(top left to top right) Bazi Owenz, Bailey Bigger, Joshua Asante, (bottom left to bottom right) The Eulogy Brothers, Elise Davis, DOT

Creators are going to create, and whether the upheaval of a year like 2020 stifles or fuels that process probably depends on the artist, and on the day. Many, undoubtedly, made music in 2020 at their own expense, investing time, money or both into projects they couldn’t support or promote with live performance, at least not for the foreseeable future. A good number of them, especially those who make music for a living, have spent the year devoted to an industry — and to a live music landscape —  that may well emerge from Post-Pandemic Times looking very different than it did in 2019. But I’m willing to bet that by the time some of this quarantine-crafted music reaches the stage, congregants’ ears will be clamoring for it with newfound fervor. (And, at the risk of some wildly unfounded optimism, maybe such a time would see sturdier and more comprehensive arts funding at the state and federal levels?) Here’s hoping. Meanwhile, here — in no particular order — are 50 Arkansas artists/musicians/podcasters who, thankfully, didn’t keep quiet this bizarro year. Tell us what we missed [UPDATE: already, it strikes us that the amazing Rachel Ammons’ debut EP came out Jan. 2, before 2020 got so … 2020-ish], find something you like, throw in the artist’s coffers what you can to support that work, and pray like hell they’ll muddle through to a time when they can perform it for you in person.

Joshua Asante

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Joshua Asante’s debut singles on his and Seth Baldy’s recently founded Quiet Contender label were, to my ears, not only some of best music to come out of Arkansas this year, but some of the best music released in general. Carving out his own unique sound, often reminiscent of the genre-fluid indie rock of artists like TV on the Radio or Dev Hynes/Blood Orange, Asante expertly weaves together a multitude of spacey synths, guitar and bass to create the perfect complement to his evocative vocals. While “Everybody Gets Used” locks in early to a satisfying groove and never loses its place, “Tell My My Mama I’m Back,” the second of his two singles, is the showstopper. Building steadily with aching vocals, galloping drums and textured synths, the song culminates in Asante’s anguished voice repeating the title of the song over and over. One of my great hopes for 2021 is that I get to see these songs performed live and in person. DF

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Brad Williams and family

Brad Williams helms The Salty Dogs and as such is probably one of the most undersung musicians in the region, turning everything he touches to twangy gold. Maybe unsurprisingly, he makes music with his family, too, and his #highwayhymns videos have been a sweetly bright light in a pretty dark year. (Hey, who’s choppin’ onions in here?) SS

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Mark Binns

A consummately gifted performer and pianist who’s lent his talents as a director, conductor and vocal coach to the Arkansas Repertory Theatre for many years, Mark Binns released the five-tune EP “Christmas” on Dec. 10, just in time to rescue you from some holiday doldrums. (Apple folks, pick it up on iTunes, will ya? Binns is donating proceeds from sales to a relative of his with ALS.) SS

Sound Off with Katy Henriksen

Katy Henriksen

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Katy Henriksen — Trillium Salon Series founder, Arkansas Times contributor and former host of KUAF’s “Of Note with Katy Henriksen” — launched a deep-diving new podcast series this year called “Sound Off,” with in-depth conversations about “music that challenges the status quo — hybrid sounds that fall through the cracks because they aren’t easily labeled,” a December release states. “Whether it’s a classical flute-and-electronic music project that takes on police brutality and race, or a mix of poetry, pop and chamber music, Sound Off explores creativity at the intersection of art, music and literature, and digs into what that work and the people making it tell us about art and life in the 21st century.” Find it wherever you find your podcasts. SS

Elise Davis

Even if she hadn’t been so candid and so glowing about her new marriage on Instagram, Davis’ new rocker “Ladybug” and Nashville session “Flame Color” tell you everything you need to know about what a shift 2020’s been for the Little Rock native. We’ve long been a fan of her dressed-down confessionals, her tender diary entries, her vibrant way of swaddling her music in illustration and color, her economy with words and her voice, and her forthcoming album promises to deliver on all those fronts. SS

The Eulogy Brothers

There have been, during the course of the pandemic, a few times when a bit of news elicited a reaction along the lines of “OH GOD WE NEEDED THIS.” One such time: seeing a photograph of Arkansas musicians Isaac Alexander (Big Silver) and Brad Williams (The Salty Dogs), guitar-bearing, standing under a stylishly swoopy logo that read “The Eulogy Brothers.” They’ve since covered Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Wayne Raney, the Sir Douglas Quintet and more. If you’re not following @the.eulogy.brothers, ‘tis the season to remedy that. SS

607

Little Rock rapper 607’s most recent album, “Toxic Hotep,” is a worthy addition to his 40-plus album discography, as impressive a demonstration as ever of the complexity of 607 as a rapper and an individual. His wide range is demonstrated by back-to-back standout tracks on Side One. On “Loneliest Wave in the Ocean,” 607, smooth and self-aware, contemplates his personal relationships on top of a melodic synth-heavy beat. On the very next song, “Cabin Fever,” 607 flips his flow into something much more urgent, matching a faster and more menacing beat, to comment on life during the pandemic. It’s possible that no line better comments on a 2020 blighted by the twin pillars of systemic racism and the coronavirus than 607’s mic-drop admonition that “white supremacy way more evil, COVID-19 ain’t come hard enough, white folk kill way more people.” DF

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Hayefield 

Surprise! Trey Lamberth, who’s drummed with Southern Gothic dance-punk outfit Ghost Bones, rock ensemble The Federalis and blues torchbearers Brethren, makes a mean country ballad, too. Check out “White Picket Fences,” the latest from Lamberth’s duo with Taylor Hyatt. SS

Rett Peek
Rev. Greg Spradlin

Rev. Greg Spradlin

“Hi-Watter,” a wallop of a rock record from Pangburn native/badass guitarist Greg Spradlin and a formidable backup band, made its way into the world this year after germinating for nearly a decade. Check out our conversation with Spradlin about the record, Jim Dickinson’s indelible imprint on it, and its origin story in Ghana. And check out “Hi-Watter” here or at your local record store. SS

Jzade Forte 

This native of Southwest Little Rock and Pulaski Academy grad is a rapper, singer and producer who’s spent the last several years in Fayetteville with family following the death of her grandparents, something that’s figured heavily in her music over the course of the last year. Forte’s devoted sales from her acoustic single “Treasure” to an autism awareness group called Spektrum50 and channels Lena Horne in a forthcoming music video (thanks to her mother/manager/stylist), both to be included on a four-song EP, also called “Treasure.” SS

Rwake

Legendary Arkansas experimental metal band Rwake lent a new demo track, “Infinince,” to a sprawling anti-racist Bandcamp compilation in September titled “Shut It Down: Benefit for the Movement for Black Lives.” News of it lit the fires of metal listeners, as it had been almost a decade since Rwake released a new song, about which Rwake drummer Jeff Morgan told the Arkansas Times: “It does seem like we only write new music when the world is suffering, huh? Guess I never realized that before now. Our music has always been an exorcistic purge, so it really makes sense.” Check it out here. SS

The Libras 

Jason Weinheimer, a Little Rock musician and recording engineer, has an imprint on all sorts of Little Rock sounds: those that have come out of his work at Lucky Dog Audio and Fellowship Hall Sounds, in the melody-driven rock he performed with his wife Indy Grotto in early aughts outfit Boondogs and in other projects like Steve Howell & The Mighty Men and my personal favorite, Love Ghost. This year, he’s partnered with longtime collaborator/guitarist Arnold Kim on an album called “Faded.” You’ll find the single from that collaboration, “Quiet Part Loud,” at American Songwriter, where it premiered last month. SS

Rodney Block

On top of charming entire neighborhoods with “Live from the Front Porch” outdoor jams during the pandemic, trumpeter Rodney Block released a taste of his forthcoming album “Percival Jenkins” with a single, “How Do I Get 2 the Future w/o You,” featuring Lex Norwood on piano. (Don’t miss the chance, either, to revisit a house remix of vocalist Bijoux blessing “Shower Me,” from the late Whitman Bransford, a beloved Little Rock educator and musician (The Romany Rye) who died unexpectedly this year.) SS

Kami Renee

One of my favorite jams of the year was made in a car and a bedroom, with exactly one person doing 100 percent of the singing, playing, editing, engineering and production. Kami Renee is known to many as the bass player and secret weapon behind rock ‘n’ soul outfit Dazz & Brie, and her solo work, which she classifies as “quiet storm” music, makes it utterly clear that her work with D&B is a mere sliver of her talent. SS

Animate the Radio

Zack McCannon, who records with engineer/composer Mike Bailey under the name Animate the Radio, released a gorgeous four-song eponymous debut EP in November, which blends McCannon’s dreamy baritone with Bailey’s (Bentonville-based IndyGo Recording) cinematic instrumentation. Check it out here. SS

Trevor Bates

Recorded in Little Rock and out on black cassette, Trevor Bates’ garage rock romp “First Animal” traffics in mysticism, distortion and mood swings, and I am here for it. This record reminds me of everything I adored/adore about bands like Butter 08 and it’d make a stunning soundtrack to a long January bike ride around Allsopp Park, especially with nature-communing lyrics like “Birds are winging, harmony/Caterpillar, war and peace/The most incredible animal/Little fawn, come into view/Take a look inside of you/The most incredible animal.” SS

Genine LaTrice Perez

The inimitable Genine LaTrice Perez put out a video for her song “It Takes Two” in October, which in under four minutes affirms everything her fans already knew: that she’s a powerhouse soul-jazz vocalist with the ability to turn the simplest of refrains into a many-colored thing, that she understands exactly what well-timed silence can do to craft impeccable vocal phrases and that Perez can somehow lead a band without ever taking her eyes off the audience. SS

Princeaus

Nora B, who records with producer Andrew McClain as Princeaus, has cited Yoko Ono, Bradford Cox (Deerhunter) and their Korean heritage as artistic influences, and that’s about as tidy an introduction as you’re likely to get to their work. A pianist and classically trained baker, I’ve historically described Princeaus’ live sets as “performance art” — not because the music is secondary, but because it’s body-driven, subversive and intensely vulnerable. “I have schizoaffective bipolar and functional movement disorder,” their bio reads, “but it’s chill.” Their fall 2020 single, “Medicine,” grapples with stigma around mental health in its lyrics (forthcoming), but here’s the instrumental version of the track. SS

Bonnie Montgomery

White County native, classical composer and honky tonk hero Bonnie Montgomery would have performed at Carnegie Hall this year with opera star Zachary James for “Call Out,” a concert featuring works by a lineup of women composers. That didn’t happen, but Montgomery’s “Song Beyond Words” reached ears anyway with a “Call Out” visual and audio album, with Kevin Skrla on steel guitar and James singing alongside soprano Megan Nielson on Montgomery’s piece. Oh, and don’t miss Montgomery’s set on this year’s Holiday Hangout, still up at the Arkansas Times YouTube channel. SS

Supraphonics

The first time we heard from the Supraphonics, it was with the timely-again “Christmas With The Supraphonics!” in 2017. This time around, the band’s surf sound is aimed toward a more traditionally surf-y spot: the music of the quintessential 1960s instrumental surf band The Ventures, a band best-known for its cover songs of popular hits. The Supraphonics keep far away well-trod surf tropes by concentrating on The Ventures’ lesser-known original songs, and it resurrects these reverbed rarities as flawlessly as it does on Issac Alexander’s spot-on cover art. The band — “Pulaski County’s #1 surf combo” — is really no band at all, but Little Rock’s Geoff Curran, who is known around the city as Mulehead’s drummer, but is so much more. Curran not only plays every twangy note, but recorded and mixed himself doing it at his own Tusk of Jaguar studios. “The Supraphonics selected 12 of their favorites and tried not to ruin them. We hope you agree that in most cases they didn’t,” read the humorously self-effacing liner notes. But make no mistake, Curran’s is an achievement of epic proportions, musically, sonically, aesthetically and historically. SK

Sista Smoke

New to us, and via the recommendation of Yuni Wa, are the sounds of Sista Smoke, a Little Rock-based rapper whose charms include, but are not limited to: the recitation of the mantra “pussy power is a movement,” the use of the acronym “A.A.” to mean “Afro alien” and the incorporation of thrashing metal instrumentation with rap hooks. Favorite track: “Alchemy.” SS

 

Erin Enderlin

The country star from Faulkner County has had a banner year: performing from the Grand Ole Opry on Christmas Day, a collection of “Campfire Covers,” landing on Rosanne Cash’s winter playlist for the Oxford American and landing a new fan named Elton John. Tune into one of her myriad Facebook Live sessions or pick up a copy of “Faulkner County” for yourself. SS

Terminal Nation

Call it powerviolence, call it hardcore punk, call it metal. Whatever you call it, Stan Liszewski and his band Terminal Nation have been channeling rage and fury about police brutality, corporate corruption and systemic injustice into thrashing anti-fascist anthems for a few years now, and their latest, “Holocene Extinction,” is no exception. Catch our full conversation with Liszewski here, which we had ahead of Terminal Nation’s set for “Mutants of the Monster II,” a virtual heavy music fest organized by Christopher Terry (Rwake, Deadbird, Iron Tongue), which airs on Arkansas Times’ YouTube channel at 7 p.m. Jan 1-2, 2021. Admission to view the two-evening festival is free, but we suggest you donate to the performing artists, who haven’t been able to tour or play live shows (read as: make money) since the onset of the pandemic. SS

Kurt Lunsford
Terminal Nation

Cody Belew

Nashville-based Arkansas expat Cody Belew landed himself in the hearts of hometown fans long ago, and this winter, he landed himself on a big ol’ billboard in Times Square with a line dance video filmed at Santa’s Pub in Nashville. Resistance is futile; give yourself over to the ugly sweater/glitter pants combo therein, and to the bevy of Christmas metaphors (euphemisms?) therein, including, but not limited to: “Go ahead and make a gingerbread man outta me/You can hang your hat on my Christmas tree.” SS

PETT

Mastered by Jordan Trotter, recorded by Zach Hunter and created by PETT (Pat McGill, Eric Cleveland, Ty McCuin and Ted Gilliam), this December debut EP comes from members of I Was Afraid, Peach Blush and Headcold, and features acrobatic bass lines, glittery guitar tones and shambolic rock sensibilities. SS

Amos Cochran

When he was approached about creating a sound element for the “Color Field” exhibition at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art,” composer Amos Cochran said, he “had never made anything of the like. My work had mainly consisted of film scoring and my own experimental music. I was quite intrigued by the opportunity to not only create a different kind of long-form piece, but how the presentation of the piece would be unique from anything I had done before. Knowing very little about Color Field as a style, I set off reading as much as I could about its history. I quickly ran across Helen Frankenthaler’s work and how until that point in history, color was not the main draw of emotion but rather a secondary thought that was directly tied to the object or objects in the work that acted as the emotional draw. I really liked the idea of stripping away an initial thought to let a secondary thought act as the emotional guide. This kind of abstraction is something I had been using in my music but had never put into specific terms.” The resulting 25-minute soundscape that accompanied the exhibit (now up at the University of Houston through May 2021), as well as Cochran’s short companion audio piece inspired by the photography of William Eggleston and the forestry of the Ozarks, are but a sliver of his work; find it at amoscochran.com. SS

Sumokem

Little Rock’s doom metal ambassadors Sumokem have long situated their sound within a philosophical narrative, and their latest is no exception. “Prajnaparadha,” a six-tracks exercise in contrast, is the band’s third full-length record and a majestically layered follow-up to 2017’s “The Guardian of Yosemite.” We talked with Sumokem rhythm guitarist and lead vocalist Jacob Sawries about the record, its philosophical thrust and its trajectory in a music universe without live performance in its near future; catch that interview here. SS

Sumokem’s “Prajnaparadha”

Xlue 

Arkansas emcee Xlue (pronounced “Blue”) dropped “One Take” in November, a percussion-driven debut from a 20-year-old who, in his words, “not only reps where he comes from, but who he comes from.” Check it out here. SS

Buffalo Gals

When I first heard Buffalo Gals’ “I’d Just As Soon Stay Home” wafting my direction from the KABF-FM, 88.3, transmitter during Amy Garland’s Friday afternoon show “Backroads,” it seemed like the perfectly placid expression of a COVID-colored summer. In it, Melissa Carper, with a voice made of honeysuckle and campfire smoke and spring water, sings a genial act of resignation: “I used to go out on the town/Get dressed up, drink and laugh/Order two-for-ones, try to have a little fun/Those times are in the past.” There’s a lot more to the album than its quarantine soundtrack qualities, though, particularly its treatment of matters of identity. “Where the Heart Wants to Go” takes its title from a line in Carper and Brennen Leigh’s self-described “Nebraska love song,” “Billy and Beau,” a vignette about a same-sex childhood crush that develops over the course of hay-baling seasons and 4-H fairs, and the gospel-tinged “Pray the Gay Away” channels the interior monologue every queer kid in the Bible Belt has likely felt at some point or another: “Mama’d buy me a pretty frock pink/Dress me up and curl my hair/But my brother’s old hand-me-down shirts and jeans/Was all I’d ever want to wear.” Banjoist/upright bassist Carper and Rebecca Patek, a three-time winner of the Wisconsin State Fiddle Championship, make up half of beloved jug band Sad Daddy. Where Sad Daddy sounds like your cousin’s moonshine tastes, though, Carper and Patek’s duo work goes down more like a cup of tea, pared-down and unhurried. SS

Pallbearer

Little Rock’s foremost purveyors of doom metal continued their rise to international acclaim with the release of their most recent album Forgotten Days, an album that is a bit of a return to their earlier albums’ interpretation of classic doom. Very much not a metal head myself, I am always most drawn to Pallbearer’s sense of melody, both in their crushing instrumentals and in the soaring, prog-adjacent vocals of Brett Campbell. The album’s 12-minute centerpiece, “Silver Wings,” is typically excellent, shapeshifting many times over but never losing my attention. Here’s hoping we get to see Pallbearer rattle the dust from Whitewater’s rafters sometime soon. DF

Isaac Alexander

Some poor soul had to have the unfortunate task of following Paige Anderson’s set on the virtual Holiday Hangout sessions this year, and thank the stars it was Isaac Alexander — an impeccable lyricist, frontman for Big Silver and for his own solo projects and a wry deliverer of unshakeable melodies. You’ll find his HHO set at 47:05 here, and don’t miss his stellar “day-after-Christmas” tune, “Fake Snow.” Dude has more musical talent in his little finger than most people have in their whole being, and I sort of enjoy the notion of some far-flung listener just stumbling upon his catalogue some day and feeling the way I did when I first heard him; namely, where has this music been all my life? SS

Bazi Owenz

Arkansas native, jetsetter, dancer, musician and sound engineer Bazi Owenz might have spent a good portion of 2020 working in her capacity as a nurse battling the pandemic, but she still found time to put out some new tunes. I love her voice, I’ll forever love her leave-me-alone anthem “Don’t Blow My High” and I love the idea of hospital patients far and wide getting treatment from a nurse who moonlights as a badass beatmaker. Here’s her Christmas Eve release, a bit of a bedroom bop called “Muse.” SS

Brad Byrd

Brad Byrd, a Bentonville native who wowed us at the 2019 Arkansas Times Musicians Showcase (back when we could have live music without protective gear and a safety plan), broke his three-year hiatus with late-’80s-tinged pop anthem “Love You Bad.” Here’s to more hiatus-breaking in 2021. SS

Ashley McBryde

Having hit a stride that all but guaranteed sold-out shows in her home state and elsewhere this year were it not for the pandemic, Ashley McBryde released “Never Will” in 2020 despite not having any foreseeable chance to tour in support of it. It didn’t matter — the record’s great, and it would have received acclaim whether she put it in front of a crowd or not. With observational prowess and lyrics that unearth the dignity and dirt of rural living, “Never Will” is proof positive that McBryde’s star turn with her debut “Girl Goin’ Nowhere” was anything but a fluke. Girl’s a bona fide badass. Here’s hoping we’ll be wailing the chorus to “Shut Up Sheila” this time next year at the Rev Room, or, hell, Simmons Bank Arena. SS

Yuni Wa

Yuni Wa

Prolific electronic musicmaker Yuni Wa has been making music since he was a kid, and his electronic compositions in 2020, as ever, dealt with growth, loss and what it means to be a Black creator in a genre that too often obscures the influences of its Black forefathers/foremothers. Here’s to Yuni Wa, who will undoubtedly find enough inspiration in 2020 to churn out a whole host of tracks, and who may well have released another by the time you finish reading this paragraph. SS

Ten Penny Gypsy

Justin Patterson and Laura Lynn Danley, the duo behind Ten Penny Gypsy, released their second full-length album this summer, “Fugitive Heart,” recorded in Loxley, Ala., and produced by a former member of Neil Young’s band, Anthony Crawford. Exploring “the uncertainties of separation” in a solidly Americana idiom, Danley and Patterson are sure to bring the album’s offerings to the stage through their concert series “Sounds of Unity,” currently partnering with the Yadaloo Music & Arts Festival to bring virtual performances until it’s safe to gather for live music again. SS

Brian Nahlen

Brian Nahlen was one of many working local musicians who sprang to mind near the beginning of the pandemic, as fears began to mount that we wouldn’t emerge from 2020 with an intact music industry. (Those fears were justified, as it turns out. Support your local musicians and venues in whatever way you can, and here’s hoping the damage is mitigated in 2021.) But that doesn’t mean you didn’t hear Nahlen this year. Nahlen, who’s long been a regular performer at some now-imperiled Little Rock spots, kept picking up his guitar anyway, performing online sets for tips, churning out videos in support of his 2019 album “Hiding Behind Blue Skies” and popping up with memorable tunes like this one on Arkansas Tourism commercials. SS

Justin Moore

One of few artists to set foot onstage at Simmons Bank Arena during the pandemic for an audience-less hunger relief drive concert, Poyen native Justin Moore previewed his sixth studio album, forthcoming in 2021, with the single “We Didn’t Have Much,” and even fired up a new podcast this year to keep in touch with his fans. SS

Joseph Rowland

The bass player for doom metal heroes Pallbearer, Joseph D. Rowland, has a side project called Hosianna Mantra that, as its Bandcamp bio states, “officially started in 2015 after collecting mountains of synth gear since the mid-2000s and [is] based heavily on the leanings of ’70s and ’80s icons of the Kosmische Musik and progressive electronic scenes — and instilled with a grimly hopeful look into our descent into dystopia.” The debut effort’s six tracks come bearing a synth gear list a mile long and touches of minimalism. Don’t expect to find Pallbearer riffs here, but do expect to find something that, to my ears, would make a wildly suitable soundtrack for an imaginative 2021 reboot of “The Neverending Story.” Oh, and don’t miss Rowland’s take on a Christmas carol classic, “Carol of the Bells,” an absolute perfect cover choice to match Rowland’s rhythm-layering approach. SS

R.I.O.T.S.

R.I.O.T.S.’ songs never linger, and neither did available copies of its 2020 EP after its release in August. Fortunately, the tracks — the work of local heavy hitters Alan Wilkins, Everett Hagen, Mark Lierly and Will Boyd — are still up online in all their bite-sized glory, including rockers like “Crucial Bowl” and “The Internet Is Making You Drink Too Much Water.” SS

Bailey Bigger

With an abiding love for Joni Mitchell, a gorgeous fingerpicking guitar style and help from mentors like fellow Memphian Mark Edgar Stuart, songwriter Bailey Bigger has spent the year taking classes at the University of Memphis while living on a farm outside her native Marion and releasing an EP, out now on Big Legal Mess, called “Let’s Call It Love.” From that project, here’s “Weight of Independence.” SS

Brae Leni

One of the most prolific and diligent creators in Central Arkansas, Brae Leni’s released an onslaught of music in 2020, pairing his silky smooth voice with an increasingly wider array of backdrops; who had “fruit-themed neo-soul EP” on their 2020 bingo card? Some of my favorites are the interludes on “29,” where Leni treats the sound booth like a sonic sandbox, meant for joyful experimentation and play. SS

Brae Leni

Musicophilia Mix

The creator of Musicophilia, an anonymous Little Rock native whose carefully curated playlists and box sets have garnered much acclaim, is back at it. The creator’s tackled pivotal years like 1979 and 1981 in past mixes; here, the “decade-like” year of 2020 gets chronicled, with tracks from Oui Ennui and Moses Boyd and the following liner notes: “As difficult as the year has been, the music of 2020 has been equally amazing. This mix reflects the emotional breadth of the year: full of anger, isolation, longing, fear, as well love, imagination, energy, and beauty. Black Lives Matter. Support Black artists. Buy music, pay artists.” Find it here. SS

Seth Pennington

Turns out the editor at one of the region’s most forward-thinking presses sings and plays guitar; here’s Seth Pennington’s rendition of “The Christmas Song,” on Reverb Nation and reprised on Hot Springs’ long-running Wednesday Night Poetry Series. SS 

Zach and Heather Holland

Back in February 2020, when singing into the open air of a room with other people seemed like a totally normal thing to do on a rainy day, came these recording sessions from Good Fear frontman Zach Holland and his wife, Heather, with glimpses of Fayetteville’s Mount Sequoyah, lovely harmonies and low-fi charm. SS

Jamie Lou & The Hullabaloo 

There’s no getting enough of Jamie Lou’s dreamy voice, and this year’s re-issue of her 2017 album “Femi-Socialite,” a music video — and undoubtedly lots of new personal inspiration, as Jamie Lou and bandmate/husband Garrett Brolund have a baby on the way! — bode well for things to come from the Northwest Arkansas-based outfit. SS

Big Piph

As far as we’re concerned, Epiphany “Big Piph” Morrow is Arkansas music royalty, and we’re not going to wait for some posthumous declaration to make it official. For me, he’s also in the company of creators like Joshua Asante and Adia Victoria in his ability to distill a tomes’ worth of insight into a few lines of text, like those we’ll be listening to on repeat when his new six-song EP comes out: “We built the pyramids/Culture = our mirror images.” SS

Lukas Deen
Big Piph

Moonsong

Fayetteville musician Cody Nielsen put out a three-track self-titled project in August, the fruits of time spent in quarantine — and time spent away from the five-piece he typically performs with in a live setting. Listen if you dig: Trey Anastasio-ish meter changes, lava lamp vocals and crystalline guitar. SS

Dylan Earl

Faced with unprecedented times, many people, myself included, turned to the comfort of older music to ease anxiety and block out the present. Even though it was released on Bandcamp during the early throws of the pandemic, Dylan Earl’s most recent country and western album “A Squirrel in the Garden” accomplishes the same escapist purpose. Earl’s smooth and twangy baritone languidly moves among shuffling drums and crying slide guitar, creating a convincingly modern version of a classic country sound. It is easy to put this record on and let Earl’s pearl-snapped stylings whisk you away from the troubles of the modern world. DF

Dylan Earl

Possumwulf

The three tracks out from Possumwulf, a Hillcrest-based band whose work came across our desks in September, belong on the same “post-apocalyptic scavenger hunt” playlist as Goon des Garcon’s “Cheers! To The End of the World,” or Bowie’s “Outside.” With grimly noir guitar riffs and titles like “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Blight,” 2020 was likely the perfect year to get an introduction to Possumwulf’s work. SS

Sara Reeves
DOT

DOT

If your year needed a handful of new songs that cover clambakes, skinny-dipping, the alienation brought about by technology and ghosts who speak through Marshall amps, you’re in luck. Three-piece rock outfit DOT (whose non-DOT daytime lives include running a summer rock ’n’ roll/leadership camp for girls called Trust Tree) is releasing “Welcome to the DOTosphere,” a five-song EP on Fayetteville’s cassette tape label Tape Dad. It was recorded, as a press release states, “with engineer Jordan Trotter during several trips to Heber Springs, Arkansas, where they watched ‘Spice World’ and ‘Coyote Ugly’ for inspiration.” The band — Melanie Castellano, Correne Spero and Jordan Wolf — has been playing together for five years, so it’s high time we had some DOT tracks in hold-in-your-hand form. SS