Nostalgia's Must Hear Albums: 2020

Dan Deacon - Mystic Familiar
80
2020 MUST HEAR ALBUM #1

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
70
2020 MUST HEAR ALBUM #2

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
80
2020 MUST HEAR ALBUM #3

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!
70
2020 MUST HEAR ALBUM #4

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
70
2020 MUST HEAR ALBUM #5

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
80
2020 MUST HEAR ALBUM #6

'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
80
2020 MUST HEAR ALBUM #7

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
80
2020 MUST HEAR ALBUM #8

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
80
2020 MUST HEAR ALBUM #9

'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
80
2020 MUST HEAR ALBUM #10

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
70
2020 MUST HEAR ALBUM #11

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
70
2020 MUST HEAR ALBUM #12

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
90
2020 MUST HEAR ALBUM #13

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
80
2020 MUST HEAR ALBUM #14

'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
80
2020 MUST HEAR ALBUM #15

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.

FULL REVIEW ON MY PAGE
Charli XCX - how i'm feeling now
80
2020 MUST HEAR ALBUM #16

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
70
2020 MUST HEAR ALBUM #17

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
70
2020 MUST HEAR ALBUM #18

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
90
2020 MUST HEAR ALBUM #19

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
70
2020 MUST HEAR ALBUM #20

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
80
2020 MUST HEAR ALBUM #21

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?
70
2020 MUST HEAR ALBUM #22

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
70
2020 MUST HEAR ALBUM #23

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
70
2020 MUST HEAR ALBUM #24

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
80
2020 MUST HEAR ALBUM #25

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
80
2020 MUST HEAR ALBUM #26

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
70
2020 MUST HEAR ALBUM #27

'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
80
2020 MUST HEAR ALBUM #28

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
80
2020 MUST HEAR ALBUM #29

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
70
2020 MUST HEAR ALBUM #30

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
90
2020 MUST HEAR ALBUM #31

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
90
2020 MUST HEAR ALBUM #32

Fuck.
Angel Olsen - Whole New Mess
70
2020 MUST HEAR ALBUM #33

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.
Declan McKenna - Zeros
80
2020 MUST HEAR ALBUM #34

Wow, colour me very impressed.

Declan McKenna has always been an artist I enjoyed, however, in a more casual setting. He's always had a talent for effortlessly making fun and charming indie rock tunes, but admittedly his music up to this point has mostly been quite by the numbers and never really did much to truly establish an identity for itself among contemporary artists in the genre.

Well that's what I thought until I finally got the chance to listen to his long-awaited sophomore record, 'Zeros', and I'm really lost for words, I didn't know Deco had it in him to make something this ambitious, grandiose and exciting but he's truly exceeded any expectations I had going into this project.

'Zeros' is a consise yet fantastic, spacey and eclectic journey through indie rock heaven, with brilliantly captivating production, charming performances from McKenna and an overall glam rock inspired sound that makes for a unforgettable listening experience, and a massive artistic statement from the young singer-songwriter.

Take a bow, Declan McKenna. This was well worth all the delays.
Fleet Foxes - Shore
70
2020 MUST HEAR ALBUM #35

I've been so deprived of new material from Fleet Foxes that this surprise mid-week release feels like a gift from the heavens, and thankfully, it does not disappoint.

'Shore' is a warm and intimate album drenched in summer bliss that to me feels like an anchor to sanity and comfort. It doesn't quite compare in sheer grandiosity and quality to their first two albums, perhaps to nobody's surprise, but it's undoubtedly an exercise in the band exploring new emotions and territory while continuing to play to their strengths.
Oh Sees - Protean Threat
70
2020 MUST HEAR ALBUMS #36

Thee Oh Sees/Oh Sees/Osees/The Band That Like To Change Their Name are back at it again with yet another thrilling and wild psychedelic rock album, but this time it manages to surpass the already quite high standard I've had for the band's new music given the quality of their last several releases.

'Protean Threat' sees the band explore a more punchy and punky garage rock approach to their sound and the result is an album that delivers track after track of in-your-face, calculated madness.
Idles - Ultra Mono
70
2020 MUST HEAR ALBUM #37

On 'Ultra Mono', Idles yet again prove why they're one of the most important bands around and continue to prove the same thing Rage Against the Machine did back in the 90s: just because the music is angry, loud and intense, doesn't mean it can't represent progressive values. Anyways, I can go on for paragraphs and paragraphs about how much I love Joe Talbot and company but that's besides the point.

How this here new album is honestly not a deviation from business as usual for the band but that's not to say anything here is stale or overdone, as it's quite the opposite really. Everything from the instrumentation to the attitude throughout this project feels fresh, focused and exciting without ever trying to rewrite the bands overall sound and identity. I was honestly quite nervous that 'Joy as an Act of Resisitance' was gonna be too tough of an act to follow, at least to the standard that it had set in stone, yet, while certainly not as good as their last two albums, it still brings a lot of great things to the table, and there's nothing here to really be disappointed about if you've been a fan of the band over the last few years. Well, I ain't disappointed anyways, that's for sure.
Sufjan Stevens - The Ascension
70
2020 MUST HEAR ALBUM #38

If Sufjan Stevens' recent work has been anything to go by, I was really expecting a low-key and slow burning album coming into this without having heard any of the singles. Well, let's just say that 'The Ascension' took all the expectations I had, and threw them out the window, off a twelve storey building.

No more half-assed dabbling with undercooked ideas like on 'Aporia', THIS is an album well worthy of Sufjan's discography and an exciting new direction for the artist. Yeah, he's obviously no stranger to experimenting with electronic instrumentation but the extent of this deviation into straight indietronica is unlike anything he's ever done before, and the final result is quite impressive.

The synth work here is really fantastic as Sufjan often quite perfectly orchestrates the seamless merging of glitchy and rugged synths and ethereal atmospheric textures into brilliant and chaotically serene tracks. The only major complain I can really give this album is that it does really feel like it goes on for too long, especially with some of the later tracks being among the least impressive and interesting, but even that doesn't do all that much to ruin my enjoyment of this album.
Deftones - Ohms
70
2020 MUST HEAR ALBUM #39

25 years after the release of their debut album, Deftones still show absolutely no sign of slowing down, in fact 'Ohms' is as exciting as you could ever hope for a Deftones album to be.

The band has proved time and time again that there's few if any acts out there who can blend heaviness, intensity and aggression with atmosphere, beauty and melody as well as Deftones can, and 'Ohms' is perhaps the best example of this in years and an overall brilliant and exhilarating new addition to their discography.

Might I add that the cover is fantastic too.
Touché Amoré - Lament
70
2020 MUST HEAR ALBUM #40

Aside from a few singles here and there and a complete re-recording of their debut in 2019, Touché Amoré have mostly been on the down low since their 2016 album, 'Stage Four', an album that shook me to my core when I first heard it and the sheer devastation and intensity of which is unlike anything else I've experienced with music in recent years. If you're familiar with that record, I'm sure I need not explain what that album is largely about, as it's quite hard to miss, but for those who are unfamiliar: it rigorously explores the feelings of loss, despair, and regret frontman Jeremy Bolm fought with after losing his mother to cancer. Needless to say, it's a record that's impossible to forget, and one of the defining moments if the 2010's for me personally.

'Lament' is a light at the end of the tunnel of sorts, a light that 'Stage Four' was too raw and lost to provide. That's not to say this album is blissful and carefree. It's not, it just, for me at least, represents the sound of a band looking ahead with head held high and a sense of meaning and acceptance regained. Touché Amoré have not sounded this full of life in a long time and as incredible as 'Stage Four' was, it's a warm feeling to see the band be able to again explore new themes and sentiments with the same passion, intensity and emotion they're known for. 'Lament' jumps out at you with every track as the instrumention paints manic yet serene backdrop and Jeremy is as just as retrospective as he always has been delivering a lot of incredibly unfeigned and heartfelt performances throughout.

I've nothing had to say about this project, I'm just ecstatic to get new material from Touché Amoré and boy it lived up to my expectations.
Gorillaz - Song Machine, Season One: Strange Timez
90
2020 MUST HEAR ALBUM #41

It's hard to beat around the bush when it comes to the overall quality of the music Gorillaz have released over the last few years... it hasn't been very good. Even if 'Humanz' and 'The Now Now' had their moments, those were ultimately too scarce, especially on the latter, to make for entirely fulfilling albums that could hold their ground among the likes of 'Plastic Beach', 'Demon Days' or even their debut.

The biggest issue when it came to these releases for me was an apparent lack of direction and cohesion, so I have to forgive myself for being quite worried when I found out that 2020 would be a very single-oriented year for Gorillaz. Surely the band wouldn't be able to consistently release refreshing and focused singles, each wholly unique in style, without at least one or two uninspired flops souring the experience, and even if every track ends up being great, surely they wouldn't release them all as part of one studio album, right? There's absolutely no way that wouldn't end up being a scattered, chaotic mess... or so I thought.

This year has been a renaissance of sorts for the creativity, consistence and experimentation that made Gorillaz such a magical "band" in their prime. Every single, and I mean EVERY single, that the band has released this year has left me impressed, but not even nearly as impressed as I am finally listening to all of these eclectic tracks in the form of an album and realising that all of my worries leading up to this release weren't substanceless, as to me, 'Song Machine, Season One' doesn't feel like a glorified compilation album simple labeled a "studio album", it feels indubitably like an album that was simply just teased to us bit by bit over the course of the year.

FULL REVIEW ON MY PAGE
clipping. - Visions of Bodies Being Burned
80
2020 MUST HEAR ALBUM #42

You know an album is something special when it can make me anxious, scared, uncomfortable and excited all at once. 'Visions of Bodies Being Burned' does that effortlessly from start to finish.

This project really feels like the result of everything Clipping have done to this point, it's the ultimate showcase of everything these guys have been about all these years, turned up tenfold when it comes to sheer intensity and attention to detail. I had pretty high expectations coming into this thing but I could have never, not in a million years, prepared myself for the absolute unrelenting sensory overload that this here album proved to be, and I mean that in the absolute best way possible.

The production is out of this world. Sure, instrumentally 'Visions of Bodies Being Burned' is reminiscent to a lot of their previous works, but nothing they've ever released can hold a candle to the calculated madness and unsettling soundscapes presented throughout, and Daveed doesn't just sound comfortable rapping over these instrumentals, he was made for them as his highly technical and erratic rapping further adds to the intensity of the music here.

I've never heard any album that made me feel quite like this new Clipping album did, I'm well and truly blown away. Picking an album of the year won't be easy in 2020...
RAY - Pink
80
2020 MUST HEAR ALBUM #43

I'll be the first to admit 'Pink' isn't exactly always the most cutting edge and unique shoegaze album, but the very cutesy and bright sound the band execute throughout this project is incredibly addictive and hard to dislike. The bubbly J-Pop vocals combined with the entrancing wall of sound that is the instrumentation is a recipe for an album that is almost hypnotic in it's atmosphere. RAY also manage to implement a fair few interesting and surprising elements into these tracks to always keep things exciting as well. 'Pink' is easily my favourite shoegaze album of the year.
DJ Sabrina The Teenage DJ - Charmed
80
2020 MUST HEAR ALBUM #44

When I first noticed this album appear out of nowhere in the rateyourmusic top 5 albums of the year, I admittedly thought it was some sort of shitpost.

The artists name, the bizarre cover, the three hour length, all of this made me think it was all some joke that I wasn't in on, and even after I figured out it wasn't, it was still hard for me to be eager to jump right into this project.

Listening to a 3 hour house album is quite an undertaking. In my opinion, an album this long has to be incredibly consistent to even come close to justifying such a length without becoming a complete chore to listen to.

'Charmed', thankfully, is very VERY consistent.

In a year filled with bad news after bad news and a seemingly never ending cycle of bleak monotony, 'Charmed' is a three hour escape into the sounds, the atmosphere, and the magic of years that now, more than ever, seem ever so far behind us.

I have no clue how this album so effortlessly manages to deliver track after track of the most well crafted, beautifully uplifting, and unforgettable house tracks I've ever heard, but it never, not even once, gets old and tired. It's a three hour journey I'd happily relive time and time again.
Adrianne Lenker - songs
80
2020 MUST HEAR ALBUM #45

Big Thief is a band I've been a fan of for quite a while now and a major contributing factor to that is just how incredible and captivating I find Adrianne Lenkers vocals to be, and on her new solo project 'songs', she again shines bright.

Songs is an overwhelmingly beautiful album, in pretty much every aspect. Adrianne's vocals are incredible as per usual, but it's really the very stripped back and mellow instrumentation here that gives them the space they need to shine that much more.

Everything about 'songs' just feels very hypnotising, serene and warm. It's an amazing record through and through and one that continues to captivate me with its beauty.
Young Jesus - Welcome to Conceptual Beach
80
2020 MUST HEAR ALBUM #56

Up until finding this album, Young Jesus were not a band on my radar, but by God did this project change that.

'Welcome to Conceptual Beach' is such an eclectic and diverse record, taking influence mainly from art rock and indie rock, but also post rock, midwest emo, and even math rock and jazz to some extent, and all of this combines to form one of the stand out albums of 2020 for me personally.

The instrumentation here is brilliant, it's very warm and comforting yet at times quite dissonant and brooding and the vocals for me personally are the cherry on top. John Rossiter's voice is incredible, his measured falsettos and ornamentation sound fantastic and wholly emotive.

'Welcome To Conceptual Beach' is definitely my favourite indie rock album if the year, and there was a lot of great records it had to beat out for that title.
Molchat Doma - Monument
80
2020 MUST HEAR ALBUM #47

Maybe it's my Polish blood tingling when I hear any sort of coldwave but this new Molchat Doma album was absolutely brilliant.

It's quite similar to their previous works: groovy and infectious basslines and instrumentation with an overall very nostalgic and comforting yet mysterious and desolate feel to it, largely helped by the very lofi and washed out production on this album.

I understand why a lot of people may not immediately gravitate towards this project, especially with its more synthpop oriented direction when compared to their previous album, but for me personally, Molchat Doma's sound is something I can't get enough of.
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