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.)
A combination of new releases that dropped in February, and entries from some of my colleagues’ 2019 best-of lists that I wanted to check out, has expanded my new music column to a whopping sixteen albums this month. Whew! It might be a few months out before I actually get around to fully reviewing any of this stuff, but for now…
Here are my first impressions of the latest from (deep breath…) Tall Tall Trees, Drive-By Truckers, Bruce Hornsby, black midi, Cage the Elephant, Caroline Polachek, Weyes Blood, The Lone Bellow, Green Day, Holden Days, Tennis, Tame Impala, Tyson Motsenbocker, John Reuben, Derek Webb, and The Secret Sisters.
2019 was a weird year for me, in terms of the music I enjoyed most. A lot of artists put out genuinely great singles, only to follow them up with lackluster albums, EPs as stopgaps between albums, or really nothing at all. It’s a good thing I was following all of my favorite artists on Spotify, as well as some newer ones I was curious to hear more from, or else I might have not heard a good quarter of this list until 2019, if ever. Usually the vast majority of my Top 100 songs for the year comes from my favorite albums released that year, with some spillover from the year before. While that’s still true in 2019, it’s worth noting that nearly a tenth of my list this time comes from EPs or compilations rather than albums, and close to another tenth of the list is made up of non-album singles, that have yet to be attached to a larger collection of songs (assuming that will ever happen at all). While this speaks to the ability of many of my favorite artists to strike while the iron is hot in terms of getting new music out, it also worries me slightly where the longevity of the album format is concerned. But that’s an issue to discuss when I get to my list of Favorite Albums for the year. My Favorite Songs list, while eclectic and probably whiplash-inducing at certain points, definitely required some tough decision-making because there were so many great songs that spoke to me this year. At the end of the day, whether a song is part of a larger narrative or not, that’s really all that matters – whether the song stands out to me as unique in some way, and makes me want to keep coming back to listen to it over and over again. And everything on this list passed that test with flying colors!
As I do each year, I’ll give some insight into my reasons for picking the Top 30, and you can assume after that point that the ordering is somewhat arbitrary. Many of these songs (limit one per artist) are collected in my 2019 in a Nutshell playlist over on Spotify.