Top Ten Of 2020: Harry Holmes
What a wonderful year it’s been! Oh, sorry that’s the start of my ‘Top 10 of 2022’ intro template. Still, some decent albums out this year at least. Typically my highlights looking back at the year from December are heavily influenced by who I’ve seen live. This list is much more weighted towards albums I’ve actually bought in some format, and the amount of joy they have generated. Are they the best albums of the year? I don’t really care. Are they strictly in order? Of course not, but y’know, life is fleeting and we find meaning where we can.
10. Turtle Skull ‘Monoliths’
There are a number of albums that have a claim to this last available slot but I wanted to put Monoliths in there to keep up the joyful vibes. Turtle Skull’s second full-length delivers big fuzz, tons of melody and a bright summer feel that works like medicine in midwinter. Lyrically they deal with some real issues but with a grounded sense of being at peace in themselves. And now is certainly a time to spread some sunshine, peace and joy.
Label: Art As Catharsis Records
9. Beggar ‘Compelled To Repeat’
Live music good times are at least part of the reason this has appealed. Beggar have blown my head off a few times in glorious sweaty little rooms, and I miss that, but they’ve put out a full-length that builds on what they’ve done before, and for that reason they get in the list. Compelled To Repeat is a sizeable slab of varied heavy that’s not cut-and-paste, and pushes into harshness without losing any bounce, groove and swagger. And it is indeed very heavy, a degree of extremity that seems a step beyond my hazy memories of the band on stage.
Label: APF Records
8. Vile Creature ‘Glory, Glory! Apathy Took Helm!’
This one gets in on ambition. Vile Creature have built on their base of ferocious heaviness while retaining an emotive power that many bands sometimes lose in the search for the crush. The experimental side of Glory, Glory! Apathy Took Helm! is really quite surprising and superbly executed, I will resist the urge to describe in more detail as hearing this fresh was a delight. Not ‘just a doom record’ and not just heavy for the sake of it, this feels like a meaningful work. Plus of course Danika Zandboer’s photography adds a cherry on top and fits the albums unique aesthetic.
Label: Prosthetic Records
7. Black Helium ‘The Wholly Other’
Psych with a sneer, Black Helium take us on a trip that flirts with the dark side more than once. I mean, The Wholly Other opens with Hippy On A Slab. Second track Two Masters has been one of the ear-worm singalong choruses of the year. Some of it is peaceful, lots of it is noisy and all of it buzzes with a twitchy energy that is wholly lush. Somehow Luminous Bodies didn’t quite make my Top Ten this year, but Black Helium channel a similar grimy lysergic-ism.
Label: Riot Season
6. POHL ‘Freakspeed’
I’m starting to see a pattern here. Freakspeed is a plain and simple a heavy riff party. Speeding through a no-nonsense seven tracks, POHL have brought all the joy of their live show. It’s a glorious chunk of two-piece battery based around slightly off-kilter hooks. Nuance and artistic boundary-pushing? Not really, but then not everything has to be clever clever.
Label: Wrong Speed Records
5. Elder ‘Omens’
Elder being brilliant again. I was definitely underwhelmed by Omens at first, but revisiting it without the weight of expectation has proved it to be a great record. Strangely I was primed both to be blown away, and to be snarky about Omens. Elder’s increasingly progressive approach has lost me a bit – not that I think they’re not good, I just found that some of Lore and much of Reflections Of A Floating World lost my attention as they pushed onward and outward. I applaud Elder for that and for all that I love about the simpler grooving earlier material but I’m glad they didn’t stop at Dead Roots Stirring. However part of the success of Omens for me is that it’s less overwhelming and more engaging, sounding more intimate somehow for all its ambition.
Label: Stickman Records | Armageddon Label
4. Adzes ‘No One Wants To Speak About It’
Somewhere around the end of April I added headphones to my list of essential PPE list for the supermarket run. Kowloon Walled City were doing a great job of soundtracking the anxious scramble through a hostile world, but from June No One Wants To Speak About It has often been my go-to. It’s harsh and noisy doom, with that PNW crustiness that leaves me with neck-ache. The sound of Adzes is coherent but doesn’t get stuck in one rut with variation in pace and emotional feel. And of course bonus points for the song title Jesus Built My Death Squads.
Label: Independent | Tridroid Records
3. Moura ‘Moura’
Another fun one. Moura play Galician folk/psych that seems to come from outside time and space. Moura hints at some of the retro/proto-occult rock scene, but undercuts that with rock-solid authenticity and tons of groove. This is the only entry in my Top Ten that has had me dancing, and repeatedly so. Not quite like anything else I’ve heard this year. Dig!
Label: Spinda Records
2. Wren ‘Groundswells’
For all that I love about the antecedents, a lot of contemporary post-metal type stuff leaves me a bit cold. Wren however consistently engage me with their particular take on this sort of material. Auburn Rule (2017) was an album I liked well enough at first, but have returned to it frequently and continue to find it rewarding. Groundswells is cast in a similar mould and I hope to still be finding new points of interest in it three years from now. The album’s release was altered to respond to the changes and restrictions of this year, and while I’ve not long had a physical copy, my first listen was in a tiny place deep in the forest on my one escape from home. It was a good fit, and an association that will stick.
Label: Gizeh Records
1. Slift ‘Ummon’
Sprawling across four sides of vinyl, this space-rocking epic has snuck up on me to nab the top spot. It drifts, and drives, spaces out and digs into high-octane groove. The journey of Ummon works well and it’s a lot of fun. Slift have found some sort of stoner/garage/psych sweet-spot and I expect this album to stick with me for a while. Rather than blether on about it I simply instruct you to LISTEN.
Label: Stolen Body Records
Scribed by: Harry Holmes