As is customary at this time of year we’ve put together a few of our favourite things of the past twelve months. It’s been a year when we’ve needed music, art, literature and film more than ever to lift our spirits, vent our frustration and help us to comprehend everything that’s been going on, and these have been some of the things that have helped us through the gloom.
Paul F Cook
Favourite album(s) of 2020: AK/DK – Shared Particles
They just get better and better and Shared Particles is, as I said in my review, “They use the power of circuits and double acoustic drums like a Faraday Cage in which to capture the crackling optimism of their music.“
Favourite Gig/Live Stream of 2020: Squirrel Flower + Hailaker @ Islington – 28 January
I can still shut my eyes and conjure up the utter peace of this concert. Squirrel Flower was charming, eloquent and the combination of such beautiful songs, her transcendent voice and the most respectful audience of the year made it my show of the year.
Favourite New Discovery of 2020: The Silver Field
Complex and dreamlike, rooted in folk and yet looking to the future. Sing High, Sing Low was in my top 5 albums of 2020 and I can’t wait to see what The Silver Field release in 2021.
Favourite Book of 2020: Bunker – Bradley Garrett
Having seen Bradley Garret give an amazing talk at a 5×15 event, I bought and devoured this incredible book about the global trend for ‘preppers’, people who are planning for armageddon.
Favourite Album of 2020: Girls In Synthesis – Now Here’s An Echo From Your Future
Brilliant noisy post punk from this consistently great trio.
Favourite Single/EP of 2020: DEAD LETTER – Fit for Work
Clever post punk skronk with it’s tongue firmly in it’s cheek singing about a bleak subject.
Favourite Music Video of 2020: Swine Tax – Screensaver
Another slice of post punk pop loveliness and a hilarious video from one of my favourite discoveries of the last few years.
Favourite Live Stream of 2020: Sleaford Mods at 100 Club
Actually felt like a ‘proper gig’. And an absolute bargain for £10 as you got Billy Nomates and 1990’S Chris in the price too!
Favourite New Discovery of 2020: ATTESTOR
100mph anarcho punk from Brighton.
Favourite TV Show of 2020: Ghosts
Hilarious fun from the Horrible Histories lot.
Favourite Book of 2020: James O’Brien – How to be Right in a World Gone Wrong
James O’Brien recounts calls to his LBC show and goes into great depth analysing the occasional cognitive dissonance of the general public!
Favourite Album of 2020: A.G. Cook – Apple
A perfect distillation of the innovative PC music sound, backed by some exceptional songwriting and a joyful sonic pallatte. After the mindbending sprawl of 7G, Apple was a few bites of powerpop perfection.
Favourite Single/EP of 2020: Adrianne Lenker – anything
A heartbreaking look at the conclusion of romance, ‘anything’ is the sound of a writer at the very precipice of emotion. Lenker, famous for her work with Big Thief, here presents an intimate window into her soul – and leaves you reeling from the after effects.
Favourite Music Video of 2020: Run The Jewels – Ooh LA LA
Took on a strange energy as the pandemic set in, with so many people in the video all together but nonetheless backed by a standout off of RTJ4.
Favourite Gig of 2020: Molchat Doma – Scala
I guess my favourite gig of 2020 is the only gig I went to in 2020 – Molchat Doma at the Scala. Capturing the decaying nature of society just before we all got banished to our homes, MD kept us bouncing along with their destructive doom-laden post-punk.
Favourite New Discovery of 2020: Hot Mulligan
If you’re a sucker for twiddly guitars and songs about suburban ennui, then check out their 2020 album: you’ll be fine.
Favourite Film of 2020: The Trial of the Chicago 7
When a film set in 1969 feels current in 2020, that says a lot. Perfectly acted and scripted, Chicago 7 was a reminder to us all that justice must continue to be fought for.
Favourite Book of 2020: Deep Fakes – Nina Schick
In the coming years, it’ll be impossible to distinguish online between videos that are real and videos that are fake. Schick’s book examines the ways in which deep faked videos are set to change our information landscape. I would recommend it to anyone – for a taste, check out the website: thispersondoesnotexist.com that gives you a new human face every time you refresh the page. The catch? None of them are real people.
Favourite Album of 2020: Fleet Foxes – Shore
A surprise release in September and a masterpiece from start to finish. A cohesive collection of songs full of hooks and beautiful harmonies.
Favourite Single/EP of 2020: Willie J Healey – Fashun
Timeless songwriting and a major evolution. From his superb second album Twin Heavy, which effortlessly channels both George Harrison and John Lennon at their solo best. One to watch.
Favourite Gig of 2020: (Sandy) Alex G at Earth, 12 Feb
The cult singer-songwriter and his band brilliantly realised his idiosyncratic songs in a live setting. Exceeded
expectations. In support of his 2019 album House of Sugar.
Favourite New Discovery of 2020: William Tyler
Gorgeous guitar-driven instrumentals from the ex-Lambchop and Silver Jews member. Perfect soundtrack to the early days of lockdown and home working.
Favourite Film of 2020: Tenet
Baffling and mind-blowing, excellent set pieces and well-acted by a great cast. A second watch was more enjoyable and understandable!
Favourite Album of 2020: Deerhoof – Future Teenage Cave Artists
A wonderfully wonky wander through an imagined future, spreading light in the darkness, as our titular heroes take to the walls to change a world gone wrong. Check out drummer Greg Saunier’s equally fantastical track by track guide to the album.
Favourite Single/EP of 2020: Frauds – Copenhagen
To be honest, my favourite track changes pretty much every day, but today it’s this belter from Croydon’s finest post-hardcore duo. I can’t wait to hear more from their fortchoming second album Long Spoons, out on Alcopop Records in 2021.
Favourite Gig of 2020: Perhaps Contraption: Almost Human – Vault Festival
Opportunities for live music were few and far between in 2020 but this was something special. Part gig, part theatre, part circus, part science lesson it was a mindblowing experience. Read my review here.
Favourite New Discovery of 2020: Chemtrails
They blew me away with their lo-fi psych explosion on the Sonic Tonic stage of one of the Balcony Festival events that we co-hosted and then did it again with their excellently titled album The Peculiar Smell of The Inevitable on PNKSLM records (read their track by track here)
Favourite Film of 2020: Mangrove
With the cinemas closed for much of the year, the way that films are released has changed, perhaps forever, so it seems fitting that the first of Steve McQueen’s peerless, made for TV anthology Small Axe was my favourite picture of the year. Telling the real-life story of the Mangrove Nine’s 1971 courtroom battle, it was a searing indictment of institutionalised racism and police misconduct that was sadly still all too relevant in 2020. You can still watch it, along with the other four films in the anthology, on iPlayer.
So that’s it for 2020 – we’ll see you back here in 2021, and hopefully in person in a sweaty music venue before too long.