Adam Hill – musician / illustrator / designer
Black Marble – It’s Immaterial
This album’s whole sonic DNA drips with nostalgia. Like a score to a place and time that doesn’t exist but yet you still miss it.
The songs are intimate, yet abstract and wistful, like being hugged by a ghost. It created the environment for many moments of introspection as well as an inspiration to experiment with new musical directions.
In many ways, this album was just like a good friend throughout the year. I felt sad with it, happy with it, grateful to have it around. Bread baker, online shopper, procrastinator, late-night worker, midday dreamer – this album kept me company through most of it.
I miss the sunlight hour when I feel tired
It’s always on the mind
I miss your Sun right now, when I’m inspired
To hold you in the night
Black Marble – Woods
André Leo – Musician / Psych Night
Grouper – The Man Who Died in His Boat
My relationship with Grouper started only two years ago when an article referenced her in a feature of my old band, Medicine Boy.
Her music has been a companion, inspiration and therapist for me over the last two years, and particularly so in 2020.
I could choose any of her albums for this list but I seem to revisit this one most often. It’s sort of like slipping in and out of a dream.
Barry De Villiers – Roundabout Films
Radiohead – Kid A
I’m not here, this isn’t happening. 2020 was a year In Limbo, but I tried to stay Optimistic. There was of course a lot of time to reflect and in all that reflection I found myself digging at my roots. I dug into a lot of classic rock ‘n roll, especially Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd. But the album that reached out with its Treefingers and put Everything In Its Right Place was Kid A by Radiohead, and I knew How To Disappear Completely.
Blaise Janichon – The Good Times Co.
It’s been a year of duality in music for me as I dived deep into developing The Good Times Co. On the one hand it’s given me an incredible opportunity to spend a vast amount of time discovering new music and I’ve emersed myself in this on a level I’ve never previously. On the other, I’ve spent more time, more intimately with certain releases than ever before, engaging in an entirely new way with the artist, the music and the process. This has been a great privilege for me and if I may I’d like to use this opportunity to thank everybody who’s given their time, support & belief to TGTC.
I’ve spent a lot of time with Chantel Van T’s album Nicalochan, through the process of the initial listens early in the year to working closely with Chantel on the single & album campaign, this album still grows on me with each listen and as a body of work it is really spectacular. I’m also privileged to work closely with Lucy (Kruger & The Lost Boys) and I’ve had the exciting opportunity to journey through the process of Lucy’s upcoming 2021 releases in a way I’ve never experienced before, I’m sure these are going to stand out next year!
An album that’s stuck with me through thick and thin this year, which I keep returning to and which provides a strange sense of calm melancholy coupled with a nudge of euphoria is The Blaze – Dancehall (2018). There’s a certain anthemic rapture that’s delicately balanced with a deep mournfulness which I find very apt for this cockamamie year. Since March we’ve been releasing guest curated weekly playlists on TGTC Spotify and The Blaze is an artist I’ve found regularly included in these.
Sonically 2020 has been one of the most incredible years, I’ve heard more music than ever and I’ve been overwhelmed by the depth of quality that’s exploding out of South Africa (& beyond). I’m enthusiastic to discover what 2021 brings, I’m hopeful it’s going to be a very special one as artists explore and unleash their creative energy on this uniquely definitive moment.
Ellenie Eloff – Elle E
Snapped Ankles – Come Play the Trees
This album has been bringing me a lot of joy. An instant mood lifter – things really start to kick off in ‘Hanging With the Moon’ (track #2).
A mix between Kraftwerk, B52’s and Django Django. What better way to make us forget about the shit that’s been surrounding us this year.
James Acker – Yndian Mynah
Explosions in the Sky – The Wilderness
During the early months of lockdown, Primavera Sound was posting older live sets and the one that blew me away was the Explosions in the Sky set from 2016. It was also the same year that they released their album The Wilderness. Listening to this album again after so many years felt so refreshing in the context of our 2020 situation and really helped me keep a calm and positive mind during most days.
Jonathan Ueckermann – Yndian Mynah
W.H. Lung – Incidental Music
Incidental music by W.H. Lung is an album that gave me energy. I’m tired of this year and I’m sure you’re tired too. Running has become more of an outlet for me than ever before and this album inspired me to push harder and feel less tired into my runs and in general life as well. Thanks for inspiration.
Joshua Van Zyl – Dangerfields
THE YEAR OF DEVENDRA BANHART
So I’ve always been quite obsessed with Devendra Banhart, that’s no secret to those who know me. His style, his music and his general lifestyle are a rather large influence on my life, in general and in 2020 specifically.
This year was rather challenging mentally at the start and then came this COVID pandemic. We found out in about April that my wife was pregnant, with our daughter, and I had this massive light wash over me. I had been listening to some rather dark shit at the time, and had been in a bit of a rough mindset.
I had never felt anything this beautiful in my life before.
With this beautiful bright light, came the reminder of probably my favourite artist of all time Devendra Banhart. His music is mostly light, with a lot of strange imagery.
It always feels like it has the most honest, beautiful intentions. His imagination runs wild at all times and I think it’s magnificent.
It was a reminder to stay grounded, to me, to stay light, to feel at all times, because that’s beautiful, and healthy.
Now with my daughter here,
I play Devendra Banhart to her, to be silly, to be light, to feel, to have fun, and to be you, because it’s magical, and important.
Please listen to : Devendra Banhart – Mala.
Joy Jessica Steyn – tattoo artist / musician
Devendra Banhart – What Will We Be.
I always find myself falling back on Devendra Banhart especially when times feel sticky and clingy under my skin.
I always seem to be teleported to a simpler time when I listen to this album. There are soft and sonic sound waves that just take me back to living on the farm and swimming in a lake filled with tadpoles and surrounded by old willows praying and dipping they’re branches in the murky water.
This album “What Will We Be” came out in 2009 and it’s a great mix of far out 70’s psychedelic and folk rock. It’s an album that has stayed a staple in my life well since it came out. My top tracks of this album would be “First song for B” it’s soft, raw and filled with a lot of emotion and intention which I really love and the piano carries his voice so easily and effortlessly, and “Rats” it’s a great slow burning start that ends in a wonderful tune out drive. I love the whole album and it’s wonderful for a classic listen through.
I mean this being is a wizard and all his albums are wonderful but I would say this one is by far one of my favourites and in the very odd year that was 2020 this album took me back to a simpler space. I would highly recommend taking some time out finding a good spot to watch the clouds, throwing on some headphones and tuning out with What Will We Be.
Kenan Tatt – Yndian Mynah
Pure X – Pleasure
The album that got me through this unique year is one that I’m sure a few in the local psychedelic scene can relate to. It’s my ultimate anti-anxiety album and has been a constant in my life for the last couple of years. To cook, to sleep, to exercise & to clear my head. This album got me through 2020. Thank you.
Lourens Swart – PXLS
Sei Still – Sei Still
I don’t think this album offered particular escape or for me during this year, but as an album that came out in 2020 it kind of sums up the year for me: Repetition representing the revolving days that all felt the same, while unintelligible utterances float by like the unknow that infused our social fabric, a dire occurrence from which a strange beauty can emerge, a hauntingly affirmative nod to the absurdness of life.
Lucas Swart – Dangerfields
Muzz – Muzz
This was a seriously tough choice. Since this was a year in which we didn’t get to do much playing, I did more listening than I had in a long time. I made a point of actually getting to know full albums again, after last year when I got a bit carried away with making playlists and stuff. And so many good albums came out this year, but the one that just agreed with me the most was the debut album from Muzz. Muzz is a new band which is annoyingly being touted as a “supergroup” (what a gross term) because it includes Paul Banks (frontman of Interpol) and the drummer from the Walkmen, and another dude who has sessioned with a bunch of big indie bands.
Anyway, the album itself is super relaxed, genuine and honest sounding, which are not ways that I would describe anything Interpol has released in recent years.
It sounds like some friends got together in a house in the countryside and made this album for the pure enjoyment of it, with no “brief” from a record label or specific sales targets in mind.
The relaxed feel of it just complimented any situation that I played it in this year. Seeing as we couldn’t really socialise in the normal spaces and times, my gang and I ended up doing most of our hanging out during the day in beautiful outdoors places which was actually really great. This album, played mostly through a bluetooth speaker, served us very well in these settings. From the first song “Bad Feeling” with it’s simple but perfect chorus of “So long, bad feelings”, you won’t want to turn it off until you have been through the whole thing.
Lucy Kruger – Musician
Angel Olsen – All Mirrors
When I first discovered ‘Burn Your Fire for No Witness’ by Angel Olsen, I felt as if I didn’t ever want to spend time with anyone else.
The record she made after that, ‘My Woman’ is obviously incredible but at the time it felt a little like my companion who had hidden in the shadows with me at the beach had suddenly leapt into the light and I wasn’t quite ready to join
I went to go and see her live in Amsterdam earlier this year – not knowing that it would be one of the last shows I would see for a while. To be honest, I had hardly listened to ‘All Mirrors’ before attending the concert and although the show was wonderful it still didn’t move me to seek out the album. I ended up going back to Amsterdam for the first part of lock down. Things were so strange and far removed that I didn’t really want to listen to anything nostalgic, but I did want familiarity. Something close to home.
I listened to ‘All Mirrors’ on my bicycle one day and it finally found its place. It gave me that beautiful but intense sensation of things splitting and stitching. As if something is breaking in your chest to leave more room for breath. We had left the shadows and the light and were swimming out to sea, a place I really needed to be. I think there was about a month in this year where this is almost the only thing I listened to. I’m so grateful for this album and this artist.
Matthew Dickinson – Yndian Mynah
Future Islands – On The Water
Future Islands – On The Water has not only been nostalgic, romantic and a reminder of certain values, but the mood of the music itself was relevant in every part of the day during 2020. There has been a lot of times where isolated thought could have been quite destructive without the life narrative and emotion of this album.
Neil Büchner Jnr – PXLS
David Bowie – Blackstar
At first I was going to go with King Krule’s Man Alive, which I was listening to Pre–Covid, but during the lockdown period I found myself turning to David Bowie’s Blackstar a lot more.
Blackstar is at turns angry, hypnotic and melancholic, but always beautiful. It provided solace when I needed it most.
I spent 6 months in Nanaga (a halfway point between Grahamstown and PE) in the Eastern Cape as a result of the lockdown. Mostly solitary, 800 km away from my friends and loved ones. Needless to say, things got dark.
This album gave me a cold hug in the warmest of ways.
Nikola Vlok – musician
Joanna Brouk – The Space Between
Joanna’s music makes me feel like myself. It’s like she’s given me the ability to love and communicate the way I want to. Its meditational so it’s not even music, but actually just the “feeling” of music. The drones and bells and piano comes and goes as it pleases, and she engineered everything as well. You can tell how busy her brain is, yet the composition is minimal. It sits on your skin, in a weirdly sensual way, but without the mind fog of lust. Like a clean sexual high.
The album Hearing Music was recorded in her home studio with her cats
Ntokozo Mzimela – Orah & The Kites
Moses Sumney – Græ
The first offering from Moses Sumney’s Græ was the single Virile, released November 2019. He had told us via his social media that we ought to have zero expectations with regard to genre when it came to this next body of work. The single was accompanied by a music video of a half naked Moses dancing in a meat fridge – at this moment I knew he had all of my attention and I could not wait to hear what more he had to say.
I remember reading that Moses had drastically altered his life (physical regiment, diet, city he lived in, friendship circles) in order to create græ. When I read that, I was surprised that one of the strongest feelings I felt was envy. It takes unimaginable confidence and surety to surrender to anything so fully to the extent of making such large personal sacrifices for the sake of it. I – being someone so accustomed to compromise, to some degree still very insecure in my musicianship, still seeking the approval of my industry and my peers – had to ask myself what I’d be willing to give up for the sake of my art, what needs to be shed in order for me to emerge as my most authentic self and whether or not I am ready to make those sacrifices?
græ is a 20 track exploration into the multiplicity of Moses’ existence and offers so many profound lyrical moments either written by Moses himself or through the spoken words of Taiye Selasi, Ezra Miller, Michaela Coel, Michael Chabon and Ayesha K. Faines that have been so cleverly weaved into song throughout the album.
Here are a few of my favourite lyrical moments from græ:
‘I truly believe that people who define you control you and the most significant thing that any person can do – especially black women and men – is to think about who gave them their definitions and rewrite those definitions for themselves’
– boxes, quote by Ayesha K. Faines.
‘And they tie all their stones to your name and they cripple your bones with their shame, honesty is the most moral way but morality is grey’
‘I can also also also also and and and’ – also also also and and and
Paul De Villers – Dangerfields / The Colours Red & Blue
Runaway Nuns – Spit
Released when SA was in the midst of stringent lockdown regulations, putting this album on full blast made the enforced isolation much more bearable.
Some energetic garage punk was exactly what I needed during this time and this ‘Nuns album never lets up. Spit was on heavy rotation with the fuzzed out bass, frantic drumming and urgent guitar riffs making cooking, cleaning, working from home, etc. etc. a breeze when the monotony of lockdown seemed to blur all the days into one.
Pierre Rommelaere – Photographer / booking agent
Psychic Ills – Early Violence
Being a huge fan of Psychic Ills, it was sad hearing the passing of Tres Warren earlier this year. As one does, following an artist’s death, I relistened to the entire Psychic Ills discography and this album just stood out for me with its droning sounds resonating the slow pace of 2020. RIP Tres and thank you.
Roderick MacLeod (+ band) – Julia Robert
Sun Kil Moon – Tiny Cities
It’s a mournful reimagining of a few Modest Mouse tracks. It’s an older album (2005). At the time of its recording Mark Kozelek was still relatively unknown and had never met Isaac Brock. He still hasn’t.
That anecdote, coupled with the isolated textures on the album, made it appropriate for me in 2020; a year in which we still stubbornly dream of one another every night, even though we’ve all been forced apart.
Rouleaux van der Merwe – Permanent Record
JEFF the Brotherhood – Magick Songs
TLDR: Experience the magic of ‘Magick Songs’ by JEFF the Brotherhood. You will not be let down.
Writing about music is difficult for me personally. If you wanna say something sincere about a specific album, it requires you to dig deep and confront your own tastes and preferences head-on. It is easy for words to become cliché, and not so easy for ideas to be fully explained. So writing about 1 album that has meant a lot to me during this ‘tumultuous’ year of our lord 2020 is more complicated than writing a social media post for example. Here, I try my best.
JEFF the Brotherhood ‘Magick Songs’ is truly a magical experience. It is not a straightforward album, something that would have been pretty easy for these guys to pull off considering their previous efforts. Don’t get me wrong, the opening track off their album, ZONE, is on my top 10 list of album ‘openers’. But this is not ZONE. Nor is it ‘Global Chakra Rhythms’. It is not anything like their fan favourite ‘Six Pack’. Instead, it is an otherworldly meditative listening experience. One that needs to be swallowed whole. It is atmospheric experimental music laced with motorik kraut precision, post-rock leanings and a light psychedelic air. It feels mystic and tribal. Vocals are sparse, intentionally layered underneath a veil of silky smooth exotic-sounding space jazz, only to come crushing down with a ton of fuzzed-out stoner sludge at the end of the album. It is difficult to tell for sure if the intention was to create a sci-fi inspired album, but the musical themes explored here are extraterrestrial – a deconstruction of what we know to be real.
The reason I am writing all these convoluted sentences is to try and explain how this album has stayed with me off and on since its release in September of 2018. And how this album has been on heavy rotation during this year’s extended isolation. I’ve revisited this release more than I’d care to acknowledge.
Through repeatedly tuning in to this ‘ultimate statement’ of a band easily boxed in certain genre labels, I’ve come to really appreciate the layers of this album that challenges all previous efforts. I can’t recommend listening to 1 single track off Magick Songs, but I can recommend taking 60 minutes out of your life to bless your ears (and heart) with this criminally underrated and unique album. As an added bonus, almost like an answered prayer, the vinyl release contains a 19 minute 4-part composition that is nowhere to be found digitally.
Focus on the magick.
Ruan Vos – PXLS / Glitch Culture
Föllakzoid – II
Strangely enough, in 2020 I did not listen to as much music as I would have/should have liked to, but this album was most probably my 2020 obsession.
It appealed to me because I could feel anything and it was there for me.
Richard Liefeldt – Musician
Nick Cave – Idiot Prayer
Firstly I will say this, I have been in love with Nick Cave since I was 16 and heard ‘Midnight Man’,instantly my life changed. Visions of midnight lovers, dorsal fins and sweet unadulterated desperation consumed me and I have still not been released. So it will be no surprise that I chose his only release during this miserable year.
Idiot Prayer is a live album he recorded in Alexandra Palace but the difference is it is just him alone with a piano. It is the most personal collection of work I have ever heard. I feel as if he is whispering into my ear at points, holding my hand as he takes me through a wonderful and diverse set list of songs I have cried to many a time.
Yes, the hits are there but we really digs into his extensive and ever growing repertoire. Hearing this version of ‘Nobody’s Baby Now’ destroyed my heart in the most wonderful way.
This has been a year of isolation, excruciating loneliness and a gut wrenching sense of impending doom. Well at least for me. But and as he has done in the past, when I need him most Mr Cave arrives, put’s his arm around my soul and let’s me know I am not alone. I have a partner in this violent and destructive world.
I will forever swim in his words and this release felt like it was just for me. Sounds selfish and it is.
Simon Berndt – One Horse Town Illustration / Psych Night
Holy Wave – Interloper
I’ve been thinking about this for some time. In a year largely devoid of live shows there have thankfully been an abundance of excellent releases and music has been a constant companion through the ups and downs of the year for me.
While the new music has been wonderful to explore and I certainly binged a lot of it, I’ve also found myself returning to past comforts and revisiting favourites both from recent times and long ago. Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath have been on steady rotation, especially in the car and I’ve taken a deep dive into the aural universe of Pink Floyd.
It’s easy to be affected by recency bias when analysing your favourites and if I had to say what my favourite album of the year was right now it might feature the latest All Them Witches release, Nothing as the Ideal or the mesmerizing guitar driven instrumentalization on 2020’s Roped In by recently discovered North Americans.
I’ve binged Flower of Devotion by Dehd and the 2020 self titled album by Pure X, both of which would make a typical top 5 list along with the explorative, experimental and relevant Isolation Tapes by Kadavar. Big Thief is probably my artist of the year and pushed my final choice on top album pretty close.
Ultimately I’ve settled on Interloper by Holy Wave. After seeing the band perform for the second time at Endless Dazer last year (the first time was 2014 at Austin Psych Fest) this album represents a band at the absolute peak of their powers. For me the album is near perfect from the layered soundscapes to the beautiful harmonies the album is excellently paced and the writing is beautiful, reflective and poignant. I highly recommend it!
Warren Fisher – Musician / Recording engineer / Now Now Just Now
Jonathan Bree – After The Curtains Close
At the time of it’s release I think we were just in the beginning of our hard lock down, when phrases like “uncertainty times” and “new normal” were used on a daily basis. They had no comfort for those of us without financial stability or job security. But somehow music can make you forget about all of that, it suspends you in a moment. ‘After The Curtains Close’ did just that for me, it was essentially an escape from the present turmoil.
The albums’ string sections often remind me of classics from the 60’s era Phil Spektor songs, which for me is a familiar feeling of home. Added with Bree’s baritone, it’s a smooth sonic offering I struggle to fault.
Wentzel van der Gryp – Roastin‘ Records
I spent 2020 revisiting a lot of my good old favourites;
listening to special or anniversary editions, remastered albums or live, demo and alternative versions of songs I know very well
Paul, John, George Solo albums … Led Zeppelin, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Neil Young, Oasis and Liam Gallagar Solo.
I really tried a few times to get into Fiona Apple but I just couldn’t get it. Rather Listen to Runaway Nuns !