The protégées of Beyoncé came back this year with a kick-ass record about romance and revenge, doubling down on their constantly stunning vocals with some amazing self-produced tracks.
After originally pushing back the release of Ungodly Hour to show respect to the Black Lives Matter movement, Chloe and Halle Bailey gave us one of the best albums of the year and one of the best R&B records in recent music history.
Bringing in veteran producer Scott Storch for tracks like ‘Do It’ and Halle’s Solange-inspired production on ‘Baby Girl’ gives the album a nostalgic 90s tone, one of the best showcases of the duo’s vocals to date. This makes Ungodly Hour more akin to Lauryn Hill’s sole solo record from 1998 than any recent R&B album, with kick-ass lyrics about troubled relationships and self-reflection.
Stand-out tracks include ‘Lonely’, ‘Tipsy’ and ‘Busy Boy’ – all of which are reflective of the sisters’ growth as artists, with haunting vocals and amazing self-production. Even the album’s one interlude ‘Overwhelmed’, which is only 52 seconds long, is very easy listening with minimalist instrumentation and perfect harmonies.
Overall, Ungodly Hour may be the best R&B album of the year and is definitely deserving of a space on this list.
They've done it again, baby. After gracing our albums of the year list in 2019, Dublin's newest punk-poets return once more, with the fiery yet diluted A Hero's Death.
Opting for a different style to their critically acclaimed 2019 debut Dogrel, Fontaines show that they can't just shout in style, they're pretty good at singing as well. Opener 'I Don't Belong', is only a small shift in style, with frontman Grian Chattens vocals being more subdued, whilst the bands signature gritty, post-punk instrumentation provides the much needed kick of DC.
'A Lucid Dream' is perhaps the best song on the album. A flaming guitar ushers us in before Chatten gets serious, spitting out the intricate lyrics in a fantastically feral snarl.
As for the rest of the LP, we're treated to soft reflections('Oh Such A Spring'), Beach Boy-esque rhythms ('A Hero's Death') and, in classic Fontaines style, a closing track fit for the last call at the pub ('No').
A Hero's Death is an album of grace and magnitude. Fontaines didn't fall into the trap of "It worked before, lets do it again." Instead they opted for a different sound, one which not only captured the ears of existing fans, but also created many more.
The fact that this album only finished 8th is the final nail-in-the-coffin that 2020 had for me. This album is perfect, and that isn’t a term I like to throw around often. This ultimate icon of the 21st century youth revival has cemented a world-class album for his discography, with Zeroes rejoicing in many a certified banger.
'Beautiful Faces' was one of the more popular songs that did the rounds on social media leading up to the album's release, and why not? His lyricism is on full display, with a power-pop ballad which will have you singing along after the first chorus.
With a fun and engaging music video for this powerful and thought-provoking track, 'The Key To Life On Earth' is perhaps my favourite of the lot. I can’t describe the emotions that come to mind when listening. Simply Fantastic.
'Daniel You're Still A Child' is a quiet yet equally enjoyable track, this one just goes to show his diversity in creating extremely engaging music. I especially love the groove to this one, with the bass and guitar working in tandem to make some sweet vibes.
I’m adamant that Declan McKenna will be the David Bowie of our generation. The fashion, the music, everything about that man screams talent, and I can’t wait to see what 2021 holds.
In a year of worldly chaos and confusion, it’s fitting that Glass Animals released an album conceived from a time of their own uncertainty, Dreamland. The nostalgia the album evokes is a feeling many can relate to as they relive the past instead of making new memories.
The album juxtaposes melancholy songs and energetic hip hop beats, creating an auditory experience that both encapsulates and distracts from the heavy atmosphere 2020 has caused. 'Dreamland' portrays Bayley’s childhood escapes into his imagination, and of "slipping through dreamland like a tourist" – feelings which I’m sure many can relate to, given the current state of the world. 'It’s All So Incredibly Loud' is a track which narrates how "whispers would deafen me now", a powerful phrase that describes the gut-wrenching silence that follows bad news. However, songs such as 'Tokyo Drifting' and 'Your Love' are upbeat tunes that will get you tapping your feet at the very least while increasing the range of genres the album includes.
Dreamland is ultimately an album of nostalgia, imagination, and vulnerability, which highlights the severity of the situations we’ve faced so far this year while serving as a reminder that we’re not alone in dealing with them.
After his excellent and boundary-crossing debut 6 Feet Beneath the Moon and 2017s The Ooz, Archy Marshall returned in February with his 3rd album under the King Krule moniker - Man Alive!
The album represents a change in Marshall’s life, with his child arriving in March 2019, this is evident in his music too. The opening track 'Cellular' feels upbeat and immediately drags the listener in, this is then followed by the usual melancholic and gloomy sound we associate with Marshall on 'Supermarché' and 'Stoned Again', the former possibly one of his best songs ever with its booming bass and desperate lyrics.
Whilst still enjoyable, Man Alive! Feels like what The Ooz was supposed to be, it comes across as a more compact, well-chiselled project and is 42 minutes of extremely enjoyable listening. 'Perfecto Miserable' is a downbeat love-ballad that catches the heart of listeners, and another of the albums highlights 'Energy Fleets' is dominated by warping guitars and grand symbols.
On Man Alive!, King Krule never strays to far from his usual bleak sound, balancing his instantly recognisable deep bellowing voice with at times gorgeous instrumentals, and whilst this album feels depressing and empty of hope, Marshall lets us know that things can and will get better, “Nothing wrong in sinking low/ but don’t forget you’re not alone.”