25 Favourite LPs
Where to start? Who knows anymore.
To celebrate/bid goodbye to this year, we’ve made a lovely fifty-two page zine, full of recommendations of albums that fell under the radar somewhat. It’s a lovely little thing, full of words and wonder, interviews and guest picks, as well as a special mix so you can listen along while you navigate it. It’s something tangible, and if you’d like to buy a copy it’d be a tangible way to support GoldFlakePaint through this winter.
You can do so here ~ and thank you so much.
Some of the records below are featured in it, some of the more prominent ones aren’t, but I hope you find something here that sticks, that digs its claws in or casts a spell. Each of these records here did so for me, and I’m so very grateful that these incredible pieces of music made it through, and will linger long after the dust has settled on what we’re all going through. That’s the true power of music, eh? Enjoy…
Tom P. Johnson
Listen to the Spotify Playlist here
25. Wares ~ Survival
Gutsy, scrappy, personal and powerful, this enthralling record defines
Cassia Hardy’s voice as one of 2020’s boldest and most brilliant.
24. Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band ~ Letter to You
Somehow, after all the years, after all of the success, Bruce Springsteen is still writing songs
that manage to be touching and profound and, well, real.
Letter to You, his 20th studio album, reunites him with the E Street band and is, simply,
far far better than it has any right to be.
23. Lomelda ~ Hannah
(double double whammy)
Always intensely interesting and distinctive, the latest record from Hannah Read
is an examination of her name and persona, shared through tender, generous indie rock.
22. Foreign Fields ~ The Beauty of Survival
Just as we want to be challenged and confronted by music, so too we need
songs that provide comfort during terrible times.
We’ve been writing about Wisconsin’s Foreign Fields for nearly a decade now
and their beautiful work has never felt more vital.
21. Fleet Foxes ~ Shore
Led by some of their brightest and most straightforward compositions, Fleet Foxes’
fourth record was a glowing and wholly affecting revelation, featuring what might well be 2020’s most prescient refrain:
“time’s not what I belong to, And I’m not the season I’m in”
20. Young Jesus ~ Welcome to Conceptual Beach
How to define a record that deliberately shirks definition? Who knows!
Jazz-psych? Space-rock? Just find your way there and dive into the wildly
colourful, supremely unique splendour.
19. Andrew Wasylyk ~ Fugitive Light & Themes of Consolation
(athens of the north)
The third chapter in Andrew Wasylyk’s East Coast of Scotland triptych, Fugitive Light is melancholy and full of melody;
a wonderfully nostalgic journey that finds its heart in jazz lilting, sun-speckled instrumentals.
18. Gia Margaret ~ Mia Gargaret
(Ordindal / Dalliance)
Voice problems might have redefined Gia’s sparkling craft, but these gentle ambient exploratory
exercises hold a magic of their own and are every bit as magical as we’ve come to expect.
17. Anjimile ~ Giver Taker
Perhaps the year’s most personal collection of songs, Giver Taker is a magnetising take on folk music,
channelling Anjimile’s African heritage into something exuberant, expressive, and endlessly moving.
16. Sylvan Esso ~ Free Love
(Loma Vista Recordings)
As inventive as always, Sylvan Esso’s third album snuck in some extra heart and soul
to raise their electropop jams into something even more meaningful.
15. Phoebe Bridgers ~ Punisher
What is there to say? A surprisingly slight follow up to her debut, Punisher carried Phoebe
to all new heights and, in its closing track, provided 2020’s most cathartic musical moments.
14. The Soft Pink Truth ~ Shall We Go on Sinning So That Grace May Increase?
Experiemental magic from Matmos’ Drew Daniel, Shall We Go Sinning is a musical labyrinth,
an invigorating blurring of textures and genres that is exciting, rivetting, and often supremely beautiful.
13. Adrianne Lenker ~ Songs
More muted magic from the best songwriter out there, this collection was recorded mostly live to tape
in a rural cabin and, as such, is every bit as captivating as you’d expect. We’re just oh so lucky to have her.
12. Ana Roxanne ~ Because of a Flower
A year for meditative ambient music if ever there was one, Ana Roxanne builds upon
the promise of her 2019 EP with a dense but perfectly balanced exploration; equally haunting and sublime.
11. The Microphones ~ Microphones in 2020
(P.W. Elverum & Sun, Ltd.)
One single piece that runs for 44 minutes and 44 seconds, Phil Elverum’s musical documentary
on his life as it was 20 years ago manages to be both prophetic and endearing.
An exploration of memory, like a dogeared notebook brought to life, this is
signature and incredibly special work of art.
10. Natalie Jane Hill ~ Azalea
(Dear Life Records)
You can’t escape the green in Natalie Jane Hill’s spellbinding debut. It shrouds the cover, it’s in the title,
and it winds through these songs that feel bound to nature’s shade.
Like some long lost treasure unearthed from the primitive folk scene, these songs, which are so indebted to the
Blue Ridge Mountains which informed them, shimmer with a haunting quality that takes the breath away.
9. NNAMDÏ ~ BRAT
From its pure hip hop aesthetics, through smart and soulful pop ballads, to the crunchy indie rock
where it fully lets loose, BRAT is one of a number of releases from NNAMDÏ in 2020, and it’s a record
that continues to mark out the Chicago musician as a truly remarkable talent.
8. Tenci ~ My Heart Is An Open Field
Tenci are the kind of band who take routine buildings blocks
and twist them into shapes that feel remarkably unique.
Jess Shoman’s voice hums and harks with fascinating grace, leaping through wide open skies
or else shrinking into dark, quiet corners you never even realised were there.
7. Mary Lattimore ~ Silver Ladders
Harpist Mary Lattimore recorded her new album on a bleak, out of season Cornish coastline,
with Slowdive’s Neil Halstead. And oh how it shows.
More dramatic than ever before,
Silver Ladders is partly improvised but always exquisite; a merging of crafts that is at its most powerful
when those two creators find themselves tumbling through the fog together.
6. KeiyaA ~ Forever, Ya Girl
Mostly written and self-produced in her home, Forever, Ya Girl unrolls like a chronicle of what it means to be alone,
and what is required to fight oppression both on a personal level
and a societal one (and the lines between both are often expertly blurred).
That the whole record flows with such effortless beauty is testament to KeiyaA’s vision, one that is realised
through a series of wonderfully soulful songs that balance their musical sheen with a grittiness that feels genuinely intoxicating.
5. Waxahatchee ~ Saint Cloud
Her fifth album in less than a decade, Katie Crutchfield gently, quietly shifts her sound on Saint Cloud.
Her warmest record to-date, the star here is the songwriting
and the warmth that draws you further in with each listen.
‘Fire’ seemed to be the choice pick from most corners, but it’s the closing three songs,
so perfectly shaped by sentimentality, that raises the bar.
4. Trace Mountains ~ Lost In the Country
It once seemed that Trace Mountains was to be a flash in the pan side project for Dave Benton,
who was still playing with the now-defunct LVL UP when the project was formed.
Thankfully, it now gets his full attention ~ and it shows. Lost in the Country is a gem of a record;
sharp and sweet and so full of subtle charm it resonates in ways that can’t really be placed.
3. Cindy Lee ~ What’s Tonight To Eternity
(W.25TH / Superior Viaduct)
Like the long-awaited follow up (that sadly never was) to Women’s Public Strain,
What’s Tonight to Eternity is a sprawling masterpiece ~ a cacophonous, swirling mass of spooky vocals and
nightmarish backdrops, that still, somehow, manages to eek out beauty from the heart of the storm.
2. Sault ~ Untitled (Rise)
(Forever Living Originals)
Sweeping aside, well, you know… 2020 should probably go down as the year of the Sault.
The secretive, spellbinding jazz/house/disco collective released two records this year,
winning heads and hearts and a sweep of end of year accolades.
The Untitled (Black Is) LP claimed the majority of those honours, for a host of justified reasons,
but Untitled (Rise) is just as infectious and inspired. A phenomenal achievement.
1. Sea Oleena – A Basket Weaving
It’s taken a long six years for Sea Oleena to follow up her breathtaking ‘shallow’ LP. Quietly snuck out on Bandcamp
with little to no fanfare at the end of October, Weaving A Basket is once again remarkable,
both in the broadness of its vision and the stirring way it’s all brought together.
Meticulously balanced, there is magic here, wherever and however you choose to absorb it;
through small glimpses or in one expansive plunge. It’s perhaps that final track, however, that lifts this whole piece
into genuine masterpiece territory. From the quiet way it unravels, through the crushing grace of her voice
and how those soothing, tingling melodies pull you along, it is – simply, overwhelmingly – some of the most
beautiful music you’re likely to ever hear.
Buy our more comprehensive 2020 review in physical zine form here