Favourite album of the year
A tie between
The back cover of Never Work says the album is about “work in the 21st century: hating it, needing it, the gig economy, platform capitalism and the robots that both threaten and primse to replace us.” The various events that have dominated the news this year have made the themes of the album even more appropriate.
The Goat is full of dark vignettes combined with some banging synth choons. Have a listen to my interview with John recorded last summer.
Both these albums use poetry, humour and melody to tell fascinating stories that reward repeated listening.
Other favourite albums of 2020
Making a Top 30 of the year, listed in no particular order…..
(I played songs from the albums in italics on my “favourite songs of 2020” podcast)
- Jazzhound by The Buttertones [as heard on podcast 106]
- The Private Memoirs and Confessions Of The Just Joans by The Just Joans
- Seaside Donkeys by Percy [interview]
- But What Has That Done To The Scores? by So Cow
- Even In Exile by James Dean Bradfield
- Nobody Knows More About Carcrash Casino Than I Do by Carcrash Casino
- Joy by Seazoo
- Someone New by Helena Deland
- PF5 by Pill Fangs [as heard on podcast 101]
- In Memory Of My Feelings by Catherine Anne Davies & Bernard Butler
- Unity by Gordon Koang
- Harry The Nightgown by Harry The Nightgown
- Dias Raros by Melenas
- The Panglossian Momentum by Thousand Yard Stare [interview]
- Summer Haunts by The Wind-Up Birds
- Ultracrepidarian Soup by The Humdrum Express
- It Will Come Easier by Emma Kupa
- III by Fuzz
- Working Men’s Club by Working Men’s Club
- Traditional Techniques by Stephen Malkmus
- Cluster by Pierre III
- Hey Clockface by Elvis Costello
- Pulmo by Vlimmer
- From A View by Floodlights
- Cause A Stir by Charmpit
- The Making Of You by Snowgoose
- This Is Not A Disco by Trying
- Manchester Calling by Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott
I bought a lot of music this year (thanks to Bandcamp Fridays!) so check out this list for some more albums I enjoyed.
A couple of albums that I got for Christmas, too late to make it onto the list above. But both albums are by long-term favourites of mine so I already know that I will love them!
Also I bought Dead Club by Tunng a few months back but I deliberately haven’t listened to it yet because I wanted to listen to all episodes of the accompanying podcast first. Both the album and the podcast are about death and our relationship to it. I’ve now listened to nearly all of the podcasts and would definitely recommend it.
Favourite covers albums
- Country Darkness by My Darling Clementine with Steve Nieve [new versions of 12 Elvis Costello songs]
- Not From Where I’m Standing by The Wedding Present & Friends [20 James Bond themes]
Favourite instrumental albums
Favourite EPs / singles
In no particular order…..
- Wicked City by Jockstrap
- Fixer Upper by Yard Act
- Zero Dollar Bill by Do Nothing
- Big Baglama by Satellites
- Fairy Daily EP by Tricollarors
- The Sheriff of Nottingham by The Vat Egg Imposition
- Cowboy Kiosk EP by Golden Boots
- Fetching Pitchfork by Girobabies
- Uwu by Axolotels Mexicanos
- See My Girls by Tindersticks
- The Process / Lonely by Loose Tooth / Chastity Belt
- Football / David Byrne’s Badside by Courting
- Whoosh by Liz Lawrence
Very Terry Edwards by Terry Edwards
3 CD career-spanning boxset released to celebrate Terry’s 60th birthday.
Runners-up: Archives Volume 1 by Joni Mitchell
Favourite label of the year
As well as the Order Of The Toad album and Liines singles mentioned above, I’ve also really enjoyed new music from Eilis Frawley, Captain Handsome and Duck.
Go and explore their website. You can even subscribe to receive all the new releases coming in 2021.
After attending 42 gigs in 2019, I was looking forward to a similar number this year before everything starting getting rescheduled / cancelled. Some of those are still hopefully going to take place in 2021, others have sadly been cancelled altogether.
I did manage to get to 4 gigs in the first couple of months though including the 2 acts I’ve seen more than any other over the years, The Wedding Present & Elvis Costello.
Here are some photos from those gigs. Can’t wait to be watching live music again. Until then please support venues in any way you can.
10th January: The Wedding Present @ Newhampton Arts Centre, Wolverhampton
— Chorizo Garbanzo (@ChorizoGarbanzo) January 11, 2020
13th February: My Life Story @ Jimmy’s, Liverpool
— James O’Keeffe (@jamesdokeeffe) February 13, 2020
28th February: Elvis Costello & The Imposters @ Olympia, Liverpool
— Trust the Wizards (@trustthewizards) February 29, 2020
Robert Pattinson and Willem Defoe play 2 lighthouse keepers slowly going insane.
- Colour Out Of Space (Nicolas Cage and his family slowly going insane) [Amazon Prime]
- The Crew (French film about a heist gone wrong) [Netflix]
- Juan Of The Dead (Mexican zombie film) [All4]
- The Greasy Strangler (ridiculous, obscene and really really stupid) [All4]
Favourite TV series
The End of The F**king World
First series came out a while back but I only watched it this year and unlike many other programmes, series 2 was just as good. Tarantino relocated into dreary UK locations with two often unsympathetic yet compelling well-written lead characters.
- Out Of Her Mind [BBC]
- Truth Seekers [Amazon Prime]
- Apache: The Life Of Carlos Tevez [Netflix]
- The Virtues [All4]
Sad Hill Unearthed [Netflix]
A must-watch for fans of the Sergio Leone “Fistful of Dollars / For A Few Dollars More / The Good The Bad & The Ugly” films.
- I Called Him Morgan (documentary about the jazz trumpeter Lee Morgan) [Netflix]
- Don’t Fuck With Cats: Hunting An Internet Killer [Netflix]
Music books of the year
- Broken Greek by Pete Paphides
- What Makes The Monkey Dance: The Life & Music of Chuck Prophet & Green on Red by Stevie Simkin
- Wichita Lineman: Searching in the Sun for the World’s Greatest Unfinished Song by Dylan Jones
In a typical year, I read about 70% non-fiction and 30% fiction but this year I don’t seem to have read any fiction at all! (unless you count the news, right kids? 😉)
The 3 books I’ve chosen as my favourites are all quite different really.
Broken Greek is a very personal account of a childhood riddled with anxiety and the pop music that made it bearable. He writes beautifully about both in this very special book, there’s a reason why it’s featuring in so many end of year lists. I’m already looking forward to re-reading it
What Makes The Monkey Dance will be principally of interest to fellow Chuck Prophet fans but it’s also brilliantly researched and written. Author Stevie Simkins definitely achieves his intended aim of allowing Chuck’s unique voice to come through.
When I picked up the Dylan Jones book in the library, I was dubious whether a single song would provide enough subject matter for a whole book. But it was a thoroughly engaging read, taking in the writing and recording of Wichita Lineman, some biographical detail about both Jimmy Webb and Glen Campbell and the impression that the song has made on countless listeners.
While we’re about it, a quick doff of the cap to whoever is responsible for choosing stock for section 780 at Cheshire Libraries. I reckon someone there is a Word In Your Ear listener because they are quick off the mark in getting in many of the music books by writers interviewed on that podcast.
Twitter hashtags of the year
Yes, that is now a thing that I’m doing.
To cheer ourselves up in the first lockdown, Kicker & I started tweeting photos of ourselves in band t-shirts using the hashtag #selfisolatingbandtshirts. Big thanks to all others who have joined in with this but especially to our new Texan buddy Scott Jenkins whose t-shirt collection is a thing of wonder.
This year I finally got started on making a spreadsheet of every gig I’ve been to. Still quite a few missing but I’ve got 1,027 gigs on there which has enabled me to start joining in with the #giganniversary hashtag.
Musical heroes of the year
Some people who have really helped me by providing entertainment during this most shitty of shitty years…..
- Steve Nieve whose video broadcasts gave me something to look forward to every day
- Not content with making the best album of the year, The Burning Hell also made the life-affirming YouTube series Everything Will Probably Be OK.
- Tim Burgess and all at Tim’s Twitter Listening Party. Such a simple idea but what a great way to help people feel less alone.
Wishing you Peace, Love and Understanding in 2021 everybody!