10. The Microphones – The Microphones in 2020
Phil Elvrum brings back his famous moniker after the inspired, bleak mourning of A Crow Looked At Me. The album is an existential meditation in the form of one 44-minute song that focuses on the meaning of his life post his wife’s death and relationship with Michelle Williams, as well as the legacy of his music.
9. Bebel Gilberto – Agora
The daughter of famous Brazilian bossa nova master João Gilberto renders an evocative recording that furthers her combination of electronica with tropicália, resulting in breezy reflections on life.
8. Thundercat – It Is What It Is
This release proves Brainfeeder is more than an afterthought of Flying Lotus’ work with its virtuosic jazz and funk leanings.
7. Woods – Strange to Explain
The band behind the legendary Woodsist label (which has released albums from everyone from Kurt Vile to Sic Alps) brings in light from their work on David Berman’s final project and their newfound love of Ethiopian jazz.
6. Wire – Mind Hive
Post-punk masters Wire present their best album since 1988’s A Bell Is A Cup…Until It Is Struck. The brisk and powerfully melodic record is full of biting social commentary ranging in issues from conformity, poverty, groupthink and historic recurrences.
5. Stephen Malkmus – Traditional Techniques
The architect behind lo-fi icons Pavement preserves the impossible genius of his solo catalog with this piece, which very much retorts the failed electronica of Groove Denied. Its mystic Americana rusticity recalls the work of Bob Dylan or The Band.
4. Coriky – Coriky
Dischord Records slowly remained active through the mid 2010’s with releases from Soccer Team and the Effects, but the label came roaring back to life with the Fugazi reunion (something fans have been begging for for years) of the Messthetics, which brought Joe Lally and Brendan Canty back together. Coriky provides another Fugazi reconnection this time, bringing in tandem Lally and Ian MacKaye. Also present is MacKaye’s wife, Amy Farina, who is also the drummer of his last project, the Evens. Interestingly, the album is Dischord #190. MacKaye (who co-runs the label with Minor Threat’s drummer Jeff Nelson) seems to be releasing projects every tenth issuing on the label; this trend goes back to Fugazi’s Steady Diet of Nothing. Coriky combines the relaxed mood of the Evens with some of the strength of Fugazi, suggesting Dischord Records still remains an American punk institution.
3. The Strokes – The New Abnormal
Producer Rick Rubin has a knack for helping revive musicians slumping with age (see Weezer (Red Album), 13 by Black Sabbath or Yeezus by Kanye West for further proof), and this album is no exception. The album mixes calm moods and prevalent electronics. Its music videos are richly detailed; the use of a Basquiat painting for the cover is ingenious.
2. Holy Wave – Interloper
Sounding like a collection of rococo studio experiments, the album is redolent of masterpieces by Stereolab or Pink Floyd with its use of psychedelia and blankets of keyboards. Consider listening required from these relative parvenus.
1. Tame Impala – The Slow Rush
An album of this caliber that is so finely rich in sonic details shows that the band is bearer of the torch for the excellence of the British ensign. It is both extremely satisfying to see the avant-garde chillwave of Animal Collective achieve, faute de mieux, the mainstream as well as how Kevin Parker and company fought to realize something new and to transcend traditional rock. Themed around the passage of time, it is a superb way to begin the new decade despite the adversity the year brought. Kid A was the last time a band reinvented themselves in such a way.