2020 End Of Year Lists: Albums Of The Year


History has already written the whole year of 2020 as a rather awful one. Steer clear of the mainstream, and most of the music has been good, in many cases cleansing and encouraging. After all, introverts will never be smitten by quarantine, and one can never be disappointed by a world of which they don't think much highly. 

Out of a longlist of more than one hundred, we bled until we chose the customary thirty which became D//E's Albums of the Year 2020.

30. Soft Kill: Dead Kids, R.I.P. City


Anticipated for a while and in the making for two years, the latest album by Soft Kill is an icy dark tribute to Portland and the people lost there, and an overall presentation of the city's bleaker side. Maximizing their production's value through David Trumfio (Built To Spill, Wilco) and Howie Weinberg (The Cure, Smashing Pumpkins, Nirvana) who are responsible for the production and mastering respectively, Soft Kill released a well realized album which feels meticulously crafted, and at the same time very much instinctual.




29. Emma Ruth Rundle & Thou: May Our Chambers Be Full


Both prolific acts in their own merits, Emma Ruth Rundle and Thou joined forces as part of the always intriguing collaborations in the Sacred Bones series. The result combines both sides' strengths, and showcases how they both find ways to explore and engage with the musical worlds of each other in a forceful and successful way. 




28. The Chats: High Risk Behaviour


Aussie punk is alive and relentless, currently going through a notably creative phase, mostly due to the auspiciousness and energy of bands like the lively, bratty and super fun, The Chats, who are consistently evolving from a viral sensation to actual punk might without seeming to be compromising absolutely anything in the way.




27. Deftones: Ohms


Alt metal superstars, Deftones, went distinctly heavy on their ninth album on which they enlisted the production skills of Terry Date, the producer behind all of the early material that helped the band achieve their breakthrough. Ohms sees Deftones experimenting in a casual and organic manner, uncovering their ability to come up with material which is especially fresh without showing signs of having to try very hard.




26. Drain: California Cursed


Thrash metal and hardcore punk come together rather seamlessly in California Cursed, just like how it has been since the eighties and throughout the history of the strong composite that is crossover thrash. California-based band, Drain, released a satisfying and concise record which became their wonderful debut, meant for repeated and loud listening sessions, just like everything that's considered formidable hardcore.




25. Adult.: Perception is/as/of Deception


On their most esoteric album thus far, dark electro duo, Adult., go full on existentialist mode. The punk ethos and the EBM properties are present and palpable, and once again they comprise something that's tough to define but rather demonstrative and deeply dark in essence, like the basement studio with the blacked out windows where it was conceived.




24. lié: You Want It Real


Vancouver rising punks, lié, are already on their fourth LP, and they have remained a well kept secret in underground punk since their first offerings in 2013. Just like its predecessors, You Want It Real is a demanding and stimulating listen, yet, this time the band has fleshed out more their songwriting sophistication, always staying within the borders of unconventional and radical punk.




23. Mrs. Piss: Self-Surgery


Longtime collaborators and bandmates, Chelsea Wolfe and Jess Gowrie, came forth with a new project which found them operating within the dark realm where they inherently belong, but also sees them pushing the envelope a little further in terms of nonconformity and extremity. Self-Surgery also feels like the start of something that's meant for further exploration and continuation.




22. Executioner’s Mask: Despair Anthems


Having risen from the ranks of heavier and more extreme acts like Crowhurst, Intestinal Disgorge and Cop Warmth, new band Executioner’s Mask became an instantly considerable force in contemporary post punk, deathrock and darkwave with their debut album. Despair Anthems deals in solid production by Jeff Zeigler (Kurt Vile, Nothing) and Ryan Schwabe (Big Thief, Algernon Caldweller), and dense songwriting, while the album also wears its influences proudly, and doesn't punch below its weight.




21. Bound: Haunts


On their sophomore full length Washington post rockers, Bound, aimed high and came through, with a concept album which plays out in a very engaging manner, and finds the band challenging their limits, making its way across progressive rock, shoegaze and post punk passages in order to tell its story as picturesquely and sentimentally as it gets. Haunts has been one of the most daring post rock albums of the year, and categorically a great accomplishment for the rising band.




20. Topographies: Ideal Form


San Francisco band, Topographies, took their seamless mixture of shoegaze and post punk to the next level with their long anticipated debut which presented all those properties that the band's early offerings possessed, and eventually turned heads their way, only this time both the mood and sound feel even bleaker and grittier than before. Ideal Form is Topographies in fully actualized mode, all wistful, direct and honestly dark. 




19. Hilary Woods: Birthmarks


Hilary Woods’ sophomore album further cemented the notion that the moody and experimental direction of her solo material is capable of pulling off wonders. Having dived deeper into the darkness and the existentialist qualities of her vision, Woods laid bare her worries, and molded them into Birthmarks which felt like a deeply esoteric and personal presentation of an insightful mind.




18. Lore City: Alchemical Task


On their third album the criminally underappreciated duo of Laura Mariposa Williams and Eric Angelo Bessel ebbs and flows between darkness and light, and reconstructs the many dark musical styles on which it blooms into an art rock form that defies description, and sounds downright appropriate to score the challenging times the world is currently undergoing.




17. Kraków Loves Adana: Darkest Dreams


Gradually, humbly and in a determined manner, Hamburg's Kraków Loves Adana have become veterans of contemporary dreampop and synthpop, and with each album they seem to be reaching a higher peak. On Darkest Dreams they finally embrace the dark side with which they've been courting for many years in the past, and they commit to it fully, resulting in their most candid and arguably finest album to date.




16. bdrmm: Bedroom


The fulfilled shoegaze sound that's all over the Hull/Leeds quintet's debut full length doesn't indicate much from the project's mere beginnings as a lo-fi bedroom pop act. Obviously, bdrmm have come a very long way since their inception, and the more they devote to the genre's motifs, the more they seem to be envisioning the band's character and sound. 




15. The Vacant Lots: Interzone 


Whenever things return to some passable level of normalcy and people see each other in the flesh again, the world's dark dancefloors have a new potential classic to elevate. Another underappreciated band, The Vacant Lots, deserve more than they got, and their third album is a fine celebration of their genre blending expertise, their excellent song crafting capabilities, and their tasteful, minimal aesthetics. 




14. Fotocrime: South Of Heaven 


All singles lifted from the sophomore album by Fotocrime have been rather memorable, freshened examples of the gothic rock and post punk standards presented in a well designed and sophisticated way. The rest of the album's tracks could have easily been standout singles as well, and overall South Of Heaven was a colossal step for the band which could go either in a darker or a more approachable way next. Whichever path they choose, South Of Heaven was utterly convincing as to why we should be keeping an eye on Fotocrime. 




13. Coastlands: Death 


Currently, Coastlands are one of the finest ambassadors of the heavier side of post rock, and their newest album found them aimed at a pitch dark direction which suits both their songwriting and the deep emotionality of their performance pretty well. The addition of vocals on one track payed off fiercely, as did the band's flirtation with black metal, and Death became instantly one of those albums that play a big role in the continuation and evolution of a genre which refuses to fade away. 




12. Wax Chattels: Clot 


New Zealand’s Wax Chattels keep post punk dangerous, meaningful and unafraid, as they bring a synthpunk and industrial twist that makes the bitingness of their cold sound even more aching and severe. Politically, socially and existentially aware, Clot is the kind of art that doesn't hesitate to ask questions no matter how blunt or painful they may be. 




11. Korine: The Night We Raise 


Champions of DIY artistry, Korine, cut their teeth on their well crafted early releases to come forth with what feels like the culmination of the dark synthpop sound for which they always aimed. The Night We Raise is exactly that, one of the most cultivated, full of memorable moments synthpop albums in a while. 




10. Boris: NO 


From its title to the ferocity and the extremity of its compelling content, NO is one of the highlights in the imposing, massive body of work by Boris, one of greatest heavy rock bands ever. Tens of albums and many years into their prolific career, Boris don't hesitate to throw to the world a full on uncompromising hardcore record, proving that it's the easiest thing in the world for them to be continuing coming forth with all kinds of unconventional music, and that they'll never stop being immensely cool in the process. 




9. Astari Nite: Here Lies 


Nearly a decade into their dark path, Astari Nite have arrived to that certain point where their songwriting feels as effective as it gets. Although a pastiche of sounds, themes and ideas, Here Lies comes together as a unit without compromising its firm gothic rock and post punk foundation, and appears so very well done that Mychael Ghost and company will probably have a hard time outweighing in the future. 




8. The Tissues: Blue Film


Partly exploratory no wave, partly in your face punk rock, Blue Film is a very intense and loud album which came out very early in 2020 and went under the radar, like many formidable punk records do. It's super concise, it's hooky, it's ragingly tough, and possibly one of the most artful ways with which to disturb the neighbors. 




7. Pharaoh Overlord: 6


Tomi Leppänen and Jussi Lehtisalo's Pharaoh Overlord united with the songwriting mastery and vocal ferocity of Aaron Turner, and the outcome defies genres and tags, challenges all kinds of norms, and has the energy running ceaseless for its entirety. Six albums in, Pharaoh Overlord’s creativity still thrives. 




6. Iress: Flaw


New champions of the dark hybridity between shoegaze and doom metal, Los Angeles band, Iress, released the immaculate Flaw, an album full of raw emotion and consistency which ranks the band among the best newcomers in recent memory. As much heavy as it is passionate, Flaw is a huge leap from the band's 2015 debut, an exhibition of their range and potential, and a compelling record on all fronts.




5. Ganser: Just Look At That Sky


Ganser's sophomore full length came out to be not only a worthy successor to their impressive 2018 debut, but it's also a strong statement of the band's sharpness in connection to the quality of both their songwriting and production. Sharp-witted, sophisticated and alert, Ganser's version of post punk is the kind that celebrates the genre's past while looking steadily forward, with its lyrical subject matter is unfailingly timeless. Ganser have never disappointed thus far, and it doesn't seem likely that they ever will.




4. Touché Amoré: Lament


One of the most emotionally heavy albums of the year, Touché Amoré's fifth is a simply remarkable display of deep and honest lyricism, pristine production by Ross Robinson, and the existential hunger which was always the fuel in Jeremy Bolm's artistry. After four great albums, Touché Amoré, came to the climactic point where they created a magnum opus which will shake all troubled souls to their very core. Lament strikes harder and more cathartically than any other Touché Amoré album, and it's a crowning achievement for both the band and the post hardcore genre in general.




3. Bestial Mouths: RESSURECTEDINBLACK


It started with their 2019 EP, INSHROUDSS, and grew further with their 2020 album, Bestial Mouths' creative peak and the full realization of their unique dark vision. Having gone through many of post punk and darkwave's dark subgenres over the years, Bestial Mouths now appear more collected than ever under Lynette Cerezo's brilliance who has established her presence as one of the most imposing ones in the genre and beyond. RESURRECTEDINBLACK is downright intense, utterly dark and home to some of the project's most outstanding tracks, most of which came with equally artful and striking visuals.




2. Uniform: Shame


Wearing its influences on its sleeves, especially the non-musical ones, Uniform's Shame came out slightly more accessible compared to the ferocity that the band's previous outings carried. That cleaner approach made the band's songwriting appear more familiar, although the tension and the existential worry in what the band writes and performs are still making their presence felt. Uniform is one of the most cultivated acts in heavy music today, and their artfulness feels absolutely direct, organic and innovatory.




1. Nothing: The Great Dismal


The kind of catastrophe 2020 was for all things in general, suggests that this year deserves an album as solemn as Nothing's fourth for the number one spot. Nothing's grungy shoegaze has produced a lot of bleakness in the past, and it still does exactly that, only this time the world around it feels more adjusted to the sweet misery the band's sound and writing give off. The Great Dismal accepts existence's irrationality and makes great art out of it, all loud, gazey and longing, exactly how we like our rock to rock. 

With The Great Dismal Nothing becomes the first act ever to win the D//E Album of the Year title for a third time, after Guilty of Everything in 2014 and Tired of Tomorrow in 2016. 


In list form...

1. Nothing: The Great Dismal
2. Uniform: Shame
3. Bestial Mouths: RESSURECTEDINBLACK
4. Touché Amoré: Lament
5. Ganser: Just Look At That Sky
6. Iress: Flaw
7. Pharaoh Overlord: 6
8. The Tissues: Blue Film
9. Astari Nite: Here Lies 
10. Boris: NO
11. Korine: The Night We Raise 
12. Wax Chattels: Clot
13. Coastlands: Death 
14. Fotocrime: South Of Heaven 
15. The Vacant Lots: Interzone 
16. bdrmm: Bedroom
17. Kraków Loves Adana: Darkest Dreams
18. Lore City: Alchemical Task
19. Hilary Woods: Birthmarks
20. Topographies: Ideal Form
21. Bound: Haunts
22. Executioner’s Mask: Despair Anthems
23. Mrs. Piss: Self-Surgery
24. lié: You Want It Real
25. Adult.: Perception is/as/of Deception
26. Drain: California Cursed
27. Deftones: Ohms
28. The Chats: High Risk Behaviour
29. Emma Ruth Rundle & Thou: May Our Chambers Be Full
30. Soft Kill: Dead Kids, R.I.P. City




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