I know that I don’t need to say it, but 2020 has been a weird year defined by a global pandemic that has seen a large portion of the music world come to a screeching halt. All international touring has stopped completely, and while we in Australia are looking to be headed into 2021 with domestic touring a reasonable reality – for the rest of the world the outlook seems to be a little bleaker. Although in comparison to previous years, 2020 may have been a quiet year for bands releasing music, it has by no means been a boring one.
Before I get started, I’d like to list a few albums I loved but just missed out on my Top 10:
Movements – No Good Left To Give
Alpha Wolf – A Quiet Place To Die
Stand Atlantic – Pink Elephant
Bearings – Hello, It’s You
Let’s get into it, my Top 10 of 2020!
Higher Power – 27 Miles Underwater
I want to preface this by saying I’m not sure what it is that makes me love the newest Higher Power record quite as much as I do – yet there’s just something about it that continues to draw me back to it. It feels wild and untamed and with their major label debut, 27 Miles Underwater, the band have proven that they are well equipped to carry the torch for the New Wave of British Hardcore. While hanging onto a large portion of the hardcore sound that defined their debut album, 27 Miles Underwater is anything but your run of the mill hardcore record. There’s an undeniable groove to the album’s instrumentals, while the jarring vocals of Jimmy Wizard cut like a hot knife through butter. It’s not without risk however, had Higher Power not executed their vision with the surgical precision that is audible on the record, I doubt we’d be talking about it at all. Without biting off more than they could chew, Higher Power have created something that is groovy, thrashy, melodic and above all else ferociously unrelenting – and I’m all about it.
Favourite Tracks: Seamless, Shedding Skin, Rewire (101)
Charli XCX – how i’m feeling now
While admittedly I rarely see myself listening to a lot of pop music, I have not been able to pull myself away from the latest Charli XCX record. Written and recorded in the span of six weeks amidst COVID-19 lockdowns, how i’m feeling now arose as one of the premiere partners to help get us through an incredibly difficult year. The deep and heavy synth that underlies the entire record is alluring, and its combination with Charli’s signature vocals sparks and shocks like untamed electricity. Maybe the greatest thing about the English singer’s fifth album however, is the fact that a lot of it was created almost entirely on Instagram Live in front of her fans. It’s little surprise then that many have heralded how i’m feeling now as one of Charli XCX’s best releases yet.
Favourite Tracks: forever, claws, anthems
Boston Manor – GLUE
Oh, how far Blackpool’s Boston Manor have come. Once considered one of the most promising upcomers in the pop-punk scene, the five-piece have well and truly departed from the sound that popularised them in the first place – and they’ve only gotten better as a result. Their third studio album, GLUE, is high voltage and uncompromising, and a critical assessment of modern society that commands your full attention as it demands change. While not just angry thematically, its delivery is tenacious and blunt and at times, even sinister. The darkness that began brewing with 2018’s Welcome to the Neighbourhood has well and truly blossomed on GLUE and now, well equipped with a booming arsenal, Boston Manor are quickly becoming a band like no other.
Favourite Tracks: 1’s & 0’s, Ratking, Monolith
Knuckle Puck – 20/20
I’ve always loved Knuckle Puck but to be honest, 2017’s Shapeshifter didn’t really reach the same heights as their previous outputs for mine. Suitably released in the year 2020, the band’s third album 20/20 is a surging return to excellency for the Chicago based five-piece. Not only does it reach those same heights however, 20/20 is undoubtedly Knuckle Puck’s most pristine release yet. The combination of vocalist Joe Taylor and guitarist/vocalist Nick Casasanto is better than it’s ever been, the guitar and bass tones are beautiful and the drumming is ardent and impassioned. Fusing blazing and brash punk-rock with a nostalgic emo flare, 20/20 is the boldest and best collection of songs we’ve ever seen from the modern-day pop punk kings.
Favourite Tracks: 20/20, Earthquake, Breathe
Hot Mulligan – you’ll be fine
In case it wasn’t clear enough when they became the internet’s number one hot new verified band, the sophomore record of Michigan’s Hot Mulligan, you’ll be fine, is proof enough that the band is quickly becoming a favourite of many. Looking through youthful eyes, you’ll be fine is a vigorous expression of sentiment that serves as a cathartic response to adversity and hardship with one clear message – despite pain, you will be okay. Pushing boundaries fearlessly, it combines the twinkling enthusiasm of Midwest emo with the gritty pop-punk eagerness the band have become known for, resulting in an album that is bold and confident. A roller-coaster of emotions from start to finish, you’ll be fine is full-throttle approach to misfortune that offers anything you could ever ask for and so much more – whether you want to dance in your living room or cry in the confines of your bedroom, this is the album for you.
Favourite Tracks: *Equip Sunglasses*, Digging In, The Song Formerly Known As Intro
Loathe – I Let It in and It Took Everything
Rarely before has a band soared into popularity quite as quickly as Loathe did in 2020. While never a band to be laughed at, their sophomore record I Let It in and It Took Everything has well and truly put the Liverpool-based act on the map. Shifting brilliantly between soul-stirring melody and blisteringly heavy pieces, there’s something for everyone on the bands monumental release. With an incredible instrumental performance – highlighted especially by the intensity of the album’s guitars, it’s the tremendous vocal diversity of frontman Kadeem France that is such an integral part of what makes Loathe so spectacular. Beyond being an extremely enjoyable album, I Let It in and It Took Everything is without a doubt one of the most interesting and original albums to have come out of the heavy scene in a very long time.
Favourite Tracks: Two Way Mirror, Aggressive Evolution, Is It Really You?
Spanish Love Songs – Brave Faces Everyone
When it comes to bands I discovered throughout 2020, there are none that have moved me quite as much as Spanish Love Songs. Releasing their third album since their debut in 2015, Brave Faces Everyone is the perfect culmination of heartbreak and hopeless optimism, pulling at the heartstrings in a way that I have rarely ever experienced. The self-defined grouchrock band continue traditions of emotive punk rock in their new release, channeling the energies that have seen bands like The Wonder Years and The Menzingers forge successful careers. Combining harrowing lyrics and anguished vocals, vocalist Dylan Slocum’s performance on the record is moving as he preaches a message of finding your way through hardship. If there’s any album that feels perfectly timed to help you through a global pandemic, Brave Faces Everyone might just be it.
Favourite Tracks: Kick, Losers, Self-Destruction (As a Sensible Career Choice)
Seaway – Big Vibe
While I have come to expect nothing but the best from them, few albums exceeded my expectations in 2020 like Seaway’s Big Vibe. Coming in hot after what felt like an excruciatingly long three-year wait, the perfectly executed Big Vibe was well worth the painful wait. Every song on Big Vibe, and I mean every single song, is an infectious fusion of bubbly melody and summer-spirited rock and for those of us residing in the southern-hemisphere, this album is the undisputed soundtrack to a beautiful summer. Seaway’s unflinching embrace of poppy sensibility has taken them above and beyond once again in creating LP4 – it’s melancholic and brilliantly bright, polished but not lacking the band’s signature grit that makes them so special. With every new album Seaway consistently improve, taking everything that worked on their previous releases and expanding on it exponentially and Big Vibe proves no different. It only takes four words to describe Big Vibe – windows down, volume up. If you haven’t tried listening to this album while cruising down the highway then you’re missing out and if that’s the case you best put on your sunglasses, get in your car and get going.
Favourite Tracks: Still Blue, Pathetic, Sweet Sugar
AND FOR THE AOTY
I’ll be real – no matter how much I tried I could not separate the next two albums. So, maybe it’s a little bit of a cop out but without further ado, here are my ALBUMS of the year.
Yours Truly – Self Care
If you came across the gushing review I gave this album earlier in the year when it arrived, it will come as no surprise that the new Yours Truly record takes the cake as my (tied) album of the year. As far as debut albums go Self Care is one of the best, bursting with life it perfectly fuses the tenacious sounds of 2000’s radio rock with the glistening sounds of modern pop-punk to create an album unlike anything else. It soars brilliantly from song to song, from cathartic anthems of strength to brilliant ballads of heartbreak in what is a full-sounding and dynamic record from front to back. Whether you need to something to comfort your sadness, or pick you back up when you’re low Self Care is an album that champions resilience and determination without fear of vulnerability. With glittering guitars, robust drums and the vocal performance of a lifetime from frontwoman Mikaila Delgado, Yours Truly have once again proven through Self Care thatthey are not going anywhere anytime soon.
Favourite Tracks: Together, Ghost, Heartsleeve
Touché Amoré – Lament
Going out on a limb, I doubt that there’s very few bands that are held in such high regard by both their fans and their peers as Touché Amoré. Quickly approaching their 15th year as a band, the Los Angeles outfit have, to the surprise of nobody, delivered once again on their fifth album Lament. A companion piece in a lot of ways to 2016’s Stage Four, Lament sees frontman Jeremy Bolm narrate his journey since the release of the band’s devastating fourth album in a hopeful declaration of moving forward. Plain and simple, Lament is Touché Amoré at their best – the guitar tones are haunting and beautiful, the bass work is deep and moving, the drums are vigorous and unrelenting while Bolm’s vocals go above and beyond the momentous heights fans of the band have come to expect. There is such an incredible amount of emotion poured into every single second of this record – from pain to anger, hopefulness to hopelessness, every single moment of Lament feels like a heartbreaking gut punch. Touché Amoré have been my favourite band for a long time and Lament has only further guaranteed that.
Favourite Tracks: Reminders, Limelight, Savoring