We delve a little deeper into our top 20. Who's your pick for #1?
#15 – Between You and Me – San Cisco
A noticeable stylistic shift from their previous work, Western Australian three-piece indie-
pop outfit San Cisco sophisticate their sound and their artistic direction as a band. This LP is
a structurally sound project. In regard to textures, lyricism and composure; it is definitely a
more outstanding record comparable to their debut in terms of execution overall. The 11-song album Between You and Me explores ideas surrounding heartbreak, growing
friendships and transitioning into maturity.
The band has expressed that the project has been in the works for three years, making the
recording process drawn out over a period of time. This works in the band's favour as the
various sounds and styles of production adds variety to the project making it an enjoyable
listen. Thoughtful insights into more self-reflecting themes are prominent while the high-
flying vocals from frontman Jordi sweep you off your feet, especially in tracks like ‘When I Dream.’ San Cisco demonstrate once again that their chemistry as a musical outfit has not
wavered as they add another fantastic piece of work to their discography.
#14 – Alfredo – Freddie Gibbs, The Alchemist
Little to no media build-up to an album drop is generally a fair indication of the artists’ presence in the scene and how confident they are in the piece of work. In the hip-hop/rap world few are at the level of The Alchemist and Freddie Gibbs. The Alchemist has proven himself to be the go-to producer for the world’s top-shelf rappers with Gibbs undeniably being one of those with his casual smoothness and flow. Both can do no wrong at the moment, so when you pair the names together for Al-fredo it is lethal.
Individually, the masterpiece the two have put together here stands high as one of their best releases. Take ‘Babies & Fools’ for example, The Alchemist’s slick, classical production communicates with the listener through his clever twist of the sample. It appears as a featured voice rather than a looped background alongside Gibbs’ introspective verses of his drug-riddled life. This might not sound new to the pair’s previous works, but for Alfredo, it is executed to perfection.
The trimmed ten-track structure makes each composition play a pivotal role in the entire body of work. Gibbs has captured the present time period perfectly, referencing The Tiger King and MJ’s The Last Dance to his quarantined audience. However, his most chilling verse would come in ‘Scottie Beam’ with his flip on Gill Scott-Heron’s ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised’ to highlight the media’s role in exacerbating the problems that occurred in the BLM movements: “Yeah, the revolution is the genocide / Look, your execution will be televised”.
#13 – It Is What It Is - Thundercat
There is something ever so appealing about Thundercat. With his Grammy-nominated fourth LP, the multi-instrumentalist delves deeper into a style that can only be described as his own. It Is What It Is sees Thundercat dare to be more experimental than ever before. Heavy instrumentations through tracks like ‘How Sway’ and ‘Unrequited Love’ highlight how much untapped potential remains with Thundercat. In an interview with Guitar World, he shared, “I try not to be scared or put limitations on myself. I’ll try anything, even if I hear something I don’t like. I’ll go for it. There’s no wrong way.”
This is the mindset listeners must have to truly embrace Thundercat. The man never sits still on one emotion, he is always moving. Breaking down the album’s structure, it is clear that there are three distinct shifts in moods that arc from uncertainty to fun and back down to a sad, melancholic conclusion. To begin this may feel abrupt at times, but it is how Thundercat sees the world. He has grappled with loss on multiple occasions to the point where he welcomes it. He finds a way to lean into his grief, to not get lost in space, and have a laugh from time to time.
#12 – Women In Music Pt. III – Haim
Hailed by Pitchfork as ‘intimate, multidimensional and wide-ranging’, HAIM’s Women in Music Pt. III was a blessing to 2020. The American soft-rock trio enamour listeners with their trademark seventies West Coast vibe, whilst still holding space for new musical ventures. Experimental tunes like ‘3am’ and ‘I Know Alone’ imitate sounds of electronic pop, pleasantly balanced with lead vocalist Danielle Haim’s soothing vocals. Hit songs like ‘Gasoline’ and ‘Los Angeles’ pay homage to the band’s indie-rock roots and can easily blend in with previous albums. The ability of sisters Danielle, Este and Alana Haim to swerve between new genres and original sounds is an attestation to their musical genius. Magical tracks like ‘Man From The Magazine’ and ‘Summer Girl’ immaculately capture the marvel of HAIM: lyrically simple-yet-storytelling, vocally relaxed-yet-impressive and instrumentally different-yet-casual. The new record has been nominated for a Grammy for ‘Album of the Year’, a well-deserved accolade that affirms to HAIM that a slight change in movement was just what they needed.
#11 – Heaven To A Tortured Mind – Yves Tumor
Structurally, it is anarchy. Sonically, it is divine.
Sean Bowie, otherwise known as Yves Tumor, brings his chaotic artistry to the front with his boundary murdering record, Heaven to a Tortured Mind. Taking a different creative route from his work 4-5 years ago, Bowie’s production and style these days are unrecognisable from the contrasting ambient atmospheres in which he previously curated.
Yves Tumor brought a lot of promise from his last ground-breaking full-length LP in 2018 and his experimental tendencies are still ever so prevalent. Being a multi-instrumentalist, Bowie conducts the production on such a vast territory, with sounds ranging from abrasive guitar twangs to chunky trumpet samples. There is a clear brit-pop influence over the project, speckled with groovy bass tones and signature glam-rock atmosphere, the album is a perfect blend of recognisable styles and new-fangled areas of sound. Heaven to a Tortured Mind’s concluding strengths in production lies with the unpredictability and chaotic energy while remaining enjoyably coherent. The oddity of Bowie’s work is irresistibly intriguing, preluding excitement for his future in the industry.