2020 Music Reviews

Best Coast, Always Tomorrow (2020)   C
They'll never not be kind of cool in their 80's rock sort-of-way, but there's an annoying 'sameness' to all their songs. Continuity can be both a blessing and a curse when you get sick of rehashed chords.

Caribou, Suddenly (2020)   B
Not sure all of the samples Dan leans on heavily work - "Home" is a decent opening single, but the two tracks that precede it, "New Jade" and "Sunny's Time" are uncharacteristically irritating. It sounds like he's slowly 'tweaking' his sound as years go by, and that's promising: why shouldn't a Canadian mathematician want to play electronic R&B?

Eminem, Music to Be Murdered By (2020)   C-
It feels like he's been whining about his relatives for decades - you're a multi-millionaire, get over it - and those references to the 90's make me think he's in a state of arrested development: an angry twenty-plus year old with something to prove. So it's more of the same, although it is funny when he tries to compete with John Moschitta.

Four Tet, Sixteen Oceans (2020)   C
Kieran's been at this a while - his first LP was back in 1999 - and while I've been sort-of keeping track of his output I've never been much of a fan: too many songs just sound like adding a few extra touches on pre-sets, and there's a lack of ingenuity that I usually look for in IDM artists. It is a rather soothing record, however, which is nice to listen to while being barracked in your own home because nothing less than a pandemic has closed down everything to do outside (in other words, good timing on the release).

Selena Gomez, Rare (2020)   C+
Ms. Selena has a nice voice and everything, but there aren't as many solid radio hits on this as on previous releases which, in case you missed them, are on the bonus disc (which includes her collaboration with Kygo). She could continue to crank out records like this for years, but I still think she's quite underrated as an actress (which even Woody Allen recognized).

Grimes, Miss Anthropocene (2020)   D+
With all the cooing and whispering you'd almost think Ms. Boucher is trying to be Enya (and a chipmunk at other points, like "You'll Miss Me When I'm Not Around") and while I realize she wants a variety of sounds (and collaborators), it's too erratic to be a solid full album.

Halsey, Manic (2020)   C+
She's most likely not going to revolutionize pop music, but this isn't a terrible record - yes, she should have ditched the sound clips and maybe hired a writer or three and maybe tried to stick to a genre, but otherwise it's an easy listen and she has a nice voice: I like the country-tinged "Finally // Beautiful Stranger" and the welcoming "Clementine."

King Krule, Man Alive! (2020)   C
He's had moments in the past where he sounded like he was drowsy and a little out of it but for this - which conveniently has a song on it called "Stoned Again" - he sounds barely awake at all: the records starts in a raw fashion, but by "Theme for the Cross" he's all but singing nappy-time lullabies to himself. I suspect he intended it to be a concept album - with the title being ironic - but that's not the best direction to go.

La Roux, Supervision (2020)   B-
It's not nearly as memorable as "Trouble in Paradise" - there are too many ho-hum stretches - but songs like "I.W.O.L." and "21st Century" should keep fans happy.

Lil Uzi Vert, Eternal Atake (2020)   B
Some of the lyrics are so stupid you should be tempted to kick in your speaker ("Neck is a-choo, might catch the flu / Banana clip straight from the zoo"), but there's an exuberance to his delivery that's infectious, so when he's doing the usual bragging (he has the best clothes, every woman wants him, he's got stacks of money, you know the rest) the crisp production at least makes it sound good. I mean, "You Better Move" takes samples from a twenty-year-old Windows game and it's one of the best tracks on it ... and then there's his take on the Backstreet Boys ("That Way"). Stay weird, Mr. Woods.

Of Montreal, Ur Fun (2020)   B-
Barnes gets so glammy and exaggerates so much you could imagine the likes of the Village People and Marc Bolan kind of taking him aside and whispering, "Hey buddy, mind toning it down?" Despite the swooning, there are some solid songs on here, especially "You've Had Me Everywhere," which is sweet (in a Hallmark Card kind of way).

Poppy, I Disagree (2020)   F
Poppy's handlers/controllers must have watched Aggretsuko (a good show) for their latest "reinvention" of their nauseatingly manufactured "pop star," which would explain the black metal-inspired cover and the sporadic creeping up of heavy guitars. It doesn't work and it isn't cute, and the generic bubblegum "image" she began with still dominates the record.

Real Estate, The Main Thing (2020)   C-
It's kind of ironic these fellows (originally from Jersey) come out with an album the same year as Best Coast: East Coast, West Coast, they both manage to grind their "signature sound" into the ground where you wish they'd just, I dunno, mix it up a bit. Make something that can't be mistaken for easy listening ("Paper Cup"). Until improvements are made, I will start calling them Subprime Mortgage.

Squarepusher, Be Up a Hello (2020)   C-
He's been at this a fairly long enough time to know better than to crank out B-sides of past material. There's a lot happening ("Mekrev Bass"), but it isn't going anywhere ... not unlike pogo dancing in the same spot. While on meth.

Tame Impala, The Slow Rush (2020)   C
Something of an odd turn for Parker with his neo-psychedelic project - it's not really that trippy and it seems to lean closer to Justice in spots ("Is It True"). It's pretty chilled-out, however, and no one is going to consider him a top-notch lyricist but I'm not sure that's what they expect from him. In other words: if it pops up on some streaming service while you're driving, you most likely won't rush to turn it off ... it just won't blow you away.

U.S. Girls, Heavy Light (2020)   D+
She's been on a steady slide since the excellent "Half Free," which was better at incorporating Remy's thoughts on gender equality than anything she's done since: now it's just her glass-shattering shrill voice repeating itself. The thirty second sections where males and females answer open-ended questions is a move Straight Out of Art School.

Wolf Parade, Thin Mind (2020)   D+
Their debut LP, "Apologies to the Queen Mary," announced the arrival of what I thought was a major talent - over a decade later, there's a clear lack of new ideas (it almost wants to be anthem rock) and some mediocre songwriting (avoid skimming any lyric sheets). "Out of Control" would have been fine if it didn't come across like something Muse would have come up with.

Singles of the Year: Disclosure (Featuring Eko Roosevelt): "Tondo," Halsey: "Clementine," La Roux: "I.W.O.L.," Of Montreal: "You've Had Me Everywhere"