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The Rock Sound Albums Of The Year 2020

Jack Rogers
Jack Rogers 22 December 2020 at 17.03

In a year unlike any other, there's been an awful lot of incredible music. After we put the vote to you last week about what YOUR album of the year was, we thought it only right to explain why all 32 albums that were placed in the bracket were just as brilliant, innovative and inspiring as each other. So, in alphabetical order, dive in!


Is there a band that has had a 2020 as invigorating as All Time Low? Taking things back to their roots whilst also utilising all of the lessons they have learned over the years, ‘Wake Up, Sunshine’ shimmered with as much youthful vigour as pop sensibility. From the commanding ‘Monsters’ and the pop-punk majesty of ‘Sleeping In’ all the way through to the sentimental ‘Glitter & Crimson’ and near-perfect ‘Getaway Green’, ATL came, saw and conquered with an album that feels like it has only scratched the surface of what is to come.

Bearings’ debut album ‘Blue In The Dark’ may have laid the foundations for something wonderful, but it’s on ‘Hello, It’s You’ that the band really planted their flag. Injected with as much summertime joy as intimate detail, jams such as the electric ‘Super Deluxe’, nostalgic ‘So Damn Wrong’ and patient ‘I Feel it All’ equate to a record of immense care and craft that set Bearings out as one of the finest young bands in our world.

Biffy Clyro are always at their best when you can tell that nothing is holding them back, and on 'A Celebration of Endings', the band celebrate everything that has made them such an intense and eclectic jewel in the British musical crown. From huge sing-alongs ('Tiny Indoor Fireworks') and guttural freak-outs ('Cop Syrup') all the way through to the most tender of ballads (‘Space’), Biffy demonstrate how to fire on all cylinders in style whilst reminding us to always expect the unexpected.

Following up a record as special as 'Welcome To The Neighbourhood' would be a mountain to climb for most bands, but Boston Manor made it look like a walk in the park on 'GLUE'. Injecting as much bright energy as bile-drenched aggression into the likes of 'Plasticine Dreams' and 'Everything Is Ordinary' whilst also managing to present some of their most important songs to date ('On A Ledge'), Boston Manor added several new strings to their bow as well as cementing their place as one of the most forward-thinking and ferocious bands the UK has to offer.

To listen to Broadside's last album 'Paradise' and then put 'Into The Raging Sea' on immediately afterwards, you would be hard pushed to believe they were the same band. Though that's what makes the latter so special. Documenting vocalist Ollie Baxxter at both his most despondent and passionate, the likes of the franticly lustful 'Nights Alone' and internally tumultuous 'Foolish Believer' allow him to express himself exactly how he has always wanted and equates to what feels like Broadside in its purest form. Dark, seductive and brimming with promise.

In a career where he has always sung about everybody else, ‘Cannibal’ was the moment that Dani Winter-Bates finally felt comfortable to unleash what had been brewing inside of him. Raw, real and, at times, rather difficult to listen to, ‘Cannibal’ featured some of the starkest mental health admissions you’ll find anywhere cloaked in some of Bury Tomorrow’s most devastating riffs. It’s quite simply a masterstroke of modern metalcore brilliance.

There is no band on the planet quite like Code Orange, that is a fact, but with their third full-length the band near enough transcended this planet altogether. Richly textured and brimming with as much snarling aggression as technological vulnerability, ‘Underneath’ is the sort of record that only comes along once in a generation and will continue to enthral and enrapture for generations to come.

Disappearing for a year and coming back with a brand new look, sound and story, Creeper invited us once more into their incredible creative universe on ‘Sex, Death & The Infinite Void’ and left us feeling gooey-eyed. Dripping with as much danger as it does decadence and with as many nods to Nick Cave and David Bowie as Blur and Adam Ant, the band showed off a completely new side to who they are and opened a thousand doors for where they could go next.

Intricate, outrageous and intoxicating in every sense of the word, Dance Gavin Dance came into their own once again on their 9th album. Dipping their toes into flamenco (Calentamiento Global’), trip-hop (‘Into The Sunset’) and straight-up pop (‘One In A Million’) alongside the usual post-hardcore and math-rock masterclass, ‘Afterburner’ pushed DGD to the limit of their abilities, defied expectations and effortlessly raised the bar for everybody else musically, lyrically and aesthetically. But none of that is a surprise really is it?

Five years on from the curious and dividing 'Gore', Deftones went back to what they do best on 'Ohms' and came out the other side with a record of immense depth. That's not to say they retraced their steps from years past though, with the towering riffs at the centre of the title track and spiralling atmospheres of 'Genesis' showing that the band still have the power to surprise. On top of celebrating 20 years of 'White Pony' in style, that's not a bad year's work for Chino and the gang.

With their 6th full-length, Enter Shikari created not just their most extraordinary and elevated album yet but also a perfect antidote for the strange we are all living through right now. From brit-pop to post-hardcore, electronica to experimental hip-hop, and with a quick classical diversion,  the band delivered a record that resonated with that shared feeling of desperation as well as offer glimmers of hope and understanding for the future.

Four Year Strong have always tried to push the limits as much as they can, but on ‘Brain Pain’ the band absolutely nailed every aspect as what makes them who they are. Heavy, heartfelt and honest, FYS pondered fatherhood, getting older and the inner working of their minds and, bolstered by an utterly crushing mix from Will Putney, produced some of their finest work to date. It also served as a reminder that as much as your life may change, your passion for your craft will only get stronger with time.

The fact that The Ghost Inside actually released an album in 2020 is a stone-cold victory in itself, but the fact it was as inspiring, expressive and outrageously brutal as it was is just icing on the cake. Leaving no stone unturned and channelling every emotion they had felt over the last five years into a batch of songs that heal as much as they bruise, The Ghost Inside forged a record that will serve as comfort and inspiration for all those that let it into their lives for years to come.

GHOSTEMANE’S rise from the underground to worldwide acclaim has not just happened overnight, and there are elements of his journey thus far splattered all over ‘ANTI-ICON’. Yet what sets this full-length apart from the rest of his back catalogue, and indeed the legions of copy cats watching his every move is the sheer scale of what it represents. From sludgy industrial passages and devilish cyphers to all-out assaults on the senses, ‘ANTI-ICON’ feels genuinely fresh at a time where it’s hard to escape the stench of mediocrity.

It’s been a long time coming, but when it was finally time for Dallon Weekes and Ryan Seaman to show us what they had been working on, it was just as whimsical, weird and wonderful as we expected. Full of deliciously funky riffs, glitchy electronics and the sort of melodies ready-made to get lodged in your head for weeks on end, ‘Razzmatazz’ is as mysterious and it is magical and a truly fitting debut for one of the most intriguing and intoxicating bands in the world right now.

KNUCKLE PUCK – ’20/20’
Coming into their own even more so than they already had, ‘20/20’ found Knuckle Puck at their most fluid and free. From the sun-stained romance of ‘Earthquake’ to the quintessential pomp of ‘RSVP’ all the way through to the gorgeous carefreeness of ‘Breathe’, the band took everything that makes them one of the finest in their field and threw in more emotion, vibrancy and technical bravery to create their most accomplished and considered batch of songs to date.

Inspired by her travels with Deadmau5 over the last 18 months and joining forces with close friend and collaborator MYTH, Lights flexed her creative muscles in a completely new world in 2020 and made it look like second nature. ‘Dead End’ glistens and glows with experimentation, as shades of EDM, techno, trap and big room house coat her distinct vocals on ‘Batshit’ and ‘Outdoor Sports’ as well as completely transforming and reinvigorating some of her classics. The result is a handful of songs begging to be played at the biggest of parties and a new notch on Lights’ ever-growing belt.

Taking what they had created and learned on their debut 'The Cold Sun', adding equal measures of desolating heaviness and ethereal beauty and wrapping it all up in a discomforting and delirious shell, 'I Let It In And It Took Everything' showed exactly what Loathe are made of and then some. One part forward-thinking hardcore opus, one part furious journey to the core of your psyche, the band not just carved out a lane all of their own but also a new benchmark when it comes to British heaviness. What they do next will be utterly fascinating.

Machine Gun Kelly has had quite the year, hasn’t he? Away from the award ceremonies and viral performances, at the core of his 2020 is ‘Tickets To My Downfall’, a colourful and considered crossover between classic pop-punk and modern rap. On one hand, there’s the world-beating ‘Bloody Valentine’ and outrageously fun ‘Concert For Aliens’. On the other, there’s the trap-channelling ‘My Ex’s Best Friend’ and gut-busting ‘Nothing Inside’. Put it all together and you have a recipe for a record that pays homage to the greats as much as introduces them to fresh ears.

Following on from 2017’s ‘Feel Something’ was always going to be a desk for Movements, but what they ended up producing was a completely new beast. Pulling from as much post-rock atmosphere and alt-rock edge as straight-up emo brilliance, the likes of the breezy ‘Santiago Peak’ and sultry ‘Skin On Skin’ allowed the band to express themselves in new and more complex ways. More than anything, ‘No Good Left To Give’ signals a deep, dark and deliriously wonderful new chapter for Movements, and one that will linger under the skin long after the final chords have faded away.  

Combining '90's alt-rock influences with a blossoming love story taking place in a magical universe known as Sonderland is the sort of idea that wouldn't even leave the drawing board for most bands. But Neck Deep aren't most bands. Instead, they dived headfirst into a whole new realm of songwriting and storytelling and came out the other end with a set of songs that are affecting as they are romantic. It may not be what anyone expected the band to produce, but it's a record that will intoxicate and infatuate the more you let it into your life.

It feels like Palaye Royale have been building up throughout their break-neck career to the release of something truly iconic, and with ‘The Bastards’ the band backed up every single word they have ever uttered. As perfectly crafted as it is genuinely heavy, the despondent ‘Anxiety’, slithering ‘Masochist’ and simply brilliant ‘Lonely’ allow the band to paint the exact picture they want whilst adding several feathers to their hat at the same time. Basically, it’s an utter triumph.

A proper full-length record from Point North is something we’ve been excited about for an age, and the band made sure that the wait was 100% worth it with their debut offering. Overflowing with dreamy instrumentals and emotionally poignant lyricisms, along with first-class appearances from Kellin Quinn on ‘Into The Dark’ and DE’WAYNE on the title track, ‘Brand New Vision’ cemented Point North as one of the most exciting and explorative bands the scene currently has at its disposal.

2020 will forever be known as the year that Lynn Gunn came into her own as the sole creative force of PVRIS, and ‘Use Me’ is a perfect example of what that step up represents. Possessing as many expansive soundscapes as just brilliant pop songs, it’s a record that allowed Lynn to express every single side of who she is as a person and an artist and laid the groundwork for what PVRIS may become in the years to come.

Seaway have always marched to their own beat, but with ‘Big Vibe’ they put all of their passions on the table, left any inhibitions at the door and tried something a little different. The result is a collection of white-hot bangers that pull as much from the freewheeling fancy of the 1980s as they do from the brilliantly catchy sensibility that defines modern-day pop. From the sultry ‘Mrs David’ to the cheeky ‘Peach’, it’s a record made for the good times, and long may they continue.

In celebrating their 20th anniversary as a band, Silverstein also showed off how they are far from done in terms of showing what they are capable of musically. Featuring as many neon-twinged big rock moments (‘Infinite’) as big bad post-hardcore battering rams (‘Burn It Down’), and not forgetting the occasional total curveball (‘Madness’), ‘A Beautiful Place To Drown’ possessed as many nods to the past as it did the future and set the pace for the next two decades of the band’s journey.

‘Pink Elephant’ was the moment that Stand Atlantic really let the world know how big and bold their intentions were, both on and off stage. Thick hooks, pulsating synths and boundary-leaping expressions meshed with some of the most honest and open lyrical turns that vocalist Bonnie Fraser has committed to tape and the result was one of the freshest and most fierce statements of intent of the year. And with tracks like the energetic ‘Shh!’, heart-breaking ‘Drink To Drown’ and joyous ‘Jurassic Park’ firmly in their arsenal, anything is possible.

'So I lament, till I reset'.
It’s a lyric that not only perfectly defines where Touché Amoré's Jeremy Bolm is emotionally on the band's 5th full-length, but also a sentiment that all those who let 'LAMENT' wash over them can relate to. Featuring some of the band's most obscure and outlandish instrumental performances to date alongside some of their most poetic and poignant turns of phrase, ‘Lament’ is a record that once again raises the bar that Touché themselves set and one that will be an ointment for thousands today, tomorrow and forevermore.

Letting their infatuation with electronic compositions wash even more so over them, Twin Atlantic kicked off 2020 with a spiky and succulent record that deserves to be played as loud as possible to as many people as possible. From the building melodies of ‘Barcelona’ and scuzzy funk of ‘I Feel It Too’ to the indie-disco decadence of ‘Volcano’, the band delivered a set of dancefloor-filling anthems that remould the Twin story once more and defy any expectations you may have previously had of them.

In a career of leaps and bounds, 'Heartwork' is probably the most playful and pivotal record of the last 15 years for The Used'. Joining forces with John Feldmann once again, the band expressed not only their heaviest moments, both sonically and lyrically, but also their weirdest and poppiest. The result is a record that can't be pinned down or defined and a collection of songs that not only encapsulate who The Used were but also who they are set to be.

After the breakout success of their debut EP ‘High Hopes’, you would have thought that Yours Truly would be feeling some sort of pressure to reach the same heights on their debut album. But based on what they produced on ‘Self Care’, they had nothing to worry about. As musically buoyant as it is lyrically poignant, the likes of ‘Funeral Home’ and ‘Together’ allowed the band to be as vulnerable and inspirational as they wanted whilst also showing off their insatiable talent for penning a beautiful song.

Beginning as one of the most anticipated records of the year and turning out to be one of the most varied, visceral and vital, YUNGBLUD showed off even more of who he is in glorious colour on ‘Weird!’. From head-dominating bangers (‘Cotton Candy’) and delicately personal admissions (‘Love Song’) through to incredible storytelling (‘Mars’) and defiant anthems (‘The Freak Show’), Dom forged a record that will continue to propel him to superstardom as much as help all those that listen feel more comfortable in their own skin. And it doesn’t get more powerful than that.

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