Ryan Ensley Credit: Courtesy the Artist

In the bad bad not good year that was 2020, optimism often felt as plausible as a unicorn. That’s a big part of why the recent second album from Sonny Falls, All That Has Come Apart / Once Did Not Exist (Plastic Miracles), lands so heavily. Ryan “Hoagie Wesley” Ensley, main man of this rugged Chicago indie-rock band, delivers its lumbering anthems as though through clenched jaws, with the haggard, workmanlike demeanor of someone who’s seen pieces of his life disappear. His plainspoken lyrics address economic insecurity, drug abuse, and death in diaristic detail, and his unruffled delivery gives the songs a blunt charm. On the slowly blossoming “Plasma Kids (Trailer, Alley, Strip Mall),” Ensley accompanies resounding keys and sweeping violins with stories of a youth spent among damaged relatives, boarded-up apartments, and drunks with bad facial tattoos; his yearning vocals instill this sad, bleak song with a hard-won hope that suggests he’ll be able to find happiness on his own terms.   v