We’re halfway through this strange year and sharing our favorite albums of 2020 thus far!
Here’s Chad’s list of current favs with some words about each of his picks. Purchase in-store or online for curbside pickup or shipping worldwide!
Testiculo y Uno – Two
I never tire of sample-laden, jazz-inflected instrumental hip-hop. This record sounds like it could have been made any time in the past 20-25 years, and I can’t stop listening to it.
Fiona Apple – Fetch the Bolt Cutters
Every fawning critical praise you’ve read about Fetch the Bolt Cutters rings true. It’s angry, timely, twisted, defiant, funny, insistent and impossible to ignore. For those of us who have been with Fiona since Tidal, this outstanding out-of-nowhere album was a (masked) breath of fresh pandemic spring air.
Sleaford Mods – All That Glue
We have our store manager John O to thank for introducing us all to this UK minimalist electro-punk duo. In 2014, John O led a personal crash course for me while we were in Rochester, New York, for our annual CIMS convention. Over three nights of late-night beers in our hotel room, he queued up video after YouTube video of his favorite Mods tracks, many of which appear on this outstanding retrospective (the band is still very much active, by the way). Frontman Jason Williamson doesn’t so much sing as he spits and shouts – he calls his socio-political lyrical missives raps – and his observational barbs are serious, spot-on and seriously hilarious.
Protomartyr – Ultimate Success Today
I’ve been a fan of Detroit’s Protomartyr since 2014’s Under Color of Official Right. Like them, I’m from the Midwest. Geography, musical and otherwise, is an obvious influence. This is Rust Belt post-punk through and through – no debonair coastal affectations to be found anywhere near here. I like to think Protomartyr frontman Joe Casey heard Pere Ubu’s “Heart of Darkness” and decided to form a band that expanded on that classic song’s foreboding groove, melodic subtleties and loud-quiet-loud dynamics, with lyrics updated to reflect on the specific social and economic woes of 21st century Detroit and similar Midwestern cities. More than anything, Casey is a social critic, a disappointed realist who can see the occasional beauty in the cracks in the sidewalk. It’s hard not to listen to Protomartyr and wonder if 50 or a hundred years from now these records will be revered as dispatches from the gutter of late-period capitalism – or hell, democracy for that matter – or the soundtrack for a century that simply got off to a very bad start. Let’s hope it’s the latter.
Khruangbin – Mordechai
Every scene has a band or two that a subset of scenesters decides one day to mock, humiliate or all-out hate, and at some point Khruangbin became one of those bands for hipster turds of a certain disposition. Nearly everything Pitchfork has ever written about this Texas trio has been some variation on the same backhanded compliment – that Khruangbin is more algorithm than band (a declaration the band’s detractors love to regurgitate). Yes, it’s “groove” music that can easily slip into the background, and yes, Khruangbin pulls from a vast library of vintage influences to create a sonic stew one might label “derivative.” But groove is not that simple. It’s elusive, intangible and deceptively deep, and the trick is that true groove merchants like Daptone, Colemine and Khruangbin make it look easy. Suggesting Khruangbin is little more than sonic wallpaper for washing the dishes or an afternoon patio mojito sesh is a misread on the part of the pitchforked listener. Not your taste? That’s fine. As my mother used to say at the dinner table when I refused a dish, more for us.