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Top 10 Albums of 2020

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Top 10 Albums of 2020

Posted on 29 December 2020 by Joe

In compiling our Top 10 Albums of 2020 list there’s no getting away from the fact that this year has been the pits. The Covid-19 pandemic has decimated the health, emotional wellbeing and finances of a generation.

And the music industry is no exception. Gigs have been cancelled, to adhere to social distancing. Albums have been mothballed and many, many musicians have been wondering where their next pay cheque is coming from.

For us at Neonfiller.com music reviewing has had to take a back seat as we focus on our day jobs. No gigs to go to has robbed us of some eye-opening new music in particular.

But amid the health crisis we have still managed to do our bit to support new music and releases when we can.

And its still been a great year for music for those that managed to get albums out or release them before the world shut down. Whether deliberate or not they have all ended up being the soundtrack to our year.

In addition, there’s been some inventive music and performances still being ushered out to our ears and eyes online by musicians amid the pandemic.

Here are our Top 10 albums of 2020.

10. The Sinclairs Sparkle

What an intriguing debut to emerge during lockdown from The Sinclairs, formed by Damned drummer Rat Scabies and Jesse Budd, aka Billy Shinbone, from Flipron and guitarist with Neville Staple’s band.

Ennio Morricone with a New Wave twist and added electronica. Read the full review here.

9. John Howard- To The Left of the Moon’s Reflection

The pandemic is inescapable across album number 17 from 1970s singer/songwriter turned 21st century indie artist John Howard, althrough it was written and production began prior to the health crisis.

Although unintentionally it provided us with a beautifully meloncholic look at life in our strange world of social distancing.  Read the full review of this top 10 albums of 2020 here.

8. Seazoo – Joy

Sometimes, and this year has definitely been one of those times, you just want a good natured guitar pop album to enjoy. Joy, the second album from Wrexham based Seazoo, is definitely that kind of album. Ten songs in a breezy 33 minutes is, simply put, a joy.

Seazoo Joy

As with lots of bands on this list we’d hoped to get to see the band touring the album this year, but hopefully they’ll be out on the road in 2021. Read the full review here.

7. The Orielles – Disco Volador

The Orielles are one of our favourite new bands, and we enjoyed them a lot at Indietracks 2019. Their second album, Disco Volador, was an album I picked up just around the start of the 1st lockdown.

Disco Volador

It is a fun and eclectic slice of pop music that manages to be in equal parts dreamy and danceable. ‘Bobbi’s Second World’ is the stand-out single  but there are plenty more tracks to enjoy here.

6. Mountain Goats – Getting Into Knives

Considering the world has gone to pot due to Covid-19, the Mountain Goats have been relatively prolific in terms of album releases this year. Fresh from releasing his DIY album Songs for Pierre Chuvin at the start of lockdown, John Darnielle’s troop are back six months later with this deserved entry into our top 10 albums of 2020 list, Getting Into Knives.

There’s some proper hits on Getting Into Knives. Get Famous is particularly marvellous with a fabulous chorus and superb woodwind and horns. Read the full review here.

5. Laura Marling – Songs for Our Daughter

A concept album written to an imaginary child –  simple, stunning and uplifting in this troubled year, when family means so much more. It would be lazy to compare Laura Marling’s beautiful Song For Our Daughter to Joni Mitchell in her 70s pomp. But screw it. I’ll do it anyway. This is a downright instant, timeless classic, with its sweeping strings and shuffling drums perfectly accompanying Marling’s vocals.

4. Field Music – Making A New World

Field Music are a band that we have championed on this site for many years, and took top spot in our end of year chart for 2010. Making A New World is a fascinating addition to their discography.

Making A New World

It isn’t a straightforward set of songs, it is a concept album themed around the aftermath of the 1st World War. That means there are more instrumentals and short songs than you’d expect from the band, but there are also some big pop classics like ‘Money Is A Memory’ to enjoy.

3. BC Camplight – Shortly After Takeoff

Despite his clear talent and string of excellent albums it is unlikely that BC Camplight will ever become a household name. He was a revelation when we saw him at The Larmer Tree Festival in 2019. He’s never been lucky, and his excellent latest album being released during the year of Covid seems strangely appropriate.

Shortly After Takeoff

Shortly After Takeoff is a sophisticated and emotional album, with enough humour to balance some of the more painful lyrical subjects. It is brilliantly played and contains as many musical ideas as you’ll find on any album released this year.

2. Eyelids – The Accidental Falls

Eyelids are one of the bands we have championed most since we first discovered them back in 2014. The Accidental Falls is a fascinating album in that it uses lyrics written by Tim Buckley collaborator Larry Beckett for all the songs and that really drives the musical feel of the record.

The Accidental Falls

It is a real grower of an album and reveals a little bit more with every listen. You can read our full review of the record here.

1.Rolling Blackouts CF – Sideways to New Italy

Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever already have a couple of fine EPs and a brilliant debut album behind them, but that doesn’t stop Sideways To New Italy sounding totally fresh. They aren’t doing anything new here, it is the same driving three guitar pop-rock we’ve come to expect, but delivered with enough verve as to sound like they’re just starting out.

Sideways To New Italy

They are simply one of the most exciting bands we’ve discovered in years and this album is just a string of single-worthy future favourites. They are also a great live band and we hope that they manage to come to the UK for their planned tour in 2021.

 

The top 10 albums of 2020 list is compiled by Dorian Rogers and Joe Lepper

 

 

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Larmer Tree Festival 2019 Review

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Larmer Tree Festival 2019 Review

Posted on 25 July 2019 by Dorian

If you like Gomez or Tom Odell, then I can recommend them. I’ve seen both and they are great live and I’m sure their  appearances at this year’s Larmer Tree Festival added to their reputations as performers that walk the walk (sing the sing?) when it comes to belting out bangers.

However, this is Neonfiller, so we will focus on acts that you may have the chance to see at The Joiners Arms, The Exchange, Thekla, The Hare & Hounds, or other venue local to you.

Where better to start than a half-empty tent at 9:30pm on the Sunday night, populated with small groups of Odell refuseniks who are now just about running on fumes after the long festival weekend?

BC Camplight

BC Camplight

Into this cauldron of apathy strolls BC Camplight who promptly delivers the performance of the festival. Brian Christinzio is a piano virtuoso with a big voice and – seeming to serve notice to the sparse crowd that they were in for a ride – started big, with Deportation Blues. With barely time to swig more gin and wine that can be good for you (and nurse a melting microphone stand) he and his band piled into the set list. Just Because I Love You and I’m in a Weird Place Now showed the full range of his voice, from choirboy sweetness to Springsteen bellow.  Fire In England started as expected but morphed into a deranged Madness / John Grant mash-up whilst You Should’ve Gone To School washes over like a soothing AOR balm.

The band is on the ball and tonight this sonically confusing, sometimes scary, but ultimately warm and big-hearted performance gave the crowd more than they expected.  Inevitably I’m Desperate closes the set and (with an exhortation to come back for a main stage appearance at The End of the Road Festival here later in the year) he is off.

It’s easy to forget how good BC Camplight is. A frenzied all-night trip with Michael McDonald and Billy Joel that turns out OK by the morning might get close, but if that’s not an option, then go see him.

Du Blonde

Du Blonde

Working back to Saturday afternoon, Du Blonde (Beth Jeans Houghton) clearly has more artistic talent and drive than I could dream of. As well as writing and performing, she is a painter and illustrator, and has produced animations for her own work and the likes of Ezra Furman and Lump. Given this, the fact that she gave a vocal performance that had hints of Anna Calvi shouldn’t have been a surprise. The driving rhythm section set the scene for her guitar playing that – through a diverse set list that veered from rocking out riffs to doleful ballads – left you wanting to hear the next song. Angel stands out for its riff heavy chorus, and whilst some compositions lacked streaming-friendly immediacy, your patience is rewarded.

Odstocks, appearing in The Village Inn, a two minute stroll from the Peacock Palace (where Du Blonde wrangled her Stratocaster) gave us a nonstop set of proper stonking Indie boy rock, but with enough twists and turns (including occasional hints of The Cure in some of guitarist Tommy Nicklen’s repertoire) to lift them above pub rock. Determined to ignore technical glitches – from both the sound system and lead singer Jack Wilkinson-Holton’s sunglasses – their vibrant under-3-minute tunes won the tent over.

BASH

BASH

The act most thrilled to be at the Festival was clearly BASH! Following up on their main stage appearance the day before, the smaller Village Inn tent was full of people and anticipation well before they started. With pop unashamedly front and centre, they had the attitude of a born-again Postcard Records signing. Lead singer, Amanda Bashmakova started off a little breathless but her Claire Grogan-like delivery quickly matured to a vocal performance evoking Gwen Stefani. Not to be out done by Amanda’s vogue-ing; bassist Miles Hobbs injected both funk and – via expert stares and moustache twitches that Ron Mael would applaud – added a little jeopardy to keep the crowd on their toes. “Lovely, Smart and Beautiful” showed them at the best, and as joint winners of Larmer Tree’s ‘Breakthrough Act’ (alongside with Bristol’s Agata) the organisers must have been chuffed at the reaction of the crowd. Fun, not dumb.

Surprise act was possibly (& perhaps controversially) K T Tunstall, who cranked up the rock with her new band. Yes, she still gets the Acoustic out to play arms-in-the-air ballads and crowd pleasers, like the loop-pedal ‘woo-hoos’ of Black Horse and the Cherry Tree, and the Radio 2-friendly Other side of the World, but tracks like 2010s Push that knot away get a heft that had not been evident before. This band featuring Mandy Clarke on bass and Cat Myers (whose work with Honeyblood has been praised on Neonfiller before) give KT an urgency and attitude that takes the music somewhere else. Think Blondie, think The Pretenders, think nice one KT.

For reasons beyond my control I could only arrive on Saturday, so was sad to miss some bands, but it is clear Larmer Tree is a great little festival with big acts. Yes it’s one for the families, but there are some acts in there that can still be relied on to frighten the horses and the compact size of the site, easy camping, and lack of crushes is a joy to experience only a few weeks after Glastonbury.

My only wish (other than a magic credit card for all the good booze and food on offer) would for tents that don’t have posts right in front of the centre of the stage, and zero tolerance for steel prince/princess trollies that blight this beautiful place – children love festivals, strap them to you, let them run, or hold their hands and walk. People will love you for it.

Words and pictures by Matt Turner

Editors note: Friends of the site, The Jangle Brothers (who may include this editor), DJ’d a woodland silent disco set at the Larmer Tree festival on the Saturday night. They are available for weddings, discos, parties, festivals etc. etc.

Silent Disco

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