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[sic] Magazine - Editor’s Albums Of 2020

[sic] Magazine

Editor’s Albums Of 2020

Merry Christmas [sic] readers.

I called 2019 a “dumpster fire” of a year when I made my last annual round up. In that case 2020 was more of a potential extinction event. Certainly for music. Artists, venues and secondary professions like roadies, lighting etc., have obviously all been hit terribly hard. Music has been a passion of mine since adolescence, something I never shook off. Since starting a magazine the business has become closer and more personal. I worry for so many of them, particularly smaller artists that don’t have the reach to make streaming services a viable line of revenue. Like all of us I guess I’m ready to turn the page this New Year. Hopefully 2021 can lead to something better.

Yet out of adversity often comes creativity. The clear and obvious themes of 2020 are all covid-19 related – doubts and fears certainly, grief and loss… hopefully not. Plus, of course, there was the lockdown. Many musicians on this list took both advantage of, and inspiration from this years enforced exile(s). As we might imagine, artists with ‘stuff’ on their mind and time on their hands, it could only add up to one thing…..

….2020 became the year of the lockdown album.

Also, on a personal note, my hard drive blew up again costing me a few years’ worth of recent music. (I don’t do clouds. ‘Backup’ is something I do in the car or maybe think about when my machine starts making those clicky noises. I know. I know. My bad.) I even lost some of the stuff that made this list. I won’t complain though. I’m lucky to receive music in the first place. Nobody died after all. Just my good old D drive.

Per previous year round ups, I’ll offer you a classic top ten albums and mention a whole bunch of others. I think the main thing for me to do is to stop talking and let the songs speak for themselves. You’ll find quite a few posted below. Hope you find something wonderful.

Happy listening, happy holidays and thank you for your continued trust in us.

1. HumanistHumanist (Ignition)

Rob Marshall, axe man for the much missed Exit Calm curated this comeback project, aided and abetted by a number of music luminaries such as Mark Lanegan and Dave Gahan. It just goes to show the esteem in which Rob is held. Arena sized alt rock with a multitude of stars.

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2 Fleet FoxesShore (Anti- Records)

Slid out to little or no fanfare on the exact day of the autumn equinox, Shore is the second comeback album for Fleet Foxes. The album is fresh, accessible varied and extensive. With its themes of resilience and embracing change it was the album 2020 needed. Unlucky not to get the top spot. It’s an album of the year contender, no question. I actually think it’s better than the debut.

3 Lanterns On The LakeSpook The Herd (Bella Union)

Hazel Wilde and friends offer their fourth studio album and quietly nail it. Dropping pre pandemic they still manage to cover politics, social media and climate change on this assured release. This Is Not A Drill, indeed. Are they indie? Are they dreampop? I know one thing, they’re good. A bit surprised that this doesn’t feature greatly elsewhere but it did get a Mercury nomination.

4 SophiaHolding On / Letting Go (Flower Shop Recordings)

Former God Machine guitarist and frontman Robin Proper-Sheppard has honed his craft with new vehicle, Sophia. His output now feels effortless but not formulaic, comfortable, but uninhibited by it. Happy …being sad. Sophia still offer a fantastic live experience and in Holding On / Letting Go they just added a whole bunch of new favourites to play. Bring it on.

5 After NatureAfter Nature (s/r)

Barnsley post-punk act The Black Lamps won album of the year five years ago with their self-titled debut. (Think, The Chameleons, For Against, Comsat Angels…. ) Since then they have been working on a follow up but just haven’t been happy enough with the results. The pandemic has put rehearsals on hold so instead they chose to release this collection of ‘outlier’ material. I love it.

6 SceniusEnough Fears (MMXX Records)

A late entry from this trans-channel synthpop duo. Loaded with personality, Enough Fears bops and grinds like a hybrid of Depeche Mode, Human League and OMD. You’d swear it was a mid-eighties re-issue.

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epic45Cropping The Aftermath (Wayside & Woodland)

7 epic45 create nostalgia seeped electronica. Village post offices, countryside pylons, saturated polaroids…..they are to a UK child of the seventies what Boards Of Canada were to, well, everyone who bought Music Has The Right To Children. I love epic45 more. They’re my band, and they represent my Britain, far more than any Parklife. Know what I mean? Oi oi!

8 Taylor SwiftEvermore and Folklore (Republic)

This one raised eyebrows in my household. Yes, that Taylor Swift. Billboard topping, household name Taylor Swift. (I’m sure she’ll privately message me with thanks. You don’t get this kind of kudos from Rolling Stone after all!) In all seriousness these are two great records. I included both because they’re connected. Most notably through Aaron Dessner of The National, who collaborates/produces. Both albums are Swifts entry into indie although the folk/country roots are never left too far behind. Honestly, take a listen.

9 Nation Of LanguageIntroduction, presence (s/r)

Another synthesizer take on post-punk – think LCD Soundsystem, only this guy has a better record collection. Black Marble is probably an even better touchpoint.

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10 DesertaBlack Aura My Sun (felte)

Joint No10s, sorry. Not because I’m a dreadful cheat. (I am) but rather due to the high quality of shoegaze/dreampop this year. (Checkout the ‘bubbling under’ for many others.) Deserta went early with their Black Aura My Sun collection. Reminds me a lot of the Slowdive tribute album ‘Blue Skied And Clear’.

10 The Luxembourg SignalThe Long Now (SPINOUT NUGGETS)

It was a strong year for dreampop and this was one of the ‘under the radar’ standouts. A nostalgia trip back to my University days when jangle pop and shoegaze serenaded each and every homework session. Plus some much needed colour for my rather bleak series of cover art this year.

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Some bubbling under artists this year. bdrmm, The Churchhill Garden, Deserta, I Break Horses, Ist Ist, Lost Horizons, Near the Parenthesis, No Joy, Perfume Genius, Raskolnikov, Lyndon Scarfe – Shoreline, The Avalanches, The Innocence Mission, The Search, White Rose Transmission, Wire.

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