26 Jan 2021
Top 5 Albums of 2020
2020 was certainly a year of lockdown album releases. Taylor Swift released not one but two complete albums with the help of The National band members, one of my favourite bands Fleet Foxes returned with Shore, but to be perfectly honest, nothing clearly stood out as a great year in new music. In fact, many of my favourite artists released new music in 2020 but not many of them stuck with me.
If there was one positive light to gain from 2020 it was some of my favourite artists connecting with their fans via social media with free live streams during lockdown. Especially at the beginning of the pandemic, when things were so raw, uncertain and unhinged, there was a lot of comfort being shared. Music has that power.... So here's a few of my favourites and then my Top 5 albums of 2020.
Lockdown musical moments
Tallest Man on Earth
Kristian Matsson performed a handful of laidback liveshows during lockdown on his YouTube channel. Matsoon with his calm demeanour and raft of musical instruments played plenty of his own material along with an epic collection of covers.
Phoebe Bridgers: Live on KEXP at home
Performing a range of tracks from her fantastic album "Punisher", Bridgers did a mini remote collab with KEXP.
Ben Gibbard: Live from Home
Ben Gibbard from Death Cab for Cutie did multiple live solo shows in early lockdown of the bands discography. The one above is from his most requested tracks.
And now... onto my Top 5 records of 2020...
5. Caribou - Suddenly
Dan Snaith had apparently 900 "draft ideas" for his 12 track 10th album. Holy crap that's a lot of music to whittle down! But it's also probably the more upbeat albums on my list for 2020. And we needed that in-between the rest. Snaith sings on all the tracks this time around too with a greater emphasis on melody and hooks than his previous records. Standout tracks include "You and I", "New Jade", "Never Come Back", and "Home".
4. Perfume Genius - Set My Heart on Fire Immediately
I first heard Perfume Genius' music last year in the film Booksmart featuring the track "Slip Away" from his 1997 record No Shape. That album was really solid but on this fifth record, Mike Hadreas brings in the heavy weights of the musical world to help achieve his vision and it's pretty damn magical. Bigger gestures, fully melodic and grander in many ways, his homages to 80's pop and artists like Morrisey and the Cocteau Twins are evident throughout but he makes it all sound fresh. Standout tracks include "On the Floor", "Whole Life", and "Jason".
3. Four Tet - Sixteen Oceans
I've always been a fan of ambient music that crosses genres including house, techno and electronica. You go from kinetic energy of dance to a lush musical landscape in seconds and then back again and it's goosebump worthy. Yes please. Kieran Hebden has fashioned a great 2020 record, with tracks like "Teenage Birdsong", "Harpsichord" and the Ellie Goulding assisted “Baby” particular highlights.
2. Waxahatchee - Saint Cloud
Comparisons to Bob Dylan are apt for Katie Crutchfield's evolution to Americana from her indie rock roots. Her songwriting comes from a place of earned integrity with her sobriety in this record. It's an album of newfound appreciation and life and love lessons learned. I love that it's mostly just her vocals, a guitar, and excellent songwriting that bring you back, time and time again.
1. Phoebe Bridgers - Punisher
Almost no better album summarises 2020 than this devastatingly intimate second record from Phoebe Bridgers. If you're a fan of Elliot Smith and The National, you'll see similar themes run throughout — Self-doubt, depression, love, growth, and feelings of isolation and loneliness. In fact, the title track 'Punisher' is an imaginary fan conversation with her long time admiration of Elliot Smith, whom she never met. So personal is this record that she almost self-titled it but in the end she thought "Punisher" just sounded 'cooler'. It's not a light record that's for sure but neither was 2020 and this record was the perfect ode to all the feelings that came along with it.