Best of Springfield Music 2020: Releases #1-10

Happy Friday everyone, and welcome to the final part of our Best of Springfield Music 2020 series! Today we are bringing you your top voted albums / releases from local bands and artists in 2020 in the non-hip hop category numbers 1-10. We kept track of a total of 93 local releases in 2020, which you can see the full list of on our Springfield album archive page. All of this series along with many write-ups are featured in the January 2021 issue of Activator Magazine, which we still have a few copies of available in the store. Thanks to all who contributed this year by doing write-ups! Okay let’s dive into this list! We’ve embedded the music for listings that we could. Shortcode

#1. Attic Salt: “Get Wise”
Attic Salts’ Get Wise is like receiving bad news in the best way possible. With songs about being a fool, dealing with breakups, and lies, it’s not as emotional as you think. It’s really fun to listen to. It has many ups and downs which keeps the record interesting. You won’t just cry, you will dance and cry simultaneously. Also, the two vocalists mix up the sound too! It’s not just one vocalist. Many bands don’t have two main vocalists but Attic Salt executes that well. Many people can relate to the lyrics of the songs. It’s also hard to stay still with this record. I need to dance, walk, or nod my head while listening to this. The upbeat rock sound is something I will turn on while hanging with friends. My favorite track from the record is Fool 4 U! It’s so relatable and catchy! Stream Attic Salt’s new release Get Wise! The whole album is bop! – Nia TillerShortcode

#2. Bottom Bracket: “I Don’t Care Enough To Stay”
I’ve enjoyed watching Bottom Bracket just continually progress since their inception. In my opinion, they are one of the better bands to come out of Springfield in quite some time. Their second effort, “I Don’t Care Enough to Stay”, was my top release of 2020 out of Springfield. To me this album harks back to the 2000s, a release that could be heard on labels such as Deep Elm. Kick back, find the groove and nod yo head. Mario’s licks and vocals shine. BJ’s drumming always fits in so well and Carter can flat out hold it down. Production is great. Just a super solid record. Favorite track, “Doggie Heaven” – Fred Malcom (Attic Salt) 

If you haven’t heard Bottom Bracket already, you’re missing out on one of the most exciting musical projects coming out of Illinois right now. Mathy indie rock can sometimes sound technically impressive at the expense of sounding good, but Bottom Bracket’s focus on dynamic songwriting ensures that even their LP’s most complex riffs feel effortless. “I Don’t Care Enough to Stay” is the most contemplative work Bottom Bracket has released to date, but there isn’t a track on the album that can’t elicit an enthusiastic groove. Standout tracks like “Failures,” “Doggie Heaven,” and “Touching Face” showcase this band’s ability to be thematically mature while still feeling youthfully energetic. “I Don’t Care Enough to Stay” is essential listening for anyone interested in where Midwest emo could go in the 2020s. – Mitch Baker (Looming)Shortcode

#3. Blushe: “MAD”
MAD is Blushe’s debut EP and a snapshot of a band intent on pushing themselves. This no-bullshit, concise 5-track punk album features grunge-tinted guitars, a solid rhythmic backbone, and a melodic vocal delivery that ranges from serene to frantic. MAD gives a sonic nod to the 90’s, but doesn’t feel stuck there and if you haven’t listened to it yet, you should probably be MAD at yourself. – Brandon Carnes (Looming)Shortcode

#4. Stick People: “Mondoduke”
“I think I’m in control but I’m not entirely sure”, says singer Blake Durbin on “The College Try”, with an accepted weariness that would make J Mascis proud. Thus opens the chaotic door of “Monoduke”, the soundtrack to watching your emotions squeeze through your tight fist. The lyrics- weary, angry, disillusioned- are elevated by the musicianship. The rolling chaos of Chaz Davis’ drums (“We Didn’t Have To”), the dancing, barbed-wire of Kevin Carman’s lead guitar (“Homebody”, “Idwg”), and Durbin’s catchy, clever bass lines (“Spiked Lemonade”) act like a powerhouse tide washing over you, pulling you into the sea. “Somewhere, somehow, someone will” sings Durbin on “Somewhere, Somehow”, summing up the emotional waves you find here: Self-deprecation, painful honesty, regret, and ultimately, unexpectedly, hope. – Mark Beanblossom (Idle Oath) Shortcode

#5. The Telephone Junkies: “Dress It Up And Call It Living”
The Junkies put in the work on their first ever full-length LP “Dress It Up & Call It Living” and it really shows. It’s an understatement to say that it blew me away on the first listen, and sonically they have stepped up their game with something as uniquely ambitious as it is impressive. The self-proclaimed soft grunge band establishes the vibe of the album early on with the first few moments of “Midwest Band (We’re A)”, which feature a satisfying build of steady reverberated guitar before the band breaks through the wash, led by drummer Jack Moore’s first of many tasteful grooves. And that vibe train stays rolling through all 12 tracks. “Date Night” is one track that stands out to me as a true gem. Not only does it include an extremely catchy chorus-drenched guitar lead, but there’s this one moment where vocalist Jacob Armbrecht sings “I’ll tell you about my rock n’ roll band” just before the juiciest guitar lick comes out of nowhere. It’s an easter egg that when you hear it, your face immediately scrunches into a ball in ecstasy. Other notably stellar moments include the somber slide guitar intro to “Goodbye My Silent Friend (ode to)” as well as the pulsating contemplation of “So I Left the Party (Part 1)”. I distinctly remember hearing the latter at a live show pre-covid, feeling like I was transferred back to a typical college Friday night, a blur of cheap beer, awkwardness, a can-do attitude, and possibly a little bit of heartbreak. If there’s one thing crystal clear after listening to Dress It Up, it’s that the Telephone Junkies mean business and have more tricks up their sleeves than they’ve been given credit for. Major props to them is deserved for not just releasing an album during a pandemic, but a truly excellent one that should absolutely not be slept on. – Mario Cannamela (Bottom Bracket, Looming)Shortcode

#6. Vector Noise: “Vec Vec Vec”
Vector Noise self describes themselves in two words: Fast and Loud. I think they should add a third word: Exceptional. The outfit’s second entry, “Vec Vec Vec”, is a master class in technical prowess, intelligent composition, and inspired industrial beats. The fearlessness of the record’s opener, I Need Help, sets the stage for experimentation and the unexpected, enticing the listener to be comfortable with the uncomfortable. The title track is my favorite song on the record, featuring a build up that never gets too excited and a bassline that isn’t afraid to get dirty. The culmination of this album, Father Johnathan, could get any dance floor in the country moving. If there’s one thing that gets me excited about 2021, it’s the possibility of seeing Vector Noise spin these jams in person. – Kolton Ray (Tilt Warning)Shortcode

#7. Vector Noise: “Spilling A White Claw And Mopping It Up With Your Sock”
With 2020 putting limits on social gatherings, live shows, and practice sessions for many bands as we know them, it was the perfect time for recording projects to thrive. Local artist Vincent Sgro was no stranger to experimenting with recording different mediums on his own in his own home studio before the pandemic (Vincent released his debut solo album, Interference under his own name last year where he performed all of the instruments and recorded all songs himself). So it comes as no surprise that one of Vincent’s newer electronic noise projects called “Vector Noise” cranked out two EPs this year. Spilling A White Claw And Mopping It Up With Your Sock (yes, that is the full name of this release) is five tracks clocking in at under ten minutes and it’s the project’s latest. It’s loud and in-your-face electronic music, but perhaps less noisy and more dance-y compared to the project’s previous effort Vec Vec Vec. Will we ever see this project perform live? Who knows… but I honestly don’t mind a wet sock.  – Brian Galecki (Dumb Records)Shortcode

#8. Headbug: “Pain Pill”
Headbug is made up of vocalist and lyricist Bri Skeels and backup vocalist, musician, and producer Cee Jones. (The very same that brought us the projects Rootbound and, my personal favorite ever, FunMachine.exe-All Our Friends Are Algorithms.) Self defined “Generalists” the pair are no strangers to experimenting in mediums and genres. Working in everything from clothes to puppets to video games and beyond, their individual creative talent is real and their passion for creative expression is undeniable in this first glimpse at what the pair can do when they put their collective talents together.  In “Pain Pill” Cee and Bri have given us 7 tracks over 12 minutes which pair, and often contrast, the affecting nature of Bri’s soul bearing and intense spoken word poetry and boppy sing song voice with jarring glitchy effects and vocal distortions. The stand out track, for me, is the title track Pain Pill. The longest track on the album at just over 3 minutes is a harsh look into “maladaptive escapism” (something I am relatively certain most us in the “scene” know at least a little something about) as well as an observation of the Midwest opioid crisis. It works you through the extremes of t upbeat highs and frantic heart pounding lows of addictive behavior by beginning with Bri’s bubbly exuberant delivery of gritty, even gut wrenching lyrics and it feels wrong. You know shit’s about to go sideways…and then it does. – Carol Weems (Activator)Shortcode

#10. Mark Schwarts – On Guitar