2020 has been pretty shit. Essentially it was twelve months of bad news and taking orders from incompetent morons who routinely broke the rules themselves. Fuck the Tories. Fuck ‘rona. Fuck everything.
However, one thing that has been a shining light in this mud is music. Before we eat our weight in sausage rolls for the next few days, we thought we’d round up some of our favourite albums, EPs, and singles of 2020. I’d like to thank everybody who sent over their music. It was impossible to feature everything, but we gave it a good go.
With no intention to come across as flexing, this year was Sounds Good’s biggest year yet. We reached new numbers, wrote a LOT of content, and even expanded into a TEAM. All of which still seems crazy. I’d like to thank the team for even being a team, and everybody who has come along and read our words.
Here’s a list of some of our favourite albums, EPs, and singles of the year. What were your favourites? Let us know. Sounds Good will be taking it easy for now to enjoy a wonderful Tier 4 Christmas but will return in the new year. Happy Holidays, Happy New Year & see you in 2021!
CLT DRP – Without the Eyes
Brighton trio CLT DRP delivered the boldest debut of 2020 in Without the Eyes. It is a punishing, unrelenting sound that batters the ears with endless onslaughts of noise. But for all of its abrasiveness, it also comes with its fair share of hooks and riffs that make it hard to resist. The way they’re laced within songs like ‘I Don’t Want to Go to the Gym’ and ‘I Always Liked Your Mother Better’ creates an enthralling listen that lasts throughout the entirety of the record. (@adamsoundsgood)
Taylor Swift – folklore & evermore
2020’s music has been so influential to me for discovering new influences, but I could pick no other work than folklore, and now joint with evermore, as my album of the year. Stepping out of the blue like they both did, folklore & evermore reminded me that I have always found a home in Swift’s stories and I always will. She’s my ground zero, and both albums brought a whole load of beauty into the world just when we needed it. I’m forever indebted to her for that, and ever awed by her growth. (@lohrdsnohw)
Glass Animals – Dreamland
Dreamland is a euphoric and colourful journey through the mind of frontman Dave Bayley, dotting on some key issues and giving us all an insight into a youth spent in Texas not conforming to the traditional Texas male stereotype. A simpler way to describe it is if Lo-fi hip hop beats to chill/study to met Spongebob’s music in its early 2000s peak. Or, for the Futurama fans, it sounds like if Bayley could play the, famously difficult to master, Holophonor.
However, Dreamland is much more than it’s vaporwave, video game, 80’s inspired sound. It’s a truly introspective look into the Glass Animals creative process and mind. Continuing to touch on subjects of youth, masculinity, sexuality and heartbreak, Dreamland is a relatable masterpiece that somehow stays relatable, even with song titles like ‘Space Ghost Coast to Coast’.
If, gun to my head, I have to choose a favourite album of 2020, it’s this. (@daveygranger)
BLOXX – Lie Out Loud
Never have I known an album as painfully addictive as Bloxx’s debut Lie Out Loud. I’ve been championing Bloxx for a while now, and I can admit that I have rinsed the repeat button on this record since it was released. Every song is anthemic, with catchy hooks, clever lyrics, and the right amount of edge. (@jessrhodgson)
Peter Cat – The Saccharine Underground
This debut album by Glasgow’s Peter Cat has been on Spotify pretty much non-stop since release. Full of whip-smart pop songs reminiscent of artists like Franz Ferdinand, The Divine Comedy, Pulp, and Suede, it’s a flawless record from start to finish. Lyrically, Graham Neil Gillespie (the man behind the project) has the ability to make you laugh out loud or cry, and – crucially – the melodic chops to back it up. For a quick blast of the two extremes, check out the amazing ‘ASMR’ – the only song I know to reference AKG K550 headphones – and the majestic, deeply personal ‘The Day After the Funeral’. An extraordinary LP, whichever way you want to look at it. (@adamjohngardner)
Saint Agnes – The Family Strange
You could always rely on Saint Agnes to energise your mind. Over the years the duo have proved themselves as frontrunners for bringing the noise. This year was no exception. The Family Strange is an EP that succeeds in being as twisted and haunting as its artwork. (@adamsoundsgood)
Halloweens – Maserati Anxiety Designed E.P.
Following on from their impressive debut record, also released in 2020, Halloweens came strong with 6 more tracks this summer. With their solid brand of catchy indie hits that wouldn’t sound out of place in a coming of age movie set in the 70s, Halloweens have solidified themselves as a duo to watch. As with all songs penned by The Vaccines and Halloweens frontman Justin Young, it finds its strength in its absolute weirdness and in the strangest of metaphors- the title of the EP being one of the best.
It’s great from start to finish, standouts including the bright and bold ‘Trophies for Pain’ documenting the absolute success this relationship has in causing anguish for its participants, as well as the ridiculously catchy and simple ‘Alligator Jackie’ and the pained, but somehow silky smooth ‘Lights on Baby’. (@daveygranger)
The Japanese House – Chewing Cotton Wool
It’s no secret that I’m The Japanese House’s number one fan. Naturally, her latest EP Chewing Cotton Wool is my pick for favourite of the year – bias aside, it’s a beautiful, reflective journey through heartbreak and transformation. (@jessrhodgson)
Campbell Sibthorpe – Ytown
This one came out of nowhere for me. Ytown sounds like the kind of work you’d expect somebody to be making after years and years of putting out records. That Campbell Sibthorpe is in his twenties and this is his second EP still floors me. Ytown is a near-perfect seven song collection that vividly paints the story of a young man returning to his hometown, revisiting memories and reliving the emotions that come with the journey. It’s the echoes of the adolescent yearning to leave one’s hometown, seen through the eyes of the same little kid who left returning as an adult. The songwriting is right up there with anything I’ve heard this year (check out ‘Father Carpenter’ or ‘Good Lord’ and you’ll see what I mean) and the production – also by Sibthorpe himself – is superb. Ytown is a genuinely magnificent body of work. (@adamjohngardner)
Loose Fit – ‘BLACK WATER’
There were so many debutants that left an impression on me this year. Only a few could contend with Loose Fit though, as they delivered a series of songs that grooved as much as they screamed. I remember listening to ‘BLACK WATER’ continuously on the train to work, so there’s a sentiment there of when the world was normal. The passionate vocals, the jagged basslines and their focus on the dancefloor, the spiralling drums – everything about this song is superb, and altogether creates one of the best listens of the year. (@adamsoundsgood)
Grimes – ‘Delete Forever’
Getting into Grimes’ extra-terrestrial energy has been one of the biggest delights of my year, and it wouldn’t have happened without ‘Delete Forever’. It’s like all of my senses go into overdrive listening to her music. It’s the stuff I didn’t even know was possible, but had dreamt of. I would never have had that without falling in love with this more accessible of her tracks. (@lohrdsnohw)
Kllo – ‘Still Here’
For a long time, because I didn’t understand them, I was under the impression that beats didn’t go together with beautiful vocals. This Melbourne duo were key to undoing that impression for me earlier this year. Their whole My Gemini album is excellent, but it was one of the early singles ‘Still Here’ that introduced them to me. There’s something magical in the stillness of the vocals and the chords against the skittering beat. It gets into your nervous system. (@lohrdsnohw)
Dua Lipa – ‘Physical’
Look at your Spotify Wrapped. Does it have ‘Physical’ on? If it doesn’t, it’s simply incorrect. ‘Physical’, being one of the first singles of 2020, had a lot of competition. And it made easy work of them all! Taking 80s, Olivia Newton-John, and every colour in the rainbow for a banging video, Dua Lipa created pop excellence. It’s beyond catchy, it’s absolutely intoxicating and it’s almost hard to find the words for, because it’s just so damn good.
I listened to it on repeat whilst suffering a terrible hangover, which happened to be my only one of the year somehow, and it definitely saved me. There’s no exaggeration there- this track is transcendent. (@daveygranger)
Rina Sawayama – ‘XS’
Mocking the capitalistic world we live in, Sawayama exaggerates our love, desire and ridiculous entitlement to this planet and its resources in a self-indulgent pop banger. It’s beyond criminal that this song didn’t chart. It’s the perfect blend of 2000s pop, R&B and a massive guitar riff every now and then.
Sawayama didn’t stop at the track, creating a video showcasing her as a robotic TV host on a shopping channel who goes through a bit of a meltdown, and she took this track to Jimmy Fallon in her US TV debut, which remains one of the most incredible live performances of the year.
You’ll find this song in most end of year top songs lists – and rightfully so. (@daveygranger)
Porridge Radio ft. Lala Lala – ‘Good For You’
‘Good For You’ was released around the same time as a breakup I was going through, and it inadvertently soundtracked the angst and bitterness I was feeling in its aftermath. At the intersection between post-punk and dream pop thanks to the merging of two distinctive and brilliant artists, ‘Good For You’ is scathing yet ethereal, and very quickly became one of my most listened to songs this year. (@jessrhodgson)
Beckah Amani – ‘Standards’
I was watching some documentary on Sky Documentaries the other day (could there be a more middle-class opening than that?) and somebody was saying something to the effect of “great art doesn’t just reflect the world around it, but it has something to say about it”. Anyway, that’s the way that I feel about Beckah Amani’s ‘Standards’. Released in the wake of the BLM protests over the summer, it’s without question the most powerful two-and-a-half-minutes of music I heard this year. Just Amani’s extraordinary voice set against her sparse acoustic guitar; the track pulls no punches in chronicling what it’s like to grow up as a young black woman in a predominantly white neighbourhood. It’s devastating. What a song, and what a talent. Her follow-up single, ‘Stranger’, is out now and – spoiler alert – is also awesome. (@adamjohngardner)
Izzie Yardley – ‘I’m Still Here’
It was inevitable that artists would start recording songs about lockdown. It was also inevitable that a lot of these songs would be overbearing, insincere wallow-fests that served no real purpose other than to fill time. Of the few pieces of lockdown-inspired music that really struck a chord with me, London singer-songwriter Izzie Yardley’s ‘I’m Still Here’ stood head and shoulders above anything else. Recorded remotely over the first lockdown period; it’s a song that deals more generally with the concept of grief, and I think that this is the reason it still sounds just as powerful now. In my original review over on my blog, I harped on for ages about how there’s music for music’s sake and then there’s art. Months later, I stand by it: ‘I’m Still Here’ stands as a timeless piece of work that still kills me every time. (@adamjohngardner)
Will Ferrell & My Marianne- ‘Husavik’
A banger, and I’ll fight who says otherwise. It just missed out on a place in the top ten of my Apple Music songs of the year, kept out by Jennifer Hudson’s ‘Golden Slumbers/ Carry That Weight’ from Sing. ‘Where the whales can live, ‘cus they’re gentle people…’- try belting that in the shower in the morning then having a bad day. (@lohrdsnohw)