2020 was not the year for music (or for anything, frankly) that I thought it would be.
I pictured beautiful summer nights dancing along with drunk crowds at festivals, bumping shoulders with the brave souls carrying more than one pint at an indoor venue (which ultimately leads to one of the aforementioned pints getting dumped on your head by the end of the night but, if 2020 has weirdly taught me anything, it’s that I wouldn’t have it another way!) and unwinding from my day listening to a great album.
Of course, the reality was completely different.
Indoor venues shut – some for good – and outdoor gigs were postponed. A few artists put out singles and albums over 2020, teasing what’s to come, whilst others have delayed eagerly awaited albums. So, in short, 2020 wasn’t “the” year for music.
Saying that, I do have a few favourite albums that came out this year and I thought – considering the fact I want to focus on music more on the blog, as well as my other content – why not share my favourite albums with you? Who knows, you might just be inspired to give something new a listen.
The One From “Across The Pond”
The Strokes, The New Abnormal
RCA Records, Sony Music Entertainment (Released April 10, 2020).
The New York indie-rock band formed in 1998 and, since their debut album Is This It, they have given new life to the rock music scene – which had spent years before that stuck focusing on post-grunge and nu-metal.
Though they did release several albums and EPs, as well as solo projects, the 2010s was a quiet period for the band. In April 2020, The Strokes released their first album in 7 years, The New Abnormal.
Is This It is one of my favourite albums of all time, so this one had a lot to live up to. The New Abnormal still has the thumping drums and the rocky twang of the guitar that features heavily in the band’s music – except with added synth.
The New Abnormal feels like something straight out of the ‘80s, showing just how far the band have come since their debut album, though front man Julian Casablancas’ voice is as captivating (and as moody) as ever.
The Adults Are Talking is a fast-tempo, high energy opener to the album and a brilliant introduction to the new, interesting direction the album goes in. Casablancas sings “We are trying hard to get your attention” and, starting the album like that, they definitely have.
Selfless is a slower, almost softer offering, more of a ballad than an indie floor-filler the band is known for. It’s one of those songs that forces you to slow down and take notice of the soft, then soaring vocals.
Brooklyn Bridge to Chorus kicks the album up a notch, a delicious throwback to the thumping indie rock anthems which made them famous.
Bad Decisions, the previously released single, harks back to Billy Idol’s Dancing With Myself and wouldn’t be out of place in an angsty indie flick.
Eternal Summer shows off Casablancas’ range, starting off with softer vocals then crashing into a punk-style rasp – perhaps representing how this album is a combination of the punk-rock era and a more experimental music style.
At The Door is a giant stride into a different direction for the band, as the drums are swapped for pulsing synthesisers and rippling guitars, the final lingering vocals teasing listeners towards the next track.
Why Are Sunday’s So Depressing is – contrary to the title – quite a happy offering, and feels like it could’ve easily been a B-Side for an earlier album.
Not The Same Anymore is a reflective, thoughtful song – a commentary on past mistakes – which shows off a more sensitive side to the band.
The final song on the album Ode To The Mets is a triumphant, final track about regret and the past. It feels rocky, straightforward and just like the five men who stormed the indie rock scene all that time ago.
Favourite song on the album: Brooklyn Bridge To Chorus
The Female Artist
Phoebe Bridgers, Punisher
Dead Oceans (Released June 18, 2020)
The Los Angeles-based singer/song-writer was born in 1994 and began writing songs at the age of 11, later going on to play venues around L.A whilst attending school. She released several singles, LPs and EPs in her early days – gaining critical acclaim.
In January 2019, Bridgers released a self-titled debut album – shortly touring the US and Europe after its release. In June 2020, she released her second album, Punisher.
Admittedly, I hadn’t heard of Phoebe Bridgers and hadn’t listened to her debut album before this one (until after I’d listened to this one) – so I initially didn’t know what to expect with Punisher.
Stranger in the Alps is an indie rock/emo offering. There is a similar feel to Punisher, as each song couples Bridgers’ lingering vocals and soft, dreamy hook-filled melodies.
DVD Menu is a brilliant beginner for the album, a dramatic instrumental song which hooks you instantly. Though it’s only just over a minute long, it lingers and leaves you anticipating the songs that are yet to come.
Garden Song is our first instruction to Bridger’s vocals, which are soft and captivating. The song is simple, allowing you to truly take in the lyrics and the vocals.
Kyoto, by contrast, is a guitar and synth filled song which full of energy and deserves to be on repeat. The softer vocals become soaring and have more edge to them.
The album title track, Punisher, is a powerful ballad. It’s sensitive and honest, showing off a vulnerability a lot of musicians are too afraid to.
Halloween is a soft offering, allowing the listener to truly appreciate Bridger’s vocal range.
Chinese Satellite is a calming ballad which is ideal for the lazy, dark winter nights we’re experiencing at the moment.
Moon Song features beautiful instrumentals, as does Saviour Complex. ICU, by contrast, is a faster paced song (much like Kyoto).
Graceland Too feels like a country song, full of soft instrumentals and lingering vocals which feel reminiscent of early Taylor Swift.
I Know The End is a beautiful end to the album. It’s stripped back, vulnerable and a final reminder that Bridgers is an artist we should be paying attention to.
Favourite song on the album: Kyoto
The Girl Band
The Big Moon, Walking Like We Do
Fiction Records, Universal Music Operations Limited (Released January 10, 2020)
The London based four piece formed in 2014, after singer-songwriter Juliette Jackson posted a message on Facebook asking for musicians, bringing back guitar-based indie – a genre which wasn’t in favour as much at the time – since their acclaimed debut, Love in the 4th Dimension, in 2017.
After their debut, the band were relatively quiet – releasing a few singles (and Christmas covers) over the years. In January 2020, when people anticipated live music and didn’t know what a mess the year would turn out to be, The Big Moon released their second album – Walking Like We Do.
Love in the 4th Dimension was a brilliant debut, so I eagerly anticipated what was next from them. Walking Like We Do isn’t a walk but a great jump forward for the band and their music, full of gorgeous melodies and infectious indie hooks.
Walking Like We Do is a further exploration of the band’s style but it shows off a more vulnerable side to the women and their music.
It’s Easy Then is a brilliant introduction to the album. It takes the anxieties of modern life and puts it into a song that is laced with soft piano music, graceful harmonies and drumbeats. It musters up a strength which became increasingly hard to find in 2020.
Your Light is an energetic mesh of almost choir-like vocals, thumping drums and rhythmic guitar. This song showcases how simple lyrics can also be brilliant, particularly when Jackson sings “Lately I’ve been fine floating away / Got so out of touch, I started to levitate”.
Dog Eat Dog is a softer, piano based ballad. I think it allows you the time to appreciate Jackson’s vocals and how easily they fit with the other vocals and music. It feels like commentary for the mad year that 2020 was.
Why starts off with twinkling piano and vocal harmonies, then launches into intense guitar and synths. I think this song demonstrates that the band aren’t afraid to take their music – and themselves – in whatever direction.
Don’t Think is a slow starter that gets more intense, funkier as it goes. I can definitely imagine dancing to this in a crowded venue – hopefully soon 😭 🤞.
Waves takes down a notch, as it’s a song full of sensitivity and heart.
Holy Roller is a synth and drum filled song which feels like a nod to their previous album, or even a forgotten track.
Take A Piece allows a moment to marvel at Jackson’s voice, then experience how well the band’s voices and music gel together.
Barcelona is a beautiful song which communicates a very genuine fear and feeling for a lot of us: falling behind compared to our peers. Though the potential subject matter feels a bit bleak, I can’t help but think of how great this song would sound live.
A Hundred Ways to Land is a song with thumping drums, soaring vocals and it feels like the motivational track we need to get us through 2020 and beyond.
The final song, ADHD, is a soft, more vulnerable sounding song than the rest on the album – feeling almost more like an open letter than a song. It clarifies that The Big Moon are a band we should be excited about.
Favourite song on the album: Barcelona
The Out Of This World Second Album
Declan McKenna, Zeros
Sony Music Entertainment U.K. Limited (Released September 4, 2020)
Declan McKenna firmly planted his feet in the indie music scene when he won Glastonbury Festival’s Emerging Talent Competition in 2015. In 2017, he released his debut album, What Do You Think About the Car?.
The album received generally positive reviews and, despite several delays, McKenna released his second album in September.
What Do You Think About the Car? was an exciting debut, which showed McKenna’s uniqueness and talent at such a young age – and early stage – in his career. Zeros was not just a small step in the right direction but a giant leap.
The album blasts off with the energetic opener You Better Believe!!! The song is not only (it seems) a plug for trainers and cheese flavoured snacks but a pop-filled take on impending doom, highlighted when McKenna sings “Oh, I’m sorry, my dear/Asteroid’s here”.
Be An Astronaut is a piano based ballad which shows off McKenna’s vocals as well as how far he has come since his debut album.
The Key to Life on Earth is full of energy, punctuated by synths and feels Bowie-esque.
Beautiful Faces is a vibrant, high-energy song about technology, social media and appearances.
Daniel, You’re Still a Child is another energetic offering, one I think will definitely go down well performed in front of a crowd..whenever that moment may come.
Emily is a stripped back, acoustic song which allows you to hear a different, more relaxed side to McKenna and his music.
Twice Your Size takes the album up a notch, a track which has a disco feel. Similarly, Rapture is full of energy, catchy beats and it shows how McKenna takes inspiration from the world around him.
Sagittarius A* is a slower song, still full of energy but with a sensitive feel to it.
Eventually, Darling is a stunning final track. It has a more vulnerable, sensitive side to it and – when it’s (eventually) performed live – it’ll be a lighters-in-the-air song for sure.
Favourite song on the album: Rapture
Red Rum Club, The Hollow of Humdrum
The Liverpool indie band took 2019 by storm, releasing Matador – which made it to the Top 50. This led to them performing at Glastonbury, Isle of Wight and various European festivals.
The band didn’t stop after the release of Matador, a fun instrument-filled album guaranteed to have people up and dancing. In October last year, they released their second album, The Hollow of Humdrum.
Whilst Matador is full of energy, the band’s second album feels a little bit more stripped back, an opportunity for the band to show a different side to them.
The album gets off to a great start with The Elevation, an upbeat and funky track about the anxiety of getting messages read – or not.
This high energy continues through to the second track, Kids Addicted, which is full of blasts of trumpets and rhythmic guitar and drums, it’s a track that feels like a call-back to their previous album.
Vivo shoves the singles aside with its attention grabbing blast of electronic touches mingled with indie-rock. At under three minutes, this track has your attention and leaves you eagerly awaiting what direction the next track will go in.
Ballerino is a lively track, which feels like a love letter to the brave souls up on the dance floor before anyone else.
Favourite Record is a slower number which allows you to take a moment to appreciate the vocals and music. It’s the album’s moment to take a breath, a contrast to the energy-filled tracks.
Eleanor is a happy track with a summer feel to it, a song which was written to aid one of the band’s partner in their battle with mental health. Though it’s deeply personal, I think it will resonate with a lot of people who need a bit of a pick-me-up.
Dorado feels Mariachi inspired, an uptempo song full of guitars and trumpets, something which bleeds into the next song Girl is a Gun.
Brando takes the album down in pace, allowing a moment to appreciate frontman Fran Doran’s smooth vocals.
Holy Horses not only brings the album to a close but it also takes things up a notch. It is full of energy, noise and I am so ready to hear it performed live…whenever that’s allowed. It’s a song that lingers, leaving you wanting more and me eagerly awaiting whatever they have for us next.
Favourite song on the album: Eleanor
So, there we have it, My Favourite Albums of 2020. This has been a post that’s been in my drafts for a while because I was so worried about doing these artists and their albums justice! That being said, I hope you enjoyed this post and you can always find more things music here.
What were your favourite albums of last year? I’d love to chat in the comments 😊.
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