Wednesday, 30 December 2020

albums of the year (more ramblings... part 3)

(more) albums of the year... part 3: in case you missed it, I'm sharing my favourite records of 2020 (main post here) this week. Seven albums a day across the week, in release order. Enjoy!

HAIM Women In Music Pt. III (buy/stream)

New Haim?! Yes, oh, so much yes. On this record, the sisters' confidence in themselves and their music shines through. Right down to the ever glorious videos. They know they're good at what they do and I think this is their best record yet. That confidence allows them to dance between genres, exploring sonically more than they have in the past, and the results are ace. They've spoken openly about individual struggles that have influenced the writing of these tracks, some of their most personal yet - with specific experiences feeding into the lyrics. A fab record to kick off today's list... favourite tracks of mine include Don't Wanna, I Know Alone, The Steps and Summer Girl (technically a bonus track, but it counts.)

Dream Wife So When You Gonna... (store)

I hadn't listened to Dream Wife before (but had been meaning to) when Sports! was released as the first taste of their new record. I was intrigued and immediately listened to the self-titled debut, loved it, and began to wait patiently for the new record. It's seriously good. On release, the record was the only one in the UK Top 20 chart that wasn't backed by a major label, and the only one produced entirely by womxn. They managed to take the 2nd and 3rd places respectively in the Indie and Vinyl charts, an exciting (and huge) achievement for a band not on a major label, and so deserved. There's some really tender moments through the album, and some kind of bonkers moments, and the mixture of the two is sublime. Favourite tracks include RH RN, Hasta La Vista and Temporary

Samantha Crain A Small Death (buy/stream)

I don't have too much to say about this one because, frankly, you should stop reading and just go and give it a listen. But seeing as you're here... Samantha is a few records deep, but this was the first to catch my eye, as it was the first release on Lucy Rose's new label, an imprint of Communion. Having toured with Samantha, Lucy tells of listening to demos and feeling an urge to help release them into the world. After a series of car accidents following the release of her previous record in 2017, Samantha lost the use of her hands, and was left with the worry that she might never hold a guitar again. This record charts that experience, and a return to doing something she loves, so it's filled with a lot of emotion. It's lovely. Favourite tracks might actually be the opening three: An Echo, Pastime and Holding To The Edge Of Night

Stornoway The Farewell Show (Bandcamp)

I have so much love for this, the only live album on the list. My pal Tom (who played trumpet in Stornoway) sent me the audio files of the record back in January. Naturally I sat through them and had a happy nostalgic cry for one of my favourite shows that I've ever been to. Back in March 2017, I was working for Tom's (and Oli, bassist in Storno) company Tigmus, and we promoted the hometown farewell gig. I spent the day at the venue, watching soundcheck, the show itself, taking photos of fans with the band at the merch table afterwards and rubbing shoulders (remember that?!) with the best of Oxford's music scene at the afterparty. This is a brilliant recording of a superb and emotional farewell gig. It was a lovely surprise to find that a photo I took at soundcheck is printed in the CD case, a sweet touch. While not strictly a recording from the gig, as there aren't any music videos as such, I'm embedding this fab video from lockdown. Fave tracks from the album include... November Song, The Coldharbour Road and I Saw You Blink (but... all of it.) 

Haux Violence in a Quiet Mind (Bandcamp)

This one is stunning - a Stay Loose PR discovery, which are most often beautiful. A record that finds the artist processing tragedy and substance abuse across three generations of his family, describing it as "about honesty after hiding for so many years." Guided therapy for Haux becomes a soothing and soulful listen for us, and one that he hopes will help others. Seriously beautiful. Favourite tracks: Salt, Eight (with Rosie Carney) and Heavy

Lianne La Havas Lianne La Havas (buy/stream)

For one reason or another I'd never really given a proper listen to Lianne's music. The singles from this record were coming out and I was falling in love with them one after the other. The full record makes for a gorgeous listen. It's the creative result of a breakup and moving back to London from the US, about leaving a person and a place behind. Despite these themes, or because of them, the record exudes confidence. Personal growth is reflected in the confidence of that self-title, three records in. Favourite tunes for me are Read My Mind, Can't Fight and Please Don't Make Me Cry. 

Willie J Healey Twin Heavy (buy/stream)

Hear me out - I think this is even better than WJH's debut?! Like Richard Walters of yesterday's post, listening to Willie's music makes me feel such a strong connection to Oxford, and I love that. Having followed his music since just a couple of months into uni back in 2014, it's been such a joy to see how widely this record has been appreciated. Yala have done such a good job with their campaign. His show at Omeara last year is one of my last gigs (with fellow Oxford dreamboats BE GOOD opening) and it was brill! Favourite tracks are hard to choose as there are SO many tunes but Fashun kicks off the album in glorious style and Heavy Traffic, Twin Heavy and Why You Gotta Do It are solid tunes. 

Thanks for reading/listening! Seven more tomorrow... 

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