Diamonds in the rough: Our albums of the year 2020

We all know that 2020 has been a treacherous one: lockdowns, curfews, rogue MPs, cancellations, strikes and the rest. But, there have been silver linings to all of this. Creatives have fought against the grain and pushed instrumental and structural boundaries further than ever before. It's true that to push out of dark depths, you have to compose yourself, concentrate, redefine importance and push onwards in new, dynamic movements. 

Pops: 'Grey Doubt' by The Colours That Rise (1st May)

This Rhythm Section release is a collaboration that was probably overdue but was still a real breath of fresh air... It feels like a jam, but with absolute cosmic precision. Each time you listen, you hear or feel something totally new - but it's such a deep journey every spin... A gorgeous blend of jazz, hip-hop, p-funk and everything in between - it feels like something Guru would have deeply approved of. "Deep Space" is literally the most irresistible groove and made it the most painful to not have a dancefloor to enjoy it on this year.

Mof: 'Late Checkout' by Dent May (21st August)

2020 hasn't really seen any huge, marquee releases, which has cleared the way for smaller artists to really stand out. Thundercat, Jessie Ware, and Hayley Williams have been on heavy rotation, but as ever, I've found myself swimming in upbeat West Coast AOR Pop! Young Gun Silver Fox's LP has been solidly a favourite, but just pipping it is the wonderful Dent May with 'Late Checkout'. Dreamy harmonies, wit and snark, and more hooks than a Peter Pan convention. I've not heard McCartney III yet, but I'm giving it a shout-out all the same!

Amy: 'DJ-Kicks' by Avalon Emerson (18th September)

There has been a lot of heavy albums arising from the gloom and isolation of 2020 so in contrast to that I have chosen Avalon's Emerson‘s contribution to !K7 Records’ DJ-Kicks as my album of the year - diverse selection spanning eras and styles shining a light on her technical but always relatable charm. A firm favourite in our household of this LP being a synth-pop cover of The Magnetic Fields "Long forgotten Fairytale" which saw us dancing in our living room again which, during lockdown and post new baby, had been a much needed bop and a much needed nod to party culture which almost feels like a fairytale in itself right now.

Kane: 'Rough and Rowdy Ways' by Bob Dylan (19th June)

There's a narrative with musicians, that your best work is done in your youth, and then you're supposedly passed it. 3 albums in the past few years have, however, showed us that notion is a load of bollocks. Those albums being David Bowie's Blackstar, Leonard Cohen's You Want It Darker, and finally, Bob Dylan's Rough and Rowdy Ways released this year. A year which, to put it politely, have been absolutely dreadful. However, knowing Dylan's still able to dazzle with lyrical fireworks, and that there's still an abundance of artistic magic in this world, is a thought that we all should take comfort in. The album's sublime, I urge you to put it on and just get lost for a while, you deserve it.

Georgia: 'Rose In The Dark' by Cleo Sol (27th March)

A pure smooth, dreamy neo-soul masterpiece. Released a week or so into the first lockdown in March, this LP gave me the same catharsis as a hot bubble bath every time I dipped into it. It’s just dead good, here are some appropriate adjectives: Silky, intimate, bluesy, sensitive, sexy, reflective. Stand out tracks for me are Rewind/ Rose In The Dark and When I’m in Your Arms.

Matthew: 'As It Grows Dark/Light' by AJIMAL (26th June)

I’ve followed Ajimal’s artistic development very closely. Right back to an enchanting and somehow unusual show in 2012. I’ve thought about it alot, and I’ve concluded that what makes Fran (O’Hanlon/Ajimal) so outstanding is that he is completely full of goodness. Full to the brim. His grasp of how good things are, and what makes something good, and how goodness works, is essentially a superpower. This most recent album is such a profound, complex and all-encompassing illustration of so many good things. Musically and lyrically. It’s vast, it’s pristine, it’s deep, it’s bright, and it’s dark. And it’s brilliant.

Hannah: 'A Western Circular' by Wilma Archer (3rd April)

For me, this record personifies how my music taste has changed over the past few years - particularly this year. I'd been wanting to invest in and explore genres that before, I'd only ever dipped into. In 2020, I had time. I'd previously skim-read jazz and hip hop, found that I enjoyed the contents then pressed forward. Now, these genres and their extensions are at the forefront of my appetite. 'A Western Circular' was an early contender for me. Featuring tracks with MF Doom, Samuel T. Herring (Future Islands), Laura Groves and Sudan Archives, it's an exploration into lounge jazz, trip hop, 70s rock and an example of the high-level skillset that Archer beholds. I am hooked and hoping to seeing the man himself and his orchestra perform live in 2021.