The Red Headed Stranger and the Boss broke hearts , revealing their anxieties as each meditated on legacy and mortality, and FKA twigs warped heartache and depression into the most glinting sounds of tomorrow imaginable. LP smashed through the public consciousness. Extreme lyrical confession is the mode du jour, and the real winners are us, the listeners.
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Microphones in 2020
The end is nigh, at least for If you weren't quite so adventurous — and were too embarrassed to share your Spotify Wrapped playlist this year — there's still enough time to catch up on the glut of great music released this year. Whether you're looking for something to soundtrack your New Year's Eve party or long slog down the motorway back home, here's our favourite releases of the year so far.
Cass McCombs – Tip of the Sphere
Anchored by sturdy, stunningly pretty folk-rock backings, Adrianne Lenker, her voice tremulous but tenacious, makes existential musings amid verdant nature. The Californian troubadour, who has steadily wound his way through the fringes of Americana and indie for over 15 years, delivers another romantic, faintly psychedelic masterpiece. Tip of the Sphere is his ninth studio album of ever-expansive Americana, one where his myth properly matures. With as much an affinity with hip-hop and progressive rock as jazz, the trio of reeds player Shabaka Hutchings, synth player Dan Leavers and drummer Max Hallett make one of the most cosmic statements of the current British jazz revival. It may also be the best. An overlooked masterpiece of modern soul, the Indiana quintet are shamelessly retro in their style: all pert brass and crooning close harmonies.
Last year was a banner year for big-name artists dropping big-name releases. By strong contrast, was more of a transitional changing of the guard year, allowing space for new faces, like Billie Eilish and Lizzo, to make big splashes and for seasoned veterans, like Wilco and Solange, to create bigger, fresher waves. Buffalo brothers Westside Gunn and Conway the Machine and longtime associate Benny the Butcher are Griselda, a rap crew whose hard-nosed punch lines, effortless flows, and intricate storytelling brought them to the attention of our patron saint of internal rhyme, Eminem. Their Shady Records debut W. Gothic sounds from producers Daringer and Beat Butcha set the scene for grimy stories about the stresses and spoils of hustling. The beats bang, and the quotables run fast and hot, like a river of blood. In four albums, Kentucky troubadour Sturgill Simpson evolved from a rising country star to a critically acclaimed singer-songwriter to a kind of Nashville outlaw to a rock star making records about the stresses of making records. The members of the country quartet the Highwomen come from different walks of life.