I’ve decided I’m going to retire this blog. I started 2021 with weekly reviews, then after getting behind I thought I might do it monthly, but I’m finding that without a clear challenge like the 366 Albums, 1 Year project, I don’t have the appetite. I’ll keep it online as a journal of my musicalContinue reading “Let’s leave it at that”
Category Archives: Album Reviews 2020
Top 107 Albums of 2020
In a crap year with some great music, albums of 2020 existed in a weird bubble. Especially with political albums, everything felt a bit out of sync and it highlighted how long the process of writing, recording and releasing an album can be.
Album #366: Asian Dub Foundation – Access Denied
I’ve been struggling to decide what album to finish this project with. I felt after this pretty awful year, it should be something that looks towards the future. Inspiration came in the end from the campaign to make the Asian Dub Foundation/Stewart Lee’s song ‘Comin’ Over Here’ number one on the first official Brexit day.
Album #365: Tangerine Dream – Phaedra
The penultimate entry of this project is inspired by the Black Mirror episode Bandersnatch. Phaedra is recommended to the protagonist Stefan by video game creator Colin Ritman, who is unimpressed to hear that Stefan had Thompson Twins’ Into the Gap on his walkman (funnily enough, that album was #48 on here).
Album #364: Heads. – Push
I listened to this one upon its release in May but never got round to a write-up of it.
Album #363: Unwound – Fake Train
I don’t think I’d even heard of Unwound before this year, but I keep seeing them cited as an influence for other bands I’m listening to, so maybe it’s time I gave them a go. I’ve also learned that their bassist Vern Rumsey sadly died this year.
Album #362: Deep Sea Diver – Impossible Weight
Released in October, Deep Sea Diver’s third album Impossible Weight has been listed as KEXP listeners’ album of the year. It’s the only one of the top 9 I haven’t heard and most of them I enjoyed (the exception being Waxahatchee’s latest which I didn’t care for).
Album #361: I Tpame I Tvrame – Ikin Vijnë
To Albania for the next entry. Whenever I listen to stuff from lesser-heard parts of the world, I always hope I’ll discover some gem the UK/US has completely overlooked.
Album #360: The Kunts – Kunts Punk in Your Face
Released: 2020 Origin: Basildon, England Label: Disco Minge Best Track: Boris Johnson is a Fucking Cunt
Album #359: Haim – Women in Music, Pt. III
It’s taken me ages to listen to this. I blame that on Apple Music taking ages to add it, and myself being too cheap/skint to buy records.
Album #358: Jehnny Beth – To Love is to Live
I haven’t really managed to generate anything more than a passing admiration of Jehnny Beth and her band Savages. I have a feeling I might do in time, and Savages without doubt have one or two brilliant tracks (most notably ‘Husbands’), but I feel like I’m still digesting a lot of it.
Album #357: Grivo – Elude
I can’t remember what made me listen to this two-year old debut album from shoegaze/stoner act Grivo.
Album #356: Kirsty MacColl – Kite
My last review was of a Pogues album after watching a programme about ‘Fairytale of New York’ on Friday. Of course, the other crucial figure in that song was Kirsty MacColl. In many ways, the song is as much hers as it is The Pogues’.
Album #355: The Pogues – Rum Sodomy & the Lash
The Pogues are one of several acts who must get a nice little windfall when this time of year comes around. Why not listen to an album, eh?
Album #354: Dif Juz – Extractions
Going through some more oddities from the past as this project reaches its final entries. Early ’80s instrumental post-punk band Dif Juz released three albums between 1983 and 1985, of which the third, Extractions, is the only one that’s easy to find.
Album #353: The Telescopes – The Telescopes/# Untitled Second
Today I’ve listened to the second album from shoegaze band The Telescopes (originally self-titled in 1992, then re-released as # Untitled Second in 2004) after reading that founding member David Fitzgerald passed away yesterday.
Album #352: The Chameleons – Script of the Bridge
From listening to a few post-punk playlists, one band that crops up a fair bit and that I’m not very familiar with is The Chameleons. They sound decent, so let’s start with their debut.
Album #351: Indian Queens – God Is a Woman
I can’t find a great deal out about Indian Queens. They don’t even appear to have a Bandcamp page of their own, instead having their debut album God Is A Woman appear under the listing for their label Cool Thing Records.
Album #350: Ganser – Just Look at that Sky
With very little being released this Friday and the next one being Christmas Day, I’ll be rounding off this project with releases from earlier in the year and anything from further back into the past that comes into my head.
Album #349: Depeche Mode – Violator
I’ve mentioned Top of the Pops and the BBC Four reruns of it a lot more than I meant to in this blog. Going through 1990, it’s very quickly apparent that it was an excellent year for Depeche Mode, and since I’ve never listened to their album of that year, Violator, it’s about time that changed.
Album #348: beabadoobee – Fake It Flowers
It’s strange how although this blog is testament to how much time I spend listening to and following music, I can be totally out of touch with what’s going on. Filipino-born Londoner Beatrice Laus, aka beabadoobee, had a top 10 album in October with an indie/bedroom pop album that seems a lot like something I would listen to. I hadn’t even heard of her until this weekend!
Album #347: Boris & Merzbow – 2R0I2P0
I first heard Japanese project Merzbow when I was about 19, and was fascinated by it for a while because it was the most unmusical music I’d ever heard. Feedback, explosions, chaos – I’ve never quite decided whether I’m into it, but it intrigues me.
Album #346: Less Than Jake – Silver Linings
Wow, a new Less Than Jake album! Probably in the top 10 of bands I associate with my late teens, I don’t think I’ve heard anything they’ve released since 2003’s Anthem.
Album #345: Damien Jurado – What’s New, Tomboy?
I’ve never listened to Damien Jurado, even though he released his 15th album this May. I read a description of him which used a few words that sound like something I might like, such as “lo-fi” and “experimental”.
Album #344: Hypernova – Through the Chaos
Sad as it might seem, I keep a map of the bands I’m covering in this blog. Currently, there’s a big gap in the Middle East, hence I’m turning to Iranian rock band Hypernova today.
Album #343: The National – Boxer
I think I’ve only heard one album by The National – 2017’s Sleep Well Beast, which is probably a strange one to start with. I remembered a couple of days ago what a good song ‘Mistaken for Strangers’ is, so why not listen to Boxer, the album it came from?
Album #342: Nadine Shah – Kitchen Sink
I suppose this blog was started in the spirit of listening to music outside of my normal punk, post-punk, shoegaze, alt-rock etc circles. Nadine Shah perhaps represents that, as someone I would have been unlikely to listen to this time last year.
Album #341: Helmet – Meantime
I’ve probably mentioned before that I’m not big on metal, but when mixed with other genres like hardcore and grunge, it can grab my attention. Helmet are a band that do it well, although I’m not sure I’ve ever listened to an album.
Album #340: Desmond and the Tutus – Desmond
A fourth album from this comically named funky indie band from South Africa.
Album #339: Chris Kamara -…And a Happy New Year
Well, why not? From journeyman footballer to bungling pundit, to TV presenter and all-round entertainer, Chris Kamara, the man who takes not taking yourself too seriously to a new level, is now locking horns with the likes of Bublé as he croons his way through a selection of seasonal ditties.
Album #338: Calexico – Seasonal Shift
Resorting to Christmas albums as 2020 reaches its final month is not really what I envisaged for this blog. The obvious one to start with today would have been the new Sigur Rós album, but I really didn’t expect them to release an album this year and have already reviewed Valtari, so it would be breaking my rule of one album per act.
Album #337: Pillow Queens – In Waiting
With us now entering the “Best of” albums stage of the year, I can’t imagine I’ll be finishing the year with too many new releases, so I’ll probably be getting through a few I missed earlier in the year.
Album #336: Slift – Ummon
Quite a few people’s ‘Album of 2020’ lists are starting to surface now, and I’ve seen this somewhat obscure French record crop up on one or two of them
Album #335: Dead Mellotron – Glitter
“Best shoegaze album of 2014. Then they split up,” effused a member of the Shoegaze, Dream Pop & Nugaze Facebook group on a post about Dead Mellotron’s Glitter. It was enough to encourage me to listen to it.
Album #334: Young Marble Giants – Colossal Youth
Welsh post-punk band Young Marble Giants’ one and only album seems universally revered by critics. Kurt Cobain is said to have put it in his ten most influential albums of all time, although I’m sure he said about many more than ten albums during his tragically short life!
Album #333: Sports Team – Deep Down Happy
I haven’t quite been sure how to approach this one. Sports Team, with their mix of Britpop and US alt-rock influences, scored a surprise #2 debut album back in June, even threatening to unseat Lady Gaga from the top spot.
Album #332: Adulkt Life – Book of Curses
Here’s a post-punk debut from earlier this month. London’s Adulkt Life (whose name is not a typo) release their first album on November 6th.
Album #331: Billie Joe Armstrong – No Fun Mondays
What’s up with Billie Joe Armstrong at the moment? Not content with playing his part in Green Day’s truly terrible Father of All… album earlier in 2020, he’s gone and dropped another musical turd into the year from hell with this collection of pop-rock covers.
Album #330: The Smashing Pumpkins – CYR
There’s quite a gap in my Smashing Pumpkins chronology. I know and enjoy the same ones most people my age do – Gish (1991), my favourite Siamese Dream (1993), and Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness (1995).
Album #329: The Joy Formidable – The Big Roar
There are two reasons why I’m reviewing this record. The first is that I’m surprised to find that I’ve done just one Welsh album on this blog so. far, putting the country behind Belarus and Mali in terms of entries.
Album #328: Lush – Spooky
Like with the Boo Radleys, Lush are a band I’ve been introduced to in a lopsided way, just because of when I was born and the way the timeline of music unfolded around it
Album #327: A. E. Bizottság – Kalandra fel!!
I’ve no idea how I discovered this one – probably just larking around looking for obscure Eastern European music.
Album #326: Tom Tom Club – Tom Tom Club
I heard Tom Tom Club’s ‘Genius of Love’ recently, and it’s one of those songs people are likely to recognise, but not know who it’s by or what it’s called. It’s a catchy, funky number, complete with what is a pretty cool animated video for 1981!
Album #325: The Cribs – Night Network
The first time I heard The Cribs, which will have been well over a decade ago, I thought they were rubbish. I’m pretty sure I was pissed and just being a bit of an arrogant sod. I’ve since learned that they’re not rubbish at all, but have still never listened to an album.
Album #324: Clan of Xymox – Spider on the Wall
I’ve never listened to Clan of Xymox before but I suspect I like them. Back in July, the Dutch gothic/new wave outfit released their 16th album in a discography dating back to 1985.
Album #323: Affet Robot – Röntgen
The website post-punk.com, which to its credit does its best to spotlight under-the-radar acts from around the world, recently featured Turkish one-man project Affet Robot. I’m always keen to listen to stuff from outside the English-speaking world, so I checked out the 2017 album Röntgen.
Album #322: King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard – K.G.
Along with Oh Sees (or Osees as they’re currently known), Australian psych-rockers King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard are probably the band who have most redefined the notion of being prolific. K.G. is their 16th studio album in a little over eight years, and is paired with a new live album released on the same day.
Album #321: Soft Kill – Dead Kids R.I.P. City
First newly released album on my list today is this one from post-punk/dream-pop band Soft Kill.
Album #320: Rum Lad – Vandalism
There’s no time for subtlety in 2020, and on debut album Vandalism released last month, Derbyshire council estate punk Rum Lad isn’t pulling any punches.
Album #319: Magazine – Real Life
Why have I never listened to Magazine before? In fact, I think I’d barely heard of them before reviewing an album by Luxuria earlier this year, as they were the future direction of Magazine frontman Howard Devoto.
Album #318: Kino – Gruppa Krovi
My current obsession with Molchat Doma has encouraged me to look into more Russian and Eastern European post-punk.
Album #317: Thousand Yard Stare – The Panglossian Momentum
Picking up on another one I overlooked earlier in the year, pre-Britpop indie band Thousand Yard Stare released their first album of new material since 1993 back in May.
Album #316: Jim Bob – Pop Up Jim Bob
I missed Carter USM’s Jim Bob releasing a new solo album this summer. In fact, had no idea how much solo work he’d done. This appears to be his 11th or 12th album since 2000, and I haven’t heard one of them!
Album #314: The Wytches – Three Mile Ditch
The Wytches, with their blend of psychedelia and sludgy rock, are a band I’ve always quite liked without being fanatical over. I’ve seen them live a couple of times and they put on a good show, and their material is constantly strong.
Album #313: Moor Jewelry – True Opera
I’ve heard this record is worth a listen. It’s a cross-race and cross-gender collaboration between poet Camae Ayewa and producer Mental Jewelry, neither of whom I know anything about.
Album #312: Molchat Doma – Monument
When I started this blog, I didn’t expect to cover not one, but two bands from the basket case of a nation that is Belarus over the course of the year. But while I sought out Messed Up due to becoming increasingly fascinated by the former Soviet state’s ugly politics, their countrymen Molchat Doma have made something of a hard-to-ignore splash around the world.
Album #311: Spectres – It’s Never Going to Happen and This is Why
British post-punk is unmistakable isn’t it? Dank and miserable, much like our country often is, it is an institution.
Album #310: Flipper – Generic Flipper
The debut album from hardcore legends Flipper is much loved by many, with the Melvins’ Buzz Osbourne citing it as one of his all-time top five albums, and Kurt Cobain also known to have been a fan.
Album #309: Songhoy Blues – Optimisme
A 2020 album about “positive energies”? It’s worth a go, as Malian desert blues band once again channel war and oppression in their homeland into something joyous and exuberant.
Album #308: The Angelic Process – Weighing Souls with Sand
Mention shoegaze to most people and they’ll either look at you blankly, or recognise it as a very niche genre featuring My Bloody Valentine and a couple of other bands that aped them. In truth, shoegaze can be anything from the ambient lounge vibes of Spiritualized and Stereolab, to the eardrum-splitting pulverisation of instruments toted by A Place to Bury Strangers. Some would lump the Deftones into the genre, along with Alcest and other acts veering towards black/drone metal.
Album #307: The Slow Readers Club – 91 Days in Isolation
The strange thing about following music closely in 2020 is that because albums are usually written and recorded months in advance, music hasn’t quite caught up with the climate of COVID-19 and lockdown. One band I feel particularly sorry for is Anti-Flag, whose optimistic January album 20/20 Vision seemed dated by March. Still, at least Trump’s being sent packing, which you felt was the album’s main point.
Album #306: Sadness – I Want to Be There
I saw this album discussed on a Facebook post listing particularly sad albums. Something about it made me want to listen – maybe the bluntness of the name ‘Sadness’, the hazy image on the front, and the directness of the album name.
Album #305: Tunng – Tunng Presents…Dead Club
Not a huge amount on my radar from Friday’s releases, so it’s an opportunity to explore something new.
Album #304: Bitch Falcon – Staring at Clocks
Ireland is kicking out some great music right now, with Fontaines D. C., Girl Band, Just Mustard, The Murder Capital, Sons of Southern Ulster and Silverbacks just a few names off the top of my head. In addition, I’ve been looking forward to this debut album from Bitch Falcon, which landed on Friday.
Album #303: Slow Pulp – Moveys
Looking at this page’s Twitter feed, I seem to have got into a recent cycle of reviewing albums with animals on the cover. Unless I’m getting subliminal messages from the RSPCA, it’s entirely coincidental, although I’m continuing the trend to some extent here, with this debut from Slow Pulp featuring some variety of winged insect on the front.
Album #302: The House of Love – The House of Love (Butterfly Album)
A couple of weeks ago, I saw The House of Love’s ‘Shine On’ on a 1990 rerun of Top of the Pops shown on BBC Four. Here it is, in fact.
Album #301: President Evil – President Evil
This album was posted on the Facebook page of the band Show Me The Body last week, without explanation.
Album #300: Hundredth – Somewhere Nowhere
It’s entirely coincidental that Hundredth are responsible for the three-hundredth entry on this blog. It’s also an album I thought only came out last week or the week before, but it was actually all the way back on October 9th – a sure sign that time has lost all meaning!
Album #299: Eels – Earth to Dora
Who doesn’t like Eels? They’re one of those bands who nobody ever slags off. And with good reason – they write consistently impressive stuff.
Album #298: Control Top – Covert Contracts
It’s getting to the time of year where I start thinking about my best albums of 2020, and the annoying thing about this is the thought that I might well not even have heard my favourite album of this year yet. It might be 2023 or 2024 before I do!
Album #297: Tobacco – Hot Wet & Sassy
Thomas Fec aka Tobacco, and his band Black Moth Super Rainbow, make music that I find hard to truly love, but see an attractive curiosity in.
Album #296: The Wake – Perfumes and Fripperies
Post-punk is rarely associated with joy. Adjectives that come to mind when you hear of the genre might include ‘gloomy’, ‘paranoid’, ‘claustrophobic’ and ‘introverted’. Coincidentally, all those words also sound very 2020, so what better time for a post-punk band to bring out a comeback album?
Album #295: Nothing – The Great Dismal
The shoegaze revival has seen a number of fairly new kids on the block become raved about by aficionados new and old. Probably at the apex of these are DIIV, a band I like a lot. One or two others are Whirr, who I would have a lot more time for if they weren’t such jerks, and Ringo Deathstarr, who I’ve never really taken to.
Album #294: R.E.M. – Up
I read that this week marks the 22nd anniversary of the release of Up. I remember it being released, but it’s one of the few R.E.M. albums I haven’t heard.
Album #293: Nation of Ulysses – 13-Point Program to Destroy America
A D.C. hardcore band I’ve never really got round to listening is Nation of Ulysses, so it’s about time that changed.
Album #292: The Adolescents – Russian Spider Dump
Contrary to their name, the Adolescents are one of the veterans of U.S. hardcore punk, with the members fast approaching 60 and the band’s origins dating back to 1980.
Album #291: Run The Jewels – RTJ4
I’ve been procrastinating with this album for the same reason as I did with Fiona Apple’s – I’m aware of how much people like it and fear I won’t do it justice. The toughest albums to review are ones where you can tell they’re good, but they’re just not what you normally go for.
Album #290: The Metatrons – Deconstruction
I didn’t have much on my list for the Friday just gone, but I’ve stumbled upon some interesting albums since. This one just popped up on my Facebook on Friday, and I can’t remember who shared it, what they were saying about it, or what prompted me to listen to it.
Album #289: USA Nails – Character Stop
I’m not sure how I’ve never heard USA Nails before. Their new album Character Stop, which I think is their fifth, dropped yesterday.
Album #288: Joe & The Shitboys – The Reson for Hardcore Vibes
I don’t know a lot about the Faroe Islands. There appear to be a lot of rocks and grass there, including grass on rooves. They have an international football team that almost always loses and once had a goalkeeper who wore a bobble hat. Now, this unlikely North Atlantic outpost is home to a raging, no-nonsense punk band extoling veganism and bisexuality within a usually conservative cluster of islands.
Album #287: Bootblacks – Thin Skies
I kind of hate accepting Apple Music’s suggestions for who I should listen to. It’s certainly not a cool way to admit to discovering a band! Still, it’s occasionally true and that’s the case for Bootblacks.
Album #286: Butthole Surfers – Psychic… Powerless… Another Man’s Sac
Anything completely weird like the Clown Core album I did earlier this week instantly makes me think of Butthole Surfers. They’re a band I’ve dipped in and out of rather than exhausting their catalogue, so let’s hear what their first album sounds like.
Album #285: Sneaks – Happy Birthday
Spoken word artist Eva Moolchan, aka Sneaks, is widely described as both hip-hop and post-punk, which means there’s about an equal chance I’ll either think she’s great or won’t get it at all.
Album #284: Clown Core – Van
At only 17 minutes, some will argue this is not an album at all. I think I’ve said before than my view is 10 or more tracks is an album regardless of length, and fewer tracks can still be an album if there’s enough length and depth to them.
Album #283: The Fall – Grotesque (After the Gramme)
I’ve seen The Fall’s 1980 track ‘The NWRA’ (The North Will Rise Again) shared by a few groups recently in these times of local lockdowns and regional disparity, and it was enough to get me to listen to one of the many Fall albums I’ve never heard.
Album #282: The Wedding Present – George Best
I mentioned The Wedding Present in my last review of The Bodines, which made me realise I haven’t heard many of their albums. So let’s start at the beginning.
Album #279: Can – Ege Bamyası
I love Can, but I’ve only really heard their first two albums, Monster Movie (1969) and Tago Mago (1971). I suppose logic says I should continue my journey by listening to their third.
Album #278: Coastlands – Death
I can’t remember who or what made me add this new release from Coastlands to my list of albums to check out, but it’s on there, so let’s do it.
Album #277: Future Islands – As Long As You Are
Future Islands have become the epitome of a solid, reliable band. Their albums are all pretty similar in truth, but they’ve carved out their own sound to the point where it barely matters, and new material from them is always a treat.
Album #276: Drop Nineteens – National Coma
I mentioned when writing on Yo La Tengo’s latest that ‘Sugarcube’ by them is one of my favourite songs of all time. Another is ‘Winona’ by Drop Nineteens.
Album #275: Andy Bell – The View From Halfway Down
There’s sometimes talk of a shoegaze “big three” consisting of Slowdive, My Bloody Valentine and Ride. These three bands are often suggested as an introduction to the genre from which to work your way out, including by this flowchart.
Album #274: Touché Amoré – Lament
It’s been a bit of a peak fortnight for lovers of punk and post-hardcore music, including this new sixth album from Touché Amoré.
Album #273: Yo La Tengo – We Have Amnesia Sometimes
In ‘Sugarcube’, Yo La Tengo wrote what is definitely one of my favourite songs ever. It’s the first song I want to put on when there’s some sign of summer emerging. I’ve never managed to get into much else by them though.
Album #272: METZ – Atlas Vending
When I saw METZ in Liverpool around this time in 2019, I had no idea it would be a year – and probably a fair bit longer – until I saw a live band again. Still, it wasn’t a bad gig to go out on, and their fourth album is one I’ve been especially looking forward to this year.
Album #271: Public Practice – Gentle Grip
I’ve been meaning to listen to this debut for a while, and finally gave it a play this week.
Album #270: Rose City Band – Summerlong
Every now and again, I have a look at the Album of the Year website to see what I’ve missed. Fiona Apple is still leading for 2020 by some way. Perfume Genius is deservedly high and I keep meaning to listen to Run The Jewels’ latest. One critically acclaimed album I’m not familiar with though is this one by Rose City Band.
Album #269: Sault – Untitled (Black Is)
I’ve heard quite a bit about the mysterious project Sault of late. From what I can gather, this is UK-based, but largely anonymous, despite contributions from some well-known vocalists.
Album #268: Working Men’s Club – Working Men’s Club
I’ve heard some good things about this new post-punk-cum-electronic debut from Manchester band Working Men’s Club.
Album #267: Public Enemy – What You Gonna Do When the Grid Goes Down?
I’m trying to listen to more rap, and that means more clueless reviews as I try to put my views on classic bands of the genre into coherent words based on my entry level knowledge.
Album #266: Death Valley Girls – Under the Spell of Joy
After a phenomenal last Friday of September for releases, not much at all leapt out at me on the Friday just gone. I’ve plucked out Death Valley Girls for their cool name and descriptions that sound like my sort of thing.