An “Anti-Quarantine Album”
In the future, the “quarantine album” will be seen as a trademark of the music industry in 2020. Due to the shutdown of live entertainment, many musicians were forced to stay home. For those with the means to produce and record, this led to the creation of DIY music. Plenty of time meant musicians could explore their creativity in a strange world. Thus, quarantine albums were born. Essential, the sixth full-length album from indie rock artist, Tuesday X, was not among them.
“Once everything started shutting down and everyone went into isolation to avoid spreading the virus, I found myself still working full time at an essential job,” Seth Babbitt, the mastermind behind Tuesday X, reveals. “Despite not having the opportunity to stay home and make a ‘quarantine album,’ I still came to music in my rare free time. I made what I like to refer to as my ‘anti-quarantine album.’ The title, Essential, refers to people like me who had to stay calm and keep business going while everything else was shutting down. Much of that stress is reflected in this album. I hope people can relate to much of what is said in these songs.”
One of the very first artists I reviewed back in 2019, Tuesday X is primarily a solo studio project with Seth Babbitt handling vocals, instrumentation, production, artwork, and more. The “midwestern bedroom rock” project began in 2015, and has since released five full-length albums, two EPs, one compilation album, and a handful of singles.
A Pandemic Debut
Now, Tuesday X’s latest release, Essential, brings introspection in a time of political and social unrest. The album debuted on July 14, 2020, during the heart of the Pandemic.
“Jet Fuel Can’t Melt Steel Beams” is the first track of Essential. It grabs its listeners’ attention immediately: “The best way to get your attention was to start with a title that had nothing to do with this song / I won’t get political, but I’ll do what I can to string you all along / If you’re still listening, I’m glad you stuck around.” Bright acoustic guitar and spacey vocals contrast with the mention of “a Californian forest fire,” “civil war,” and “corporate giants,” hinting at many of the perils found in 2020 in an appropriately off-kilter track.
“The Only Difference Between You and Me is a Sense of Apathy and Your Brand New Nikes” begins with light guitar tones, percussion entering along with spoken word-style vocals in the background as the intensity builds. At the entrance of vocals, the track discusses the political climate in the United States, urging third parties to take the stage so “sh*t can change.” Timely for 2020, the track continues building on the album’s themes of political, personal, and introspective discussion.
“Blame it on the Elves” is a bouncy instrumental piece that features snappy percussion, twinkling piano, and a 20’s speakeasy feel. Its 1:51 running time is perfect to break up the album’s first third, serving as a palate cleanse for the ears in between heavier, longer pieces.
“Class of Droputs” takes on a more rock-based feel with heavier, faster instrumentals in contrast to the previous track’s lighter touch. The track, in classic-rock fashion, discusses the perils of school when one feels they don’t belong among the unfortunately traditional bullies, uptight teachers, and meaningless drama.
Storytelling as the focus
Light acoustic guitar strumming brings “Polaroids on my Bulletin Board” into focus. The longest track of the album at seven minutes and twenty four seconds, “Polaroids” has plenty of time to build up to the introduction of vocals with upbeat, bright and light tones that comfortably fill its sound space. The song’s lyrics showcase a feeling of listlessness that many of us are experiencing amid the COVID-19 Pandemic: “Live by captured moments now just Polaroids in my wallet / Loving faces I don’t want to forget just yet / I’m living on my borrowed time / Sometimes I wish I weren’t alive /Leave me alone, I just wanted to stay home / I feel dead inside.” Unfortunately relatable in many ways, “Polaroids” showcases its emotion within its written lyrics and passionate vocal delivery.
“Labradoodle Underpass” features a twangy tone and showcases Tuesday X’s storytelling ability: “Ten minutes and I’m ready to go / I’ve been waiting four months to see this show that has all of my friends and favorite bands / I might never get a chance to do it again / I spent all my time at work and the rest at home / No matter where I’m at I still feel alone.” Continuing on themes of loneliness and growing pains, “Labradoodle Underpass” utilizes pleasing repetition patterns in its lyrics (“Three–Five–Ten—Twelve–years”) echoed in the instrumentals.
“Some Sh*t” is a groovy, ambient track that’s perfect to chill out to. Light cymbal work and wavering instrumentals set the tone for the lyrics, which illustrate Tuesday X’s storytelling and characterization skills beautifully: “Hey you on your skateboard, do you go everywhere? / Your car got a flat and you can’t afford a spare / Hope you don’t eat sh*t on the pavement / It’s a hard fall down, don’t try to embrace it.”
“Woe is the World” is a lilting fifty-seven second snippet lamentation. Simple in language, the track expresses itself through vocal inflections added to the lyrics, which tell a story of a personal dystopia: “You’ll try and try, now the time has come that I have found / The words to bring you back around / And woe is your life, has it sunk in your head? All the people you’ve cared for, to you they’re all dead / You’ve never felt more alone than you do now / Was everything worth it in the end?”
Hindsight Really is 2020
“Then Why Was it Named Gideon?” is a love song to the people who are there for us, even in the darkest of times, but maybe not in the ways we expect. Again, Tuesday X blends beautiful storytelling with exceptional use of voice in the lyrics, their emotion echoed in the steady, distorted instrumentals.
“I am Here, I’m Looking at Her, and She is Beautiful” is my favorite track of the album in terms of storytelling. The story within the lyrics really takes the center stage, subdued instrumentals continuing on the musical themes of previous tracks, even during its slow falling-apart moments. The instrumentals and vocals themselves follow the same tone as the events of the lyrics, creating tangible imagery.
“Try to be a Filter, Not a Sponge” is about the people in our lives who don’t really understand us. The track is full of voice and personality, the emotion flowing through the vocals as much as the story within the lyrics:She gave back my mixtape / She said it was morbidly sad and bleak / How should I have known whatever that was supposed to mean? / She called my favorite book washed out trash / Said I have no taste and I’m still too sad.”
“Lavender Spray Bottle” is another well-placed instrumental. Its bright, clear tones increase in volume, energetic percussion driving every chiming note.
“Hindsight is 2020” tells the story of a failing relationship. The speaker, filled with sorrow at the state of their current life, “Isn’t happy anymore.” Still, they find light in their significant other despite the fact that their lover is “getting bored.” A melancholy tribute to the lesser-spoken about struggles in life, “Hindsight” is a cleverly-titled track that is well-placed in the album.
The Album Comes to a Close
“I Don’t Know How to Deal With Serious Emotions Without Turning Them Into a F*ing Joke” is simple in its lyrics despite a four minute running time. The lyrics themselves aren’t much longer than the title:
“Was that a joke? / Be real with me now. I’m trying to be serious, there’s no time for sarcasm right now. / Are you sure? / I don’t know how to be happy. / Don’t love myself enough these days /Take care of your mind, it’s an easy thing to lose / And I’m running out of time / I’m running out of time. / All these serious emotions, all these devastating thoughts. / All these places, All these people / What have we all become? It’s so hard I’m so scared, what have I become?” The introspective nature of the track allows for big, airy gaps in the instrumentals and lyrics. The song’s free-flowing nature so we can muse along with Tuesday X.
“Say Hello to my Little Friend” is the final instrumental of Essential. Much like the previous instrumental tracks, its glowing tones rise and fall, serving as an interlude to reflect on the rest of the album as it comes to a close.
“Minneapolis” is “an example of the emotional introspection” in Seth’s music. The track “laments life in southern Minnesota…with mixed feelings of nostalgia and melancholy.” To Seth Babbitt, “Minnesota was a second home…. Most of my family lived either in Rochester, or around the twin cities, and Minneapolis was the first real city I ever knew as a youth. The song can be a bit satirical at times, but at heart it’s a sentiment of part of my childhood.”
“Before the Sunrise” is the final song of Essential. With the ending of the album comes a continuation of its themes of loneliness and discussions of relationships, but also hope: “Maybe one day I’ll find some confidence and stride / And I’ll listen to you like you always want me to / I find it hard to visualize what I would do without you / The cycle ends until the sunrises again / You’re my best friend.”
Reflecting on Essential, Tuesday X finds that “This album came about as a way to reflect on these ever-changing situations. The one thing I’ve learned since this all started was to expect the unexpected and take everything with grace. Essential is my relief between working a full time job and trying to stay calm when everyone is constantly stressed out and unsure of what the future is doing to look like.”
Tuesday X would like to give “special thanks to my friends and family for keeping me sane and supporting me through these hard times, and to all of the essential workers putting their lives on the line through this crazy year. “
Connect with Tuesday X:
Want to hear more from Tuesday X? Check out Tuesday X Talks New Tunes and Industry News!