2020 has been a rollercoaster year (to say the least).
By this stage, you might have resigned yourself to spending all your time in your living room, venturing not much further than your garden. Amid the chaos and stress of the pandemic, however, many of us have turned to music for comfort, or as a welcome distraction.
For many of us, this year has gone incredibly fast and the days are slipping away. Consequently, it feels like many recent albums have slipped under the radar. We spoke to several of our writers to find out what their favourite recent releases are.
These are our favourite albums of the past few weeks that you might not have listened to yet:
Pool Shop – A Shadow
As a member of Brisbane’s Major Leagues, guitarist Jaimee Fryer rips through roaring indie-rock. But, for her the debut album of her long-simmering solo project Pool Shop, Fryer slows the pace and lets each of her dream-pop tunes shimmer. Her bright melodies shine through clouds of delayed guitar and synths like that longed-for summer sun after a long winter, especially on gorgeous album centrepiece “Kiss The Sky”.
– Tim Byrnes
Nas – King’s Disease
The legendary emcee clearly hasn’t missed a step, as he puts together what is easily his most ambitious and well-rounded album in almost a decade. Though the prime of the 90s is well behind him, Nas’ performance on each of these songs is exemplary and absolutely reminiscent of hip hop’s heyday. And he knows it too, tasking producer Hit-Boy with shaping the entire album as a stunning halfway point between rap’s Golden Age and its current aesthetic.
– Chris Singh
Bright Eyes – Down in the Weeds, Where the World Once Was
Bright Eyes returned this year with their first album in almost a decade. Down in the Weeds is a brooding, dark album that is able to distil beauty in times of turmoil. Songwriter Conor Oberst – true to form – lays his heart on his sleeve as he sings of his brother’s recent death and his own divorce proceedings. Oberst’s lyrics are as evocative as ever on this release, a reminder of the many “new Dylan” comparisons that countless critics made in the mid-00s. There are also some big-name collaborations on this album including Jon Theodore (The Mars Volta, Queens of the Stone Age) on drums and Flea (Red Hot Chilli Peppers) on bass, and a full-scale orchestra – making it one of the most grandiose Bright Eyes albums to date.
– Ed Hirst
Delta Spirit – What Is There
Indie rockers Delta Spirit are back after a five year hiatus. After a five year pause to save the band and save friendships, they’re back with What Is There – an album that is perhaps their best since 2010’s History from Below. Their time apart has been beneficial for the band, and What Is There, which the band produced themselves, is a confident, polished and assured release. Highlights include opener “The Pressure”, the murder ballad-esque “How Bout It” and the stripped back beauty of title track “What Is There”.
– Simon Clark
Angel Olsen – Whole New Mess
American singer/songwriter Angel Olsen released her 4th studio album, All Mirrors in 2019, to much critical acclaim. Production-wise, it was rich and lush, resplendent with strings and horns. The central theme to the album was the end of a relationship and recording these songs was clearly a cathartic process for Olsen. All Mirrors was critically acclaimed, on many top-10 lists for the year. Last month Olsen released Whole New Mess. All but two of the songs on this album were on All Mirrors, but these are the initial stripped-back demos. For the most part, it’s just Olsen and her guitar in these raw, stark versions. It’s brittle and beautiful. As a footnote, if ever you have the opportunity to see her on tour, do take it. Her voice is just as great live, she is totally captivating, and most surprisingly perhaps, she has a great sense of humour.
– Bruce Baker