10 Albums From 2020

Well well well, here we are again. 2020 marks the ninth end of year list for HearFeel as we come to the end of its 8th year. And what a year it’s been.

Every time I sit down to do these look backs, it always strikes me how much seems to unfold over the course of a year, even the “uneventful” ones; I don’t think anyone would disagree in the assessment of 2020 being an eventful one, though perhaps for all the wrong reasons. Despite the chaos and uncertainty that we continue to ride out even now, there have been opportunities throughout for catch up and quietude. Spending more time working from home has allowed me greater chances to listen to more music, read more books, watch more films, make my own content. I would have preferred to have done all of those things not being under the auspices of a global pandemic and Brexit on the horizon, but you take what you can get.

Today I highlight for you 10 records from this year that have caught my ear, things that have helped me through the highs and lows, resonated with me in these strange times. To reflect that the “list” has ended up somewhat eclectic, touching bases all across the musical spectrum, and yet I think still weaving a subtle line of thought and feeling through them.

Continuing from last year, and likely going forwards for however long HearFeel ends up running, I will not be sequencing the albums: consider all the records equally worthy of your attention in my recommendation. Though…perhaps the first three have stuck with me more than the others…

Stay safe and well.

Autechre – SIGN

If there’s one record that seems to have effortlessly, perhaps unintentionally, caught the zeitgeist of 2020, this is it. Emotive, melodic explorations from Sean and Rob that touches a nerve both in its raw electronic beauty and surprising (for them!) accessibility. Their most self-contained and coherent work since Exai, brimming with expression and off-axis thoughts brewed in lockdown.

Review | Bandcamp | Sample Track

Oneohtrix Point Never – Magic Oneohtrix Point Never

The logical, and superior progeny of Dan’s previous Age Of, and the plumbing of ever deeper Progressive Electronic and Art Pop depths. This is an undeniably sophisticated record that further distils much of Dan’s exploration in the realm of nostalgia both good and bad. Dreamily woven radio fragments, effortlessly placed ambiences, littered with arcane Hypnagogic Pop weirdness: a superb output, and quintessentially 0pn.

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Anna Von Hausswollf – All Thoughts Fly

Despite dropping the spectral vocals of her previous releases (and the subsequent Neoclassic Darkwave label as a result, much to some listeners’ despair), this all pipe organ affair continues to enchant. A bold but refined beast, Anna teases with playful arpeggiations as easily as she envelopes with transcendent heaving chords. The title track may be some of the best 12 minutes you’ll hear all year.

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Siavash Amini & Saaad – All Lanes of Lilac Evening

The collab I never knew I wanted: that didn’t stop me spitting water all over myself when I first heard this was on the horizon. The tortured synths and sustains of Amini, crossed with the naturalistic dark electronica and field recordings of Saaad; a tight and super eloquent record. Very apropos of this year, though more portentous given its release date.

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R Beny – Natural Fiction

Sensuous tape music, ethereal and wandering. A gentle and evocative dreamscape, or something caught between dreams and reality, probing this limbo to sift facts from fictions. Often goes by in a blur, the conscious and sub-conscious melting together, and then I find myself just pressing repeat and being submerged all over again.

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The Microphones – The Microphones in 2020

I was a little hesitant to add this though this is an enchanting release that really surprised me. I’ve never really gotten into Phil Elverum’s previous works, but TMi2020 is just beautiful. What feels like a 45 minute single stream of consciousness piece, or as Phil himself would perhaps put it, a “song string”. This is just a wonderfully digestible memoir set to music, an unbroken continuum of life and sound woven together.


Lauren Bousfield – Palimpsest

Lauren’s 2013 Avalon Vales was a fever dream of bombastic Glitch Pop and spastic miscellaneous electronica: I loved it, and Palimpsest (finally) arrived to continue its legacy. The modern rage is all here, and makes the aggression of her last look pitiful by comparison. It bubbles through in covert but textural lyrics, and more importantly in the tumbling, catastrophic beats and strobing percussion. Sensory overload for the digital age, built for max volume.

Review | Bandcamp | Sample Track

Dan Avery & Alessandro Cortini – Illusion of Time

Gorgeous, sun-drenched record hovering in some wilderness between Progressive Electronic, Ambient, Drone, and Shoegaze. An interesting divergence away from Dan’s usual material, and a blustery, blistering affair at points. Deeply atmospheric and engaging throughout in another haunting nostalgic record.

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Roly Porter – Kistvaen

Kistvaen came around while I was working on a photo project earlier in the year that had tremendous resonance with its theme, that of life and legacy and funerary rites throughout the ages. A curious coincidence, and one that definitely helped shape my opinion of it. It is, unquestionably, a Roly Porter record through and through: cinematic, energetic, vast swathes of sound, but also otherworldly ritualistic choral chanting and eerie field recordings. A singular experience.

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Joshua Van Tassel – Dance Music Vol. 2 (More Songs for Slow Motion)

Centred around the elusive Ondea instrument, this record is nothing short of gorgeous. All elegiac tones, it draws up its plaintive airs from a decidedly (yet not obviously) electronic instrument, supplemented by string quartet. It suspends the listener in a sumptuous palette both synthetic and organic, lost in lightness and gentle songcraft. Absolutely blissful.

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Special Mention: Hakobune – Solitude

An 11th hour addition on my part, but after a long think I couldn’t not include this. Takahiro’s work has been a staple for me over the years and solitude is yet another magical moment in his excellent discography. The dominating third track, “oichi”, is amongst the most beautiful and effortless Drone of this year and beyond: I absolutely cannot recommend enough the blissful, immersive, and peaceful force that it is.

Review | Bandcamp | Sample Track

Honorary EP: Ital Tek – Dream Boundary

I always like including an EP to the list where I feel something has really shone, and Ital Tek definitely fits the bill this year. A heavy 20 minutes of fringe IDM explorations that moves with a massive cerebral melodrama, shafts of blistered light probing its stomping noir undulations. Hard to ignore this behemoth when it’s in full flow, which it almost always is: awesome.