Despite the surreal, some would say depressing, nature of world events in 2020, the year has nonetheless brought with it some fantastic releases. So great has the quality of the output been that it was a daunting, and herculean task, to devise a list of a mere ten of my favourite albums of the year. The reality is however that were I not restricted in this way, my list would be the equivalent to David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest, at over 1000 pages long, with over 300 pages of footnotes. Less is more and I doubt people would appreciate having to read me wax lyrical about dozens of albums, there just isn’t enough hours in the day.
On a personal level, the year has been something of an improvement, the heartbreak of the past couple of years has gradually been dissipating while a new-found confidence has slowly emerged. My choices bare no specific relation to my improving state of mind or 2020, it’s instead a selection of albums that have brought me the most joy and, which I must add, were a delight to review.
Apologies in advance must be extended to those not included, it doesn’t mean I didn’t value your output, it’s just that compiling such a list required a heavy amount of prioritizing. It’s a little akin to a parent being asked to decide who is their favourite kid, a nigh on impossible task. Luckily I don’t have children, so I don’t need to make those kinds of heart wrenching choices, I do however own albums and what follows, after much deliberation, are my top ten choices of 2020 in numerical descending order:
10. Deeper Graves ‘Open Roads’
From Jeff Wilson of Chrome Waves, Wolvhammer, Nachtmystium and Disorder Recordings label owner comes Deeper Graves, a fine collection of post-punk and goth-rock for fans of the likes of Sister of Mercy, The Cure and Bauhaus, with a little Jesu style shoegaze/post metal atmospherics thrown into the mix. Open Roads (review) makes you want to put on a crumpled velvet shirt and don Dave Vanian vampiric style make-up, it’s that good.
Label: Disorder Recordings
9. Alain Johannes ‘Hum’
Alain Johannes is a legend in the grunge world, having supported Soundgarden with Eleven and collaborating with frontman Chris Cornell on the latters Euphoria Morning solo album. The past few years have been a challenge for Alain and this beautiful acoustic solo record Hum (review) is a remarkable feat considering the circumstances. If the late Elliot Smith and his work on the Good Will Hunting soundtrack float your boat, you will love this.
Label: Ipecac Recordings
8. Bushpilot ‘Already!’
Despite only existing briefly in the early to mid-90s, Leeds Bushpilot released two of the finest records from an era that was unfortunately dominated by Britpop and boy bands. It was difficult to decide which to include as both were of a very high standard. Already! (review) won out due to its immediacy, but that doesn’t mean you should be neglecting 23 (review). Purchase both and let the pleasure commence.
Label: God Unknown Records
7. Last Call At Nightowls ‘Ask The Dust’
Noir dark doom jazz was always going to be a winner with me and Last Call At Nightowls did a superb job of it with Ask The Dust (review). Imagine the vibes of Frank Sinatra’s In the Wee Small Hours blended with David Lynch’s Lost Highway, perfect accompaniment for stormy nights, candles and a bottle or two of wine. For fans of Bohren & Der Club of Gore and Kilimanjaro Doomjazz Ensemble.
Label: Subsound Records
6. Light Screamer ‘Reap’
Sweden’s Light Screamer toned down the noise and adopted a more dynamic and structured post-punk approach for third album Reap (review). Throw in some Riot Girrl attitude and you have all the makings of a classic. The disturbing yet brilliant artwork from Win Wallace only served to bolster the album’s impact.
Label: Nominata Records
5. Orgöne ‘Mos/Fet’
French space-rock/prog/proto-punk that is imbued with the spirit of The Stooges and Hawkwind. An ambitious double LP for a debut release is a brave move indeed, but despite Mos/Fet‘s length (review), there is really nothing to fear from this beauty as Orgöne take you on a cosmic Sun Ra style journey into the stratosphere.
Label: Heavy Psych Sounds
4. Mr. Bungle ‘The Raging Wrath Of The Easter Bunny Demo’
A welcome return for Mr. Bungle, one of the most creative and diverse bands of modern times. A re-recording of the legendary 1986 demo sees Mike, Trey and Trevor joined by thrash legends Scott Ian and Dave Lombardo. Eleven ripping tracks of speed metal with Zappa levels of technicality, this album (review) is nothing short of breathtaking. Re-recording previous work can be risky but when it’s done as well as this then there is nothing to be concerned about.
Label: Ipecac Recordings
3. Pigs x 7 ‘Viscerals’
The North-East noise-rock/stoner crew Pigs x7 returned this year with the superb Viscerals (review) that to my ears is their most accomplished work to date. Packed full of diverse tunes ranging from Jane’s Addiction alt-rock to Jesus Lizard styled noise-rock and everything in-between. Once COVID settles and normality resumes, I’ll look forward to experiencing these tunes live.
Label: Rocket Recordings
2. Eyes ‘Underperformer’
Converge/Refused inspired metallic hardcore goodness from Denmark Eyes, Underperformer (review) is an album that will appeal to even the most jaded of hardcore fans. Following up from the 2018 Self-Titled debut, Eyes deliver a slab of savage sonic perfection that only a fool would pass up. No silly self-indulgent emo lyrics or tedious Hatebreed style breakdowns, it’s an example of how brilliantly effective hardcore can be when handled with intelligence.
Label: Indisciplinarian Records
1. Twin Sister ‘Twin Sister’
To quote Highlander ‘there can be only one’ and the prolific Jason Stöll (formerly of Mugstar and owner of God Unknown Records), hits the top spot by bringing us an amazing collection of psych/krautrock/drone and noise-rock with Twin Sister (review) that will appeal to fans of The Cosmic Dead, Gnod, White Hills, Swans and Ash Ra Temple. It is exceptionally produced, performed and never outstays its welcome.
Label: God Unknown Records
Too many honourable mentions to include but here’s a selection…
Entry‘s Detriment (review) brought us some uncompromising throat shredding hardcore that terrified and delighted in equal measure. Next up was another Jason Stöll project Sex Swing and their album Type II (review) who put a smile on my face with Ornette Coleman inspired no-wave/post-punk and grotesque album artwork in tow.
International collective Staraya Derevnya‘s Inwards Opened the Floor (review) was an eccentric yet interesting selection of improvised folk and krautrock goodness that warranted repeated listens. Finally, Radar Men From The Moon‘s The Bestial Light (review) saw the Dutch outfit take a different turn and evolving beyond their psych roots into industrial acid-metal territory. A thrilling listen that may alienate fans of their more noise-psych works, but delighted me.
Scribed by: Reza Mills