrics! Extremely dreamy tunes…like ‘missing your exit’ dreamy.
  • Savanna Blu – Super Nova & I’ll Still Be Around (singles): Our local pop star sensation Savanna Blu showcases her euphonious voice and top-notch song writing skills with these tasty, very marketable tunes which have skyrocketed her listening base to the top of the lot with over 11.5k listeners!
  • Smells Like A Sailor – Not Your Valentine (single): The singer-songwriter with the funny name brings us this anti- valentine tune that unfortunately speaks to the Valentine experience of many. Smells Like a Sailor is always a joy to watch live…bare foot with loop box, he is a much loved local fest-staple artist.
  • The Ned – Fever Dream (EP): The OG’s of Flagler DIY Punk, this Lo-Fi release is true to their beginnings as high school buddies rocking out in Joe’s Garage. Written pre-pandemic, one of the tracks called Glove World is all about wearing masks…Very interesting! Hard & ugly (just the way I like it), vacillating from silly to dark, with driving rhythms, classic Ned breakdowns & gang vocals that unify these 4 best friends into the the inspirational force forever known as The Ned.
  • The Primetime Nino – Yellow Couch (single): Ready or not, it’s time to dance with this Latin-influenced, suave jam that makes your hips sway…literally! Go ahead, give it a go and you’ll see!
  • Vilano – Spider & Who We Are (singles): The self described “mom’s favorite pop punk band”, delivers a superb production, probably the best out of the lot, even managing to secure the infamous Fonz from metalcore’s popular Attila!

This is the hard bit because I feel I am more of a music encourager than a music critic…ALL of the above artists who released works this year deserve a big whoop whoop! But I’ve been asked to choose the top 10 songs out of the dozens that were written. Please note:

  • This is only my opinion, art is subjective!
  • This is not based on production quality as these DIY artists recorded within their budget.
  • My standard for choosing was simply listening to all the tracks multiple times & when a song played that I was excited to hear again or when a song stuck in my head long after listening…it was added to the 10.

Honorable Mention: Blüm – “AMENDS”

By Jose Coello, bassist of Blüm.

“Where can I begin? I would like to thank Chris for giving me an opportunity to be a part of this. Blüm will always be a part of me. I still get emotional about it sometimes, I definitely miss the boys. When we first started writing music we wrote like three songs that were super pop-punk, at least to me they were, but we had this one song that was totally different. I remember that around that time our great friend Josh Cobb came over to my garage, which was our practice, and listened to our songs. We sat down after practice and decided to go and record a single with him. We felt like AMENDS was the best out of the ones we had so we went ahead and recorded this track with him. I still remember how excited and eager I was to go and record. We spent the whole day at Rockbot Studios, and let me tell you what a great experience that was. I definitely felt like that was a crowd favorite for sure! Fast forward to the new era of Blüm, and we are sitting in Michael [Ricker]’s house and both Ed [Diaz-Marin] and Juan [Mallorca] began to talk about maybe track a new version of amends. I can’t lie to you, I didn’t take very well at first because I just felt like that song was very personal to me and did not feel like it had to change, but it didn’t take me long to realize and see that they had a vision for this band. There was a new era of Blüm to come and AMENDS was part of this. I love my brothers so much and I am so proud of what they have done with this song. The dynamics, the samples, and vocals on this song are incredible. Blüm is different than most bands. I admire Juan and Ed’s creativity level. I love my boys and I love AMENDS.”

Blüm on Social Media:

Facebook

Instagram

Spotify

#10: Blüm – “Sirens”

By Tren Perry.

“North Florida based band Blüm ended this trying year on a high note with the release of their new single and music video earlier this month. Sirens is their baby; their hard work and labor of love for this song really shines through. Starting with an audio clip in Spanish – the members’ native language – the catchy lyrics translate to “one more demand,” setting the scene for the song. I first heard an early version of this song back in February in my bedroom and it brought tears to my eyes. I’ve listened to this song close to 1,000 times between then and now, both live and through my headphones and car speakers, and it never gets old. The quiet verses that build into the intense chorus and bridge bring you on a journey to sea, the lyrics and Juan’s smooth vocal melodies ebb and flow like the ocean, the muse for this song. It starts off with a simple guitar melody that plays like heartstrings under the lyrics, “Take a moment just to notice where you are,” an important statement in such a rough time for many
people. The emotions through every note carry throughout the whole song, never taking a break. As the song reaches its apex, the lyrics, “Can you try to keep my head above the water? I feel it going under,” echos with a simple piano and claps in the background, bringing the song to the intense chorus and bridge finale, much like a calm before a storm in the middle of the ocean. The vocal effects over the final chorus take you underwater, emerging to the last hook, screaming for help, “My head is going under, I know I’ll see you swimming.”
Sirens can be streamed wherever you listen to music. Produced by Sean Dolich, performed by Eduardo Diaz-Marin, Juan Mallorca, and Michael Ricker. Music video shot by Stephen Helfrich.”

Blüm on Social Media:

Facebook

Instagram

Spotify

#9. Vilano – “Who We Are”

By Chris Gollon, solo artist and AskFlagler cultural writer.

“It’s hard not to miss the glory days of pop punk, but bands like Vilano are part of the reason why the genre marches on well into the post-Warped tour era. With some of the best clean/distorted vocal dynamics in North Florida, it’s easy to see how these guys have erupted in popularity even in a historically tough year on musicians.

“In that vein, the only downside to Who We Are is that we can’t yet experience it in the live setting, where you just know the energy would be insane. Great as this song is, there’ll come a new appreciation of it when Vilano fans first get to mosh to it at all our favorite venues.”

Vilano on Social Media:

Facebook

Instagram

Spotify

#8. Depressed – “Robot”

By Joe Gardella, drummer for The Ned & Home is Where.

“If anyone told me grunge was dead, I’d show them Robot by Depressed. It has all the elements of an early Nirvana track except slowed downed and might I say more grungy!? This allows you to drink Jamison straight out the bottle while nodding your head, pondering into the abyss asking yourself “am I god or am I robot?” The melody of the first verse is reminiscent of a specific Pixies song while the harmony on the chorus plays with old school melodic punk. This song makes me want to shotgun a beer, snort salt, and kick things!”

Depressed on Social Media:

Facebook

Bandcamp

Spotify

#7. Savanna Blu – “Supernova”

By Chris Gollon, solo artist and AskFlagler cultural writer.

“The local music scene has needed something like Savanna Blu for a really long time now. In a music landscape so dominated by punk rock, to step out in a completely unique style was a much-needed shakeup. But the merit of Supernova goes well beyond the mere fact nothing around here really sounds like it.

“As a song, it does something I didn’t think possible: it tells a dreamlike story that’s specific to Palm Coast. Songwriters here almost never reference this city directly, and there’s sort of this long-standing and unspoken agreement that Palm Coast doesn’t have anything worth romanticizing the way other cities might. Savanna clearly found something here worth immortalizing in song, and it comes off as 100% authentic.

“So in essence, what Savanna did by bursting into the local music scene in 2020 is prove that Palm Coast isn’t just a launching pad to go play in Jacksonville or Orlando. It’s a city that’s finally starting to form its own culture, something distinct from the larger cities around it. And when people start to take the phrase “Palm Coast music” more seriously, I think Savanna Blu is going to be the biggest reason why.”

Savanna Blu on Social Media:

Facebook

Instagram

Spotify

#6. The Primetime Nino – “Yellow Couch”

By Dylan Parra of Flo.wav.

“Yellow Couch is special. The intro itself sets a whole vibe. The guitar and the tension. The waves in the background. Rapid bongo hits. Then the beat kicks in and oh man, it’s like nothing I’ve ever worked on before. There’s a vocal melody that’s almost like a tribal call then the verse hits with solid vocals throughout the song and vocal layers that can’t be missed. Primetime knew he wanted to come back hard and he had something to prove. I think one of the main reasons this song resonated with me so well was because the cultural hispanic vibe you get from it. Prior to this I had never worked on any latin style music before but it’s in my blood so it felt right and much needed. Nino, coming from a Latin family as well, was already familiar with the style and knew exactly how he wanted to approach the song so having that connection with him was a huge part of why it came out the way it did. He was also in the beginning stages of being a father and wanted to pay his respects to the woman who gave that to him, but in a sexy way. A love story if you would. But I think the story was told exactly the way it was supposed to be. Nino has an incredible style of writing and it shows in all of his music. When he came to me with the Spanish verse I knew we had something special. All praise to him for his artistic ways and what ultimately led to this masterpiece.”

The Primetime Nino on Social Media:

Facebook

Spotify

SoundCloud

Instagram

#5. Chris Gollon – “Since You’re Gone” feat. Amber McCaslin

By Felipe Sanchez, guitarist of SLAVES.

“It sounds like writer Chris Gollon knows a struggle we all fall victim to at one point or another, matters of the heart. The progression of the song along with the rhythm section behind it provide stable footing for me to fully focus on what he had to say, while still staying dynamic and interesting. Chris’ lyrics are what makes this song special. The verses are tender moments that contrast a more bleak lyrical chorus and yet, both retain a melody strong enough to have it firmly locked in my mind by the end of tune. Chris and guest vocalist Amber McCaslin sing so honestly that it makes me believe that they’re singing about times that we’ve all had. It connects, and that’s what great songs do.”

Chris Gollon on Social Media:

Facebook

SoundCloud

Spotify

Instagram

#4. Home is Where – “The Scientific Classification of Stingrays”

By Evan Galevich, music curator and radio DJ.

“The songs title, though strange and long-winded, articulates the feel of the song very well. To understand this, first it’s important to understand what the classification of a stingray is. Stingrays are considered by scientists as a cartilaginous fish, sharing the same classification with many of our favorite sharks. Stingrays also may also refer to the high end Corvette that is known for its sleek curves and fatally powerful engine.

“So what does this have to do with the song? When first introduced to the song what the listener hears is a sleek melodic punk type jam that would fit in well with most of the more alternative bands that seem to be forming up and down Florida’s east coast. However by the end of you’ll see the deadly secret that the song the car and the animal holds. The 495 FT/LBS of horsepower kick in as Brandon [McDonald]’s (the lead singer) vocals slur into a grungy mess of frustration and angst, plunging the Stingray’s barb deeper into your heart, leaving you grasping for answers and understanding.

“What do I take away with it? [Though] most twenty-somethings like myself were only alive briefly towards the end of the nineties and had already missed the implosion of the genre of grunge, many of us still came in contact with the famous bands such as Nirvana and Pearl Jam through our older siblings and peers. All of our lives we were told that grunge was dead, officially eulogized by Oasis’s Wonderwall.

“We were told wrong! Grunge is making a comeback, though we may not consider it, and most probably label these new bands as “alternative” the spirit and grittiness of nineties Seattle has resurrected itself in Florida. The Scientific Classification of Stingrays brings back memories of flannel packed gymnasiums filled with smoke and angry high schoolers, stomping their feet saying “enough is enough, we want out!” You can see this song begin to play at the end of a Kevin Smith film as the protagonist sits alone contemplating his recent journey as the sun sets and the screen fades to the credits.  The point is this, (and I’ve been saying this for years) Home is Where is part of a musical revolution taking place in Northeast Florida, and some of these kids are going to change the world as we know it, so while Home is Where may be a well-rounded relatively clean cut band that at first glance you may want to write off, The Scientific Classification of Stingrays is proof that they are no tame animal and they can pack quite a sting if you’re not careful.”

Home is Where on Social Media:

Facebook

Bandcamp

Instagram

Spotify

#3. The Ned – “Glove World”

By Conor Bertha (CØNØR) of Flo.wav.

“Take your mask off! But put it back on because we love our grandmas. Glove World is a heavy hitter from the jump. As soon as those rotary toms trickle in I am already hardcore dancing in my car. Trace [George]’s screams hit you in the chest like martial arts and are as commanding as martial law. The tempo change slams you into next year (if only actually) all while re-introducing the hook heavier than before. The guitar lead rides smoothly on the jam section, the breakdown will probably sever your spine and the Elvis impression is the cherry on top. Fever Dream is my favorite project from The Ned, who are so unapologetically themselves you cant help but love them.”

The Ned on Social Media:

Facebook

Bandcamp

Instagram

SoundCloud

Spotify

#2. Flo.wav – “No Good” feat. HUAN

By Chris Gollon, solo artist and AskFlagler cultural writer.

“Flo.wav have always kind of blown my mind. Nobody sounds anything like them, but their music always has a sort of familiarity to it. I can’t pinpoint where in my life No Good takes me back to, but it definitely sounds nostalgic. At face value it sounds like the late-90’s hip-hop I grew up hearing, but it’s also unmistakably modern. Maybe that’s what they were going for, or maybe it’s an accidental product of Dylan and Conor’s genius.”

Flo.wav on Social Media:

Facebook

Bandcamp

Instagram

SoundCloud

Spotify

#1. Cønør – “Fade”

By Juan Mallorca (HUAN) of Blüm.

“Well for one, knowing Conor personally, this is his most vulnerable and honest song to date. There’s a lot of toxic masculinity in the hip-hop community and it’s really refreshing to see someone from that world just be flat out transparent with what he was feeling that point in time. And fun fact, there’s not really a bass line or any bass for that matter on the song.”

Cønør on Social Media:

Instagram

Spotify


AskFlagler thanks Artie Gardella for his contribution in writing this list, as well as every artist who contributed their thoughts.

This list can now be streamed in full on Spotify!

 

Artie Gardella
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