Posted in Listed

Favourite Albums of 2020

Women In Music Pt. Iii

5.  Haim – Women in Music Pt. III:  Released in the early summer, it took another six months before I really listened to the third album from the Haim sisters. Employing a number of musical styles, the band released another set of great songs including their three stellar singles from 2019. Highlights include first track “Los Angeles” and the pop rock of “Don’t Wanna”.

A Hero's Death

4.  Fontaines D.C. – A Hero’s Death:  The fiery rock of the band’s debut Dogrel was our favourite album from last year. The band further expanded their sound with added atmosphere and nuance particularly on “Living in America” and “Love is the Main Thing”. Second single “I Don’t Belong” was a highlight as the minimal instrumentation allows singer Grian Chatten’s weariness to shine.

Fetch The Bolt Cutters

3.  Fiona Apple – Fetch the Bolt Cutters:  Fiona Apple’s first album in 8 years was a staggering accomplishment. It caught many ears when it came out to a locked down world reeling from the early throws of the pandemic. The lyrics are raw as Apple recounts terrible dinner parties, arguments with bandmates, and the fury of “For Her”. “Shameika” is the standout track for it’s uplifting childhood story one liner told over a rollicking piano.

Miss Anthropocene (Vinyl)

2.  Grimes – Miss Anthropocene:  Over the past few years, Grimes has been in the media spotlight due to her relationship with billionaire Elon Musk. Not always putting her best boot forward, it’s not always easy being a Grimes fan. But then the latest album drops and all is forgiven. An atmospheric and cinematic delight, the highlights are many. After a few dense soundscapes, the acoustic guitar of “Delete Forever” is standout as is the club beats of “Violence” and pop chorus of “You’ll Miss Me When I’m Not Around”. Grimes is an enigma and truly wonderous musician.

folklore

1.  Taylor Swift – folklore:  Famously in the summer of 2019, pitchfork.com went back and reviewed all the Taylor Swift albums they had otherwise ignored over the years. A year later, Swift released a surprise album in July. She once again worked with Jack Antonoff but also with new collaborator Aaron Dessner from The National. This news was catnip to introspective 40 year old rock fans the world over. At 17 tracks, the album might be a tad long but jumping around, it’s hard to find a wrong note anywhere. Swift makes it sound easy on a run of tracks from “Mirrorball”, “Seven”, the pop of “August”, and the heartbreaking “This is Me Trying”. Then right at the end of the year, Taylor Swift released yet another surprise batch of songs that once again sent music fans scrambling to download and endlessly listen to while parsing through the lyrics.

Posted in Listed

10 Favourite Songs of 2020

10. Jessie Ware – Spotlight:  One of the most surprising tracks of the year was hearing the first single from Jessie Ware’s What’s Your Pleasure? album. As Ware sings the intro, suddenly the beat comes in and moves the song in an unexpected disco direction. A revitalized Jessie Ware was a joy to listen to in 2020.

9. The Fiery Furnaces – Down at the So and So on Somewhere:  The Fiery Furnaces have always been a bit hit and miss but their first song after being gone for 10+ years was all hit.  Simple keyboards and beats that hit in all the right places. At times it sounds like an accomplished 12 year old put it together which made it all the more charming.  “Don’t you remember we were happy there?”  We do!

8. Gia Margaret – body:  A late comer after hearing it on the excellent Cillian Murphy BBC6 Radio show. Set over the sound of twinkling white lights, this beguiling track uses a speech from philosopher Alan Watts that is beamed in from a different era. It is beautiful, sad, and inspiring all at once. Regardless of what Watt says, I feel the feelings.

7. Justin Bieber (Feat. Quavo) – Intentions:  One of my favourite beats of the year, hearing Bieber sing – “picture perfect you don’t need no filter” is a lyric tailor made for the social media age. The top 5 single is a winner with its laidback groove and positive vibes.  Not to mention the Raptors shoutout.

6. Bad Child – HI DEF:  Randomly found this one while listening to the Adult Alternative Channel on Stingray music. One of the few rock songs on this year end list, it’s a great one to jump around to as the girls in the video do. After this 2020 BS is over, looking forward to once again being “…wasted with my friends”.

5.  Fontaines D.C. – I Don’t Belong:  Besides Bieber, this is the only other returning artist from 2019. The first guitar lick sounds like it was airlifted from a Lil Peep track while Grian Chattan sounds tired but also manages to expand his vocal delivery. “I don’t belong to anyone, I don’t want to belong” is surely an anthem for those locked in their bedrooms after a rough break-up… or breakdown.

4. The Blaze (Feat. Octavian) – Somewhere:  There’s a few tracks that come out of nowhere and just stay as a favourite all year for no discernable reason. This year it’s The Blaze which rides a groove that builds then comes back down to earth. This is for the dark corners of the club, where the people move “quick like Ferrari” when the lights come up again.

3. Z Berg – Into the Night: The track appears on the 2020 solo debut from Elizabeth Anne Berg that feels like stepping into a fantasy world.  The cinematic song sounds like a fairy tale showing both the light and dark as she sings, “as life got too heavy, so I got too light” before she disappears from sight and back into the night.

2. Keeley Forsyth – Start Again:  The second song released by the actress turned musician is the oldest track here having appeared in January 2020. The minimal arrangements are not much more than a beat a few synth stabs but are nonetheless haunting, like a disturbing dream as she searches “over and over and over and over”.  Leave the lights on.

1. Fiona Apple – Shameika:  Fiona Apple’s 2020 album Fetch the Bolt Cutters received ecstatic reviews upon release in June. The basis of this standout track is a childhood acquaintance that tells Apple that “she has potential”. The clattering beat and piano form the backing track that all comes to a stop as Apple delivers the “potential” line before the drums and piano bang back in to drive the point home. To hear the positive message delivered by a teenager from about 30 years ago is disarming in this era where people spend hours fighting online.  It’s an amazing track on an excellent album that is hard to get out of your head once it’s in there.

Posted in Album Reviews

Fiona Apple – Fetch the Bolt Cutters (2020)

814pyAZMh-L._AC_UY327_QL65_With many people locked up at home, staying safe during the pandemic, Fiona Apple released Fetch the Bolt Cutters, first album in 8 years. Immediately one’s attention is drawn to the percussive nature of the release especially on a track like “Relay” that brings an equal amount of soul to the vocals. “Drumset” sees Apple pleading with bandmates about why they took their instruments away after an argument, amusingly it was only to go to a gig.

The album begins with two great tracks – “I Want You to Love Me” that lays a bed of piano and bass before the drums come in half way through that see Apple get anthemic in the chorus. “Shameika said I had potential” is a line that sticks with you, whether you’re a young Fiona Apple or just hearing it sung by her. “Under the Table” describes a dinner party we’ve all been stuck going to that we didn’t want to be at in the first place so act like a brat.

“Cosmonauts” has the most pure pop moment that appears in the chorus before Apple turns more serious on “For Her”. The track starts acapella but grows in stature where Apple sings the staggering line,  “You raped me in the same bed your daughter was born in”. The agonizing weight of depression is tackled on “Heavy Balloon”. Fetch the Bolt Cutters is wildly creative, at times exhilarating but always challenging. Surely one of the most memorable releases that this pandemic will give us.

9/10