2020 has seen no deterrence in musical releases; in fact, it seems like the global pandemic inspired many artists to write more music than usual. Here are a few outstanding albums that were quietly released among the mass of new music.
1-Cafe Racer, Shadow Talk
With fewer than 4,000 listeners on Spotify, Cafe Racer is not receiving the attention they deserve. Cafe Racer released their second LP this spring titled, Shadow Talk. The Chicago experimental indie-rock band has a unique, well-crafted and cohesive sound, with thoughtful and introspective lyrics that are fully fleshed out on their new album. Cafe Racer manages to create catchy hooks without sacrificing originality, as well as developing an airiness that lifts its listeners up with each song. The production is also sensational, which aids that feeling of airiness, as each song is clean cut and meticulous.
2-The Microphones, The Microphones in 2020
Phil Elverum revives the Microphones with an emotionally provocative album that covers love, heartbreak, and discovery. Indie cult legend, Elverum is nothing short of prolific. Despite retiring the name The Microphones in 2003, Elverum continued to release albums under the moniker Mount Eerie–the vastly impactful mountain near where he grew up. Elverum came back to the Microphones, with The Microphones in 2020, as a medium of reflection of his life, especially the musical aspect. A simple, 44-minute long song is composed of two main chords with short clashes of Elverum’s drums scattered throughout. The Microphones in 2020 is not released on any streaming platform but can be found on Bandcamp and YouTube due to Elverum’s distaste with streaming platforms’ unfair compensation.
3-Slauson Malone, Vergangenheitsbewältigung
Vergangenheitsbewältigung: the struggle to overcome the past. On his latest EP, experimental artist Slauson Malone covers similar themes to his previous album, “A Quiet Farewell,” which, as the title suggests, are personal demons and past strifes. The former member of Standing on the Corner, continues to knock it out of the park with immaculate production and well-crafted compositions. The EP feels bony, decrepit, left for dead, yet incredibly textured. The stripped guitar and piano chords and muttered lyrics leave the listener with an indescribable emptiness. I absolutely loved this one and consider it one of the best works of the year.
4-Black Noi$e, Oblivion
Detroit producer, Robert Mansel, known as Black Noi$e, released his sophomore album, Oblivion, mid-August. The intricate beats on Oblivion are unique and synergize very well with the long list of features on this album, including alternative hip-hop artists MIKE, Earl Sweatshirt, and Danny Brown. Oblivion is just more proof to old-heads that modern hip-hop isn’t unoriginal and derivative.
5-Greg Dulli, Random Desire
Singer, songwriter, musician: Greg Dulli’s musical resume is prolific, working with the likes of The Afghan Whigs, The Twilight Singers, The Gutter Twins, and has one other album under his own name. On Random Desire, Dulli continues to cohesively work with a myriad of styles, meshing together elegance with slashing guitars. Dulli’s control over his distinct, raspy voice does not dwindle despite his age, and he manages to make the album feel just as youthful as his work all the way back to the 90s with the Whigs (including keeping a “one foot in the gutter” sensibility with his lyricism).
6-R.A.P. Ferreira, Purple Moonlight Pages
The last album is R.A.P. Ferreira’s Purple Moonlight Pages, which took influence from The Phantom Tollbooth, as the album cover gives a nod to the book cover, as well as one of his songs titled “Doldrums.” AKA Milo and Scallops Hotel, R.A.P. Ferreira debuted the album under his new moniker (though R.A.P. Ferreira is the real name of the Chicago-born rapper). Ferreira is delicate, crafting each beat and lyric with éclat. His introspective themes are enhanced by his articulate style, never shying away from making his listeners pull out a dictionary every few seconds. Purple Moonlight Pages is an album you can listen to ninety-nine times and still discover something new in the next listen.