Rock Coven's 2020 Roundup
Despite ruining all of our lives in one foul swoop, 2020 has been an incredible year for (recorded) music. We've had new tracks from the likes of Royal Blood, cleopatrick, Black Honey and VUKOVI - but really, it's been a year of sweet, sweet albums. This obviously doesn't compensate for the disgusting lack of gigs (and life in general), but they did get us through the year. On that note, here are the 15 LPs that we think made being stuck inside alone that bit more bearable.
The Strokes - The New Abnormal
This really was the soundtrack to our lockdown. Released on the 10th of April, The New Abnormal came just as COVID shit was properly starting to hit the fan here in the UK (apart from the weather, very little has changed since). A ray of musical sunshine in the midst of a bleak landscape, The Strokes gave us the hope to keep going with their sensational synths and indie-rock bangers. We've been humming Brooklyn Bridge To Chorus for the past 6 months, and show no signs of stopping anytime soon.
Bad Nerves - Bad Nerves
You guys already know we love this one (read our full review here). If you want your songs short and your punk rock energy high, Bad Nerves have got you covered. Short, sharp, and brimming with punk attitude, Bad Nerves’ debut album is a non-stop whirlwind of exhilarating power pop from start to finish. Coming in at twelve tracks and just under thirty minutes long, the album is a glorious ride of fast and hard garage rock with a pop polish.
Nothing But Thieves - Moral Panic
Our expectations for NBT's third album were understandably very high after the raging success of both 2015 debut Nothing But Thieves and 2018 follow-up Broken Machine. Moral Panic brought us new and different vibes from the Essex 5-piece, and we absolutely love it. Whilst a bit more low key than previous releases, there are still some absolute belters on there - Can You Afford To Be An Individual? and Unperson are the favourites around here.
Nova Twins - Who Are The Girls?
The debut album from incredible duo Nova Twins came out this year - just 30 minutes in length, the LP is absolutely rammed full of feral riffs and pounding bass-lines. The lyrics deal with a whole host of issues that the girls face, with racism and sexism at the forefront, so naturally the noise that comes along with it is deliciously furious. The pair have been compared to The Prodigy, so crank the volume on Vortex and hold onto your hat.
The Messenger Birds - Everything Has To Fall Apart Eventually
This is one you might not have heard, and we seriously suggest you give it a spin. Aptly titled for this year, Detroit power-duo The Messenger Birds recorded the album a whole year before COVID even existed, causing their friends to dub them as "the Simpsons of rock" for seeming to predict the socio-political turmoil of this year. Sonically, the tunes are inspired by the likes of The White Stripes and Queens of the Stone Age - but if you love acts like Royal Blood and Highly Suspect, you should definitely check this one out!
HAIM - Women in Music Pt.III
We fucking LOVE HAIM. This is their third album full of amazing soft-rock bops like The Steps (one of our favourite songs this year) and Don't Wanna, that delve deep into the thoughts, feelings and traumas of the iconic sisters. Some of the tracks have more of an RnB edge, such as 3am - Danielle said she was inspired by Andre 3000 when writing, and you can really hear it on this one. Whilst pushing genre boundaries from their usual groove-rock, you've still got the solid foundations of an audibly "Haim" record - a sound from which we hope they never depart!
Hello Operator - Hello Operator
The sexy self-titled debut album from York rockers Hello Operator pulled absolutely no punches in carving out their space in the industry. Whilst solidifying their raw and direct signature sound identified by Max's sinister-yet-melodic vocals and explosive riffs, they demonstrate their incredibly versatile songwriting skills (listen to Goliath, then The Choreographer for a sense of scale). Get on this before everyone else does.
grandson - Death Of An Optimist
This one came very late in the game, but still a huge contender. Jordan uses the album to make some pretty fucking horrific observations about the state of the world today through the medium of some very catchy rap/rock/dubstep tunes. Every track spews a sense of generational anguish and betrayal – begging the world to become a fairer, more empathetic place. Again, this LP seems so fitting with 2020 in particular. Stand out tracks include Identity, We Did It!!! and WWIII.
Hayley Williams - Petals For Armour
As Paramore frontwoman and all-around rock trailblazer Hayley Williams draws in a heavy breath with opening track Simmer, she's also drawing you into her a hypnotic personal journey of rage, grief, perseverance, and empowerment. Complete with a flowery narrative of emotional growth and tracks transcending a single genre as she dances from dark alt-pop, 80's-inspired R&B, and sparkling synth-pop, Williams blossoms at her most experimental and her most free yet with this debut solo record.
Sports Team - Deep Down Happy
London-based six-piece Sports Team's debut album Deep Down Happy was easily one of the most exciting releases of 2020. Teasing us with singles like Here's The Thing, Fishing, and The Races, we were left hungry for more, and when the record dropped in June, we were well fed with this delicious serving of Britpop-meets-alt-rock. It's sarcastic, tongue-in-cheek, and an untamed joyous ride that pokes fun at class systems, racism, and British patriotism - truly a standout record for 2020.
Sløtface - Sorry For The Late Reply
When Norwegian punks Sløtface open their sophomore album with high-energy, optimistic pop-punk banger S.U.C.C.E.S.S., with vocalist Haley Shea yelling 'Why be good enough, when you can be a success?', you just know they're bringing their all. Fresh off a tour with punk-rock legends PUP and a headline UK tour lined up for spring, Sløtface released their album on the cusp of all this COVID bullshit, no idea that their plans would come to a halt. But we're so thankful this record was released at the top of 2020, because their witty, honest lyrics about mental health, sexism, and the general shitty state of the world to the sound of a fantastically alt-punk riot kept us dancing in our bedrooms when we couldn't be in moshpits.
The Front Bottoms - In Sickness & In Flames
For the New Jersey duo's fifth studio album, they rise with nostalgic, gut-punching emo lyricism coated in a pop-punk polish. Loved for their ordinary yet scream-able lyrics and catchy folk-punk bops, In Sickness & In Flames elevates the band's sound and brushes it off with a newfound optimism with opening track everyone blooms setting the tone for the album. Although finished before COVID became a thing, lyrics like 'the world is so fucked, I wanna go back in the house' from poppy-banger jerk and 'to think I was having a mental breakdown, the same time you were painting your walls' from hook-driven camouflage accidentally created the perfect lockdown soundtrack.
Dream Wife - So When You Gonna...
The highly-anticipated follow-up to London-based trio Dream Wife's 2018 self-titled debut arrived this year, and it's a vibrant punk-rock explosion. From energic Sports!, dripping in unapologetic irony, to fierce title-track So When You Gonna... offering up some hot punk chaos, to final track After The Rain, a vulnerable ballad that demands your ears with a chorus that declares 'It's my body, my right / Not for others to decide'. Dream Wife's So When You Gonna... has everything you could need from a rock record, and that's why it's one of our favourites of 2020.
Twin Atlantic - Power
Four years after their thunderous fourth album, 2016's GLA, Scottish rockers Twin Atlantic kicked 2020 off with a bang - and a surprising one at that, as the daring new album took the band in an experimental, synth-infused turn. Power sees the trio soar to new heights with swaggering confidence, almost as if this 80's-influenced rock sound is nothing new to them. Our favourite tracks include hard-and-fast I Feel It Too, blaring Volcano, and magnetic Praise Me. It's all the signature Twin Atlantic stadium-ready hooks and gritty guitar riffs, just with the added element of glistening synth.
PVRIS - Use Me
On PVRIS' third album, Lynn Gunn takes ownership of the project, a courageous move declaring that PVRIS was never a band, and claims her power as a solo musician in a band-led rock world. It's earnest, personal, and empowering, with the glitchy electronic-meets-alternative bangers you know to expect from PVRIS. We got to hear some of these live at a sold-out Electric Brixton show back in February, pre-album release, and we can't wait for the return of gigs because new tracks like Gimme a Minute and Dead Weight must sound so fucking good live.