Top Ten Albums of 2020

I normally do this as a daily countdown, but, well I missed my start date this year and I also didn’t want to post ten music based articles in a row, particularly as they’re usually pretty short.

2020 has, obviously, been an odd one for music, bands have seen gigs, concerts and festivals cancelled, many have had limited time in studios, even so, I’ve needed new music to get me through the year. There have been albums that I’ve loved and become instant favourites whilst others have been recordings I’ve been wanting to hear all year and then when they’ve finally arrived, haven’t quite hit the mark for whatever reason. But, you’re not here for that, you’re here to see what I’ve picked as my favourite ten albums of the year, so here goes:

10. Fontaines DC – A Hero’s Death

This appears to be the music journo’s album of the year (or at least Steve Lamacq’s), and it is indeed very, very good. Less focused on the community that they grew up in than 2019’s “Dogrel” (which I rated as my 6th favourite album in that countdown), that the group turned out two intensely confident albums with a gap of fewer than 12 months between them shows just how good this lot really are.

09. Public Enemy – What You Gonna Do When The Grid Goes Down?

When Chuck D decides to get Public Enemy back together you know that he has something up his sleeve, in the aftermath of George Floyds unlawful killing at the hands of police officers, the Rhyme Animals feelings and words become essential. It may feel like a cheap shot for them to re-record Fight The Power with new lyrics, but what better way to get your message across than to change things up with arguably your most impactful hit.

08. IDLES – Ultra Mono

You’d think, based on previous years lists, that IDLES would have placed higher, and whilst I do love Ultra Mono, it was still a bit of a disappointment. It’s still an absolutely magnificent record. The Bristolian group are still tackling the topics of toxic masculinity and xenophobia, and their voice is as essential as ever. But Ultra Mono doesn’t quite catch the punch of Brutalism and the hooks of Joy as an Act of Resistance (my number 1 in 2018).

07. Creeper – Sex, Death and the Infinite Void

We thought we’d lost Creeper, they hadn’t split-up per se, but there was the feeling they wouldn’t be recording any new material, then they give us Sex, Death and the Infinite Void. The thing is, Creeper don’t like making the same thing again and again, each of their albums is genuinely different and are always a surprise, though their aesthetic rarely changes, however they always manage to channel a melodramatic sound, Creeper have, on this album more so than others, turned The Rocky Horror Picture Show as inspiration into an absolute art-form.

06. War on Women – Wonderful Hell

War on Women don’t wear their feminist credentials on a pin, they wear them on the toe of their boots as they kick the world up the arse. When a band opens up with a song using the title of a poison created by a woman who wanted rid of her abusive husband, you know they’re not here to play nice.

05. The Strokes – The New Abnormal

Any time I listen to an album by The Strokes I have to hold fire on my opinion on it, they’re a band that’s fairly special to me as they hold a key place in the relationship with the woman I’ve lived with for eighteen years. Is This It was and is one of my favourite albums of all time, so they have to release something truly special to be included in these lists. Other albums haven’t quite made enough of an impression on me, but The New Abnormal is The Strokes at their lazy, cocky, propping up the bar best.

04. Salem – Salem

One Creeper album in 2020 was enough, but lead singer Will Gould decided to set out to provide us with a side-project that sounds like Creeper did early on. Salem is much more bratty, pop-like gothic punk and he’s having so much fun with it. It’s also probably the sexiest album I’ve heard in a long while, especially with an absolutely filthy lyrics such as “I’m drunk just off your eyes while you nurse a flask between your thighs” (sounds innocent, but think on it) on Fall Out Of Love.

03. Bob Vylan

The rest of this list features Spotify links to make life easy for you, and whilst Vylan’s 2020 singles are on Spotify, their fantastic album is available through Bandcamp. Bob Vylan is an essential listen for anyone denying that there isn’t systemic racism in Britain today.

02. Fever 333 – Wrong Generation

It’s hard to ignore a theme in much of the key punk music of 2020, particularly that recorded by black artists. Fever 333 placed third on last years list, and evidently 2020’s offering goes one better, not just because of its message but because it takes the sound they’ve carved out for themselves (Linkin Park + Rage Against The Machine), toys with it and moulds it into something new whilst breaking off into new territory. It’s one of those albums where picking out a couple of songs doesn’t really work, its an entire body that needs to be consumed and thought upon, a stunning piece of work.

01. …And You Will Know Us By The Trail of the Dead – X: The Godless Voice and Other Stories

However, number 1 goes to something completely different. A lot of the albums listed above have rather political leanings, but …And You Will Know Us By The Trail of the Dead’s 2020 offering strips things down to be just really fucking good rock and roll. I’ve loved bits and pieces over the years from them, but nothing has ever quite matched 1999’s Madonna, however, Worlds Apart genuinely hits those heights, that it’s still my favourite album of the year despite being released back in January should speak volumes, especially considering how much our lives have changed in that time.

If you’d like to see previous years entries, follow these links:

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