Live4ever’s Best Of 2020: The Albums

After taking in Live4ever’s albums of the year, click here to read much more on why our number one is so prescient for 2020.

Working Mens Club 1

20: Working Men’s Club – Working Men’s Club

“At times, they’re just bloody lovely, the glistery Madchester frescoes of Outside and Tomorrow for all the world sounding like the sort of pilled up escapism teenage hostages sometimes plump for, while the Berliner techno muscle of A.A.A.A. shifts to nihilism, distorted vocals and grinding low end sounding like the thoughts you might have inside your head if the surroundings didn’t have it in a vice. There’s also a deadly, playful air of provocation: Cook A Coffee is aimed squarely at the UK’s brillo haired, establishment shill Andrew Neil.”

Punisher

19: Phoebe Bridgers – Punisher

“Against this backdrop, risks are laughed at, ICU swelling, a love song in reverse, eroded rock and roll that bleeds from the nose, while the apocalyptic sounding finish of closer I Know The End sees the transformation complete; there’s no longer a place for Phoebe Bridgers other than the one that she chooses for herself. As a rule-breaking head-map, Punisher is not the only unexpected item in an emotional baggage area heard this year, but it stands up to be counted proudly. The invisible lock, it seems, has snapped for good.”

Stray

18: Bambara – Stray

“All the six-feet-deep tales come home to roost with Serafina, a pounding hell ride that follows a Thelma & Louise-esque story of two doomed lovers on an arson spree, the trio animated and bug-eyed, the words written up letters aglow that can be seen from miles away. Killers, sinners and the damned; those characters which populate Strays are both hunters and prey, sometimes both. They inhabit a record so full of death that life bursts from every note and Bambara have, in creating it, moved into a spotlight that might hurt their eyes but not their future.”

Women In Music Pt III 1

17: Haim – Women In Music Pt. III

“Wise beyond their years, the sisters are happy to embrace subjects with an admirable candidness, but equally are not overwhelmed by them. At a time when there seems to be only two responses to the world around – fatalism or despair – they bow to neither. Opener Los Angeles kicks off with a ludicrous sax break before whipped snare and a skeletal afrobeat riff soup up the idea of leaving their hometown. On Another Try, they take the time hopping a step further, strapping themselves unashamedly to Ace Of Base’s cheese-laden classic All That She Wants, and for all the wrong reasons the payoff is handsome.”

Fetch The Boltcutters

16: Fiona Apple – Fetch The Bolt Cutters

“Stark, uncomfortable, at times bleakly funny, Fiona Apple’s tirades and cajolements force you to look and listen in ways almost no other writer has employed in recent years. The term remarkable is so over applied in entertainment criticism that it’s long forfeited any meaning. Nevertheless, Fetch The Bolt Cutters is a remarkable album. It will confirm your prejudices or confront your perceptions, but it will not leave you without an opinion. In a world where music is gradually slipping into algorithmically damned nothingness this is a cause for celebration.”

Mordechai

15: Khruangbin – Mordecha

“Their gift is in incorporation rather than imitation: blending essences from Pakistan, Korea, west Africa and even some Indian chanting, this is a bricolage of gentle twists, but impeccably stitched together. At no stage here though are there moments of culture grabbed like last minute party drinks in a liquor store; opener First Class is deep chilled, a psychedelically Aquarian jam, while Connaissais De Face has a little more pace but similarly isn’t bothered about having a purpose other than being so lovely, open and welcoming.”

Kitchen Sink 1

14: Nadine Shah – Kitchen Sink

“Much of the tension is eased by the omnipresent throb of Shah’s voice, an instrument that she’s able to use with sublime control, summoning up anger, coolness or contempt on demand. On Buckfast, the singer is almost coiled as the drunk protagonist flounders from takeaway wreckage to toilet bowl and back again. At times, perhaps inevitably, there’s the vaguest hint of bitterness and exasperation, but it never overwhelms what are intended to be real stories of anti-love and sex by proxy. Wrapped together, these tense provocations never retire to a safe distance.”

Ultra Mono 1 1

13: Idles – Ultra Mono

“The glib humour has largely gone, which is a shame but understandable. Serious times demand serious statements, and the righteous fury comes to a head on two tracks which sit side-by-side; Carcinogenic and Reigns. The former is a full-on, no-holds barred attack against austerity, climate change and public sector cuts, and drops in the non-more relevant line, ‘the lunatics have taken over the asylum’. The latter is a superior big brother, a rage against the elite with a characteristically wobbly bassline from Dev holding things together while all else descends into sci-fi rock chaos.”

KOMPROMAT

12: I Like Trains – KOMPROMAT

“In an age when many bands who feel the same have adopted an aggressive attitude by which to get cut through, the weapons here are more covert, opener A Steady Hand replete with icy, Soviet-era synths and nervous guitars, Martin singing emotionlessly, ‘I’m a stranger in my own country/I dance and they watch me’, as if on stage at a traitor’s party being held in a champagne gulag. Other phases are musically more orthodox, the unrelenting guitars and bass of Desire Is A Mess and Patience Is A Virtue echoing the unfiltered polemic of their home city’s alumni Gang Of Four.”

RTJ4 1

11: Run The Jewels – RTJ4

“Much has been said of the odd chemistry between the duo, a sentiment jokingly handled at one point with the aside, ‘One’s black, one’s white so if you don’t like them, you automatically racist’, but the contrast in style gives their fourth installment more wings than ever. Neither has any time for messing around, the twelve tracks running breathlessly, a tsunami of rhymes, whilst the big name collaborators – Josh Homme, Zack La Rocha and the inevitable Pharrell – are kept well in the background. There is a message here and let no other egos get in the way.”

A Heros Death 1

10: Fontaines D.C. – A Hero’s Death

“A stark choice is being presented here, but Chatten and his cohorts are hardly the first band to turn a reputation into a post-script. There are moments however which would be grippingly brave and brilliant on any record; You Said and Love Is The Main Thing are, if such a pointless scale exists, better than anything else Fontaines D.C. have ever made public; romantic and urgent but at a profoundly deeper level of both intent and feeling. A Hero’s Death is what happens when people start to talk to each other again, a jigsaw of a human being put back together.”

Every Bad

9: Porridge Radio – Every Bad

“Broadly speaking, the album is grandiose in scale, perfectly exemplified by Margolin’s titanic vocals. Lyrically, her nearest touchpoint is Karen O, but on the ever-so-slightly ponderous Nephews she performs some vocal gymnastics that only Florence Welch would try, while on the eerie (Something) her voice is auto-tuned to chilling effect. The rest of the band play their part too, specifically on the sublime Long, which again builds slowly, each instrument introducing itself as if part of an orchestra, a special mention reserved for the excellent drumming.”

Saint Cloud2

8: Waxahatchee – Saint Cloud

“Knowing yourself again means being comfortable in taking new forms, and the best moments here – the sweetly harmonious Lilacs, Arkadelphia’s desultory charm, the glittering slow dance quality of the title-track – are tokens of a writer taking bold, courageous steps forward. It’s proof that not every dry well lacks magic. Saint Cloud’s backstory is one familiar with the telling, presented throughout history in many forms by the raw-boned female soothsayers of Katie Crutchfield’s upbringing. Its spurs are in making clean breaks and embracing that past.”

Wake Up 1

7: Hazel English – Wake UP!

“Mid-record everything – sequencing, harmonies, choruses so big you can hear them from space – fall into place spectacularly, from the title-track’s gorgeous keyboard highs to Combat’s dreamy vision of a disjointed relationship and Five And Dime’s lovely, Fleetwood-Mac-in-a-haze simplicity. There are a number of wrong turns which could’ve been taken here, one being a slave to the lofty conceptual backdrop, which is avoided. Like A Drug bottles up everything you ever were afraid of when you realised for the first time that you loved anything.”

Deep Down Happy 1

6: Sports Team – Deep Down Happy

“It’s in the lyrical realm where Sports Team differentiate themselves: songwriter Rob Knaggs has an observational eye like Messrs Turner and Cocker, yet unlike those two giants his experience is one as a member of the middle class rather than the working. Though the band are surely loath to be viewed through a class prism, kudos to him for not hiding from this fact, as it’s no less valid an experience than relying on Universal Credit. Through singer Rice, Knaggs laments the boredom of chain pub The Slug & Lettuce, for example.”

For Their Love

5: Other Lives – For Their Love

“The reward for their labours is a record with poise and beauty, its themes – the evaporation of the American dream; the conflicts between the individual, society and the state; hope as a fundamental way of life – are weighty topics, easy to deliver as sermons. They also come with strings attached: each as a relatable narrative is one thing, but lifting their weight and making them engaging is quite another. In approach there is more than a breath of The National here, but songs like Hey Hey I – about, ‘the paradigm of the working class’ – is, modestly yes, full of the nation’s soul.”

Song For Our Daughter 1

4: Laura Marling – Song For Our Daughter

“From teachings on recovering from a broken heart on the delicately brooding Only The Strong, complete with the gloriously assured rhyming couplet, ‘Love is a sickness cured by time, Bruises all end up benign’, Marling goes from strength-to-strength at the midway point with Blow by Blow. Swapping the guitar for the piano on what is an undeniably sweeping slice of pop-ballad-based mastery, the track deals candidly with the pressures of a relationship breakdown being played out in the public glare, including having to ‘underplay distress’.”

Loves Of You Life

3: Hamilton Leithauser – The Loves Of Your Life

“There’s rare skill needed to turn real folks into personalities to root for, but the gallery here is fascinating. If I Had A Dream… was a surprise commercial success beyond almost anything The Walkmen achieved during their lifetime, this is a subtly different collection, one which places its creator on an almost unique songwriting plain. The Loves Of Your Life is a more nuanced and relatable as a result, an ensemble cast which eclipses the city that makes its stage, an achievement as remarkable as it is unlikely.”

Katy J Pearson Return artwork

2: Katy J Pearson – Return

“It seems remiss not to mention Take Back The Radio, but what else is there to say? Time and exposure have not diluted its potency. The pulsing purity of the track ensures it remains fresh yet timeless, an offcut from Ray Of Light remixed for a new decade. Joy at its most natural. Return may contain bittersweet tales of boy-meets girl and lovelorn Americana, and on occasion Katy J Pearson’s vocal style can lend itself to natural vulnerability, but it also radiates impressive levels of confidence and positivity from an indie hero who has already shown herself to be unwilling to compromise.”

The War On Drugs Live Drugs artwork

1: The War On Drugs – LIVE DRUGS

“A private man, it’s hard to consider Granduciel as someone who would perceive his music as epic. Yet the almost endless intro to Under The Pressure, waves mounting on winds, is precisely that, a gateway to a song that seems perpetual.”

“For the closing half of this less permeable version the awestruck crowd are determined to chant along to the king-making guitar riff, a show of mass devotion that moves everyone closer to its essence, as if on a pilgrimage.”

“Kings of this not-so-wild frontier like him and Kevin Parker would be the first to argue they don’t deserve that, inheriting an earth in which they’ve unwittingly made an escapist sanctuary for millions. LIVE DRUGS makes you wish you could be there, which in a time where you want to be everywhere but can’t, is a sure fire wonder.”



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