Words by Abi Whistance, Matt Bond and Adam Lloyd
Enter Shikari- Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible: Chosen by Matt Bond
This is a really tough one for me. The beginning of 2020 seems like a lifetime ago, and despite all the restrictions on our industry the calibre of albums this year has been quite astonishing. Whether it be the overtly political and pummelling ‘Ultra Mono’ from the IDLES camp, Lianne La Havas’ delicate, dreamy, and delicious self-titled release, or even Bring Me The Horizon’s triumphant collision of the best of 90s alt-metal a la Deftones/Linkin Park with their now recognisable ear-bursting production value on ‘POST HUMAN: SURVIVAL HORROR’, 2020 threw up some top quality releases. Annoyingly, though, I’ve been tasked with picking just one… so here goes…
‘We’re apocoholics, drinking gin and tonics’ is a lyric you’d only ever find in a Shikari track, and if I’m honest, they’re the only band that could get away with it too. Casting my mind back to April (yeah, remember April?) the Hatfield 4-piece released what I feel is their most forward-thinking and creative release to date. They’ve snarled at us, melted our faces, made us bop to their inverted idea of pop, and sung ballads into the night, but ‘Nothing is True…’ seems to be almost a greatest hits album without trying to be one. There’s moments where I hear the unbridled chaos of ‘Take to the Skies’, or the direct and driven anthems of ‘The Mindsweep’, but all tied together it feels distinct from their back-catalogue, and very now. The politics are never shy in Shikari’s music, but the way in which Rou Reynolds asserts with charming wit, eloquence, and grit really set this album apart from the rest, both from their career and this year. After a lot of thought, it’s my album of 2020.
Biffy Clyro- A Celebration Of Endings: Chosen by Adam Lloyd
I’ve been a Biffy fan since hearing the ‘Mountains’ debut back in 2009, nearly 10 years ago. After trawling through their back catalogue, I’ve looked forward to every release since, and eagerly anticipated their drifting style and where it’s landed them. After ‘Ellipsis’ and ‘Balance, Not Symmetry’, I was drifting away as a daily listener, and found myself indulging in their older albums such as ‘Lonely Revolutions’ and ‘Blackened Sky. For me, this 2020 album really married their anthemic style along with heavier, orchestral sections.
The pinnacle of this album for me is ‘Cop Syrup’. Ever much so that instead of picking up the full album on record, I ended up picking up the 12” single and live versions of the song. For an album that so many fans were waiting for, there’s is always a sense of anticipation before hitting play on that first track. “North of No South” leaves no room for second thoughts, dropping into an authentic Biffy introduction, then following on with the classic vocals style of Simon Neil.
“Instant History” was the largest anthem on the album for me. I can imagine this being a great arena track! Tracks such as ‘The Pink Limit’ really reference the era of 'Puzzle' and that style of songwriting. I think this album really rounds off Biffy’s discography in a way they’d be able to prop up the fenders and sticks and have a well deserved drink.
It’s pretty clear that the trio are happy to experiment with more electronic sounds. Since ‘The Fog’ introduction and the percussion on “Re-Arrange”, I think a more commercial style is creeping in, although I think any successful band with access to large studios and producers I imagine finds them self experimenting and altering their sound slightly. Overall, this album is a must-have for any Biffy fan and I think one that will please all. Well rounded, heavy hitting and stadium ready.
Baxter Dury- The Night Chancers: Chosen by Abi Whistance
Baxter Dury has been on my radar for a good few years now. A fan of his dad, Ian Dury, for as long as I can remember, stumbling across 'Palm Trees' in 2014 was one of the best finds of my Summer. And yet despite my love for him, at the beginning of 2020 I can't say I'd listened to him in a long old time. Alas, then came 'The Night Chancers'.
Creeping in mid-March before exploding onto the pages of nearly every music magazine in the country, Baxter Dury's 'The Night Chancers' is nothing if not a treat for the ears. As gritty as it is elegant, Baxter has crafted an album that highlights the disdain of just being alive. Yet as brutal and self-aware as it is, there's a true French dismissive quality to it. Almost acting as a tribute to 'Histoire de Melodie Nelson', dreamy French vocals in 'I'm Not Your Dog' and semi-terrifying chants erupting in 'Say Nothing' display an element of acceptance by Baxter as to how shit the world really is, batting away any need to fend off the negativity with one swift and romantic gesture.
Holding his head above the raging storm with a certain je ne sais quoi, this is clearly his best work to date, there's no doubt about it. He's fully grown, accepting and without fury, allowing the record to maintain a light quality despite the passion behind it. It feels mature and insightful, and with that holds the place of my best record of this year.