The Innocence Mission – My Room in the Trees: Rain or shine, this street of mine is golden.

Artist: The Innocence Mission
Album: My Room in the Trees
Year: 2020
Grade: B+

In Brief: A quiet gem of an album – easily one of the best in The Innocence Mission’s discography – that I’m sad to have overlooked for nearly a decade. The gorgeous opening track alone is worth the price of admission, but there’s a lot more where that came from to help sustain the mood. Listening to this record is like discovering a few rays of sunshine that have just broken through the clouds on a grey, rainy afternoon.

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Tennis – Swimmer: Where the time goes, who really knows?

Artist: Tennis
Album: Swimmer
Year: 2020
Grade: B-

In Brief: I’ve come to expect Tennis albums to be short and sweet, but this is the first time they’ve come up short even by that standard. What should be a tender and affecting meditation on a couple growing old together and being each other’s support system through various hardships, instead mostly drifts by without making much of an impact. Alaina Moore’s vocals are still quite lovely, and the duo still knows how to sustain a dreamy indie pop atmosphere… but the style feels a bit slight, given the substance that the songs are trying to convey.

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Tame Impala – The Slow Rush: It might be time to face it – this album’s not as fun as I wanted it to be.

Artist: Tame Impala
Album: The Slow Rush
Year: 2020
Grade: B-

In Brief: I don’t necessarily mind that album #4 from Tame Impala trends more toward the chill, retro, vibey stuff than the more edgy, in-your-face, psychedelic weird stuff. What bugs me is that, outside of a few strong singles, a lot of these new tracks are guilty of starting off with interesting ideas that never seem to get further developed, or else collapsing into a maze of false starts and disjointed outros. It makes a record with an otherwise enjoyable sound feel bloated and tedious. (And the exclusion of a strong early single from the album proper only serves to exacerbate the problem.)

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Holden Days – Sylvan Lands, Vol. II: Move Like a Dream

Artist: Holden Days
Album: Sylvan Lands, Vol. II
Year: 2020
Grade: B+

In Brief: This even mellower nighttime companion to the lush and tragically romantic Vol. I may take even longer to get into, but its precious pearls are worth diving for. If the first set of songs was perfect for a day spent out in nature, then the second is perfect for an evening spent journaling, curling up with a good book, or slowly drifting off to sleep. Though there aren’t as many big guitar moments or obvious melodic hooks as the previous record boasted, there are still rich rewards awaiting those who choose to listen with patience and intent.

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Holden Days – Sylvan Lands, Vol. I: A single day can bring me north again.

Artist: Holden Days
Album: Sylvan Lands, Vol. I
Year: 2019
Grade: A-

In Brief: “Dream-folk” is a dead-on descriptor for the exquisitely crafted music of Holden Days. Listening to the first half of this recently completed two-part project evokes the same sort of feelings one would feel while taking in a long summer sunset during a hike through flowery meadows or a leisurely canoe trip on a secluded lake. And just when you’re tempted to think it’s all pastoral bliss, a song will change its structure midway through, progressive rock style, to reveal a compelling new refrain or perhaps a striking electric guitar solo. I’ve belatedly discovered one of my favorite albums of 2019 – a year which I mistakenly wrote off as lacking in immersive and high-quality recordings such as this one.

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Tennis – Cape Dory: We’ve been gone for so very long that we’ve forgotten where we are from.

Artist: Tennis
Album: Cape Dory
Year: 2011
Grade: B+

In Brief: A charming debut that still stands out as some of Tennis’s best work almost a decade later. Though these ten surf rock songs with a bit of an indie/lo-fi aesthetic go wafting by like a gentle sea breeze in barely half an hour, this album is memorable for how it documents a sailing voyage that the married duo embarked upon. Even with the nostalgia filter decidedly on and the vocals at their most sweetly romantic, the sailing wasn’t always smooth, and I think that says something about how they both grew as individuals and as a couple.

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