Best Surprise Album of 2020

Review of Jeff Rosenstock’s album, No Dream.

Best Surprise Album of 2020

Matthew Lee, Staff Writer - The Mustang Messenger

Jeff Rosenstock’s NO DREAM was one of the saving graces of 2020. Each track contributed something new in their own way to the album and made it feel whole. Rosenstock actually released NO DREAM two months earlier in May than what was planned in July. According to an interview of Rosenstock held by Matt Burdick, Jeff released the album early because of the recent outbreak of Covid-19 and by dropping a surprise release, he felt like “it was nice to do something that felt like it was not an extra thing bringing doom and dread into the world”. Shortly after the album dropped, like his former album Post- (2018), fans were ecstatic about the new record. Compared to other works of Jeff Rosenstock, NO DREAM was a similar, but fairly mastered art; the genres are Punk rock and Power pop. Like in his other albums, such as WORRY. (2016), all of the (13) tracks flow into one another from the opening song NO TIME to the finishing Ohio Tpke. 

NO TIME was the first and shortest track on NO DREAM and it was a great opening. The beginning minute of this 40-minute album was a perfect and pumped-up start to the media you’re about to take in. 

When you wake, does it feel like you have a purpose?

When you wake, does it feel like you had a purpose all along?”

Despite it being an upbeat, exciting starting point to the album, in the lyrics, Jeff touched on how difficult it is to achieve great things and find a purpose whilst not having one while doing so. The song really makes the listener think. If you ever achieved everything you’ve ever worked for, would you be happy? Or would you just look for another purpose? This, repeating, over and over in a cycle until the day you die.


I didn’t have the time

I didn’t have the time

I didn’t have the time

I didn’t have the time

I didn’t have-”


The last few lines of the song were a common excuse repeated until the song is cut off. “I didn’t have the time” really says it all. If you keep avoiding the truth, of life, you will end up not accomplishing anything, the purpose you searched for was always right there in reach, but you could never muster up the courage to grab it. You had your time. The song was extremely thoughtful and rather depressing. Again, this track was an amazing beginning, it sure got me prepared for what was next.

Speaking of dark themes, N O D R E A M was the title and fourth track of the album. The song recalled Jeff and an unnamed person’s initial reaction to recent protests at the time, while somewhat turning into a protest itself.


They were picking up the bodies on TV

When I caught a reflection of you and me

Staring back at us while frozen on the screen

Crank the white noise and pretend that we’re asleep

That we’re asleep, dream, dream, dream, dream”


This was Jeff’s way of coping. Instead of coming to terms with reality, Jeff turned up the white noise, averted his attention away from the TV, and pretended to dream.


“Nothing more to see here, y’all

Good night, start heading towards the exit

Nothing more to see here, y’all

Good night, start heading towards the exit

Nothing more to see here, y’all

Good night, start heading towards the exit

Nothing more to see here, y’all

Good night, start heading towards the exit”


As the song went on, Jeff continued on about how people are dying under the umbrella that it was “protecting you and me”. So many people are dying because of absurd reasons and not the ones officials are telling us. The musical part of the song at first is somber, but then kicks into a fast-paced, breakneck song and then calms more down as the song ends. This track is solemn, depressing or just another rock song to jam out to. It’s up to the listener to decide. In all, this song was made with a ton of care, and you can tell this was something Jeff was passionate about.

The Beauty Of Breathing was the eighth track of the album. This was one of the more relatable songs on the album as I’m sure many of us can relate to exhaustion and/or unnecessary thoughts.

“I walk outside and people say, “Hey!”

And sometimes I just wanna say

“Hey, go away, go away”

So I guess I better stay inside”


The lines here were a little more direct than other tracks on the album. The track was about Jeff’s life getting more and more exhausting to the point where he decided it was best to not go outside to avoid human interaction. Earlier in the song, Jeff built up these lyrics by regarding his problems and how he couldn’t muster up the resolve to really try to change it, so he’d distanced himself from others.


I’ve read that if you just sit in a chair and think

Of focusing your nervous energy

On the beauty of breathing

You could live a life on real tranquility

But I just thought of every stupid thing

That’s been keeping me from sleeping”


Here, Jeff went on over how according to something he read, you could live a life of peace by focusing on your breathing. After trying, he realized he could not due to unnecessary thoughts that came up, thoughts that he did not want to come up. The lines are definitely something anyone could relate to or could have related to at any moment in their life, no one is free from their brain. 


“I close my eyes and it won’t go away

I plug my ears but they’re ringing out

“Hey, hey, hey” 

Not only this track, but the album in general, like Nikes (Alt), the second track, or ***BNB, the tenth track, tended to touch on unnecessary thoughts clouding things such as enjoying hobbies or decision making.

Despite the album being great, there were some tracks that fell short in this album like Monday At The Beach, the eleventh track, which was a super short song at 0:56.


“I don’t know if it will take four hours there and back by train

I  don’t know if the whole wide world is gonna end while I’m away

I  don’t know if I deserve to go”


 These lines were in the first half of the song and were in regard to Jeff’s trip to the beach alone he took in an attempt to try and distract himself. This is something that should’ve been explored more as it was a very unique event that happened in his life and this could’ve added a whole lot more to the album’s theme and message than State Line, the fifth track which is 2:59.


“But it’s a Monday at the beach

Monday  at the beach

Monday at the beach

Monday at the beach”


The second half of the song, other than being super catchy, is nothing much. It’s just Jeff telling you what day he went to the beach on. This could’ve been a lot more, but it was great as an intermission to Honeymoon Ashtray, the next and twelfth track.

NO DREAM in general, without looking into it, was just a fantastic Punk rock and Power pop album. If you enjoy these genres then listen to this album! If you also enjoy diving deep down into lyrics and finding the true meaning behind each song you listen to, then this would also be a great listen for you. In all, I’ve listened to this album many times on many different occasions and sometimes in streaks. It’s very addictive to listen to and can provide assurance to people who may deal with the same problems Jeff has, to let them know they are not alone. NO DREAM by Jeff Rosenstock is a nine out of ten (9/10).