Can you still recount 2020 in February?
We'll put that question to the test over the next week as we recount the best albums of 2020 as voted by the T-Rex Musiq team.
Alright, let's get into it.
#20 – Small Moments – Dan Kye
Small Moments has established Jordan Rakei as one of the most versatile musicians in the underground scene. Commonly known for his work in the contemporary jazz/soul scene, Rakei’s Dan Kye project is a dance-focused path that listeners have been eagerly waiting for him to re-explore. The moniker’s debut LP places itself high amongst Rhythm Section’s extensive collection and one of the first on the queue for when dancefloors reopen in Peckham. However, just because the nightclubs are closed doesn’t mean we can’t dance. This tremendous offering will have you dancing with little time to rest. Recorded with merely a laptop and extra live instruments in Rakei’s own home, the multitalented musician packs his signature blend of smooth jazz and funk with high energy house and techno. The lockdowns have cast many uncertainties throughout this period, but with records like this we know that the music won’t stop. Small Moments is a testament to the power of the underground scene as it shines a light on an experimental independent musician that has hit full stride.
#19 – Ascension – Sufjan Stevens
Multi-instrumentalist, singer-songwriter and composer Sufjan Stevens delivered a studio LP
that expanded his versatility in production once again. Taking a massive leap from his large
project nearly 5 years ago, Sufjan’s ambitious 80-minute epic is an eerily dark and
emotionally heavy project. The LP is drenched with ideas addressing socio-political
messages and the abandonment of religion while returning to a more sonically textured
sound, a familiar Sufjan production trait.
The Ascension feels like a hark back to early 2000’s electronic genres as it evokes a
meandering plain of synth pads and drum machines. Despite being a marathon to listen to,
the album showcases Sufjan’s ability as an artist to communicate different textures using
atmospheric synths and a wide catalogue of percussion. Sonically, it is a challenging album
to listen to, however the ambition and execution cannot be denied. This LP marks a massive
departure from Sufjan’s past work, while simultaneously morphing that signature trademark
sound that sets the American musician in his on-field of creativity.
#18 – folklore – Taylor Swift
One of the more surprising records from this year comes from critically acclaimed pop
superstar Taylor Swift, who both announced and released her eighth studio album within a
day. It came as a surprise as this album was a more stripped back and diversely different
approach than her previous project Lover. Being a sharp turn left for the singer/songwriter,
Taylor still manages to pull off a cinematic and vivid story-telling piece that is enjoyable
from start to finish. Swift arranges her sounds and guitar loops in a more detailed stylistic
way mirroring other indie-pop styles while delivering detailed narratives, which are
noticeably melancholic but also beautiful. It is admirable that folklore is such an
abandonment from the foundation that Swift’s career is built upon and it is a reminder of
her prowess as a songwriter.
#17 – Sixteen Oceans – Four Tet
Someone must have been writing the script in March last year as the release of Four Tet’s Sixteen Oceans coincided with the week millions around the world began retreating into their homes for self-isolation. It was as if Kieran Hebden was living the lockdowns before they even happened with the album echoing many of their sentiments.
Sixteen Oceans finds Hebden focus on a sound that he has trodden on before. Sixteen tracks symbolise a separate sonic ‘ocean’ as Hebden takes a keen interest to explore familiar naturalistic textures rather than formulate a whole new sound palette. Followers of Four Tet will find a similar structure to previous projects like New Energy with the record commencing with club appropriate tracks like ‘School’ and ‘Baby’ before dwindling down to a meditative conclusion. The album pivoting track ‘Insect Near Piha Beach’ represents this journey as acoustic instruments and ambience overwhelm deep house rhythms.
Certainly, this is not the most innovative of albums we have experienced with Four Tet. However, despite leaning into his modus operandi we are seeing an artist that has been constantly moving find contentment with where he is in this world. A vocal of his wife and daughter practicing a Sanskrit of peace and gratification to close the album signifies his ease in not putting pressure on himself to top previous works, but to stop for a moment and be appreciative of everything that has made the Four Tet journey thus far.
#16 – Ball Park Music – Ball Park Music
Ball Park Music, Australia’s notoriously unsung heroes of the alternative rock genre this
decade. It is fascinating to ponder the duration of the Brisbane outfit’s stint as musicians.
Ball Park have been on heavy Triple J rotation since 2010 and continues to release projects
that reinforce such an expansive discography. Ball Park Music’s self-titled LP signifies a
celebration of the band's career as musicians as well as giving a glimpse of what is to come
as they show no evidence of slowing down. Marking their sixth studio release, this project
could be considered as one of their best.
The record is a perfect mix of recognisable sound as well as an exploration into different
textures and styles. You cannot go past the catchy riffs and the conjured feel-good
atmosphere that Ball Park are so well-known for. With clean production, heavier basslines,
clearer chords and warped instrumentals the 11-track LP is a consistent delight from start to