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Monthly Listening: February 2021

February has been the first month that I’ve felt some semblance of COVID's end. That’s not to say that I think most people are finishing strong by hunkering down to eradicate it to the best of our abilities, because that doesn't feel like the case. But more people are getting vaccinated, more music is being released, and I can feel the promise of upcoming live shows.

I’m definitely stoked to share this music with you this month. A lot of this music deals with rebirth, inner peace or lack thereof, handling hardships, and all in all make for a rich mix of growth and hope. There’s a lot to be thankful for here, so I hope you give a listen and watch the music videos as well.

1) Innastate – “Seeds”

Reggae band Innastate have emerged with a sanguine creation, heartening for a time of total self-doubt. Collaborating with AMP Concerts and Falling Colors Foundation, the band produced a music video for “Seeds” for the Post Cards from Santa Fe series. The soft and coaxing atmosphere of "Seeds" carves a canal for the song's impactful lyricism. The listener is left with encouragement to enter into a self-made future.

Immediately I'm struck by the vocals here—Jack White meets a Jim Morrison level of swagger. Instrumentals are loose, bright, and—with cool licks and hiccup-like pauses—feel deliberately directionless. There’s something powerful about this garage rock duo and I'm excited to see what else is to come from them.

Byland's first studio-produced album achieves a "wall of sound." Gray is big, orchestral, but still vulnerable. Byland manages to sculpt a serene and peaceful sonic landscape while leaving a haunting flavor. The first track “Passed Me By” turns into an unexpected trip that perfectly sets up the album. “I’m Sorry” is poignant, “Mother” is painfully sad and at the end reaches paramount devastation. Gray is a grand production with gravitational lyrics delivered by Alie Renee's strong alto voice.

4) Prism Bitch – “Starlight”

If you’ve seen Prism Bitch live, you might have heard this song, but it now has an entirely new meaning from this production and music video. The video is jarring in that it conjures complicated feelings; there is something spooky (and uncomfortably intimate) about the close up shots of Prism Bitch band members, and the song, which deals with death, is alarmingly overwhelming.

These alternative country singles put out by JD Nash in early 2021 are light and explorational. Nash's arrangements tote the line of pop and folk music, and it feels like he's making the music work for him in a way that gives him freedom. (There's even a saxophone in "Someone Special.") These songs are pop by current standards but they certainly call to pop music of past decades, as well, making for a comfortable listening experience.

I’d imagine it’s not too easy to keep high energy without an audience to bounce the energy back, but I was captivated by The Illegal Aliens virtual show just as though I saw them live. The right sort of punk to ease me out of a COVID sadness and pump me up with some metal riffs and raw, live vibrancy. But I don't need to tell you any of that, their performance speaks for itself.

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