Released by Brandeis University’s very own April Ginns ’21 and Maya Kattler-Gold ’21 (vocals), Gavin McIsaac ’20 (guitar, keys, synth), Chami Lamelas ’22 (guitar) and Sam Stern ’20 (drums), the album “Homegrown Sprouts” is composed of hopeful songs that mesh well with the overall mood of 2021 thus far. This album features an impressive range of sounds, from the ambient laughter in the background of some tracks to the smooth guitar, drums and synth. In just the span of 25 minutes, this album provides and invokes a mix of confusion and relief in reflecting the past year.
Perhaps no song really captures this overall mood more than the opening track “2020,” which is one of my favorites. The song opens with quiet vocals, as though one’s listening to someone singing from the room over. If you’ve ever lain awake listening to your friend quietly hum to something because they’re afraid to disturb others, then you’ll know what I’m talking about. The vocals are comforting in this sense though, and they’re fitting with reflective and conflicted lyrics like “in some way, it’s reassuring to know there’s bigger than your own” and “you know that I’ve been hurting … just take my genuine human connection to go.” Appropriately titled after the year 2020 itself, this opening track sets a solid mood for the overall tone of the album, speaking to both the tentative uncertainty that comes with some form of settling after an unstable time.
Another favorite of this album is “California Song,” which revolves around memories of living in a place that you might not really like, but the company makes things at least a little worth it. Because of these complicated feelings, this song makes for a compelling and bittersweet mix of nostalgia and longing. The dreamy synths and the guitar in the background evoke images of walking near the ocean, just as the lyrics recall, “sometimes I smell the salt of the bay, and it reminds me of that day.” The instrumentals are notably constant during this whole song, almost as though the artist themselves are still caught in a loop of their California memories, culminating into the final lyric: “all I really want is to get the hell out of California.” The continuing loop of instrumentals eventually fades, and the little note at the end—a short twang of a guitar—concludes the song abruptly, but in a way that is reminiscent of someone deciding that there is now no longer a story worth discussing in these memories.
“Homegrown Sprouts” concludes with another short number, this one called “A Letter to You,” which is a happy-sounding piece, all the while capturing the very familiar clutter of thoughts that comes with entering a new phase of life. Accompanied by ukulele and cello, there’s something cheerful but also just a little bit rambly about this piece, but the ramble only adds onto the overall charm of the song. With relatable lyrics like “you’re stuck down south in Florida, and I’m stuck in my bed” and “my whole existence, a concept based off a book I just read,” this song is full of quirky quips that make the listener feel like they’re catching up with an old friend. While the risk with certain types of rambly-esque songs is that they can seem a bit repetitive or long-winded, this more rushed, scatterbrained nature of the lyrics eventually slows into a sweet ending: “I’m yours either way.” This more confident sound is a nice contrast to the tentative opening track, adding a much more cohesive and sophisticated feel to the album as a whole.
Overall, just as this song is a lovely way to bookend the album, this album is a lovely way to bookend the last few months of 2021. There are definitely nods and allusions to the frustrations that come with the frozen year that was 2020 and early 2021, and while the album doesn’t shy away from all those complicated feelings, it still looks forward to brighter, hopefully happier days ahead—which, honestly, sounds like a good plan.