As we all know, 2020 has been an interesting year, but even a more interesting year for music. A lot of good albums & runner-ups have been put out during this rough year… as most of us have been inside this year due to the pandemic & trying to keep our time filled, we’ve been listening! So, we at Not A Sound have decided to give you all our top 5 releases of the year with each writer’s picks! Take a look if you’d like, and have a great 2021!
Ugly is Beautiful – Oliver Tree
Esther – Second to Safety
This is Loss and It Will Pass – A Boy Named John
Notes on a Conditional Form – The 1975
Life on Other Planets – Moon Hooch
Run The Jewels – RTJ4
Fiona Apple – Fetch The Bolt Cutters
Phoebe Bridgers – Punisher
The Strokes – The New Abnormal
Jeff Rosenstock – No Dream
Run The Jewels- RTJ4
Imperial Triumphant- Alphaville
Jeff Rosenstock- No Dream
Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit- Reunions
August Burns Red- Guardians
The Ghost Inside- Self Titled
Second To Safety- Esther
Slaughter Beach, Dog- At the Moonbase
(Zack listed “Phoebe Bridgers- Punisher” as well as “The Front Bottoms- in Sickness and in Flames” as runner-ups respectively)
Phoebe Bridgers- Punisher
Nothing- The Great Dismal
Taylor Swift- Evermore
Fiona Apple- Fetch The Bolt Cutters
Big Sean- Detroit 2
Mac Miller- Circles (deluxe)
IDLES- Ultra Mono
(William lists “Taylor Swift- folklore” as well as “Denzel Curry & Kenny Beats- Unlocked” both as runner-ups respectively)
That’s all folks! Thank you for checking out these lists & for being the reason we do what we do. We hope to see you all next year! Until then, we hope to bring more content to you in the new year & maybe soon, so keep your eyes peeled. Take care. Peace & love.
Kid Cudi is an artist who has always changed up his formula with every project he has released. Well known and critically acclaimed for his first two “Man On The Moon” albums, he wasn’t willing to settle by any means. Even as projects moving forward would tend to flop in the eyes of critics and fans or get mixed reviews, Scott Mescudi, or “Kid Cudi”, still continued in doing what made him happy. While “Speedin’ Bullet 2 Heaven” received negative and mixed reviews as well, over time, fans have come to appreciate how deep and different the album is compared to Kid’s other projects. Even Andre 3000 as well as other notable artists Kanye West and Erykah Badu gave the album high praise. When friend of mine mentioned to me that this is a punk rock album by Kid Cudi, as some one who loves punk rock music and its culture, I was curious to see how this record would be overall.
While this album isn’t something that hasn’t been tried before, for Kid Cudi it is something almost completely different. If you are expecting any hip hop elements in the mix here of this album, you may be disappointed. However, you may at least appreciate the title track “Speedin’ Bullet 2 Heaven”, which sounds like something off of the “Man On The Moon” albums but with much more instrumentation. I was very impressed with how much versatility Kid pulled off in this album, not just because it is a style change, but for how loud this album is. It’s very punk rock at times and also very grunge-sounding at times. It sounds as if Kid may have been on the brink of insanity by lyrical content, putting it into poetry and him singing/yelling over a bunch of sloppy punk rock riffs. If there’s one thing I can agree with fans on, it’s that this is arguably his most deep and confident release of his career thus far.
Through the record until about the middle part of it stopping after the track “Judgmental C**t”, we hear very Nirvana-esque riffs and music while the vocals some times don’t differ too far from his work before this record. At some points, the vocals don’t seem to play well into the mix, but it’s made up for what it lacks in the way the music sounds. “Fade 2 Red” & “AMEN” are arguably the most punk-rock sounding songs on the album, loud and filled with more drums than most of what the rest of the album has to offer. “Handle With Care” is my personal favorite song on the album though, surprisingly… It is his most soft song here in terms of sound as well, but the lyrics are very deep and yet somehow cathartic.
At this point in the album though, the sound starts to decline a little bit throughout the second half. While there are some very alluring & much more deep moments as far as lyrical quality, nothing stood out to me as much as the first half. There’s also Beavis & Butthead skits at the end of several songs in the album… While this adds a lighthearted and funny feel to soften up the album’s flow, it almost doesn’t fit. During their appearances, Beavis & Butthead both comment on how they are feeling about the album & how they are being influenced by hallucinogenics while listening to it. It is weird to hear this in the album, but also makes me appreciate the album as an art piece less in a way though too. I was surprised to hear the 3 demos in this half of the album and no fully finished tracks of the same names to back them up as well. While these 3 tracks may keep the spirit of punk rock fresh in the album, it doesn’t seem to fit well where they were placed, as they feel like some songs that should have been put on the first half of the album(or maybe not at all).
Overall, if you are big fan of punk rock and grunge music, this may be an album you are at least able to appreciate. It is infectious in terms of sound, but, somewhat lackluster in quality and when considering it artwork. I will say, though, this is arguably Kid Cudi’s most underrated album and is one for the books, it is one I may be revisiting in the future as well. In more recent times, Kid has put out a single with legendary rapper Eminem titled “The Adventures Of Moon Man & Slim Shady”. Kid Cudi & Travis Scott also put out a track in April titled “The Scotts” under their new group titled under the same name “The Scotts”, and are slated to release a much anticipated project in the future. What can we expect from Kid Cudi in the future aside from this? Who knows?! He is a man of many talents and obviously has a lot of tricks up his sleeve. I, personally, would like to see a return to the punk rock & grunge sounds on this album at some point should Kid Cudi feel the urge to release something similar to this again… either way, I’ll always be eager for what his future as an artist holds.
FFO: WAVVES, Lagwagon, The Starting Line, Alkaline Trio
For much of the underground scene, Audio Karate has been of interest to many fans of punk rock, skate punk & pop punk genres alike. They had their moments of fame like when making it on MTV(UK) and playing with bands such as the descendants… But were always on the cusp of becoming something bigger & better, their freshman album “Space Camp” showcases this with full force. The first track off of the album “Rosemead” had ballad-like potential, the drums and guitar in the track are reminiscent of its time in the pop punk sphere. The lyrical content in this song may make you feel like you are reading a love letter to your valentine, while at the same time, the nostalgia may also make you feel a sense of longing and belonging somehow. There are very few albums I can listen to nowadays for the first time without stopping and this track caused me to do so. Much of this album has a track that is as infectious as the track prior in one way or another.
It starts to become melodic with the track “Drama Club Romance”… Here, we notice the signature guitar parts that stand out from many similar bands at the time. It’s like going to the beach and listening to pop punk, the waves pull me in more and more. This song is one of my favorites and more visited tracks for me personally. “Nintendo 89”, the first track I and many others first heard by this band, could have reached ballad status as well. To me, though, it was just that and more. Arguably the track has a My Chemical Romance-like entrance but eventually demanded that I mosh in the comfort of my own home.
The attitude of the album takes a turn from hopeful to heavy in the song “Hello St. Louis”, which could be considered the most surprising song as well. The sporadic and punch-filled bass solo turned into guitar solo parts jumped out at me as something that stood out on this record. It’s a good turning point for the album and could peak your interest(like it did mine) at what is to come in following songs. “Monster In Disguise” plays off of the previous track and adds even more fuel to the fire as the most emotional track on this release. The song seems to be about a bad relationship, though the lyrical content itself could also provide solace to some one feeling isolation and lonliness.
The songs to come may be surprising as the emotion suddenly changes to a more mellow vibe. “Car Ride Home” returns to the punk rock summer vibe that “Drama Club Romance” had, and also is debatably the most poetic song on this record. The music here yells 90’s skate punk and reciprocates that it’s still alive even in the early 2000’s while still being the most surprising track on this album(in my opinion). “Senior Year” continues this fashion and the nostalgia here is so infectious as it is the most child-like song here. “One Day” and “San Jose” were the least exciting tracks to me, they don’t offer much of anything too different but are still fun and catchy nonetheless.
However, the song “Jason” takes a turn in the album holding the place of the last song before the closer on the album. For me, in albums this is where I never know what to expect going into the last two songs. Although, this track specifically serves as the most raw version of the band at their time as frontman Arturo Barrios sings “can’t do this anymore”. The song as a whole is alluring and holds an explosiveness to it that is broad in the best of ways. Finally, we’re at the closing track “T-San”… Here, Arturo sings “so I say goodbye to you”, and to me this serves as a great closer for the album. It became a tearjerker after reading the lyrics in depth considering the heaviness that is so present here.
Overall, this album is one that constantly serves as inspiring and interesting. This record is so fun at any time of the year to me, I can throw it on almost anytime. It’s a gem as well as underground staple that has stood the tests of time, aging very well. Today the album turns 18 years old… So, happy anniversary/birthday to Audio Karate on the album(if you all read this), and congratulations on the more recent release of the incredible album “Malo” ! I am looking forward to whatever this band has up their sleeves next.
FFO: Jimmy Eat World, At The Drive In, As Cities Burn
If you’re looking for a great alternative album but also something new and not average in this genre, then look no further. In their debut, the members of Operatic prove they have potential, and a lot of it. As the music progresses, it could throw you off guard some times but, I feel, it keeps you interested the whole way through in one way or another. In a lot of ways, you understand clearly the message the lyrics are trying to convey… In other ways they can be cryptic and almost eery, and because of this, leaves room for interpretation. If you have ever been in an unhealthy relationship of any kind or have felt lost in life, then this EP may be a cathartic listen for you. Other themes involved can be repetitive but only for the sake of putting emphasis on what this record is trying to accomplish.
Killing Us Is Easy, as a whole, takes on a style of a melodically driven progression while throwing you small surprises along the way. Some may not find this EP as interesting, but for me, when first hearing this release, I was blown away with the lead guitar work… It is impressive, fresh and leaves you wanting more similar sounds to grace your ears. The vocals and instrument dichotomies are genuine and polished, making this a crisp listen, one of which tugs at the emotions of the listener’s soul. Most have found out about this band from the demo version of the first track titled “Interested In Madness”, which was featured on Tony Hawk’s Underground 2, and, this is how I found them as well. The demo version is a little bit different at some points and gives off almost a completely different feel for the song with small subtleties.
“Forget + Think + Tell” may be my favorite track on this just because of every aspect involved and how the song moves as compared to the others. The chorus screams what rock and roll at the time could look like, while you almost feel like you’re taking a small step through this path in the dark with rhythm guitarist & frontman Jesse Fritsch as he walks on it. The song “Fiona”, however, takes place right after and is possibly the most progressive and explosive track here… It is a great place to have this track with how the songs flow. Here, Jesse, sings “with this we’ve become, not so interested“… But to me, this record is nothing short of interesting. In fact, at the time of this release, it breaks the mold and can be considered a bold statement as well as a staple.