Adam Grundy’s Top Albums of 2020 (So Far)

Best of 2020 (So Far)

2020 has been a rough year to get through given all of the outside factors going on in the world around us. Luckily, the music that has come shining through the speakers has been nothing short of fantastic at the mid-way point on the year. Much like the full contributor mid-year list, my personal list was dominated by female artists. From the deeply personal Petals for Armor by Hayley Williams, the pure-pop bliss of Future Nostalgia by Dua Lipa, to the aptly titled Manic by Halsey, there are some incredible works of art all over the spectrum here. These are the 30 albums I have loved listening to the most at the halfway point of 2020.

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Review: HAIM – Women In Music Pt. III

HAIM - Women in Music

Coming off of the success of their sophomore album, Something to Tell You, which spawned a Top 40 hit in “Little of Your Love” all eyes were focused on the three sisters in HAIM to see what they would come up with next. What they have created is a sonic achievement of great songs that they have affectionately coined Women In Music Pt. III. The promotion schedule of this record was kicked off with a short an intimate tour of delis in the US that was halted due to the pandemic. The sisters also decided, like many other major artists, to delay the release of their album until now. Who would have known that they would release the best record of their career with an expansive collection of tunes that features new musical styles, tones, and sounds to further round out their artistic statement. The album was produced by Danielle Haim, Rostam Batmanglij, and Ariel Rechtshaid, who each put their unique stamp on this record that directly rewards the listener on each repeat spin.

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Review: Align In Time – On A Spiral

Align in Time

Very rarely do you come across a band who can convey so much raw emotion in an album without a single vocal, but enter Align In Time, the musical alias of John Boles. On his second album, On A Spiral, Boles is able to convey a wide range of emotions in a storytelling approach similar to a film score. It’s a perfect album to throw on in the background while you want to escape from all of the other outside noise of the world. With rich influences that range from the post-rock elements of Circa Survive to the emo-tinged guitars of Jimmy Eat World, Align In Time is perfectly in tune with who they are and have created a soundtrack worthy of immediate praise and consideration.

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Review: Vincent Fiorello – 6/19

Vincent Fiorello - 6/19

Vincent “Vinnie” Fiorello is a man of many talents. Readers on our site may know him best as the co-founder and a prominent lyricist of Less Than Jake, however, Fiorello has also made a name for himself in the business world by founding the record labels Fueled By Ramen, Sleep It Off Records, and most recently Paper + Plastick. In Fiorello’s second book, 6/19, he comes to terms with what he self-describes as “being lost and being found.” The book is a collection of short stories that read very quickly and have a lyrical bounce to it in this part-memoir, part-brain attack of thoughts poured out affectionately on paper.

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Review: Lady Gaga – Chromatica

Lady Gaga - Chromatica

”This is my dance floor, I fought for” Lady Gaga proclaims on the Chromatica track, “Free Woman.” With this collection of club-ready anthems, it’s hard not to take her statement more seriously than right now. Coming off of a successful acting stint in the A Star is Born film, the interest in her music couldn’t have been any higher. Lady Gaga has answered the call in a big way with one of her more immediate records to date and has taken full advantage of the spotlight. This album was produced by BloodPop (Michael Tucker) and Gaga herself, and the singer’s return to pop music feels as refreshing as ever. The record also features several A-lister collaborations with Ariana Grande, Elton John, and BLACKPINK that further enhance the synth-pop direction Gaga was going for.

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Interview: Mike Henneberger

Mike Henneberger

Recently I was able to have a phone conversation with author Mike Henneberger before he released his new memoir, Rock Bottom at the Renaissance. I previewed this book in the form of a review a few weeks ago, and it was enlightening to hear firsthand Mike’s take on what I had read in his memoir. We discussed other bands that have had an influence on him over the years, everything that went into writing his book, and the creation of his new company called Berger Media. The book is available to purchase everywhere starting today, and more details can be found at his official website.

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Review: The 1975 – Notes On A Conditional Form

The 1975 - Notes...

Now that we’ve had some time to digest the latest album from The 1975, I thought it was about time that we started the discussion on everything that makes up Notes on a Conditional Form. I’ve seen several posts online about the album being too long, and at 22 tracks, it’s a warranted argument. Some people have even gone as far as cherry-picking individual songs from the album to make their playlist that better fits their tastes and listening preferences. While I am usually against the idea of skipping tracks during the listening experience that the artist intended, I found myself just as guilty as everyone else with navigating around some of the songs that didn’t seem to flow in the full album. Typically when there is an album that invites so much dissecting to enjoy the material, it’s a clear sign of an imperfect record. The 1975 had a lot going for them leading up to this LP, having already released three bona fide classic records before NOACF. This album is arguably their most polarizing to date, and while some may write off this record as a rare miss, the good far outweighs the bad in their latest artistic statement.

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Review: Vinnie Caruana – Live At The Black Heart

The new live album from Vinnie Caruana is a career-spanning set of 15 songs that covers material from his great new solo release Aging Frontman, as well as material from his other projects such as The Movielife and I Am The Avalanche. The album was recorded live in the UK at The Black Heart on December 15th, 2019, and the record is a full sounding listening experience to it, making it seem as if Vinnie is performing these songs just for you. Caruana had a nice remark regarding this album by saying, “It was the last show of a life-affirming tour. We took in many a Christmas market, and we drank around 100 Guinness each. Being able to travel around a foreign country, only to see friends, some of whom I met nearly two decades ago, will never be something I take for granted. Every show was special in its own way, and this one was just the cherry on top. The crowd didn’t know we were recording, and the result is a real and organic experience. I fucked up a few songs, but, as you know, that is par for the course. Long live the UK. Long live the connection we share together. Somebody in New York loves you (it’s me). Please enjoy.” The album is streaming now on Bandcamp for a “Pay What You Want” price that directly benefits the artist, or you can pre-order the vinyl here.

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Review: Off Road Minivan – Swan Dive

Off Road Minivan - Swan Dive

Let me introduce you to Tooth & Nail Records’ latest great find in Red Hook, New York’s own Off Road Minivan. This five-piece band is led by charismatic bassist/vocalist Ryan Tuck O’Leary and features a triple-guitar attack of Melvin Brinson, Dave Trimboli, and Miles Sweeny. Rounding out the band is an underrated drummer in Evan Garcia Renart. On their debut full-length album, Swan Dive, Off Road Minivan described this record as a love letter of sorts to the bands that influenced their sound. “For us, this album touches on the sounds that made us want to play in the first place – an alternative rock landscape from early 00’s emo to grunge influence,” the band shares. “We aren’t here to teach any defining life lesson, just trying to sing about the ones we’ve experienced.” Their debut features flashes of greatness and is reminiscent of bands such as Anberlin, Hawthorne Heights, and Young Guns.

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Review: Loyalty To Me – Clash // Coexist

Loyalty To Me - Clash Coexist

New Jersey emo quintet Loyalty To Me have burst onto the scene with their debut EP Clash // Coexist. With vibes and styles that range from pop punk sensibilities of Cartel to the punchy guitars of New Found Glory, this band has made a catchy collection of songs on their introductory record. Led by charismatic vocalist Wil Jackson, Loyalty To Me created a solid mix of alternative rock, emo and pop punk that is sure to give them a loyal following in the months to come. While not covering too much new ground in the scene, they still hone in on their influences and work with their strengths as artists for a pleasing and breezy set of five songs on this EP.

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Review: Rock Bottom at the Renaissance: A Mixtape Memoir – Mike Henneberger

Rock Bottom at the Renaissance: A Mixtape Memoir by Mike Henneberger

Mike Henneberger just wants you to listen. Whether that entails listening to that voice inside your head that tells you what’s right from wrong, the music blaring through the headphones that connect with you on a deeper level than you could ever begin to describe to someone, or by taking some of his advice so eloquently written in the new memoir he has affectionately titled Rock Bottom at the Renaissance: An Emo Kid’s Journey Through Falling In and Out of Love in and With New York City. We process our journeys through this crazy thing called life in all different shapes and forms, and that’s the beauty of it. No one has the perfect pill or cure for navigating through life, but music seems to be the closest miracle for a lot of us to deal with the shit that comes up daily.

In this “mixtape memoir,” Henneberger carefully crafts his thoughts on living in New York City and how it’s easy to fall somewhere in the void of being in love with the city and loathing it just as often. Henneberger also shares his struggles with mental illness and the music that kept him alive throughout it all. By connecting each of these chapters in his book to a different song in this mixtape, he has created a clever work of art in his own right by making sense of how music can truly save us from the darkest of thoughts. I feel that everyone will be able to take something special out of this memoir by reading how Henneberger describes his emotions in painstaking detail in his quest for understanding what makes him tick. Not to mention, the music he outlines each chapter with is very near and dear to my heart as well, and I’m sure it will hit the right notes with many of us who frequent this site. The playlist can be found on Spotify and Apple Music. Pre-orders are now up, and the book will be available everywhere starting on June 9th.

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Review: Diet Cig – Do You Wonder About Me?

Diet Cig

Coming off of a successful debut album brings a lot of added pressure and attention towards your next effort. Luckily for us, Diet Cig are well up to the task at hand as they pick up right where they left off on Swear I’m Good At This with some more self-described “slop pop” here on Do You Wonder About Me? When I last spoke with guitarist/vocalist Alex Luciano and drummer Noah Bowman in regards to what they had in mind for their next album, their optimism infectiously carried over into the recording process for this record. The dynamic duo of Luciano and Bowman has crafted a satisfying sophomore album that expands upon the ideas introduced on their debut, and they fully realize their potential as artists on this LP.

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Review: The Used – Heartwork

The Used - Heartwork

There were a lot of moving parts that came together to make Heartwork, the eighth full-length studio album from The Used. For starters, the band made the conscious effort to reconnect with their longtime collaborator/producer John Feldman. The Used also welcomed a new guitarist, Joey Bradford, into the fold for this album as a permanent band member. Lastly, the band decided to use some outside collaborations, including Travis Barker, Mark Hoppus, Jason Butler, and Caleb Shomo, to enhance their sound on this album further. All of these efforts paid off as The Used have created one of their strongest and most cohesive albums in years.

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Review: Conversation – Realization / Release

Toronto post-hardcore rockers Conversation are set to release their second EP in the “Honesty EPs” collection called Realization / Release. It’s on this new EP that they continue to expand upon their influences that range from scene heavy-hitters such as the Deftones and Underoath, with the pop sensibilities of Silverstein. The record was produced by Sam Guaiana (Silverstein, Hundred Suns), who brings out the best in the Canadian band. With intricate guitar parts, soaring vocal melodies, and post-hardcore elements thrown into the mix, Conversation has made a dramatic artistic statement on their latest record.

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Review: City Mouth – Coping Machine

I want to introduce you to your next favorite band: City Mouth. Running out of the gate with shimmering synths, infectious harmonies, and melancholy lyrics with a tint of hope, this Chicago-based band is on to something special on their latest LP that they have affectionately titled Coping Machine. Drawing comparisons to the synth-pop sensibilities of Motion City Soundtrack and clever songwriting of The Format, City Mouth has carefully crafted a collection of songs dealing with thematic elements such as preserving one’s mental health and staying true to yourself. The album was mixed by Marc McClusky (Weezer, Motion City Soundtrack), and his dedication to bringing out the best in the band comes shining out of the speakers from the very first listen.

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