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Pop Stars And Nerd Metal - Iron's 2020

Reviving the old tradition of yearly lists. I was uncertain, because my lists have barely any metal and certainly none that MSers don't already know about, but there's nowhere else to publish this shit, either!

Created by: IronAngel | 16.07.2020

1. Ichiko Aoba - "Gift" at Sogetsu Hall (Contemporary folk. An 80-minute live album of Ichiko Aoba's fantastic, stripped-down and dreamy folk. A surprising grower: I have known and liked her music for a few years, but I certainly did not expect a live album to elevate her into a personal favourite. I keep coming back to this, and it makes me happy every time. Although their sound and musical heritage is different, Ichiko Aoba reminds me most of Mirel Wagner: they both rely on minimalistic arrangements and simple but spellbinding songwriting, creating a sonic space that is distinctly theirs. It's as much about the atmosphere as individual songs. The live recording feels particularly ethereal and disembodied, music floating in emptiness. Although I say "dreamy" and "ethereal", there's no fuzz or murk, it's clear and pristine like glass. Best place to get to know her. (4.5/5))
2. Fiona Apple - Fetch the Bolt Cutters (Singer/songwriter. In my eyes, Fiona Apple has a very solid back catalogue, and I rank her in my top 5 quintessential singer/songwriter women since the 90s. This is a ferocious and uncomfortable album which deserves all the praise it gets. The closest comparisons I can think of are her previous masterpiece, The Idler Wheel, and Tom Waits' horrifying, percussive Bone Machine. Maybe not my favorite of hers, but up there. (4.5/5))
3. Ichiko Aoba - Adan no kaze (Chamber folk/ambient pop. The arrangements are richer and more layered than usual for Ichiko Aoba; there's a soundtrack quality to it, evoking storybook landscapes. On paper, it comes across as precious ("little animals hopping on the forest floor aww!"), but it's beautiful. On the other hand, the songwriting seems more straightforward than her best pieces (like the jazzy, Joni Mitchelleseque highlights of 0). (4/5))
4. tricot - 真っ黒 (Makkuro) (Math rock with a j-pop sense for melody. Yet another solid album from the catchiest, most consistent group in the genre. (4/5))
5. tricot - 10 (More of the same! I need to listen to these more carefully side by side, but album seems just as good. It's only 36 minutes (to the predecessor's 42), so it's not like there's too much of it. (4/5))
6. Rina Sawamaya - Sawamaya (Dance pop. This is a fantastic year for pop music, but Sawamaya may be the cherry on top. As a 90s kid, I appreciate the eclecticism of this avalanche of sonic references, the singing is great, and the songwriting is both catchy and consistent. It's not reinventing the wheel, and at some point I expect we'll get tired of this trend of recycling pop tropes into quality music for 30-somethings, but not yet! (4/5))
7. Jessie Ware - What's Your Pleasure? (Disco/dance pop. This is like the adult version of Dua Lipa and the recent trend of nostalgic nu-disco. Smooth, sleek and mature dance music. The production teeters on the verge of cheesy, especially in the layered choruses, but it remains (barely) in the realm of awesome. (4/5))
8. Pintandwefall - Your Stories Baby (Garage rock. Something of a comeback to the energetic, fun rock of the band first two albums, but with gained maturity. (4/5))
9. Against All Logic - 2017-2019 (Apparently post-industrial/tech house. No idea what that means, but it's groovy and well-produced instrumental music from Nicolas Jaar's catchier moniker. Much like DJ Shadow or Madvillain, it walks that fine line of excellent background music that is still engaging to listen to. If you want something meatier than ambient, but something less distracting than hip hop, I guess? (4/5))
10. Sweven - The Eternal Resonance (Progressive metal. Just about the perfect guitar sound, and engaging, satisfying songwriting. The comparison may be bad, or too obvious, but it scatches the same itch in me as Ved Buens Ende. (4/5))
11. Oranssi Pazuzu - Mestarin Kynsi (Psychedelic black metal. This album got me seriously interested in them, after a decade of casual acquaintance. Space rock from the dark places between stars. (4/5))
12. Hum - Inlet (Alt-rock/shoegaze. A surprising comeback from a 90s cult favorite, the album envelops you in a pleasant, melancholy warmth that is surprisingly heavy, almost a post-metal vibe. Of more recent bands, fans of Junius should maybe check this out. (4/5))
13. Hail Spirit Noir - Eden In Reverse (Progressive metal. I remember how refreshing and weird and funny HSN's debut was. They're no longer funny, or even that weird, but this may be their best album. (4/5))
14. 100 gecs - 1000 gecs and the Tree of Clues (A remix album of the debut album, featuring such luminaries as Hannah Diamond, Charli XCX, Black Dresses, and fucking Fall Out Boy. It's funny, outrageous, the with source material as brilliant as it is, it's also very solid. The history of stupid internet music distilled into a single album. (4/5))
15. Ulcerate - Stare Into Death And Be Still (Atmospheric tech-death. Everyone loves Ulcerate, and I have nothing eloquent to add. Some of the best today's metal has to offer. (4/5))
16. Imperial Triumphant - Alphaville (Avant-garde death metal. Looks like this is a good year for the weirder side of metal. Also the hard-to-review. (4/5))
17. Natalia Lafourcade - Un canto por México vol 1 (Mexican folk music. Traditional songs, and some of Lafourcade's previously recorded material, played with a host of guest musicians in what I assume is a traditional Mexican style. Probably the most accessible way to get introduced to the music, it's fun, beautifully performed and expertly produced. (3.5/5))
18. Owen Pallett - Island (Chamber pop. This is a difficult album: Pallett's mastery of his voice and instruments, and the fragile balance of the arrangements invite close listening, and are rewarding as such. It seems like this could be a great album, but it's just not that memorable. It lacks the exhilirating violin melodies and frantic electronic loops of his previous albums, which is what I wanted from him. (?/5))
19. YUKIKA - Soul Lady (K-Pop. Cheesy and breezy modern city pop. It has the smooth, jazzy sound of the 80s, like an updated and more upbeat Mari Ijima. (3.5/5))
20. Klô Pelgag - Notre-Dame-des-Sept-Douleurs (Baroque pop. Progressive art pop with impressive emotional and stylistic range. The songwriting and performance is top notch. Some reference points might be Weyes Blood and Susanne Sundfør, with the groove and cool of modern french pop (Cléa Vincent, Fischbach). (3.5))
21. Westerman - Your Hero Is Not Dead (Sophisti-pop/art pop. A surprising grower. At first listen this album had no balls and the vocals, rather like Owen Pallett, are expertly controlled but not exactly powerful or charismatic. But there's a really delicate sensibility of melody and dynamics, and almost every song turns out to be great. It sounds unmistakably modern, but reference points are 80s art poppers like Talk Talk (It's My Life/The Colour of Spring), Japan etc. The naive vocals occasionally also evoke 60s pop (Beach Boys, Love or smth). Key track: Confirmation. (3.5/5))
22. The Microphones - Microphones in 2020 (Singer-songwriter/bedroom folk. I've read nothing about this project, but it seems more like a logical continuation of Mount Eerie's lusher albums than The Glow Pt. 2. More is happening, musically, than on the recent, stripped-down Mount Eerie albums processing Phil's grief. There's density and layers to this that I missed. (?/5))
23. Charli XCX - How I'm Feeling Now (Electropop/Bubblegum Bass. Charli was sitting on last year's self-titled album for a long time, and it turned out to be a fairly underwhelming, mainstream pop affair. Then she coughed up this quarantine album in a hurry, and it may be her best. Up there with Pop 2 and the Vroom Vroom EP. The production and collaborations embrace the PC Music/hyperpop end of her spectrum, which just works for her, even if she stops short of the most alienating (and coolest) extremes. (3.5/5))
24. Róisín Murphy - Róisín Machine (Nu-disco. Some say this is the culmination of the current disco revival boom. I think it's hypnotic, mature and very dancable, and probably has the most character and best production, but it doesn't touch me as Jessie Ware does. (3.5/5))
25. Carly Rae Jepsen - Dedicated Side B (Dance pop. Immaculately produced, smooth 80s synth inspired numbers. It is as competent and solid as you'd expect from (I think) today's greatest pure pop artist, but I must say I'm a little disappointed: it's more of the same, and that gets less exciting every time. Highlight: Summer Love. (3.5/5))
26. Anaal Nathrakh - Endarkenment (Black metal/grindcore. This is a comfortable continuation in AN's vein of accessible, melodic, pummeling and highly energetic. I like the polished production with its industrial touches, and there are plenty of anthemic choruses and memorable riffs. Playing it a bit safe but I don't mind. (3.5/5))
27. Godthrymm - Reflections (Epic doom/gothich death-doom. An excellent throwback album which captures the atmosphere of 90s doom to a tee. Not like a band trying to mimick retro sounds for effect, but like guys who play what they know and love (which, indeed, they are). It sounds immediately familiar, but the combination of Paradise Lost -type death doom with the soaring and theatrical epic doom vocal melodies is actually pretty fresh. (3.5/5))
28. Cindy Lee - What's Tonight to Eternity (Hypnagogic pop. Brooding, lo-fi and dreamy stuff that could be Mazzy Star on medication played through tin cans. Key tracks: Lucifer Standing, Heavy Metal. (3.5/5))
29. María José Llergo - Sanación (Flamenco nuevo, with some electronic flourishes. Artsy, spacious, and simultaneously archaic and futuristic. (3.5/5))
30. Pet Shimmers - Face Down in Meta (Neo-Pscyhedelia. Trippy and fuzzy, at its best it reminds me of Stereolab or The United States of America (check Super Natural Teeth). (3.5/5))
31. Lauren Bousfield - Palimpsest (Glitch pop. Glittering and saccharine glitch, it hits the right balance between an abrasive and disjointed, and really catchy and accessible songwriting. Never heard anything quite like it, it's a bit like a cross between Venetian Snares (or Igorrr, for that matter) and PC Music hyperpop. (3.5/5))
32. DJ Sabrina the Teenage DJ - Charmed (Outsider house. No idea what that means, but it's a warm, nostalgic 3-hour jam. (Also, Sabrina was my prepubescent crush.) (3.5/5))
33. Dua Lipa - Future Nostalgia (Dance pop/Nu-disco. Very competent and catchy pop. It's a little by-the-numbers, but the production quality is excellent and the quality does not dip much until the awkward last two songs. (3.5/5))
34. Fleet Foxes - Shore (Indie folk. Save for White Winter Hymnal being a staple of my Christmas playlist, Fleet Foxes were never a big deal for me. But I have to admit, they are masters of their craft. The album is warm, earthy, immaculately arranged and produced. I like the way the songs loop and repeat themselves. It feels like overexposed, faded photographs of a long-ago summer. Key track: Quiet Air / Gioia. (3.5/5))
35. Kelly Lee Owens - Inner Song (Tech house/ambient pop. A nice mix of sleek instrumental tracks and low-key pop tunes. It's a very delicate, sparse, well-produced album, a bit more memorable than the debut. Some of the catchier songs, like Re-Wild and L.I.N.E. actually sound a bit out of place; is this pop or background chillout music? (3.5/5))
36. Shabaka and the Ancestors - We Are Sent Here by History (Afro-jazz/spiritual jazz. Another band from tenor saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings (e.g. Sons of Kemet and The Comet is Coming). Frantic, feverish and repetitive, but pretty accessible jazz that plods along nicely, with a gorgeous full sound. (3.5/5))
37. Bohren & der Club of Gore - Patchouli Blue (Dark jazz. Smooth, sentimental late night music that sounds like it's written for a film noir or point-and-click detective game soundtrack (looking at you, Blackwell). In the better half of their incredibly consistent discography. Don't forget wine and cheese. (3.5/5))
38. Moses Boyd - Dark Matter (Nu Jazz. Bohren's cool, urban little brother who's into Tricky and UK garage. Nocturnal and smooth, but with a restless pulse. (3.5/5))
39. RAY - Pink (Shoegaze. Very upbeat and catchy shoegaze from Japan. It shimmers and glimmers. Nothing you haven't heard before, but it's very competent. (3.5/5))
40. Torres - Silver Tongue (Indie rock/art pop. Torres' first two albums are phenomenal, drawing on americana here, some PJ Harvey there, with earnest vocals and catchy riffs. Third one had a weird St Vincent thing going. This one is better than that, and closer to the traditional singer-songwriterism of the first two, but not as intimate and impactful. (3.5/5))
41. Havukruunu - Uinuos Syömein Sota (Melodic/pagan black metal. Really solid, nostalgic and uplifting. Great melodies, well-placed clean vocals, it ticks all the boxes of good black metal. Takes me back to high school. (3.5/5.))
42. Haken - Virus (Progressive metal. This feels nerdy as hell, and the djent/Toolish edginess is kind of off-putting, but I'm also a sucker for angular riffs and vocal rhythms, as well as bombastic choruses. Surprisingly, turns out to be can of earworms. (3.5/5))
43. Neptunian Maximalism - Éons (Avantgarde jazz/drone metal. A weird, two-hour slab of spiritual and ritualistic drone jazz. It's very exhausting but also very impressive. I can imagine Michael Gira playing this on repeat, looking for inspiration for a new Swans album. Not sure what to make of it yet. (3.5/5))
44. Drown - Subaqueous (Funeral doom. Beautiful, serene funeral doom. If there is an aquatic sound ot it, it doesn't feel like the weight of the ocean crushing you, or the threatening lurch of storm waves, but rather floating under water where sunlight filters through, some shadows and imposing rocks may hint at danger, but the beauty of the corals and schools of fish counterbalance it. Or whatever! (3.5/5))
45. Died - Less Life (Post-hardcore/math rock. Dour, hard-hitting, and angular rock in the spirit of Slint and Fugazi. (3.5/5))
46. Envy - The Fallen Crimson (Screamo/post-rock. As someone said on RYM, "Damn, hoodwinked into listening to 3rd wave post rock again." Envy's signature blend of screamo and crescendocore post-rock gives me nothing new, I don't really need it in my life, but it's just so damn comforting and uplifting to indulge in, every once in a while. It's hard to make big distinctions between their records, but this seems better than the previous two. (3.5/5))
47. Horse Lords - The Common Task (Math-rock/krautrock. A strange combination of groove and the repitive minimalism reminiscent of Steve Reich more than anything. And bag pipes, huh. Key track: Against Gravity. (3.5/5))
48. Zopp - Zopp (Jazz fusion/prog. Great 60s-70s homage stuff, energetic, catchy and layered. (3.5/5))
49. Elysia Crampton - ORCOCARA 2010 (Ambient/electroacoustic/modern composition spoken word extravaganza. This is a gorgeously textured, weird concept album that is probably best listened to intellectually, with due attention to the poetry, but it also sonically satisfying. (3.5/5))
50. Cocanha - Puput (Occitan folk. Gorgeous, harmonic vocals, almost a cappella with the occasional traditional percussions. It reminds me of medieval music of southern Europe, but there's also a repetitive, hypnotic quality that probably owes as much to modern experimental music as tradition. (3.5/5))
51. Honey Harper - Starmaker (Alt-Country. A unique (male) country singer, in that he's playing soft, lush and orchestral music that borrows more from chamber and dream pop than outlaw country. Or more Gram Parsons and Townes van Zandt than Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard. Despite its dreamy, celestial quality, it has the deep wistfulness that makes country great. (3.5/5))
52. Lianne La Havas - Lianne La Havas (Neo-soul. Smooth, urban modern singer-songwriter stuff. It doesn't too heavily into any retro soul aesthetic, which is nice. (3/5))
53. Haru Nemuri - Lovetheism (Noise pop/j-rock/hip hop. I love Haru Nemuri's out-of-control style, ranging between punk aggression, bubbly j-pop and cutting rap. The songwriting is a little sketchy, rarely rising to greatness, but it's a joyous party album. (3/5))
54. Blake Mills - Mutable Set (Chamber folk/art pop. A bit awkward, disjointed and homespun, but extremely charming and grows on further listens. Has been described as Elliot Smith meets Mark Hollis, and that's not far off: he has the soft, bedroom heartbreak voice of Smith and the meandering, dynamic, jazzy sensibility of Hollis. Key track: Vanishing Twin. (3/5))
55. Sevdaliza - Shabrang (Art pop. A bit of trip hop, a bit of R&B, lots of velvet and eroticism; some Kelsey Lu, FKA twigs, serpentwithfeet with a darker, urban pulse. It starts strong and at its best, this album is really fragile, touching and powerful. It drags on and gets pretty samey, unfortunately. Key tracks: Darkest Hour, Lamp Ladies, Habibi. (3/5))
56. A.A. Williams - Forever Blue (Contemporary folk/post-rock/singer-songwriter. This beautiful, meditative album evokes a crisp autumn morning. It is a bit like Sharon van Etten (or maybe Lucy Dacus or Emma Ruth Rundle, without the fuzz) was expanded her soundscapes toward post-rock. There are even one or two unexpected post-metal bits, but they don't do anything special for me. (3/5))
57. Ramper - Nuestros mejores deseos (Post-rock/slowcore. A quiet, meditative album with the occasional harsh, almost post-metal edge. This feels very much like a 90s post-rock throwback album, something from early Mogwai and Codeine, GY!BE or Slint. (3/5))
58. Okkyung Lee - Yeo-Neun (Korean modern classical. Sounds pretty western and familiar, but I imagine some traditional Korean scales are used for some of the pieces. There's a hint of the unfamiliar. Veers a little too far on the easy-listening, Max Richter/Ryuichi Sakamoto film score end of the spectrum, but it's very elegant and nice. (3/5))
59. Thy Catafalque - Naiv (Avantgarde Metal. I like their proggier sound here. Just good fun. (3/5))
60. Paradise Lost - Obsidian (Gothic/death doom. Plodding along on their chosen path, slowly and mostly surely. (3/5))
61. Funeral Leech - Death Meditation (Death doom, with emphasis on the death, in the vein of Coffins, Hooded Menace, Runemagick, etc. It's not original, but it doesn't need to be. It's a competent pummeling. Might warrant a higher score in the right mood. (3/5))
62. Pale Divine - Consequence of Time (Heavy metal/Traditional doom. An excellent change of pace from their Pentagram-style, gritty and murky doom to clean vocals and classic melodic riffs. For fans of e.g. Pagan Altar. (3/5))
63. Cirith Ungol - Forever Black (Heavy metal. Pretty solid comeback. I've always been frustrated with how they flirt with doom just enough to whet the appetite but never commit to it. I can't imagine fans being disappointed with this album, though. (3/5))
64. Mamaleek - Come & See (Experimental metal/noise rock. Despite its avantgardist gimmicks, the experience is very coherent: it is a vortex of gnawing and gritting teeth, bitterness and desolation. The atmosphere reminds me of the urban alienation Streetcleaner or early Swans. (3/5))
65. Green Carnation - Leaves Of Yesteryear (Progressive metal. A worthy comeback album with some surprising bangers, like the straightforward and outright epic doomy Sentinels. A bit short and uneven. (3/5))
66. Cucina Povera - Tyyni (Minimal synth/electroacoustic ambient folk or whatever. Although she's part of the Glasgow underground scene, I can hear Maria Rossi's Finnish origins in her odd, contemplative music: Islaja, Lau Nau, Paavoharju, even Pekka Streng. This is more minimalistic and less organic, though. (3/5))
67. Mary Lattimore - Silver Ladders (Ambient/New Age. Lattimore is a harpist who puts her skills to good use on these intricate, interesting and beautiful songs. Easy to listen to, in the best sense, and unerringly beautiful. The title track is especially great, some of the effects on the longer songs are a little vanilla. (3/5))
68. Julianna Barwick - Healing is a Miracle (Vocal ambient. A new Julianna Barwick album is always nice: she delivers reliably on relaxing, new-agey soundscapes that skirt the edges of cheesy but there's a hint of darkness and they're just so pretty that all is forgiven. A classic comparison might be the more ambient moments of Cocteau Twins' Victorialand. (3/5))
69. Abby Gundersen - Sleep Comes Then I Wake (Modern classical/ambient. Pretty and unsurprising instrumental music with strings, piano etc. It has some of the saccharine quality of Max Richter, good for soundtracks and passive listening. (3/5))
70. Lido Pimienta - Miss Colombia (Latin electronic art pop. While this is undeniably pop, its traditional elements are more than just window dressing. The approach is similar to María José Llergo, but bubbling fun rather than contemplative. (3/5))
71. Kate NV - Room for the Moon (Progressive/art pop. An uneven album with great moments. The layered, percussive No No No is like Cocteau Twins meets post-minimalist classical and jazz fusion. Plans is channeling Kate Bush, and there's a vibe similar to 90s first wave post-rock (Stereolab?) where everything goes. Should be tailor-made for me, but does not really transcend its influences. (3/5))
72. A.G. Cook - 7G (7 discs, 49 tracks, 160 minutes, this is some kind of a document of A.G. Cook's mission statement so far. It's a mixed bag of electronic, PC Music weirdness, but maybe on the cooler, more cerebral side - it's sadly lacking in the bubblegum euphoria of Hannah Diamond, QT, Dorian Electra or GFOTY. (3/5))
73. Dan Deacon - Mystic Familiar (Neo-psychedelia/indietronica. Glittery and trippy)
74. Triángulo de Amor Bizarro - Triángulo de Amor Bizarro (Noise pop-rock/shoegaze. They have an old school, cold and echoey sound that (with the alternating male and female singers) reminds me alternately of Pixies, Siouxsie and the Banshees or Cocteau Twins' debut album. It's at turns pummeling and catchy, brusque and ethereal. (3/5))
75. GFOTY - Ham Chunks and Wine (Bubblegum Bass. GFOTY's catalogue is infuriatingly patchy. At her best, she is everything, but more often she's irrelevant or irritating. Rid of All is great, and By My Side is a kind of funny version of Eiffel 65's Blue, but the more serious opener and closer are underwhelming. (3/5))
76. Owen - The Avalanche (Indie folk from emo veteran Mike Kinsella. It's pleasant and melancholy, although it's mostly just repeating the formula perfected on At Home With Owen (2006). (3/5))
77. Igorrr - Spirituality And Distortion (Avantgarde metal/neoclassical breakcore(?). Igorrr's charm for me was in the awkward and outrageous mashing together of unexpected sounds, not so much in great songwriting per se. This album is much more middle-of-the-road, the sound is more professional and the transitions less abrupt, which makes for a less affecting listen. Not bad, but not the place to start. (3/5))
78. Pantha du Prince - Conference of Trees (Microhouse/ambient. An airy and organic chorus of bells, chimes, strings, various percussions etc. It's a mixed back of pretty, nicely textured but ultimately ho-hum ambient tracks and a really great core of more melodic pieces. Key tracks: The Crown Territory, Supernova Space Drift. (3/5))
79. Ben Lukas Boysen - Mirage (Progressive electronic/modern classical. A nice mix spacey electronic tracks and sparse contemporary classical, the kind you'd expect on the soundtrack to a documentary about modern urban architecture. Cf. Bersarin Quartett or Rival Consoles. Feels a bit safe and predictable, but sure is beautiful. (3/5))
80. Aiming for Enrike - Music for Working Out ("Alternative dance", though I'm not sure I'd dance to this. Frantic, with a dash of punk and math rock. (?/5))
81. Rival Consoles - Articultion (IDM. Pulsating, space age dance music for earphones. Also tagged as microhouse and progressive electronic, which it isn't really, but it's suitable for similar consumption/mood! Not as good as Persona, which had a foreboding quality, but very listenable. (3/5))
82. Sewerslvt - Draining Love Story (Atmospheric drum and bass. I feel like there's some internet culture behind this, with the anime avatars and all, but this is just pretty solid and moody urban dnb. Feels kinda dated and futuristic at the same time. (3/5))
83. Squarepusher - Be Up a Hello (Drill and bass, with a glitchy, chiptune gloss. Pretty decent, for fans of Aphex Twin, Venetian Snares etc. (3/5))
84. Dogleg - Melee (Emo/Post-hardcore. Straightforward emo throwback stuff with crunchy riffs, memorable melodies. I mean, I guess I could just listen to Sunny Day Real Estate (although Dogleg have more energy), but this is good for what it is. (3/5))
85. Prizes Roses Rosa - The Kinspiral (Psychedelic post-rock? Austrialian artist also known as Panda Rosa on Spotify, and p rosa. (Don't ask.) Expansive, textural noodling that's hard to categorise. But it has that same sense of exploration and cinematic space the first post-rock acts had (e.g. Bark Psychosis, Tortoise). (3/5))
86. Zelienople - Hold You Up (Post-rock/slowcore. Zelienople have been making soft and meandering music for close to 20 years now, sometimes steering closer to drone, sometimes to straightfoward slowcore. There are no crescendos or emotional peaks here, this is contemplative post-rock in the vein of Talk Talk or Slowdive's Pygmalion without the freaky effects. (3/5))
87. Jaga Jazzist - Pyramid (Jazz fusion/nu-jazz. A pretty chill and low-key album. They've always been kind of easy listening, and this is a thoroughly safe and inoffensive album with some great sounds. (3/5))
88. Nicolas Jaar - Cenizas (Ambient. Some of the nocturnal cool of dark jazz, this is a pleasant ambient album from Nicolas Jaar, who has released better albums both under his own name (the fantastic Space Is Only Noise) and as Against All Logic (see above). (3/5))
89. Nicolas Jaar - Telas (Ambient. Quite similar to Cenizas, but the tracks are much longer and the textures more interesting. For its genre, its quite varied and the tracks shift moods - which is admirable, but it also works somewhat against the use of ambient as background music. It's disruptive and detailed enough to need close listening, but maybe not interesting enough to make the effort more than once. Great track though: Telallás. (3/5))
90. Windy & Carl - Allegiance and Conviction (Ambient. Drone on like it's 2001! This married couple have been part of Kranky's roster since 1998, and they keep churning out reliable ambient albums for longer than that. Dreamy, hazy, with some soft vocals and sparse melodies, it does the job. (3/5))
91. Four Tet - Sixteen Oceans (Ambient Microhouse. Or you know, generic downtempo electronic with some field recorings etc. Four Tet are always pleasant, occasionally great, but this strays a bit too often on the whatevs side. (3/5))
92. Ruusut - Kevätuhri (Art/electropop. Finnish critics' pets, this supposedly ambitious and mature sophomore album is a step down from the debut. It isn't as catchy, and it's not deep enough to make up for that. (3/5))
93. Ulver - Flowers Of Evil (Synthpop. I don't know, somehow I didn't get into this album. I don't know if it's any worse than the previous, but it's very similar and the sound isn't interesting enough. Maybe I'll have energy for it at some later point. (3/5))
94. Phoxjaw - Royal Swan (Post-hardcore/Alt-rock. A bit of mewithoutYou, maybe a bit of Junius or Hum, this is an energetic and stylistically diverse debut album with a melancholy undertone. (3/5))
95. Protomartyr - Ultimate Success Today (Post-punk. Dour and punishing post-punk leaning toward noise rock. The vocalist reminds me of young Michael Gira's apathetic doomsayer intonation. (3/5))
96. Moaning - Uneasy Laughter (Post-punk. These guys are on the synthier, New Order side of post-punk, with some anthemic indie rock choruses. (3/5))
97. Porridge Radio - Every Bad (Alt-rock/post-punk. Blistering and anthemic, they move between more melodic alt-rock and noisy post-punk. A bit of Torres, a bit of Iceage, Savages, maybe a bit of Tropical Fuck Storm or even Amanda Palmer in the vocals. Rocks well enough. (3/5))
98. Waxahatchee - Saint Cloud (Indie Americana. I absolutely LOVED Waxahatchee's lo-fi, bedroom folk debut American Weekend, but did not really care for the fuzzy, by-the-numbers indie rock of the next three. This is another direction, rooted in straightforward americana. It's sunny and wistful, beautiful listening for lazy summer mornings, but not essential. (3/5))
99. Park Hye Jin - How Can I (Deep house. Not really qualified to say much about this; "outsider house" with a detached, urban feel and nice beats. For a novice like me, evokes the atmosphere of Endtroducing. (3/5))
100. Kylie - Disco (Dance pop/nu-disco. I always thought Kylie Minogue is nice and charismatic. She's not a trailblazing musical genius or a carefully constructed pop icon, but there's something likeable and no-nonsense about her. The best songs on this album are fun and groovy: especially the first four tracks and the last three are solid sequences. (Also bonus points for using Teemu Brunila, Finland's best pop songwriter and ex-frontman of the great The Crash. Miss a Thing even mimicks his vocal mannerisms.) Overall, though, it's a bit samey and unremarkable. (3/5))
101. Gesu no Kiwami Otome - ストリーミング、CD、レコード (Streaming, CD, Record) (Progressive pop/indie rock. Fun, funky and loungy, this has a lovely lightness of touch to both its melodies and arrangements. Their sound is fairly incomparable. (3/5))
102. Reol - Kinjitō (Electropop/hiphop. Electic j-pop star with slapping beats and a cooler-than-you persona. (3/5))
103. That Kid - Crush (Bubblegum bass. Glossy and shamelessly erotic, a Prince for the Twitter age. Apart from the heavily processed vocals and electronic beats you'd expect from the genre, the songs are pretty straightforward and effective pop. (3/5))
104. Grimes - Miss Anthropocene (Electropop/Art pop. Blah blah future androids fighter planes cyberpunk. You know the deal. She's exchanged some of the whimsical twee synth bangers for more midde-of-the-road, moody songs. Still hits the mark sometimes, but weaker than Visions or Art Angels. (3/5))
105. Lady Gaga - Chromatica (Dance pop. Disappointing. From visual clues, and even the sound of the singles although they didn't blow me away, that this would be a comeback album. It's got all the promise of artifice and futurism I love Gaga for, but the songs are as inoffensive as on Joanne. (2.5/5))

Disclaimer: All top lists are unofficial and do not represent the point of view of the MS Staff.
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Comments: 1   Visited by: 10 users
30.12.2020 - 14:02

Alright, I'm almost done with this list. Still have a few recent albums to weigh and possibly add, and I may have to revisit some ratings, but I don't think there will be anything that'll make it to the top 30. These are not in any particular order except by rating category - in the upper ranges, a vague order of preference at the time of adding them, at best.

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