The Best Of 2020

I am not going to lose time commenting how much 2020 was a strange year. But luckily there were still many amazing albums which came out during the months, we were dealing with the first months of pandemic. Please accept my invitation into a spectrum of genres ranging from modern forms of jazz, progressive metal or melancholic synth pop. Next to that, I added also one dirty soul Christmas album, which I am planning to rotate every year.

Link for the Spotify playlist here.

Short list of the top 20 albums of 2020:

01 – Tom Misch & Yussef Dayes – What Kinda Music

02 – Ulver – Flowers Of Evil

03 – Thundercat – It’s What It Is

04 – Deftones – Ohms

05 – Blues Pills – Holy Moly!

06 – Aprilmen – Heavy Hearts

07 – Nothing – The Great Dismal

08 – Shabaka and the Ancestors – We Are Sent Here by History

09 – Greg Puciato – Child Soldier: Creator Of God

10 – Killer Be Killed – Reluctant Hero

11 – Jazz Sabbath – Jazz Sabbath

12 – Blue Note Records – Blue Note Re:imagined

13 – Paradise Lost – Obsidian

14 – Katatonia – City Burials

15 – Anna von Hausswolff – All Thoughts Fly

16 – Fanfán Tulipán – Genius Noci

17 – Kelly Finnigan – A Joyful Sound

18 – Lenka Dusilová – Řeka

19 – Pure Reason Revolution – Eupnea

20 – Tomáš Liška – Hope

 

01 – Tom Misch & Yussef Dayes – What Kinda Music

During the previous three years, I started to get really interested in the British jazz scene. It started mainly with London based piano player Alfa Mist, which updated the algorithms of my Spotify profile in a way, I started to get bombarded with one amazing artist after another. One of the greatest discoveries was also drummer Yussef Dayes, who was cooperating with Alfa Mist multiple times. In 2020 he released an album called What Kinda Music with guitarist and singer Tom Misch, which became globally hugely successful and turned into my #1 for 2020. Definitely try this live version of the track called Lift Off with a guest bass from Rocco Palladino.

Sixty minutes Jazz Profile about Yussef Dayes in Czech for Český rozhlas Jazz here.

 

 

02 – Ulver – Flowers Of Evil

I respect all genre phases in the journey of Norwegian band Ulver, including black metal and avant-garde. However, I am mainly impressed by their latest synth pop phase. I am having my morning work-outs with technical space death metal from Blood Incantation, but in the evening, there is nothing better than having Ulver in the headphones for melancholic walks.

Interview with Ulver here.

 

 

03 – Thundercat – It’s What It Is

I first heard about a bass player and a singer Thundercat from Cory Henry, while we were talking at Colours Of Ostrava 2019. Since then, I was amazed by how many people within various genres, including metal, respect him. Yes, he has sometimes totally wild image, but this a piece in the puzzle which can easily combine a sound of soul/jazz icons with a young generation, no matter what genre you love. This guy was a member of Suicidal Tendencies and worked with Kendrick Lamar, to give you an idea of the spectrum in his world.

 

 

04 – Deftones – Ohms

As I could see for the past years on band’s Facebook fan groups, many long-term fans of Deftones usually prefer pre-Diamond Eyes era. Well, I am the massive fan of the following phase. Not that I don’t respect their earlier albums, as I have many favorites there as well including Back to School, Minerva and My Own Summer, but I was following them rather lightly. Due to a translation of an interview with Deftones for Czech Rock&All magazine, I spent some time with Diamond Eyes and it was an instant dive into their flow. I am addicted to each of their albums since, including latest Ohms. It is one of the rare bands, where I can turn the shuffle on.

 

 

05 – Blues Pills – Holy Moly!

When Blues Pills came out on the scene about a decade ago, it was a hurricane of fresh wind. They helped to open a topic of a retro rock on a huge scale. However backed-up with an amazing talent and energy. Ranging from wild tracks as Devil Man till atmospheric masterpieces as Little Sun. I collected all of their EPs, demo tracks, early live albums and had a chance to see them live multiple times, including Tourcoing in the Northern France. However, with all of the respect towards the band, their second album Lady in Gold was not as powerful. It felt to me as if it was done under a pressure and aiming for too much sound variety and accessibility, rather than a pure energy. With their third album Holy Moly!, after dealing with an unpleasant line-up change and plenty of other challenges, we are having here incredibly mature band. Traditional journalistic cliché points out the importance of the third album, but it totally works here. In their case, the sky is the limit again. Plus I am happy, they still have a skill for emotional atmospheric tracks.

Interview with Elin coming soon.

 

 

06 – Aprilmen – Heavy Hearts

For the past couple of years, I have a massive obsession for quality dark eighties synth pop. It works in the case of Ulver for a while and in 2020 I came across project called Aprilmen formed by Alan Averill a.k.a. A.A. Nemtheanga of Primordial and movie soundtracks maker Gareth Averill. I truly love to see when musicians are open to experiment within genres. Another big obsession of mine within synth pop is The Black Queen project including The Dillinger Escape singer Greg Puciato. Math metal madman can play this sort of music and I am really impressed that pagan demon screaming “Sing to the Slaves that Rome Burns” starting at 41:30 has such a taste for melancholic music. There are two awesome covers coming from U2 and Roxy Music, to let your ear get used to it, but at the same time, each of their own tracks is a masterpiece, especially Dead Of The Night and We Have Lied. This project deserves to reach its audience!

 

 

07 – Nothing – The Great Dismal

Diving into a dark shoegaze world of Nothing was very natural, because of an interview offer from Czech magazine Full Moon. Not only because I have a thing for dark melancholy, but by every moment on the album and also during the whole interview, I felt as we know each other for a long time. While checking their full discography, I even realized, I have in my collection their 2016 album Tired of Tomorrow. Latest The Great Dismal shows the scars collected throughout the whole journey, but matureness at the same time. It offers both very dark moments to reach some unpleasant aspects of your soul, but at the same time it offers gray clouds to lay your head on.

Interview with Domenic “Nicky” Palermo coming here soon.

 

 

08 – Shabaka and the Ancestors – We Are Sent Here by History

Works of Shabaka Hutchings are extremely important part of my modern jazz fascination. Within this project the band takes you to the darkest corners of African continent whether physically or into the weirdest trips, you could experience. I have chosen a song, which may be the darkest part of the album, but I simply had to, as it starts with an impressively strong monologue emphasizing our disconnection to our roots. Shortly after a second minute, it turns into heavenly jazzy mood with occasional flashbacks from the dark trip.

Sixty minutes Jazz Profile about Shabaka Hutchings in Czech for Český rozhlas Jazz here.

 

 

09 – Greg Puciato – Child Soldier: Creator Of God

Debut album of Greg Puciato’s synth pop project The Black Queen called Fever Daydream from 2016 was one of the most influential albums, I have heard in the previous decade. It fitted into my teenage dark pop/games/movies DNA and opened new routes to post/shoegaze/synth pop discoveries. I am very proud, how is he dealing with his post The Dillinger Escape Plan career and his first solo album is very impressive work combining all aspects of his personality ranging from TDEP “itch” in Fire For Water, as one of the fans called it on YouTube, as well as melodic melancholy in Temporary Object. Next to the album’s studio version, check also the live version.

 

 

10 – Killer Be Killed – Reluctant Hero

Next to impressive first solo album, Greg also released another great album with all-star band Killer Be Killed. Incredible line-up including Max Cavalera (Soufly), Troy Sanders (Mastodon) and Ben Koller. Insane energy and bloody huge portion of creativity.

 

 

TOP 11 – 20

11 – Jazz Sabbath – Jazz Sabbath

I am always very critical regarding a legacy of Black Sabbath, especially when we were having a 50th anniversary of Black Sabbath’s iconic debut last year. Zakk Wylde provided very solid tribute to a masterpiece released on 13th of February 1970, which he named Vertigo under his project Zakk Sabbath. You are getting from him exactly what you would hope for. However, the best release of 2020 within this area was Jazz Sabbath album from Black Sabbath’s keyboard master Adam Wakeman. Songs from early Black Sabbath albums, served in an amazing jazz arrangements and packed in the cool marketing story.

Interview coming soon.

 

 

12 – Blue Note Records – Blue Note Re:imagined

This release from legendary label Blue Note came in the right timing in my jazz journey. I joined the team of Czech national radio – Český rozhlas Jazz and I am doing my best covering the legends, next to being big time into the works of current artists. Compilation Blue Note Re:imagined helped me massively, as young artists that I love are playing some iconic pieces in their own style and reflecting their personalities into the tracks. Check tracks from Shabaka Hutchings, Alfa Mist and this very energetic an unique cover of Wayne Shorter’s Etcetera.

 

 

13 – Paradise Lost – Obsidian  

Moving to a metal department, I am extremely happy about the next two albums, as Paradise Lost were the first band, I managed to get on the front cover after our interview. Their Faith Divides Us – Death Unites Us album from 2009 was an instant fascination. True beauty in heaviness and darkness. Extremely strong melodies and truth in every note. Not that I didn’t respect their earlier albums, but it clicked here. Since then, they are on the journey following this vibe and their latest album Obsidian shows true professionals with skills and absolute security in what they will do, till they die.

 

 

14 – Katatonia – City Burials

In the case of Swedish dark atmospheric ambient metal masters the journey was much more diverse then in the case of Paradise Lost. I am their big fan since their 2009 album Night Is the New Day and I like their earlier albums, as well as love their following works including live albums and acoustic versions. However, only one piece that didn’t fit in the puzzle for me was their The Fall of Hearts album from 2016. There were no points to grab on to in a grey fog. I don’t want to say there are “not enough strong ideas”, but it simply didn’t hit me. Therefore I was really excited from their latest album City Burials including an amazing track Untrodden with a breathtaking guitar solo.

Interview here.

 

 

15 – Anna von Hausswolff – All Thoughts Fly

Epic organ journey, which deserves multiple listens to at least partially understand the world of this incredibly talented Sweden artist. She is not doing many interviews, so it was a big honor to conduct this interview with Anna during her BADA tour.

 

 

16 – Fanfán Tulipán – Genius Noci

I love to get surprised by an interesting releases on the Czech scene. One of the best during 2020 was a new album from atmospheric jazz project Fanfán Tulipán called Genius Noci. It’s one of the brightest releases on the Czech scene within the recent years and the last track Fjord with Oskar Török on a trumpet is a breath-taking masterpiece.

 

 

17 – Kelly Finnigan – A Joyful Sound  

Fantastic fresh discovery combining dirty soul music, Rival Sons’ drive and adding a bit of Rod Stewart touch. On this holiday season album you can find both wild pieces, as well as melancholic ambient tracks. I almost lost hope that it’s possible to approach Christmas album this way. Plus this is one of the best albums ever to use as a romantic background.

 

 

18 – Lenka Dusilová – Řeka

Awesome skill for synthesizers, impressive ability to build moods – similar to Anna von Hausswolff and handling well the role of the leading Czech music figure. Lenka Dusilová managed to build around her an impressive team within musicians, production and Czech label Animal Music. Top candidate for a Czech album of the year.

 

 

19 – Pure Reason Revolution – Eupnea

Awesome comeback of British project combining progressive rock and mature electronic pop. I discovered Pure Reason Revolution with their Hammer And Anvil in 2010, which was one of the rare albums, I was able to fall in love within electronic music. Check their awesome Over The Top track. I am really proud to see Jon Courtney reunited with Chloë Alper to create an album where they combined their taste for progressive rock, electronic music and catchy melodies.

Interview here.

 

 

20 – Tomáš Liška – Hope

Another great example of a Czech jazz talent, able to compete on an international level. I came across works of Tomáš Liška quite recently, but all of his four previous albums received nominations on Czech Anděl awards. He has an ambition to break this tradition and win an award with his latest album Hope. He is backed-up with a stable line-up of superior co-players including Serbian accordion player Nikola Zarić.

Interview in Czech here and a recent live show here:

 

 

All the best in 2021.

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