Wilco - Cousin
In their 13th studio album Cousin, Wilco finds their sweet spot and, once again, sets the standard for 2020s indie rock. Seeing as their last release was an extended edition of 2002’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (their most notable record and the starting point of their venture into experimentalism), I was anxious to compare the production of this record to their past work. There’s a sense of maturity in this album that can only be attained by bands of Wilco’s stature, as it seamlessly blends the simplicity of their early work with dashes of their signature avant-garde flare. Tracks like “Infinite Surprise” and “Pittsburgh” unfold in the likes of a psychedelic track– colorful and daring. Others, like “Evicted” and “Meant to Be,” are easy listens with radio potential. Overall, this album is a staple for both diehard fans and new audiences alike, and it further cements Wilco as one of the “greats” of their genre. Put simply, Cousin is a breath of fresh air, and it’s definitely a contender for my personal favorite album of the year.
Favorite tracks: “Infinite Surprise” ; “Meant to Be” ; “A Bowl and A Pudding”
- Lauren Alexander
Blonde Redhead - Sit Down for Dinner
For the first time in 9 years, indie and avant-rock legends Blonde Redhead are back with a full length LP, and it's just what listeners in the spheres of psych-pop and abstract shoegaze have been waiting on. Few groups have quite the legacy of Blonde Redhead, as after decades of making some of the most sophisticated and interest albums in all of independent music, they finally became a household name through the usage of their B-side, "For the Damaged Coda," on an episode of Rick and Morty. Considering the track was never even intended to be a full song, and still isn't really, one can certainly find some irony in the fact that it is by far and away their most famous song, having become a bit of a meme over the last couple years. Despite this, music nerds willing to look beyond the seemingly random internet fame achieved by the group were pleased to find a relatively large discography littered with classic records dating back to the band's debut in 1995. Spending the last thirty years evolving from a no-wave offshoot to shoegaze godsends to more mature, sensible and accessible pop savants, Sit Down for Dinner is another glorious example of veteran musicians honing their craft. Each track on this album could be a hit in its own right, and the band even gave themselves a shot for another round of overnight internet fame by making the final song a simple, melancholic track with nothing but an arpeggiated melody and vocalizations from lead singer Kazu Makino, much like the aforementioned "For the Damaged Coda." Much like contemporaries Yo La Tengo and Wilco (see review above), Blonde Redhead have placed themselves quite nicely among legendary indie acts coming back in 2023 to release great LPs. Much like those other bands, Blonde Redhead doesn't reinvent themselves completely with Sit Down for Dinner, but they do offer what feels like a hug from an old friend, something the music world didn't know how desperately it needed.
Favorite Tracks: "Snowman" ; "Melody Experiment" ; "Rest of Her Life"
- Will Lewis
Modern Nature - No Fixed Point In Space
If you’re looking for music with a distinct vibe to it, No Fixed Point In Space is the album for you. Released my experimental jazz/folk band Modern Nature, the album is a 41-minute crawl to an unknown destination. Minimalist in approach, the album often features soft vocals from frontman Jack Cooper along with barely plucked guitars, subdued woodwinds and lightly tapped cymbals from the rest of the group. Often times the album sounds like a group of musicians just tuning up their instruments. The woodwinds, guitar, vocals and drums will meander around doing its own thing until eventually weaving together in brief moments of symmetry. When all the instruments come together, it makes some of the most beautiful and heavenly sounding music I’ve ever heard. The sound from these brief moments is almost intoxicating and hooked me into the album in anticipation for the next moment of beauty. At times the album sounds like it’s all improv by the band. It’s very calming and relaxing to listen to. The group set out to make something new, shedding past musical efforts and focusing on nature’s cycle of renewal and rebirth. The band achieved just that with this album. For all you nature lovers, No Fixed Point In Space is the perfect album to throw on while hiking or just sitting outside.
Favorite Tracks: “Murmuration” ; “Orange” ; “Cascade” ; “Sun”
- Logan Hurston