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TWM’S RECORD COLLECTION: 2020

Well somehow we’re at the end of 2020 (yeah happy new year by the way) and what a rollercoaster it has been. Nobody’s year went to plan, and we’ve all been desperate for a better 2021. But looking back on the year, we were treated to a lot of pretty awesome music. So to recap on our favourites, the TWM team have come together to give you our collective record collection, of our favourite albums that 2020 had to offer us.

SONGS FOR THE GENERAL PUBLIC BY THE LEMON TWIGS

Kylie: Let’s dive into my favourite record of the year, shall we? Prior to the album’s release in August, I simply considered myself a casual fan of The Lemon Twigs. As I type this, however, there is a poster hung up high on my wall along with some merch tucked away in my closet. With that in mind, it’s safe to say I completely fell in love after listening to Songs For The General Public (because, well, it’s the truth!). I grew up being surrounded by the roars of the 1970s, so naturally, I have always held a slight preference for that decade of songwriting and musical craftsmanship as a whole. The Lemon Twigs flawlessly introduce that particular flare into the modern age, and they do so in a way that isn’t a copycat, cut-and-paste sound. It’s very distinctly them, and although their influences may shine through every now and then, it’s still The Lemon Twigs. Songs For The General Public is nothing short of brilliance; each and every track is a work of art. I still have trouble deciding my favourite song off of this record, but because I want every single person reading this to give it a full listen, here are three recommendations: Nobody Holds You (Closer Than The One You Haven’t Met), Fight, and Moon. Thank me later.

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ZEROS BY DECLAN MCKENNA

Liam: Somehow managing to channel Bowie’s ghost, Declan McKenna managed to drop one of the best albums I’ve heard in a long time, definitely my favourite record of the year. An album with no filler and some killer songwriting. If you thought What Do You Think About The Car? was good, your mind will be blown upon hearing track one of Zeros. Upon its release I could not stop listening to it, other albums popped up here and there but this album for me was an instant hit, Declan felt unstoppable. Pure indie pop production that made the hits POP out. Declan’s voice solidly grown since the last record, the voice cracks replaced with raspy belts and shouts that somehow envoke more anger and frustration from the social commentary of the last album somehow. Hit by a plague of a year, this album shone a light through the darkness for all to see.

K: And well if I were to sum up this record in just a few words, I’d probably say something along the lines of thrilling, electrifying, and powerful. Zeros is an absolute explosion of an album. As you make your way through the tracklist, you are thwarted deeper and deeper into the alternate universe Declan has created, though, you may eventually find that it isn’t too far off from our own. Using his music to cast a spotlight on important world issues, Declan isn’t a stranger to political music. His debut album, What Do You Think About The Car?, led to many labelling Declan as a political musician due to the album’s strong messages and ideas. Although he doesn’t want to trap himself in one box when it comes to songwriting, Zeros emphasizes the importance of a variety of issues in a more intricate, storytelling fashion. Focusing on environmental issues, abuse of power, and the ever-looming fear of the unknown, Declan McKenna’s sophomore album is certainly one to remember.

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THE ARCHER BY ALEXANDRA SAVIOR

L: The Archer was a phenomenal album from Portland singer-songwriter Alexandra Savior. Completely rounding her sound previously crafted from her first LP Belladonna Of Sadness, but this time completely on her own without the help of Alex Turner. With the pressure of losing her record deal, manager and writing the entire album on her own, this almost gateway of freedom allowed Savior to explore her sound and the ways she could fine-tune it to become The Archer. Being finished all the way back in 2018, after the label struggles, her prowess was seen by 30th Century Records, and in January she dropped her most ambitious work to date. The Archer makes you feel as if your life is a movie, and God herself has decided to write the soundtrack. Alexandra Savior’s latest effort is the effect of slowing down time during an adrenaline rush, a complete pipe dream that blends to your skin.

Aimee: The moment I first listened to Belladonna Of Sadness I knew that Alexandra Savior was something special. She delivered such a well-executed record with real conviction, but as mentioned by Liam, her 2020 release The Archer truly hits the target. This time lighter and cloaked with a haze of mist, her second record is enough of a departure to keep things fresh but still contains that cinematic wonder we already loved her for. She really hones that trade-mark sound whilst using it to show a different side; where a greater sense of vulnerability is present (but still backed by that strong attitude and spirit rooted within). The Archer effortlessly sweeps you away on a journey as personal as creating it was to Savior. A perfect experience for entering a new year; the LP gives you what feels like endless time and space to reminisce and reflect on feelings that have washed over or hit hard and even dream about what is to come.

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ULTRA MONO BY IDLES

A: Ultra Mono was the first album that I wrote about for TWM and what an album it is; loud, gutsy and in your face (exactly what a record from Idles should be). It kicked off my journey here with a bang, their transitional tracks and brash beating sound a sure-fire way of supplying a bolt of energy to any listener. Sticking true to their guns, there’s no shying away from divisive topics with bold declarations; delivered via lyrics that paint a picture with each line. The Bristol band have proven their strength from the start but have definitely evolved record to record with this third being their most diverse yet. The LP is not only charged and weighty but also flexes their abilities to produce a softer sound at times (see: ‘A Hymn’), as well as having some fun with cheeky digs and quick-witted lines (‘Grounds’). Ultra Mono couldn’t have come at a better time; never shying away from harsh truths and providing a great dose of motivation, it was one hell of a record to help us through one of the strangest years imaginable. I’m sure it will see us through whatever is heading our way next too.

James: I think it’s very much true that punk is BACK IN and my god how good it feels to see a record like Ultra Mono become so adored by music lovers. As my dad asked me yesterday with a tear in his eye ‘your generation are listening to punk again?’ Yes, dad, Ultra Mono is certainly paving the way for a generation of new bands and a bit of kick-ass music is exactly what last year needed to see us through to the end. It’s the album which first brought IDLES to my attention and something tells me I’ll be buying their records for a long time to come now.

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THE SLOW RUSH BY TAME IMPALA

K: I can vividly remember what I was doing and where I was at when Kevin Parker announced last year that a new album was on the horizon. I swore that this was a sign that 2020 was about to be incredible; I mean, a new Tame album after five years? Pinch me. 

Yikes.

Even though we are all well aware of the fact that the year turned out to be a giant catastrophe, The Slow Rush gave us one last treat before the world flipped upside down. I can confidently say that it was well worth the wait, and although I’m still mourning the fact that I was meant to catch a show this year, I’m even more confident that the live shows will be just as worth it. With tracks like “Lost in Yesterday,” “Instant Destiny,” and “Breathe Deeper,” it’d be criminal to not include this record on any “Best of 2020” list. Everything Tame Impala puts out is the musical manifestation of magic, and The Slow Rush is certainly no exception.

L: Exactly, five years after the release of Currents and Kevin Parker drops The Slow Rush? Damn. A record like Currents is hard to top, but Parker definitely gave us his all. This album for me was probably the most prevalent LP throughout the year. With some albums, you get lost in the hype and after 3 months of non-stop exposure to it, you suddenly find yourself distant from it, having moved onto the next big release. But The Slow Rush was different. Different tracks growing on me and becoming my next favourite off the album, right from it’s release in February, to only a couple weeks ago upon me grabbing a vinyl copy and hearing it again in a whole new light. 5 years worth of inspiration, experience and production has given us some of the most solid producing Parker has given us yet. The Slow Rush was a good summary for this year, and for me, really helped me get through this challenge. Hearing track 1, One More Year hits differently now, and I think this entire album will now for the rest of my life. 

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3.15.20 BY CHILDISH GAMBINO

L: Donald Glover’s fourth studio album 3.15.20 came out of nowhere, but then seemed to slip under the radar a smidge too. Being released just days before the first national lockdown here in the UK, perhaps people’s minds were far too spaced out to fully notice and appreciate it. Which is a massive shame because it’s actually a really good record. If you’re expecting Because The Internet 2.0 or Awaken My Love the sequel then you’ll be disappointed, but if you’ve been liking the latest ventures from Childish Gambino like This Is America and Feels Like Summer you’ll be in for a treat, especially with Feels Like Summer making the cut onto the record. With features from Ariana Grande to 21 Savage and more, the album flows completely seamlessly, with each track transitioning into the next. Each track apart from 2 exceptions are unnamed, each entitled with the timestamp that each respective track starts during the LP. What this does though, is in a modern world where the consumption of singles has almost completely thrashed the album playthrough out of the park, it makes you listen to this whole album through and through, and appreciate all 57 minutes of it from start to finish. And with it being a bit of a hidden gem at the minute, you can bet you’ll find some tracks you wish you’d have known sooner. 

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RETURN BY KATY J PEARSON

K: Bliss. Pure, bona fide bliss. Katy J Pearson is an absolute gift of a musician, and her debut album as a solo artist, Return, marks the beginning of a luminescent new chapter for the young singer. This record is a peaceful spring afternoon, swinging in a hammock, book in hand… 


Alright, alright I’m back; I got a bit lost in my own metaphor. Words cannot accurately express my love for this record enough. I am completely infatuated with every single aspect of it, and as soon as I heard it for the first time, I texted just about everyone I know about this beautiful songstress. I even wrote a piece on her, which you can check out here (wink, wink). This record quickly became a top pick for me before I even finished it in its entirety, and I genuinely cannot wait to see what else is in store. Do yourselves a favour, stop what you’re doing, and give Katy J Pearson a listen—you will not regret it.

Add Return on Spotify now.

IT IS WHAT IT IS BY THUNDERCAT

L: Thundercat’s fourth studio album It Is What It Is was a smash in the ballpark for the Californian singer and bassist. Smooth soul-infused funk to serenade you through whatever your day may bring you. There’s no denying the talent within this man, the things he plays and sings over at the same time were always complex and beautiful, but his 2020 effort surpassed expectations. Featuring artists such as Steve Lacy, Childish Gambino, Louis Cole and Steve Arrington, the album certainly knows how to catch your ears and dig in deep to your soul. This record goes through a lot of emotions but in typical Thundercat fashion, it’s humorous, and that little element of realism helps ground this artistically wonderful collection of music, to the real world. It’s heaven don’t get me wrong, but it’s heaven with a sign with your name on it. 

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A HERO’S DEATH BY FONTAINES D.C.

J: Just when you thought Fontaines D.C. couldn’t top their debut album Dogrel (2019), in 2020, they came through with perhaps the most anticipated and most incredible follow-up album since Joy Division’s Closer. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, Fontaines D.C. will likely be remembered as one of the best underground post-punk bands of their generation. They may not have been able to tour the album extensively this year, however, but it’s by no means hindered the response from fans. We can’t wait to see them put on a show with the songs from their second LP once venues reopen. Instead of touring, the band have been hard at work on the excellent live sessions which premiered on their YouTube channel. The sessions are truly the closest I’ve felt to the excitement and atmosphere of a live gig all year.

L: Yeah I mean I’ll be honest when this album dropped I didn’t really think it had much of a lasting impression on me. But over the weeks I noticed myself coming back to it, over and over. Tracks such as I Don’t Belong and the title track A Hero’s Death completely dominating my months’ playlists at times. After thoroughly enjoying Dogrel, it was 2020s A Hero’s Death that solidified me as a fan of Fontaines D.C.

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NOTES ON A CONDITIONAL FORM BY THE 1975

L: The wild ride of The 1975s fourth album was not an easy one, for fans or the band. After having to delay the album multiple times, and then a global pandemic cancelling the entire tour beyond rescheduling. Notes On A Condition Form was a long, coherently messy (if that’s a term we can all get behind) album, and that’s not to knock it, I love how diverse the album is. I know I said this about The Slow Rush but I think within the context of 2020 and isolation, this album really did feel connected to my soul when it was released. Somehow encapsulating almost every anxiety and pleasure that you could go through during this heartache of a year. Lyrically perhaps some of Matty’s most personal delves into his mind, but so intrusively relevant into mine as well. It’s one of those records that listening back to, you’ll never really separate it’s universe to the year it happened to collide with, but in the years to come, perhaps that’s something good. A retrospective of the worst, and a reminder that even in the darkest of times, we can pull through anything.

K: Alright, I may be a bit biased here considering The 1975 is my favourite modern band, but this is without a doubt one of my top records of the year. NOACF is new territory for the band, experimenting with different sounds, styles, and genres, and the end result is otherworldly. I listened to the entire album as soon as it dropped at midnight, and I was on the phone with my friend since we couldn’t be together to hear it. It was truly such a magical, unforgettable experience; it was a few months into the madness of the pandemic, and although we were separated, this album helped us feel connected again. Without trying to get too sappy here, this album has undeniably been a rock for me throughout the year. I absolutely adore every single song on NOACF, and I have my fingers crossed that I’ll be able to hear them live sooner than expected.

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MORAL PANIC BY NOTHING BUT THIEVES

L: Nothing But Thieves latest outing certainly packs a punch. The typical RnB inspired rockers have gone at it again, this time with an emphasis on electronic music that really nails a new sound for the band, whilst staying true to their roots. It’s this kind of innovation that’s saving rock and roll. Moral Panic is an album written before Covid times but somehow completely gets the struggles and issues we’ve faced this year. I don’t know if that’s supposed to be comforting or not as a social commentary. But whatever the case, it makes for an integral listen for those who’ve simply had enough of the nightmare that has been 2020. Moral Panic is setting in, and Nothing But Thieves are not gonna let that slide. This is a rock record where the guitars are amped up to groove with you. If rock decided to start up a disco, this is what they’d play first. Another album that rounds up those 2020 vibes but in a way that you can dance your cares away in your living room. 

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RTJ4 BY RUN THE JEWELS

J: In a year which felt like the world was falling apart and had everyone shaking their head at the thought of four more years of Trump, Run The Jewels sucker-punched the world with their highly anticipated fourth album. Like each of their albums before this, the record is a frustration driven rave in your pocket from beginning to end. The angst of a generation poured into one great record. In response to some of the year’s events which woke up the world; the killing of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter protests which followed, RTJ4 makes good on the promise of keeping that flame alive with an important collaboration of phenomenal hip-hop artists. Along with Pharrell Williams, DJ Premier, desert rock legend Josh Homme and many more, RTJ4 is a library of fight songs to take the momentum built this year into the next.

L: Speaking of Mr Homme as a big fan of his work, upon hearing he co-produced the album I just had to listen to it, and I was pleasantly surprised that the album sounded nothing like any of his typical work. I wouldn’t have known he had anything to do with the album had it not been for the beauty of Wikipedia and word of mouth. But Homme aside, all that meant was I discovered RTJ4 and really dug the grooves this record had on offer. With pulling the pin being my personal highlight, the entire album was just such a wonderful avert of my expectations going into it completely blind, which was such a blissful feeling because nowadays it’s damn near impossible to do that. But the payoff was well worth it and discovering Run The Jewels was something brilliant.

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R.Y.C BY MURA MASA

L: Mura Masa’s second album was a change of tone from their first musical venture. R.Y.C becomes this millennial outcry. Being young in the 21st century is no easy feat, but R.Y.C is an album that encapsulates all the rage of being a young adult in 2020. Being this more guitar-driven, sugar-coated, slacker, indie/folk/pop combine harvest, there’s little here to not relate to. Alexander Crossan’s vocals really hit home here, completely humanizing the angst and fear of modernity. But he’s got help all over the album, with features from Clairo, Slowthai, Ellie Rowsell of Wolf Alice, Georgia and many more. All within that young adult bracket, so the roots of this record dig really deep into every performance. Going from the blissful calmic a meeting at an oak tree Featuring Ned Green to the angry demoralisation of Deal Wiv It Featuring Slowthai, possibly the highlight of the whole album, talking about the harsh reality of gentrification and the changes of the modern world that sticks out like an upright nail in a game of heads down thumbs up. A shout for attention that’s completely and utterly deserved. This entire album goes through the ropes as the soundtrack of a coming of age film for the modern sadboi, but trust me, it’s completely worth the experience of listening all the way through. 

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And so here we are at the end of our collection. Out of all the albums we loved throughout the year, there was just one that we all loved and felt like it deserved the spotlight.

Before we get onto why we love this album so much, all of us at TWM would like to thank you for your support over our magazine. We absolutely love sharing new music with you, and we’ve got a lot more in store for this new year.

So if you only take just one record from this list, we can all safely say this is a safe bet to go with.

WORKING MEN’S CLUB BY WORKING MEN’S CLUB

K: Stumbling upon this group felt like unearthing pure gold. Working Men’s Club is absolutely hypnotic, and at times, it’s hard to believe this record isn’t a hidden gem from the 80s or 90s. As we all know, 2020 was the year of distance and isolation, but this record massively helps with making you feel like you’re on a night out despite staying at home in your pyjamas while desperately trying to figure out what day of the week it is. Aside from the mesmerizing, addictive beats, the songwriting is just as brilliant (“Cook a Coffee,” anyone?). There is an abundance of genius within this album, and considering the fact that this is just their debut, Working Men’s Club are well on their way to becoming something incredibly special. 

L: I remember when Aimee’s article on them went live and just being in awe and genuine hype upon hearing Valleys. All that craving for 80s New Wave, Dance and Electronica soundscape that I genuinely don’t think I’ve heard since the likes of New Order. I love it when bands today hark back to the days of the Hacienda, but no band I think has ever managed to dissect the core of that music, translate it into the modern-day so perfectly but still remaining so presently 80s. It’s nostalgic and futuristic at the same time. For a bands debut album, you really can’t get much better than this.

A: Nothing’s ever held me in more of a trance than when I first experienced Working Men’s Club’s eponymous debut record. Growing up in Manchester, grey, drizzly days spent wandering around the city would heavily feature daydreams of imagining what it was like back in the 80s and 90s. This album is as if somebody read my mind and wrote a soundtrack to accompany them. I was so excited to find something individual and new that simultaneously felt familiar in the best of ways; it felt like the record I could only ever wish for. Ever since that came true, I’ve spent a lot of time with it on repeat and my love hasn’t once wavered. Whether I talk to someone who was also lucky enough to stumble upon the LP like myself or insisted that family and friends listen, everyone who hears is in undeniable agreement on just how good it is. You can’t help but feel psyched up and ready to rave which is exactly what we needed to get through 2020 and will surely help us kick start the new year and look forward to a future with more music from Working Men’s Club.

J: Too right about being transported back to 80s Manchester, you don’t need to have grown up in the golden era to crave dancing in a sweaty nightclub while listening to any of their brilliant songs. Watching this music video makes me miss those late nights with friends, in music terms, it’s about as close to an antidote for the boredom 2020 brought as we could get. These are songs not just for the younger generation, but something about the Working Men’s Club sound seems to entice almost anyone who listens. If you played this at Christmas I guarantee your nan would be up on her feet too. For Working Men’s Club, this is only just the beginning… 2021 awaits. If there’s anything you take away from this list, get yourself a copy of this album.

Add Working Men’s Club on Spotify now.

Once again, thanks for spending 2020 with us, and here’s to a new year filled with fantastic music. We can’t wait to share more with you.

Categories
Indie/Indie Rock Reviews

Review: Declan McKenna – Zeros

The long awaited album Zeros from Declan McKenna has finally arrived and it packs a punch. And when I say long awaited I’m not kidding, with McKenna saying back in December 2019 that the album was mixed and mastered ready for release, and here we are in September 2020, after 2 release delays, finally with the album in our hands, and ready to stream.

We were treated with the gloriously Bowie inspired Beautiful Faces back in late January, a glam rock stomper that absolutely goes off, and shows a definite progression from the likes of his earlier work such as 2015s Brazil, but still pumping that distinctive McKenna sound. In fact one key element to the more matured sound McKenna’s pulling off with this one is the fact that previous work would have been recorded by himself track by track with his producer, whereas this time round, McKenna set foot to get a band together in a room and play the songs, so with a full band in mind throughout the entire recording and writing process, you can see how the sounds have gone from big to gigantic, and feel a lot more scratchier and raw, which compliments the soundscape of Zeros very well.

The album’s sound feels like it was pulled straight out of a 70s glam rock band, it’s authentic without shying away from modern craftsmanship. This ranges from the glittery candy rock of the likes of Rapture, to the phenomenal ballad Be An Astronaut, almost bleeding the inspiration of songs like The Beatles’ Hey Jude and Queen’s Don’t Stop Me Now, feeling as if it’d fit in on David Bowie’s Hunky Dory, but comparisons don’t do it justice, you can hear the influences sure, but this is NOT Declan singing over a song that sounds like it’s made for someone else, this is jam packed of McKenna’s very identity, an organic young adult’s exclamation about the world they’re encapsulated by, with issues of social media stigma to self retrospectives. One thing that is inherently Declan is his voice which has always been iconic. Let’s not beat around the bush here, the voice cracks that add to the depth of the messages he wants to get across to the pretty incredible range he has. But this album shows his growth and maturity, the once heralded voice cracks, now raspy broken screams throughout the likes of Be An Astronaut and Rapture. Declan also really flaunts his falsetto on this album, and it’s the perfect remedy for pop-rock hooks and is just an absolute delight to listen to.

There are definitely elements of folk thrown into the mix of the album too, sounds that aren’t too far fetched from the likes of Bob Dylan or Father John Misty. And I say thrown because as brilliant as this album is, it definitely feels like a 40 minute explosion. A coherent one, but an explosion none-the-less. The themes and the sounds scream disorder, in fact a word that could sum up this album is ‘Chaos’, it’s something that feels like it goes straight into your bloodstream, but the production wraps up Zeros and makes it all feel like a home for the tracks, or perhaps an intergalactic cruise ship chasing after the likes of Ziggy Stardust to escape the dystopian present we’re all subtly sinking into. One of the big messages embedded within the record is that of impending doom, lusciously soundtracked to upbeat melodies. Declan’s never been one to shy away from making political statements through his music, and Zeros is no exception. The opening track – You Better Believe!!! Greeting the listener with the wonderful opening line “You’re gonna get yourself killed” which in the current climate, has never been more true.

Zeros is a social commentary with a vibrant disguise, where upon first listen you’ll melt into Declan’s band’s 70s serenade, and where a deeper look takes a breath to show you the state of what’s around you and how the epidemic doesn’t just stop with the likes of COVID-19, but with the far greater things at stake that strike fear into every young person in the 21st Century. It’s a chaotically wonderful listening experience and you just HAVE to hear it for yourself. Album highlights are ‘You Better Believe!!!’, ‘Be An Astronaut’, ‘Beautiful Faces’, ‘Daniel You’re Still A Child’, ‘Twice Your Size’ and ‘Rapture’. So, if you’re not familiar with Declan McKenna, then get familiar. Trust me when I say you’re missing out otherwise. It’s glam, indie perfection, and was born to be dialled up to 11.