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Birthday Club: Obscure Emotion (album review by Christa V.)

Birthday Club is the project of Stephen Wells, a musician who hails from Texas. He makes shimmering music that features a wonderful balance of guitar and synthesizers with vocals that weave in and out of the sound. It leaves you feeling chilled out but also with your foot tapping to the beat. The best tracks are the first three which feature his ability to create groovy ambient sounds reminiscent of early Arcade Fire or late 70s psychedelic bands. There’s also “Out of Nowhere,” an entirely instrumental track that starts with an acoustic guitar and builds up into those shimmering synthesizers. You don’t even miss the vocals until it is all over. Favorite tracks: 1, 2, 3, 6

Arbouretum: Let It All In (album review by Christa V.)

Arbouretum is a self-identified rock band that primarily sounds like folk music with a chill groove. They excel at crafting stories through the lyrics while creating  a chill vibe in the instruments. There are also some country influences, as well as what sounds like sea shanty vibes in the song “A Prism in Reverse,” or blues  in “High Water Song” (especially with the piano part). “Night Theme” is also a unique track in that it features only instrumentals and would be good for speaking  over. Overall, it seems like this band has a wide range of influences that they are able to synthesize into a cohesive sound. The best tracks though are the  opener, which is a groovy country song, or the title track which is 11 minutes of an energetic groove featuring cool instrumentals. Favorite tracks: 1, 7, 8

Adeline Hotel: Solid Love (album review by Christa V.)

Adeline Hotel has a sound unlike any other band I have heard. The best I can do to characterize it is that it is most similar to folk music, but with waves of  sound in the background of the vocals. It creates a really cool ambiance for the music, and it is very relaxing. You can hear plenty more influences within  specific songs, for example how “Strange Sometimes” has elements of Eastern music and how “Trace” is definitely country. But there is also such a range of instruments used that it can be hard to pin down. “Strange Sometimes” also features a lovely saxophone solo, and “Slow Love” includes a violin solo towards the end. “Trace” takes a leap from typical country and includes a killer electric guitar solo. Somehow, all of these diverse sounds come together and have a unifying quality on this album that make it clear that this music is uniquely Adeline Hotel’s.  Favorite tracks: 1, 2, 4

Blushing Monk: Serendipity (album review by Christa V.)

Blushing Monk is a modern jazz band from Grand Rapids in Michigan! Their style explores a number of different sub-genres within jazz, from the melodic opening tune “Urban Rush” to songs with clear free jazz influences like “Frankenstein” and “Rumble.” A lot of this variety can be seen on the single track “Working Title” which starts off melodic and goes into powerful solos from the piano and trumpet before finishing. Best song though is definitely the title track, “Serendipity,” which starts off with a gorgeous piano solo and includes an incredible saxophone part. Definitely fun to listen and fun to groove to! Favorite tracks: 3, 6, 8

Arctic Monkeys: Live at the Royal Albert Hall (album review by Christa V.)

Back in 2018 the Arctic Monkeys did a performance at the Royal Albert Hall in London, which was eventually released as a record in 2020. It consists of 20 different songs that span all of their recent albums and top hits. Not totally sure what else to say here, if you like the Arctic Monkeys then you will love to hear them live. And being able to hear the audience sing along with them is a ton of fun in and of itself. Writing this in the middle of a pandemic, it really makes me miss live concerts and being able to see bands perform live. But until then, I guess that this is the next best thing. Favorite tracks: 1, 4, 7, 17, 20

Mare Berger: The Moon is Always Full (album review by Christa V.)

Mare Berger is a queer artist whose music focuses on interconnectedness through this album about the moon. They typically have sparseinstrumentation, primarily strings, piano, and sometimes guitar, under gorgeous vocal harmonies. The simplicity allows for the vocals to come throughclearly, without making it sound stuffy and classical. This is best highlighted in the opening track “Even When We Forget” where some incredible vocalharmonies take the song from a very peaceful lullabye to a more funky groove. This is also shown on “Stardust” where the voice sounds practically ethereal.“The Moon is Full” is another track that goes from a mournful piano into an amazing chorus that makes you want to move somehow. The range of moodspresent, and Berger’s ease with moving through them, is also shown on “Wondering” which starts with very calm backings, transitions to a chorus oversparse instrumentation, and goes into an instrumental section featuring an electric guitar over a string section. This album is quite unlike any other that Ihave heard, it manages to make you want to sway while also radiating peace. Definitely worth a listen! Favorite tracks: 1, 5, 7

Nikki and the Phantom Callers: Everybody’s Going to Hell (But You and Me) (album review by Christa V.)

At first listen Nikki and the Phantom Callers is your typical indie band. But there are some real gems in here, the lead vocalist has a beautiful voice that isperfectly complimented by the backup singers. This is highlighted on the song “They’ve Never Walked Through Shadows” which starts out a capella andsounds completely different from the rest of the album. It’s a neat way to feature the vocals. The rest of the songs definitely keep that indie feel with therough guitar parts, but they often straddle other genres as well. “Howl With Me” is spookier and more atmospheric, while “Love Me Tender” is clearly an Elvis reference and more classic rock, “Motor Run” starts punk but ends folk, and “New Year’s Day” has clear country influences. Definitely a band to payattention to with that range! Favorite tracks: 3, 5, 6, 8

Slow Pulp: Moveys (album review by Victoria A.)

This is a wildly biased review, because I'm friends with the boys in the band. They generously let me crash on their couch for way too long even though it was inconvenient, because they were recording a pre-Slow Pulp album in their closet lined with mattresses. They listened to nothing but Tame Impala on repeat which started to drive me insane. I tried very hard to get them to eat vegetables. They are nice, and you should listen to their band. 2020's Moveys is situated firmly in post-punk, with a lot in common with the wave of other female-led shoegazy bands right now: Soccer Mommy, Phoebe Bridgers, Julien Baker, Big Thief, etc. I think I still hear those Tame Impala days in the rollicking riffs and funky flourishes on the more energetic tracks. There has never been a better time for thoughtful, bingeable, melancholy rock. It flirts with hopelessness in a way that reflects our current pandemic situation. Give it a listen!

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