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LOUDER FEATURES: Our Albums of 2020

Charlotte Claber, Editor-in-Chief:

2020 has been a weird year for all, but the constant release of amazing music has really gotten us through it from. From Loathe to Deftones and everything in between, this year has been great and there’s so many projects announced for the new year that we can’t wait for. However, the album that I think has helped me this year and stuck with me is Hayley Williams'Petals For Armor'. Originally released as three individual EPs, the album by the Paramore vocalist and all round badass is a feminine riot of power and dark thoughts that harbour together to create a beautiful blend of notes. The empowering levels of self-love help battle the demons; it becomes a poetic piece of listening to help us through the dark patches of 2020. Williams shows a very intense level of emotional vulnerability through the tracks and everything she creates feels raw. From ‘Cinnamon’ to ‘Why We Ever’ and every track around them is filled with pain and passion of Williams’ life and past. It’s everything we needed but could never expect, alongside a beautiful tiny desk concert. It’s a slow path to recovery that’s aided listeners world wide making it an easy album of the year.

Check out the video for Hayley's 'Tiny Desk (Home) Show' here:

Charlotte Hardman, Senior Editor:

My album of the year is undoubtedly, if somewhat surprisingly, ‘Wake Up Sunshine’ by All Time Low. Their last couple of releases have been very slow growers for me, with my conversion largely fuelled by hearing the tracks live and furthermore associating them with the exhilarating sensation of watching live music. However, this album was a real surprise in that it resonated with me almost instantly, even in the absence of in-person gigs which quickly followed its release. Then again, perhaps I shouldn’t have been so surprised - this being the first spring in the last five years that I have failed to see All Time Low play live, perhaps I needed to fill that void more than I realised.

The singles, including the fist-pumping ‘Getaway Green’ and the sultry electronic notes on ‘Monsters’ kept me coming back to this record time and again. It boasts tracks that blend seamlessly with the blistering summer sunshine we were blessed with in this awful year; and some which are much softer, complimenting the slowly darkening nights that followed. The absolute highlight, however, is closer ‘Basement Noise’, and, as my review at the time shows, it has been that way since my very first listen. Sentimental, contemplative, and undercut by a tear-jerking sincerity, it is a beautiful song that really illustrates that while All Time Low may have grown up, they are full of pride and admiration for who they used to be, and all that their tenacity and passion has given them to this day. And you know what? If loving this album makes me a sentimental old pop punk fan too, then so be it – these songs are worth it!

Naomi Sanders, Deputy Editor:

Although this year was unexpected in many ways, sometimes the expected brought comfort, as Nova Twins showed with their debut, 'Who Are The Girls', which was released back in February, but has constantly been the album to come back to throughout the whole year.

Amy Love and Georgia South are both talented musicians in their own right and combining their forces just makes for superb rhythms, riffs, and rocking lyrics. From the opening of “You’re in the Vortex now” as soon as the album starts to play, all the way to the end with 'Athena', the duo released banger after banger with each song, leaving the listener desiring for more, which in turn helps their audience dive into all their other amazing songs like 'Thelma & Louise'. From fist-pumping and ranging like in 'Play Fair' or 'Lose Your Head', to a softer turn in 'Ivory Tower', this band knows how to mix with different levels and styles within their sound by establishing what we know from them so far after their singles and EPs, but also adding new twists and coming through in full force and we love to see in rock and metal.

Overall, this is an experience, both with this band and with this album, that you would regret missing out on if you do not hear it. All ten tracks have something for everyone to hook onto, and these two amazing people prove that rock isn’t dead and there are so many avenues of sound to explore in music that the world has yet to hear. It’s new, it’s exciting, and it’s simply Nova Twins - what could be better? Only one thing - another album from this amazing duo. Whatever these two create, it will become iconic and certainly go down in music history for all time.

Sean Hubbard, Writer:

Going from being one of the most innovative hardcore bands on the planet with 2017’s 'Forever', Code Orange became something more with the release of this year’s 'Underneath'. Evolving their sound to feature abrasive glitches and more electronics alongside their signature riffs, the Pittsburgh crew crafted an absolute masterpiece in heavy music. With guitarist Reba Meyers’ vocals taking centre-stage on several tracks including the wonderful ‘Sulfur Surrounding', the band managed to create a layered piece of art which absolutely raises the bar sky-high from what they had already set with 'Forever'.

Vocalist Jami Morgan puts on the best performance of his career to date, and whilst he has ditched the drums on the live stage, he also laid down some incredible beats, with off-timed cymbals adding to the sonic dissonance that the band create. This is an album that sounds legitimately dangerous, similar to how Slipknot sounded in the 'Iowa' era, with Code Orange often threatening to blow your head off without any second thought.

Whilst the album as a whole is a perfect 10/10, special credit has to go to ‘The Easy Way', a track that has as big a chorus as any stadium band. Code Orange have managed to capture a massive hook whilst still retaining their sheer rage. This band are the real deal, and you should accept no imitation. Most hardcore bands are still chasing the example set by Code Orange on 'Forever', and yet they constantly evolve, proving why they are the single most exciting band in the world. This is easily the most interesting and exciting release of 2020, and even without mentioning their legendary livestreams, Code Orange have already gone down in history as one of the best to ever do it. 2020 is Code Orange’s, and Code Orange is Forever.

Sadie Maude, Writer:

After naming them as my ones to watch in 2020, they didn’t fail to impress. For this reason, my album of the year has to be 'Open Up Your Head' by Sea Girls.

This is their debut album and wow… it is packed with wall-to-wall bangers! This album will make you sing at the top of your voice to the most catchy, relatable lyrics, while also making you turn your head with some of the less traditional indie songs.

My personal favourite song on this album has to be 'Transplant'. It is the perfect opener and starts the album off on an immense high. It sets the tone for the rest of the album and you already know it’s going to be amazing. Despite it being for the most part, a very indie album, Sea Girls have managed to make it dynamic and drop a few songs in there that were probably quite unexpected. A great example of this has to be 'You Over Anyone', it is slowed down massively and really draws the focus to Henry’s vocals. It shows a completely different side to Sea Girls, yet it doesn’t feel at all out of place on the album.

To put it simply, this is just a feel-good album. It makes you happy, and it makes you want to dance. After all, isn’t that what we all need after a year like this?!

Alex Swift, Writer:

Poignant music often transcends original meaning or timeframes to become a shared experience. With hooks and instrumentation laden with passion, listening to the entirety of Spanish Love Songs' 'Brave Faces Everyone' proves a resonating experience. Struggles with mental health, addiction and destitution get spilled out in an outpouring of vivid emotionality, portrayed by the ambitious composition, and the stirring resonance of Slocums singing. Genre wise, the record combines the focussed sentimentality of emo, with the soulful style which satiates much of modern punk. From the seething opener of ‘Routine Pain’ to the gigantic gut-punch of ‘Losers’ 1 and 2, the songwriting stands as familiar to its contemporaries while firmly distinct. Vitally, with brutal honesty mixed with just enough universality to apply to anyone struggling through anxiety, the heartfelt effect only grew on me as 2020 charted its depressive course. Though, for all of the misery-guts wallowing the album engages in, there’s a core of hope and optimism permeating from start to finish. Like a rallying cry, the record wields its righteous anger with enthusiasm, reminding us that resistance in the face of adversity is in itself a brave act. It’s a uniquely powerful message which I continuously return to, in spite of the fact that listening front to back leaves me sensitively battered and affected. Perhaps the records most important lines are in its final verse ‘We don’t have to fix everything at once, we were never broken, life’s just very long. Brave faces everyone’.

Nathan Lagden, Writer:

Let’s face it, 2020 was not a fun year. In a world of Covid, political polarisation and social frustration; music can either be an escape route or a way to explore and make sense of our reality. Enter Svalbard, who fit firmly into the latter category with their finger firmly on the pulse of the zeitgeist and music that operates as a superb vehicle for guitarist and frontwoman Serena Cherry to vent her righteous rage at anything and everything that contemporary society can throw as her. The name of the Bristol four-piece’s third album 'When I Die, Will I Get Better?' already suggests a certain bleakness, but the album is so much more than that alone would suggest. There are the black metal elements that you would expect a band called Svalbard to produce, but there are also heavy hardcore influences and post-rock sentiments in there too. For this record, Svalbard have developed their sound yet further by upping the atmospheric elements to produce a gorgeous wall of noise filled with beautiful raw emotion and power. From the record’s inception with 'Open Wound', the listener is consumed with brutal yet perfectly balanced guitars and a furious rhythm section, capped off by Cherry's harsh vocals. The intensity of the record however is regularly punctuated by slower ethereal segments to keep the balance of sound right, and even rounding off the album very nicely with the final track 'Pearlescent'. What makes this album truly great though is its relevance; with the band exploring topics such as mental health, sexism and social media wIth a pure honesty and passion that is fully brought out and realised in their sound. 'When I Die, Will I Get Better?' is a masterful piece of sonic energy which will resonate for many years to come.

Simone Barton, Writer:

Whilst 2020 has been the worst year for many reasons, it’s been one of the best for album releases. After a lot of soul searching and Spotify scrolling, I managed to narrow my Album of The Year to Fever 333’s 'Wrong Generation' (technically an EP but we’ll allow it!).

Fever 333 are one of the many bands that I discovered this year, after a conscious effort to diversify the artists on my radar. On the first night of their 'Wrong Generation' virtual tour, they released the EP, which was fantastic to me as I was able to watch them perform the songs live before I had a chance to listen to the album normally. The passion and overall electrifying performance made me even more excited to listen to the EP, and I’ve not stopped listening to it since.

'Wrong Generation' is 2020’s album to me as it perfectly sums up the tone of frustration, anger, and unrest that has come from the Black Lives Matter movement, and from being a person of colour. Jason Aalon Butler has written songs that speak to me personally, and many other people who faced any kind of oppression. However, it doesn't take a melancholy, helpless take to these events, instead the EP pushes you to want to be part of something better, and to not be a docile passerby. Whether you’re from the United States or elsewhere you will be able to relate to want to 'BITE BACK', which is coincidentally my favourite track on the EP.

With a sound that combines the politics and rage of Rage Against the Machine, with the early 00s nu metal vibes of Linkin Park there’s not much else I could have asked for in an album/EP. 'Wrong Generation' is an album that has sparked a flame in me that I won’t be able to douse any time soon, and I can’t wait for the opportunity to see tracks such as 'SUPREMACY' and 'U WANTED A FIGHT' live.

Jack Hadaway-Weller, Writer:

Without a doubt, this year belongs to Code Orange and their mammoth record, 'Underneath'. When all corners of the world were going into some form of lockdown back in March, Code Orange dropped their best record and with a huge hometown show planned, everything was set for them to have their biggest year. However, COVID happened which meant plans for the fiery Pittsburgh homecoming were dampened seemingly overnight. Instead of cancelling the show altogether, Code Orange decided to put it on as planned just without fans. The result was an explosive livestream showing off their refined live sound with a bigger line-up, better visuals and glimpses of how their new music would sound live. The result was staggering and set the bar for livestreamed gigs throughout this year. Code Orange were not going to let the pandemic spoil months of hard work but they also wanted to put the safety of their fans first.

In terms of the record itself, 'Underneath' is as glitchy as it is heavy with plenty of their typical crushing beatdown riffs alongside compressed percussive loops and distorted vocal samples. On their last two albums, Code Orange have experimented with industrial elements on a number of tracks but on Underneath it feels like this is no longer something they are trying out, instead they are fully incorporating these features in a more cohesive way across a full record. ‘Swallowing the Rabbit Whole’, ‘In Fear’ and ‘You and You Alone’ are the best examples of this approach where it is difficult to work out which parts are created by guitars or samples. Underneath is a triumph for a band taking a significant risk in pushing the limits of what modern metal should sound like whilst retaining the aggression which turned old fans onto them in the first place.

Tom Lee, Photographer:

2020 has been a rollercoaster; therefore, my music taste has been the same. Ranging from hardcore, to a lot of old-school punk - so much so that I was tempted to make my Album of the Year the Sex Pistols' 'Nevermind The Bollocks'! However, I have chosen an album that really brought me peace and comfort this year: 'One Takes Vol.1' by nothing,nowhere. This album is a compilation of his favourite songs he has made over his career but re-created in a much simpler, laid back style. They’re all based upon a one-take recording of his vocals and guitar (hence the album name), with some extra elements added in. This style gives a new, more intimate feeling to songs that used to be more trap or rock influenced. This is a perfect album to just sit down with a cup of tea on a cold day and listen to and let all your worries just fade away.

What has been your favourite album of 2020? Let us know in the comments or over on our social media!