Henderson’s Top 20 Albums of 2020
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2020 was one of the hardest years of my life, but I have also been very lucky. My parents were some of the first people in NJ diagnosed with COVID, and yet with almost zero treatment they were able to recover. I left NYC where I have lived for the past 5 years, but moved back to New Jersey (where the bagels and pizza are better).
Similarly, it has been an incredibly hard year for The Alternative and yet we’ve kept growing and forging forward. I’ve been amazed with what we’ve been able to do as a staff, and I feel the same way about musicians in general. These are people who got almost zero government assistance, and yet they created great art in desperate conditions. So, despite how exhausted I am by 2020, and how hard it is to write at the moment, I am excited to share my top 20 albums of the year.
But first a quick disclaimer. As you may already know, my day job is that I am an entertainment lawyer, and I have my own firm that I’ve been building over the last couple years. 2020 was a very active year despite the pandemic, and I was able to work with some amazing artists. As is our rule over here at The Alternative, working with these bands meant that I couldn’t write about them, or even vote for them on our overall site list. So, I won’t be including them on this list either, and instead listed them below. Hopefully I get to work with some more awesome people in 2021.
Sweet Records I Worked On:
Bartees Strange – Live Forever (Memory Music) + Say Goodbye To Pretty Boy (Brassland Records)
Dikembe – Muck (Skeletal Lightning)
Dogleg – Melee (Triple Crown Records)
Elijah Who – Canvas (self-released)
Guardrail – Yikes (Open Your Ears Records)
Hodera – You’re Worth It (self-released)
It Looks Sad. – Songs For Quarantine (self-released)
Mandancing – The Good Sweat (Take This To Heart Records)
PHONY – Knock Yourself Out (Smartpunk Records)
Plasma Canvas – KILLERMAJESTIC (SideOneDummy Records)
Same – Plastic Western (Lauren Records)
Stay Inside – Viewing (No Sleep Records)
Ratboys – Printer’s Devil (Topshelf Records)
Young Jesus – Welcome to Conceptual Beach (Saddle Creek Records)
But now time for the main attraction, my top 20 releases of the year. All of these records are worth your time, take a listen and I know you will find something you missed. Enjoy.
20) AJJ – Good Luck Everybody
AJJ avoids all the overdone cringey aspects of folk punk, and instead makes music that is poignant, funny, and most of all – interesting. On their most recent album, Good Luck Everybody, they discuss Trump, the ineffective corporate government of the United States, and our capitalist hellscape. Some songs written before the pandemic are especially on point, particularly “Body Terror Song” which is all about the fear of death and our human forms, and features a Beatles-esque vocal delivery and lyrics like “I’m sorry that you have to have a body, filled with infections / 100 scabs singing in unison, and sometimes bullets, uninvited, passing through us.” You’re not going to get lyricism like that from anyone else.
Good Luck Everybody isn’t afraid to take a stance, even one destined for blowback. This is an album that features a song called “Mega Guillotine” which explicitly says that we should chop off the heads of all the rich people who oppress us. Yeah, I think we can use a little more music willing to make satire like that. Music can make a statement when it wants to. It’s easy to forget that.
19) Ultimate Frisbee – Race Me
Ultimate Frisbee, a relatively unknown emo band from Barcelona, dropped their debut EP Race Me in 2020, and I’m already a huge fan and want to hear more from this band. The instant you listen to this record you will know if you like it. It has the bare honesty, raw group vocals, and twinkly guitars which built a foundation of the most recent version of the “emo” sound. Even still, sounding like old favorites doesn’t make something good. The internet is full of tired imitations and FFO bands. What makes Ultimate Frisbee so exciting is their ability to perfectly execute all the facets of the genre while also bringing a unique energy from their hometown scene that hasn’t been heard much internationally.
Their lyrics, mostly in English but occasionally in Catalan, are as angsty and bitter as you would want like, especially in a time like this. “m’agradaria ser millor persona, m’agradaria ser una persona (I want to be a better person, I want to be a person).” A great band like this can get you excited about an entire scene, and I’m pumped to see what comes next for them and other Spanish bands I haven’t heard yet. “You said my head’s in the clouds, at least I don’t have a ceiling”
18) Oliver Tree – Ugly Is Beautiful
Oliver Tree is not really a musician, and by that, I mean not primarily a musician. He is an actor, performance artist, meme maker, and at heart a surrealist filmmaker. And yet, this album, Ugly Is Beautiful, was central to his master plan, and it’s a great album in its own right.
Oliver is a filmmaker in a way that not many people respect. He makes outrageous memes and wacky videos where he does scooter tricks, commits to bizarre antics, and generally looks and acts like a lunatic. The videos are one-part Nathan Fielder, one-part Un Chien Andalou, and a dose of Popstar: Never Stop Popping. They are often hilarious, but it’s not exactly the sort of thing that big corporations (or anyone really) would gladly fund with millions of dollars. This is where the music comes in.
Oliver, who had a past music career, created the character of Oliver Tree, and got a ton of likes on social media with his videos. He then got Atlantic Records to sign Oliver Tree to a record deal because they sign people off memes all the time (see also: Catch Me Outside Girl). Once signed to Atlantic, Oliver had a recoupable promotion budget. Basically, a loan from the label to promote the record that is paid off from royalties. Oliver took that budget and made his surrealist films in the form of music videos. Here for “Let Me Down”, here for “Hurt”, here for “Fuck”, here for “Alien Boy”, and here where he fought with a pro scooter rider. In one of these films, a semi documentary, he chronicles how much of the label’s money he is “wasting” on a single video. It tallies over $1,000,000 when he rents a tank to shoot his head off.
After all these expensive films, Oliver is deeply indebted to his label (despite his millions of streams), and they own the rights to his future albums, but that’s alright because he’s on to the next stage of the plan and has announced that “Oliver Tree is retired”. He got to release his album and make his films, and Atlantic ate the bill. Who knows what he does next, but my expectation is he goes and just makes movies or videos for other artists now, but maybe there is another trick up his sleeve.
That said, the weird thing is that the album is legitimately good. It’s a pop rock album about being an alien and feeling weird on Earth, so obviously I relate, but the songs are also bangers. Some of these songs have over 100 MILLION streams on Spotify alone. Oliver can just write hooks on hooks. Some of the songs have his silly energy that you get from the videos, but most of them are pretty straightforward hits. As a fellow eccentric creative alien, I have to respect the interdisciplinary skill and grind.
17) Boldy James / Alchemist – The Price of Tea in China
Recently I have become a very big fan of Boldy James, the best addition Griselda could have possibly made to their team. This is because Boldy is extremely lyrical in the classic Griselda style, and releases music at a clip that only Griselda artists can pull off. Boldy easily released 45+ legit songs (not counting features!) this year and this was a pandemic. “You know my crew ain’t missing nothing” That said the best project of the bunch in 2020 was probably The Price of Tea in China.
Griselda rappers all carry the skill and lyrical dexterity that is critical to the artform of real hip hop, if not the poppier side of the genre which might get more plays. But even among a crew like Griselda, Boldy is clearly the most lyrical of the bunch. He can tell stories, trash his competition, and poetically describe a situation all in a single bar. That all coupled with the classic scratches and beats from veteran producer Alchemist on this record made for a perfect combination. Every single song is worth 20 listens. If anyone wants to try and keep up with Boldy in 2021, they better get started now, “Reaching for my chain must be trying to die”.
16) Kicksie – All My Friends
Kicksie’s debut record, All My Friends, isn’t a thought-through thesis, it is more like showing up to your presentation after thinking it was next week and completely nailing it anyway. The purity and honesty of these outrageously catchy pop songs is undeniable, and yet there are moments which betray the spontaneity of it all (there’s a skit that’s just autotune saying “Kicksie is god”). But that creative spark is what makes it so good!
The record overall reminds me of the best of early Soccer Mommy and Beach Bunny in that it was very well written and executed catchy rock songs but with an intimately personal touch. “I love the way you look; I hate the way you soak, settled into my bones, and stain my favorite clothes”. Some of the true bangers from this record are “Castle in The Air”, “BANANA POP”, and “Half Hearted”. There are songs that go purely pop and leave rock behind, and they’re still jams because the songwriting is there in droves. I know there are now a ton of lo-fi pop rock artists that are writing addicting tunes, but trust me, Kicksie is one that actually has lasting power.
15) Waxahactee – Saint Cloud
Many fans of Waxahactee have followed the band for a long time and were ready for this album. They were drawn to them through Katie Crutchfield’s past releases or the work of her sister Alison’s band Swearin. These sisters have been making music forever it seems like, and the evidence confirms it. A 2012 New York Times interview with them leads off with the mention of a 2006 YouTube video about their band The Ackleys, so they’ve been on the scene for a while. But being known for a family connection or past projects is not ideal. Every artist wants to be celebrated on the merits of their newest work, not laurels or family. Luckily for us all, Saint Cloud is such an album that is an achievement in any stage of a career.
I know this because I am really not a fan of the past Waxahactee albums. Not to say I didn’t like them, but they never really connected with me. This album was different. From the first time I heard “Fire“ and “Lilacs” I thought to myself, this is an album of the year contender, and it was! It connected across the board with radio stations, blogs, and of course music fans. It achieved all this because these are beautiful songs, well executed with the experience of a veteran musician which Katie now is. They draw upon my favorite elements of Sheryl Crowe or Laura Stevenson, other songwriters who have found ways to write stunning indie/country/rock/pop songs that somehow check all those boxes. After this, I’m in.
14) Run The Jewels – RTJ4
Run The Jewels are rising the ranks of the greatest rap duos of all time and have already carved out their place in the rap hall of fame. Killer Mike and El P were successful before Run The Jewels, but together they have been able to achieve another level of success, artistically, financially, and politically. RTJ4 is the next evolution of that movement. The 2 pothead poets of the apocalypse, El P and Killer Mike are always a couple years ahead of the curve. Now they are back with a new record, and still plenty to say. The duo are still the “antagonist bad guys” from LP1, but as their platform has risen above the ashes, they have taken up a leadership role and become even more political in their voice.
So, what are RTJ saying now, and is the music even good? Lots, and yes. El P delivers easily some of his best beats on any Run The Jewels project. Each instrumental creates a massive variety of sounds and samples, and they continually speed by in forty different directions: drums, horns, alarms, and sirens. The constant fluidity keeps everything sprinting along, in control and on tempo, but only barely so, like the protests this music was meant for. Prepared for this moment, El P and Mike leave it all on the field, draining every flow they’ve got and hopping back and forth tagging each other in and shattering skulls with fierce bars on police violence, Trump, the prison pipeline, and Christians throwing kids in cages. “Funny fact about a cage, they’re never built for just one group / So when that cage is done with them and you’re still poor, it come for you” Run the Jewels have so much to say, and do it so well, in an energy perfectly suited for this moment. Are El and Mike the leaders of the revolution? No, but their art presents this dark moment in history so well that it would be hard to imagine them not being remembered in the history books.
13) Bully – SUGAREGG
Alicia Bognanno the vocalist and songwriter of Nashville’s Bully has my favorite voice in all of rock music. Her vocals are strained to the breaking point, packed to the brim with emotion, conveying massive bitterness, disappointment, and compassion in every line. The lyrics on all of Bully’s albums dagger ex’s, doubters, and Bognanno’s own weaknesses. “I don’t know where to start with you.” SUGAREGG, Bully’s third full length, brings these vocals and lyrics that I enjoy so much, and matches them with some catchy hooks and jagged guitar licks. Predictably, the result rocks.
A highlight is “Every Tradition”, a track biting back at anyone who has ever told Alicia to settle down and have some kids. “It’s like pressure to have a baby, When I don’t want one in my body. / You say my mind is gonna change one day, But I felt this way forever. / Some things stay the same, I stay the same.” Another gem is “You” which starts with a chugging guitar and builds toward a poisonous track breaking down a kid’s relationship with their mostly absent parent “Then you went on a midday binge / Busted your face while breaking in. / And yes, I’d love to see you too / Just not like this, all black and blue.” This quality continues through the whole track list, and any fan could make a case for nearly any track as the best on the record.
In all of these disappointed and angry moments, Alicia rages in every direction, creating a beautiful mess of emotions all sewn together by the tight rock instrumentals. Maybe this isn’t an album I would want to live in forever, but when I want to punch through a wall and destroy all my enemies (internal and external), there is no better music than Bully.
12) Jeff Rosenstock – No Dream
Over the past 5 years, Jeff Rosenstock has put out 4 albums that all sound kind of the same, (We Cool?, Worry., Post-, and No Dream), and yet all of them are of a similarly high quality and each have something interesting to say in their own right. That is such a huge achievement, and we have already said a ton over the years about what makes Jeff such a special punk rock songwriter for our times, but it bears saying again that Jeff is able to write scream-along punk songs that discuss important societal issues in a way that is so interesting, and folks that isn’t easy.
On No Dream, he discusses the tech hell that we’re living in. Written before the pandemic, it basically lists off all the cracks in the American foundation like the house inspector in the movie Money Pit. On “Airbnb” Jeff sings about a house he is renting on an app from a mom renting their kid’s room out from under them while they are on vacation. Jeff is able to convey the emotion and strangeness of the situation, something we all just accept when we drop a couple hundred bucks to stay in someone’s bedroom for a few nights. Are we really the richest country in the world when my bedroom is for rent and my car is a taxi? All this from a punk song, who said rock was dead.
Jeff continues to live up to his own high standards and while I wouldn’t say this is my favorite Jeff album, I would respect anyone who held that belief, and that says a lot considering his discography.
11) Guitar Fight From Fooly Cooly – Soak
In a year that felt like hiding in a bunker and waiting for a storm to pass, Soak was a sweet reprieve and a vision of what DIY punk music was like pre-plague. The obnoxious name, the obnoxious guitar solos, the Super Mario 64 sample: you know just what you are getting from the first minute, but the quality is what’s so impressive.
After the intro, the album leads right into scratchy, screamy, and frantic vocals and instrumentals. You can feel the big dudes in the front smashing into the mic stand mid-verse while a kid spin kicks in the pit and another climbs the ceiling. Is this whole building going to collapse? Putting that energy into a recording is incredibly difficult, and then the cherry on top is the emotional lyrics that will have you screaming into the void. “TELL ME WHAT YOU THINK ABOUT ME / IM REALLY DYING TO KNOW / BECAUSE I ALREADY KNOW / AND IT FUCKING KILLS ME”
10) Sada Baby – Skuba Sada 2
Have you ever been so intoxicated and feeling so good that you start dancing, then your eyes start glowing and you completely lose control? If not, you might not be ready for this Sada Baby album. His pure manic energy will not be stopped by his own inebriation, or the rules of music, society, or nature. “I’m high, I mean I’m moonwalking / Wipe my face with the bandana, bool off / Big A bitch squad that what the crew call / Whoop, whoop, whoop, that’s a crew call / We’ll put the cannon to his head as a crew cut”.
This album is made great by that wild energy: Sada’s scrambled eggs delivery, the joyous big beats that have Detroit House flowing through their neon veins, and a solid dose of funkadelic. Sada is the kind of dude that might just dance up to you and tell you to run your pockets while busting some moves you’d pay to see. If you let your attention drop for just a second you will be left behind in his wake, and I feel like that’s what happened to the rest of rap this year. You might have bars, but Sada has bars and an unlimited gas tank. “You won’t make it to my hood. I bring that shit to your hood.”
9) Soccer Mommy – Color Theory
Ever since their For Young Hearts EP in 2016, I have been hooked on Soccer Mommy’s songwriting and well, hooks. Sophia Allison‘s ability to write catchy little songs with sparse guitar licks and an addicting rhythm recalls some of the best songwriters of the 90s: Third Eye Blind, Cheryl Crowe, Fountains of Wayne. Songwriting royalty as far as I am concerned, and on Color Theory, Soccer Mommy establishes themselves in the stratosphere of those legends.
Every little bit of each track is full of tasty nooks and crannies, warm from the oven tones, and lyrics that will have you singing along. Some of these songs drag a bit in their longer runtimes, but maybe that is just the time it takes to get these jams fully beaten into your head, because as soon as they end, I’m still starting them again. “Things feel that low sometimes, even when everything is fine. / I’ve been falling apart these days”
It’s sad that with COVID there was pretty much zero live performances on this album, because I think a lot of people missed out on the gems on here. “circle the drain” is an obvious hit, but “bloodstream” and “lucy” are also songs that we will still be playing for years to come. I can’t wait to be dancing along to these songs live in the warm summer future where these songs will thrive.
8) Land of Talk – Indistinct Conversations
What is it going to take for Land of Talk’s Elizabeth Powell to recognized as one of the best vocalists and songwriters in all of music? She is more talented than almost anyone, and she has been releasing incredible records since the mid 2000’s. The world is so unfair. But at least I have this space here so I am going to scream it: LISTEN TO LAND OF TALK.
Every single song on this record develops like a well written story. Sonically transporting you into a feel and a time and place inside your brain where you can hide out for a couple of minutes. Her voice falls from the sky like a delicate lace. The rhythms of the drums driving you forward. “I get caught up in the wrong stuff”.
“Compelled” is perhaps the best song on the record, both in the way the lyrics paint their picture, and in how the simple guitar parts build an entire soundscape. Just the slightest jazzy tempo change and a perfectly executed note teeing you up for a cutting guitar solo. I can probably name only a handful of bands that would even attempt something like this, (Hop Along, Soccer Mommy, Lucy Dacus), and all of them are perennial album of the year contenders. Land of Talk should be up there. Dig into it.
7) Carpool – Erotic Nightmare Summer
Carpool are a band from upstate NY that immediately drew my attention with their debut, I Think Everyone Is a Cop in 2018. This was both because of the album title and because the tracks so obviously took a long hard pull from Prince Daddy and Dikembe (which it’s no secret are some of my favorite bands of all time). They were album to execute the winding guitars, group vocals, and shredding solos that both of those emo/punk bands are so known for, and brought their own fresh perspective. Their new LP, Erotic Nightmare Summer, is a fulfillment of all the promise that they showed. “You break all the rules, I fucking like that.”
It’s very cool to see band evolving in front of our eyes, and on Erotic Nightmare Summer, both the album and the track of the same name, Carpool shows all the tools they’ve picked up. Guttural emotional vocals? Check. Zany keyboard solo? Check. Scream-along verses and lyrics? Check. “You’re the grim reaper in the corner of my room, laughing at me rubbing salt into my wounds. / We could have been anything that you wanted, I changed the locks and your number, I blocked it”.
But one good song does that make a great LP, and a 1 trick pony is… well a 1 trick pony. So it’s important that Carpool also showed some variety. On “Come Thru Cool” they show that they can also be a melodic screamo band when they need to be. “I wish that this poison, stayed inside my chest”. And on “East Coast West Coast” they put together an emo ballad that sounds more like a Plain White Tees or Manoverboard song than anything they’ve done before. Erotic Nightmare Summer shows that Carpool is more than fan service for other bands, and have legitimate contributions to make to the “emo” scene and music in general. I’m excited to see what those are.
6) Snarls – Burst
Snarls sound BRIGHT and FRESH in a year that felt 0% those things. Every single time I listened to Burst, or in particular the track “Marbles” I felt like I was floating on a cloud buoyed by those guitar chords, and this is a song that is literally about losing your mind. That just shows what an interesting and catchy album Burst is. To finish this highly on my super prestigious list however, you can’t just be a 1 track wonder. Snarls on this album have developed a sound which is in that warm indie sweet spot that has been burrowed out by bands like Third Eye Blind, Oso Oso and Lucy Dacus. All of these artists write about very serious topics, but with an uplifting energy that keeps their songs feeling accessible and not dreary.
The songs are catchy, the writing is tight and experienced, particularly for a debut album, but the vocals just might be the best part. With their melodies and vocal harmonies, Snarls are able to nail notes all over the range. “Walk In The Woods” shows this particularly well, launching into the heavens and nailing notes that would harken to Julien Baker and some of the best in the game at the moment. Snarls kicked open the door with this album and established themselves as one of the brightest young prospects in all of music. “I’m not who I thought I was gonna be”
5) Violent Soho – Everything Is A-OK
Originally this album was even higher on my list, because I can’t find a single thing wrong with it. From start to finish, it just shreds. It carries the wonky guitar energy of foundational bands for me like McLusky, Fountains of Wayne, and Archers of Loaf, bands that in my opinion write perfectly lyrical yet catchy songs that built modern alt rock. These songs are like that.
Anyone following my writing long enough will already know I consider Sundial’s Dealin’ to be one of the best rock record of the millennium, and Violent Soho’s “Canada” has that same sort of old school Smashing Pumpkins vibe that made that Sundial’s record so great. That’s not to say these albums feel dated, they just touch on something you don’t hear in music much these days, that special feeling that makes a rock song connect.
Sure, none of these songs are absolute hit singles, but the record as a whole has a flow and energy that is perfect. How does Australia keep producing so many incredible bands? They have the population of tri-state? Shits, wild. I love it. Hey Violent Sohos, please never stop making music and tour the US a bunch and then I hide out in your suitcase and escape.
“Sleep Year” rips, so does “Vacation Forever”, so just start there and then work your way through the album, and then through their whole discography. It’s all so good. I’m serious though, I can fit in a guitar case. “Cause I got no car and I got no house, But I kept the garden clean”
4) Short Fictions – Fates Worse Than Death
Short Fictions’ debut LP, Fates Worse Than Death, did just about everything wrong from a commercial standpoint if the goal was to get noticed by blogs and make it on end of the year lists. The album came out December 13th 2019, and missed out on our list and every other list that year. On top of that, it’s an album that’s entirely focused on Pittsburgh, a city which doesn’t get the media attention it deserves in general. The lyrics even mock the traditional subjects of most indie/emo bands, “You should only write songs about girls and your friends”. Despite all of that, Fates Worse Than Death is on my list in 2020, because I haven’t stopped thinking about this album since its release.
Fates Worse Than Death is an album which discusses how climate change, raising rents, capitalism, and our incompetent government have made life living in Pittsburgh (or any city), miserable and stressful. “All I ever think about is dying and everything that I love in Pittsburgh is quickly vanishing or getting gentrified”. Vocalist Sam Treber is able to portray that message through cutting lyrics and samples from Big Bird, Mr. Rogers, and local Pitt yinzers. All this over slowly building indie rock instrumentals, and occasionally twinkly guitars, the combined effect of which seem much bigger than the DIY shows that Short Fictions emerged from. If all this is something that Short Fictions could accomplish with their debut, I truly believe their potential is limitless.
3) Lomelda – Hannah
Lomelda writes in such a delicate lo-fi way that invites the listener into what seems a private conversation in hushed tones. The tracks use silence, spacing, and addictive rhythms to bring excitement and surprise around every bend. “When you get it, give it all”. The record opens with “Kisses” and “Hannah Sun”, which may be the best 1, 2 punch of the year. Both songs perfectly convey the emotion and attitude of the release. This is a record that stunned me on first listen, like “oh wow I need to consider sneaking this on my end of year lists.” A month later it was solidly in my top 15, and now it’s finishing top 3.
The indie and folk tones throughout create atmosphere, that you won’t even realize you are listening to strings, piano, and even some woodwinds. All of this without losing the tracks’ intimacy “Don’t say you’ll change the way it feels” Sometimes the songs drift into a sleepy slow tempo, nailing this slow-paced style that I love so much, and these songs compare well to Hovvdy or even Strange Ranger. When vocalist and songwriter, Hannah Read, stretches out for a long held out note, she nails it every time without any strain or the false perfection that exposes endless studio takes and engineer adjustments. It’s just an album that keeps you coming back for more, and I think it will for years to come.
2) Wednesday – I Was Trying To Describe You To Someone
I was first introduced to Karly Hartzman (vocalist/songwriter of Wednesday) at FEST in 2018, when she grabbed the mic during a Pictures of Vernon set and declared that the rest of the set would be the first ever Diva Sweetly show, a band made up of the members of Pictures of Vernon but with her as the vocalist. Not only was it Diva Sweetly’s first show, but it was Karly’s first live performance as a vocalist, and she crushed it in front of a rambunctious PBR fueled crowd. Diva would go on to release their zany yet delicious debut, In the Living Room, in early 2019, and all over that album Karly’s wild lyrics and smooth melodies were apparent. Right from the jump, there was something special going on.
Around that same time, Karly began playing with a new project as well, the shoegazey band Wednesday, where she was able to take the lead as a songwriter. This resulted in tracks where Karly’s vocals were able to feature heavily amongst the drawn-out tones. After a series of demos and EPs, Wednesday were album to put together a debut LP, which they recorded with Scoops Dardaris (who has worked with Prince Daddy and Another Michael). I Was Trying to Describe You to Someone came out this February, and claimed the title of my new favorite Karly record, and one of my favorite albums of the year.
Through the waves of shredding guitars, Karly’s voice swells with lyrics that while contemplative, are never overly complex. Yet they hit you right in the solar plexus like a good Strange Ranger or Spirit of the Beehive bar. “I’m creeping myself out again, I had to call all of your friends, someone had to tell them, don’t make me go back there again.” What the fuck.
The whining guitars reach a pitch but never fully pull away from a dominating steady rhythm section. The combined effect is a blanket of sounds that I wrapped myself in and never wanted to leave. With Wednesday, Karly has found her wheelhouse, both as a songwriter and as a vocalist. The potential of this band is sky high, but even if this is the last thing they ever produce, it is something worth celebrating.
1) Walter Etc – Dark Comedy Performance of My Life
Walter Etc. (formerly known as Walter and his Makeshift Orchestra) is an indie folk/punk band fronted by songwriter Dustin Hayes, who has become known for his comedic yet emotional lyrics, and catchy instrumentals. However, on their most recent album Dark Comedy Performance of My Life, Hayes dove into the deep end in an attempt to find the pure concentrated essence of a breakup album. One can only imagine this artistic journey was as painful as the events that inspired it, but the result was an incredible record. “I’ve forgiven you, but there is permanent damage now.”
Dark Comedy Performance of My Life is a record that starts off with a dancey track featuring the lyric, “failure by design, plotting against ourselves…” and gets significantly more depressing from there. The album next details the little “White Lies” that are barely holding together the relationship, straight into the moment/aftermath of the breakup. Musically the songs stay in the indie/folk lane with Hayes’ voice alternatingly singing and speaking his depressing tale; sometimes drifting into a Morrissey sad croon with equally honest and bizarrely specific lyrics, “I keep having visions of her ghost on the sofa / She’s watching The Bachelor.”
The highlight is “Punk With an Ex” a song so poetic and sad that you would assume that only The Cribs or Los Campesinos could write it. “They ask me where my girlfriend’s been and when will I propose? I shrug and tell them ‘work trip and well who fucking knows’. This is my life without her, and yes there are some benefits. / I do a lot more yardwork, and I make a lot of artwork. / and I randomly now floss more / and I feel like I’m less sensitive… Hey, maybe I’m less sensitive. / SEE I’M MAKING THE BEST OF IT.”
This album is what it says it is, it’s a dark comedy about a band guy going through a breakup. It has been done before, but usually with misguided rage, this is just sad and self-depreciating, and just funny enough to keep it from being a tearjerker. It takes a lot of guts to make art like that. Walter Etc. found that breakup potion and chugged the whole thing on a long walk alone. I’m thankful for their sacrifice, an album of the year effort, I just hope they are okay. “And I regret that the whole time, we never took off our sunglasses / I wish we had, I wanna know what your eyes looked like so bad.”
Charli XCX – how i’m feeling now
Chicka – Industry Games
Diet Cig – Do You Wonder About Me
Empty Country – s/t
Half Thought – Survival Clause EP
Hum – Inlet
I Love Your Lifestyle – No Driver
Kenny Hoopla – How Will I Rest In Peace… EP
Miss New Buddha – The Situation Is Excellent
Weave – The Sound II
Westside Gunn – Pray For Paris
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