|Sab's tiny 2020 list|
Here's my usual list meant for future Sabrutin to look back at it. As usual I didn't properly check too much new music so I'm only including albums I liked and for which I somewhat have an opinion, axed to 50 entries because odd numbers disturbed me. Veeery loosely ranked generally.
AC/DC // a mostly "competently harmless" record in which the band sounds somewhat re-energized. Not terrible at all for an occasional jam. Favs: "Through the Mists of Time", "Realize", "Kick You When You're Down".
Melodic death metal, gothy cleans // another perfectly serviceable DT record, some sweet solos and strong(er) clean vocals make it worth a shot even if a good chunk blends together especially in the second half. Also the fully clean but undeveloped closer is a wasted opportunity. Favs: "Remain in the Unknown", "Transient", "Standstill".
Downtempo // four track EP, warm in its own way.
Hard rock, few prog touches // I haven't kept up with them, but the chance of this becoming their final record made me curious to check it out. Some surprisingly strong cuts make it a resonably worthwhile album, though it does have its share of "dad rockiness". Still, classy performances all around with expectedly great guitarwork and organ keyboards on top. Favs: "Nothing at All", "Step by Step", "The Power of the Moon".
Dead Kids R.I.P. City
Post-punk // ethereal and pretty, it gets the job done but I'm sure some will find it too toothless especially if heard all in one go. Favs: "Crimey" (could be one of my favorite 2020 songs), "Wanting War", "Oil Burner".
The Serpent Rings
AOR/hard rock with proggy bits // as Catley and Clarkin push into their mid 70s it seems they have no intention of ceasing to drop a record every couple of years. Not to mention they sound like they haven't aged for the past 20 years... nor changed in sound, but nobody expected them to. I'll gladly take more new stuff before they stop making it. Favs: "The Archway of Tears", "Madman or Messiah", "House of Kings".
Indie rock, shoegazey // the bookends are a bit misleading; the opener is a short song with a sudden explosion, while the closer is lengthy and very dreamy. The rest isn't nearly as captivating, but it's charming throughout. Favs: "bedtime story", "GOLD TRAIN", "ベッドタウン".
Four Dimensional Flesh
Tech death // somewhat "pretty" in places like the warm guitars in "Everything in Its Path" or the final part of "Spiritually Transmitted Disease"; the best song where it all comes together is probably "Black Hole Kaleidoscope". Worth a shot for sure but the gentle(?) sounding guitars make it a strangely situational listen.
Breakbeat // proved itself as great background music.
Flowers of Evil
Synthpop // pleasant enough for a Garm pop itch, but a bit on the inoffensive side. My easiest highlights are "Machine Guns and Peacock Feathers" and "Little Boy", respectively with unexpected electric guitar and engaging drums.
From A Dying Ember
Power/folk metal with charismatic vocals// I used to jam Northwind but never really checked more. So when I heard this would be their final record I decided I owed it a spin. It's solid, chunky and fairly varied, especially after the medieval thing kicks in after a couple of songs, but it's more of the same and definitely not better than Northwind nor the fan-favorite self-titled. Mathias Blad's deeper-than-usual-power-metal vocals are as great as always though. Favorites: "Rapture" (mmm soloing over blast beats), "Fool's Crusade", "Bland Sump Och Dy".
Prog metal, jazz fusion // as I'm not a fan of modern prog metal I thought this would bore me but it's surprisingly pleasant. Plini has a knack for pretty melodies and really I can't hate somebody if he reminds me of my lord and savior Steve Lukather. Favs: "I'll Tell You Someday", "Ona / 1154", "Impulse Voices".
Stoner/prog rock (instrumental) // I'm not sure you need a whole album of this, but it's cool. Favs: the cover artwork, "Bazaar", "From Ignition to Full Thrust", "Vulcan".
Pop with an illegal amount of jazz-funk // basically if Michael Jackson was backed by a bunch of jazz nerds. The band doesn't have a guitarist but there's an electric bass guitar acrobat. It's silly how much this can slam. Works as christmas music. Favs: "Work Shit Out", "Rock You", "Next to You".
Doom metal, dark ambient // made of two 18 minutes songs. Skip this if you are looking for heaviness. The ambient parts are basically half of it and even the doom is clean and ethereal (but not always "pretty"). It's a mood for sure, but I understand the ratings.
|35||An Autumn For Crippled Children|
All fell silent, everything went quiet
Blackgaze, post-punky // I love this band but this has to be one of their lesser releases for my tastes. Still, its focus on catchiness and post-punky flavor keeps it afloat, and the more pronounced use of double bass is welcomed (though I hoped for some blast beats). Favs: "Paths", "Craving Silence", "The Failing Senses".
When I Die, Will I Get Better?
Blackgaze/post-hardcore/screamo // with some pretty, clean parts. "Open Wound", "The Currency of Beauty", "What Was She Wearing?".
Avant-garde death metal // it's a rollercoaster, chaotic dissonant and "cinematic" with many spectacle-ready sections one after the other, but I'm not sure how much I enjoy actually listening to it. I mean I don't dislike it, but it'll need dedication (and time, which I didn't give) to really click.
|32||Bohren und der Club of Gore|
Dark jazz // at first I wasn't thrilled as it felt like generic Bohren-ness, and it definitely is to a degree, but I've grown to appreciate the sentimentality and the more organic sound in places. Favs: "Verwirrung am Strand", "Vergessen & Vorbei" (unexpected electronic beat), "Glaub mir ken Wort".
The New Abnormal
Indie rock // infectious guitar arrangements and plenty of instantly memorable sections peppered throughout. Some songs feel a tad diluted. Favs: "The Adults Are Talking", "Brooklyn Bridge to the Chorus", "Eternal Summer".
Wonky, glitch hop // treading new electronic ground I found this gem. Favs are "Daria's Song", "The Clown and His Folly", "Choir Champ Blunder" (this one reminds me of a Metroid soundtrack).
Pop (ambient pop is it? and a hint of trap I guess) // subdued and with a knack for cute "baroque" compositions, a little gem that really grew on me unexpectedly. Favs: "galore", "nightime", "fall".
To The Earth
Jazz // I wanted some new jazz without a "pretentious" sound and I found this little trumpet-led gem. Favs: "Slow Loris", Banning Street Blues", "To the Earth".
Symphonic metal // take out the opener and you're left with ~40 minutes of surprisingly abstract brooding music. I expected a more pompous Celtic Frost but that only applies to the first song, I wonder how many people were disappointed by this "metal" concert. "Grave Eternal" -32 of those 40 minutes- is honestly a bit of a goth paradise and its most abstract movements (Part 5 for example) tickle me funny. But I understand if you think it goes nowhere.
The Call Within
Jazz fusion if a pianist wanted to djent // I dig this, but I honestly Hamasyan's new effort indulges even more in the dj0nt, there's even a track featuring Tosin Abasi on guitar and it only shows more how the formula is becoming dangerously clinical. I wish he relied on that novelty less and wrote more lighter stuff like "The Dream Voyager". Favs: "The Dream Voyager", "Levitation 21" (breakneck speed in this one), "Ara Resurrected".
Erratics and Unconformities
Prog electronic // essential dystopian soundtrack for 2020. "Vacca Wall", "Deipkier", "Signal Post".
Prog electronic // see the previous entry but in a shorter and happier form. Of the three tracks, my favorite is "Doubler Stones".
|23||This Is Nowhere|
Space rock // though the opener felt like 90s Motorpsycho (check the noisy end) with a hint of Voivod, the rest of the record mostly becomes a spacey, noisy and trippy slow-ish burner with no particular dips, especially from "Crystals" onwards where the album really takes off. A trustworthy effort you can jam hard on the occasion. Favs: "Crystals", "Void Rejects", "Grim Pop".
|22||Tony Allen, Hugh Masekela|
Afro-jazz // an absolute great time! Everything, from Allen's tighter-than-thou drumming to Masekela's flugelhorn and even the sparse vocals, is a groovy blast. RIP, both musicians. Favs: "Robbers, Thugs and Muggers (O'Galajani)", "Coconut Jam", "Slow Bones".
Doom... brass band? // so basically doom metal with brass instead of guitars, a couple songs with growls and one sung by Messa's Sara. It's 34 minutes long and it flows seamlessly, super easy to jam. Check the opening suite trio "Intro the Chasm" / "Distress" / "Tentacles".
|20||A.A.L. (Against All Logic)|
Post-industrial (says rym) // not sold on the vocals but that aside this slaps. Favs: "Deeeeeeefers", "Penny", "With an Addict".
Death/black/war metal // really not the most varied thing you'll hear but it's got wicked vocals, sweet production, perferct running time, nothing much to say other than it slaps.
Brickwalled sputcore // sweet but I will die on my Gore hill. I really hope Chino won't get worse than this. Favs: "Error", "The Spell of Mathematics", "Ohms".
Andiamo in giro di notte e ci consumiamo nel fuoco
Prog rock // very nocturnal record to my ears, every song flows through many little sections keeping me hooked. If you love the atmosphere in Camel's debut you may really like this too although this is more nervous than relaxing. Favs: "Buco nero", "Lucciole per lanterne", "In girum".
Coat of Arms
Proggy(?) bluesy hard rock // despite the flat artwork the music is warm and endearingly arranged; solid all around even if at 58 minutes they could have condensed more ideas into fewer songs. A funding member back in 1969, Andy Powell keeps writing, singing and playing guitar in his usual wholesome rock. Just pretend one song isn't called "Too Cool for AC". Favs: "Floreana", "It's Only You I See", "We Stand As One".
|15||The Birthday Massacre|
Synthpop, industrial rock // another keeper by this ever (too?) trustworthy band, this time hell-bent on the ~pop~ and maybe their best in that regard. Favs: "Last Goodbye", "Parallel World", "Run".
Minimal techno? // when I wanted to explore more electronic maybe I shouldn't have considered a whole hour and a half of cold beats, but the artwork looked like cult material so I took a bite. Turns out this is at least excellent background stuff, subtly(?) varying from more ambienty pieces to colder mechanical ones. At some point even a piano made an appearance. Favs: "Orbit Incomplete", "Infernal Limit", "Espace Fourier".
Proggy alt metal // after the poppy singles it turns out that this is very much a sequel to The Fall of Hearts but with less expansive song structures and some electronic elements, but still a natural continuation. It's a shame the overproduction strangles the life (and the layers) out of it. That said, "Vanishers" is absolutely one of my favorite Katatonia songs ever. Other two standouts would be "Neon Epitaph"'s groove and "Untrodden"'s emotional vocals/guitarwork.
|12||Nero di Marte|
Post-metal // *literally checked on Dec 27 lel* 70 minutes of slowly ever-evolving structures shifting from one extreme to the other. Definitely not for everyone, many find the ambiance too long-winded but imo it only makes the intense drumming hit harder. Sweet drum sound too. It does blend together a bit though on first listens. Favs: "La casa del diavolo" (the transition at 3:45 FVCK), "Sisyphos", "Immoto".
Post-punk, punk blues, southern gothic // I'm keeping this low because I never got to read and explore the narrative which would surely make this better as the music is really dominated by the vocals/lyrics, following different characters and how Death meets them. But still I already found a lot of jams in it which do feel like perfect background music for that stuff. Favs: "Miracle" (dig the chaotic end), "Made for Me", "Sweat".
Deathrock, Punk blues // anyway it's kind of a Tropical Fuck Storm for goths. Samey, especially due to the vocals, but it's short to compensate. Favs: "Teeth", "Grass", "Crow".
Don't Shy Away
Art/ambient pop // Relatively subdued, atmospheric and very engaging in spite of it, with psychy undertones as a seasoning. Surprisingly hard to pick favorites as the album is chock-full of gems although it kiiinda dips at the end. Favs maybe: "Ocotillo", "Breaking Waves Like a Stone", "Given a Sign".
Toda História pela Frente
Brazilian folk atmospheric black metal // three long compositions, varied and active throughout. The non-bm parts are surprisingly strong and the bm gets to some nasty speed. Sure some of the clean vocals can be mixed a bit awkwardly but how about we focus on the fact that it's name-your-price instead?? https://kaatayra.bandcamp.com/album/toda-hist-ria-pela-frente
Só Quem Viu o Relâmpago à Sua Direita Sabe
and he made TWO of them? This one is more on the clean side, a "what if black metal was acoustic and not distorted?" kinda thing but in the best way possible. I prefer the first record I listed, but this is great too (and I wanted them close in the list anyway). This time it's the harsh vocals that are a bit weird, but it doesn't really matter as the cleans take up more space.
Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible
Quirky, artsy alt/electronic rock // I was never a Shikari fan save for the odd jam but this record is a true keeper for me. Irresistibly catchy and full of quirks/interludes that really come alive in a full listen, it helped me through 2020 and I'll be returning to this for a while. Favs: "Marionettes" I and II, "Waltzing off the Face of the Earth (I. Crescendo)", ""satellites* *".
Gothic doom metal, some growls // PL blend most shades of their career minus the electronic one and offer a solid effort only held back a bit by Holmes' old man growls. It's tough to pick favorites, as fans of the death/doom side will surely see "Ravenghast" or "The Devil Embraced" as highlights, while goth sluts like myself will flock to "Hopes Die Young" and "Ghosts". Also don't miss out on the two bonus tracks, especially "Hear the Night". One thing I'm *almost* sure of is that "Fall from Grace" is my best pick in here.
Art pop // the album opens exceptionally well with "Rémora"'s apocalyptic-ish sections that forcefully bring the ear-candy verses/chorus to a halt (great lyrics too looking at translations), but the rest never really reaches this height again. It does try its best though. Favs: "Rémora", "Für Élise", "Umami".
The All Is One
Hippie prog/psych rock // final installment of a trilogy, this double album still carries the sin of an over-reliance on mid-tempo plodding. However it also offers the "N.O.X." suite, a 40-minute acid ballet that flies by flawlessly. The other 40 minutes are generally predictable for seasoned psychonauts but still quality, I especially enjoy the bouncy single "The Same Old Rock" and the up-tempo (more please!) "The Magpie" which brings to mind the 2005's BH/BC album. I'll forever be a 90s "indie-noise" Motorpsycho fan but the band, as always, is doing absolutely fine.
|2||Mary Halvorson's Code Girl|
Avant-garde (vocal) jazz // personal reminder that you either commit to a year-end list or you don't, because in this lazy year I only checked this out mid-December and it trumps most of the other albums I checked. Anyway, this is deliciously nocturnal and endearing despite its free/cacophonic tendencies on which it has complete control (it's very structured, don't avoid it right off the bat). Favs: "Muzzling Unwashed", "Artlessly Falling", "Lemon Trees".
From This Place
Jazz fusion, third stream // I don't see who else could get my AOTY spot other than Metheny, he is back with such a tour-de-force of a record. It takes the classic Metheny/PMG sound and adds some third stream; check his classic synth guitar solo in "Same River" and hear how the track then proceeds to a lush orchestrated final minutes. The guitar playing is as lyrical as always and the tracks have their own structures and identities, the opener "American Undefined" is especially memorable on first listen with an unexpected bombastic end. It's 78 minutes long but I wouldn't cut any of it. It's not an *experimental* record, but it plays by the rules immaculately. I recommend "Wide and Far" for a catchy teaser. // a new personal favorite? AND he already announced another one for 2021???