|Listening to the entire 2020 Staff List|
I've probably got something like 5-10 comments on this site in the past year so I'm a certified lurker, but I've been doing this for three years now and had a ton of fun finishing it each year. I'll be updating with my first impression thoughts as the lists get published.
We Are Chaos
Count me among the listeners to be shocked that they are actually enjoying this. This is some smooth, poppy rock music with a balanced collection of pop, industrial, and folk influences. A lot of the lyrics are still cringingly edgy, and the aggressive side doesn't quite land with me all the time, but I can see coming back to every single song on here.
Verdict: This is actually worth your time.
In many ways, last year's list ended up being a long dissertation on why I don't generally enjoy listening to girls with acoustic guitars singing pop songs for hours at a time. I still haven't gone back to the #1 album from last year. I don't know if that experience reshaped how I listen to indie folk albums, but I found myself completely immersed in this tortured collection of warm, inviting songs in a way I didn't expect. The singing and the atmosphere really contributes to the cocoon-like feeling this album conjures, and there's a good amount of variety to keep it from dragging out too much.
Verdict: I really loved this.
Breakfast for Pathetics
The past two years have taught me that chan's punk selections on the end of year list are always worth your time. In this case, I had this one added to my library about two minutes into the first song. This stuff is absolutely bursting with energy and passion. The grunge-like guitar tone is an excellent textural flourish. And it keeps things concise at a 30 minute runtime. I am excited to come back to this.
Verdict: Can't wait for my wife to walk in on me channeling me inner angry Aussie girl the next time I do the dishes.
Of What We Have
This is a tougher nut to crack than anything so far, to be sure. My first impression is a haze of math goofiness gilded with some really nice brass and reed ornamentation. But the challenge of this is intriguing to me, so I'm sure I'll be back for more.
Verdict: Pretentiously enjoyable
Yeah so like I was saying on Waxahatchee.... I'm really liking this sort of thing a lot more this time around. Maybe having a one year old shrieking at me for 8 hours a day in quarantine has made me come to appreciate this sort of calm, safe music more or something. I found this really emotional in exactly the kind of understated way that many singer-songwriters can't seem to pull off. I don't know how I'll respond to it when/if I come back to it since it's still fairly homogenous, but it definitely made for a pleasant 40 minutes this morning.
Verdict: Rainy day sad girl music that pushes a lot of the right buttons for me.
The Slow Rush
I was never truly sold on Currents and so I was expecting this to be the first big miss of the list. My expectations were off base once again which is why this is so much fun for me. These songs are interesting in that they pretty much pick a dynamic range and a texture right out the gates and keep you there for five minutes, letting the production and the hooks carry the rest of the song. In less skilled hands this would make for a really boring album, but everything's so appealingly dense and layered that it really works. The big question for me is whether this trick is enough to weather repeated listens. Those will certainly happen for me, as my head was bobbing through this entire thing.
Verdict: Another surprise. I found this to be some immediate and tasty synthpop goodness.
I'm not particularly demanding when it comes to extreme metal like this, so this album was an easy win for me. Flourishes like the ominous riff in the second half of 'Enraptured By Decay' or the descent into terrifying chaos in the title track do more than enough to keep this beast of an album interesting. And the techy bits imbue it with that natural staying power that every good DM album should have.
Verdict: An effortless pos from me.
|43||Seiko Oomori |
First of all, I'm not sure how I missed the fact that there was a new Seiko album this year. Probably because it came out a week ago or something. This album is pretty astounding. With some of Seiko's most emotive and convincing tracks to date, I find this to be one of her hardest-hitting records ever, which is saying a lot. She sounds different here: to use the word "mature" would be inaccurate, as if her past output wasn't a fully-formed statement of its own. But it's clear to me that Kintsugi has Seiko Oomori somehow newly inspired and skilled at her craft. The ideas presented on the trademark goof-pop tracks like Dakyoushi and Cunning Heel hit their mark more squarely instead of coming off as J-pop excess. That coupled with emotionally magnetic songs like Yuugata Mirage and Singer Songwriter (and that closer!) makes this a thoroughly enjoyable Seiko Oomori experience from start to finish, something I feel like she hadn't quite achieved until now.
Verdict: Pure Love
This struck me as somewhat run of the mill, but there were enough interesting ideas in it to remember what it sounded like a week after listening to it. That's more than I can say for many of the albums on last year's list so I'll partially reserve judgement on this until I hear it again.
Verdict: Subversive and seductive indie rock, if that's your thing.
Dwellers of the Deep
There's a reason I kind of fell off listening to certified, accredited "pRoGrEsSiVe RoCk MuSiC" and it's because music that is described that way sort of sounds like it's trying to fill a punch card of sonic elements in order to get their street cred. Basically, if your vocalists sounds like Peter Gabriel or Jon Anderson, you include some string and organ synths, change time signatures a few times, and tack on a goofy concept from your last D&D game, you get a stamp that says you're dad rock and "sophisticated" by extension. I'm sure there's more to the story here than I'm making it sound, and thankfully I'm still enough of a sucker for all of the components I just ridiculed to want to come back to this.
Verdict: Certified, accredited, and stamped "sophisticated dad rock". I kinda like it.
I appreciate what this bizarre morass of ambient art-drone is trying to accomplish and found myself enjoying about 50% of my time through my first spin. There's something evocative about the thick synths and indigenous-sounding acoustic instruments that conjures imagery of America's National Parks or Argentina's Patagonian landscapes. The blatant artsiness of this thing is definitely the sticking point, and whether it masks more intricacy here or if it's just circlejerking.
Verdict: Weirdly intriguing, yet pretentiously uninviting at times.
|39||The Birthday Massacre|
I've always ignored this band because I assumed they were a Hot Topic deathcore band lol. I actually really enjoyed this. There's nothing too heady here but the textured instrumentation and the vocals are really appealing, and the songwriting seems pretty snappy, even if it strikes me as a little safe.
Verdict: This goes down smooth. I'm sure this will be on regular rotation for the rest of 2021.
Having never listened to this artist before, I nonetheless felt I had a good idea of what to expect going into this. I turned out to get exactly that, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. This album delivered chill instrumental electronica to my ears in a way that was never grating or demanding of my patience, which alone puts it in the hot seat for repeat listens. As always, and I feel like I'm beating a dead horse here, repeat listens will determine if there's anything else to see here, but I enjoyed my 45 minutes with this regardless.
Verdict: Unchallenging, inoffensive electro for electro lovers.
This bopped pretty hard, but I fear I wasn't in a great state of mind to truly appreciate everything that was on offer here. I hate it when this happens, and so this one will be a high priority to revisit once I'm finished with this list. But I think it's good?
Verdict: Good pop music. I think.
Long Haired Locusts
This reminds me of the previous year's Black Midi album, although it's nowhere there that charming or idiosyncratic. What it lacks in shock value it makes up for in persistent, even quality and catchiness that made me more likely to reach for this when I'm not in a mood to have my senses assaulted by experimental noise but still want that psychadelic post-punk experience. There were a lot of highlights in this playthrough, and I'm excited to come back to this.
Verdict: Fuzzy, attitude-driven rock music for zoomers. And I liked it too.
I've never liked Boris. It's always just been a distortion-soaked sequence of boring riffs with uninspiring melodies or musical ideas. I felt vindicated in that opinion during the first 4 tracks of NO, but Perforation Line and pretty much every track after that had me shifting my attention away from work and into Boris' cave of towering heaviness much more often than I usually experience on a Boris album. I'm still not completely sold but I'm actually excited to listen to Perforation Line and Loveless again, which is more than I can say about the last 2 or 10 times I've given this band another chance.
Verdict: Good for Boris. We'll see I guess.
I listened to this a while ago and then spun it again for this list. This is a pretty good pop album, but comes with a lot of baggage that emblemizes why I find T-Swift somewhat tiring: each song's hook tends to overstay its welcome. The layering of the instrumentation is generic, and with an album called "folklore" you'd think this was a great opportunity to change that. And I understand that this may be part of Taylor's appeal to some people, but I find her up-front and earnest lyrics to be a little grating at times. That aside, I didn't hate the time I spent listening to this, and can see myself being in the mood for it again on a rainy, foggy day.
Verdict: Not really my thing, but pretty decent.
Uinuos Syomein Sota
This really takes me back to the days when I listened to nothing but Moonsorrow and Agalloch and Fen circa 2008, in the very best way. But it's also not pure nostalgia or genre-worship: there's a sophistication and an adventurous sense of songwriting on this album that truly befits what one would expect from an evolution of Bathory-core metal. With a thick atmosphere and tons of well-earned climactic moments, I was left extremely impressed by this.
Visions of Bodies Being Burned
I think everyone knows that this is really good at this point. I actually think I like it a tad better than "Addiction". The atmosphere is darker and more immersive, and the highlights like "Say the Name", "Pain Everyday", and "Enlacing" soar a little bit higher here, making this one less of an exhausting experience in comparison to its predecessor.
Verdict: Required listening for anyone with hip hop adjacent tastes. This double album has earned its legendary status.
|31|| ||Rivers Cuomo|
Alone XI: The EWBAITE Years
I'm not doing this.
Verdict: If we can't be bothered to even put it in the database, why should I bother to listen to it? I don't even like Weezer.