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01.05.21 MUSIC: tec's Top 50 of 2020 11.23.20 2020 // 25 UNDER 25
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MUSIC: tec's Top 50 of 2020

Shit year, generally speaking, but pretty good for music, all things considered. Let me know where I went wrong. Full list (out to 100) available on RYM: https://rateyourmusic.com/list/tectactoe/top-100-albums-of-2020/ 🥇🥈🥉🌕🌗🌑
51Black Sabbath
Black Sabbath


• Thomas Azier - "Love, Disorderly"
• Black Market Brass - "Undying Thirst"
• Conway the Machine - "From King to a GOD"
• Dragged Into Sunlight - "Terminal Aggressor II"
• Empty Country - "Empty Country"
• Esoctrilihum - "Eternity of Shaog" 🥈
• Fawn Limbs - "Sleeper Vessels"
• Floral Tattoo - "You Can Never Have a Long Enough Head Start"
• Freddie Gibbs & The Alchemist - "Alfredo" 🥉
• Fontaines D.C. - "A Hero's Death"
• Liturgy - "Origin of the Alimonies" 🥇
• MSW - "Obliviosus"
• The Necks - "Three"
• Panzerfaust - "The Suns of Perdition - Chapter II: Render Unto Eden"
Come and See

Hard to put this one into words…But imagine if, say, Lightning Bolt decided to rough up their (already rough) surface texture with 16-grit sandpaper. Abrasive, often terrifying noise rock that verges on psychiatric metal.
49Cabaret Voltaire
Shadow Of Fear

Those familiar with Cabaret Voltaire will know what to expect here. More on the industrial side of their internal spectrum, with songs elongated to their terminal length; but it scratches that very specific mechanical itch that I occasionally get. Dark and chilly.
Visions of Bodies Being Burned

Can totally see why people might detest clipping.’s shtick, and I’m not huge on the “horrorcore” angle to be honest, but they do it undeniably well. If nothing else, the angular beats, abstract sound sampling, and smooth flows make for an impeccably taut experience. Not quite as good as its predecessor, but close.
Misanthropic Breed

This goes from zero to sixty in a matter of seconds and rarely lets up on the throttle during its blistering thirty-nine minute runtime. Doesn’t ever get “speed metal-y”, though, which is assuredly a good thing. It’s just death metal, fast. Really fast. And really gritty.
46William Basinski

I’m going to request to have this played at my funeral so that the nine people who actually show up will have one last chance to drop lines like, “I always knew there was something wrong with him.” Has the uncanny ability to make anything happening in your vicinity suddenly depressing.
45Matthew Tavares and Leland Whitty

Unctuous avant-jazz-fusion, what more do you need to know? Starts very “avant” and gradually slides into sharp, contemplative focus as the record churns on.

Very raw and kinetically driven. Pulsates with an urgency that a lot of modern post-hardcore and noise rock bands unfortunately lack. If history counts for anything, I should theoretically be more annoyed by the shrill vocals…but for whatever reason, they work here. Or perhaps I’m turning a corner.
Mach's Hard Lemonade

I like my abstract hip hop albums like I like my job interviews: Unstructured, cryptic, fuzzy, and over in less than thirty minutes. Reminds me of Earl Sweatshirt’s more recent projects in many ways, which I totally dig.
42Defeated Sanity
The Sanguinary Impetus

Many times, the “brutal” prefix ruins the death metal for me; I just find the overt obsession with gory imagery and repugnant vocals kinda cringe. But there are certain bands that pull it off with aplomb, and Defeated Sanity is one of ‘em. The glorping vocals persist, sure, but they aren’t ridiculous or distracting, and the musicianship is technically impressive.
41Black Marble
I Must Be Living Twice

A neat little EP that might turn some people off with its repetitive persona, but that’s sorta what the minimal wave scene is all about. These songs could just as easily be two minutes each or twelve minutes. The cool mood embraces the poppy undertones well.

With every subsequent record, Boris has continued to redefine their genre boundaries. Same can be said for NO, which fuses elements of thrash metal and slimy, crust punk with their traditional doomy and sludgy atmosphere, all while retaining the post-hardcore edge that keeps them in motion. Love these guys (and gals), love this album.
39Two People
Second Body

Not as alarmingly sleek or nocturnally sensual as their debut (and aptly named) FIRST BODY, instead opting for a brighter and poppier projection of trip hop and downtempo beats. But goddamn they make the transition seem effortless, and if Phoebe Lou’s vocals don’t make you melt regardless of the context, maybe you’re not human after all.
38Mary Halvorson's Code Girl
Artlessly Falling

All over the place, embodying the album’s title quite nicely - like falling into a pit of improvisational sketches and warm, jazzy progressions until you hit the bottom and realize you want to jump again. Vocal jazz can be iffy, but Mrs. Halvorson exceeds expectations.
Relatos de Angustia

Black metal, through and through, but employing a lot of the additional technicalities that extend beyond the genre’s implications of musical simplicity (similar to e.g. Mgla or Serpent Column), making it a fresh treat nonetheless.
36Taylor Swift

A very solid, very substantial release that improves on a lot of the reservations I had re FOLKLORE. This is easily as pared-down and bittersweet, but it’s more sentimental, more soothing, more peaceful, and integrates Taylor’s pop sensibilities into the folky veneer to a more effective degree that did its predecessor. “Champagne Problems” is probably one of my favorite tracks of the year.

One of the most energetic releases of the year, full stop. Who needs adrenaline-altering drugs when albums like this exist? Strap in and remember to keep your arms inside the cart at all times.
34Perfume Genius
Set My Heart On Fire Immediately

This album opens so beautifully, so perfectly that there was no way its side B could possibly sustain such high standards…and it’s true. This is slightly front-loaded, making for a marginally unbalanced endeavor. But this is unequivocally Perfume Genius’s best and most realized work, lush and enriched with both hopefulness and melancholy - a deadly cocktail.
Devouring Ruin

Not sure when or why these guys decided to stray from their grindcore roots and transition into a more core-influenced interpretation of modern black metal, but I’m glad to be here for it. Dizzying and relentless, but amazingly coherent.
32Dan Deacon
Mystic Familiar

Like a journey through an ethereal, psychedelic forest in forty-three quick minutes. Not as explosive as some of Dan’s previous efforts, but there’s an attenuated peacefulness he achieves here that is simply unmatched. Walls of sound that comfort rather than engulf; an album with an optimistic tone and a warm story to tell.
31John Zorn

Admittedly, I do love when Zorn goes completely apeshit and splices jazz-infused threads of grindcore into his otherwise metered and thoughtful compositions. But alternatively, when he keeps things even keel, his brilliance as a free jazz composer and performing artist shines its absolute brightest. So I’m okay with that, too.
30Panda Rosa
The Kinspiral

Surely not many people will award their precious time to this two and a half hour mammoth, loaded with enough genres to make your head spin - including ambient, experimental rock, shoegaze, vaporwave, and tape music along with what’s listed above, at the very least - but if there’s one album on this list that you can truly “lose” yourself in, it’s this one. And I don’t mean that as merely a euphemism for being fully engaged. I mean literally, you’ll be asking yourself halfway though, “where the fuck am I?"

Among this year’s wonderfully stacked black metal catalog comes Portugal’s finest with a release that’s built from genre fundamentals, but glistens with sparks of legitimate melancholy and sentimental detours - something you can’t say about very many black metal acts these days. The production is not what the purists entail, but who gives a fuck about them anyway?
New Dreams

Thankfully Björk is still alive and well, but hypothetically, if one new and upcoming artist were to be chosen to carry the torch of avant-art pop queen in her absence, I could see JFDR fulfilling that role given a few more years to grow her confidence and carve out a niche for herself. She’s got the soft voice, the glitch-pop inclinations, and the sensual ambiance dialed in appropriately. All she’s lacking is a bit of “oomph,” but those things take time. A very promising direction.
27The Smith Street Band
Don't Waste Your Anger

Vocals take some getting used to. Hell, when I first heard this I thought it was something of a joke. But by the end of the album, I was won over - his confidence is through the roof, and once the initial shock wears off, his wildly Australian diction actually complements the radiance of the music itself. There’s something quite nice about hollering, ”I still dream about you” in my best Outback Steakhouse commercial voice.
The Great Dismal

All of my friends and nearly everyone I follow on RYM think this album is totally overrated horseshit, so maybe it caught me when I was in an especially good mood, or maybe I’ve been so starved for straightforward, contemporary shoegaze that anything would’ve quenched that thirst. But I dunno, I’ve listened to it several times since and have loved it every time. It’s just really, really good. *Shrug.*
Phoenix: Flames Are Dew Upon My Skin

Album cover is the biggest misdirection of the year, obviously. Packaged like a self-produced club rap/trap mixtape, and yet it sounds more like it belongs in the next installment of Final Fantasy. Gorgeous, bordering on surreal, and intensely hypnotic in ways that even the most acclaimed “dream pop” artists can’t muster. Buttery and aqueous are how I would describe this with only two adjectives.
24Horse Lords
The Common Task

Not as algebraic as e.g. Don Caballero, but what Horse Lords lack in mathematical complexity, they supplement with their emulsion of modern classical minimalism. There is even a track with droning bagpipes and another that sounds like Can-influenced krautrock jamming. A lovely departure from the confines of traditional math rock.

Quite possibly the most terrifying album I’ve ever heard. What’s funny is all of these new age brutal death metal bands try to inject fear and grotesquerie into their music with acid reflux vocals and medically belabored song titles, but fuck that noise. This is how you scare somebody half to death. I was uneasy the whole time I was listening to this, afraid something was going to hop out from around the corner and harvest my soul. And it was two in the afternoon for Christ’s sake.
22Ian William Craig
Red Sun Through Smoke

This shouldn’t be an album. It should be a single forty minute track, because removing them from context deflates the power they amass when endured start to finish. I’m pretty sure this is the soundtrack to a dream I once had where I was attending my own funeral dressed as a complete stranger. I don’t even think I was crying. But when I listen to this, there are most certainly parts of it - e.g. “Weight” or “Open Like a Loss” - that could bring a tear to my eye at any given moment.
21Anna von Hausswolff
All Thoughts Fly

If you haven’t latched on to any of Ms. Hausswolff’s previous efforts, I doubt this’ll be the one to about-face you. But this is possibly her densest work to date, despite the somewhat minimalist and repetitive approach. It’s immensely hypnotic and strangely dark, but in a way that’s more placating than menacing. And the omission of vocals puts the mood front-and-center, which is crucial to how easily it absorbs you into its meditative membrane.
20Adrianne Lenker

Q: Can Adrianne Lenker do any wrong? A: No, no she cannot. A bit more pastoral and stripped down than her collaborative work as Big Thief, but soothing and heart-wrenching just the same, with emotion spewing from every crevice, and beauty to be found along every plucked string, strummed chord, and strained falsetto.
19Boris With Merzbow

Not a big fan of Merzbow; frankly the idea of “harsh noise” as an enjoyable form of is something that still eludes me to this day. But apparently when you take those impenetrable walls of sound and filter them through an already-fantastic handful of Boris songs, it makes them…even better?! Consider me both shocked and pleasantly surprised.
18Oranssi Pazuzu
Mestarin Kynsi

Yet another case of genre fluidity. Not sure what you could classify this as: some type of metal, surely, but this is the type of metal that makes you question everything you ever thought metal was or could be. Weird, borderline-proggy, occasionally spacey, definitely heavy, and supremely unique. Layers upon layers upon layers - the Vidalia onion of metal albums.
17A.A. Williams
Forever Blue

Knows when to exercise its slowcore tendencies and when to slowly build them up into thundering, dramatic climaxes. Equal parts dreary and warm, which is an odd combination that proves compelling at every corner.
Less Life

Ah yes, now there’s the rebellious and angry post-hardcore release that I’ve been craving all year. Imagine Fugazi, but more angular. Slint, but more aggressive. Unwound, but less melodic. A somewhat draining experience, because the raunchy pessimism kind of sneaks up on you - but sometimes you need an album to get under your skin to appreciate it.
15Nicolas Jaar

Head and shoulders above CENIZAS, if you ask me. I prefer the glitchy, electronic haze to the somber, atmospheric dust, apparently. Transcendental and complex, taking breaks every now and again to calibrate your senses and ensure it never wears out its welcome. Strange formatting for the songs - they could’ve easily been split into several more tracks - but this is the type of record you should inhale all at once anyway.
14Black Wing
No Moon

For all intents and purposes, this is another Have a Nice Life album. And I am totally, completely okay with that. Among the Dan Barrett canon, I might actually prefer this to THE UNNATURAL WORLD - a complement, assuredly. The atmosphere is second-to-none: Dark, dense, and dank, listening to this is like allowing yourself to be buried alive in the snow. (Again…I say that as a good thing, I promise.)
13Serpent Column
Endless Detainment

These guys (or this guy, rather) is becoming my favorite contemporary act in the realm of black metal. Easily the most entropic and scattershot item in his brief catalog, which is sure to offend those looking for something more structured and traditional. But if anyone’s looking for what a dying star might sound like when its collapsing in on itself, look no further. And what’s more: This isn’t even Serpent Column’s best release this year.
12Faceless Burial

Falls right into the center of my tech death wheelhouse: unforgiving tempos, shifting time signatures, incredible vocal tone, and a fuck ton of the drummer pounding on the ride cymbal bell. A nice throwback to aggressive death metal of the nineties with riffs and beats to satiate even the stingiest metalheads for days. And yet! It remains interestingly approachable for those who are just getting their feet wet. Incredible album all around.
11Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever
Sideways to New Italy

My love and warmth for this album is difficult to explain, because there’s honestly nothing about it that you can easily point to and say, “See?! This is why it’s great!” It doesn’t rely so much on some superlative element as it does maintaining superlative consistency across all said elements. Simply put: This is no-frills jangle pop. Melodic and warm and executed almost flawlessly. Sometimes all that extraneous shit just bungles up the good stuff.
Silver Tongue

Yet another album I have had to defend on several occasions: Torres has an uncanny ear for catchy melodies that don’t seem forceful or pushy at first glance, but will embed themselves into your frontal lobe before you know it, where they will remain forever more. Her one drawback: She needs to conclude her songs a little better. But this is a glorious improvement from her previous albums, pensive and calm but powerful beneath the surface.

What I imagine the hallway leading to hell must sound (and feel) like. When I tell people that I prefer my black metal with dissonance and angularity, this is almost precisely what I’m talking about. Structurally complex without becoming incomprehensible, off-kilter but exceptionally metered. Listen to this album and you’ll feel your insides start to sweat.
8Young Jesus
Welcome to Conceptual Beach

This is excellent. Beautiful. Clean. Melancholy. Bittersweet. Immensely passionate. Fused with pockets of improvised noodling, choral epiphanies, and bottomless Midwest emo. It even commences with an electronic falsetto that sounds like something Bon Iver would be proud of. “(un)knowing” is a frontrunner for my song of the year - it shreds me every single time.
7Phoebe Bridgers

I love STRANGER IN THE ALPS, but this improves upon it in nearly every facet imaginable, from its maturity, to its cohesion, to its atmosphere, to its anthematic statement pieces, to whatever else you can think of. Ms. Bridgers is the leader of the solo-female indie-folk pack, in my opinion. Julia Holter and Julien Baker (and I guess Taylor Swift now???) - eat your hearts out.
6Serpent Column

My favorite metal release of the year. Takes the unrelenting entropy of this year’s EP and blends it with the aggressive simplicity of their debut to produce something that both feels familiar and entirely progressive. No one - and I mean no one - is doing black metal like this nowadays. Or any metal at all, for that matter; it eschews the boundaries of traditional genre labels so neatly, so divinely, and makes it seem effortless to boot.
5Illuminati Hotties
FREE I.H: This Is Not the One...

The story behind this ad hoc album/mixtape is hilarious, and you can tell it fueled much of the energy that Tudzin’s bringing to the table. Strays from the formulaic indie pop trappings of their debut for an approach that more closely resembles a sketchbook of a fed-up, pissed off twentysomething, and apparently that’s exactly the one I’ve been waiting for. Excited to see what Sarah comes up with next, but I’m skeptical she’ll be able to top this,
4Lonker See

More meticulously sculpted and unabashedly “rock”-forward than their debut, ONE EYE SEES RED, but every bit as entrancing; there’s a traceable evolution from the opening neo-psych track to the bombast, avant-jazz closer, and it’s exhilarating to say the least. Easy to fall helplessly under the hypnosis; I’ve started and finished this album so many times without realizing it. It’s starting to bleed into my psyche, I think. Pulls in the reins at all the right moments, and when it thumps - it thumps.
3Soft Kill
Dead Kids R.I.P. City

The vocals would give it away, but musically, tonally, structurally, etc., you could tell me that this was a lost Cure album from the eighties that was only recently discovered and I’d believe it. There’s nothing about this that feels “recent,” but there’s something incredible about that. So often do artists attempt to emulate a band, a movement, a time period, and come up empty-handed. This, however, is a blast from the past that wrangles enough touchpoints to evoke nostalgia while crafting enough unique melodies and hooks that it doesn’t feel like a carbon copy. Fascinating, especially for those who love the gothic post-punk of decades past. Yet another song of the year contender in “Inverness.”
2Neptunian Maximalism

An album knocked me off my feet so abruptly that I managed to cobble together a full-length review of it; something I rarely do. I’ll let that do the heavy lifting (it's on this site) but just know that this thing is the aural equivalent of staring into a black hole. An endurance test to some degree, but one that I’ve been willing to put myself through time and time again. A monumental piece of work whose most delicate pleasures could never be formulated into words. Brutal, dark, droning, haunting, engulfing, and truly deserving of the epithet “epic.”
1The Microphones
Microphones in 2020

If there’s one person in the world who can take an immensely personal experience, dilute it down to its barest elements, reform it into a digestible piece of art, and somehow come out of that transformation engendering sincerity and raw sentimentality rather than mind-numbing pretension, it’s obviously Phil Elverum. A CROW LOOKED AT ME is the most passionate album in existence but let’s be honest - it’s tough to listen to and not particularly enjoyable. This, on the other hand, is every bit as personal, but ventures down thoroughfares that are less inherently tragic and grief-stricken, more nostalgic and reminiscent - and that’s exactly why it strikes the perfect balance intimacy and ubiquity. Not everyone will salivate at the idea of a forty-five-minute-long indie-folk free-form poetry session, but the sentiment speaks for itself. This is major.
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