I’m late to the party, but here’s the first of 2 volumes of my favourite albums in 2020. 10 rock records, 10 arbitrary rankings, you know the drill.
10. Philip Sayce – Spirit Rising
The guitar solos are on fire in Philip Sayce’s Spirit Rising and no fan should be surprised. The virtuoso’s technical axe skills remain impeccable as before, while his passion and attitude shine brighter than ever in every note.
Granted his 2012 stunner Steamroller is tough to beat, his latest album comes pretty close to taking the top spot in his discography. His music speaks for itself, proving his place as one of the best blues-rock guitarists today.
9. Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown – Pressure
The lockdown may have killed concert tours, though it definitely hasn’t stopped musicians from producing their best work in isolation. One band making full use of that extra time is Tyler Bryant & the Shakedown, delivering a new collection of bangers with Pressure.
From the first riff of the title track, their heavy sound makes it clear that they are not done pleasing gig crowds. When they do dive back into their blues influences, they find some of their most lasting work in Misery and Backbone.
8. JJ Wilde – Ruthless
Sit up and listen to the new rock n’ roller in town. Ruthless is JJ Wilde’s killer debut, just a year after her impressive EP, which featured the addictive chart-topper The Rush.
Featuring equally spirited rock anthems alongside haunting piano ballads, this album is a showcase of her versatility as much as it is, her authenticity. Forget comparisons to other female rock vocalists, tempting as it may be. Wilde stands on her own with the unique rasp in her powerful voice.
7. Ren – Demos (Do Not Share) Vol. 1 & 2
Alright, you got me. Demos doesn’t quite fall under the rock genre, yet Ren sells the attitude with his double EP. This is some of his best work distilled into 2 volumes, several impassioned songs like Diazepam surfacing from a personal place as he draws from his experiences with mental afflictions.
Others come especially timely for the mad politics in the world today. Bills stacking high, killing dreams, money maims you, lion tames you. His brilliant verses show his way with both words and music, leaving a massive impact with the perfect rhythm of truth for our time.
6. Pearl Jam – Gigaton
Pearl Jam is one of very few bands that has stood the test of time. Impressively, the legends have maintained an intact line-up for the past 20 years, save for the cursed drummer’s seat. Their sound still continues to evolve, delivering something entirely experimental and tough to put in a box.
The songs stay unmistakably theirs with the band’s individual talents on display, especially Eddie Vedder’s songwriting. Amidst his best jabs at Trump, he also wrote a particularly beautiful acoustic piece Comes Then Goes, a moving tribute seemingly to the memory of Chris Cornell.
5. Silverstein – A Beautiful Place to Drown
In 2020, Silverstein revisited the soundtrack of my teenage years in Redux II. From heavy re-arrangements to acoustic renditions, their fresh takes on their earlier successes evoke major nostalgia and remind me of how far they have come since Discovering the Waterfront. *tear*
It is not just a year of reworks for the outfit; they also released their new originals in A Beautiful Place to Drown. This is a massive work of collaboration with vastly different musicians, ranging from Caleb Shomo (yay!) to Princess Nokia (…okay?). The diverse choices somehow work, lending individuality to each pop-punk earworm.
4. Anti-Flag – 20/20 Vision
History is rife with the likes of you, history is littered with the likes of you. How can we ever figure out who Anti-Flag is mad at? Twelve albums on, the punk rock legends march on with their cathartic album of politically charged protest anthems.
This age of injustice is perfect timing, unfortunately. But it is not all grief and anger at a nation gone mad. Their rage comes with a hint of necessary optimism, reminding the world to never let the bastards get us down.
3. Blue Öyster Cult – The Symbol Remains
9 years after their last studio album Curse of the Hidden Mirror, Blue Öyster Cult has made a stunning comeback. The Symbol Remains brings back their classic rock sound 40 years back with modern influences in the mix.
Some tracks are heavier than others, reminiscent of the latter years of BÖC towards the noughties. The album also slows down to deliver its standout track Tainted Blood, in which guitarist Richie Castellano takes over vocal duties.
2. Larkin Poe – Self-Made Man & Kindred Spirits
2020 can’t be all that bad if it gave us not just one but two full Larkin Poe albums. Self-Made Man draws deep on their blues influences yet find their own sound with perfect vocal harmonies and the hypnotic beauty of their instruments, especially Megan Lovell’s slide guitar.
In November came Kindred Spirits, a release that has been a long time coming. Their already massive collection of covers on YouTube has after all only grown over the quarantine period. Covers they may be, the girls know exactly to make each song their own – with irreplicable heart and soul.
1. AC/DC – Power Up
AC/DC has released an impressive total of 18 studio albums to date. Their latest Power Up sounds just as you think an AC/DC album would. And should. There is nothing wrong with staying consistent and is in fact exactly the way we like it – loud, catchy, and unapologetic rock n’ roll.
Detractors like to claim that the band sounds the same. These same folks would never be able to explain how the chime of Hells Bells or the unmistakable riff in Thunderstruck‘s opening remains so distinctive for the past 4 decades. Time for Realise and Shot in the Dark to be added to that iconic list.
#11 – 15:
- The Hawkins – Silence in a Bomb
- Palaye Royale – The Bastards
- iDKHOW – Razzmatazz
- Thunder Mother – Heat Wave
- Tim Minchin – Apart Together
Now, to get to my Favourite Metal Albums of 2020… Where does one ever find the time‽