Best of the CRANDIC Spotlight: Flat Black Studio

Luke Tweedy at Flat Black Studios, Feb. 2, 2018. — Jason Smith/Little Village

Flat Black Studio (Long Play Records) was voted Best Local Record Label or Recording Studio in Little Village’s 2020 Best of the CRANDIC awards.

Flat Black founder Luke Tweedy and second-in-command Dana T have been cranking out phenomenal records from their Lone Tree oasis for years now. They lure in the best local and regional talent by being simply the best at what they do—and by loving it wholeheartedly. There is never a doubt, when it comes time to review the best albums of the year from Iowa artists that many have come to fruition under their care.

Between the two of them, there have been an impressive number of albums recorded out at Flat Black even in this year, when everything artistic seems to have slowed to a crawl. Here are the top 10 that you simply can’t miss.

Dope Walker — Save Save

William Elliott Whitmore is great on his own, but he just can’t seem to help forming supergroups of area heavyweights (remember Middle Western?) and elevating ever higher.

Brian Johannesen — Holster Your Silver

Released in the Before Times of late January, this sophomore effort is a masterful piece of storytelling, with “Music Business Blues Breakdown” feeling damned prescient. (Johannesen is on staff at Little Village)

Elizabeth Moen — Creature of Habit EP

Anyone who doubts the voice is an instrument has never heard Moen play hers, expertly echoing your inner monologue, simultaneously familiar and strange, ethereal and grounded.

Dan Padley — Truesmith EP

Jazz guitarist and composer Padley has been nonstop in 2020 (and he’s got another release out Dec. 4!), but this spare, delightful release from May will calm your soul.

Jordan Sellergren — Sweet, Bitter Tears

I listen to this album when I’m sad, and Sellergren’s voice inevitably soothes me, carrying the weight of wisdom gracefully with a conspiratorial wink that buoys the listener. (Sellergren is on staff at Little Village)

Twin Wizard — Glacial Gods

I’m a sucker for a great drummer, and Anthony Dreyer is one of the best in the game, here alternately anchoring heavy guitar riffs and driving conversation with the power vocals.

Various — Project Connect EP

This wonderful collaboration paired Iowans with disabilities with Iowa musicians to empower them “to create music about their lives and experiences,” with phenomenal results.

William Elliott Whitmore — I’m With You

Just give it up and admit you like country — Whitmore allows no illusions that he’s some exception to the rule; he’s country to the core, he’s just the best possible example of the genre.

This article was originally published in Little Village issue 289.

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