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.
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.
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.
We’re at the midpoint of the list now… this is where the absolute best of the B-plus range starts to blend into the A-minus range. But first, some more fun facts (or at least, facts that a nerdy analytical guy like me considers fun), this time related to geography. Where in the world are all of these artists from?
Before we get on with the next 20 albums in my decade-end list, I thought it’d be interesting to break down all 100 by which year they came out.
9 of these albums came out in 2010. 17 of these albums came out in 2011. 10 of these albums came out in 2012. 18 of these albums came out in 2013. 7 of these albums came out in 2014. 9 of these albums came out in 2015. 6 of these albums came out in 2016. 9 of these albums came out in 2017. 12 of these albums came out in 2018. 4 of these albums came out in 2019.
(Yes, I know that the numbers above add up to 101. One of these albums was re-released, and I’m having a hard time choosing which version I like better. That’ll be addressed down below.)
Alright, so it’s 2020, and it’s time to look back on the best music from the decade that is now behind us. Most of us will simply refer to that decade as “The Twenty Tens”, “The New Tens”, “The Teens”, etc. I’ve decided to label them “The Tenny Tweens”, mostly for the delight of how that silly phrase rolls off the tongue and because I wanted a unique nickname for it after coming up with “The Ought Nots” for the 2000s, but also because it felt very much like a decade of between-ness and transition, where I ended up in a different place both personally and in terms of my musical tastes than where I started.
Anyway, before I get to the proper list of what I’d consider my favorite album releases of the 2010s, I wanted to give honorable mentions to a hodgepodge of releases that don’t really fit into the conventional album format – generally because they’re too long, too short, and/or are mostly comprised of previously released material. Plenty of songs from these releases perked up my ears and lifted my spirits over the last several years, and it didn’t feel right glossing over ’em entirely simply because the artist didn’t choose a conventional LP as their method of releasing ’em.
Not as much new stuff this month, because I am insanely busy going back through all of the albums I listened to since January in order to figure out the final placement for my best and worst of 2018 lists! Still, I found time to offer some brief thoughts on the latest from Mae, The 1975, Tennis, Jeff Tweedy, MuteMath, Trey Pearson, The Decemberists, and Mew.
Artist: Tennis Album: We Can Die Happy EP Year: 2017 Grade: A-
In Brief: A worthy companion piece to one of 2017’s most blissful indie pop records. There’s a slight bit more bounce to a few of these, but still, the band could have slipped any of them on to Yours Conditionally and they’d have been right at home.
Out of the increasingly eclectic list of albums that makes its way into my Spotify playlists (and eventually my physical collection, wherever possible), here’s the stuff that I enjoyed the most in 2017, and that I would absolutely recommend, with no reservations, to anyone whose favorite type of music can best be described as “stuff that challenges me in some way but that is always super catchy”. (Is that not a musical genre? it should be.)
As always, I wanted to give a mention to the music I enjoyed this year that didn’t fit the traditional “album” format, or else that was released in 2016 and I didn’t catch up to it until this year. Either way, none of it’s eligible for my Top 20 list, but all of it is definitely worth checking out if anything I have to say here piques your interest.