End Of Year Review — 2020 Edition

Joe Boothby
Dec 24, 2020 · 12 min read
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The best and worst of 2020’s other musical tidbits

We have now arrived at the final article for List Week, and furthermore, my final music article of 2020. And while, throughout list week, I have covered my top albums, EPs, and singles, what about everything else? What about my favourite music video and album cover? What about my least favourite song and least favourite album? What’s in store for 2021? All of this, and more, will be covered in today’s article.

The way I was aiming to go through all of the other musical bits 0f 2020, is to simply go over them one by one. That being said, I felt that after structuring this article, I haven’t left any stones unturned. But if there was something I haven’t covered which you’re still curious about, please feel free to let me know.

And with that being said, let’s get into the best and worst other bits of the year, starting with the artists themselves.

Artist Of The Year

Gorillaz

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When deciding to include an artist of the year, what I had in mind is essentially including the artist that has truly grabbed 2020 by the horns, and I feel that no other artist did this better than the virtual band, and musical project of Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett Gorillaz.

Following the band’s amazing third album Plastic Beach in 2010, closely followed by The Fall, which was easily their weakest record at the time (and that’s probably still the case today) it wouldn’t be until 2017 when we got another Gorillaz record.

Titled Humanz, the album displayed the worrying idea that the long hiatus had really taken its toll on Gorillaz, as that album struggles to capture the unique quirk of Gorillaz themselves, and instead relied too heavily on features.

Almost as if Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett were aware of this themselves, they followed this up with 2018 The Now Now, which went in the complete opposite direction. Incredibly scarce in features, that album certainly felt like a contender for one of the most shallow and unmemorable projects, while relatively solid upon first listen.

fast-forward to the beginning of 2020, and Gorillaz sought to switch things up a little. Labelling their newest project as a song series, as opposed to just an album, allowed them to have the freedom to really emphasise on the singles (which realistically is the bread and butter of Gorillaz, when done right). With almost one single release every month leading up to October, when their newest project was released. Accompanying these tracks were expertly made music videos that really captured the essence of classic Gorillaz videos, and were remarkably animated.

But most importantly of all, the vast majority of these tracks displayed a perfect balance of exciting featured artists, and the virtual band themselves. Their newest project, titled Song Machine, Season 1: Strange Timez, saw Grillaz comfortably return to their former glory. And I am so thrilled to have seen this transpire, that I felt that I had to shout them out as 2020’s most productive artist.

Breakthrough Artist Of The Year

Lynks

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Given the kind of year that we have had, it has been far more difficult than normal for new artists to swiftly rise to widespread popularity, especially given the cancellation of music festivals and live shows.

That being said, the majority of new artists that I have enjoyed have been discovered by myself through Indie Top 39, which is an independent music chart that I also write for. But given my means of discovering those artists, kind of defeats the point of this entry. It would’ve had to have been somebody who I independently discovered.

And while the drag alias of performance artist and musician Elliot Brett, Lynks (formerly Lynks Afrikka), had technically released their debut single in 2019, it was the following year that saw Lynks make their biggest splash yet.

Encapsulating their camp and quirky electronic dance-pop within their debut EP Smash Hits, Vol.1, Lynks serves as a very good reflection of where the more underground vicinity of electropop could potentially be heading. And with unarguable charisma, and witty lyrics that really command the attention of the listener, Lynks absolutely reeks with innovation.

Music Video Of The Year

Bring Me The Horizon — Obey (feat. YUNGBLUD)

When a music video compels you enough to look into the making of said video, then you know it’s well-made.

With a very creative and talented team behind this under 4 minute film, a tonne of love and care clearly went into “Obey”. Wit Bring Me frontman Oliver Sykes sat in the director’s chair, he definitely had a clear vision for what kind of story he wanted to tell with this video.

A music video with giant, power-rangers inspired robots sounds cool enough on its own, but with the two robot characters carrying the faces of Oliver Sykes and YUNGBLUD respectively was incredibly intriguing.

Not only do these robots duke it out, like you would expect them to, the fact that they both make out at the end was an unexpected but very satisfying end twist.

But most importantly, all of the less obvious details, such as the way the video was shot, the colouration, the costume design and the editing are all on point. And it was glaringly obvious that every person involved loved what they were doing, and I hope that they are as proud of the final piece as I am.

Album Cover Of The Year

Tame Impala — The Slow Rush

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It was definitely a close call between this album cover and the sleek minimalism of RTJ4, but I feel that the album cover for Tame Impala’s The Slow Rush, just about snags the win for being the more imaginative of the two.

Even if the imagery and the symbolism behind a red room being flooded with sand isn’t quite your thing, you at least have to appreciate how clear the image quality is. From the grooves in the sand, to the cracks in the wall, every little detail is fully visible.

The final things I love about this album cover are its vibrance, and how cleanly the typography fits in to all of it. The mixture of red, bronze, and blue really pops, and the typography is not only clearly visible in every letter, but also keeps in line with 2015’s Currents, and 2010’s Innerspeaker, in terms of font and placement.

Worst Album Of The Year

Green Day — Father Of All…

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The moment I listened to this newest Green Day instalment, I knew that I needn’t look any further for a bad album.

Easily one of the bands worst records, Father Of All… seems to carry absolutely no semblance of their gritty pop-punk roots, and instead decide to oddly vouch for uninspired stadium-made rock ’n’ roll, made all the more ironic by the fact that stadiums have been closed for a good chunk of 2020.

But even with purposelessness aside, this album’s sound is cringingly shallow, and there is not one shred of creativity to be found. and while all of this is happening, the band give us this presence of “this is the greatest album ever! just pure rock ’n’ roll”. On the contrary, Father Of All… is just an unlistenable vulture of a record, picking off the fermented remains of a frankly dead music genre.

Most Disappointing Album Of The Year

King Krule — Man Alive!

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Don’t get me wrong, King Krules third instalment is certainly better than some of the other albums that I would deem as disappointing throughout 2020. However, what makes Man Alive! the biggest letdown, was just how much I had been eagerly anticipating this album, after how blown away I was by the preceding record, 2017’s The Ooz.

The few people I know, who have said they weren’t too impressed by The Ooz, claimed that it was a dull and unengaging slough of miserable atmosphere, while I guess I simply saw the beauty within it. However, how those people felt about The Ooz was, oddly enough, exactly how I felt towards Man Alive!. For me, it was this new record that was the bleak slough through bland atmospheres.

While there are a very scarce offering of gems within this album, such as “Cellular” and “Underclass”, this album mostly didn’t get close to living up to the high expectations I had set for it.

Most Impactful Song Of 2020 (Outside My Top 100)

Cardi B & Megan Thee Stallion — WAP

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I sort of wanted to create a space for the track which didn’t necessarily have that level of sentimentality to make it to my top 100 tracks list, but still had a gargantuan impact, one way or another, on countless listeners in 2020. And what I had in mind, was indeed Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s “WAP”.

While (as if my top 100 tracks list didn’t make this apparent enough) I definitely enjoyed quite a few songs more than this one, that definitely isn’t to say that I didn’t enjoy it. In fact, I think this track plays on subtlety really well, in terms of its beat, and I thought the lyrical flows from both Cardi and Megan were great.

But most importantly, it was great to see just how much this track seemed to empower so many people. I definitely wasn’t expecting it at first, but it is still great to see. And while I feel that there are song that have come out before that have taken a similar approach to flipping the script of male dominance in hip-hop, I think that “WAP” was the final chip-away, that completed the sculpture of female empowerment in music.

Worst Song Of The Year

Biffy Clyro — WAB (Wet As Biffy)

Warning: High levels of cringe in the video above. Watch at your own risk.

Given all of the praise I had made for “WAP” above, the fact that Biffy Clyro even thought it was a good idea to paste their own cover over the top of it was already a red flag.

But by switching up the lyrics, to make it more listener friendly, Biffy opened up a can of worms, and “WAB (Wet As Biffy)”, as if the title didn’t make this clear enough, makes absolutely no sense at all. “Strike a pose like a credit card” is a lyric that especially gets me giggling.

The atrociously obnoxious riffing and vocal harmonies, dumb lyrics, slight shades of attempting to overshadow female artists (although I doubt the rabbit hole goes that deep), and complete irrelevance, aside the fact that its a cover of a popular song, makes “WAB” legitimately painful to listen to.

I would honestly listen to Green Day’s Father Of All… three times back to back, that listen to this pointless live cover once. I understand that it’s not technically a released single, but I felt that I had to warn you guys that this track exists, and I would strongly suggest you don’t listen to it, unless you’re a glutton for punishment.

Best Musical Trend Of The Year

Albums with longer runtimes and more generous tracklists

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I feel very old for saying this, but there is something that feels worrying bleak about the idea that, over the past couple of years, the process of releasing an album that sells has become vastly different than when I was growing up.

In more recent memory, the process of writing an album, is that you have to have it out there fast, and you have to keep them coming. With the current musical climate, where the majority of us stream music, and in turn puts very little actual money in the artists pockets, this new way of releasing albums does unfortunately make sense.

We now live in a time where, in the realm of music, keeping relevance is a more realistic commodity than earning money. So as a result, artists are releasing projects as much as they can to maintain that relevance, and not fade into the backdrop of a life in which we consume music at such a rapid pace. In its defence, there have still been some good albums to come out of this. But many artists are struggling more and more to put their heart and soul into a project.

However, 2020 has seen quite a few of them, particularly in the realms of Hip-hop and R&B, that have said “no” to this new way of making music, and have instead brought us projects where the heart and soul that went into it is clear as day.

Don’t get me wrong, there have been long and extensive experiences released in previous years, but 2020 seems to be more of a year where this approach feels a bit more commonplace, and I’m all here for it.

Worst Musical Trend Of The Year

Monthly album releases from the same artist

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Mike Shinoda and Hudson Mohawke, I’m looking at you guys in particular!

Contradictory to the idea of having more infrequent, but more satisfying albums , we have the polar opposite as 2020’s worst trend. While it’s slightly harder to cal a “trend” as such, this year has still been my first instance of seeing this.

Releasing an album every month is just was too close together in my opinion, and with the projects I had in mind when writing about this entry, the over-productivity definitely affected the quality of the projects in a very negative way.

Most Anticipated Albums For 2021

And so, we move on to 2021; a year that we have high hopes towards, for reasons outside of music. Nevertheless, if next year is going to turn out to be the year we hoped for, then the music we listen to throughout will undoubtedly be able to build a great deal of sentiment as a result.

Even though we’re not even at the beginning of the year yet, there are a few projects on the way that I am very excited to review, such as the ones below.

Kid Kapichi — This Time Next Year — 5th February

I discovered Kid Kapichi and their music in early September of this year, and with the track I have thoroughly enjoyed by them, being likely teasers for this upcoming album, I am excited to both revisit the tracks I’ve come to love from the band, and also have a listen of what’s new.

slowthai — TYRON — 5th February

With slowthai’s debut album Nothing Great About Britain, being one of my favourite records of 2019, I’m hoping that his sophomore album follows suit. Although, his 2020 single releases have shown little to no sign of the UK rap artist slowing down in any way, so things definitely seem promising.

Architects — For Those That Wish To Exist — 26th February

Any album from Brighton-based metalcore group Architects is worthy of hype in my eyes. However, what they have teased towards the new album so far, suggests a pretty noticeable, and much needed change-up in their style, heading towards the current Nu-metal vibe that many metalcore bands have gravitated towards, and I feel that Architects can really do it justice.

Also rumored projects from Billie Eilish, Danny Brown, Denzel Curry, FKA twigs, Kendrick Lamar, Lil Nas X, Mastodon, Noname, Pusha T, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Travis Scott, Turnstile and Weyes Blood.

And until the new year, that is all from me. This year has been an incredibly wild ride, particularly in how I’ve been writing about music. As well as fully transitioning from Google Blogger to Medium, I have also been given a wonderful means to discover many independent artists through Indie Top 39.

I hope that my sheer level of productivity not only reflects my growth as a writer, but also just how much amazing music has powered all of us through the challenging year of 2020.

I hope to give you plenty more in the future ahead. Thank you all so much for supporting me through this change, and I hope to continue telling you all about the new music ahead.

Geouwehoer

Chatting shit for shit chatters

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