Album Reviews

2020 Favorites So Far

I am cheating. It is official. I am putting my best of 2020 list before the year is over. Hold your pitchforks, I beg of you! While people have their reservations regarding when it is appropriate to post a “Best of [Insert Year Here]” articles, I feel that music is what people need most right now. I am going to rapid-fire talk about the albums that make me elated in the year of malaise.

Guess what! I’m not even going to limit my list to releases from this year! As my musical education has continued, I have realized that the amount of music out there is jaw-dropping. There is no possible way to explore the backlog of music that exists and listen to everything that is coming out. I think it would also be worth knowing when an album came along during my personal history. It helps me keep in mind my tastes and how they’ve changed over time. I hope you enjoy these albums as much as I have!

Marigold – Pinegrove

One thing i have reflected upon is the optimism I had at the beginning of the year. Much of that optimism took a dampening as many plans were canceled, postponed, or held digitally. We were gifted Marigold by Pinegrove in January of 2020. I feel, though, that Evan Stephens Hall knew what was to come this year and preprepared a remedy for the soul. 

Much of Marigold lies in the twinkling guitars in-between moments. i feel that Marigold is a much more subdued album than Cardinal, Pinegrove’s debut LP. The dynamic songwriting and effervescent lyricism are everpresent on tracks like “The Alarmist,” “Phase,” and “No Drugs”. The album’s final track, “Marigold,” leaves the listener lingering on ambient bliss. 

Helvetia’s Junk Shop – Helvetia

After Duster exploded into oblivion in the early 2000s, the band members split up to work on separate creative projects. Guitarist/vocalist Jason Albertini created Helvetia. Helvetia’s Junk Shop is the fourth effort from Helvetia released in 2009. I found this album when sorting through the list of albums that were released by Duster-adjacent bands.

Much of the hypnotism of Duster is on this album. Often with Duster tracks, the siren call of distorted electric guitars would be the ones to guide you. Helvetia foils Duster by being vivacious and including vocals in the hypnotizing melodies across tracks like “Find Your Feet” and “All the Money is Gone.” One part braggadocious, one part apathy, these songs are pleasing to return to as a soundtrack to everyday life.

Sun Transmission – Inner Wave

Inner Wave is a Los Angeles-based Indie Rock outfit that has been active since the mid-2000s. I had found some tracks by this band that I enjoyed from their debut LP. Out of curiosity, I checked out their sophomore LP, and boy was it worth my time. I have been enjoying Indie Rock on the smoother side as of late. If I had a prescription written for groovy yet light, there is a strong chance Sun Transmission would’ve fit the bill.

In my opinion, the singles do not shine the most on their own. Sun Transmission is a mood album. This album is one you leave on in the background. Tracks like “Diamond Eyes,” “CCBW,” and “1 4 2” are all spectacular and leave you subconsciously bobbing your head. I highly recommend you listen to this album if you are a fan of Glue Trip, Tame Impala, or The Growlers.

How Do I Talk With My Brother? – Ben Pirani

Soul and Funk music I have left relatively unexplored. Not until I met my girlfriend did I reason to leave my emo cave and into the transcendent sun of soul. I stumbled across the single “Light of My Life” while putting together a mixtape. I instantly loved the peppy horns and sultry smooth sounds of Ben Pirani’s vocals. I stumbled across a cassette tape in my local record store by Ben, and it’s been love since first listen.

The blend of organs, horns, and guitars form a wonderful mix of big band and soul. “It’s Understanding” and “Try Love” remind me of the classic standards. Another apt description of this album is happiness in a can. Every song on this album is infectious and smooth. There are also laid-back moments like “Dreamin’s for Free,” which still manage to put a smile on my face. 

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