Cincinnati has a huge music scene. Shutdowns, layoffs and closures haven’t stopped these local artists from releasing music this year.
Some made studios in their homes, others recorded pre-pandemic or with added safety measures. It made room for a lot of people to release singles, EPs and solo albums. But make music, people did.
Though there have been so many canceled performances and shows, 2020 has made space for a lot of artists to release music. It isn’t the same as other years where a release might also bring a tour. But fans can certainly by a lot of these albums online. Most are available for streaming on Soundcloud, Sportify, iTunes and other platforms.
All are worth listening to, whether you like country, rap or rock.
Here are some of the locals who released albums this year:
Greg Dulli – “Random Desire”
This solo album was released on Feb. 21.
“Usually, the term ‘cinematic’ is reserved for instrumental music suggesting grandeur and gravitas, but Dulli prefers to drop you into the thick of the action. His records are like romantic thrillers with all the exposition and character development stripped out, leaving only moments of heated conflict and disarming confessions,” Stuart Berman from Pitchfork wrote about the new album.
Dulli is also the lead singer of Cincinnati rock band Afghan Whigs. The Afghan Whigs formed in Cincinnati in the 1980s. They’ve been making music on and off ever since and also have a new album in the works.
Quotah – “Space Ballads (Music to Move Furniture to)”
You can’t find out much about Quotah in a simple google search, but he released a new album on July 24 and it’s worth a listen.
This is his first release since “Transient Generator” in 2016. Quotah describes his music on Facebook as, “Take equal parts analogue synths, guitars, bass and programmed drums. Throw in many dashes of Devo, Stereolab, Krautrock and mix well.”
Quotah did almost everything for the album except the drums. He plays the synth, guitar and bass as well as vocals. Quotah tried to record the album as “old school as possible, we tried not to use computers.”
It’s the kind of music you can dance to. Give the new album a listen at quotah.bandcamp.com.
Arlo McKinley – “Die Midwestern”
His new album was released on Aug. 14 and has been making waves across the nation. McKinley was formerly part of the folk duo Great Depression and later Arlo McKinley and the Lonesome Sound.
In a recent interview with The Enquirer, McKinley said he’s in Cincinnati to stay, “I don’t really see a reason to leave. A lot of people have assumed I would move to Nashville or something like that. I really don’t see a need for it, really, on my end. I’m four hours away, if I want to get there. I like being in Cincinnati for geography reasons. It’s centrally located. I’m 41 now. I can’t see anywhere else being home. It’s the only city I know, and I do love Cincinnati.”
Dolly Valentine – “How to be Good”
The new album was released on Aug. 21.
On her website, she says, “Dolly Valentine is a confident storyteller whose music expresses heartfelt truths both delicate and intense. Her music has a timeless sound, influenced by retro pop anthems from icons such as the Beach Boys and Tom Petty and modern influences from Kacey Musgraves to Sufjan Stevens. Her music dissolves labels and fixes its gaze directly on our basic humanness.”
Multimagic – “Manic Daze”
After a few setbacks, indie pop band Multimagic released its debut album on Sept. 4.
The plan was to release an album in 2017, but lead singer Coran Stetter had medical setbacks that led him into a manic episode and a psych ward. He’s been open about his experience on social media.
“Three years later, and I’m releasing an album with some of the best people I’ve ever met. This record is for anyone who has fallen and gotten back up. … Thank you to everyone who has shown me love. When I needed love the most in my manic daze you held me close,” he said on Facebook.
Stetter also created Inhailer Radio, a place to share local music over the air.
Audley – “Roy”
Audley released his second album on Sept. 4 with the help of producers Internetboy, Stallitix, GrandAce, SmokeFace and Devin Burgess.
The 13-song hip-hop album is available on all streaming platforms.
“Grateful for every listen and I hope it has inspired you somewhat to listen to the colors inside and around you. ‘Roy’ was a testament to growth and self understanding. It feels really good to know my truth resonated with some listeners,” Audley said on Facebook.
Matt Berninger – “Serpentine Prison”
The lead singer of the band the National released an album on Oct. 16. This was his debut solo album and it received reviews from Pitchfork, Billboard and Rolling Stone.
The reviews are good.
“ ‘I’m near the bottom/Name the blues, I’ve got ‘em,’ the National frontman Matt Berninger sings on the delicately despondent ‘Oh, Dearie,’ from his debut solo LP. It’s a song about being completely asphyxiated by fear and doubt – certainly a message for our times. But don’t call the crisis hotline just yet. The music is more reassuringly cozy than last-ditch dire, with the singer pouring his enveloping, care-worn baritone over softly illuminating piano and a ‘Dust in the Wind’ acoustic figure,” said Rolling Stone.
The smoky-voiced Berninger’s new album is full of nostalgia, sad songs and pretty lyrics, much like his work with the National.
Moonbeau – “Up All Night”
Moonbeau’s second album was released on Nov. 20.
The band, husband-and-wife duo Christian Gough (guitar/vocals) and Claire Gough (keys/vocals), is a indie dream pop band that creates ’80s inspired music with a synth pop sound. The album features “All Summer,” an upbeat breakup song.
The album is available on vinyl and all streaming platforms.
Lauren Eylise – “This is Personal”
This year, Lauren Eylise has done plenty of live performances, streams and videos. She also picked up teaching yoga.
Her new album “This is Personal” was released on Dec. 4. Her sophomore album features songs that Eylise has released throughout the year such as “Peaks and Valleys,” which got several shout-outs after she entered it into a NPR Tiny Desk contest.
“I believe the things that I write are intended to literally rock your soul,” Eylise told The Enquirer earlier this year.
Ronin Halloway – “Excal Epilogue EP”
Ronin Halloway has been hard at work this year.
Halloway, known for his energetic rap songs with a metal influence, released “Excalibur” and “Excalibur II” earlier this year. “Excal Epilogue EP” will be his third release of the year. This six-track EP is due out Dec. 22.
“Rap is like casting a spell, and I think it’s a very sacred thing. I believe in expressing universal themes, and drawing from raw-nerve feelings and emotions,” Halloway told Cincy Music. “Most importantly, I wish to acknowledge and express gratitude. I’m thankful and humbled to be a participant in this art form that belongs to Black people and Black culture.”
Joey Joesph – “I Came Back as a Volcano”
Joesph, the lead vocalist of the Pomegranates, has released two albums this year.
The first album self-titled and the second was “I Came Back as a Volcano.”
The albums feature catchy love songs with a dream pop indie rock sound.
Plastic Ants – “A Soft Escape”
As the Afghan Whigs have taken a hiatus, another band member has created and produced an album this year.
Bassist John Curley released this album on Sept. 18. Plastic Ants singer-guitarist Robert Cherry is also a Cincinnati resident.
“Maybe based on geography, there’s always been a dynamic merging of styles, from players coming up through roots traditions, to formally trained classical players, to people like me who started out as inspired amateurs with more of a conceptual approach to sound,” Cherry told the Cleveland Scene. “As a band, we’ve been really inspired by the Music Resource Center of Cincinnati, a teen recording and performing arts program. There’s some amazing talent rising up there with the community’s support, including [producer and band member] John [Curley]’s role as a recording instructor there.”
This 10-track album is the third release from Plastic Ants.
Siri Imani – “Duality”
Siri Imani, a member of the band Triiibe, released her much-anticipated solo album this year.
“The vibe of Duality is directed by the ‘light and dark’ concept,” said Imani in a press release. “Exploring and understanding your darkness, is just as important as understanding and embracing your light.”
Despite the pandemic, the spoken word artist and hip-hop musician has continued to perform, release music and do community service work this year. As part of the group Triiibe, Imani helped organize a “free fridge” where people are able to get free food and has continued to host a monthly “Potluck for the People” with other free services.
Her nine-track debut album is available on all streaming services.
Knotts – “Good Glasses”
The new Knotts album isn’t being released until New Year’s Day, but we’re still going to count it on the list of the best music of this year. If you’re wondering why, just listen to their top song on Spotify, “Until You.”
Knotts sounds like indie pop with a little bit of soul.
“The recordings were captured at home (where much of everything has been done this year). The two-mic limitation on recording instruments has added to the intimacy. That has been the surprise outcome that stemmed from the everyday limitations that we have in this version of life right now. The limits create a new closeness to our loved ones and ourselves,” Knotts said in a press release.
Bootsy Collins – “The Power of the One”
The new release from Bootsy Collins was out on Oct. 23.
Collins formed the Pacemakers in 1968 and, in 1970, became part of James Brown’s backing band. The Enquirer ranked him the fifth most successful musician to ever come from the Queen City.
“Music is always a soother, a healer, and that’s how I want to use this record,” said Collins via press release. “ ‘The Power of the One’ is what pulls us through. Everyone has ‘The One’ inside of them. You never know who is using you for guidance, so always be pure and never fake the funk.”