Much of 2020 was awful but the new music released in this Year of Endless Sorrows™ wasn’t. To celebrate, rather than posting one single article about the year in music, I’m going to post a new piece each day this week. Monday through Thursday will cover my four favorite albums of the year and Friday will provide a list of additional new releases that I’ve enjoyed in 2020, a year that—despite one or two really great moments—can go ahead and just end already.
Generator | Under My Influence | Marigold | American Fail | The Best of the Rest
Generator — Vasudeva
A lot of the experience of being a dad during the first year or so, for me at least, was defined by being Not Mom. My wife carried our children and delivered them and then fed and cared for them upon their arrival. While I love my children unreservedly and did my best to be a partner in meeting their needs, there simply were a lot of things that I could not do for them during those first months, not to mention the long process that got us to that point. And so, for a time, it became very easy to define my fatherhood not by the things that I was able to do for our kids but rather by what I couldn’t. By being Not Mom. But in the last year or so, much of that has changed.
After my son turned one and we weaned him off of breastfeeding, the scope of my utility increased dramatically. For the better part of a year, I woke up with him every morning and we spent the wee hours of the day together while my wife tried to catch up on some much needed sleep. For all the bleary-eyed grogginess that comes with them, those early mornings with my son have meant a lot to me. (It’s worth admitting that I have often been too tired to appreciate that importance in the moment.)
There’s peace in the quiet of the morning, at least for a little while. But I am one of those people who goes stir crazy if too much time passes without music playing in the background and so those early hours were often soundtracked, though choosing the proper album was always a challenge. Anything too slow-moving would only drive me into the sleep I was fighting off and, as everyone who’s dragged themselves out of bed several hours before they wanted to can attest, anything too energetic was literally offensive to my senses. The middle ground that I settled on last year mostly consisted of a heavy diet of Tycho. This spring, at Generator‘s April release, Vasudeva stole that listening real estate. They haven’t yet given it up.
Generator is Vasudeva’s third LP and the record showcases significant development from the New Jersey trio. Vasudeva have long understood the importance of melody in a way that few instrumental acts do—“Tuxford Fall” remains an absolute gem largely for this reason—and Generator takes that understanding, deepens it, and then layers it over the richest sonic atmospheres that the band has created so far. Each song on Generator is crisp and bristling with kinetic potential, from the energetic outro of “On the Up” to the august and piano-heavy “Stockmar.” The best parts of what Vasudeva have been are elevated on Generator, supplemented by new stylistic wrinkles. This is, clearly and plainly, the band’s best album and one of the genre’s best in recent memory.
Now that my son is old enough to talk to me, we spend those early mornings joking in the way that toddlers joke. He points at me and says his name then points at himself and says “Dada”, smirking at the obvious backwardness of it all. I pretend to take a bite of his graham cracker and he chuckles with pure, unrestrained laughter. These are little things, the details washed away by the early hour and the daily repetition. But they are dear to me. I want to remember them. And when I listen to Generator, in all its beauty and energy, I do.
[To maintain transparency, please note that Generator was produced and mixed by friend of the blog Kevin Dye.]