Column: My favorite albums from the 1st half of 2020

Ryan Meyer

It’s right around the middle of the year, and I’d like to start a tradition that is definitely not copied from other music criticism websites. I want to review my favorite new albums halfway through the year, and then again in December. The only requirements are that the albums came out in the year I am reviewing them, so this year would be 2020. Hopefully, this can turn some readers onto some new music.

The first album I’ll discuss, Every Bad by Porridge Radio, my dad actually showed me on the long car ride home from campus for the start of the never-ending spring break. I liked the songs he showed me, but forgot about it until a few weeks ago, when I revisited it in full. The album features intimate and emotional lyrics delivered in varying styles, from mumbling to hollering, often in the same song. It makes for dynamic shifts in the album and shares a common trait with the best albums, being that it takes the listener on a journey. But I love this album for the reason I love most albums: the guitar. Singer Dana Margolin also handles guitar duties, and I’m searching for a previous guitarist to compare her to, but I’m blanking. My favorite song on the record, “Long,” is built on a simple, forward-moving chord progression that breaks itself down only to build up again and explode, providing for an epic peak in the middle of the album. I would recommend this record to anyone who considers themselves a fan of indie rock, as I think it can appeal to most without falling into any specific niche. Favorite songs from the album: “Long,” “Pop Song,” “Lilac.”

Coming from Australia, the next album is by a band that might be my favorite discovery of 2020. They’ve been around longer, but I only got into them recently. The record is called Sideways to New Italy, by the band Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever. Commonly defined as guitar pop, RBCF write pop songs with a nice edge to them. The band has three singer-guitarists, so beautiful, intricate melodies are unavoidable. The music is so easy to listen to, and has been hailed by Rolling Stone, among others, as the “perfect summertime indie-rock record.” It’s definitely my favorite record of 2020 so far. The song “Sunglasses at the Wedding” reminds me of the Smiths at their softest, and “She’s There” is another RBCF banger in the vein of “French Press,” and “Talking Straight.” I’d recommend this to fans of all music because it’s about as accessible as guitar music comes. Music fans of all ages and varieties can enjoy this album. Favorite songs from the album: “Sunglasses at the Wedding,” “She’s There,” “ The Second of the First.”

The final album to make this list is by a band many are familiar with, but not enough appreciate. The Strokes are the greatest guitar band of this century, and they achieved that with essentially only their first two albums. And no, they’re not my favorite band, but it is tough to deny their prominence in music since 2000. Their first record since 2013, The New Abnormal, wasn’t received too well by most outlets, but (and I could get crucified by the hipsters for saying this), I think it contains some of their best material ever. “Not the Same Anymore” is a great song with a catchy chorus and guitar work by one of my heroes, Albert Hammond Jr., that allows me to listen to it over and over. When I started seeing live footage of these songs in December, I couldn’t wait for the album, and once quarantine started, I REALLY couldn’t wait. I stayed up late on the night of release to listen right when it dropped, and was not disappointed. The Strokes made a solid record that is a good addition to their discography and will keep me satisfied until the next one, although who knows when that will be. Favorite songs from the album: “Not the Same Anymore,” “Ode to the Mets,” (yes, even with the ridiculous Garageband-like intro) and “Brooklyn Bridge to Chorus.”

These are my favorite albums of 2020 so far. If you listen to them, I hope you enjoy them, and if you don’t, you’re missing out. There are a couple records coming in July that I’m sure I’ll be writing about in December. To be continued…

 

Ryan Meyer can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]