New Jersey Stage logo
New Jersey Stage Menu

Makin Waves Top NJ Indie Albums of the Year

By Bob Makin

originally published: 11/26/2020

Makin Waves Top NJ Indie Albums of the YearHere’s a look at the 10 best independent New Jersey LPs & EPs to cross my desk in what surprisingly was a great year for recorded music from the Garden State. There’s also 10 honorable mentions of additional great releases. All are self-released unless indicated by an indie label. 

If you’re spending money on Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday or Giving Tuesday, invest in these great Jersey artists: 


1. A Halo Called Fred, “Go Home Drama You're Drunk and Other Tales of Going through Hell to Escape the Evil Monkeys” (Lump’N’Loaf Records) -- An extensive collection of hysterically satirical, weirdly irreverent, expertly crafted tunes. In 40 years of writing about music, I’ve never had as much fun and laughed so much as I did while writing the review for this awesome album.

2. The Milwaukees, “The Calling” (Mint 400 Records) -- Inspired by Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, The Replacements, Hüsker Dü, The Afghan Whigs and Foo Fighters, Jersey City indie greats The Milwaukees have returned with “The Calling,” their sixth album and first in nine years. America needs a lot to make it great again, but this album definitely is a step in the right direction. 

Advertise with New Jersey Stage for $50-$100 per month, click here for info

3. Stella Mrowicki, “Pine Trees and Wildflowers” -- Wonderfully rootsy five-song follow-up to last year’s self-titled debut LP. Like its predecessor, this gospel-folk EP was written, recorded, produced, mixed, mastered and nearly entirely performed by Stella, including piano, guitar, drums, bass, banjo, organ and percussion. While that’s impressive, the best part of “Pine Trees and Wildflowers” remains brilliant songwriting that continues to defy Stella’s young age with words of wisdom and stunningly beautiful arrangements.

4. Blaise & David Ross Lawn, “Velvet Noir Stripped” -- I honestly don't know how they did it other than being incredibly talented, but Blaise and David Ross Lawn have improved upon a portion of the former's 2018 sophomore LP, "Velvet Noir," with heartbreaking emotional weight and pinpoint piano excellence. 

5. Roadside Graves, "That's Why We're Running Away" (Don Giovanni Records) -- Examination of the struggle to accept defeat and loss and whether to give up peacefully. Along the way, this album shares a comfort and honest self-reckoning within the tiny space between running away and believing. 

6. Mike Montrey Band, "In the Middle of Hope" -- Two of the most unsung heroes of rock ‘n’ roll are Gram Parsons & Emmylou Harris, both of whom should be a lot larger than life than they are. That’s why it warms my musical heart to hear Mike Montrey and his sweetheart of the rodeo, Jen Augustine, sing duets because their soulful, pretty, bittersweet harmonies remind me so much of Gram & Emmylou. Mike Montrey Band’s new EP has several heart-warming, bone-chilling duets among its impressive six songs performed by a spine-rattlingly good band.  

7. Bruce Tunkel, “American Patriot” -- Skewering of America and its so-called patriots by one of New Jersey’s most prolific songwriters with intelligence, stunning narrative structure, and gut-wrenching irony.

8. Bruce Tunkel, “Us” -- Whereas “American Patriot” is venomously political, “Us” is confessionally reflective. A healthy 18 songs, the 80-minute collection examines the fragility of hearts and minds for the most part. Bruce is prolific indeed dropping eight LPs and 30 singles in the past 30 years. This year’s two outings add greatly to the catalog.

9. Candy Cavity, self-titled -- Singer-songwriter-guitarist Candace Schur has that irresistible combination of Marilyn Monroe-like qualities: charming, cute, sweet, sexy, beautiful, naughty and trashy. The fact that she is surrounded by a band of burly, bearded macho men in Candy Cavity makes her even more fascinating. Their erotic self-titled debut EP is a bittersweet exemplification of the band’s dichotomous name as it chronicles relationships good and bad with a pop foundation cemented by the shudder of grunge and painted with the verve of punk. 

Advertise with New Jersey Stage for $50-$100 per month, click here for info

10. 19DRT, self-titled -- Intense trio of Jersey Shore scene veterans make a wonderful racket on an impressive seven-song self-titled, self-produced and self-released EP that they call noisy sludge punk. Fans of drummer Reg Hogan's other bands -- Defiance Engine, Solarized, Freak Theater and Daisycutter -- definitely will dig it, as will fans of vocalist-guitarist Frank Burdynski and bassist Dean Monjoy's other band, Dab Nebula, as well as Frank's Coffin Void.



11. Connor Bracken and the Mother Leeds Band, “Nightbird Motel”

12. Rick Barry, “Ruminations from Barrydise During an Apocalypse”

13. Various Artists, "Demos for a Difference"

14. Matt Cook, “#AlbumNumber5Sessions”

15. Fairmont, “Liminal Spaces” (Mint 400 Records)

16. Disciples of Verity, “Pragmatic Sanction” (The Label Group)

17. Brian Erickson, “Little Secrets” (Mint 400 Records)

Advertise with New Jersey Stage for $50-$100 per month, click here for info

18. Murdock & Jack Blerry, "I Finally Feel Alive"

19. The Successful Failures, “Pack Up Your Shadows” (FDR Label)

20. Gooch and the Motion, “Outside the Window”


Bob Makin is a reporter for USA TODAY NETWORK and the former managing editor of The Aquarian Weekly, which launched this column in 1988. Contact him via email and like Makin Waves on Facebook.

Makin Waves Top NJ Indie Albums of the Year



Lee Brice: Me & My Guitar

Thursday, February 22, 2024 @ 8:00pm
State Theatre New Jersey
15 Livingston Avenue, New Brunswick, NJ 08901
category: music

Click here for full description

The Simon & Garfunkel Story

Friday, February 23, 2024 @ 8:00pm
Mayo Performing Arts Center (MPAC)
100 South Street, Morristown, NJ 07960
category: music

Click here for full description

Growin’ Up: An Evening of Two One-Act Musical Memoirs with Matt Butler and Mike Montali

Friday, February 23, 2024 @ 8:00pm
Outpost In The Burbs
40 S Fullerton Ave, Montclair, NJ 07042
category: music

Click here for full description

Click here for more events

Listings are available for $10 and included with our banner ad packages.

Click here for more info.



Newton Theatre hosts The Last Waltz Celebration featuring The THE BAND Band & Special Guests

(NEWTON, NJ) -- The Newton Theatre presents The Last Waltz Celebration featuring The THE BAND Band and special guests on Friday, May 24, 2024 at 8:00pm. They will bring to life one of the most historic concerts of the rock era.

New Jersey Symphony Presents Tchaikovsky's Fifth Symphony

Westminster Conservatory Faculty Recital Series to present two free children's concerts on Sunday

Woodbridge Township presents Screaming Orphans at The Avenel Performing Arts Center

Click here for more event previews

New Jersey Stage

© 2024 by Wine Time Media, LLC
PO Box 140, Spring Lake, NJ 07762

Nobody covers the Arts
throughout the Garden State
like New Jersey Stage!

Images used on this site have been sent to us from publicists, artists, and PR firms. If there is a problem with the rights to any image, please contact us and we will look into the matter.

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Threads, and on our RSS feed

Art | Comedy | Dance | Film | Music | Theatre | Ad Rates | About Us | Pitch a Story | Links | Radio Shows | Privacy Policy