Top Ten Albums of 2020

As expected as the year draws to a close it’s only fair to look back on some of the incredible albums that came out over 2020. With it being an unique year of lockdowns and a lack of gigs, it really is a testament to the Music and Arts industry how much they’ve battled through the adversity across the whole year be that keeping venues open, looking at alternative ways to put on shows, or even just as simple as keeping new music coming out. It really is an incredible scene to watch in action and thanks to this it’s been the main crutch for myself and a lot of people this year, getting us through all the stress and anxiety that 2020 has paused. But enough about my struggles lets crack into my top ten albums of the year as well as some honourable mentions. This list initially started off close to 30 different albums however I’ve managed to narrow it down to the top ten as well as four honourable mentions so you already know that these will be the top of the top. Although saying that I’m sure there’ll be one of the major albums of 2020 that I’ve completely missed off or just forgotten about. With 2018’s top album going to ‘In Moment, In Memory’ – Our Hollow, Our Home and 2019 going to ‘Holding absence’ – Holding Absence, this years winner will have to be exceptional to join these!

10) Vukovi – Fall Better

Genre: Alternative Rock

From the opening track of the album we’re promised “…Strong language, dark themes and some dirty fucking riffs” and Vukovi definitely deliver on all three of these! Following on from their 2017 self-titled album, ‘Fall Better’ takes everything you’d expect from the band and turns it up to eleven. With a sound led from the front by vocalist Janine, the energy and presence of these Scottish rockers is hard to avoid. Huge riffs fill up the first half of the album with ‘C.L.A.U.D.I.A’ and ‘Behave’ being two standout tracks that are guaranteed to get your head banging and by the time you reach the halfway interlude of ‘Verify Your Worth’ the break is appreciated. The second half of the album slows thing down a little to delve into the darker themes and tracks like ‘I’m Sorry’ show off the more vulnerable side of the band whilst still managing to carry that unique Vukovi sound. Not content with just fading the album out slowly finisher ‘Run/Hide’ ensures that you’re awake right until the very end with electronic additions to the solid guitar work and even a breakdown thrown in for good measure! A solid benchmark to start off the top ten and I’d definitely recommend them as a band to see live when the opportunity arises as their live shows seem to add an extra level on to what is already an incredible foundation!

Recommended Tracks: Aura, Behave, Run/Hide

9) Creeper – Sex, Death, and The Infinite Void

Genre: Alternative Rock

As the band left the stage in late 2018 with the Bowie-esque “Of all the shows we’ve played in the last four years, this one will remain with us the longest, because not only is it the last show of this album, but it’s the last show that we’ll ever do”, emo hearts across the world broke. However luckily for us, in true Creeper fashion the band had used this as time to take a pause and to reinvent themselves and in July 2020 we we’re rewarded with the masterpiece that was ‘Sex, Death, and The Infinite Void’. With the concept of the album being led by the story of an angel coming to earth to warn of the apocalypse, you may be drawn into thinking that the album would be completely out there, and you’d be completely right! Mixing the previously known Creeper sounds on tracks like ‘Annabelle’ and ‘Napalm Girls’ along with completely new directions, see ‘Thorns of Love’, the band have successfully managed to widen what was already a huge range in sound. A special mention needs to be given to the album closer ‘All My Friends’ which while very personal to the band, is a real masterpiece that will go down as one of the future classics of rock! With a fantastic production and incredible showings from all of the band, this is an album like no other and continues Creeper’s rise to stardom to take them amongst the angels!

Recommended Tracks: Born Cold, Napalm Girls, All My Friends

8) Broadside – Into The Raging Sea

Genre: Pop Punk

Now a regular fixture amongst the top pop punk bands, it’s no surprise that their newest album ‘Into the Raging Sea’ sits comfortably within the top ten from the year. From the outset of the brooding ‘The Raging Sea’ all the way to the final note of ‘Burning at Both Ends’ the band deliver an incredible set of tracks really showing off their skills as musicians. A real set of summertime anthems fill the record with standout tracks coming in ‘Foolish Believer’ and ‘Heavenly’, however along with the bounce and fun of the sound Broadside manage to weave hard hitting emotional moments and difficult topics which is even more impressive to see. The feelings of self-doubt that are described during ‘Clarity’ and the mental health struggles shown in closer ‘Burning at Both Ends’ add a huge depth to the album and when combined with the “happier” and bouncier tracks it really forms a fantastic track list that keeps you coming back for more! Vocalist Ollie Baxxter leads from the front and with some of the best vocals in the scene at the moment it’s hard to ignore just how good the band sound when layered alongside this. As pop punk albums go, this was certainly the stand out one for me this year and definitely one that’ll be on repeat for a long time!

Recommended Tracks: The Raging Sea, Foolish Believer, Heavenly

7) Sullii – Me and My Absent Mind

Genre: Emo Rap

Following on from his work as the vocalist of Crooks UK, Josh Rogers took his talents and ability in a completely different direction to form his Sullii project and after gaining traction with his debut ‘You and Everything Blue’ in 2019, his sophomore album took him up yet another level. With lockdown hitting the UK around the same time as the album’s release it very much matched the mood and for my first foray into emo rap I couldn’t ask for a better introduction. For what initially seems like a minimalist approach, it only takes a brief listen to see just how much work and pure ability went into the album. In a genre where it’s easy for everything to mesh together, Sullii manages to create the mix perfectly to balance and give each arrangement its own place. ‘True’ is a standout for just how well he can keep the flow over a simple beat and makes a great comparison to ‘Slides’ that follows up and shows off his incredible voice in a singing context with his delicate voice floating above the track adding a whole new dimension to the tune. Single ‘Fell’ set a real precedent for the quality of the album and for me has certainly left a high bar to compare other artists in the genre to. With strong emotive lyrics filling the album it’s a real journey to listen to from start to end but at just 28 minutes in length it’s definitely not one to be missed.

Recommended Tracks: True, Fell, Forgetter

6) Palm Reader – Sleepless

Genre: Post Hardcore

How Palm Reader are still seen as an underground band across the metal scene blows my mind, but if there was ever an album to really pick up the band and launch them forward the it would be ‘Sleepless’. Having only been released three weeks before this article it was certainly a last minute addition to the list however one that was an immediate impact and given how brilliant it is, there was no leaving this one out. Form the very start with single ‘Hold/Release’ things hit the mark very quickly and only go upwards from there! The combination of both the screamed vocals add a real depth to each track and with the building guitar lines flowing through each track the band are able to build huge soundscapes at the drop of a hat. The jump from the slow brooding lines of ‘Islay’ into the massive ‘False Thirst’ is incredible and really draws the attention to just how powerful Palm Reader sound. Not content with just having a strong start and a strong middle, the end of the album finishes with the incredible ‘Both Ends of The Rope’ which serves as the perfect listen for anyone who wants to know what Palm Reader sound like in just a single song. Having to top 2018’s ‘Braille’ was always going to be a difficult task but with ‘Sleepless’ they have produced an absolutely breath taking album!

Recommended Tracks: Hold/Release, False Thirst, A Love That Tethers

5) Bring Me The Horizon – Post Human: Survival Horror

Genre: Metalcore

A band never to shy away from evolving their sound, Bring Me The Horizon took 2020 up a gear with the release of their most recent release ‘Post Human: Survival Horror’. Having taken the brave step to come away from their heavier work for ‘Amo’ it saw a huge change in the bands attitude and with the legions of new fans joining them. Opening up huge opportunities such as opening All Points East festival amongst huge arena shows really cemented the band as one at the top of their game. From the outset of ‘Post Human…’, the band have switched up their sound again to release a real bruiser of an album whilst keeping their huge arena sound. The blast beats that kick off ‘Dear Diary’ set the tone for the album as one that will certainly knock your socks off. Whilst looking at the track list it’s impressive to see just how many huge names as well as promising new artists fill the album alongside Bring Me the Horizon and each collaboration brings something different while retaining the classic sounds throughout the album. From the high energy of ‘Kingslayer’ to the slow brooding notes of ‘One Day The Only Butterflies Will Be The Ones Left In Your Chest As You March To Your Death’, this is a whirlwind of an album and one that is sure to catapult the band to even higher standing and rightly so! At 32 minutes long this is definitely essential listening for 2020.

Recommended Tracks: Dear Diary, Teardrops, Kingslayer

4) Enter Shikari – Nothing is True and Everything is Possible

Genre: Alternative

From the outset of the keys to start ‘THE GREAT UNKNOWN’, it’s clear that Enter Shikari have yet again pulled a blinder and released an unstoppable album. Describing this album within 250 words is a real challenge as true to form, each track has a completely different vibe and style from the slow building pulse of ‘the pressure’s on.’ to the almost punk energy on lead single {The Dreamer’s Hotel}. By the time you’ve reached the halfway point with ‘Reprise 3’ you’ve heard more variety than most bands cover in their entire careers. The part at which this album stands out so much is that despite all these different styles and approaches that the band take somehow manage to keep the signature Enter Shikari sound and energy whilst keeping the album flowing perfectly. The second half of the album takes off soaring with ‘T.I.N.A’ and continues the upwards trend from there with the two ‘Marionettes…’ tracks creating a huge sound and who can forget the breath-taking string performance on ‘Elegy for Extinction’. All that’s left is one of the strongest album finishes of the year. ‘satellites* *’ has already cemented itself as a Shikari classic and the final single from the album ‘thē kĭñg’ which brings back a very ‘Flash Flood of Colour’ vibe. And to end things off nicely ‘Waltzing off the face of the Earth (II. Piangevole)’ leads the close with a strings orchestra and a trumpet line that draws all of the emotion from the album to a head. As albums go this is a real stunner and one that would have certainly been a number one any other year. Just breath-taking and like all of these albums certainly one that needs to be listened to as soon as possible!

Recommended Tracks: THE GREAT UNKNOWN, modern living…., satellites* *

3) Spanish Love Songs – Brave Faces Everyone

Genre: Emo/Pop Punk

Released back at the start of February, ‘Brave Faces Everyone’ feels like it has been out forever at this point and honestly that’s really not a bad thing. After the release of their debut ‘Schmaltz’ to an incredible reception, ‘Brave Faces Everyone’ continues this theme and keeps Spanish Love Songs flying through the ranks of the emo/pop punk bands. With a sound somewhere between The Menzingers and The Wonder Years puts them in an incredibly niche area of the genre however they fill that space with ease. With song titles such as ‘Self Destruction (As A Sensible Career Choice)’ and ‘Optimism (As A Radical Life Choice)’ I’m sure you could get the idea of the kind of sound that the band bring but when compared to the hell of a year that we’ve had its all a little too relatable for our liking. Relatability aside, the album really is a master class in emotional pop punk and really does deserve its place in my top three of the year. ‘Kick’, ‘Losers’, and ‘Brave Faces, Everyone’ are all standout tracks amongst the album and easily went onto repeat. Spanish Love Songs were one of the few bands that I managed to see live at the start of 2020 and I feel like the emotion and passion of their live show really elevated this album up my list. Their live show apart though and this album still holds up as one of the albums that I’ve sent around to all of my friends this year the most. Fourty minutes of pure emotion and honestly I couldn’t think of better ways to spend it.

Recommended Tracks: Self Destruction (As a Sensible Career Choice), Kick,  Losers

2) Nothing But Thieves – Moral Panic

Genre: Alternative Rock

If you’d have given me a list of the album to come out in 2020 at the start of this year I don’t think I’d have even placed the new Nothing But Thieves album in the top twenty five. But as with all things this year some things continue to surprise us. This album came out of nowhere in late October and hasn’t left my playlist since. On top of the incredible production of the album, vocalist Conor Mason leads the way on tracks like ‘Phobia’ and ‘Impossible’ which really takes the whole performance up a level. The mixture of these slower tracks amongst the heavier tracks such as single and album opener ‘Unperson’ make for a great combination and keep the album ticking over nicely. Penultimate track ‘Can You Afford To Be An Individual’ is the standout track on the album though with its building verses all coming to a head towards the end of the track perfectly and with the subjects of modern life filling every aspect of the song, it easily takes my spot for one of my top tracks from the entire year. A surprise entry up this high but definitely a well-deserved album and proof that bands can still grow even 3 albums into their careers. I’d be very surprised if Nothing But Thieves weren’t headlining festivals in the next couple of years, they’re THAT good.

Recommended Tracks: Unperson, Phobia, Can You Afford To Be An Individual

Honourable Mentions:

Before we tick over to my number one album of the year there’s just a few honourable mentions of incredible albums that just missed out on the top ten but that I couldn’t ignore! I’ve managed to shorten this list down as best as I could and have managed to make it to four, however due to the complete difference in sound on these albums I had to include them all.

Nothing Nowhere – One Takes Vol. 1

With this technically being a “cover” album it couldn’t be included in the top ten however given that alongside Sullii it got me into Emo Rap I can’t ignore it. With a bunch of reimagined acoustic covers, nothing, nowhere. Has managed to completely change the sound and feel of some of his most well-known tracks. Personal favourites from the album are ‘rejecter’, ‘nevermore’, and ‘cherry red’ but each track carries its own weight brilliantly. With this release being so good, I’m certainly excited for him to release his new album in 2021.

Bury Tomorrow – Cannibal

As arguably the heaviest band on this list it’ll come as no surprise to hear words like crushing and bruising mentioned when I start to describe ‘Cannibal’, however these are honestly the best words for the job. After a slight delay in the release due to the pandemic, July finally saw Bury Tomorrow’s follow up to ‘Black Flame’ and boy was it worth the wait. With the incredible mixture of clean and unclean vocals, the band manage to make tracks which are epic in scale and really show off their signature sound. It’s no surprise that along with Architects and While She Sleeps they are carrying UK Metalcore up to dizzying heights!

Movements – No Good Left To Give

With huge emotional crescendos and haunting guitar lines, Movements have put out the perfect follow up album to ‘Feel Something’ with ‘No Good Left To Give’. Taking a more laid back and calmer approach has worked well for the band as it works with their more deep and emotional lyrics and gives vocalist Pat yet more opportunities to shine through their performance. It also doubles as it means that tracks like ‘Tunnel Vision’ hit much harder and heavier. All in all it’s a solid album and with Movements still on the rise, this is perfect time to jump on the train!

Netsky – Second Nature

Of all albums on this list, Netsky’s ‘Second Nature’ is the stand out as the only real non-rock album. However given this is his return to creating Drum and Bass music, it can’t be overlooked as one of my personal favourites of the year. The energy and slickness that have gone into the production are next level and each song is expertly crafted to make this hour long album pass in no time at all. Personal favourite tracks come in the form of ‘Power’ and ‘Waiting All Day To Get You’ which are both guaranteed to get you moving. He has also managed to pull some incredible features on the album with huge artists like Rudimental, Hybrid Minds, and Sub Focus joining him and putting their own sounds onto these tracks. A triumphant return to Drum and Bass for Netsky and a record that’ll be getting plenty of spins well into 2021.

1) Touche Amore – Lament

Genre: Post Hardcore

And now we reach the pinnacle of the list and my top album from 2020… Touché Amoré’s ‘Lament’. A phenomenal album rightly deserving of the top spot and one that hasn’t left my playlists since its release at the start of October. Following on from the world class ‘Stage Four’, Touché Amoré have pulled out all the stops to make ‘Lament’ just as good, and dare I say it, if not slightly better. With only 11 tracks and clocking in at just under 36 minutes this really is some of their finest work with as little frills as possible. Bringing a more solid production, ‘Lament’ sees the band experimenting with new sounds as well as continuing with their classic post-hardcore sounds. Notable mentions on the album are their collaboration with Manchester Orchestra on ‘Limelight’ and title track ‘Lament’ however in reality these could be switched out for pretty much any track on the album, they’re all just that good. A special note needs to go to ‘Reminders’ for being my first introduction into the new album and what is certainly the music video of the year by a long shot. Featuring a ton of artists and crew from across the punk and metal scene posing with their pets it was definitely the boost that everyone needed to see. Seriously if you haven’t seen it already then I’d recommend going and watching it right now HERE! But cute videos aside, this album is absolutely breath-taking and packed with emotion, trying to fit it all into 250 words is impossible so just take my advice and give the album a listen at the soonest moment.

Recommended Tracks: Reminders, Limelight, Deflector

So with that all officially in writing all that’s left to say is to echo my start of how impressive 2020 has been for music despite all the current event in the world. i have included a playlist below with all the recommended tracks from the top ten and the honourable mentions for you to check out and familiarise yourself with them! Please let me know as well if there are any artists that I have missed out completely.

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