As I steadily work on my collection of wildlife haiku, I am steadily shipping them out to editors. This one was published on Cold Moon Journal along with many other moon haiku throughout June, and takes its cue from the diamond mining town of Namibia which is now a ghost town roamed by brown hyenas.
Well, the year 2020 wasn’t exactly the best year our human race has experienced, was it? Looking back to the last day of 2019, it feels like none of us really knew what we were about to step into. Not really. Once things started getting bad, they got bad quick, and just kept getting worse. With children returning to school in September, we thought things were picking up, and then we hit a second wave and a second (albeit short and Christmas-based) lockdown. And now, as I write this, we are in a third lockdown. Will it ever end? We have to focus on that I guess – the end. Personally, I don’t think this is a new normal per se. I’m not so sure that the coronavirus will ever go away entirely, but rather that we will get vaccinated, sooner rather than later I hope, and become more and more conditioned to coping with the virus. Just as our ancestors did with the common cold. That’s my take, anyway.
Less bleak now, and more positive, and if there is something positive we can take from 2020, it’s the enormous amount of incredible music that was released. Music will always prevail, and with incredible release after incredible release, it certainly didn’t let us down in 2020.
I intended to really dive into new music over the course of the year, but I didn’t anticipate listening to quite as much as I did. I listened to 201 new albums and a handful of EPs in total. The more I listened to, the more I found.
Without further ado, then, here’s my Album of the Year list for 2020, For the sake of a round number, and because it felt too brutal to cut the list down to a small number, this is my top 200. If you have Spotify, you can check out this handy playlist I put together highlighting a song from each album:
Album of the Year 2020 Spotify Playlist
200. Fiona Apple, ‘Fetch the Boltcutters’
199. Landshapes, ‘Contact’
198. Boat, ‘Tread Lightly’
197. Orchards, ‘Lovecore’
196. Viva Belgrado, ‘Bellavista’
195. Caribou, ‘Suddenly’
194. AJJ – Good Luck Everybody
193. Stef Kett, ‘Cry And Sing’
192. Alexia Avina, ‘Unearth’
191. Thor & Friends, ‘3’
190. Woods, ‘Strange to Explain’
189. Jess Williamson, ‘Sorceress’
188. Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, ‘Sideways to New Italy’
187. Jason Molina, ‘Eight Gates’
186. Hot Mulligan, ‘you’ll be fine’
185. The Big Moon, ‘Walking Like We Do’
184. Anna Burch, ‘If You’re Dreaming’
183. Best Coast, ‘Always Tomorrow’
182. ShitKid, ‘Duo Limbo/’Mellan himmel a helvete’
181. Better Now, ‘Slip’
180. Bob Nanna, ‘Celebration States’
179. Brian Campeau, ‘Ambience Driver’
178. Bibio, ‘Sleep on the Wing’
177. The Planet You, ‘Techxture’
176. The Guru Guru, ‘Point Fingers’
175. Wire, ‘Mind Hive’
174. Bohren & Der Club Of Gore, ‘Patchouli Blue’
173. Say Hi, ‘Diamonds & Donuts’
172. Daniel Davies, ‘Signals’
171. Soccer Mommy, ‘color theory’
170. Ando San, ‘Schemin’ Season’
169. Phoebe Bridgers, ‘Punisher’
168. Kate NV, ‘Room for the Moon’
167. Katie Dey, Mydata
166. M. Ward, ‘Think Of Spring’
165. Becca Mancari, ‘The Greatest Part’
164. Mogwai, ‘ZEROZEROZERO’
163. OOIOO, ‘nijimusi’
162. Ultimate Fakebook, ‘The Preserving Machine’
161. Deerhoof, ‘Future Teenage Cave Artists’
160. Jackie Lynn, ‘Jacqueline’
159. Helvetia, ‘Fantastic Life’
158. Helvetia, ‘The Devastating Map’
157. InTechnicolour, ‘Big Sleeper’
156. Gigi Masin, ‘Calypso’
155. STRFKR, ‘Ambient 1’
154. DJ Python, ‘Mas Amable’
153. Sufjan Stevens & Lowell Brams, ‘Aporia’
152. Lights & Motion, ‘The Great Wide Open’
151. Standards, ‘Fruit Island’
150. Kestrels, ‘Dream or Don’t Dream’
149. Masaki Batoh, ‘Smile Jesus Loves You’
148. Geology, ‘Light of the Risen Year’
147. Touche Amore, ‘Lament’
146. John Vanderslice, ‘Dollar Hits’
145. Wares, ‘Survival’
144. Tricot – 真っ黒
143. Squirrel Flower, ‘I Was Born Swimming’
142. Yumi Zouma, ‘Truth or Consequences’
141. Harry the Nightgown, ‘Harry the Nightgown’
140. Crisman, ‘Crisman’
139. Addy., ‘Eclipse’
138. Guided By Voices, ‘Surrender Your Poppy Field’
137. Stephen Malkmus, ‘Traditional Techniques’
136. Dominic Angelella, ‘Poison’
135. M. Ward, ‘Migration Stories’
134. Moaning, ‘Uneasy Laughter’
133. Of Montreal, ‘UR Fun’
132. HEISA, ‘joni’
131. Richard Houghton, ‘Sailing Through Rainbows of Sound’
130. Serengeti, ‘With Greg from Deerhoof’
129. Zoon, ‘Bleached Wavves’
128. Tina, ‘Positive Mental Health Music’
127. Floral Tattoo, ‘You Can Never Have a Long Enough Head Start’
126. Dryjacket, ‘Going Out of Business’
125. Snooze, ‘Still’
124. I Love Your Lifestyle, ‘No Driver’
123. Nada Surf – Never Not Together
122. Jack Name, ‘Magic Touch’
121. Jeff Pianki, ‘Remember It Now’
120. Theophilus London, ‘Bebey’
119. Andy Shauf, ‘The Neon Skyline’
118. Coriky, ‘Coriky’
117. Happyness, ‘Floatr’
116. STRFKR, ‘Future Past Life’
115. Jeff Rosenstock, ‘No Dream’
114. Harper’s Jar, ‘Thank You Ancestor Finger’
113. Mountains for Clouds, ‘Anxious & Aware’
112. I LIKE TRAINS, ‘KOMPROMAT’
111. Thurston Moore, ‘By The Fire’
110. Hayley Williams, ‘Petals For Armor’
109. Ratboys, ‘Printer’s Devil’
108. Gloe, ‘Dead Wait’
107. Spanish Love Songs, ‘Brave Faces Everyone’
106. Magic Sword, ‘Endless’
105. Sick Instrumental – ‘O Sonho e a Escada’
104. The Lovely Eggs, ‘I Am Moron’
103. Nadia Reid, ‘Out of My Province’
102. Kid Dakota, ‘Age of Roaches’
101. Bdrmm, ‘Bedroom’
100. Sparta, ‘Trust the River’
99. 2nd Grade, ‘Hit to Hit’
98. Sparks, ‘A Steady Drip, Drip, Drip’
97. The Cool Greenhouse, ‘The Cool Greenhouse’
96. Kidbug, ‘Kidbug’
95. PAINT, ‘Spiritual Vegas’
94. Ubiquitous Meh!, ‘Fecund With Love’
93. Wet Tropics, ‘Everybody Get In’
92. Wednesday, ‘I Was Trying to Describe You to Someone’
91. Lomelda, ‘Hannah’
90. Field Medic, ‘Floral Prince’
89. The Men, ‘Mercy’
88. Ground Patrol, ‘Geophone’
87. Stay Inside, ‘Viewing’
86. Hamerkop, ‘Remote’
85. Bill Callahan, ‘Gold Record’
84. The Homesick, ‘The Big Exercise’
83. Neil Young, ‘Homegrown’
82. Hum, ‘Inlet’
81. Real Estate, ‘The Main Thing’
80. Field Music, ‘Making a New World’
79. Land of Talk, ‘Indistinct Conversations’
78. Biffy Clyro, ‘A Celebration of Endings’
77. Long Distance Calling, ‘How Do We Want To Live’
76. June of 44, ‘Revisionist: Adaptations & Future Histories In The Time Of Love And Survival’
75. Car Seat Headrest, ‘Making a Door Less Open’
74. Shiner, ‘Schadenfreude’
73. NZCA Lines, ‘Pure Luxury’
72. Sand Co., ‘Forever Laying Down’
71. Algiers, ‘There is No Year’
70. O’Brother, ‘You and I’
69. Muzz, ‘Muzz’
68. Told Slant, ‘Point the Flashlight and Walk’
67. Morrissey, ‘I Am Not a Dog on a Chain’
66. Lee Ranaldo, ‘Names of North End Women’
65. The Strokes, ‘The New Abnormal’
64. Caspian, ‘On Circles’
63. Vasa, ‘Heroics’
62. El Ten Eleven, ‘Tautology’
61. Post Animal, ‘Forward Motion Godyssey
60. Elvis Depressedly, ‘Depressedelica’
59. Laura Marling, ‘Song For Our Daughter’
58. Jerry Paper, ‘Abracadabra’
57. Haim, ‘Women in Music Pt. III’
56. Aiming for Enrike, ‘Music for Working Out’
55. Into It. Over It, ‘Figure’
54. Tame Impala, ‘The Slow Rush’
53. Kiwi jr., ‘Football Money’
52. Zelienople, ‘Hold You Up’
51. Frankie Valet, ‘Waterfowl’
50. Owen, ‘The Avalanche’
49. Emmy The Great, ‘April/月音’
48. Unwed Sailor, ‘Look Alive’
47. Colin Phils, ‘Trust/Fall’
46. Holy Fuck, ‘Deleter’
45. SPACESHIPS, ‘Pillars’
44. Caterpillars, ‘Where Shadows Go to Speak’
43. Modern Rituals, ‘This is the History’
42. Porridge Radio, ‘Every Bad’
41. Himmelrum, ‘Vand, Død & Ensomhed’
40. The Microphones – Microphones in 2020
39. L.A. Takedown, ‘Our Feeling of Natural High’
38. Frances Quinlan, ‘Likewise’
37. Beach Slang, ‘The Deadbeat Bang of Heartbreak City’
36. The Front Bottoms, ‘In Sickness & In Flames’
35. Six Organs of Admittance, ‘Companion Rises’
34. Dogleg, ‘Melee’
33. Omar Rodriguez-Lopez, ‘The Clouds Hill Tapes, Pt. I, II & III’
32. Dan Deacon, ‘Mystic Familiar’
31. Wolf Parade, ‘Thin Mind’
30. Waxahatchee, ‘Saint Cloud’
29. The Beths, ‘Jump Rope Gazers’
28. The Goalie’s Anxiety at the Penalty Kick, ‘Ways of Hearing’
27. Disq, ‘Collector’
26. Young Jesus, ‘Welcome to Conceptual Beach’
25. Dikembe, ‘Muck’
24. Healing Potpourri, ‘Blanket of Calm’
23. Bombay Bicycle Club, ‘Everything Else Has Gone Wrong’
22. Bright Eyes, ‘Down in the Weeds, Where the World Once Was’
21. Sinai Vessel, ‘Ground Aswim’
20. Protomartyr, ‘Ultimate Success Today’
19. The Cribs, ‘Night Network’
18. Mountain Time, ‘Music for Looking Animals’
17. Perfume Genius, ‘Set My Heart On Fire Immediately’
16. Friend/Enemy, ‘HIH NO/ON’
15. Destroyer, ‘Have We Met’
14. Trace Mountains, ‘Lost in the Country’
13. Everything Everything, ‘RE-ANIMATOR’
12. Adrianne Lenker, ‘Songs’
11. Slaughter Beach, Dog, ‘At the Moonbase’
10. The Casket Lottery, ‘Short Songs for End Times’
9. Little Kid, ‘Transfiguration Highway’
8. Black Foxxes, ‘Black Foxxes’
7. Remo Drive, ‘Portrait of an Ugly Man’
6. Joan of Arc, ‘Tim Melina Theo Bobby’
5. Sufjan Stevens, ‘The Ascension’
4. …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead, ‘X: The Godless Void and Other Stories’
3. Pinegrove, ‘Marigold’
2. Empty Country, ‘Empty Country’
1. Criteria, ‘Years’
What a year it’s been. The world got turned upside down, but music has once again prevailed. 2020 has been packed full of great releases. I will keep this post brief as I plan to post my Album of the Year list soon, which feels like a better time to recap on the year properly.
December, though, wasn’t short of great new music either. Admittedly, I slowed my listening down a bit, to catch my breath mainly. But, without fail, I still bring you my top 5 songs of December 2020 which bounces from art rock to folk, and there’s even a couple of new, alternative Christmas songs for you to check out. I appreciate my post might be early, but honestly, it’s unlikely I will get to listening to anything new over the next week.
You can check out all of these songs in my December Spotify playlist, or if you don’t have Spotify, click on the songs below to listen to them on alternative platforms. You will notice The Bell and The Hammer, whose December release isn’t on Spotify, have been replaced by Porridge Radio’s ‘The Last Time I Saw You (O Christmas)’ on the Spotify playlist, which is my honourable mention this month (I literally just heard it).
I would encourage to listen to the whole ‘Is It Christmas? EP’ by The Bell and the Hammer if you have the time. They are great people who I know would appreciate your ears.
Follow the link at the top of this post too to find my older posts and my top songs for the rest of the year so far.
Top 5 Songs of November 2020:
Fast approaching the end of the year, and I am still discovering great new music eleven months in. The no.1 slot is taken by a band who I have always enjoyed but never really sat down and listened to fully. Their new album is just so good and I am regretting not listening to a full album sooner. The Casket Lottery are here too. Awesome to see them back making music. Fellow Totnes creative (I live in Plymouth these days, but don’t feel Plymouthian), Matthew Board is back with new bandmates and under a new moniker. Top quality as expected.
You can check all of these songs out in my November Spotify playlist. Follow the link above too to find my older posts and my top songs for the rest of the year so far.
Honourable mentions this month must go to ‘Deep Infatuation’ by The Cribs (which only didn’t make the cut because another song from the album did), and ‘Every Star Shivers in the Dark’ by Lael Neale. Not only a great song title, but a great song which could be in the no. 5 spot on any other day.
Top 5 Songs of November 2020:
1. The Cribs – ‘Under the Bus Station Clock’
2. The Casket Lottery – ‘Sisyphus Blues’
3. Pale Blue Eyes – ‘Motionless’
4. Told Slant – ‘Meet You in the City’
5. Jack Name – ‘Karolina’
As you may know, from my monthly blog posts over the course of 2019, I like to listen to a lot of music, and this year has been no different – diving head first into all the 2020 releases that have caught my ears (that I’ve found time for anyway).
Like last year, I will post my album of the year list when it comes time. But I have also been keeping track of my top 5 songs from every month this year over on Instagram (check my stories). For one reason or another, I haven’t blogged them, but I am here now to amend that.
Here are my top 5 songs from October 2020, followed by the top 5s from the rest of the year that I didn’t get around to blogging about. I’m an albums guy, as opposed to singles, so the songs included are based on what month their corresponding albums were released.
Hopefully you’ll find a song or five that you like. If you want to check them out, you can have a go on this Spotify playlist with every one of these songs on it. I’ll update it come the end of November and December, of course (look out for the blog posts here too).
Top 5 Songs of October 2020
1. Black Foxxes – Badlands
2. Idle Sails – Keys
3. The Goalie’s Anxiety at the Penalty Kick – We Love You So Much
4. Adrianne Lenker – anything
5. Quarter-Life Crisis with Frances Quinlan – Postcard from Spain
1. Sufjan Stevens – Goodbye To All That
2. Bill Callahan – Breakfast
3. Lomelda – Hannah Sun
4. Into It. Over It. – Hollow Halos
5. El Ten Eleven – Let’s All Go Out Like Francis
1. Bright Eyes – Mariana Trench
2. The Front Bottoms – camouflage
3. Young Jesus – (un)knowing
4. Biffy Clyro – Cop Syrup
5. ILIKETRAINS – A Steady Hand
1. Little Kid – Losing
2. Protomartyr – Michigan Hammers
3. The Beths – Acrid
4. El Ten Eleven – Queen’s Gambit
5. Land of Talk – Footnotes
1. Omar Rodriguez-Lopez – Fishtank
2. Mountain Time – Foretold in G
3. Haim – I Know Alone
4. Remo Drive – A Guide To Live By
5. Owen – On With The Show
1. Reciprocate – Marble Arch
2. Perfume Genius – On the Floor
3. Car Seat Headrest – Weightlifters
4. Hayley Williams – Roses/Lotus/Violet/Iris
5. Sometimes – That’s Just Life
1. Trace Mountains – Lost in the Country
2. The Strokes – The Adults Are Talking
3. Stay Inside – Revisionist
4. Sparta – Miracle
5. The Lovely Eggs – You’ve Got The Ball
1. Friend/Enemy – Love is a Metabolic Neon Cave
2. Colin Phils – Petty McSnarkerson
3. Modern Rituals – Sithin Flesche
4. Dogleg – Ender
5. L.A. Takedown – There is a Drone in Griffith Park
1. Post Animal – Safe or Not
2. Six Organs of Admittance – Mark Yourself
3. Tame Impala – One Mour Hour
4. Lee Ranaldo, Paul Refree – Alice, Etc.
5. The Men – Cool Water
1. Criteria – Agitate Resuscitate
2. And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead – Into the Godless Void
3. Wolf Parade – Julia Take Your Man Home
4. Pinegrove – The Alarmist
5. Frances Quinlan – Went to LA
COVID-19 is affecting all of us in one way or another. For a lot of us, it will come all too close to home. None of us ever imagined that something like this would happen during our lifetimes, especially not on this scale. We are all relying on ourselves and each other to act responsibly right now, in order to fight this thing. We can do this by maintaining social distance and staying home as much as possible. Our country is also heavily reliant on the NHS, who are going at it, tooth and nail, 24/7, to save lives. The strain they are under is extraordinary, and we owe them so much.
I wanted to do my bit to help support the NHS. So here’s a t-shirt design depicting a group of people flouting the rules of social distancing (NO), and a person standing solitary (YES). Never before has self-isolation been so in-vogue.
So, do you like t-shirts? Do you despise COVID-19? Do you love the NHS? If you answered ‘yes’ to all three questions, then this t-shirt is for you.
100% of profits will go to NHS Charities Together.
A little poem I wrote and recorded about a poet who makes the most of a bad situation, titled ‘The Poet Makes the Most of a Bad Situation’ has kindly been included in the latest Ink Pods podcast. Have a listen here, if you like.
A couple of my ‘Zygote Poems’ have been recorded and set to electronic soundscapes thanks to friends Dragonfruit Planet and Veneer, with ‘Zygote Poem’ itself featuring the in-womb heartbeat of my daughter. Click here to head to the Cultured Llama website where you can read more about the project and listen to both tracks.
Remember, books are good for you, and so, you can buy ‘Zygote Poems’ in all of its paper and soft-cover form, right here.
Twelve months ago, in January 2019, I decided to note down every album and EP I listened to that year, as well as any new-to-me individual songs I actively discovered, in a notebook – the traditional way it’s done – as both something cool to look back on in years to come, and an incentive to discover more music, whether that’s new releases or albums I had been meaning to check out for years but hadn’t got around to. However, having barely started, it occurred to me that I could make this obsessive journey into discovering more music even more obsessive by blogging my journey every month. And so, if you scroll down through this blog you will find every month’s worth of listening for your perusal.
Having completed the task at the end of December, naturally, I have now had a couple of weeks to take a break and take stock of my journey. I say take a break, but actually, by doing this I had re-instilled a passion to actively check out new albums on what has been pretty much an everyday basis, so in one sense, my journey has only continued. The only difference is, I’m no longer blogging it.
Ultimately, what I learnt from doing this was that there is a never-ending supply of good music out there waiting to be discovered. It was exciting to listen albums that I had neglected for so long, like ‘How It Feels to Be Something On’ by Sunny Day Real Estate, a band whose debut I obsessed over so much that I neglected the rest of their catalogue (it was in equal parts gutting to know I had been missing out such an incredible album in full for all this time, having first discovered Sunny Day Real Estate and becoming obsessed with ‘Diary’ some fifteen years ago); it was also exciting to discover bands and albums that I hadn’t heard before, whether it was a 2019 release like ‘Schlagenheim’ by Black Midi, or an older release that had passed me by, but I have since fallen in love with, with like ‘Any Other City’ by Life Without Buildings. I even discovered albums that had passed me by that have now become some of my favourite albums ever, like ‘Black Phantom Crusades’ by Red Animal War, a band who had a few tracks I had loved for years, but regretfully never delved into further.
Similarly enjoyable was listening to albums and EPs by friends’ bands, and from people I know on the scene like ‘Taut Orchestras’ by Tripper (as well as the single, ‘Pilot Error’, from their upcoming collab album with Mike Watt), ‘Big Storm Coming’ and ‘Heaven’s Gunships’ by Broker, ‘Turbo Island’ by Steve Strong’, ‘Young and Cool’ by Woahnows, ‘Everyone Will Fall’ by The Natural 20s, ‘To Set Things Right’ by The Bell and the Hammer, and ‘Tiny Fires’ by SPACESHIPS, reminding me that I am surrounded by, if not connected to, hugely talented musicians. And, although it wasn’t a genre I listened to huge amounts of in 2019, I should give a nod to fellow poet, and in fact someone whose poetry I really admire, James Turner, for introducing me to classical music in the form of Shostakovich and Henryk Górecki, which I found to be really nice to listen to whilst drawing.
As the year went on, I found myself getting more and more glued to checking out albums from 2019. As soon as I listened to one, I discovered another, and there were just so many great albums being released last year that I was unable stop. This is why the latter half of my blog posts are particularly saturated by 2019 releases, resulting in my album of the year list. As I write this I am listening to my 7th 2020 release of the year, so it is safe to say that obsession has continued, and there will probably be another extensive album of the year list from me come late December 2020, but hey, there are much worse things I could get obsessed with. At least I’m eating all my vegetables and washing myself regularly.
2019, in fact, was such a great year for music, that not only did a lot of my favourite bands release new music, including The Appleseed Cast, my favourite band ever, who put out ‘The Fleeting Light of Impermanence’, which (completely unbiased-ly) made the number one spot on my AOTY list, but my top ten albums of 2019 alone consisted of six albums by bands that were new to me: Bars of Gold, Prince Daddy & the Hyena, Heartscape Landbreak, Outer Spaces, One True Pairing, and Pile.
To round things up then, here are my favourite discoveries from each month of my journey (I have purposefully chosen albums/EPs that were completely new to me as opposed to old favourites, to make it more fun for myself if not anyone else – who is actually reading this anyway?), with an alternative highlight track, as well as my favourite individual song I heard that month (so, a track that I heard by itself, and not part of an album I had checked out – I know, this is anal, and overly specific, and all those things – welcome to the cogs of my constantly overworking and anxiety-ridden brain). Before that though, because this wasn’t all obsessive enough, as I went along I put a song or two from every album and EP I listened to in 2019, as well as those individual tracks I mentioned, in a Spotify playlist, which now clocks in at 26 hours and 1 minute in length, which you can follow here.
Album: Owls, ‘Owls’. Highlight: ‘For Nate’s Brother Whose Name I Never Knew Or Can’t Remember’.
Individual track: Outer Spaces, ‘Teapot #1’.
Here it is. The final month of my 12-month head-first dive into actively trying to discover more music. If you have followed my journey since beginning all the way back in January 2019, then thank you. I plan on doing a round-up blog post in the next week or so highlighting my favourites from each month and talking a bit more about what I discovered.
For now, here’s everything I listened to in December (that I hadn’t already listened to before, hence the absence of any Christmas songs that have occupied the last couple of weeks – when you have a 7 year old child, that does happen). As you will see it is mostly made up of 2019 releases, as there was a bunch of stuff (not to mention the 300+ 2019 albums I wanted to check out but didn’t get around to) I wanted to listen to before the year was out. I was 3 albums short from being able to compile a top 100 list, having checked out 97 albums from 2019, and so I made a top 90 list instead. Check it out here, and leave your own 2019 lists in the comments (disclaimer: if I was to make the list today it would look quite different, records by Big Thief, Kim Gordon, Jimmy Eat World, and Pedro the Lion would be higher, etc. I am actually listening to ‘Two Hands’ by Big Thief again as I write this).
Hey. Do you like Spotify playlists that are 327 all-awesome songs in length? Then this playlist, which contains a song from every album I listened to in the last twelve months (that I liked), and every individual song I heard that I hadn’t encountered previously, is for you. Ideal for playing on shuffle.
Albums and EPs
Neil Young with Crazy Horse, ‘Colorado’ – Crazy Horse is back and this album is definitely up there with some of Young’s best work. It swings from ballsy and raw to tender and sweet, as you’d expect from a Crazy Horse album, and it’s not shy of those epic crunchy riffs and jams. Highlight: ‘Help Me Lose My Mind’.
Alcest, ‘Spiritual Instinct’ – Alcest combine metal with elements of shoegaze and post rock to create something that does sound quite spiritual. I had heard a lot of hype around this record. Ultimately, it wasn’t really for me. Having said that it did have its moments. Highlight: ‘Projection’.
Great Grandpa, ‘Four of Arrows’ – A mash of indie rock and pop punk, with slight radio-friendly country pop tinges here and there. It brushes too close to Taylor Swift territory too often me. Highlight: ‘Digger’.
SPACESHIPS, ‘Tiny Fires’ – Fusing elements of shoegaze, post rock, and dream metal to create four tracks which are in turn epic, dramatic, and heartfelt. Highlight: ‘Magnetic’.
The Glow, ‘Am I’ – Mike Caridi of LVL UP returns bringing the fuzzy indie rock that made LVL UP so comforting to the table again, but this time with added pop and psych influences. Highlight: ‘Weight Of Sun’.
Fever Ray, ‘Fever Ray’ – I remember being completely compelled by the sound of this album and the eerie mood it sets. Karin Dreijer, also known for her work with The Knife, delivers 10 tracks of a brooding, moody, haunting deposition fusing electronic, ambient, alternative, and art pop. Highlight: ‘Seven’.
Big Thief, ‘Two Hands’ – This second album from Big Thief this year isn’t as immediate as the first (which I listened to last month), but is still an album of stunning indie-folk worth talking about. Highlight: ‘Not’.
Tool, ‘Fear Inoculum’ – I was aware Tool had a new album out this year but hadn’t really considered giving it a listen until a friend brought it up. My knowledge of Tool is limited to seeing 30 seconds of their video for Schism on Kerrang! back in the day which didn’t do anything for me. I thought I’d give this a go though, as tastes often change. If I’m honest, it wasn’t for me, which for an album that clocks in at 1hr 26mins, is quite a big commitment. However, during that time, I did find the odd riff or rhythm that pricked my ears up. Highlight: ‘Chocolate Chip Trip’.
Tyler, The Creator, ‘IGOR’ – I tried listening to this earlier in the year, but after a couple of tracks I had to stop as I found it grating. I thought it I would give it another go, this time committing to the full album. There are some cool moments here and there, but overall I found it a bit annoying. Highlight: ‘WHAT’S GOOD’.
Kim Gordon, ‘No Home Record’ – A blistering art rock record which is charismatic and playful as much as it is relentless and important. Kim Gordon’s signature husky and evocative vocal is ever-present, and so it instantly appeals to the Sonic Youth fan in me. The chorus of ‘Air BnB’ could easily be from a Dirty-era Sonic Youth song. Similarities aside though, there’s a lot of new sounds and moods explored, as well as cut-up experimental-ism and noise for this debut solo album to stand on its own two feet. Highlight: ‘Murdered Out’.
MONO, ‘Nowhere Now Here’ – Grandiose, climatic post-rock which shifts between quiet and loud, graceful and heavy. There’s not a lot I can say about this record that hasn’t been said about other post-rock albums of this nature, but it’s a solid album nonetheless. Highlight: ‘Meet Us Where the Night Ends’.
Bat For Lashes, ‘Lost Girls’ – An atmospheric mix of art pop, electronic, and synth-pop, with elements of new wave. The songs swing between brooding and melancholic to euphoric and hypnotising, with a mysterious smokiness underlying throughout. Highlight: ‘Jasmine’. Bonus highlight (because it’s one of the best instrumentals I’ve heard this year): ‘Vampires’.
Tripper, ‘Taut Orchestras’ – A blistering EP which brings punk, post hardcore, indie rock and pyschadelic rock to a boil and then spits it in your face with a sly wink and a cheeky grin. Highlight: ‘All the Heartache’.
Cassels, ‘The Perfect Ending’ – An idiosyncratic mix of indie rock, rock and roll, and punk, going from big, ballsy riffs to clean, tender chords, and underscored by half spoken, half sung vocals that lean on social commentary and politics. Highlight: ‘A Snowflake in Winter’.
Thurston Moore, ‘Spirit Counsel’ – Clocking in at 2hrs 28mins, Spirit Counsel consists of just three tracks that bridge the gap between noise rock and post rock. I have to say, although this was by no means un-enjoyable, I’m not sure these tracks justified being so epic in length. On the rare occasion that these mainly-guitar-based pieces changed their motif it was a much welcomed breath of fresh air. I am almost certain though that it was Thurston’s intention to take the listener right to the brink before giving them any relief. Highlight: ‘Alice Moki Jayne’.
Horse Jumper of Love, ‘So Divine’ – A hypnotic mix of slowcore and indie rock, with the occasional grunge undertone, lyrically capturing memories and making them into bigger things. Highlight: ‘Volcano’.
- Individual tracks I hadn’t heard before
SPACESHIPS, ‘Babel’ – Spotify put on this track after I had listened to their ‘Tiny Fires’ EP, and I will be checking out the rest of this album in due course, for sure. SPACESHIPS definitely have ‘their’ sound down.
Try, Try, Try, ‘Give It Up’ – A saccharine slice of electronic-enthused indie pop from the same man that otherwise goes by the name Luke Leighfield.
Poolside, ‘Harvest Moon’ – A chilled electronic cover of Neil Young’s classic. Stunning.
Outer Spaces, ‘Children Love To Run’ – The b-side to ‘Teapot #1’ which was put out earlier in the year as part of Saddle Creek’s Document series is a slightly more jangly, upbeat affair.
Tripper + Watt, ‘Pilot Error’ – Shortly after listening to their EP ‘Taut Orchestras’, they dropped this exploding bomb of unrelenting, angular, and immediate punk rock, again with that trademark edge of post hardcore, indie and psychadelic rock. This first-released song from the upcoming Tripper and Mike Watt collab album promises exciting things to come.
Neil Young, ‘One of These Days’ – Mellow and tender Harvest-Moon-era-Young. Can’t go wrong.