Please note: These awards mean nothing beyond the fact that I like what the recipients did. There were tons of albums, songs and videos that I never heard or saw. 2020 was a shitty year in general, but an extraordinary one for great independent music. It would have been impossible to acknowledge or consume all of it.
Coolest Release of the Year
Michael Slawter & The Pleased To Meet Me’s – Dear Bastards (Flexidisc)
Record of the Year
Marshall Holland – Paper Airplane
Song of the Year
The Vapour Trails – Lonely Man
Best Vinyl Releases (Tie)
Maurice & The Stiff Sisters – Welcome To Love
Gretchen’s Wheel – Such Open Sky
Best Cassette Release
Dw Dunphy – Test Test Test
Top Ten Singles of the Year (In no particular order)
Ken Sharp – Girl
Ed Ryan – Even Time
Nick Frater – Let’s Hear It For Love
Tenderhooks – 20-20 Vision
More Animal – I Won’t Forgive You
The Empty Hearts – Coat-tailer
Katrina – Drive
Mike Daly & The Planets – This Is My Life
Coke Bela – Thank You, Paul
The Pretenders – The Buzz
Top Ten Long Players of the Year (In no particular order)
The Well Wishers – Shelf Life
Katrina – Hearts, Loves and Babys
honeychain – Pocketful of Good Luck
Tom Curless and The 46% – Almost Ready For The Future
Bill Lloyd – Don’t Kill The Messenger
It’s Karma It’s Kool – Woke Up In Hollywood
Nick Piunti and The Complicated Men – Downtime
Pop Co-Op – Factory Settings
Gary Ritchie – Head On Swivel
The Toms – The 1979 Sessions
Music Video of the Year
Tiny Bit Of Giant’s Blood – Girl Over Here
Best Children’s/Family Releases (In no particular order)
Lindsay Munroe – I Am Kind
Rena Strober & Friends – Imagine That
Red Yarn – Backyard Bop
Flor Bromley – Fiesta Global
Diana Panton – A Cheerful Little Earful
Congrats to all of the winners!
I Am Kind
From Munroe’s website; Lindsay Munroe is a multi-instrumentalist, singer, songwriter and mother of three who lives in Massachusetts. She likes to bake, loves bird watching and does some crotchet in her spare time. In 2018 Lindsay followed her passion and began doing singalongs for kids. Her lively, engaging singalongs brought joy to kids and parents all around New England and many more enjoyed her YouTube channel “Singalong with Lindsay.”
While that description might also be similar to that of her peers, it says little of the sincerity and warmth that Munroe possesses. I Am Kind, a duet with Raffi, begins a parade of sixteen tunes, each touching in their own way. Munroe’s crystalline voice is stunningly pitch-perfect and bell-like, which elevates these already-buoyant tunes to another level. There is also a subtle theme working through this material, that everyone has moments when they feel like an oddball, which is a message that any human being can take to heart. Highly recommended.
Katrina (of Katrina and The Waves)
Hearts, Loves & Babys
Katrina Leskanich sounds rejuvenated on her latest, Hearts, Loves & Babys, which is arguably one of the strongest releases of her career. Much like 1989’s Break Of Hearts Lp, this one covers a lot of bases and shows the many moods that Leskanich is able to elicit.
The lead vocals are powerful and spot-on, having lost absolutely nothing over the years. The first two singles to be released, Drive and I Want To Love Again, are sure-fire hits in any decade, the demise of terrestrial radio notwithstanding. These are big songs just made for highway driving with the windows rolled down. Other moments, like the sweet Who We Are and the cover of I Can’t Give You Anything But Love, are equally as lovable. Bravo.
Pocket Full of Good Luck
Regular readers of this column already know that the staff here at Pop-A-Looza HQ is enamored of this Los Angeles trio. Frontwoman Hillary Burton is a skilled writer, blending pop sweetness with punk-inspired attack. You’ve got to be inventive in a trio setting, and thankfully, honeychain is more than up to the task of supplying the listener with variety.
Spaceman, an aural bungee jump, brings muscular guitar and drums for miles, with a chorus that Liz Phair would die for. Flee Los Angeles slinks and grinds equally, conjuring up images of anti-culture heroes causing apocalyptic trouble, while Wrong Side Of Town blends a power pop chorus with skanking verses. The pretty, acoustic Late Night Movie Show closes out the proceedings, leaving only the anticipation of where honeychain will go next. Pocket Full of Good Luck is guaranteed to be on many year-end-best lists.
By Dan Pavelich
Brand new music from Katrina Leskanich, formerly of Katrina and The Waves! It’s a nice little power pop number called Drive!