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.

Listen in full here.

06. Cornershop – ‘England is a Garden’

Now into their third decade, Cornershop’s latest album stands as a testament to their lasting but often-underappreciated magic. England is a Garden is a beautiful and meticulously crafted record as we take a playful and ramshackle wander through Seventies glam, stoner rock, folk, 60s psych and pop backed by the blissful synthesis of Eastern arrangements, beautiful melodies and that Cornershop trademark groove – and their politics are never far away either. A real joy and treasure.

Listen in full here.

05. Pictish Trail – ‘Thumb World’

A devoutly DIY artist, Pictish Trail (aka Johnny Lynch) is a real treasure. From his base on the Isle of Eigg in the Inner Hebrides, Lynch embraces his independent spirit and allows his imagination to run wild, crafting wonderful and life affirming electro-acoustic psych-pop. ‘Thumb World’ is arguably Lynch’s most dazzling, exceptional and perfect record yet as his lilting Scottish brogue is placed in ever more interesting, beguiling and beautiful environs. At times melancholic, nostalgic, playful, colourful, and slightly surreal, we’re treated to a beautiful blend of dreamy and understated electronica, left-field folk, hazy psych and trance-like grooves, and draped with seductive melodies. A magnificent, unique and truly beautiful record; ‘Thumb World’ gets a big thumbs up.

Listen in full here.

04. Kelly Lee Owens – ‘Inner Song’

Exploring similar realms of techno-rich electronica that made Kelly Lee Owens debut so wonderful, Inner Song sees the Welsh musician produce another evocative and lavish record, and most dynamically-expansive music yet. Owens finds a perfect balance between club-ready beats, raw, honest lyricism and ethereal escapism – and brought her vocals to the fore, they are as confident and captivating as her beats. The essence of the record can be found in second track ‘On’. An introspective tone weaves with ethereal, choral-esque vibes, somewhere between dream pop and trip-hop before Owens’ melancholy becomes washed away as the pulsing techno production intensifies. A stunning follow-up to a flawless debut.

Listen in full here.

03. Run the Jewels – ‘RTJ4’

Killer Mike and El-P always trade in dazzlingly intricate verses filled with alliteration over inventive and propulsive productions, but RTJ4 trims the fat, delivering their hardest hitting tracks yet, without compromising their hard-fought authenticity. RTJ4 offers some of their hardest hitting jams and clever one-liners yet, and not to mention the most incisive critiques of police violence, abuses of power, and the ills of capitalism. RTJ4 doesn’t reinvent their sound or change the message, instead it is Killer Mike and El-P’s most potent, well-delivered work. This is Run the Jewels’ best album to date; flawless and explosive. 

Listen in full here.

02. Winter – ‘Endless Space (Between You & I)’

Winter is LA-based Brazilian artist Samira Winter, who has been bestowing gorgeous woozy cuts of shoegaze and dream pop perfection since her 2015 debut but 2020’s Endless Space (Between You & I) is Winter’s most ambitious and diverse record to date. It sees Winter’s flair and affinity for dream-pop pushed to new and exciting levels, and more experimental, spaced-out zones of hazy psych-pop. The LP is a warm and intimate technicolour daydream with an otherworldly aura, as these and Winter’s mellifluous voice are cast into a shifting series of settings. Striking a perfect balance between pop and the psychedelic, it is the combination of flickering whispers of psych, ebullient synths, sumptuous melodies, undulating grooves and bleary dance vibes. At times everything is covered with a heavy blanket of reverb and fuzz, while others are a gentle whirlpool of shimmering psychedelic dream-pop, and others are ignited by burning guitars and wall of sound shoegaze sonics. Magical sonic exploration to the outer reaches of your mind.

Listen in full here.

01. Seazoo – ‘Joy’

Welsh indie-pop maestros Seazoo never cease to amaze with their colourful confection of effervescent indie-pop brilliance. 2020 saw the five-piece return with album number two, ‘Joy’, and as the name suggests, happiness in a bottle, thirty minutes of fantastic fizzy feel-good indie pop. Opening track ‘The Pleasure’ sets the tone for what is to follow. It is giddy, quirky and fun, and bursting with exuberance as it fizzes along with lively guitars whizzing around addictive melodies and splashes of colourful synths, and sweet, charming and melodic vocals. There is a real light, warmth and positivity to ‘Joy’. It is sweet, charming and bursting with contagious pop goodness and hooks you could hang your hat on, that’ll have you bopping around the house. The brightness, energy, escapism and sheer joy, this is the sound of a band becoming masters of tight, peppy and irresistible pop. If there was ever a tonic for the darker moments of 2020 – this is it.

Listen in full here.

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