Honorable Mention – Heaven is a Place, This is a Place (Frank Iero and the Future Violents)
Even though the album was released last month (January 15, to be exact) it’s still a banger worth mentioning.
With the massive highs Frank Iero had with the announcement of MCR’s revival in December 2019 to cancelling many of their dates in 2020 because of the pandemic, this album encapsulates the distorted anguish and confusion that is the state of the world. From the insanely-good “Record Ender” to the acoustic-driven REM cover “Losing my Religion,” this EP is short but effective.
Death By Rock and Roll (The Pretty Reckless)
Coming out of tragedy was, for lack of better terms, not an easy feat.
In 2017, they opened for what would be Soundgarden’s last show in Detroit. The day after, Chris Cornell was found dead in his hotel room. This incident shook lead singer Taylor Momsen to the core as they continued their own tour. In Europe, they canceled their final tour dates so Momsen could focus on her mental health. Just as she was ready to come back and the Instagram snippets of new material were coming in, however, the band’s friend and longtime producer Kato Kawandala (who has also worked with the likes of The Offspring and Metallica) was killed in a motorcycle accident.
In an interview with Kerrang!, Momsen said this was the breaking point for her and she escaped, quite literally, into depression and oblivion. Stopping contact with the outside world, she simply quit life and could not figure out when, or if, she would ever get out of that black hole. Once she found rock bottom, though, she began to listen to music again, starting from the ground up. And the music came with it.
The album, for one, serves as a respectful tribute to Cornell. In January 2019, Momsen was asked by Matt Cameron to lend her vocals to the concert I Am the Highway: A Tribute to Chris Cornell. in return, she not only enlisted Tom Morello for “And So It Went,” but Cameron and Kim Thlaylil for “Only Love Can Save Me Now,” which was recorded at London Bridge Studios in Seattle, the birthplace of grunge diamonds from Pearl Jam, Alice In Chains, Blind Melon, and, of course, Soundgarden.
And then the album also includes tributes to Kawandala as well. His footsteps are actually the first thing you hear on the album before it goes into the morbid banger “Death By Rock and Roll.” The last song, “Harley Darling” is an acoustic classical rock throwback about a motorcycle that took a loved one’s life away and, during the segment where she sings “ride away,” the engine revving and fading away serves as a gentle, aching reminder of what was lost.
But even through with the sadness, there is hope found in songs like “Turning Gold,” where sitars and Beatle-esque guitar sound drives the positive message. Finally, the penultimate “Rock and Roll Heaven” is an acoustic classic rock ballad not only mentioning all her fallen heroes but also recounts her own musical journey turning a black hole brought on by two massive losses into a full circle triumph of rebirth and rediscovery.
Just Friends (Jason LaPierre, V. James)
Jason LaPierre is a CT-based musician is known in both the local jazz and band cycles for his previous work in New Amsterdam Nobles along with numerous collaborations with fellow CT artists. Last summer, he released his first solo track “All in My Head,” which combines l laid-back jazz track about the struggles of relationships, anxiety and living in the moment.
In this collaboration with V. James (who also has a few lo-fi albums on his Spotify profile,) songs like “old love” and “sunday” are perfect for an isolated study session or a small, socially-distant picnic in the garden (or snow, depending on where you are.)
Terra Firma (Tash Sultana)
And here, we have another highly-anticipated album on this list. The first single “Pretty Lady” came out last year during one of the most intense lockdowns of the pandemic. The accompanying music video even utilized the use of different people filming themselves listening to the song in their own homes while in isolation with family, friends, or both.
Now that the album is released in it’s entirety, though, it is definitely worth a listen. With similar vibes to her debut Flow State (2018), this sophomore effort is effortless (bad pun intended) adding a little synthwave for good measure, this is the perfect follow-up soundtrack for the summer.
Some noteworthy songs, apart from “Pretty Lady,” are “Dream My Life Away,” a duet with John Cashman on feeling good living in the present and “Maybe You’ve Changed,” a piano ballad that ruminates on growth, personal conflict. Both of these tracks, along with many others on this album, really hit home the reflections and inward conversations some of us have had during this year-long two week quarantine.
Can I Be The One? (Daydream Masi)
This song follows up last month’s release “Night Like This,” a single from his upcoming album Movie Scenes (set to be released later this year.)
Previously, the 23-year-old Ohio native enjoyed an early taste of success when his song “Favorite Drug” was featured in season 3 of Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why. In 2019, he released EP The Slow Rage Project. Ranging from dizzy to melancholic, dreamy melodies intertwined with romantic lyrics, songs including “Fading” and “Nightlife” emit sounds familiar to contemporaries like Joji and The Weeknd. Reviews for The Slow Rage Project were overall positive, with magazines like Ones to Watch and Sound Digest hailing the album’s experimental style and a sincere depth of purpose in his lyrics.
“Daydream Masi’s debut effort is an impressive sound,” wrote Myan Mercado of Sound Digest, “making the visionary artist one to keep your eyes (and ears) on.”
The magazine emphasized his musical abilities when he released “Animal Style,” a dance-floor track that fits right in at a small, socially-distanced nighttime gathering.
“We certainly cannot wait to hear what he has up his sleeves,” wrote Mercado, “but it’s bound to be as unique as the rest of his music thus far.”
For more information about the artist and new releases, follow @daydreamasi on Instagram and Twitter. His music is available on all streaming platforms.