Best Of 2020

Best Final Live Music Fix

Billie Eilish at Amway Center March 10, 2020

C0mputer at Will's Pub March 8, 2020

Young pop powerhouse Billie Eilish holds the distinction of being one of the final arena headliners in Orlando in March before the coronavirus pandemic shuttered all venues. But what a note to go out on: top-dollar production values, dizzying choreography and that voice! All in front of a packed house. Just imagine. Closer to home, we find ourselves fondly looking back on local cybernetic grinders C0mputer opening for Portrayal of Guilt that same month at Will's. A brief, dizzying set of alien grindcore perfection, sweat flying everywhere, and it's jarring how well their post-apocalyptic attire – particularly Daniel Harris' mask – predicted the 2020 (and beyond) aesthetic.

Best Music With Meaning

Re:Charge

July 18, 2020

At Re:Charge, a concert designed for socially distanced audience and performers, there was an intense instant where the music and the cultural moment intersected profoundly. Pianist Joseph Jevanni Billups and cellist Yamilet Trujillo performed "Duet for Heart and Breath," a piece that calls for the pianist to use a stethoscope to play in time with their heartbeat, while the cellist plays in time with their breath. Billups, a Black man, wore a shirt that read "Get yo knee off my neck." The delicate, plaintive music was given entirely new meaning as the country reeled from the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor while tens of thousands of Americans died alone on ventilators. Painful but cathartic.

Best Local Hot 100 Charting Producer

Ayo

instagram.com/ayotheproducer

Grammy award-winning producer Austin Owens, better known as Ayo, has been known and successful for a long time; he and his partner Keyz have produced charting hits for Wiz Khalifa, Ty Dolla $ign and Cardi B in the past few years. But their work on the pop juggernaut that is "WAP" – Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion's filthy-fabulous ode to, uh, humidity – rocketed Ayo N Keyz into the stratosphere. (They even knocked Taylor Swift's Folklore off the Hot 2100.) And since Ayo lives right here in Orlando, we have to assume we have a piece of that shine, if only because of our WAP-ass climate. When you're good at what you do, it doesn't matter where you live. In other words, please stay in Orlando and keep our clout level up.

Best Local Livestream

TIE! StayHome Fest and Accidental Music Festival

From the moment live venues closed their doors here in March, Jessica Pawli and her Southern Fried Sunday family jumped into action with five weeks of streaming all-day Sunday events collectively known as #StayHome Fest. Heavy on locals but featuring familiar faces from all over the country, this was both a showcase of the best in regional Americana, roots and country music and an important gesture in keeping the SFS extended family connected while isolated. Meanwhile, Timucua Arts Foundation revived their Accidental Music Festival online on YouTube and it was an absolute powerhouse. Elizabeth A. Baker weaving alchemical soundscapes outdoors and M. Lamar exuding Diamanda Galas-esque gothic grandeur were absolutely jaw-dropping, among other heavyweights local and worldwide.

Best Local Plantasia

Circuit Church at Mead Botanical Garden

circuitchurch.bandcamp.com

On a beautiful sunny February day on the green at Mead Garden's pavilion, the local analog electronic tinkerers and synthesists Circuit Church and friends put on Modular on the Spot, a blissful afternoon of burbling bleeps and bloops and calming washes of layered synths. We've been thinking a lot lately about how something like this points the way toward possible futures for live music.

Best Local Quarantine Song

"Payment Status Unavailable" by Future Bartenderz

futurebartenderz.bandcamp.com

Arch freak-punk solo project Future Bartenderz has been prolific during the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown, posting new songs online almost weekly. And they're all drily hilarious pop gems that revel in rock & roll history and comedic timing. The best of the bunch is "pAYmeNt STatUs uNAvaiLAblE," a '70s-style punk heater that marshals Sex Pistols-level fury against the stupidity of Ron DeSantis' hopelessly broken unemployment system, complete with note-perfect Brit slang and accent.

Best Local Album Recorded During Quarantine

Another tie!

The Pauses, 'Quarantunes' & Soulbase, 'Songs to Quarantine To' thepauses.bandcamp.com, soulbase.bandcamp.com

In the more naive early days of quarantine ("We should have this handled by summer, certainly") the three members of the Pauses remotely bashed out a joyous and ragged collection of covers of alt-rock anthems that shaped their musical DNA. Their version of Harvey Danger's "Flagpole Sitta" has become downright oracular in the months since. Then there's young trip-hop soul project Soulbase, who crafted a shimmering, seductive brew of ethereal R&B-meets-new age fusion that simultaneously calms the anxiety buzz in the back of our brains and makes us lose time in a good way. Timeless songwriting that cannot be pinned down to a particular decade.

Best Underground Family Reunion

Pre-INC Orlando

Feb. 3, 2020

Attendees didn't realize it at the time, but this was to be the last mass gathering of the experimental underground in Orlando for a long, long time. It had the feel of a familial gathering, with several generations of local musical outliers all taking their 15-minute turn amongst performers from around the country. So scene veterans like Dan Reaves and Jim Ivy played alongside TTN and free-jazz armada Bongus. New projects from familiar faces like Saturn Valley and Cabo Boing captivated, as did newer locals like Aaron's Home and Jün. The closing sets from scene fulcrums Bacon Grease and event organizer Formaldehydra were an unintentionally fitting and valedictory farewell.

Best local band that could make Tony Allen proud

Bengali 600

facebook.com/bengali600

Led by the multifaceted Jeff Richey, this ensemble delivers a tight and joyous noise that's some of the best multi-culti inspired groove this side of Brixton, the Big Apple, Johannesburg, L.A. and Lagos.

Best local George Martin

Chris Baranyi, soundcloud.com/chris-baranyi

Producer and recording engineer Chris Baranyi has the ear and the timing of a seasoned DJ. He mics a room (Blue Bamboo) or outdoor concert (Mills 50) like it's his own private Carnegie Hall or AIR Studio. He knows when bad is good, and how great the groove needs to be, or not. He's a natural and possesses a rare quality that can't be bought: taste.