Nice Swan Records Top 20 Albums of 2020 #1
We’ve put together a summary of Nice Swan Records Top 20 Albums of 2020. Enjoy the first 10 of our 20 choices. And look we’ve even put them in a Spotify playlist for you, how convenient.
Sault – Black ls
The mysterious collective reacted to the black lives matter movement so rapidly, that it’s hard to comprehend how they managed to craft such an astonishing collection of songs but that’s just how Sault roll. Following on from 2019’s first & second album, ‘Black Is’ is a powerful and emotive album, pieced together by producer Inflo, with key contributors such as Michael Kiwinuka & Cleo Sol.
Stand out track – Wildfires
Fontaines D.C. – A Heros Death
Returning so soon after their absolutely knock out debut album ‘Dogrel’ Fontaines have shown that they’re here for the long game. ‘A Hero’s Death’ is a more sombre album, darker and more sinister than the debut yet still brimming with big tunes & singalong moments, one of the most exciting acts to emerge in the indie world for years and a future festival headliner for sure.
Stand out track – A Hero’s Death
Katy J Pearson – Return
Return was an apt name for this debut album, despite being a new name to many, Katy J Pearson has a knack for evoking memories of some of the greats from Fleetwood Mac to Kate Bush. A beautifully crafted album equally as good listening next to an open fire on a cold night or road tripping across route 66. Stunning, delicate and fun throughout.
Stand out track – Take Back The Radio
Giant Rooks – Rookery
German quintet Giant Rooks released their debut album ‘Rookery’ in August this year. Rookery sees the band exploring questions such as what is my role in this world, what am I supposed to do, who am I. Each song is singularly complex and combined creates a gorgeous collection of silky indie tunes which could be viewed as a collection of singles rather than an album.
After seeing Giant Rooks play at Tramlines Fringe in 2018 to a crowd of a few dozen, to headlining Gorilla in 2019 and now Manchester Academy 2 in April 2021, this band are on a steep upward trajectory.
Stand out track – Heat Up
The Howl & The Hum – Human Contact
The Howl & The Hum broke into the music scene with ‘Godmanchester Chinese Bridge’ in 2017, since then they’ve been slowly but noticeably building a name for themselves releasing stand out singles such as ‘Hall of Fame’ and ‘Human Contact’, the latter of which became the title for their debut album released this year. ‘Human Contact’ is a collection of songs which ooze sleek vocals and distinctively sober rhythms.
The band optimistically announced a massive 18 date tour for January and February 2021, whether this goes ahead or not, The Howl & The Hum are worth going to see before they inevitably take 2021 by storm.
Stand out track – Human Contact
Tame Impala – The Slow Rush
There’s not much you can say about Tame Impala which hasn’t already been said. The king of modern day psychedelic struck again with Tame Impala’s fourth studio album ‘The Slow Rush’. Hundreds of frantically positive reviews later Parker is showing Tame Impala are one of the stand out artist of the decade, never mind 2020.
Stand out track – Is It True
Silverbacks – Fad
Silverbacks first caught the ear with their brilliant debut single, ‘Just For A Better View’. Instantly reminiscent of Pavement, the Dublin based five piece spent the next couple of years crafting their sound and writing what would become one of the best indie debut albums in years and one of our top picks for album of the year. Produced by Girl Band’s Dan Fox, ‘Fad’ pays homage not only to Pavement but also to early naughties NYC indie legends The Strokes & LCD Soundsystem.
Stand out track – Last Orders
Sports Team – Deep Down Happy
Sports Team first burst onto the scene with the Nice Swan released debut EP, ‘Winter Nets’ since then they’ve gone from strength to strength. Tearing up sold out venues up and down the country before lock down, Sports Team have amassed a true army of fans resulting in an unlikely chart battle with Lady Gaga, which although they narrowly missed out on the number one spot, did earn them a nomination for the prestigious Mercury Album of The Year award. ‘Deep Down Happy’ is a triumph.
Stand out track – Here’s The Thing
Marika Hackman – Covers
A collection of covers isn’t necessarily what you’d first think of when you think of albums of the year. Yet, considering what a strange year 2020 has been this seems fitting. Marika Hackmans hit the nail on the head in terms of ‘consumer demands’, with people turning to music they were familiar with during lockdown. This collection of covers ranging from Radiohead to Beyonce introduced a welcome amalgamation of the old and the new.
Stand out track – Playground Love
Sorry – 925
Sorry are a rare breed of band. Crafting a sound and aesthetic which is distinctly their own, the band hailing from North London released their debut album on Domino Recordings this year. A compilation of their ‘As The Sun Sets’ EP and new offerings such as ‘In Unison’ and ‘Rosie’ this album epitomises the resurgence of post-punk in the past years, whilst progressing with a sound more fitting for a David Lynch film than a Spotify playlist. Undercurrents of jazz, hip-hop and grunge leave Sorrys debut album ‘925’ a striking and progressive offering.
First seeing Sorry at their sold out support slot with Sunflower Bean at Gorilla in 2018, what was at the time just a setlist of singles and home demos, was already a band with a distinct aesthetic and sound. Sorry are around to stay, and I’m glad, they inject a much needed originality into the arm of the post-punk movement of 2020 and beyond.
Stand out track – Starstruck
Nice Swan Records Top 20 Albums of 2020 #2
The second instalment of our Nice Swan Records Top 20 Albums of 2020! And look we’ve even put them in a Spotify playlist for you, how convenient.
Doves – The Universal Want
After an 11 year hiatus the release of Doves ‘The Universal Want’ was just what was needed for 2020. Holding onto the catchy riffs and signature melancholic lyrics which made their name in the noughties, Doves have proven themselves to be a band for a generation not just a decade.
Stand out track – Carousels
Daniel Avery – Love + Light
Daniel Averys album ‘Love + Light’ released in June of 2020 saw the electronic music producer and DJ showcase his full talent. Rather than hinder Avery, lockdown provided him with the time to take demos from the past few years and create a full length studio album – at least one good thing came out of lockdown. Listening to ‘Love + Light’ is like plugging yourself into an all encompassing DJ set, some well needed escapism from the year of COVID.
Stand out track – Dream Distortion
Working Men’s Club – Working Men’s Club
Working Men’s Club just announced a massively lucrative support slot with New Order at Heaton Park next September. Yet it’s not surprising, off the back of their self titled debut album released in October 2020, Working Mens Club have created quite a name for themselves. The front runners of a new amalgamation of punk and synth, Working Men’s Club are definitely one to watch for 2021.
Stand out track – John Cooper Clarke
Bob Dylan – Rough and Rowdy Ways
Dylan’s first studio album in 8 years is yet another masterpiece from the original master of folk & blues. There’s nothing original here but if you like your barnyard boogie and country rock then there is no one better in the game. Ragtime tales about the weirdness of America, John Lennon and even The Titanic accompany Dylan’s masterful country blues. ‘Modern Times’, ‘Tempest’ and now ‘Rough & Rowdy Ways’ show Dylan has no intention of slowing down with 3 of his all time best albums having been released in the last 15 years
Stand out track – Crossing The Rubicon
Porridge Radio – Every Bad
Porridge Radio’s second studio album ‘Every Bad’ solidifies the quartet as a ferocious force to be reckoned with. A chronicle of honest and to the bone experiences characterise the album which explored the personal and often witty experiences of lead singer and songwriter Dana Margolin. Moreover, their success in 2020 was solidified by a much coveted Mercury Prize nomination this year.
Stand out track – Sweet
Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – Sideways to New Italy
Melbourne based quintet Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever released their second studio album Sideways to New Italy in June 2020. Combining their hook-laden jangling indie with upbeat vocals Sideways to New Italy, much like their debut album, showcases a ‘soft punk’ sound which is distinctively their own. Stand out track, ‘She’s There’ is reminiscent of an up-beat Smashing Pumpkins meets The Feelies.
Stand out track – She’s There
Billy Nomates – Billy Nomates
Billy Nomates self titled debut album is a direct and refreshing offering from the punk artist. Taking no nonsense lyrics and mixing them with abrupt and clean guitars and drums to create a confrontational yet thought provoking body of work. Signed to Geoff Barrow’s Invada label, who also produced the record – Tor Maries has already got some high profile fans including Sleaford Mods who she has also been collaborating with.
Stand out track – No
Moses Boyd – Dark Matter
Moses Boyds album Dark Matter follows his debut album Displaced Diaspora in 2018. Boyds latest offering is as jazz infused and laden with the raw energy of grime and afrobeats as the last. Yet this time Boyd showcases a more refined sound. Another Mercury Prize nominee, Boyds has created a collection of songs which would sit comfortably on a playlist in a coffee shop but would equally not be amiss at a London nightclub.
Stand out track – Y.O.Y.O
Bill Callahan – Gold Record
The seventh studio album from Bill Callahan, Gold Record showcases Callahans talent for witty and deliciously American songwriting. One for the Dylan and Cash fans. Callahan is a master of poetic lyricism making his musical offerings just as entertaining lyrically as sonically. Releasing a new track from the album from June 29, 2020 every week until the September 4, 2020 release date also provided fans with a refreshing and fun album campaign. That was accompanied by unique illustrations as single artworks for each track.
Stand out track – Cowboy
Khruangbin – Mordechai
The third album from the Texas based trio, Mordechai sees the avant-garde Khruangbin establish themselves as a progressive musical outfit. Combining psychedelic waves with ethereal vocals to create a distinctive album with influences spanning from RnB to dub.
Stand out track – Pelota
Read the first instalment of our top albums of 2020 here: Nice Swan Records Top 20 Albums of 2020 #1
Mandrake Handshake’s have caused quite a stir on arrival this summer, the indie-stonery outfit have already drawn a slew of acclaim from key indie press champions in their short time together. Including NME, DIY, Clash, So Young Loud & Quiet. Incorporating influences of krautrock, funk, Japanese animation and Latin pastoral poetry to create a unique brand of ‘Flowerkraut’. Amidst a sprawling barrage of psychedelia. Produced by Stereolab’s Andy Ramsay, Mandrake Handshake’s ‘Gonkulator’ is available on all digital platforms.
Malady was birthed as a result of Percy Junior Cobbinah (vocals/guitar) and Charlie Clark (guitar/synth) getting to know one another from turning up at the same gigs. Cobbinah and Ertan Cimen (drums) frequented all the same uni house parties. While Clark met bassist Khaleem Mitchell-Patterson at college. Fusing musical elements from dub, post-rave, early dubstep and IDM with formative indie guitar music. The band draws inspiration from day-to-day living, focussing on conversations and social observations.
Dublin-based four piece, Sprints are the latest new act to emerge from the city fast becoming one of the most prolific places for hot new bands. Similarly with the recent success of other locals Fontaines DC, Girl Band & Silverbacks – Sprints are set to be the latest in line ready to burst out of the city.
Their creative process is very much rooted to the everyday goings on around them. And just like a true garage band, write and rehearse in their village home’s back garden shed. Taking things to the next level, they were quick to team up with Girl Band’s Daniel Fox who has been producing them in his studio. Drawing influence from the likes of Sonic Youth, Iggy Pop, Patti Smith, The Strokes and LCD Soundsystem. There is a fun, energetic and retro feel to what they do. But very much sounding as fresh and exciting as their local peers.
Liverpool-based four piece, Courting are the latest new act to emerge from the city steeped in such fantastic and diverse musical heritage. The band, who write and rehearse in the basement of a city restaurant. Find inspiration from the creative melting pot of Merseyside. And with fellow locals The Mysterines making waves. This could be the dawn for another exciting wave of scouse bands.