Thursday, December 31, 2020

Chart of Charts - Albums of 2020

 Aggregated chart of charts for the six lists I posted this year. From Pitchfork, The Guardian, Best Ever Albums, Uncut, Mojo and my own. Fiona Apple gets the Number One rating. Quite right too! I'll only list 25 here as in this strange year of common experience globally an even stranger consensus of the best records of the year seems to have been arrived at.

1. Fiona Apple - Fetch The Boltcutters
2.  Fontaines DC - A Hero's Death
3. Bob Dylan - Rough and Rowdy Ways
4. Phoebe Bridgers - Punisher
5. Fleet Foxes - Shore
6. Moses Sumney - Grae
7. Waxahatchee - Saint Cloud 
8. Run The Jewels - RTJ4
9. Dua Lipa - Future Nostalgia
10. HAIM - Women In Music Part III
11. Laura Marling - Song For Our Daughter
12. Taylor Swift - folklore
13. Yves Tumor - Heaven To a Tortured Mind
14. Jesse Ware - What's Your Pleasure
15. Sufjan Stevens - Ascension
16. Rina Sawayama - Rina Sawayama 
17. SAULT - Untitled (Black Is)
18. Grimes - Miss Anthropocene
19. Tame Impala - The Slow Rush
20. Shabaka & The Ancestors - We Are Sent By History
21. Cornershop - England is a Garden
22. SAULT - Untitled (Rise)
23. U.S.Girls - Heavy Light
24. Paul Weller - On Sunset
25. Moses Boyd - Dark Matter

Covers # 140 Bernard Cribbins


Bernard. For a friend celebrating the Beatles birthday today.

Those We Have Lost 2021

 1. Little Richard 
2. Toots Hibbert
3,  Peter Green
      4, Florian Schneider
5. Bill Withers
6.  David Roback
7. Dave Greenfield
8. Hamilton Bohannon
9. John Prine
10. Andrew Weatherall 

Songs About People # 1,221 Pierre Cardin


An important man in Pop Culture and Pop Couture passed this year. Here's a song. Not an essential one but it gave me an excuse to post his photograph.

Fear of Music - The 261 Greatest Albums Since Punk & Disco # 144 Biz Markie - Goin' Off


This is Uncool - The 500 Greatest Singles Since Punk & Disco # 148 Adam & The Ants


         'On the sublime Dog Eat Dog, Adam's talent, vision and skill finally matched his ambition.'

Song(s) of the Day # 2,534 All Hits


Portland three piece All Hits would be just great live. Of that I have no doubt. On record they are a slightly different proposition. Really their sound is unreconstituted Punk, Roxy Club, any time in late 1977 or early 1978. I wonder if you can get through the whole of their 2020 record Men and Their Work. I couldn't quite. EPs are probably a better idea than full albums.

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Songs About People # 1,220 Mal Evans

Atmospheric and gloomy piece for Beatles right hand man Mal Evans. Appropriate really given the sad decline he went into. Died in very sad circumstances in LA in 1976.

Covers # 139 Miriam Makeba


Miriam does Creedence.

Fear of Music - The 261 Greatest Albums Since Punk & Disco # 143 Eric B. & Rakim


This is Uncool - The 500 Greatest Singles Since Punk & Disco # 147 The Fall


'Smith's greatest three minutes.'

Song(s) of the Day # 2,533 Eamon Ra


A true throwback. Very interesting to listen to Meat Bones Chemicals Electricity, Eamon Ra's album from this year and from what I can see his first. I say it's from this year, but spiritually it's really not at all.

Really it's from 1965 where The Byrds first started making that heavenly, mesmeric raga sound with their Rickenbackers and The Who first started rattling their cages.Meat Bones Chemicals Electricity mostly stays between '65 and '67 during the course of its run, taking in some of The Kinks impeccable charm and cutting irony.

Very occasionally it fast forwards to Lennon and Nilsson aching, pained delivery of the early Seventies, pretty much the dying embers of this particular dream. Sometimes I was reminded of Neil Innes, court jester to The Beatles and his particular way with melody.

So this is a time capsule essentially, back to a time when the world was, well not exactly innocent, but certainly a lot more straightforward than the one we live in now. Why Ra has chosen to do this I have no idea, but he does it very well, and I imagine there are sure to be plenty of takers.

He pitches his tent straight off and sticks to his remit for the course of Meat Bones Chemicals Electricity. My description here of what goes on over the course of its ten brief tracks should be sufficient to help you decide whether you wish to investigate further.

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Patti Smith


Songs About People # 1,219 Martin Amis


                  One for former Enfant Terrible of English fiction. Seems like a long time ago.

Songs About People # 1,219 Seth Myers


More Hypoluxo. For chat show host Seth Myers, relentless scourge of Trump or bloody liberal, depending on your perspective,

It Starts With a Birthstone - Albums of the Year - 2019


This is me. Looking a bit worse for wear and wistful midway through the calendar year in my new local. Here is the final rundown of my favourite records of the year. It's the fourth year I've done this Top Fifty on here, counting down one day at a time from the beginning of November. This one seems like my best list, not necessarily because the records are better this year but because the process has been the most thorough it's ever been. I can vouch fully for every album listed here. Many very good records haven't made it; Lana Del Ray, Bubblegum Lemonade, The Murder Capital, Ona, Mac Demarco, Wives, Sleaford Mods, The Persian Leaps, Jeanines, A.A.Bondy, Divino Nino and myriad others. Check out the upcoming playlist for specifics.
  1. Bill Callahan - Shepherd In A Sheepskin Vest
  2. Sarathy Korwar - More Arriving
  3. Vanishing Twin - The Age of Immunity
  4. Big Thief - U.F.O.F.
  5. Lightning Dust - Spectre
  6. Robert Forster - Inferno
  7. Aldous Harding - Designer
  8. Wild Firth - Lawn Memory
  9. Purple Mountains - Purple Mountains
  10. Fontaines D.C. - Dogrel
  11. Big Thief - Two Hands
  12. Mega Bog - Dolphine
  13. The Mystery Lights - Too Much Tension
  14. Wilco - Ode To Joy
  15. Cate Le Bon - Reward
  16. Little Simz - Grey Area
  17. Weyes Blood - Titanic Rising
  18. Sharon Van Etten - Remind Me Tomorrow
  19. Damon Locks & the Black Monument Ensemble - Where Future Unfolds
  20. Joan Shelley - Like The River Loves The Sea
  21. Olden Yolk - Living Theatre
  22. Neil Young & Crazy Horse - Colorado
  23. Elva - Winter Sun
  24. Jeremy Tuplin - Pink Mirror
  25. Shana Cleveland - Night of the Worm Moon
  26. Hand Habits - placeholder
  27. Joanna Sternberg - Then I Try Some More
  28. Adam Green - Engine of Paradise
  29. Trash Kit - Horizon
  30. Possible Humans - Aspiring to be a Bloke
  31. Kevin Morby - Oh My God
  32. Fat White Family - Serf's Up!
  33. KOKOKO - Fongola!
  34. Tiny Ruins - Olympic Girls
  35. Good Morning - Basketball Breakups
  36. Rustin Man - Drift Code
  37. Program - Show Me
  38. Neutrals - Kebab Disco
  39. Boogarins - Sombre Duvida
  40. Penelope Isles - Until The Tide Creeps In
  41. Parsnip - When The Tree Bears Fruit
  42. James Yorkston - The Route To The Harmonium
  43. Kit Sebastian - Mantre Moderne
  44. Modern Nature - How To Live
  45. Kelsey Lu - Blood
  46. John Southworth - Miracle In The Night
  47. International Teachers of Pop - International Teachers of Pop
  48. Half Japanese - Invincible
  49. Doug Tuttle - Dream Road
  50. Jenny Hval - The Practice Of Love

Fear of Music - The 261 Greatest Albums Since Punk & Disco # 142 Boogie Down Productions - By All Means Necessary


This is Uncool - The 500 Greatest Singles Since Punk & Disco # 146 The Specials


'Stereotypes is an ambitious, bravura blend pf gypsy flamenco, reggae and a dramatic movie score,making epic tragedy out of one typical male's pointless death.'

Song(s) of the Day # 2,532 Hypoluxo


Brooklyn ensemble make pleasing Post Punk Pop sound on eponymous debut from earlier on this year.

Monday, December 28, 2020

Albums for 2021

Twenty five reasons to look forward to 2021.

Jane Weaver, Shame, Goat Girl, Lorde, Weyes Blood, Mogwai, Liz Phair, St Vincent, Lana Del Ray,  Teenage Fanclub, Sleaford Mods, Kiwi Jr., The Weather Station, My Bloody Valentine, Courtney Barnett, The Goon Sax, The Wrens, Dinosaur Jr. Parquet Courts, Hand Habits, Billie Eilish, Kendrick Lamar, Beautify Junkyards, Indigo Sparke, Jim Ghedi.

Covers # 138 Covers - Fred Schneider


While we're with Fred. Not good but it made me smile.

Songs About People # 1,218 Fred Schneider


                                                                                 Fred n' Deb.

It Starts With a Birthstone - Albums of the Year 2018


That's me. And here are my Top 50 albums of 2018. It's been a great year for music. I can vouch for that by the number of fine records that haven't made this list. Among them; Ty Segall, Sons of Kemet, Kadhja Bonet, Hovvdy, Spare Snare, Clint Michigan, Wooden Shjips, Parquet Courts, Walter Martin, Loose Tooth, The Plastic Shoelaces, The Saxaphones, Joan As Policewoman and many more. Here are the the ones that made my list.

1. Janelle Monae - Dirty Computer
2. The Good, The Bad & The Queen - Merrie Land
3. U.S. Girls - In A Poem Unlimited
4. Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever - Hope Downs
5. Elza Soares - Deus E Mulher
6. Lawn - Blood On The Tracks
7. Low - Double Negative
8. Phosphorescent - C'est La Vie
9. Emily Fairlight - Mother Of Gloom
10. Gwenno - Le Kov
11. Bill Ryder- Jones - Yawn
12. Cat Power - Wanderer
13. Courtney Barnett - Tell Me How You Really Feel
14. Trembling Bells - Dungeness
15. Blood Orange - Negro Swan
16. The Goon Sax - We're Not Talking
17. The Lavender Flu - Mow The Glass
18. Richard Swift - The Hex
19. Young Fathers - Cocoa Sugar
20. Papercuts - Parallel Universe Blues
21. Natalie Prass - The Future & The Past
22. Olden Yolk - Olden Yolk
23. Tomberlin - At Weddings
24. Say Sue Me - Where We Were Together
25. Alela Diane - Cusp
26. The Essex Green - Hardly Electronic
27. Vital Idles - Left Hand
28. Eleanor Friedberger - Rebound
29. Elephant Micah - Genericana
30. Amen Dunes - Freedom
31. Air Waves - Warrior
32. Emma Tricca - St.Peter
33. Fog Lake - Captain
34. Rosali - Trouble Anyway
35. Cafe Racer - Famous Dust
36. The Innocence Mission - Sun On The Square
37. New Silver Girl - New Silver Girl
38. Blue Orchids - Righteous Harmony Fist
39. Whyte Horses - Empty Words
40. The Orielles - Silver Dollar Moment
41. Kikagaku Moyo - Masana Temples
42. Yo La Tengo - There's A Riot Going On
43. Adrianne Lenker - abysskiss
44. The Shacks - The Shacks
45. Santigold - I Don't Want: The Gold Fire Sessions
46. Frankie Cosmos - Vessel
47. Wussy - What Heaven Is Like
48. Nap Eyes - I'm Bad Now
49. Amaya Laucirica - Rituals
50. Holy Tunics - Butterdish

Fear of Music - The 261 Greatest Albums Since Punk & Disco # 141 Boogie Down Productions


This is Uncool - The 500 Greatest Singles Since Punk & Disco # 145 Killing Joke


'Killing Joke were four Notting Hill nihilists who crossed punk with Black Sabbath and produced one of the most thrillingly nightmarish noises of the early '80s.'

Song of the Day # 2,531 Christine Harwood


Intense, and much sought after Folk artist of the early Seventies.

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Sylvie Vartan


It Starts With a Birthstone - Albums of the Year 2017

 Protomartyr's year.

1. Protomartyr - Relatives in Descent
2. Les Amazones D'Afrique - Republique Amazone
3. The Feelies - In Between
4. Big Thief - Capacity
5. Grizzly Bear - Painted Ruins
6. Oh Sees - Orc
7. Jane Weaver - Modern Kosmology
8. Kelley Stolz - Que Aura
9. Benjamin Clementine - I Tell a Fly
10. Dag - Benefits of Solitude
11. Ratboys - GN
12. Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile -Lotta Sea Lice
13. Kevin Morby - City Music
14. Girl Ray - Earl Grey
15. Perfume Genius - No Shape
16. La Feline - Triomphe
17. Nadine Shah - Holiday Destination
18. James Elkington - Wintres Woma
19. Mick Head & the Red Elastic Band - Adios Senor Pussycat
20. Holiday Ghosts - Holiday Ghosts
21. Jesca Hoop - Memories Are Now
22. Peter Perrett - How The West was Won
23. H.Grimace - Self-Architect
24. Baxter Dury - Prince Of Tears
25. Wild Pink - Wild Pink
26. Hurray For The Riff Raff - The Navigator
27. Amadou & Mariam - Le Confusion
28. Novella - Change Of State
29. Tim Cohen - Luck Man
30. CTMF - Brand New Cage
31. '68 - Two Parts Viper
32. Trevor Sensor - Andy Warhol's Dream
33. Faith Healer - Try
34. Mary Epworth - Elytral
35. Grandaddy - Last Place
36. NE-HI - Offers
37. Entrance - Book Of Changes
38. Catholic Action - In Memory Of
39. This Is The Kit - Moonshine Freeze
40. Guided By Voices - How do You Spell Heaven
41. French Vanilla - French Vanilla
42. Spinning Coin - Permo
43. Ibibio Sound Machine - Uyai
44. Travis Bretzer - Bubble Gum
45. Sweet Baboo - Wild Imagination
46. Fresh & Onlys - Wolf Lie Down
47. The New Year - Snow
48. Kacy & Clayton - The Siren's Song
49. Bread & Butter - Bread & Butter
50. Karen Elson - Double Roses

There were lots of others that might have been there. Including these:

Priests, The Mountain Goats, Broken Social Scene, Waxahatchee, Beach Fossils, Bonny Doon, Sneaks, Stef Chura, Surfer Blood, Black Springs, Century Palm, DUDS, Mount Eerie, Bedouine, Ron Gallo, Sinkane, Flat Worms, Happyness, Valerie June, Zara McFarlane, Bill Baird, Chastity Belt, Wand, Rhiannon Giddens, Jay Som, Laura Marling, Tinariwen, Spoon, Rose Elinor Dougall, Moon Duo, Julien Baker.

Fear of Music - The 261 Greatest Albums Since Punk & Disco # 140 Pet Shop Boys


                                  'A magical album about the realities of being bought and sold.'

This is Uncool - The 500 Greatest Singles Since Punk & Disco # 144 The Jam


'In which Paul Weller crawls out of his bunker, strips away as much bitterness and misanthropy as he can manage, and tries to look on the bright side.'

Song(s) of the Day # 2,531 Gwennifer Raymond


More mopping up as 2020 draws towards its frankly welcome close. Today with Gwenifer Raymond, one of Uncut Album's favourite artists. Strange Lights Over Garth Mountain, her album from this year is full of intensely strummed and no doubt intensely felt folk rituals. It's definitely worth a listen.

Choc full of thick, coiled, bruised instrumentals, the record advances deeper and deeper into the forest. An album that reminded me of Led Zep III. Definitely off the beaten track. 

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Songs About People # 1,217 Kitty Empire


An unusual one, and possibly one that doesn't entirely fit the remit of this particular series, but I make the rules around here. Another from Big Black and apparently one which the well known music journalist named herself after.

it Starts With a Birthstone - Albums of the Year 2016

 Have been doing these album rundowns for five years now. Here's the first. From 2016. Bowie of course.

By no means definitive. It was just records from 2016 I like and I made the order up as I was counting down to Bowie. Plenty of good and some great stuff missing. It was a dreadful year for music deaths; a wonderful one for new music; a bewildering one for the world!

50. DIIV - Is The Is Are
49. Beth Orton - Kidsticks
48. Steve Gunn - Eyes On The Line
47. Cate Le Bon - Crab Day
46. Ulrika Spacek - The Album Paranoia
45. Holy Wave - Freaks Of Nature
44. Angel Olsen - My Woman
43. Alex Cameron - Jumping The Shark
42. Eleanor Friedberger - New View
41. Cool Ghouls - Animal Races
40. Papooz - Green Juice
39. Beyond the Wizard's Sleeve - The Soft Bounce
38. Teleman - Brilliant Sanity
37. The Coathangers - Nosebleed Weekend
36. Public Access TV - Never Enough
35. Fumaca Preta - Impuros Fanaticos
34. Lawrenca Arabia - Absolute Truth
33. De La Soul - And The Anonymous Nobody
32. Goat - Requiem
31. Exploded View - Exploded View
30. Chris Cohen - As If Apart
29. Omni - Deluxe
28. Wilco - Schmilco
27. TOY - Clear Shot
26. Allah-Las - Calico Review
25. Xenia Rubinos - Black Terry Cat
24. Nothing - Tired Of Tomorrow
23. Black Marble - It's Immaterial
22. Big Thief - Masterpiece
21. Margo Price - Midwest Farmer's Daughter
20. Esperanza Spalding - Emily's D+Evolution
19. Kikagaku Moyo - House In The Tall Grass
18. Childish Gambino - "Awaken My Love!"
17. Eerie Wanda - Hum
16. Helado Negro - Private Energy
15. Parquet Courts - Human Performance
14. Warehouse - super low
13. Fantastic Negrito - The Last Days of Oakland
12. Agnes Obel - Citizen Of Glass
11. The Moles - Tonight's Music
10. Lambchop - FLOTUS
9. Nap Eyes - Though Rock Fish Scale
8. Sunflower Bean - Human Ceremony
7. Kevin Morby - Singing Saw
6. Kacy & Clayton - Strange Country
5. Leonard Cohen - You Want It Darker
4. The Avalanches - Wildflower
3. Regina Spektor - Remember Us To Life
2. Radiohead - A Moon Shaped Pool
1. David Bowie - Blackstar

Fear of Music - The 261 Greatest Albums Since Punk & Disco # 139 Big Black - Songs About Fucking


'Like most great punk rock, Songs About Fucking is about sexual revulsion.'

This is Uncool - The 500 Greatest Singles Since Punk & Disco # 143 David Bowie


'If Ashes to Ashes is the end of something. It is the beginning of something else.'

Song(s) of the Day # 2,530 Blake Mills


So, Christmas Day has been and gone. Multiple countdown lists on here are done, dusted and discontinued and we're left for the remainder of the year to mop up, exist on leftovers and think about things that we might have forgotten. Like this, a rather charming record from Blake Mills, that made # 43 on the end of year list on Mojo. Here are the opening couple of tracks.

Friday, December 25, 2020

Gigs of the Year # 1 Julian Cope at The Riverside, Newcastle


Julian Cope at The Riverside, Newcastle. Just before Lockdown. A good selection of friends. Just Julian, his guitar and a roadie of some kind to help him with effects. Plenty of old favourites. Teardrops, Julian, Solo Julian. Lots of fabulously told anecdotes. Altogether a wonderful night.

Old Guys Done Good in 2020 # 1 Bruce Springsteen - Letter To You

 A contender for my end of year album rundown. It didn't make it. It could have done very easily. Couldn't be bothered with the Dylan. Honorary mentions for Wire, X, Cornershop. Even The Strokes. It's hard to know what fits into this category these days. But this Brooce record is very good.

Bruce Springsteen released a new album a couple of days ago. This is big news for countless people across the planet. For good reason too. For Springsteen is one of the precious few utterly stellar, quite legendary and undeniable musicians Rock and Roll has produced, whether you care for his stuff or not. A grandiose artist with magnificent scope and ambition. One of those to follow and aspire towards and measure yourself against over the course of a lifetime.

The new record Letter To You is unmistakeably Brooce from its opening notes. No news there. The Boss is not someone who's about to surprise us this point in his career. Clanging, glorious riffs and booming stadium ramalama from the E Street Band playing as if it's their last hurrah which it might well be of course. Recorded in six days apparently. Guess they know what they're doing by now.

Springsteen himself sounds in quite  the rudest of health. Blue collar anthems of pride, restistance and determination, the kind of stuff here's been churning out with production line regularity for fifty years or more now. Street poetry from a man who's been a long, long way but has never once forgotten where he started out from.

These are songs that fit snugly into the granite Springsteen canon like a whole new set of commandments. As so often he always skirts the line of cliche but ultimately transcends it, because here is a man who knows completely what he's doing.

Hats off to The Boss. I'm not sure whether I should listen to this or Born To Run really, they're both cut from the same immaculate cloth. Proper American hero. Should be in The White House really. But of course he always had far too much dignity to run.

Songs About People # 1,216 Barbara Payton


More from Avalanches. This one for Barbara Payton, American film actress who struggled with alcoholism and drug addiction.

Surprise Christmas Gift of the Year - The Avalanches - We Will Always Love You

 A Christmas Day post for a late 2020 contender.

One of the best films I watched in this strangest of strange years was Force Majeure. An arty but approachable Swedish film from a few years back, it features a controlled avalanche at a ski resort where the snow comes rolling down the mountainside in terrifying force and fury until the onlookers realise they might be about to be enveloped themselves and scatter in disarray.

The avalanche subsides just in time. 2020 has felt like that for many people. It's been too long and too dark and frankly far too frightening. It's nice to get to the end of it frankly. As if by magic, here comes a December, not to say Christmas treat. There almost always seems to be an album that turns up unexpectantly round about now that doesn't seem overly concerned with making the end of year album lists but purely intent on offering  a gift for any who might want to receive it. This is one of the best that I can remember.

This year that honour belongs to The Avalanches' third album We Will Always Love You, nineteen years after their first. They're hardly the most prolific production line workers, not surprising when you consider the way they put their music together, laying sample upon sample in collage in loving tribute to the wondrous joy of music. 

We Will Always Love You would feature highly in end of 2020 countdowns had it appeared earlier. It's a series of waves and emotions, very much a millennium record just as The Avalanches are very much millennium artists.

This is probably their most wistful offering, coming at the end of the year it has. But they're still playing their familiar and ace card. That, 'oh where does that come from?' moment where the sample comes washing over you and you feel that the whole of your life might be passing before your eyes. The Avalanches are astonishingly good at making you feel great. Or at least I can vouch that they're astonishingly good at making me feel great.

Of course, they're not quite as pure in terms of their modus operandi as they once were. For now the world and his wife are queuing up at their door to do their star turns. So you get Johnny Marr, Blood Orange, Perry Farrell, Vashti Bunyan, Karen O, Tricky, Mick Jones, Cornelius and so on and so forth And it all seems to work. It all comes across as quite seamless.

This seems like unprecedented fast work for Avalanches. Their last album Wildflower. came out in 2016 after all, just yesterday by their standards. But this is the timeliest record they have ever or will ever release. One to wrap your presents by or cook your Christmas Sinner to. Have a good one. You've earned it!


Discoveries are relative. Not all of these bands, collectives, artists put out their first records this year. But they are all new to me and all wonderful in different ways.

Billy Nomates
The Homesick
Drug Store Romeos
En Attendant Ana
Aoife Nessa Frances
Guardian Singles
Strawberry Generation
Grimm Grimm

Music Blogs of my Year # 1 A Pessimist Is Never Disappointed


Pretty much my Blog of the Year every year. This is one that turns me onto the most new stuff, much of which I'd probably never chance upon myself. Written by an enthusiast called Glenn and his enthusiastic friends. He has similar taste to mine and always writes very well. Quite a lot of stuff that ends up on here only does so because of A Pessimist Is Never Disappointed's lead. Others fall by the wayside. He soldiers on.

Compilations of the Year # 1 La Locura De Machuca


Fabulous Columbian latest Seventies South American / African hybrid. Dance around your living room on Christmas Day. Or indeed whenever you want to!

Music Related Books of my Year # 1 Remain in Love - By Chris Frantz


Still making my way through this but it's fab. The drummer in Talking Heads finally settles his scores with David Byrne. Very well but unpretentiously written. Fabulous photos. Brushes with some of the most important people of the Twentieth Century. I'll write a full review once I'm done.

Podcasts of my Year # 1 Rock's Back Pages


Endlessly diverting, informative and entertaining. Barney Hoskyn's and his posh mates and great guests. Just discovered this. There are ninety to delve into and they keep making more.

Cover of the Year - Hinds


There's generally much to be grateful to Hinds. This year was no exception. An excellent album and this.

It Starts With a Birthstone - Albums of the Year 2020


At the end of a year that none of us have ever seen the like of, here's It Starts With a Birthstone's countdown of my favourite fifty albums of the year. I like my list not unnaturally. I think it's eclectic, varied and reflects a lot of the things I've enjoyed and listened to during 2020.

1. SAULT - Untitled (Rise)

2. Sufjan Stevens - Lamentations

3. Billy Nomates - Billy Nomates

4. CHOPCHOP - Everything Looks So Real

5. Shabaka & The Ancestors - We Are Sent Here By History

6. Cornershop - England Is a Garden

7. Protomartyr - Ultimate Success Today

8. Bananagun - The True Story of Bananagun

9. East Man - Prole Art Threat

10. Fontaines D.C. - A Heroes Death

11. The Mountain Goats - Getting Into Knives

12. Saint Savior - Tomorrow Again

13. Brona McVittie - The Man in the Mountain

14. Rufus Wainwright - Unfollow The Rules

15. Bo Ningen - Sudden Fictions

16. Fiona Apple - Fetch The Boltcutters

17. Lawn - Johnny

18. Nathalie Shah - Kitchen Sink

19. Arbor Labor Union - New Petal Instincts

20. Ora Cogan - Bells In The Ruins

21. Wire - Mind Hive

22. Isobel Campbell - There is no Other

23. The Homesick - The Big Exercise

24. Daniel Romano - How Ill Thy World is Ordered

25. Jeremy Tuplin - Violet Waves

26. Coriky - Coriky

27. Grimm Grimm - Ginormous

28. Kevin Krauter - Full Hand

29. I Break Horses - Warnings

30. Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever - Sideways To New Italy

31. The Innocence Mission - See You Tomorrow

32. U.S. Girls - Heavy Light

33. Perfume Genius - Set My Heart On Fire Immediately

34. En Attendant Ana - Juillet

35. The Cool Greenhouse - The Cool Greenhouse

36. Latitude - Mystic Hotline

37. This Is The Kit- Off On On

38. Emma Kupa - It Will Come Easier

39. Drab City - Good Songs For Bad People

40. James Elkington - Ever-Roving Eye

41. No Age - Goons Be Gone


43. Aoife Nessa Frances - Land of No Junction

44. Jenny O. - New Truth

45. The Strokes - The New Abnormal

46. Kelly Lee Owens - Inner Song

47. Galore - Galore

48. Arbouretum - Let It All In

49. El Goodo - Zombie

50. Death Valley Girls - Under the Spell of Joy

Songs of the Year # 1 U.S.Girls


I thought the U.S.Girls album this year wasn't quite as good as their previous one. It was still very good though. They walked this particular category.

Great British B Sides # 1 The Smiths


The Smiths were always going to top this one. Who cares what Morrissey is like now. It is Christmas after all. B Side to This Charming Man What a statement!

Albums of The Year # 1 SAULT

 It was always going to take something special to top Sufjan this year. But this, or rather these have. Because this year the award from It Starts With a Birthstone goes to not one but two albums. The fabulous phenomenon that is SAULT. Either Rise or Black is could have won it. The only reason that the former did is because by chance it was the one I listened to.

2020 is drawing to a close and the end of year album charts are beginning to come in. A late opportunity for me to catch up on things I have missed.

I suspect this might be the greatest late gift that this year has to offer me. Gosh, it's a fabulous one from a remarkable, mysterious combo who have put out three further albums over the course of this and last year which are just as good.

I'll just concentrate on this one and leave the others for later, personal discovery. How to describe this? It seems to encapsulate everything you might love about great black Pop Music over the last fifty years. Rhythm and groove generated, something that will make you want to dance, but with the greatest empowerment and enlightenment sensibility you could possibly ask for. It's awe inspiring frankly.

So a few names. Massive Attack, Sugarhill Gang, Soweto Street Music, Sly & the Family Stone, Prince, Michael Jackson, Hip Hop, Chic, Sister Sledge, Funk, Rare Soul, James Brown, Nuyorican Soul, Gil Scott Heron, Black Power, Fela Kuti, Afrobeat; Batucada. This will give you a taste of this records flavours. But still no idea of actually how great this is.

There have been a lot of great records put out this year. But very few that feel quite so right now as this one does. This will be coming back to you in a few week's time on my own album countdown. It may not be quite clear who exactly Sault are, so well have they guarded they identity. It's perfectly clear what they're saying. I'm off to listen to their other records. You could do no worse than start that journey yourself by listening to this one.

Fear of Music - The 261 Greatest Albums Since Punk & Disco # 138 Public Enemy - Yo! Bum Rush The Show


This is Uncool - The 500 Greatest Singles Since Punk & Disco # 142 The Cramps


Don't do drugs! Not even at Xmas.

Song of the Day # 2,529 The Chimes


Merry Christmas from It Starts With a Birthstone !


Thursday, December 24, 2020

Gigs of the Year # 2 Jeremy Tuplin at the Cobalt Studios, Newcastle


There were only a couple of gigs for me this year for obvious reasons. But they were both fine ones. First Jeremy Cobalt and his excellent band at The Cobalt Studios, a famously cool small venue I hope to get to go to again soon. This had the added and significant bonus in that both Jeremy and his band gave their time incredibly generously and talked to me at great length before they played, a fact that seemed all the more poignant when Lockdown descended just a few weeks later. Oh, and the gig was just great too.

Mojo - Albums of the Year

The last of these before my own run down. Dylan again. Yawn! Six that were also in my Top Fifty.

 1. Bob Dylan - Rough and Rowdy Ways

2. Fiona Apple - Fetch The Boltcutters

3. Fontaines DC - A Hero's Death

4. Bill Callahan - Gold Record

5. Fleet Foxes - Shore

6. Cornershop - England is a Garden

7. Jarvis - Beyond The Pale

8. Run The Jewels - RTJ4

9. Phoebe Bridgers - Punisher

10. Flaming Lips - American Head

11. Paul Weller - On Sunset

12. Idles - Ultra Mono

13. Moses Sumney - Grae

14. Tony Allen & Hugh Masakela - Rejoice

15. Frazey Ford - U Kin B The Sun

16. Nick Cave - Idiot Prayer

17. Laura Marling - Song For our Daughter

18. Toots and the Maytals - Got To Be tough

19. Sault - Untitled (Black is)

20. Nubya Garcia - Source

21. Mark Lanegan - Straight Songs of Sorrow

22. Leonard Cohen - Thanks For The Dance

23. Shabaka & The Ancestors - We Are Sent By History

24. Moses Boyd - Dark Matter

25. Sparks - A Steady Drip Drip Drip

26. Khruangbin - Mordechai

27. Stephen Malkmus - Traditional Techniques

28. Shirley Collins - Hearts Ease

29. Thundercat - It Is What it Is

30. Sam Lee - Old Wow

31. Taylor Swift - Folklore

32. Coriky - Coriky

33. The Necks - Three

34 . Maria McKee - La Vita Nuova

35. Rose City Band - Summerlong

36. Drive-By Truckers - The Untravelling

37. Dua Lip -Future Nostalgia

38. Lucinda Williams - Future Nostalgia

39.  Haim - Women In Music Pt III

40. Thurston Moore - By The Fire

41. Tame Impala - The Slow Rush

42. Bill Fay - Countless Branches

43. Blake Mills - Gigaton

44. Pearl Jam - Gigaton

45. Bruce Springsteen - Letter To You

46. Nick Mason's Saucerful Of Secrets - Live At The Roadhouse

47. Tricky - Fall To Pieces

48. Nadia Reid - Out Of My Province

49. Lianna La Havas - Lianne La Havas

50. Sufjan Stevens - The Ascension