Albums Of The Year 2020

I mean… it was a year, wasn’t it?

As ever, just to be on this list means you’re a bona-fide winner as I had to leave out at least ten albums I like, including notables like BMTH and Tame Impala. But I wanted to keep the list as short as possible

Here’s a Spotify link to all of the albums in one humongous playlist.

Enjoy!

18. Bury Tomorrow – Cannibal

A very traditionally metalcore album which is not a criticism – plenty here to make you want to punch the floor, essential in 2020, obviously. It feels like Bury Tomorrow are going more accessible without necessarily following trends, props for that. There are some lovely riffs, singy bits and breakdowns on here. 

17. The Soft Pink Truth – Shall We Go On Sinning So That Grace May Increase?

The title breaks down into the song title of each of the nine tracks here (apart from the last!) and from the fluttery wordsearch of Shall to the Kiasmosian fade of May Increase, this is very much a road trip album. To my ears it sounds like Steve Reich decided to make a house album and I like that. Of course it’s minimal house. Also props as I’ve been loving this band for a while now -> https://bzangygroink.co.uk/archives/2003/03/10/soft-pink-truth-sieg-uber-die-sonne-codec/

16. Deerhoof – Future Teenage Cave Artists

Wherein we find the Hoof in a more sombre mood, sounding both old and new as on the extremely panned The Loved One. If you’re a fan of Deerhoof, I doubt this album will put you off. If you’re not, you’ll find it off on its own little journey and that may miff you or you may wish to hop on. Me, I’d still like a Deerhoof number one record and there’s some stuff on here, like the frankly scary Sesame Streetesque Deerchildren that is almost there. 

15. Another Sky – I Slept On The Floor

I like receiving art with no context. I like being ignorant of how it’s made what and why – I want to feel it first. When I first heard Another Sky, it was on Radio One and their song Fell In Love With The City. I loved it and for about five seconds, I thought it was a new Everything Everything track. So, I’m not gonna give you details about this band, though I know them. I’m just going to tell you that if you love epic pop songs that are not easy shapes / have easy themes, you should check this album out. 

14. Khruangbin – Mordechai

By all rights, I should hate Khruangbin. They seem to hit every hipster tickbox. And yet… I love their music. At their best, as in Pelota, they bring me warm, summery Lalo Schifrin shivers. Even at their worst, they make you sit up and cock your head like a puzzled labradoodle. They remind you of the possibilities in music where some other artists show you only the limits. 

13. Jack Garratt – Love, Death & Dancing

This is a collection of Garratt’s 2020 EPs but it’s also an album so fuckit. And it features one of my fave songs of 2020, the beautiful, horrible, sad, ridiculous Better. For that song alone, you should check this album out but I defy you to try not to harmonise along with Mara. And the lyrics of Circles just cut and cut and cut. A confrontational, intensely personal album that, like the best art of 2020, seems to mirror our collective journey into The Wrong Timeline. 

12. Perfume Genius – Set My Heart On Fire Immediately

The only thing I can compare this album to is Roy Orbison and Serge Gainsbourg teaming up to produce a soundtrack for a Reed Morano film about a castaway prince. Yes. There’s a reach here, it’s all pop music but you have instant bangers like Without You next to dreampop whispers like Jason. It’s dazzling, it really is. What a fucking voice. 

11. Field Music – Making A New World

A rambling, Brakhage of an album, all colours and lights and oh my and ‘what was that, in the corner?’ Drifts from Steely Dan to Buggles via Madness and just all kinds of wooly places. It’s ALL poppy. All of it. 

10. Kvelertak – Splid

I fucking love Kverletak. When I first heard 1985, I knew they were a band for me and their follow up to their first album doesn’t disappoint. Stylistically, yeah, it’s hard rock but there are all kinds of shades here, it’s almost like a parallel reality where metal bands went hardcore punk rather than the other way around. Honestly, you’ll think I’m barmy for saying this but I hear as much Husker Du here as Sabbath. Shhh.. this is a punk album… don’t let those smooth guitar solo harmonies fool ya!

9. Aitch – Polaris

If you’ve listened to the charts any time this year, you will have heard Aitch and his flow. It seems he’s collabbed with everyone and it’s easy to see why from the opening bars of Safe To Say. His confidence and sheer ability shine through the eight tracks and, frankly, made me wish he’d bunged a couple more on. On the other hand, every track is SOLID, no hilarious skits, no fat to be trimmed from this lean, mean joint. And it passed the car test: my rear view looks like it’s shivering when this album’s on. 

8. Crack Cloud – Pain Olympics

I can see the Wire and other post-punk comparisons but there’s also something Devo here, something XTC and Kimya Dawson too. That may sound like an ungodly melange but this album is cohesively weird, a neat trick I could never pull off. If you like your pop lumpy and bumpy and actually about something, check out this album. 

7. The Koreatown Oddity – Little Dominique’s Nosebleed

This album is like one of those painting’s where there’s a vista populated by tiny figures and, curious, you approach to try and see the faces. TKO relates tale after tale about where he’s from, who he was, what happened to him and, ultimately, where he thinks we should go. His lyrics are precise and conjure powerful imagery, some of the runs remind me of old Del or Camp Lo whereas the beats have that kind of Digable Planets blissed-out buzz. 

6. Kelly Lee Owens – Inner Song

If you’re looking for a cookie-cutter dancey/edm-ish album, this isn’t the album for you. Owens between dreamy, ethereal almost-hymns like L.I.N.E  to out and out tech bangers like Night and she is equally comfortable, equally moving. Just lovely.

5. Enter Shikari – Nothing Is True And Everything Is Possible

Look, by now you’ve made your mind up about Shikari. You’re either one of their legion of dedicated fans or are snidely dismissive of one of the standout political bands of their generation. But just give this album a go, Shikari are pushing themselves way out of their comfort zones and yeah, a couple of times that doesn’t work for but I am fucking glad they’re still at least trying. They could easily just turn out dancefloor certainties like T.I.N.A. and not bother with the wilder cuts like Elegy but I love that they do. 

4. Beatrice Dillon – Workaround

This is the album that I hope every modular workout I watch at 3am on YouTube is and never delivers. (Is Clouds named for the Mutable Instruments module? I suspect so.) This is flowing, evolving electronic music that isn’t afraid of extremes. Bouncing off her varied collaborators, Dillon never uses eclecticism as a replacement for depth, her timbral juxtapositions are sometimes playful, sometimes startling but always, always meaningful. I wish I could make electronic music this good but, sadly, I’m not talented enough.

3. Lomelda – Hannah

This album just crept up on me and stabbed me in the heart. At points it’s so small and still and quiet and then other songs soar and open up like an old Far or Pedro The Lion track. Always intimate without being cloying or intrusive, it’s a line that Lomelda revels in cartwheeling down, laugh-crying all the time. A cathartic fucking confessional hug of an album. 

2. Igorrr – Spirituality And Distortion

Easily my favourite metal album of the year and also my favourite folk and electronic album. Regular readers will know that I love everything that Gautier Serre is involved in because of his absolute refusal to stay genre-bound. He’s been doing this orgiastic bricolage for years and, let’s be fucking honest about it, where Igorrr leads, Poppy and Bring Me and more traditional musicians will eventually follow. If they dare.

It’s a piece of piss to be avant garde, to be the critics’ darling by making unlistenable dross. To be this bold, this experimental and still deliver certified bangers like Very Noise, Camel Dancefloor and Himalaya Massive Ritual… it is genius. 

1. Lauv – ~how i’m feeling~

This album brought me to tears repeatedly this year. Because, you know, I feel stuff? Like, I don’t check if I should feel it, I just feel it. Whether it’s a line that reminds me about my dead father or another that reminds me it’s seventeen days since I’ve seen another human being in this fuck of a year. Lauv has this way of pushing my buttons that other big, shiny chart pop doesn’t.

When I hear Feelings, I find myself in it, the confusion, the longing, the eternal ambiguity of love. It’s in there, the frustration but also the understanding that we can’t help the pain. God, if I’d written this song, I would die happy. It’s a perfect, three-chord-trick pop song.

This is a long album but it’s full of pop gems; Drugs & The Internet, Fuck I’m Lonely, Feelings, I’m So Tired, Tattoos Together and the horribly prophetic For Now and Modern Loneliness.

You really could not get a more 2020 album.

Studio Dreams

I just fell asleep and had the weirdest micro-dream…

I was watching the Presonus Dude do some mixing thing on YouTube when I fell asleep and my brain kept listening and built a whole dream around it.

DREAM: I’m in a version of my studio but it’s huge. This dude who looks vaguely Jake Busey in a threatening manner is stalking around my studio, moving keyboards around roughly and pulling out cables that are audio live. This causes realistic clicks and bangs and very unrealistic actual small explosions and arcing cascades of sparks.

All the time, he’s giving a running commentary on how to record / mix vocals and keeps singing at me, “Look how farrrrr we’veeee commmmeeee!” and then tweaks another bit of my gear and sings it again. It’s like he’s tuning the studio for his own personal use!

I’m following him around, trying to grab things off him and then I stop him and start shouting that I DON’T NEED VOCAL PRODUCTION LESSONS and I know how to setup a mic, whereupon he just starts running round faster and HE’S CHANGING THE EQ CURVE ON MY BLOODY GENELECS by flicking the DIP switches.

I grab his hands and I’m shouting in his face, all the time he’s looking at me, singing, “LOOK HOW FAR WE’VE COME!!!” and then I wake up.

I was sooo angry he was messing up my studio and simultaneously insulting my vocal production skills.

Still angry now. Wanna stab a motherfucker.

Another Outsider

However, Dorothy endured heartbreak at Aberystwyth as well as acclaim. Sheela Bonarjee still has the battered black exercise book in which her aunt collated her verse. Alongside one of the poems, Dorothy jotted down a note: “Written at the age of 22 when a Welsh student after 3 years of secret engagement dropped me because his parents said ‘She is very beautiful and intelligent but she is Indian.'”

(Source: BBC News)

I’ve never heard the story of Dorothy Bonarjee before. As I read the story, parts of it seemed so familiar to me, even though she was born in 1894, seventy-two years before I was.

I feel I know her struggle, being caught between two cultures and never truly feeling a sense of belonging anywhere. I’ve certainly been in the position where girlfriends have kept me secret because of my Indianness. Reading her note, above… the dispassionate detail alongside the words of her poem is so heartbreaking.

And yet, she found her own way and made her own place. Like all of us diasporans do, she made a space for herself where none was given.

We have to fashion new cultures, make new homes.

The old ones neither want nor fit us.

Old (F)Art

(Commenting on this post)

This is the joy of being old and, in particular, of being an old artist.

During this lockdown, I’ve started streaming music production sessions (twitch.tv/bzangy) and have had some wonderful interactions with musicians 25, 30 years younger than me.

They’re at the very start of finding their own voices (sometimes literally) and I’ve been doing this a long time now. I know who I am artistically and how I want to say things even if I’m always searching for new ways to connect and improve my art.

All it takes is some support, a few kind words to really help a young artist. They may not have a supportive peer group, they may not have a supportive family.

That’s why I think it’s important that artists always try to pass their experience on to those coming up. For me, I want to open musicians / producers up to different ways of thinking about sound design, about composition.

EVERYTHING is out there, it’s a wonderful universe of creative possibilities

42 Years Ago Today : The Last Message Of Harvey Milk

42 years ago today, Harvey Milk made this message:

“This is Harvey Milk speaking on Friday, November 18, 1978. This tape is to be played only in the event of my death by assassination.

“I fully realise that a person who stands for what I stand for, an activist, a gay activist, becomes the target or potential target for a person who is insecure, terrified, afraid or very disturbing.

“Knowing that I could be assassinated at any moment, at any time, I feel it’s important that some people know my thoughts, and why I did what I did. Almost everything that was done was done with an eye on the gay movement.”

“I cannot prevent some people from feeling angry and frustrated and mad in response to my death, but I hope they will take the frustration and madness and instead of demonstrating or anything of that type, I would hope that they would take the power and I would hope that five, ten, one hundred, a thousand would rise.

“I would like to see every gay lawyer, every gay architect come out, stand up and let the world know.

“That would do more to end prejudice overnight than anybody could imagine.

“I urge them to do that, urge them to come out. Only that way will we start to achieve our rights.”

“All I ask is for the movement to continue, and if a bullet should enter my brain, let that bullet destroy every closet door.”

He was assassinated nine days after making this message.

My First Stream

So, now I can officially say that I am a STREAMER.

Two hours of me chatting rubbish and mucking around with synths – I don’t think Netflix will be calling me just yet. And, for some reason, I muted ALL AUDIO for the first 23 minutes.

I apologise to the three people who stumbled across my stream tonight. In my defencce, I am bloody old.

Come and follow me at twitch.tv/bzangy for more thrilling content.

Computer Chronicles 1990

This fine morning, why not keep abreast of the news from THIRTY YEARS AGO!

APPLE ARE SUING MICROSOFT! BUT WINDOWS 3.0 IS COMING, EVERYONE!

YOU MIGHT NEED TWO MEGABYTES OF RAM!!!

Fucking GARY KILDALL is one of the hosts. This is like having Jesus pop in on Songs Of Praise!

In other breaking news, Microsoft is porting Powerpoint from its original Mac version to Windows, finally!

I have a vision of millions of students around the globe sleeping through lecturers’ Powerpoints in the decades to come…

Ten Colours Red

Just took this quiz and here’s my results.

For the optically minded out there, this is how bad my eyes are: 

Right 
Sph: -8.00 Cyl: -2.75 Axis: 178

Left
Sph: -8.25 Cyl: -3.50 Axis: 179

Near
Right: +1.50
Left: +1.50

Aided VA
Right
Dist: 6/5 Near: N4

Left
Dist: 6/5 Near: N4

BVD: 12.0

Sooo, it’s good that at least I can see colours well. That might help me, post-apocalypse when I’ve fucked my glasses Burgess Meredith-style as long as the edge of the cliff is a *slightly* different red to the waiting chasm.