Without further ado here are my favourite albums of 2020, albums that provided musical joy in an otherwise bumpy year. For more lockdown listening ideas click here to peruse last years list.
5) Joe Bonamassa – Royal Tea
The workaholic American guitar virtuoso has been at it again, adding a 14th solo album to a huge back catalogue including countless live albums and records with Beth Hart, Black Country Communion and Rock Candy. Royal Tea is inspired by British blues and rock artists and recorded at Abbey Road, he even enlisted the songwriting help of Cream lyricist Pete Brown, ex Whitesnake Bernie Marsden, piano man Jools Holland and Dave Stewart of Eurythmics fame. This resulted in a glorious album full of bluesy stompers (title track, ‘High Class Girl’), tasty slices of classic rock (‘A Conversation With Alice’), jaunty toe tappers (‘Lonely Boy’) and even a bombastic orchestral number (‘When One Door Opens’) that would not be out of place in a Bond film.
4) Neil Young – Homegrown
Neil’s been busy unearthing material from his archives, the latest being Homegrown – which was due for release in 1975 but got shelved and Tonight’s the Night saw the light of day instead. Thankfully some 45 years later it is finally available, and it is a wonderful slice of Harvest like country, folk and rock with sumptuous production and heartfelt lyrics inspired by the breakdown of his marriage to Carrie Snodgrass. The lush melancholia of ‘Separate Ways’, the short and sweet folk of ‘Love is a Rose’, the title tracks fuzzy southern rock just three examples of a richly rewarding album that was worth the wait.
3) Massive Wagons – House of Noise
The perfect antidote to the pandemic stricken, lockdown laden 2020. House of Noise is Massive Wagons‘ fifth album and it’s wonderfully no nonsense rock and roll will put a smile on your face and a tune in your head. Full of the humour, big riffs and big choruses and you have come to expect from the Lancaster based band, with the anthemic opening track ‘In It Together’ setting the tone. The soaring melody of ‘Glorious’, the tasty ode to everyone’s favourite takeaway ‘The Curry Song’ and the frenetic, hard rocking powerhouse ‘Professional Creep’ are among the many highlights.
2) Pearl Jam – Gigaton
Coming seven years after Lightning Bolt, their longest gap between albums, is Gigaton – a varied record fired up by Donald Trump and global warming among other things. Eddie Vedder rages against Trump and the state of the environment in the mid-paced ‘Quick Escape’. The former president is again the target in the call for hope ‘Seven O’Clock’ – heady, alternative mix of soft synths and guitars. ‘Never Destination’ provides a welcome shot of full throttle rock, the new wave ‘Dance of the Clairvoyants’ a hypnotic take on the Talking Heads and ‘Superblood Wolfmoon’ the tastiest hooks. A varied and balanced album that is made for repeat listens.
1) Biffy Clyro – A Celebration of Endings
Weirdness, ballads, pop hooks and heaviness – Biffy Clyro’s ninth album A Celebration of Endings has everything you could ever want from the Scottish rockers. The colossal hooks and riffs of ‘Tiny Indoor Firework’ and ‘North of No South’, the distilled aggression of ‘End of’ and a touching, showpiece ballad in the shape of ‘Space’ demonstrate this album’s energy, eclecticism and vitality. The proggy and wonderfully odd ‘Cop Syrup’ is a fitting end to the record, going from angry and heavy to soft and melancholic with ease.