Lollapalooza 2022: A Decade of Live Music, Love, and Sweat + Superlatives

By: Campbell Petschke

Currently Bumping: Renaissance by Beyonce

Lolla-versary

It’s weird to think that the first time I was at Lolla I was still in middle school. While the other chumps were wearing Silly Bandz on their wrists, I was wearing a one-day Saturday pass to Lollapalooza in hopes to see Calvin Harris, fun., and Franz Ferdinand.

The first act I saw was JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound at the Sony stage (now the Coinbase stage). I had to walk into a tented area because it was hard out there for a pasty, white boy. Hours later there were severe thunderstorm warnings creeping up on us and soon had the festival evacuated into the streets of the windy city. Michigan Ave was more flooded with people than rainwater and local eateries locked their doors so us hooligans couldn’t take cover.

The sun eventually shone again and we were able to re-enter. We immediately walked/dodged drunk frat guys over to see the band fun. which if you don’t know who fun. is you either don’t know how to have fun. or just forgot who they were. Anyway, Nate Ruess strutted on stage, set down his jacket and belted out the beginning of One Foot. He then shouted, “what the fuck is up Chicago?!”, and as someone who never really heard that word much yet, thought he was the coolest motherfucker at that festival. The show continued, song after song I just fell more for this band I already really enjoyed. Their set ended with Some Nights, which had people shaking the fresh rain off the leaves above us from jumping around like maniacs. It was in that moment I knew I wanted to go to this festival every year if it meant more moments like this.

New Year, New Me, New Perry

Rapper Midwxst performing Thursday afternoon

Throughout the years, the festival has gone through many changes big and small. While the F.Y.E. autograph tent and “farmers market” section of Chow Town bit the dust, we have seen a dance area, skatepark, and even a roller rink. The fest has also found many new sponsors over the years. The one that impacted me the most this year was definitely the Discord addition. I had only ever used Discord with my friends to shout my frustrations of how bad I am at Call of Duty, so I thought this would be a good way to be more acquainted with it. Holy hell did I get what I wanted out of it.

In Lollapaloozas past there has never really been a way to communicate with other festival goers unless you either knew other people going, tweeted about it, or existed on their popular Reddit page. With this Discord, I felt united with all these other people. People who loved live music and the festival as much as I did. I felt uneasy talking on there at first since I had never really talked with these many strangers all at once virtually. I had used dating apps and Among Us prior to this so it wasn’t foreign, but still took some practice. Plus both of those apps are mainly lying about who you are so…

Within a week, I felt like I didn’t have to think too carefully about what to say in these chats. I felt as though if a guy can shout “Tove Lo” in the chat every single time he enters then I think I can be myself a little more. Becoming so vocal in this chat had its rewards as the people running the server were granting people access to the “Discord Lounge” for frequently utilizing the chat. An area that sat next to one of the stages at the festival that offered many amenities including private restrooms, life-size Jenga, and complimentary beverages. I felt like Buddy the Elf the way I would go into the bathrooms and snag a Starburst from these jars along the sinks every time I would exit.

This lounge helped me put names to faces as most people were just going by their usernames and not actual ones. I shot myself in the foot because my username included the first part of my last name, which nobody can pronounce anyway. Just ask my elementary school librarian who knew me for five years. Not only that, but I used the actor David Cross as my profile pic since, again, I thought being on the internet meant your identity was hidden. So a handful of the people I met would shake my hand and then say, “Oh! I thought you were bald.” Whoops.

The morning conversations between us all of who we were going to see felt like Love Actually. Where we would all have separate stories, but essentially end up in the same place overlapping with each other (minus the uncomfortable Laura Linney brother story). It felt like the most Midwest version of Jersey Shore the way there were free drinks at times too. Regardless, this lead me to a path of people I never thought I’d need in my life and honestly helped conquer my hesitations towards those on the internet. Though I still don’t trust those aunts on Facebook.

Wait… is that a Dude Dressed as a Wombat?

This was by far the most eccentric I’ve ever seen performers at the festival. While the Green Day bunny was nothing new, there were people dressed as bananas, wombats, and many men in dresses (which is far from a bad thing). That energy was reflected in what I initially found to be a weaker lineup. Eventually I warmed up to it, I mean how could I hate a lineup that has 100 Gecs and Billy Strings the same day? This will be a landmark year in the future of the festival.

Lolla the past few years, whether it be due to the pandemic or other factors, has suffered with selling out. It could be that artists can sell better if they do venues/arena tours or if they’re looking to appeal to a more specific demographic, but I’ve noticed the FOMO has definitely been the biggest draw for these past few years. They see all these people on Twitter and Snapchat flashing their wristbands and outfits and want in on the four days or at the very least ONE day. I had a friend that bought tickets last minute to see J. Cole on Saturday because he thought he would bring out guests (which he did). It’s little things like this that make the festival environment different than before. People are more like in an “ah fuck it” mindset instead of “I must go to this.”

As stated earlier, this fest was a lot more out there and I think that brought in a nicer crowd. All the people I was surrounded by were drunkenly very nice, very dedicated to their artist they were seeing, or just thrilled to be there. After all these years of media outlets and angry no-life Twitter users saying that these “young Naperville kids” are ruining the festival and passing out from doing drugs, I found the old people to be the worst part of this festival. During Metallica’s set, a very sweaty, probable Harley Davidson cover athlete, was very persistent on offering up his doobie. Not that I wouldn’t love wet lipping the poorly rolled devil’s lettuce this total stranger had to offer. I’m sure I would’ve grown a black leather vest from my arm hairs and distaste towards my girlfriend.

Another older dude socked me in the face on the manic walk out of the Green Day crowd. What for I have no idea, but I learned that day that I can take a punch very well, so thank you random Green Day fan. I’m sure you’ll make your kids very proud when it’s your weekend with them. Point is that the younger crowd was typically more likely to start a conversation with you or just be more polite when it came to navigating through the pandemonium of Chow Town or a large act. For where the acts lacked in attendance, there was at least two groups of very dedicated fans there who were very excited for the show ahead of them.

Running Up That Road, Running Up that Hettfield

There was a video that went viral on the first day of the festival of a man, nicknamed ‘Metallica Man’, that was waiting first in line at the gates Thursday morning. Once 11am hit, he was patted down, scanned his wristband, had his bag checked, and immediately booked it half a mile down Grant Park to get to the barricade of the main stage. The stage that Metallica would grace nine hours later.

Metallica wasn’t the only act that people camped out for. I met people that had waited patiently for acts like J. Cole and J-Hope for the entire day. They had only left to grab water or to use the restroom. There’s some people who don’t leave that spot at all the entire day though, which I never understood. The reason I was able to have those conversations with the people that camped out was because at some point in the day I had made it up there with them after seeing multiple other acts before one at that stage.

The draw for some headliners in past years has had a lot of people excited, but this year it seemed like there was more dedication to other artists too. Ones that would have people camping at smaller stages as well. The crowd for The Regrettes, a popular alt-rock band, had a massive crowd on Friday afternoon. Other acts like Coin, Charli XCX, and even Idles had a lot of fans eagerly awaiting them to do their thing on stage. The science behind why more people camped for these smaller acts fascinates me. Are they camping because they dedicate this day to this artist only? Is it because the headliners lack and they want to get a headliner-like experience because they don’t find these bigger acts appealing? My theory is that Lolla recruited a lot of artists of a specific demographic with loads of streams earlier in the day to get people excited and maybe stay for the end of day.

This to me is the future of the fest. Wherever the lineup may lack, those who already bought the four-day pass have time to explore the smaller artists and those who have the FOMO will rapidly search for those newbies. So Lollapalooza is definitely turning into a great place for the smaller acts to get some attention and love. That’s something that was rarer in the earlier years, but I’m very glad is the case now.

Future Nostalgia?

Lollapalooza has had a lot of change in this ‘post’ Astroworld Fest world. Of course with some exceptions, there has been more space in the crowds where in the past you would be cheek to cheek. There’s this weird action of moving forward in a crowd once the artist before the main act is over and shoving those leaving to get a better spot. People get squished, irritation is high, and the sweat is gliding from person to person.

Before J. Cole graced the T-Mobile stage on Saturday, Big Sean garnered a humongous crowd. One of the biggest for the weekend. A big chunk of his fans tried leaving the area once his set was over and the Cole fans rushed it like Karens at a HomeGoods Black Friday sale. This lasted for about five minutes until loud bass blares emitted from the stage and a flashing red sign popped up on screen. The sign read “Safety Warning. Take five steps back” as a man over the speakers shouted “We need everyone to be safe and have a good time. On the count of three, we need everyone to take steps back.”

Even someone behind me whispered to their friend “uh oh Astroworld part two.” The way that event has still remained relevant is great. People are more cognizant of the dangers of the festival scene nowadays. It shows. Nobody complained when asked to take steps back.

I also want to commend the medical staff at the stages. Every one of them I met or saw was very kind and were passing out waters to crowds in between sets and even during some as well. That was something I had never seen a lot in the past and I was elated to see them taking actions like this. One of the many reasons Lollapalooza has always reigned superior to other festivals in my eyes. If a massive, worldwide attraction like Lolla can show they care about safety and take the necessary steps to prevent potential danger, it makes you wonder why the smaller ones are not able to do it.

Lolla Superlatives

Best Crowd: Dua Lipa/Glass Animals

The reason I listed two acts is because it was pretty much the same group of people I stuck near for both sets. After Cordae’s set, we all took a few steps forward and awaited for Glass Animals, an act that no doubt was going to attract a massive crowd as Heat Waves is one of the biggest songs to ever hit the charts. Some people were dedicated fans, some only knew Heat Waves. This taller kid and his friends near me said he was only here for that song. Totally fine. The show is what you make of it, which is exactly what he did. Every song he started to slowly get more into the band, to the point where when the bass of Other Side of Paradise began, he yelled back to his friends “This is fucking lit!”

Dua Lipa had a very kind crowd as well. The people around me were never annoying and knew the words to every song. When the energy and excitement is tangible, you know you’re at a good show.

Hon Mentions: IDLES, Beach Bunny, J. Cole

Worst Crowd: Green Day

I’m sure this comes as no surprise if you read earlier, but this crowd was horrendous. There’s a difference between moshing with good intent and looking for ways to take your anger out on others. The crowd around me had a bunch of older millenials that found issue with most of what was around them instead of finding issue with the air they were polluting with their circle of cigarette smoke. Any little bump into them lead to a shove or dirty look, which if you’ve ever listened to Green Day wouldn’t you expect this?

The definition of rock as a genre doesn’t mean to be kicking the shit out of each other and being rude to anyone within eyesight that is doing something other than standing still. Everyone paid for the same ticket. Your perception of the experience should not include how you treat others and how annoyed you are by them.

Best Food: Budlong Hot Chicken’s Chicken Sandwich

Chicken sandwiches have been on the rise in fast food restaurants and recipe sites ever since Popeyes’ caught traction back in Summer 2019. Ever since then, I have also been converted to this following of finding the best chicken sandwich around. Budlong might hold the crown as of now. The chicken was seasoned wonderfully. Had a great kick that was complimented beautifully by their comeback sauce. I mean any place that makes coleslaw tolerable is a winner in my eyes and that sat perfectly underneath two fluffy brioche buns. It was the last meal I consumed at the fest and man was it the best sendoff.

Hon Mentions: Rainbow Cone, Brisket Tacos from Beat Kitchen

Best Stage: Discord

Discord stage has always been a great place to get a full Lolla experience. There’s mosh pits, there’s trees for people to cool off, there’s a nice hill to sit on, Chow Town is right behind you, and there’s restrooms next to the stage as well.

The artists that performed on that stage utilized the space well too as there were many shows where the artists acknowledged the beauty of the trees and the still massive crowd capacity that can be held despite it technically not being a headlining stage. It’s the best Lolla experience that might be held by Tito’s as well if not for there being hard granite in case people fall while jumping around.

Hon Mentions: T-Mobile, BMI, Tito’s

Biggest Fest Improvement: More rock artists and variety of vendors

Rock/alternative acts were on the decline, especially when these ‘alternative acts’ were just pop acts with guitars. This year there were a LOT more actual alt artists. Those who complained about the lack of rock clearly didn’t look hard enough. Inhaler, Crawlers, IDLES, Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, and Meet Me @ the Altar all were rock acts that drew somewhat of a big crowd (except Rolling Blackouts who deserved a bigger turnout). The “there’s no rock” excuse isn’t valid. Go look up other acts.

Whoever is in charge of choosing vendors did a great job this year. The Liquid Death Club, Hulu Motel, and Dunkin lounge were all very well organized and actually improved my experience at the festival. Discord above all I raved about already, but this definitely was a big hit too and I hope that all the ones I listed come back next year.

Needs Improvement: Image

More than anything, Lollapalooza needs to get their image back under control. Back in the day there used to be a kooky carnival character theme with lots of mascots that gave off a similar vibe as the three eyed fish from The Simpsons. This gave the fest a personality that was pretty recognizable.

There was a Legend of Lolla game that revealed some of the acts before the lineup drop that had a design that reminded me of that old festival vibe. Surprisingly they didn’t stick with it for the rest of the weekend as the same design existed as the past five years. If there was a mascot of some sort or at least fun design, Lolla would be a step above the rest in terms of marketing. Look at how popular Benny the Bull is for the Chicago Bulls. People immediately recognize him as associated with the team.

Top Ten Sets of the Weekend

10. Tove Lo

Before the festival, I hadn’t thought about Tove Lo in years. Probably since she was last at the festival back in 2017. I enjoy her style and personality, but I just never felt the need to return to her tunes. I did a little research prior to fest time and came across a new single, True Romance, which might be the best song she has ever dropped. Her vocals behind that minimal beat worked so great. Hearing it live felt like something special. She is a great performer that still has a dedicated following after all these years.

9. Goth Babe

Goth Babe had to drop out of the 2021 lineup. I was pretty disappointed since he was an act I didn’t know until I found him on the lineup last year. I was very pleased to find him back this year and man did he put on a show.

Even without a full album yet, he was able to captivate the crowd with his very summery tunes that have crept their way into my life multiple these past few years. Hearing Encinitas live was one of my favorite Lolla moments ever. The way I envisioned his set in my mind is exactly how it played out on stage. It was the quickest set of the weekend as the energy and presence carried the whole crowd early in the afternoon Sunday.

8. Cordae

Cordae has slowly become one of my favorite artists in hip-hop the past few years. He was the best act in the 2019 XXL Freshman list and put out one of the best albums of last decade, The Lost Boy. While I wasn’t crazy about his drop this year, I was still stoked to see how he was as a performer since I last saw him VERY far away in 2019.

I don’t think Cordae had a lot of fans before his set started since most seemed to be waiting for Dua Lipa, but I think he had a lot more after leaving the stage. He came out on stage, destined to be drenched in sweat as he bore a fake beard and windbreaker/jeans combo. Clearly perspiration was not in his list of fears as he captivated the crowd with ease. He played all his hits and wasn’t afraid to slow it down either. He’s only going to grow larger in these coming years.

7. 100 Gecs

If you know anything about 100 Gecs, you know you’re going to get an interesting experience. The pioneers of hyper-pop knew their audience and gave them a treat. They came out dressed as wizards and left as Lolla legends. Their set was an equal blend of meme hits like Money Machine and Doritos & Fritos, as well as unreleased tracks presumably on their new project.

It didn’t matter what they played because the crowd was eating that shit up. They put on an insanely fun set.

6. Glass Animals

After How to Be a Human Being, Glass Animals fell off for a little bit. A little too long. I LIKE Dreamland, but it’s not nearly as good as the first two albums they put out mid-2010s. That being said, Dreamland songs sound amazing live. I last saw the group back at 2017 Lolla and they put on a good show, nothing grand, but a fun one. This time around they really perfected their stage presence and setup as well. From wall to wall there was retro neon signs, tv sets, and really dope visuals.

Davey is a really humble performer as he graces the stage and owns the catwalk that would be used by Dua Lipa a few hours later. He knows the vibe and how to work this crowd. As I said earlier, the crowd for Dua Lipa only really knew Heat Waves prior to the show and were groaning while waiting. Song after song though, those people were dancing their asses off and had smiles on their faces the whole time.

5. Metallica

Back in 2015, the only songs I knew by Metallica were For Whom the Bell Tolls (because of Zombieland) and Enter Sandman. Seeing them at Lolla that year was cool, but I didn’t appreciate it the way I would’ve now. Good thing I got a little redemption at this year’s fest. I know Metallica’s core discography pretty well now and it paid off big time. I can’t help but feel that if you are a big fan of the band this was one of their best shows. They played over two hours of classics, introduced a whole new audience of Stranger Things fans to some amazing tunes and even flashed the Master of Puppets scene from the show.

James and co’s presence was immense, as big as their sound echoing throughout Grant Park. The crowd was also very kind to the younger fans and the older fans were acting like excited kids that age too. Metallica brought out the best of all ages that weekend. James poking fun about St Anger being not as bad as people say was a good laugh too.

4. IDLES

IDLES has had a massive impact on me these past few years. Their passion and anger towards the political bullshit they’ve shown their distaste for on all their records bleeds into their performance so well. Joe would shout “fuck the queen” and naturally as ignorant Americans we screamed too. They know how to put on a damn good show too. The guitarist hopped in WITH his guitar and started moshing with us during Colossus. Joe looked out at the audience as if he was absorbing all the energy from thousands of sweaty chicagoans and visitors. They wasted no time and put on an anger fueled set that was full of dedicated fans who were as equally as excited to see the band as they were to perform for us.

3. Dua Lipa

Oh man. Camping out for four hours unintentionally for Dua Lipa was one of my best Lolla decisions ever. Physical is one of my favorites from her and she opened with it… It could only get better and better. She brought the heat with her background dancers, parodying her viral hip twist dance from a few years back, and even fought a giant lobster. Yes, a giant lobster.

Dua put on a professional show that didn’t feel too corporate or that she treated it as just another performance either. Given I was only about 25 feet away from her I saw a lot of genuine smiles and the choreography was really neat that close too. Her band played well, her vocals sounded nice, and the visuals meshed with the dancers and props made it one of the prettiest shows of the weekend (partially thanks to her too of course).

2. J. Cole

If you asked who was in my top five must see artists in college, J. Cole would’ve definitely been seen in big black print. As someone who has been through a handful of tough shit since I first heard 2014 Forest Hills Drive as a sophomore in high school, this concert meant a lot to me. J. Cole always has a winning spirit. It reflects in his music and in his personality as well. Between the songs he would make sure the audience knew how much he appreciated everyone being here. He would preach to the audience that they gotta work hard for what they love. Love was a very central theme of the show.

Love Yourz was one of the most beautiful, unreal moments I’ve had at a show before. Cole knows how to pull on the heartstrings, but also how to hype up a crowd of dedicated Dreamville fans. He brought out JID and Bas for support too. HELL YES. They all gave it their best and it more than paid off. The entire crowd knew all the words to all the songs and begged for an encore after he went over for time anyway. One of those shows where you walk out instantly wanting to see them again.

1. Beach Bunny

I feel so inspired by Beach Bunny. Not just because Lili and all the bandmates are from around Chicagoland, but because of their sound. It’s very homey feeling. Her new album, Emotional Creature is about love and all of its beauty and struggle as well. The fact that she started off at high school/college level of putting out music gives me a lot of hope to continue writing for the blog and even writing songs of my own too.

By pure coincidence, I actually ran into Lili and her partner on the way to one of the other shows. Both were exceedingly nice and I of course geeked to her how much her music meant to me too. It was a favorite moment of the weekend no doubt.

How was the show though? It was one of those rare perfect sets that you don’t always see. Usually there’s maybe one or two key songs they should’ve played or maybe they didn’t have a good stage presence… Not the case here. Beach Bunny played to a massive crowd at 5 on Sunday afternoon and I was so happy to be at barricade for it. She played a little bit of everything from her discography. Promises and April live were my favorite songs that weekend no question. I adored this set and I very eagerly shouted through every single track. I hope to see them again very soon.

Are ‘Perfect Moments’ Overrated?

By: Campbell Petschke

Pondering the What Ifs. Life and the desire to see what's next | by Blake  Gossard, ELS, MWC | Medium

Currently listening to: Blue Weekend by Wolf Alice

Introduction

As a kid a lot of things just fell seamlessly into place. You see your friends, stay up late on weekends, hide your DS under your pillow when you couldn’t sleep… Any news that you heard would mostly conjure up either happiness or dismay. The anticipation of doing all your homework through the week just so that you can celebrate Fun Friday. It’s not like the anticipation withered away when it came to the day itself, you were just as excited during the 40 minutes of free time. Then when you got picked up and got asked how today was you’d be shaking at the knees waiting to talk about your day as you strap yourself in the back of the car.

Little moments like that meant a lot as a kid. Even the bigger moments felt like victories and definitely shaped my character. For example, the fourth grade field trip to Springfield was everything I could’ve asked for and went perfectly according to plan. I woke up at five in the morning just to ride the super comfortable travel bus while eating snacks and watching movies with my friends and then have the next day off? How could this go wrong? For a long time it was probably the best day of my life.

Going to the movies was something that I adored doing when I was younger and still do. Something about at home viewing doesn’t do much for me for new films. If I’m gonna be on my ass for two hours it’s definitely not gonna be in the comfort of my home. No. It has to be in a semi-new leather seat that creaks just from grabbing your heavily buttered popcorn, sitting at the spot where sound comes in more from the walls to your left than the right, and with a butt-load of people that are either equally as excited or want to cough, fart, or be a crying child from trailers to credits. Damn, I miss the theater…

Where am I going with this? Basically the more you reflect on the past the more you realize how good it was, even when it wasn’t. Regardless, I feel like the more that we waste time expecting things to be good or bad, the more we come to find out how good it actually was during that time. I always tell my friends that 2016 was one of the worst years of my life, but looking back on it now I think of how much simpler things were. That’s the thing though too. You never really realize how hard or easy something was in retrospect until you’re faced with something current. Those perfect moments that we all seem to crave don’t exactly calculate to what we expect until those days have passed. At least for me.

The Days to Follow

Back on Christmas Day 2020, Pixar dropped the movie Soul on their streaming service Disney+. Soul is a film that I heavily anticipated for years. It was teased by the company ever since I was in early high school. Trailers dropped the summer prior and my excitement only grew. The animation looked REAL, the concept was finally put to screen, and the ambiguity only raised more questions. Sign of a good trailer. The day finally came about and after watching the film I ended up just LIKING it. I was disappointed from the direction that it took halfway in. If you’ve seen the film before I’m pretty sure you know what I’m referring to.

*SMALL SPOILER FOR SOUL AHEAD* If you haven’t seen the movie, just skip this following paragraph.

The irony of this situation is that well… that’s kind of what the film is about. The lead character, Joe, waited his whole life to play piano in a professional jazz band. It finally comes about where he gets this opportunity to play with a legit jazz band. Not only that, but he gets to play alongside one of the greats, Dorothea Williams (fictional character). The whole film stresses how important it is for Joe to get to this destination because it very well may change his life and can finally live out his dream.

After overcoming certain obstacles, Joe performs perfectly. The crowd cheered, he felt great while performing, and was even told how he did great by his hero herself. Once everything wraps up, the band says their goodbyes and Joe is left outside staring with a smile on his face. Moments later though his smile fades. He explains that now that this moment is over… what happens next? He lived out his dream, so why isn’t he happy?

It’s What You Take from What’s Given

So why bring Soul into this entry? As someone who loves film and a script that is more obscure than the average Hollywood blockbuster, I thoroughly love perspective. Analyzing film and interpreting it in your own vision is so cool. Very grateful for the existence of video essays on YouTube. Only problem is the YouTube algorithm thinks you want conspiracy theory videos after watching these essays for some reason. There’s only so much to gain after watching a whole series of videos on why Paul McCartney is actually a clone and not the same one from the 60s.

ANYHOW, there was one that I saw for Soul where the man narrating the essay said to let the film sink in before you come to a solid conclusion about it. So that’s what I did. I thought about Soul for about a week. Talking to multiple friends and family about it really helped gain more perspective too. I realized that after many conversations about the film that maybe I was too quick to judge it. There’s so many great moments and many times where I expected something else. The greatness passed me by and I didn’t even know it.

One show I’ve adored these past few years is Ted Lasso. If you’ve seen the show before you know it’s very heartfelt, but human too. After the finale of the second season, I saw Jason Sudeikis was interviewed by GQ. In this article about him, Sudeikis says a quote he heard from Michael J. Fox that I wish I could staple to my forehead.  “ ‘Don’t assume the worst thing’s going to happen, because on the off chance it does, you’ll have lived through it twice.’ So…why not do the inverse?”

Man. I fucking love that. Why waste your time thinking whatever happens is going to be the worst? If whatever you’re doing ends up being good it’s a nice surprise, but wouldn’t you rather go into it feeling optimistic? Instead, if it’s the opposite and you go in looking forward to this activity only to be let down, at least you had hope. Hope is what carries you throughout the day, week, month, or even year (ugh sorry… I don’t even like Friends). It poses a good question of being realistic too. I’ve shared this quote with a few people and most of them have said the same thing…

Shouldn’t You Be Realistic?

Yes. Of course you should. We’ve grown up so far into our own lives that we should know how to go about MOST situations we come across or at the very least how we can cope with it. I would argue in return though that if you are able to use your better judgement and/or moral compass that you have the power to figure how to overcome the potential disappointment.

I had a very hard time standing up for myself as a younger kid. I was concerned that if I disagreed with someone that they wouldn’t be my friend. In middle school I wouldn’t say I was bullied, but as a skinny, sort of nerdy, white kid I was definitely a target for some. There was a kid on the bus that for a few weeks would do the junior high prank and tap my shoulder over the seat and then when I looked back pretended like nothing happened. Enough was enough. The next day on the bus ride home, this kid did the poking shit again. I immediately turned around, put on my best ‘really dude’ face and uttered the worst thing you could say to middle schooler in the early 2010s. “You gotta stop touching me man. That’s pretty gay.” A collective “OHHHHHHH” surrounded the front half of the bus. The kid was embarrassed and put up the hood of his neon green hoodie for the rest of the ride. Ever since then I never had a problem with standing up for myself.

This was so overdramatic I can’t stop laughing while writing this. Before moving on, I also want to say there’s nothing wrong with being gay or LGBTQ+, I’m an ally. Being associated with the word gay at that age though was enough for an ignorant kid to weep.

I bring up this story because obviously I didn’t expect things to change if I expected the best going onto the bus the next day. Things are only going to change if you do something about it. In turn, this is how I learned to be more optimistic. The more you learn from bad, the more you figure out how to make it into something good.

Being realistic is definitely an important aspect of life and carrying yourself throughout your days, but you can be realistically pessimistic or optimistic. If you’ve ever heard of the Law of Attraction or even the golden rule, essentially both teachings are similar. You attract what energy you put out to the world.

What Happened to the Perfect Moment?

To all of you who have read this far, thank you. This will all make sense in a few paragraphs.

Being realistic and optimistic go hand in hand for looking for that perfect moment in life. I’m nearing my mid-twenties. There’s been so many times where the “remember when” game comes up in conversation nowadays. Especially with friends I’ve had for years and years. Times where we all reminisce about the ‘good times’ back in high school or even college. Not all of the times brought up are positive ones. Sometimes they’re funny or even traumatic for some of us. I refuse to live down the time I confused Steph Curry for convicted murderer Steven Avery in class for example.

A handful of these stories bring back a lot of great memories and a lot of really bad ones too. High school was a seriously confusing time. I had a lot of really awful moments my junior year of high school, but I had a very tight knit group of friends that started coming about that year. Even through all the bullshit of teachers who really didn’t care about their kids’ academic successes, relationship dramas, balancing out work and social life… it was truly great. That’s the thing though, we hear so often that we never realize how great our lives are or what we had until it’s no longer in front of us. That is why I never lose hope.

Disappointment is a part of life. It’s something that you remember just as much as the brighter times. I hated my two years at community college. I constantly felt tired and lonely. Here I am almost five years later reminiscing about how I liked being able to go out after school and try new foods from restaurants I had never tried before. I also liked listening to new albums on the way to school since it was a twenty minute drive. That’s something I didn’t have at my university, a place that I adored.

So while life isn’t always perfect in the moment, I like to think that disappointments and shitty moments make for good stories. Things become more vivid once they’re gone. My dad has said before that he’s afraid to visit some specific movies from the past that he loved in fear that the feeling he associated with it once will not feel the same. That’s what’s great about life. You can revisit memories in your mind all you want, but you can’t ever physically be there again. That good feeling is with you for as long as you want it to remain. Bittersweet as that may be, you’ll always feel for the times of the past and even hope for the future. That perfect moment isn’t going to just appear. If you expect something to be precisely what it is and nothing more, then where is that excitement for the next thing going to come from?

I know as a kid I really struggled in elementary school to be motivated for the next day, but man what I wouldn’t give to be that small again and have the friends that I did. I can constantly wish to relive those moments, but like the movies from the 80s for my dad, are they really going to be that special if it happens twice? What makes the ‘perfect’ day or moment is the fact that it was something new or that things didn’t go according to plan. I know that one day I’ll look back and hope for another day like this one.

“Life is what happens while we’re making other plans”. – Allen Saunders

Top 30 Tracks of 2021

By: Campbell Petschke

Ted Lasso on Apple TV+ Fails Upward, Cheerfully

Currently Listening to: LIVE LIFE FAST by Roddy Ricch

The Year of the Single

Every media publication always starts off their year-end lists with some corny opener like ‘2021 was a hell of a year for better or for worse’ or the constant complaint that somewhat resembles ‘we’ve had better years for music’. It’s the same thing every year. So I’m here to throw you a curveball. Ready? This was one of the best years for indie in many many years. Rap/Hip-hop ruled 2020, indie was passed the flaming baton set afire by the garbage pop music wrapped around the staff. Although it wasn’t all bad, this is the first year in a long while where I really enjoyed some mainstream artists. Some you’ll definitely see on this list. Without delay, this is what I felt were the 30 best songs that came out of this spectacular year in this ‘hell of a year’. Because 2020 is so last year.

*PLAYLIST OF ALL SONGS AT END OF LIST*

30. Parquet Courts – Walking at a Downtown Pace

Walking at a Downtown Pace - Single by Parquet Courts | Spotify

Sympathy for Life was not the follow up I expected to Wide Awake. They had a lot to say on the record, but lacked in the instrumentals. The lead single would’ve had you thinking it would be the opposite.

Walking at a Downtown Pace has the catchiest riff of the year by a longshot. The hook gets stuck in my head for hours on end, which suits the lyrics. The track seems to follow the COVID era issue of waiting for life to return to what we saw as normal. It kind of feels like a hopeless issue as the repetition of the riff drones. It feels almost hypnotic and before you know it the song is over. Even though I wasn’t big on the LP, I’ll return to this track again and again.

29. How Dare You Want More – Bleachers

Bleachers – How Dare You Want More Lyrics | Genius Lyrics

Bleachers have been unstoppable since 2014. Three pretty big, fairly well received projects, a two massive radio hits (I Wanna Get Better & Don’t Take the Money), and a dedicated fanbase along with it. Not to mention the incredible amount of producing that Jack Antonoff has done this year alone producing for St. Vincent, Taylor Swift, Lana Del Rey among others.

How Dare You Want More is the most Bruce Springsteen-like song I’ve ever heard. Antonoff heavily credits this project to be Springsteen influenced as he has said in the past he aims to nail the sounds of the late 70’s and “John Hughes nostalgia of the 80s.” As he bellows that chorus in the best Boss-like tone, there’s soaring horns, saxophone, and in typical Bleachers fashion, a very chantable chorus.

28. Solar Power – Lorde

Solar Power (album) - Wikipedia

Lorde last dropped an album when I graduated high school. It was very nice of her to wait until I graduated college to put out her latest. Good shit homie. When I first heard Solar Power (the song) I was fairly underwhelmed. Following her masterpiece, Melodrama, I expected a new take on this wonderful anti-pop sound that she introduced on that project. While it’s not Lorde’s best song by any means, there’s still a lot to gush about. Sonically, this is a beautiful track and probably the most atmospheric song she has ever turned out. The drop at the two minute mark is pretty damn beautiful too.

Also “I’m kinda like a prettier Jesus” has stuck in my head all year. That’s an awesome line.

27. Liberty Bell – DARKSIDE

Liberty Bell | DARKSIDE

I’ve probably replayed this track more than any other this year alone. It never gets old. The two members of the act have once stated in the past they wanted this project to be where the two can jam out together and make songs from there. This is a prime example of this idea. Instrumentally, DARKSIDE always has some abstract vibe that can screams suburban-urban rock to me. It sounds like it was made in someone’s basement, but in the best way possible. That all out jam at the end is especially grand. A small song that feels ginormous. Thanks SiriusXMU for introducing me to this bop.

26. Let Go My Hand – J. Cole ft. 6LACK & Bas

J. Cole: The Off-Season Album Review | Pitchfork

I haven’t LOVED a J. Cole track since 4 Your Eyez Only. My girlfriend will definitely disagree with me, but his feature work the past few years has impressed me more than his actual material. Let Go My Hand highlights everything that I DO love about J. Cole and is his best track since Change.

Cole’s best tracks tell a great story and are paired with a jazzy, sophisticated beat. Lyrically, he discusses how the state of today has affected him and how it will affect his son in the future. His delivery is relaxed, defined, reminiscent. He touches on how one day his son is going to have to be his own man. He has to be the one that raises him and teaches him, but his parenting will only take him so far. It’s a beautiful track that has a great Bas feature and Diddy on the outro.

25. Encinitas – Goth Babe ft. Louis the Child

Goth Babe – Encinitas Lyrics | Genius Lyrics

I typically stray away from EDM, but with Goth Babe being an artist at this year’s Lollapalooza, I wanted to know what to expect. I didn’t expect this. Louis the Child is probably my favorite EDM artist this decade. Something about the carefree and summer vibe makes me smile. Goth Babe has a similar vibe so I guess this collab makes a lot of sense, I just never thought to pair them together.

The beat drop in this track is phenomenal. If you’ve ever been to an outdoor festival then just picture the loud ‘wubbs’ of the bass from the speakers pounding into stomach giving you that butterfly feeling. Thousands of people are bouncing in unison, so much so that you can see dirt tornados form and the ground below shakes as if you were on San Andreas. Not like the dangerous San Andreas fault though, a fun one like San Andreas starring The Rock. A summer playlist staple.

24. You Stayed/To Live – For Those I Love

For Those I Love: For Those I Love review – an exorcism of grief on the  dancefloor | Music | The Guardian

If you look on Album of the Year’s website, this is one of the most polarizing drops of the year. Some people call it the best album this decade so far, some say it’s just bullshit. I’m among those that adore it. You Stayed/To Live traces this story that seems to be about a childhood love that has stuck with him into his latter years. Nothing about the song is especially linear, I actually had to follow along with the Genius lyrics a few times since his Scottish accent is so thick and the storytelling gets tricky. That shouldn’t be held against the end product though.

For Those I Love (the album) is a beautiful work of poetry and spoken word. You Stayed/To Live is utterly heartbreaking. Even if the story doesn’t follow a typical format, just the way his words make you feel is enough to carry me over. The accompanied house beats too contract this curious emotion. I haven’t had a song all year make me feel and think as much as this song does. Check it out.

23. Band of Horses – Crutch

Crutch by Band of Horses (Single, Indie Rock): Reviews, Ratings, Credits,  Song list - Rate Your Music

The best summer song that was released in October. Listening to Crutch gives me the feeling that these soaring guitars are going to send me straight to an open field filled with opportunity and summer haze. I feel comfortable listening to Band of Horses in general, but this is the best single they’ve dropped in a while. I can’t wait to see what the album is gonna be like next year.

22. Industry Baby – Lil Nas X ft. Jack Harlow

Industry Baby - Wikipedia

Man I could’ve easily said Montero (Call Me by Your Name) too. Both songs played a part in the best music marketing campaign that I’ve seen in a long time. Lil Nas X offended so many people this year, so many people showed their true colors when it came to how provocative his music videos were. Especially Montero, where he infamously slides down on a stripper pole to hell, twerks on the devil, and then beheads him. When this angered people what’d he do? He made a music video of a bunch of naked dudes dancing in prison showers together to accompany his third single, Industry Baby.

Industry Baby was the song that solidified Lil Nas X as a solid mainstream pop artist. The production by Daytrip and Kanye just elevates it insanely high. It feels epic and bombastic. It’s such an in your face song lyrically too. The song is him flexing his place in rap and pop in general and that being himself got him into trouble and not everyone agreed, but hey look at where he is now. Jack Harlow gives the feature of his career. Memorable one-liners like ‘sending girls back to their boyfriends with his handprint on her ass-cheek’ and about being a late bloomer but he still out here getting cuter.

Anyone who has heard this song on the radio probably has it stuck in their heads for a few days, maybe even weeks whether you dig the song or not.

21. Amoeba – Clairo

Clairo – Amoeba Lyrics | Genius Lyrics

Clairo did not impress me outside of a few singles. I thought she represented an aesthetic of bedroom pop and TikTok indie that just bored me. Things changed once hero of the year Jack Antonoff swooped in and helped produce her latest project. Amoeba is a fantastic track that has that same atmospheric, groovy energy that Solar Power has, but it more raw lyrically. Clairo discusses self-doubt and prioritizing the wrong things in life while being away from home at a young age.

There’s this really awesome little riff that plays the song out to be kind of a daze. There’s a sense of innocence that really hits home for me. I heard this track while driving to work on a breezy summer evening. About the same time that you would think the way the song asks you to do. Clairo has the ability to make a great track, I would love to see her go down this route if it means more confessional shit like this.

20. Off the Grid – Kanye West ft. Playboi Carti & Fivio Foreign

Kanye West: Donda Album Review | Pitchfork

In typical Kanye fashion, Donda dropped when nobody expected it. Kanye himself didn’t even expect it. Universal dropped the album without his permission… on a Sunday of all days. As polarizing as the album was, there were some undeniable bangers. Off the Grid being the standout.

While Moon, Praise God, and Jail all could’ve made it on my list, Off the Grid is one of the best produced tracks and has the best features too. Playboi Carti first teamed up with Ye last year on his equally controversial Whole Lotta Red LP, which like Donda also was delayed for years. I never expected him to be on a beat like this and he killed it, but Fivio murdered it. His energy is palpable, his flow and delivery just bring aggression to the track. Kanye himself even brings along an energy that I haven’t heard since Kids See Ghosts in 2018. Yeah, this track kicks a lot of butt cheeks.

19. Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Weekend Run

Weekend Run | Unknown Mortal Orchestra

UMO have never really done much for me. They have a few good singles here and there, but I never gravitate towards them. Weekend Run came on while I was driving to the city to work for my summer job. It was the Fourth of July, 90 degrees, and stuck in traffic for at least 20 minutes. The escalating tempo of the teasing guitar plucks made me feel like I was in a hypnotic, sort of oasis staring directly into the misty sun. It was a summer feeling that I haven’t felt since I was still in high school.

Weekend Run has fairly simple lyrics, but address the message with enough subtlety and charm to hit home. At its’ core they’re saying we need to see the beauty in what we do, otherwise you’ll be stuck chasing the weekend. At the time, that was something I really needed to hear and glad I did.

18. Turnstile – BLACKOUT

Turnstile: Glow On Album Review | Pitchfork

What an unexpected gem Glow On was in 2021. It’s rare that you find an album this great, so consistent, so unique. While I can pick a song from this album out of a hat and call it my favorite, BLACKOUT stands out most.

Ever hear those songs and just think wow, this song gets me? That’s what BLACKOUT was to me in early Fall. This track is a blast from start to finish. I’ve only recently become a fan of the band when Glow On first dropped thanks to a good friend of mine who really digs this album too. BLACKOUT seems like the perfect introduction to a new Turnstile fan like myself. It combines their hardcore roots, with some soaring guitars, and a kickass breakdown at the end. I love this track and have played it many times since it first came out in December.

17. KALI – I Just Wanna

KALI (USA) – I Just Wanna Lyrics | Genius Lyrics

I love coming across singles like this. I Just Wanna is easily the brightest song I’ve heard all year. The way it introduces itself as a very dreamy alt-pop track and slowly evolves into an explosive dance party breakdown caught me off guard. It feels like two different songs in one both celebrating/longing for the feeling of being with the one that she loves. KALI is a pretty new artist, so I hope she continues down this path to greatness because this is a hit.

16. CHVRCHES – How Not to Drown ft. Robert Smith

Screen Violence - Wikipedia

CHVRCHES remains one of my all time favorite bands. They have nailed a distinct sound that is instantly recognizable. This was played almost to a fault back in 2018 when they put out the very safe album Love is Dead. It’s 2021 though and the band have recovered their spark in their latest LP, Screen Violence. While I didn’t care much for He Said, She Said, How Not to Drown was an exciting change of pace. It’s also the only CHVRCHES track (that isn’t a bonus) that carries a feature. One from the legendary Robert Smith of The Cure! The band mentioned in an interview that they wanted to support The Cure on tour so they reached out to them and as it turns out Smith is a really big fan of the band. So much so he wanted to join forces for a song. Here we are now.

What makes How Not to Drown so great is that it focuses on the dark side of the band’s history. There was a period where the lead singer, Lauren, felt a lot of pressure from music execs and the public’s opinions of their music. She felt as though she was having the joy sucked out of her while the higher ups demanded more music. Desperately trying to escape from the bullshit surrounding how they make their music and at what pace. CHVRCHES typically makes songs about heartache and battling with mental health, so upon hearing this for the first time it felt like a standalone hit.

The lyrics are great, the sound suits the eerie aesthetic of the LP, and has Robert fuckin Smith, what more could you want?

15. Doja Cat & SZA – Kiss Me More

Kiss Me More - Wikipedia

This song was inescapable throughout the entire year and I really didn’t mind. I really wish Doja stuck to this sound versus whatever was stuck on Planet Her. Her bubble-gummy, retro beats really give her a unique presence in mainstream pop/rap. The best Doja Cat songs possess this boastfulness and charm and Kiss Me More grips that spark.

Her music is also boundary pushing in the same sense that Lil Nas X is doing with his. She really is not afraid to be herself as demonstrated in her lyrics and her online presence. Kiss Me More captures the same glittery pop sound that made Say So such a hit last year and is accompanied by my favorite woman in R&B, SZA who absolutely nails her feature. SZA and Doja just make sense together. The chorus is catchy as hell too and probably gets stuck in my head twice a week on average and it’s been out since April.

14. Sleigh Bells – Locust Laced

Stream Locust Laced by Sleigh Bells | Listen online for free on SoundCloud

My love for the duo Sleigh Bells is something I have to be reminded of every time they drop new material. It’s not that I forget about them, I go through phases where I’m so into their music for a month or two that I get fatigued from there. Locust Laced blew my mind. This song barely makes the two and a half minute mark, but accomplishes a lot in that little amount of time.

As per usual, the guitars are thrashing, the vocals are soaring, and the tempo is fast and punchy. They also bring back the cheerleader-like chants from their debut, Treats. This track is what the kids say “has crack in it”. It never gets old and I could listen to it back to back five times in a row with no hesitation.

13. Brent Faiyaz ft. DJ Dahi & Tyler, The Creator – Gravity

Gravity (Brent Faiyaz and DJ Dahi song) - Wikipedia

I had never heard of Brent Faiyaz until this year. I’m not blown away by his music, but he does have a very nice voice. If you attach a Tyler feature to one of your songs though best believe I’m tapping play ASAP.

Gravity has a pretty typical premise. Him and Tyler go back and forth sharing how their new lives and fame put a strain on their love with their significant others and how gravity brings them back to them. It’s not new territory for Tyler to do a song like this, but for Brent this sort of flips what he’s been putting out the past few years. I think that might be why I like this track the best out of his entire catalogue so far. It also has Steve Lacy on production and guitar/bass, which speaks for itself. I’ve enjoyed his production since I first heard him off Flower Boy back in 2017 and on Vampire Weekend’s Father of the Bride LP.

I didn’t return to this track a lot this year, but whenever it was on I was vibing out.

12. Sharon Van Etten & Angel Olson – Like I Used To

Like I Used To” by Sharon Van Etten / Angel Olsen Review | Pitchfork

Where did this collab come from? Before the excitement of Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak joining forces for Silk Sonic really grew, this was my favorite pairing of the year. Man, this song sounds devastating. Angel and Sharon both have nailed their storytelling abilities and have mastered the art of the sad song for a few years now. Them joining forces, like Silk Sonic, was unexpected but does make a lot of sense.

I love the chemistry these two have when they sing in unison. Angel’s voice really gives this track a timeless feel. It felt like I was sort of listening to a modern, long lost, Stevie Nicks song. I don’t know if this was just a one off song, but I really would love to see this pair make an EP or album together.

11. Black Country, New Road – Opus

Opus | Black Country, New Road

By far my favorite discovery this year was Black Country, New Road. I love their chaotic, post punk and their heavy use of dramatic, almost theatrical saxophone and drumming. There’s something so innocent yet so mesmerizing to this band. The album reaches such high highs that you couldn’t believe it can get any better. Then you get to Opus which closes out the record. What. The. Hell.

These past few years I’ve really been digging the band Black Midi, who are equally as insane. Opus might be the most ear pleasing insanity that I’ve heard since Black Midi’s Ducter back in 2019. The singer has unusual vocals that make sense with this kooky aesthetic and only makes the band stand out more. Opus teases chaos the moment that it has the slowly ascending opening and only gets more unpredictable as the nearly eight minute progresses. If you are into some sax heavy, melodramatic instrumentation with very non-traditional lyrics and vocal delivery, check this song and the whole album out!

10. Tyler, The Creator – MANIFESTO ft. Domo Genesis

Call Me If You Get Lost - Wikipedia

Call Me If You Get Lost is a modern masterpiece and maybe Tyler’s best album to date. So many hits and career high points filtered throughout the near hour run time. There’s old school grimy production like on LUMBERJACK and JUGGERNAUT, sweet love songs like WUSYANAME and SWEET/I THOUGHT YOU WANTED TO DANCE, and then there’s all out bangers like HOT WIND BLOWS and my personal favorite, MANIFESTO.

MANIFESTO is an ode to the cancel culture and how people expect him to speak because he has a platform. To this he throws up two middle fingers as he refuses to conform to what is expected of him. Former Odd Future alum, Domo Genesis gives his best feature ever too. His flow is as fast as it is thought-provoking. I love his rhyming scheme at the opening too, “Crackin’ like broke porcelain, bitch, we ocean deep if you just pour us in a portion of shit, them people try to twist my view on some contortionist shit.” It just sounds like it glides off his tongue.

This was a very daring track to make given Tyler’s lyrics prior to 2015 and outspokenness on the internet. He has proved in the past five years though he has shed that skin and therefore a song like this worked out really well for him. It more than paid off.

9. Olivia Rodrigo – good 4 u

Good 4 U - Wikipedia

If you told me back in February that I would put an Olivia Rodrigo song on my list I’d probably laugh. I still don’t like Drivers License. I think it’s super bland and gave off the impression that she was just an industry plant. Deja Vu dropped a while after, okay, pretty decent. Nothing amazing, but still more creative than the song before. Then came good 4 u. What the hell man.

It’s almost embarrassing how much I love this song. Hell, I would sing this on karaoke with zero hesitation and with confidence. Why? Because I know all the words. How? I can’t stop listening to it. The day it dropped I think I played it almost ten times. I played it while getting ready, brushing my teeth, on the way to work twice, a handful of times while at the store, and on the way home.

This song isn’t reinventing the wheel or anything, lyrically it’s nothing stellar, but it hits the right notes and gives the mainstream world a small revival of pop-punk. More so than Machine Gun Kelly could dream of anyway. Maybe it’s because it sounds so much like Paramore’s Misery Business that I like it so much. Who knows, who cares, I’m gonna listen to it a thousand more times before I get bored of it.

8. Billie Eilish – Happier Than Ever

Billie Eilish - Happier Than Ever - Amazon.com Music

Billie Eilish had a bit of a sleeper 2020. She had a TikTok hit, but it didn’t reach the heights of anything from When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go the year before. Turns out she was mastering her pyrotechnics because this new album was absolute FIRE. Happier Than Ever (the song) is Billie’s Rolling in the Deep. We all knew that she had the ability to write a classic sad song (see When the Party’s Over and I Love You), but this is a whole other level.

I first heard this track coming back from this year’s Lollapalooza. I was tired, hungry, and at the point where all the sweat you’ve accustomed throughout the day has made your shirt feel heavy and wrinkly. The album had dropped that night, so I was just cruising back from the train station with a friend who also happened to be a massive Billie fan. When Happier Than Ever came on it was in the Taco Bell drive-thru so naturally I was already in the zone. That unexpected drop halfway through is where FINNEAS’s production really shines. Billie has one of the best voices in music and she was destined to make a song this heartbreaking and powerful.

I already loved her music before, but this was the track that solidified Billie Eilish is so much more than just her debut to me. Thanks for making my Taco Bell experience even more special Ms. Eilish.

7. Black Midi – John L

Cavalcade | black midi

Schlagenheim was the surprise hit for me in 2019. One of the few times where everyone raved about it and was legitimately fantastic. Cavalcade is everything that Schlagenheim did, but two times better. When you have an opener like John L what’re you gonna assume? That it’s gonna kick ass of course.

John L feels like the beginning of a boss battle in a video game. I love the use of violin and how it’s just so over the top dramatic. It illustrates how much of a threat that this ‘John L’ character proves to be. Like the song itself, he’s raging and resorts to violence to extort his power. Every crash and sudden pause just feels like a slap to the face.

6. Wolf Alice – Delicious Things

Wolf Alice: Blue Weekend Album Review | Pitchfork

Very few artists I choose to fanboy over, but Wolf Alice… Wolf Alice I have no shame in doing so. The moment that Delicious Things starts I knew I would love it. The band has a sound they can really call their own. They can extend themselves as far as a sweet pop song, to punk, and in this case a dream pop slow burn.

Ellie Rowsell is one of my favorite voices in rock and this track only proves she gets better and better every album. This story of feeling like this newfound fame is intimidating yet curious is interesting. We often see artists say how grateful and/or brag about how they got famous, but it’s uncommon to see one where they take a step back and put out something that’s this confessional.

This is such a beautiful track of a stellar album. Wolf Alice is easily my favorite act of this year and it’s thanks to tracks like this dreamy, soothing alt-rock wonder.

5. BROCKHAMPTON – The Light

BROCKHAMPTON: ROADRUNNER: NEW LIGHT, NEW MACHINE Album Review | Pitchfork

BROCKHAMPTON did practically nothing in 2020, which was disappointing. Maybe I’m just greedy, but we got new material from the boy-band every year since 2016 and even a Kevin Abstract solo record. Like Billie Eilish, they took that year off to crank out a spectacular record, one that easily is their most fun, honest, and devastating.

The Light is easily the most straining track on the record and maybe the most emotional they’ve ever dropped. In interviews, the boy-band has stated how Roadrunner is a Joba centric album and The Light really gives him time to show off his strong storytelling abilities. The song documents his mental health since his father’s suicide in the first two verses and Kevin’s fractured relationship with his family in the final.

The two share an unrivaled chemistry within the band and this performance is among the most powerful I’ve heard from either. I never like to play this song around other people because of its intensity, but that’s okay. It’s a highlight for BROCKHAMPTON’s career and I am very glad that they made something as special as this.

4. Beach House – Once Twice Melody

Once Twice Melody” by Beach House Review | Pitchfork

Man, why’d they have to do this so late in the year? Beach House waited till November and said ‘let’s drop the best songs of this year’. No, really. They’ve put out eight tracks so far from their album next year and I loved every single one of them. It was very difficult to just pick one, but the title track just makes me feel something that very few songs can. Make me feel heartbreak when I don’t feel heartache in the slightest.

Just the way Once Twice Melody sounds really puts strain on my emotions. I was lucky enough to hear the world debut of this song on the radio and fell in love immediately. The bass is booming, the twinkles are cute and dreamy, and the guitar in the first two verses… oh man. I can’t say enough about how excited I am for this album to drop. According to my app that tracks my listening habits, I’ve played this song nearly 20 times since it dropped a little over a month ago. If you love Beach House, this is one to get excited for.

3. Silk Sonic – Smokin Out the Window

Smokin Out The Window

Leave the Door Open garnered massive amounts of excitement and questions. Would this be a one-off single or would there be an album to follow? Thankfully, it wasn’t and we were treated to an album full of sensational singles. While the first track may be most people’s picks, I can’t get enough of Smokin Out the Window. It’s far and away the most playful and quotable track on the record. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard or said “THIS. BITCH. Got me paying her rent!” or “not to be dramatic, but I want to die!”

Bruno and Anderson have impeccable chemistry. It almost feels like they’re trying to one-up each other with the most absurd one-liners. On one hand you got Bruno saying he has “kids running around his crib like it’s Chuck E. Cheese” and then Anderson saying, “I hope your trifling ass is walking barefoot in these streets!”

The chorus replays over and over in my noggin daily and I like it that way.

2. Baby Keem ft. Kendrick Lamar – Family Ties

Family Ties” by Baby Keem / Kendrick Lamar Review | Pitchfork

I had no clue who Baby Keem was before this single dropped, nor did I know he was a cousin of the almighty King Kendrick. Just by seeing Kendrick attached to a song is enough to gain my interest (unless it’s Bad Blood by Taylor Swift). Anderson .Paak and Bruno Mars might’ve had the best collab album of this year, but I think Keem and Kendrick have the strongest chemistry out of any duo this year. Range Brothers was a pretty solid single, especially with the whole “top of the mornin, top of the mornin” line. Family Ties though is hip-hop heaven.

This track has the most recognizable beat and with no contest the best feature of 2021. Baby Keem and Kendrick go back and forth as if they’ve shared the spotlight together for years. Keem kicks off the track with lyrical gold. Every bar just flies off his tongue with confidence. I love the bars right before the first beat switch where he flexes his worth, it just really shows how much he is like his cousin. Dope wordplay must be in the genes.

Once Kendrick comes in though is what really made this song my favorite rap track of 2021. So many quotable lines, so much aggression, so many different flows. I still can’t stop saying “amazing brother, pop off only on occasion brother”. It got to the point where I wasn’t even trying to repeat it, it became my default line when I had nothing else to say.

The track wraps up after nearly minutes and your hunger feels satiated. It’s one of those songs where once it’s done you pause and say “…damn”.

1. Japanese Breakfast – Paprika

Jubilee (Japanese Breakfast album) - Wikipedia

This was a very easy pick for my favorite this year. I’ve enjoyed Michelle Zauner’s music for while now and with every album, Japanese Breakfast gets better and better. Jubilee is a phenomenal achievement, but so is the opening track, Paprika.

I have a certain checklist of what I call ‘Campbell Classics’. There’s certain aspects of a song that tickle my brain the right way and this song does it in more than one. Phoebe Bridgers’ Kyoto was one of my favorites last year because of how much of a passionate vocal performance she gave and those HORNS. Those horns soared and so did my heart. Paprika is the same way. Zauner gives it her all vocally and man are the instrumentals a treat. I’ve never been so hyped by a simple tapping of a tambourine. The layers of stringed instruments too provide a sense of hopefulness and joy. This can be said about the aesthetic of the entire record to follow. That’s the best compliment you can give an opener.

The themes of Paprika are pretty similar to Wolf Alice’s Delicious Things. The biggest difference though is that Paprika is more about the influence that she has on her fanbase. She promises to stay faithful to herself and her craft, but is uneasy over if this will stick with the fans. She uses the metaphor of opening the floodgates and fearing that nothing will be left, sort of symbolizing the rush of interest. At the same time though, she belts out how it feels to be at the height of her power and have her fans linger on her lyrics. Sort of being cognizant of what she says can be taken to heart whether she wants it to or not. It’s a self-awareness that I haven’t really seen on a song before, unless you count Eminem’s Stan but that’s pretty different lyrically.

Paprika is my song of the year because it’s a breath of fresh air. It’s a song that is so positive, so well written, extravagantly organized instrumentally, and shows Michelle Zauner at her best vocal performance to date. I’ll play with the stereotype I mocked at the beginning just to say… In a year that was pretty grim and hard to navigate at times, I always found home and comfort in this lovely song by Japanese Breakfast.

Who is the Real Villain? Pointing Fingers in the Wrong Direction

The Office" Murder (TV Episode 2009) - IMDb

Currently Listening to: Sympathy for Life by Parquet Courts

Introduction

No, this is not an article about the Marvel or DC movies. Nor is it about the stylish, reality defying, action films that we eat up every summer at the theaters where the villain, usually with skin deficiency of some kind, causes terror among the common people. This is clearly fiction to most people. We like to use the cinemas (or home theaters in the COVID age) to escape from the reality that stresses us and immerse ourselves in the stories the screenwriters and actors have to tell. Other smaller platforms like YouTube and TikTok have also assisted in the avoidance of such goofiness.

TikTok, while definitely a time suck, was definitely my biggest escape this past year or so. However long we’ve been stuck in this pandemic. What is this the third season of Lost? Where the hell is the smoke monster? A smoke monster can’t be politicized, I’d prefer that over a disease. Anyhow, TikTok has slowly become harder and harder to open nowadays. Same goes for Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Google News… Why is this? I cannot stand these fucking public freak-out videos anymore.

I’ve discussed “Karens” and “Bobs” on this platform before. It wasn’t to shine light on the evil, but to highlight the great ones. Just writing that entry made me really appreciate the benevolence that so many people possess, we just don’t always give them the appreciation they deserve. Positivity is present, but it’s the influences that media presents to us that like to misconstrue our vision. It’s like if a toddler picked up your glasses that you dropped and handed it to you with slobbery, greasy fingers. The intention is good, the algorithm and the toddler mean well and want to give you what you want, but it’s not always gonna be what’s best for you.

So why write about this topic again? Times have changed. The phone has become more of a tool, but also more of a weapon, like a Nerf gun with actual bullets. Just because you have the license or right to carry said weapon does not mean you’re on the correct side of the conflict.

Misjudging the Book by Its’ Head Cover

In 2019, a video went viral with a group of Catholic high school students approached a group of black, Hebrew Israelites who were all shouting at and with the Indigenous people who were protesting at the Lincoln Memorial for Native American rights. Tensions began to grow between either party as many of these students had “Make America Great Again” hats, apparel that was created by Donald Trump to promote his political campaign. This red cap tends to upset certain groups of people who do not side with the former president’s beliefs. In the middle of the conflict, Nathan Phillips, a Native American activist, and high school junior Nick Sandmann (clad with the red MAGA hat) stand face to face as Phillips beats his drum in an attempt to create peace between the warring white Trump supporters and the Hebrew Israelites.

Nick Sandmann, RNC 2020 speaker and Covington Catholic video star,  explained - Vox

This scene happened to be photographed and shared to Twitter where many people criticized and insulted high schooler Sandmann due to the way the picture portrayed him. In 2019, where Trump is still president and many people are triggered by the sight of the red MAGA cap, naturally people interpreted this image as the white man attacking this Indigenous peoples rally. News stations and websites all over villainized Sandmann and dozens called for his expulsion from his school. Jim Carrey, yes that Jim Carrey, even doodled a picture of the scenario entitled “Baby Snakes” and posted it to Twitter where the antagonizing worsened. Normally people would just get upset for a few weeks and then continue to pick on the ‘villain’ casually every time his name would come into conversation. This was different.

Not only did Nick Sandmann not approach the crowds in an attempt to pick a fight, he entered the middle of it to ease tensions. After the picture had caught fire, Nathan Phillips came to the defense of Sandmann saying that he spoke no words and didn’t come to create friction. Sandmann put out a statement bouncing off this news and announcing that he was raised to love and respect despite what many would like to believe. Many celebrities such as Jamie Lee Curtis took to Twitter again to admit that she was wrong and hoped that those two could have a conversation following up that interaction.

Admitting the Truth

When this picture first became viral in early 2019 I was very quick to jump to the hate train. I saw a white guy in a MAGA hat and jumped to the conclusion that everyone else did. When I read Sandmann’s statement I was very much pleased with how well it was worded and what his intentions were. Given he did come from an anti-abortion rally just moments before that scene was documented, which I don’t exactly identify with, but if that is what you believe I respect your beliefs.

I contribute the events that occurred at the Lincoln Monument as the beginning of becoming more skeptical of the ‘woke’ crowds of the internet. When I say woke I don’t mean the ones that retweet a Rupi Kaur poem on Twitter and wear flower crowns to Lana Del Rey concerts. I am referring to the ones who use a headline as the whole story or refuse to refute their own beliefs because giving up what you believe in may be interpreted as weak. I was definitely that person in late high school years. I’m ashamed. but still learning.

Villainizing does not stop at just politics. It happens in every conceivable environment. We’ve all worked with someone that just treats everyone with little to no respect in order to achieve what they want. We have all seen sporting events where someone has played dirty in order to win. People like Manny Machado, for example, is arguably baseball’s biggest villain for the way that he will risk others and their physical health to get on base.

The Clock App Strikes

This woke crowd of people thrive on social medias. TikTok is definitely the biggest hub for people to be blown away by prejudice and judgement. I usually spend at least 30 minutes of my day on TikTok. What can I say I’m a sucker for satire and cooking vids. My algorithm is one that I very much enjoy and is MOSTLY positive. Every once in a while though there is a video of someone being filmed in public freaking out or saying something that may be considered polarizing. Not like the fucking white and gold dress of 2015.

Every day I log in to the former Musical.ly app, someone is being attacked. Sometimes a celebrity and sometimes a random dude. Hell, sometimes it’s even a comedy skit where a fake character is the subject of ridicule and insult. Most of the times one could argue that it is well deserved. The amount of ‘Karen’ video footage that I have seen are nearly all deserved for shame and dismay. Really makes you see how many people put on plus-sized little boy jeans and not big boy pants. Phones have really been a savior for many people when it comes to proving someone or something was a threat to them. It also assists in identifying the racists and sexists of the world. Many people come to the defense of those behind the camera in the comment sections poking fun at these people or saying equally terrible things about the horrible person being filmed.

The big problem with comment sections though is that they are not always right. Groupthink thrives on TikTok. The app has become so toxic that many people get shunned or bullied for thinking differently than the majority. It really is a matter of who is on what side of the phone and who has the most popularity.

A man with nearly a million followers on TikTok put out a vid of a girl getting upset with him because she had rear-ended him. The man behind the camera mocked her and laughed saying “how is a rear-ending my fault?” He even showed footage of her colliding with the back of his car from a nearby gas station security camera after the footage was released. The girl in the video had a more ‘rough’ dialect and was driving a very nice car, so naturally the comment section went bonkers. People made fun of her teeth, her mannerisms, even called her privileged and entitled.

A week later a random user on TikTok took to the platform and posted the same video the man with nearly a million followers had released. This time around saying that we owe the girl an apology. As it turned out the man behind the camera was completely in the wrong. Believe it or not the girl was in front of the famous guy in a turning lane. He didn’t feel like waiting so he went around her into the opposite lane to get ahead side-swiped her car, and braked immediately after getting in front of her when he realized the lane he was attempting to enter was full. So the girl had zero time to react and ended up hitting him. The TikTok user ended up getting his account banned from the app and the girl is suing for defamation after the video garnered 40 million views.

This video was just another reminder to not fully point blame without hearing the full side of the story. A theme that is recurring year after year, but no one seems to take to heart for very long. I have tried very hard to distance myself from these videos and stories for the sole purpose of avoiding this toxicity. It’s very bizarre that we like to create heroes and villains in every scenario just because there’s a disagreement. One doesn’t have to be all right and one doesn’t need to be wrong. No. There’s a reason that we have trials and there’s a reason there are debate teams, to hear both sides of the story out without pre-determined critiques.

‘Super’ Villains

As stated before, phones are a great addition to humanity in a handful of ways. I’ve kept up with news, people, and other information at ease thanks to my iPhone. Like a power drill, it can make life a whole lot easier or it can be the biggest present danger. Just because we film someone getting angry on film does not make us the hero of the story and the person filmed the villain.

In the show ‘How I Met Your Mother’, Barney (played by Neil Patrick Harris), points out that in the film The Karate Kid that Billy Zapka is actually the hero of the story and Ralph Macchio is the villain. For those unfamiliar with the movie, the roles of protagonist and antagonist are reversed respectively. It wasn’t until the popular Cobra Kai show came out nearly 30 years later that the unpopular opinion was explored in more depth. I found myself realizing that maybe he was the misunderstood hero the whole time. Funny how from age nine to twenty-two I thought he was the villain until I saw where he came from and what he intended to do all along.

I feel as though we like to hate on the villains in film and the people seemingly acting up on camera because we aren’t often given detail on what they mean to achieve and why. Look at Joker a few years back. Joker is arguably the most popular villain of all time. We never saw good in him and just viewed him as an irrational psychopath, even prior to his dismay he still had some dislikable qualities. The Joker film that dropped two years ago shed light onto the supervillain and where he came from. He was a mental patient that struggled to fit in with the rest of the world. Many people shit on him because he was ‘weird’ in their eyes and as a result lashed out on people out of anger and misunderstanding. I am in no way justifying his violent acts because that isn’t right no matter how you paint it, however, we are very quick to make villains out of each other because we don’t know where they come from. I came out of that film feeling bad for Joker to an extent. Maybe Arthur Fleck would’ve been a regular Tom Hanks if he was treated with respect. Who knows.

Damn… That’s Me

I recently watched Edward Scissorhands and that case is no different. Everyone in that neighborhood loved to gossip. They had no problem pointing out the problems about each other in order to make their lives more interesting and to create conversation. Every dialogue that the neighbors had with each other is in one way or another putting someone else down or putting themselves above one another.

Edward was a helpful asset to a lot of people in town despite his unique look. People used him as a tool to help themselves out thinking that they were doing good for him. This didn’t mean they feared him any less, but that just that they could use him. Edward barely ever spoke any words either, which means he rarely had time to explain his motives.

There were a few times in the film too where Ed would lash out due to anger, something we all process differently. He tore apart the curtains and broke down the neighboring bushes he had helped shape because people wouldn’t hear him out despite all he had done for them. Edward had accidentally scratched both kids he was living with in an attempt to help them. People didn’t care to hear him out or give him a second chance. The moment he ‘fucked up’ was the last chance he got to live among each other. As a result he gets banished from the town.

How this relates to real life is that so often we think that we are the heroes of our story and like to point out the flaws of others because we don’t like to think that we possess those same traits. Therefore it is bad and should be looked down upon. We all get angry. It’s part of being human. This doesn’t mean we all handle it the same way. Some people remain silent and think things through and some lash out and cry. It varies. You can tell that everyone in that town from Edward Scissorhands thought they were doing good things for Edward, but in reality they were the villains, or at least I thought they were. At least the main antagonist actively voiced how he felt. I’d rather someone be an outright asshole than be two-faced.

I think we live in a very flawed world that has a lot to talk about and to solve. The best way that we can do this is to listen. Instead of someone only being right and someone only being wrong we can try to listen to each other. As someone who majored in communication and minored in journalism, I really see the importance in knowing the full story and all sides. After all that’s why letter to the editor exists. If they miss a side then it’s important to address all fronts. There’s definitely a sense of irony to being a journalist though. People expect them to form an article or spotlight that covers all spectrums or one spectrum that caters to their taste. Then there’s some that act as though they care about being open to both sides but only read the headline and the slug (the print usually following the headline).

In Campbell’s perfect world, we would have healthy debate. Disagreements can be satisfied simply by hearing out each other and even if we disagree, can at least respect someone being different. We would definitely pick out less villains the more that we can fully understand and hear each other out. If you’ve ever read a “Where’s Waldo” book as a kid (or adult) you open the book with the intention of finding the titular character. The most difficult page of the books is the scene where everyone looks similar to Waldo. There’s only one correct one, but it’s hard to find him when he’s surrounded by those that resemble his features.

Picture the perfect world as a ‘Where’s Waldo’ book. With healthy conversation and debate along with respecting each other’s differences it’s easier to pick out the bad apples who don’t wish to cooperate and better the world. This is a page where you can find Waldo easily because nobody looks like him (Waldo being the bad apple). In a world where we don’t care to know the full story, make villains out of each other without context, and continue sticking to hate because people believe different than us it becomes harder to tell who are the heroes and who are the villains. This is the page where everyone resembles Waldo.

I’m not perfect when it comes to to this concept either. I point blame at the ‘bad’ people of the internet, but how could I say someone is bad without knowing them? I’ve been wrong before. Sure, there’s people that say horrible things that speak more about them than explaining themselves ever could. Racist gestures and violence for example. I mean how many movies or TV shows do you see where two people that hate each other at the beginning end up liking each other? They have time to know them better as time goes by. I think the true villains of the world are the ones that can’t admit the flaws of themselves, but are more than willing to point out the flaws of others. We don’t live in the film world of hero and villain where there has to be a bad guy and a good guy, we can just be human.

Man vs Nature: Animals

By: Campbell Petschke

The Sandlot Stars: Where Are They Now? - The Delite

Currently Listening to: You’re Gonna Miss it All by Modern Baseball

Introduction

When I was in first grade I had an assignment where I basically had to break it to my class that I was awesome through icebreakers that are fun to little kids, but stressful to high schoolers. Questions like what are your favorite subjects, favorite TV show, and of course what we want to be when I grow up. First two were easy, I loved social studies and what kid in the 2000s isn’t gonna say Spongebob? As a kid I struggled with the career question because I didn’t want to be the typical firefighter or policeman kid.

“Why not be a vet? You love animals.” My dad suggested this while I was playing around with my childhood collie Demi so I was naturally coaxed into it. This career choice though was appealing for the same reason that I would dislike it. One kid pointed out to me during my presentation that despite me getting to hang out with cats and dogs that I would have to deal with blood and putting dogs down in front of other kids. Fuck…

My relationship with animals has always been very scattered. Most animals are dope and clearly serve their purpose in their respective ecosystems, although I’m still trying to figure out why geese and flies exist. Growing up though it seemed like every time I had a nice relationship with an animal, something would happen that would give me a reason to not be homies with them anymore. Robins are the perfect example of this. I had zero opinion on them until one day I was playing hide and seek in my great-grandma’s backyard and one flew out of a birdhouse that I knocked and whizzed right past my face. My disgust for them still exists to this day (something about their eyes, don’t ask).

My least favorite animal as a kid though had to be either mice or opossums. Something about long-pink tails really disturbed me. I took my dog out one time during a cold winter night once and we heard rustling in the bushes. Thinking it was a skunk I quickly rushed over to pull her away, but it was the dirtiest opossum I’ve ever seen and it HISSED at us. Disgusted, I ran away but my dog chased it away. Yeah, yeah I know I’m a wimp whatever.

In recent months I’ve really gravitated towards this one YouTube channel where this guy runs this farm/rescue near Austin, Texas and has a wide variety of animals that he takes care of, some I’ve never even seen before. He has chickens, pigeons, rabbits, and even a baby kangaroo named Doorknob. Through these videos though, the main guy has such an interesting personality and explains the purpose of every single animal on his farm and even the ones that wander into his small yard like the tiny field mice and even a little opossum named Poppy that he rescued. He explains the vitality of having animals like Poppy around and he’ll even put her on his shoulder while he does farm chores.

These videos have really opened up my feelings about the animals that I see around the mid-west, even the ones that grossed me out previously. So I thought it’d be fun to share all my animal horror stories growing up and even ones that are recent.

Opossums

Ugh… Let’s get these little assholes out of the way. I doubt that he reads these, but my buddy Jake, who is a very interesting spirit and very much an animal person, called me over one day during last summer. He claimed he had something to show me. When I arrived at his place, he walks to his garage and tells me to wait. He comes back with four baby opossums thinking that this would tickle my fancy. I nearly screamed “JAKE WHY??” This lead to so many questions, but the most predominant being why he would think I would like this? He jokingly kept trying to put one of them on me, even dangling one by it’s dinky, pink tail. Nah dude keep your marsupials to yourself.

It’s pretty easy to hate opossums. Their beady eyes and seemingly greasy whitish gray fur make me feel like I’m looking at the animal version of John Waters. Their whiskers are the worst though, looking like skinny, black, uncooked ramen noodles. Not to mention they’re pretty fucking stupid. There’s this road on the way to my friend’s place that I call ‘roadkill road’ because there’s always a copious amount of dead opossums and raccoons no matter what time of day it is. Even if the city comes to clean it up it hardly matters because on will die in its’ place in a matter of minutes.

Have My Feelings Changed About Them?

Short answer, yes. Through watching the rescue guy on YouTube he explains the importance of them in the ecosystem and how they help in keeping pests like cockroaches and rats out of his area and can even help in keeping insects out of your garden. Opossums are also the only marsupials in North America, which doesn’t exactly make them any less ugly, but still a pretty cool fact nonetheless. An attack from an opossum is rare, despite them being omnivores. They are very timid animals so they’re more likely going to faint or run away than try and bite you. The relationship that the farmer and Poppy have together has sort of loosened me up. I actually saw one in the forest with my girlfriend recently and wasn’t COMPLETELY disgusted. However, it’s not an invitation to be friends just yet.

Birds

A little fact about me is that I’ve been hit by a bird three times in my life. Once by a morning dove, a robin, and the other by a cardinal. While I love cardinals, morning doves just kind of weird me out. If you get anywhere near one it’s almost a game to them of ‘how close can I get this human to walk towards me before I freakishly flap my wings’. The answer is: close enough to hit me in the forehead. I’ll give the cardinal a break since it hit me on the way to the bus stop in middle school and gave me more personality since I was shy.

The robin one is pretty vile though. I was riding my bike to help build the sets for our school’s drama production and while riding there a robin decided it would be totally cool to try and fly in between the spokes and smack into my leg. Nice one asshole, now you’re dead and I got trauma for the rest of my life.

Geese are probably the bird I’ve had the most issue with by far. They like to hiss at me when I ride along the bike trail by my house and do that weird motion with their necks that can only be described as noodley. My university has a whole Facebook page dedicated to how annoying the geese on campus are and how they literally shit EVERYWHERE. One girl came up to me at the desk the other day and showed me a pic of a goose standing on top of her car while she was moving out. I told her “well I hope you enjoyed that car because you’ll never get anywhere near it again.” One of my first ever posts on this site was actually about geese so if you want to see me amateurly rant about geese I’ll link it.

I also got pecked by a chicken when I was younger too so I definitely felt no mercy during every future KFC visit.

Have My Feelings Changed?

Eh, kind of? Some of my favorite animals are birds like penguins, hawks, and ducks. I even like geese a little more nowadays. I got pretty close to one the other day while I was on a walk and the closer I observed it the more cute and innocent it looked. Plus the way they dedicate themselves to one other goose for the rest of their life and travel with them is cool as heck. What a bunch of simps!

I have no ill-will towards most birds. I would totally love to own a bird one day actually. Whenever we would go to the pet store as kids, my brother and I would always run to the parrots and the one that could mimic you (the name escapes me). Ducks are easily my second favorite animal of all time. Like geese, they travel with their mate and are loyal as heck too (ladies find yourself a duck and not an owl). Male ducks have the coolest head of any animal with their shade of dark forest green and their bright yellow bills. If I could have one as a pet I’d totally have one by now.

Robins are still kind of busted to me and pretty dumb. There was one robin that kept flying into our front window one day and eventually killed itself, so I can’t respect an animal that can’t even tell the difference between the world and a window. Seagulls kind of rub me the wrong way too, but they get a pass for being associated with summer.

Also fuck ostriches and rheas. I was recently introduced to rheas and my god they’re evil. Same thing with peacocks. I guess it really depends on the bird, but I’d say 4 out of 5 times I’ll enjoy a bird.

Nocturnal Animals

I figured it’d be easy to generalize since nighttime creatures deserve a category all together. Only reason opossums aren’t in this is because we have a more memorable past.

Raccoons (aka trash pandas) are a very mixed bag. Their patterns are so cool and they’re very cute, but they’re also very menacing and kind of jerks. It seems like for every merit of these guys there’s a drawback. Ever since I saw that scene from Elf when he gets attacked by the raccoon my perception just hasn’t been the same. What I strongly dislike about the internet is that they will make an animal look so damn cute as a pet, but they’re super dangerous if they aren’t tamed. There’s a raccoon on TikTok that is a house pet and acts like a dog, but I’m sure secretly hates orphans or something else terrible.

I was never really afraid of foxes or coyotes growing up. It wasn’t until one coyote was in my neighborhood that I got kind of geeked and scared for my dog’s life. They’re very sweet in appearance, but are one of the most dangerous wild animals in the mid-west. Foxes are more mild versions of coyotes, but better in every single way. Not only are they friendly and unharmful to most humans and medium sized animals (unless rabid, but that’s extremely rare), but they can also be domesticated! They’re very beautiful animals that sadly only live around 2-5 years.

Skunks are OKAY I guess. Despite the obvious reason that most people hate them, they’re pretty cute, harmless animals. They’re kind of the nerds of nightlife. They stink and they can’t see for the life of them. I’ve been told they make very good house pets too. If you’ve never seen a skunk groomed before do yourself a favor and Google that man.

Have My Feelings Changed?

With foxes and skunks, yes. When it comes to raccoons and coyotes though, not so much. Foxes have slowly crept their way into becoming my favorite animal. Like the Urban Rescue Ranch YouTube channel, there’s a fox sanctuary YouTube channel that really got me fascinated with foxes and how they are taken care of if domesticated. I also realize that I have never had a bad experience with a fox either. I remember one time driving into my neighborhood I saw this little red fox running around with a cup on its’ nose. My man just wanted a bite I guess.

With skunks I realized that the only reason I found them to be kind of gross before is due to the impending threat they present. They’re actually very good for the environment, but the only drawback is that a lot of wild skunks have rabies so if you’re scratched by one you might be in a stinky situation (sorry, I’ll leave). With raccoons I think they are very cool animals, but the more I learn about them the more I kind of dislike them. They’re like koalas, they eat shit and look cute but don’t really do anything to help you or the environment. Seriously, Google ‘what are raccoons good for’ and the only answer is that they help keep other animal populations under control. Wow, congrats you eat food.

Coyotes are very smart and for that I have nothing but respect for my canine kings. The only issue is that they are a massive hazard if one sneaks into your neighborhood. Coyotes are probably the most accurately depicted creatures in media. They show very little mercy, especially to roadrunners (okay NOW I’ll stop SORRY). While they may seem cute, they will literally tear you up.

Mice/Rats

I hesitate to write about this, but truthfully I really have never liked/appreciated/welcomed these rodents. I blame the 2004 election for my distaste for mice and no I’m not talking about Dick Cheney. I remember during election day 2004 we had a few mice sneak into our house. This for whatever reason really disturbed me because they were getting into our food, more specifically the cereal. Nobody fucks with my Frosted Flakes unless your name is Tony the gosh-dang Tiger and even then I’d be like ‘dude just give it back’. They did eventually all get killed like within a week or so, but I was kind of paranoid for a few weeks.

Flash forward to the 2012 election and guess what? A mouse slipped into our house. The same way that a rat slipped into the senate (no subtlety here zodiac killer). I love how I’ll make a joke like that and some nut-job will probably DM me again over a tiny joke (again). ANYHOW back to mice. The difference between this time and the first time with the mice is this time I actually saw it in motion and in person. I just saw the signs the first time, hence the Frosted frustration. This really messed with me, I would have nightmares about rats and mice crawling up my legs for months.

As of recent, I’ve been able to separate my feelings about rats and mice though. Rats are like 10X worse than mice. Though I’d rather just not have either, mice have less mal-intent. Mice are just G’s trying to survive while simultaneously being ugly as fuck. I’m sure some can relate. Rats are vicious. They’re like the geese of the rodent world. The only time I’ve ever seen rats have really just been in Chicago or in pet stores. I have never held one of them before nor do I care to ever do so. The only good thing that rats have done through their time on earth is be in a Pixar movie.

Have My Feelings Changed?

No. Maybe a bit with mice, especially white mice. White mice are cool and I wouldn’t have one as a pet, but let’s just say that if I’m feeding a mouse to a snake I’d feel more guilty sacrificing one of those. Field mice are the worst in the mice bunch though, they’re so small and can squeeze through just about the smallest of spaces. They’re also one of the animals that reproduce the most. If a rat approached me on the street and asked me what time it was I’d probably be hesitant, but give it to them. We could kick it as mutuals, but probably not friends.

Wrap-Up

At the end of the day I’ve definitely had my fair share of animals related encounters and even dreams. I had a dream that opossums were crawling up my pantlegs the other day… strangely I didn’t mind until they started to grow human teeth and begin to smile. I think that the phrase “the only thing to fear is fear itself” speaks a lot of truth when it comes to animals. As a kid I was kind of freaked out by cows and sheep. Petting zoos might as well have been haunted houses for me. Being around them helped me get a better idea of what they’re about though you can also say the same about my experiences with frat guys. In a negative sense of course. Regardless, one of my 2021 goals was to be better acquainted with birds and mice so I guess we’ll see what zany scenarios will be brought forth by that.

Daft Punk Albums Ranked

Daft Punk may have split up, but at least we have DJ Hero - Polygon

Currently Listening to: Saturation by Brockhampton

Introduction

A little over a month ago Daft Punk announced their retirement from music. At least one can assume that by the somewhat goofy snippet of Guy Manuel’s robot exploding in the middle of the desert. This was followed by Thomas Bangalter walking into the sunset alone. It’d be a lie to say this wasn’t expected. The duo hadn’t released anything since 2013’s Random Access Memories, unless you count their work on The Weeknd’s album, Starboy, or their production on Kanye West’s Yeezus and Arcade Fire’s Everything Now. Their influence and style influenced a lot of artists that we hear on the radios nowadays too. Artists like Disclosure and Mark Ronson both credited them as massive influences to the electronic and rock genres. It seemed like when they initially broke up on February 21st of this year, everyone had something to say.

It is very rare that an act like Daft Punk comes around and has an influence carry into three separate decades the way theirs did. They did so much for the house scene, modern electronic music, and even rock. Daft Punk was an act that it seemed like everyone wanted to work with. From Nile Rodgers of Chic, The Weeknd, Julian Casablancas, Paul Williams, to even Kanye West. They also can be credited to having one of the first ‘viral’ videos on YouTube. Their song Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger was accompanied by two hands that had all the lyrics written on various fingers and the palms. They also released an anime to play in part with their album Discovery called “Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem”.

As you can probably tell, I really enjoyed their music over the years. I didn’t always talk about them, but they were always that one group that had a nearly flawless discography. I thought in honor of their retirement I would rank their albums (including Daft Club and the live albums) by my personal enjoyment. Also as much as I liked the Tron Legacy Soundtrack I didn’t feel the need to rank it in the mix. Hope you enjoy!

7. Daft Club (2003)

Daft Club - Wikipedia

Daft Club is sort of a remix album for Discovery. I felt the need to include this album because I feel as though it puts a unique spin on some of the tracks from that record and also it just slaps. I love a handful of the remixes like the Basement Jaxx remix of Phoenix to make it sound more grimy and aggressive or the Demon remix of Face to Face. What makes a remix album sort of easy to pick on though is that sometimes there is just a singular bass drop added or a different beat strung throughout the original song to make it danceable. This doesn’t happen AS much as a normal remix album, but there’s still a few. The Aerodynamic remixes don’t really add anything new or fresh to the original version.

What makes this album really worthy of being included on this list other than a handful of really solid remixes is the few B-Sides in the mix. Aerodynamite and Ouverture could replace two songs from Discovery and fit right in. The one standalone track though, Something About Us, is a perfect single. I know that it’s also on Discovery, but in the context of this project I think it fits in better. I love this song so much. I get a lot of nostalgia from this song not only because of the anime it is from, but also because this used to play at a job I had a number of years ago. It seemed like every time I went to use the bathroom this song would come on. Thanks to Daft Punk for making the perfect soundtrack to poop to.

6. Alive 1997

Alive 1997 - Wikipedia

Daft Punk is infamous for putting on spectacular live shows. This was the one that started them all or at least gained the most traction first. There’s not a whole lot to be said about this one except that this album definitely stands out against most live albums. Even with just one album under their belt, Daft Punk was able to make a Birmingham crowd very excited. The transitions from song to song were mostly smooth and the crowd energy made the album more enjoyable too.

While it’s impressive that the energy and vibe created on this record was very fun and enjoyable since Homework is a very solid album, the amount of material sort of wares thin after a while. The music is still above average, but after a while the energy fades away until the very end when it goes crazy again. Alive 1997 also plays very well with car speakers, so if you have a car and your car has somewhat good bass then this album is perfect for that. Nothing too special, just an easy listen.

5. Human After All (2005)

Human After All - Wikipedia

My first exposure to anything from Human After All is one day coming home from the movies I heard this song coming from my older brother’s room. As I walked past on the way to my room I stopped and listened because sometimes I would hear something I liked. This was not the case this time. I was like “damn this song is repetitive.” That song was The Prime Time of Your Life.

A few years later I gave this album a chance just because I liked Daft Punk’s other material and this was the last one I hadn’t heard all the way through. Prime Time of Your Life has slowly become one of my favorite tracks. I love the slow build-up and the layering that comes about every passing minute. The fast buildup towards the end leading to insanity gives me goosebumps.

Human After All has a lot of grimy songs, more than any Daft Punk album in the past. There’s a lot of distortion and fuzz put into the beats creating this almost dystopian atmosphere. The opener and self-titled track is prime example. It’s very a very rock inspired house track that sort of leads you to believe the rest of the album will be like that too. Sadly, it’s not and that’s one of the biggest issues with Human After All. It’s a pretty spotty record with really high highs and some semi-forgettable others. This album also has the only Daft Punk song I feel tempted to skip, Steam Machine. It sounds very cool and chilling, but that’s it. It keeps the same speed throughout the entire track and that breathy ‘steeeeeeeeaaaaaam machiiiiiiiiiine’ that gets looped is borderline irritating.

To this album’s merit, some of their most iconic singles are on here too. Robot Rock is a jam for the ages. It serves as the perfect bridge of sound from Discovery to this one. It meshes the smooth production with some pretty glossy, yet heavy guitar and aggressive electronic beats. There’s a reason that this song has lasted into decades after in meme culture, but also in concerts. I’ve seen a few live shows where this song has been teased or sampled.

Overall, this album is still a good listen. I don’t return to it as quick as I would other albums of theirs, but I have at least half this album sprinkled into a few playlists of mine.

Best Tracks: Robot Rock, The Prime Time of Your Life, Television Rules the Nation, Technologic

4. Homework (1997)

Homework (Daft Punk album) - Wikipedia

I’ll never forget the first time I heard Homework. It was in the middle of study hall and I had ran through all my downloaded music. So I looked to Daft Punk, since I heard Da Funk in a video during history class (I don’t know why it was history). I didn’t expect the material I heard. Around the World and Da Funk were definitely ones I was familiar with, but wow… I didn’t love this when I first heard it. It took a few listens for it to click. Homework’s repetitiveness had to grow on me and also I became more patient and open-minded with music in the years to follow.

All publications and critics say how revolutionary this album was and what it did for the house scene. Yeah, I totally see it. Even if there’s a lot of material that sounds like this today, there’s something kinda special about Homework. It’s like a disco infused club party. Sure, you can argue that this album is 10x more repetitive than Human After All, especially since the songs tend to run longer on here too. The only difference is these house beats make sense to be played over and over. The lyrics and vocal samples on Human After All made the songs feel all the more longer. With Homework, there’s very little lyrical content at all and when there is like in Around the World it is blended into the rhythm. These make sense to be played longer.

I easily get lost in the shimmery guitars and EXTREMELY 90’s club beats. I have always loved Da Funk ever since the first time I heard it on Just Dance 3 when I was in middle school. It’s such a unique song that only gets more and more intriguing. It also sounds phenomenal on Alive 1997. Rollin’ and Scratchin’ is the second longest track on the album, but the progression makes you invested. One of the few Daft Punk songs that makes you feel something insane and maniacal.

Homework has its’ place in history for good reason. There’s a lot to love on here and it’s very much a product of its’ time. It’s not hard to see what influence this would serve to a fat chunk of electronic and EDM artists working today.

Best Tracks: Da Funk, Rollin’ and Scratchin’, Fresh, Burnin’, Revolution 909

3. Alive 2007

Daft Punk - Daft Punk - Alive 2007 [LP] (Vinyl/LP) - Amazon.com Music

My number one complaint about Alive 1997 is the familiarity and the sort of distant energy. Even though by Homework they had established a pretty healthy fanbase they still had much more to do and grow. Alive 2007 is everything you could’ve wanted from a live album. Daft Punk waste no time pulling out punches and bangers starting off with Robot Rock, probably their most aggressive, yet accessible song they’d ever put out. From then on it just doesn’t slow down.

The energy that lacked from Alive 1997 is 10x more than what I could’ve asked for on 2007. At this point they had three VERY solid albums under their belt so of course the hits are gonna hit harder than ever. The amount of cheers on tracks like Around the World and Aerodynamic… MMPH it makes me miss concerts more than ever. The way that they sort of tease these well-loved tracks in other songs just shows they know their worth. This teasing only makes the payoff more special. Crescendolls is probably my second favorite track off of Discovery and the way that gets teased into Television Rules the Nation is perfect.

Somehow Daft Punk managed to pair the right songs together to make an unforgettable listening experience. Some feel destined to be put next to each other like Touch It and Technologic. Yeee-UCK what a grimy beat that one has, I love it. They even made Steam Machine sound pretty good. This is easily a perfect live album and it only makes their breakup sadder knowing we will never be treated to something like this ever again. This album confirmed that I indeed love this duo.

Best Tracks: Robot Rock/Oh Yeah, Around the World/Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger, One More Time/Aerodynamic, Prime Time of Your Life/Brainwasher/Rollin’ and Scratchin’/Alive

2. Discovery (2001)

Discovery (Daft Punk album) - Wikipedia

My favorite albums by Daft Punk really are interchangeable. I think that Random Access Memories sounds better on a hot, summer day. Discovery is definitely a winter album for me. There’s something very cold, yet mystical about it especially when paired up to Interstella 5555. Discovery is very hard to hate if you’re already a Daft Punk fan. To be completely frank I don’t think it’ll even be the album to win over those who don’t gravitate to their tunes in the first place (with a few exceptions). I think that comes more in their later work. As someone who loves their music though, this is nothing short of a masterpiece.

I could go on and on about how much this album’s legacy affected electronic/house music and even hip-hop, but that’s almost undermining what it did for music in general. This saw their most commercially successful songs at the time including One More Time and Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger. Two tracks that have been sampled to eternity, but their influence remains constant to this day. I personally prefer Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger since I think there’s more layers and progression than One More Time. Plus the beat for whatever reason scared me as a kid. I thought the beat had something sinister and creepy underneath and in the context of the anime… well I guess I was right.

Daft Punk consistently pull all these punches that really progressed their image. They put out two pretty amazing pop songs with Something About Us and Digital Love. Something About Us even got a radio edit later on to promote Daft Club. I talked earlier about how Crescendolls was my second favorite track off Discovery. I love the circulating crescendos and chants, it makes it sound like an arena anthem of madness. It’s a good segue to the tracks that follow, which tend to be a bit more groovy than the tracks that proceeded it.

So what is my favorite song off Discovery? That would be Digital Love. Digital Love is without a doubt Daft Punk’s best song. It services as an introduction to the type of music they would be making moving forward and the sound that we have come to love since Homework. This is also their most poppy song at the time. There’s very few songs in their early discography that have that basis of a first and second verse, bridge, and chorus. Digital Love has all of these and through every verse that follows there’s a new layer added to it. I love how punchy the synths are in the chorus and how they function as the vocals with no words. The grooves are beautiful and soothing too and it all gets brought home with that kick-ass guitar solo. What a perfect single.

I never felt bored at any point on this record. From beginning to end there’s just a story told through these wonderful instrumentals and talk-box lyrics that even out of context of the anime take you on a journey through different genres and elevations of mood. I feel very happy with One More Time, lovey with Something About Us, emotional with Veridis Quo, amped up with Aerodynamic, and complete with Too Long.

There’s very few albums I’ve heard in my life that make me feel as many emotions as Discovery does. Their main focus and mission was to create an homage to the sounds of their childhood. Daft Punk definitely wears their influences on their sleeve, especially on what I consider to be their best album. If you haven’t heard Discovery before what’re you doing bro? Get on it!

Best Tracks: Veridis Quo, Crescendolls, Digital Love, Something About Us, Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger

1. Random Access Memories (2013)

Daft Punk - Random Access Memories - Amazon.com Music

I’m sure plenty of Daft Punk fans would disagree with me, but Random Access Memories was the album that they were destined to make. Their fourth and final studio album is easily their magnum opus.

It could just be me wearing my nostalgia goggles, but the rollout and promotion was flawless. They promoted the SHIT out of Get Lucky and was the teaser track for their somewhat mysterious album ads on TV. I distinctly remember them airing these promotions during Saturday Night Live and every week for I believe three weeks there’d be a new element added to the commercial. This was until it said “Daft Punk” in flashy gold letters and the merging of the two helmets to make the album cover. I can’t remember the last time I had seen an album commercial since then. Sad.

Discovery was the culmination of all their childhood influences and putting their spin on it. The soundtrack of their youth. Random Access Memories is the utilizing and partnering of their influences. This includes Paul Williams, Nile Rodgers, and of course Giorgio Moroder. It’s almost as if Discovery was the preface to their career and RAM is the wrap-up or the narration to their career. The obvious hint is Giorgio By Moroder where Giorgio tells the story of how he found inspiration and made his way into the world of music. He said with his music he wanted to combine the sounds of the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, and the future. Sound familiar? This nine minute track is one of their longest, but it’s such an infectious beat that pays homage to their hero and tells a great story too. If you haven’t seen it before, watch the interview of Giorgio telling the story of how Daft Punk recorded that song, it’s awesome.

Speaking of storytelling, Touch is another track that will inspire you. Paul Williams’ feature starts off distorted and fuzzed with this sort of grimy, almost Time to Pretend by MGMT type beat. Then this somewhat dirty distortion turns into a clear, soft spoken “Touch”. A story then follows of questioning where your place in life is and what you can do to find it. The solution. Love. The best and most memorable lyric falls on this track, one that resonated with me the moment I heard it. “If love is the answer, you’re home”. This is accompanied by some phenomenal keyboarding and trumpeting. It’s an instrumentally wonderful moment.

I had said earlier that Discovery might not win over all listeners, but Random Access Memories has a better chance of gripping a new listener. Tracks like Get Lucky, Lose Yourself to Dance, and Instant Crush have the draw of multiple genres coming together to make one humongous hit and two pretty sizeable others. Instant Crush was the sleeper hit that I didn’t see coming. Features on a Daft Punk album already seemed like a foreign concept, but they truly came out on top with their choices. Julian Casablancas would later put out his least interesting Strokes album after this, but at least his feature here was pretty dope. I love how disco inspired these three tracks are too. It doesn’t come off as kitschy or cheesy, but more so a testament to how much they love the music they grew up on.

RAM comes off as a victory lap in a way. Even without knowing that this would be their final album at the time they definitely had a lot to say. The duo’s message since the very beginning has always been to spread love and to show your passion. Give Life Back to Music isn’t meant to come off as an insult to modern music, but more of a ‘take back your sound’ and to make it your own. In a time where most mainstream music was kind of bland and dull (with exceptions) Get Lucky served as a breath of fresh air. I still don’t know why this song was such a hit outside of Pharrell being attached to it. The top songs that year were Thrift Shop by Macklemore, We Can’t Stop by Miley Cyrus, and Blurred Lines by Robin Thicke. These all in some way fall under the mainstream criteria in some form. Not to say that Get Lucky is this genre defying anthem, but it totally stands out among these other three.

The last two songs hit hard. Doin’ It Right is all about getting lost in the moment, a euphoric state of mind that needs to be possessed. Drowning in the sound and letting the music guide you is their definition of ‘doin it right’ and it’s totally convincing coming from a spectacular Panda Bear feature. This was actually my introduction to Animal Collective, I thought ‘man this Panda dude has a great voice’.

I could write a whole entry on how perfect Contact is as a closer. It’s not only the perfect finale to a disco and electro-pop rollercoaster, but also to their career as we know it. I revisited this album after news of their breakup and nearly cried. This song instrumentally drives me insane in the best way. The way that the synth-organ steers into these insane drums and bass plays out like a spaceship accident. Like two rockets smashing into each other and this is what it would sound like if you could hear in space. The movie Interstellar hadn’t come out yet, but I always thought that it would fit perfectly in the Hans Zimmer score.

Random Access Memories is a one of a kind album. It broke off from the traditional Daft Punk sound and went in a new direction that I didn’t expect to love as much as I do. Discovery is probably the better album at the end of the day, but the highs on RAM are so high. Some of my all-time favorite songs were introduced here and play to the soundtrack of my early high school years and memorable summer vacations to come. I’ll always remember and cherish the first time I ever heard it. As a kid who only listened to Top 40 and popular alternative, Daft Punk was my introduction to electronic and house music. RAM is an album that really reminds me of my family. We all really enjoy this record and it’s impossible to not think of riding backseat to the waterpark on hot summer days while listening.

Best Tracks: Within, Touch, Giorgio By Moroder, Get Lucky, Instant Crush, Doin’ It Right, Contact

Should I be Laughing?

By: Campbell Petschke

Nervous Laughter GIFs | Tenor

Currently Listening to: Discovery by Daft Punk

Can I Say That?

A sense of humor is one of the most subjective aspects of being human. There’s so many different types of humor out there like deadpan, dark, slapstick, dirty… the list goes on. Some of us might fall into multiple categories or maybe you’re someone that laughs at everything. Personally, I think I fall under the type of humor that’s part deadpan, sarcastic, or smart-dumb. Smart-dumb in the sense that it’s dumb humor that isn’t a cheap laugh. The jokes you’d find in Anchorman or Dumb and Dumber. One of my all-time favorite jokes in a comedic film is in Step Brothers when John C. Reilly approaches Will Ferrell on the couch and asks him why he’s so sweaty. To this he responds “Oh, uh… I was watching Cops.” Stupid, but smart.

On TikTok there’s been this growing trend of listing ‘what comedic moment in a tv show or film wouldn’t fly today’ and it got me thinking and questioning a few things. For one thing, we definitely don’t live in the same world of comedy that we did in the 2000s and that’s no secret. I remember watching Mean Girls for the first time in middle school and being shocked when Regina George says “I know that, I’m not retarded”, which is one of those unwritten rule words where you just don’t say it anymore. Sure, I heard that world all the time growing up in elementary school, but it quickly got phased out in the early 2010’s.

As a whole, society’s sense of humor is always evolving and going through phases. I remember growing up every kids movie trailer that I would see on Nickelodeon or Cartoon Network would highlight all the moments in the film where a character would get hurt or smack into something. More often than not too this would be paired with some older orchestral piece like Tchaikovsky or other high energy classical music. Kids movies are a whole other discussion though. What really made me want to write this entry was because of a little show called The Office. Maybe you’ve heard of it. It’s every middle schooler-college kid’s favorite TV program… apparently.

There’s no doubting The Office’s place in TV history or even the sense of humor it has, but some jokes are VERY dated in the show. Or at least some would consider it dated in terms of political correctness. If some of the jokes in the early seasons of that show came out today, it would most certainly offend a handful of people. This is why it’s intriguing to see that fine line of what’s too far and what’s acceptable enough for viewer eyes and ears.

These upcoming sections are totally my opinion, you might not agree with it but this is just based on my experience. Especially from these past five years.

The Popular Man Child

In the 2010’s there’s this rise of controversial humor all over social media. It seems that a lot of laughs generated or highlighted in TV and film has to do with shock value or making an ‘out of the box’ statement. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched some random recommended clip from Family Guy where there’ll be a cutaway gag, sort of their signature brand of humor, and the joke or reference in question will more often than not be something kind of racist or extremely violent. Don’t get me wrong I love Family Guy, despite it having horrible story writing 99% of the time, the jokes are more often than not have me on my ass laughing. It’s the ones that are racist that make me confused.

For example, there’s an episode where Lois and Peter have one of Lois’s exes, Jerome, over who for context is black. When Stewie wakes up and sees the sight of Jerome he asks “are we being robbed?” I laugh at the joke just because of how appalling it is that someone would still think this and so would many others for the same reason. Maybe it’s satire or even just part of Stewie’s character since he’s no stranger to saying controversial things, but more often than not there’ll be a joke like this and people will defend it saying something like “oh that’s just Family Guy” or “that’s such a Family Guy joke” and everything is okay. Really?

Just last year there was a revolution in the animated TV realm where people who voiced characters that were of a different ethnicity stepped down from their roles for it coming off as insensitive. Characters like Apu and Carl in The Simpsons, who are Indian American and black respectively, were played by Hank Azaria who is white. Azaria stepped down from both roles last year out of respect. Family Guy did the same thing with Mike Henry, a white guy who voiced Cleveland Brown who was black. The somewhat racist jokes still live on and persist on the show however and it doesn’t seem to publicly bother anyone.

I’m not here to really call out Family Guy because there are some really great jokes in the show. Peter Griffin is one of the funniest characters ever made and has a place in pop culture history no doubt. What gets me though is this legacy factor that some shows have.

Take The Office for example. In the second episode of the series, Diversity Day, Michael Scott does a cartoonishly offensive impression of Chris Rock. Even when I first saw that I was like WOAH man. Even if Michael is supposed to be an ignorant slimeball in the first season if anyone said this joke nowadays it would most likely be cancelled, context of not. What’s funny about this situation is that there’s an episode of Community where they play Dungeons and Dragons together and one character paints himself black to fit the role of a character in the game that is supposed to be an elf. They even address it in the episode that it comes off as offensive and he defends himself saying “I’m an elf idiot!” This episode was banned from syndication and not on any streaming services. Maybe it’s just my view, but the Chris Rock impression seems a lot more offensive than trying to dress as an elf in a clip that’s self aware of what it’s doing.

Despite all these factors, we (‘we’ as in most) give them a pass. Why? Because they’re old. However, if anyone were to repeat these jokes in real life nowadays they would most definitely be cancelled for it. There seems to be some sort of bias defending Hollywood where a show’s message or joke, offensive or not, seems to get let off the hook a lot. Not saying that I want things cancelled or anything, but there just seems to be selectivity. I mean think about it, these jokes, serious in nature and delivery or not were written by someone who thought this up. They go off of stereotypes more often than not, but aren’t we trying to stray away from that in society?

The Fine Line

I would be a hypocrite if I said that I haven’t told jokes that could be considered questionable. Not in a way that attacks race or gender in any way, but maybe on the more darker side. Dark humor is something that invades the internet in different capacities every day. I’m going to check Twitter right now and I bet anything that I’ll find something dark. Be right back! *checks Twitter* Alright ladies and gents I’m back and it is with great honor I report… a joke about gender pronouns was one of the first things that pop up. Did it make me laugh? Yes BUT it was over the top and meant to make light of the whole ‘there’s at least ten genders’ narrative. Which if you believe in that I’m not going to knock you for it, you do you man. There seems to be a fine line that we ride on a daily basis of what is cool to joke about and what is untouchable.

Comedians are the prime example of riding this fine line. Take Bill Burr for example. I personally think he is the best working comedian today next to Dave Chappelle. He’s not afraid to dance on this line of controversy. One of his most infamous stand-ups he has this one segment where he talks about how his wife was watching some talk show that resembled The View and how they had a discussion on domestic abuse. One of the quotes from this show said that there is no reason to hit a woman. Burr replies to this and says “really I can give you thirty off the top of my head, but you just don’t do it” implying that you shouldn’t do such a thing, but to say there’s no reason to do so is by his mindset incorrect.

I laughed at this segment. Not for the fact that he says there’s a reason to hit women, I don’t believe in that whatsoever. It’s the absurdity of his delivery and the over-exaggerated gestures he brings up. It’s dark humor, but it’s definitely not for everyone. He narrowly avoids cancel culture by saying first and foremost that he does not believe in it. Comedians in general seem to get away with this stuff a lot. Why is it when they say their thoughts they get laughs, but when someone else says it it’s wrong? Could it be that people automatically think they’re joking because they associate them with humor? Or maybe it’s the fact that some people don’t know how to deliver a joke? This is just devil’s advocate of course, I don’t believe that a certain party DESERVES to joke about domestic abuse or that it’s unfair. Just posing a question.

Did They Really Just…?

Going off of making controversial jokes, a majority of popular TV shows rely on shock humor or even gross out humor to an extent. The way I see it, controversial humor has two entities where one is more making light of a bad situation or teasing the idea of something morbid or dark happening. Controversial humor is like the bad boy at a party. He’ll make fun of the host or make a comment on the way someone dresses to impress a girl. The girl attracted to him naturally either feels uncomfortable so she laughs or genuinely thinks it’s funny. More often than not we feel like we need to laugh at a controversial joke because someone on TV made it. Or maybe we just feel uncomfortable, who knows?

The best examples of this would probably be really any adult animated show. Something like South Park is more of a satire than anything and pokes fun at how comical life is around us. Poking fun more at the people involved than trying to turn heads (of course with some exceptions). Then there’s a show like Mr. Pickles. Man, what an awful show. It’s literally a show about a murderous dog that kills people in very horrific ways. It’s mostly torture porn in the form of crudely drawn animation. This cartoon has had its’ backlash yet it has a 7.4/10 rating on IMDB…

Do people actually enjoy this shit like Mr. Pickles or do people just wanna like it because other people get offended by it and want to be edgy? In the age of cancel culture and audiences calling out shows and writing for their mistakes many may gravitate to shows like this that can get away with doing controversial jokes and gags. The same can be said about Happy Tree Friends, but that’s a whole other article for another day.

Personally, I don’t get offended by much content I see on TV or in standup. I’m very much a ‘find humor in anything kind of guy’, basically if you’re creative about your delivery and isn’t just flat out tasteless, you’ll probably win me over (again, with exceptions). I do know that the media is no stranger to making people upset though and that not all jokes are gonna land well with audiences.

Where Does It End?

A question that I ask myself a lot whenever I come across a questionable joke is what makes this okay to joke about now? Rick and Morty recently had an episode where a 9/11 joke was teased, but not executed and instead went for a joke about Pearl Harbor. It made me wonder what made this tragedy more open for jokes than the other. Often we’ll say that a joke is ‘too soon’ to make, but does that make the offense taken any less? I see a TON of 9/11 jokes on TikTok. It gets to the point where I really just have to turn off the app sometimes because I get disgusted by it. Most of these kids on the app didn’t have to live through that event or don’t remember it at all. Does this make it okay?

Think of it this way. If a man, we’ll call him Ted, lived a great life and had many friends and family members that adored him. Nothing short of a decent human being. Say out of nowhere one day he just dies. Friends and family alike are heartbroken, groups are broken up because of the loss of him. Flash forward five years after Ted’s death and one of the Ted’s friends tells a joke about the way that he passed away to another one of his friends. Are they gonna take that well? We joke about things and laugh at these things since they haven’t happened to us.

It doesn’t stop at jokes, this happens with oppression too. Someone who lost a loved one in 9/11 isn’t going to be the first in the room to make a quick joke about it. The same can be said about someone who has been exposed to racially charged police brutality. I can’t believe I have to write that, but it’s true. I’ve seen jokes online about the horrific murder of George Floyd. Nobody in that community is gonna be seen making a joke any time soon.

So when we make jokes about these tragedies that we come across is it to just to be insensitive for the sake of being crude or is it because others have no other way to cope with the discomfort? What is the duration of time where a joke isn’t ‘too soon’ anymore? There’s a lot of good discussion and can honestly be dissected till the end of days. Doesn’t mean it’s gonna stop any time soon. I guess the only thing I have to say is read the room before you make a jab at something controversial. Your tone and intent are clearly visible and more impactful than you think.

RANKING EVERY ALBUM I’VE LISTENED TO IN 2020

By: Campbell Petschke

December 2020 Memes - StayHipp

Intro to the Outro

Wow, 2020 has been a great year… for music! Say what you will about 2020 and believe me I have plenty to say, but personally I feel like we’ve been treated to some damn good music this year. Sure there’s duds and disappointments, but if that’s the price I have to pay to get another good Strokes album then that’s fine by me. I decided it would be fun (and time consuming) to make a list of everything that I listened to this year and I mean EVERYTHING. Albums at least. This isn’t just album that came out this year, actually a handful of these aren’t even really from this decade.

It is December 28th as I am writing this so I might listen to more albums by the time 2020 is over, but I figure I might as well get a head start on this year’s bottom portion. I am not going to write about all 140 albums I heard this year, but I’d say expect something for MOST of the ones I heard. Drop any recommendations for the coming year if you feel inclined to do so.

Jump to a Category: AWFUL (137-132), DULL (131-118), FINE (117-100), SOLID (99-85), GOOD (84-69), REALLY GOOD (68-58), GREAT (57-35), REALLY GREAT (34-26), Top 25, Top 10

137. NAV – Good Intentions

Good Intentions (album) - Wikipedia

I’m not one to hop on the hate train blindly, which is why I took my time to find out that I dislike NAV. Admittedly I like a few key singles from him and I don’t think he is untalented because obviously he got this far and does have a somewhat recognizable voice. That being said Good Intentions is horrendous. I think I’d revisit one maybe two tracks off this thing. It’s way too long (I don’t know how anyone could sit through the deluxe), way too boring, and just an overall lifeless listen. I feel bad for whoever was involved with this project.

136. Machine Gun Kelly – Tickets to My Downfall

Tickets to My Downfall - Wikipedia

Somehow I’ve seen MGK twice live in my life. He’s a lively performer and has an appeal for sure. I actually enjoyed his single My Bloody Valentine quite a bit earlier this year too. This album is just a fucking nightmare. This album reminds me of those nights where maybe you drink a bit too much and wake up feeling dirty and want to immediately wash your clothes and yourself. Does MGK seriously think that lyrics like “kiss kiss kiss kiss the bottle all night” are original or even remotely interesting?

They always separate the art from the artist, but it’s kind of hard in this situation when MGK is a known douchebag. I mean look what happened when he tried to cross Eminem back in 2018. His persona just screams out “peaked in high school”. His lyrics and weird pop punk transition from rap through Tickets to My Downfall only proves it further with lazy lyrics and just blatantly trying to rip off blink-182 and not the good blink-182. Travis Barker, one of the best living drummers, is also on this atrocity and even if the two are friends I just feel secondhand embarrassment. That blackbear feature too is just… next.

135. Green Day – Father of All…

Father of All Motherfuckers - Wikipedia

Green Day and blink-182 had a similar effect on me back in middle school and early high school. They also have the same effect on me now that they’ve dropped their most recent projects. I feel confused and kind of dumber after listening. Green Day is better than this and they know it. Revolution Radio was a pretty solid album and with songs like Bang Bang! still being made it only makes me kinda disappointed that they aren’t actively trying to make songs like that.

134. Dominic Fike – What Could Possibly Go Wrong

Dominic Fike: What Could Possibly Go Wrong Album Review | Pitchfork

I was rooting for Dominic Fike. He got the Brockhampton seal of approval and on top of everything put out 3 Nights which is catchy as ever to this day. Chicken Tenders was also a fun song that dropped this year. The day it came out I just kind of lied in bed thinking, huh that was really all he had then…

Maybe I’m just getting older or something, but lazy music like this just kind of gets to me. All these songs sound so similar and it’s not even something like Jhene Aiko’s album this year where even if a handful of the material sounds similar at least you can get lost in it. This was just a mix of disappointment in myself and for trying to think of a way I can make a joke about the album title in association with my feelings towards it.

133. Meghan Thee Stallion – Fever

Fever (mixtape) - Wikipedia

Meghan Thee Stallion is one of the most talented rappers working today. So why do I feel constantly let down by her albums and tapes? I planned to listen to Fever and her two projects from this year in a row just because I had never heard them all in full before. I got through Fever and just said nah I’m good. There’s a few near-perfect singles on here like Cash $hit, but the rest just feels like she gave up or maybe didn’t give up and just didn’t care if all of the content on here just sounds the same thematically.

I’m all for turn your brain off music, but when the beats sound too similar and the hooks just aren’t very memorable it’s hard to cling onto.

132. Lil Wayne – Funeral

Funeral (Lil Wayne album) - Wikipedia

I couldn’t tell you one song from this project. When he announced this it just felt like it fell so close to his previous release Tha Carter V (which is actually worth the listen). This felt like just a collection of songs with a few of his friends on some. Instead of something like Gorillaz’ Song Machine project this year where even if the songs ARE just a collection of singles, this just feels incomplete and messy.

131. IDK – IDK and Friends 2

IDK - IDK & FRIENDS 2 (Basketball County Soundtrack) Lyrics and Tracklist |  Genius

IDK is a rapper that was a background character to me. I never knew any of his material prior and this album doesn’t exactly motivate me to find more about him. 495 and Mazel Tov are pretty good tracks to check out though.

130. Ariana Grande – Positions

Ariana Grande 'Positions' album: Sex and more sex. Love too - Los Angeles  Times

Man this one hurts. Ariana Grande was mainstream pop’s heroine. Dangerous Woman, sweetener, and thank u, next were all phenomenal albums. I even had the pleasure of seeing these albums performed live. She really ruled the radios these past few years and was a reason to actually listen to Top 40. The lead single and title track to Positions was a pretty solid track, not thank u, next or No Tears Left to Cry by any means but it was still playlist worthy.

When this dropped I was just struck by how unbelievably dull it was. Not only was it dull, but it was also unexpectedly overtly sexual. I don’t mind if an album has sexual themes or even dirty lyrics, The Weeknd truthfully can be accused of this too. The difference between him and Ariana though is that she is so far into her career at this point where it seems like she was trying to prove a point by dropping content like this. As if she is “grown up” now. Isn’t that kind of what thank u, next was about? It’s also tackled much better on that album too.

This album is more so a disappointment than an outright bad album though. The track with The Weeknd is pretty great and a few others are pretty solid too. Otherwise this just seems like a step back in a pretty great career so far.

129. Adrian Eagle – MAMA

Adrian Eagle - MAMA (2019, CD) | Discogs

This guy could seriously be the next big thing and I am all for it. He just needs some better production and maybe a bit more style in his sound. Otherwise, man he has a powerhouse voice.

128. Lobsterfight – pink black and orange in the corners

pink, black, and orange in the corners. | lobsterfight

This is something that I really was hoping to like and I still do want to like this because it is very out there, but it’s perhaps too artsy for my taste. I like being able to connect to lyrics and the rhythm of music and lobsterfight just lacks comprehension in both categories. When it comes to experimental music there’s usually this fine line drawn where it can be challenging at first listen like Death Grips or even Crystal Castles, but then I’ll grown into it later. Then there’s stuff like this where it’s really cool and definitely something I’ll try again some day, but it’s just overwhelming to take in in one sitting. It’s worth a shot if you want to try some interesting experimental indie.

127. Milky Chance – Mind the Moon

Milky Chance - Mind The Moon (Ltd.Digipak Edt.) - Amazon.com Music

This is like the Ariana Grande problem. Milky Chance felt like mainstream alternative heroes. Their sound was a careless alt-pop treat with a hint of folk music in the blend. That’s still apparent on Mind the Moon, but just a lack of the ambition that attracted me to their first two albums. Blossom is probably top 20 alternative albums of the last decade actually. Tash Sultana, an extremely talented multi-instrumentalist, also makes a guest appearance on here and it is just completely wasted.

A lot of Mind the Moon can kind of be summarized by that. Just wasted potential. Like Ariana’s album though, this isn’t terrible by any means. It just feels like a VERY stripped down version of themselves and with only half the amount of effort they would normally put into their music.

126. DaBaby – Blame it On Baby

DaBaby: Blame It on Baby Album Review | Pitchfork

I’m pissed. I told myself “Campbell! Don’t even THINK of giving DaBaby another chance. You didn’t care for Kirk!” I heard the title track and heard the stripped back beat and thought things would be different. Damnit. DaBaby has so much promise man I know he does. BOP, Suge, Toes, Rockstar, and Walker Texas Ranger are living proof.

When Kirk first came out last year the listen was painfully long. I probably like it more now than I did initially, but it’s because more than half that album was played on the radio and released as singles. It also reminds me of my first university semester.

With Blame it On Baby it starts and ends the same way as Kirk. Really strong and just sounds the same until the very end. He has a great delivery, flow and voice but it just gets wasted every time and I’m just tired of it man.

125. Niall Horan – Heartbreak Weather

Heartbreak Weather - Wikipedia

It sucks that an album with this cool of artwork gets wasted on an album like this. Niall Horan never struck me as the star of One Direction. That title always belonged to Harry or Liam. Sadly Niall has never really struck me as a talent to look out for. Thematically and lyrically in spots on Heartbreak Weather there’s some moments of something special, but the majority just sounds like Division by Ed Sheeran to me.

Also this is kind of a side note or rant, however you wanna categorize this. What is stopping this from being called country music? Seriously, if it wasn’t for some synths I’d say this is a modern ‘country’ album. My friend recommended this to me a few months ago and I feel bad for talking poorly of it but upon returning to this recently I just didn’t care for it at all.

The album starts off pretty strong and I’d go as far to say that at least four songs on here are pretty well written country-pop material. I think I will stick to Harry though in the future.

124. Aldous Harding – Designer

Aldous Harding: Designer Album Review | Pitchfork

Aldous Harding is the perfect example of indie music that I just can’t connect with. There’s nothing really bad about it, in fact I’d say that a majority of the songs on Designer were written very passionately and had a lot of thought behind the lyrics. The Barrel was one of my favorite songs summer 2019 and only tried out the album this year. Glad I tried it, but just isn’t for me.

123. Clairo – Immunity

Clairo: Immunity Album Review | Pitchfork

I first came upon Clairo from researching Lollapalooza acts back in 2018. Songs like Pretty Girl and Flaming Hot Cheetos were pretty minimalistic, but pretty captivating. She reminded me of a more lo/fi Mac Demarco. I also really like the single Bags off this album. When it came to Immunity in its entirety though, I was left kind of dry mouthed. How can you have a single as great as Bags and just not match that energy?

If you did want a good taste of how good Clairo can be though check out her songs White Flag and her DOPE single Sofia. Her band Shelly recently dropped a single too that is worth checking out. Maybe you’ll enjoy Immunity more than me too.

122. Kali Uchis – TO FEEL ALIVE

Kali Uchis - TO FEEL ALIVE EP Lyrics and Tracklist | Genius

Full disclosure, I LOVED Isolation. It was one of those albums where you had all the expectations and it just fulfilled it and then some. The mix of reggaeton, alt-pop, and especially R&B made for a very adventurous listen. She went from being that woman from the Tyler, the Creator tracks to an underground superstar.

Maybe I just had too high of expectations, but I just did not resonate with this EP whatsoever. It just felt kind of lazy to me. I know plenty of people would disagree with me, but I just never felt and still don’t see myself returning to it any time soon.

121. Vince Staples – FM!

FM! - Wikipedia

This album had so much praise last year, but I got so caught up with school that I never got around to listening to it and sort of forgot about its’ existence. I finally remembered it this past summer and I was fairly let down. I like Vince Staples a good amount. He’s a pretty charismatic presence on any track or project he is involved with. Big Fish Theory and Summertime ’06 are both good examples of this.

All I’ll say is that if you’re looking to get into Staples music start with BFT, you can save this for later.

120. Drake – Dark Lane Demo Tapes

Drake's Dark Lane Demo Tapes: The Best Song Is... | GQ

Man I am so tired of waiting for Drake to drop something that I’ll love again. I haven’t LOVED anything he has put out since Nothing Was the Same and that was seven years ago. Views was fine, More Life was meh, Scorpion was awful, and Dark Lane Demo Tapes is just so half-assed. If your album’s lead singles are Pain 1993 and Toosie Slide, which is one of the worst songs to drop in a long time, then you gotta get your shit together.

This isn’t a terrible tape, we all know Drake can do better. Chicago Freestyle should’ve been the lead single or even D4L. If this really is just a bunch of demos like the title presents, maybe they should’ve just stayed demos in the studio or at least fleshed out more.

119. Diet Cig – Overeasy

Over Easy | Diet Cig

I just don’t find this band’s presence very memorable. Harvard was what attracted me to them and just happens to be on the album in question. It’s a great track, but that never really gets matched up against anything quite as great.

118. Best Coast – Always Tomorrow

Album Review: Best Coast - Always Tomorrow | Consequence of Sound

Damn Best Coast can you please make something doesn’t sound all the same?? It sounds good but sheesh please switch it up.

117. Russ – Shake the Snowglobe

Russ - SHAKE THE SNOW GLOBE - Amazon.com Music

Russ has always been a single artist for me. Back before There Really is a Wolf when he was just dropping single after single I was really fascinated at where he would go from there. Ever since Zoo I haven’t really been all that interested in what he puts out. He still drops a good single every once in a while, but I just think that an album full of songs just isn’t in my listening future really. Shake the Snowglobe is definitely better than Zoo, but it just lacks ambition and the fun that TRIAW had. It’s a meh album, but there’s some great tunes like Shots, Guess What, Civil War and the hella catchy Best on Earth are definitely worth listening to.

116. Lil Uzi Vert – Lil Uzi Vert vs. The World 2

Lil Uzi Vert vs. the World 2 - Wikipedia

In a year where releases like Whole Lotta Red and Eternal Atake seemingly would never drop both of them did and IN MY EYES slapped. When Uzi announced through a series of tweets that there was more material to be dropped soon I had hoped it would be like EA. It ended up being just fine. It did coin the word Yessirski though so bonus points?

115. Cigarettes After Sex – Cry

Cry (Cigarettes After Sex album) - Wikipedia

Heavenly alone is a 10/10 single. I have adored that track since the first time I heard it on the radio last year. Cry has a handful of very soothing and atmospheric tracks, but I can get lost pretty easily in the beautiful music that I end up just kind of dismissing the lyrics. It’s a very pretty record, but can be kind of sleepy at times.

114. Ra Ra Riot – Superbloom

Ra Ra Riot: Superbloom Album Review | Pitchfork

Ra Ra Riot have always been a very lively act to watch. Even if their music can be labeled as Hollister music, I found them to have a bit more edge to them than the average alt-pop band. I fell for them back when Dance With Me came out back in 2013. They’ve never struck me as a first choice, but I really enjoyed the song Flowers while shopping at an Urban Outfitters so I gave Superbloom a shot. Nothing really special as a whole, but the first three tracks, Flowers, Bad to Worse and Belladonna are near alt-pop perfection. I return to those three tracks really frequently, the rest of the album not so much.

113. MGMT – MGMT

MGMT (album) - Wikipedia

MGMT have always been one of my favorite bands. When I first heard this album, it was in pieces and that is why it is here on my 2020 list. I never finished it. I revisited it for the first time in seven years while writing my ranking of their discography earlier this year. This is far and away their worst record, but that is just because I hold the other three albums in such high regard. Mystery Disease, Your Life is a Lie, Cool Song 2., and I Love You too Death are all very different singles but great ones nonetheless. It’s far from a bad record, but it’s far from their best.

112. The Killers – Imploding the Mirage

The Killers: Imploding the Mirage Album Review | Pitchfork

Imploding the Mirage is many things. Above all it is the Bruce Springsteen album that he never wrote. Seriously, listen to this album and try to tell me that it doesn’t sound like B-sides from Born in the USA. Especially Dying Breed, right down to Brandon Flowers vocals. It’s hard for me to say bad things about this album because there’s some of The Killers best material to date on here. Dying Breed and My Own Soul’s Warning might be top ten. So why is this ranked so low? It’s just a pretty forgettable album. Even the album title is pretty forgettable, Imploding the Mirage just sounds like a shitty rom-com for middle aged women. The latter half of the album also ends up falling pretty flat with maybe the exception of My God with Weyes Blood.

EVERYTHING PAST THIS POINT I SEE AS A 7 OR ABOVE AND ONES YOU SHOULD DEFINITELY CHECK OUT. I’LL ALSO START RECOMMENDING SONGS TO CHECK OUT FROM SAID ALBUMS.

111. Doja Cat – Hot Pink

Hot Pink (album) - Wikipedia

It is hard to find a star in 2020 that blew up quite like Doja. For a good year she was nothing more than the one that made Moo!, you know that song “bitch I’m a cow, I’m not a cat I don’t say meow”? Then one day my buddy showed me Tia Tamera with Rico Nasty and is still in frequent rotation. Looking into Hot Pink I ended up feeling mixed about it at first. There’s definitely hits on here and the album starts off REALLY strong. Won’t Bite sounds like a song straight out of the 2000s especially her layered vocals on the chorus. You’ll know what I mean if you’ve heard it. Say So and Juicy launched her to stardom early 2020 and were among my favorite mainstream hits to the end.

All positives aside, this album really loses steam after Like That (feat. Gucci Mane). She falls into the pit of sounding like every generic, toss away rap/pop star *cough Cardi B cough*. I’d love to see what she does next if she keeps en route with this bubbly sound.

Bump This: Say So, Bottom Bitch, Cyber Sex

110. ODESZA – Summer’s Gone

Summer's Gone | ODESZA

ODESZA has always had that small edge to them that separates them from the rest of EDM. They play off of nostalgic sounds that feel almost cinematic, especially on songs like Today and We Were Young. Summer’s Gone is just full of gorgeous sounds that make for a good night drive on the highway. I think that this album in particular might be what it was meant for though, I don’t see a lot of use for this album other than just background music or just stuff to play at a kickback. If you’re an EDM fan or just like atmospheric, dreamy music I would try it out.

Bump This: Today, We Were Young

109. Talking Heads- Talking Heads ’77

Talking Heads: 77 by Talking Heads (Album, New Wave): Reviews, Ratings,  Credits, Song list - Rate Your Music

I really wanted to like this album more than I did. This is the album with Psycho Killer for god’s sake! I’m also someone who thinks that True Stories is one of their best projects so maybe that shows how much I know about Talking Heads lore. One thing I do like a lot about this album is that this is probably David Byrne at his weirdest and wackiest which is always a perk. Tentative Decisions makes for a good time and good example of this and so does No Compassion. There’s not a lot that I can say about this album other than it’s just an easy listen since I enjoy bands with a little edge like Talking Heads.

Bump This: Psycho Killer (duh), No Compassion

108. Yaeji – What We Drew

Yaeji: What We Drew Album Review | Pitchfork

One reason I got into Yaeji: Raingurl. It’s such a kickass single that demanded to be played loud so you could hear that bass in your stomach. So dope. What We Drew isn’t exactly Raingurl, but it’s definitely a solid listen. What really does magic for me on WWD is the production. These are beats that I would love to see remixes for. They’re just begging to have aggressive lyrics and flow attached to them. Yaeji mostly satisfies that yearning, but her vocals end up being the backing music for the music if that makes sense. Probably not, but whatever. It’s a good listen if you like indie trip-hop.

Bump This: SPELL, IN THE MIRROR, THE TH1NG

107. Beck – Mellow Gold

Beck: Mellow Gold Album Review | Pitchfork

I’ve never really found a lot of comfort in Beck’s music. Not to say I don’t enjoy his music because more than half the time I hear his music I’m like ooo who is this? Mellow Gold is Beck at his IN MY EYES best. His somewhat rustic, country inspired instrumentals almost convinces me that I should listen to country music. Emphasis on almost. This album proved to me that there are better songs in his discography than Timebomb and Loser. The album stays thematically and sonically straightforward and plays it fairly reserved which kind of makes it more special to me. The fact that there’s not really much that’s special about it makes it more enjoyable to me.

Bump This: Beercan, Pay No Mind, Blackhole

106. Phantogram – Ceremony

Phantogram | Official Site

I walked past a vinyl copy of this album while at a Barnes & Noble the other day. It was 50% off and I grabbed it, sighed, and put it back down. Not because I didn’t have the money, but since it’s their weakest project. Ceremony came out of nowhere for me. I didn’t expect to see a Phantogram album for a while even though Three came out back in 2016. Unexpected surprise, yes. Satisfying listen, yes. Worth the wait… I don’t know. I find it hard to want to come back to this album outside of a few songs like Dear God and Mister Impossible. The lead single, Pedestal didn’t really do anything for me either.

Three had this powerful, emotional side of Phantogram that made it far and away their best record. It’s what solidified me as a fan. If I heard this album before any of their other material I’d probably think it’s good but not something I would wanna research or deep dive into. Mister Impossible and maybe two other tracks hint at their greatness, but the rest is just fine.

Bump This: Dear God, Mister Impossible

105. Yves Tumor – Heaven to a Tortured Mind

Yves Tumor: Heaven to a Tortured Mind Album Review | Pitchfork

This is just one of those albums that is just a one-trick pony. Sure, it’s pretty and the vocals are beautiful and almost resemble Prince or even Bowie at times, but it just lacks the diverse range of sounds that I know this act is capable of. He has my attention, but I personally would just like a bit more substance. If you enjoy experimental music with a somewhat haunting, groovy beat check him out. Might just not be for me.

Bump This: Gospel for a New Century, Folie Imposee

104. Micko & the Mellotronics – 1/2 dove, 1/2 pigeon

Image result for micko and the mellotronics

Thanks to Album of the Year’s website I found out about this slightly punkish, slightly “dad rock-ish” act Micko & the Mellotronics. This is really just an album of artists having a good time together and making some easy-going straightforward rock tunes. Despite me not having much to say about them, they’re worth a good listen.

Bump This: Noisy Neighbors, Psychedelic Shirt

103. Thomas Newman – WALL-E (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

Thomas Newman, Bruce Morgenthaler, Christian Kollgaard, Frances Liu Wu,  Nico Carmine Abondolo, Nicolas Philippon, Norman Ludwin, Peter Doubrovsky,  Susan Ranney, Bill Bernstein - Wall-E - Amazon.com Music

Scores count right? I had a small obsession with the film WALL-E back in November and for good reason. Part of it is credited to this wonderful soundtrack that is both equal parts haunting and atmospheric. The post apocalyptic world that was once Earth is treated to the sounds of emptiness and soft sounds of piano and strings as you get a look into the desolation of the trash filled planet. It’s far from Pixar’s best score, but it definitely does a great job accompanying the despair and themes of space and wonder. Good studying music actually.

Bump This: Feels weird to say ‘bump this’ to an instrumental score but Foreign Contaminant is very adventurous and 2815 AD is great too.

102. Ramones – Ramones

Ramones (album) - Wikipedia

Ramones have every reason to leave behind the legacy that they did. Blitzkrieg Bop is one of the most recognizable punk songs of all time, if not THE most. My curiosity towards what an album of theirs would sound like was kind of defeated. This album sounds the same dude. Almost to an annoying amount. I say almost because they own every one of their songs on this album and make it their own, not really something I personally can get mad at. Just a lot of fun.

Bump This: Blitzkrieg Bop, Havana Affair, Beat on the Brat

101. FINNEAS – Blood Harmony EP

FINNEAS - Blood Harmony - Amazon.com Music

There’s no denying that FINNEAS is a fantastic producer. Just listen to anything of his sister Billie Eilish’s material and you’ll believe it too. Here he put out an EP, which later turned into a deluxe that I didn’t get the chance to return to, but still a solid EP. He too has a lot of potential as a solo artist and not just in the shade of his sibling. I Don’t Miss You At All was on repeat all last summer and so was Let’s Fall in Love For the Night. The production, funny enough, was the most disappointing part on here. I didn’t expect it to sound exactly like Billie, but I expected the production to be at that same level. It’s a pretty minimal EP with some solid trip-pop.

Bump This: I Don’t Miss You at All, Let’s Fall in Love for the Night

100. Jhene Aiko – Chilombo

Chilombo (album) - Wikipedia

I’ve always had a love for Jhene Aiko ever since the first time I heard The Worst back in middle school. I kind of forgot about her for a few years up until Trip came out and rocked my world. I still really enjoy that project, it was very different than anything she had put out prior. When the singles for Chilombo dropped like None of Your Concern and P*$$Y Fairy it seemed like her earlier material. Cool. I liked the early stuff too.

Here’s the thing, I can say with honesty I really do enjoy everything on this album. At 20 songs it’s just too damn long. If this was two separate albums, 10 songs each I’d say they would have potential to be her best efforts. As an album though I don’t know man. There’s just not enough change towards the latter half lyrically and stylistically that keep my focus. Tracks on their own sound wonderful as always, album front to back though in one listen? I don’t know about that.

Bump This: One Way Street, Tryna Smoke, Mourning Doves

99. Pixies – Bossanova

Bossanova (Pixies album) - Wikipedia

Doolittle is probably top 20 albums of all time for me. The absurdity, the memorable riffs, the shouts everything about it is just wonderful. Surfer Rosa is also really great too. Bossanova seems like a step backwards from Doolittle, but it’s still pretty good!

In spirit and sound this is still Pixies that I really enjoy and love. They still rock out with their punkish Cecilia Ann and Velouria and still have slow burners like Dig for Fire. This is them definitely at their more experimental kind of like Surfer Rosa. People online hate on this album for no reason though and I can’t figure out why. There’s nothing wrong with it, it’s just not amazing like the albums that came out before it.

Bump This: Velouria, Cecilia Ann, Allison

98. Gotye – Making Mirrors

Making Mirrors - Wikipedia

Weird of me to just now listen to this album in full after Somebody that I Used to Know ruled the radio. Anyways, Gotye was definitely before his time. His sound should’ve been a mainstay in the indie-verse if not for that one fluke smash hit. His first album, which I haven’t listened in full yet whoops, has some great experimental songs too.

Making Mirrors is definitely a more mainstream approach to his sound. Eyes Wide Open just begged to be on the radio and for whatever reason just didn’t. I think it charted, but never reached the height of Somebody that I Used to Know. Smoke and Mirrors definitely has the best instrumental approach with its heavy use of strings and percussion. It’s very soothing and melancholy.

It sucks that the album kinda cools off after the halfway point, but the songs that are strong, are very strong tracks. Alternative music deserved Gotye more than these jokes like Nathaniel Rateliffe and Rag’n’Bone Man. Hope he puts something out soon, I think he has a masterpiece in him.

Bump This: Somebody that I Used to Know, Smoke and Mirrors, I Feel Better

97. Tegan and Sara – Hey, I’m Just Like You

Tegan and Sara: Hey, I'm Just Like You Album Review | Pitchfork

The once alternative now turned pop saviors Tegan and Sara have put out great material in the 2010s. Heartthrob was a nice surprise and put forth one of the best pop singles of the past decades, Closer. Love You to Death was in my top ten of 2016 too. They were just an unstoppable force throughout the decade.

Hey, I’m Just like You isn’t as great as the other two, but it’s still worthy of a listen. Thematically this is more about self empowerment versus Love You to Death being more about love and lust. It’s got some winners, but there’s no Closer or U-Turn on here.

Bump This: I Know I’m Not the Only One, You Go Away and I Don’t Mind, Hello I’m Right Here

96. Rico Nasty – Nightmare Vacation

Rico Nasty - Nightmare Vacation | Album Review

Rico Nasty stands out among the rest of the female rappers. Her fiery, aggressive delivery has always been nothing short of badass. She’s one of those lyricists like 21 Savage where just everything they say sounds cool. Nightmare Vacation isn’t really what I had expected from her, but not in a bad way. It more so MET expectations versus exceeding. I love her inclusion of hyperpop with songs like IPHONE especially. Her collaboration with Dylan Brady of 100 Gecs is a match made in heaven.

Smack a Bitch is also on here and that remix… oh man is it great. The features from Trippie Redd and Amine are also great too. Rico just has a lot of talent that for the most part is fully realized on Nightmare Vacation. I just wish that some of the more filthier songs on here had more edge to them.

Bump This: IPHONE, Back & Forth, OHFR?, Smack a Bitch (remix)

95. Playboi Carti – Whole Lotta Red

Playboi Carti: Whole Lotta Red Album Review | Pitchfork

This album has been anticipated for years now, ever since Die Lit came out in 2018 pretty much. Even if you don’t like Carti you at least have to appreciate the production that goes into his material. Die Lit’s production was definitely the highlight, especially on songs like R.I.P and Flatbed Freestyle.

Whole Lotta Red had every right to be great and it just wasn’t, but it’s GOOD. The back half of the over 20 song album is definitely stronger, but the production as expected was phenomenal. Normally I don’t look to Carti for lyrics, but this time around the lyrics were a bit too distracting. Only so many times I can hear Rockstar Made.

Bump This: Slay3r, Vamp Anthem

94. The Avalanches – We Will Always Love You

We Will Always Love You - Wikipedia

Since I Left You was one of the best albums ever made. The sample usage alone is easily the standard for those who would follow and fail. The variation of sounds and melodies is just beautiful. That being said I didn’t care for the singles leading up to this. Rivers Cuomo on an Avalanches album??? Nah, I’ll pass. The Blood Orange track was pretty good I guess in retrospect, but a handful of tracks on this album just scream forgettable, which sucks because you can still see the genius that the band had back in the early 2000s and even on Wildflower back in 2016.

It’s a good album overall and a pretty listen. I am speaking purely out of disappointment but deep down this is a good album.

Bump This: The Divine Chord, Wherever You Go

93. Hayley Williams – Petals for Armor

Hayley Williams - Petals For Armor - Amazon.com Music

2020 was the year of albums that should’ve been great just ended up being pretty good. Petals for Armor was the definition of this. It’s the singer of one of my all time favorite bands, Paramore. How could this not be great? I don’t know man, just something about it seems too 8th grade Tumblr kid to me. Like Whole Lotta Red, this album had a much stronger back half than front half. If I were to properly dissect this album I would say that out of the 15 songs on here, 4 of them are great, 8 are good, and the rest are just questionable.

At times it seems like Hayley Williams was trying to be the next Marian Hill like on Leave it Alone and even on a song I do like, Watch Me While I Bloom. What I did like about this album are the outright pop bangers like Over Yet and Dead Horse too. The album thematically deals a lot with infidelity and her divorce from Chad of New Found Glory the year prior and how it has affected her.

Lyrically though, Williams has always inspired me and her lyrics here are very memorable almost as if it were Paramore B-sides. Even on repeated listens it has grown on me but it’s still nothing I’d return to every few months.

Bump This: Simmer, Roses/Lotus/Violet/Iris, Over Yet, Sudden Desire

92. Sylvan Esso – Free Love

Free Love | Sylvan Esso

I’ve never had strong feelings about Sylvan Esso. They’re good and truthfully a pretty reliable act, but I wouldn’t jump to call them amazing. Free Love has a lot of what makes the duo so likeable, synth driven pop tunes that you can listen to on the way to work or even in the background while doing homework.

Free Love in particular seems more laid back than their other material. This feels more of a focus on the vocals instead of the instrumentals which is arguably the front of every Sylvan Esso project (songs like Coffee). Ferris Wheel and Numb are never skips whenever they come on the radio or in a playlist.

Bump This: Ferris Wheel, Numb, Rooftop Dancing

91. Ashton Irwin – Superbloom

Ashton Irwin - Superbloom Lyrics and Tracklist | Genius

Who would’ve thought that I would like a 5 Seconds of Summer related project? *Insert that Paul Rudd meme* But seriously this Ashton Irwin album is pretty good! It’s funny, I like boyband members better when they go their own route. Harry Styles, Justin Timberlake, and now Ashton. A good amount of this album sounds pretty similar in style to Harry Style’s album Fine Line, but that’s not a bad thing.

The music has a pretty timeless sound to it. Some of it sounds like it could’ve came from the 70’s or even the early 2000’s, I’m to Blame for example. I would say that the biggest difference between this and Fine Line though is that this is a bit heavier on guitars and more bombastic with the instrumentals versus Styles sticking to more of his pop routes. The first time I heard Greyhound… wow what a shock to hear a guitar solo like that.

Bump This: Greyhound, I’m to Blame, The Sweetness

90. Childish Gambino – 3.15.20

3.15.20 - Wikipedia

Interesting how a blank white cover can mean two things for two different artists. The White Album is my favorite Beatles album (next to Revolver) and 3.15.20 is my least favorite Gambino album.

I’m in no place to say that this was a disappointment because he’s just trying to go in a different direction with his music. I would say this is more so 65% Awaken My Love! and 35% Because the Internet. His funk inspiration from his last album is clearly here to stay and while that’s fine by me he seems to have taken a step backwards as if AML was dipping his toes in the water and quickly removing them.

This album starts off kind of bizarre and kind of tacky with that intro proceeding Movement, one of the few songs on the album that has a title. The lack of titles ironically enough is what holds this album back from being better, if nobody can remember the name of the song then how do you expect to get the publicity? I’m a big Gambino fan and I can barely remember the titles. However, I’m very down with the idea of there being an experimental element to his music. I easily got lost in many of these songs. Especially the ones like Feels Like Summer that just scream driving on a cool summer night. I hope for more Gambino like this in the future, it just needs to be a bit cleaner cut.

Bump This: 12:38, 35:31, 47:48

89. Charli XCX – how i’m feeling now

Charli XCX - how i'm feeling now | DIY

I get it, but I don’t get it at the same time. Charli XCX has been such a weird figure in pop music the past decade. She went from being the next mainstream top 40 pop star to alternative/indie kids liking her a lot to making experimental hyperpop? It’s very bizarre. I didn’t listen to her self-titled album last year in full but I did enjoy what I heard. This is very much her answer to 100 Gecs. It’s a fun project that starts off doing not that much for me, but ending VERY strong. The 2000’s rave vibe towards the back half was a total winner in my eyes. She’s also just very unique in her style and voice. One that I’ve always admired since I first heard her on Icona Pop’s song I Love It. I don’t think it’s as spectacular or a modern masterpiece like everyone else does, but it is a pretty fun listen.

Bump This: Claws, Anthems, Party 4 U

88. Jay Electronica – A Written Testimony

A Written Testimony - Wikipedia

There was a lot of hype surrounding this album at the start of this year. It for whatever reason flew over my radar and that’s disappointing because I really enjoyed Jay Electonica’s first LP. I had no memory or experience with his ‘legacy’ prior to this album so maybe my reaction is a bit undereducated, but who cares. The production on here is crazy clean, the LP flows like a river. The Jay-Z features on here are all fantastic, I’ve always really enjoyed his contributions whenever he is the featured artist (with the exception of that Pharrell song at the beginning of 2020).

Electronica has a very cool storytelling ability. His production style is also very cinematic, playing out sort of like a play with different samples played at the beginning and ends of the album. I didn’t expect anything from this project and got the opposite. If you enjoy Jay-Z and storytelling abilities compared to J. Cole and Logic I would check him out!

Bump This: The Neverending Story, Flux Capacitor

87. Harry Styles – Fine Line

Amazon.com: Harry Styles (Fine Line) New 2019 Poster 12"x12" Album Cover:  Posters & Prints

I’ve had such back and forth thoughts about Fine Line. I remember hearing Watermelon Sugar and Adore You back in 2019 and didn’t listen to the album in full until about March of 2020 while unpacking from college due to coronavirus. This album starts off very strong with hot singles like Golden, Adore You, and Lights Up. Watermelon Sugar doesn’t quite hit me the way it once did after it being unavoidable for months in grocery stores, the radio, and even my own workplace. Nevertheless it’s a good single.

The album loses me every once in a while though with tracks that just sound like corporation fueled bs like Falling. Never got the hype on that one. I much rather prefer the track before that, Cherry, which might be the most beautiful track Styles has ever put out. I love Styles when he is at his most carefree. That’s why I liked Kiwi a lot back on his debut in 2017. Songs like Canyon Moon and Adore You are the best example of what I’m getting at. Overall I really like this album, but I think Harry Styles is yet to reach that spectacular album that in my eyes is totally possible.

Bump This: Golden, Cherry, Canyon Moon

86. 100 Gecs – 1000 Gecs and the Tree of Clues

1000 Gecs and the Tree of Clues - Wikipedia

100 Gecs is the prime example of you love it or you hate it. I find it very risky to introduce them to my peers or anyone really. Their music is so strange and polarizing to so many, including myself. When I first heard the original 1000 Gecs back in 2019 I didn’t understand them. I liked Money Machine and Hand Crushed by a Mallet, but it was so weird I never really returned to it.

This remix album is the opposite. I return to it pretty often. With the guests that appear on this underground, hyperpop sensation you can tell that other artists fell for 100 Gecs charm too. Fucking Fall Out Boy is on here… FALL OUT BOY. Nearly every single track here embraced all the best aspects of what made the original 1000 Gecs so likable. Guests like Injury Reserve on 745 Sticky, Kero Kero Bonito on Ringtone, Fall Out Boy on Hand Crushed by a Mallet, and Black Dresses on 745 Sticky as well were almost destined to be a perfect match.

All I can say is if you haven’t heard 100 Gecs yet, just wait they’re gonna get bigger and bigger in the coming years. They will be known as the pioneers of the aggressive, bubbly, weird, eccentric, and often challenging genre known as hyperpop.

Bump This: Hand Crushed by a Mallet (Fall Out Boy), Ringtone (Rico Nasty, Charli XCX, Kero Kero Bonito), 800db Cloud (live version)

85. Band of Horses – Why Are You Okay?

Why Are You OK - Wikipedia

My curiosity for Band of Horses sparked when I heard The Funeral on the radio one day driving to class. I have loved that song ever since the first time I heard it on How I Met Your Mother. Such a powerful and richly emotional tune. In a Drawer also had a special place in my heart since it reminds me of walking through the halls in high school during passing period. So why didn’t I ever listen to this album? Who knows.

Anyhow I finally listened to it after it being out for four years at the time and I really enjoyed it. Given I should mention during this time I was in a very vulnerable state of being and any sort of song that had deeper emotion really struck a chord. I remember sitting in my car after hearing Hag and just sinking into my cloth seats. BOH know how to tug on the heartstrings and this album is no different than their great debut, Everything All of the Time.

While I don’t think that it’s their best by any means, it still holds a special place in my heart for getting me through a difficult time in my life. Alternative folk glory at it’s finest.

Bump This: Hag, In a Drawer, Country Teen

84. Don Toliver – Heaven or Hell

Heaven or Hell (Don Toliver album) - Wikipedia

Like most people, I first heard of Don Toliver through Travis Scott’s 2018 album Astroworld on the track CAN’T SAY. His voice was definitely a unique approach and honestly refreshing. His subtle auto-tuned vocals sort of remind me of T-Pain where both utilize a device to play around with their voice, but on their own probably don’t need it to sound good. After Party and No Idea were almost played to death on TikTok, but for some reason I never got bored of them.

Don Toliver has a very playful atmosphere presented on Heaven or Hell. Some songs overstayed their run-time FOR sure, but man he just has that voice that’ll get huge some day. Cardigan and No Photos had every right to be more popular than the other two that charted higher. I can throw this on at any time and just not care about what’s going on around me. Give it a listen if you are a Travis Scott fan or just like carefree trap music in general.

Bump This: Cardigan, No Photos, Spaceship

83. Grimes – Miss Anthropocene (Deluxe)

Miss Anthropocene - Wikipedia

To follow the theme of Petals for Armor and We Will Always Love You, I was disappointed by Miss Anthropocene initially. I’ve recently turned around on it, but I still declare it Grimes’ weakest project to date. Grimes has challenged what has been expected of her multiple times throughout the past decade. Visions has a bunch of key synth pop singles, Oblivion being one of my favorite pop tracks ever. Art Angels is also a vivacious listen from front to back. Miss Anthropocene is a lot of things, most notably polarizing. Songs like IDORU are definitely out of left field and you definitely gotta be patient if this is your first exposure to Grimes. Patience is a common theme throughout actually.

A lot of the tracks seem like they’re Art Angels B-sides. Delete Forever sounding like the infectious and undeniably danceable California and My Name is Dark sounding a lot like half of the album in general. What shocked me most when originally listening to it is that We Appreciate Power wasn’t included. One of my favorite singles of 2019. Very happy that it was on the deluxe.

I do really like this album, but it’s not something that I’ll return to anytime soon. Maybe a few songs like New Gods and Violence, but not really something that I see suiting a specific mood. ALSO the deluxe is the better route so listen to that instead.

Bump This: Violence, Delete Forever, IDORU, We Appreciate Power

82. Perfume Genius – Set My Heart on Fire Immediately

Perfume Genius: Set My Heart on Fire Immediately Album Review | Pitchfork

Confession time: I have never finished a Perfume Genius album. That being said expect me to review his other material next year because this album is hauntingly beautiful.

I never expected to review the album because while I did like some tracks off his album before this, No Shape, it wasn’t what I was looking for at the time. Then I heard On the Floor, which is top three songs of the past year. Every time I heard this song I had a good day. It was the anthem to my quarantine summer vacation. Perfume Genius has a way of evoking emotion in his voice that almost makes you want to cry. Songs like Jason and Moonbend being the most raw on the album.

SMHOFI is full of surprises too. The unexpected heavy guitars on Some Dreams and the eerily striking strings on Leave just made a smile appear on my face man. The themes of sexuality and seeking love that seemingly does have boundaries are just a taste of what else is in store for such a beautiful project.

For someone who just started listening to this act I think this is a good place to start.

Bump This: On the Floor, Without You, Moonbend, Some Dream

81. The Beths – Future Me Hates Me

Future Me Hates Me | The Beths

I love this new modern revival of power pop that’s happening! Beach Bunny and now The Beths too. The Beths became a band to look out for when I first heard the self-titled track off this LP back in 2018 I believe. It had such unexpected aggression and honesty in the lyrics… I fell hard for it.

Like I said before, there’s this tiny movement of power pop resurgence going on in the indie realm right now and I’m really loving it. The Beths have put out a handful of great singles to help prove this point. Like Future Me Hates Me, I loved the seemingly genuine and heartfelt lyrics about simply just being sad. Yup. A lot of this album is just about hearts being broken, not being good enough, and sad shit… and it ROCKS. I really see a lot of potential in this band in the 2020’s and I know they put out an album this past year too that I’ll explore soon too!

Bump This: Future Me Hates Me, Uptown Girl, Little Death

80. Miley Cyrus – Plastic Hearts

Miley Cyrus: Plastic Hearts Album Review | Pitchfork

Dude… I’ve said this so many times already, but that Heart of Glass cover is up there with Johnny Cash’s Hurt as one of the best ever. Miley Cyrus has shocked me a lot in the past decade. She turned into a raunchy, semi-annoying, ‘grown-up’ pop star back during Bangerz. Then she ruined the latest season of Black Mirror, which is a blog entry waiting to happen. Now she turned rock? Bullshit. I wouldn’t have believed you even last year if you told me that. Welp, this album is really good. I distinctly recall my girlfriend walking out of the bathroom and caught me listening to this and I excitedly looked up and told her “It’s good!”.

There’s not a lot to hate on this LP for except for a few songs that just kind of feel out of place. Hate Me and High holding those positions as just being a bit too countryish for an album like this. Almost as if she’s still trying to shed her country roots.

If there were ever an album labeled catchy choruses, it’d be either Dua Lipa’s album from this year or Plastic Hearts. The self titled track gets stuck in my head every time I hear it with that “Plastic Hearts are bleeding keep me up all night!”. Same goes for Midnight Sky, one of the best Top 40 singles to drop in years. The mashup with Stevie Nicks’ Edge of Seventeen is one of the sleekest mashups I’ve ever heard. The songs that miss, miss, but the ones that hit REALLY hit. If you were skeptical before listening like me don’t worry I think a handful of previous Miley deniers will really dig this. I would love to see her do a Talking Heads cover next, for whatever reason I think she would kill that.

Bump This: Plastic Hearts, Angels Like You, Heart of Glass (cover), Gimme What I Want

79. Beach Goons – boisad

Beach Goons - BoiSad Lyrics and Tracklist | Genius

Ah the first album I heard in 2020. Seems like it was such an easier time back then. Beach Goons came on my radar after listening to Glass Beach and Without U was recommended. If there ever was a cross-over to the ‘punk’ world it’d be Beach Goons. Like other acts like them such as The Frights and PUP, Beach Goons have such a palpable energy to them. Tar and Reservoir Dawgs being prime examples of what you can expect from this band.

Don’t let the high energy fool you though there’s some depressing lyrics hidden between the lines. Listen to She’s Dead and you’ll be struck with an ‘oh’ escaping your mouth.

This is more than what I could’ve expected from an act like this. It’s worth your time if you wanna dip your toes into the modern pop-punk world.

Bump This: Without U, She’s Dead, Tar

78. American Pleasure Club/Teen Suicide – A Whole Fucking Lifetime of This

American Pleasure Club: A Whole Fucking Lifetime of This Album Review |  Pitchfork

Why aren’t both of these acts bigger? Seriously, you ever have those acts where you just question why they haven’t broken it huge yet? Well that’s both American Pleasure Club and Teen Suicide on this joint album. This album is composed of slow burner guitar tracks to slightly emo mosher anthems to experimental indie towards the latter fourth.

The songwriting here is surprisingly great. All the Lonely Nights in Your Life has one of the most heart healing guitar lines I’ve ever heard. I checked out both of these acts on their own as well and while I do think they both have their signatures and reasons to be famous, I think at this point in time that this is their crowning jewel. The experimental stuff is a bit out there and not really fitting to end the album, but the bulk of this bizarre alt-punk LP is very enjoyable and definitely worth a listen if you like acts like Wolf Alice or even The White Stripes more slower tracks.

Bump This: All the Lonely Nights in Your Life, This is Heaven and I’d Die for It, The Sun was in My Eyes

77. Sports Team – Deep Down Happy

Sports Team - Deep Down Happy | Album Review

Well, this was unexpected. I mean that in the best way possible. Welcome to the club of should be famous, but haven’t hit it big yet Sports Team. Maybe it’s due to the band’s name but whatever, what matters is the quality of the music. Hear me out… The Vaccines + Bloc Party = Sports Team.

This album is such high energy and just overall a really great time. It reminds me a lot of The Vaccines first album. It hardly mattered what the lyrical content was, but the charisma and energy from the lead singer is just so magnetic I love it. I don’t have much else to say because I didn’t revisit it very much, but totally check them out if you enjoy fast, roaring alternative!

Bump This: Here it Comes Again, Fishing, The Races

76. Bleachers – Terrible Thrills Vol. 2

Bleachers - Terrible Thrills, Vol. 2 - Amazon.com Music

Hot Take: Jack Antonoff is a top five producer working today. Working off the success of Strange Desire, an album I adore, this is just a collection of songs from that album that Jack got a handful of other artists to cover.

Like 1000 Gecs, a remix album really works for Bleachers as the very John Hughes-esque tunes really drive this album with the help of new vocals too. Charli XCX and Carly Rae Jepsen truthfully belong on this album and almost outdo Jack’s already phenomenal vocals. The one case where someone does outdo him though is MO on her interpretation of You’re Still a Mystery. I always considered her to be one of the most underrated and under-appreciated voices in pop music last decade. She got most of her fame from Lean On with Major Lazer, but her powerful vocal performance on this track should NOT go unnoticed.

All this being said, Terrible Thrills has a lot of hits and very few misses. It’s far from perfect or even coming close to Strange Desire, but it’s a very accessible remix album.

Bump This: Reckless Love (Elle King), Shadow (Carly Rae Jepsen), You’re Still a Mystery (MO), Rollercoaster (Charli XCX)

75. Blossoms – Foolish Loving Spaces

Blossoms - 'Foolish Loving Spaces' | Album Review | Words For Music

Blossoms are another example of an alt-pop act that has every right to be huge but just isn’t. Seriously, if you’ve ever heard Charlamagne or Your Girlfriend you know what I mean.

Story time: I was having a really bad day, working at a place that I didn’t feel welcome at and simultaneously seeing on social media that someone was spreading lies about me. So naturally I was bummed and panicked. I turned this on while getting ready and driving to work. Foolish Loving Spaces was just the right album at the right time. All these songs about innocent love and not giving up on the ones you truly care about reminded me that there’s more to life than living in denial and hate. It’s important to grieve, but love more than you want to hate.

Sunday was a Friend of Mine is one of the most perfect alt-pop songs I’ve heard in ages. It reminds me of early Walk the Moon before Shut Up and Dance. They just manage to produce a lot of pop bangers in such a short run-time. If you do decide to take up this album I hope you fall in love with it the same way I did back in January.

Bump This: If You Think This is Real Life, Sunday was a Friend of Mine, My Swimming Brain

74. TOBi – Still

Meet TOBi: Your Next International Soul Music Sensation | The Source

When this came out everyone on Twitter kept saying that TOBi was the music that Chance the Rapper needed to be making again. Well, if he did it would be kind of a 180 from his last two projects. Still is a jazz rap album that stands on its’ own among other jazz rap records in recent years like Cordae’s The Lost Boy. While I like Cordae’s album better I really do implore anyone who enjoys a soft voice and very jazz driven beats to check out Still.

TOBi has a very nostalgic way of storytelling. Stories like the ones told on City Blues and Locked In. He also has high energy like on Werking, where the beat is almost like a Russ track in disguise. This is one of the albums that function better as singles than a whole front to back listen, but put this guy on the map! He deserves more attention than that snitch 6ix9ine.

Bump This: City Blues, Locked In, Caged Bird Sings

73. Kehlani – It was Good Until it Wasn’t

Kehlani: It Was Good Until It Wasn't Album Review | Pitchfork

The first time I heard It was Good Until it Wasn’t I was in a very positive mood. Just got done reading some of a book, drinking some water and just chilling. I held this at a pretty high regard for a while. Then I heard SZA’s CTRL and revisited this, yeah it’s not what it was before.

Kehlani has a beautiful voice that could be compared to that of Jhene Aiko (who appears on Change Your Life) or SZA too. The difference between someone like her and SZA though is that her storytelling isn’t nearly as linear or clever as hers. Her beats are in the right place and so are her vocals, but there’s just something missing. Maybe it’s the cliches which are present kinda often *cough Hate the Club cough*. They just feel like they’re holding this album back from being great.

Kehlani is a very talented act and this album has a right to be ranked where it is because of the creative choices made in the production and just summery atmosphere she exudes.

Bump This: Change Your Life, Can I, Can You Blame Me

72. Kid Cudi – Man on the Moon III

Man on the Moon III: The Chosen - Wikipedia

In my eyes this was the Kid Cudi album that was meant for the next generation. This is coming from someone who adores the first two Man on the Moon albums and likes Indicud quite a bit too. What I always liked about Cudi was his choice of style. His first two albums had an alternative spin to them. Especially Man on the Moon II with guests like St. Vincent and Cee Lo Green.

The reason I say this album is for the generation after me is because the sound has shifted. The game has changed since the decade of Man on the Moon when it first dropped. This is a very trap influenced, almost Travis Scott-like album. It is very rare that I resonate with a trap album and to be fair this is probably the closest I’ll ever get to doing so. MOTM3 is full of great beats and great lyrics (most of the time), the kind that make you feel like that middle schooler hearing Soundtrack 2 My Life for the first time all over again.

It’s weird, but I don’t really have a standout track from this album. I feel like I should, but I don’t. To be fair though, if you wanna get into Cudi listen to his first three albums and then come to MOTM3.

Bump This: Tequila Shots, Solo Dolo Part III, Rockstar Knights (Feat. Trippie Redd), Lovin Me (Feat. Phoebe Bridgers)

71. Taylor Swift – Evermore

Evermore (Taylor Swift album) - Wikipedia

Second of the two T-Swizzle albums that dropped this year! What the hell man. Taylor Swift was following Miley’s lead and finally started making the music she was destined to make: country and folk tunes. Folklore, which you’ll see later in this list was the last thing I expected out of 2020 since you usually hear everything about Taylor whenever she does anything. She dropped that album out of nowhere and was still the #1 selling album of the year. So when she dropped Evermore so late in the year I became more intrigued than skeptical. She’s 2 for 2 in 2020.

This is a really risky album for her to put out, especially following the reactions to Folklore, which I’m sure was polarizing for her fanbase. Some of this LP is pretty dark, like no body, no crime where she um… kills someone and hides the body? I was walking my dog when I first listened to Evermore and when that song came on I had to stop and think “wait did Taylor Swift just kill somebody?”.

I love how ambitious this and well written these songs are too. Champagne Problems and Coney Island are very sweet folk-pop tracks, but the production is at an all time high. If I’m not mistaken I think it’s due to the National producing a good portion of this LP and Folklore too.

Any Swift doubters should give her another chance. This is something different.

Bump This: Champagne Problems, Gold Rush, No Body No Crime, Coney Island, Dorothea

70. Bon Iver – i,i

Bon Iver: i,i Album Review | Pitchfork

Bon Iver has been a striking voice in indie for the past decade or so. Skinny Love was almost a reset for the genre itself. It seemed as though album after album Justin Vernon would just keep improving upon his songwriting skills and slowly get more experimental. This is especially the case for i,i which might be his most challenging record to date.

i,i is more 22, A Million than anything and maybe that’s due to the comma, but also to its approach to more distorted vocals and more on the synths than the singer songwriter style that made him famous on his self-titled and For Emma, Forever Ago. To say this is his weakest effort is honestly a testament to how strong his other material has been. If I were to base my opinion off this album alone I’d still really look forward to what is to come from the band. There’s no Skinny Love or Holocene, but it’s fluid throughout.

Bump This: Hey Ma, Holyfields, Salem

69. George Harrison – All Things Must Pass

All Things Must Pass - Wikipedia

George Harrison has gone back and forth for my favorite Beatle for years. John Lennon I believe has the better solo career, but I think that George always had more talent. I studied him back in the early college times for a music of the world course where my professor went over how he traveled across the globe to understand the various cultures and their native instruments better. That always really fascinated me. Plus My Sweet Lord is a kick ass single so better listen to this right?

This album is many genres highlighting the best of Harrison’s abilities as a songwriter and instrumentalist. It’s almost like a continuation of The Beatles legacy that is more Abbey Road than anything else. It’s blues rock, its soothing guitar ballads, it’s experimental rock, it’s… beautiful. It goes toe to toe with Imagine with being my favorite post Beatles solo project.

Bump This: My Sweet Lord, Isn’t it a Pity, Behind that Locked Door

68. Lil Uzi Vert – Eternal Atake

Eternal Atake - Wikipedia

Uzi has provided me with a lot of great memories. During my senior year of high school he was in frequent rotation and continued that motion with Luv is Rage 2 dropping the year after. Hard to believe it has been since then that he has dropped any material. Futsal Shuffle 2020 was a great single and one of the best promoted singles in recent history. You couldn’t avoid it on any form of socials for a good month or two back in January. When this finally dropped after multiple teases and fake outs I was very satisfied. This is probably Uzi’s best project to date.

The production alone is the best it has been since LUV vs the World. Try and listen to Chrome Heart Tags, POP, or Lo Mein and tell me this isn’t top tier trap. I woke up that unfaithful March morning after a night of partying and throwing up and solemnly swearing to never party/drink again to wanting to party and drink again after hearing this album.

Bump This: Lo Mein, POP, Chrome Heart Tags, You Better Move

67. Duran Duran – Rio

Rio (Duran Duran album) - Wikipedia

Growing up, Rio was a song that I had heard a billion times in my mom’s minivan, but never knew the title. It wasn’t until I was about 15 when I finally figured it out AND figured out Hungry Like the Wolf too.

Truthfully, there’s nothing special about this album. There’s some great singles and obviously is a classic by todays’ standards when it comes to new wave, but it’s just a very easy, care-free listen and sometimes that’s all I want out of an album. Thanks Duran Duran.

Bump This: Rio, Lonely in Your Nightmare, Hungry Like the Wolf, The Chauffeur

66. Funkadelic – Maggot Brain

Maggot Brain - Wikipedia

Sleigh Bells. There. That’s the reason why I wanted to listen to Maggot Brain in the first place okay? Rill Rill is a great song and so is Can You Get to That. Funkadelic is an act that holds a lot of history, George Clinton in particular, but don’t get it wrong there’s so many more talented people that are involved with this project, like nearly 30 people man. I believe it.

It’s hard to credit a certain sound to one album or artist, but you can tell that artists like Childish Gambino (Awaken My Love) and Kendrick Lamar to list a few. The funk in this album is infectious as hell and full of charismatic performances through the instrumental sections. The nearly 10 minute extravaganzas like the self titled track and Wars of Armageddon are songs I got absolutely lost in and can dissect to eternity. I’m definitely not educated enough to speak more on Maggot Brain, but just check it out. It’s funky and fun all in one.

Bump This: Maggot Brain, Can You Get to That, Wars of Armageddon

65. Cults – Cults

Cults (album) - Wikipedia

If this is a cult then I want to join it. Cults debut album was a big hit (apparently, I wasn’t into indie music yet) and singles like Go Outside are proof as to why they were such a hit. It’s rare that I would label a band or album I actually enjoy as ‘cute’ but this shit is pretty cute. I love the innocent jangle pop tunes like Go Outside and Walk at Night. They’re both very lovey songs. This album is also multipurpose! I went on a run once and I felt more in tune with the forest preserve I was running through. It was very peaceful until a strange man approached me and said the very public bench I was sitting on was his… I then finished the cute album as I frantically ran away not trying to be harmed by a Nick Offerman reject.

If you enjoy soft, harmless indie music I would say this is most definitely your album.

Bump This: Go Outside, Never Saw the Point, Walk at Night

64. Injury Reserve – Floss

Floss (mixtape) - Wikipedia

Injury Reserve was an act that was gone before they could get huge. Their underground hip-hop was too good to exist and came a bit too early to be fully appreciated in my opinion. Acts like Brockhampton and even The Internet saw more underground fame and slowly became bigger over time. Injury Reserve kinda did, but they possessed something different. They had the X factor. Look, while I do prefer Brockhampton, IR had spunk and aggression that few could recreate. Listen to Oh Shit! or S on Ya Chest and you’ll understand why.

Floss sees IR at their most alternative, it’s very clear that they were looking to expand their horizons while still maintaining their unique sound. This collective surprised me and it sucks to know we might not get any more of this unique sound since Groggs passed away this past year.

If you enjoy alternative, underground hip-hop with a little edge check them out.

Bump This: S on Ya Chest, Oh Shit!, Keep on Slippin (feat. Vic Mensa)

63. Denzel Curry & Kenny Beats – UNLOCKED

Unlocked (album) - Wikipedia

Kenny Beats seems like a chill ass dude. I revisit his Don’t Overthink Shit series all the time on YouTube. If you’re not familiar, he’ll invite famous artists and rappers like Vince Staples, Rico Nasty, and Marc Rebillet to his studio and he’ll make a beat to their liking for them to rap/sing over.

This collab with Denzel Curry was unexpected, but sick nonetheless. That album art alone gets it to where it is on my list. Denzel is one of my favorites right now and hasn’t put out a bad project yet. Kenny and Curry blend together like sugar in coffee it just makes sense (even though I like my coffee black). The only reason that this doesn’t rank higher on my list is because it’s too short! It’s such a blink and you miss it, but with your ears if they could blink. Nevermind… Diet and So.Incredible were in very frequent rotation all throughout the mayhem of 2020.

Bump This: Diet, So.Incredible, Cosmic.m4a

62. IDLES – Brutalism

Brutalism (Idles album) - Wikipedia

I completely misjudged IDLES when I first heard them. I thought they were just another cog in the corporate ‘punk’ scene. NO WAY. I was dead wrong. IDLES wants to dethrone the corporations and rid of their bullshit. Politics in music is something that can either be done really well or fail miserably. IDLES puts any doubt to rest, Brutalism is the intro to what the band is all about.

IDLES are also really good at riding that fine line of comedy and tragedy. There’s humor in what their lyrics present, but as J. Cole once said there’s always truth to jokes. Songs like Mother and Date Night especially are there to kick you in the groin with agony and laugh at you. Nerd. While I don’t feel as passionate about Brutalism as I do IDLES’ other two albums this is still a REALLY great project if you enjoy some aggressive, politically fueled, hype music to show to your friends on the bus.

Bump This: Mother, Date Night, Stendhal Syndrome

61. The Strokes – The New Abnormal

The New Abnormal - Wikipedia

“Hey man you listen to The Strokes? Cool.” – Conversation I had back in freshman year of high school.

The Strokes have been absent for about seven years with Comedown Machine being their last release. I never understood why so many people disliked that album, I really liked it even if it’s not the same Strokes from before. So what? Neither is this, but I will admit this is a better album. The New Abnormal was extremely hyped up since they first dropped hints while touring back in 2019. At the Door really didn’t work for me initially, but I love it now and same with Bad Decisions (even though it sounds like I Melt With You by Modern English).

The New Abnormal just shoots out hit after hit after hit from beginning to end. This is the band as you’ve never really expected them to be before. The Adults are Talking is sort of Is This It meets Comedown Machine with it’s very catchy and groovy hooks sounding like early 2000s them and the drum machine sounding very 2010’s them.

Brooklyn Bridge to Chorus is what separates them from their weird journey the past decade. The synth driven chorus and message about how this is what he wanted of the band instead of being caught running in circles. This version of the band is here to stay and I’m perfectly fine with that.

Bump This: The Adults are Talking, Brooklyn Bridge to Chorus, Eternal Summer

60. Tyler, The Creator – Bastard

Bastard (Tyler, the Creator mixtape) - Wikipedia

This is the Tyler that got the edgy kids excited. Back when I first heard Tyler in 2013 I was kinda left with wtf on my face. Why does Tamale sound like that? Why did he eat a roach? Is he homophobic? It’s albums like Bastard that make you ask those questions.

I love Tyler’s growth over the years, but I can still appreciate his early stuff too in some capacity. Bastard is a very enjoyable project, but I can’t help but feel uncomfortable with this album being as controversial as it is. He really didn’t give a FUCK putting something like this out. The song Sarah alone is enough to scare anyone out of even listening to him again. However, Tyler’s production and style are very memorable and even if it does sound amateurish that’s what makes it so appealing. The early Odd Future features on here are great too like Odd Toddlers and Assmilk.

It’s far from being as great or conceptually dense as something like Flower Boy or Igor, but it’s still a solid effort from the start of a great rapper/producer’s career.

Bump This: Assmilk, Sarah, Tina, VCR Wheels

59. Miguel – Kaleidoscope Dream

Miguel - Kaleidoscope Dream - Amazon.com Music

Why did it take me so long to listen to this album? I loved Adorn when it first hit big like a decade ago. Miguel has one of my favorite voices in pop and R&B today. He truthfully should’ve been the next big thing when this first dropped.

Kaleidoscope Dream is soothing to the ears and very raunchy too. It’s enough to make you say ‘oh okay Miguel!’ I love his soft vocals on the song How Many Drinks and Kaleidoscope Dream and how it can be aggressively passionate too on songs like Adorn and Where’s the Fun in Forever. The man has range and a man really digs that. I can put this on any old time and just kick it.

Bump This: How Many Drinks, Do You…, Adorn, Use Me, Arch and Point, Kaleidoscope Dream

58. Dua Lipa – Future Nostalgia

Future Nostalgia - Wikipedia

Future Nostalgia angered me at first listen. Really? People are raving over this? Yeah okay Pitchfork. I recently returned to this and suddenly it clicked and now I really really like this album.

Dua Lipa, like she says on Don’t Start Now, did a full 180 and turned around from turning into the next disposable Top 40 here and gone in a second act, to the must watch star of the year. Seriously. Where wasn’t Dua Lipa last year? Future Nostalgia is an album about love. Not in the way you would guess it’d be though. It’s about how you shouldn’t let a love define you and how even if you aren’t at your highest point you have every right to feel like you should.

Empowerment anthems like Love Again and of course Don’t Start Now exist to tell you you’re better than that girl/guy! Plus Love Again utilizes that awesome sample from White Town. Other tracks on the other hand are stories about how love can be a great thing like on Physical and Cool, two songs that I initially dismissed but thoroughly enjoy too.

Overall, this album slaps. It’ll please a handful of different demographics from old to young and picky to easily satisfied.

Bump This: Love Again, Physical, Don’t Start Now, Levitating

This is where the list gets extremely hard to rank, but everything past here is either an 8.5 or higher

57. Bring Me the Horizon – POST HUMAN: SURVIVAL HORROR

Post Human: Survival Horror - Wikipedia

Bring Me the Horizon is such a unique act. They’ve gone through so many different approaches and styles over the past decade. Sempiternal is the hardcore, fiery metal album that made me fall for them back in middle school, That’s the Spirit was a more arena rock approach with some of their best material to date, and Amo shook my perception of the band completely going almost alternative and polarizing a lot of their fans. Personally I loved Amo, but now we see pretty much all of those past albums I just listed and combine them all into what I guess you’d call an EP? Regardless, POST HUMAN: SURVIVAL HORROR should please all fans.

I never expected a band that was known for being so aggressive and angsty to be so charismatic. Seriously, this album charms the pants off me. There’s guests on here you would NEVER have expected a collab with. YUNGBLOOD’s Obey had already dropped months prior so we kinda expected that, but Babymetal?! I didn’t even know they still made music and yet they’re part of the best song on the entire project, Kingslayer.

BMTH return to their metal roots while simultaneously playing to their other strengths in the most surprising and fist pumping project I listened to all year. Show this to someone who has never been exposed to the band before.

Bump This: Kingslayer, Obey, Parasite Eve

56. Fleet Foxes – Shore

Fleet Foxes: Shore Album Review | Pitchfork

Following the theme of surprise drops, Fleet Foxes return after three years of being pretty absent from any sort of attention. Personally I’ve always enjoyed Robin Pecknold’s band but never had super strong feelings about them. Father John Misty, who isn’t with the band anymore, resonated with me more with his solo work like Pure Comedy. Given I’ve also never really given them that much of a chance.

Shore evoked some sort of emotion I’ve never felt towards them. Their biggest single Can I Believe You is my new favorite of the band. It tackles the ideas of not being able to trust his mind and if it can be forgiven to move forward. The theme of struggling mental health flows throughout the entire duration of the record, but never makes it your problem if that makes sense. It’s meant to paint a picture of the shitty year that was 2020 but to provide a glimpse of hope too. Most of the tracks end with some sort of line of hopefulness actually.

This isn’t by any means Fleet Foxes most dense project, but it’s very welcome in a year like last year. Also worth mentioning that the instrumentals could each go on their own isolated from lyrics and be a successful LP. Beautiful.

Bump This: Can I Believe You, A Long Way Past the Past, Featherweight

55. Kesha – High Road

High Road (Kesha album) - Wikipedia

I still stand by my declaration that Rainbow is easily top five best pop albums to come out of the 2010’s. High Road kicked off the 2020’s (I don’t know how to abbreviate… the 20’s? I don’t know) with the same energy as Rainbow.

While Rainbow was more so her shedding her skin of a very toxic workplace environment and producer battle with famous douche-canoe Dr. Luke, High Road is her transition back to her carefree party tunes, but still keeping some of those ballads that made her previous album so wonderful. Hearing Kesha write stupid lyrics again is refreshing. It felt like I was a middle schooler hearing Tik Tok again for the first time. There’s also a lot of surprising appearances feature-wise like Big Freedia, Sturgill Simpson, Brian Wilson, and Ke$ha? Interesting. The $ is back.

Writing credits too include Jeff Bhasker and Nate Ruess who worked together on Fun.’s Some Nights, Ryan Lewis, Dan of Imagine Dragons, and Tayla Parx (who is responsible for a good chunk of hits last decade). Pretty stacked lineup and most of the tracks are pretty well written and manage to blend the themes of old Kesha sounds to match the current state of pop which is more fast paced and trap-influenced.

Truthfully this album would’ve most likely ranked higher, but I never revisited it very much throughout the year. Plus the Potato Song is kinda awful. Resentment makes up for it though, who knew the world needed a Kesha, Sturgill Simpson, and Brian Wilson collab?

Bump This: Raising Hell, High Road, Resentment, Cowboy Blues

54. Gorillaz – Song Machine Volume One: Strange Times

Album of the Week: Gorillaz, 'Song Machine, Season One: Strange Timez' |  The Current

One of my friends told me this album was the worst thing Gorillaz has ever put out. Dude, where? Every single that lead up to this album I adored. Momentary Bliss and Aries especially. Song Machine is what Humanz should’ve been, a collection of kickass singles that really don’t have much to do with each other, other than exist collectively on a tracklist.

The features on here were among my favorite out of anything I heard this year. 6lack, Slaves, Slowthai, Peter Hook (instrumental), Beck, Elton John, ScHoolboy Q, Robert Smith of The Cure, and St Vincent all on the same project? Typing this out alone is making me impressed and that doesn’t even include the deluxe.

After making two meh albums in a row, Gorillaz (or Damon Albarn) seemed to have winded down and just cranked out earworms galore. I listened to the deluxe version of this not knowing it was the deluxe and while maybe two of them I can do without, it does add more fun to the album.

If you were to cut out the probably four meh tracks off Song Machine, this would definitely be in contention for best Gorillaz album. Be right back, I’m gonna listen to Desole and Aries for the third time today.

Bump This: Momentary Bliss, The Pink Phantom, Aries, Strange Timez, Pac-Man, Desole

53. DEHD – Flower of Devotion

Dehd: Flower of Devotion Album Review | Pitchfork

A good chunk of these artists featured on this list I discovered through SiriusXMU, the indie station on Sirius. DEHD was one of the favorites from last year. Loner was the first track I heard and I instantly fell for it. The female lead’s vocals reminded me of The Cranberries with her very loose and almost wacky voice. I also like how Flower of Devotion seems like a very small project. All the songs barely crack 3 minutes and just make for a very easy listen.

I very much liked the honesty of this album too. I mean the lead single flat out tells you multiple times “I’m a loooooooooooner”. You can tell there was a lot of heart and soul put into this collection of songs. I returned to FOD multiple times last year, will definitely do the same in 2021.

Bump This: Flood, Loner, Month, Drip Drop, Letter

52. Drab City – Good Songs for Bad People

Good Songs For Bad People | Drab City

A very late listen in 2020, Drab City was on the year end list for famed indie blogger Gorilla vs. Bear and made a very convincing argument to check it out.

Good Songs for Bad People is a very pretty, yet cold collection of tracks that almost remind me of Portishead. Listen and try to tell me otherwise. I love the ominous atmosphere they create with the almost sinister keyboards and the eerie flutes. The band surely lives up to their name, it’s far from drab music, but it’s definitely what you can imagine a dull, depressed city sound would be like. Albums like this deserve an award for creating a world within itself that almost feels familiar. Imagine walking through the city streets at night through a slight drizzle with a small sense of danger… that’s Drab City’s debut.

Bump This: Hand on My Pocket, Troubled Girl, Live Free and Die When it’s Cool

51. Surf Curse – Buds

Surf Curse - Buds // Sad Boys (2013, Blue, Cassette) | Discogs

I’m sure a lot of people would disagree with me just because of their legacy, but Surf Curse is like a modern, better version of Ramones. I see the creative vision in what Ramones do, but just structurally and vocally I feel like Surf Curse do a better job.

What I enjoy the most about Buds is the fact that this sounds like some friends you knew back in high school that ended up making it past battle of the bands. I talked earlier in this blog about Beach Goons and how I liked their ‘punk’ energy. Surf Curse does it the best out of anyone else on this list. Every time I hear anything off this album like Goth Babe, Heathers, and especially Freaks I can’t help but get excited.

Freaks is one of my all time favorite songs. Period. From the moment I heard it to the even the context of the album I thought in my Illinoisan mind “ope this is something special”. Out of all the acts that have this mosh-pit like energy and what I see as the new alt-rock/punk genre that lies with no name at the moment, Surf Curse stands out not only for its’ sound but for its’ writing and charisma.

Bump This: Heathers, Goth Babe, Freaks, Ponyboy

50. Tennis – Swimmer

Tennis: Swimmer Album Review | Pitchfork

This is far and away the best thing Tennis has ever put out. It’s always in discussion online what the future of pop will sound like and who will define it. Why isn’t Tennis ever in discussion? Given I’ve never been a huge fan on the act, but still what’s stopping them from being as big as alt-pop acts like Alvvays or Wild Nothing?

When it comes to alt-pop I’m especially picky just because I grew up listening to a lot of alt-pop so in a way I’m kind of burnt out on hearing half-assed pop songs. Swimmer has some edge to it. It’s little things like the instrumental shift in Need Your Love or the vocal range in Runner that make it stand out from most other alternative music in general.

If you enjoy very easy going indie music, strong lead female vocals with a slight 80s tinge then you should definitely check out Swimmer.

Bump This: Swimmer, Runner, Need Your Love, Tender as a Tomb

49. 21 Savage & Metro Boomin – Savage Mode II

21 Savage / Metro Boomin: Savage Mode 2 Album Review | Pitchfork

There’s a special place in my heart for the original Savage Mode. When that first dropped in 2016 it was everywhere. No Heart and X will go down as future trap classics. Speaking of trap classics, this album is chock-full of them.

21 Savage in the past few years has tweaked his persona becoming a more mature and well written rapper. He raps on beat better, his lyrics are more dense and reflective, and has slowly become one of the best feature artists in recent years. Metro Boomin is definitely the best producer in the rap game right now. I’ve never disliked a beat the man has made as far as I’ve heard. So imagine what both of these guys at the top of their game sound like… well actually you don’t have to imagine because it’s this project here.

Production on here is nuts. It’s crazy clean and memorable, not to mention suits 21’s style phenomenally. The features from Drake, Young Thug, and Young Nudy are pretty close to being perfect. Also they got fucking Morgan Freeman to narrate this tape. Just give it a few years and you’ll hear people say “this tape is good but it’s not Savage Mode II.

Bump This: Many Men, Mr. Right Now, Slidin

48. Joey Bada$$ – 1999

1999 (Joey Badass album) - Wikipedia

Joey Bada$$ dropped one of the most disappointing three tracks all year. Makes you look at mixtapes like All Amerikkkan Badass and 1999 and sigh.

Nobody in rap has come close to mirroring what Joey has done with his tapes in the 2010’s. The guy has an immense amount of talent and skills. 1999 highlights how talented of a lyricist he was even back at the beginning. This also sounds like it came straight out of the 90’s and could stand strong against other boom bap kings of that era.

The production helps make this project even more memorable. Tracks like Fromdatomabs, Survival Tactics, and Pennyroyal standing out amongst the rest. This mixtape will definitely be in rotation in summers to come.

Bump This: Pennyroyal, Third Eye Sh*t, Survival Tactics, Funky Ho’$

47. Belle and Sebastian – Tigermilk

Belle and Sebastian: Tigermilk Album Review | Pitchfork

It’s funny how this album is so high on this list, yet it ranks lower for me in how I’d rank Belle and Sebastian’s discography. Tigermilk isn’t a weak project in any aspect and honestly doesn’t really have any mediocre aspects either. Everything on here is either good or great.

Tigermilk has exactly what you would expect from the band and then some. The band has such a tangible chemistry it’s ridiculous. Instrumentally they’re at the top of their game and has some glimmers of the album that would follow it, If You’re Feeling Sinister. Something I’ve always liked about the group is their hint of jazz they include. There’s always some very nice hi-hat action going on. The trumpet solos are always a treat too like on the wonderful My Wandering Days are Over. Lyrically, Stuart makes me feel very nostalgic. He has a way in songwriting that makes him feel sentimental without being overbearingly cheesy.

Even though this isn’t in my top three of their discography, Tigermilk is still an enjoyable indie record from start to finish.

Bump This: My Wandering Days are Over, I Could Be Dreaming, She’s Losing It

46. Spoon – Kill the Moonlight

Spoon: Kill the Moonlight Album Review | Pitchfork

I wouldn’t go as far to say that I love Spoon, but I’m very close to doing so. Every time they put something out it’s nothing less than an 8 out of 10. Kill the Moonlight is one of Spoon’s earlier works before they really broke it big an album later with Gimme Fiction.

Spoon are the kings of making hype songs for middle aged men. There’s such a high energy to their songs, makes you want to tap your fingers even if you’ve never heard the song before. That’s exactly what happened with The Way We Get By, I swore I’ve heard it before but regardless it made me tap my foot when I was working the front desk.

Even though I wouldn’t define them as punk-ish or even power pop I feel the need to label them that anyways I guess? It’s bizarre how they can sound like multiple genres based on who you ask or what album of theirs you listen to. Give it a listen, it’s great homework or making dinner music.

Bump This: Paper Tiger, The Way we Get By, Don’t Let it get You Down

45. Phoebe Bridgers – Punisher

Phoebe Bridgers: Punisher Album Review | Pitchfork

Ah yes the album that graces every 2020 year end list, Punisher. Phoebe Bridgers has been on the rise for a few years now with her solo work, but also with Boygenius and Connor Oberst of Bright Eyes on Better Oblivion Community Center. Punisher was my first exposure to her in any aspect outside of some of her Boygenius project. A friend of mine had asked me one day if I had listened to this record and upon saying yes, said he couldn’t get through it because it was so sad. Damn straight, I agree.

Chinese Satellite and I Know the End hurt man. The looming themes of depression and moving on from past realities were a hard concept to grasp upon first listen. She wrote most of these songs while touring for her other album Stranger in the Alps. You can tell she was kind of in her head most of the time while writing these songs. Especially Garden Song and Kyoto, arguably the album’s best tracks. Kyoto has an unexpected breath of energy on Punisher. One that stuck with me months after hearing for the first time. I love the blaring horn sections and the flaring bass in the background too. If it doesn’t win Best Rock Performance at the Grammy’s this year it won’t mean much because the Grammy’s are bs, but if Phoebe takes home that trophy then it’s so deserved.

Punisher is an emotional rollercoaster. One that’ll make you think about your past struggles and look ahead to the future. It took me a few listens, but I’m so glad I gave it more chances.

Bump This: Kyoto, Chinese Satellite, I Know the End, Garden Song

44. Foals – Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost: Part Two

Foals: Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost Part 2 Album Review | Pitchfork

For whatever reason it took me a while to get to this album despite loving the first part in the series. Foals, like Spoon, are a band that I wouldn’t say I love but yet put out nothing but quality material every album they drop. I got very excited upon hearing their singles The Runner and Black Bull, such fiery songs! The whole album is like it too, a bit of a parting ways from the first Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost, which was more contemporary and synth driven.

The riffs on here are just as memorable as anything they’ve put out prior. Like Lightning is a very fun, almost garage rock track that almost reminds me of mid-2000s Black Keys. The riff in question is very bluesy and playful.

Neptune also has to be mentioned, the 10 minute closing track. Amazing. Probably one of the best the band has ever put out. Even if it’s not a punchy, particularly resonant track like most of the album, it’s still just as affective with the way it shreds out to close a fantastic record.

Bump This: The Runner, Neptune, Like Lightning

43. Rina Sawayama – SAWAYAMA

Image result for sawayama

What the hell is this? I mean that in the best way possible, of course. This thing is part nu-metal, pop, rock, R&B… It’ reaches a lot of unexpected territory. SAWAYAMA is a near perfect debut album for Rina Sawayama. She has such a personality in her songs and in her vocals. It is quite obvious that her influence rely a lot on the 90’s to early 2000’s which is interesting. You don’t really see a ton of throwback music that sounds like something that dropped in the 2000s.

Dynasty is a great way to kick off the album, it’s punchy, aggressive, very Evanescence like in her vocals. The next is almost a complete turn-around, the very sassy and infectious XS. As the album progresses, Rina gives us a tour on why she deserves to be famous. Her voice is very unlike any other indie artist out there, at least from this decade. STFU! is the most 2010’s sounding track on here, almost something that Rico Nasty might put out. It’s not rap, but it’s like a very cutesy kick to the dick pop style.

SAWAYAMA couldn’t have been executed more perfectly. If there was ever hype to exist it’s the question of what is Rina gonna do next?

Bump This: STFU!, XS, Akasaka Sad, Who’s Gonna Save You Now?

42. Logic – No Pressure

Listen to Logic's Final Album 'No Pressure' | Complex

No Pressure was very hard for me to get excited for. Supermarket is one of the worst albums I have heard in my life. Confessions of a Dangerous Mind I never listened to, but the singles from it were so lackluster and kinda lame. Homicide had every right to be amazing and just wasn’t. When I heard that he would retire after dropping though… ugh fine. I’m so glad I gave it a chance because this is the best thing he has dropped since The Incredible True Story.

Logic has one of the most recognizable voices in hip-hop and for good reason. The dude raps better than most rappers working today, fight me on that. You’re gonna be wrong. No Pressure of course is the sort of sequel to Under Pressure, which at this point is considered a modern classic in the making. No Pressure has every right to hold that title too. His storytelling ability has consistently fascinated me. Throughout the record he tells of why he is leaving the rap game at what is arguably the height of his mainstream popularity. Mainly to take care of his newborn son. Can’t knock that.

No Pressure is everything that made me become a Logic fan nearly 7 years ago. His lyricism is top tier, beats are phenomenal, storytelling made me get emotional at times, and just all around a very fun and worthy way to end his discography.

Bump This: Soul Food II, Open Mic//Aquarius III, Dadbod

41. Nas – Illmatic

Illmatic - Wikipedia

It took me a long ass time to get to Illmatic. Many people hold this album very close to their hearts and it’s not hard to see why. Out of the boom bap era of hip-hop in the 90’s Illmatic probably stands as my favorite to come out of it.

Admittedly, I didn’t get Illmatic at first. Sure it’s good but really? Best ever? Nas’ debut changed the way I listen to albums because I feel as though unless it is outright awful to me, every album deserves a second listen.

It kind of goes without saying, but Nas probably has the best lyricism out of any rapper ever. His flow is smooth as silk. His voice is very easy to understand (I have a hard time picking out words in songs sometimes) and makes his stories all the better . Life’s a Bitch, New York State of Mind, One Love, Represent… C’mon man this is a classic by all means.

Bump This: N.Y. State of Mind, Life’s a Bitch, The World is Yours, One Love

40. Cloud Nothings – Attack on Memory

Attack On Memory | Cloud Nothings

Cloud Nothings style of rock/punk is unlike many. It’s like as if Radiohead had a jam sesh with late 90’s Pixies.

Attack On Memory is one of the fastest listens I had all year. I found inspiration to listen to it because I heard Wasted Days on SiriusXMU and thought it was one of the best songs ever. I still think it is actually. The way it transitions from being what seems like just an above average punk rock track turns into an all out rager that builds up over the course of the last half of the nearly 9 minute track. Stay Useless is also a very fast punchy track about what can only be described as living with depression. Within this short track the singer declares that he would rather have time stop and just have nothing happen at all.

This is just a very enjoyable rock, almost grunge album that demands to be played loud whether it be to feel the explosive energy of the fast drumming and shredding of the guitar or to scream the lyrics at the top of your lungs in the car.

Bump This: Wasted Days, Stay Useless, Separation

39. Beach Bunny – Honeymoon

Honeymoon | Beach Bunny

Chicago represent! Upon first hearing Beach Bunny back in 2019 I was very excited to hear that some of the band hailed from a city fairly close to mine. Most of the band still goes to UIC. How dope! I also have a very small, sort of six degrees of Kevin Bacon, relationship through a mutual friend. Anyhow, Honeymoon is wonderful!

Beach Bunny have described themselves as power pop which is really interesting because if this is the new iteration of what power pop sounds like then I’m all in. Lili Trifilio has vocals and lyrics that are as deadpan as they are extravagant. The best way to describe Honeymoon would simply just be sad love songs. Or simp-pop for the less mature.

Honeymoon also has some of the most memorable moments on any album I heard last year. The fast roaring, yet bubbly guitars at the end of April and the very 2000s-esque Cloud 9 that makes it feel like a pop punk album that I would’ve totally gravitated to in middle school.

This band is something special. I had the pleasure of seeing them at Lollapalooza back in 2019 and their energy and happiness were so contagious. They also had a very dedicated group of people that knew the songs of their EP there too. Can’t wait to see what they do next.

Bump This: Promises, April, Cloud 9, Cuffing Season

38. Alt-J – An Awesome Wave

Alt-J - An Awesome Wave - Amazon.com Music

When I first heard Alt-J as a sample on iTunes I thought they were boring. Now I adore them.

An Awesome Wave is an album that truthfully I’ve probably heard in full before, but not until this year did I hear it from front to back. I wish that I was older when this came out initially so I could appreciate it the way I do now instead of only listening to Breezeblocks. This album in particular shows how experimental and instrumentally complex the band is. There’s so much going on in every song that you kind of get transported to this wonderful world that can only be described as a paradise.

Diverse is the perfect word for this album because each song has its own draw and personality. Breezeblocks is this wacky, yet cutesy track that closes out with a very emotional and particularly smart instrumental coincided with chants of ‘hey!’. Fitzpleasure, starts off as what sounds like what would be a ballad of chants, but then the bass drops and your whole body rumbles and gets goosebumps. Taro has a surprise halfway through as we get treated to some beautiful instrumentals and storytelling abilities. Makes for a good way to nearly close out the record.

Alt-J has proven album after album that they really can be the next Radiohead. Even if I don’t think Relaxer was at the height of this or This is All Yours, they have the songwriting abilities and effect of making me feel smarter after listening.

Bump This: Taro, Breezeblocks, Fitzpleasure, Ms, Dissolve Me

37. The 1975 – Notes on a Conditional Form

Notes on a Conditional Form - Wikipedia

As much as I initially loved this album when it first came out I recognize after a few more listens that it’s a bit too pretentious at some points. Very small nit-pick, but otherwise I think it’s fantastic.

The 1975 don’t have one album in their discography that sounds like the other. You can argue this is their sequel to 2018’s A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships, but this one is a bit more ambitious. This is more of the side of them that’s analytical and critical, like their previous record, but this one is slightly more political in spirit. Greta Thunberg is the damn opening track. Every album of theirs starts with a track titled ‘The 1975’ but this one is far and away their best, her speech is great.

Like Alt-J’s An Awesome Wave, this album is extremely diverse even more so as it progresses. When People finishes you get blown away by Matt Healy’s stunning shrieks and furious guitars and clashing of drums you get treated to an um… violin section? This happens more than a few times. There’s also a lot of late 90’s spirited club instrumental tracks too which in my eyes work very well and work in the favor of this album’s absurdity.

I could honestly write a whole blog entry about this album and probably will one day, but for now I’ll keep it brief. NOACF is loving, heartbreaking, influential, and glamorous all in one.

Bump This: People, If You’re Too Shy (Let Me Know), Me & You Together Song, Frail State of Mind, Guys

36. Freddie Gibbs and Madlib – Pinata

GIBBS, FREDDIE & MADLIB - Pinata - Amazon.com Music

Freddie Gibbs is easily one of my favorite figures in rap. Not just because he makes good music, but he’s just a massive troll and a goofy dude. His famous Instagram stories were epic until they removed him from the app. Good thing there’s Twitter.

This collab with Madlib worked out perfectly for Gibbs. His personality and figure shine through so well. His lyricism works out perfectly with Madlib’s effortless producing skills. Some of the catchiest beats I’ve heard on any project this past decade. I love Gibbs’ sense on humor on a lot of these tracks too. There’s literally a whole track about how much he loves Harold’s Chicken and how he smacks down on his mild sauce wings and fries.

The guest features from Danny Brown, Scarface, and Earl Sweatshirt are among the best of their careers. The chemistry is very much alive once again thanks to immaculate production by Madlib.

This is without a doubt one of the best rap projects of the past decade, maybe the 2000s too. There’s just so much to love on here and has a ton of replay value.

Bump This: Thuggin’, Shitsville, High, Pinata

35. Oliver Tree – Ugly is Beautiful

Oliver Tree: Ugly Is Beautiful Album Review | Pitchfork

I don’t think anyone could’ve predicted someone like Oliver Tree to pop up these past few years. The dude is a walking talking meme, begging for you to laugh at him. Look at that album cover and try to tell me different.

While his viral antics were heavily eaten up by the public and kind of killed me exploring his material until this year, this album is kind of amazing. I don’t know what it is, but this album is just hit after hit after hit. Given half of these songs were released as singles but that hardly matters. All of these songs are mostly nerd anthems. Alien Boy highlighting that it’s okay to be an outcast despite the hate you’ll receive for being different. Bury Me Alive is also an example of why this dude is just begging to be laughed at. It’s just all; very goofy in spirit.

Ugly is Beautiful also sounds a lot like Twenty One Pilots without sounding like them at all. Maybe it’s the comparative alt-pop of Blurryface or the somewhat rap influenced instrumentals. Something.

Point is you shouldn’t take Oliver Tree for granted. This is alt-pop gold we have here that may be the only thing he ever drops. It’s energetic, funny, endlessly catchy, and just a really fun listen.

Bump This: Let Me Down, Hurt, Alien Boy, Cash Machine, Miracle Man

34. Amine – Limbo

Aminé: Limbo Album Review | Pitchfork

Banger after banger, wow. It’s funny on my very first day of college I listened to Good For You and now flash forward to the week before I left for my last year of college and Limbo comes out. Amine has grown so much as an artist and much more than just the dude that made Caroline.

Limbo is something I didn’t expect to love, but probably just casually enjoy a few singles since that’s how Good For You was. The moment I heard the beat for Burden my thought had changed. Amine is god-tier when it comes to one liners. Burden alone is enough to impress the king of one liners, Lil Wayne. Amine’s very carefree persona is very addictive in his music. This is especially visible in songs like Woodlawn, Pressure in My Palms, and especially Compensating.

Roots was easily my favorite song of 2020. It’s unlike anything he has ever dropped. The bars, the beat, the J.I.D. and Charlie Wilson features UGH. It’s perfection. There’s never a low point of Limbo even after setting such a high bar at just track four. The sentiment to his mother and the late Kobe Bryant are also new emotional territory for him, something I never expected.

I revisited Limbo probably the most out of any album in 2020. If you haven’t heard of Amine before or even doubt his place in rap right now please listen to Limbo.

Bump This: Burden, Roots, Pressure in My Palms, Mama

33. Taylor Swift – Folklore

Folklore (Taylor Swift album) - Wikipedia

Taylor Swift put out two very high quality records this past year. While Evermore is very enjoyable in its’ own right, Folklore feels like the album she was destined to make.

Swift has severely dropped off these past few years. I couldn’t stand any of the singles from Reputation and the same goes for Lover. It felt like she just didn’t have any great songs in her anymore. Shit, I haven’t LOVED a Taylor Swift song since Speak Now. Maybe, that’s why I like this album so much. It feels like her older, better written material and truthfully she really did belong in the country/folk scene. Her voice suits the genre.

All this being said, Folklore is really sad. Like very. It may not be as hard hitting as Phoebe Bridgers’ Punisher, but it’s a very raw version of her. One I’ve never seen before. The first half of Folklore might be the best songs she has ever put out. The One captures the feeling of getting over love that we’ve all felt before in a relatable sense, while Cardigan is more of the desperation we feel during the night. Exile is perhaps the most heartbreaking and is Taylor Swift’s best written song ever. The vocals feel so tender and honest, especially with that Bon Iver feature. You trying to make me tear up T-Swizzle?

Folklore was the right album at the right time. It was the beginning of deep autumn and I felt very cold and alone during this COVID period. I felt like fall wasn’t the same being stuck indoors and not doing fun fall activities with my loved ones. Driving around and walking to this album felt right. I will put Folklore on every fall in the future. I can say for certain this is the first of Swift’s albums I love.

Side note: Why did it feel so satisfying to hear her say fuck?

Bump This: Mirrorball, Exile, The One, Cardigan, Illicit Affairs, Betty

32. IDLES – Ultra Mono

Ultra Mono | IDLES

Ultra Mono feels like what that ball is to the man on the album artwork, a grand blow to the noggin!

IDLES are no stranger to speaking their mind about how they feel about their government. Every album they drop seems to dwell deeper into their anger at society. Man they’re fucking pissed on this one. Right from the get go they pick up where they left off on the track War and start using onomatopoeia to demonstrate the sounds of bullshit going on around them. Basically saying that obeying the politicians and what higher authority is telling you is walking into your own grave.

It doesn’t slow down at all from there. They venture into the addiction to prescription drugs and how selling has corrupted the streets, the carelessness of people’s health, how mental health is very much ignored and seen as a weakness… Damn I’m gonna listen to this again after writing this list.

If you’re not on board with IDLES already I doubt Ultra Mono would change your perspective, but still it’s a great album by the U.K. band. Maybe their best so far.

Bump This: Model Village, Reigns, War, Ne Touche Pas Moi, Anxiety

31. Bleached – Don’t You Think You’ve Had Enough

Bleached

Ah the beginning of quarantine. Such a simpler time. Reading books, doing puzzles, attending online classes, and best of all discovering gems like this Bleached album! Hard to Kill was a favorite of 2019 which lead me to wonder what their other stuff sounded like.

Don’t You Think You’ve Had Enough is what alternative needs. It feels like a revival of the riot grrrl era of the 90s sort of like a lost L7 or Sleater Kinney LP. Like a Sleater Kinney album, Bleached never lose steam. They make songs that are hard on the surface but soft on the inside kind of like a gas station gumball, only better. They feel like songs that you’ve heard before or even songs that you wrote when you were a teen. Maybe not as well done as these ones but you get what I mean.

Bleached does a very good job at maintaining their punk image throughout the entirety of the record. It’s really fun alt-pop that deserves more attention. They would be humongous if their music fell into the right hands.

Bump This: Rebound City, Heartbeat Away, Valley to L.A., Somebody Dial 911, Hard to Kill

30. SZA – CTRL

SZA — Ctrl (2017) | Iconic album covers, Music album cover, Rap album covers

Man if only I had listened to CTRL sooner. This was the last album I listened to in 2020 and I really would’ve ranked this higher had I revisited it throughout the year instead of New Years Eve.

SZA is one of Top Dawg’s best artists, maybe the best next to Kendrick Lamar and ScHoolboy Q. It doesn’t seem right that she has only been around for a short while or at least had the spotlight she does now. Out of all the R&B singers in recent history male or female, SZA is my favorite based on CTRL alone. What a conceptually tragic, yet empowering project.

The story about being lost in herself through others and just bullshit around her. Being cheated on, fulfilling her self-prophecy, and not getting caught up in the little things all done immaculately and with a lot of style. What makes SZA stand out amongst others in her genre is sense of self-worth. I really feel like this is a project she pined to put out. I easily get lost in songs like Broken Clocks, Garden, and Supermodel. I went into this expecting nothing and getting everything in return. A beautiful, lustful project. I can’t wait to see what she’s up to next, but I heard she’s going through a debacle with the label so hopefully that’ll get resolved so she can get her creative freedom again.

Bump This: Broken Clocks, Prom, Supermodel, Garden, Drew Barrymore

29. Sufjan Stevens – Illinois

Sufjan Stevens: Illinois Album Review | Pitchfork

Illinois is such a wonder. The album anyways. I had heard a handful of these tracks on their own before like Chicago and Jacksonville, but their sound only gets elevated when put in the context of the rest of the LP. If you’re unfamiliar with this album’s legacy, Stevens had attempted to make records based on all 50 states in some capacity but only really put forth a few. Illinois is the one that really landed for a handful of people because of the history and stories that he told based on his visits to the state as well as various books he read and experiences from people that he met.

There’s so much to love about his state centered project. You can tell he put lot of care and consideration into his writing. It’s equal parts quirky and nostalgic as it is heartfelt and emotional. Casimir Pulaski Day breaks my heart every time I hear it. The soft acoustic guitar mixes well with Sufjan’s heartfelt lyrics about a close friend of his slowly passing away as he reminisces the good times they shared. I also appreciate how cosmopolitan this album sounds. Chicago, Jacksonville, and Come On! Feel the Illinoise all feel like a song that was destined to be played in a movie soundtrack while viewing the downtown areas. This album also retracts back when it tells a story as sensitive as the case of John Wayne Gacy Jr or various tall tales and urban legends.

What really works about Illinois is the spirit of it. This sounds like the rightful soundtrack to the state. I adore this album and even if it doesn’t have a constant replay value I’ll still look forward to the few times a year that I give it a listen.

Bump This: Chicago, Jacksonville, Casimir Pulaski Day, Come On! Feel the Illinoise Part 1, Decatur, or, Round of Applause for Your Step Mother!, The Man of Metropolis Steals our Hearts

28. The Dave Brubeck Quartet – Time Out

The Dave Brubeck Quartet - Time Out - Amazon.com Music

I can’t write this short review without acknowledging my dad’s ringtone being Blue Rondo a la Turk for over a decade now. Plus it’s in Wedding Crashers, one of my favorite romantic comedies.

Jazz can be dissected into multiple subgenres, but Dave Brubeck’s big band approach feels so vibrant and vivacious almost as if it was the soundtrack to a walk on a cool summer night. Blue Rondo a la Turk and Take Five definitely have the most energy, but to say they are the best would be jumping the gun. While I do love all the songs on this short but sweet collection, I find myself returning to the sax heavy Kathy’s Waltz the most. It feels breezy if that makes any sense.

The Dave Brubeck Quartet exudes a calming and pleasant aesthetic. I heard this while working at my desk job and it made the shift fly by. I was under the spell of some beautiful instrumentals.

Bump This: Blue Rondo a la Turk, Kathy’s Waltz, Strange Meadow Lark, Everybody’s Jumpin’

27. The Magnetic Fields – 69 Love Songs

69 Love Songs - Wikipedia

Damn, 69 songs? About love?? There’s no way this is gonna be great. Dude. How is there an album that is almost three hours long and has nearly zero skips? I enjoyed the hell out of this album by The Magnetic Fields. This band feels like it paved the way for many lo-fi and indie acts to follow. Acts like Ariel Pink, Fox Academy, and even Sufjan Stevens.

Obviously the theme of love is constant theme but they touch upon the various types of love. Hopeless love, forgotten love, being in love, divisive love, and most heartbreaking of all… fading love. In an album that is basically a triple album, there’s easily some standouts. The first disc probably contains the strongest set, but overall I thoroughly enjoy the folksy elements of songs like I Think I Need a New Heart and The Luckiest Guy on the Lower East Side. The lead male singer’s vocals are monotone wonder, while the female has a deep, passionate.

I didn’t listen to this all in one sitting, it took about two days with a few car rides back home over Thanksgiving, but I don’t think it is meant to be in one sitting. I see it as a massive compilation of singles that are meant to be enjoyed in their own respects whenever you feel like it. Every time I tuned in at various points I felt like I was being treated to a new project. For 69 Love Songs to hit as consistently as it does it really says something about albums that are 11 songs and feel like an hour with hits and misses.

Bump This: The Luckiest Guy on the Lower East Side, I Think I Need a New Heart, Sweet Lovin’ Man, Busby Berkeley Dreams, How to Say Goodbye

26. Charly Bliss – Young Enough

Charly Bliss – Young Enough Lyrics | Genius Lyrics

Charly Bliss don’t get nearly enough credit than they deserve. They have proven themselves what they are capable of through tracks like Percolator and Capacity. Capacity has creeped its’ way into my top ten songs of all time. I love the way it covered the stress of being stressed and having to accumulate responsibilities for other people as if they’re your problem. It’s a very empowering moment on the album.

Eva Hendricks is one of the best female female vocalists in rock. Her voice is instantly recognizable with its sassy swagger and crackly aggression. The aesthetic presented on Young Enough is very 80’s power pop mixed with a touch of modern alternative. The Truth has a very soft piano that mixes very well with the rising bass and soft vocals that almost feels like a CHVRCHES track. I think instrumentally, electrics and drums are the highlight of this record. The emotional peak of Capacity is the guitars at the bridge, but what really kicks off the energy is that blaring synth in the first seconds. The subtle synths in the bridge of Young Enough (the song) really provides a cold atmosphere to a powerful belting chorus.

Young Enough is a fun and heartfelt album that deserves more attention than most of what plays on the mainstream rock stations. I feel as though people would very much gravitate towards them if they targeted an older audience especially.

Bump This: Capacity, Blown to Bits, Young Enough, Camera

25. Chance The Rapper – 10 Day

10 Day - Wikipedia

Am I wrong for thinking this is Chance’s second best album after Coloring Book? Who cares.

10 Day is rarely ever brought up in any discussion I’ve ever had about Chance or even on hip-hop Twitter. This makes no sense to me at all, this is the music that Chance was destined to make, not whatever The Big Day was.

Chance’s music combines the various flavors of the city of Chicago with a hint of jazz, dramatic strings and pianos that very much mirror the spirit of Kanye West’s Late Registration. Windows and Nostalgia capture the life of the then young rapper’s life on the south side of Chicago while infusing the sounds of the city with some cold lo-fi jazz that resemble walking through the streets of the city on a cool breezy evening.

Lyrically it’s not his best storytelling, but it’s very to the point and not a ton of clever delivery, I’d say that accolade goes more towards Acid Rap. Deep down his charisma and flavors of his upbringing are what make these songs special and part of why Acid Rap is so great too.

I implore any fan of midwest rap or Chance in general to give this album a chance. It wows me every listen, especially the closing few tracks.

Bump This: Prom Night, Nostalgia, Brain Cells, Windows

24. Juice WRLD – Legends Never Die

Juice WRLD: Legends Never Die Album Review | Pitchfork

Man I really hope they don’t abuse Juice WRLD’s legacy for money. This seems like it would be his final album with maybe a few features left in him since the track-list exceeds 20+ songs. 2020 was the year of the posthumous album. First with Mac Miller’s Circles, then with Pop Smoke’s Shoot for the Stars Aim for the Moon, and Juice’s Legends Never Die.

This is the Chicago rapper at his most ’emo’ (genre) and pop too. This feels like a very accessible project that would appeal to a new audience, which good for him. He deserved every ounce of popularity he had coming. Features with artists like Marshmello and Halsey that I don’t care for in any sense actually worked out very well. All of the features on here were almost all at the top of their game, which just further proves Juice always just brought out the best in those he worked with.

LND is a pretty genre-bending project too. There’s hints of pop-punk on tracks like Man of the Year, some decent EDM bouncers, and his darker styled rap bangers. Juice WRLD had made such a living off of raps about smoking and drinking, but also very interpersonal bars about how hurt of a person he was his very short lived life. It sucks to see someone who had so much potential that it’s ridiculous. This is unlike anything he has put out and will act as a new standard for many of the emo-rappers to follow. Those wanting to make that slight move to a grungier sound too.

R.I.P. to a Chicago legend in the making.

Bump This: Man of the Year, Screw Juice, Conversations, Righteous

23. Deerhunter – Halcyon Digest

Halcyon Digest - Wikipedia

Another album I thought was gonna snooze me to death, but ended up being amazing. Deerhunter have a surprisingly quirky trait to them. They have such instrumentally dense songs that evoke such rich storytelling. The instrumental work on this album is as clean and in order as one indie album could be, but it’s also kinda messy. There’s slight imperfections on Halcyon Digest that surely aren’t purposeful, but they end up making the album sound more genuine. I really enjoy moments like that during the latter half of Coronado when the drumming cues in with the clusterfuck of guitars in the mix.

When I first heard this Deerhunter album back in October I was sort of lonely with being stuck indoors for weekend hall duty at school, Yeah, didn’t exactly help. I didn’t feel bummed out by anything lyrically, but just the topics at hand were more somber than what you’d expect off more upbeat sounding tracks like Helicopter and Desire Lines. The singer has described in interviews that this album is a romanticized version of a grim past, which sounds horrifying on its’ own let alone material for music.

This is a pretty highly regarded album which like I said I really thought I would dislike, but it ended up being pretty fantastic. The topics are a bit too grim to return to very often, but definitely listen to it if you enjoy bands like The Decemberists or Grizzly Bear!

Bump This: Desire Lines, Revival, Basement Scene, He Would Have Laughed

22. HAIM – Women in Music Part III

Haim: Women in Music Pt. III Album Review | Pitchfork

I’ve never had very strong feelings about HAIM outside of a few singles. I’ve never listened to an album of theirs in full admittedly, but I tried with their sophomore album and it just didn’t work out for me. I was on my way to work today when I first heard Summer Girl. Woah, this is different. Then I heard The Steps. Woah this is like REALLY good! You get the picture.

The three sisters of HAIM have proven themselves to be a powerful force in indie and even mainstream culture in the last half of the decade. Even if they haven’t made much of an impact with me until now, I know their music means a lot to some people. Women in Music III makes me want to give them another chance. There’s just so much more experimenting on here that works out so well. A majority of this album could easily be described as jam rock with some very welcome jazzy influences from a frequent saxophone appearance on tracks like Los Angeles, a very pretty and fun summer tune that really kicks off the record.

Women in Music is very comforting to me. I can really put this on at any point throughout the day and instantly be in a better mood. I feel the need to get up and clean the house to this record. Track after track I just find something to love about it. HAIM’s best so far.

Bump This: Gasoline, Summer Girl, Los Angeles, 3 AM, I Know Alone

21. Michael Giacchino – Ratatouille Original Score

Various Artists, Michael Giacchino, Camille - Ratatouille - Amazon.com Music

Ratatouille is probably my favorite Pixar film. I have such great memories associated with it. So much so that every time I eat the candy Runts I’m reminded of when my mom took my brother and I to see it in theaters so long ago. The movie has so many memorable aspects to it, but I think the most memorable component is the score.

This is one of those scores where it feels like it’s narrating the story. I can easily listen to this soundtrack front to back or in a playlist and recall what was going on in that scene. I don’t know maybe I’m just a Ratatouille fan boy and that’s just how I know. Either way Michael Giacchino elevates the movie experience with such a beautiful demonstration of the Paris landscape. A great score can make a movie so much more powerful like The Grand Budapest Hotel or Gone Girl. Ratatouille is easily my favorite score out of any movie.

Bump This: Again it’s weird to say what the best track is off a score, but Wall Rat, Remy’s Revenge, End Creditouilles, and Special Order are easy highlights.

20. Spillage Village – Spilligion

Spilligion - Wikipedia

I thought this was basically Dreamville without J. Cole, which is basically is, but turns out that Spillage Village was already a collective before that too. Earthgang, J.I.D., 6lack, Mereba, and others too make a near perfect R&B/rap album by fusing themes of religion and activism.

I have been a fan of a good chunk of the artists for a good while now and I can say with certainty this is easily the highlight of most of their careers so far. I love the gospel aspects in songs like PsalmSing, Baptize, and End of Daze. PsalmSing is one of the year’s best in particular with its’ very upbeat and positive message of God and loving the one you’re with compared to that of feeling high as the clouds. The spirit of this album in general is so contagious, the chemistry the collective has together is heartwarming and also badass. The more hip-hop centered tracks have some super memorable features like from Ari Lennox, Lucky Daye, and believe it or not a great Chance the Rapper feature!!

From front to end this is easily the feel-good album of 2020. One that I know for sure I needed. It’s the perfect fusion of modern rap with a mix of jazz and gospel. I’ll look back on 2020 and remember this was the year that Spilligion made me feel a little more happy.

Bump This: PsalmSing, Baptize, Shiva, Judas, Mecca

19. Fiona Apple – Fetch the Bolt Cutters

Fiona Apple: Fetch the Bolt Cutters Album Review | Pitchfork

Quality in mind, Fetch the Bolt Cutters might be the best album of the year, but based on personal enjoyment and preference some others edge it out. This Fiona Apple album was hyped up the entire year of 2020 from the moment it dropped. Pitchfork even declaring it a rare 10/10 from them. Yeah, OKAY Pitchfork. So being late to the game I checked this out in late November and yeah this is a great album.

I’m fairly new to Fiona Apple’s music, but just based on her storytelling ability alone she ranks amongst my favorites. Shameika is a beautiful, piano driven track about this girl she knew when she was younger inspiring her to do what she does today. The track eventually even got out to the original Shameika and they collaborated on a song post album. Power of music, man.

FTBC is a pretty weird project. Apple’s vocal abilities remind me a little bit of Bjork’s early stuff. One moment she’ll harmonize perfectly with her backing music and the next she’ll be making obtuse moaning noises and shrieks. They work really well too. Empowerment is a predominant theme too when it comes to the track Ladies, a song that is an attempt to convince women that they are not the issue in some cases when it comes to being strong and independent. It’s the men who are to blame. It’s not as dramatic as that but at it’s heart it’s an effective statement. This is also the case for Under the Table and Cosmonauts, two of the records highest points of creativity and experimenting as well. The album plays out almost as a twisted, swing alternative theater show. In the best way possible.

Fetch the Bolt Cutters took me a second to get to, but it was definitely worth the wait.

Bump This: Shameika, Rack of His, Cosmonauts, Heavy Balloon

18. Mac Miller – Swimming

Swimming (Mac Miller album) - Wikipedia

Many would call Swimming Mac Miller’s magnum opus and I wouldn’t argue against it. While not my favorite of his, this is still a massive change in sound for the late rapper. Mac Miller always challenged the genre with his inclusion of pop and jazz into his songs. This sees him at a massively more vulnerable state of mind. This is one of the few albums that’ll actually get me emotional because of it. Not just because he passed away a month after dropping, but because he has made such an impact on the self-help community that’ll last way past his untimely death.

Right from the beginning Mac pleads to the listener that he just “needs a way out” and is accompanied with some soft keyboards and soft vocals. Oh boy, here we go. Then it transitions to my favorite instrumental on the entire project, Hurt Feelings which is actually produced by the great J. Cole. A song that takes on his perspective of how his life up to this point hasn’t changed him as a person, but deep down has really messed with his mental space. A theme that returns on the track Perfecto, a more confident track but takes on his past relationship with Ariana Grande as well as his addiction in a very optimistic but realistic in delivery.

Self Care is a clear standout and has reinvented and even popularized the term again for a lot of people. It’s a moment of reflection on not only his life, but about our own too. I can’t write this short review without bringing up 2009. That song wrecks me. From this to the Tiny Desk Concert video, this is just nostalgia, depression, and harsh truths. Mix that with an almost Thinking Bout You like string section off of Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange and a cute, but tragic piano section. The hardest hitting point on the album next to the closer, So it Goes. I had a very strong reaction to this track last I heard this album. It hurt to hear someone that I look up to hurt the way he did and close out Swimming on such an impactful and heartbreaking conclusion.

I love Swimming. It was the beginning of a new sound for Mac and it sucks that we’ll never get to see what he had left in store past Circles.

Bump This: Hurt Feelings, Self Care, Ladders, 2009, So it Goes, Jet Fuel

17. Cordae – The Lost Boy

The Lost Boy (album) - Wikipedia

Who could’ve expected this? I didn’t really give this album much of a chance initially because I wasn’t a big YBN fan in general. Then I heard his song Old ****** which is a really unique track. So upon hearing Cordae’s debut outside of the YBN label I felt like there was struck gold all along.

Next to Anderson .Paak I really don’t think anyone is tackling jazz-rap as good as Cordae. I prefer this over most of the previous modern jazz-rap king, Chance the Rapper’s, previous work. .Paak also makes an appearance on RNP which might be the best on the record. They bounce off each other so well it’s ridiculous. The beat too will get you pumped regardless. Chance also makes an appearance on Bad Idea, another one of the highlights which is basically a back and forth between the two rappers discussing their come-ups. Back and forth it’s a very pleasant and bar heavy moment.

The Lost Boy can be split pretty much down the middle when it comes to laid back, jazzy storytelling like on Thanksgiving or can have an all out banger like Broke as Fuck, for those who enjoyed the YBN Mixtape days.

If there was ever a newer rapper to call promising it’s definitely Cordae. The man is still my favorite off of the 2019 XXL Freshmen list and with the singles he dropped this year I think he’s got another great album to offer up. It feels like he just dropped The College Dropout and now he’s got Late Registration planned next.

Bump This: Broke as Fuck, RNP, Thanksgiving, Nightmares are Real

16. Denzel Curry – Imperial

Denzel Curry - Imperial - Amazon.com Music

I don’t understand the hate that Denzel Curry gets. He’s far from your average rapper and I’m sure he knows that too. My first exposure to him, like most people, was Ultimate. A track that isn’t on this album, but didn’t exactly make me take him serious until about late 2018. Ever since then he has been one of my favorites. He also might have been my favorite rap concert ever? Next to Tyler, the Creator he had one of the tightest sets of any act I’ve ever seen. He knew his hits, he knew his audience, but what really shook me was he decided to play his cover of Rage Against the Machine’s Bulls on Parade, one of the best covers of all time if you’ve never heard it (it’s on YouTube).

Imperial is my currently my favorite Curry album. Why? It’s just outright fun. The amount of angst and ambition in his rhyme scheme and delivery works in every song off this record. ULT’s chorus reminds me a lot of something off of Travis Scott’s Rodeo. It has a very warped vocal part and has a repetitive chant of y’all aren’t U-L-T. The hype only continues on G**k, which isn’t meant to be an insult towards Koreans, supposedly it’s slang from Carol City for ‘misfit’. Anyhow this might be his best song in his discography, highlighting how he was and still is the outcast in the rap game. If this is what being the outcast sounds like then who’s to complain?

Outside of Denzel making a really fun banger, he can also tell a good story. The obvious pick being Story: No Title or even the following track This Life. Telling the story basically of himself and how this story will not have a title or even be remembered so what’s the point of giving it recognition. This Life compares his life to a lot of his peers without naming names and has bars referring to how his come up in the rap game will be more natural and honest versus flexing what he doesn’t have.

Imperial is just further truth and proof that Zel is one of the best in the game. He hasn’t put out a single bad song or even bad album. The dude has talent and definitely can fill up a space in your workout playlist.

Bump This: ULT, G**k, Story: No Title, Knotty Head

15. Menomena – Friend and Foe

Menomena: Friend and Foe Album Review | Pitchfork

Album artwork can really add to the album listening experience. This Menomena cover looks like a haunted game of Pictionary and I love it for that. The music I love too don’t get that mistaken. They came up in a recommended on “If you like TV on the Radio” section on Spotify and the rest is history, that’s all they had to tell me.

I had zero idea of who Menomena were prior to listening and I’m very glad because I’ve never heard much of anything that has sounded like them before. I can definitely see where they’d recommend it based off TV on the Radio with their being a slight tribal tinge. The main guy’s voice also sounds pretty similar, the other member of the band will take over sometimes too and it’s fun to see them go back and forth in the track-list. Right from the beginning, Muscle ‘n’ Flow and The Pelican are clear standouts. Drums are my favorite aspects of a good alternative or rock song and the drums are easily the highlights of both tracks.

I love how relaxed Friend and Foe is too. It’s equal parts chaotic with their drumming as it is calming to hear something like soft piano and whistling on my personal favorite, Boyscout’n. Tracks like that make me question as to why this Portland band isn’t bigger. There’s so much creativity and heart put into these tracks and it doesn’t ever slow down. Friend and Foe will make your day any time that you put it on.

Bump This: Boyscout’n, Muscle ‘n’ Flow, Rotten Hell, The Pelican

14. The Weeknd – After Hours

After Hours (The Weeknd album) - Wikipedia

What isn’t there to commend about this album? This is easily The Weeknd’s best to date. The hype for After Hours dates back to late 2019 when he dropped two great singles, Heartless and one of the biggest songs of all time, Blinding Lights. Heartless was a very trap influenced track with a kickass beat at the end of every set of verses that sounds like an updated version of Abel’s Trilogy days. Blinding Lights, in case you somehow have never heard it, is a very 80’s influenced synth ballad that begs to be played loud in any setting. Even when it plays in dentist office lobbies five years from now.

So what made this album his best was the slight risk that he took. Starboy was easily his most polarizing album, the more electronic approach didn’t sit well with a handful of fans. Personally, I love that project still. This is very much 80’s influenced from front to back. Songs like In Your Eyes and Hardest to Love are heat-seekers that you swear you’ve heard before in a movie. Maybe in this new genre of 80’s renaissance filmmaking (The Guest, It Follows, Neon Demon, etc.).

This also finds Abel at his most heartbroken in a long time. Probably since My Dear Melancholy. Escape from L.A. is an outpour of desire to leave the city so he can escape the memories of someone who mistreated his heart. Bummer. Snowchild is a different song for The Weeknd to make. It’s a slow-burner turned heartbreak story of his expectations that people have of him and how he can’t exactly create an art form that makes him happy. Weird that this is a common theme with a lot of artists this year.

After Hours stands out as a personal best. This is the biggest height and pretty much the climax of the record. It starts off fairly minimal as Abel pours his heart into a very passionate vocal performance, but then transitions into a very sleek and almost neon colored experience. One of my favorite songs from Starboy was Die for You, an R&B love song that is a synth ballad for the ages and a very underrated track. Scared to Live gave off those vibes again and initially was my favorite off the album first listen. If you haven’t listened to this masterpiece yet I recommend it wholeheartedly. The Weeknd is easily the biggest pop star we have on earth right now.

Bump This: Scared to Live, In Your Eyes, Snowchild, Blinding Lights, After Hours

13. Clipping – Visions of Bodies Being Burned

clipping.: Visions of Bodies Being Burned Album Review | Pitchfork

Horrorcore? Never heard of such a thing unless you find metal or screamo music scary. Clipping takes a concept like horror movies and translates it into this phenomenal rap album.

When I listen to Visions of Bodies Being Burned I feel like I’m listening to the film Scream as if it were translated into music. There’s some very meta moments that play into the horror theme presented, but it’s also pretty comical at times. Things like a sample of a door knocking and a series of gasps or sinister string samples that sound like they’re almost a mockery of Psycho. I found it nearly impossible to dislike anything on this Clipping album. It never loses its’ focus when it comes to ways to incorporate horror elements into the tunes where it doesn’t feel like a novelty. It’s not ‘Halloween music’ like Monster Mash. This is like the Monster Mash’s black sheep of a cousin.

Say the Name was the first time I had heard a song from Clipping and was the best introduction I could’ve asked for. It’s basically a retelling of the urban legend of the Candyman horror villain. The lyrics describe the situation that the Candyman would find himself to be around and his reasoning for a murderous rampage. It’s a pretty grim way to start off the album, especially with the recurring “candlesticks in the dark, visions of bodies being burned” being repeated in a haunting voice multiple times after each verse. ’96 Neve Campbell turns up this fun and corny (in a good way) tone, where it describes the stereotype of the last female survivor in a horror film and how she’s considered to be the badass and outside the box character more often than not (Neve Campbell playing that role in the film Scream). It’s easily a highlight with a stunning feature from Cam & China. I immediately followed them on Spotify afterwards.

Other topics discussed on the album include being alive during a zombie apocalypse and running away from slashers and a lot of other creative and wacky ideas. Clipping utilizes the horror genre for the second time in their discography. There’s so many great ideas and ways that they build up anticipation and excitement from in between tracks. The production is also insane if you fall easily for that kind of thing. This rap collective has grabbed my attention pretty firmly with this one.

Bump This: Say the Name, ’96 Neve Campbell, Check the Lock, Looking Like Meat

12. Chairlift – Something

Something (Chairlift album) - Wikipedia

Chairlift is one of those indie artists that’ll never get the credit that they deserved. They were a relatively short lived project only spanning from late 2000’s to mid 2010’s, but their three album run was nothing short of memorable. Most notably in this short discography is Something.

Something is all of the best aspects about the duo and then some. I first heard this album while walking my dog in the heat of the summer. I don’t know if the setting or the time of year really suits this project, but nevertheless it made a big impact on me. I Belong in Your Arms has gone down in indie history at this point and for plain, obvious reason. It’s the most dance-inducing point on the record and is just a heartfelt love ballad with some amazing vocals from Caroline Polachek per usual. I also love the song Sidewalk Safari. There’s something kind of badass about this song that I can’t figure out and I’ve probably heard it the most out of any of the other songs. Just the screaming synths at the chorus are enough to get the blood pumping.

Most notably in a Chairlift song is the basslines that fluctuate throughout the record. With their first massive hit, Bruises, this was most definitely the pinnacle of this statement. This is especially prevalent on tracks such as Sidewalk Safari and the following track Wrong Opinion. Wrong Opinion was my favorite on here for a while, it has an interesting take on trials and tribulations of a struggling relationship that seems to be without fix. The drum machines also dominate with this almost, ironically, safari rainforest sound mixed with an awesome bassline.

You can call I Belong in Your Arms the best song on Something any day of the week and I wouldn’t argue at all. However, Amanaemonesia has taken over as my personal favorite. Geez man, this has one of the catchiest choruses on any of their releases. Polachek’s voice soars to the highest of her ability and harmonizes perfectly with the rising and falling of the synths and keyboard during that dope bridge towards the end before it closes out with some great vocals by other member Patrick Wimberly. It captures the best parts of both of their talents. It’s indie pop perfection.

Something is the most underrated pop album of the past decade next to Kesha’s Rainbow. Chairlift was a band that came and went their separate ways pretty fast. Both have pursued great solo careers, one producing for big name artists and the other taking on a (so far) great solo career. I wish they had just stayed together for one more album, but hey I’m grateful we got three really great ones.

Bump This: Sidewalk Safari, Wrong Opinion, I Belong in Your Arms, Amanaemonesia, Cool as a Fire

11. Beach House – Bloom

Bloom (Beach House album) - Wikipedia

I didn’t understand Beach House when I was in high school. I just thought they were a very sleepy band and didn’t really care about the lyrics because they were so soft spoken. Nowadays I can’t get enough of their music. Bloom to this day is their crowning achievement next to their latest, 7.

Bloom is an indie pop/shoegaze project that both hypnotizes and comforts me. From the start, Myth gets right into the tone of what to expect with this clanging of a hammer leading into these airy guitars and strings that are pure ear candy. A song of pure hypnosis that questions the listener with lyrics as to where they will go from here and if the path they are taking is more so fact or fiction. There’s also a very strong new wave vibe that comes in immediately after on the track Wild. A track that is relatively subtle in it’s kind of dark storytelling delivery. I thoroughly enjoyed the honesty and the sort of innocence to the lyrics, a more realistic look to the future.

The shimmering guitars layered over each other throughout Bloom has to be credited to most of my favorite moments. Moments like these that reside on tracks like the almost Tame Impala-like Other People and The Hours. It sort of gives off a timeless feel, almost as if something like this could’ve dropped in the late 90’s or even in the 70’s.

Lazuli is tied with Alien for being my favorite track by the band. It starts off with this cute little synth riff that then explodes into distant breaths of singer Victoria Legrand and some powerful guitar work. It’s almost euphoric the way it comes to be. You can tell just in the delivery of the lyrics and the way the song closes out almost as if convincing herself there is no life without the love that the band knew this was one of their best songs. The impact of this song gives me goosebumps every listen. The closing track, Irene is a song that is pretty, but was pretty much a treat for those who stuck around during the dead time of the 16 minute song or who I’m assuming own a vinyl copy. However, the wait is worth it and is far from a skip.

Bump This: Myth, Wild, Lazuli, Other People, Wishes

10. MGMT – Oracular Spectacular

Oracular Spectacular - Wikipedia

This is another case where I’ve probably heard this album multiple times in my life, but never listened front to back or fully absorbed the material correctly. I remember tossing a few songs from this album on my iPod Touch that I just kind of had, but never listened to except for maybe Kids.

Oracular Spectacular is a very unique album. One that would stand out even today, but so many people have tried to copy their aesthetic that I doubt they would get the same credit that they did initially for the record back in 2008. This is full of bangers man. Indie rock wouldn’t be where it is today without it. MGMT can be credited for bringing a psychedelic, sort of acid induced style back to the mainstream. From the get go on Time to Pretend you can easily envision someone just dropping tabs to this. The fuzzy bass and the bright, flashy synths make for an extremely danceable tune about not giving a fuck and just living in a fantasy.

I’ve written about this album before when I ranked the band’s discography last May and one of the things I mentioned that I loved so much about this record is how it wears nostalgia goggles firmly on its’ metaphorical face. So much of it craves some sense of childhood innocence to be re-attained. This is the obvious theme on their biggest hit, Kids, a song that is nearly impossible to hate. If I hear any part of this song on the radio or it pops up in a playlist I will NEVER skip it. Lyrically it kills, it discusses how you should only take what you need from your adult life and just say fuck it to the rest. Where is this stressful lifestyle going to take you if that’s all you care about? You need to ‘control yourself’ and almost destined to repeat the same sickening path that your relatives most likely fell victim to as well.

Instrumentally it’s nothing short of spectacular. I love how the last third of Kids is that fuzzy guitar and synth explosion mixed with just a repetition of the chorus as if they’re trying to cram this message down your throat. Then that last repetition gets louder as the drumming gets more intense and you can feel the energy oozing out onto you.

MGMT are very much into their craft of music as hinted in the track The Handshake. They have made it clear in the years to follow this album that they aren’t here to please an audience, but to share their messages and music in a way that seems right to them. The Handshake is about their signing to their label after Time to Pretend was such a massive success and how they feared their creative energy would be suffocated because of their agreement with Columbia Records. A very MGMT thing to do.

A bulk amount is also very apocalyptic, something that is done to death nowadays, but it’s more of a sociological analysis than science fiction. MGMT has more important things to say about humanity’s actions NOW versus what they have to say about the future. I really gravitate towards that sort of realism in my music and in what I read too.

If you have heard any of their hit songs in the past like Electric Feel, Kids, and Time to Pretend I can guarantee you’ll find something else to love on Oracular Spectacular. The band has a lot to say and in a very engaging way that’ll resonate a lot with people in my generation and many more to come.

Bump This: Kids, Time to Pretend, Of Moons Birds & Monsters, Weekend Wars, Electric Feel

9. David Bowie – Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars

The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars - Wikipedia

Back in January 2016, David Bowie passed away. The same weekend as he dropped his album Blackstar. For whatever reason his death really affected me in a long lasting way. I wasn’t even a big fan at the time, but something about his death made me think a lot about what his music meant to a lot of people. A lot of my favorite artists nowadays credit Bowie as a massive influence and even perform covers of his music at the concerts I attend. Ziggy Stardust is the standard for so many artists to achieve in their career.

Moonage Daydream has always been a recognizable tune, I remember getting very excited when The Last Shadow Puppets did a cover of it at Lollapalooza one year. ‘Hey I know that song!’ But there’s something about this song that always clicks the same way that Space Oddity does for me too. Not only is it one of the best written rock songs ever, but it feels massive. Almost telling you, ‘YOU MUST LOVE THIS’. Fine I guess I’ll love it. It’s also arguably the most exciting point in the album’s concept of a sci-fi epic.

What really works to this album’s storytelling is that it’s pretty linear and easy to follow along. There’s probably a thousand different ways to interpret this project, more than I could ever care to read. I love how the story is very much an allegory for Bowie himself too. Sort of this out of the box alien who is trying to blend in with the rest of us and live amongst the common people of earth.

Soul Love is the defining moment of this concept and one of my favorites off any Bowie project. I love how jazzy it is in spirit with Bowie himself taking on both the guitar work and the saxophone. It also hints at the later tune Ziggy Stardust, which is a very powerful, thrashing ballad of a track. It is the character of Ziggy’s defining moment and overall arc.

This project closes with Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide, the demise of the character himself. I love how theatrical this song is too. It feels like the finale of an epic musical that is more about redemption and glory than it is about moving on. It’s a phenomenal conclusion to a great concept record.

Bump This: Moonage Daydream, Soul Love, Ziggy Stardust, Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide

8. Bjork – Post

Post (Björk album) - Wikipedia

If there were ever an album to be labeled 90’s, Post definitely fits that time period while also painting a picture to the future of alternative. The 1975’s Notes on a Conditional Form especially gives off that vibe with the sort of club based tech tracks. This can be compared to the instrumentals on the tracks Hyperballad and I Miss You. There’s countless other examples, but this album just happened to be in the list too.

Bjork has a very unique appeal, she isn’t afraid to challenge a listener’s patience or even their taste. Her vocal ability has so much range it’s ridiculous. She can go from an all out beautiful swing and jazzy appeal to shrieking and grumbling in the next. It’s an artistic choice that really pays off on an album like Post. Her best performance vocally comes on the first two tracks Hyperballad and Army of Me.

Hyperballad thematically discusses passion and redemption in a relationship where she believes to have a distorted vision of her identity. So she wakes early to feel sane and arises to who she really is and not what she aims to be with her significant other. Why I think this is her best performance on Post is due to the way she harmonizes with the very peppy and club-inspired beat during the chorus and reaches an emotional height when she pleads to stay “safe up here with you”, you being the significant other. She doesn’t want to leave him, but she doesn’t want to lose herself either.

Like Hyperballad, most of Bjork’s sophomore album is very ambitious when it comes to staying in tune with your heart and what it tells you BUT also being smart about it. Enjoy is a pivotal moment in the tracklist where Bjork gives a very cinematic experience. Throughout this fairly dramatic instrumental, Bjork remains unsure of her desires and doesn’t want to give into this feeling and would rather just play it safe. But desire is a drug that’s hard to resist. Moments like this really show how well she can craft a ‘love’ song.

This album is also a total genre melting pot. There’s times where it feels like a pop record, industrial, swing, and of course alternative rock. Moments like her cover of It’s Oh So Quiet really is what elevates this higher than the average indie project. I did not expect a track like this that incorporates swing and jazz to follow the more down toned The Modern Things.

Post was love at first listen. From beginning to end there’s not a single song I would skip. The jazzy elements, the impressive vocals, and simple, yet effective lyrics make for an unforgettable experience. Play it with headphones!

Bump This: Army of Me, Isobel, It’s Oh So Quiet, Enjoy, Hyperballad

7. Fleetwood Mac – Rumours (Deluxe)

Fleetwood Mac - Rumours - Amazon.com Music

My dad had this story that he would tell my brother and I that he went on a road trip to Arizona when he was younger when this first came out and nearly every song on it had played in the duration of the drive there. I went into this album thinking I wouldn’t know anything besides Dreams and Go Your Own Way. Nope. I knew Rumours pretty much front to back already with maybe a few exceptions.

It’s not hard to tell why Rumours got so huge and to this day is still one of the best selling albums ever. Each song has its’ own personality, probably since most of the songs were written by different members of the band. I would say out of all the tracks on here, Lindsey Buckingham has the best writing credits including Go Your Own Way, Second Hand News, Never Going Back Again, and co-writing arguably the biggest track on the album, The Chain.

I could tell you the first time I heard each of these songs at any point in my life. The Chain was in my dad’s car when I was younger, Never Going Back plays at my work constantly, Don’t Stop played at my first job twice a day… Even to this day this jangle pop classic is unavoidable. I don’t have much else to say other than it’s near perfect, definitely accessible for most, if not all ears.

Bump This: Second Hand News, Dreams, The Chain, Don’t Stop, You Make Loving Fun, Go Your Own Way

6. Bruce Springsteen – Born in the USA

Bruce Springsteen - Born in the USA - LP – Rough Trade

Bruce Springsteen is one of the first BIG artists I ever listened to. Back when I was in elementary school, my dad put Born to Run on my iPod Nano and the rest is history. That song and that album rank among my greatest of all time.

Born in the USA is one of my favorite albums of the 1980s next to Doolittle. This is a bit of a different sound for The Boss than what I first heard on Born to Run growing up. While Born to Run had a more jazzy sound and contained more rock ballads, Born in the USA has pop-rock bangers and some nice soft rock as well. The first three tracks are perfect. The self-titled track is the marriage of old Bruce with new. This transitions into my favorite instrumental on the whole record with Cover Me, a very fun rock song that deep down isn’t fun at all. Lyrically this and a good part of the album has sort of a downer tone. Born in the USA gets played at 4th of July BBQs only for it to be kind of the opposite of patriotic.

Something about Bruce’s music always screams nostalgic. Whenever he makes a love song you can’t help but feel as though you’re in his shoes. That’s why Bobby Jean hits hard every time I hear it. The E-Street Band is in full swing with some amazing piano and sax work, bringing the funk and the sentiment to a whole ‘nother level. Same could be said for one of the biggest singles, Glory Days, which has been stuck in my head since the first time I heard it as a kid. One of those songs I had no idea who wrote it until years to follow.

The lyrical content is something that has to be acknowledged for how strong it is. Darlington County and Working on the Highway are two of his best written songs for how passionate and kind of grim they are. They’re pretty flashy instrumentally, but lyrically it paints the picture of how the ‘American Dream’ is nowhere from what it seems to be. It’s more of a realistic approach versus making somewhat of a patriotic statement. Obviously Dancing in the Dark, the anti-hit smash hit is the biggest song he ever put out, but weirdly enough it ranks towards the bottom half of this album for me. That says a lot because like Born in the USA I have really enjoyed that song for most of my life.

Born in the USA is nothing that I thought it would be, I have heard most of this album in my life without even knowing I was listening. It was the soundtrack to multiple summers growing up without even giving The Boss that credit.

Bump This: Glory Days, Bobby Jean, Cover Me, Born in the USA, Darlington County

5. Mac Miller – Circles

Circles (Mac Miller album) - Wikipedia

Man… This album gets harder and harder to listen to every time I return to it. Mac’s legacy is wrapped up near perfectly on Circles. Circles was the second Mac album I had ever listened all the way through from front to back. Despite only sounding similar to his album Swimming, this was the one that really got me into his music.

When Good News dropped it hit hard. I barely had any connection to the artist in any way, but this song broke my heart immediately. The main chorus consisting of him saying that his fans really only wanna hear the good news and none of the bad. People want a banger and not a slow song. He was hurting really bad and people just took it as entertainment. He says he wishes to escape his head and do some spring cleanin’.

The theme of death is one that’s recurring throughout the entirety of Circles. Complicated is a more upbeat track after the pretty somber self-titled track, but has one of the lines that to this day has stuck with me: “Some people say they want to live forever, that’s much too long I’ll just get through the day”. Sad face. Blue World gets the same treatment, but is definitely one of his best written songs. The beat alone is one that is equal parts banger that it is sad beat. I love the catchy hook that repeats multiple times and how he dances with the devil throughout his day, but doesn’t trip because he is with the people that make him happy.

What ranks this album so high on my year end list is just how it handles morbid content in a way that honors his legacy and makes it relatable to his audience. Something that I really respect about the song Woods, which is one of the saddest, yet most replayable on Circles. His relationship is failing, but he clings onto it because he has faith that it’ll get better. He loves this person so much, but feels as though he is caught in the woods, never to leave, only to retrace steps.

The one that breaks my heart every time though is That’s On Me. This is the point on the album where it really feels like we’re hearing/seeing the last of Mac. The way that he paints his battle with depression and taking blame for his mistakes that aren’t even really mistakes makes me tear up. From the very first time I listened I heard sorrow and pain in that chorus and with that soft guitar instrumental… are you trying to torture me???

There’s so much I can say about Circles, but I think I’ll write about it another day. Even if you haven’t been a Mac Miller fan before I really push for anyone to check this out. It’s greatly written, wonderfully produced, and a perfect sendoff for longtime and new fans of his alike.

Bump This: Circles, Blue World, Good News, Surf, Woods, That’s On Me, Hand Me Downs

4. La Roux – Trouble in Paradise

Trouble in Paradise (La Roux album) - Wikipedia

I really wish I knew about this album sooner, or I should say I wish I knew how great it was sooner. La Roux to me for years was always just Bulletproof. Not a bad legacy to leave behind, but there was pop perfection always in her canon. Trouble in Paradise is that near perfect pop album that only comes once every five years or so.

This album has synths to the MAX. Talk about an 80’s inspired album because a handful of these feel like lost hits from that decade. The opener Upright Downtown is a great way to kick off this dance party. La Roux lets you know early on that they’ve come to bring the hits and nothing else. In general I find it very hard to hate on much of anything on here when all the songs just sound like the duo is having the time of their lives and just bouncing off the walls with these synth-pop bangers. Kiss and Not Tell is the example of this. It’s pretty minimalist compared to the other tracks, but content-wise remains pretty relevant. It acts as a LGBTQ anthem of sorts keeping the singer’s relationship with the love interest on the low, keeping away from the judgments of their peers.

La Roux is at their very best when discussing relationship issues that aren’t typically brought up in your average pop song. Cruel Sexuality can be interpreted in a number of ways, but basically the singer is living in this fantasy world that she creates to feel more comfortable in her relationship. She does this so she doesn’t have to face the CRUEL (get it?) interpretation that her lover has of her. Basically just sexually, no more no less.

The other song that tackles similar themes happens to be Silent Partner, my favorite track that the duo has ever put out. It demands to be played loud no matter what setting you’re in. The song tackles a relationship where the singer gets increasingly more and more anxious as time goes by. More so a relationship with herself, but it could serve as both. It’s a cry out for help in the catchiest way possible and the 7 minute runtime feels like 2 minutes. It’s pure ear candy.

La Roux dropped one of the decade’s best albums and it definitely didn’t get the props it deserved, myself included. The duo nails every single catchy hook they put to writing and while it’s not the most lyrically dense thing I’ve ever heard, it definitely is smartly written pop music that made my life seem a little more carefree for a moment.

Bump This: Upright Downtown, Cruel Sexuality, Silent Partner, Sexotheque

3. Mac Miller – GO:OD A.M.

GO:OD AM - Wikipedia

That’s right TWO Mac albums in the top five! GO:OD A.M. is the Mac project that made me realize how much I loved his music. In spirit, I think this is the album that satisfies all of his fans new and old. Mac’s carefree, former frat-boyish, now turned more self-aware personality glows on here. His growth as an artist is fully recognized here too, not that anything prior was remotely bad, it’s just more mature, well-written music.

GO:OD A.M. doesn’t take a moment to breathe, but in a good way. There’s just such a variety of genres and moods that flow throughout the record. Something I’ve always really respected and enjoyed about Mac’s music is his fusion of rap and jazz. They come off very sleek and classy making the beats one of the many reasons to enjoy his craft.

Part of what makes his music so great is how relatable (to an extent) his lyrics are and just how much he wears his heart on his sleeve. Mac Miller is at his very best when he tells stories about his love life and the struggles he has encountered during even the highest points of his life. This is something that would later come and form into his sad demise in the future. Two songs that I find to be quite beautiful are ROS and Perfect Circle/God Speed.

ROS is easily a top ten song of his. It has a pretty piano driven beat and has one of his best moments of lyricism and flow on… well anything he’s ever written. My favorite line on the track is when he says “you got your stained glass iris, diamond behind your eyelids, and though the pilot fly, my heart skipped a beat like a scratched CD, your skin smell like butterscotch, your lips taste like kiwi”. The poetry just oozes from him throughout this song. Same goes for Perfect Circle/God Speed, which if you’re a Mac fan of any sort this is most likely a highlight for you too. Everything past, future, and at the time present is glorified of how much talent this guy had.

GO:OD A.M. is not without its’ bangers though. Weekend is his biggest song ever and for good reason thanks to an amazing Miguel feature that comes towards the end too. Both of them have so much chemistry and fun on this track it’s awesome. Clubhouse was an immediate moment where I turned up my car speakers. Proof that this album tackles all moods. You got your slower more boom-bap moments like with Two Matches and your more energetic, booming party tracks like When in Rome.

Overall, this is my favorite thing Mac Miller has ever put out. GO:OD A.M. just exudes good vibes and high energy. If you’re new to the man’s work this is probably the best place to start.

Bump This: Weekend, ROS, Clubhouse, Brand Name, 100 Grandkids, Perfect Circle/God Speed

2. Tame Impala – The Slow Rush

Tame Impala: The Slow Rush Album Review | Pitchfork

I’ve had such an up and down relationship with The Slow Rush. The first few listens I declared it being almost as good as Currents, making it their best album. Then I revisited Currents and Lonerism and was like nah…. I didn’t think it was that good for a few months after since a few of the tracks seemed kind of forgettable. I didn’t return to it in it’s entirety until September after pretty much ditching it all summer. Yeah, it’s still great.

The teasers building up to The Slow Rush I’d say were 95% hit and 5% miss. I wasn’t the biggest fan of Patience and luckily it was left off the album. It’s not a bad track it’s just so mild by comparison. Borderline though, which came out soon after Patience in 2019, had one of the catchiest instrumentals all year, it’s so chaotic and beautiful with how many layers are given over the looping drums and keyboards. Not to mention it has the catchiest refrain of the entire album. I also really like the line “caught between the tides of pain and rapture” that’s dope to the highest degree.

What really works about Tame Impala’s fourth album is the replay value it has. Posthumous Forgiveness, Breathe Deeper, and It Might be Time were in playlists throughout the year even when I wasn’t giving the album the attention it deserved. This album is also littered with unexpected moments. Those heavy synth beats in the middle of Posthumous Forgiveness make my heart thud every time and make me realize how much I miss live music. The really dramatic piano at the closing track One More Year give me the same vibe. It’s such a crazy moment, I get goosebumps.

There’s so many songs on here that remain special to me because of when it dropped. It was an easy album to fall for. You can pick any song off here and I’d find something to love. This is probably Kevin Parker at his most experimental and it all really paid off. Tame Impala cheered me up then and continues to every time that I return to The Slow Rush. It’s not his best, but it’s pretty damn close.

Bump This: Is it True, Posthumous Forgiveness, Borderline, It Might be Time, Breathe Deeper, Lost In Yesterday

  1. Run The Jewels – RTJ4
Image result for rtj4

There are very few albums that I was more excited for in 2020 than the return of the rap duo Run the Jewels. With everything that was going on with the coronavirus, BLM protests, and social injustices galore it was almost destined for them to put something out after being quiet for a few years of touring for Run the Jewels 3. Well they dropped Yankee and the Brave (ep.4) and Ooh La La towards the beginning of the year and that hype was matched until the full album dropped in June after being teased it would drop a week after it initially dropped.

RTJ4 was unrivaled the first time I finished listening and is still one of the best first listens of any album I’ve ever discovered. With the two singles being the first two tracks I knew what to expect there, so Out of Sight was the real first exposure. If that song was a 45′ it probably would’ve been melted and stripped to just no grooves whatsoever. I love El-P’s punchy production on this one and 2 Chainz only proves himself to be on of the best feature artists of this past decade. Bars like “The bank teller tryna be rank, I buy a hot dog stand if I’m trying to be frank” stuck with me year round.

Speaking of bars, Killer Mike’s punchlines are at his most memorable since Run the Jewels 2 six years ago. His wordplay and storytelling ability rank high against other current rappers, I’d say dead even with that of the great Kendrick Lamar. While El-P’s production skills kind of outshine his rapping ability, he always has the best one liners. When he said “I’ve just about McFucking had it” I died laughing. It worked perfectly in the context of Out of Sight.

Arguably the biggest track off the album and the most politically fueled goes to Walking in the Snow featuring the return of Gangsta Boo (appeared on Love Again off Run the Jewels 2). Man this song has a lot to say in such a little amount of time. While it’s not my favorite RTJ song it’s totally Mike’s best performance. He raps about how flawed and honestly stupid the education system is and how they set us up for failure in some capacity. The track is also an attack on the upper class and the power and influence of higher authority and how it is misused severely. Not to mention the most shocking bar on the album where Mike tells of how a man who is being killed by a cop’s dying last words sputtered were “I can’t breathe”. This song was written before any part of the horrific events of George Floyd’s death even occurred. It shook me to the core to know that society has experienced enough views and instances of police brutality that this story in the song paints a vision of an inexcusable reality.

The amount of influence that this band has and just how important of a message they have to say is clearly visible and resonates with a lot of people. Their features speak that too and believe in their mission too. I had mentioned 2 Chainz earlier, but Josh Homme, Mavis Staples, Gangsta Boo, Zack De La Rocha, and Pharrell Williams all give REALLY great verses too. Having Zack De La Rocha is a big enough power move as it is given he was in one of the most politically fueled acts of all time, Rage Against the Machine.

A Message for the Firing Squad was an RTJ song I never thought would ever exist and I love it for that. It’s a bit over 8 minutes of everything this group was pretty much destined to speak about. Basically acting as if they are on death row and speaking to this metaphorical firing squad. The rising, recurring bass throughout a majority of the track before being followed by an explosive saxophone serenade made for an intense ride to say the least. Perfect way to end to what I see is a rare, perfect album.

RTJ4 has absolutely zero skips. I didn’t think it was possible to outdo Run the Jewels 2 and there might be a few songs that I would return to first before a few tracks on here, but man is this one good. El-P’s production has rarely ever been THIS good, both their punchlines and cadences are top-notch too, the features are immaculate, and the style above all is worth a listen in itself. I implore anyone to check out this amazing moment in music history.

Bump This: JU$T, A Message for the Firing Squad, Out of Sight, Yankee and the Brave (ep.4), Walking in the Snow, The Ground Below

Rating Your Spotify Wrapped 2020

reactions on Twitter: "sue sylvester jane lynch glee I am going to share a  spotify link that no one asked for… "

Currently Listening to: 1/2 dove, 1/2 pigeon by Micko & the Mellotronics

There’s No Way Man… NO WAY

It’s that infamous time of year where Spotify lies to us about what we’ve been listening to all year long. Truthfully it seemed like the world’s soundtrack should’ve been a mix of Help! by The Beatles, It’s the End of the World as We Know it by R.E.M., and Till the World Ends by Britney Spears… and UCLA just because that song slaps. I can’t speak for everyone, but every year I get surprised about what appears on my Spotify Wrapped at the end of the year. Maybe not the songs as much, but the artists and ESPECIALLY the minutes listened never seem right. I can’t think of too many times where I don’t have music on in the background or playing in my car unless I’m listening to Sirius or Soundcloud.

My personal feelings aside, I asked on Snapchat and Twitter to send me your Spotify Wrapped 2020 and I would rank them based on my personal liking. HOWEVER! I have decided to change the rules to RATE them instead because everyone has their own music tastes and who am I to say what slaps and what sucks you know? SIKE it IS my choice to decide if your year was good or not HAHAHAHA!! Not really, but this is also a way of discovering new music too not only for me, but for whoever decides to read past my lengthy intro. Before I start just know whoever submitted theirs… this is how I, CAMPBELL, feel about your year end tunes. Don’t take what I say personally obviously because your music is your music. Art is art by personal definition. Also if you’re reading this and you want me to rank yours too I’ll insert whoever wants theirs in any time before Christmas Eve! Just shoot me a text, Snapchat, Facebook message, or email on my home page. I’ll also drop a few recommendations based on your Wrapped in case you wanted more artists to listen to, unless you’ve already heard them of course. Nevertheless… Here we go!

Michael

Alright man, we talked about how you didn’t know how this happened so you guessed it you’re at the bottom. Honestly though, none of these artists are downright awful or even bad in my eyes. I loved Green Day in their prime and Ski Mask the Slump God is one of the most talented and underappreciated rappers this past decade. Billy Marchiafava is someone I’ve never heard of prior, but I do like his style and beats. The only thing is that I can only take bbno$ in small doses and same with lentra. They make good SINGLES just not albums in my eyes. Your top song personally is not my taste either, but still you seemed pretty aware of how you felt about your own list so I can’t knock you too hard for that. Overall I don’t hate your list by any means. You have a specific genre theme that you stick to and that’s apparent. If you’re ashamed of that though then I don’t know what to tell you haha!

Rating: 6 out of 10 Baby Wipes (Ski-Mask reference for those who don;t know)

Nelly

Alright Nelly, first off I wanna commend you on your 75,317 minutes that shit is ADMIRABLE. The fact that Oliver Tree is your fifth most listened to artist… ADMIRABLE man! I’ve personally never been a huge Peep fan, but I respect what he did for the genre. A pioneer and pretty much coined the reason that rappers are calling themselves rock-stars nowadays (shoutout to Mario Judah). Same goes for Trippie Redd except I’ve never really explored his music, I do like what I’ve heard! That song with Travis Scott is phenomenal though, the overnight bakers at work would always blast it when we were opening.

While I DO enjoy me some $uicideBoy$ and definitely appeared on my Spotify Wrapped back in 2017, seeing it on yours reminded me of the time that I almost died at their set during Lollapalooza that year and my friend’s leg was bleeding from an unexpected mosh pit. So unfortunately you lose a point for resurfacing a suppressed memory (ouch!). Bad Bunny had an amazing 2020 dropping I think 3 projects? Either way I see that La Cancion is your top song of the year which CUDOS boy that’s a great track.

I didn’t know what Girls song that is in your top five songs since there’s so many songs with that title…HOWEVER if it’s The 1975 or Kid Cudi… you went OFF.

So with all that stuff above being said, I listened to all the songs and sampled a Bad Bunny and Trippie since I’m not totally familiar with them, but overall I liked yours a lot Nelly. Like I said earlier though I gotta dock points for you bringing back that $uicideBoy$ memory how dare you.

Rating: 7 out of 10 Alien Boys

Lauren

Full disclosure, I was about to watch Hamilton last night but fell asleep because I ate too much so my opinion might change when it comes to your list Lauren. From what I’ve heard from Hamilton’s soundtrack I don’t hate anything that I’ve heard at all. I’m guessing that is why Lin-Manuel Miranda and Leslie Odom Jr. are in your list too? Totally correct me if I’m wrong.

Lauv is VERY hit or miss with me. Tattoos Together is your top song too I see and you know what that is dope as fuck because that is my favorite song by him. 5 Seconds of Summer, while I’m not a huge fan, are a bit over-hated and really matured their style recently which I think is awesome. ALSO I gotta give you bonus points for introducing me to Ashton Irwin this year, I really enjoyed that album. For those reading and like me, didn’t know before, Ashton is a member of 5SOS which is great that he is successful on both spectrums.

Speaking of boybands, Harry Styles maaaaan. You have Sunflower Vol 6 AND Golden in your top five. IMMACULATE. Fine Line surprised the fuck out of me. I first listened to that album while moving my stuff back from the dorms after you know that disease thing kick our butts out of school. Good memories.

Overall, I like your taste and I dig your list. I’m interested to see how much of your top 100 songs of this year consists of Hamilton songs since you said you had so much of a phase.

Rating: 7 out of 10 Kiwis

Popp

Popp you gave me so many recommendations throughout this year and I’d say that 90% of them land my man. I think our taste in music is like a venn diagram where our circles are massive, but they somehow overlap to the tiniest degree. Like more than half the artists here in your list I actually really dig. I remember you added LURK to the Snapchat playlist, one of my favorite things added to it actually. Hot Mulligan is another where you talk a lot about them and I’ll see your tweets from and about them to the point where I was like I gotta check them out for myself. I fuck with it man. They somehow sound like 2000s punk but with a modern twist? I don’t know how else to say it. I know we had a shared love of Falling in Reverse back in the day though so that makes sense. I don’t have much to say about Gulch but I did really enjoy that short album they put out this year.

Turnstile was an interesting discovery from your list too. Again, it’s borderline something I would like. I think the musicianship is definitely apparent and instrumentally they have the most chemistry out of your top five easily. Your top song being The Gospel is great too, I’m gonna assume it’s the Knocked Loose song.

Counterparts I’m near certain you’ve sent me before, but I just forgot to save it. They’re not particularly my taste, but that’s definitely your circle of the venn diagram.

Soooooo, that being said, you probably stuck to your genre the most out of anyone on this list and you clearly have a lot of passion about your music which is dope as fuck.

Rating: 7 out of 10 Mulligan Stews

Montana

The fact that Paramore is on your list almost guarantees you a 10 man. I mean my cringey snapchat username is named after them, but we’re not gonna talk about my early life crisis. We’re talking about your Spotify Wrapped in 2020. Dude I gotta say this is a near flawless picture in my eyes.

A Day to Remember appearing here took me back man. The Downfall of Us All is one of my favorite songs of all time. Very important part of my middle school to high school transition. Neck Deep we’ve talked about before and like The Downfall of Us All, December is also one of my all time favorite songs. They are a consistently great pop-punk band. Kind of like All Time Low! Sick segue, right? While in my eyes they have missed a few times, they have some of the most vital pop-punk singles ever. Backseat Serenade, Sick Little Games, and Dear Maria, Count Me In (obviously).

The 1975 I could go on and on about. Magnificent is the best way to describe them. I’ll never forget the first time that I heard Sex while listening to my Paramore Pandora station. They’ve grown so much and evolve their sound every album. Like seriously, none of their albums sound the same.

All of your top songs I can honestly say with dignity that I love. I didn’t know what Maniac you were referring to, but if it’s Conan Gray then… sick. Honestly he’s criminally underappreciated in the industry.

I really fuck with your taste and I’ve told you this before, ours probably overlap more than a few times if it posted our full Spotify Wrapped playlists.

Rating: 9 out of 10 Rose Colored Boys

Meghan

Oh Meghan, you already know I gotta give you shit for WAP being your number two song. Big frowny face from me, but you already know my complicated relationship with that song *shudders*. BUT I do not hate Megan Thee Stallion at all. She’s got endless talent, but she wastes it on songs like Body *shudders*. Cardi B better not be that high for you because of how many times you played WAP.

As for country I am not the biggest fan of that genre, but Luke Combs is as far as I will go into mainstream country. I distinctly remember playing cards in the dorms with everyone while Luke Combs was playing in the background… good ol 414 times.

Ed Sheeran is like Megan for me. I love a good part of his music, but I don’t like the direction he is going at the moment. I loved it when he was making stuff like Lego House and Thinking Out Loud.

Morgan Wallen is someone who I just don’t vibe with whatsoever, but like I said country isn’t for me. There’s plenty of other people who would disagree with me.

Overall, I think our tastes are kind of distant for the most part, but that isn’t to say I disagree with your list. You stick to your genres and not a lot of people do that.

Rating: 5 out of 10 Macaroni Pots

Summer

Summer… You really like Mr. Styles man. All your top songs were songs off of Fine Line and you know what… that’s totally SICK. Fine Line is fantastic. Like I said earlier too I adore The 1975 and we’ve talked about how great they are before. Hopefully they tour next year because Notes on a Conditional Form is SPICY.

One Direction is the only boy band that I’ll admittedly say that I’m a fan of unless you count Brockhampton although kind of a self proclaimed thing. I’m curious as to if you liked earlier 1D or if you prefer newer 1D. They definitely changed their style kind of halfway through their somewhat short lived time together.

The Driver Era and Wallows I sort of group into the same category. I LIKE what I’ve heard from both of these artists I just haven’t given them enough time of day to explore them. Although that song Wallows put out about athletics or working out (I don’t remember) is awful to me.

Overall I know a bit about your taste in music and based on the Wrapped it only solidifies that you have a solid list of artists your listen to.

Rating: 8 out of 10 Clay Jensens

Emma

Damn Emma, 110,667 minutes of listening?! That’s like a two hours! Nah for real though that’s one of the biggest Wrappeds I’ve ever seen I’m jealous.

I love looking at lists like yours because while writing these reviews I listen to all these artists and yours had a few I had not been familiar with. Movements and Boston Manor I really enjoyed. I know fans of Boston Manor usually have a very strong emotional connection with their music and it’s not hard to see why. They have a very passionate delivery and I really liked the amount of visible effort they put into their songwriting.

Like I said earlier about Hot Mulligan, I really enjoy their music but there’s so much left uncovered I’ve yet to discover about them. Equip Sunglasses is also on your list like Popp’s and that song is VITAL.

As for nothing.nowhere I try every year to see if my thoughts on them change, but I just can’t connect with them. Not to say it isn’t quality, it’s just not for me I don’t think.

La Bouquet was interesting too. I’ll look into them as well.

Your list might be my favorite, we might not have the exact same taste, but I had the most fun out of any of the other lists from what I discovered.

Rating: 9 out of 10 Hammers

Kaitlyn

For whatever reason 1D and Harry Styles have been making more than a few appearances on this entry. Why? Oh yeah because they’re dope duh. I’ll be honest Kaitlyn, I never knew anyone who liked Niall the way that you do. Most people I knew growing up or from back in my hometown pick Zayn or Harry. That Niall album from this year that you suggested surprised me actually. I didn’t expect to like it as much as I did. I’ve yet to listen to his debut yet, though I’ll let you know.

While I respect 5SOS I for whatever reason can’t stick with them. I never really cared for when they first broke big either. It wasn’t really until Youngblood (yeah I know judge me) that they caught my attention.

Like I said in Meghan’s Wrapped, I’m not the biggest fan of mainstream country. Thomas Rhett does have a nice voice though. Personally, my biggest gripe with mainstream country is that it sounds like pop music in disguise and kind of takes away from the culture.

I respect the 1D additions no doubt, the other two artists just never caught my attention. Not a terrible list though by any means!

Rating: 6 out of 10 Slow Hands

Ari

Ari, maaaaan, I know this blog took way too long to write but hopefully it’s worth the wait. I don’t know how much BTS fans I would draw for this blog, but thankfully the Army won’t kill me for saying that I do actually enjoy their music. I think collectively they have a lot of talent and are cultural landmarks no doubt. If you’re a member of the Army and reading this please don’t kill me I have too much to look forward to in life, throw away my address.

No shade I promise, but I didn’t know that people still messed with Katy Perry like that. Not to say she doesn’t deserve love, but I personally haven’t really liked anything she has put out since Prism. I love Teenage Dream though, which Katy Perry era were you listening to?

I’m not too familiar with either Ingrid Michaelson or Sleeping at Last, but I was a fan of Girls Chase Boys back in the middle school days. Sleeping at Last, while I respect the sound, I personally don’t seek out music like that or listen to covers really. I’m guessing by your most listened to songs of the year that they are covers from them like Fix You and Already Gone, right?

When you first sent me your list and I saw High School Musical I was like maaaaaaan dope!! Confession though I have not seen the third one, so I can’t judge the full soundtrack. The first two are very much guilty pleasures though. Bet on It should be the national anthem and We’re All in This Together should replace the Star Spangled Banner. I won’t take any argument otherwise.

Rating: 6 out of 10 Troy Boltons

Jon

Jon I oughta give you an extra point because you were my biggest guacamole supporter back in spring semester. Not only that, but you got a pretty solid Wrapped too to accompany that.

Logic used to be top ten rappers for me, but he dropped off after a few albums (Supermarket and Confessions of a Dangerous Mind really rubbed me the wrong way). No Pressure though this year was the best comeback he could’ve hoped for. I really enjoyed it, hopefully it isn’t really his last album.

J. Cole is one of the greats. I don’t care what anyone says, he doesn’t have an album below a 7. I feel like I don’t need to say anything else.

Travis and ScHoolboy Q are really interesting ones, especially Q. I feel like he is criminally underrated ESPECIALLY Blankface. That album has zero misses. What albums did you listen to the most from either of them?

Bad Bunny, I don’t have a ton to say about other than I do think he is a valuable rising talent. Like BTS we need more culture in the mainstream in the U.S.

For your songs I have pretty much no gripe, EXCEPT for @ MEH. I think it’s one of Carti’s worst songs to date, but honestly the hype for Whole Lotta Red is so strong that it almost doesn’t even matter.

Rating: 8 out of 10 Dad Bods

Outro

Shoutout to whoever submitted their Wrapped and trusted me to give my thoughts and opinions about their tastes. If you have any recommendations for the music that you submitted that you think that I would enjoy, feel free to shoot me a few! They’re always welcome.

Why WALL-E Perfectly Demonstrates the Beauty of Life

Watch WALL-E | Full Movie | Disney+

Currently Listening to: Morning Kiss at the Acropolis by The Halloweens

Thanks Baby Yoda

Since the new season of The Mandalorian has been dropping recently, it has become that annual tradition of purchasing Disney+ for two months and then saving $7 for the other 10 months of the year. This isn’t to say that what the service has to offer isn’t bad, I just barely have enough time as is throughout the week for tv that I’d rather just stick to Netflix and Hulu (get better holiday movies Hulu and Netflix please). The time that I do have the service though I like returning to the movies I loved growing up and some Disney ‘classics’ that I’ve just never gotten around to until now (Cinderella and Robin Hood to name a couple).

Specifically, I like returning to Pixar movies the most. It seems like the ones I LIKED but didn’t love get so much better when I’m older with the exception of A Bugs Life (sorry Dad). The Incredibles is one that I didn’t enjoy nearly as much as I do now and same with the original Toy Story. Ratatouille and Finding Nemo were ones that I’ve always thoroughly enjoyed but somehow got better too. The one that surprised me the most out of all the 2000s Pixar gems though was WALL-E.

I never knew how to feel about WALL-E growing up. Sure, I liked it but I definitely didn’t have the strong connection that I did with something like Up or Ratatouille. It just seemed like a fun robot love story that had a message about the environment too. Cool. Fine. Anyways, have you seen this rat? It can cook!

This weekend I was trapped inside since I had floor duty for my residence hall at school and was kind of left bored and drained from a homework heavy week. My girlfriend had mentioned that she was watching WALL-E the other day since she hadn’t seen it since it first came out. I thought, yeah, I probably have returned to this Pixar movie the least out of all the 2000’s ones. Probably haven’t seen it in almost a decade.

So, without hesitation I tuned into the 90 minute robot movie that isn’t Ratatouille and for whatever reason had a very strong emotional reaction to the film. So much so that I’d go as far to say it’s now in my top three Pixar films. If there was ever a film to call “wonderful” it’s this one. I grew up thinking that WALL-E’s biggest takeaway was to protect the environment and that humanity corrupted it and the main focus was the love story of WALL-E and EVE. Actually no. The environmental message is the main focus along with the robot love story, but the hidden meaning underneath it all is how great humanity can be if we don’t take nature for granted. Allow me to elaborate.

The Power of the Voiceless

Everyone always talks about how powerful the first ten minutes of Up are and how it really sets the tone for the entirety of the story. The visual storytelling set to the Michael Giacchino score works perfectly. However, I think WALL-E perfects the visual storytelling arguably better than Up. Sure, it’s not the tear duct destroyer that Up is, but there’s so much going on in this dystopian, apocalyptic world that the robot lives in. Within the first ten minutes you get treated to the scenery of garbage, trash to be exact. Lots and lots of it. So much so that it reaches the heights of skyscrapers. While WALL-E and his cockroach buddy are compacting trash on what seems like lower ground the pan out to see that he is piling onto this monstrous tower of landfill is almost jaw-dropping. I’m instantly intrigued. Not by the fact that they managed to make a cockroach cute, but the amount of questions I have about how this world came to be.

For these first 30-40 minutes of WALL-E, there’s practically zero dialogue other than robot noises and the occasional word or two from EVE. Aside from that, the apocalyptic score by Thomas Newman really establishes the tone for the film and the drab world that the characters reside in. The best part is I can’t take my focus away from this. Even as a kid I never was bored by the lack of dialogue because there’s so much much going on that words are the last thing on my mind.

Through small interactions WALL-E has with the world around him, he sort of serves as the audience. He himself is still discovering Earth too. While trekking the wastelands you see all these other WALL-E machines that are broken down, and pretty much garbage too. WALL-E’s innocence and naivety tells the story. He doesn’t think about what happened to the others of his kind he just uses his tracks when his are broken. It’s little things like that which paint a bigger picture of what has happened in the years leading up to what is the year 2815. The biggest inference though is the virtual advertisement of the space journey that was planned over 700 years ago meant to protect human life since it was nearly unsustainable at the time. So the WALL-E robots were intended to clean it up so that human life can once again prosper.

This space voyage that’s advertised always kind of frightened me as a kid. I always thought, wow what if this happens to us one day? What if we get so polluted that we have to move into a whole other world or spaceship?

The best part of these first 30 minutes is WALL-E’s established personality. You expect him to have nothing but robot motions and antics, but he seems to have developed emotion and feeling. It almost presents sort of this nature vs nurture kind of debate. Did the abandonment of this robot lead it to develop humane behavior? The biggest indicator of this is when he returns to his home (which is basically one big WALL-E robot) and there’s all these things that he finds interesting throughout the day and his fascination with the musical Hello Dolly. He becomes fascinated with the dancing and singing as well as the scene of love that the two characters in the film share on screen.

What I love about Pixar movies is that all their films have strong lead characters that defy the expectations that the world has about them. A rat that is viewed as dirty and small can cook, a monster that is big and scary is afraid of a 3 year-old and protects the child instead of scaring it, and with WALL-E it’s a robot that possesses human qualities and emotion. It goes against the normal narrative and I dig it.

Lost in the World

As stated prior, the remains of Earth present so many questions for the viewer. Not ‘must answer’ questions but just intriguing ones. I think it’s very interesting how there’s a nightly dust storm that causes WALL-E to panic and take cover in his home. What I didn’t notice as a kid that I realized watching this time was maybe the reason he is the lone survivor amongst his dead robot coworkers is because they got lost in the dust storm and since these robots run on solar power they couldn’t reach the sunlight since they were trapped underneath all this dust. So when EVE awaits to be picked up after discovering life can exist on Earth again WALL-E covers her with a trash can so she doesn’t lose her power.

Speaking of EVE, when she arrives to Earth in search of potential life sources she too becomes fascinated with the items that WALL-E has found. Their equal fascination with these normal everyday items show how far disconnected the world has become from normal life that was once lived 700 years ago. Sustainable life has also become such a foreign concept that not even WALL-E who has been there for years and years would think to seek it out because why would he? It wasn’t his ‘directive’ as EVE puts it.

Star Trek Into Darkness

So after WALL-E follows his new love interest onto the spaceship to the Axiom voyager we finally get consistent dialogue from human characters and even robots. WALL-E follows EVE and tours the spaceship at the same time where all of humanity is kept and finds that humanity isn’t at all what it is in Hello Dolly. Instead of the people dancing, singing, and holding hands, people are glued to their chairs and screens. They are more concerned about what they are having in their meals in a cup than exploring the world around them. Everything is catered to them directly to their screens. They have pretty much zero interaction with the people around them too. We see a woman video chatting with someone else but that’s pretty much it. This limited world is brought to them instead of discovering it on their own.

If you haven’t seen the film, SPOILER ALERT, the robots running the ship are evil. It’s every fear that humanity has of robots and that’s them taking over the world. The craziest thing is no one on the ship even saw it coming. AUTO, the autopilot, serves more as the command instead of the captain himself. I thought it was interesting when WALL-E accidentally knocks one guy named John out of his chair, the robots create a path around him for the other people floating in chairs to follow and alert him to “not attempt to get up” showing that the robots will do the work for them and don’t want the humans to assert any form of power over them.

The darkest part of this entire film is the active attempts that the robots make to prevent humanity to ever return to Earth. That little robot dude that works with AUTO tries multiple times to ship the plant out into space so that humanity can solely depend on them instead of acting for themselves. That life isn’t as foreign of an idea as it seems. We depend so much on our technology as it is that this movie kind of scares me in a way. So much so that I didn’t really touch my phone and read instead for the rest of the day.

This seemingly wonderful utopia was created for humanity to function on and serve as a replacement Earth until Earth was clean enough to return to, but ends up being a corporate scheme. Everything is advertised by the company BNL or Buy n Large. The humans are distracted by this corporation and are fascinated only by what is advertised to them like a new blue colored outfit instead of the old red ones. This film has a lot to say about the comparison of higher power and technology which was really invigorating to me. It shows how huge conglomerates like even the comically named Buy n Large uses the technology that we excessively depend on to make their influence more apparent and easily accessible to us. That’s why when the two people that WALL-E accidentally disconnects from their chairs are so fascinated by the world around them. They are fascinated by the fact that they have a swimming pool and by something as bizarre as a robot like WALL-E.

Oh Captain My Captain!

One of the most underrated characters in the Pixar movies is the captain. The Captain is such a great depiction of ambition and desire. The first time we are introduced to the character, he is lazy and sluggish sure, BUT there is one line of dialogue that hints at him wanting to be outside the box. When he realizes he slept through his morning announcements, he says “AUTO why didn’t you wake me up?!” but then mutters “ugh! The one thing I actually get to do on this ship”. This hints at him wanting to do more than just sit around all day. Even when he says his morning announcements he seems so lifeless and bored of this lifestyle, especially when he sarcastically gets excited about telling everyone to get their cupcake in a cup.

This explains why he gets so excited when the plant is brought up to his control room. He is confused on what returning to Earth would look like, but he is intrigued since it’s something outside of routine. One line I never understood until last time I watched was the part when the computer presents him the manual on how to get back to Earth and he has a hard time saying the word ‘manual’. As a kid I thought does this dude really not know how to read? How is he the captain if he’s illiterate? Then I realized it was meant to demonstrate that he had never done anything like that for himself before. Even though that line is still a bit of a stretch.

I don’t think it’s a total reach to say that the captain represents modern humanity as a whole prior to discovering the plant. As much as he seems bored with trying to make his life interesting and waiting for his coffee to be brewed for him, he feels somewhat hopeless and you can easily tell by his voice.

The defining and I think unintentionally most beautiful moment in the film is near the climax when AUTO attempts to destroy the ship and WALL-E because with life sustainable on Earth, humans won’t need robots as much. After the captain gets knocked over, he does what no human has done in years… stand up and walk. It’s a scene that is sort of played for laughs, but when it’s put in the context of him fighting for what he believes will benefit humanity it got me emotional. The captain also said one line in the film that made me sigh of sadness: “I don’t want to survive! I want to live!” Same captain, same…

In the Context of Coronavirus

I know, I know the last thing you want to hear about is COVID but hear me out. WALL-E is a more necessary film than we give it credit for. Sure, it’s a beautiful message about how we need to take better care of our planet, but it’s also a message of how we can make Earth a place where we don’t just survive but live. I started to get a little teary eyed by the end of the film because they were given a second chance at life. When the captain is getting excited about growing all different types of plants and produce and the kids are very willing to help, it really is an optimistic view of humanity. Especially optimistic comparatively to the beginning of the film. We are so willing to take care of what we need to survive and live when we are deprived of it for so long which is ideally what I think would be wonderful after quarantining and vaccines start to be released.

WALL-E should be a wake-up call for everyone to enjoy the life that they have before it gets taken away from them. I’m sure at the beginning of the film when they had to evacuate the planet they felt as though they were leaving everything they knew and loved behind. Sure, they may have adapted to their new lifestyle as time sort of told, but there’s so much that we would be losing if we didn’t do everything we could to maintain a healthy life. So often we get too comfortable with what is given to us instead of venturing out and rediscovering what was meant for us.

Underneath it All

So what makes this film about a robot chasing his love interest into space and bringing a plant to headquarters have to do about a powerful message about humanity? It’s simple. It’s the discovery and wonder that we have when we open up our eyes to new opportunities. The entire ship had become entirely dependent on the robots that were meant to make life ‘easier’, until something interrupted that. Everything there was eerily boring until either someone got knocked out of their chair or when the ship was in danger. Anything out of the ordinary brought them closer to reality instead of a virtual one.

Both people that WALL-E accidentally knocks off their floating chairs has something significant happen to them. John and Mary suddenly felt something for each other after they were knocked out of their seats and their hands touched while looking outside of the ship to see WALL-E flying around. Love must’ve been such a foreign concept to them, love of all things! The component of life that brings in more life!

WALL-E was able to discover the beauty of love, growth, and even humor with nobody even around him. The nurturing effect of humanity through things like music and movies like Hello Dolly where people are happy and dancing with each other helped humanize WALL-E and do what media says robots can’t do, have emotion. This would not have happened if WALL-E had not seen the beauty and vivacity of humans. You’ve got to wonder if that was the only human interaction he had before all the others moved off into space.

This movie filled me with hope and faith. Hope that we will see days soon enough where we can interact with each other and learn more about the world through each other’s experiences. I have faith because I firmly believe that we can get back to where we came from eventually. WALL-E made me realize more why we can’t take Earth for granted and why we can’t choose comfort over control. Control needs to be taken into play when things are going down the tubes. Like the movie shows us, we can make this world full of garbage and dust storms or we can help it grow and make it live, not survive, to its full potential. We have love, ambition, and wonder to offer, why not take time out of your day to utilize it and make this seemingly dark world we live in right now more human?