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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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Seazoo – Joy

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Seazoo – Joy

Posted on 06 April 2020 by Dorian

Joy is Seazoo’s second album, their first being critically acclaimed and award nominated back in 2018. We loved them at Indietracks last year and we’ve been looking forward to this album ever since. The band had  a string of live dates in support of the album planned and things were looking pretty promising for them.

Then, like for everyone else, the rug is pulled out and the world gets put on pause. The album gets a delayed release and when it does come out there are no record shops with it on the shelves, and no live dates to support it. Luckily things like Bandcamp exist and people can mail order, or enjoy the album digitally, but the current climate does take the shine off the release of one of the most enjoyable albums I’ve heard this year.

Seazoo Joy

This is straightforward indie guitar pop, and I mean that 100% as a compliment, it is music that I love and Seazoo do it with aplomb. This is a band that knows how to write great tunes, can play and has an accessible and immediate sound. That doesn’t mean it isn’t sophisticated, there is enough of an identifiable sound, and enough in the production, to keep things interesting.

Things bounce in from word go with ‘The Pleasure’ and really don’t let up until 10 songs and 33 minutes later. It’s such a breezy pleasure that things fly by, even considering the moderate run time.

Mid way through there is a nice change of pace as ‘Throw It Up’ cranks the volume up a bit. Two of my favourite moments on the album are this and ‘I See Beauty’ when the band let go a little. That isn’t to say the lighter stuff in’t good, it is just nice that they vary the textures on the album. In fact ‘Heading Out’ may be the fluffiest bit of pop on the whole album and it is an absolute, well, joy.

I’m looking forward to being released and getting to see the band play in the late Summer/early Autumn (hopefully the former). Until then I think I’ll let this be the soundtrack to an indoor Spring and I urge you to as well.

8/10

By Dorian Rogers

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Indietracks Festival 2019 Review

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Indietracks Festival 2019 Review

Posted on 05 August 2019 by Dorian

Indietracks is a pretty unique event, in many ways. Most obviously in that it takes place at a heritage railway, but also in terms of what it means to the people who attend each year, and the way it is organised. The people who attend are passionate about the music and the event, and the organising team bring together a wonderful mix of music each year that manages to simultaneously follow a comfortable pattern and throw in some really delightful surprises.

Trains

You get a few industry veterans (Bis, The Catenary Wires, Tracyanne & Danny), some Indietracks mainstays (Martha and a tearful farewell to The Spook School), bands that are just starting out (Cheerbleederz) and bands that are starting to generate some industry buzz (LIINES, Porridge Radio).

There is also a lot of variety of band style considering that most people would see the indie-pop scene as being fairly straightforward in terms of musical focus. There’s black feminist punk (Big Joanie), Euro-J-Pop (Kero Kero Bonito), surf instrumentals (Surf Muscle), pop-punk (Fresh), Hong-Kong shoegaze (Thud) and hard-to-define-pop (The Orielles).

I could write hundreds of words giving my personal view on the dozens of bands I saw but what would be the benefit of that? I know from just the experience of myself and my colleagues over the weekend that everyone will find different things to like from a festival like Indietracks. Be that the different bands, or the owls, or the train sheds, or the miniature railway, or perusing the merch stalls, or surviving the falling speakers at the campsite disco.

So instead I’ll leave you with my personal three favourites from the weekend and a selection of pictures of the event. If you’ve never been then I urge you to give the festival a go next year. If you’ve been already you don’t need me to tell you how much fun it all is.

So, in no particular order, my top three:

Advance Base

Advance Base

This, like most of my favourite music over the weekend, was entirely new to me. I’d heard of Owen Ashworth’s previous act Casiotone for the Painfully Alone but never listened to them. I also knew that he’d recorded work by The Magnetic Fields but never listened to any of those tracks either. In some ways it sounded exactly as I would have expected, downbeat, synth driven and built around some great word-play. What I hadn’t expected was such a beautiful tone to his voice, and so much emotional weight to the songs.

Seazoo

Seazoo

Seazoo play a type of music that has defined my record collection for most of my adult life, noisey(ish)-indie-guitar-pop. They aren’t breaking much new ground but the older ground they are covering is pretty great. They’ve got good tunes, they play well and they seem thoroughly nice. They have just the right quantity of quirk to their sound to make things interesting and I’ll definitely be visiting their recorded output.

Stealing Sheep

Stealing Sheep

I don’t think many people would argue with Stealing Sheep being the most polished stage performance of the weekend. Matching outfits, vocoder vocal introductions and synchronised moves sit alongside some pretty slick pop songs. It is joyous stuff and goes down a storm with the crowd. I loved every minute of it and ‘Joking Me’ could well be the song of the year as well.

Bis

Bis

 

The Orielles

The Orielles

 

Cheerbleederz

Cheerbleederz

 

Surf Muscle

Surf Muscle

 

Fresh

Fresh

 

Big Joanie

Big Joanie

 

Martha

Martha

 

The Spook School

The Spook School

 

She's Got Spies

She’s Got Spies

 

Thud

Thud

 

Kero Kero Bonito

Kero Kero Bonito

Words and pictures Dorian Rogers

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