Music from Iowa Artists Released Amid the Pandemic

Iowa collectors explore movies, music, and books … physically.

Bryon Dudley/Iowa Informer

So far, the bulk of the Physical Media Blog has been focused on things released in the past, distant or otherwise, but there’s been an incredible amount of output by Iowa artists during the COVID-19 pandemic that is well worth looking into. Here’s a few of the highlights I’ve been enjoying recently:

Greg Wheeler and the Polygamist Mall Cops, Room 7″

I’ve always enjoyed Greg McLain-Meister’s work with seminal Iowa band The Wheelers, and his new band scratches a similar itch. With his wife Jill joining him on bass and vocals, and drummer Eric Hutchison keeping the time, this three-song burst of face-melting rock will light up your turntable (or the digital music player of your choice). More infused with a sense of rockabilly than The Wheelers, the Polygamist Mall Cops still bring a sense of experimentation, along with a healthy dose of indie rock, and the nasty guitar tones are perfect for the music.

Forest and Family, Perfectly Smeared/Pretty Attractive 7″

Forest Cochran has been incredibly active in the Des Moines music scene the last few years, juggling multiple projects, such as Cold Winds, Crossing Tongues, and Jinnouchi Power. This 7” is a solo release, but Forest has a Des Moines all-star crew on hand to help him out with these two great tunes. If you like your indie rock hard-driving and melodic, you’ll definitely dig what Forest And Family are throwing down here.

Pink Neighbor, Lounge Sounds 2 cassette

Grinnell’s Pink Neighbor are one of my favorite Iowa bands in recent years, largely because no one is doing what they do, which is a unique blend of ‘60s flavored pop with lounge music, rendered with a somewhat DIY approach. The results are always catchy and charming, and their simple-sounding approach tends to mask the extent of their talent. Their 2019 album, Time Beach Universe, is well worth checking out, but this year they’ve released this cassette, the second in a series of Lounge Sounds. Largely instrumental, this tape (and its predecessor) allow Pink Neighbor (who are Erik Jarvis and Katie In most of the time) to focus on the lounge influence in their music. It’s a nice, light trip through this genre, with gems pretty much everywhere.

Fred Love, The Nine Days EP CD

Full disclosure: I mastered this EP and the physical release on CD is via Nova Labs, the DIY label I run. I was hesitant to include this record as a result. However, I think the songs are not only so good that none of that matters, but the idea of recording an EP in nine days in your basement during a pandemic is the epitome of what Iowa music can be. Fred Love is a treasure of songwriting, crafting original country music that sounds just as good, if not better, than all the classic country you’ve ever heard. Give it a spin if you don’t believe me. The description on Fred’s Bandcamp page says it perfectly:

Fred wrote and recorded this five-song EP during the pandemic of 2020. The songs center on the strain of sheltering in place with his wife and two young children but are also balanced by moments of gratitude and love. Completely self produced, The Nine Days EP is an immediate and unvarnished Americana record animated by Love’s commitment to creativity and the DIY ethic.

Bryon Dudley
Bryon Dudley is a writer and musician from Ames. He has written about music and other topics for a number of local publications and blogs. When not playing music and putting out albums with groups such as Strong Like Bear, Liana, and Rockets of Desire, he is helping other Iowa artists record their music at his studio, The Spacement, and releasing it on the Iowa label he co-founded, Nova Labs. He has a tattoo of an aardvark and is adjusting to bifocals.