If there is a silver lining to the pandemic (and I’m not saying there is, because things remain terrifying), it would have to be seeing Iowa musicians and artists getting busy with their art. The first few months of this global catastrophe were like a gut punch, but after getting used to what has become known as “the new normal,” I saw SO MANY Iowa artists sharing their work, whether it be paintings, drawings, comic books, songs they’d written, albums they’d recorded, or something else. It’s been truly inspirational.
I thought it would be fun to share some of this work in one spot, so that anyone could enjoy it and see that there are glimmers of hope and creativity going on all around you (plus it may help while away the time as you work or dance at home!).
I’m going to focus on the music side of things, because I know more about music than I do art, basically. There’s been so much great work released, and this will just be part one — if you’ve released some music, please send me links at [email protected], and you can be part of a future Informer article!
Bitter Canyon, self-titled
Bitter Canyon was right on the cusp of releasing their first full-length album when the pandemic hit, so they decided to release a good chunk of it to help tide us over. Performed by an all-star cast of Ames’ greatest musicians, BC is soulful and light, but also very driving and psychedelic at times.
End The Wrld, “Enough is Enough” and “Come On By”
Des Moines synth pop gurus End The Wrld released two singles in 2020 that are well worth listening to. With The Host Country’s Diana Weishaar on vocals and producer extraordinaire Phil Young manning the boards, the group has created music that you can dance to, but with some sly political commentary infused into the proceedings.
The Host Country, Strike Gently
Speaking of The Host Country, this stellar songwriting powerhouse also released a full-length record in 2020 that is lush and gorgeous and heartwarming. Great songs performed by seasoned musicians, what’s not to like?
Fred Love, The Nine Days EP
Full disclosure: I was involved with the post-production and release of this one. Fred is a fantastic traditional country songwriter, and in the face of the pandemic with no live musical outlet, he took on the challenge of writing and self-recording an EP of new material in just nine days. There’s not much more that exemplifies the Iowa DIY spirit than this!
Deedles & Company, LL❤️VELANDD
Also recorded during the pandemic, and released during the Maximum Ames Music Festival’s Livestream Special, this album was recorded on a vintage digital Boss 8-track by songwriter Dan DeGeest and his friends, with his son joining in the fun as well. Part rock, part country, part folk, LL❤️VELANDD is pure fun, with the occasional moment to pause and examine the human spirit.
Forest and Family, Perfectly Smeared/Pretty Attractive 7″
Released in April 2020, songwriter Forest Cochran put together a 7” vinyl release of this one, and it looks like you can still order a copy as of this writing. I highly recommend you do so, this one’s a solid chunk of indie rock that is both nasty and sweet all at once.
Miss Christine, Stay Away/Truth In Song/Christmas Wrapping 2020 Remix
Iowa City artist Miss Christine has kept busy during the shutdown, releasing a handful of singles while also polishing up songs for a new album (that should be coming out this year, fingers crossed!). “Stay Away” doubles as sort of a twisted love song and pandemic anthem, “Truth in Song” tackles the political landscape of 2020 by staring it right in the eyes, and “Christmas Wrapping” was a holiday release, a cover of the song by The Waitresses. It’s tough to classify Miss Christine’s genre, because she tends to hop between them, but the music is always melodic and the musicianship is always rock solid.
SLICE, the Celestial Sorcerer, “Disposable (feat. Skotty B. Good)”
Ames’ resident hip-hop genius has released a couple of fantastic singles during the pandemic (check out his YouTube channel for proof), but none captured the spirit of the Black Lives Matter movement and the year more than the song “Disposable.” Des Moines guitarist Skotty B. Good collaborated with SLICE by infusing some jazz licks into the affair, but nothing could smooth the edges off the message being delivered by these powerful lyrics.
Patresa Hartman, “The Falconer’s Knot”
This one’s a single, released in December of 2020, with a full length album on its way soon, but what a cool single! A cool chord progression, with a jazzy acoustic bassline, all pulled together by Hartman’s amazing and soothing voice. I can’t wait to hear more!
Lizzy Poppyseed, “Canary Yellow Lemon Popp”
Des Moines artist Lizzy Poppyseed has remained active during the pandemic as well, releasing a full-length album in December that she wrote and recorded herself. Her previous work has fallen more in line with singer/songwriter or straight-up rock genres, but “Canary Yellow Lemon Popp” is, as the title suggests, pure pop enjoyment. Also of note are her YouTube and Bandcamp channels-. Starting in January of this year, Lizzy has been choosing a song from the Billboard top 100 at random (both the year and the chart number are randomized) and covering it, seemingly on the fly! So far, she’s covered everything from The Backstreet Boys to Benny Goodman, so it’s been fun just to see where this exercise takes her and her talent.