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. Myself and AskFlagler sincerely thank Artie for all the love and care he puts in to elevating local musicians. ~ Chris Gollon
The Top 10 Local DIY Songs of 2020
Chris Gollon, List Editor: “These are the music-makers. The artists who show up and share their sacred creations with all of us in the Flagler County community. For an area known as one for retirement, one of the best-hidden gems of Flagler living is the vibrant, ever-growing local music scene. Since just a few years into the 21st century, young people in Flagler County started getting together, and combining the products of their lives and stories into truly meaningful art. For the second year in a row, AskFlagler is taking a moment to recognize the finest creations from Flagler-based and Flagler-raised artists, all done with a DIY flair. These are our artists, and these are their 21 best songs of the year.”
Artie Gardella, List Curator: “What an honor it is to be responsible for picking the top 21 original songs for AskFlagler and what a blessing it has been to take the time to really listen to each of these amazing artists! I must say, I am totally Blown Away by the talent we have in Flagler County!!! What the heck is going on? Is there some sort of regional “Artsy Vortex” that we are slipping into? Are we becoming the next music capital of Florida?? Move over Gainesville… we have some fire to deliver! Please take some time to listen to these talented performers, some will have you dancing, others will inspire you, all will surely entertain… and I think you will agree that we are in the middle of a local music revival! Concerning my Top 21 song choices: ▪︎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 is simply listening to all the tracks multiple times & when a song gets my attention every time it repeats or when a song sticks in my head long after listening…it’s added to the list!”
- The artist must be a current resident of Flagler County, have gotten their artistic start in Flagler County somewhat recently, or live near Flagler County and have intimate ties with the Flagler County music scene.
- The song must be ‘DIY’ to be considered, meaning it doesn’t have the financial backing of a large record lable.
- The song must be an original work.
- The song must be released in the year 2021. Songs which were first released in 2020 but appeared on EPs or albums released in 2021, were not eligible for this year’s list (they were eligible last year).
#21. Illvsion – “Go Back to the Valley Kook”
By: Chas Huff, solo artist
“Within the first few seconds of listening to this song, I was hooked by the ear worm of a guitar riff. As the first verse came around, William’s vocals were introduced and brought on a killer top line melody and lyrics that I was immediately humming along too. I enjoy his vocal tonality and how his vocal performance delivers personality and attitude. Once reaching the chorus, I concluded the song was a certified banger. All of the elements in the song fit perfectly into the pocket and make you want to jump and sing along. I’m not sure what Aaron and Will’s goals are, but I definitely hope to hear more of this from them. The overall structure of this song is a solid 10. The production is very clean and easy to listen to as well. I would love to include some constructive criticism to help growth, but with this song I have none. I think it’s perfect.”
#20. Jeremy Ryan & drummaconor – “Wicked”
By: Aaron Grove, drummer of Rubber Soul Child & Alta Loma
“A song that combines two well known artists in our community, Conor and Jeremy Ryan always take it a step further with each new project. “Wicked” is a very impressive track that will leave listeners wanting more. This song portrays art in its truest form. As a friend and fellow musician, I can confidently say Conor takes his talents to great lengths when it comes to his lyricism and creativity to capture his visual aspects into instrumentals. Looking back to when I was first introduced to Jeremy Ryans music, “Talkin’” took me by surprise with the extremely captivating and eye opening music video alongside his expert lyricism. Together the two can seriously pack a punch. As always I’m extremely impressed with the music they release, and hope to see more from the two of them in the upcoming year. Nothing but love!”
- drummaconor on Instagram
- drummaconor on Spotify
- drummaconor on Apple Music
- Jeremy Ryan on Instagram
- Jeremy Ryan on Spotify
- Jeremy Ryan on Apple Music
#19. Rubber Soul Child – “Free”
By: Joey Santos-Jones, AskFlagler editor-in-chief
#18. Brian Heffner – “Too Much”
By: Conor Bertha, solo artist & co-founder of Flo.wav
Brian Heffner is putting in work, dropping 14 singles on top of a banger filled 10 beat tape called “The Grotto” just this year. One that stood out in particular was “Too Much”, a smooth and introspective earworm released in March of 2021. A beautiful acoustic guitar starts the track, leading Heffner’s initial melodic hums and croons to set the tone. “Tell me, am I in my mind too much?” he asks on the hook. As Brian drops into the verse, he expresses the struggles surrounding him and how he has to stay focused. When the 808s come in hitting full force accompanied by a snappy rimshot and two jungle percs, the beat delivers that awaited hype energy after a moody, melancholy verse. This song reflects on visualizing success but still in the mental blocks of un-success. For Brian, the mere thought of triumph is enough to give him a rush. That same rush fuels his grind, and his catalog is evidence.
#17. Supachase – “Go (ft. Marissa)”
By: Dylan Parra, co-founder of Flo.wav
Man this song is an instant classic as soon as you put it on. The sample, right away, sets the tone, along with the oohs and aahs by Marissa in the begging. Once the chorus kicks in it almost feels nostalgic, or maybe timeless is a better word. It’s as if the feeling this song gives me is from a different era or sounds like something you’d have heard in the days of Alicia Keys and artists alike. And the best part is that these are both very young artists.
Starting with the chorus was a great idea. It lays down the perfect bed for Supachase to do his thing. Right before you hear Supachase’s voice you hear this dope drum roll going into his verse, it’s the little things that make a song for me. That’s one of them. As Chase spits his lyrical truth on the verse you hear these beautiful background vocals by Marissa ad-libing some of his lines. That’s another one. Chase has a certain type of sound to his voice that I can’t even explain but it’s so unique and honestly just sounds cool. Everyone I’ve showed his music too has mentioned how good his voice sounds. He stands out in a sea saturated with fish so big ups to him for finding his sound and perfecting it because this song shows it.
All in all it’s a 10/10 listen from start to finish. The beat is smooth. The vocals are smooth. The raps are smooth. The lyrics are real and have meaning. The voices behind the lyrics are real and have meaning. The music is beautiful and vulnerable and I think that’s the way more of us should be. Supachase is an incredibly talented young star on the rise. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with him and watch him grow. I’m telling y’all he’s the next big thing. If you’re not familiar with him go check him out. And great job to Marisa for taking this track to the next level.
Thanks to Chris Gollon and AskFlagler for having me be apart of this. Love and blessings, and happy creating!
#16. Alta Loma – “Two Face”
By: Felipe Sanchez, guitarist of Rain City Drive
If you’re anything like me, and I’d bet you are, you were attracted to rock and roll because it was dangerous. Alta Loma make me feel like I’m a kid discovering that danger all over again. The song Two Face starts with a guitar riff (as any good rock tune should) and before long, the whole band kicks in with what seems like the force of one hundred Marshall stacks turned all the way up. Vocalist Hunter Hawkins delivers all the attitude and swagger you want in a rock singer but sings it in a melody that will stick in your head after only one listen. This ones a sing a long, without a doubt.
I’m also very pleased to announce that it seems like the guitar solo is back and it hasn’t sounded better than Aaron Groves ripper on ‘Two Face’ in a long time. All in all, if you’re trying to test the limits of your stereo with a song that’s meant to be played loud, it’s not going to get much better than this jam. To those who say Rock and Roll is dead, I say you’re wrong, and this song is undeniable proof.
#15. Future Nature – “OG”
By: Joe Gardella, drummer of The Ned, Home is Where, AC Deathstrike
Future Nature is a super group comprised of incredibly talented artists in their own right. Throw them in the all in the same room, and you get a track filled with nostalgic 90’s R&B mixed with modern hip-hop. Couldn’t ask for a better track.
#14. Flo.wav – “Kenny”
By: Jeremy Ryan, solo artist
“As human beings, emotions are key necessities needed to survive a long fulfilled life. When such emotions are flying high, creativity can truly be curated. Kenny, performed by Conor (under the group flo.wav) is a prime example of how speaking such emotions from the heart can change ones life.
“When embraced by the gentle singing hook at the beginning of the song, Conor from the start opens up and shows his vulnerability. Although the song is very melodic, his lyrics really reason with any audience by personally taking you on a journey through how he handles losing a loved one. Those struggling in adulthood with relationships will relate and Conor remains the audience in the hook that you are not alone:
‘I’ve been running all my life, can’t make it out my mind, can’t live without you now…’
“Kenny seems to reflects on how Conor battles separation. The beginning of his verse starts off with personal references on how he is coping. By the end of the verse, the listener understands the only way to grow is to let go. After the hook repeats itself, the listener is soothed by a guitar played by Dylan which speaks to the spirit. For those who use long/short walks to clear their minds, Kenny is the fresh breathe of air. It is a different perspective on how we handle losing and how we wish to come out stronger afterwards. People who run from challenges understand the strength it takes to stay head strong for what’s right. Kenny is the perfect soundtrack to push you for this change you seek.”
#13. HUAN – “Brainstorm”
By: Tristen Perry, singer-songwriter
2021 was an undisputed Renaissance year. Isolation during COVID provided the time many artists needed in order to create their masterpiece. This is exactly what Palm Coast/Jacksonville local, HUAN, did: releasing a series of six powerful singles (enough for an EP) for his solo project. While choosing the best one of the bunch was incredibly difficult, Brainstorm was in a league of its own. Released in March of this year and coming in shy of two and a half minutes long, the song begins with a soft harmonious chorus that leads into the funky bass line of verse.Self-produced and mixed and mastered by Josh Cobb, the song tackles the insane pressure that we put on ourselves and the pressure that others put on us. HUAN said the most special part of the song was how it came to be. “I literally just woke up one morning and just turned on the keyboard and started playing that progression in a timing I don’t normally play in naturally. I think it was because of the sleepy state I was in.” The original idea heading in a direction different from HUAN’s norm, led to this funky, danceable, and ethereal combination. The chorus is an earworm: ‘Pressure’s always in my life but it’s alright. Brainstorm, lightning, in my mind, but it’s alright.’ Now, anytime I have a migraine, these words echo in my mind. Give “Brainstorm” and HUAN’s other incredible tracks a listen wherever you stream music and catch him live in 2022.
#12. Savanna Blu – “Right Through Midnight”
By: Vange Durst, singer-songwriter
At my first listen to Savanna Blu’s song Right Through Midnight off of her EP Follow Where it Goes, I was struck by the beauty of her voice, even more by her realness of expression. I could feel her soul coming through the songs, and that is a rare and beautiful gift. A little more research and I found out that she is only 18 years young, and a resident of my town, Palm Coast! Being a fellow singer songwriter, I wanted to know: where is she performing? I want to see her live! Honestly that doesn’t happen a whole lot in my world.
The production is also really good, with an excellent drum sound and well mixed feel. Her lyrics are interesting and thought out, and the finely tuned dynamics make it sound a lot more mature and seasoned than her age warrants. All in all I am super impressed by Savanna’s first EP and I still want to know where she’s performing – this girl has my support!
#11. The Ned – “Bug”
By: William Jones, guitarist of Alta Loma & Illvsion
The Ned hits strong with “Bug”. Music is about losing yourself and with this track, it hits the nail on the head in just under two minutes. I can feel the energy about to blow as soon as Joe counts in. This song is about to rip and The Ned are so good at that. From the huge guitars, to the driven punchy bass, and powerful vocals. The Ned make you want to get up and lose yourself. These guys are awesome and so is the track. Keep up all the good work guys. *cue solo moshpit*
#10. Home is Where – “Long Distance Conjoined Twins”
By: Chris Gollon, AskFlagler head cultural writer
There’s not much you can say about Home is Where that hasn’t been said at this point. Far more accomplished music writers than myself have tried to put into words what this amazing band has become, and probably came up with more elegant things to say than I could. But it bears repeating just how valuable their music is.
“Long Distance Conjoined Twins” is the perfect example of blending vastly different influences in a way that doesn’t sound all over the place. You can hear the Bob Dylan so distinctly. But you can also hear the Fugazi just as much. And where I don’t think too many creators would think to bring those two sounds together, Brandon and the Home is Where squad did so with sonic excellence.
I love getting to sing this band’s praises first and foremost because they’re local. Their fanbase now stretches all across the country and even the world, but they’re very Palm Coast at heart. If you were like me and were in the crowded house shows on Saturday nights three or four years ago, the whole ‘I Became Birds’ record brings you right back to that place. Home is Where is a worldwide band with a very local attitude.
#9. Vilano – “Greetings”
Chris Gollon, AskFlagler head cultural writer: I love these guys so much. It seems like pop punk is one of the hardest genres to pull off and not sound super campy while doing it, but Vilano have that magic formula. It reminds me of growing up on All-American Rejects and Dashboard Confessional, but while somehow not ditching that exact sound, Vilano’s work doesn’t sound as dated as some of that music now does. “Greetings” is heavy and light both at once, universal and yet still very specific. This is the kind of music that lifelong memories are made to.
Joey Santos-Jones, AskFlagler editor-in-chief: As the radio waves become clear, a song that takes me back to my youth, 2005 — feels so comfortable and yet elevated. “No Rain, No Flowers” packs a mighty punch but to me, “Greetings” is tops for replay value.
#8. HUAN – “Neverland”
By: Chris Gollon, AskFlagler head cultural writer
My boy Juan Mallorca definitely held a perfect record this year. Out of like, six or seven different singles this wound up being the one that stuck with a lot of people the most. I think that’s because of the authenticity of it. You can tell just from listening that this is written within a real, serious relationship. It’s impossible to fake the genuine expression in a song like this. “Neverland” is the sort of love song people have been writing for each other since the 60’s, and it would probably sound more or less at home in any period of time between then and now.
#7. The Primetime Nino & Jeremy Ryan – “Hypnotized”
By: Chris Gollon, AskFlagler head cultural writer
Both Nino and Jeremy carry a guarantee of quality in their own solo music, so it stands to reason that their collaboration from early 2021 would be among both of their best work. As someone who was absolutely not raised on hip-hop music and did not grow up anywhere near it, these guys help get me up to speed. The charisma, the confidence, the sense of entertainership…it’s all impossible not to pick up on. I’m so glad we’ve got both of these guys putting out work at such a steady frequency, because they add a flavor to the music scene that it wouldn’t be the same without.
- The Primetime Nino on Instagram
- The Primetime Nino on Spotify
- The Primetime Nino on Apple Music
- Jeremy Ryan on Instagram
- Jeremy Ryan on Spotify
- Jeremy Ryan on Apple Music
#6. The Ned – “Reeko’s Revenge”
By: Evan ‘Spaz’ Galevich, music curator and radio DJ:
It’s often been said that when organizing an album, the first and last songs of the list are the most important. This track in particular lights a fuse that ignites the 20-megaton nuclear weapon that is ‘Human’ by the up and coming band the Ned. The song starts with a simple drumstick countdown and then opens with the electrifying guitar riff that would be perfectly at home on an early Ramones album. By the time the drums and bass enter the song the listener is treated to a melody that manages to sound nostalgic yet very novel in its tone. This sound in my experience has been the hallmark of the Ned since I first met the band back in 2015.
By the time you process the instrumental, Trace’s signature stern yet mysterious voice breaks in and transports the listener into its setting, talking about obligations and duties that are echoed by the backing vocals in a way that sets the precedent of a lack of time. As we follow our muse into the chorus we are treated with the softer melodic mating call of youth, where an image of bodies intertwined together in an orbit of lust and longing is painted only to be shattered then by the chorus which then paints the innocents of love and desire as a disease that shakes and strips the human experience down to the core. This disposition in the chorus is what makes this song a perfect way to start an album. In the span of less than three minutes the band manages to complete a unique point of view that can be both seen as political and spiritual and yet at the same time it is blatantly neither.
This juxtaposition is in my opinion what makes this song great because depending on the listener’s point of view it can change the meaning of the song. Why is it that your bones are tingling? Who the hell is Reeko? Why does he want revenge? The song isn’t the answer, it’s the question, the answer depends on the listener…so get off your lazy ass and give it a listen!
#5. Kevin Lawson – “Take Your Time”
Artie Gardella, list curator: “Coming in at number five is this fun and very palatable tune by this artist who has been sharing “the joy of music” for decades all around the world through his unique form of radio rock. Somehow, we have been blessed to have him set up base here, once again confirming to me how lucky we are to have some of the greatest music being produced right in our own backyard! “Take Your Time” is a well produced, happy and hopeful tune to add to your inspirational playlist!”
#4. AC Deathstrike – “Eat & Cry”
Artie Gardella, list curator: “Pop punk is alive and well with his high-energy, drum driven, well produced tune from AC Deathstrike, a staple band in the local music scene for over a decade! The self-examination, the desolation, the brooding & aspiration…. “picked on and belittled they’re all laughing at me maybe I’m a failure I still gave it a try” Let’s all eat and cry!”
#3. Flo.wav – “Love Language”
Artie Gardella, list curator: “The beauty of this work is in its simplicity…stripped down to two acoustic guitars & coordinate vocals with a passionate message…”I wish you were speaking my love language” The video, just as unembellished, cleverly depicts this urgent call to hear & see each other. Delivered to us by the duo that brought us Flo.wav, our county’s largest all original music fest, Dylan & Conor continue to be our county’s unofficial Kings of Collaboration and can also be heard in other works such as Future Nature, HUAN and many others!”
#2. Savanna Blu – “Hold Me for a Little Longer”
Joey Santos-Jones, AskFlagler Editor-in-Chief: “Savanna Blu’s “Hold Me for a Little Longer” comes in with a haunting piano play which is integrated into a restless mind searching for comfort. Sometimes comfort is only in the moment, in one individual place. The distractions and fears beyond the bedroom walls stand to just breakdown her relationship and her comforts. The production is professional and the quality of Savanna’s voice elevates the song into something sensational. Pitch-perfect vocals mixed lyrics roped together with intense imagery makes it seem like 2022 really does hold big things for Savanna Blu.”
Artie Gardella, list curator: This song is just so darn pretty…In fact if “pretty” had a voice, we hear it in this well-structured perfectly produced work, by this local rising star! Savanna has received so much love over the past couple of years, as she lends her talent to many of our County’s public events & gatherings! Famous for her inserting local nostalgia into her songs, Blu is one of our brightest & most promising artists!
#1. Home is Where – “Sewn Together from the Membrane of the Great Sea Cucumber”
Artie Gardella, list curator: “Recently back from a national tour, Home Is Where comes out in at #1 with this intense & creative work, donned with string section, a choral of voices and a haunting “Magic” saw…yes frontperson, Brandon, plays the saw! On their first night of tour, I personally witnessed fans they never met packed in The Archetype of Jax, chanting together as one, a popup generational Anthem…”I want to pet every puppy I see!” Give this song a spin, brace yourself… it gets a little heavy, but I’m sure you will appreciate its genius!”
Lu Díaz-Marin, guitarist of Blüm: Look at all the dogs. Something shifted in 2020. We all crumbled to our knees as we watched the very fabric of society at large be affected on a global scale, thanks to an ongoing world-altering pandemic. The after effects were damaging to all of us as a collective psyche, so much so, in fact, that we spent a great deal of 2021 trying to turn away from the new reality. 2021 was indeed the year to pick up the pieces that were scattered all across the cells of our homes. A great deal of anguish, loss, and grief were experienced. Familiar (or otherwise unfamiliar) inner turmoil was placed right in front of our eyes, and we were forced to either confront it or turn away from it. It’s one thing to feel like you’re trapped in your home, by your work, or by your health. It is another thing entirely to feel trapped by your own body and very existence.
Palm Coast band Home is Where decided to confront it full stop, and their target was the feeling of isolation when dealing with the trappings of gender dysphoria. A point of resolution must always happen in regards to anything that is trying to present a narrative, and it wasn’t much of a surprised to me to learn that their sophomore effort I Became Birds was originally supposed to be conceived as a concept album (about Rolf from Ed, Edd and Eddy, of all things). Whether front-person/songwriter/Bob Dylan expert Brandon MacDonald knew it or not, they did craft a narrative in their 7 track opus. A hero’s journey of transformation and self acceptance, Sewn Together from the Membrane of the Great Sea Cucumber, the third track, is where it all comes crashing down. It is the center piece that the album deserved and the heart and soul of the record.The gradual build up, the now iconic “I wanna pet every puppy I see” mantra, the eventual comedown, and the hell you experience when the guitars finally let loose going full speed around the biggest, most hellish suburban cul-de-sac in Florida, all of it culminating into a damn near transcendental exercise in letting yourself feel it. And boy, do you feel it. Between the instrumentation, the lyrics, and Brandon’s excellent vocal presence, the song swallows itself whole; the stakes are suddenly raised at an all time high. You either let the pain consume you, or you brave the weather and keep going. Put aside the numerous accolades and accomplishments this band has received, deservedly so. Home is Where is more than the hype. This is the real deal and they’re a life force.
AskFlagler thanks all of the artists, music fans, and contributors for making this feature possible two years in a row!