SDE’s Best New Albums of 2020

Six of the best from this year

SDE's Best New Albums of 2020

Who has time to listen to new music? That might be a weird question from a music fan who edits a music website, but it’s a serious one. I work from home (so no commute to get those headphones on) and this year, in particular, has offered a million distractions, on top of all the usual ones (like the kids being at home for long periods, pretending to do their schoolwork and saying “can you make me some lunch” at 11.50am) and the obvious health concerns.

I remember working in an office of about 12 people in the early ’90s (the company was video/music industry related) and music was on all the time, often very loud! We’d take turns putting tapes or CDs on. It was like a badge of honour: “Yes, I may be on the phone to a client, but I can still do my job with that racket blaring in the background”. These days I tend to need a bit more peace and quiet if I’m trying to concentrate, especially with writing. It’s hard to choose words to write when someone else is singing other words into your earhole. I often opt for instrumental music to listen to, such as soundtracks and even some jazz (man).

Given that my main ‘job’ (after ten years, I’m still getting accustomed to the concept) is to focus on reissues and box sets, that’s another impediment to getting into new albums – I’m often just listening to old ones.

Despite all of that, I am of course still very interested in new music, although the fuddy-duddy truth of the matter is that I’m no John Peel, spending hours discovering and seeking out new artists. Probably like many of you, my new music consumption is largely anchored around familiar artists, with the odd exception. So with all the provisos and excuses out of the way… Here’s the SDE pick of 2020: Six new albums from six very different artists.

I really look forward to reading about what you have enjoyed this year, in the comments section (by the way, SDE reissues of the year will follow later this week).


Pet Shop Boys: Hotspot

Such were the trials and tribulations of 2020, Hotspot feels like it came out a lifetime ago, but it was actually released at the end of January, with a couple of physical singles extending its lifespan, like in the old days.

While I hadn’t exactly given up on the Pet Shop Boys, if pushed, I’ll admit I got to a point where I was still dutifully collecting and buying their albums and singles but not necessarily enjoying their output too much anymore. Perhaps I was not trying hard enough (although how ‘hard’ should it be?). I was just not overly engaged by albums like Electric and Super and the love affair that had started way back in 1985 was seriously waning. But along came Hotspot and, for reasons I’m still not entirely sure of, I was excited by their music, again

Lyrically, the record is very strong and lyrically, Neil is on top form. I like all the references to Berlin (where much of the album was recorded) and a relatively simple song like ‘You Are The One’ is lifted enormously by the verses and Tennant’s evocative narrative and delivery. ‘Hoping For A Miracle’ is Behaviour quality in virtually every respect, other than the production, with Stuart Price’s slightly compressed and ‘fuzzy’ sound lacking the purity and crispness of Harold Faltermeyer’s analogue beats. But that’s ultimately a moot point, since with Hotspot, the songs are largely great, especially the singles ‘I Don’t Wanna’, ‘Monkey Business’ and ‘Burning The Heather’ (all of which were issued physically and had excellent non-album B-sides).

Only the dubby, dumbed down final track ‘Wedding in Berlin’ is a serious misstep, but they’ve won you over by that point so all is forgiven and you can just leave the party early.

Read the full SDE review of Hotspot

Matt Berry: Phantom Birds

Better known by the wider public for his voiceover and TV work, Matt Berry is a fine musician and songwriter, and has been issuing albums on Eddie Piller’s Acid Jazz Records label for the best part of a decade.

2018’s Television Themes was a brilliantly executed nostalgia trip, but had the significant advantage of being full of music its target market was already very familiar with. Phantom Birds has to keep us interested via 13 original songs, all composed by Berry himself. Previous band, The Maypoles, are appear to have been handed their P45s, and on this record Matt takes care of all the instrumentation, other than BJ Cole’s pedal steel guitar and Craig Blundell’s drums. You might call the sound country-folk-pop.

There’s lots of acoustic rhythm guitar to accompany Cole’s pedal steel, along with unobtrusive drums and bass, and plenty of weird and wonderful opening lines such as “Like the tethered eagle, let me go free” (‘In My Mind’) or “The man who mows the field, take a bow” (‘Take A Bow’). With the possible exception of ‘Waving Goodbye’ – which stands out because it wears its late-Sixties, Byrds influence on its sleeve – the tracks do have a tendency to blend into one another, thanks to a consistency of sound and tone, but I actually quite like that. It simply makes Phantom Birds a true album listening experience; these songs feel like they belong together, almost need to be together to work individually. Their charms creep up on you slowly, in a controlled and steady manner.

Phantom Birds feels like music from another time. Something you might have found in your parents’ record collection in the late-Seventies. Many of the songs clock in at under three minutes and indeed the whole 13-track album is over in a tad over half an hour. Wonderful stuff.

Read more about Phantom Birds

Alanis Morissette / Such Pretty Forks in the Road

Alanis Morissette: Such Pretty Forks in the Road

Eight years since her last record, Alanis Morissette returned with a wonderful and deeply moving album. No celebrity collaborations, no marketing declarations along the lines of ‘this might be my last’ (see Sheryl Crow) , just a highly focussed record full of great songs with heartfelt lyrics.

‘Diagnosis’ is as honest and raw as Plastic Ono Band Lennon as it addresses postpartum depression, set to simple piano and strings. It’s all about self pity either, as Alanis recognises how such a situation affects friends and family [“All of you are so frustrated / And everyone around me is trying to help as much as they can”]. In ‘Losing the Plot’ Morissette decrees that she is “grieving the end of superwoman-ing” and the brilliant ‘Reasons I Drink’ adds some big hooks to proceedings.

An album that spends much of its time concerned with mental health issues such as self-loathing, despair, depression and bitterness might sound a bit bleak, but it’s not. These are remain accessible pop songs elevated by lyrics of truth and meaning, not weighed down by them. The melodies and arrangements are all of the highest order and the reliance on piano accompaniment gives Such Pretty Forks in the Road a classic, timeless appeal. Highly recommended.

Read the full SDE review of Such Pretty Forks in the Road

Paul Weller: On Sunset

Paul Weller just doesn’t do ‘bad’ albums these days (if he ever did). On Sunset leaves behind the autumnal, acoustic vibe of 2018’s True Meanings and opts for more variety and fun, as if someone has shouted ‘lighten up!’. Old Father Tyme has an almost hip-hop beat, the title track shuffles along a feel-good  summer’s breeze (punctuated by horns and strings), while ‘Walkin” is a stompy, Beatles-y piano-driven number.

There’s a joyful everything-but-the-kitchen sink approach combined with a pick-and-mix variety, but, ultimately, it doesn’t matter too much which clothes these songs wear, since the writing and the arrangements are so strong.Many tracks evoke the best of Weller’s early solo career and the cream of The Style Council. Even slightly ludicrous deluxe bonus track ‘Ploughman’ (“I am a ploughman and I plough my earth!”) raises a smile and would have made a fine B-side.

Ultimately, I think True Meanings is slightly better (I’m a sucker for the uniformity of style that album delivered) but now in his early sixties, the prolific Weller deservedly got to number one with this, his fifteenth studio solo album.

Read more about On Sunset.

The Psychedelic Furs / Made of Rain new album

Psychedelic Furs

Like many albums this year, the Psychedelic Furs Made of Rain was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That in turn then scuppered the big comeback show at the Royal Albert Hall and like virtually every artist out there (except maybe Kate Bush, who probably bumbled along, unaffected) plans for 2020 were in tatters. It was particularly unfortunate for the Furs, because they had recorded their first studio album in 30 years and it’s an absolute corker.

Richard Fortus and Tim Palmer did a fantastic job crafting the sound of the record. Every song has that satisfyingly dark underbelly and is enhanced by the rich gritty vocals of Richard Butler. Tracks like ‘Don’t Believe’ and ‘No-One’ are somehow both very immediate while having enough depth and creases to reveal hidden pleasures and reward repeated playings.

There’s just so many good songs on show, including the dark, frantic and slightly dreamy opener ‘The Boy Who Invented Rock & Roll’, the knowing ‘Wrong Train’ (Butler sings of “A wife that hates me / So does her boyfriend”) and my personal favourite the superb, regretful Ash Wednesday which is the album’s centre point.

A fantastic album, full of atmosphere and intrigue. It’s all wonderfully executed. Why did they wait so long?

Read more about Made of Rain

Fiona Apple: Fetch The Bolt Cutters

The cover of Fiona Apple‘s fifth studio album does a pretty good job of conveying the music within. Dense, quirky, ‘homemade’, a bit mad in places.

Despite all the US critical acclaim and Grammy nominations in the last 20 odd years, Apple has not enjoyed much profile or success in the UK (Fetch The Bolt Cutters was a UK career high, peaking at 33 in the albums charts) and my very late introduction came via ‘Container’, her brilliant theme tune to Showtime’s TV series The Affair.

The fact that Fiona Apple chose not to benefit from that show’s high ratings during its five-year run, by commercially releasing the theme song (or even allowing it on streaming services), tells us a great deal. She’s clearly focused on creative, not commercial success, something underlined by Fetch The Bolt Cutters.

The album is Apple doing exactly what she pleases and can be a pretty challenging listen. The rhythms are at times a right old racket, but rather endearing, and Apple’s voice is quite ‘dry’ in sound, seemingly deliberately under-produced and even mumbly at times. The whole individualistic approach evokes the mindset of that other female contrarian Kate Bush, and in particular her 1982 album The Dreaming, which people seem to absolutely love or not like at all (Bush’s ‘Running Up That Hill’ gets a namecheck on the title track of Fetch The Bolt Cutters).

For all the dogs barking in the background and general clatter, the homemade feel belies a certain precision; there are a lot of layers, including vocal lines intertwining. The songs feel like they’ve been worked on endlessly. Elements added, taken away, reworked until everything is exactly as Apple requires.

The best tracks on the album are the ones that pair the rambling verses with a ‘proper chorus’, such as the title track and ‘Under The Table’. The former has a very funny lyric (“I would beg to disagree / but begging disagrees with me”) and the album generally has a defiant ‘I’m not gonna take any more shit’ feel to it, from a lyrical standpoint.

‘Ladies’ offers some respite from the din, driven largely by double bass, drums and Apple’s piano but I’ll be honest, this is a record that requires you to put the work in. But the rewards are there and at this point I’m still exploring and enjoying.

Read more about Fetch The Bolt Cutters

 Bubbling under: Elvis Costello: Hey Clockface, Bob Dylan: Rough and Rowdy Ways, Haim: Women in Music Pt III, The Lickerish Quartet: Threesome Vol 1 (not an album, I know), Taylor Swift: Folklore.

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Don’t know why I never posted this back in January (I think last night’s Grammy show must have triggered my memory on this). I think 2020 was a good year for music. Anyway…

My Top 10 (alphabetically)
Roger Eno & Brian Eno- Mixing Colours
Jayhawks – XOXO
Nik Kershaw – Oxymoron
Ray LaMontagne – Monovision
Morrissey – I Am Not A Dog On A Chain
Pet Shop Boys – Hotspot
Psychedelic Furs – Made of Rain
Ron Sexsmith – Hermitage
Bruce Springsteen – Letter To You
Taylor Swift – Evermore

My Next 11 (alphabetically)
Matt Berninger – Serpentine Prison
Elvis Costello – Hey Clockface
The Killers – Imploding the Mirage
Dua Lipa – Future Nostalgia
Paul McCartney – McCartney III
Pretenders – Hate For Sale
The Strokes – The New Abnormal
Teddy Thompson – Heartbreaker Please
Jessie Ware – What’s Your Pleasure
Charlie XCX – How I’m Feeling Now
Yello – Point


Nik Kershaws new album ‘Oxymoron’ is my album of the year.
From first listens to the teaser EP These Little Things it was evident Nik’s New music was especially strong.
Anyone thinking of dabbling in some new Nik, I strongly recommend this album…which contains orchestration on a number of tracks and some stunning use of tenor saxophone and other instrumentation from the Audio Network stable edited at Abbey Road studios as well as a broad variety of musical styles across 16 songs…(I can only find one I’d have relegated to beside status) and Nik is singing in fine voice…consistently great vocals, his best recorded vox imho
A few highlights…
From Cloudy Bay to Malibu….super catchy (won’t let sun go down on me vibes) pop song about a bloke traveling the world vicariously through his various alcoholic drinks as he drowns his sorrows from a relationship breakup.
Can’t Go On…..superb reggae style track with stunning tenor sax which progresses from ‘sure, leave me, you’ll never manage without me’ to ‘I can’t live without you’ over 3 choruses….
Lets Get Lost….this gem is pure joy and abandonment culminating in a jazz and classical fusion crescendo outro and ending
Little Star…sublimely moving song from father to child,one of Nik’s best
The Smallest Soul….dark track about a powerful persons downfall bringing others down with them…..with intense choruses and string ending
The Wind Will Blow…like a modern day ‘Riddle’ melody in chorus about encroaching climate change .,.
These Little Things.,..super poignant song about appreciating the little moments in life .,warm and life affirming with a melancholic edge and choruses to give you goosebumps.
happy new year!


Should read….’and other instrumentation from the Audio Network stable RECORDed at Abbey Road studios…’

The Thorn

I gave ‘Hotspot’ a few listens since last week and I understand everyone’s aversion to “Wedding in Berlin”. As an instrumental it’s passable but, with vocals, it has a kitschy/corny vibe to it akin to some of the stuff on ‘Bilingual’.

Eek. oO

It’s hardly the PSB’s worst song, but it’s a good thing that the album isn’t all like this. That said, this one side, I very much like ‘Hotspot’. I still think that PSB are faring much better than their peers have in the last two decades.

p britten

Hello Paul,

Thank you for this review of your favorite new records of 2020. Very honest and illuminating, as always. I will have to check out Matt Berry. Didn’t know him.

I own eight of the eleven albums you mention (counting the ones « bubbling under »), but I’m ashamed to say Hotspot is the only one of these I listened to regularly during the year. It’s definitely a grower, and maybe I’m not enough of a PSB expert, but I really don’t understand what the bitching towards I Don’t Wanna, Monkey Business or Happy People is all about. Me, I love every track on it, including the Wedding song. I also listened to Rough and Rowdy Ways a few times. I like it a lot, actually. Dylan’s lyrics are better than ever, funny and full of strokes of inspiration (though the dylanologists & scholars on the Net have long ago established they’re all based on the Bible or some Shakespeare’s sonnets), and this is perhaps his best album since Time Out of Mind or Love and Theft, but, I don’t know… Sometimes, I get tired of the mental contortions I must impose on myself in order to create a parallel universe in which I can safely pretend Bob’s voice, or Paul McCartney voice for that matter, is not totally f**ked up and dead, but just « superbly weathered », to quote Rob Sheffield, Rolling Stone magazine’s official Beatles/Taylor Swift cheerleader. And speaking of Taylor Swift, am I the only one to find her two Covid-19 albums a little bit boring and soporific, in the « indie beige » style she kind of borrowed from the National and/or Bon Iver (besides being waaaaay too long, at 67 minutes [Folklore] and 69 minutes [Evermore])? Well, I guess I am, since everybody else seem to love them. Sorry to be so negative. Didn’t intend to rain on anybody’s parade, I swear.

As for Costello and Fiona Apple, there’s no denying Clockface and Fetch the Bolt Cutters are both admirable and wildly daring albums. I long for the day I will be brave and sophisticate enough to listen to them a second time.

Anyway, here are, in no particular order, the new albums that contributed to keeping me awake and half-alive in 2020 :

– Shopping : All or Nothing
– Drive-By Truckers : The Unraveling and The New OK
– Lori McKenna : The Balladeer
– Guided By Voices : Surrender Your Poppy Field and Mirrored Aztec
– Mara Tremblay : Uniquement pour toi
– Rolling Blackouts C.F. : Sideways to New Italy
– Brendan Benson : Dear Life
– The Strokes : The New Abnormal
– Bob Mould : Blue Hearts
– Old 97’s : Twelfth

But to be frank, I mostly listened to old and not-so-old power pop albums : Sloan, Dwight Twilley Band, Nada Surf, Pernice Brothers, Teenage Fanclub, Shoes, World Party, Material Issue, the Records, Paul Collins, anything with melodies and harmonies and a good beat. (It was not exactly the kind of year in which one felt compelled to immerse himself or herself in Leonard Cohen or Nick Cave’s catalogue, was it?) And thanks to the Armed Forces 33 1/3 section of Elvis Costello’s web site (where he talks about the influences behind every song on that record), I rediscovered Cheap Trick’s second long-player, In Color. What a great pop album it was. Sounds as good today as in 1977 IMHO.

And Reggae, too. Reggae never fails to put a smile on my face. My current fave is Arkology, Lee Scratch Perry’s 3-discs retrospective from 1997. And the Beach Boys, of course. I almost consider their music as therapeutic. Four years ago, after my wife died, I couldn’t listen to anything else. Every night, I loaded my multi-disc CD player with the Good Vibrations box set and I watched the NHL play-offs on TV with the sound off. It was no miracle cure, but it helped chasing the black clouds away. I hope the long-awaited compilation of their early seventies stuff will finally be released in 2021.

Going through the Comments section of your site, Paul, is often an instructive ride, and I was really surprised to learn Ryan Adams has a new album out. I know the guy has a (probably well deserved) bad reputation and has been facing abuse allegations from his ex-wife, but I think he’s made some great records in the past, such as Heartbreaker, Gold, Love Is Hell Parts I & II and Cold Roses. So, that’s another thing to look forward to… And I had no idea Close Lobsters still existed. I have Foxheads Stalk This Land on vinyl and Headache Rhetoric on cassette, and if their new one is half as good as these, I can’t wait to hear it.

O.K., I’ll stop babbling now. Here’s hoping 2021 will be a good one for everybody and his sister.

Jarmo Keranen

I bought oldies but goldies in 2020. Only newer one was Joel Paterson’s cd which was released 2019. New cd’s that was released in 2020 AC/DC is the only one that i may buy . Here’s the cd’s i bought in 2020:
Ronnie Lane: Just For A Moment (6 discs)
Focus: 50 Years Anthology 1970-76 (11 discs)
Michael Nesmith: Songs (12 discs)
Fleetwood Mac: 1969 To 1974 (8 discs)
Whitesnake: Little Box ‘O’ Snakes (8 discs)
Bachman-Turner Overdrive: Classic Album Set (8 discs)
Bob Marley & The Wailers: The Complete Island Recordings (11 discs)
John Mayall: The Diary Of A Band (2 discs)
Rico: Man From Wareika (2 discs)
Joel Paterson: Let It Be Guitar

Andy Haines

I’ve not purchased many new albums over 2020. Possibly only Nothing But Theives Moral Panic, but if it wasn’t for SDE Fiona Apple’s Fetch the Bolt Cutters would have passed me by! What an album that requires attention when listening. I’ve only listened via YouTube, but I’m going to purchase this when finances, (and wife), allow it! Thanks for pointing me to it!

Joe Donato

My Top 5 ( I admit that all of my new music purchases are from older established artists). I believe the “newest” artist I have in my collection is Alabama Shakes, and its been years since they put out anything.

1) Bruce Springsteen – Letters To You
2) Pearl Jam – Gigaton
3) Pretenders – Hate For Sale
4) Bob Dylan – Rough And Rowdy Ways
5) AC/DC – Pwr Up

Jan G.

1. Róisín Murphy – Róisín Machine
2. The Jacques – The four five three
3. Marc Almond – Chaos and a dancing star
4. Azucar Moreno – El Secreto
5. Sebastien Tellier – Domesticated
6. KEiiNO – OKTA
7. Shirley Bassey – I owe it all to you
8. Pet Shop Boys – Hotspot
9. Kylie Minogue – Disco
10. Bettye Lavette – Blackbirds
It’s a list.

Stan Stanton

Thought Dylan’s album was the clearly the one masterpiece of 2020. As much as I dig Weller, On Sunset was the biggest disappointment of the year. Macca’s album is quite atrocious and a lot of people are going to start admitting the same soon after the initial enthusiasm wears off. My top albums of the year are:
2.Jeff Tweedy.Love is the King
3.Rose City Band. Summerlong
4.Jack Name.Magic Touch


My two favourite albums for 2020 are Paul Weller “On Sunset,” and most recently, Taylor Swift “Evermore.”

I was hoping McCartney III would also be included in my list. And although I’m happy for Paul McCartney gaining the number one spot in the U.K., I was wishing McCartney III as a whole, would surprise listeners with a more ambitious and emotionally revealing set of songs that ventured beyond sweet contentment and life-on-the-farm. Then again, maybe that’s exactly where Sir Paul McCartney is at during this stage of his life. Well, God bless him.

Anyway, Happy New Year to you and your family, Paul. Hope 2021 is better for everyone!


Have enjoyed building my vinyl and CD collections over the course of 2020, visiting the brilliant SDE site and listening to a huge amount of music (mostly from yesteryear).

My 2020 nominations:
–New Category–
Richard Norris “Elements”
Eartheater “Phoenix: Flames Are Dew Upon My Skin”
–Archive Category–
Bowie “I’m only Dancing Soul Tour” and the “Is It Any Wonder?” EP
–Boxset Category–
Ultravox “Vienna”
Clannad “In a Lifetime”
Richard/Linda Thompson “Hard Luck Stories”

wesley mc dowell

I really enjoyed new albums by Fish,Its Immaterial,Nik Kershaw,Pretenders,John Foxx,Pure Reason Revolution ,Deacon Blue,Blancmange ,Tim Bowness,Bruce Springsteen and Mark Kelly(Marillion).But my two faves are by Empathy Test and Tiny Magnetic Pets both could be described as Electronic Pop . Monsters by Empathy Test has real emotional depth and some truly outstanding songs .While Blue Wave by Tiny Magnetic Pets is a refined mood piece playing to the band’s strengths and further enchancing their sound.Both can be found on BandCamp and are worthy of any post Christmas money you may still be in possession off !!


Old Men First – my top list:
1 Bruce Springsteen
2 Bob Dylan
3 Paul McCartney
4 Pet Shop Boys
5 The Weeknd
7 Taylor Swift (both albums)
8 Beck
9 Gorillaz
10 Haim
11 Pretenders
12 Marilyn Manson
Best re issue
2 Tom Petty
Best wishes for 2021 – Rock On

Tim Barton

In no particular order:
On Sunset-Paul Weller
A Steady Drip, Drip, Drip-Sparks
Songs for the General Public-The Lemon Twigs
Disco-Kylie Minogue
McCartney III-Paul McCartney
The New Abnormal-The Strokes
The Slow Rush-Tame Impala
Rough and Rowdy Ways-Bob Dylan
Pick Me Up Off the Floor-Norah Jonep
I Am Not a Dog On Your Chain-Morrissey
Beyond the Pale-Jarv Is

Bubbling under:
The Song Machine-Gorillaz
Shadow of Fear-Cabaret Voltaire

Dave H

I don’t thi k it has been a classic year for new releases or special editions as Covid issues clearly affected output in many areas.

However there were some very good 2020 releases.

New albums:
Nobody Lives Here Anymore – Cut Worms
Rough and Rowdy Ways – Bob Dylan
Bare as Bone, Bright as Blood – The Pretty Things
XOXO – The Jayhawks

Lola… – The Kinks
The Focus 50th Anniversary set
New York – Lou Reed
The Secret Migration – Mercury Rev
Gimme Some Truth – John Lennon

Flaming Pie – Paul McCartney, while nicely produced dropped out of the awards because of greed. I think marketing shenanigans also adversely affected the reception of the new album too with its ridiculous number of formats. Not cool. I am glad he got a number 1 album but this was not the way to achieve it.

SuperDeluxeEdition bargain of the year:
Bob Marley box set


A Place In The Sun – Jason Crest
How Sweet To Be An Idiot – Neil Innes
July – Complete Recordings


My personal Top 10 for 2020:

1. Rumer “Nashville Tears”
2. Lara Marling “Song For Our Daughter”
3. Pet Shop Boys “Hotspot”
4. Jeanne Added “Air”
5. Agnes Obel “Myopia”
6. Shirley Collins “Heart’s Ease”
7. Sparks “A Steady Drip, Drip, Drip”
8. Lana Del Rey “Violets Bent Backwards”
9. Bill Fay “Countless Branches”
10. Jonathan Wilson “Dixie Blur”

Ring out the old, ring in the new!
A happy new year to all SDE obsessives and especially to Paul who feeds us daily with our drug of choice!

Simon Clarke

Here’s my pick of the pops 2020:

Biffy Clyro – A Celebration of Endings
JARV IS… – Beyond The Pale
Willie J Healey – Twin Heavy
Working Men’s Club – Working Men’s Club
Laura Marling – Song For Our Daughter
Pure Reason Revolution – Eupnea
Field Music – Making A New World
Macca – McCartney III
The Waterboys – Good Luck, Seeker
EOB – Earth


Some of my favorite new releases/music of 2020 were:

David Bowie – i’monlydancing(thesoultour74)
Christine and the Queens – La Vita Nuova
Elvis Costello – Hey Clockface
Cults – Host
Day Wave – Crush
Destroyer – Have We Met
Men I Trust – Forever Live Sessions
Morrissey – I Am Not a Dog On a Chain
Pet Shop Boys – Hotspot
Sylvan Esso – Free Love
Tycho – Simulcast
Paul Weller – On Sunset
Washed Out – Purple Noon
Wild Nothing – Laughing Gas
Wolf Parade – Thin Mind
Young Ejecta – Ride Lonesome


Psychedelic Furs – Made of Rain
Loma – Don’t Shy Away
Yaeji – What We Drew
Fotocrime – South of Heaven
Too Free – Love In High Demand
Working Men’s Club – Self titled
Greg Dulli – Random Desires
Beabadoobee – Fake It Flowers
Depeche Mode – Live Spirits
L.A. Witch – Play With Fire

Masumi Hara – 4 x A Dream
Rowland S. Howard – Teenage Snuff Film
The Beloved – Where It Is AND Happiness
Momoko Kikuchi – Adventure
Tom Petty – Wildflowers and All the Rest
Prince – Sign o’ the Times
OXZ – Along ago: 1981-1989
Tears for Fears – The Seeds of Love
The Fall – The Frenz Experiment
The Pogues – BBC Sessions 84-86

Tim Burgess – I Love the New Sky
Pet Shop Boys – Hotspot
David Bowie – ChangesNowBowie
V/A – Bob Stanley presents 76 in the Shade
A Certain Ratio – Loco

Bob Mould – Blue Hearts (sorry, lifelong fan and it’s not a bad album but: the production is so muddy, there’s too many three chord thrashers and surely I’m not the only person to notice that “Racing to the End” is identical to “Argos” from 2009’s excellent Life and Times album?)

Only, I think, one mention of Khraungbin despite the press / sales they’ve had this year.

Melvin Welters

Roísín Murphy – Roísín Machine.
Pet Shop Boys – Hotspot.
Kelly Lee Owens – Inner Song.
Various Artists: Total 20 (Kompakt label).
JARV IS: Beyond The Pale.
Also worth mentioning were albums by The Orielles, Foals (3LP of remixes), Travis, GoGo Penguin, Tame Impala and the Working Men’s Club.

Jeff G.

Guided by Voices – Surrender Your Poppy Field
Field Music – Making a New World
AngelHeaded Hipster: The Songs of Marc Bolan and T. Rex (various artists, produced by Hal Wilner)
Elvis Costello – Hey Clockface
Bob Mould Band – Blue Hearts
Anthony Pirog – Pocket Poem
Terry Allen – Just Like Moby Dick
Lees of Memory – Moon Shot
Bebopalula – s/t
Tim Motzer – Inside


My favourite albums of 2020:

1. Working Men’s Club “Working Men’s Club”
2. Jóhann Jóhannsson “Last and First Men”
3. Bdrmm “Bedroom”
4. Morphology “Horta Proxima”
5. The Orb “Abolition of The Royal Familia”
6. The Residents “Metal, Meat & Bone”
7. Max Richter “Voices”

Happy New Year everyone

Uncle Meat

Here are some albums worth mentioning.

Best in 2020:
Khruangbin: Mordechai
Alanis Morissette: Such Pretty Forks In The Road
Bob Dylan: Rough And Rowdy Ways
Frank Zappa: The Mothers 1970
Joe Satriani: Shapeshifting

Bubbling under:
Frank Zappa: Halloween ’81 Live At The Palladium
Deep Purple: Whoosh!
Nick Mason’s Saucerful Of Secrets: Live At The Roundhouse
Ozric Tentacles: Space For The Earth


Hadn’t bought a Deep purple album since 1984 but heard Whoosh! And couldn’t believe it.
One of the best albums they have ever done (and without Mr Blackmore ).

The Thorn

It’s funny… it seems that, unlike a lot of people here, and unlike their peers, I find that the Pet Shop Boys have only gotten more appealing in recent years.

I loved their early output (‘Behaviour’ remains my favourite!), but there was a period where they weren’t doing anything for me (ex: ‘Release’ bores me to tears).

They’re far more consistent now and, aside for ‘Elyzium’ (which I never took to, with or without vocals), I’m always enjoying their new offerings.

‘Electric’ was stunning – I got so much replay value out of that one. And, ‘Super’, though a bit ironic (like ‘Exciter’ for Depeche Mode) has a stellar second half.

I’m only now getting to ‘Hotspot’ and, unsurprisingly, I very much like what I hear. :)


I’d go for (in no particular order):

1. I Am Not a Dog…. Morrissey
2. Mindset – Blancmange
3. Revel in the Drama – Rene Harvieu
4. The Universal Want – Doves
5. A Steady Drip, Drip – Sparks
6. Manchester Calling – Paul Heaton & Jackie Abbott

Reissue of the year has to be Sheep Farming in Barnet – Toyah
Boxset of the year – Our History – Shakespears Sister

Biggest disappointment of the year – ongoing delay to new Abba album!

Jorje Chica

I’m at that stage/age where I don’t buy new music much anymore, just old stuff I never got to begin with and reissues. Happily accepting my old man curmudgeon status. Of the four (!) new records I bought this year, only two really stand out:

Luke Haines and Peter Buck, Beat Poetry for Survivalists
Jar Is, Beyond The Pale

Jorje Chica

Sorry Jarvis, make that Jarv Is. Typing on phone, not enough coffee, senility setting in?


This has been a tough year in so many ways, but there was a lot of great music released this year! Here are my top 22. These are in no particular order, except for the top 3. Those are my absolute favorites that I can’t stop listening to.

1) Something for Kate – The Modern Medieval (Australian trio’s first new album in 8 years is a new masterpiece!)
2) Eyelids – The Accidental Falls (Gorgeous album from Portland heroes with lyrics by Larry Beckett)
3)Psychedelic Furs – Made of Rain (Long anticipated album that does not disappoint)
4) We Are Who We Are (Orig HBO Series Soundtrack includes Prince, Klaus Nomi, Blood Orange, Radiohead, …)
5) Faithless – All Blessed
6) Nothing – The Great Dismal
7) Sparks – A Steady Drip, Drip, Drip
8) Roisin Murphy – Roisin Machine
9) Nada Surf – Never Not Together
10) Pylon – Box (Amazing new box set!!)
11) Fontaines DC – A Hero’s Death
12) James – Live in Extraordinary Times
13) The Twilight Sad – It Won’t Be Like This All the Time Live
14) Washed Out – Purple Noon
15) X – Alphabetland
16) Jarv Is – Jarv Is (Jarvis Cocker)
17) Pure Reason Revolution – Eupnea
18) Nina – Synthian
19) Cheap Trick – Out to Get You! Live 1977
20) Kelly Jones – Don’t Let the Devil Take Another Day
21) Love Tractor – Love Tractor (debut album remastered)
22) Magic Shoppe – Live in London

DJ Salinger

Five of my best from 2020:

All the energy of Savages and then some crammed into less than 39 powerful, fat-free minutes. By turns pulverisingly brutal and heartstoppingly tender (sometimes in the same song). She’s one of those artists who still carries a torch for the the album as a thoughtfully structured, holistic experience and not just a random selection of tracks. And I get the distinct impression her best is yet to come.

Four albums in and her musical partnership with Ben Hillier is really hitting its stride. Confident, slinky, defiant and angry; to these ears a journey that carries traces of territories marked ‘Siouxsie’ and ‘Tom Waits’… by way of Tyneside.

An intimate, brooding grower that repays time spent. She seems to channel the dark, despairing energy of late-period Scott Walker but still finds some light in the dark. Just about. How very 2020, eh?

Handmade, pastoral and largely instrumental, this little gem was a welcome, soothing soundtrack for lockdown gardens and clear summer skies eerily devoid of aircraft. Pandemic hauntology, anyone?

Outrageously neglected in end of year polls (‘Uncut’ mag: you’re fired) this one arrived a mere 29 years later than planned. The obstacle-strewn tale of its gestation is worthy of that Greek bloke Sisyphus but thankfully messrs Jarvis and Whitehead persevered. The result is subtly ravishing from beginning to end; beautifully recorded and standing proud in their small but perfectly formed catalogue. Blue Nile fans are advised to check out ‘Up On The Roof’ immediately – a swooning tribute to a lost love and lost times. Their next LP should arrive just as my kids dump me in a nursing home in 2050. Hurrah.


‘Up On The Roof’ could be my track of the year. Like a bar of Galaxy in music form. I wonder if they don’t have enough record company support to get the press to pay attention anymore. A shame as it’s such a great album with a good backstory to its creation.


Thanks for the reviews and all your fine work throughout the year Paul.

I lost my hearing for the last 3 months of the year , so I read reviews and hungered for music but stopped buying anything …..there seemed little point , it was rather depressing.

Fortunately it has all but returned in the last 2 days ……I won’t ever take it for granted again.
I have a lot of catching up to do , started today with the Psychedlic Furs .

David J

Only one choice for me:

Camelphat – Dark Matter Triple vinyl

Breathe, Panic Room, Cola and Be Someone already released plus collaborations with Noel Gallagher

Richard S

Sadly (?) most of the stuff I have bought this year has been reissues, but mostly of stuff I didn’t already have before, so it’s new to me or not something I originally had.

New stuff would be mostly synth stuff:
Empath Test – Monsters
Linea Aspera – II
Battery Operated Orchestra – Yesterday Tomorrow And You
Krakow Loves Adana – Darkest Dreams
Tiny Magnetic Pets – Blue Wave

Michael Baether

I’m not biased but my personal highlights of 2020 are
album: Bob Mould “Blue Hearts”
boxset: Bob Mould “Distortion 1989-2019”

Bruce Nicholson

Happy new year to you Paul and all readers of SDE. It’s been a truly horrible year, and I dearly hope we all have a better year ahead of us.

Like Paul, and others who have mentioned it, I too work at home but while working find it impossible to listen to music which has people singing. It’s a huge distraction. Instead I listen to a lot of instrumental music, which seems to do the job.

Here are my six most enjoyed new albums of 2020 [no particular order]:

– Applied Music Vol. 3 Land + Sea – Jon Brooks
– Healing is a Miracle – Julianna Barwick
– Music for Healing – Richard Norris (12 x 20 minute instrumental ambient pieces, which are just wonderful)
– Made of Rain – Psychedelic Furs
– Yarmouth – David Boulter
– Got To Be Tough – Toots and the Maytals

Happy new year everyone.

Stefan Benninghaus

My favourite albums are
1. Fish – Weltschmerz
2. Bruce Springsteen – Letter to You
3. Die Ärzte – Hell (german Fun-Punk band)
4. Booka Shade – Dear future self
5. Taylor Swift – Folklore
6. Alicia Keys – ALICIA

Best Live albums
Nick Mason’s Saucerful of Secrets

Best Re-Issue/Box
Prince – Sign ‘o’ the times

Frank Sidebottom

The Lovely Eggs – I Am Moron

Mad Earwig

No time to actively seek out new music and have a lot to listen to already. Often very disappointed at the music that Uncut/Mojo magazines are raving over so ignore it but I know what I like-

Loved It:
Harold Budd/Robin Guthrie Another Flower
Rush Permanent Waves 40th Anniversary
Tom Petty Wildflowers And All The Rest
Steve Roach A Soul Ascends
Joe Satriani Shapeshifting
Springsteen Letter to You
Pearl Jam Gigaton
Blue Oyster Cult The Symbol Remains
Terje Rypdal Conspiracy
Porcupine Tree Delerium Years Set
Buckethead The Sea Remembers Its Own
Tangerine Dream Pilots of Purple Twilight set
UFO Strangers In The NightBox set

Bob Dylan Rough And Rowdy Ways (I have listened to the 1970 Copyright Collection which is perfect Dylan- roll on the official release)
Pat Metheny From This Place
Bob Mould Blue Hearts

RIP and missed: Harold Budd, Eddie Van Halen, Pete Way, Neil Peart

Happy New Year


A somewhat different selection of discs is welcome than what appears in all the magazines (which is more or less the same disc up disc down).

Alessandro Duca

Hi everyone here : )
This is my Top 6 for 2020
(perfectly balanced through Goth, New Wave, Pop):

1) Rosetta Stone – Cryptology
2) Dua Lipa – Future Nostalgia
3) Pet Shop Boys – Hot Spot
4) Psychedelic Furs – Made of Rain
5) The Wake – Perfumes And Fripperies
6) Lady Gaga – Chromatica

I wish you a better new year : )

Another Finnish Guy

Thank you Paul for the great site and thank you all for the great listings, I got several new ideas what to buy next.

Here’s my list:
1) Levellers: Peace
2) Hawkwind Light Orchestra: Carnivorous
3) Alanis Morrissette: Such Pretty Forks in the Road
4) Roger Eno and Brian Eno: Mixing Colours
5) Delain: Apocalypse & Chill


Plenty of downtime this year to enjoy new music… this is my Top 10 list, the albums I find myself returning to time and again. Many others I’ve enjoyed, but more so in a fleeting moment.

1) Tiña – Positive Mental Health Music
2) James Leonard Hewitson – Only The Noise Will Save Me
3) Moses Boyd – Dark Matter
4) Working Men’s Club – Working Men’s Club
5) Juniore – Un Deux Trois
6) Keeley Forsyth – Debris
7) BDRMM – Bedroom
8) Phoebe Bridgers – Punisher
9) Gilroy Mere – Adlestrop
10) Willie J Healey – Twin Heavy

Thank you Paul for all the ‘tip-offs’ this year, my most prized bargain purchases were the Ronnie Lane and Bob Marley boxsets.


Not being home and having a 53 year old brain that can’t remember a thing, I just read through everyone else’s lists to see if there was anything I bought myself in 2020.

Yours caught my eye, Kevin, because of the Moses Boyd entry. An excellent album.

martin farnworth

I rely heavily on end of year lists to find out the best new/recent music. I found myself listening to the PSB album much more than Super. It’s reassuring that they can still manage the odd killer track. Others this year- Jarv Is, Everything Everything and Bowness/Chilvers.


Album of the year: ‘Even In Exile’ – James Dean Bradfield
Long time faves with albums I liked:
Fiona Apple
Smashing Pumpkins

This year was pretty amazing for great K-Pop, with Jay Park’s label ‘H1GER MUSIC’ going off with the double compilation The Red Tape & The Blue Tape. The track ‘The Purge’ being my song of the year.
Also Black Pink dropped their 1st self titled album, Itzy killed with their 4th mini album called ‘Not Shy’, Red Velvet’s Irene & Seulgi gave us ‘Monster’ and new rookie group Aespa ended the year with ‘Black Mamba’ – over 89 million views on YouTube since November 17th with their 1st ever song!

Only major bummer was Tears For Fears – not enough copies of STSOL were made and allocated copies never showed up to where they were supposed to go – and I missed out.
Prince’s SOTT’s was everything I could have ever dreamed of and more.


Thanks Mate. Your website is my music buying guide! My 2020 list:

1 TAYLOR SWIFT forklore
2 THE AVALANCHES We Will Always Love You
3 DEACON BLUE City of Love
4 PERFUME GENIUS Set My Heart On Fire Immediately
5 RUUSUT Kevätuhri
6 SCHOOL OF X Armlock
7 STEPS What the Future Holds
8 DISCO Kylie Minogue

1 U2 All That You Can’t Leave Behind
2 BANANARAMA Ultraviolet
3 NEW ORDER Music Complete (Limited Edition Orange Vinyl)
4 DURAN DURAN Eponymus
7 ALPHAVILLE Forever Young
9 SMASH HITS The ’80s
10 ULTRAVOX Vienna

2 ROXETTE Bag of Trix
3 THE STYLE COUNCIL The Long Hot Summers / The Story
4 ACE OF BASE The Classic Albums

The Ragman

Nice to see DEACON BLUE’s City of Love get a mention on one list – the follow up isn’t bad either – Riding On The Tide Of Love (I’ve heard a stream of it for reviewers) – the only pity as a fan of the band is that it looks as if they have decided against doing more deluxe versions of new albums (A New House and Believers both had nice bonus discs and also a 1988 soundboard recording on cassette and download!)


Off the top of my head.
On sunset, Paul Weller.
Presently looking into his impressive back catalogue.
Finally bought Other aspects, really enjoyed that album.


This year feels like it’s been at least three or four years long. I actually had to look up a list 2020 releases to remember what actually came out this year, and some of them definitely surprised me, because I was certain I had owned them for several years. Like many people, I’ve been spending a ton of time with old favorites for the comfort factor in a year where everything has been upside-down.

In no particular order, my favorites for new albums in 2020:
Kylie Minogue: Disco (OK, this one is deliberately at the top, but the rest aren’t in a specific order)
Bright Light, Bright Light: Fun City
Dua Lipa: Future Nostalgia
Adam Lambert: Velvet
Niall Horan: Heartbreak Weather
The Vamps: Cherry Blossom
Hurts: Faith
Troye Sivan: In a Dream (EP)
Erasure: The Neon
Lady Gaga: Chromatica
5 Seconds of Summer: Calm
Sophie Ellis Bextor: Songs from the Kitchen Disco (I know it’s a greatest hits, but I’ve been playing it non-stop, and I can’t leave it off this list)


The two new albums from 2020 that I went back to the most were
“Hurricane Riders” by Snake Oil And Harmony (which is Dan Reed and Danny Vaughn working together)
“No Weapon But Love” by Icecream Hands.


In no particular order…. A Certain Ratio, Doves, Paul Weller, Pet Shop Boys, Sault (both), Avalanches, Roisin Murphy. And for reissues the New Order Power, Corruption & Lies box.

Rich P

I’d go for:

1. Pet shop boys – hotspot
2. Erasure – the neon
3. Lady gaga – chromatica
4. Jarv is – beyond the pale
5. Doves – the universal want
6. Rustin man – clockdust

Geoff D

Lots of great suggestions. I definitely agree with those who loved the Dylan and Roisin Murphy albums and I’ve just started listening to the AC/DC and it is as great as everyone says it is. Thanks for this amazing site Paul and the community you’ve built. Happy New Year all.



1 Appalling Human – Wesley Gonzalez
2 Gold Record – Bill Callahan
3 Miss Anthropocene – Grimes
4 Beyond The Pale – Jarv Is…
5 Fetch The Bolt Cutters – Fiona Apple
6 Song For Our Daughter – Laura Marling
7 The Night Chancers – Baxter Dury
8 A Hero’s Death – Fontaines DC
9 Unfollow The Rules – Rufus Wainwright
10 Women In Music Part III – Haim


1 Did You Get What You Paid For? – Wesley Gonzalez
2 Acid – Jockstrap
3 Cry – Ashnikko feat. Grimes
4 House Music All Night Long – Jarv Is…
5 I Don’t Wanna – Pet Shop Boys
6 Fortune – Laura Marling
7 Nuns – Seamus Fogarty
8 Kyoto – Phoebe Bridgers
9 You Can’t Hurt A Fool – The Pretenders
10 Eternal Summer – The Strokes