I normally spend the weeks leading up to my top 10 scrambling to listen to new music I might have missed, to find that one gem that may have eluded me from earlier in the year or to catch a last-minute release. But when it came time to sit down and start writing, I found that there wasn’t much question as to which albums I favored. In 2020, I found it hard to connect with music that I might otherwise like in a less bonkers year, but the albums below gave me just what I needed.
10) pg.lost, Oscillate (Pelagic)
pg.lost have been within my peripheral vision for some time, but I didn’t take the opportunity to listen until Oscillate came out. I’ve gravitated towards post-rock/metal in recent years, and pg.lost’s latest album encompasses all of what I like about the genre. The opening buildup of the title track followed by “E22” is a spectacular start to the album. The band offers plenty of heavy-hitting tracks such as “Eraser,” but also weaves in synths that overtake you with a wall of sound like on “Suffering.” I’ll be going back through their discography for sure.
Key Track: “E22”
09) Bell Witch and Aerial Ruin, Stygian Bough Volume I (Profound Lore)
Erik Moggridge, sole member of the dark folk project Aerial Ruin, is no stranger to doom metal titans Bell Witch, having provided guest vocals on all three of their studio albums. But Stygian Bough Volume I marks the first full collaboration between the two. Once again, Moggridge’s vocals mesh perfectly with Bell Witch’s signature gloomy atmosphere and his acoustical passages gradually lead you to the slab of deep, distorted bass and thudding drums that you know are lurking just around the corner. Needless to say, I can’t wait for Volume II.
Key Track: “The Bastard Wind”
08) Covet, Technicolor (Triple Crown)
My description of Covet is that they’re like a chill version of Animals As Leaders. This trio plays mathy post-rock that is bright, relaxing, and just all around pleasant to listen to. Their second album Technicolor is all instrumental with the exception of “parachute” and album closer “farewell,” both of which feature vocals from Yvette Young, the band’s guitar wizard. With smooth melodies and a vibrant atmosphere, Technicolor is both laid back and capable of keeping your attention.
Key Track: “odessa”
07) Trivium, What The Dead Men Say (Roadrunner)
2017’s The Sin and the Sentence marked a return to form for Trivium, and the band’s ninth album feels like a victory lap. Once again, Trivium pull from various sounds and influences across their career to deliver an album that showcases the band at the top of their game. The triple attack of the title track, “Catastrophist,” and “Amongst the Shadows & the Stones” locked me in for the rest of the album. The latter track in particular is a nasty piece of work with brutal guitar work and venom-spitting vocals from Matt Heafy.
Key Track: “Amongst the Shadows & the Stones”
06) Svalbard, When I Die, Will I Get Better? (Translation Loss)
This is the album I didn’t know I was looking for or needed. A splendid blend of post-hardcore with black metal that somehow maintains pummeling riffs layered with atmospheric guitar work. And then you have Serena Cherry’s extremely pissed off vocals with deeply personal lyrics to match. The album’s crowning moment is the slow wind-up of “What Was She Wearing?” followed by the gut-punch of “The Currency of Beauty,” which rips apart the misogyny still embedded in today’s society. Where other albums are built upon artificial anger, the sheer rage on this album is palpable from beginning to end, and the catharsis that comes with it is undeniable.
Key Track: “The Currency of Beauty”