1. Duma – Lionsblood
‘Lionsblood’ is as intense a piece of music as you’ll ever hear – an unrelenting procession of screams, howls, percussion and sheer noise. A car-crash marriage of the organic and the electronic, it is the dizzying highlight of the Kenyan duo’s self-titled album and comfortably my own personal track of the year.
2. Sault – Wildfires
The two albums that Sault released in 2020 are testaments to black struggle and black beauty. The haunting yet catchy soul-pop of ‘Wildfires’ is the most beautiful summation of it. The lyric “The bloodshed on your hands. Another man. Take off your badge. We all know it was murder” is shamefully relevant this year. It is tempting to tie it to the Black Lives Matter movement and anti-racism protests of 2020 but that would be ignorant, as it would have been shamefully relevant if released in any other year.
3. Yves Tumor – Gospel For A New Century
‘Gospel For a New Century’ sees Yves Tumor reinvent himself as a bombastic entertainer, all sexual overtones and moans over fractured drum beats and stomping riffs. Like TV On The Radio circa Return To Cookie Mountain fronted by Prince. Outrageously fun.
4. Working Men’s Club – Teeth
This is the festival banger for the festival summer that never was, essentially a vehicle for an irresistibly catchy synth melody. Who knows how big Working Men’s Club would have been by now if they had performed this across a schedule that seemed to include every known festival in the UK. There’s always next year.
5. Akhlys – Ephialtes
I found myself listening to more music given labels such as “bleak” and “blackened” in 2020 than at any point in my life. I’ve always been a fan of mood music. This is eight minutes of almost impenetrable black metal, and when you want to ignore or rail against isolation or institutional incompetence that hits the spot.
6. Tamikrest – Awnafin
For a while this was my track of the year. At the start of the year when things felt uncertain but hopeful, and the sun was unseasonably generous, the desert blues of the Malian quintet was great walking music. It will no doubt remain so.
7. Adrianne Lenker – anything
On ‘anything’ Adrianne Lenker barely pauses for breath above the fragile, repeating acoustic riff that carries the song. It is another stunning offering from one of the most prolific, consistent and best songwriters of the last five years.
8. Oranssi Pazuzu – Tyhjyyden Sakramentti
Somehow, Oranssi Pazuzu manage to make music that feels like it will fall apart at any moment whilst still sounding fun. It might be a stretch to call their brand of prog-metal “catchy”, but on ‘Tyhjyyden Sakramentti’ they pack in a lot of hooks amongst the madness.
9. HUM – Step Into You
HUM‘s return was one of 2020’s most surprising and best returns. ‘Step Into You’ is a glorious piece of space-rock that brings to mind Cave In and Swervedriver as much as their earlier releases.
10. Bohren & Der Club Of Gore – Patchouli Blue
Tectonically slow. Obscured and barely touched by sunlight. More mood music.