First things first – you’re not expected to read this (though it’s obviously lovely if you do). I’ve done a roundup of my albums of the year every year since we started – so this is the tenth one – and it’s as much for me as for you. Strike that, it’s massively more for me than you, given that I suspect you won’t make it down past number 6. And the usual health warning – not every lang cat shares my taste in music. In fact, none of them do, but I don’t care.
If you read the Top Class Wednesday Update then here’s a more balanced playlist:
Let’s get on with it. In a year like 2020,what I wanted was stuff that absolutely did one thing and did it brilliantly. Not a year for clever-clever stuff. Whether it was folky, ambient, heavy or absolute carnage, it needed to get to me fast and give me something else to think about.
10. OLAFUR ARNALDS – SOME KIND OF PEACE
Not something I’d listen to every day, but at the right moment this absolutely lived up to its name and did the trick when something low key was called for. Totally lovely record and I’m a big Arnalds fan.
9. TRIVIUM – WHAT THE DEAD MEN SAY
Good old fashioned heavy stuff from the Floridian stalwarts. Maybe not the most sophisticated record, but sounds great and if you want choruses that really make you wish you could be at a proper gig then Trivium has boxes of them out the back, two for a pound sort of thing.
8. KATE RUSBY – HAND ME DOWN
It is an unwritten rule – until now – that covers albums never make the list. But rules are made to be broken, and this is a Kate Rusby covers album which immediately makes it worth a bash. When you find out that it’s got covers of Shake It Off, Friday I’m In Love and – best of all – Maybe Tomorrow (the theme tune from The Littlest Hobo) on it, it’s impossible to resist.
7. NAPALM DEATH – THROES OF JOY IN THE JAWS OF DEFEATISM
No doubt that Napalm Death and Anaal Nathrakh (see below) are the perfect soundtrack for a total shitshow of a year. But even brutal records have to be good, something Napalm haven’t always managed. This is a world away from the Napalm I knew growing up – there are 15 songs on this 51-minute record, whereas my favourite (From Enslavement To Obliteration) had 27 songs in 34 minutes. Still, a perfect record for 2020 nonetheless, and with a social conscience too.
6. THE WAR ON DRUGS – LIVE DRUGS
Ohhhh I miss gigs. Giggity giggy gigs. This is a very, very good live record which makes me miss gigs even more.
5. FIRES IN THE DISTANCE – ECHOES FROM DEEP NOVEMBER
A new band to me, and one of the very few American melodeath (that’s melodic death metal, or music you won’t like interspersed with bits you can just about stand) outfits I’ve ever had any time for. I can’t quite remember how I bumped into Fires In The Distance but I’m very glad I did and this is well worth a top 5 spot. In a year where there wasn’t an Insomnium record this and Dawn of Solace did the job nicely.
4. YORKSTON THORNE KHAN – NAVARASA (NINE EMOTIONS)
Here’s how it works – James Yorkston puts out a record, it goes on this list. Don’t blame me, I don’t make the rules. Actually I do make the rules, so there. Anyway, this is the third YTK record which fuses Yoikstonish folk, jazzyish except not shit stuff from Jon Thorne on double bass and insanely brilliant Indian sarangi playing and devotional singing from Suhail Yusuf Khan. The sarangi is a sort of Indian cello. The name comes from the concept that there are nine emotions that sum up the human spirit. Once you’re over the juxtaposition of the different styles, I suspect you’ll feel some emotions as you listen to this. It’s a ridiculously good record. Apart from the fact that Jon Thorne lives on the Isle of Wight.
3. ANAAL NATHRAKH – ENDARKENMENT
I simply can’t think of a better soundtrack to 2020 than this. It’s not very nice. You may need to ask permission from a parent before watching this embed, just warning you.
2. FISH – WELTSCHMERZ
I can’t tell you how big a part of my 1980s boyhood Marillion and Fish were. And I’m enough of a cliche to still get misty when Heart of Lothian comes on. That said, not every Fish solo record has been a gimme; something which may not surprise many of you. However, Weltschmerz, which is his last ever record, is absolutely fantastic. I said I wanted music that got into my veins quickly, and this did. The big Hibby had one massive record still in him, it turned out, and I’m very glad to have it in my life. I put this video in the TCWU a couple of months back, and it got more responses than just about anything else I’ve ever posted, so have it again. Incidentally, if you’re a spod, this sounds absolutely brilliant on vinyl.
1. DAWN OF SOLACE – WAVES
Any long-term readers of this crap will know that the top spot is normally reserved for Finnish melodeath records, and this isn’t the year to mess with tradition. This isn’t the cheeriest record ever made and I don’t think Sophie Ellis Bextor will do a kitchen disco to it (I’d pay to see that though). But it sounds huge, is really well put together and is my most played new record of 2020 by some considerable distance. If you fancy giving something heavy but still approachable a bash, this would be a great place to start.
And that’s that. I can also exclusively reveal that 2021’s record of the year will be by Arab Strap. I haven’t heard it yet, but it’s a new Arab Strap record, and that is all you need to know.