Albums of the Year 2020

Compiling music lists is always a nice way to reflect on a year, so in keeping with tradition, here are my favourite records from 2020.

This year I’ve narrowed it down 10 and there is little between them to be honest. Recommendations from readers will be greatly welcomed.

10.Whyte Horses – ‘Hard Times’

Manchester psych-pop outfit Whyte Horses’ latest endeavor continues on from where 2018’s ‘Empty Words’, as they whisk us off to a land of blissful, dreamy psychedelia, sounding both familiar yet fresh. Ostensibly feeling like a mutating shape-shifting pop art project, ‘Hard Times’ feels like a mixtape with a difference. It isn’t just simply selecting tracks, choosing the running order, but  recording and producing a selection of much-loved songs while rounding up some of your favorite artists into the bargain. Sound like fun? That’s exactly what Whyte Horses have pulled off on their third record.

Listen in full here.

09. Aoife Nessa Frances – ‘Land of No Junction’

Aoife Nessa Frances’ debut album ‘Land of No Junction’ draws from an eclectic array of influences – ’60s psych-pop, offbeat folk, orchestral flourishes and flair for avant-garde – which sounds familiar yet fresh, as it meanders through ever shifting scenery that blurs the lines between dreams and reality. Frances’ smoky vocal is a constant and gripping, and no matter the ever changing environs –  waltzing beats, undulating groove,  rippling guitar lines, hypnotic organ hums or swirling psych or hazy blanket of fuzz – it is a voice that shines like a lighthouse amid a dense bank of fog. Land of No Junction is a serene, hypnotic and stunning debut (and one that could have been called Llandudno Junction). 

Listen in full here.

08. Khruangbin – ‘Mordechai’ 

Texan trio Khruangbin – Laura Lee Ochoa (bass), Mark Speer (guitar), and Donald “DJ” Johnson (drums) – are peerless sonic sorcerers and funky force of nature. Borrowing from a world of influences, theirs, and indeed third album  ‘Mordechai’,  is a colourful coming together of different sound, genres, cultures and era; there is funk, soul and hip hop, some Latin, Middle Eastern and Asian influences and a whole lot of beautiful psychedelia. It is an intoxicating brew, built on seductive grooves and mostly cool, calm and chilled vibes, offering either a zen-like sense of peace or funky, hypnotic groovy seduction – or a coming together of both. This is super chill, beautifully addictive and mellow, ‘Moredechai’ is a record to watch the sun go down.

Listen in full here.

07. Silverbacks – ‘Fad’

Irish post-punk outfit Silverbacks long-awaited debut album was worth the wait. Having patiently building a rep with superb single after superb single, there wasn’t too much doubt that ‘Fad’ would live up to its billing. Unspooling the ingredients of their sound is tough; there are touches of post-punk, art-rock, new wave and 90s indie to name but a few as tracks, built around a motorik rhythm and taut groove, rush past with a whirlwind of shifting multi-sensory sound as triple guitars attack. Lyrics are multi-layered and uniquely Silverbacks. There’s is a sound comparable to a place where parts Talking Heads, Television, LCD Soundsystem and Gang of Four can all coexist and flourish. A debut to remember.

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MÊL – ‘Cusco’

‘Cusco’ is the third single from Welsh outfit MÊL and marks their move from being collaborators to a fully formed “proper” band; they are Rhodri Owen, Morgan Jones and George Amor with help from Eryl (Pearl) Jones and contributions from musician/producer Llŷr Pari and poet Geraldine Mac Burney.

Inspired by a trip to the Peruvian city of the same name, ‘Cusco’ was recorded in September, as the freshly liberated outfit emerged from lockdown cabin fever, blinking into the sun. A mash of ’60s-leaning-psychedelia, pastoral folk and freewheeling exploration, ‘Cusco’ opens with a sunken bassline and off-kilter groove ushering us into a mystical atmosphere that feels revelatory and transcendent and as it reveals itself, a mesmeric hypnotic pattern emerges for the hushed and withdrawn vocals to thrive. The slowly plodding, off-kilter bass-line wanders at its own pace as if existing in its own space and time while mingling with hazy guitars that meld into the percussion while mumbling of words babble in the background. Taken separately, these components would make little sense but in tandem they hum sweetly.

‘Cusco’ is a real treat – listen to it below

A.S. Fanning – ‘All Time’

Berlin-based, Dublin-raised, singer/songwriter A.S. Fanning has shared the single ‘All Time’ ahead of the release of new album ‘You Should Go Mad’ on 13 November via Proper Octopus Records.

It is the follow up to Fanning’s 2017 solo debut Second Life and ‘All Time’ indicates a continued evolution of his blend of folk, country and rock & roll, with psych and gothic brushstrokes. Fanning combines these aforementioned sensibilities to create a richly resonant, dark and foreboding backdrop with subtle layers of psychedelic textures and glistening production adding a touch of respite and illumination; illumination for Fanning’s finest attribute, his brilliant songwriting and storytelling abilities, to thrive. His world weary baritone vocal delivers a vivid introspective tale through time and memory for a compelling 7-minutes of rich and powerful emotion.

Listen to ‘All Time’ below now – and You Should Go Mad’ is out on November 13.

Toledo – ‘Challenger’

Brooklyn-based TOLEDO – AKA the pairing of Dan Alvarez and Jordan Dunn –  have kept us well stocked with irresistible, lush and melodic indie-folk delights.

The pair have returned with a new single called ‘Challenger’, which offers yet another delightfully charming slice of understated melodic indie folk sound. ‘Challenger’ is a woozy and heartfelt jam that wanders, chilled & relaxed, song a meandering groove as subtle bassline bubbles beneath a sea of warm shimmering tones and bright dreamy guitars while soft melodic vocals purr breathily above. It builds and builds, slowly and steadily to climax with a rich swell of organ and heart melting emotional pull with its tender vocal imbued and pang of melancholy. ‘Challenger’ is rich and dreamy, and brimming with sweetness and charm, and bewitching us in the process.

Listen to ‘Challenger’ below now – as per usual, TOLEDO don’t disappoint.

ASTER – ‘Unaware Bliss’

ASTER is a singer, songwriter and musician from Glasgow.

Drawing from a deep well of folk, psych, pop and subtle electronica influences, ranging from  the likes of Big Thief, Perfume Genius and Half Waif, ASTER crafts a unique brand of beautiful, expansive, fragile and experimental psych-folk; something born out on new stunning single ‘Unaware Bliss’. It is an exquisite psych-folk daydreamer that whisks us away on a dreamy meditative journey. ‘Unaware Bliss’ meanders gracefully along a blissful groove and swirling, rhythmic psych-folk, and splashes of electronics complete the mesmeric backdrop for ASTER’s bewitching crystalline vocals entrance the listener completely. An elegant, awe-inspiring and charming blend of shimmering psych-folk and glistening electronica – a hazy, soothing and altogether wonderful song.

Listen to ‘Unaware Bliss’ below.

Simen Mitlid – ‘While Heaven Is on Fire’

Norwegian singer-songwriter Simen Mitlid will release his third album – Birds – on October 30, 2020.

Hailing from the woodlands of Os, Mitlidhas a proven a precocious talent for lush, dreamy indie-folk; emphasised by two sublime albums – 2017’s Everything is the Same & 2019’s Neutral.

With the new album’s release not far on the horizon, Mitlid has shared ‘While Heaven Is on Fire’ – a fourth single taken from the forthcoming LP. While previous tasters ‘Weeks’, ‘Birds’ & ‘Murders’ resided in a more traditional folk avenue, ‘While Heaven Is on Fire’ ventures into more electronic territory as rich vocals effects soar above grandiose sweeping strings, gentle strum and warm folk sounds An intricately crafted and sincere, serene and tender indie-folk ballad brimming with heartfelt and tender emotion. Yet another reason to look forward to the release of album #3.

Listen to ‘While Heaven Is on Fire’ below – and if you haven’t already, please check out the previous records.

ONBC – ‘A New England’

Billy Bragg’s ‘A New England’ is not only a stone cold classic but it also happens to be an all time favourite track.

It’s fair to assume that many hold it in similarly high esteem and ‘A New England’ has been well covered by artists over the years but you will be hard pushed to find better than this one by Danish outfit, ONBC (maybe that of Kirsty MacColl). It is one of covers that will make up a new EP, Forty Thousand Tears, out on September 18. Their take on ‘A New England’ is in keeping with their penchant for indie-pop, shoegaze, sadcore and lo-fi country; it is a slowly undulating sliver of dreamy tones and woozy vibes as lush, breathy vocals float elegantly above the ethereal hazy backdrop.It is a simply stunning re-imagining of the rough, raw and stripped back original rendition.

Listen to ‘A New England’ below and keep an eye out for the EP in September. 


Holly Tomás – ‘Unfolded’

Holly Tomás is a musician / singer songwriter based in the Lowlands of Scotland. Originally from Cheshire by way of the Isle of Skye and Edinburgh, Tomás has been plying her craft from the past three decades in which she has traversed a more traditional singer/songwriter approach to recent incarnations which retain the emotional, intimate vocal textures and are woven into downtempo atmospheric soundscapes.

New single ‘Unfolded’ is a perfect example of the latter; a bewitching and ethereal affair, it unfolds slowly, gently introducing itself as bass murmurs, beats slowly groove and hazy dreamlike textures and atmospheric tones swirl all around Tomás’ beautiful and evocative vocals. ‘Unfolded’ is hauntingly evocative and thrillingly propulsive, evoking moods from melancholy to optimism – impeccably crafted and utterly captivating.

Listen to ‘Unfolded’ below:

Simen Mitlid – ‘Murders’

Simen Mitlid is a Norwegian singer-songwriter hailing from the woodlands of Os, has a proven himself a precocious talent for lush, dreamy indie-folk; a statement given great clout by two sublime albums – 2017’s Everything is the Same & 2019’s Neutral.

And not long since ushering the latter into the world, Mitlid is back with delectable offerings from a forthcoming new album Birds. Mitlid shared the beautiful ‘Weeks’ and gorgeous title track, ‘Birds’ earlier this year and now it is the turn of ‘Murders’. It is another carefully crafted and sincere indie-folk ballad. Mitlid’s lilting vocals, serene and tender, rise gracefully above the softly plucked guitar, twinkly tones and gushing haze. It is yet another charming, heartwarming and utterly bewitching slice of indie-folk – Mitlid’s calling card.

Listen to ‘Murders’ below and the new album is expected in the Autumn.

Eoin Dolan – ‘June Hope’

Whenever Galway musician and singer-songwriter Eoin Dolan, one of Ireland’s finest talents as it goes, releases new material it is a great day.

Following on from last year’s Commander of Sapiens – Dolan’s third album to date – new EP June Hope is a gentle, carefully crafted collection of psych-inflected indie-pop. Dolan has a remarkable ability for crafting sci-fi-tinged surf pop, marrying heartbreaking melodies and gentle instrumentation, sadness with beauty and interstellar psych-pop exploration – and this signature sound is all over ‘June Hope’. Breezy, light and thoughtful, it charts a journey from youth to young adulthood through the prism of seasonal change. It is woozy and dreamy as it drifts along a gently waltzing groove flanked by Dolan’s breezy air and twinkly guitar, while radiating a sense of hopeful optimism. As always, Dolan has delivered an absolute treasure.

Listen to the single below and check out the David Boland aka New Pope crafted video – the EP is here too.