December 31, 2020

HCTF's best of 2020 (5-1)

HCTF's annual list of the 20 albums that will be in regular rotation for many years to come. As per usual many genres are represented. This blog covers a lot of ground and it shows in this eclectic, final tally.

Today: final countdown from number 5 to 1.

Please shop at your local record store. Most of them have a website where you can order your stuff. Buy directly from the artist, attend live shows when it's safe to do so again. Educate your friends. Word-of-mouth can't be beat as the prime source to discover new music.

5 Steven Bradley: Summer Bliss and Autumn Tears

Guest filled long overdue solo debut is firing on all cylinders.

He cites Elvis Costello and Bob Mould as huge influences and sure enough their way of making an outsider's look the main perspective is what makes this record a multi-layered piece of work: philosophically (Summer Bliss and Autumn Tears), emotionally (Can't Come Home), politically (Pre-Emptive Strike), and sometimes downright silly, like the problem of how to deal with 365 photos in Calendar Girl. Few debut albums get it right on the first try, but there are no weak spots or filler tracks. In fact, it might be a challenge to make a next album as good as this one.

» Full review

4 The Foreign Films: Ocean Moon (New Songs and Hidden Gems)

A concept album about love and the stars, filled with top shelf retro-pop.

He dances with his girl in the jukebox light in Dream With Me Tonight, pretending that it is 1964, a time when the world appeared to painted in TechniColor, and string arrangements added a glow to pop songs. Majoros likes to look up to the sky, looking for a sense of perspective and being a bit envious of the Birds In A Blue Sky. He can't believe his luck, having a woman by side that he is madly in love with (Under Your Spell).

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3 Tugboat Captain: Rut

Baroque pop with a wicked sense of humour.

Each song is laced with something special, whether it is a break, spot-on harmonizing, a lick or an odd-ball middle-eight that works like a charm. They sing about spending the day in bed (C’mon! Haribo?), the upside of being lazy (No Plans (For This Year)) and taking short cuts to get out of an argument (Damned Right). Imagine the Village Green-era Kinks teaming up with the Magic Numbers. Quintessentially English music that sounds totally at ease and in control, while it is actually fucking hard to play.

» Full review

2 Xander Naylor: Continuum

Adventurous avant-garde composer pushing the limits of his guitar and fellow musicians.

A working knowledge of what is going on in the world of avant-garde and world music is helpful. Naylor's use of dissonants, free-flowing chord changes and rhythmic risk taking are a joy for anyone who wants to be surprised and taken down roads that they did not even know were there. Woodwinds, brass and eerie vocals sit next to the "rock" instruments, not as competitors but as true collaborators. He has a vision and he is lucky to have a band that is able to play what he is hearing in his head.

» Full review

1 Spygenius: Man On The Sea

A treasure trove of flawlessly executed musical ideas.

Upon entering the world that English pop quartet Spygenius have created on their new album Man On The Sea it's OK to exclaim "that it's bigger on the inside". And since it disguised a "normal" double album it is pretty damn big at first glance as well. There are drinking songs, off-kilter lullabies, college rock tunes, vaudevillian attraction sounds, Kurt Weill-inspired rhythms, and US west Coast harmonies. This is a record that has more well-executed ideas on it than most bands can come up with over the course of their entire career.

» Full review

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