Today we reveal five more of our favourite albums of 2020, a strange year in pretty much every respect, but one that still managed to deliver some stunning new music to our ever-growing collections of albums.
25. bdrmm - BEDROOM
24. AOIFE NESSA FRANCES - LAND OF NO JUNCTION
23. TIM BURGESS - I LOVE THE NEW SKY
22. SMALLTOWN TIGERS - FIVE THINGS
21. WORKING MEN'S CLUB - WORKING MEN'S CLUB
20. THOUSAND YARD STARE - THE PANGLOSSIAN MOMENTUM
19. THE BLINDERS - FANTASIES OF A STAY AT HOME PSYCHOPATH
18. THANK YOU I'M SORRY - I'M GLAD WE'RE FRIENDS
17. MARIE DAVIDSON / L'OEIL NU - RENEGADE BREAKDOWN
16. HANIA RANI - HOME
Pillow Queens' debut has been four years in the making, anticipation built up through a series of EPs and then singles, the last five of which feature on In Waiting. It's an album of this time we live in, an introspective look at life in a modern city like Dublin from underneath the glossy veneer with stories of the shadow of religion, still visible homophobia and the difficulties of growing up and becoming an adult when the cards are stacked against you mentally and financially.
It's direct, bold and uncompromising in both its sonic and verbal attitude yet refuses to allow itself to be compartmentalised into a genre - as impressive a debut in many ways as some of the lauded ones from the same streets. They're not one for chest-thumping statements - they focus on the personal, the word I is present and up front in each of these ten songs which draw you in with glorious harmonies.
Our review concluded - "In Waiting is a mightily impressive debut album in many ways. It talks of society's ills through personal experiences and offers hope and counters to hatred, bigotry and the mental and physical pressures that are placed on young people growing up in fractured times. Its overarching message is that you have to learn to love yourself and those around you, imperfections and all, and to be the best version of yourself for you and those around you and to face whatever seeks to pull you under head on. In many ways that's the most important message anyone has put down on record right now"
14. THE SLOW READERS CLUB - THE JOY OF THE RETURN
The Joy Of The Return hit number nine in the album charts, a phenomenal achievement for the band given that it was their fourth studio album and their first as a full-time band. These type of stories don't happen these days in the era of the playlist-driven image-conscious music business. Across eleven songs they explore the state of the world, the obsession with social media and the divisive atmosphere it creates as well as revisiting some recurring lyrical themes with a more adventurous musical mindset that's been afforded to them as a full-time band.
Our review concluded : "The widened lyrical focus of The Joy Of The Return is matched by the music. Whilst the huge singalong choruses that have characterised previous The Slow Readers Club albums are very much still in evidence, the eleven songs that make up The Joy Of The Return are a little lighter of touch than its predecessor. There's subtleties that reveal themselves on further listens on the likes of Paris, Every Word and Zero Hour that come with the time the band have had to make this record as full-time musicians rather than snatched hours between work and sleeping. It all goes to making The Joy Of The Return a little less relentless in pace than its predecessor, an album that will take time to reveal its full beauty to you but one that will ultimately be even more rewarding and sure to delight their current fan base and attract new devotees to the READERS army of followers"
The Slow Readers Club play 2021 dates at Sheffield Foundry (March 17), Edinburgh Liquid Rooms (18), Gateshead Sage 2 (19), Leeds Beckett University (20), Warrington Parr Hall (21), London Electric Ballroom (23), Nottingham Rock City (24), Cardiff The Globe (25), Bristol Thekla (26), Birmingham O2 Academy (27), Portsmouth Wedgewood Rooms (29), Brighton Chalk (30), Cambridge Junction (31), Blackburn King George's Hall (April 1), Liverpool O2 Academy (2), Amsterdam Bitterzoet (10), Antwerp Trix Hall (11), Cologne Luxor (12), Hamburg Knust (13), Oslo John Dee (15), Stockholm Nalen (16), Copenhagen Vega (17), Warsaw Stodola (19), Berlin Frannz Club (20), Prague Cafe V Lese (21), Budapest H38 (22), Zagreb Culture Factory (23), Milan Biko (24), Zurich Komplex Club (26), Montlucon Le Guingois (27) and Paris Supersonic (28).
13. DOVES - THE UNIVERSAL WANT
When Doves went on an indefinite hiatus after their celebratory homecoming at Warehouse Project in Manchester in 2010 the omens for them coming back at all weren't great. Rumours abounded of a breakdown in communications, Jimi headed off to produce a solo album and Andy and Jez combined on their Black Rivers project. Whilst the internet head of steam slowly built demanding a reunion, they'd already got together behind closed doors, rekindled old flames and started work on what was to become The Universal Want. Whereas their last album Kingdom Of Rust was fraught with the sound of fractious relationships, there's a joyful undercurrent of warmth and love that runs through The Universal Want.
Our review concluded - "The Universal Want is the sound of a band making music on their own terms with the stars aligned in a way of their choosing. Casual observers may bemoan the lack of anything as immediate as Pounding, Kingdom Of Rust or There Goes The Fear, but this is an album to immerse yourself in and let envelop you and reveal more beauty with each and every listen. You can hear the birth marks, the sound of a band breathing easily, enjoying life and each other's company again"
Doves play Cardiff University (March 21), Bournemouth O2 Academy (22), Norwich UEA (23), Brighton Dome (25), London Brixton Academy (26/27), Bristol O2 Academy (29), Birmingham O2 Academy (30), Manchester O2 Apollo (April 1), Nottingham Rock City (2), Newcastle O2 Academy (3) and Liverpool Olympia (5).
12. MATT BERNINGER - SERPENTINE PRISON
Matt Berninger could be singing us the last rites and we'd feel relaxed by his voice, offering battered and bruised reassurance that whatever is going on in our head isn't unusual or as fucked up as we think. When he sings "I was looking up at the levels in between us because I was sinking through the floor" on Distant Axis or "Paralysis has me, how do people do it? I can't see through it" on Oh Dearie, he's capturing the thoughts and fears that many of us have inside and find it hard to express.
Boxer, High Violet and Sleep Well Beast in particular sit high in our favourite albums of all time. Serpentine Prison doesn't offer any surprises, but doesn't need to. Produced by Booker T Jones, the album has a more laid-back feel than most of Matt's work with The National. The idiosyncrasies and intuitive connections that come from long-term band relationships that make them such a fascinating prospect are less in evidence here, but it doesn't detract from the impact of the album after the band's experimentation with their last album I Am Easy To Find.
11. CHERRY PICKLES - THE JUICE THAT'S WORTH THE SQUEEZE
Twelve songs, twenty-eight minutes. "We're Cherry Pickles, we're going to melt your brain" is the opening track's promise that's delivered as a certainty rather than an idle threat. From the start Priscilla (guitars) and Mimi (drums) go for the jugular and don't let go until they've bludgeoned you into submission. What The Juice That's Worth The Squeeze, their second album in just over a year, might lack in sophistication, it more than makes up for in raw power.
They take no prisoners throughout. Unwanted attention is dealt with an unequivocal dismissive "go fuck yourself" on their Black Mekon cover Don't Waste My Time which feels more appropriate sung from the point of view of the female victim of unwanted attention whilst Little Black Book talks of cataloging a list of enemies on who vengeance will be wrought at some point. Their influences might be writ large over this record but it's the force of their personalities and the power of the performance that makes The Juice That's Worth The Squeeze such a compelling listen.