Top Ten Albums of 2020

As our list season draws to a close, it’s time to look back on the very best albums of the past twelve months. In spite of chaos reigning in 2020, creative juices have definitely been flowing, as Belwood has been bombarded with more new music than ever before. There’s no way we could ever cover it all, and there have been a lot of records that we never managed to get around to, but these ten releases are absolute must-listens in my mind. They represent some of the most enthralling music that has kept our spirits up in this most trying of years.

Taylor_Swift_folklore10. Taylor Swift – folklore

Undoubtedly the biggest surprise of the year, and a release that became instantly iconic. All the drama and pageantry was stripped away for this stunning secret project. Enlisting an inspired cast of collaborators, folklore plays to Taylor’s strengths as a songwriter and offers an engrossing and cohesive atmosphere, sublime storytelling, and some truly affecting moments of reflection and vulnerability. This consistently brilliant record has earned her a host of new fans, myself included. (Review)

lotl9. Lanterns on the Lake – Spook The Herd

Addressing themes of political polarisation, the trappings of modern life and the devastation of climate change, Spook The Herd seems incredibly fitting for the broken world that we now find ourselves in. Hazel Wilde delivers some of her most arresting lyricism yet, while the subdued soundscapes offer plenty of space for introspection. This bittersweet release is like a wry, knowing smirk in the face of impending oblivion, and feels like a comforting voice of reason in a world gone mad. (Review)

howl and hum8. The Howl & The Hum – Human Contact

The long awaited debut from one of my all time favourite discoveries since starting this blog; Human Contact has managed to live up to the high expectations set by the band’s earlier singles. Their singular approach to songwriting, drawing inspiration from the most unlikely of sources, and their uncanny knack for crafting anthemic hooks is on clear display here. Striking a superb balance between the little dashes of wit and the truly moving and thought provoking moments, it’s the record that cements their place as one of Britain’s finest up and coming indie bands. (Review

biffy7. Biffy Clyro – A Celebration of Endings

Scotland’s favourite sons have managed to pull themselves out of a worrying tailspin and deliver one of their best albums in years. Finding a good balance between the accessible and the eccentric, A Celebration of Endings is home to some of the band’s finest ferocious riffs and festival ready choruses, while also throwing a few interesting curveballs into the equation. It’s home to an eclectic mix of styles and yet still maintains a high bar for consistent quality. Their best work since 2009’s Only Revolutions, and a brilliant return to form. (Review)

brian-fallon-local-honey6. Brian Fallon – Local Honey

Somehow Brian Fallon’s solo releases have always felt as though they were missing the spark that made me love his work with The Gaslight Anthem. That spark is not only reignited on Local Honey, it is burning brighter than ever. His affecting and earnest lyricism is at its very best here, feeling older and wiser but no less loving and tender, and the understated Americana arrangements create the perfect canvas for his words. Listening to this record offers a kind of comfort akin to spending time with an old friend and still feeling the connection even after a long time apart. (Review)

imploding the mirage_the killers5. The Killers – Imploding The Mirage

A real delight of a record. While not their greatest body of work, or their most consistent, it’s their most consistently great. Expansive, triumphant and thoroughly uplifting, Imploding The Mirage is an absolute tour de force. It’s an album built for tearing up the open road on a lonely desert highway, and for filling stadiums with a symphony of anthemic Americana. The Killers hit upon a real winning formula with this release; mining the creative vein for all it’s worth, casting aside the very notion of filler tracks, and exceeding all my expectations in the process. (Review)

algiers-there-is-no-year4. Algiers – There Is No Year

An oddly prophetic title considering it released back in January, before 2020 became a complete write-off. Algiers’ singular melting pot of styles – from haunting gospel and blistering post punk to dark foreboding electronics – is at its most understated and accessible here, but without sacrificing any of the meaning and purpose behind the music. Greater than the sum of its parts, There Is No Year builds a bleak and all-encompassing atmosphere, albeit one with a strong undercurrent of determination to keep fighting the good fight. Another great release from one of the most incomparable bands on the scene. (Review)

monument3. Keaton Henson – Monument

Perhaps the album that best captures Keaton’s signature sound; namely how he crafts the kind of hushed confessional folk that just breaks you a little inside. Written about the loss of his father, Monument offers an unflinching window into the grief of losing a loved one. But while it certainly has its poignant, heart-wrenching moments of mourning, this is a record determined not to succumb to sorrow. It carries a message of cherishing the time we have with those we care about, and never taking it for granted. A deeply affecting and cathartic listen for anyone who has known loss. (Review)

Phoebe-Bridgers-Punisher2. Phoebe Bridgers – Punisher

If you’ve ever had one of those nights laid staring up at the stars, having meandering existential conversations with a friend as you ponder the things in life that really matter, then you’ll be all too familiar with the feeling that Punisher evokes. The gorgeous arrangements, tattoo worthy lyrics and Phoebe’s dreamy vocals ensure an entrancing listen from start to finish. It’s one of those records that you sink deeper into with every passing moment, and I wish I could hear it again for the first time to experience afresh that initial dive into its introspective soundscapes. (Review)

the amazing devil1. The Amazing Devil – The Horror and the Wild

There’s so much waiting to be found in the gorgeous gothic folk of The Horror and the Wild. The way the bewitching mystique lures you in with its dark tendrils. How the endearing playfulness of its droll wit warms your heart. The marvellous tales it weaves of romance and heartache. It’s a menacing snarl, a furtive whisper, a knowing smile and a joyous roar all at once. It’s an album that reminds me why I started this whole blog in the first place; when you fall head over heels for a record, you just want to sing its praises from the very rooftops and recommend it to every soul willing to listen. (Review)