Post-Punk.com Best of 2020

Aus best of Bootblacks Choir Boy Death Bells Einstürzende Neubauten Fearing Gwendoline House of Harm Houses of Heaven korine Lebanon Hanover Lists martial canterel Molchat Doma Nothing Ötzi profligate Riki S. Product selofan Spectres The Glass Beads The Psychedelic Furs Wire

Hindsight is 2020, and for many music fans, the eagerness to have this year behind us can’t be overstated. Live music has come to a grinding halt in this bizarre age of quarantine and isolation. As soulful post-punk act Algiers put it, with the title track from their fantastic and prescient third full-length record released in January; “There Is No Year”. And yet, there were many great albums, EPs, and singles issued in 2020, even if the artists behind them were unable to tour in support of these wonderful releases.

Alex’s picks:

It was a tough call to narrow down this year’s best-of list. My own personal top 5 is effectively a tie, with each release bringing its own unique and exceptional mood to music playlists this year whether it be experienced through one of the numerous virtual club nights, or through listening to alone as a cathartic way to pass the endless social distancing hours of this beyond surreal year.

Choir Boy with their second studio album Gathering Swans proves they are one of the most talented bands around today, sounding something like if Jimmy Someville were to front The Cure circa 1983 to 1987, or Scottish post-punk band The Wake, but even that description does not do the band justice, as they conjure a heavenly sound all their own. The album’s three singles “Complainer”, “Toxic Eye”, and “Sweet Candy” are absolute perfection, along with the deeply melancholic ballad “Nites Like This”, a song which was released as a stand-alone single preluding the album to come last year.

Riki, the solo moniker of musical matryoshka Niff Nawor, is the best new artist this year with her brilliant self-titled solo debut. The album, which is a melange of ethereal, synthpop, and Italo Disco permutations, showcases the creative evolution Niff has developed since her vocal debut whilst playing keys and backing Deathrock act Crimson Scarlet’s Chelsey Crowley on their cover of Joy Division’s Interzone back in 2014. Despite the fact that Riki’s lead single “Napoleon” is sure to pack dancefloors when they open post-covid, “Earth Song” is where the record’s songwriting really shines, along with the Prokofievian “Strohman”, and romantic dreamscapes saturating the tracks “Spirit of Love”, “Come Inside”, “Know”, and “Monumental.”

If it were the 80s, Philadelphia’s synthpop duo Korine seem like an act that would either be on the roster of MUTE, or featured on the soundtrack of a John Hughes film. With the album’s singles “Cast”, “Fate”, “Cruel”, and “Cold Heart”, Trey and Morgy create heartfelt synthpop perfection and teenage anthems for the era of synthwave nostalgia.

Belarusian post-punk trio Molchat Doma are in the middle of a meteoric rise in popularity worldwide, spearheading what some have called “Russian Doom”, aka post-punk and coldwave produced from young bands from the CIS (formerly the Soviet Union). The band have recently been signed to the prestigious NYC label Sacred Bones and released their third studio album Monument. The album features three fantastic singles: the dark and hypnotic soundtrack to the somnambulant masses, “Не смешно” (“Not Funny”); the synth-pop driven “Дискотека” (“Discotheque”); and haunting Victor Tsoi/KINO-esque post-punk gem “Ответа нет” (“No Answer”).

NYC’s post-punk stalwarts Bootblacks, after nearly a decade in existence, recently signed to Canadian label Artoffact Records, joining the ranks of Kaelan Mikla, and several other artists on our best-of list this year. The resulting album Thin Skies, produced by Actors’ Jason Corbett is saturated with the warm reverb sounds of the 80s, propelled unrelentingly by some of the most talented musicians in Gotham’s underground music scene.

Albums:

Choir Boy Gathering Swans

Riki S/T

Korine The Night We Raise

Molchat Doma Monument

Bootblacks Thin Skies

Lebanon Hanover Sci-Fi Sky

Nothing The Great Dismal

Spectres Nostalgia

Houses of Heaven Silent Places

Selofan Partners in Hell

House of Harm Vicious Pastimes

Fearing Shadow

Death Bells New Signs of Life

The Glass Beads Therapy

Otzi Storm

Profligate Too Numb to Know

EP/Singles:

Martial Canterel Horizon Ltd.

Secret Shame Dissolve b​/​w Pure

Rose Garden Funeral Party At The Stake

S. Product Suicide Beat

Altar de Fey And May Love Conquer All

Frank’s Picks

In 2020, I was all over the map. I spent much of the year delving into other genres, exploring long-forgotten favorites, and trying to balance a new way of life alongside my usual listening habits. While the pandemic put a halt to live shows, I did spend a lot of time on Twitch, spinning records as well as watching bands streaming live sets, trying to connect anywhere I could. In the end, it was all about familiarity, reaching for those records that feel like worn-in sweaters and losing myself in them all over again. Less nostalgia, more comfort. Let’s just say I listened to a lot of Cranes and Harold Budd.

That said, there was quite a bit of excellent music released this year. Actually, quite an insane amount. I’d like to chalk a lot of it up to the pandemic itself, inspiring bands to record and release, but you know as well as I that most of these records were completed long before COVID became a global concern. In all due fairness, this year would have been one of the strongest in some time by any standards.

As for my personal best-of list, I wanted to give a shoutout to a few excellent releases that don’t quite qualify for the site, but nonetheless deserve mention. If I’m being honest with myself, (and with all of you) my favorite record of the year was Hum’s comeback record, Inlet, which dropped out of nowhere and is just as strong as anything they’ve ever done. Another “off-brand” favorite that deserves a nod here is Fiona Apple’s confessional Fetch the Bolt Cutters, which I spent little time listening to, but every moment was poured over in full. On the ambient spectrum, William Basinski’s Lamentations is as gorgeous as anything he ever released, and the 1-2 punch of Nine Inch Nails’ latest Ghosts installments was an early pandemic treat. I’d also be foolish to neglect Anna Von Hausswolf’s All Thoughts Fly, a stunning neo-classical/ambient work consisting of treated pipe organs. It’s a record I just discovered recently, but have listened to non-stop ever since.

I’d also like to note that it was nearly impossible to rank this list as it stands, especially in the upper echelons… I’ve also included ten standout EPs/singles, as the format was in full effect this year more than any other I can think of in recent memory.

Albums:

Houses of Heaven Silent Places

Bootblacks Thin Skies

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

Public Memory Ripped Apparition

Siviyex Siviyex

Riki Riki

Palissade Palissade

Aus II

Linea Aspera Linea Aspera LP II

Nothing The Great Dismal

Spectres Nostalgia

Choir Boy Gathering Swans

Ganser Just Look at That Sky

Wire Mind Hive

Gwendoline Après C’est Gobelet!

The Psychedelic Furs Made of Rain

Plastic Ivy Spots of Time

Deserta Black Aura My Sun

Otzi Storm

Ssleeping Desiress Exile House

EPs/Singles:

Martial Canterel Horizon, Ltd.

Ces Cadáveres Cuerpos Monstruosos

Blacklist Disorder b/w No Secret Islands

Ghost Cop End Credits

S. Product Suicide Beat

Just Mustard Part Time Punks Session

Rosegarden Funeral Party At the Stake

Entertainment Maggot Church

Andi Corpse to Corpus

Secret Shame Dissolve b/w Pure

Andi’s Picks:

When approaching the year-end list, my initial reaction was Wait? Did I even listen to new music? because I was certain the pandemic had driven me further down the road to nostalgia. I found myself reaching for music that was safe, the kind that I knew was predictable but satisfying. But when it came time to create this list, the realization came that there were many amazing albums—and especially EPs—throughout this long, drawn-out year that had provided a reprieve from the misery and despair of the pandemic.

The most surprising of all was the first Cabaret Voltaire album in 26 years, Shadow of Fear, made by Richard H. Kirk, without his bandmate (and vocalist) Stephen Mallinder. After groans and negativity from others about this decision to continue on under the moniker of CV, I was prepared to hate it. However, it was a charming, nearly uplifting, mix of the traditional CV sound that so many artists these days attempt to replicate and fail in doing so. Shadow of Fear is fresh, and it’s the best release of 2020. Other “old school” artists found their way onto my list as well, including the super experimental Einstürzende Neubauten Alles In Allem and Dive‘s last-minute contender, Where Do We Go From Here?—both of which retain moments of their past brilliance but also manage not to sound redundant. But perhaps that’s why I love them: they’re familiar.

It seemed that 2020 was about cross-pollinating genres, blurring the traditional outlines of goth, EBM, post-punk, or darkwave. There’s no better example than my two favorite EPs of the year: Dead Husband and Ces Cadáveres. Dead Husband’s Iguana has been a non-stop listen since it’s release pre-quarantine, which feels like more than a year ago at this point. Iguana easily crosses lines between dreamy Italo-disco and darkwave while Ces Cadáveres’ Cuerpos Monstruosos presented smart and angular synthpunk EBM with a melody (Visitor‘s LP, Technofossil does this incredibly well, too). The EP format leaves no room for mediocrity—and my top picks for the category understood that well. After such a tumultuous year, to look back on the music it generated since many artists completed their albums during quarantine, and what it will initiate for 2021 is exciting. I’m here for it.

Albums:

Cabaret Voltaire Shadow of Fear



Korine
The Night We Raise


Riki Riki



Einstürzende Neubauten
Alles In Allem

Visitor Technofossil


Dive Where Do We Go From Here?

Linea Aspera LP II

Selofan Partners in Hell



Стереополина (
Stereopolina) Институт культуры и отдыха (Institute of Culture and Rest)



Lebanon Hanover 
Sci-Fi Sky

Otzi Storm

Aus Aus II

EPs:

Dead Husband Iguana



Ces Cadáveres
Cuerpos Monstruosos



TWINS 
Great Barrier



Kris Baha 
Starts to Fall

Profit Prison Dreams of a Dark Building



Altar de Fey
And May Love Conquer All

Listen to our official Post-Punk.com Best of 2020 Playlist on Spotify:

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