Here’s a look at the 10 best independent New Jersey songs to cross my desk in what surprisingly was a great year for record music from the Garden State. 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. Foxanne, "Opportunity" -- Foxanne takes something as fanciful as a trip to Mars and makes the loneliness and sense of abandonment bone-achingly real. Like a great animated family movie, “Opportunity” blurs the lines between man and machine because your heart is breaking for a Mars Rover, the unlikely narrator of the emotional tale. Disney should come knockin’ on Foxanne’s door to expand this tune into a feature or at least a short.
2. The Milwaukees, “The Calling” (Mint 400 Records) -- The closing piece de resistance of The Milwaukees’ first album in nine years is the plaintive, piano-driven title track. “The Calling” exquisitely summarizes the album’s hopefulness in the face of hardship, especially heartbreak, with a tale about how music (or any passion) can heal the hurt it often causes.
5. Bruce Tunkel, “I Can Do Better” -- Bruce at his one-man best, especially the haunting, tubular-sounding guitar work. But what makes this track the standout among 22 songs released on two records this year are powerful Springsteenesque lyrics.
6. Rick Barry, “No Smoking” -- Pretty piano-driven, string-spiced chronicle of the United States’ decline since the 9/11 terrotist attack that makes a fascinating comparison between the freedoms that smokers lost when driven out into the cold to the disregard for science of self-proclaimed patriots who refuse to a wear a mask during the pandemic.
10. Candy Cavity, "Fuck Boy" -- Toxic entanglement that finds an unsuspecting lass infatuated with an Asbury Park player, a fate Candy compares to “swimming with the sharks.” Lead guitarist Steve Markow plays fantastically with a searing, seething solo on this Nirvana-like menacing but melodic track.