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  • Writer's pictureMatt Levin

Best New Music of 2020

It's been a really miserable year for everyone. People are dying and suffering. If the worst thing to happen to you this year is that you've been stuck at home, and you can't see your friends and family, consider yourself lucky. Hundreds of thousands of people have it much worse. I think the best thing we can say is that, mercifully, it's gonna over in a week....

Music though is something that helps get everyone through. Whether you're listening to holiday music, punk rock, shoegaze, free jazz, or Taylor Swift, it truly is therapeutic and we need it now more than ever.

I'm not going to rank these in terms of #1, 2, 3 and so forth. I'm just going to give you a few of my favs for this year. Hope everyone has a safe and healthy holiday season and new years. Here's to 2021! Matt xx

Anton Newcombe/BJM: Assorted new tracks:

Anton has been cranking out brilliant new tunes just about every day during the pandemic from his studio in Berlin. He hasn't been releasing them on an album proper, but he's been posting them on his Youtube channel. There's probably enough for 10 albums! Maybe more, it keeps growing! The quantity of his output wouldn't be as astounding, if not for the quality of the material. It's truly been a wonder to hear what Anton comes up with every day! Here's hoping he doesn't stop any time soon!

Alex Maas, Luca

Alex Maas, singer and founding member of Austin, TX's modern psych-rock pioneers, The Black Angels, has produced his first solo record with a disarming beauty and richness that demands repeated listens. It's in essence a love letter to his 2 year-old son Luca, where he takes the title from. The songs are stripped down and raw compared to the wall of sound of the Black Angels, but they pack an emotional punch, as he tries to navigate first-time fatherhood with his heart simultaneously filled with unconditional love while breaking for the current state of the world and the uncertainty of the future.

Flavor Crystals, Five

Hailing from Minnesota, Josh Richardson and his band, Flavor Crystals have been making brilliant, psychedelic, shoegazy, music since their 2005 debut On Plastic LP. The new record, Five, appropriately named as it's their fifth LP, and comes exactly five years after their last album, 2015's Shiver of the Flavor Crystals! Let me tell you it was worth the wait! Across 14 tracks on5 sides, if you get the vinyl, including a beautiful white vinyl, FC reach for the stars, the moon, and the heavens, and succeed in creating a gorgeous, adventurous psychedelic masterpiece, a Dark Side of the Moon, for modern times. Although individual tracks stand out(Alpha Dawn, Moon Patrol) I think it's best listened to, and experienced all together as one piece of music that flows together like a long journey into space.

Sault, Untitled(Rise, Black Is)

Sault literally came out of nowhere last year to release some of the most intense, edgy, politically unflinching, R&B, Soul, House, and disco music in recent memories. Shrouded in mystery, no interviews given, not much social the UK collective, have continued to put out tons of music in a short period of time.

This year alone, they've put out the equivalent of 2 double albums! Untitled(Rise) and Untitled(Black Is). Sault seems as much of a movement to coincide with BLM as much as they are a band. Their music is a statement of intent, and a call to action.

A portrait of a project in perpetual motion, Sault taps into the cultural flashpoints that have framed 2020 – the grief, the paranoia, the endless stunted anger, unable to be fully expressed. Both Rise and Black Is are phenomenal records, in their mood, kineticism, and beauty despite darkness, Sault have captured something truly remarkable about this chaotic era.

Holy Wave, Interloper

Originally forming in El Paso, TX, Holy Wave made their move to Austin, TX in 2008.And it’s no wonder, as Austin is a hot bed for great psychedelic rock.The 13thFloor Elevators were the first band to refer their music as “psychedelic rock” and bands like The Black Angels, The Octopus Project, Golden Dawn Arkestra, Holy Wave and many others have kept that tradition alive in the self-proclaimed “Live Music Capital of the World”.

Holy Wave's sound combines surf rock guitar, multi-part harmonizing, and brilliant keyboard work; the multi-instrumentalist members of HW have created a unique and trippy sound, while still keeping the listener engaged with terrific songs that have real hooks, structure and direction, not to mention fantastic Beatlesy melodies. With their fifth studio release, Interloper, Holy Wave adds more layers to their songs both sonically and lyrically. Buddhist Pete and Hell Bastards, are two of the finest pieces of psychedelia these ears have heard this year!

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