Brigid Mae Power’s Head Above The Water is an album in the classic sense. Made to be experienced as a complete piece, the sonic cohesion and over-arching hypnotic sense of the music created to result in a record that feels like a painting cast across a large canvas where shape and colour draw you further into the entangled emotional twist the artist went through to make it.
Father, Brother, Son is about life itself. The triumphs, the pitfalls, and the moments in between and after. Through a wonderfully crafted suite of songs, Oliver Cole’s portrait of life is a compelling one filled with honest introspection and emotions, and much like the photo album mentioned above, it’s well worth revisiting once you’ve finished.
Nothing is as it seems in Paddy Hanna’s The Hill. Contrasting the swirling retro-pop of his sophomore offering Frankly, I Mutate this is a record of ripped abstraction and noir-pop obfuscation, where sounds are born out of atmospheric unease.
Some albums evoke a specific time and place, others create one of their own makings. BK Pepper’s Territories is such a record. Deftly sprawling out of the speakers, the cinematic projected flicker of the music constructs remote, unoccupied landscapes from its ambient foundations.
New Ways Of Living is a swing for the fences that the Winter Passing are confident in their sound enough to make, and in many ways its a home-run for the band. From the songwriting to the production, the album is meets the ambition that inspired it and adds something new to the mix via the group’s ability to write through the prism of their own experiences rather than trying to emulate that of the influences. A compelling listen.
A Beginner’s Guide To Bravery finds poetry in the moment. By-way-of a record that brings dynamism and repose to each deftly woven word, ramshackle strum of the guitar and punctuated crack of the snare, David Keenan’s debut takes life by-the-scruff for all its past trauma, present fears, and future promises.
Joshua Burnside’s Into The Depths Of Hell is a work of thematic depth. This is an album with sharpened corners, edges and peaks, wherein Burnside’s lilting voice is given a different context depending on the words and moment within the record as a whole. All of which results in a challenging but richly rewarding listen.
An album like 2020 D|Vision, iswhat music is all about. Its foundations shake with experience, one that’s individual to JyellowL but made relatable by the artists turn of phrase brought to life by an electric central performance. This is the kind of record that gives us an impression of life through a unique prism.
Occupying the periphery, Birthmarks is a siren’s call, enchanting in its mystery but foreboding in its origin. Indeed, while the obfuscation and abstraction of Hilary Woods music weave a deep dark atmosphere to fall under, it is Woods’ voice the beckons us further into the doom-laden world of Birthmarks with a whisper. And while the path is dark, and we are unsure what lies further, this is a record that rewards those that follow.
Change can be a scary word, mostly because you can’t feel it happening to you until long after its taken place. The older you get, the more perspective you gain from who you were to who you are. Nealo’s All The Leaves Are Falling is a record that follows this thread. Throughout his debut album, Nealo takes the opportunity to reflect on his own story, conveyed through almost conversational and self-confessional music.
A monolithic record, God Is A Woman marks a strikingly stylised and crafted debut for Indian Queens. Creating a sprawling dream-pop epic that packs a punch, the album begs to be replayed to get all the nuances that occur in the background as well as delving back into tracks like ‘Shoot For Sexy’ that just hit for the get-go. All of which culminates in a truly essential and rewarding listen.
Sowing Acorns finds Emma Langford absorbing her experiences and the world around her to provide us with a view into her own prism. The record never settles on one specific sound but instead decides to incorporate music as a way to convey the meaning. And it’s the meaning and message that is most essential. From song to song, we find out who and where Emma Langford is right now while the artist herself alludes to more growth to come.
R.S.A.G’s Chroma is cast across a large sprawling canvas. In the ten years since Be It Right Or Wrong, he has worked to deconstruct and reassemble his music into something vibrant with fewer sharp corners and more fluidity. It’s a record wherein the intensity of creativity flows into every corner of the music. There’s a frenzy, a euphoria to make sound and that’s where the essence of Chroma lays, in the freedom of expression without boundaries.
With Fad Silverbacks look to rip it up and start again. And in many ways they do just that, the grounded Brutalist design of the music makes for an imposing monochromatic, stark geometric shape to the album for Silverbacks to play within and at times tear down at will. All which results in a record never seems to feel at rest, and doesn’t want you to feel that way either.
Land Of No Junction is the type of album to surrender yourself to. Populated by dreamscape songs that wash over the listener with hypnotic captivation, Aoife Nessa Frances’ debut offering draws you into a world of hazy indie, psychedelic diversions and enchanting songwriting.
Few records this year will deconstruct the album as an artistic medium in the same way The Ritual Of Love Making does. It’s especially worth noting that this is a debut. Forgoing the usual “here’s a load of songs we’ve written up this point” approach, Vernon Jane submerges us in the stages of the titular ritual, broken-up here into four defined stages – Cleanse, Sink, Drown, and Float, and by doing so create something that feels less like an “album” and more like the build-up, process and eventual aftermath of a primal scream.
There isn’t a second of Staring At Clocks that goes to waste. This is the type of record that creates and crashes into its own universe, as Bitch Falcon deliver exhilarating music where every pulsating beat, thrash of guitar and brooding vocal snarl rushes by in the blink of an eye.
Personal History is Ailbhe Reddy. The journey is now a place, and Reddy’s debut takes all that was and informs the present with what is. Through bare-boned songwriting, rich sonic production and a central performance that conveys the emotion behind it all, Ailbhe Reddy could not have given us more.
For many Fontaines had an almost impossible task in following their generation defining debut Dogrel. Indeed, that weight of expectation would have crushed a band of lesser resolve. With A Hero’s Death the Dublin five-piece walked the tight-rope for all to see and pull off a sophomore album that builds on the first and in many ways improves on it. A Hero’s Death is the aftermath, a study of the self, for both the band personally and their music.
The Last Mixed Tape’s Album of the Year 2020 is…
In Waiting is magnificent. There was a point during perhaps the third or fourth playback, where I just completely lost sight of the review and simply listened. Even the hopelessly cynical such as myself have a soft side, and Pillow Queens’ debut found it with an album that tells each story with heart-wrenching relatability. Essential listening in 2020 and is the Last Mixed Tape’s Album of the Year.