Here we are once again at the end of the year and reflecting back on another fantastic year of releases. Though 2020 in general has been more downs than ups, it’s certainly been one of my favourite years for exploring music (thanks to lockdown) and I’m glad to say there are many genres represented in this list.
The original idea for this album list was to up last year and include 75 albums. It became a very stressful and time consuming endeavor when considering other commitments. There are plenty of wonderful records that just missed out on being featured such as: Phoebe Bridgers, Grouplove, En Attendant Ana, Gil Scott-Heron, Idris Acakamoor, Loving, Modern Rituals and many more! I hope you enjoy this list. I like to think this is the work that I put the greatest amount of effort into every year. At the end of the piece there is a Spotify playlist featuring the artists you’re about to read about. Happy Holidays and to a better 2021.
50. A.A. Williams – Forever Blue
A sad and soulful voice fills the tracks on Forever Blue, as the instrumentation provides a haunting goth rock mood. The gentle guitars explode into dropped chords for an album that feels deeply emotional. The low bass tones contrast nicely with the roaring high notes and the drum fills feel huge. The unclean vocals manage to not take away the magic and add to the emotion. The solemn pianos on top of everything else make for a moving album.
49. Throwing Muses – Sun Racket
The alt rock legends return with their sickly attractive jangly guitars which are straight out of the 90’s. The bass guitar intertwines throughout the rhythms and the vocals posses this uncomfortable aura that lets me zone out into the band’s dark world. The droning sounds make me sleepy, and the scratchy and whispering vocals have a Thom Yorke quality to them. The guitar work gets gritty and raw and then moves straight into dreamy moments where notes ring out. It has elements of dreampop, grunge and alt rock and its closer, Sue’s really invigorates the mood of the record as the instrumentals play out.
48. Woods – Strange To Explain
The psych/folk rockers present melancholy topics with dreamy vocals and haunting synthesizers. The falsetto vocal range gives me an upbeat feeling, even when the song itself doesn’t reflect that. There’s moments on Strange To Explain where I feel like I’m going round in circles, but the latter half of the record is a lot more straightforward and more folk-focused. The acoustics are relaxing, but the closing track Weekend Wind is an exciting ensemble of instruments, with the addition of brass to the fold of guitars and drums.
47. STRFKR – Future Past Life
It’s another dreamy indie rock album from STRFKR, with some of the finest vocals in psychedelic rock. The whole movement of the album is upbeat and drifts along so easily with its video game-esc synths, bouncing bass and raw guitars. The album pops and bounces and I’m always sad when it comes to an end. I want more!
46. Protomartyr – Ultimate Success Today
Imagine if you will, experimental bending guitars, extra funky bass and soft vocals that all combine to make eerie post-punk. Then you will have this dark new record by Protomartyr. From moody and muddy rhythms to ferocious guitars and galloping drums, there’s a dark atmosphere throughout. It’s a progressive piece that suits these depressing times we’ve had and Protomartyr won’t just stick to one style. They explore their influences of jazz and doom rock and have some moving vocal work.
45. Sports Team – Deep Down Happy
This is indie rock with a balance of raw and overdriven guitars and consistency in its rhythm and vocals. Remember, consistency is key. Deep Down Happy has the sounds of an American indie rock album reminiscing bands such as Parquet Courts, but the cutting edge attitudes hark to Britpop. It feels like it came out years ago, especially with certain subject matter, as the band tackle middle class life. The moment I heard Here’s The Thing prior to the album’s release, I was hooked on the catchy rhythms and shifting guitar patterns. The vocals feel unique for an indie rock album and this fresh six-piece have impressed me.
44. Mong Tong – Mystery 秘神
The Taiwanese psychedelic artists’ mystical and instrumental journey is full of nostalgia, with memories of old video games and 80’s Hong Kong. It feels like you’re in a wonderland with expressive percussion, engorging guitars and a funky bass which feels like it’s taking charge of the album. It’s a very colourful album with a cheeky King Crimson-esc closer and synth-pop, art and visualistion through music have been major influences here.
43. The Districts – You Know I’m Not Going Anywhere
One of the dreamiest openings to an album see Districts enter an atmospheric world with gentle acoustics and delicate harmonies. Hey Jo turns up the pace with an anthemic indie chorus that calls back to classic 2000’s indie tunes. The synth work on this record is relaxing and has a room-filling sound that grabs onto you. There’s catchy guitar-driven moments with poetic conclusions and is an all-round absorbent album. It’s everything you want from a mystical indie record.
42. Ohmme – Fantasize Your Ghost
One of the best musical duos out there keep their voices together tightly as they soar around the tracks. Fantasize Your Ghost remains consistent in tempo and tone throughout, with virtuous guitars getting ever-so grittier as the album progresses. The classic rock guitars and virtuous variety of styles have an element of the avant-garde and Ohmme provide what I can only describe as an album of expressionism.
41. Moses Boyd – Dark Matter
One of this year’s earliest releases is packed full of upbeat jazz, beats and soul with a slick style and creamy saxophone. The guitar work is probably the best jazz guitar I’ve heard all year and adding a little touch of wah to the sound goes a long way for Boyd. The album features bursts of rhythms and samba-esc drumming and the versatility in the instruments make this an album to get lost in. The droning sax and upbeat drums engage for an experimental and entrancing album. One notable mention is the track Shades Of You. So groovy.