The 2021 White Sox have released a nearly perfect album thus far through the middle of September. The tracks themselves are eclectic and engaging. Impressive storytelling combined with the personalities of the band members themselves garners the full attention of their audience, creating an endless desire for what is next.
The album is 162 tracks in length, with bonus material coming later this fall. Each song features unsuspecting highlights and showcases the growth of the players, both as individuals and as a collective unit.
Everything started when the Vice President of the White Sox record label Rick Hahn made a bold move, bringing Hall of Fame Producer Tony La Russa on to manage the project. He hasn’t recorded any acts in a decade, but the Grammy Award Winner knew this band was worth coming out of retirement to work with. While sometimes bumpy and contentious, the experience of La Russa has mixed with the youth of the members, vaulting them to new heights.
The home opening track features a 485-foot Yermin Mercedes guitar solo. The tone, like the man, is large and crushing. Yermin is only one of the surprises on the album, however. Contributions from the brass section comprised of Brian Goodwin, Billy Hamilton, Gavin Sheets, Michael Kopech, and Reynaldo Lopez cannot be overlooked.
Guitarist Eloy Jimenez shines in his injury-limited role, bringing the joy and charisma expected from a dazzling technical player. His smile can be heard and felt during the section of the album featuring the Chicago Cubs, among others. His bandmates love him, and it shows.
If good looks are your vice, look no further than percussionists Yoan Moncada and Yasmani Grandal. Equipped with stunning smiles and bat-dropping swag, these two add all the spices to the main course through rhythmic syncopation and technical proficiency. What good is an album if you can’t dance to it, right?
The bass guitar performance from Luis Robert remains smooth as silk. Robert provides flash when needed, while always staying in the pocket. He lays down the foundation for the entire band. Injury may have limited his contributions, but the young man made the most of his moments and proved to be an undeniably key member of the outfit.
Drummer Jose Abreu never misses beat one, while always knowing when it is his time to shine in the mix. The reigning MVP continues to prove to everyone that he is the model of consistency, and the model works once again on this record. Whenever a big moment arrives, the powerhouse backbeat of Jose Abreu is there. His tracks in August were among the best performances thus far, as Player of the Month honors once again became a reality.
The assembled choir featuring Lance Lynn, Lucas Giolito, Carlos Rodon, Dylan Cease, and Dallas Keuchel have woven beautiful harmonies to accompany the lead vocal lines, building a soundscape that rivals all other records released this year. Featured only once every five songs, the impact of Lynn and Rodon cannot be overstated. For the majority of the album, Cy Young-caliber performances were what listeners expected from these two.
Growling vocals can be polarizing in the musical community. Don’t tell that to Liam Hendrix, who provides the heaviest of vocal deliveries. The short burst of energy he brings keeps listeners engaged and ready to celebrate another winning track. Cursing is indeed prevalent during his appearances, so parental advisory is strongly advised.
Lastly, lead vocalist Tim Anderson managed to outperform his most recent 2020 contribution. His soaring and riveting melodic style provide endless joy for the listeners. He raises the level of his bandmates and does so as a true bandleader. When Anderson launches the walk-off into the corn to punctuate track 116 the album becomes magical, hitting a clear high-water mark.
The album has not been perfect, however. The latter tracks have not met the quality of the first half, given the ever-changing carousel of performers available. At times, they are underwhelming, not fully engaging in the formula that made the record so special, to begin with. There is no denying that listeners demand more from the band, and I believe the finale will reward those who have joined the group on this epic journey.
The remaining tracks will be released this week. The band generally posts a new song daily, with the occasional off-day sprinkled in. The final track of the record will be released this Sunday, with (hopefully) many bonus tracks to come.
If the 156 tracks released thus far tell us anything, it is that the finale may take us somewhere the band hasn’t led listeners to in a long time. And I, for one, am here for all of it.
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