Last week was a rough week for all of us. A case of one step forward three steps back, with the scenes of last March flickering in the background. Where the first full lockdown was the great unknown, this time there’s an eerie feeling, with the post-Christmas blues and the standard January lull proving a wicked foil.
This, coupled with the maddening scenes in Washington, D.C., it’s now at the point where most of us are thinking, “when will it all fucking end?”
This may be nothing but a small token but a token, none the less. A gesture in a bid to keep the mind active and away from social media feeds and news outlets espousing their usual doom and gloom.
Yes, we won’t let the current circumstances impinge on our output here on Sun 13 and while many of you probably can’t be bothered to go down yet another rabbit hole of new music, it’s here waiting when you’re ready.
If you’re yet to delve into any of the aforementioned lists and musings, it may just be the time to do so. This feature will be in waiting.
These albums were either released after our end of year lists, came close to making our Top 50, or slipped the net completely (as so much great music tends to do). Part 2 of this feature will follow in the coming weeks.
We hope you enjoy. Stay safe.
Dope Body: Cracks A Light
After what many considered a misstep with 2016’s Kunk, Baltimore’s Dope Body get back to basics on their latest, Cracks A Light – the second of two albums the band sneaked in during 2020 (the other being the aptly titled Home Body).
Operating these days with little fanfare, Dope Body produce some of their finest material yet on Cracks A Light, with cuts like Clean & Clear, Daylight and Mutant Being all bruising renditions of noise-rock, showcasing a new lease of the life for the band.
Clara Engel: A New Skin
Toronto’s Clara Angel popped up three days before Christmas with their sensational record, A New Skin.
Born out of lockdown, the Aiden Baker and Amen Ra collaborator delivers their most tender songs yet. It’s dream-state long-form folk that hasn’t been so sparse and tender since Tara Jane O’Neil’s TJO. The production, the lyrics, the instrumentation, holistically, it’s a thing of beauty.
The Transcendence Orchestra: Feeling the Spirit
If you like your drones long then The Transcendence Orchestra’s Feeling the Spirit is certainly one for you.
The duo of Anthony Child (Surgeon) and Daniel Bean have produced a luscious range of meditative ambient drone compositions and while some may feel that it’s a bit long in the tooth, just retreat to a dark room, don the headphones and escape. It’s the perfect time of year for a record like this.
King Hannah: Tell Me Your Mind and I’ll Tell You Mine
Having signed to City Slang (home to Lambchop, Tindersticks et al) Liverpool’s King Hannah delivered a gem late on in 2020. Whilst it’s deemed an EP, quite frankly it’s too good not to be included amongst this fine array of artists.
King Hannah mix a spatial Mazzy Star-esque aesthetic with the gritty west country blues PJ Harvey mastered on Dry. Why more people in Liverpool aren’t talking about this band remains a mystery.
Blue Divers: Blue Divers
Bedroom Suck Records
They say nothing happens in the Illawarra region of Australia (other than rugby league). Blue Divers have changed that. A collective of musicians making ultra-chilled compositions that are the perfect foil to sitting on the beach and watching the waves roll in.
This is a gorgeous record, leaning on the origins of post-rock and in particular, the Dirty Three. In fact, this may just be the most beautiful thing produced from Australia since Ocean Songs.
2020 was a strong year for electronic music. A part of the patchwork of fine ambient releases was Auscalation’s III.
The project of Portland producer, Joel Shanahan, III is a late night concern brimming with rich textures of the ambient tech-house variety. It’s a record that doesn’t outstay it’s welcome and the more one goes back to it, the more it sinks into the conscious.
Willis Earl Beal: Morningstar
The enigmatic figure that is Willis Earl Beal slipped well and truly under the radar in 2020, throwing out his latest release just after the first lockdown.
Beal has always been the master of outsider soul cuts and on Morningstar, his ninth album, these lo-fi campfire laments don’t disappoint. In fairness Beal‘s creations never do . Like what Holy Sons is to indie circles, Willis Earl Beal is the most understood voice of soul. Yet, he still marches on.
Bvdub: Ten Times the World Lied
Continuing the late night listening, the prolific Brock Van Wey operates under the guise of Bvdub with Ten Times the World Lied.
With every track coming in a exactly seven minutes and fifty-two seconds, these glacial soundscapes are filled with drones that seep deep into your bones. It’s a journey of beautiful collages that prove a very able companion in solitude.
Austin is a burning pit for creativity to the point that we’re bound to miss a band or three throughout the year. Well, the best one of them seems to be Exhalants whose second album is a bludgeoning wreck of an album.
Atonement mixes elements of sludgey noise-rock with choruses that burst with rage. Listening to this is like being whip-lashed in a car prang. Except this is fucking great.
Ancient Plastix: Ancient Plastix
Maple Death Records
Liverpool producer, Paul Rafferty, releases his first record under the Ancient Plastix moniker and also his first for London label, Maple Death Records.
Ancient Plastix is a futuristic take on ambient music with Rafferty almost turning the idea of experimentation on its head. Created sparsely with a Yamaha synthesiser and Tascam 414, Rafferty creates nimble, cinematic darkscapes. Along with Ex-Easter Island Hand and Mitternacht, Rafferty continues to be the driving force for experimental sounds coming out of Merseyside.
Bailter Space: Concret
New Zealand veterans, Bailter Space, marked a return after seven years with the surprise release of Concret. The much anticipated follow-up to 2013’s Trinine.
Mixing those trademark odd-ball punk elements of their ’80s odyssey as The Gordons, Alister Parker and John Halvorsen combine with Brent McLachlan to deliver some of their most immediate songs since the era-defining Capsul. If The Fall ever decided to be accessible then something like Concret would have been the end result.
Mrs. Piss: Self-Surgery
Chelsea Wolfe and Jess Gowrie joined forces to form Mrs. Piss. Easily the greatest band moniker in 2020, which probably won’t be topped for the remainder of this decade.
With eight tracks clocking in at under nineteen minutes, the pair’s debut, Self-Surgery, draws from the hard-nosed sounds of metal and hardcore and the results are a nihilistic punk assault which borders on being anthemic.
Big Blood: Do You Wanna Have A Skeleton Dream?
Feeding Tube Records
The Maine trio consisting of Colleen Kinsella, Caleb Mulkerin and Quinnisa Kinsella Mulkerin have produced an absolute beauty with their latest, Do You Wanna Have A Skeleton Dream?
Listening to Big Blood is like walking through a moonlit hallway late at night. Drawing from ’70s pop group fandom and lo-fi reverence, this album taps into the social consciousness of the now (look no further than Insecure Kids). If the Sun City Girls ever wanted to do a pop record then it probably would have sounded like this.
Part 2 to follow at the end of January.