“Ho, ho, ho!” It’s the perfect day to share the presence of some of the best from the Southwest Oklahoma music scene for the year 2020. Or, at least, my choices for the Local Best of 2020.
In a year chock full of obstacles and heaping doses of weird, it’s caused our local music community to find new ways to be heard. With live stages few and far between, often it was inside the recording studio where voices were best heard.
Maybe the pandemic threat opened doors to creativity because this year, I’ve got to give it up to a pair of disparate artists for local music MVP honors. As always, go to the online edition of the column and click on the links to hear the music easily.
First off, I’m giving all of the praise to Takeez (Meals) for unleashing a full-length 13 track masterpiece with the long-awaited ”sHoRtYdEuCe” album. It’s my overall Album of the Year. This cat hit on all cylinders in 2020. First, he knocked socks off with his pre-album release of ”On Tucc” and then dropped the jaw to the floor with the album’s first track, ”Blaxploitation.” It fuses all the finest elements of early-1970s soul and funk with the deep voiced wordsmithery he’s known for. His track ”Ginger Tea Boogie” featuring SAMO is among my favorite songs of the year list and shows that this MC can croon with the best of ‘em — https://youtu.be/bF33kEoKgbw.
If this isn’t enough, Takeez unleashed ”The Elements EP” later in the year and he kept putting fire into the local music sonic soundscape. In four tracks, he made as much of a statement as a lesser artist presenting a double album. But it’s the track “Smoke” that’s most relevant with a burst of verse for the tumultuous year we’ve survived so far. It’s in my top three songs of the year. It’s not something you dance to, it’s a song to be imbibed and taken in. This is poise and power packed with passion. Check it and the other three tracks — https://shortydeuce.bandcamp.com/album/the-elements-ep.
Gannon Freemin & CCRev is taking the Co-MVP spot for their two stellar EPs. Leading off with the acoustic showcase of Fremin’s one-of-a-kind voice that carries as much attitude as altitude, ”Shelter Sessions” revealed the strength of rock solid songwriting stripped down to its bones. Accompanied by lead guitarist Travis Julian’s feel-flavored fretwork, this five song collection offered a much needed shot to kick off summer.
The EP’s closing track, ”Idle Hands” caps off this collection with poignant proof that Fremin’s hands are far from idle. Raw and with his heart opened for the world to see, this singer/songwriter shines — https://youtu.be/AOnk08T3tEM.
The electrified release ”Okie Thump” showed Fremin and his bandmates in the best light you can get without it being from a stage. Red dirt, rock and roll, punk rock attitude and old school country chops converge with this collection and proves that they’re onto something good, as evidenced on the punchy ”Rose Tattoo.” But it’s another song that, at first, seems deceptive from its title with its acoustic lead in but dives into its core. In keeping with the theme of co-honors, ”Rock & Roll” is another close choice for track of the year — https://youtu.be/8ccac0nAcQY.
Stash Hileman earned Rookie of the Year honors for his solo ”Millenial Trash” album. This 11 song collection offers bite size punk rock that’s as catchy as it gets and is well-played and performed. A one-man recording team with this collection, he did a great job with the home production and the performance. His track ”Void” is as good of a punk song as I’ve heard in ages — https://youtu.be/Hc6ZR1fzHeI.
Stash stopped into Studio Blanket/Tent Fort and got over any nerves he may have had to floor Steve-O and the columnist during a taping of the column’s former radio show earlier this year with the album’s closing track and another of the year’s favorites, ”Already Gone” — https://youtu.be/85AGSvyOFO4.
I know the absence of live music has hit this guy as hard as anyone. Along with plans for a potential Nacho Cart show, another project of his called Dissocial Fury has me excited for 2021.
Although the Railhead stage has remained quiet through the pandemic, music by bands that will be gracing its stages upon live music’s return has made 2020 a good one for local heavy rock.
Chasing the Coyote appeared from the ether and dropped its self-titled debut EP. A really strong production and execution from this Tipton-based trio helps give it that extra punch. Check out a highlight song, ”Medicine Man” — https://youtu.be/PhSqFuZKCR4.
A common link between the next three bands’ releases is Brandon Cramer at 1121 Recordings here in Lawton and Slamnasium in Oklahoma City and helmed by former Lawtonian Mychal Soto. They are pushing some of the cleanest sounding heavy music in the world and making our bands push their limits to create something beyond the pale.
Take the already solid to the bone Drop Dead Dammit. Live and on stage, ”Leather Apron” is a big hitter — https://youtu.be/lFC0vcSg6p0.
But following the duo’s production and editing, this power-trio hit a new level. The follow up material to be included on their upcoming re-release of their self-titled debut EP is absolutely fierce.
Some of the most violently powerful heavy music has been churning out from Soto’s band Strangled. The intensity of their music, coupled with their primal videos creates an effect that is beyond fair description. It’s meant to be felt as with the video for ”Defect” — https://youtu.be/q5cfEgpwCE4.
When it comes with the long-awaited and highly anticipated debut release by local metal supergroup Desecration Conflict, let’s just say it was worth the wait. You have to be ready for something this intense and groundbreaking when it erupts from the local scene. A labored process of recording paid off for this band. They’ve been working to this moment for a long time and the product shows the dedication’s pay-off. Easily the top Heavy Song of the Year is their introduction first heard on the column’s late-radio show called ”Grotesque” — https://youtu.be/vAtUg9twddE.
It looks like it’s a twofer for Jared Rosin & The Shuffle. After winning acclaim for last year’s Song of the Year with ”The Valley,” Rosin and Zach Holliday came through in the clutch when asked for a theme song for the columnist and Gary Reddin’s true crime podcast, Redder Dirt: An OK Crime Cast.
”Little Crime on the Prairie” knocked it out of the park during the first listen of the rough acoustic origins. This completed recording is stellar and one of my favorite things of 2020. I can’t thank these gents enough for making such a gem after being given only a title to work with. I hope you check it out — https://jaredrosin.bandcamp.com/track/little-crime-on-the-prairie.
More 2020 highlights in next week’s column!
For this week’s Songs for the Sequestration, it’s time to channel my “Secret Santa” side and share some of my favorite rock and roll Christmas songs. Hope you check them out while roasting chestnuts on an open fire or something like that.
Nathaniel Rateliff and Elle King combined to write and perform my new favorite rockin’ Christmas song to remember called ”Xmas to Forget” — https://youtu.be/t2p2o9vTsLQ.
Oklahoma’s Flaming Lips classic ”Christmas at the Zoo” shares the tale of freeing the animals on this day of giving and love. As their songwriting tends to do, it explores other places — https://youtu.be/Y3mRC-foSZs.
Of course, you gotta have the Boss included when it comes to Christmas songs. At least, when it comes to this classic from Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band. With his singular voice and one of the greatest bands in rock and roll history, ”Merry Christmas, Baby” is one of the great songs no matter the season — https://youtu.be/GzV8OGocMS8.
The final Christmas wish wrapped in song comes from the essential punk rock band of all time, the Ramones. ”Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want To Fight Tonight)” is not only a beautiful song that carries the soul and sweetness that makes this band stand above and beyond so many, it also contains a message I hope we all take to heart today — https://youtu.be/KIhIBFPtnoc.
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