Nostalgia's Must Hear Albums: 2020

Dan Deacon - Mystic Familiar

This right here is easily my favourite album of the month. 'Mystic Familiar' is Dan Deacons first album in 5 years and he certainly came back in style. This album is an incredibly mesmerising experience as Deacon encapsulates his quite pleasant and fun vocals in these incredible chaotic and otherworldly sound scapes that really bring these songs to another realm of existence and take you along for the ride. If there's one album from January that I absolutely have to recommend you listen to, it's this one right here.
Spanish Love Songs - Brave Faces Everyone

On 'Brave Faces Everyone', Spanish Love Songs' lead singer, Dylan Slocum, does not shy away from letting his emotions out. And these emotions slap you across the face with just how powerful they are. The whole album is clouded in a sense of frustration, pain, hopelessness and anger that is hard to just fake, and whether it be Drug Abuse, the struggles Millennials and Gen Z have to face or just the overall monotony of life, Slocum puts everything thats on his mind to word with explosive and obviously pained lyrics which are backed by incredibly tight and solid instrumental performances by the rest of the band. If you're a fan of Pop Punk or Emo, absolutely don't miss out on this album. Even if you don't necessarily care much for these genres, i would still recommend checking the album out, there may very well be a lot for you to hold onto here.
HMLTD - West of Eden

I love this album, I love how in your face it is in a way that's almost psychotic. I love the insane yet charismatic performances from front man Henry Spychalski. I love the explosive and ever-changing performances from the whole band. I just think everything here comes together to make something truly memorable.
King Krule - Man Alive!

My god this really clicked with me. Upon my first few listens I just don't think a lot of the subtle layers, emotions and nuances really caught my attention but over time everything has floated to the surface for me. This is a perfect follow up to 'The Ooz' and it may even outgrow that album for me as time goes on.
Baxter Dury - The Night Chancers

Shout out to Kengoji for making me aware of Baxter Dury, because I don't know how eager I would have been to approach this so emphatically had I not been somewhat familiar with him already.

'The Night Chancers' is an absolute gem of a Synthpop album and I think Baxter's unique spin on the genre is at its most refined and polished here. It's the soundtrack to walking confidently down a suburban London street at 9pm and winking at everyone you pass because you're just that fucking cool.

Baxter Loves You
Baxter Loves You
Baxter Loves You
Beach Bunny - Honeymoon

'Honeymoon' is 25 minutes of sweet, emotional, fun and catchy Midwest-Emo infused Power-Pop fun. Everything from the catchy choruses from Lily Trifilo to the tight and often pretty instrumentation make these 25 minutes a 25 minutes to remember and certainly have stuck in your head for weeks to come
Dua Lipa - Future Nostalgia

Before going into this album, I didn't think I would like it THAT much, let alone place it at the top of the album pedestal for the year so far, and give it my first 90+ of the decade, but this really caught me off guard and here we are...

From the moment 'Future Nostalgia' opens up with the groovy title track, to the final anthemic track 'Boys Will Be Boys', it's all gold. This is a masterclass in how to make a musically fulfilling pop album without letting go of mainstream appeal. Every track is fine tuned to near perfection and rarely slows down be it on the songwriting, or production front, which does follow the recent mainstream trend of taking inspiration from 80's synthpop, but unlike a lot of contemporaries it's not overdone here, it's fun, it's fresh and it sure sounds good. I thought her last studio album was an often catchy but largely inoffensive and uninspired affair, I really didn't think she had a follow up album like this in her, but I'm always happy when an artist proves me wrong like Dua Lipa has here. Also 'Don't Stop Now' might be one of the best pop songs I've ever heard.
The Garden - Kiss My Super Bowl Ring

Sometimes you listen to an album that will have you saying: "what the fuck is going on?", but in the best way possible. 'Kiss My Super Bowl Ring' is one of those albums. The sound The Garden have achieved on this album sounds like the future of Punk Rock to me. It's just as abrasive, frustrated and raw as any punk should be but on top of that, it has some added insanity and unpredictability as well as some instrumentals that you could expect on a track by Death Grips, The Prodigy or even fucking Mac DeMarco at times. This album doesn't want to fit in to any box at all, it just wants to walk it's walk and do it's own thing, and it does so in quite the exhilarating fashion.
Dogleg - Melee

'Melee' is 35 minutes of powerful, exhilarating, and emotionally potent Emo goodness. It's not overly complex, but it makes up for that with immense and unfiltered passion. I'd be lying if I said this album doesn't follow a lot of Midwest Emo tropes, it certainly does. However, it does so without ever sounding forced or ingenuine. The whole album is drenched in undeniable passion and sincerity. I must also mention just how great the instrumentation is throughout. The drums never once deminish in power or energy. The guitar is both raw and intense yet comforting and pleasant. The bass always makes sure you don't overlook it. And the vocals are filled with absolutely raw intensity. And to top it all off, all of these are put together perfectly in the mix. I really urge you not to miss this one, especially if you have a soft spot for Emo like I do.
The Strokes - The New Abnormal

Is this The Strokes' best album since their debut? In my opinion, absolutely yes. I am absolutely mesmerized by how much I enjoyed this, it really reminds me of the experience I had listening to 'Is This It' for the first time, it sounds just as passionate, youthful and bold as they've ever been but with a sound that is certainly updated for the 2020's. Everything from the brilliant vocal performances from Julian Casablancas to the magical synths that the guys incorporated brilliantly into the music, just clicks together like it hasn't been able to since their early days, in my opinion. I knew the band had it in them to make something this great and I'm thrilled they've pulled through.
The Globs - The Weird and Wonderful World of The Globs

Damn, this was probably the most fun album I've heard this year. 'The Weird and Wonderful World of The Globs' is an energetic and passionate, Punk Rock/Emo delight with buckets full of charisma, incredibly busy and colourful instrumentation and brilliantly bright duet vocal performances from beginning to end. This is just what I wanted to hear today! Shout out to @Toasterqueen12 for the best suggestion I've gotten this year thus far.

PS. Check out their bandcamp to listen to the album yourself, which is something you certainly should do.
Shabaka and the Ancestors - We Are Sent Here By History

Hats off to Shabaka Hutchings for being a part of so many incredible modern day jazz acts. Sons of Kemet, The Comet is Coming and Shabaka and the Ancestors have all very much impressed me in recent years and he's been a common denominator in all of these groups.

'We Are Sent Here By History' continues this legacy, and in my opinion, it's the best album he has ever worked on. It's incredible addicting, engaging, enthralling and complex. If this thing doesn't have you absolutely glued to your speakers, I don't know what will.
Fiona Apple - Fetch the Bolt Cutters

It's been a few days since this dropped and I've been in love with it from first listen but it really didn't seem right for me to put out a review up straight away. This is a special album and I think I'm finally ready to format my feelings on it into text.

In my eyes, this is easily Fiona Apples magnum opus. While in a lot of ways it isn't too dissimilar in its structure to some of her previous works, 'Fetch The Bolt Cutters' sees Fiona at her most enthralling, sharp, witty, powerful, measured and colourful to date. It is an album that is drenched in vibrancy and raw emotion, which sometimes proves to be quite unsettling in a very beautiful and poetic way. It should also be stated that her lyrical ability is out of this world. Not a single word will fly past you, everything will stick with you for days and days, and potentially even weeks.

It's hard to see this album not going down as a defining moment of the 2020's in the decades that will come. And it certainly isn't hard to see why. Fiona Apple has just released one of those albums that seriously don't come around very often, and I imagine I'm gonna continue being blown away by this for years to come.
Rina Sawayama - SAWAYAMA

'SAWAYAMA' is certainly an album that plays to Rina's strengths. The album instrumentally is very intriquite, ambitious and incredibly well-crafted but what stands out the most for me is how, despite all of this, Rina's voice never fails to shine. This balance between interesting and well put together instrumentals and brilliant and passionate vocal performances to me is a formula for a great pop record, and this is exactly that.
Car Seat Headrest - Making A Door Less Open

I never kept it much of a secret that Car Seat Headrest is my favourite band. The music that Will Toledo has made over the years resonates with me more than any other artists music has ever been able to. It was about 2014 when I first heard about 'Twin Fantasy' on the putrid depths of /mu/ and decided to give it a shot solely because I loved the cover art, and I've never looked back. Ever since that fateful day, I've eagerly anticipated every release, seen them in concert, witnessed the band explode in popularity, and gave the 2018 re-recording of 'Twin Fantasy' my title of "Album of the Decade". However, before the legitimacy of my review comes into question, I have to add that when an artist I adore releases an album I don't like, I'm not able to convince myself it's good. If I think an album is bad, then I think an album is bad.

That being said, I truly and wholeheartedly believe that 'Making A Door Less Open' is a fantastic record and a more than worthy addition to the Car Seat Headrest catalogue. I can understand why the change up to their sound may have alienated a lot of people but for me there's absolutely nothing here worth complaining about. The album explores a plethora of new ideas, sounds and directions for the band without them ever having to sacrifice the aspects of their music that made them special to me over the years, and most of these new sounds and ideas are implemented very impressively into the familiar Car Seat Headrest aesthetic. The synth work throughout perfectly matches the off-kilter and charmingly awkward energy of the bands sound. The instrumentation and songwriting throughout is still very reminiscent of the Car Seat Headrest of yesteryear however it really seems like Will and company are having an absolute blast trying out different ideas and dynamics and making music in a way they haven't done before and I absolutely admire that.

Charli XCX - how i'm feeling now

Amidst all the chaos, Charli XCX has come out wit her most abrasive and in my opinion, her best project to date. 'how i'm feeling now' is an album rooted in aesthetics and soundscapes that perfectly represent the homemade nature of the album, and it really is exciting to hear just how brilliantly Charli managed craft an album in so little time. The songs throughout are as intimate and retrospective as her music ever has been and are drenched in very endearing, lush yet raw production that give the overall album a very closely personal and comforting quality unlike anything I've ever heard from Charli XCX previously, and it really is quite the contrast to the rather bleak situation which inspired this entire release in the first place. The fact that she could come out with something this brilliant in so little time tells this won't be the last great album we'll hear from Charli XCX.
SLIFT - Ummon

On 'Ummon', SLIFT delivers an incredibly detailed, intense and larger than life, heavy psychedelic space rock gem. It's an album where I don't think words can do it much justice, you just have to listen to it yourself and get lost in its many intricacies, soundscapes and movements which fill up the 72 minute run time of the album and make it genuinely feel like it's half that length.
The 1975 - Notes on a Conditional Form

On 'Notes On A Conditional Form' it just seems from the get go like The 1976 put way too much on their plate from the get go and in the end, that seems to be true to some extent but I applaud them for such ambition and the listening experience for me seemed to be genuinely enhanced by the unpredictably of the album and even after a few listens, the album still never fails to keep me completely hooked throughout its long duration.

While I would be lying if I said this album had absolutely no flaws or throwaway tracks, yet there really isn't that many of them in my eyes. 'The 1975', 'Streaming' and 'Don't Worry' are honestly the only ones that come to mind but in the grand scheme of things those lows are vastly overshadowed by tracks that I absolutely adore such as 'Jesus Christ 2005 God Bless America', 'Me & You Together Song', 'Guys' and 'If You're Too Shy (Let Me Know)' and a lot more that I won't bore you and list, but that will easily make this the first album from the Manchester quartet that I come back to regularly.

This is as far from "an album for everyone" as The 1975 could have gotten but for me it marks the most ambitious, enjoyable and unique 80 minutes the band has ever given us and provides me with enough soundscapes, genre blends and ideas that a lot of other artist wouldn't even be egotistical enough to even attempt to put on a single album that it ends up being a listening experience that is wholly unique and memorable as well as The 1975's most personal, poignant and beautiful piece of work yet. I don't know how to close this off so I'll just say this: I love this album.
Run the Jewels - RTJ4

I'm a bit lost for words really... Run The Jewels have just released their best project so far and one of the most entertaining Hip Hop projects I've heard in a long while.

I'm not sure where to start really but I guess I'll go with the production. El-P has always been one of the most consistently impressive producers in Hip Hop and this is easily the best produced album he's ever worked on in my eyes. The abrasiveness, uneasiness and sheer power of every single instrumental just leaves me in a trance like state. I've listened to this album a few times already and during each listen, my ears are glued to every single beat and every single line from El-P and Killer Mike, who absolutely destroy every track. On previous Run The Jewels albums I've usually found myself more engaged and impressed by El-P's verses (not a dig at Killer Mike who's always been consistently great, El-P just always blew it out of the water for me), yet on this album, even more so than on previous releases, they really are one unit. They're both more lyrically focused, intense and impressive than I've ever heard them before and they play to the strengths of every single instrumental with performances that will have me coming back to this album again and again.
Last but not least, I have to mention how absolutely perfect the features on this album are, every one of them is equally entertaining, play to Run The Jewels sound perfectly, yet they're subtle enough to not take the spotlight away from El-P and Mike. This is easily my favourite rap album of the year, take a bow Run The Jewels.

Relationship ended with 'Fetch the Bolt Cutters', now 'RTJ4' is my album of the year.
Built to Spill - Built to Spill Plays the Songs of Daniel Johnston

Indie rock legends, Built To Spill, bring us a very earnest and cordial tribute to fellow indie icon, the late Daniel Johnston. While nothing groundbreaking, Built To Spill play all of these songs with the same charm and innocence that Johnston did which in turns keeps the spirit of each song alive. Daniel Johnston's footprint on the world of indie music, as well as music at large, cannot be understated and I'm glad Built To Spill decided to tribute him in such a lovely way and I'm even more glad this project turned out as good as it did.

R.I.P. Daniel Johnston, you beautiful soul.
Phoebe Bridgers - Punisher

It's hard to put in to words just how much I adore 'Stranger in the Alps', that album has been with me for countless lonely evenings, hungover mornings, and sunny walks by the river and Phoebe's vocals have accompanied some of my fondest memories these last few years so to say I was excited for the follow up to one of my favourite albums of the last decade is quite the understatement.

'Punisher' does not disappoint. It's exactly what I wanted from a new Phoebe Bridgers record. Everything that made 'Stranger in the Alps' incredible with enough new ideas and sounds to make every track stand out from one another and to make the whole album stand out as a separate entity to its predecessor instead of just being more of the same.

Phoebe's vocals are again wonderful and the production throughout is beautifully crafted. The instrumentation is generally a lot more busy and intriquite than on her last record, yet it's still every bit as memorable and intimate as they ever were.

I don't know, this may be a very strong album of the year contender...
Jessie Ware - What's Your Pleasure?

This is first Jessie Ware project I've ever heard and I'm damn impressed. This is one of the most engaging and entertaining pop albums I've heard in a long time, largely due to the immaculate production which takes heavily from the worlds of house and nu-disco music and combines them with contemporary pop values to create a final project that is both intricate and exciting yet still familiar and comforting. Not to mention Jessie Ware's performances are absolutely brilliant on every track, they have so much swagger and charisma and her voice matches the very lush and groovy instrumentation perfectly.
MIKE - Weight of the World

If not for Run The Jewels this would be my favourite hip hop record so far this year, I'm seriously seriously impressed by this. MIKE so effortlessly incorporates his flows in to these really unsettling and vaporwave inspired instrumentals that it almost feels like this whole album just takes place in some sort of strange dystopian universe. It's a combination that could have just as easily turned out to be an awful mess yet it never feels messy at all, it feels very strange that's for sure, but in all the best ways possible. It's just such a odd approach instrumentally and the execution ends up being so brilliant that I can't help but applaud this. I'm definitely gonna keep MIKE on my radar from now on, because wow... I've been sleeping on him.
A.A.Williams - Forever Blue

I was quite excited to hear the debut album from A.A. Williams after being pleasantly surprised by her debut EP from last year; and you know what? This delivered just what I would have wanted: more of the same, yet in a more complete, fleshed out and finalized form.

There are a few tracks I don't particularly care too much for but the vast majority of the material on 'Forever Blue' is made up of well-written and potent, dream pop infused post-rock that never fails to deliver very dark and beautifully melancholic atmospheres.
The Beths - Jump Rope Gazers

The Beths have really left me impressed with their sophomore studio album, 'Jump Rope Gazers'. It really has everything I look for in a great power pop album: upbeat, energetic and relentless instrumentation backed by fun and infectious vocals that add welcome breeziness to the music. This has to be some of the most fun I've had listening to an album in a long time and I can't recommend this enough for any fans of indie rock or power pop.
Oliver Tree - Ugly is Beautiful

Oliver Tree's blend of pop rap, emo pop and pop punk, among other things, is something that I have always had a soft spot for and this long awaited, full-length project doesnt disappoint in my eyes. 'Ugly is Beautiful' is a perfectly condensed glimpse into Oliver's career over the last few years. Sometimes, it feels like it's a best hits compilations with tracks like 'Alien Boy' and 'Hurt' finally making their way on an LP (which is what Oliver always wanted and it was the label who left him with no choice but to release them as part of EP's). These are both tracks which I've been fond of for a long time now and they fit well in between the plethora of new tracks more than live up to the aforementioned tracks in terms of quality and aesthetic and connect the dots very well to form a nicely structured pop album with buckets full of charisma and energy to keep things fun even after several listens.
Blu & Exile - Miles

'Miles' is easily a stand out album in hip hop this year, and a masterclass in all that makes a great jazz rap album from long time collaborators, Blu and Exile.

The production is absolutely pristine, elegant and abstract and undoubtedly stands as one of the best produced albums I've heard all year. As for the songwriting from Blu, it certainly blows me away at times and his focused, retrospective and empowering verses are certainly something that any fan of hip hop should experience for themselves.

Sure, this album is very long, and if you're not in the right mindset and open to it's lenght it may end up feeling like a chore. However, if your up for the journey, and you are open to digest and explore all the themes, ideas and deeper meanings that can be found on 'Miles', you soon realise how rewarding the long tracklist really is.
Fontaines D.C. - A Hero's Death

Fontaines D.C. are back with their sophomore album, 'A Hero's Death', which is in a lot of ways more subtle and dark than their very exciting and exhilarating debut, 'Dogrel', but that in no way means it's any worse, I think it's just as great, if not better.

'Dogrel' was an album that was very in your face, upbeat and energetic, and I expected more of the same from the band on their second release, but that isn't entirely the case on 'A Hero's Death', which sees the band tone down on the energy of the music in favour of a more depressive, brooding and often quite personal approach to their sound. Fortunately, the aspects that made 'Dogrel' great are still very much there. Fontaines D.C. are still the same forward-thinking, no nonsense and often tounge in cheek band but if this new release proves anything, it's that the band isn't gonna fit their approach to music into one specific bubble, as they're already keeping things very fresh with only their second studio album, and it certainly reassures me they'll continue to be an exciting act for years to come.
Dos Monos - Dos Siki

Following up their fantastic 2019 debut album, 'Dos City', with a short, 15 minute LP is quite a risky move from the Japanese group but 'Dos Siki' proves to be an excellent follow up, with equally bombastic, unique and hectic production and fantastic and focused flows filling up the short album length with a lot more than 15 minutes worth of energy, ideas and charisma.
Fluisteraars - Bloem

Well damn, I'm hearing this late but better late then never I guess.

'Bloem' is absolutely beautiful, in fact it may be as beautiful, lush and serene black metal album I've heard in recent memory, I think the cover says a lot about how this album sounds so if you're in the mood for some really atmospheric and oddly uplifting black metal, then Fluisteraars have you covered.
The Microphones - Microphones in 2020

It's been a month and I'm still unsure how to put my love for this album into words. On 'Microphones in 2020', Phil Elverum once again proves himself to be a master at seamlessly transforming raw thoughts and emotions into songwriting that is beautifully profound in it's simplicity. This 40 minute long single-track album see's Phil explore and recollect moments and memories from his youth, allowing the listener to get a personal look into his early music-making days, over a backdrop of repetitive but beautiful guitar strumming which is increased in intensity at just the right moments to add emotion to certain passages in Elverum's story. The whole project, especially along side the brilliant video accompanyment, is easily one of the most important things to have happened in music this year.
Paysage d'Hiver - Im Wald

Angel Olsen - Whole New Mess

In 2019 Angel Olsen released her fourth studio album, 'All Mirrors', and to say I was a fan of that release would be an understatement as it made both the top 3 of my 2019 year end list and the top 50 of my 2010 end of decade list. The key thing to note here is that one of the major factors contributing to my love for that album was the very lush, dense and grandiose instrumentation and production. It blew me away last year and it blows me away still, even just thinking about it.

Well here we are a year later, and Angel Olsen has just released her fifth studio album, 'Whole New Mess'. That being said, this isn't just an ordinary studio album, as it sees Olsen take another stab at a lot of the brilliant tracks on 'All Mirrors', this time in a more stripped back, intimate and atmospheric environment. And you know what? These tracks are still amazing. However, they honestly take on a completely new identity and meaning when the vibrant instrumentation is gone and all that's left most of the time is gentle acoustic guitar strumming, Angels angelic (sorry) vocals, and haunting layers of reverb. It certainly adds emphasis on the fantastic songwriting, as well as making certain lines and vocal passages stand out significantly more than they did on 'All Mirrors'. The whole atmosphere and emotion portrayed here is so different from that of the original material that they begin to really feel like completely separate entities to me, and with that being said, I really hope this album here doesn't get written off as just an uneccesary release solely because of the fact these are re-recordings, because 'Whole New Mess' is its own entity and it's also very very good.
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September Playlist