Yes, 2020 has been awful, but it has also seen a united music industry come together as one during this time of uncertainty, and the industry itself has shown once again, why it’s such a vital part of our lives with releasing such incredible pieces of art across the year. With that being said, let’s celebrate some of the finest albums this year has had to offer.
Also please note, whilst some albums nearer the top might be my favourites, I have omitted from putting them in numerical order in terms of ranking, as I’d rather this be a celebration of greatness and unity, as opposed to any form of competition. This list is purely to share the amazing output from so many artists and labels.
BANANAGUN – THE TRUE STORY OF BANANAGUN
A cocktail of kaleidoscopic psychedelia meets Afrobeat inspired tropical rhymes to create the sound of summer paradise, Bananagun’s debut LP is one of the best things that has been released in a few years. If you haven’t listened yet, get on it right away.
ANGEL OLSEN – WHOLE NEW MESS
The brilliant follow up to the spellbinding and modern-day masterpiece that is ‘All Mirrors’ – ‘A Whole New Mess’ is all about simplicity with Angel Olsen plus guitar and it truly cuts to the bone. I know this is Fuzzy Sun, but I’m sure the most ardent purveyors of noise could appreciate the beauty of this record.
KELLY LEE OWENS – INNERSONG
One of the best live shows on the planet, Kelly Lee Owens’ sonic euphoria is encapsulated stunningly on record with the immense intergalactic fairy tale that is ‘Innersong’. The ethereal dreamy soundscapes of Kelly Lee Owens and vocals from a heavenly realm enthused with techno, UK bass and experimental is a spiritual odyssey and an accession into the heavenly plains.
WINTER – ENDLESS SPACE (BETWEEN YOU & I)
Winter’s Endless Space (Between You & I) is like one gliding through a star system. Cosmic-psychedelic dream pop sounds for the late nights. If you’re a fan of Jacco Gardner, Crumb and Melody’s Echo Chamber, then this will be up your street.
PET GROTESQUE – FEMALE SYNTH PLAYER
Pet Grotesque’s sophomore album is a cocktail of anthems for the late summer evenings scouting for wine bars on neon tinted streets, suited and booted. FFO Ariel Pink, Tame Impala, Unknown Mortal Orchestra and current Growlers.
Y BÜLBÜL – FEVER
Fantastic debut album that came out of nowhere, delving between psychedelia and space-funk. Glorious stuff and an absolute must-listen/ purchase.
OSEES – PANTHER ROTATE
It’s fair to say despite 2020 being a shambles, that OSees absolutely smashed it and this year might well belong to them. The last album of 2020 that they released was a bonkers, skittish krautrock and experimental-art-rock affair. What a year for the greatest band in the world.
MINT FIELD – SENTIMIENTO MUNDIAL
Mint Field’s ‘Sentimiento Mundial’ is a fever dream for the shoegaze and psychedelia fan. Shimmering and reverb-drenched sounds that delves between drowsy and frenetic, ‘Sentimiento Mundial’ is perfect for those after a Spacemen 3 or MBV fix.
THE WANTS – CONTAINER
Motorik post-punk meets krautrock for a beast of a sprawling and criminally underrated record from the immense New York natives and one of the most exciting bands on the planet, right now. Pulsating, electronic rhythms for the metropolitan underground nightclubs, ‘Container’ is a brilliantly addictive modern-day gem.
OSEES – METAMORPHOSED
Yep, it’s OSees again! Blistering and frenzied psychedelic-space rock Metamorphosed, is a dizzying, brain-melter of an album. The fuzz- storm that is ‘Metamorphosed’ is OSees at their most wildest. What a year for the band…
SAULT – UNTITLED (BLACK IS)
One of the most universally loved albums of 2020, and for very good reason. Afrobeat, funk, psychedelia, electronica, soul and everything else in between, ‘Untitled (Black Is)’ is a wonderful tapestry of sensational sonic sounds and deserves all the plaudits.
MONG TONG – MYSTERY
Released via Kikagaku Moyo’s Guruguru Brain label, Mong Tong’s mystery is a psychedelic journey delving into funk-laden goodness. Combining the throwback sounds of the sixties with what feels like at times, 90’s retro games, ‘Mystery’ is utterly splendid.
SLIFT – UMMON
Released via the ever-great Bristol label Stolen Body Records, Slift’s Ummon is OSees and King Gizzard rolled into one bit fat cauldron, and the stew is laced with steroids and acid. An absolute beast of a record delving into cataclysmic psychedelic-rock and space-rock sounds from the darkest regions of the universe.
SONG SUNG – THE ASCENSION IS OURS
A criminally underrated album, Song Sung’s ‘The Ascension is Ours’ is gothic-tinged, woozy electronic-dream pop meets shoegaze. Breathtakingly atmospheric, Song Sung delivered with an album perfect for the late-night walks in the rain-soaked streets.
AK/DK – SHARED PARTICLES
One of the finest live bands you can ever witness, the mind-boggling synth/drum duo, AK/DK returned with ‘Shared Particles’. Glitchy- frenetic, pulsing krautrock and space-sounds, ‘Shared Particles’ is a stunner. If you’re into the bombastic sounds of Snapped Ankles, then this will be one of your new favourite records.
ALEX MAAS – LUCA
The Black Angels front person recently released their debut solo album and it was glorious. The shamanic, spell-binding brooding psychedelia that the Texan psych royalty are known for was left at the door, and Maas instead delved into the more whimsical. ‘Luca’ is less Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd, and more Syd Barrett ‘Madcap Laughs’ and also evoking the soft-psych sounds of Country Joe & The Fish. Great stuff once again.
JULIÁN MAYORGA – CUANDO TENGO FIEBRE VEO LA CABEZA DE UN LEOPARDO MAGNÍFICO
Julián Mayorga’s ‘Cuando tengo fiebre veo la cabeza de un leopardo magnífico’ is a super fun album of glitchy-sci-fi funk-laden cumbia. If you’re a fan of Meridian Brothers or The Mauskovic Dance Band, you’ll love this.
KING GIZZARD & THE LIZARD WIZARD – K.G
Psych royalty King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard returned with their sixteenth studio. Delving across multiple genres, K.G is one of their more radical releases delving from 80’s pop-funk meets Eastern Disco, acoustic, Western-tinged to their signature sounding fuzz. Possibly the best studio record from King Gizz since their Mild High Club collab and that is of course saying something. This is another special one from the lords of modern-day psychedelia.
MERIDIAN BROTHERS – CUMBIA SIGLO XXL
Meridian Brothers ’Cumbia Siglo xxl’ is another glorious slice of their futuristic sci-fi psychedelic-cumbia that sounds like a UFO from the realm of Super Nintendo has crash landed in South America. Stupidly fun. Stupidly good.
OSEES – LIVE AT LEVITATION
It’s the greatest live band (and band in general) in the world (maybe of all time?) playing live and putting it on record? I’m not really sure what more can really be said? Anything more and we’re just wasting your time, and mine.
OSEES – PROTEIN THREAT
‘Protein Threat’ is an assault of prog, psychedelia and art-rock. No band should be able to make as much great music as OSees, especially in one single year, but OSees can and that’s why actually, I am going to just say it, OSees are indeed the greatest band to ever walk this planet. Ever. Probably forever.
NICK CAVE – IDIOT PRAYER (NICK CAVE ALONE AT ALEXANDRA PALACE)
Watching the Nick Cave stream via Dice was pretty wonderful. One man and a piano shouldn’t be something that rips through space time, yet the whole thing went by at lightspeed despite going well over the hour mark. The live album captures the beauty of a living god at their most vulnerable, and brilliantly encapsulates the isolation of a world in Covid-19. A truly stunning live record that showcases the sheer loneliness of just Nick Cave in an enormous venue.
PIGS, PIGS, PIGS, PIGS, PIGS, PIGS, PIGS – VISCERALS
The realms of another dimension are ripped open with Pigs x7 ‘Viscerals’. Perfect for these times of anger-inducing lockdown staring at walls, Lemmy-esque vocals howl across doom-laden riffs for a psychedelic-cyclone that sounds like a frenzied shackled colossal beast ripped from the depths of hell.
LEAH SENIOR – THE PASSING SCENE
‘The Passing Scene’ released via Flightless is a magic-bus ride through a summer-soaked enchanted garden. Baroque pop stylings of Margo Guryan mixed with Beach Boys ‘Pet Sounds’, ‘The Passing Scene’ from Leah Senior is so joyous.
ADRIANNE LENKER – SONGS
Stunning folk sounds for Sunday autumnal walks wandering through a rustic-tinted forest woodland, where one trudges through pools of leaves that flood the trail and crackle under the feet. Gentle and serene, it’s an album that could likely cure a hangover in itself.
VINYL WILLIAMS – AZURE
Released via Requiem Pour Un Twister, Vinyl Williams’ ‘Azure’ is gorgeous psychedelia meets glorious sunshine-pop, perfect for when the sun is back out to play. If you’re into Jacco Gardner or Morgan Delt, this splendid spiralling sonic joy-ride is well worth your time.
SAULT UNTITLED (RISE)
When people look back at 2020 purely on its musical output, Sault will be at the forefront of the conversation. Releasing not just one, but two gems that will be remembered fondly, the super mysterious Sault have absolutely smashed it this year, and with Untitled (Rise), they’ve created a modern-day masterpiece that delves across multiple genres.
KING GIZZARD & THE LIZARD WIZARD – CHUNKY SHRAPNEL
Whilst 2020 has been devastating for the live industry itself, it has seen a lot of incredible live albums be released. King Gizzard answered lots of prayers with ‘Chunk Shrapnel’ showcasing why the band are one of the live bands this universe has ever known with live recordings taken from their 2019 tour across Europe.
TROPA MAGICA – TRIPIANDO AL INFINITO EN MI RECÁMARA
Los Angeles’ Tropa Magica are here for sun-soaked good times where parties cycle from day-to-night, and with ‘Tripiando al Infinito en Mi Recámara’, they have delivered with an exotic cocktail for the spirit fuelled evenings with their psychedelic-cumbia sounds. If you’re a fan of The Growlers in their more ‘Beach Rats’ days with their more Latin-infused sounds for the chilled out parties on the beach, then this is for you.
PSYCHOTIC MONKS – PRIVATE MEETING FIRST
Released via Fat Cat Records, home to Traams, The Psychotic Monks’ ‘Private Meeting First’ is a gut-punching sonic-assault of Girl Band meets A Place To Bury Strangers, visceral and cacophonic post-punk and noise.
SONIC BOOM – ALL THINGS BEING EQUAL
Peter Kember of the legendary Spacemen 3 returned in 2020 with the space-rock odyssey that is ‘All Things Being Equal’ and absolutely did not disappoint. A truly beautiful record that sounds as if peace-loving aliens from another galaxy are trying to communicate with us.
YORE – YORE S/T
A late to the party entry, Yore aka Callum Brown released his solo album in December featuring an array of UK based musicians and gloriously delves into shoegaze, dreampop and psychedelia. Dreamy goodness.
NADINE SHAH – KITCHEN SINK
Nadine Shah returned to fine form with ‘Kitchen Sink’ a splendid cocktail of gothic-rock and barbed post-punk. Some parts being Nick Cave meets fellow PJ Harvey, ‘Kitchen Sink’ is another marvel from the sensational north-east based artist.
OOIOO – NIJIMUSI
Jarring, barbed, utterly frantic and truly intense, ‘Nijimusi’ is explosive glitch-coated noise-experimental, avant-garde rock melded into frenzied jazz. Very rare does chaos sound so good, but the insanely talented OOIOO have managed it with this brilliantly bonkers record.
LANDSHAPES – CONTACT
Stunning ethereal art-pop delving into psychedelia, Landshapes ‘Contact’ is a truly fun listen, where you have no real idea where each track is going next, and that of course is always a good thing.