1. A Swayze and the Ghosts: Paid Salvation
Ivy League; September
The antidote to 2020 bar none: 12 tracks of guaranteed instant uplift from a bunch of righteous Tasmanian garage punks who banished boredom and torpedoed fear with their debut album.

2. Frazey Ford: U Kin B the Sun
Arts & Crafts; February
More music as functional medicine: Ford’s ecstatic, smeared soul vocals didn’t mask the depth of her hard-won wisdom – or her faith in progress. Equal parts country, folk and soul, this was an album about travails overcome that built its own dulcet world into the bargain.

3. Bill Callahan: Gold Record
Drag City; September
Eloquently played, unfussily sung, this album of writerly character studies dropped the odd tantalising clue to the inner workings of the finest American songwriter of his generation.

4. Fleet Foxes: Shore
Anti-; September
No edge, no top-spin, no genre tomfoolery, just everything you would want from a Fleet Foxes record. Robin Pecknold served up untrammelled beauty on a mournful and euphoric album whose textures and deft touch deepened with every play.

Frazey Ford.
‘A dulcet world’: Frazey Ford. Photograph: Alana Paterson

5. Dua Lipa: Future Nostalgia
Warner; March
A knowing, playful and fantastically well-timed study of club-pop’s past forms, there was much substance lurking under Lipa’s immaculate collection of bangers.

6. Moses Sumney: Græ
Jagjaguwar; February & May
A deep dive of a double album, released in two instalments, in which the chimeric Sumney explored multiplicity, not limited to gender and genre, sexuality and melanin levels; a hymn to “also” and “and”. Naturally, Sumney’s elastic voice packed in both vulnerability and assurance.

7. Coriky: Coriky
Dischord; June
An unexpected blast from the past: half of Fugazi and a close associate laid out a heady programme of post-hardcore ire and spooling, spacious math-funk. The combination of Joe Lally’s bass and Ian MacKaye’s vocals retains its slinky force.

Moses Sumney.
‘Vulnerability and assurance’: Moses Sumney. Photograph: Alexander Black

8. Fiona Apple: Fetch the Bolt Cutters
Epic; April
“Fetch the bolt cutters, I been in here too long” was a lyric that resonated this year, but Apple’s long-awaited, glorious fifth album examined female shackles and her own long, hard quest for creative freedom with wit and savagery – and her most liberated music to date.

9. Moses Boyd: Dark Matter
Exodus; February
Of the many excellent records coming out of the hybrid jazz renaissance headquartered in London, Boyd’s variegated solo album showcased his production skills as much as his grasp of London’s diasporic grooves.

10. Run the Jewels: RTJ4
Jewel Runners/BMG; June
Exhilarating old-school hip-hop that boomed and bapped and railed at injustice turned out to be just the call to arms 2020 required.


Kitty Empire

The GuardianTramp

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