[sic] Magazine

2020: Half-Term Report

The long-term effects of COVID19 are yet to be felt by the music industry. Some will prosper; some will unfortunately flounder. With the future of many venues and those working in the industry looking bleak, it can be hard to revel in new releases, but music does continue to made. Sometimes it simply has to be made. This is one of those times. Support at least parts of the industry by listening to it and buying it.

So where does this all leave the state of play this year? It’s just starting to come to the boil, really. Despite everything, it’s a safe bet that the changing winds will likely bring some fascinating listens in the later part of the year to truly set the year alight musically. Throw in the BLM movement and it’s already happening (RTJ4, SAULT etc.). You’ll undoubtedly have had your favourites already though. Mine are below.

A well-balanced bunch of the brand spanking new as well as the tried and tested, so too the preserve of the break-out label and the more established indie/rock hub, and finally too of both the loud and the more considered, 2020 – if nothing else – has at least given us a little bit of something for everyone in terms of music.

At the more people-friendly end of the spectrum we first find Phoebe Bridger’s charming sophomore solo album, a soothingly classy dose of lightly countrified singer/song-writing that does her rising star no harm at all. Impossible to dislike, London slackers Happyness’s latest LP is bound to put a smile on your face too, its slightly beat-up and husky melodies evoking thoughts of the likes of Mark Everett and Elliott Smith. Hailing from altogether artier corners we then find Fiona Apple’s most recent missive, which – although not quite as good as the Pitchfork slobber-job would have you believe – is nevertheless a triumph due to being as restrained as it is angry, lyrically shocking and rhythmically wonky, yet surprisingly classic-sounding under repeat listens: think Patti Smith meets tUnE-yArDs meets Joanna Newsome. Much more straightforward, the new Bambara record is another delightfully dark tour de post-punk force that needs very little further explanation, neither too the supremely tight debut EP from similarly styled, Manc-based miserablists Document, which will take some beating in that format this year.

Taking things up a notch and splitting the difference between lovely psychedelic guitar-pop and nagging garage-punk, Chris Gunn and his Lavender Flu’s latest is just as good if not better than their last also, while the ever reliable if not prolific envy growl their way through another show-stopping set of post-everything hardcore-cum-blackgaze. Keeping things loud, you’ll be hard pressed too to find a better pound-for-pound rock record this year than Banshee’s pretty brilliant Livin’ In The Jungle, while North Carolina band Nest Egg’s excellent zoning in on hard kosmiche is just as effective. And atop this blackened pile sits the latest and evocatively titled Chelsea Wolfe offshoot Mrs. Piss, in which she cracks out her rock alter ego as part of a deliciously destructive doom duo to land an impressive debut.

While few real stinkers are yet to cross our path this year, the less said about the new, messy Algiers record, the shrugworthy latest from U.S. Girls, the forgettable Deap Vally/Flaming Lips hook-up Deap Lips, and that ho-hum Muzz debut the better. Nevertheless, and with plenty to raise the spirits still to come during the second half of the year, 2020 is finally shaping up to be a year to remember for some right reasons as well as the many wrong.

That list in full (no particular order – linked where reviewed):

Lavender FluBarbarian Dust (Garage-Punk/Psych-Pop) [In The Red]
envyThe Fallen Crimson (Hardcore/Post-Rock) [Temporary Residence]
BambaraStray (Post-Punk) [Wharf Cat]
DocumentA Camera Wanders All Night EP (Post-Punk) [Ramber Records]
Fiona AppleFetch The Bolt Cutters (Singer-Songwriter) [Epic]
BansheeLivin’ In The Jungle (Psych/Hard Rock) [Cardinal Fuzz/Feeding Tube]
HappynessFloatr (Indie/Slacker Rock) [Infinit Suds]
Nest EggDislocation (Kosmiche/Hard-Psych) [The Acid Test Recordings/Little Cloud]
Mrs. PissSelf-Surgery (Rock/Doom-Metal) [Sargent House]
Phoebe BridgersPunisher (Singer-Songwriter/Alt-Country) [Dead Oceans]

Not a fan of the album format? Hear some of our tracks of the year so far too: