At the beginning of this year, many of us knew that we would have to suffer through the Presidential Election cycle, that the amount of money spent on Federal and State elections would reach epic heights, and the possibility of lies and half-truths flying through the air might rent this country asunder. We did, it did, but hardly anyone predicted that a deadly virus would kill so many people, close up so many businesses, turn cities into deserts, and touch so many families around the country and the world.
Here at the cusp of 2021, there are now vaccines to fight the virus beginning to be distributed around the world, there will be a new administration in Washington, D.C., and we will soon be able to venture outdoors to begin the process of healing our communities. On a personal note, my older sister passed in April and my wife's brother in September; like many older people, our family is spread around the country and we only see them on FaceTime or via ZOOM. Our friends suffer in the hospital and we cannot visit to help buoy their spirits. Even worse, unless we can go outside, there's no breaking of bread, no sharing of wine and desserts, no going to plays or concerts or galleries.
Yet, music remains a constant and 2020 was a sparkling time for Black American Music. Whereas many of the albums that topped the "Critics List" were recorded in 2019 or before, by the end of the year we were hearing music produced in the pandemic months. The spirit of creativity has not suffered even as so many musicians, who depend on live performances to pay the rent and feed their families, often have to apply for grants and gifts to stay afloat. As a reviewer, I am blessed with plenty of promotional CDs and audio files; artists appreciate reviews but the only money they will see form that are the royalties when the album is sold. Many of them have turned to Bandcamp, perhaps the fairest of all the music sellers in the world (the website's "First Fridays", a day when over 90% of the money paid for a music file or album goes directly to the artist)––you'll see links to the artist's Bandcamp page at the bottom of nearly all the albums in Step Tempest. Listen when you can, purchase what you can. Music brings hope, solace, awakens our senses and emotions, and makes our blood flow.
Below are albums that I reviewed this year and that stand out from the rest.https://cuneiformrecords.bandcamp.com/album/the-daily-biological.