Side B: The Best of 2020 That Missed The Cut
There’s an inherent challenge in doing a collaborative album list, especially when your favorite albums are largely smaller artist. It’s hard to find consensus, albums get cut haphazardly, and the whole process ends up being a bit of a rush.
In retrospect, I know some albums I wanted to highlight were left out for one reason or another. I don’t know if I have the mental capacity to even attempt an objective ranking here, but I’ve called out the genre for easy reference. Hopefully you find a few new smaller artists here you like.
The Goalie’s Anxiety at the Penalty Kick – Ways of Hearing (slowcore)
I’m a simple man. I hear new slowcore, I hit “like.” In all seriousness, this is a stunning release that probably deserves a full review. But for sake of time, just know this is a relaxed set of tracks seeping in pure emotion. And you should definitely check it out.
Holy Fawn – The Black Moon (shoegaze)
Holy Fawn’s immersive, brooding brand of shoegaze is rife with mystery. It feels at once both dark and beautiful. Indeed, these songs are arguably closer to black metal than Loveless in many respects. This latest EP sees the band deviate slightly in sound, but it’s certainly not a loss in the slightest.
Second to Safety – Esther (progressive indie rock)
This is the kind of album packed with potential singles (and one twelve-minute closing track). There’s a bit of math rock, a bit of pop punk, and a fair bit of literary and cultural annotations to be found in the lyrics. Simply put, it’s a solid release that seemed to miss its potential due to the circumstances of the year.
Bravely – Changing (acoustic emo)
Bravely is an acoustic/Americana side project of Hodera, with all the same vocal and lyrical prowess paired off with slide guitar and piano. It’s an impressive undertaking, and it has enough distinct charm to draw in a different subset of listeners.
San Fermin – The Cormorant I & II (chamber pop)
While I’d arguably have to call this release spotty at best, there are a few gems here. Allen Tate’s baritone is unique in an industry where tenors are dime a dozen. The brass and orchestral compositions are impressive as usual. Some songs miss the mark a bit, but I’d encourage you to take the gamble and give this a listen.
Paradise Walk – Cruel Hearts Club (retro pop)
Want to feel nostalgic for moments you’ve never experienced? Give this album a listen. This is definitely a sentimental listen—moody, analog, and slow. If you like synthwave, check it out.
Pulses. – Speak It Into Existence (swancore)
Pulses. isn’t shy about confessing their Dance Gavin Dance influence, and it certainly shows. But beyond their post-hardcore and mathy roots, there are tinges of hip hop, nu metal, psych rock. Add in the band’s penchant for incorporating humor into their lyrics in a way that won’t make you cringe, and this is one the most unique post-hardcore releases of the year.
Tarantula Tapes – Easy (lofi western)
Tarantula Tapes plays with atmosphere in a very unique way. The amalgamation of high-class production with barren ambience paints a strong picture of driving through the desert. It’s an interesting vibe, but it definitely works.
Mansions – Big Bad (modern emo)
Mansions is one of a few bands that has proven truly influential to me in recent years. Their bass-driven sound and catchy hooks make them one of a few “alternative” bands that I still monitor. This release falls nicely into the rest of their catalog—nothing too different, but varied just enough to be refreshing.
Northcote – Let Me Roar (alt-country)
This punk-tinged Americana album is a bit of a divergence from other albums on this list in some respects, but rest assured there’s a strong rock core here that manifests in sweeping solos and a solid rhythmic foundation for this collection of tracks.