There’s a lot to be said about 2020 so far. I mean we’ve gone through the escalation of US and Iran, impeachment, a completely dissapointing Democratic primary, COVID-19, economic depression, police brutality, and the president allowing for Russia to pay bounties on US soldiers…and we have an election at the end of the year to cap it all off. Listen, it’s all shit in the world. There are definitely strides being made socially and politically but it’s definitely hard to ascertain what is real change and what is token from the power that be. July 4th is kinda weird given all that
I guess in that sense music has made itself more powerful this year. It’s not that there is necessarily more great music at this point in the year than in the past, but it definitely seems to replace some serotonin we all desperately need to fuel our own sanity. Hopefully the following 30 albums (listed in no particular order) I share will find their ways into your music libraries and collective hearts.
Interested in a little sampler of my selections? Why don’t you hop over to theboosh.net where I am streaming all the videos shown on the list. Think of it as my own little hand-selected MTV…watch that space for things to come.
GEZAN – Klue
I was blown away by the duality of frantic Noise Rock and bittersweet Dream Pop shown on this record. I loved dubby instrumentation in this context, it added such a sway and swagger to the percussion and use of accapella. Speaking of the acapella, this sound wouldn’t be quite as impressive without the singer’s ultra-distinct “SpongeBob-esque” vocal flavor. Trust me, that’s a good thing.
Dan Deacon – Mystic Familiar
Dan Deacon is back with his most mature and consistent outing yet. While nearly landing it on his last full-length release, Gliss Riffer, this new release finds Deacon crafting one of the most magical Indietronica experiences ever. His Post-Minimalism influences shine brightly here, with beautifully crafted arpeggio soundscapes. Even his vocal performance, a quality that shown the least bright on previous records, is extremely well done and filled with confidence. This may be the escapism album you need right now and is quite honestly Dan Deacon’s magnum opus.
Bohren & Der Club of Gore - Patchouli Blue
While their niche Dark Jazz sound isn’t nothing new for the group, Bohren & Der Club of Gore have released another amazing album here. Taking a more calm and collected approach here, the group is able to really explore the vacuum of space with more impressive compositions. While I do enjoy their more gritty material, I find their usage of synths to contribute to such an interesting futuristic sound. If previous Dark Jazz records lean hard into Twin Peaks, this one is definitely more X-Files.
Cindy Lee – What’s Tonight to Eternity
An ethereal and bittersweet record, the incorporations of Girl Group style send chills down my spine while having my foot tapping to the beat. This record really sounds like nothing else. Well that’s assuming you haven’t listened to the late group Women, primarily their album Public Strain. What you’ll find here is the soul of that group, mainly because Cindy Lee is the drag queen counterpart to former member Patrick Flegel. This album really has the essence of the “Lady In The Radiator” scene from David Lynch’s Eraserhead, it’s uncanny valley but you can’t take your eyes off of it.
Hatari – Neyslutrans
I’ll admit, like most Americans I don’t follow Eurovision. Though every now and again a band will spill through the cracks and make it onto my backlog. So it was that Hatari made their way from Iceland to unsettle me with their dark pulsing Futurepop. The natural progression of EBM for sure, the beats are pounding and the vocal delivery combined with the lyricism are very authoritarian. It’s angry, nasty, but I’d be damned if it ain’t a banger.
Ghetto Henry – Ghetto Henry Vol. 1
Ghetto Henry provides basically just a amazing selection of Electro here. Disc scratching, sampling, and high tempo beats. All really fun and nocturnal. Listen if I had even an ounce of public confidence and coordination, you’d better believe I’d be breakdancing to this. The production is interesting across the board, but simple enough to fulfill the nastiest of Electro beats.
AceMOMA – A New Dawn [HOA007]
This duo has been making waves in the House scene and for good reason. Fusing Drum & Bass into a hazy House environment leads to one of the head entrancing Electronic records I’ve listened to this year. The sampling is amazing across the board and I would love to be caught in a live show by these guys. The highs these tracks develop to is astonishing, like the soundtrack to a PS1 game released in the future. An absolutely essential release for the year.
The Garden – Kiss My Super Bowl Ring
The twins have returned, delving into a polished abrasive Experimental Punk record for the ages. From Zolo to Digital Hardcore, they don’t pull any punches on their studio outing with guest producers Dylan Brady (100 Gecs) and Jamie Bulled (Kero Kero Bonito) as well as features from Ariel Pink and Khalif Jones. It’s late 90s and early 00s cliche, warped for our millenial context and transformed into a Frankenstein’s monster of an earworm. It’s weird, freeing, and The Garden’s absolute best. Vada vada for life.
Big Blood – Do You Wanna Have A Skeleton Dream?
One of the rare family band releases that I have enjoyed. A mother, father, and daughter create an amazing combination of Girl Group and Psychdeleic Folk. This results in some amazing repeating but catchy drones. Overall the aesthetic weirdly hits that 2010 era Folk Pop but in a sincere grassroots kind of way. The singing by the mother and daughter are just wonderful the whole way through, both in backing vocals and in the forefront. The whole album is a delight to listen to, one of the “hidden gems” of the year for sure.
Person – P.E.
Any fans of Xiu Xiu should take note of this record. It’s Post-Industrial music for the Art Punk scene. Sparce production, angular instrumentation, and off-kilter songwriting. The hard electronic bass and drums contrast with the smooth saxaphone and twinkly synths but the chaos leads to a stellar piece of art. It’s on the more Avant-Garde side for sure but definitely it is definitely a grower.
Zebra Katz – Less Is Moor
There isn’t a grimy and sexy album that can compete with the Experimental Hip Hop Zebra Katz lays down on this record. Using Deconstructed Club as a frame of reference is brilliant and allows for this hot and heavy banger to explode in your face. There are few records on this liste that really define their own sound but this is definitely one of them. Zebra Katz’s charisma is in full force and nothing can stop him. It’s one experimental banger after the next.
Quelle Chris & Chris Keys – Innocent Country II
One rapper I have become an immense fan of over the past handful of years is Quelle Chris. Definitely part of a new wave of more Abstract Hip Hop practictioneers, his voice and beat choice have been phenomenal. While I haven’t checked out the first in this series, this collab with Chris Keys is phenomenal. There isn’t a wasted beat or rhyme on this smooth as hell Hip Hop album. In Quelle Chris style, there is a good deal of seriousness with a humorous flavor to it, both in skits and songs themselves. All the features on here are great and fit like a glove. A stellar Hip Hop record from top to bottom.
zeroh – BLQLYTE
You know, social media may have influenced me to buy this due to the record label blatantly “joking” about the feature list but I’ll be damned if I don’t still love this album. Very few artists can pull off rapping over sparse to non-existent percussion but zeroh proves his case. As the album cover shows, this ain’t your standard Hip Hop record. It’s dark, experimental, and pays off best with close listening. I love how wet the production is, an extremely production saturated album from a mixing standpoint while still staying remarkedly sparse. This one hits hard for me as I was listening to it heavily during a dark period of the year for me, but I’d be hard pressed not to recommend it to others as well.
Ak’chamel, The Giver of Illness – The Totemist
Okay hear me out on this one. I’m usually not one for such blatant Tribal Ambient wankery but that moniker really does this album a disservice. This is about as pure of a multicultural Psychadelic Folk record as you can get. The polyrhythms and the instrumental assortment create such a rich textured psychedelic experience. Listen this is a pretty hippie album I’m not going to lie, but if you can buy into the concept laid out in the artist name, the album name, and the album cover, then you will definitely love this album.
ゲスの極み乙女。 (Gesu No Kiwami Otome) has been one of my favorite Japanese projects over the past several years. Their blend of Progressive Pop and borderline Midwest Emo has been nothing short of amazing. On this record they move out of the Alternative Rock cliches of their past and really venture out into a more inspired Pop landscape. Their instrumentaion is virtuosic as usual, but the songwriting here has evolved leaps and bounds. Sure there is a still a standard J-Rock banger here or there, but the group has really found a unique voice and I love every step of the way. If for whatever reason this one is a little too out there for you, I still absolutely recommend their early material.
Sex Swing – Type II
What can I say, I love Noise Rock. Especially when a band can make it as Krautrock-ian as this. Long and winding developments of heavy distortion, fuzz, and riffs. It doesn’t get much better than this to get some noisy rock in your ear. This albums hypes me up so well, honestly because the Heavy Psych feel lets the riffs build up into a grand and massive fury of noise. So far, this is my favorite pure Noise Rock record of the year and I have the vinyl to prove it.
Couch Slut - Take A Chance On Rock ‘N’ Roll
As far as Sludge Metal is concerned, I find it a mixed back. Mix it with lyrics that give a damn and a Hardcore/Noise Rock polish?
Seriously though, Couch Slut has slayed me before and once again they have wrecked my eardrums. It’s sludgy, dissonant, and harsh just the way I like it. Let alone this is easily the darkest they have gone. I don’t want to spoil the places this album goes, but a content warning for sexual assault is in order, describing events that took place against the bandmates themsleves. It’s shocking how angry this album gets but the malice is well deserved given what transpires here. Not for the lighthearted but if you want a little bit of motivation to be angry at society, hell give this one a go.
ShrapKnel – ShrapKnel
I haven’t seen a dual-rapper collab work as well since RTJ2. ShrapKnel brings together Curly Castro and Premrock, two players in the underground Abstract Rap scene that combine to make a project much bigger than the sum of their standalone outputs. The beats are as hard as the flows. It’s definitely a bit more conventional of East Coast Hip Hop record, but the chemistry just speaks for itself here. There’s a certain swagger that’s hard to describe that can only work on this kind of Hip Hop record, but I feel you’ll get it when you listen.
Caleb Landry Jones – The Mother Stone
Honestly this is the biggest surprise of the year so far. Not only does an actor come out with a debut record, but he has the audacity to make it one of the most convoluted Glam Rock and Baroque Pop records I have ever heard? Sign me the fuck up. It’s hard for me to pick out a standout moment here as I almost always have listened from front to back. It’s so grand and entrancing, the fact he can make his first record have such intricate songwriting is only one of the impressive feats here. Lest I forget to mention this is easily my favorite Sacred Bones release ever, and what we have here is an record destined for future cult album status.
代代代 – ∅
Once again I am in a genre not familiar to me, but this record is too good to pass up. This Idol J-Pop record has some of the craziest production I’ve ever heard, at least on records similar to this. The glitchy and glittery is an electronic fireworks show. Delving into Breakcore at points, you wouldn’t be out of line to second guess how Pop vocals could even fit on this thing. An ancedote at least, I can’t stop humming the chorus to “OH HAPPY DIE” so, I don’t know maybe that’s a sign this is a killer record you shouldn’t miss.
Mrs. Piss – Self-Surgery
Forgive me for the less than ideal album art to appear on your phone as you are performing errands or sitting down to dinner with your family but damn Chelsea Wolfe just keeps killing it. From her Neofolk beginnings, she has begun to craft some the the better harder rock albums of the past couple years. From gothic Doom Metal of 2018’s Hiss Spun to to the sludgy Noise Rock seen here on Self-Surgery, Chelsea has shown herself to be domineering force in darker Rock music. This is short record but it is absolutely an intense one.
Armand Hammer – Shrines
The eclectic duo of Billy Woods and Elucid hit the ball out of the park here with a record full of shadowy East Coast Hip Hop. The beats definitely aren’t Boom Bap, but even the with room to breathe there is a lot of boom. That room allows for some very intense and meaningful delivery from the group as well as other scene features like Pink Siifu, Quelle Chris, and R.A.P. Ferreira. I feel the imagery of the album cover hits the nail on the head in a lot of contexts. I would highly recommend checking the record out to find out.
Various Artists – Barong Family: Hard in Bangkok
Remember Dubstep? I mean it never went away per-say but undoubtedly it left a sour taste in popular culture’s mouth after the force of nature that was Brostep in the early 2010s. Well there is this newish genre taking EDM by storm by the name of Jungle Terror and let me tell you, if you think the drops on some Skrillex track are hard…well you’ll just need to listen to this manic selection of bangers.
Material Girl – Tangram
Full discrestion, I am acquaintances with Material Girl and have ben privledged to hear how this has developed over time a bit. I admittedly don’t want to spoil this one too much. For one, I feel strange writing about something I’m a chat message away from. But honestly I feel like there are enough surprises on this Experimental Hip Hop record to warrant a an evergreen take on the record. The sampling here is phenomenal throughout, aiding to craft a hazy Jazz Sound Collage for the ages. While primarily instrumental, this does feature the likes of City Light Mosaic and Coin Locker Kids who provide stellar features on two of the tracks. I am beyond excited for what’s to come next for Material Girl.
Chloe x Halle – Ungodly Hour
A modern R&B classic. I am floored with these sisters’ chemistry and musical talent. I would add context that Beyonce of all people helped kickstart their career by signing them to her label after finding their content on YouTube, leading to their debut in 2018 among other artistic pursuits. But this album here is really where the greatness begins. The hooks are crazy catchy and the sonwriting speaks to that late 90s/early 2000s Destiny’s Child type beat. These girls are going to get huge.
Rina Sawayama – Sawayama
After Rina Sawayama’s standout EP RINA way back in 2017, I feel the music community at large has been chomping at the bit for her debut record. It’s here and she doesn’t pull any punches. With help from longtime producer Clarence Clarity, she crafts some of the most intelligent and forward-thinking Dance-Pop music of the day. While maybe a bit unlikely to hit the radio waves anytime soon (I could be very wrong, honestly can’t remember last time I listened to the radio), her unique perspective and social commentary lend themselves well to the high-tier Pop production shown on this record.
Pottery – Welcome to Bobby’s Motel
I can’t think of another modern record that truly exudes the late 70s New York CBGB scene than…well the one this Art Punk group from Canada just put out. It’s angular and admittedly a bit wacky at points, but the wow this array of songs here is so fun. It’s not all frenetic 16th note beats and shuffled thin guitar lines either, the couple of slower emotional cuts here are really well done. This record is almost like a modern take on early Talking Heads, down to the similarity of the vocals to David Byrne. Add a little edge and you get this record from Pottery.
Jessie Ware – What’s Your Pleasure?
People have been geeking about this album and for good reason. What’s Your Pleasure? may actually be Pop perfection. It’s really hard to explain how in this short-form way, but I’ll take a stab at it. Taking queues from Disco,House, and Synthpop among several influences, Jessie crafts a wide array of Dance-Pop tunes with their own character. Not only that, but each one of these twelve tracks has the strength to be a single. Each one.
Helena Hauff – Kern Vol. 5
Helena Hauff has released the DJ Mix to end all DJ Mixes. All of the darker side of EDM is on display here and sequenced to perfection. Over the two and a half hour mix, she navigates from Industrial Techno to Minimal Synth and Ghettotech to UK Bass. It’s an amazing survey of the Electronic music scene at large. While I will always recommend the continuous mix, each esoteric track has potential to breadcrumb to a musical rabbit hole.
OZO - Saturn
Take Heavy Psych and mix it with Avant-Garde Jazz, then make the instrumental subject matter about space. I’ll tell you what that’s a fine recipe for a good and loud time. This psychadelic experience is a swirling concotion of noise that leaves no room for breath. The saxaphone playing soars like a spaceship soaring on the solar wind to destinations unknown. I don’t want to imply this is a mind-numbing album, but it is definitely the right kind of overwhelming to top off a night of good music.
Radar Men from the Moon - The Bestial Light
This No-Wave tinged Noise Rock afair hates music, or at least standard pleasant sounding music. Just a couple of the track titles hint at what’s in store, “Piss Christ” and “Sacred Cunt of Universe” specifically. It’s heavy, dissonant, and at times just straight concerning. I love the absolutely thick and grimy guitar and bass, bending and distorting to disturbing frequencies while the drummer pounds his drums and the vocalist absolutely belts his brains out. Hard shit.
Special Interest - The Passion Of
God I hope Synth-Punk comes back in full force. It’s sounds that appear on albums like The Passion Of by Special Interest that always pique my interest in the modern revolution. The form here is almost relegating itself to an Anarcho-Punk form, a really hard and true form of the Punk ethos. People are tired of society shitting on them and this group has a lot to say, why worry so much on making it sound pretty. The synth-work and drum machine programming is spectacular. Some amazing textures on display here that really amplify the aggression of the vocal delivery.
Yves Tumor - Heaven To A Tortured Mind
Meet the new Prince. The initial premise was a godsend; Glam-Rock Soul for a new age by one of the leading forces in experimental Neo-Psychedelia. Listen that was enough to make me a fan…then I heard the guitar work. Ask me about five years ago if focusing on lead guitar was mistake given our current popular music trends, and I would have said yes. After listening to this, guitar is just shown to need a little bit of a kickstart into a new context. Yves Tumor shows that groovy introspective guitar worship in the era Postmodernity is not only exciting, but downright one of the best directions to take music.
Moodymann - Taken Away
If you don’t know Moodymann I don’t know where you’ve been. Since the late 90s he has been one of the greatest American House artists. Like his music is the near definition of classic House. Moodymann shows he is still the king on this latest release. This isn’t a boundary pusher by any means, but when you have such an amazing grasp on the foundations you can craft wins out of thin air. Moodymann has the soul within him to craft great Deep House at near will and this album is just another great example of it.
Mamaleek - Come & See
If 2018 had any correct predictions, it was that Nick Cave worship was coming full circle once again. What Mamaleek brings here is an album with that noisy and twangy Blues Rock under the current generations brand of dissonant Noise Rock. This is a truly a one of a kind experience, an ugly one for sure but with enough dark character to keep you begging for more. Even the more extreme Metal portions, erring on the side of Black Metal, come off darker than their more purist counterparts. It’s a hard one to stomach for sure for most but one of the most standout of the year so far.