These are the albums that soundtrack our home office, the former spare bedroom we converted to a shared workspace where we spend most of our weekdays. Turns out, our ideas of ‘work’ music are a bit different. On our own, one of us likes to stream hardcore punk while the other enjoys MPB (música popular brasileira). But these albums offered some common ground to keep us entertained and keep us from fighting for control of the Sonos.
- Gorillaz | Song Machine, Season One: Strange Timez (Warner)
Some excellent guests in rotation here, including Robert Smith, Beck, Octavian, St. Vincent, Fatoumata Diawara, and Sir Elton John, but Damon Albarn is a constant. It’s a fun variety show, at times gleefully fatalistic and other times forlorn. “Momentary Bliss” is a delightful mantra.
- King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard | G. (ATO Records)
Similar to Gumboot Soup and Fishing for Fishes, this album feels like a collection of cast-asides from the album churning machine that was 2017, particularly heavy on the microtonal phase. The Ambrose track, “Straws in the Wind,” is a favorite, as usual. The final track, “The Hungry Wolf of Fate,” is worth the wait.
- Fuzz | III (In the Red Records)
It’s a little more classic Southern rock than the garage delirium on previous Fuzz records. Reminds me of the contrast between early Black Sabbath’s hazy sludge and the sharper drivers that followed. Ty Segall is singing his heart out here over a careening package of frantic momentum. You will want to defiantly taunt along with him over the sick riffs on “Nothing People.”
- King Buzzo (with Trevor Dunn) | Gift of Sacrifice (Ipecac Records)
Magical things happen when Buzz and Dunn strum and bow strings together. Dunn’s bass gets all creaky and menacing while Buzz gets harmonic. One’s authoritative vocals convey secret messages from another dimension while the other’s slither in around the corners. The weirdo gloom of “Housing, Luxury, Energy” perfectly suits a dimly lit makeshift workspace.
- Woods | Strange to Explain (Woodsist)
At the opposite end of the spectrum, Woods is once again dripping with sentimentality and sincerity. Death is a frequent subject of their albums, in a curious rather than morbid sense, bringing a strange comfort in these times. Songs like “Where Do You Go When You Dream” showcase the new percussion and guitar effects they’ve added to enhance the bright-eyed wonder of their soothing sound.
- Kadavar | Isolation Tapes (Robotor Records)
I will forever be kicking myself that I didn’t nab this on pre-order. Kadavar has taken a scenic tour of musical styles since the Abra Kadavar that sold me in 2013, but it seems the isolation has brought us back together. They do well with renovating old sounds, and this superb concept album offers an update on trippy Pink Floyd synth. Might even sync up well with The Wizard of Oz. Breathe along with “II – I Fly Among the Stars.”
- Mr. Gnome | The Day You Flew Away (El Marko Records)
This band has learned too much about suffering, loss, and grief in recent years, but they communicate their experience like telling a fairy tale. Ethereal and dreamy, their sound puts a lump in your throat as you ride the emotional rollercoaster with them. The interplay of rich harmonies and intense drum work is as intricate as ever, and the tiny piano makes an appearance, but the album sees them stretch their boundaries, too, into new territory with some legitimately danceable tunes. “Gold Edges” captures them in a moment of delirious cheer.
- Oh Sees | Metamorphosed (Castle Face Records)
John Dwyer has given us so much this year. This EP is highly imbalanced with interlude-length songs at the front and epic-length dizzying labyrinths at the end. Great for tediously sorting and cleaning data or coding survey responses, as the case may be, while disconcertingly mumbling “I Got a Lot” on my mind, over and over and over again.
- All Them Witches | Nothing as the Ideal (New West Records)
Another benefit of a shared workspace is exposure to music outside your regular rotation. This one holds a privileged space at the top of my husband’s playlist, and I’m glad I’ve been able to enjoy it with him. Charles Michael Parks, Jr’s velvet-smooth vocals remain eerily icy cool as a cucumber while the kinetic drums and sharp guitars convey impending doom. “Enemy of My Enemy” showcases this gritted-teeth tension.
- The Janitors | Noisolation Session Vol. 1 (Your Ears Have Been Bad And Need To Be Punished Records)
An end-of-year treat, reverb devotees The Janitors shared the fruits of their quarantine just in time to drive us through the antsy holiday lead-up. Sinister and foreboding, the characteristic drone and fuzz is there, but the tracks are a little more accessible than some other albums, with a little more industrial flavor. “Isolation” has a muddy, old school Black Angels vibe, another sweet spot we both enjoy. | Courtney Dowdall