Non Nordic Sunday: Favourite Albums of 2020.
Of course it’s a little self indulgent to do a Non Nordic Album of the Year list, but Sunday is traditionally the day when we abandon our Nordic focus, and just write about whatever we want, and I listen to so much ‘other stuff’ it’s only fair that I give some of these artists a little attention with a personal favourites list - not that some of them really need it from me.
Heading the list is the phenomenal Bob Mould, who has influenced so many artists that I love, as well as my own music taste – I think it started with his 1st solo Album ‘Workbook’ - given I’m a little young for Hüsker Du. His latest album ‘Blue Hearts’ rages against pretty much everyone, but mainly the government and himself, and that extra spark and energy brings the album completely alive. I love pretty much everything Bob has written, but there is something particularly special about this years release.
Arch Garrison write such refined and unusual songs, and new album ‘The Bitter Ley’ is a lovely follow up to their 2014 release ‘I Will Be A Pilgrim’. Craig Fortnum and James Larcombe, also known for their writing with the excellent North Sea Radio Orchestra released the album back in September, and it’s one of my most listened to albums of 2020.
The Beths were pretty much a new favourite for me this year, and i’m not sure quite where I’ve been given they’ve been around since 2015, and released a full album in 2018.. The Auckland, New Zealand band released ‘Jump Rope Gazers’ over the summer, and it’s a bristling indie pop album, with sharp attractive melodies and the type of jangly guitars That always appeal to me.
I listen to a fair amount of post rock, and established bands like Crippled Black Phoenix and And They Will Know Us… have both released excellent albums, as has Japanese artist Kashiwa Daisuke, but Russian band Show Me A Dinosaur blew me away with their dark post rock / metal album ‘Plantgazer’, released earlier this month – some huge ‘walls of sound’ in this one.
Squirrel Flower made a huge breakthrough at the start of the year with her release ‘ I Was Born Swimming’, an album which I’ve just found such a rich, thoughtful album that spans across genres and really gave me something to get my teeth into. Lovely to see this appearing on so many end of year favourite lists.
I think Army of Moths are the only band that could possibly appear in both Non Nordic and Nordic lists (and might still, if I can get away with it), given their Norwegian connections, and new album ‘By Word of Moth’ is another ultimately uplifting, joyous psych pop release which happily revels in its Bowie and Cardiacs influences. Opening track ‘Gramophone Man’ has more melodies in than most bands manage in an album, whilst ‘Cyanide’ has some beautiful contrasts between blazing guitar noise and poignant spacey psych sounds.
Okay so Phoebe Bridgers has appeared on almost everyone’s lists (along with Fiona Apple), but it’s understandable really, given ‘Punisher‘ is such an honest, thoughtful and multi-dimensional album that crosses different genres, and quite rightly has huge appeal.
I first read about Tugboat Captain when they were featured in the excellent indie blog For The Rabbits, a DIY band that are exactly the style of outfit that we love to feature in NMR – just writing music for the sheer love of what they do. Their album ‘Rut’ was released earlier this month, and it’s irresistible if slightly warped indie pop, with bright warm melodies throughout.
Closely following these I’d recommend the likes of Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs and their album ‘Viscerals’, and then there’s Porridge Radio, Other Lives, Mary Lattimore, Nada Surf, The Homesick and of course so many more...
Our Nordic Albums of the Year will be published later this week.