Album discoveries 2020

2020 has been a year of discovering a lot of new and different music. For this reason, I have decided to compile a list of some of the albums I have discovered this year. Hopefully it may serve as an inspiration for you to embark on a similar music discovering journey. Feel free to share some of your own discoveries!

Alcest- Shelter (2014)

This was a departure from Alcest’s signature Blackgaze sound, as this was their first album to not feature any Black Metal influences. It is purely a Shoegaze and Dream Pop album and this was the album that opened my ears to the world of Shoegaze.

For a long time I didn’t listen to this album as I knew it wasn’t a Blackgaze album. I was missing out on something, because this album is full of beautiful music and strong melodies. It may not be ground-breaking, as Shoegaze came about in the late 80’s, but the strong melodies and beautiful songs and textures make it worth listening to.

Camel- Moonmadness (1976)

If I had to single out onlu one album in this list as the one that has had the most profound effect on me, it is without a doubt Moonmadness. As a long-time fan of Progressive Rock, I don’t know why it took me this long to get into the music of Camel. Since hearing this album for the first time in September, this has become one of my favourite Progressive Rock albums ever. Camel is an incredible band with incredible musicians and they crafted a truly magical album with Moonmadness.

The guitar-keyboard team of Andrew Latimer and Peter Bardens has quickly become one of my favourites, alongside long-time favourite guitar-keyboard team David Gilmour and Richard Wright from Pink Floyd.

Latimer’s guitar playing is some of the best I have heard, and his flute playing is incredibly beautiful. Bardens’ keyboard playing serves the songs perfectly and his choice of sounds is spot-on. Andy Ward’s drumming is Jazzy, and I can see him fitting in perfectly with a Jazz Fusion band. Doug Ferguson’s bass playing is melodic and interesting enough to stand on its own.

This is the kind of album that I can put on at any time and never tire of. I will definitely treat this album to an in-depth review in the near future.

Carpathian Forest- Through Chasm, Caves and Titan Woods (1995)

This short EP by Carpathian Forest is a solid front-to-back Black Metal record with haunting atmospheres that fit the name of the band. The riffs and vocals are evil-sounding and the addition of keyboard gives the album a sense of grandeur.

The amazing cover art is an illustration by Norwegian artist Theodor Kittelsen (1857-1914).

Ihsahn- Pharos (2020)

This EP by former Emperor vocalist/guitarist/keyboardist/songwriter Ihsahn is the second of two EP:s released by him in 2020. It features 3 original songs and two covers, one of Portishead and the other of A-ha. Personally I think the 3 original songs are the best on this EP, though the Portishead cover fits very well in the overall feeling of the EP. I’m not as fond of the A-ha cover (“Manhattan Skyline”) which features Leprous’ Einar Solberg on vocals.

“Losing Altitude” and “Spectre at the Feast” are both excellent songs and “Spectre…” has some great unexpected chord changes.

The title track “Pharos” is possibly my favourite song on the album as it sounds like a mixture between dark, atmospheric Jazz mixed with a bit of Ghost Reveries– era Opeth. Ihsahn seamlessly merges the Jazzy verses with the heavy choruses, and the result is simply stunning.

Joni Mitchell- The Hissing of Summer Lawns (1975) and Hejira (1976)

Joni Mitchell’s The Hissing of Summer Lawns and Hejira blew me away when I finally decided to listen to them. They are Jazzier than her previous, mainly Folk- inspired albums, but the Folk-influences still remain.

On these albums, Joni hired a lot of session musicians such as Larry Carlton and Jaco Pastorius. Their performances on these albums elevate the already phenomenal songwriting by Joni to even greater heights.

As with Shelter by Alcest, it took a long time for me to listen to these albums. For some reason, I didn’t think that Joni Mitchell’s Folk music would blend well with Jazz influences. This was a completely unfounded assumption, because these albums are simply incredible.

 From The Hissing of Summer Lawns I would highly recommend listening to songs like “On France They Kiss on Main Street”, “Edith and the Kingpin”, “The Hissing of Summer Lawns”, “The Boho Dance” and Harry’s House/Centrepiece”. On Hejira, three of my favourites are “Coyote”, “Amelia” and “Song for Sharon”.

Both of these albums deserve in-depth reviews.

Popol Vuh- Hosiana Mantra (1972) and Letze Tage, Letze Nächte (1976)

These albums are great to listen to while studying or working, as they are not too intrusive yet remain interesting enough to not be monotonous. Letze Tage, Letze Nächte is musically darker than Hosiana Mantra, but there is a lot of beauty in the meditative nature of both of these albums.

Satyricon- Dark Medieval Times (1994)

This has quickly become one of my favourite Black Metal albums because the production has an open and airy ambience. I also like the acoustic Folk-inspired passages with acoustic guitar and flute. The title track is a good example of this blend of Black Metal and calm acoustic passages. Of course, this blend of Black Metal and acoustic passages was perfected by Ulver on their incredible debut, perhaps my favourite Black Metal album ever, Bergtatt (1995).

Slowdive- Souvlaki (1993)

This was my first foray into “proper” Shoegaze, and a full review of the album can be found here.

Final thoughts

Hoperfully, this will inspire you to embark on your own journey of discovering new music, and perhaps even listening to some of the albums I have mentioned here. Discovering new music that you like is a great source of joy, as is discussing music, so feel free to share some of your opinions on these albums and of your own music discoveries of 2020!

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