PEARS’ Jarret Nathan discusses his 10 favorite albums of 2020
New Orleans punks PEARS released their rippin' self-tilted album earlier this year via Fat Wreck Chords, and if you haven't heard that, it's very much worth a spin.
Since the year is coming to a close, we asked PEARS what their favorite albums of the year were, and drummer Jarret Nathan made us a list of his top 10, including records by The Beths, Ratboys, Soul Glo, Gladie, Bartees Strange, and more. He also provided personal, insightful commentary on each pick, and you can read on for what he had to say...
JARRET NATHAN'S (PEARS) 10 FAVORITE ALBUMS OF 2020
1. The Beths - Jump Rope Gazers
You know when you slowly start to become detached to your relationship with music from excessive touring and desperately need something to bring back that spark? That's The Beths for me. They have definitively become my favorite band over the last two years. It’s the most unique, thoughtful, and emotionally beautiful music I’ve connected to. Their last album Future Me Hates Me brought that bug back to my ear with a stellar performance, and this new album continues that love I feel for them. This album is filled with bangers, ballads, and countless songs simply make me feel. I think this band’s vocal harmonies are properly unique, and I could point to countless examples on the album, but specifically during the bridge on “Dying to Believe”. It’s a more shouty than singy harmony that just crescendos to such a satisfying explosion, and I think it’s a perfect moment that captures the essence of what The Beths have done the last few years. The musicianship is out of control. In my opinion they're about as close to a perfect band as you can get. Liz’s singing is effortless and affecting. The drumming is so damn tasteful (and with exemplary posture). And the leads man, the leads. In a year where we’re all longing for connection, The Beths has given us an album that makes me want to listen whether I’m feeling lonely or hopeful.
2. Ratboys - Printer's Devil
Continuing the trend of albums that make me feel, Ratboys’ Printer's Devil just makes me so damn happy. It’s such an excellent combination of a '90s alt rock vibe with more modern indie punk songwriting. Ratboys, to me, represent everything that is positive and progressive in this fucked up music industry. Between their virtual tour on twitch with guests, a green screen, and jokes, and their mega Halloween Telethon featuring 25 straight hours of virtual performances to benefit The Equal Justice Initiative and Girls Rock! Chicago, their uniqueness and inventiveness is unmatched. It feels like Printer's Devil is just hit after hit and it’s one of the few records this year that I’ll keep on repeat for a few hours. Like The Beths’ album, there’s always new things to notice the more you listen. I love finding something not just new, but the kind of new that makes you can’t believe you didn’t catch it earlier.
3. Soul Glo - Songs to Yeet At The Sun
Every year Soul Glo puts on such reliably explosive and meaningful music. They’ve been praised countlessly for their ability to write immaculately large, aggressive music full of prescient social commentary. They’re just true fucking rippers. They contain so much power and distinction, and they keep elevating themselves. I love this band so much.
4. Gladie - Safe Sins
Augusta and Matt continue to amaze me by the way they inject so much tenderness and care into their music. It seems every other month they’re releasing a new album or EP, and their productiveness is part of the reason Gladie resonates so much with me. It’s the sort of project I wish I could get to the level of. Safe Sins is a delicate, introspective work of art, that shifts between full on indie rock and lower-fi ethereal pop. Augusta sings with such strength and it's that charge that leads this record. It feels like proper poetry. Gladie is a duo in complete control and their productivity is inspiring (they’ve put out three EPs since the full length). Another record this year that just makes me feel good.
5. Disheveled Cuss - Disheveled Cuss
Nick Reinhart is one of my favorite songwriters of all time. Tera Melos and Bygones have been insanely influential to me. I’ve always thought that if Nick decided to write a more straightforward record, a more poppy record, with his unmatched guitar style, it would be so fucking good. On IDIOMS vol. I he hints at it, as well as various parts of Patagonian Rats. Disheveled Cuss is everything I wanted it to be. A non obtrusive, less invasive masterclass in songwriting with all the twinges and quirks of a quintessential Nick Reinhart project. I love the simplicity of the lyrics. I love Nick’s wacky brain extrapolated into a pop album. I love the restraint. Man this record fucking rips. Every time I listen to something this dude makes I hear sounds I’ve never heard before.
6. Bartees Strange - Live Forever
I’m new to Bartees Strange, and this record just hit me the right way. It’s soothing and generous, it’s rocking, it’s arranged beautifully. It’s emo, it’s bluesy, it’s soulful, it’s experimental. It’s so many things. His capital V Voice is commanding in the way that it feels like he takes you on a journey the way an album is supposed to. Live Forever feels like a complete tapestry. It’s an album that’s hearty and satiating, a favorite meal that doesn’t leave you too full, just full of warmth and satisfaction.
7. Bob Mould - Blue Hearts
This record reminds of why I fell in love with music in the first place. At its heart it's just really well crafted songwriting. It has so much power, and Bob Mould’s voice is smooth and constant. It’s a really consistent record that barrels forward and continues the theme of this list - it just makes me feel good.
8. The Superweaks - Teenage Blob
Okay this record is one of the coolest and innovative releases this year. The Superweaks put out a split record with a fucking video game. Teenage Blob was a joint effort between the band and South African video game developer Team Lazerbeam. Six songs, six levels in the video game. The game is an ode to live music and friendship, and each song correlates to a different part of the journey to get to the gig. The songs on the album certainly speak for themselves, The Superweaks are masters of power pop punk and the songs shred. But I highly recommend getting the video game for all you people who have Steam. Years of love and effort culminates in a truly unique product with quirky animation and ripping songs.
9. Nate Dionne - Love Is Always Worth It
Another one of my favorite songwriters, Nate Dionne came through with a surprise record that’s so sonically pleasing it’s like butter in your ears, if the butter was Nate-sized and ran through your bloodstream creating a Nate-sized vascular system to play you these songs and make your body vibrate. It just sounds so good. His deep voice paired with his guitar leads, like all the other albums on this list, just make you feel fulfilled. And it wouldn’t be a Nate release without Dan Angel, whose drumming and style is so distinctive, it makes for an unparalleled pair. Previously exhibited in the world-famous Gunk, these two share something special when it comes to collaboration. This album makes me so glad I’ve never worked in construction, and makes me reflect on all the shitty jobs I’ve had. But it also affirms that love is, in fact, always worth it.
10. Cave People - Looking
There are certain records that are just made for sitting in your room on a rainy day and staring at your plants. I do this from time to time. When you want to reflect and listen to a record that makes you feel, this is the one. Dave Tomaine is a kind soul, a good friend, and a wonderful songwriter. It’s nice to have people like that in your life. Looking isn’t over-indulgent, nor is it excessive in its nature. It’s exactly what it’s supposed to be. It’s a 40 minute poem - a personal, dignified, and vulnerable exploration of all the mush inside your brain. This record is bursting with love and friendship, with collaboration from Spenser Hogans (Three Man Cannon, Early Animator), Mimi Gallagher (Eight), Russell Edling (Cherry, Kite Party), Kian Sorouri (Loose Tooth, Greg Electric), and Sean Hallock (Slow Mass, sean h). Looking is dedicated to Spenser [Spirit Hogans], who passed away last year. A staple of the Philadelphia music scene, Spenser was such a beloved member of the community. A month-long Lame-O Records residency at Boot and Saddle in January turned into a celebration of Spenser’s life, each show packed and emotional and full of communal joy and sorrow. In a year where live music has ceased to exist, Cave People’s performance for Spenser remains such a memorable and moving part of this year.
Browse our Best of 2020 tag for more year-end lists.