2020, will definitely be a year to remember. The inevitable changes and transformations that have been already triggered on global level in sectors like science, technology, society, politics, workplaces etc. will be seen in the years to come. Arts and music is yet another area were this global transformation wave has already taken its toll. The lockdown and the global quarantine measures "forced" many musicians to find new ways to express their art and at the same moment be able to generate an income, with one of them being the increase in productivity and recorded output. During 2020 I purchased from artists that I regularly follow or received for review from new ones, no less than 300 NEW albums (more than any other year that I am running this blog). As you can understand sorting and "cherry-picking" for my year-end list was a big task. Still though I do not dare to say that what I have come up with is a "Best of the Year" list simply because in order to be able to rank something as best or better than anything else you must have been in the position to carefully assess all of them and eventually decide which one qualifies more. This blog (and its writer) have neither the time and (most important) the funds to do that. Therefore the list that you will read below contains the 25 albums that I have mostly listened to during this year. Maybe they are not the best, maybe in the next weeks I will discover new albums that I haven't listened yet and should have been included in this list (and maybe like last year I will make a separate post about them within 2021) however at this right moment that I am writing this post, these are my 25 albums for 2020. They list has been divided in 3 groups : the top 5 albums, the 10 albums that were included in this list due to their innovative character and, last but not least, the 10 albums which, while still belonging to traditional genres, were appraised for their qualities.
1. Ulcerate - Stare Into Death and Be Still
I always choose to listen to this album with a set of good headphones and it is amazing that every time there is something new to discover in the way that the songs of Stare Into Death and Be Still have been composed, structured and executed. I tend to think that my love for Jazz rather than extreme music is one of the factors that have made me appreciate this album so much. I am more than sure that in the future this album will receive a place in the "pantheon" of the extreme metal albums.
2. Τα Παιδιά της Παλαιότητας - Ἐνθύμιον Νεανικῶν Συντροφιῶν
It is difficult to translate the name of the band and the title of the album in English and still manage to "explain" the context therefore I let it as is. It does not matter anyhow, what matters is that the best greek album of this year is a Creation that does not sound very traditionally greek at all. Maybe this is the reason that is has a place in my top 5.
3. Avishai Cohen- Big Vicious
This is the first of the two Jazz albums that have made my top 5. Big Vicious being the most "conventional" of them, I have chosen to include it mainly for its musicianship virtues and quality and because while it is not "pushing" any boundaries it does not sound outdated.
4. Tigran Hamasyan - The Call Within
Speaking about "pushing boundaries", this is that something the second "Jazz" album included in my top 5 does. I am not sure If I should call the content of The Call Within as Jazz since it is so much influenced from progressive rock. Adding on top ethnic elements from his country of origin (Armenia), Hamasyan delivers a masterpiece that could be "The Shape of Jazz to Come" of the next generation.
5. Coriky - Coriky
After so many years an album by Ian McKay that I can listen to and make me remember my punk adolescence. These points alone are enough to give Coriky a place in my personal top 5.
Its all about the innovation...
6. Sightless Pit - Grave of a Dog
7. Spectral Lore & Mare Cognitum - Wanderers: Astrology of the Nine
8. Oranssi Pazuzu - Mestarin kynsinsi
9. Thy Catafalque - Naiv
10. Panzerfaust - The Suns of Perdition - Chapter II: Render Unto Eden
11. Imperial Triumphant - Alphaville
12. Gaerea - Limbo
13. Dephosphorus - Sublimation
14. Fuck the Facts - Pleine Noirceur
You can read the review of Plain Noireceur, published in this blog here.
15. Various Artists - Milim Kashot Vol.2 by Machine Music
where quality meets "tradition"...
16. Psychotic Waltz - The God-Shaped Void
17. Deftones - Ohms
18. Misantropic - Catharsis
I have never before heard Hardcore, Slayer and Iron Maiden being so ferociously and ingeniously combined...
19. Sacred Outcry - Damned for All Time
Epic Metal that I can finally publicly admit liking and listening...
20. Bruce Springsteen - Letter to You
He is 71 years old, he has plenty of money and career targets achieved but he is still capable of releasing albums of such quality. Hats Off to the Boss...
21. Kevel - Mutatis Mutandis
22. Bas Rotten - Surge
The sonic equivalent of a punch in the stomach...
23. Wytch Hazel - III: Pentecost
24. Various Artists- Unity vol 1 - In Solidarity With The Refugees of Moria Camp
25. Yovel - Forthcoming Humanity
I would like to close this post with my usual disclaimer. There were albums released in 2020 that I have listened and initially liked but my personal ethical and political principals made me "put aside". I will not "name" them here as I do not deem this necessary but having a blog which is run on "hobby" and not professional basis, I retain the right to be non-objective and put my values above any (falsely perceived) freedom of artistic expression...