30 Best Albums Of The Year 2020

The one thing that has kept all us going this year is the amount of incredible music that has continued to flow out of every part of the musical spectrum. There’s been some truly incredible releases over the past twelve months, and we are forever grateful for every artist that has released music to keep us going through these truly wild times. With that said, we’ve narrowed down what we believe is the absolute best of the best of this year, it was no easy task, but to us this is the music that truly stood above the rest.

30. Armand Hammer – Shrines

Surely album cover of the year. This, their fourth album, reflects the angst and anger felt by many. Somehow they still come out sounding quite positive.

— Barry Tucker

29. Tony Bontana – Di-Splay

Witnessing an artist at their dawn is never always easy. However since Bontana’s existence in the musical world, his debut album only capitalises on his extremely concise and evocative musicianship. Di-Splay shows Bontana coming into his own, the album includes a great deal of features that highlights the extreme amount of talent that Bontana is amongst and works with. Godspeed to Tony.

— David Tucker

28. Hachiku – I’ll Probably Be Asleep

Anika Ostendorf releases her long awaited debut album, and her sound has never been fresher. Combining elements of dream-pop, shoegaze and indie rock, Ostendorf has created an album that’s as assured in its delivery as it is as catchy in its grooves. Recorded mostly by just Ostendorf herself “in whatever bedroom she was currently inhabiting” according to her Bandcamp bio, but this only adds to the raw and emotive sound she captures on this album. It’s the almost ultimate lockdown album, touching on themes of becoming grounded and accepting where your life is in the moment, except it was written over the course of the last two years. Perhaps Ostendorf knows more than we do? Either way one thing we know is that we have spent hours getting lost in the swaying sounds of this fantastic debut.

— James Pearson

27. Quelle Chris & Chris Keys – Innocent Country 2

Back for their second collaboration since 2015’s Innocent Country. It’s full of mellow tunes delivered in Quelle’s laid back style. Quelle says the theme of the album is peace. Not a bad shout.

— Barry Tucker

26. Lianne La Havas – Lianne La Havas

Full of soul, love and a huge helping of natural talent, Lianne La Havas’ latest album is rightly self titled. This album is La Havas through and through. Incredible vocal performances, woozy and dreamy songwriting and an abundance of confidence. Featuring one the most intoxicating riffs in the form of “Can’t Fight” that we named as one of the best songs of the year. And a truly mesmerising cover of Radiohead’s “Weird Fishes” that’ll leave you in utter awe at just how much new depth La Havas brings to this track, just listen to that vocal rise towards the end of the song.

Read our original review here.

— James Pearson

25. Caribou – Suddenly

Dan Snaith returns with a more lowkey follow up to 2014’s Our Love, but his extreme craftsmanship and attention to detail remains prominent throughout. Manipulating sounds at his will, to create some of the most heartbreaking whilst simultaneously dance hall worthy beats yet. Acting as a retrospective on his relationship with others and his self, the majestry of this album lies within its ability to be raw whilst being full of joy all at the same time. “Never Come Back” is the perfect example of this, as Snaith looks back at the fallout of a breakup, backed by a highly intoxicating groove. Read here why we named it one of the best songs of the year.

— James Pearson

24. Ulla – Tumbling Towards A Wall

To witness an album so effectively dissolve music to its natural organic roots has never been so beautiful to witness. Sound moves in organic movement, tonal sounds trickle and slide through polyrhythmic trajectories. Ulla Straus composes each of the tracks with a keen eye for satisfaction. Sounds sustain before crumbling and swinging forming clusters. Listening to this album is the pure definition of chaotic beauty. Understanding a collective movement of all parts forming a complete whole.

— David Tucker

23. Perfume Genius – Set My Heart On Fire Immediately

Mike Hadreas follows up 2017’s No Shape with an album that shifts and twists through various styles of pop, shoegaze, country and industrial rock. Yet in each field of sound Hadreas has never sounded as confident as on this album. The one thing that binds all these varying sounds and moods together is Hadreas phenomenal vocal performance. He consistently pushes himself to see how intimate and simultaneously vibrant as he can get. There’s also room for one of the best alternative pop songs of this year in the form of “On The Floor” that has such a fantastic groove, melody and chorus that it’ll have you on the floor, either from dancing too much to it or reading deep into the lyrics.

Read our original review here.

— James Pearson

22. Off The Meds – Off The Meds

On their debut album, Off The Meds define their sound with a huge collection of absolute bangers. From start to finish the album contains addictive rhythms and lyrics that will keep you driven and motivated. The creativity of the sound being put into each of the tracks is so refreshing whilst making the tracks so much more enjoyable. Dance music at its finest!

— David Tucker

21. Bdrmm – Bedroom

It’s easy these days for any band with a reverb pedal and overdriven guitars to be classed as “somewhat shoegaze”. However there’s a feeling that needs to be captured when creating this music, and on debut album Bedroom, bdrmm define this mood to a T. Searing soundscapes, hard hitting riffs and lyrics that speak on themes of self-acceptance, anxiety and the disparity of youth. Their influences are clear, but the delivery matches that of many of the shoegaze greats.

Read our original review here.

— James Pearson

20. Katy J Pearson – Return

One of the most assured and confident debut albums released this year from Bristol based country, folk, indie singer-songwriter Katy J Pearson. There’s not a moment on this album that feels wasted or half-arsed as Pearson delivers one heartfelt ballad after another. There’s also a some truly captivating songwriting and storytelling layered within each song, just look at opener “Tonight”. But there’s also some fantastically groovy pop bangers within, such as “Take Back The Radio”, which we named as one of the best songs of the year. Pearson has finally declared herself as a modern country queen and we hope her reign is long and joyous.

Read our original review here.

— James Pearson

19. King Krule – Man Alive!

Archie Marshall’s bleak and blissful songwriting continues to be ever enchanting on third album Man Alive!. On The OOZ Marshall created a world for the listener to inhabit, but this time around he’s taken a look at the world around him, pondering questions of what the hell is going on? Through jazzy instrumentation and hazy soundscapes Marshall returns with perhaps his most succinct project to date, refining his sound to its purest elements. There’s also deep amounts of raw emotion laid bare on this album, from the isolation inspired “(Don’t Let The Dragon) Draag On” to the dreary ballad of “Perfecto Miserable”, Marshall is at his most vulnerable. Through all the despair and depression that’s infused within this album there’s also an underlying sense of hope, that things might just get better if we try. The blissful serenity sign off on closer “Please Complete Thee” is an embodiment of just that.

Read our original review here.

— James Pearson

18. Ana Roxanne – Because Of A Flower

Ana Roxanne has an incredible ability to transport you to a plain of absolute tranquility through her deeply meditative and evoking ambient music. As she intertwines elements of nature within her songs she allows you to reconnect with the world around you, realising its true beauty. Even just the simple mellotron arpeggio of “- – -” can take you back to memories and places you thought had long been forgotten. Read here why we named it one of the best songs of the year. The cover may be just a simple white sleeve, but within there’s so much more colour and vibrancy that can only be truly appreciated when you dive deep into the sounds.

Read our original review here.

— James Pearson

17. Pink Siifu and Fly Anakin – Flysiifu’s

Pink Siifu released NEGRO this year, a very angry and noisy album. In contrast, this collab sounds fresh and relaxed, and with its huge number of amazing contributors (Madlib and liv.e to name two), reflects much of their musical heritage, but is firmly a modern hiphop classic.

— Barry Tucker

16. I Break Horses – Warnings

A truly magical journey of dream-pop, carried by Maria Lindën’s dreamy vocals. Built out of Lindën re-imaging the soundtracks to classic films she was watching, Warnings is one of those hidden gems that just makes you stop when you first hear it. Infusing elements of 80’s pop and alternative electronic music, this album is as colourful as it is expansive. It’s easy to get lost in the many layered soundscapes that Lindën beautifully crafts, just look at opener “Turn”. Just over 9 minutes long and yet over that course it consistently moves and travels within itself, taking you along with it on a cloud of pure bliss.

Read our original review here.

— James Pearson

15. Clipping. – Visions Of Bodies Being Burned

The more brutal and bloody follow up to 2019’s There Existed An Addiction To Blood sees Daveed Diggs and co. create a true horror movie within an album. The flow and rhythm of Diggs’ deeply descriptive and potent storytelling is largely unrivalled. The production of this album is also a feat within itself, fusing elements of hip-hop, industrial metal and noise rock to make a sound that is as harsh as it is captivating, drawing you in with every listen. “Say The Name” is a perfect example of this as the ending descends into all out twisted chaos. Sequels always have the immense task of becoming bigger than the original, and Visions Of Bodies Being Burned does just that, with an unchallenged cool. There’s also an incredible amount of perfectly placed and effective features from the likes of Cam & China, Ho99o9 and Sickness.

— James Pearson

14. Adrianne Lenker – Songs And Instrumentals

After Big Thief’s tour at the start of the year was cut short, Adrianne Lenker returned back to Massachusetts, rented a small cabin and said she would give herself a break from working. The exact opposite of that happened and the result of Lenker’s itching desire to write is Songs And Instrumentals. Recorded entirely through its entire process on analogue equipment, this album is intimacy defined to its core. The glistening guitars and floating melodies of “Anything” is enough to make anyone believe that they can find love. Lenker is at one with nature on this album and through the natural recording techniques and bird sounds placed throughout she perfectly captures that feeling of getting back to simplicity.

Read our original review here.

— James Pearson

13. Sault – Untitled (Black Is)

What a year for SAULT! Releasing their 3rd and 4th albums of soul with jazz, hiphop and Afrobeat tweaks. Inflo and Cleo Sol (whose solo album is also very good) have made tunes that in these difficult times, need to be heard.

— Barry Tucker

12. Charli XCX – How I’m Feeling Now

Charli XCX continues her incredible run of powerful future pop albums with her latest How I’m Feeling Now, an album written and created entirely during lockdown. It’s not only a showcase of Charli’s incredible songwriting talent, but her never diminishing work ethic. Packed full of bangers and dance-floor anthems that capture the desire we all have to simply be around people again. Opener “Pink Diamond” is an ode to the club and that feeling of joy from being within a big crowd where the only feeling that is going round is just pure joy. Produced in part by Dylan Brady, one half of hyper-pop masterminds 100 gecs, this album also features some clear cut production, almost feeling as if you’re inside a vacuum as every sound is pulled front and centre. The ultimate lockdown album shows just what can be done within the limitations of home.

— James Pearson

11. HMLTD – West Of Eden

The ethos of HMLTD is to never create two songs that sound the same, and boy is this album packed full of variety. From spaghetti western ballads, to post punk ragers to the text to speech Japanese glitch pop “Why?”, this album has it all. But just because the style changes that doesn’t mean the quality does. Each song is full of so much bravado that it’s enticing to try and guess where they will be going next. This album certainly packs a punch, just listen to the bass line of “LOADED”, whilst also being heartfelt and full of earnest on the 80’s pop ballad anthem “Mikey’s Song”. Read here why we named it one of the best songs of the year. A commentary on the disparity of modern civilisation, whilst also offering hope that we can start anew, this is certainly a capsule of modern life distilled into a downright joyously crafted album.

— James Pearson

10. Freddie Gibbs & The Alchemist – Alfredo

The latest outing from Gibbs shows him team up with long time master producer Alchemist. Gibbs is an absolute professional when it comes to story telling. The way that messages and narratives are put together are a mix between humorous and sobering. This album yet again defines Gibbs as one of the most important artists of out generation. Alchemist provides the perfect landscape for an 80s film that Gibbs narrates.

— David Tucker

9. Nothing – The Great Dismal

There might not be a better representation of the bleakness that many of us have felt this year than The Great Dismal. Cathartic and devastating is the sound that encompasses the Philly band’s fourth studio album. Inspired by the images that emerged of a black hole, the band paints truly disturbing scenes both with their lyricism and sonic explosions. Touching on themes of isolation, extinction and human behaviour, the band have soundtracked, almost unknowingly the mood and collective feeling of this year. This album feels like it’s constantly trying to burst out of it’s soundscapes whilst simultaneously sucking you in to a great void of nothing. They have taken their already devastating sound and expanded it out into new and vibrant directions.

Read our original review here.

— James Pearson

8. Rina Sawayama – Sawayama

The debut from Rina Sawayama is truly enticing, showcasing her ability to blend and fuse genre’s and sounds through her extremely powerful vocal performances. Just look at the Marxist anthem of “XS” as the power pop verse’s crash into the chorus with the overdrive infused descending metal guitar lines. There’s also perhaps one of the best vocal performances of the year on opener “Dynasty” as Sawayama matches the swirling lead guitar line note for note, leaving you truly awestruck. Throughout its runtime this album never slows down, consistently offering new and exciting ideas that showcases how much of a natural talent Sawayama has. It’s like a festival where Sawayama is fronting every band. As far as debut’s go they don’t get much better than this. We’ll be keenly watching to see what Sawayama comes up with next.

Read our original review here.

— James Pearson

7. IDLES – Ultra Mono

Devastatingly brutal is the sound of IDLES third album Ultra Mono. This is the band at their most refined and potent. They narrow their sonic output out to be it’s most powerful and don’t leave any room for interpretation on their political stances. From the anti-war opener “War” with its spitfire like drum solo to the behemoth bass swells of “Reigns”, IDLES have concurred the studio to create their most black and white sounding album yet, or mono if you will. But even more hard hitting than the instrumentation is lead singer Joe Talbot’s growling vocal delivery. There’s anger, fury within his voice, but it’s all driven by love. Continuing to call out the small minded government that runs this country whilst simultaneously trying to unify everyone that listens to his words. Ultra Mono is a culmination of everything IDLES have become and holds its place as one of the most explosive punk albums released this year.

Read our original review here.

— James Pearson

6. Mary Lattimore – Silver Ladders

The greatest aspect of Silver Ladders is Mary Lattimore’s talent for evoking memories and telling deep and flowing stories with only the pluck of her harp strings. The intricacy of the movements that Lattimore intertwines into each song takes you into a deep space of acceptance and unity with the world. These songs are perfect for a cozy night inside or a late night walk through lamplit streets. Produced by Slowdive’s Neil Halstead, there’s also aspects of shoegaze sewn throughout, which can be heard through the cascading guitars on “Til A Mermaid Drags You Under”. Further evolving Lattimore’s sound to become so full of life and subtle beauty that you feel each note gliding over you, taking you further out into the blissful cosmos she creates.

Read our original review here.

— James Pearson

5. King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard – K.G.

Birth. Death. Taxes. King Gizzard releasing new music. These are the constants of life as we said in our review of K.G., the 16th (!!) studio album in ten years from the genre defying band of magicians King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard. And if you’re looking for a place to start in their comprehensive catalogue then there might not be a better place to start than this album. Defining and refining the eccentric elements of the bands sound to an ever changing and yet continuously flowing tracklist, the self title of the album is truly deserved. Just listen to the transition from the woozy folk ballad of “Honey” to the Black Sabbath infused closer “The Hungry Wolf Of Fate”. Also featuring the bands take on a “90’s Turkish house banger” in the form of the groovy “Intrasport”. Adding to all that, this album was recorded remotely with the members being in various lockdown’s, they really are an ever chugging well oiled machine.

— James Pearson

4. Tame Impala – The Slow Rush

Kevin Parker has done it again. Arriving 5 years after the heartbreak fuelled and synthesiser driven Currents, The Slow Rush sees Parker take a look back at his life and where he’s going next. Although over the years Tame Impala’s sound has gone through many phases, one thing that has remained consistent is Parker’s incredible attention to detail for creating sonic landscapes and his studio wizardry. The sound might not be as clean as Currents, but there’s still so many layers and flowing melodies to each song that you could spend a day just trying to unpack one. Parker also embraces a more disco-centric sound on “Breathe Deeper” and “Lost In Yesterday”, whilst still keeping that flair of psychedelia about them. But almost by accident Parker soundtracked a pandemic with opener “One More Year” as the vocals swirl and chant “One more year” around the soundscape. Four albums in and Parker still has that signature flair of excellence that is ever present.

— James Pearson

3. L.A. Priest – Gene

It is rare that an album is so self aware of its existence within the first four words. “Shit is fiery fire” is just about the best way to sum up Gene. The sophomore album further establishes La Priest as one of the funkiest, electrifying and downright great songwriters of the contemporary alternative scene. Each track is flooded with an abundance of beautiful noise that makes every song all the more vivid and meaningful. Instruments fizz and bubble like the pot of a magical wizard. I’m not religious, but this is one priests sermon i’ve been attending every Sunday.

Read our original review here.

— David Tucker

2. Phoebe Bridgers – Punisher

The amount of beauty and sadness that Phoebe Bridgers packs into her sophomore album is unmeasurable. The stories told and their heartbreaking delivery from Bridgers help establish her as one of modern musics greatest storytellers. This is the perfect headphones in the dark album. Sonically this album also pushes Bridgers sound design to its most enticing, there’s not a moment that doesn’t make you think, how did they do that? Just listen to “Garden Song”‘ and its crunching, almost watered down guitar riff try and push out of the mix as it chugs along. And of course it wouldn’t be a Phoebe Bridgers album without a soundtrack to the apocalypse. The incredible movement from guitar ballad to all out cathartic fanfare on “I Know The End” is a true testament to not only Bridgers’ incredible song writing talent but also as a retrospective on the modern day. Read here why we named it the best song of the year.

Read our original review here.

— James Pearson

1. Sorry – 925

This album has been the soundtrack to our year. Highly anticipated before its release and upon its delivery there was nothing to disappoint. This album simply gets better with every listen. Packed full of banger after banger, this is a culmination of the bands rise of the last few year as well as their incredibly intricate and subtly fierce songwriting. Casual listeners may just hear these as average “indie” songs, but there’s so much more to them than that. A certain mystique and spark of magic lies within every song, it’s hard to describe. Whether it be the almost deadpan delivery of Asha Lorenz and Louis O’Bryen’s vocal delivery, or the incredibly haunting and often uneasy soundscapes that the band creates underneath a seemingly upbeat sound. “As The Sun Sets” is a perfect example of this, read here why we named it as the second best song of the year. The title 925 is a reference to Silver 925, but for us this album is pure gold.

Read our original review here.

— James Pearson

Nothing – The Great Dismal Album Review

Relapse Records – 2020

This year as it stands has certainly offered more than most were expecting, constant turmoil and an almost never ending sense of dread. But through all the despair and need for reprieve has come music that captures the time and feeling of the moment. One of the latest supplements to that need comes in the form of Nothing’s The Great Dismal. The follow up to 2018’s Dance On The Blacktop sees the band take on themes of isolation, existentialism and extinction. With the result being perhaps Nothing’s most expansive and yet simultaneously closely worked album to date.

The sound of this album closely follows the themes buried in the lyrics, with this being one of Nothing’s most sonically diverse albums yet. The heavy hitting cathartic sounds are spliced all over this album. “Say Less” takes their heavy and explosive sounds to new boundaries. The huge overdriven guitars drop in over every chorus, punching you from either side. All whilst the wailing guitar leads seer and slide over the dreamy and huge sonic soundscape; almost siren like as if to signal the “Noisy world” that lead singer Dominic Palermo is singing about. The huge walls of sound continue through on “April Ha Ha” and explode furiously on “Famine Asylum” as the mammoth like guitars roar with a powerful intent. These huge walls of sound that are created perfectly capture that feeling of isolation and overbearing that many of us have been feeling this year, as we watch the world burn and tear itself apart from home we can feel these huge bursts of worry take over us.

There’s also a certain subtlety to Nothing’s sound on this album as well. Opener “A Fabricated Life” is 6 minutes of pure shoegaze downplayed bliss. Reminiscing in that slow burning, spacious sound that can be found all over Slowdive’s Pygmalion. The steady addition of ambient synthesisers and harp plucks, coming from Mary Lattimore who recently released her shoegaze induced album Silver Ladders, swirl and culminate to luscious harmonies that almost give a false sense of hope to an album based around the feeling of lost hope; once again much like the way this year has played out. This fine-drawn sound returns in parts and places throughout the rest of the album, acting more as leading passages or turning points. The lead in from “In Blueberry Memories” to “Blue Mecca” has that similar sounding bending ethereal landscape that was found on bdrmm’s “The Silence” from their debut album bedroom. But as with a lot of things Nothing do they take it to the next level, the blistering guitars and driving drums create a huge sense of despair as Palermo describes the nightmarish scene of being eaten by a “Leviathan”.

These disturbing images populate the lyrics throughout The Great Dismal. “Send the bombs, We’ve had enough of us, Face the facts, Existence hurts existence” declares Palermo on “Famine Asylum”. Declaring that the human race is doomed to continually endanger itself almost in a cyclical fashion. Sometimes these images can be hidden through vague lyricism but when unpicked paint a bleak, rather dismal picture of the human condition. “Sleep, Awake, Infinite, Mistake, Dreams, In orange, Tormenting, Farewells”. A short summary of the derelict motion of life that can often at times feel as if its just moving to never reach anywhere. Over the chugging riffs, melancholic arpeggios and marching drums the sound of “Ask The Rust” feels bittersweet. There are moments that feel uplifting and motivating, just to be interrupted by huge explosions of distortion and menacing guitar lines. Just when you thought all was going well, the horror still finds its way in.

There might not be a better representation of the bleakness that many of us have felt this year than The Great Dismal. Nothing have taken their already dystopian sound and expanded and refined it to soundtrack the current dystopia that we are all living in. Through the use of huge soundscapes and deceptively upbeat riffs that crash into some of the harshest sounds Nothing have ever created they have, more intricately than would first seem, captured the emotion of a dire time in human existence.

Mary Lattimore – Silver Ladders Album Review

Ghostly International – 2020

Los Angeles based harpist Mary Lattimore returns with her seventh album of delicately plucked emotions and sonically vibrant patterns and movements. Lattimore is one of indie musics quiet powerhouses, having previously worked with the likes of Kurt Vile, Thurston Moore and Steve Gunn. Now on Silver Ladders she’s returned Slowdive’s Neal Halstead at the helms of production, with his signature cascading guitar sounds only amplifying the dreamy and emotive sonic landscapes Lattimore has become known.

One of Lattimore’s greatest talents is being able to tell a story without using words. Rather allowing the movements in her music to speak for themselves. She paints images in your head of scenes and emotions within them, constantly shifting and changing as the plucks of her harp move in varying directions. The 10 minute atmospheric “Til A Mermaid Drags You Under” transitions from folky swaying plucks, as if you’re out on the moving sea. To tense, impending drone sounds as if a terror is creeping up open you, and finally to a feeling of elation and peace. As her delay filled harps wash over you and the bouncing guitars fly through the air you can feel the acceptance that Lattimore is trying to convey in her sound. Closing track “Thirty Tulips” shifts from a sense of longing and loss of hope through the spluttered plucks and climbing drone to one of rejoice and accomplishment. Capturing the emotion of payoff, the hard work that was put in, feeling like you’ll never get anywhere to eventually full out elation.

Lattimore also succeeds in expanding her sonic palette further with this album. The impressiveness of her playing has always come from the level of detail and complexity she’s able to craft into various moments, with each song sounding familiar yet unique in groove or melody. But on this album she allows her playing to often become a building block for other sounds to enter. With elements of shoegaze, especially with “Sometimes He’s In My Dreams”. The influence of Halstead can be felt in full force through its dancing guitar lines. If you were to claim it as an unreleased Slowdive instrumental, it may fool many fans. There’s also an expanse into more ambient sounds, especially on “”. Where the soft drones and bright synthesiers remind of some of Brian Eno’s early work, think Ambient 1: Music For Airports era. But Lattimore isn’t afraid to change these sounds from soft and comforting to dark and boding on “” where the drones become heavily distorted, sweeping back and forth sounding almost as if the wind is crashing overhead. Which is one of Lattimore’s best talents, recreating the sounds of nature and the world through rich instrumentation.

The greatest aspect of this album is its frequency in letting sounds breath, creating space between movements. This allows the impact of Lattimore’s harp plucks to linger on, each melody floating around in your head before it carries you on further. It’s a perfect backdrop for a peaceful isolation evening, or a late night walk through a lamplight lit street.