Louder Than War Albums of The Year 2020 – Top 50
An unforgettable year, and some magnificent music. 30 odd LTW writers agree on these fifty to varying degrees. Bob Vylan led the field right up to the last two nominations, closely follow by Bob Dylan! There are artists here you won’t find on any other End of Year lists. New and old side by side. In the Top 20 more than half the acts are female or include female members. Enjoy.
LTW favourites return on top form with album number six. If you thought This Is Eggland was a cracker (sorry), then get your ears around this. Produced by Flaming Lips magician David Fridmann. The Lovely Eggs are the very definition of independent.
2. Bob Vylan – We Live Here (Venn Records) – Review
A groundbreaking album that slammed right into 2020 full of rage, anger and messages pre lockdown (WC) Crucial mix of grime and punk with a clear angry fuck off to racists (NB)
3. Dead Sheeran – A National Disgrace (Basketcase) – Review
Dead Sheeran is the dogs bollocks. The one album which makes you laugh at the impotence of the collective rage and feeling of desperation in the UK in 2020. He doesn’t have answers, he doesn’t even know the fuckin’ question. But he is some kind of accidental genius and a vital antidote to the misery of 2020.
4. Bob Dylan – Rough And Rowdy Ways (Columbia)
We might not have reviewed it for LTW, but how can this fantastic return of Mr Zimmerman not make it into the top 5? An absolute masterclass of songwriting once again.
Purely beautiful. Shiver down the spine stuff. Not a bad track and a hark back to the glory days. No One is just a stunning piece of songwriting.
The guys have done good and come up with an alternative Kinks summer twist to chill out and dance to.
A genuine change of direction which is always to be applauded.
GIS really do sound like the end of the fucking world.
9. Sault – Untitled (Black Is) (Forever Living Originals) – Review
In a year of protest, struggle and change – this feels utterly essential!
11. Run the Jewels RTJ4 — (Jewel Runners) – Review
This is protest music. Run the Jewels have arrived with some hard truths, some words of encouragement and a helping hand in the darkest of times. (Andy Brown)
13. Nightingales- Four Against Fate (Tiny Global) – Review
This really is the most fully rounded, eminently enjoyable, perversely inspirational, darkly comic and musically accomplished album they have released.And Stewart Lee says the same. (GB)
14. A. Swayze & The Ghosts – Paid Salvation (Ivy League) – Review
Swayze pulls no punches, using the group’s urgent and tightly wound music as a backdrop against which he can purge himself of the myriad frustrations he has with the world around him. (Tim Cooper)
15 Porridge Radio – Every Bad (Secretly Canadian) – Review
Every Bad feels like a reset of sorts; the perfect entry point for anyone intimidated by the size of Porridge Radio’s vast Bandcamp back catalogue. It’s also their boldest and most cohesive project as well. Margolin’s songwriting has never been stronger, and the band’s sound more adventurous. (Elliot Simpson) Raw emotion and great vocals spread across an album that could have been made during any of the last three or four decades.
18 Billy Nomates – Billy Nomates (Invada Records) – Review
A strong voice full of punk spit, slang and attitude. A wonderful debut album crammed full of inventive wordplay and dark humour. (Simon Tucker)
19 Róisín Murphy – Róisín Machine (Skint Records) – Review
A year full of unrest and distance, 2020 gave us a few albums full of protest anthems none more so powerful than this by Róisín Murphy which made human contact, sexuality, togetherness and hedonism the true rebellion it is making the album the latest in a long thread of protest dance from disco to acid house. A remarkable album (Simon Tucker)
20 Pigs,Pigs, Pigs, Pigs, Pigs, Pigs, Pigs. Viscerals (Rocket Recordings) – Review
Gargantuan riffs, demonic vox and an uber-cool vibe that distinctly references past masters yet still manages to sound totally fresh. Viscerals is the sound of impending doom and the perfect soundtrack the shitshow that has been 2020. (Paul Grace)
22. Public Practice – Gentle Grip (Wharf Records)
Public Practice is reanimating the spirit of late ‘70s New York with their intoxicating brand of no wave-tinged dark disco. …a punchy balance of punk, funk, and pop… (LTW didn’t review this. Tut,tut)
23. Eight Rounds Rapid – Love Your Work (Tapete) – Review
… the real-deal. Music made out of necessity. I love their work. It’s drama, humour, anger, precision and character. Fire and skill. Words and music. Life and death. Here and now. Ten out of Ten. You slimy little prick. (GB)
24. The Cool Greenhouse – The Cool Greenhouse (Melodic Records) – Review
“We represent a different platform of dispossessed pinko middle-classes who have very dirty glasses”. Not, repeat, not a surrogate The Fall-ah!
25. Bee Bee Sea – Dayripper (Wild Honey Records) – Review
…pushing their twisted psych garage sound even further with handbrake rhythm changes and a drenching of fuzz over which they layer their squalling vocals. The overall effect is one of ensuing chaos that leaves you battered, not knowing where the next blow is coming from, but begging for more from the psilocybin psych riot. (Nathan Whittle)
26. IDLES – Ultra Mono Partisan Records (Partisan) – Review
..On Ultra Mono, the band confound and draw lines in the sand. They provide an urgent rush of ideas, energy and action and bring a sensitivity to the bludgeon and the noise. They bring an intelligence and a meaning to the music and they somehow manage to cram their wild intelligence into short sharp shocks of sound that is honed to perfection. (John Robb)
27. Mick & The Mellotronics – ½ Dove ½ Pigeon (Landline Records) – Review
Meet the Glam Rock/Post Punk Alan Bennett and his Gothic sideman! ½ dove – ½ pigeon is a beautiful, intoxicating anomaly in 2020 – it’s like discovering an amazing old ‘lost classic’ album by a forgotten, cult band from 1969, 1979 or 1993 and thinking, they don’t make records like that any more … only they do! (GB)
28. TTRRUUCES – TTRRUUCES (Allpoints) – Review
A magical album that takes you on a trip… the weirdest, most original thing I’ve heard this year. (WC)
29. Andy Shauf – Neon Skyline (Anti) – Review
A beautiful singer-songwriter album that manages to conjure up its own world. Really fantastic storytelling – calls to mind classic Paul Simon. (Elliot Simpson)
30. Anna Von Hausswolff – All Thoughts Fly (Southern Lord) – Review
Performed entirely on the pipe organ, Anna Von Hausswolff creates epic soundscapes that steer us through all the emotions. Church music for goths. (Paul Grace)
31. Michael ‘Tell Your Friends’ (Cracked Ankles Records) – Review
Listen to this album a few times and you’ll be hooked. They are loud as fuck, funny, and blast you away with their raucous blend of psych punk metal. An album of the year by my standards and a great start for this pummeling five piece from London.
32. The Total Rejection – The Time Travellers 3rd Will & Testament (Raving Pop Blast) – Review
More Retro-sounds for Future-daze. Vintage aesthetics for the Outsiders of Today. The man at the centre of the TTR, Arthur, constantly doubts himself and his bands abilities – but this album will stand as testament to his and their artistic, spiritual and rock’n’roll greatness. (GB)
33. The Cravats – Hoorahland (Overground) – Review
They just keep getting better…come to the haunted fairground, where the only thing that is for certain is that you will get your moneys worth (Ian Canty)
34. Sparks – A Steady Drip, Drip, Drip …. (BMG) – Review Interview
Sparks have been making their idiosyncratic brand of quirky pop since the Sixties. Now, after 53 years, the Mael brothers may have reached their creative peak… (Tim Cooper)
35. HMLTD – West Of Eden (Lucky Number Music) – Review
In which HMLTD ploughed though years of bad luck that only Job could relate to, only to deliver a solid listen that whilst initially seemed disjointed, got better with every spin. (Christopher Lloyd) Fantastically eclectic lipstick smeared electro rock and roll. Long awaited debut that was even better than expected. (Susan Sloan)
36. Baxter Dury – The Night Chancers (Rough Trade) – Review
…the album ends with the line ‘Baxter loves you’, a clear contrast to the opening line, ‘I’m not your fucking friend’. (Rhys Delany)
37. Jim Bob – Pop Up Jim-Bob (Cherry Red) – Review
Jim Bob returns after seven years with a new solo album that has all the old trademarks of his Carter days and it has all the old wit, charm and clever lyrics from the arsenal of his mind, yet it’s bleak and dark. (Wayne Carey)
38. Dream Nails – Dream Nails (Alcopop! Records) – Review
The fun is infectious, the anger palpable. For Dream Nails punk is simply the best outlet for their passion and activism, a suitably direct conduit. Angry, defiant and carrying a message of empowerment and hope. A band you can believe in. (Andy Brown)
39. RVG – Feral (Fire) – Review
…a record that is political in the personal. The lyrics are full of metaphors focusing on the exploration of the individual within the collective, the search for self-freedom, and the release of finding it and rising up against those that try to push us into their neat boxes. It’s a record that is totally of its time and yet could have been written at any point in the last three decades. (Nathan Whittle)
40. Ren Harvieu – Revel In The Drama (Bella Union) – Review
…a lavishly orchestrated album of sexually charged torch songs paying homage to the big ballads of the Sixties. (Tim Cooper) listens and swoons.
41. X – Alphabetland (Fat Possum)
How often does a band put out its eighth album to have it sound nearly as amazing as its first, 40 years prior? Exene Cervenka’s voice still sounds like a punk dream. The album hearkens back to all that was great about their early work, but it’s also new and exciting. (Audrey Golden)
42. Holy Fuck – Deleter (Last Gang)
Our favourite electronic wizards get some vocalists involved and add to the five other albums we’ve been loving over the past decade and a half. (Keith Goldhanger)
44. Primitive Ignorant – Sikh Punk (Something In Construction Records) – Review
Unique and powerful album combining punk, industrial and pop to stunning affect. Turn up the bass and revel in the sonic assault of Sikh Punk, the debut album by Symren Gharial (formerly) of Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster
45. Working Men’s Club – Working Men’s Club (Heavenly Recordings ) – Review
… as exhilarating as it is diverse …a band that don’t really want to stop the party, pandemic or not. (Callum Gray)
46. The Lurkers- Sex Crazy (Damaged Goods) – Review
When so many of the punk generation end up a bit of an embarrassment… it’s great to see the Lurkers basically haven’t changed and are still the honest, straight-forward, unpretentious punk rock’n’roll bar-band they always were. (GB)
48. Mr Bungle: The Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny Demo (Ipecac Recordings)
Mike Patton returns with the band closest to his heart, with added thrash big four stalwarts Scott Ian and Dave Lombardo to re-record the bands eponymous demo cassette, to ear-splitting and alarmingly abrasive effect. (Christopher Lloyd) A screaming, screeching return. A vital injection of rage and humor. Welcome back! (Simon Tucker)
49. Bugeye – Ready Steady Bang (Reckless Yes) – Review
“Material that has a darkness to it, but wrapped up in upbeat disco beats and catchy fun tunes that demand you to dance. Our blend of disco punk”.
50. MFC Chicken – Fast Food & Broken Hearts (Dirty Water Records/FOLC Records) – Review
Every single track is an absolute joy – and if you don’t dig it you got no soul. Dismiss it as ‘novelty’ music at your peril. There’s as much love and soul and great musicianship in this as any serious-artist-howling into the void. (GB)
Compiled by Ged Babey from nominations by John Robb, Nigel Carr, Wayne Carey, Phil Newall, Naomi Dryden-Smith, Melanie Smith, Nathan Whittle, Ged Babey, Ian Canty, Nathan Brown, Cassie Fox, Neil Hodge, Paul Clarke, Simon Tucker, Iain Key, Paul Grace, Tim Cooper, Banjo, Susan Sloan, Amy Jay Britton, Audrey Goulden Paul Scott Bates, Ian Corbridge, Keith Goldhanger, Gus Ironside, Joe Whyte, Dan Volohov, Mark Ray, Christopher Lloyd, Andy Brown, Elliot Simpson, Gordon Rutherford.