Favourite Albums 2020

My musical listening during 2020 has been somewhat haphazard, mainly because of circumstances (coronavirus, retirement, young children, and moving to a new house) as well as a desire to listen to comforting old and established favourites.

So, this year I’m going to be doing things a little differently, I’ll post my favourite albums of the year individually between now and the end of the year. I’ll choose my top album(s) in the last week of December.

It’s obvious, of course, that I can never listen to all the albums released each year, but I’ve listened to less than my usual in 2020.

You can see all my favourite 2020 albums by clicking here, or individually below…

1000 Hands: Chapter One (Jon Anderson)

Coast (Cousin Silas)

Coloured Fragments (Cousin Silas)

Electric Portraits (Cousin Silas)

Fetch the Bolt Cutters (Fiona Apple)

Fragility (Kevin Buckland)

Eine Phase des Übergangs (Martin Neuhold)

To be continued…

Coloured Fragments (Cousin Silas)

A third, and possibly final, favourite album by Cousin Silas in 2020.

Coloured Fragments is quite a long album, more of a double album really. Cousin Silas insists that all the titles are ‘proper’ colours! You can make your own mind up, just enjoy these soundscapes.

My friend Thomas Mathie, who has his own Bandcamp label, writes: This is truly an exceptional release from Cousin Silas … delightfully low key and chilled ambient music … nothing too strenuous or taxing … perfect for resting.

You can see all my favourite 2020 albums by clicking here.

Cover by Kevin Lyons/Cousin Silas

1000 Hands (Jon Anderson)

Two things before I go on; firstly, the full title is 1000 Hands: Chapter One and secondly, this is actually a 2019 album that I unfortunately missed, but which was re-released in 2020. Well, no one’s perfect!

Compiled over many years, it’s a wonderful collaborative album, one that’s clearly been made with love. It features a whole range of guest performers, from the late Yes bassist Chris Squire, through pianist Chick Corea, to Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull on flute.

You can see all my favourite 2020 albums by clicking here.

Coast (Cousin Silas)

This is another new release by my friend Cousin Silas (not his real name) on his Bandcamp label to become an instant favourite album of mine in 2020. The previous one is Electric Portraits.

It’s a delightfully relaxing collection of ‘aural snapshots’ inspired by the coast. As he writes: I have always had an affinity for the coast. Maybe it’s because I spent a lot of my weekends and holidays, as a kid, on the East coast. Whatever the reason, it has often ‘inspired’ me, usually for the reflective and lonely places they can be … I hope you enjoy them as much I did making them.

This album is a perfect tonic for the struggles of 2020. The artwork is again by my friend Thomas Mathie, who also has a Bandcamp label that features music by Cousin Silas and others.

You can see all my favourite 2020 albums by clicking here.

Super Bad (K-Tel 1974)

Back in the 1970s I came across this wonderful compilation album, I bought it on cassette tape and played it to death in the car. The tape has long since died and the album is now hard to find.

I solved the problem a few years ago by making a Spotify playlist with all the original tracks on, although I had to include some local downloaded files to complete the album, but now all the songs are on Spotify.

So, I present you with this amazing compilation for your musical pleasure.

Eine Phase des Übergangs

I marked this album by Martin Neuhold as a favourite on its release in March 2020. My initial view has been confirmed on repeated listens, the latest being today (Thursday 22 October 2020).

The title means A Period of Transition, a title that’s very apt for me this year, one in which I’ve retired and moved to a new house. With the coronavirus pandemic having affected us all since March 2020 (and likely to for the foreseeable future), I guess we’re all in our own period of transition.

You can see all my favourite 2020 albums by clicking here.

Fetch the Bolt Cutters (Fiona Apple)

Fetch the Bolt Cutters is the fifth studio album by American singer-songwriter Fiona Apple. It’s one of my favourite albums of 2020. The album was recorded between 2015 and 2020, and released during the coronavirus pandemic.

The album is rooted in experimentation and improvisation. It’s a highly percussive album which resists categorization, it could be described as genre-straddling.

While conventional instruments, such as pianos and drum sets, do appear, the album also features prominent use of non-musical found objects as percussion. Apple described the result as “percussion orchestras”. These industrial-like rhythms are contrasted against traditional melodies, and the upbeat songs often subvert traditional pop structures. (Wikipedia)

The album explores freedom from oppression, and its title comes from a line in the TV drama series The Fall. Apple has identified its core message as: “Fetch the f***ing bolt cutters and get yourself out of the situation you’re in”.

The album also discusses Apple’s complex relationships with other women and other personal experiences, including bullying and sexual assault. It has nevertheless been referred to as Apple’s most humorous album. (Wikipedia)

Many have found its exploration of confinement timely. It’s also been described as an instant classic and her best work to date. I’ve certainly enjoyed listening to it, mainly while walking our dog Toby.

You can see all my favourite 2020 albums by clicking here.

Fragility (Kevin Buckland)

This remarkable album by my friend Kevin Buckland is one of my favourites of 2020. Kevin provides very little information on the album’s Bandcamp page, other than it was recorded live to cassette tape.

The album has a lo-fi sound, and it simply oozes fragility and vulnerability. I can quite imagine the album as a film soundtrack to create a particular mood. Although released before the coronavirus pandemic, it reflects powerfully the uncertain times in which we live.

You can see all my favourite 2020 albums by clicking here.

Rising (Rainbow)

I needed an antidote to Christmas music today while I cooked the tea, and this classic rock album proved to be just what the doctor ordered. Yes, I know it’s early for Christmas, but Naomi is super-efficient when it comes to the festive season and likes to have appropriate music playing while she wraps presents.

Rising is one of the greatest rock albums of all time, released by the British band Ritchie Blackmore‘s Rainbow. I remember buying it on vinyl in 1976. There’s not a bad track on the album, it has a powerful intensity and driving momentum that is positively euphoric. The highlight (amongst highlights) is the epic track Stargazer, featuring an orchestra.

It’s one of my influential albums. Needless to say, Naomi was unimpressed!

Electric Portraits (Cousin Silas)

This is a new release by my friend Cousin Silas (not his real name) on his Bandcamp label. It’s a tribute to Tangerine Dream and Klaus Schultze, and the first ‘proper’ electronic type album on his Emporium label. It’s basically sequencers and ‘spacey’ sounds from the time when he (and I) began to discover music like this way back in the 1970s. I well remember discovering Phaedra, lying down with eyes closed, allowing the wonderful new and innovative music flow over me, with its wonderful musical metamorphoses.

This is one of my favourite albums of 2020. If you like Tangerine Dream, you’ll like this. Artwork is by my friend Thomas Mathie, who also has a Bandcamp label that features music by Cousin Silas and others. See also Coast (Cousin Silas).

You can see all my favourite 2020 albums by clicking here.