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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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The Mountain Goats – Getting Into Knives

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The Mountain Goats – Getting Into Knives

Posted on 23 October 2020 by Joe

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 Getting Into Knives.

Recent releases have been more thematic, such as focusing on goths, wrestlers and even pagans. Here Darnielle’s crew offer broader themes of loss and fear, You know, the usual emotions during a global pandemic.

Recorded in Memphis pre lockdown its beautifully produced. This is unsurprising given at the mixing desk is Matt Ross Sprang, who engineered the Goats last pre-lockdown release In League with Dragons.

Darnielle’s song writing is on top form, as per usual. Stalwart Peter Hughes as reliable as ever on bass. Jon Wurster’s drums once again adds rhythmic emotion as only he can. Meanwhile, becoming a quartet with multi-instrumentalist Matt Douglas a while back has benefitted them in particular, especially adding woodwind to the mix.

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

There’s thoughtful slower, jazzy numbers (Tidal Wave) and some stomping anger (As Man Candles As Possible).

Their lo-fi lockdown album Songs for Pierre Chuvin ended up a top ten selling album in the UK. Could this more lavish release repeat that feat for The Mountain Goats – Getting Into Knives?

9/10

By Joe Lepper

The Mountain Goats – Getting into Knives is released on Merge Records.

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Covid-19 lockdown songs and videos to impress

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Covid-19 lockdown songs and videos to impress

Posted on 15 May 2020 by Joe

A perfect turn of phrase and video collaborations are among the innovative ways musicians are tackling Covid-19 lockdown.

No gigs, no recording studio dates. Covid-19 lockdown has pretty much killed off much of music industry.

Well, so we thought.

Nick Parker is among musicians being creative online amid lockdown

Being creative types, musicians have been busy being innovative at home and using tools like Zoom in new ways. Online gigs are now commonplace. Some you pay for to watch. Some free but with donations asked for. Others are for charity.

Among the most innovative we’ve spotted is Somerset songwriter Nick Parker’s Stranger Tunes series of online collaborations. Here he teams up with a bunch of musicians online and they perform some interesting cover versions. Mostly they are complete strangers. Nick and co’s take on Midlake’s Roscoe has been a particular highlight for us.

Meanwhile, musicians have been busy putting the whole, crazy mess of our pandemic world into song.

John Howard’s Stillbeat of A Silent Day,  is particularly poignant. The fiercely independent singer songwriter’s renaissance in recent years was recorded from his home in Spain and sums up how the world is so very, very different.

Using Howard’s multi-vocals on the tracking and backed by percussion and accordion its sound is still fundamentally what he does best – a bloke with a good voice playing the piano.

It’s lyrically though that its particularly impressive.

There’s some nice turns of phrases, with the title itself summing it all up so well. The “stillbeat of a silent day” indeed.

Other lyrics here that impress include “Smiles beneath the masks where no party plays. Joining gloved hands for the angels care. Cheers from the balconies’ grateful gaze”.

No, its ok, (dabs tissue to face), I’ve just got something in my eye.

Elsewhere, John Darnielle of the Mountain Goats has also summed up the current craziness well in verse, on Exegetic Chains from his lockdown home produced album Songs for Pierre Chuvin.

“Keep the chains tight. Make it through this year….if it kills you outright.” It’s a nod to one of his most well known tracks This Year but like Howard has managed to put our feeling perfectly in song.

What other lockdown songs or virtual gigs have impressed you? Let us know in the comments below.

By Joe Lepper

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