Thursday 31 December 2020

The Breaking More Waves Top 30 Albums of 2020 List


As I say every time around this year, by now you’re probably sick of end of year album lists, but the fact that you are here shows that you still have at least a tiny bit of stamina for more, so thank you for visiting. 

So these are my favourite albums of 2020, in order from 1st to 30th. 30 is too many really. Why anyone would be interested in my 26th favourite album of 2020 I have no idea. But at least it’s not a top 50. Ideally I would have stuck to 20, even if just so that I could have had a headline that read '20 from 2020' but I’ve listened to so much music this year I just couldn’t cut it down to that number without feeling that there were some good ones missing. It’s like inviting friends to a party – if I don’t invite certain people I’m going to feel really awkward about it.

Like the previous few years there’s no big write up, because my guess is all you want to do is have a look at how my list compares with yours and then bugger off again. If it's good enough for Barack Obama to throw his album list up on line with no commentary and get thousands of views, it's good enough for me. 

If there’s something here you haven’t heard, why not give it a try. By way of introduction, I’ve made a playlist with one track from each record. Find it by clicking here. That means you get 2 Sault tracks and 2 by Taylor Swift as they both feature twice. Also, something that may be a surprise to those who saw my 2019 list is that there’s no Fontaines DC on this list (they produced my favourite of 2019). Sorry guys, I just didn’t feel the second album as much as the first. 

For the first time ever I couldn’t decide on an overall number one and so two records share the top spot. Another Sky’s I Slept On The Floor and Wake UP! by Hazel English have been not only my favourite records of this year, but my most played. Both these two records seem strangely out of fashion and yet are weirdly and brilliantly all the better for it. 

Another Sky’s record is the most complete album I have listened to this year. It feels like every track sits in the perfect place – there’s an ebb and flow that makes it the complete start to finish listen. It’s a record that I discover more every time I play it both musically and lyrically. It’s bloody brilliant. Wake UP! by Hazel English is a record that is just chock full of gorgeous sixties referencing indie pop melodies that won my heart on first listen and has stayed there ever since. It’s a record that makes me feel like I have a teenage crush on it.

Close behind these 2 wonderful albums is Sault’s much acclaimed Untitled (Black Is). It’s a record for our times; an essential statement that mixes R&B, funk, soul against the background of the Black Lives Matter and the death of George Floyd. It’s a hugely powerful piece of work on many levels. 

Add to that Phoebe Bridgers' sublime reality-core songwriting on Punisher, Dua Lipa’s all killer no filler mainstream pop album that hugely improves on her debut, Charli XCX’s lockdown computer bangers, Georgia’s Mercury nominated electronically enticing Seeking Thrills, Erland Cooper’s closing record from his Orkney trilogy, Pottery’s riotous party punk funk of Welcome to Bobby’s Motel and E.M.M.A’s cinematic soundtracks to the top 10 and all in all it’s been a very good year for new music.

These are the records that I have listened to excessively, the ones I have lived and breathed and the ones that have got me through the year. Thank you to all these artists for doing what you do. I love you.

1= Another Sky - I Slept On The Floor

1= Hazel English -Wake UP!

3 Sault - Untitled (Black Is)

4 Phoebe Bridgers – Punisher

5 Dua Lipa – Future Nostalgia

6 Charli XCX – How I’m Feeling Now

7 Georgia – Seeking Thrills

8 Erland Cooper – Hether Blether

9 Pottery - Welcome To Bobby’s Motel

10 E.M.M.A – Indigo Dream

11 Taylor Swift - Evermore

12 Kelly Lee Owens - Inner Song

13 Nat Vazer - Is This Offensive And  Loud?

14 The Blinders – Fantasies of A Stay At Home Psychopath

15 Laura Marling – Song For Our Daughter

16 International Teachers Of Pop - Pop Gossip

17 Ren Harvieu – Revel In The Drama

18 Mary Lattimore – Silver Lakes

19 Other Lives – For Their Love

20 Sault – Untitled (Rise)

21 Porridge Radio – Every Bad 

22 Oh Wonder  –  No One Else Can Wear Your Crown

23 Emily A. Sprague – Hill, Flower, Fog

24 Taylor Swift - Folklore

25 The Avalanches – We Will Always Love You

26 The Budos Band - Long In The Tooth

27 Lady Gaga - Chromatica    

28 Rosie Carney – The Bends

29 Baxter Dury – The Night Chancers

30 Gia Margaret – Mia Gargaret

I'll be back tomorrow with news on what I'm doing with the blog in 2021.

Here are two tracks from my two (equal) favourite albums of 2020

Hazel English - Milk and Honey

Another Sky - Tree

Friday 4 December 2020

Ones to Watch 2021 #10 Skullcrusher


The final artist on Breaking More Waves Ones to Watch for 2021 list is one Helen Ballentine who goes by the artist name of Skullcrusher. As I (and quite possibly every other person who has written about her this year) noted on my Introducing post about her in May, whilst the name probably brings to mind some sort of violent doom metal band, the music of Skullcrusher is far from that. With a debut EP released in July and a follow up single Farm shared in October, this L.A based singer songwriter creates soft, spectral acoustic songs that cast their spell on you so subtly that you probably won’t even notice you’ve been caught up in them.

This is not just some winsome bedroom project that has no ambition to be heard however. Skullcrusher’s songs are being released via Secretly Canadian, a label with a good track record with artists such as Faye Webster and Jason Molina coming through them. If 2021 finds, at some point, artists touring again, expect to see Skullcrusher out on the road with possibly some shows in the UK as well.

Skullcrusher - Trace

Thursday 3 December 2020

Ones to Watch 2021 #9 Yard Act


As I intimated in a previous Ones to Watch 2021 post on Portsmouth group Hallan, this year I’m selecting two bands that broadly fit into the category of ‘sneering post-punk’ and that second band is Leeds four-piece Yard Act. Featuring members of Post War Glamour Girls and Menace Beach they first appeared in April 2020 with The Trapper’s Pelts Yard, throwing out social commentary that is scathingly caustic and hilarious in equal parts. 

Take Fixer Upper, a take on a fictional conversational with a neighbour where we get to meet Graham and his smug provincial second home owners view of the world: “I’m not from round here, but I am.” Satire can be hard to do in music, the results often sounding pompous and a bit too clever, but Yard Act seem to be getting it about right – Graham sounds like a real idiot - unfortunately we probably all know someone a bit like Graham.

The big question with such a small number of tracks out there is if Yard Act can maintain their momentum or will their somewhat Marmite ‘bloke talking over guitar riffs and grooves’ sound soon lead to them becoming a novelty themselves and run out of steam? Based on what has come so far I’m hoping for the former - Yard Act are offering something far more entertaining lyrically than a lot of artists out there at the moment.

Yard Act - Fixer Upper

Wednesday 2 December 2020

Ones to Watch 2021 #8 Christy


The only male solo artist on Breaking More Waves Ones to Watch list for 2021 is Glasgow’s Christy O’Donnell. This twenty-something singer songwriter keeps things simple just going by the name Christy. That simplicity also flows through to his gorgeous songs. His debut EP Homegrown (released in August through Made Records) contains five of them. It’s a concept EP of sorts, following the lives of a family in one house in Glasgow from the 1920s to 2020s. 

There’s something very comforting about Christy’s sound – it’s easy to imagine his music cropping up on all of those Chill Out playlists. In fact a quick scan on Spotify shows that he already crops up on ‘Easy’, ‘Mellow Pop’ and ‘Your Coffee Break’. 

Christy is a former busker (why do I never hear buskers as good as this?) who has also appeared in the Disney drama Find Me In Paris but now he is focussed on music. If he can continue the excellence of his debut EP he will definitely be one to watch in 2021.

Christy - Pictures

Tuesday 1 December 2020

Ones to Watch 2021 #7 Baby Queen


Baby she’s a queen. Baby Queen. Real name Bella Lathum. 

I first introduced Baby Queen to readers of Breaking More Waves this summer when she had just 2 tracks on line. Since then she’s released her debut EP and alongside Holly Humberstone’s (featured in an earlier One to Watch post) it has quickly become one of my favourite pop debut’s of 2020. 

The internet, narcissism, depression, obsessive love, sex and medication. This is the basis of that EP. Lyrically it’s very much a record of these times for dispirited twenty somethings. “I met a boy on the internet, now I can make him up inside my head,” she sings on Online Dating. “I get more likes when I don’t look like me; well fuck my life!” is a line from Pretty Girl Lie. And then there’s Medicine, the anti-depressant anthem of our times: “Thank god for my medicine, I feel so apathetic, when I take my medicine.”

But despite the somewhat depressing nature of the words, they lodge in your head and stick. If you like your pop a little edgy but still very accessible, Baby Queen could soon be your new right royal favourite. (And for regular readers – need I say anything about the fact that she’s already joined the musician in the bath club?)

Baby Queen - Internet Religion

Baby Queen - Pretty Girl Lie