This year when looking back on the albums that provided the sonic context for my thinking, feeling, moving and doing I’ve broken it down into sections, First there’s the Top 10 and then up to 40 but these do not including Soundtracks, Live Recordings and EPs, for which I have separate lists below. Most of the music I have come back to again and again this year have not been regular studio albums but have either been Soundtracks, EPs, or live albums which I have excluded from my main ‘top 10’. however, if pressed some of them would be in that list. Links below are to Bandcamp where possible, otherwise SoundCloud (sc) or YouTube Music (yt), or other websites that support the artists – No links to Spotify… I hope you enjoy this wonderful music…
10 Studio Albums that I most enjoyed this year
2020 – Zombi
This album was my “go to” ‘get moving, and push through the apocalypse’ album. A nice blend of retro 80’s glam, al a ‘Knight-rider’ and John Carpenter-esque action, horror soundtracks, and futuristic visions of surviving dystopia with pulsating synths guitar bass and drums! It should be unbearably daggy but for my tastes, it hits the exact right spot for the year that has been 2020!
Oh Yeah? – Sunwatchers
Definitely referencing and questioning Mingus’ masterpiece while taking several queues from Don Caballero and in equal measure early King Crimson and Can but with a freshness that could only have been laid down in much more recent times (August 2019). Competing riffs from fuzz-wah guitar and saxophone constantly exploring the spaces mad possible by driving clarity of rolling basslines and thumping and shifting drums. Hard to believe at times that there are only four of them!
The Common Task – Horse Lords
At first, I found this unbearably annoying, until prompted by a friend to give it another listen… fair to say it sunk in! Often in music, as in life, you need to let things wash over you a bit and give in to them before you can fully appreciate what they are. Slowly morphing yet persistent ostinatos give each musician an opportunity to make their change on at a time with their raw and treated, exotic and traditional sounds.
Pyramid – Jaga Jazzist
Four dreamy tracks of interwoven melodic meanderings of mellow moody morphing motifs somewhere between the strange worlds of nu-jazz, post-rock, and electronica. All thanks to this consistently interesting Nordic octet of multi-instrumentalists, including; acoustic, electric guitars and pedal steel guitar, bass, clarinets, saxophones, keyboards, synthesizers, vibraphone, piano, programming, vocals, tuba, alto horn, euphonium, flute, trombone, drums, percussion, clavinet and Hammond organ. At times it feels like the soundtrack that the original series Star Trek might have had if they could have truly seen into the future…
Three – Necks
As always, this trio has something new and worthwhile to say. This time, the Necks bring three tracks that seem to refer to the three of them, Drums, Piano, Bass, in turn but always with the context of each other. If you like the Necks you’ll love this, if you don’t know the Necks this is a great place to start, although you may need to strap yourself down for the first few minutes and allow yourself to stop thinking about other things… . While the tree tracks are quite different, the delicate interplay of persistence and change along with the paradoxical accompaniment of constant challenge and restraint are present throughout their work.
Timeslips – Tangents
Unexpected combinations of unexpected elements in improvised instrumental inquiry. At times it feels as though it is only held together by the drums/percussion but on closer inspection there is no doubt that each musician is listening to, apprehending and contributing to a greater whole. Ambient, jazz, glitch, classical, electronica, fusion! The surface minimalism gives way as the more you listen, the more you notice.
Mark Kozelek with Ben Boye and Jim White 2 – Mark Kozelek, Ben Boye, Jim White
So this one has words!? In a year where 8 of my top 10 albums are instrumental (or at least without lyrics), this one stands out as I can’t quite shake the combination of Kozelek’s eerie mundane poetic sentimentalism with Boye’s delicate lyricism and White’s sense of purpose (who needs a bass player with a drummer like Jim!). In fact I find it hard to really listen to any of these tracks without a strong urge to cry …
Deleter – Holy Fuck
Just need to have some fun with some very danceable funky electro-rock (and yes lyrics)
Prophecy – Laurence Pike https://laurencepike.bandcamp.com/album/prophecy
More glitchy organicism from this percussionist/sampler. Intensely personal music that gently provokes contemplation in a year that definitely deserve thinking and feeling about.
Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari – Toundra
It’s always great to see what happens when a metal band calms the F down and takes their time with something.
The next 11-40
Soundtrack for a Nonexistent Film – Analog Players Society
Suite for Max Brown – Jeff Parker
Companion Rises – Six Organs of Admittance
Mordechai – Khruangbin
Patchouli Blue – Bohren & der Club of Gore [yt]
Brave Rats – Sunwatchers
Szabodelico – Causa Sui [sc/yt]
Enter the Mirror – Maserati
Return to the Grid – Occams Laser
Music From The Early 21st Century – Bobby Previte, Jamie Saft, Nels Cline
Trouble in the Air – New War … I love having great neighbours!
Shaman! – Idris Ackamoor & The Pyramids
SOURCE – Nubya Garcia
Infinity Of Now – The Heliocentrics
Telemetric Sounds – The Heliocentrics
Grown – Waaju
Mystic Familiar – Dan Deacon
Panther Rotate – Thee Oh Sees (Oh Sees)
Protean Threat – Thee Oh Sees (Oh Sees)
Metamorphosed – Thee Oh Sees (Osees)
Raving Drooling – DEAD … I love living in this great town!
Geophone – Ground Patrol
STOCK – Julien Wilson Craig Fermanis Christopher Hale Hugh Harvey … I love knowing great artists
Crossover – Emma Donovan & the Putbacks … I love knowing great percusionists
Against Empire – Bill Laswell
…-”-… – Moon Relay
Dust Breathing – Møster!
In Search Of The Lost City Of The Monkey God – The Sorcerers
Demos (Vol. 1 & 2) – King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard
Four Riders Take Space Mountain – Øresund Space Collective
10 Soundtracks from 2020
Universal Beings E&F Sides – Makaya Mccraven … ok I might be cheating here – Great Album!
ZeroZeroZero OST – Mogwai … and a brilliant TV series
Soundtracks: Equals Sessions – Apparat
Bliss OST – Steve Moore
In Fabric OST – Cavern of Anti-Matter
The Rise of the Synths OST – OGRE
Well Groomed OST – Dan Deacon
VFW OST – Steve Moore
Barkskins OST – Colin Stetson [yt]
Becoming – Kamasi Washington [yt]
Long Weekend – James Holden, Waclaw Zimpel
Three – Szun Waves
We Welcome Tomorrow – Portico Quartet
Trajectory – Portico Quartet
BBC Sessions: Live at Maida Vale – James Holden, Marcus Hamblett and Mark Holub
Juice B Mixed – Battles
Evans City – Zombi
METROPOLIS Bootlegs – The Physics House Band
Rite of Summer – GIRAFFES? GIRAFFES!
Deleter Remixed EP – Holy Fuck [yt]
10 LIVE ALBUMS
METROPOLIS – The Physics House Band … Great Album!
Risk Reaps Reward – Tangents
Dungen Live – Dungen
2018 – Mogwai
Live at Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts – Hidden Orchestra
Axiom – Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah
Live at Giant Rock – Yawning Man
Live in London – Weather Report [yt]
The Lost Septet – Miles Davis [yt]
Beyond Good and Evil (Simulacrum Live) – John Zorn, John Medeski, Matt Hollenberg, Kenny Grohowski [bookmat/tzadik]
Also my band Make-shift made this: