Today we reveal the first five 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
brdmm's much-lauded debut album is currently on its seventh colour pressing and has proven to be a slow-burner through the second half of 2021, picking up many end of year accolades and influential champions such as Steve Lamacq and their label Sonic Cathedral. The Hull band formed in 2016 by Ryan Smith have bided their time, grown their reputation and honed their craft. In starting the album with the instrumental Momo, they've also shown they're not afraid to follow their instincts rather than the rules that say you should forward load your albums with singles.
24. AOIFE NESSA FRANCES - LAND OF NO JUNCTION
Released back in the second week of January, when the world was normal, Land Of No Junction is a beautifully reflective collection of nine songs that, as the press release says "traverse and inhabit this indeterminate landscape: the beginnings of love, moments of loss, discovery, fragility and strength, all intermingle and interact. Land of No Junction is shot through with a sense of mystery – an ambiguity and disorientation that illuminates with smokey luminescence."
What stands dead centre is Aoife's astonishing voice, often understated but always wrought with an emotional depth and clarity. It takes a rare skill to create a record that's as fragile and delicate as this and to hold the listener's attention for forty minutes - subtle flashes of instrumentation act as the bold font, the underlining emphasis, the confirmation. Dublin might be better known these days for its burgeoning post-punk scene, but Land Of No Junction is a remarkable counterpoint to that.
23. TIM BURGESS - I LOVE THE NEW SKY
Our review concluded - "I Love The New Sky succeeds because it feels natural and fun, a record made for the sake of making a record, to get ideas down and out into the world as the ultimate end of a creative process that springs from the need to remain active in the downtime major bands now have between albums as part of the release cycle. It's light of touch in place in places, but that just gives the songs space to breathe and blossom. It's not in your face as many of the best records of the past few years are, but with a couple of listens it's burrowed its way under your skin."
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22. SMALLTOWN TIGERS - FIVE THINGS
Smalltown Tigers hail from Rimini in Italy. Their Facebook profile describes them as "Can you imagine Suzi Quatro writing a real punk rock record? Or Joan Jett not being sucked in by Glam Rock limelights? Enter the Smalltown Tigers." They released their debut album Five Things on Tuscany's Area Pirata Records back in April.
Five Things clocks in at just twenty-two minutes and eight tracks and the influences of their oft-mentioned favourites The Ramones runs right through the middle of it. There's a breathless uncompromising nature to Five Things that sets the listener's pulses racing. It sounds raw, unpolished, the guitars are sharp, jagged bursts, riffs that will stab you right where they cause maximum impact with the occasional vocal harmonies to smooth the pain but which lull you into a false sense of security before the next onslaught. One of the most in your face albums we've heard this year.
21. WORKING MEN'S CLUB - WORKING MEN'S CLUB
When Working Men's Club announced themselves in 2019 with the angular post-punk debut single Bad Blood it would have been hard to predict that their debut album would sound quite like this. With Julia Bardo off on her solo career, the line-up of the band changed completely with just Sydney Minsky-Sargeant the consistent driving force behind their continued ascent in 2020 and the year's most critically-acclaimed debut.
Described by The Guardian as having "a mixtape feel to songs, as various sounds and styles are hurled in with gleeful eclecticism", the album has more ideas than most bands will generate in a career running through it (you could argue the twelve minute finale Angel does that on its own), yet feels like everything has space to breathe and fluorish. It feels instantly familiar yet also remarkably fresh and innovative - radio and dancefloor-friendly at the same time and with a sniping bite to it on the likes of Cook A Coffee. The accompanying Megamix reworking of the songs into one long piece is an essential accompaniment to the album.