Over the course of 2019, Paste has reviewed about 300 albums. Yet, hundreds—if not thousands—of albums have slipped through the cracks. This December, we’re delighted to launch a new series called No Album Left Behind, in which our core team of critics reviews some of their favorite records we may have missed the first time around, looking back at some of the best overlooked releases of 2019.
When life tries to knock you down, either with roadblocks or stagnating anxiety, you have a decision to make. On one hand, you could choose to remain in that dark and suffocating place. Alex Cano, however, powerfully emphasizes the beauty that emerges with choosing a more productive, resilient route on his debut album, Every Rise of the Sun.
Tracks weave into one another with ease, culminating in a singular, cohesive listen. The first song, “Got My Number,” starts off with an exhilarating guitar riff followed by the gentle rattling of a tambourine, easing the listener into the record before heavy-hitting rock drums (played by none other than Cano himself) roll in. It all paints a vivid picture of a visceral moment familiar to most: waking up to the sound of your alarm and pulling yourself out of bed, kickstarting your day with the help of a strong cup of coffee. “I gotta move, yeah / I gotta run, yeah,” Cano later exclaims in the chorus.
It’s natural to want to box artists into specific categories, but it feels almost unfair to put a label on this body of work. For instance, “Asleep at the Wheel” is a headbanger that satisfies an appetite for bona fide alternative rock music, channeling a Nirvana-esque energy. Then there’s the album’s final track, “Two Steps on the Train,” a memorable tune that has “folk rock/country Song of the Summer” written all over it.
Featuring a twangy mandolin contributed by Dan Palese (who plays bass guitar in Cano’s live band), “Two Steps” evokes a feeling of nostalgia, relaying the importance of moving forward in life and following your dreams. When Cano stopped by the Paste New York studio in November for a live session, he explained that the song was inspired by advice given to him by an old friend who has passed away, named Tim Hembrooke. He keeps Tim’s wisdom alive within the lyrics: “You only got this life to live / Till we all go out the same / It ain’t a dress rehearsal kid / You take two steps on the train.”
While each track may boast a different flavor, there’s a consistent and natural flow throughout. Cano’s deep, roaring vocals deliver each line with a familiar passion. On “I’ll Wait,” he proves it’s possible to produce a heartbreaking ballad without going completely soft and delicate. Although much more vulnerable and slower in pace, the rock ‘n’ roll sound still shines through as he croons, “Now the whiskey’s on my breath / Not ready to give up on you / Not just yet”.
“The Bridge” is the album highlight. Featuring mysterious and haunting vocals, it begins decidedly mellow, adding cymbals that give it a whimsical touch. With the sly whisper of a tambourine, the tempo sneakily speeds up and tastefully evolves into a lively rock number. “I know I can’t call on you,” Cano repeatedly sings throughout the chorus with determination and vigor.
The track explores the notion of having your own back before relying on anyone else to save you, a universally relatable and important concept for all to digest. Cano holds his ground, fully embodying self-sustainability in creating an entirely reputable album as an independent artist.