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Saturday, December 19, 2020

Best Of 2020: New Music Reviews and Interviews

As the alarming year of 2020 comes to a conclusion, this annual year-end “Best Of” recap features an eclectic collection of musicians who've all earned inclusion. While live shows were still “a thing” in the first two months, the world took a sudden turn shortly after that. Recorded music became more important than ever, and this site continued with a steady flow of reviews on much of it.

Original writing on each artist placed emphasis on their respective creativity and craft. What follows is a chronological timeline of those individual singers or bands as they first appeared here over this past year.

It seems like so long ago, but 2020 started off with the ability to attend in-person live shows the way we always had, before this pandemic hit. Early January presented the opportunity to catch Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter Kira Metcalf in an intimate setting at NYC's Rockwood Music Hall. Additionally her single “Cheap Kind” received a deep dive analysis.

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Long-time e-friend Bill Dwyer came down from the more northern city of Boston to play New York's venerable nightclub The Bitter End on Sunday, January 5th. Filling that venue with a full set of his original music (capably backed by his electric band), his 'Americana' storytelling approach was enhanced by the more complex instrumentation.

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SINthetik Messiah is the working "band name" for the equally mysteriously named electro/industrial bass sound designer Bug Gigabyte. Based out of the bayous of Louisiana, he is the main composer, producer and engineer for all recordings under that moniker.

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The Carvels NYC play classic-era downtown NYC original roots rock and roll. Super fun song and video “Late Night Heart” received the DCW Feature treatment.

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Birmingham, UK based glam-rockers TREMENDOUS capped off the month of January with their unplugged version of single release "Like Dreamers Do." Since then their debut album “Relentless” has been released and can be acquired by checking out links via the bands social media.

Full reviews on all of the above artists can be found on this site right here.

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A significant live show happening at the end of January serves as the opening salvo for February's DaveCromwellWrites extravaganza. An opportunity to catch one of our (newly re-energized) living legends (recovered from health issues) should never be missed, if at all possible. As far too many of our most influential musical heroes move on to the other side with unsettling frequency these days, a finite amount of chances remain to celebrate their work with them. Newer, still-emerging artists creating work that fascinates also found their way into that month's feature as well.

Goth/Glam-rock legend Peter Murphy returned to New York City for a week-long residency of make-up shows at the East Village venue Le Poisson Rouge. Playing an entire set of David Bowie music in the form of a Tribute show, the man and his excellent band delighted the audience with one classic Bowie song after the next.

Opening the show was New Orleans Drag Performance Art singer Vinsantos. Previous work includes touring with David J, who is also a founding member of Bauhaus.

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The seemingly boundless energy of Philadelphia-based creative force Tom Lugo re-emerged once more with the debut album from a collaborative project Cielo Oceano titled “The Space Has Always Reduced Me To Silence.” Partnering with like-minded guitarist and programmer Andres Lugo, astral atmospherics are blended together via keyboard and guitar textures while pulsing bass-lines and crisp piercing percussion provide sensory motion underneath.

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Puerto Rican gazey/dreampop ensemble Un.Real released a gorgeous, floating track ”Lovely one / Islands,” serving up mysterious places of wonder and reverential beauty.

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Heavy psych-n'-gaze-rock is well represented on a blistering track from Cardiff, Wales UK's Excellent Skeleton. At nearly 10 minutes in length, “Stop Waking The Sun” serves up epic proportions unleashed with unabashed sonic cataclysm.

Link through to the full feature on all of the above bands here.

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The month of March introduced enough global fear of pandemics and economic turmoil to rival what were once considered too far-fetched to be true doomsday scenarios. It's as if the T-Veronica virus depicted in those outlandish Resident Evil movies were now with us all. With it came “social distancing” and the increasing concern to limit contact with others. As such, this month began focusing solely on musicians working in more self-quarantine surroundings.

Originating out of the Western Australian city of Perth, psych rockers Mystery Tapes released the digital single “Cold Habit.” Described by songwriter/producer/guitarist and vocalist Zack Yusof as an attempt at modernized blues/country-style lyrics enhanced through the sonic prism of today's pedal-board FX accompaniment, the track showed insight within their creative process.

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The mid-western US locale of Canton, Ohio serves as the home base for I Fight Fail, a three piece emo/hardcore-melodic-pop unit that released the single “All I Am.” Alternating instrumental spaciousness and fury is paired with lyrics focusing on the dream world.

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The Brighton, England independent music label Shore Dive Records is always good for a steady stream of intriguing new music. Specializing in limited edition releases, they provide a treasure trove of worthy material otherwise obscured by larger entities hammering away with oftentimes less creative (but more heavily financed) promotion. One such band that found it's way onto the DaveCromwellWrites landscape was the Russian collective COSme. While the announcement of Shore Dive reissuing the band's debut album came a month or so back (release number 34), the positive impression made on first (and repeated) listen(s) required deeper analysis.

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Canadian duo Paragon Cause released a single titled “Lost Cause” and DaveCromwellWrites lent an ear for analysis and words on the inner workings of this track.

Follow this link for the complete reviews of all four artists.

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Four new bands made their way into the April 2020 DaveCromwellWrites analytical universe, safely arriving via this modern day equivalent of a digital shield.

The continuing interactive relationship with niche label Shoredive Records and its steady pipeline of releases provided this site with London, England's Velveteen. Their EP “Bluest Sunshine” showed a clear affinity for the early 90's developmental years that brought us all those incredible albums from My Bloody Valentine, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Cocteau Twins, Boo Radleys and Swervedriver.


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With the release of their full-length album “Agitprop Alterna,” Peel Dream Magazine - the collective fronted by NYC musician Joe Stevens shared the single “Is It My Body” as an additional reference point to a sound that is both unique and appealingly familiar.

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A discovery to this site at this time was the Toronto based Canadian acid-punk / post-hardcore / progressive-screamo band Pilcrow. Their most recent recording to date, “Fever Dreams” served up five tracks of hyper-charged aggression that is equal parts meticulous and chaotic.


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It had been a little over four years since Austin, Texas rockers Ringo Deathstarr put out a new full-length album, however the release of their latest self-titled effort offered up 13 new songs. Having featured the band 10 times here on this site dating back to 2011 (with live shows attended as early as 2009, and most recently this past November) the opportunity to dig into these current tracks provided it's own unique adventure.



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Six must review features wound up in the ever-evolving (mutating?) DaveCromwellWrites pantheon for the month of May. This chosen path of descriptive analysis and “writing about music” remains a repeated selective process on what (and who) to write about. Once those decisions have been made (a non-scientific juggling act of purposeful choices and random chance taking), the actual joy of putting words together in a satisfying manner flows rather quickly.


Having previously explored the separate creative work of Gardy Perez and Tom Lugo on their recent projects with Cielo Oceano and Un.Real, the duo returned to team up under the name MAYU with a new collaborative track “Theia.”


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With the release of their latest full length album “What We Started,” Canadian ethereal alternative/electro-pop duo Paragon Cause delivered 10 new songs (and first single “Lost Cause” radio edit) less than a year after their “Lies Between Us” EP. Once again enlisting the Production (and now co-songwriting) skills of Raveonettes mastermind Sune Rose Wagner, a veritable treasure-trove of new ideas came to fruition.


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The sheer sonic overload and multi-genre appropriation of 100 Gecs combine a level of computer and engineering skills with DJ and gaming savvy. Like-minded genre bending disrupter Dorian Electra joined the Gecs on a remix of "gec 2 Ü" setting new standards for computer and autotuned vocal, cyber-pop.


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Making sure to check out recommendations from trusted sources more often than not opens your ears to something new and interesting. Such was the case with dream-pop duo Drab City, who combine an intriguing mix of dub, hip-hop and jazzy vibes into their aforementioned dreamy vocal sound.


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With the release of their three-years-in-the-making first full-length album “Ghost Moon Ritual,” moody pacific coast duo Lunar Twin shared their electronic dream vision with the world. Over the course of that 3-year time period, Bryce Boudreau (vocalist/songwriter) and Chris Murphy (multi-instrumentalist/producer) crafted 13 songs in all, working from their respective locales of Hawaii and Salt Lake City.



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New and innovative artists in their respective genres had the Cromwell periscope focused on their work in the month of June.



The balancing act of humorous lyrics with quality music is exactly what you get on Ian Lockwood's EP “Nasty.” The five tracks cover a variety of subject matter, with emphasis on the internet life we all now live.


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Shore Dive Records comes through once again, with their momentous 50th release rolling out the debut EP “Shades And Whispers” by Polish emo-dreampop band Waterville.


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Japanese trio mouse on the keys released their four song jazz piano EP “Arche.”


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SINthetik Messiah returned with a new release “Split Damage,” serving up two tracks exploring and reinventing that 90's trip-hop sound. Savvy PR Company New Dark Ages did their part in helping to spread the word about this release.



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The one thing we can all count on is the need for creative types to continue making their art. Musicians who spend a lot of time writing and recording as part of their ongoing routine continue to focus on new songs and videos as their primary outlet. The joy of deep listen analysis and the words that flow from that once again featured in the month of July here at the DaveCromwellWrites global consortium.


Julian Kerins is a musical tour-de-force and frontman for his own sophisticated indie rock power trio. He is the complete package of songwriter, virtuoso guitarist and polyphonic vocalist with a 6 octave range. Accompanied by bandmates Michael Vetter on drums, and Michael Schuler on bass, a full 10 song album “To Solemn Maia” serves as the current full-length release.


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Internationally acclaimed extreme metal band Lamb Of God released their eighth studio album and first in five years, choosing to go with no title other than the bands name. Now two decades into their explorations of brutally aggressive rock, this Richmond, Virginia conceived quintet have taken their place alongside contemporaries like Metallica, Slayer and Pantera. An official video for the track “Gears” comes along with the album, serving to add a visual element to the lyrical and musically intense storytelling.


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Back in late April the electronic-music and fashion-forward duo Turbo Goth released a new song at the height of this world pandemic. Calling the track “Quarantine Dreams,” it was referred to it as “a groovy love song” created for interpretation and reflection on applying your dreams through positive actions going forward once this crisis is finally over. That original track received remix treatment by three creative entities, all given the Cromwell review.


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Darkwave artist Cat Hall (aka DISSONANCE) released a new single and visualizer clip for her song "Precipice." Described as a lament of personal struggle, her ability to transcend emotional pain and physical scars has ultimately produced this beautiful work of art.


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Documentary filmmaker Matthew Levin shared a new episode of his “Translove Airwaves” series titled “Krautwerk Umarmt Liverpool” in a limited run preview setting. The psychedelia motivated producer presented an immersive look into two German musical pioneers who have teamed up under the moniker “Krautwerk.”



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August seems to always come with a slight twinge of melancholy that we've now entered the third and final real month of summer. Along with the pursuit of one more perfect beach day, a new batch of music releases from various corners of the globe were reviewed as well.


Blues-rockers New York Junk evoke the streets of NYC on their latest record “Dreaming,” released on Tarbeach Records. Recorded at Golden HIVE Studio in Prague, Czech Republic at the end of 2019, it was mixed and mastered in February 2020.


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Carrion is an Industrial Rock band from the northern forest lands of Norway, founded and fronted by lead member Adrian KjΓΈsnes (working under the moniker Hide Beliya`al) Single release "The Blood Ov Saints" was the first new material since last years full-length album “Iconoclasm.”

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After 10 years with the influential NYC noise-rockers A Place To Bury Strangers, bassist Dion Lunadon stepped out to pursue a full-time solo career. He released a new track “When Will I Hold You Again” as a duet with vocalist Kate Clover, dedicating it everyone whose been separated from loved ones as a result of this current worldwide pandemic.


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Sydney Australia's gazey, dreampop and psych-rock collective Trillion released a 5 track EP “Move To You,” and a debut video for the single “Soft.” Recording their individual parts separately as one might suspect during these harrowing times, the end result shows a determined creativity in spite of those challenges.



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Mid-September 2020 had this site rolling out a number of compelling new releases that receive detailed reviews, along with an exclusive in-depth interview. With live shows still on hold, recorded works become even more paramount in the audio artists creative life. The opportunity to conduct direct a one-on-one interviews via phone and email still provided a formidable option for the music writer to gain insight into an artists latest project.


Jody Porter released a brand new album "Waterways" and offered up insightful answers to questions about this record, as well as his entire career so far.


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New York City's The Carvels recorded a new full-length album live in one of the city's better equipped music venues. “Live At The Cutting Room” serves at the band's debut long player, released on Die Laughing Records. Originally set to be recorded in front of a live audience during a show back in March, those plans came to a halt due to lockdown closures of the city's music venues. Creatively regrouping with a revised approach, the band got the nine track album recorded two months later at this legendary (now empty) venue.


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Indie rock/dreampop band Just Like Honey released their gorgeous full-length album “Into The Wild” on the now very familiar Shoredive Records.



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A select collection of diverse and eclectic musical artists were hand-picked for feature review during the month of October. While the frequent and familiar rock styles of goth, dream-pop and gazey ambience were once again represented, so too was the work of an improvisational virtuoso. The essential commonality running through all of these works is a deep emotional commitment to their respective artistic styles.



Glamorous Italian singer and musician Elle Noir released a new EP “Like A Black Doll,” which emphasized poetic lyrics, strong music composition and exquisite piano.


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Trans-continental duo Sally Haze released their six-track second EP “Wet Dream,” serving up a refreshing blend of DIY dreamgaze (and more).


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New York-based progressive jazz guitarist and composer Oz Noy released his latest album “Snapdragon.” The full recording contains six original compositions, plus a cover of the Zombies’ “She’s Not There,” two Thelonious Monk pieces and the exhilarating track “Looni Tooni.”



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A combination of innovative original instrumental music focusing on keyboards and guitar served as the primary entry point for the November Feature. A greater appreciation for musicians composing and recording more sophisticated works of art shared space with a quality pop song.



Keyboardist Brian Charette released his full-length album “Like The Sun” earlier this month. Featuring 13 mostly new original compositions, it was recorded during the first months of this years lock down. The instrumental tracks forge a new hybrid sound that combine electronic beats with the richness of traditional organ textures.


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Musician Afonso Dorido is a Portuguese artist who creates instrumental music under the name Homem em Catarse (which translates to “Man In Catharsis”). Earlier this year he released a 10 track album titled “sem palavras / cem palavras” (in English - “without words / hundred words”) that delves into a heady mix of dreamgaze, ambient, slowcore, classical and emotional musical styles.



Punky pop rockers GIFTSHOP released a brand new song and video homage to pink and pastel 80's era MTV video lore with their track “Stylish Junkie.” Recorded and shot with safety protocols in place, the slick and professional sounding track fits seamlessly along with it's accompanying video.



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57 comments:

MNXCAT said...

Thank you, Dave!

MNXCAT said...

Thank you, Dave!

DaveCromwell said...

Glad to know you enjoyed this, MNXCAT 😸

Mirror said...

Damian Eckstein wrote: Crom drops the flash-bomb on 2020 shining a light on all the great music that one may not necessarily be aware of due to, you know...circumstances. Let Dave Cromwell be your tastemaker, influencer, and tour guide to new hits, deep cuts, and b-side toe-tappers. Great work as always sir!

DaveCromwell said...

A writer to rival my own prose, Damian ! Thanks for always keeping it real, my friend. πŸ˜„

Mirror said...

Adrian KjΓΈsnes wrote: Thanks man! Not bad being mentioned in the same article as the Godfather of Goth ❤

DaveCromwell said...

I know, right Adrian? The one and only Peter Murphy! 😎

Mirror said...

Matthew Levin wrote: Thanks so much to Dave Cromwell for including Translove Airwaves on his best of 2020 list, its indeed an honor! Check out the whole thing! Croms is uncanny with his ability to find hidden gems!πŸ™πŸŽΈπŸŽΉπŸŽ§πŸ’œ

DaveCromwell said...

Jem hunting is what I do best Matthew! πŸ˜„

Mirror said...

Cat Hall Angeles wrote: Awesome to be included in Dave Cromwell's Best of 2020- check out the article to see all the other great artists! DaveCromwellWrites #davecromwellwrites

DaveCromwell said...

Loved your vocal performance and emotional lyrics combined with deep-rumble bass pulses, icy high-end synth blasts and hissing percussion, Cat 🎀

Mirror said...

Brian Charette wrote: Thanks Dave !! Thanks again for the wonderful writing!

DaveCromwell said...

Brian Charette you earned it my friend!

Mirror said...

patetico_recordings wrote: Thank you Dave for including MAYU and Cielo Oceano on your fab list of the best music released in 2020, as well as our friends from Puerto Rico Unreal!!!! The Annual DCW “Best Of 2020” is now published! Highlighting original review writing on the very best new music to emerge this past year!
https://davecromwellwrites.blogspot.com/2020/12/best-of-2020-new-music-reviews-and.html
"Check out this years Croms Best Of 2020 Feature covering the music of this past year! Anyone who can appreciate these bands, singers and artists will enjoy this recap! " #philly #indierock #shoegaze #indiepop #dreampop

DaveCromwell said...

In spite of everything it was a productive year for recording (and reviewing) music @patetico_recordings !

Mirror said...

HΓ©ctor Caolo Alvarez wrote: Thank you Dave & happy holidays!

DaveCromwell said...

HΓ©ctor Caolo Alvarez you too, my friend! πŸ“€

Mirror said...

TREMENDOUS wrote: Great to be included in New York's Best Of 2020 by Dave Cromwell Writes. Thx David for including us! Check it out here at https://tinyurl.com/y9wmw997
#Tremendous #Glamrock #Classicrock #Rocknroll #70srock #80srock #90srock
#Davidbowie #Marcbolan #TRexband #Aerosmith #Defleppard #Joeydiaz #NYC #Rock

DaveCromwell said...

Your releases this past year are definitely "Best Of" material @itstremendous!

Mirror said...

Bill Dwyer wrote: Huge THANKS to YOU Dave Cromwell !!! We are honored!!! ❤

DaveCromwell said...

You conquered The Bitter End in New York City's Greenwich Village, Bill. That was an amazing night. 🀘

Mirror said...

Puma Perl wrote: Thanks, Dave Cromwell!

DaveCromwell said...

You're lyrical storytelling is wonderful, Puma ✍️

Mirror said...

Tom Lugo wrote: Dave Cromwell truly humbled to be included, more than once to say the least. It is truly an honor to be included among such great artists. On behalf of Cielo Oceano and MAYU, Gardy Perez Ruiz, Andres Alfonso, and myself we would like to thank your for the support, the kind words, and friendship. Wishing you and your loved ones very Merry Christmas and a new year full of happiness, health, and prosperity!! We'll start sharing the link shortly!!! Many blessings.

Gardy Perez Ruiz wrote: Tom Lugo I echo the sentiment. Thanks Dave Cromwell for everything and keeping the music alive!

Tom Lugo wrote: Gardy Perez Ruiz, Un. Real is also included my brother πŸ™‚

Gardy Perez Ruiz wrote: Tom Lugo I saw it! The longest year ♂️ 🀦🏻 for me that was out in 19 ' πŸ˜„

HΓ©ctor Caolo Alvarez wrote: Came out in February 2020 Greetings!

Gardy Perez Ruiz wrote: HΓ©ctor Caolo Alvarez I know. Valentines Day.

DaveCromwell said...

We all gathered in Brooklyn, New York at the end of 2019 for a live show. Then you all released new music throughout 2020. Glad to be a part of it all Tom, Gardy, Andres and HΓ©ctor. πŸ”‰

Mirror said...

Zack Yusof wrote: Thanks Dave! Lovely stuff!

DaveCromwell said...

The Mystery Tapes record was ace, Zack! πŸ’Ώ

Mirror said...

Zack Yusof wrote: cheers, Dave! More to come in 2021! x

DaveCromwell said...

Looking forward to all of that, Zack πŸ˜ƒ

Mirror said...

Adde Jonze wrote: Thank you on behalf of all the members of Excellent Skeleton Dave!!! πŸŽ‰πŸŽ‰πŸŽ‰⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

DaveCromwell said...

Love what you did with the Skellies, Adde 😎

Mirror said...

Lynne Von Pang wrote: Thank you Dave Cromwell ! The Carvels NYC love ya πŸ’•

DaveCromwell said...

Two separate releases covered, Lynne! It was a busy recording year for The Carvels NYC (and a writing one for me 😊)

Mirror said...

elle_noir_darksinger wrote: Thank you so much for this πŸ–€πŸ–€ I guess I can speak for all the independent musicians...we need people like you! 😍with a strong passion for discovering new music ... looking for quality.. and you are such a great writer and a kind person. 😊 So thanks again for your job. It means the world for us😊

DaveCromwell said...

@elle_noir_darksinger you are a real talent, Elle πŸ§™‍♂️

AnimeRuby said...

Every year I look forward to this "Best Of" recap on the entire year. Once again I'm totally impressed by the volume and depth covered here. 🎸

DaveCromwell said...

The culmination of an entire years work in one feature is always a daunting task, but one that can only be described as a labor of love. ❤

Mirror said...

Velveteen wrote: Our Bluest Sunshine EP is included in this great "Best of 2020" collection. Thanks for including us. We appreciate it! Check it out πŸ‘‡
https://davecromwellwrites.blogspot.com/.../best-of-2020

DaveCromwell said...

A "Best Of" record this past year for sure Velveteen! Loved the whole " time-space-continuum feeling" 😎

Mirror said...

William Zimmerman wrote: One of my most diverse, skilled writers, Dave Comwell did a Best of 2020 featuring SINthetik Messiah, Elle Noir and Dissonance. Do go check it out and spend some time on it. You don't see quality writing like this every day. He devotes a lot of time to it.

DaveCromwell said...

Writing is a passion of mine, William. And if you don't get it right, there is no point in doing it. 😎

Mirror said...

Andres Alfonso wrote: Dave Cromwell has included the album of Ocean Sky among the best of 2020. It also includes the unreal brothers Un. Real. Thank you Dave, sending you good vibes from Baltimore.
https://jakjonsontapes.bandcamp.com/.../the-space-has...

DaveCromwell said...

I got into the floating waves that create an impression of unattainable longing, Andres πŸ˜‡

Mirror said...

Cynthia Ross wrote: Thank you for including New York Junk’s new record ‘Dreaming’ Dave Cromwell + DaveCromwellWrites. The red vinyl copies have now arrived at Tarbeach Recordings!

DaveCromwell said...

The NYC street stories on your album there are right on the money, Cynthia πŸ™Œ

Mirror said...

Jay Bonp wrote: Check this out! FROM Dave Cromwell in New York.

DaveCromwell said...

Not one, but TWO solid Paragon Cause features make the annual Best Of Jay! 😊

Mirror said...

Nicole Vandestienne wrote: GIFTSHOP always appreciative and Nicole always digging your words and intros to great new music. Thanks for helping to keep it alive! Xoxo

DaveCromwell said...

We keep the cycle going, Nicole πŸ˜™

Mirror said...

COSme wrote: It was unexpected and pleasant. Thanks from the bottom of heart @DaveCromwellWrites + @shorediverecords.

DaveCromwell said...

Your music is powerful and inspiring COSme!

Mirror said...

pilcrownoise wrote: Thank you again for checking us out Dave!! You rock πŸ”₯πŸ”₯❤️❤️

DaveCromwell said...

@pilcrownoise I enjoyed digging in to your harsh-sophisticated sound! 🎸

Mirror said...

trillionsydney wrote: We made the @davecromwell top releases of 2020! Check out all the awesome releases at @davecromwell bio!

DaveCromwell said...

One of the great releases of this past year @trillionsydney!

Mirror said...

The Carvels NYC wrote: Thank you DaveCromwellWrites , you are a gem! Happy to be included in the "Best Of" list for 2020 πŸ˜…πŸ˜ #wemadelemonade #nycrocknroll #nycpunk

DaveCromwell said...

When all else fails, at least you can *still* make music! 🎼