[sic] Magazine

Sub-Ed’s Albums & EPs Of The Year 2020

What a year, huh? It may seem small fry in the face of a global pandemic and countless personal tragedies the world over, but amongst the many lessons 2020 has given us is that it’s still worth celebrating the small stuff. We’ve been clinging to the arts all year. Imagine having had to endure the year without TV, movies and, of course, music. Mercifully there have been great records to save us, although perhaps fewer than usual due to albums being shelved for more economically advantageous times, but great records nonetheless and we should still celebrate them.

Here, simply, then is what I consider to have been the best albums and EPs of this year – those that have stood out most from that which I’ve listened to. The humble singer-songwriter has stood firm during these troubled times accounting for many an album on this list, the dark allure of post-punk and more abject noise too never far behind. The soundtrack to the year wasn’t all bleak though, some lighter – even poppy – moments having managed to shine through the clouds in places as well. And as for that peak 2020 sound chamber-psych? Pah! Not on the list thank you very much. Conversely it may be full of the stuff. We really have no idea.

In any case, particular credit this year though goes to the rejuvenated Sub Pop stable for being responsible for five entries on this list, interestingly five self-released records also making this list, perhaps showing a shift in label power alongside the rise of DIY marketing. We’ll watch how this trend develops next year closely. Special mention also goes to ever-present tastemakers In The Red, the imprint responsible for four entries on the list, so too to psych specialists Cardinal Fuzz for having a hand in the same amount.

Other statistical analysis shows the doors to the world have been thrown open during lockdown, a historic low of just 86% of the artists in this top 100 entirely or partially calling the US, UK and Ireland, Canada or Australia and New Zealand home. It’s especially pleasing to see the unsung corners of Estonia and Belarus represented this year. Turn over enough rocks and good music abounds everywhere.

It must be said though that, as per every year, I have only one pair of ears, a set number of hours in the day (all be more of them having been spent at home this year) and a bank balance that is far from inexhaustible, so there are, perhaps, certain notable omissions from the list below. In any case, who knows what may have been, but here is what definitely was (linked where reviewed – rough genre given in brackets):

1. Adrianne LenkerSongs & Instrumentals (Singer-Songwriter) [4AD]

A big part of what made last year’s twin Big Thief releases a wild success was the raw intimacy and sheer magnetism of frontwoman Adrianne Lenker. True to form, Songs (and to a lesser degree Instrumentals) was doled out almost apologetically, doing a total disservice to her downright stunningly fractured vocal, inventive melodies and exceptional song-writing. These are demos in anyone else’s hands. In hers, they’re spell-binding just as they are. Treasure their fragility.

2. Fontaines D.C.A Hero’s Death (Post-Punk/Indie-Rock) [Partisan]

Okay, sometimes the hype machine gets it right. Sure, there are smidgens of The Strokes, Interpol and The Walkmen to be found in Fontaines D.C.’s killer second LP, so too influence from the current neo post-punk crop chaired by the likes of Protomartyr, but – overseen by Grian Chatten’s iconic Irish brogue – A Hero’s Death is more playful, lyrical and open to fresh ideas. And the simple result is a wonderfully varied, yet consistently magnificent album that grows with each listen.

3. Fiona AppleFetch The Bolt Cutters (Singer-Songwriter) [Epic]

One of the artier records on this list, Fiona Apple’s most recent missive, though not quite as good as the slobbering reviews elsewhere may have you believe (ahem, P4K), is an absolute triumph of an LP due to being as restrained as it is angry, lyrically shocking and rhythmically wonky, as well as being surprisingly classic-sounding under repeat listens: if you’re thinking Patti Smith meets tUnE-yArDs meets Joanna Newsome then you’re in the right studio.

4. BansheeLivin’ In The Jungle (Psych/Hard Rock) [Cardinal Fuzz/Feeding Tube]

You’ll be hard pressed to find a better pound-for-pound rock record this year than Boston band Banshee’s pretty brilliant Livin’ In The Jungle; there haven’t been many better since the early 70s in fact. Imagine a hirsute Mick Jagger presiding over righteous wails, filthy proto-punk strutting, heavy chug, and Eastern-tinged garage-psych jangles, the whole lot being dosed in Hawkwind-style kosmiche afterburn to close. This one is far out, man.

5. A. Swayze & The GhostsPaid Salvation (Garage-Rock/Punk-Rock) [Sunset Pig]

Splendid in their isolation, Tasmanian garage-rockers A. Swayze & The Ghosts’ debut full-length is a cracker, a tight and breathless tumble through itchy, strutting pub-punk that lands somewhere between Bodega, Institute and Parquet Courts – acts with modern classics under their belts all, and now you can add Paid Salvation to that list. Quite why the album didn’t come via Rough Trade as expected after the single is anyone’s guess though! Drama.

6. MetzAtlas Vending (Noise-Rock/Post-Punk) [Sub Pop]

Along with, say, Pissed Jeans, Metz are the backbone of the modern era of Sub Pop. A label whose sound you think you know, releasing reliably noisy records from a band that play their part. Atlas Vending is not only a good example, it’s a great example. Slowing the tempo, their abrasive grind here luxuriates in precise attacks backed up by scuzzy distortion. Evolution is measured in micro-details when it comes to Metz, but their sound is always maxed-out.

7. Molly PaytonMess EP (Singer-Songwriter) [Tmwrk Records]

19-year-old New Zealander and London resident Molly Payton is a singer-songwriter megastar in waiting, her two excellent EPs this year delivering on both tender promise and more rounded storytelling, the smoky chanteuse pitching herself towards the Sharon Van Etten crowd on crunchy new single “How To Have Fun”, her pin-drop acoustics on this marginally better first EP just as beguiling in a stylish Lana Del Rey fashion. Get on board early.

8. envyThe Fallen Crimson (Hardcore/Post-Rock) [Temporary Residence]

We were about to say any year there’s a new envy record is a good year, but this year … come on. Thankfully we have had The Fallen Crimson for company throughout most of it, the ever reliable, if not entirely prolific, Japanese troupe growling their way through another show-stopping set of post-everything hardcore-cum-blackgaze, continuing to make an art form of glistening crescendos and righteous riffs, another thrilling LP in a catalogue full of them.

9. SvalbardWhen I Die, Will I Get Better? (Post-Rock/Black Metal) [Holy Roar]

If 2018’s It’s Hard To Have Hope weren’t so fantastic, When I Die, Will I Get Better may place even higher in this list. Trust us, it suffers only by comparison for this new slab of elementally powerful post-rock, emotive hardcore and black-metal energy is just as intoxicating as it again sets about righting societal wrongs like a symphonic hammer to the face, dual vocalists Serena Cherry and Liam Phelan conducting a firework display of graceful explosions.

10. Asteroid No4Northern Songs (Shoegaze/60s Psych) [Cardinal Fuzz/Little Cloud]

Veterans on the psychedelic underground, Bay Area-based band Asteroid No.4 are up to album No.10 with Northern Songs and it’s a doozy. Stripped of their usual cast of guests, Northern Songs is all A4 all of the time, their trademark 12-string jangles supercharged with reverb and shoegaze shimmer. It’s consequently a fuzzy delight – an album that’s sentimental and soothing in equal measures during troubled times.

11. The JanitorsNoisolation Sessions Vol. 1 (Psych-Rock/Doom/Fuzz) [Cardinal Fuzz/Little Cloud]

Sweden’s The Janitors are not clever or willfully obscure; in fact, their songs are relatively simple with an almost poppy construction, but they’re made of the most macabre parts. Shamanistic chant echoes away in the shadows, buzz-saw guitars slicing through distorted bass and static. Doomy reverb renders the vocal near satanic, Eastern mysticism coalescing into melancholy dirges. We’ll have Volume 2 immediately please.

12. Richard RoseRadiation Breeze (Garage-Rock/Space-Punk) [In The Red]

Radiation Breeze is the wonderfully trashy debut from LA-based five-piece Richard Rose, a band comprising (sometimes) members of Ex-Cult, GØGGS, OBN III’s and others. And like shooters, cigarettes and an ill-advised hook-up, it’s obviously, gloriously bad for your health, but you’re gonna do it anyway, swear you never will again, and then find yourself creeping back for more almost every weekend like a total sucker.

13. SprainAs Lost Through Collision (Post-Hardcore/Experimental) [Flenser Records]

As many successful post-hardcore records have proved, screaming works best when it erupts unexpectedly, its practitioners learning to dial down the emotion and intensity until it really counts. Their knives are always out though, sharpening the guitars’ angles, creating tension, cutting excess. LA outfit Sprain are new to the calling but already masters, jamming the sound out to experimentally mind-altering proportions.

14. ArcaKick i (Electro/Experimental) [XL Recordings]

Dragging her incredible beats from the scrambled radio waves of the near future, Arca is on another planet when it comes to production. Just as comfortable in Spanish as English, she makes skilled use of the former’s rapid-fire trills to set up disorientating assaults on pop culture via dizzying industrial motifs, pounding concessions to reggaeton and a toy-box of FX. Even Björk gets a look in. And yet somehow Kick i still encroaches on the approachable. Do keep up.

15. Bright EyesDown In The Weeds, Where The World Once Was (Singer-Songwriter/Alt-Country) [Dead Oceans]

The ever influential Mr. Oberst returns, enjoying something of a career Indian summer at present. So, bask in the glow of his unique storytelling, diamonds outnumbering the rough as he survives the big-budget trappings of strings and a gospel backing choir. Naturally it’s all in the choice of words and their delivery. Name another artist who can get away with a line as contrived as “Mattress soaked in gasoline makes iridescent flame“, for example.

16. Narrow Head12th House Rock (Alt-Rock/Post-Hardcore) [Run For Cover/Holy Roar]

Outdoing even Nothing (see below) in the 90s nostalgia stakes, Narrow Head’s supremely solid sophomore record checks all the boxes: angst, fuzz, shoegaze scree, pained emoting – it’s all there, flirting with being a lost grunge classic, but veering off in the direction of the more nuanced pigeon-hole of heavy alt-rock thanks to its more varied textures. Blame it on the sticky Texas heat if this one gets you hot under the collar.

17. Mrs. PissSelf-Surgery (Rock/Doom-Metal) [Sargent House]

Mrs. Piss is the evocatively titled side project of one Chelsea Wolfe and drummer/bassist Jess Gowrie, in which Ms. Wolfe unapologetically cracks out her rock-star alter ego. The delightfully destructive duo’s impressive debut may crush all before it with shock-and-awe doom bombs, rather than with the precision Self-Surgery as a title may imply, but – creative outlet or not – this is a sit-back-and-take-notice serving akin to lying on the runway directly under the flightpath.

18. Nest EggDislocation (Kosmiche/Hard-Psych) [The Acid Test Recordings/Little Cloud]

Zoning in on hard kosmiche, North Carolina band Nest Egg’s very decent Nothingness Is Not A Curse flew under many a radar in 2018 and the similarly styled Dislocation may now end up doing the same, but it shouldn’t because it’s even better. The space-rocking trio ain’t fixing what ain’t broke though, landing 40 more minutes of nose-to-tail misery. Let them win you over though, and they’ll more than prove the value of your investment.

19. Lavender FluBarbarian Dust (Garage-Punk/Psych-Pop) [In The Red]

Splitting the difference between lovely psychedelic guitar-pop and nagging garage-punk, former Hunches man Chris Gunn and his Lavender Flu’s latest is just as good as their last. Though prone to some pretty out-there and loud experimentation, he’s also very capable of knocking out a decent tune too while wallowing in his signature low fidelity. Gunn is a current cult hero and has been for some time – Barbarian Dust is just fuel to the fire at this point.

20. GHXSTDark Days EP (Desert Rock/Doom) [Self-Released]

Edging ever further into apocalyptic textures and buzz-saw drones, Brooklyn’s always impressive doom-mongers GHXST’s latest picks up where their last left off, the band’s most leaden riffs and thrusting aggression dialled back in favour of dreamier tones and relatively restrained atmospherics. Brooding distorto-rock still dominates however, blackened blues and slo-mo fuzz setting up the irresistible Shelley X to again smash it out of the park.

21. DocumentA Camera Wanders All Night EP (Post-Punk) [Ramber Records]

Manchester-based neo post-punk heroes Document drew from all the genre’s best contemporaries on their exciting debut EP earlier this year, these flagbearers of the “modern post-punk revival” writing tense tracks as character-driven stories, anti-frontman Alex Evans (equally of Leeds band Lumer) holding a mirror up to an angry, naïve youth in such a defining way as to discover his own leading role amongst them.

22. FuzzIII (Garage-Rock/Fuzz) [In The Red]

Like the idea of Ty Segall hooking up with the unrefined recording talents of Steve Albini? Course you do, and five long years since he last set up alongside schoolyard buddies Charles Moothart and Chad Ubovich, phasers are again set to stun here, riff-heavy tunes, red-lining and squiggling guitar torture the order du jour. Consequently, III is the most consistent album in the FUZZ franchise, a concise rock album that still knows how to let the good times roll.

23. bdrmmBedroom (Shoegaze/Dream-Pop) [Sonic Cathedral]

It’s still mystifying how this particular Bedroom can ordinarily be found in humble heartlands of Hull, populated by younger men than you might imagine for, old before their time, this is a collection of songs that culls its primary influences from the likes of Slowdive, The Cure, and The Jesus & Mary Chain. Bona fide brilliance all, so where do bdrmm fit in and is there room? There is when you unpretentiously go about minding your own business and simply joining the dots.

24. NothingThe Great Dismal (Alt-Rock/Shoegaze) [Relapse Records]

Lacking, perhaps, the consistency of their thunderous last record, The Great Dismal is nevertheless a serious contender. You may feel like you’ve heard parts of it before, so familiar is its hollering pedal-abuse and loud-quiet-loud structures, but when they’re as momentous as some of the stand-out tracks here this can only be seen as a positive, more weapons at your disposal when you fancy an early 90s blast of noisy nostalgia.

25. Kevin MorbySundowner (Singer-Songwriter) [Dead Oceans]

Former Woods and The Babies man Kevin Morby is now at the business end of a solo career that has seem him produce moments of greatness across his previous five LPs, but now he has an album full of them making Sundowner his best to date. There’s a sprinkling of the future-classic about the album in an alt-folk kind of way, a sleeper hit working its way out of New York loft spaces and East Village cafés. Yes, whisper it, but it’s hard to avoid the spectre of Bob Dylan too.

26. HappynessFloatr (Indie/Slacker Rock) [Infinit Suds]

The questionable spelling aside, Floatr is an understated joy start to finish. Thanks to Happyness’s ramshackle charm, it’s simply impossible to dislike, the London slackers’ latest LP bound to put a smile on your face, its slightly beat-up and husky melodies evoking thoughts of the likes of Mark Everett and Elliott Smith. They say the best things come in small packages; Well, sometimes they come in dog-eared packages too.

27. SALEMFires In Heaven (Electro/Witch House) [Self-Released]

Who had money on a new SALEM album in 2020? Who had money on it not sucking? Flying in the face of expectation, the much-maligned witch-house pioneers (King Night, recently crowned [sic] magazine’s Album of the Decade 2010-2019) not only delivered the musical shock of the year with Fires In Heaven, they also managed to reign in most of their own excesses to again find life in the happy hunting grounds of macabre trap beats and more tempered electro.

28. Cindy LeeWhat’s Tonight To Eternity? (Experimental/Dream-Pop) [W.25th]

Here’s an odd little dream-pop album from the former Women members. Lightly psychedelic, there are elements of doo-wop to be found too, jazzy sax leading a vast array of other instruments on a merry dance, beats, static and other effects cast as unexpected characters met along the way. What’s Tonight To Eternity? is strangely beautiful though, a mish-mash of found-sounds that somehow form a rich and luxurious patchwork together.

29. BambaraStray (Post-Punk) [Wharf Cat]

Bambara are so deliciously dark you kinda have to wonder if they’re hamming it up a bit sometimes. The Brooklyn band remain very capable of knocking out a great tune though and Stray houses a few of them, the Bateh brothers lashing out after they’ve lulled you into that infamous sense of false security like some practiced prize-fighter. Showing no mercy, they then go for the kill, surging guitars and drums desecrating the corpse.

30. UniformShame (Thrash/Industrial) [Sacred Bones]

Our go-to industrial thrash purveyors, Uniform are a prickly, immovable beast at the best of times … and, to put it lightly, these haven’t been the best of times. Shame is the sound of the screaming into the void many of us needed by way of therapy this year, although at only £15 ish for the 12” much, much cheaper. Who’d have had Uniform pegged at social workers? Client like customer, we’ve all got to let it out somehow.

31. Phoebe BridgersPunisher (Singer-Songwriter/Alt-Country) [Dead Oceans]

Ms. Bridgers’ rise from Conor Oberst cohort to in-demand, indie A-list chanteuse has been arresting, and this charming sophomore solo album, a soothingly classy dose of lightly countrified singer/song-writing, will do her rising star no harm at all. More of this in fact and she may genuinely find herself at the top of festival billings in the future and being showered with awards. Either or both, weirdly, would probably cheapen her pristine purity though.

32. Pure XPure X (Dream-Pop/Slowcore) [Fire Talk]

Back from a hiatus that began after the release of 2014’s ho-hum Angel, it’s great to have Pure X back doing what they do best, smothering the listener with fuzzy, druggy dream-pop that damn-well near drips from the speakers. Cosying up to the Cigarettes After Sex crowd (hugely beloved by wannabe edgy teens), but corrupting them with an offer of a blow-back and serene uppers, Pure X are the strangers your parents warned you about.

33. No AgeGoons Be Gone (Garage-Punk/Experimental) [Drag City]

Taking to their come-back like a duck to water, Goons Be Gone follows the equally excellent Snares Like A Haircut from two years back. The production values remain high, but not wanting to get too comfortable in such surroundings, the noisy LA duo flex their experimental arm once more this time around, which translates to tantalising concessions to synthesised effects and whirlwind distortion, melodies kicked around the pit like a beachball.

34. Nap EyesSnapshot Of A Beginner (Indie/Slacker Rock) [Jagjaguwar]

It’s the intricate storytelling that ties Snapshot Of A Beginner together, these Nova Scotians emerging blinking and red-eyed from clouds of sweet-smelling shuffles with tales of literacy and depth that have the power to surprise and overwhelm. Common-or-garden variants on the same theme abound every night (in normal times) in every toilet venue around the Western world, but few of them could capture these Snapshots so succinctly.

35. Matt BerningerSerpentine Prison (Singer-Songwriter) [Book Records]

Ah, the fabled National singer strikes it out on own with his unmistakable mumble in tow. With the rest of the band so active elsewhere it was only a matter of time, we suppose. Stripped of his day-job’s grand arrangements, there was scope for failure here, but long-time listeners will know Berninger can carry a tune all by himself and so the amiable Serpentine Prison proves; it’s as comforting as sitting in front of the fire, if not quite as warm.

36. CabbageAmanita Pantherina (Garage-Rock/Punk) [Brassica]

There was a time when you thought Manc oiks Cabbage might just be a flash in the pan, their smash-and-grab indie/punk stylings nudging style ahead of substance. More fool the thought as Amanita Pantherina is substantial enough to be enjoyed with a belly full of beer at your local hostelry of choice! This is a proper album with proper songs by a proper band, and it’s proper good. Top of the gig wish-list when we’re allowed again.

37. DehdFlower Of Devotion (Garage-Rock/Post-Punk) [Fire Talk]

Harking back to a time when the churning jangle of dark-hearted indie heroes Crystal Stilts ruled the blogosphere, Chicago’s Dehd have a DIY spirit that makes them an underdog worth rooting for, the bashed high-school muso who dares to be different, his/her bespectacled mush never far away from a copy of Ginsberg’s Howl. Alternating beneath male and female vocalists in a will-they/won’t-they way (they have), Dehd’s songs represent the resistance.

38. DisqCollector (Indie-Rock) [Saddle Creek]

A widescreen indie record that brings to mind the open rural expanses the Wisconsin band call home, Collector is a tender album naïve to the realities of how hard making relationships work is, but refreshing in its willingness to jump into serious ones nevertheless. Disq are no sops though, and at times their guitars thrash through the inevitable pain, slackers yearning to explore all the world has to offer, yet finding only themselves confined to the sofa.

39. Porridge RadioEvery Bad (Indie/Experimental) [Secretly Canadian]

A curious indie-pop record that’s not afraid to push the envelope, Every Bad had a deserved moment in the limelight earlier this year when it seemed the words Porridge and Radio were on everyone’s lips, singer Dana Margolin’s dusky voice sometimes loud sometimes quiet as required. Just one balancing act performed, they also blend stinging punk fury with sweet turns of phrase, the straightforward with the highly decorated, accomplished practitioners of all.

40. Jaye JaylePrisyn (Singer-Songwriter/Industrial) [Sargent House]

The man with Mark Lanegan’s voice is back, his dark singer-songwriting pulling a hard right this time with late-night synths and beats heading off to the industrial hinterlands of Berlin. It’s an arresting change of direction, but one that just about works, jack-of-all-trades Evan Patterson’s gravelly vocal almost as comfortable in such surroundings as it was fronting Young Widows as it was carrying bleaker melodies on his strong debut.

41. 2nd GradeHit To Hit (Indie/Slacker Rock) [Double Double Whammy]

To be any good at slacker rock you have to be smarter than you let on, or lucky, and Philadelphia band 2nd Grade are both. A lot of that is due to Hit To Hit being just that, a charming amble through a quick-fire and varied, country-flecked statement of intent, scrappy melodies doing the donkey work, a sprinkle of magic transforming this rag-tag rabble into genuine contenders. It may all come crashing down at any moment of course, but that’s part of the fun.

42. Frances QuinlanLikewise (Singer-Songwriter) [Saddle Creek]

Stunning as Hop Along frontwoman, a debut solo record from Frances Quinlan was always on the cards, her voice still never far from cracking with emotion, even more so maybe when shorn of her usual backing. It may just be the fact that she finds herself on Saddle Creek, but what’s surprising is how much her song-writing recalls that of mentor Conor Oberst, intimate portraits of small-town living picked over by a keen eye for observation. Sound familiar?

43. Pretty LightningJangle Bowls (Psych-Rock/Kosmiche) [Fuzz Club]

Much-underrated German psych-rock outfit Pretty Lighting are no strangers to these end-of-year lists, Jangle Bowls being another pleasing helping of stodgy, Blues-inflected space-rock to add to their already very decent catalogue. Coming over all Moon Duo these days, Fuzz Club remains a perfect home for their rhythmic kosmiche, which comes toasted, as ever, round the edges by generous distortion to warm your cockles.

44. OseesProtean Threat (Garage-Psych/Experimental) [Castle Face]

Osees is, of course, just the latest in a long line of homophonic aliases used by John Dwyer, this new studio album, roughly the 23rd in an ever-mutating garage-psych/cosmic punk series. Here Dwyer holds court over trademark rhythms and playbox percussion, the unexpected yin never far away from his grooving yang. He can dial this sort of stuff in these days, but picking up this particular receiver feels like listening in to some premium-charge sex-line.

45. Sufjan StevensThe Ascension (Singer-Songwriter) [Asthmatic Kitty]

The Ascension is more Age of Adz than it is Carrie & Lowell, but Sufjan Steven’s unquestionable song-writing talents still shine through though. It’s a mature and arty listen, one that satisfies more than it stupefies, tasteful electronic patterning meeting synthesisers and a drum machine in a cerebral encounter that, like the best of artists, always leaves you wanting more. Is Sufjan Stevens an institution yet? He’s not far off.

46. Carlton MeltonWhere This Leads (Psych-Rock/Kosmiche) [Agitated]

Northern Californian psychonauts Carlton Melton largely abandoned physical form on 2018’s Mind Minerals in favour of visions of the fledgling cosmos, mind-massaging experimentation losing its way amidst righteous repeats and static storms. They’re better balanced in 2020 – more interesting too – horizontal day-dreams and buzzed-out piano parts surprising along the way, Where This Leads being better subtitled Nobody Knows.

47. BlacklabAbyss (Sludge Metal/Fuzz) [New Heavy Sounds]

[sic] magazine AOTY winners 2018, Blacklab are back with some new heavy sludge, this Japanese power duo doubling down on their dirgeful fuzz to deliver an album perhaps more expected of the confines of their chosen genre, their sensational debut still proving two years later that lighting indeed rarely does strike twice, but that it does still pack one hell of punch wherever it lands next. Even if that’s the bottom of the Abyss.

48. WoodsStrange To Explain (Indie-Funk/Psych-Pop) [Woodsist]

A soothing tonic recorded during simpler times, Woods’ 11th album in around 15 years is a sun-dappled balm that purposefully sets out to remind you that – despite everything – the world is a pretty beautiful place. Easing off the jazzier inflections of late to land a stream of extremely easy-going psych-pop, Strange To Explain is a beautiful experience, nostalgic for the American Dream as it used to be and a celebration of life’s simplest successes.

49. ProtomartyrUltimate Success Today (Post-Punk) [Domino]

First things first, Ultimate Success Today isn’t the strongest album in the Protomartyr canon, and nor will it be bringing the Baltimore band any more success than they had yesterday. It lacks a defining moment, a key message, something to stand it out from the crowd. But, but it’s precisely those everyday qualities that have always made Joe Casey’s brand of arch storytelling resonate and – much imitated but rarely bettered – continues to do so here.

50. Ist Ist Architecture (Post-Punk/Goth) [Kind Violence]

Almost too square on the nose sometimes, Manchester’s Ist Its are the type of Goths who don’t even realise they are until someone points it out, they go away and do their homework and then look kinda sheepish about it all while still insisting it’s all an accident. They’ve got a knack of writing catchy melodies though no matter how gloomy they are, singles too. Stadium-sized ones. Pity there’s no one allowed to go fill them at the moment.

The best of the rest (no particular order):

Wolf ParadeThin Mind (Indie-Rock) [Sub Pop]
Black LipsIn A World That’s Falling Apart (Garage-Psych/Alt-Country) [Fire Records/Vice]
ShoppingAll Or Nothing (Post-Punk) [FatCat]
Soccer MommyColor Theory (Singer-Songwriter) [Loma Vista]
Mark Kozelek, Ben Boye, Jim White2 (Singer-Songwriter) [Caldo Verde]
GrimesMiss Anthropocene (Alt/Electro-Pop) [4AD]
Vinnum SabbathiOf Dimensions And Theories (Post-Rock) [Stolen Body]
Eye FlysTub Of Lard (Hardcore Punk) [Thrill Jockey]
DeeperAuto-Pain (Post-Punk) [Fire Talk]
WaxahatcheeSaint Cloud (Singer-Songwriter/Alt-Country) [Merge]
Irma VepEmbarrassed Landscape (Singer-Songwriter/Psych-Rock) [Gringo]
Purity RingWomb (Pop/R&B) [4AD]
Flat WormsAntarctica (Garage-Punk/Post-Punk) [God?]
FACSVoid Moments (Post-Punk/Experimental) [Trouble In Mind]
The ChatsHigh Risk Behaviour (Pub-Rock/Punk) [Bargain Bin]
Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs PigsViscerals (Hard Rock/Sludge Metal) [Rocket Recordings]
MadmessMadmess (Psych-Rock) [Drone Rock]
Rose City BandSummerlong (Psych-Rock/Pop) [Thrill Jockey]
Perfume GeniusSet My Heart On Fire Immediately (Singer-Songwriter) [Matador]
Nation Of LanguageIntroduction, Presence (Post-Punk/New Wave) [Self-Released]
Rolling Blackouts Coastal FeverSideways To New Italy (Indie/Dream-Pop) [Sub Pop]
HindsThe Prettiest Curse (Indie/Synth-Pop) [Lucky Number]
Drab CityGood Songs For Bad People (Downbeat/Synth-Pop) [Bella Union]
Sweet WhirlHow Much Works (Singer-Songwriter) [Chapter Music]
Peel Dream MagazineAgitprop Alterna (Shoegaze/Lounge-Pop) [Slumberland]
Jehnny BethTo Love Is To Live (Indie-Rock/Post-Punk) [20L07 Music]
Crack CloudPain Olympics (Experimental/Post-Punk) [Meat Machine]
Do NothingZero Dollar Bill EP (Punk-Rock/Post-Punk) [Exact Truth/The Orchard]
Ora CoganBells In The Ruins (Dream-Pop/Folk) [Self-Released]
The Flaming LipsAmerican Head (Psych-Pop) [Bella Union]
L.A. WITCHPlay With Fire (Garage-Rock/Dream-Pop) [Suicide Squeeze]
Working Men’s ClubWorking Men’s Club (New Wave/Post-Punk) [Heavenly]
BullySugaregg (Rock/Grunge) [Sub Pop]
Wax ChattelsClot (Noise-Rock/Post-Punk) [Captured Tracks]
CCR HeadcleanerStreet Riffs (Garage-Punk/Rock) [In The Red]
WidowspeakPlum (Dream-Pop/Psych-Folk) [Captured Tracks]
Sweeping PromisesHunger For A Way Out (Post-Punk) [Feel It]
Surf Rock Is DeadExistential Playboy (Indie/Dream-Pop) [Self-Released]
Holy MotorsHorse (Dream-Pop) [Wharf Cat]
White HillsSplintered Metal Sky (Industrial Rock) [God Unknown]
MugstarGraft (Psych/Post-Rock) [Cardinal Fuzz/Centripetal Force]
Ela MinusActs Of Rebellion (Electro/Synth-Pop) [Domino]
LomaDon’t Shy Away (Indie-Rock) [Sub Pop]
Dope BodyCrack A Light (Rock/Noise-Punk) [Drag City]
MournSelf Worth (Indie/Post-Punk) [Captured Tracks]
Molchat DomaMonument (Post-Punk/Synth-Pop) [Sacred Bones]
LiturgyThe Origins Of Alimonies (Black Metal/Experimental) [YLYLCYN]
SLIFTUmmon (Psych/Prog-Rock) [Stolen Body]
Hey ColossusDances / Curses (Psych/Doom-Rock) [Wrong Speed]
Cherry PicklesThe Juice That’s Worth The Squeeze (Garage/Girl Group/Psychobilly) [PNKSLM]