Well it’s that time of the year again where the music world looks back on the releases of 2020 and ranks them numerically, a boiling down of art to quantifiable measures. Unlike other publications our best of list is in no particular order as one person’s top album of 2020 is another person’s worst. Art is relative and we want to keep it that way. Each album is selected by CLUNK staff and thrown into the pile, not one is better than the other but these are the albums that left a mark on us in 2020.
IDLES – Ultra Mono
By Alex Salisbury
There is no community, without unity and IDLES’ ‘Ultra Mono’ is a unifying call for the more socially conscious in society. A huge right hook of positivity straight into the mush of a world that is slowly being consumed by its own hatred and negativity.
“Let’s seize the day! All hold hands, chase the pricks away. You can do it!” rings the chorus of ‘Mr Motivator’, and true to its name it’s a real motivator of a track. Dropped as a single square in the middle of lockdown it was a shimmering light of optimism during the dark days of the COVID-19 pandemic and it was a clear indication that IDLES were moving their sound in a new direction.
Album three is not as abrasive as their honest and dark debut ‘Brutalism’ and has a couple more layers of polish on it than 2018’s ‘Joy As An Act Of Resistance’. In my opinion this album doesn’t reach the heights of their previous offerings and it took me some time to appreciate it for the quality release it is.
On my first listen I was a bit underwhelmed. But, as I became more familiar with it, I really started to fall in love with it, especially as we get into the real meat and potatoes from track four, ‘Anxiety’, onwards. The second half of the album features some excellent collaborations with artists as varied as Jamie Cullum, David Yow (Scratch Acid, Jesus Lizard) and a real highlight in Jehnny Beth (Savages) as co-vocalist on the consent-anthem ‘Ne touche pas moi’.
Musically the album is probably their strongest offering, with Adam ‘Dev’ Devonshire (Bass) and Jon Beavis (Drums) providing a solid foundation for the excellent guitar work of Lee Kiernan and Mark ‘Bobo’ Bowen to be layered on top of. ‘Ultra Mono’ sounds huge, with hip-hop producer Kenny Beats doing sterling work from behind the desk, and I can’t wait to hear these new tunes in a live setting.
Although I think Joe Talbot has produced more powerful work on previous outings, there are some real stand out moments on ‘Ultra Mono’. ‘A Hymn’ is vulnerable and soul exposing, ‘Anxiety’ has that old sarcastic IDLES punk bite to it and tracks like ‘I’m a Lover’ show new strings to his bow. But, Dev’s bass tone throughout is beautifully rich and really takes centre stage on most of the tracks and really shines on ‘Carcinogenic’ and ‘Reigns’. And, Jon’s wide range of work here is always perfectly placed, from the furious opener ‘War’ to the delicate ‘A Hymn’.
Overall, ‘Ultra Mono’ is probably the easiest entry point to new fans of IDLES, being slightly more accessible than their heavier début and the real socialist-packed anthems of ‘JOAAOR’. Whether you like them or not, or if you think they’re poseurs, you can not disagree that they’re doing something right, especially after bagging the #1 spot in the album chart. IDLES have created a community around their music that is brimming in positivity and unity. They’re an important band to many people, myself included.
Oliver Tree – Ugly Is Beautiful
By Luke James
Oliver Tree is an odd phenomenon. With his trademark flared jeans, shell suit top, bowl cut, thin sunglasses and riding his scooter, he looks for all the world like a novelty act. What you actually get is a mix of grunge and hip hop that results in a truly unique sound for a truly unique artist.
‘Ugly is Beautiful’ takes heavy influence from 90’s and early 2000 bands such as Weezer and Presidents of the USA but Oliver Tree fuses that with a hip hop sound that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Beastie Boys album. While it’s a mix of sounds that should instantly sound dated, it just works.
First song ‘Me, Myself & I’ pulls on the Weezer influence with its garage sounding guitar riffs and self deprecating lyrics (“I’m feeling weak and I can barely speak. I’m starting to freak out”). It’s not long before Oliver Tree changes up the style completely though. The dance beat of ‘1993’ pounds in to make you feel like you’ve just walked in to a club. This mix of styles runs through the album as Oliver switches between garage rock, hip hop, dance and r ‘n’b with ease with the record never sounding confused.
The visuals that come with ‘Ugly is Beautiful’ only serve to further make Oliver Tree a unique individual. You only have to see the video for Beastie Boys-like single ‘Bury Me Alive’ where Oliver takes off a scarf to reveal a pair of testicles hanging from his chin as he raps the song. I didn’t say it was thought provoking all the time.
‘Ugly Is Beautiful’ is one of those albums that is filled with nothing but great singles but also works as a record in its entirety. As a debut album this ticks every box for me. Just expect the unexpected if you’re going to watch his videos
Run The Jewels – RTJ4
By Luke James
Run the Jewels are a rap duo that have been carving out a path for themselves for some time now. Having had individual careers, Killer Mike and El-P came together to release their first album as Run the Jewels in 2013 and have been consistently killing it ever since. Their latest album is ‘RTJ4’ and it is their strongest yet.
As well as taking on MC duties, El-P produces all of the tracks as well and I mean “producer” in the truest sense. El-P takes an unbelievable amount of samples and cuts them together so cleanly it harks back to an older production style while also somehow sounding like the future.
Lyrically, Run the Jewels have never been afraid to mix up rapping about the more common topics like weed with talking about more serious topics such as racism. It’s when you come across the lyrics on ‘Walking in the Snow’ that read “And you so numb you watch the cops choke out a man like me, And ’til my voice goes from a shriek to whisper, I can’t breathe that hit so hard given the killing of George Floyd earlier in the year. Ju$t with its refrain of look at all these slave masters posing on your dollar” guest stars Zac de la Rocha of Rage Against the Machine and Pharell Williams and speaks to the fact that Run the Jewels fans aren’t just limited to the hip hop community. Hell, even rock god Josh Homme appears on ‘Pulling the Pin’.
From the very first beat on ‘Yankee and the Brave (ep. 4)’ Run the Jewels set out their stall early. Starting with a beat that cuts so hard it creates a build up to one of the best drops on the album, the beat on each track of ‘RTJ4’ is a masterclass in production and the lyrics and flow, as ever, put Run the Jewels in a league of their own. Just hit play on track one and let it drag you in.
Bob Vylan – We Live Here
By Alex Salisbury
Some of you will probably say “but, AJ, that’s an EP, not an album”, and honestly, I couldn’t give a shit, this makes the list. Simply put Bob Vylan’s ‘We Live Here’ is one of the most important musical packages released in the UK in years, and I don’t care what anyone else says, this IS the album of the year.
This visceral two-piece fuse the lyrical freedom and bass-heavy beats of grime, with the abrasive guitars and attitude of punk on this aggressively honest and unfortunately still relevant eight-track album. Vocalist and producer Bobby, and drummer Bobbie make up the group and their content on ‘We Live Here’ was deemed to extreme to be released on any major label.
But, in the wake of the George Floyd murder at the hands of police and the subsequent Black Lives Matter protests across the globe, they decided the world needed to hear this album while it maintained its artistic integrity. Released independently in June and only available via Bandcamp, it sold out in a matter of hours on the back of the absolutely banging lead single, ‘We Live Here’, and demand has been so high that they’ve now had to issue three further represses of the vinyl.
For many the subject matter here might be uncomfortable listening, for others it’s the reality of the daily struggle they face. Covering police brutality, racial profiling, world leaders who manipulate language to mask their real agendas and numerous other problems faced by black communities in today’s society. I’ve recommended this album to everyone I’ve discussed music with this year. It’s a genre-blurring, boundary pushing and thought provoking experience.
This is the true soundtrack of modern Britain for many, let’s use it as a document to help us change the future of Britain for all of her citizens. As the intro of ‘England’s Ending’ says “This country’s in dire need of a fucking spanking mate, a good overhaul, get the fucking Dinosaurs out,” I couldn’t agree more Bobby.
Bobby Funk – Longing For The Bonging
By Alex Salisbury
2020 has been a mad year for the UK, not just because of the ol’ Rony, but because of the countries probable detrimental crash landing out of the EU. Cornwall’s Bobby Funk’s ‘Longing for the Bonging’ takes the edge off, and the piss out of, the whole situation we’re wrapped up in regarding Brexit.
I mean the title is literally about red-faced, middle-aged white fellas longing for the bonging of Big Ben to signal that we’ve finally left the European club, which is epitomised on album ender ‘Gammon Club’. This album isn’t some serious critical analysis of the state of politics in this country, but a big middle finger waving and tongue placed firmly in cheek look at the whole debacle.
If you’ve heard, or seen, Bobby Funk before you’ll know what to expect from this album, it’s fast, it’s funny and when you dissect the lyrics it’s really fucking clever. Lead singer Ollie Meyrick delivers the lyrical content of their tracks with the perfect mix of piss and vinegar to make you laugh and think at the same time.
Speaking of lyrical content, this album tackles such heavy subjects as Judi Dench’s lunchtime habits (‘Dunch’), a comparison of a greasy fry up to Brexit (‘Breakfast Means Breakfast’) and potentially ruining Kanye West’s marriage because you and him are best friends (‘Best Friends with Kanye’). I mean, doesn’t that sound great! It bloody well is!
Coming in at a snappy 20 minutes and totalling nine tracks, although short it’s a surprisingly diverse release from Manchester’s TNS Records, even featuring samba bands and brass sections on some tracks. You can tell Bobby Funk love to have fun with their music, and you really get that from this album as everything is played with a sense of playfulness and amusement, both for themselves and their listeners.
If you like punk played at breakneck speed that’s gonna make you chuckle and smile while you listen to it, then you can’t go wrong with ‘Longing for the Bonging’.
HAIM – Women In Music Pt. III
By Jeanie Jailer
LA girl band HAIM released their third album ‘Women In Music Pt. III’ back in June. An album influenced by so many genres, folk, country, jazz, rock and hip hop to name a few, it hit us with incredible singles such as ‘Summer Girl’, ‘Now I’m In It’ and ‘Hallelujah’ which were initially intended as standalone singles. The release date for the album, initially April 24th, got pushed back to August and then June due to the pandemic and realising the ability to tour was becoming impossible. This however didn’t stop the albums success with it going straight to number in the UK upon its release, selling 17,762 copies in its first week.
‘Los Angeles’ the opening track of the album is an excellent foreshadowing of what’s to follow. Immediately hitting you with Henry Solomon’s smooth saxophone, it’s an instant hit of 1970’s nostalgia, a sunshiny homage to Lou Reed whilst questioning their love of the city they come from.
‘Man From The Magazine’ is a particularly stand out track in the midst of the album, as a stripped back acoustic, guitar and vocals (with a slight hint of a drum), protest song. An angry but humorous observation on the ever prominent misogyny in the music industry. With a no holds barred approach, they let rip in a calm way that truly exudes strength and power.
Another great track is ‘I Know Alone’ which came out right at the beginning of lockdown and with seemingly appropriate lyrics, it’s actually about the loneliness of returning from touring. This stands out particularly because the rest of the album is generally a smooth, 70’s inspired affair but this appears to have a more 90’s garage feel (all while referencing Joni Mitchell). It uses 808 beats, with Haims gorgeous layered vocals, combined with a cold and glitchy production to give us an amazing yet moody dance track that you can’t help but move to.
This album is just perfect, with 16 tracks to choose from, there is something for every mood. It’s experimental and great to see a band that isn’t defined by a genre, that manages to do so, so seamlessly. Danielle, Este and Alana Haim have once again killed it and have gifted us one of the greatest albums of 2020!
Paul McCartney – McCartney III
By Jeanie Jailer
The incomparable Paul McCartney has released his new album ‘McCartney III’ just in the nick of time, being debuted on the 18th of December, 2020. At the age of 78 and still a force of nature, this album was created during the lockdown (or in his words the “rockdown”). Following on from the traditions of ‘McCartney’ and ‘McCartney II’ Paul plays every instrument on the record and has managed to create an ever unique, distinctive, zany sound.
‘Find My Way’ is a straight hit of positivity. Opening with a harpsichord and drums, you feel the joy immediately radiate from the song. It’s full of fun, catchy guitar riffs that take advantage of reverb and delays. The drums are extremely prominent in the song and have a very unique sound and it has a great, bouncy bassline that is the final feature in the closing of the track. A song that lyrically offers anyone a confident hand through the darkness.
‘Slidin’’ the 7th track off the album, is a moodier song, starting with heavy stomping drums and a fuzzy guitar riff, it has a much much darker sound than other songs on the record. Reminiscent of some of The Beatles heavier, more psychedelic ventures (think ‘I Want You (She’s So Heavy)’ but even heavier still. An overdriven dream, one that is supposed to be played LOUD.
‘The Kiss Of Venus’ is a much more stripped back affair than the other songs. Gentle, simplistic and raw. This song lets everything that is fundamentally “McCartney” shine. It almost serves as a sort of lullaby in the midst of the madness, he paints the picture of a gorgeous glowing dreamworld where only you and your love exists.
An album you definitely don’t want to miss, a testament to Sir Paul’s undeniable abilities as a solo artist. This record is like a perfectly timed, warm hug at the end of a pretty miserable year.
Okay Kaya – Watch This Liquid Pour Itself
By Em Carr
Okay Kaya’s second album opens with a track about her antidepressants. In the chorus Kaya Wilkins worries “what if the pills I take stop me getting wet?” The is real honesty in her confliction, wanting to be more in control of her mental health but also wanting to be able to enjoy sex as she usually does. Mental health, sex and being unsatisfied are themes that span the whole of ‘Watch This Liquid Pour Itself’.
Wilkins wrote ‘Asexual Wellbeing’ after hearing ‘Sexual Healing’ by Marvin Gaye on a night out, and contemplating her own sex life. “Sex with me is mediocre”, Kaya’s voice reverbs in the chorus. The track pulsates, and I’ve never heard anything more erotic than Kaya’s delivery of “I’ve got vegan peanut butter chocolate ice cream”.
Kaya’s vocals are almost always front and centre, alongside her rye lyricism. “You can peel an orange however you please / in the psych ward” she sings. There is always a layer of restraint in the album, she never delves too deep or keeps a song going for too long – only two of the tracks extend past three minutes. She will not speak explicitly of traumas or show extremes of emotion. These techniques will be familiar to Mitski fans, hearing humour shielding the too personal, expressing emotions rather than chronicling events.
‘Watch This Liquid Pour Itself’ bounces from disco, in ‘Mother Nature’s Bitch’; to understated folk, in intimate ‘Popcorn Heart’; to indie rock, in penultimate track ‘Stonethrow’. It is an interesting listen, always beautiful, often synthy. If you missed it on its first outing, this is the perfect time to catch this album.
Willie J Healey – Twin Heavy
By Kieran Webber
Willie J Healey is somewhat of a musician enigma, he manages to write music tailored for a modern ear yet somehow strikes a chord in the retrospective. You can hear this all through his 2020 release ‘Twin Heavy’. An album clearly influenced by Paul McCartney, early Elton John and The Doobie Brothers. It’s a wonderful collection of songs that have his heartfelt and honest songwriting on full show.
‘Twin Heavy’ kicks off with the playful ‘Fashun’, a chorus driven track that is blessed with harmonic vocals and delightful brass section. It’s a real whirlwind of a track that is an instant mood lifter. If this track doesn’t sell you on Willie then I don’t know what will. Following this is the earworm ‘True Stereo’, a rambling number that is fuelled by Healey’s ability to craft catchy choruses. It’s a playful, bouncy track.
Willie spends a lot of time in whimsy throughout this album, somewhere he clearly feels comfortable. And it is certianly enjoyable hanging out in the velvet lounge with him, but now and then through this record Healey gets a burst of wild energy. This is prevalent in the uplifting ‘Heavy Traffic‘, a jagged edged, guitar driven number and the Lou Reed inspired ‘Songs For Joanna’.
Listening to this album you cannot help but make constant references to The Beatles, it screams it’s influence from the rooftops and I feel it does so proudly. The truth is, if McCartney released this album the masses would of shit themselves. But he didn’t Willie did and he deserves all the praise and recognition for making one of the most beautiful albums of 2020. It’s a soft, fun, pleasant and honest experience that truly boasts Willie as a creative.
Fuzz – III
Before ‘III’ had dropped it had been five years since the previous album, a long time to wait for FUZZ fans. However, you could still get your fix of riffs from the various other projects each member is apart of. Of which there is much to choose from thanks to their work rate, especially Ty Segall‘s.
Not only are they all hard working musicians they’re incredibly consistent, which considering their output is wildly impressive. ‘III’ is not exempt from this either, in fact it soars way above the first two albums, as band they have really found their sound and have become incredibly confident with it. The production value on this album is tenfold it’s predecessors, for some this was a complaint but personally that cleaner, less overdriven bass was a welcome addition. It allows the band to expand and explore with the guitars and vocals, the latter of which are arguably at the strongest across all of Ty’s releases.
It’s a cut and dry album in terms of what to expect, they’re not purveyors of anything new nor do they claim to be. The band wear their influences on their sleeve, there is no hiding the clear Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and other classic rock influences. They masterfully take the old and transform it to fit a new ear, whilst clearly paying respects to those that rocked before them.
One of my favourite things about FUZZ and any project Ty is involved in is how they manage to bring what they sound like live to record, it’s so impressive. The rawness of the recording sounds like a live set but in your living room. Steve Albini’s magic producing skills and Ty’s “keep it real” approach bounce off each other with great finesse in ‘III’.
From the opening guitar screech of ‘Returning’ to the wails of ‘Close Your Eyes’ you are treated to a slice of riff pie. Each slice tastier and nastier than the last, with crumbs of retrospective on top for good measure, this is one hell of a record. If you’re looking to headbang until your neck feels weary then you absolutely must listen to this album, for rock fans new and old this is essential listening.
Kevin Morby – Sundowner
By Kieran Webber
Kevin Morby‘s ‘Sundowner’ couldn’t have come at a better time for those in darker corners of the world. For residents of the UK like myself, the reality of summer’s end was drawing close. Nights where shorter, there was a chill in the wind and the inevitable Covid second wave was looming.
What we needed was some warmth, some comfort and that came in the form of ‘Sundowner’. A calm, introspective record that is peppered in tranquil sensibility. It’s a wide open sound throughout and conjures up images of long wheat fields and dusty boots. Such vivid songwriting has been Morby’s strength in previous releases as is his ability to craft a catchy, Dylan-esque melody but on ‘Sundowner’ this really shines.
Opening track ‘Valley’ sernandes the listener with gentle strokes of the acoustic guitar, whilst a floaty synth wistfully floats in the background. Morby’s vocals burst through, picking the listener up and taking them on a starry night journey to the desert. This almost western-sat-by-the-campfire feeling is felt throughout the entire album and it is incredibly alluring. In fact following track ‘Brother, Sister’ would sit nicely in one of Tarantino’s western flicks.
Although the whole of ‘Sundowner’ is a pleasurable listen the highlight comes in the form of ‘Don’t Underestimate Midwest American Sun’. A stunning track that shines due to it’s wonderful simplicity, Morby’s strained, heartfelt vocals surround the listener, creating a real emotional connection.
‘Sundowner’ is a real warm, honest and delightful body of work that evokes strong imagery and provides a moments peace and escape in a time where the world feels very bleak and intense. I urge you to sit back, pour a glass and lose yourself in this album.
Magick Mountain – Weird Feelings
By Luke James
‘Weird Feelings’ is the debut album from new Leeds based band Magick Mountain. Rather than being a band of new faces, Magick Mountain are a three piece made up of members of Sky Larkin, Grammatics and Pulled Apart by Horses but the end result sounds bigger than the sum of its parts.
The opening track, ‘Bart Cobain’, starts with the garage rock strut of The Vines but soon enough the bass comes in like a sledgehammer of distortion to let you know that they’re not here to play around.
Throughout ‘Weird Feelings’, the dual vocals of Lins Wilson and Tom Hudson work perfectly together, almost echoing the type of vocal partnership of a band like The Beatles with the way their voices compliment each other. It’s not just the vocals that benefit from this partnership. The bass and guitar attack you in tandem throughout every track on ‘Weird Feelings’ with the bass following the guitar up and down the fretboard almost as if to challenge each other to play harder.
There is a brief break from the heaviness with ‘Dream Chaser’ a track drenched in reverb and dreamy duel vocals. As the lyrics say “waiting for the wave to crash”, that’s exactly what it feels like with the track finally swelling up and washing over you. Not long after Dream Catcher ebbs away, it’s back to business with ‘Infinity X2’ which rattles along as if all the energy they had saved up from playing an acoustic song had exploded out of them. With tracks like ‘Cherokee’ and ‘Stranger Danger’ strutting along like early Queens of the Stone Age, ‘Weird Feelings’ is an album that grabs you and makes you sit up and pay attention.
‘Weird Feelings’ offers a might barrage of riff infused garage rock that is easily on par with the like sof Ty Segall, Fuzz and Thee Oh Sees. It’s a frantic sound that is begging to be heard live.
Bee Bee Sea – Day Ripper
By Luke James
‘Day Ripper’ is the third album from Italian three piece Bee Bee Sea and is 10 tracks of pure joy and frenetic energy. While their first two albums, ‘Bee Bee Sea’ and ‘Sonic Boomerang’, would fit comfortably under the banner of garage rock, ‘Day Ripper’ is a very different beast.
As the first riff of album opener ‘Daily Jobs’ starts you’d be forgiven for thinking that Bee Bee Sea are another Arctic Monkeys-lite band but by the time the whirlwind of drums come in, you will instantly be happy to have been proved wrong.
From here on out you are in for one hell of a ride. Throughout the album you are taken on a musical journey through a variety of sounds. Bee Bee Sea skip through genres with reckless abandon. There is a clear influence from the likes of The Hives and Maximo Park, particularly in ‘Drags Me Down’ and ‘Horst Klub’. Rather than sounding confused and over ambitious, Bee Bee Sea create their own sound which is equal parts poppy and raucous.
Bee Bee Sea started life as a covers band and with their catchy choruses and a guitar sound that is all raspy overdrive and spring reverb, the band’s influence of The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and The Who can be felt throughout ‘Day Ripper’. Rather than sounding like a copy of any of those bands, they merely use them as a building block for their own infectiously joyous sound which makes ‘Day Ripper’ a must listen.
Beabadoobee – Fake It Flowers
By Adam Laver
Beabadoobee often gets labelled as a Bedroom Pop artist, which seems slightly unjust. Her debut album, ‘Fake It Flowers’, offers so much more than lo-fi jazz chords and a midi drumbeat. She introduces the record with the lead single, ‘Care’, which begins with a soft start before Beabadoobee transitions into a powerful pop-punk inspired chorus as says – “you don’t really care” – to her expected listener. The elements of ‘90s music are replicated throughout the record, as she channels Avril Lavinge in her vocal delivery. There are even hints of Nirvana in ‘Dye It Red’, as the chorus-driven guitar has an essence of Seattle band’s unmistakable sound.
A highlight of the album is ‘Charlie Brown’; a powerful song that will catch listeners by surprise, as she adopts a gristliness to her voice as she screams – “throw it away” – in the chorus.
The Dirty Hit artist carries elements from the label’s poster boys, The 1975, especially in the array of glistening samples and the constant switching of genres. She shifts from a grunge sound in the latter half of ‘Sorry’ to a soft and reflective piece in ‘Further Away’.
The constant theme throughout the record is the melancholic and direct lyrics, as Beabadoobee seems to be addressing someone in a confrontational manner in many of the songs. ‘Horen Sarrison’ begins with the lyrics – “You are the smell of pavement after the rain; you are the last empty seat on a train and I’m convinced you’re from outer space”. Blended with an added string section, which is reminiscent of less anguished version of Radiohead‘s ‘Burn the Witch’, Beabadoobee tells her audience that she’s lovestruck. From this moment, any distress that was in Beabadoobee voice is removed. The final three tracks seem to connote a more positive feeling, even if there are chaotic moments in the final track, ‘Yoshimi’, ‘Forest’, ‘Magdalene’.
Overall, ‘Fake It Flowers’ inhabits emotional outbursts in her lyricism and instrumentation. Perhaps Beabadoobee was a bedroom-pop artist, but she is much more than that now.
Thee MVP’s – Science Fiction
By Kieran Webber
The Leeds based band have been brewing this ultrasonic album for a while now and at last it has been set free into the wild. This album encompasses all that is good with garage rock and bands like Thee MVPs. It’s fast paced, full of frenzied and frantic guitars. You cannot help but find yourself moving to the constant pace it sets. The biggest shame of 2020 is that none of us will be able to go bonkers to this live (pray for 2021).
The LP kicks off with the lead single ‘Ship Episode,Planet Episode’, a belting beginning. The pace is set for the entire album (apart from slower, sludgier numbers ‘Hal’ & ‘Funeral I & II’). Explosiveness is key throughout.
The influences are very much on show throughout ‘Science Fiction’. There is a heavy Oh Sees sound matched with Parquet Courts. Yet this still remains very much their own music. It is undeniably recognisable as Thee MVPs.
The whole album is so infectious, so wonderful that that it is really hard to pin down one track that stands out. From beginning to end you are treated to a barrage of riffs, percussion and wild eyed garage rock. In a world of 1975 it’s incredibly refreshing to hear a band play the shit out of their instruments.
The Chats – High Risk Behaviour
By Kieran Webber
Australia has fast become a hub for music in the past decade. It seems everyday there is a new band from down under that rips. One said band is The Chats, who first rose to popularity through their brilliantly hilarious and catchy ‘Smoko’ song. From there the band found viral success and went on to blow audiences away at home and across the globe.
One of the stand-out elements to The Chats is their tongue in cheek, entertaining and extremely Australian take on songwriting. It’s simplistic in nature yet totally amusing, even when tackling more serious subjects. This is something that is felt through their debut album ‘High Risk Behaviour’.
The album kicks off without hesitation with opening tack ‘Stinker’, a real punk rock track that is remiscent of Sex Pistols, The Clash and other late greats before them. The opening track is almost over before it starts, a pace that is felt from beginning to end. Within a flutter you are half way through the album and tracks such as ‘Drunk N Disorderly’, ‘The Clap’ & ‘Dine N Dash’ are but a memory. The quick pace the album is almost intoxicating, it all happens so quick. Yet you’re left wanting more.
It’s a frantic album that is delightfully fun, anarchic, infectious and raw. The Chats have proved they are more than mullets and ‘Smoko’ with this album. They’re one of the most exciting bands to emerge from Australia since AC\DC and as fun.
Sports Team – Deep Down Happy
By Willow Shields
Sports Team’s number-2-on-the-charts debut ‘Deep Down Happy’ is an album that in some ways, most ways, isn’t about the music at all. Sports Team have the most committed fan base next to ‘directioners’ I have ever seen and I have absolutely no idea how they got it, maybe that lead singer Alex Rice is ‘the next Mick Jagger’ or is it their energetic live shows? All I know is that they nearly beat Lady Gaga for the number 1 spot on the Charts on album release week and maybe they deserved to.
A shock start to the album comes with ‘Lander’, a song that feels like someone pushing you over, voiced by guitarist and songwriter Rob Knaggs. Then comes a stint of three album singles; ‘Here It Comes Again’, ‘Going Soft’ and a master class in how to turn a fan favourite into a song deeply hated by the majority, a re-hash of ‘Camel Crew’. I wish ‘Deep Down Happy’ was longer, it feels disjointed, the band pushed back the release in a failed attempt to try and keep their tour schedule intact. In hopes of keep appetites wet, the band released two new songs (‘Going Soft’ and ‘Long Hot Summer’) intended for exclusive release on the album; this meant that only 4 songs on the album were ‘new’ songs. I think that the singles were such successes in their own right that when introduced into the album feel a bit washed out. However, the four/six new songs that Sports Team brought out with the album are both fun and unique. A personal favourite ‘Born Sugar’ plays into every single one of the bands strengths, the lyrics? Immaculate. The twin guitar riffs? Intricate and skilful. The delivery? Effortless and charming.
‘Deep Down Happy’ is delivered with such confidence and charisma that Sports Team instantly become your new favourite band. It’s a massive fuck you to being brought up middle class and everything that comes along with it. Although a slightly disjointed and over-hyped album, it delivers on every listen. If you want to feel like a rebel while having a dance, ‘Deep Down Happy’ is exactly the album you want in your headphones.
Sorry – 925
By Willow Shields
Sorry’s debut is the most cohesive and beautiful body of work that I have had the pleasure of absorbing myself in. From the band’s inception, there was something perfectly different about them. Their debut single ‘Wished’ is a grungy love song filled with yearning that perfectly encapsulates the melancholy of being in love with someone who’s not right for you. That feeling is woven into ‘925’ sprinkled with a glimmer of hope making an appearance here and there. ‘Ennui’ is where Sorry excel and ‘925’ is a golden bottle of hurt, vulnerability and love letters that you could never send.
The first track on the album and your introduction to ‘925’ is ‘Right Round The Clock’ an unbelievably strong, BBC Radio 6 favourite. Its encapsulates the band as a whole, their signature drums and strong synths sliver through your body and worm into your brain, making sure you remember who they are. When I say that there are no bad songs on this album I am in no way exaggerating. ‘In Unison’ the second track sees lead singer Asha lead you into a dark tunnel of distortion and catchy guitar riffs like some sort of siren. The next song is ‘Snakes’, at this song it feels wrong for there to be no ‘gap filler’ songs it’s almost overwhelming. ‘Snakes’ has to be my favourite song on the album purely for the line “I never thought about you in your underwear ‘cause I didn’t really care what was under there”. It leaves you swaying with your arms wrapped around yourself thinking about the person you’d give the world to be with right now.
After the intimacy of ‘Snakes’ comes ‘Starstuck’ crashing through the wall and slapping you in the face with a bass riff. It’s a funky, unique, mesmerising tune to make anyone dance as if they’ve been possessed. Sorry are unrivalled storytellers. Effortlessly exhibited throughout the album but especially in 5th track ‘Rosie’, a hypnotising song full of passion and resentment. I’m finding it relentlessly difficult to not say that every track on this album is my favourite one, particularly ‘Perfect’. It’s literally perfect. The lyricism, the layering, the heavy start, it’s a hurricane of emotions and is yet another example of Sorry’s effortless perfection.
As I’ve said before and will undoubtedly say again, there is not one bad song on this album. Highlights from the second half are a stint of three gorgeous songs; ‘Heather’, ‘More’ and ‘Ode to Boy’, all equally beautiful and all equally unique in their own right. Sorry took their time making this album and it shows. ‘925’ is hands down the best album of the year and will probably be my favourite for many, many years to come.
Spanish Love Songs – Brave Faces Everyone
By Luke James
Before the eyeliner, tunics, fringes and skinny jeans, emo had a better name to it. It was music from the heart with lyrics exploring the ups and downs of day to day life. LA natives Spanish Love Songs are wearing their emotions on their sleeve with pride and they’re here to reclaim the term emo.
‘Brave Faces Everyone’ is their fourth album and it reads like an honest diary set to music in the vain of those Americana emo bands such as Jimmy Eat World and American Hi-Fi. Each beat and each lyric has such meaning behind it that you feel every moment of it.
‘Routine Pain’ with its middle eight of “have you ever felt lower than everyone else” and ‘Losers’ “my bleak mind says it’s cheaper just to die” may seem like it’s all doom and gloom but each song is almost a party anthem. It’s a weird dichotomy that Spanish Love Songs have mastered and it allows them to explore emotions without getting bogged down in the mood.
‘Beach Front Property’ is my highlight of the album and has been on repeat in my house since I first had it introduced to me. The chorus of “if every city is the same, doom and gloom under a different name, maybe we should find our home in one” is one that can speak to a lot of people.
The production on ‘Brave Faces Everyone’ is also excellent. You can feel every drum hit and no person takes centre stage, they all share equal billing in the mix and play a part in the emotion of the songs. This just adds to the feel of the songs. ‘Brave Faces Everyone’ could be played at a festival and you would find me straight down the front shouting every word.
Phoxjaw – Royal Swan
By Luke James
Having seen Bristol’s Phoxjaw live a few times and I thought I knew what to expect from their debut album ‘Royal Swan’. I was wrong. In a rare move, Phoxjaw decided to write their debut album from scratch rather than include any of their tracks they had previously released. So rather than get a ’best of’ from a band’s burgeoning career, Royal Swan is a collection of songs that sounds fresh and flows as a complete record.
The whole record mixes great hooks with a heavy, menacing feeling. The first track released from the album (‘Half House’) is a great example of this. Like most songs, Phoxjaw give you a verse whose guitar plucks a riff that makes you feel a little uneasy before the chorus crashes in to batter you in the ear. You can feel that they believe in every note that they’re playing and it creates a sound that’s hard to compare.
‘Teething’ is a highlight of the album for me. With vocals that have the swagger of Josh Homme, the music hits hard like a weird mix between Reuben and Black Peaks with a guitar riff after the middle eight that I make sure gets the volume turned up every time I listen to it. Which is a lot.
Given that the band has only existed for four years, their sound has advanced in a very short time. I hate to use the term “matured” because it makes it sound as though they’ve settled down which is anything but the truth. ‘Royal Swan’ is just full of incredible tracks that see the intensity turned up to ten and makes Phoxjaw a must see act.