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10 Great Records of 2020

2020 has been a hard year with no doubt at all; alongside the millions of things related to Covid-19 that forced us to change our way of living, music has been hit as well.

Tons of tours and festival has been erased or postponed and we don’t see any band playing live since a very long time, but fortunately many albums has been released (actually more than expected due to a forced quarantine), and we can still enjoy listening to some great new music.

This list is intended to gather a few recommended records released in 2020 in no particular order with no limits of genre or way of distribution.

At the end of the article you’ll also find a list with some additional records i enjoyed as well.

Liturgy - Origin of the Alimonies

Liturgy “Origin of the Alimonies”

Last year the brooklyn based experimental metal band surprised us with a great comeback after 4 years with a new album called H.A.Q.Q., an excellent record made with Liturgy’s classic formula.

After just over a year Hunter-Hunt Hendrix’s band is already out with a new incredible masterpiece, bringing to another level its sound and enriching it with avant-garde and classical music elements with an operatic structure divided in movements played with a band composed by 12 members.

Needless to say this album is a really unique experience, providing undoubtely the most well crafted hybridation with classical music that black metal has ever seen; it seems like Liturgy has finally acheived the sound Hunter Hunt-Hendrix has been looking for years, which reminded me a sort of metal version of Godspeed You! Black Emperor.

This of course dosen’t mean the previous works were inferior, since we’re talking about a band that has always evolved its sound on every album in an unique way, but simply that they have been able to express exactly the real nature of the project in the best way possible; this achievement has also happened when Hunt-Hendrix came out as a transgender woman, opening herself in a really touching way through an Instagram post.

In conclusion i think we could surely affirm that Liturgy is one of the most interesting and original bands active nowadays and that Hunter Hunt-Hendrix is a true visionary genius:

if you want to start a really unusual philosophical opera journey made of modern classical music, avant-garde dissonances, black metal explosions with a few trap beats and electronic glitches don’t miss this record and the previous single Antigone in collaboration with Leya.

Recensione: Rina Sawayama - Sawayama | Uptempo Magazine

Rina Sawayama “Sawayama”

One of the best debuts this year comes by the british/japanese born singer Rina Sawayama, providing a very genuine and inspired pop record named after just her surname.

One of the things that surprises more is how much Rina Sawayama is inspired by 2000s music which may be pop, dance, rock or even nu metal. Just to take an example STFU! has some super punching nu metal inspired guitar explosion, but it later evolves into a perfect meodic pop chorus that reminds the most catchy  songs by Christina Aguilera or Mariah Carey. Her voice is also super versatile and expressive, perfectly matchable to many different contexts; Indeed on this records you’ll find explosive songs (STFU!), dance pop well-crafted tunes (Comme Des Garcons), trap inspired modern pop (Akasaka Sad) or perfect songs to sing at loud (Paradisin’, Tokyo Love Hotel), without forgetting some more touching moments with very well written lyrics (Chosen Family).

Yung Lean - Starz LP - Smekkleysa SM // BadTaste SM

Yung Lean “Starz”

Oh yeah, the most eclectic and “mystical” swedish rapper has come back with a new record after the wonderful Strangerz of 2017, and it sounds exactly as you could expect its continuation.

Sad and dreamy tunes are still the main element that mark out Yung Lean’s cloud rap, perfect to be enjoyed during an insomniac night with lights out (or even with just a green soft neon light that reminds the album cover’s colour) and total calm around.

Productions is still very impressive, especially for the massive use of hypnagogic synths, dreamy melodies, ambient-like enrichments, effected guitars and weird sounds, offering for sure some excellent cloud rap songs like Outta my Head, but seeing also Yung Lean providing some more psychedelic oriented moments like the excellent Starz with the wonderful guest partecipation of Ariel Pink or the hypnotic Dancer in the Dark.

If you’re looking for a trip made of sad vibes and magic sound layers this is probably your thing.

HOW I'M FEELING NOW - MP3 | Charli XCX US

Charli XCX “How i’m Feeling Now”

A forced global quarantine in the digital era may have for sure a positive effect on artists or creative minds in general, having finally enough time to make order within their ideas.

Looks like Charli XCX’s last album How i’m Finally Now is one of the best products realized during quarantine and her best release so far.

The british futuristic popstar probably dosen’t need any particular presentation and on this record she has found an even more distinctive and solid identity for her sound, switching intelligently across future synth pop, very catchy autotuned vocal melodies, easy listening solutions, digital glitches and trap-like beats.

Now image yourself listening to Claws, Party 4 u or Visions a decade ago; doesn’t this music sounds exactly as your idea of “pop from the future”? How you’re feeling now?

SVALBARD, When I Die Will I Get Better? - The New Noise

Svalbard “When I Die, Will I Get Better?”

One of the most interesting hardcore/post-metal hybrid bands is finally back with its third album; i’m talking about Svalbard from Bristol, UK and their new record When I Die, Will I Get Better? (Looks like pessimistic titles are a trademark for every full-length), which is definitely a true gem among the heavy music releases of the year.

Compared to the previous works here the band pushes its art over a more lighter and dreamy sound, which reminds a bit of last Alcest album Spiritual Instinct, but of course in a more hardcore way.

That’s always incredible how much the band is able to create very emotional and intense soundscapes mixing heartbreaking melodies with political and melancholic lyrics; alongside the strong post-rock oriented guitar work (that sounds more chrystalline than ever) a special mention goes to Serena Cherry’s clean vocals that found a lot of space on this new album (check What Was She Wearing or Pearlescent) offering incredibly cathartic moments.

Recensione: Emma Ruth Rundle & Thou - May Our Chambers Be Full

Emma Ruth Rundle & Thou “May Our Chambers Be Full”

Putting togheter two of the most inspired and talented acts around today is for sure a certain way to get something qualititatively relevant, but due to the different nature of both Thou and Emma Ruth’s music i was super curious about what expecting from this album, even if i already knew it would have been great before even listening to it.

Moreover this collaboration is not a completely new thing since they already played a set together at the mighty Roadburn Festival in Holland back in 2019, but on the studio side this is the first work that sees the partecipation of both (and it’s not even the last, since there’s a bonus EP on the way).

Based on Thou standards this may be considered less aggressive and more melodic and not so different in comparison with Emma Ruth’s latest releases, even if it’s for sure super heavy with insanely low guitar tuning, which is strangely in perfect harmony with Emma’s delicate voice and softer moments.

In conclusion the overall result is porbably the perfect mixture of both styles, alternating more dreamy post-rock moments with devasting sludge metal shots with insane high pitched screams. A special mention goes to guitar compositions able to switch from more elegant arpeggios to low tune heavy chords and typically metal harmosied twists.

Dead Kids, R.I.P. City | Soft Kill

Soft Kill “Dead Kids R.I.P. City”

Undoubtely one of the most notable bands alongside Drab Majesty if we talk about post-punk revival. With several albums in their discography that explores various different aspects of gothic rock universe (which makes the band’s sound pretty variegated), this record offers some more lighter vibes and it’s definitely highly recommended.

A strong sense of nostalgia permeats the atmospheres in this album, it’s not desperate or necessarily dark, but it gives the same emotion that you feel when you remember of past moments and periods that will never come back.

Lyrics are indeed narrating facts happened in the past and memories related to them; every track is a different characters that tells a different story related to Portland, Oregon.

This is a romantic journey made of vitrious guitars melting into liquid melodies, some choruses and main riffs are impossible to forget (who’s still singing the melodies in Floodgate’s intro or the instrumental chorus of Crimey after a listen?) and the experience is pretty distinctive, confirming Soft Kill as one of the most interesting bands active nowadays.

ROPE SECT - The Great Flood

Rope Sect “The Great Flood”

After a pretty good record made in 2017 and entitled Personae Ingratae this obscure project has come back this year with a new album that pushes their sound in an even more convincing and mature direction.

The style of Rope Sect is a sort of post-punk/gothic rock with absolutely distinctive and catchy riffs and some very sinister moments that on this record sees a pretty strong metal contamination hearable on many guitar harmonisation, a few double kick/blast beats drums accelerations and even a little harsh scream cameo on the song Diluvian Darkness.

The haunting vocal work is very interesting and well made, also the always reverbered guitars are giving to the atmospheres a strong and captivating personality, which is absolutely irresistible for all those who likes enthralling rock with dark vibes.

Even if this is pretty original, if we should have to found some comparisons the more immediate would be probably Fields of the Nephilim or even bands like Christian Death or Sisters of Mercy with a strong Agalloch-like melancholic flavour.

Highly recommended.

clipping.: Visions of Bodies Being Burned Album Review | Pitchfork

clipping. “Visions of Bodies Being Burned”

Alongside Run The Jewels mastodontic fourth album (yeah it’s not on this list, but it’s absolutely worth to check), this is definitely one of the highest moments of the year related to hip-hop.

Certainly clipping. and their claustrophobic industrial rap are not new for all lovers of alternative music and this album provides essentially a confirm of their greatness.

This record is the conceptual continuation of the previous There Existed and Addiction to Blood and with its abrasive electronic obsessive beats, dark soundscapes, glitch-y noises and aggressive rapping punchlines provides a unique minimal and avantgardistic weird rap opera.

Another worth to mention point of this records are certainly some collaborations with many great artists able to let the album taking different shapes in a really cohesive way. For example Los Angeles female rap duo Cam & China brings a killer flow to the song ’96 Neve Campbell, as well as Ho99o9 do on Looking Like Meat with their punk rap aggression; But also the weird contributions of Joe Lester from Intronaut on bass (Check the Lock), guitarist Jeff Parker (Eaten Alive) and experimental artists Greg Stuart (on the short interlude Invocation) and Sickness (Body For The Pile) give a very original intention to the album.

It’s also impossible to forget the ending song Secret Piece which is the reinterpretation of a Yoko Ono avant-garde track featuring almost all the guests building a very solid instrumental wall made of loops, atmospheric layers and even saxophone, cello, guitar and double bass.

Plantgazer | Show Me a Dinosaur

Show Me a Dinosaur “Plantgazer”

In the abscence of a Deafheaven album this year (even if there’s a cool live album called 10 Years Gone) this has been for sure the best replacement, since this russian project is one of the closest things to them i’ve heard, but fortunately without sounding like a clone band.

Plantgazer is a fantastic album, full of heartbreaking moments and really emotional vibes putting what remains of the blackgaze micro genre into an ocean made of the best of modern post-rock with some strong This Will Destroy You and Explosions in the Sky references.

It’s impossible to resist to the wonderful sparkly melodies of Marsh that arrive directly to your heart or to the enthralling bass driven section of the opening Sunflower.

If you’re looking for touching music while contemplating a winter sunrise, this quartet from Saint Petersburg with such a likable name has provided you the perfect soundtrack; You can liquefy your soul and letting it drown across chrystalline arpeggios, furious blast beats, suffering screams, loud Mono-like guitar tremolo sections and Sunbather inspired crescendos.

Unmissable!

Other Honorable Mentions:

Touché Amoré “Lament”

Run The Jewels “RT4”

Jesu “Terminus”

Ichiko Aoba “Windswept Adan”

Kataayra “Toda História pela Frene ”

Anna Von Hausswolf “All Thoughts Fly”

Phoebe Bridgers “Punisher”

Shame “Uniform”

Adrianne Lenker “Songs”

Ulver “Flowers of Evil”

Tired Lion “Breakfast for Pathetics”

Shedfromthebody “A Dead and Aimless Hum”

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Album Lists

10 early post-rock records

Even if right now the word post-rock is refered to a rock subgenre with some very specific characteristic, back during the 90’s it was just an umbrella term used to gather bands with a strong experimental and emotional vibes playing a style with rock roots, but almost impossible to label.

Among the early post-rock bands there are literally projects of every kind, sometimes also very different from each others, taking inspiration from a huge variety of genres including jazz, prog, pop, ambient or darkwave, but usually filtered by an evident hardcore punk attitude.

Here on this list there are 10 records from the early post-rock period you can take as essentials, but of course there are many other important exclusions that will be probably included on a second list.

Risultato immagini per labradford 1996"

Labradford “Labradford” (1996)

Cult band coming from Richmond, Virginia and active between 1991 and 2001. Labradford is one of the most unique and talented projects ever existed, and this album in particular is a true hidden gem shining into the 90’s underground. Even if this is not the only masterpiece from their dioscgraphy is for sure the more indicated to consider if we’re talking about post-rock.

From the beginning to the end this is a beautiful journey across incredible soundscapes and emotional architectures made of whispering vocals, chrystalline guitars, strings and keyboards.  The whole atmosphere is quiet and evocative from the addictive psychedelic keyboards of Pico to the galloping tremolo guitars of Battered.

Labradfor is the Soundtrack of your more pleasant and hidden dreams.

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Bark Psychosis “Hex” (1994)

Leaded by Graham Sutton, Bark Psychosis from London is another cult band, less known compared to many bands who conied the post-rock genre, but important in the same way.

This album, Hex, sounds like anything else ever done, and it is recognized as an absolute masterpiece that every postrocker on earth should’ve listen at least one time.

The musical style is way hard to describe, it shares for sure a calm vibe for its full duration as most of the albums on this list, but offers a completely original experience, super experimental, but still accessible. Drifting across these melodies and drowning into their peaceful vibes is highly recommended, the beautiful semi-jazz drum patterns and the weird bass lines are always hearable and they weave a very distinctive rhythmic substratum upon which develops an introspective vocal work accompanied by always beautiful melodies played by piano, guitar, harmonica, synths and organ; It’s impossible to not melt your heart into the tunes of Absent Friend, Eyes & Smiles or Pendulum Man.

This is undoubtely a good example of an album that can be definitely labeled as post-rock (when it wasn’t already “a thing”), but it’s still completely free from the bonduaries of a single genre.

Risultato immagini per talk talk spirit of eden"

Talk Talk “Spirit of Eden” (1988)

Spirit of Eden or Laughing Stock? This question blizzed in my head for several hours when i decided to write an article about early post-rock and include Talk Talk and i’m still not fully convinced by my decision. Well, for sure they’re both wonderful albums and seminal works for the post-rock genre, but i ended up chosing Spirit of Eden because it’s been a completely new and revolutionary musical manifesto regarding Talk Talk’s discography and rock music in general, in other words this is probably the first post-rock record ever released.

Formed in 1981 by Mark Hollis, Lee Harris and Paul Webb, Talk Talk is definitely more know for addictive synth pop hits like It’s my Life (also covered by No Doubt 19 years later) or Such a Shame (both 1984), but at the end of their carreer they suprisingly decided to take a completely opposite direction, very experimental, melancholic and introspective with two incredible records of which the first is Spirit of Eden.

Taking inspiration from an evident british progressive and baroque rock background passing though jazz and chamber music there’s still a distinctive singing oriented formula in several parts of this incredible journey; but the amazing vocal performance of Mark Hollis is not the only memorable thing of this album, you won’t be so able to forget the guitar explosions of Desire or the hypnotic fretless bass lines of Inheritance.

Risultato immagini per godspeed f a"

Godspeed You! Black Emperor – F♯ A♯ ∞ (1997)

“The car is on fire, and there’s no driver at the wheel” with these words declaimed by a deep male voice starts one of the most incredible rock records of the 90’s.                                                  Godspeed You! Black Emperor (at the time known as Godspeed You Black Emperor!) have done a real musical and conceptual revolution with their art able to touch people in their deepest emotions; This is the first album of the Canadian ensamble released after a rare previous demo and it is available in two separate versions for vinyl and CD with different tracklist.

If you’ve never heard of this record before, it’s gonna be a journey that will change your life, the endless songs are separated in movements like operatic acts and they switch from classical music-inspired parts with violin and cello to cinematic western passages including drone, ambient and experimental sections with field recordings and loop samples. The first macro track The Dead Flag Blues is incredible in all its progressions showing a very sad and melancholic overall feeling that turns with the following East Hastings into all the anger and the discomfort regarding this society that our anarchist orchestra has to express with a strong anti-capitalist political content and an incredibly inspired artistic sensitivity rarely heard in rock music in general.

Every GY!BE record is very special and meaningful and their singular personality is also expressed in the intricated tables present in their layouts and behind the visuals screened during their concerts.

Risultato immagini per low i could live in hope"

Low “I Could Live in Hope” (1994)

Low is undoubtely one of the most solid acts coming from 90’s alternative rock, with a very intense live activity and 12 records published as of today.

I Could Live in Hope is the beginning of everything, the first album released by Low and the undisputed symbol of the slowcore subgenre, which is essentially early post-rock with a very sad and slow overall mood and some grunge-y recalls. Needless to say this record is a beautiful journey across grey landscapes made of intense guitar intersections, strong basslines and suggestive male and female vocal parts with introspective lyrics.

ICLIH is essentially the portrait of an american generation that shows all its fragilities and uncertainities through sad melodies and verses like “If you see my daughter don’t tell her I’m scared” (Fear) or “Hearing only yourself you wait for the truth, how can you get it When all you do Is slide?”  (Slide).

It is the perfect soundtrack for a melancholic moment and the best antitode to turn it into a reflective one: If you close your eyes while Lullaby or Lazy are playing in your headphones you might be able to fall into the deepness of your calm and forget all the rest.

Risultato immagini per tortoise millions"

Tortoise “Millions Now Living Will Never Die” (1996)

Formed in Chicago at the end of the 80’s, Tortoise is one of the most eclectic, versatile and innovative names in the whole post-rock universe and this album is probably the best way to get into their weird world if you’ve never heard of them before.

This work is also know for the introduction of the guitrist David Pajo (already founding member of Slint) and for the story of its composition made during a 10 days retreat in Northern Vermont.

The way Tortoise explore different musical genres and cultures is highly impressive, mixing instrumental rock and almost jazz rhythmic sections, with electronic glitches, fusion, krautrock, baroque music and even world music recalls like the marimbas and the mallet percussions on the monumental Djent, which is an admirable example of experimentation.

But Tortoise’s music is not only unconventional and strange, the band is absolutely able to create beautiful melodic sections like the unforgettable guitar lines on Glass Museum, one of their most love tracks and a real jewel of contemporary rock.

Risultato immagini per mogwai young team"

Mogwai “Mogwai Young Team” (1997)

I honestly doubt that this scottish band needs any kind of introduction since they are, alongside Sigur Ros, one of the biggest names of the whole post-rock movement, giving the genre a worlwide notoriety also across more mainstream channels.

Mogwai Young Team is the band’s debut album, and shares with the world an absolute genuine explosion of feelings across emotional instrumental passages a la GY!BE with spoken words (Tracy), post-hardcore dissonances (Like Herold), heavy sections (Summer) and positive alternative rock vibes with somehting similiar to Smashing Pumpkins (Yes! I Am A Long Way From Home).

The strong dynamic between soft sections and heay passages is very impressive and gives a rare to hear intense charge to this album, making the experience crushing and cinematic. The climax is probably concentrated in the final Mogwai Fear Satan which is a colossal 16 minutes tracks with an incredibly strong impact and charge, so intense that they still play it at the end of their sets after more than 20 years.

Risultato immagini per codeine frigid stars"

Codeine “Frigid Stars” (1991)

With Low, Codeine is definitely another foundamental name regarding the slowcore subgenre.

Formed in 1989, they have been a short lived project with only two album realsed of which this is the first.

Even if the overall mood is certainly slow and melancholic, there is for sure a very explosive Swans inspired component, especially in guitar distortions and dissonances that definitely makes this record strong and solid. The album moves across different sections including heavy parts with open chords as well as more intimate folk-inspired interludes with guitar and vocals.

The post-rock is also particulary evident in a few melodic moments such as the whole song New Years, that contains all the elements that belongs to the post-rock genre also in its more modern variant.

Schoepenauer wrote that life swings like a pendulum backward and forward between pain and boredom, i would say that Frigid Stars is kinda doing the same but moving between depression and euphoria.

Risultato immagini per slint spiderland"

Slint “Spiderland” (1991)

One of the most iconic cult records of the whole history of rock, with an iconic cover as well.

Made of sad moments, dissonances, spoken words and heartbreaking lyrics this album is a hard to swallow pill and fully getting into it needs a small effort, but as soon as you’ve done it you’ll discover an incredible journey of sounds and emotions.

One of the things that makes this album so good is for sure the ability of switching from extremely slow and soft parts to heavy overtures mainting a dreary atmosphere. Washer is a very beautiful ballad with very intense guitar melodies that expresses fear, loss and abandonment, For Dinner… is another worth to mention episode with a very strong emotional impact. The conclusive Good Morning… Captain shows the best of the band’s heavy side with massive feedbacks and distortions.

At the guitar we find David Pajo, founding member of the band and already met on this list on Millions Now Living Will Never Die by Tortoise.

Risultato immagini per don caballero what burns"

Don Caballero “What Burns Never Returns” (1998)

If you’ve never heard this before i bet your first reaction will be totally upsetting and you’ll find many difficults to follow the music’s tempo and the instrumental interweaving.

Before it was a cool thing, Don Caballero have experimented considerably and explored new combinations outside the conventional limits imposed by rock’s rhthmyc structures giving fundamental tools to plasm the so called math rock genre.

This is the third album recorded by Don Caballero and it’s definitely one of their best ones, able to provide a wonderful melodic work clearly post-hardcore oriented despite the weird parts here and there. This should be listened from the beginning to the end as a whole experience, in a calm moment or even during a night driving.