Tuesday, 15 December 2020

EVEN THE STARS Top 25 Albums Of 2020 - 20 to 16


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. 

Our chart to date - 25-21

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

As unlikely comebacks go, Thousand Yard Stare's must be up there. Feted for a short period in the early 1990s, supporting James on their huge 1991 tour, their albums Hands On and particularly its follow-up Mappamundi went under the radar of many music lovers. Apart from dark corners of the internet that retained a love of under-the-radar nineties indie there wasn’t a massive clamour for a return, but their surprise reappearance in 2015 with a sold out Borderline show in London and 2016’s Live At Electric Studios reassessment of their catalogue with a few new tracks thrown in whet those appetites and saw a nationwide tour ensue. 

This was followed by a 2017 double EP (to all intents and purposes an album) entitled Deep Dreaming / Star Grazing that tugged at the same heartstrings their early material had but which showed that Thousand Yard Stare still had new ideas aplenty and weren’t just doing this for the money. Mainly, because there wasn’t really any to be had. Like all the best reunions, this was about making music and sharing the joy of that music in a room full of like-minded souls. And that concluded in the release of The Panglossian Momentum, an album that bridged the two and a half decade plus gap since the last one.

The Panglossian Momentum is a genuine joy to listen to, a record that’s been made out of love and the need to indulge themselves in the creative process with long-lost brothers. The tension that was evident in their second record Mappamundi has fully dissipated here and that relaxation of the muscles, the flowing of the creative juices and reconnecting of the spirit of the earlier years of the band are very much visible above the surface of these eight songs.


Our review concluded : "The Panglossian Momentum is their best and most accomplished record to date. The band have demonstrated once again that they have a creative flair to write and produce intelligent, timeless pop music. That a band can produce an album of this worth in their 31st year is remarkable. We hope we get to hear this album in the live arena soon as by the band’s own admissions, this is their preferred environment"

Thousand Yard Stare's official website can be found here and they are on Facebook and Twitter. The album can be ordered from their store.


19. THE BLINDERS - FANTASIES OF A STAY AT HOME PSYCHOPATH

Following up an album with a such a striking audio-visual package as their debut Columbia was never going to be an easy feat for The Blinders. The imagery of Johnny Dream and the stories inextricably linked to the novel 1984 were striking, but something it would be unwise to try and replicate. What The Blinders have done with their follow-up Fantasies Of A Stay At Home Psychopath is to widen their horizons in terms of subject matter without straying too far from the subjects of the political systems around the world, societal issues and mental health.


Our review concluded : "Fantasies Of A Stay At Home Psychopath is a band shedding the youthful exuberance of their debut album and replacing it with a more controlled and targeted attack on many of the same subjects as Columbia. The power of the album comes not from adrenaline, particularly in the second half, but from the descriptive nature of the lyrics and the way the music heightens the message that's being presented. Rather than being at the eye of the storm being thrown around by it, The Blinders sit as informed articulate observers of the very strange world that we inhabit, documenting it with poetic license and cultural reference points. They've avoided that difficult second album syndrome by ripping up the debut's blueprint and rewriting it with the benefit of accrued wisdom."

The Blinders' website can be found here and they are on Facebook and Twitter.

18. THANK YOU I'M SORRY - I'M GLAD WE'RE FRIENDS

I'm Glad We're Friends from Minneapolis trio Thank You I'm Sorry has a classic old-school lo-fi indie feel to it that struck an immediate chord with us. Delve deeper and it reveals many of the traits of what once got described as bedsit-indie - a very personal insight into in frontperson Colleen Dow's struggles for self acceptance. It's a record that lays everything bare and by doing so draws you in and has you shouting for the underdog like when they sing "I'm my own worst enemy" half-way through standout track Follow Unfollow.


The band's bio describes the genesis of these songs - "Nerves are one hell of a tool. Short bursts of anxiety and fear often lead to songwriting that doubles down on winking through catharsis." Most of the best music is borne in its creators opening themselves up and revealing everything - I'm Glad We're Friends is one of this year's finest examples of this.

Thank You I'm Sorry are on Facebook.

17. MARIE DAVIDSON / L'OEIL NU - RENEGADE BREAKDOWN

"There are no money makers on this record" declares French-Canadian Marie Davidson within the first sixty seconds of the title track's heavy beat driven opening. Renegade Breakdown is certainly a record that refuses to play the games that are usually required for an album to crossover into the mass market, to be put into a box traversing so many styles and approaches across its ten tracks. But it's one of the most diverse and unpredictable albums released in 2020.


It jumps between English and French, techno-driven sounds, classic rock and roll and more tender intimate moments at will, often within the same song, creating the feel of one of those magical mix-tapes where the tracklisting makes no sense until you actually listen to it and recognise that someone with a much better concept of how these things work than yourself is behind it. As a case in point, Just In My Head feels like a jazz standard reinterpreted for the 21st Century and it sits between the big beats of C'Est Parce Que J'm'en Fous and Twin Peaks style atmospherics of Lead Sister, both sung in French. 

Marie Davidson is on Facebook and Twitter.

16. HANIA RANI - HOME

Hania Rani is a Polish pianist, composer and musician who splits her time between Warsaw and Berlin. Home is her second album, a follow-up to Esja, which was a series of solo piano pieces and picks up that album and judiciously adds layered vocals that act like another instrument, electronics, bass and drums to impressive cinematic impact.  It's an album that feels intensely personal, restless and searching and takes the listener on a fascinating journey, uncertain of what direction it is going to take next. There's a sense of fragility and vulnerability running through it that makes it a magical listen - one to immerse yourself in from start to finish rather than dipping in and out of.


Hania describes the album - "I try to explore new genres and discover new artists, I don't want to be stuck in things that I know, I want to learn about things that are still new to me. I feel Home is a story with an ending, so the next book can tell a totally different one. I am constantly looking for new ways of expression" 

Hania Rani is on Facebook and Twitter.

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