The Best of Wicked Local Wednesday: 2020

By Lea Tatoris, Live Mix Coordinator

Every Wednesday night, local bands get to shoot their shot on air during Wicked Local Wednesday. Our Live Mix Coordinator, Lea Tatoris, takes us through some highlights of the last year.

 

1. Squirrel Flower

Ella Williams, better known as her stage name Squirrel Flower, is a local artist that truly blew up this year. Her debut album “I Was Born Swimming”, released under Polyvinyl in January, is a huge departure from the EPs she released from when she was part of the Boston DIY scene, but I was not disappointed. It’s poetry set to fuzzy guitar riffs, punchy drums, and ethereal vocal harmonies, sung by Williams herself. The lyrics on songs like “Red Shoulder”, a song about dissociation and sensory overload, may be abstract, but set to music, you can picture the exact memory Williams is recalling.

If you missed it, check out Squirrel Flower’s WERS Exclusive Home Concert from this past summer here.

 

2. Billy Dean Thomas

Billy Dean Thomas, the Boston-based rapper also known as “The Queer B.I.G.”, is an artist that was hard to miss this year. Their latest EP, “For Better or Worse”, is a modern protest album filled with endless flows and tight beats, commenting on everything from the 2020 presidential election, to finding hope during the COVID-19 pandemic. “Klan stronger than the klu klux / And I ain't never backing down,” Thomas says on the opening track, “Trust No Mo”, a song about systematic racism. My favorite track on the EP is “Stressin’ & Flexxin’”. The pitched-up, distorted synths and Thomas’s lyrical talent really make you feel the stress that they feel as a rapper.

You can watch Billy Dean Thomas’s Home Concert with Anjimile here.

 

3. The Ruta Beggars

The Ruta Beggars is a band that Phil, our Afternoon Host, and I were very excited about. The Ruta Beggars, made up of the four Berkelee kids, Micah, Sofia, Ariel, and Trevin, are one of the tightest bluegrass bands I have ever heard. Their three-part harmonies, fantastic mandolin, banjo, and fiddle technique, and ability to blend bluegrass with country and swing will just blow you away. When you listen to their music, you can just tell that they’re having fun. If you don’t know where to start, I recommend checking out their latest release, “The Mother Road” or their 2018 single, “The Trains Don’t Run No More (In Boston)”, a song about the many delays of the MBTA.

You can watch The Ruta Beggars’ Home Concert here.

 

4. Cliff Notez

Cliff Notez is another favorite of mine that we’ve featured on Wicked Local and 617 Day earlier this year. The award-winning musician and professor at Emerson College collaborated with Dephrase and Latrell James for his latest EP, “Social Absence”, a commentary on the monotony of living during a pandemic. “Lately I ain’t doin’ what I wanna do / Lately I’ve been working hard for someone else’s dream,” Cliff Notez says in the opening track, “Voodoo Doll”. Suddenly, the beat picks up and Latrell James’ verse and blaring horns pass you by, much like how quickly quarantine has been passing us. Some of the EP is soothing, while songs like “Spiral” quite literally throw you down a spiral of pandemic anxiety. If you haven’t listened to “Social Absence” yet, you need to listen to how Cliff Notez captures the feelings of hopelessness and absolute boredom we all experience while living during the pandemic in just three tracks.

 

5. Ultra Chapelle

I have come to the conclusion that it is impossible to listen to Ultra Chapelle and not want to get up and dance. C.M. Foley, the Boston-based artist behind Ultra Chapelle and fellow Emersonian, released an EP this past October called “MOMMY I’M DONE”. The EP is a collection of Foley’s feelings of low self-esteem, love, and heartbreak set to a bright electric guitar, ‘80s influenced drum machine beats, and ethereal synths that just bring each song to life. Foley’s vocals and lyrical talent shine through, painting imaginative scenes on each track. “Every night there's a rodeo / Outside my drying window / If there's flurries I know how to stay warm / With you we’ve done good warmth before,” Foley sings on “Rodeo Window”. My favorite track on the EP is “Crumbles”. The vulnerable lyrics are a perfect transition into the slower, second half of the EP and the Phil Collins’ “In The Air Tonight”-like drums are just so fun.

If you missed Ultra Chapelle’s Home Concert, you can check it out here.

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