I’ve added Bandcamp links where they exist. Where they don’t, you can generally find them on Spotify if that's your thing, or dig out the physical release if it's available near you.
In 2020, I was mostly pretty depressed and what inspired me was mostly rock bands with strong songwriting and lyrics, so I made two personal choices.
I don’t think there are many bands in this world that can sing about the future as honestly and purely as this. The power of the phrase "There is always part 2 in this hope" in the song “Sore kara” helped me a lot.
Discharmingman - POLE & AURORA
One of the few things that gave 2020 some meaning was that someone with such a career made such an album with this sense of raw motivation. Good band. It made me want toi do this too. Thank you very much.
SHINER - Schadenfreude
As I started listening to music on subscription services, I realized that I was only listening to foreign music and nearly all old stuff, which I kind of regret.
WONK - Rollin'
The organic guitar solo suddenly appearing on an inorganic track was cool, and for the first time in years I got the feeling of wanting to do a cover version (I didn’t do it).
GROUNDCOVER. - ib/ack/tom/ars
An ambitious work that was produced remotely and released as it is. One of the highlights of recent live performances is the frantic reproduction of this complex cross-rhythmical song.SuiseiNoboAz - 3020
The Demon Slayer of Tokyo indie bands, in a year when the corona catastrophe caught up with the content of their work. Only the High-Lows and Suiseinoboaz can sing in terms of 1000 years like this.
Oonishi Kazumasa (TG.Atlas)
BAMBARA - Stray
I listened to this a lot at home this year. I like the sense of humidity that runs through it.
ICEAGE - lockdown blues
The last movement in this made the hairs on my arm stand on end. If you buy this, they will donate the money to Doctors Without Borders.
Sato Motoi (TG.Atlas)
Trash Talk - Squalor
Eight minutes of hot and cool with a fantastic balance of tension.
Thurston Moore - By the Fire
There’s nothing new here. It’s a new Sonic Youth album.
The more you listen, the more it sticks in your brain, and once it sticks, you just want more.
Sean (Tropical Death, Sharkk)
Alchemist, Boldy James - The Price Of Tea In China
This is not a very good album. This is a very, very good album.
Killah Priest - Rocket to Nebula
Pairs well with a bottle of gin and a serviceable couch.
Sa-Roc - The Sharecropper’s Daughter
Every now and then there is an artist that you really enjoy listening to. I enjoy listening to this artist.
Shingo (Tropical Death)
A smoky and moody piece that you want to listen to while drinking coffee in the lounge of a luxury hotel. This is the smoothest, most jazzy electronica album I heard this year. It also has a new age and obscure feeling that has been gaining momentum in recent years — highly recommended for people who want to relax indoors!Thiago Nassif - Mente
A bossa nova new wave album by a new generation metamorphosis guitarist composer from Rio de Janeiro. I saw a statement that Arto Lindsay would participate as a producer, which made me curious curious enough to buy it just from the jacket and it was a big hit! While inheriting the DNA of No New York, there is also a feeling of tropicalia and mutant disco, and the cheerful feeling of Brazil is the best piece! Enjoy cutting-edge world music.
Bananagun - The True Story of Bananagun
The new album by Banana Gun, an easygoing alternative tropicalia band. It’s all killer tunes from the first song. Loose and trippy, I want to listen to it over and over again. I've always thought that bands that use wah pedals suck, but then this comes along! I think it would be really fun to do a band like this. Recommended for lovers of psychedelic bands like Silver Apples and Os Mutantes.
Eugene (Tropical Death)
Fiona Apple - Fetch the Bolt Cutters
Coriky - Coriky
I’ve often thought “What is the natural maturation process for aging post-hardcore musicians,” and, as with most genres, the answer is “make it jazzier.” This might not be one of the best albums of the year, but for the last time will you stay off my lawn you fucking kids?
LINKIN PARK - Hybrid Theory: 20th Anniversary Edition
Because I like LINKIN PARK.
藤井風 /Fujii Kaze - へでもねーよ / Hedemo Ne-Yo
I only just found out about him recently, but I was shocked at how much of a genius he is. His album was great too. Very multi-talented.
Deftones - Ohms
I listened to this album a lot. I was never really super into Deftones but this drew me in as soon as it started. The riffs are great but the rhythms are amazing. The drum sounds are beautiful. I listened to this all throughout the second half of the year.
Mark Jenkin - Bait
I love it when directors make their own film soundtracks and this drone/ambient album is a damn fine accompaniment to a damn fine film. Serene soundscapes are interrupted with an overwhelming sense of dread - something bad is going to happen; it’s just a question of when.
Bob Dylan - Rough and Rowdy Ways
Yeah, a bit of a cliche to think that every Dylan album is some sort of messianic scribe, but seriously, this period of Dylan’s output will be studied just as much as Johnny Cash’s last few albums were once he’s left us.
Third Man Records - Southeast of Saturn
A compilation?! That can’t be on a top album list, surely? Well, yes it bloody well can be. TMR’s collection of shoegazer/dreampop lost heroes, fronted by one of the best bands who ever walked the planet, Majesty Crush, shines a spotlight on some truly unknown aural pioneers. Fun fact: Majesty Crush once supported Curve and the Verve in their shoegaze days and I cannot think of a better reason to try to build a time machine that to see that gig.
Anna von Hausswolff - All Thoughts Fly
For whatever reason, this was the album I kept coming back to in 2020. Entirely instrumental featuring just pipe organ, the sonics and drones on this album are at times lush and beautiful, and then sometimes feel like you are peering into the voids of death itself.Ai Aso - The Faintest Hint
An appealing part about Ai Aso’s music is the space she creates. When watching her perform, she never brings that chord or vocal line in exactly when you expect it to. Stripped down to the core but never feeling bare, the lack of sounds is what’s carefully constructed here.Emma Ruth Rundle & Thou - May Our Chambers Be Full
The combination of the funeral/sludge doom of Thou with the ethereal vocals and melodies of Emma Ruth Rundle is perfect here. The behemoth riffs blanket the haunting but beautiful songwriting in a fuzzy haze that just works.
Onuki Makoto (Sea Level)
石原洋 / Ishihara You - formula
ALSO: Oscar Jerome - Breathe Deep | Blank Banshee - Gaia | Anthony Moore - out (re-issue) | John Carroll Kirby - conflict | Sam Gendel - DRM | Frankie Reyes - originalitos (re-issue) | Villaelvin - headroof | Jeff Parker - suite for max brown | G.I.S.M. - detestation (re-issue)
The Ishihara You album was by far the top one, and I picked the rest based on how I was feeling in the moment.
Yamamoto Takeshi (Sea Level)
Chihei Hatakeyama - Autumn Breeze
John Carroll Kirby - Conflict
It was a year suited to music like new age and ambient, that bring an image of space in the margins!
Soejima Takuma (Sea Level)Amaarae - The Angel You Don’t Know
Pop and African — this album was the most comfortable liste for me this year.
anndoe (jailbird Y)
neccc - yabatopia
ようこそ ヤバトピアへ の一言でぶっ飛ばされる尊さ溢れる一作 ブッとびました
Welcome to Yabatopia, a precious work that will blow you away in one word! This takes the award for most fucked-up high of 2020! “Yaba” (“dangerous”/“super”) and POP open the door of Yabatopia:
Colorful and criminal acoustic recording by Mori, Yocoscum and others who are active in the band Manchurian Candidate ect. — The guest accomplices also make a colourful contribution. It was released on cassette by Soloist Anti Pop Totalization’s Instant Tunes label.
ANISAKIS - 大いなる
There’s a complete worldview here in how the unique lyrics and the the songs are all tied up together. Very nice work; I almost cried. The LP is also very well made. I thought this is a work that will stand the test of time. They were really cool live too.
OOPS - out of pictures
Voの等身大な歌とオルタナティブなハードコアサウンドがカッコよすぎました。ライブもめちゃかっこよかったです 泣きました。新譜ももうすぐ出るみたい めちゃくちゃに楽しみ 生き様を感じるバンドだなって思います
The vocalist’s life-sized songs and alternative hardcore sound were too cool. Their live performance was also really cool - I cried! It feels like they’ll have a new album coming out soon.
tentative four - tentative four
宇多田のスクリューで幕を開けたかと思いきや冷たい音色のネガティヴポストパンクハードコアサウンズがはじまった時はマジでビビりました すごい世界観 刺しまくりです。
This is doooope!!!!!
I thought the curtain was rising with a screwed Utada, but when the negative post-punk hardcore sounds with a cold tone kicked in, I was really freaked out. It was an amazing feling of being stabbed with this band’s worldview.
There’s low traps, experimental noise, industrial, remixes, so you can mix them as much as you want! I git a real feeling of Generation Z!!! Vocalist Takishita regularly organizes parties at Koiwa BushBash and he wants to do a live show in Hiroshima, so I want to do something about that!
YOCOSCUM - Last Month's Music
This is a solo release by YOCOSCUM, who’s also in neccc. I love how he sings these chants so freely while playing this Aaron Dilloway-esque noise electronic sound! I thought “The soul is free!” creating an amazing world with sound.
Saeki (jailbird Y)
SACOYANS - Yomosue
This touched me deeply.
Tagesu (jailbird Y)
Meridian Brothers - Cumbia Siglo XXI
Los piranas, Frente Cumbiero 等でも活躍するコロンビアの鬼才ギタリストEblis Javier Alvarezさんのプロジェクト。この人の腰が砕けたみたいな放屁サウンドが大好きです。
A project by Colombian genius guitarist Eblis Javier Alvarez, who is also active in Los Piranas, Frente Cumbiero, etc. I love his sound, like a laid-back guy farting.
Mayumi (P-iPLE / jailbird Y)
AOL - GOLD PLUS
Mariah Yonic (The Buildings, ex. The Male Gaze)
Fiona Apple - Fetch the Bolt Cutters
Our lord and savior Fiona is back once again with a brutally transcendental album that reminds me that life is still worth living.
Irene and Seulgi (Red Velvet) - Monster
This was the year of my Kpop enlightenment. Honestly thought pop music had grown stale over the past few years, but it turns out that the best of it had been happening in South Korea.
Kubo Masaki (former_airline)
山本精一 / Yamamoto Seiichi - CAFÉ BRAIN
Don't get too close, don't get too far. The unconscious music in the brain that floats and plays on the precise border between here and there is an incredibly diverse sonic scenery that’s extremely versatile in how it distracts from the real outside air, lets you get euphoric in your cocoon, and anyone can connect and earnestly. It's cosy. Extremely pure Corona-era avant-BGM. I've done many laps with this album and it'll be cool for many laps in the future.
Joe (Velvet Ants)
Idles - Ultra Mono
I hadn’t been aware of the existence of this band from Bristol called Idles who’ve already put out two full lengths, several singles and EPs before this record, full of not only anger and anxiety for the environment we are living in, but also energy and attitude going forward.
Most of all the songs from Ultra Mono will be our anthems for the future. It’s everything.
The Strokes - The New Abnormal
Who would have been looking forward to this veteran band’s new stuff? Me, never.
When I was in a car, the lead track from The New Abnormal was aired on the radio and I thought it was interesting but I didn’t dig it at that moment. A few weeks later, I tried to listen to the whole album on Spotify and I was so shocked. The first track titled The Adults Are Talking sounds exactly how they've kept doing, but something is slightly different. I don’t know what it is. Then the second track, titled Selfless, which is my favorite one from this record, is totally awesome. The rest is also great to have a listen. I think they spent 20 years to make this masterpiece. You may think this is not The Strokes but this definitely is.
First I thought from its cover art and the name of the band that Disq was post punk/new wave somehow. It was all wrong I know. Disq is absolutely like something I’ve already known but the additional tone of synthesizer makes it a little bit different than what I know. Although their guitar driven emotional songs easily remind me of Weezer, they are very unique. If I was a teenager, Disq could be my heroes.
Kayoko Yoshizawa - Service Area
She’s simply my muse. This is her long awaited fourth single.