We’re here. We’ve made it. Give yourself a hug. 2020 is over, and hopefully, by the grace of the incalculable unknown, things will get better soon. We may have a cold winter ahead, and a society that still exists in a state of entropy, but at least we have music, which at its very best can bring worlds together, and at its least, provide the soft touch of familiar comfort.
You’ll notice a common theme that ties some of the albums below, one that we’re all far too familiar with by now. Many of these fine releases were conceived in a state of quarantine, and encapsulate the unique and trying elements of such conditions. From bombastic and socially-conscious rock to introspective and inspired ambient music, power-pop, cathartic improvisations and beyond, our winter music guide is sure to alleviate you in some capacity, whether you’re having cabin fever, post-holiday blues or a general state of existentialism. My advice to you: Don’t think too much; just listen.
Signature Sounds, 'Golden Age: 25 Years of Signature Sounds'
In the 25 years since its inception, Signature Sounds has fiercely championed the multidisciplinary roots and rock music scenes of western Massachusetts and beyond, signing local and national favorites to their roster and cultivating organic fan bases around the world. In celebration of their quarter-century of business, the beloved record label is releasing “Golden Age: 25 Years of Signature Sounds,” an all-encompassing double-CD compilation including 37 songs from artists they’ve represented through the decades, a heavy-hitting list that features Lake Street Dive, The Suitcase Junket, And The Kids, Josh Ritter, Twisted Pine and many more.
Editrix, 'Tell Me I’m Bad'
Western Massachusetts trio Editrix formed with the intent of “annihilating indie rock,” and so far, their aim is true. Consisting of experimental musician Wendy Eisenberg, drummer Josh Daniel, and bassist Steve Cameron, the group’s full-length debut “Tell Me I’m Bad” is a blistering, thorny rebuke of corrupt systems, from the distrustful music industry machine to our suspicious governing political bodies and the voters who embolden them. “Chelsea lives at the mall/ Votes with her cash, she’s an informed consumer,” Eisenberg sings on the album’s lead single “Chelsea,” a rowdy, riot grrrl-esque foot-stomper. It’s indicative of the album as a whole, somehow both decidedly pointed and blithely rebellious.
Archie Shepp & Jason Moran, 'Let My People Go'
Avant-garde saxophone legend Archie Shepp helped redefine jazz with his work with John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman and Sun Ra in a career that spans more than 60 years. Jason Moran, a pianist and composer, helped shape jazz in the new millennium with his critically lauded 2001 album “Black Stars.” Now, the Massachusetts educators (Shepp has taught at UMass Amherst, Moran at the New England Conservatory of Music) have teamed up for the starkly emotive “Let My People Go,” a collection of intimate duet performances that chronicle their spiritual connection through music. It’s a record so moving, you won’t simply listen to it, you’ll feel like you’re eavesdropping on it.
Philip B. Price, 'Oceans Hiding In Oceans'
Before finding success with Northampton-based chamber-pop quartet Winterpills in the mid-2000s, singer-songwriter Philip B. Price traversed the Northeast in a number of side projects, collecting and repurposing fragments of art rock, pop rock and power pop into an entity reflective of his journey. “Oceans Hiding In Oceans” is the singer’s second full-length album, a character study of a chaotic mind mid-COVID quarantine, and it spares no influence. Buckle in as Price takes you from John Lennon to Dolly Parton to shoegaze madness at the turn of every track.
Altin Gün, 'Yol'
Coming off a Grammy nomination for their 2019 album “Gece,” Amsterdam’s Altin Gün continues to expand its critical success with its inimitable blend of Europop, psych rock and traditional Turkish folk music with the band’s new album “Yol.” Equal parts groovy and oddly intoxicating, Altin Gün brings the late-night deep cuts of a freeform radio show to the mainstream. Imagine if Tame Impala were Eastern European pop stars in the 1980s, with effervescent synthesizers, deep pocket grooves and soaring vocals stemming from the Ottoman Empire. “Yol” is, in a word, unique — you have to hear it to believe it.
IAN SWEET, 'Show Me How You Disappear'
Former Boston-resident Jilian Medford formed her project IAN SWEET as a student at Berklee back in 2014. A lot has changed in six years, and Medford is no exception. Now based in Los Angeles, Medford’s IAN SWEET has ventured into a dizzying zone of grungy DIY pop, as heard on the singer-songwriter’s confessional third album “Show Me How You Disappear.” “Thought I could swim, but I thought wrong,” Medford confesses on the album’s newest single “Drink The Lake;” it’s a veiled, yet cathartic revelation at a crossroads that we’re all familiar with striding into 2021.
Sunburned Hand of the Man, 'Pick A Day To Die'
Massachusetts free rock weirdo-collective Sunburned Hand of the Man is every esoteric bootlegger’s dream. For more than 25 years, the group has released hundreds of rare recordings, each uniquely hypnotic and roaming, earning admiration from mainstream noise makers like Sonic Youth and Dinosaur Jr. Nearly 10 years since their last release, Sunburned Hand returns with “Pick A Day To Die,” a sharp jab at the devastation wrought in 2020, and their first “studio album” within recent memory. At its most accessible, it’s far out Grateful Dead at their most primitively meditative; beyond that, prepare to truly explore the unknown with the commanders of the cosmic ether.