2020 seems to have been one of those years where the whole world seemed absolutely terrible, but we got almost unfathomable amounts of good new music. Way back at the start of March I put out a call on Twitter saying I hadn’t heard a single new album from the year, and got inundated with recommendations, and the new albums haven’t stopped flowing ever since. Not only that, but the quality this year has been absurdly high.
For the last few weeks my twitter feeds have been filled once more with end of year lists crammed full of music I’d not even heard of, even though the playlist I put together with all the new music I’ve listened to this year extends to nearly 2000 songs and nearly 150 hours.
So, why not add to that endless sea of best of’s with my very own top twenty of the year?
1. Spanish Love Songs – Brave Faces Everyone: My album of the year by some clear margin, the joyously raucous nature of its music undercut constantly with narrowly honest lyrics of alienation, addiction, loss of purpose, and grief. If that doesn’t sound much fun I can tell you it absolutely is, a cathartic blast unlike anything I can think of since Handsome’s self-titled debut.
2. Thou – Blessings of the Highest Order: A covers album, at number two? Yep, it’s Louisiana’s favourite bleak sludge metallers covering a range of Nirvana songs with all the weight and heft of a molasses factory. Crushingly heavy, this pays deference to the brilliance of Cobain’s song writing while adding lashings of Thou’s own totemic sound.
3. Greg Puciato – Child Soldier: Creator of God: The ex-Dillinger frontman’s solo album shows every facet of his tastes, as diverse as his extraordinary voice, and shows that there’s very little he can’t pull off, from chillwave electro pop to snarling hardcore. It’ll be fascinating to see what he does over the coming decades.
4. Black Wing – No Moon: The second album by Have a Nice Life’s despondency king Dan Barrett’s electro-gloom side project only came out last week, but it’s so good it secures near top billing on this list.
5. Higher Power – 27 Miles Underwater: Sounding like Snapcase jamming on peak-era Deftones material, Higher Power were always going to tick a lot of my boxes, but while this bathes in mid-90s nostalgia, it does so in a way that’s always looking forward. Really hope that I get to see them at next year’s 2000 Trees.
6. King Buffalo – Dead Star: King Buffalo have been a band that seem to get better with every album, and Dead Star continued that impressive streak. A luxurious spaced-out stone rock odyssey. Incidentally, their four Quarantine Sessions videos, where they played the highlights of each album, is my favourite of all the many quarantine performances I watched over lockdown, and not just because the bassist looks like a young Simon Mayo.
7. All Them Witches – Nothing as the Ideal: After a few albums that were enjoyable enough but never quite hit the heights of their third album, by this, their sixth, they’ve recaptured some of that mojo by paring things back to blues-rock basics.
8. Loathe – I Let It in and It Took Everything: Using metalcore as little more than a base ingredient for a sonic pot that takes in nu-metal, shoegaze, ambient, old school hardcore and much more, Loathe also brought the songs and hooks to round it out. A strikingly confident slice of modern British metal.
9. Emma Ruth Rundle & Thou – May Our Chambers Be Full: A collaboration seemingly designed to tickle my particular taste buds, this didn’t disappoint. The gothic grandeur of Rundle’s voice matched to Thou’s scorched black riffs like two parts of a bleak whole.
10. Pearl Jam – Gigaton: Even after thirty years they’ve still got it. Sure, the glory years are all in the rearviewmirror at this point, but they’re still capable of crafting excellent songs, with the lead single Dance of the Clairvoyants arguably up there with anything they’ve ever written.
Elephant Tree – Habits: Like taking a bath in a sea of fuzz.
Svalbard – When I die, Will I Get Better?: A stunning development by one of British metal’s best.
Elder – Omens: Stone-drenched space prog.
Palm Reader – Sleepless: Fast becoming an essential part of an amazing British scene.
Touche Amore – Lament: Punk rock that pulls on the heartstrings.
Causa Sui – Szabodelico: The sound of a band drifting ever spaceward.
Milk Teeth – Milk Teeth: In March they released a brilliant slice of grungey emo pop, and in September they broke up, in what has to be the most 2020 narrative of any album on the list.
Deftones – Ohms: Again, this never hits the heights of Deftones on full power, but it’s still a fascinating and highly enjoyable listen.
Ohhms – Close: Yet another incredible British metal album, it’s so lovely to see the scene in such rude health, and I can’t wait to start going to gigs again so I can see them all.
Slift – Ummon: A spaced out proggy stoner odyssey unlike any other.