In 2020, as in 2019, I struggled to source a vibrant, eclectic roster of albums; struggled to find listening time; and struggled to interpret my emotions and thoughts. Nonetheless I experienced the joy of these ace albums (three rated 9/10. four at 8/10, and three at 7/10):
Ghosteen is another sublime treasure from Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. Unflinching in dealing with grief and love, the musical mood is keening sparseness.
Perfume Genius is Mike Hadreas, and on Set My Heart on Fire, his floating tremulous falsetto, which can thicken into semi-menace, is set off beautifully by sumptuous production.
The stories of Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit on Reunions are reason enough to listen with pleasure. The melodies, the musical power, and Isbell’s emotional voice, make this a special work.
My favorite for the year, rarely off my turntable, is Angel Olsen’s rough yet triumphant set of basement tapes to last year’s most upbeat marvel, All Mirrors. Trying to single out the highlights of Whole New Mess is a waste of time.
Doves are back and they sound the same and that sound is superb and their songs on The Universal Want drag you back to listen and listen. Stadium rock designed for a lockdown room.
Sharp lyrics, triumphant singing, and excellent musicianship lift Walking Like We Do by The Big Moon out of the U.K. indie ruck.
British bands star in any year’s Best Of, and Every Bad by Porridge Radio, is a raucous yet melodic delight, a gorgeous romp.
Another return to our ears after absence is the latest from Bright Eyes. Conor Oberst offers his usual introspective, hip lyrics on Down in the Weeds, Where the World Once Was, but it’s the inspired band writing and musicianship that sheet the ornate songs home.
On Giants of All Sizes, Elbow is brooding and rumbling, quite pissed off. Another splendid creation.
Only Magic, the wistful, unforgettable indie pop-folk magic of Teleman frontman, Tom Sanders.