Orlando music year in review: 20 things we loved in an unlovable 2020
Updated: Jan 4, 2021
It's been a hard year. And somehow, our local music scene continued to create, to record, in the face of an endless cycle of bad news that made it almost impossible to think about making music. So as we close the book on 2020, we present an unranked mixed-media assemblage of Orlando music happenings that caught hold of our ears, eyes and the gelatinous goo that once was our brains.
Expert Timing, Whichever, Whatever: Expert Timing is the husband-and-wife duo of Katrina and Jeff Snyder, who share vocals and play bass and guitar respectively, alongside drummer Gibran Colbert. They deliver big-hearted tunes, combining melancholy with the long, warm hug we desperately needed. Whichever, Whatever is expertly timed for a pandemic. The record tackles uncertainty with the kind of tough optimism you can sing along to. Jordan Foley, "Sing Me a Love Song": Orlando singer-songwriter Foley unveiled this beautiful single and shared his inspiration via Bandcamp: "I wrote 'Sing Me a Love Song' while in quarantine in my apartment. I live on my own and was feeling lonely, and ... I felt like it'd be nice to have someone sing to me for a change." Jordan, rest assured, the entire world feels ya on that one, brother.
Future Bartenderz, "Payment Status Unavailable": The best anti-anthem written about Florida's broken unemployment system was written by an Orlando musician. That it was delivered in a note-perfect sendup of 1970s-vintage yob-punk, complete with fake accent, made it even better.
Meet Me @ The Altar: If you didn't already know, Meet Me @ The Altar are taking over the (pop-punk) world. In a scene dominated by cisgender white guys, this trio of women of color comprising vocalist Edith Johnson, guitarist Téa Campbell and drummer Ada Juarez represent the future of pop-punk, and under their leadership it is very bright, especially for Black and brown girls.
Sean Mingo, T.K.T.B.; OhTwo, A Time to Be So Small: Rapper Sean Mingo may have departed OhTwo, but that ending sparked bold new beginnings for both. Mingo went solo, while Faust and Byson continued on as OhTwo, and each delivered the best albums of their respective careers. Mingo's T.K.T.B. is simmering, slow-motion funk and trip-hop majesty, while OhTwo's A Time delved headlong into monochrome, post-punk textures just in time for lockdown.
Wanda Raimundi-Ortiz and Stereo 77, "The Twitch": The most harrowing piece of local music we heard all year was "The Twitch" by performance artist Wanda Raimundi-Ortiz and Alejandro Ramirez, aka DJ Stereo 77. Raimundi-Ortiz delivers a chilling spoken-word narrative about domestic abuse, as Ramirez couches her words in a web of ambient music as cathartic tension.
Dikembe, Muck: In the heat of summer and perpetual pandemic despair, alt-rockers Dikembe released Muck. It deals in the complexities of loss, a feeling far too many Orlandoans know this year. For Dikembe, it's a deeply personal subject, too; the record draws on the loss of lead singer Steven Gray's mother. Though considered property of Gainesville's music scene, some members call Orlando home, so we're happy to claim them as our own.
Orlando punk heads to the outer limits: Young Orlando outsider-punk groups Red Rodeo, AOL, Daisy Chain and Android all dropped deeply strange, avant and adventurous albums that strayed far outside the doctrinaire lines of punk. Fellow traveler and synthesist Mother Juno released the excellent album Trust, too. And naturally, this is the year that none of them can play live. Just wait.
Pangolin, Good Songs Played Poorly EP + VHS: Orlando punks Pangolin delivered the comforting tunes necessary to weather 2020 with the November release of Good Songs Played Poorly; the EP includes cuts by Journey, Tina Turner and Duran Duran. They followed up this release with a Good Songs Played Poorly VHS. It can also be found free on YouTube, if your VCR is in the repair shop.
Quick objects of affection: The photo of local grinders C0mputer you see above was recovered from a forgotten disposable camera and reminds us of happy accidents and better times; Illuminated Paths released the vaporwave classic Palm Haze by Miami Vice on vinyl; Orlando producer Austin "Ayo" Owens did production work on the Cardi B./Megan Thee Stallion megahit "WAP"; Derek Dunn (Aaron's Home) hid cassettes of his solo album all over town and scavenger hunts ensued; TTN recorded the Fall's "Totally Wired" with sonic outlier Argus Faux; dream-pop singer Ivy Hollivana released a video for "Risk," filmed in Joshua Tree, California, with prime Jack Smith vibes; DJ Dizzlephunk curated the compilation Orlando's Own Hip-Hop and later did a Christmas shoe drive that yielded 600 pairs of shoes for those in need; Kurt Rambus made dance music about how Friedrich Hayek sucks; Yeah, Sure's "Hot Brains" was the grunge take on the coronavirus we so needed; and Caffiends made a video for their one-minute fusillade against the alt-right, "Rise of Thrashism."