It’s been quite a year. It seemed to start off really great and then something happened that basically traumatised the whole world in one go. Some virus put a stop to whatever we were doing, and life as we knew it, just grinded to a halt. For musicians this meant basically 2 things : a) they could no longer play gigs and record in studios and b) artists where forced to record from home, which led the an avalanche of creativity and deep introspection. Amazingly, most music created during Covid 19 can be counted as the best amongst the catalogues yet. Especially from August to November we saw many great releases and collaborations. It was almost impossible to keep up! Hopefully there will be an end to all restrictions soon, because we need those gigs, bars and we want to travel, see new places and meet new people: ones that live outside our minds! In the meantime, Dane, Simon and myself have made a top 5 of our favourite releases during 2020, the year that will be ingrained in our memories for the rest of our days to come.
1. The Hepburns – Electric Lliedi Land: Siesta Records revisited, rekindled and just utter love at first hear. Contains everything I want from music.
2. Real Estate – The Main Thing: Just jangle/dream pop perfection. I don’t think I liked them as much as in this current lineup where it’s just Martin Courtney. On repeat repeat repeat … everything in the right place.
3. Orchid Mantis – Far From This World: I am a huge fan of Thomas Howard’s work which resides somewhere between waking and sleeping, the past and the present. I think this guy invented a genre all of his own and this is his best work so far.
4. Emmet Kai – Freak Pop Novelty: This guy knows how to blend electro-pop with indie/dreampop like no other can. His songs are super detailed, dreamy and kick-ass infectious and danceable! Dreampop doesn’t come any better!
5. The Very Most – Needs Help: Sparkly retro pop of the highest order! Class!
Dane Di Pierro:
1. Rolling Blackout Coastal Fever – Sideways to New Italy: This year wreaked havoc on record releases with many bands and labels choosing to push back release dates in hopes of being about to tour when the pandemic cools down. Perhaps for that reason most of my list comes from the region of Australia and New Zealand which hasn’t been as devastated by COVID-19 as Europe or North America. Melbourne’s Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever seem to go from strength to strength with each release and this summer’s Sideways to New Italy found them channeling classic jangle and Britpop in ways that breathe new life into familiar genres.
2. Soft Blue Shimmer – Heaven Inches Away: Only just released a week before writing this list, Soft Blue Shimmer’s Heaven Inches Away admittedly has the benefit of being fresh in my mind, but it’s melodic hooks and gorgeous vocals help one of the most solid dreampop albums of the year.
3. Egoism – On Our Minds EP: Egoism has been made a habit of dropping excellent singles the past few years so when they put out the On Our Minds EP last month it wasn’t at all surprising they maintained that level of consistency with an infectious five tracks of indie pop ear-worms.
4. Berries – Soliloquy Road: Berries updates the Flaming Lips recipe of psych rock for the 21st century bedroom pop generation with their brilliant Soliloquy Road.
5. The Beths – Jump Rope Gazers: Last on the list is The Beths’ Jump Rope Gazers who avoid a sophomore slump while successfully expanding their power pop sound into dreampop and ballad territory.
1. A Girl Called Eddy – Been Around: In how many ways do I love this album? Too many to count. A seventeen year wait and then at last we get this beautiful mix of sophisti-pop and 60s pop-soul classicism. If you don’t tear-up at least once during the course of this album, check your pulse. I’ll be playing this in ten years’ time, if I’m still breathing.
2. The Beths – Jump Rope Gazers: My second most played album of the year, hook after hook, lots of detail revealed on repeated plays. And to think some deluded people will tell you indie-pop is over, I don’t think so. Thank you New Zealand.
3. Close Lobsters – Post Neo Anti: The years melt away again, and Close Lobsters are back with what could be their strongest album to date, there’s even a feeling they may only be just getting started again, it feels that fresh.
4. It’s Immaterial – House for Sale: Never mind seventeen years between albums, It’s Immaterial raise that and place their bid at a mere thirty long years, exacerbated by the collapse of Pledge Music along the way. And guess what? Yes, it is actually worth the wait, a gorgeous, dreamlike record that sprinkles humour in amongst the pathos. There won’t be a new Blue Nile album any time soon, or ever, so take some solace in House for Sale.
5. Strawberry Generation – Afloat : A debut album that zips past in a blaze of jangle, hooks and shimmer. East George, would be a hit if quality like this could get within a mile of any chart, other than this one… The future looks bright for Strawberry Generation.