Words: Ben Curry
2020! We can’t wait to see the back of it, and everyone knows why without mentioning that ‘C’ word. One thing that is for sure is the damaging impact this year has had on the music industry. In order to promote artists’ work and new releases, huge tours and festivals are used to bring new tracks to life and get the music out there, but with all major tours and festivals being off the cards, promoting and making new music was made very difficult. This included the huge Glastonbury 50th anniversary, with performances from music giants like Paul McCartney and Taylor Swift, which was removed from the calendar.
The start of the year was just like any other and we saw great album releases from huge artists such as Circa Waves with ‘Sad/Happy’, The Courteeners with their album ‘More. Again. Forever.’ and the likes of rap and pop giants Eminem and Louis Tomlinson. In February, former Oasis legend’s band Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds released their album ‘Blue Moon Rising’, although no one could have predicted what was really rising behind what everyone saw as a normal year.
However, bands turned to new methods: live online gigs, virtual reality concerts, Instagram acoustic sets, you name it. Many bands and artists used the lockdown and isolation as a progression of creativity, and a new way in which to release their work to fans new and old. It’s apparent many people turned to music to help them through such a tough year, and listeners needed new tunes more than ever to help them party in their living rooms, or simply remind them of life outdoors. It’s time to mention some of the key releases, that still did so well in a climate where promoting was simply out the window.
Linking back to new ways in which artists created in their new locations of their living rooms, Stockport based Indie feel good band Blossoms began to release lockdown covers of their own and favourite songs. This saw collaborations with singer/songwriter Miles Kane to cover Tame Impala’s ‘The Less I Know the Better’, The Courteeners frontman, Liam Fray to create an isolation version of his tune ‘Please Don’t’ and The Beatles’ classic ‘Paperback Writer’. The band also performed new versions of their own singles, brilliantly put together, all playing separately from their own homes. Later in the year, a double LP was released consisting of these new songs and a live recording of their show at The Stockport Plaza Theatre back when we were allowed to have fun. Music giants The Killers entertained us with their sixth studio album ‘Imploding The Mirage’. One of my favourite releases of the year was the new LP from The Strokes entitled ‘The New Abnormal’, which took an interesting turn on the usual sound expected from the New Yorkers.
After being delayed multiple times for various reasons, the ambitious 22-track heavily awaited fourth album from The 1975, ‘Notes on a Conditional Form’, was finally released in May. While the release may have split opinion amongst and outside their fanbase, the mostenjoyable aspect is the contextual side rather than the band themselves. The album is as confused as fans were perhaps, flickering from genres such as punk, garage, country and ambient. It forwarded a daring new exploration in music, something we found a lot of timefor in lockdown, and was pulled off fantastically.
In relation to this, another new release entitled ‘Punisher’ by Phoebe Bridgers caught us in a time of adaptation, where we found the repetition of the day to day isolation too familiar. This one gave us a close insight into the mind of an individual. The folk driven sound and sincere, unapologetic lyricism was well needed. No surprise it has claimed top spots on peoples’ albums of the year. Planned Glastonbury headliner, Taylor Swift, surprised fans with a sudden unplanned release of her album ‘Folklore’. Taylor wrote this album in isolation and claimed herself itcame as a surprise and unexpected even to her.
In addition, if 2020 wasn’t weird enough, we saw pop icon Lady Gaga challenged for number 1 by new upcoming Alt Rock band Sports Team. In a charts race no one expected, Alex Rice’s enthusiastic and energy full band took all the fun from this great achievement, which smashed their debut album to number 2 in the charts, the first time a British band has done this in around a decade with a debut release. The charts blitz by the London boys and girl, saw them bag a nomination for and a live performance on the Mercury Prize awards.
To wrap up the year, I think many people were impressed by indie rock icons Arctic Monkeys, when the Sheffield band announced a release of a live album recorded at the legendary Royal Albert Hall in November. Even better, all proceeds from Arctic Monkeys ‘Live at the Royal Albert Hall’ went to the charity War Child. Christmas came early.
So in a year where we couldn’t enjoy singing our hearts out to songs we thought we knew the words to, or endure blasting guitars and sweaty mosh pits, was it all that bad? Artists creative ways of entertaining us pulled us through with new albums and live online gigs, and although this year was awful for so many reasons, I think 2020 was still an amazing year for music.