From a music releases perspective, 2020 wasn’t so bad after all.
Argh 2020. I guess a year we will remember but which we wished we don’t. It has been hard on everyone, but I hope you fuzzers are all safe and healthy, at least.
The culture and particularly the music industry has been hit pretty hard this year, lots of venues closing, bands can’t tour… I miss a good show man, you do too right? But I guess we need to be patient and hopefully by the end of 2021 it’ll come back almost as before.
Though regarding the studio releases in our little scene it doesn’t seem it stopped musicians to produce quality music, as you’ll see below and in the other Tops of the More Fuzz team members.
Personally, I’ve been way less active in the blog this year that I’d have wanted to, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t follow the releases in our scene. Actually, I listened to a lot of music and I guess I kept the majority of my discoveries for myself and unveil them to you now ✌️
Now it’s time for Rock ‘n’ Roll ! It’s time to show you what I think is la crème de la crème in terms of fuzzy music… Let’s discover my favorite releases of 2020 !
Top 20 Albums of 2020
20 : Dewolff – Tascam Tapes
For Fans Of : The Black Keys, Siena Root, Birth of Joy
Dewolff is imo one of the top bands perpetuating that classic 70’s rock sound and they do it so well ! This year they were back with a very special album because like its title and the cover suggests, it was recorded while they were on tour, using only a tape recorder, what a cool way to challenge yourself as a band.
The result is also somewhat different from their usual studio albums of course. First, because of the material limitations, only Pablo used his usual guitar, but Luka used a drum machine and Robin only used a small midi keyboard. But they also experimented with their own sound, and I’d say this is a lighter, simpler album, incorporating a lot of soul elements which makes Pablo’s voice shine even more. Tascam Tapes is also more geared towards dancing and groovy tunes overall, those funky bass/keys lines, I totally dig it !
I warmly recommend to also watch the documentary about the tour/recording of Tascam Tapes, interesting to see how they did it, and also lots of crispy and funny anecdotes in there 😁
19 : Hair of the Dog – It’s Just a Ride
For Fans Of : Mos Generator, Black Sabbath, Witchskull
I’ve been a fan of the Scottish from their very first album and they never let you down. It’s just pure old-school Heavy Rock done right, hitting you right in the stomach riffs upon riffs, and those killer high-pitched vocals to top it up.
Too bad as it seems this one didn’t get as much recognition in the scene as it should have, so trust me and go blast it at full level 👊
18 : Causa Sui – Szabodelico
For Fans Of : Kikagaku Moyo, Astrodome, Papir, Khruangbin
Does Causa Sui ever produce a bad album ? I think it never happened since their self-titled in 2005. Though with “Szabodelico”, the Danish quartet experimented with their music, almost ditching entirely their heavier side to only keep their laid-back psychedelic touch. In a way, they get closer to their good mates, Papir, which are on El Paraiso Records as well.
The result is a very refreshing and easy-listening album, totally lysergic, like a feel good hit of the summer 🏖️ Just sit comfortably in your beach chair while sipping a good cocktail and go with the flow🍹
17 : Wino – Forever Gone
For Fans Of : Wino and acoustic guitar
This year one of the best labels of the Heavy scene, Ripple Music, started a new series of releases called “Blood and Strings” which consists of only acoustic albums. The first two which were released during the year were from Tony Reed from Mos Generator (you should give it an ear too!) and this one I’m going to talk about here, from the father of Doom, Wino himself.
Don’t expect ponderous doomy riffs ala The Obsessed or Saint Vitus with Forever Gone. This solo album is much more personal and Wino totally opens his heart with sincerity, bleeding tears of sadness. The rawness of the acoustic guitar, the low tuning paired with Wino’s recognizable playing style, and his deep voice make it so powerful while so fragile in a sense.
I’m usually a guy who prefers his music joyful and energetic, that’s why you don’t have a single Doom album in this Top, just less my style. But Wino’s Forever Gone is one of those albums that moved me, I didn’t know sorrow could sound so beautiful and so heartfelt. I even learned the song “Dead Yesterday” by ear on my guitar, this little riff gives me chills every time. Now I need to dig a bit more into his solo albums !
16 : Dead Quiet – Truth and Ruin
For Fans Of : Ruff Majik, Motorhead, Lacertilla, Pet The Preacher
Dead Quiet definitely put out a very interesting album with “Truth and Ruin”. I guess if I had to fit their sound in a box it’d go in the catch-all “Heavy Rock” one, as they have such a unique proposal that it’s hard to pinpoint an exact genre. Elements of Stoner Rock, Doom, Punk, Speed Metal all get mixed-up in a deadly cocktail of mostly high-tempo melodic heavy riffs, high-pitched vocals full of despair, and even some keys !
Highly recommended if you’re looking for something that brings a fresh taste to the table 🥗
15 : Witchskull – A Driftwood Cross
For Fans Of : Goatsnake, Candlemass, Black Sabbath
This 3rd album from the Aussie will certainly please all of the fans of massive heaviness in an old-school Heavy-Metal/Doom way, they’re not really reinventing the wheel, but oh god it works! Fierce high-pitched vocals, a bottom-heavy guitar and bass sound that in combination would make cracks in any earthquake-resistant structures, tight and powerful drums, making as a whole a cohesive album where each member of this 3-piece plays his role perfectly.
14 : Forming The Void – Reverie
For Fans Of : Mastodon, Torche, Conan, YOB
Possibly the most “metal” album of my 2020 list, Forming The Void latest album struck with me with its crushing riffs, melted with that progressive and psychedelic touch.
The highlight point for me is the lead guitar work of Shadi Omar Al-Khansa, his oriental influence is greatly felt in the overall atmosphere of Reverie, and his solos are very unique and sets the whole sound of Forming The Void apart from the numerous Stoner-Doom/Progressive Metal bands out there.
Check out Mr. Void’s in-depth review if you want to know more about this album.
13 : Mother’s Cake – Cyberfunk
For Fans Of : Mother’s Cake, Mars Volta, Arctic Monkeys, Pink Floyd, QOTSA
I was waiting for it impatiently for the return of my cherished Austrian, as I loved their first album but their second and third ones didn’t convince me that much… Now with “Cyberfunk”, it seems they really found their sound, and while they were already pretty unique, this album sounds more “Mother’s Cake” than ever.
Cyberfunk is back to that trademark groovy, dancy sound you can expect from Mother’s Cake, which I thought was a bit left behind on their last album. The dirty fuzz guitar is also back on some tracks, and you know how much a nasty fuzz pedal tickles my ears.
Though it goes way beyond than that, the overall Rock soundscape painted by Mother’s Cake in this particular album is even crazier and quite unpredictable : psychedelic, funky, proggish, poppish, you gotta be ready to broaden your musical horizon to fully appreciate their art.
Also, go see them live, you won’t regret it.
12 : Geezer – Groovy
For Fans Of : Mothership, ZZ Top
This album feels like the most complete of Geezer’s discography, and that’s validated by what Pat Harrington says on the Bandcamp’s description : “This is the first time since the self-titled record that we took the time to really flesh out song structures, tempos, etc.” So yes, their signature “Cosmic Stoner Blues” definitely takes its full form in “Groovy”. I also dig the subtle keys/FX added to the mix, which adds a lot to that whole outer-world atmosphere.
And in my own opinion, this is the best cover artwork of 2020 for sure ! Why ? First, because it stands out so much and makes you want to check out the music, and then when you actually listened to the album you see how it’s a perfect representation of Geezer’s music in a visual form. Yes, Groovy could totally be the soundtrack of a road trip on a colorful extraterrestrial planet at full throttle in your old-school van !
11 : Gaffa Ghandi – Artificial Disgust
For Fans Of : Rotor, Elder, Mother Engine, Colour Haze, My Sleeping Karma
One of the few reviews I did this year on the blog was about this new band from Germany called Gaffa Ghandi. Their debut album is a gem of instrumental Stoner Prog, complex, melodic, it’s just amazingly crafted. And to paraphrase myself : “The German Stoner Prog Alliance has a new warrior in its line : Gaffa Ghandi!“. Check out my full review here.
10 : Lowrider – Refractions
For Fans Of : Stoner Rock
I guess this one will be mentioned in a lot of Tops this year, and it’s all deserved. The Swedish achieved legendary status with only one album released in the golden era of Stoner Rock, 20 years ago… Ode to Io is among my favorite albums ever, a pillar of the Stoner Rock sound, for once coming from Europe and not from the USA at that time.
The weight on Lowrider’s shoulders to come up with a satisfying follow-up album 20 years after their debut was colossal. I mean, they couldn’t fail, it wasn’t an option, or else how you’d justify waiting that many years to release something new ? 😅
And in the end, yes they delivered, Refractions is definitely one of the best Stoner Rock albums of the year, they didn’t forget how to write some of the most badass fuzzy riffs you ever heard, they didn’t forget how to write a proper Stoner rock song. But did it make the same effect as Ode to Io to me ? Definitely not.
But then it’s also impossible to achieve that same sentiment, I discovered Ode to Io at the beginning of my Stoner Rock journey, and this was a real “aha moment” for me. So yes, what I’m trying to say is I deeply enjoyed this new album, Lowrider fuckin’ RAWKS, I’m glad they are back in full force, and they totally have the right to keep their legendary status 👏
And maybe this new album was also an “aha moment” for someone just getting into Stoner Rock in 2020, and I believe it certainly did seeing all the praises the album got. So congrats boys, now looking forward to the 3rd album, and yes I’m going to make that stupid joke, I hope we won’t have to wait until 2040, because I need my dose of Lowrider ⚡
9 : Slift – Ummon
For Fans Of : King Gizzard and the Lizzard Wizard, Thee Oh Sees, Yuri Gagarin, Hawkwind, Ecstatic Vision
Another one that made it to the Tops of many reviewers, and again largely deserved. This French trio not only made a big cosmic splash in our “little” fuzzy scene, but I guess also in the larger Psychedelic Rock scene.
Because yes this is the main force behind Slift’s sound with Ummon, 70+ minutes divided in 11 songs which are a perfect crossover between what’s hot today : Crazy acidic psychedelicness ala King Gizz, spacey instrumental jams full of effects with a lot of repetitive patterns, a raw nasty fuzz and some vocals full of reverb taken from the Garage scene paired with big riffs from the Heavy Psych world, and there you have it, a skillful mix that only Slift knows how to correctly put together.
Ummon is a tripped-out and dense experience that won’t leave you the same as before if you fully embrace it. Try to ever come down after that… 🚀
8 : Hairless Monk – Monolith
For Fans Of : Elder, Cult of Luna, IAH, Amenra, Grotto
Jacob Willenborg from Cedar Rapids, Iowa is Hairless Monk, yes we’re in front of a one-man band here. But ditch the typical one-man band stereotype of a street performer playing blues with a guitar in his hands and a harmonica in the mouth while foot-stomping his little snare. No. Hairless Monk definitely sounds like a full-on band, and it’s impressive to see all the music have been composed and recorded by a single guy!
Sound-wise, “Monolith” is fully instrumental and oscillates between Post-Metal and Prog-Metal epicness, with indeed monolithic riffs intertwined with more complex atmospheric melodies. The fans of the early-Elder sound will surely dig Hairless Monk. Actually, I did not put Elder’s new album in this Top, because while I enjoyed it, I preferred to put a light on this release from Hairless Monk, and I have to admit it, I played this one way more often than Elder’s, and appreciate it even more.
I hope Jacob is trying to form a real band to showcase his songs live, because that would be amazing to experience!
7 : Sleeping Pandora – Signs in The Sky
For Fans Of: Yawning Man, Pink Floyd, Kungens Män
Hey that’s funny, the 2nd one-man band in this Top 😅 This time the masterchief is called Mathias Rosmann from Berlin, Germany. The guitarist delves into one of the most soothing psychedelic jams I ever heard, with the majority of the songs above the 10-minute mark, you’ll embark on a meditative trip around the galaxy 💫
The rhythm section is most of the time very repetitive, and I guess done via a beat machine. That’s what gives this whole jammy, mantra-feel to the songs, giving space to a very guitar-focused sound, it’s all about sweet melodies and endless solos with lots of delays and some background spacey effects.
This album has been in my ears so often this year when I needed to rest my mind, during a plane trip or just while trying to relax/sleep, “Signs in The Sky” was the album of choice.
6 : Blackbird Hill – Razzle Dazzle
For Fans Of : King Mud, Royal Blood, Left Lane Cruiser, Filthy Lucre, The Black Keys
Many bands try to revive the Blues nowadays, but to modernize it while still keeping its original roots is a task the French duo Blackbird Hill totally achieved with their new album !
“Razzle Dazzle” is all about nuances, nasty fuzzy riffs and some bluesy bottle-neck action on one side, intertwined with beautiful soothing moments, the songs’ composition is so well crafted.
Special mention to Maxime the guitarist/vocalist for his crystal clear high-pitched voice, it’s simply one of the best I ever heard. The superb album’s production and the 2 acoustic songs of the album make him shine even more. Hats off or “Chapeau monsieur!” as we say in french 🎩
I also think the song “Smoke and Mirrors” could be my favorite tune of the year. That chorus, oh my god, gives me chills every time 😍
5 : Volcanova – Radical Waves
For Fans Of : Fu Manchu, The Shrine, Hashteroid, Clutch, Orange Goblin
I have to admit the first thing that made me check this new band is the artwork of the cover, kinda cliché, but highly effective. And then I saw these guys were coming from Iceland, this intrigued me even more as I can honestly count on the fingers of my hand the number of bands I know coming from this country. And dude, I was not disappointed I clicked play as you can see from the position I gave it in this top 😉
It’s that kind of Stoner Rock with a high Temperature level I totally dig 🔥. Though don’t get me wrong, “Radical Waves” is varied enough and cleverly written that you will appreciate each and every tracks out of it. Blazing fuzzy riffs or neck-breaking ones, these guys know where they are heading to and it’s definitely at full-speed and with a lot of groove!
I’d go mental if I ever see Volcanova live, these guys need to tour asap even if there is still coronavirus! And fuck coronavirus btw 🖕
4 : Elephant Tree – Habits
For Fans Of : Mars Red Sky, Pink Floyd, Elder
What a good news to see the return of Elephant Tree in 2020 with their 3rd album, one I was expecting a lot, which I guess a lot of people were too as the band quickly made themselves a name in the scene since their well-acclaimed self-titled 2nd album.
To make it short, and because you can also read my full review, the guys pushed their vision even further, which is to melt perfectly “this duality between 2 opposing forces, airy on one side and earthy on the other“, if I had to quote myself once again.
Here is a band who definitely found their sound identity, even more so now with the welcome addition of a 4th member at the keys. Now let’s see what they’ll bring us with their next album, but for the moment you can go headbang on Habits right now 👊
3 : Slomosa – ST
For Fans Of : Dozer, Kyuss, Greenleaf, Fu Manchu, Valley Of The Sun
Who said you should reinvent the wheel to make good music ? Definitely not Slomosa.
These Swedish released the best “Stoner Rock” album of the year without hesitation, each song ticks all the boxes established by their elders, be it Dozer or Kyuss for example, to make it an instant hit : tons of fuzzy riffs, tight while also varied drums using the whole kit, awesome clear vocals with highly memorable melodies, and in the end, a very catchy songwriting all along.
Since it has been released at the end of August I listened to Slomosa’s album countless times, and for a debut album these guys can be proud of themselves, it’s perfect for what it is : the most effective Stoner Rock album of 2020 ⚡
2 : The Swell Fellas – The Big Entrance
For Fans Of : Mother’s Cake, Captain Beyond, Buckethead, Mars Volta, All Them Witches
I knew I’d fall in love with The Swell Fellas right after hearing the first few songs of their debut album, because I quite never listened to something similar before. This trio hailing from Ocean City, Maryland seems more like they are coming from another planet, playing their own Psych/Prog/Stoner magic sauce, which totally blew me away.
In a way, they are in the same league as Mother’s Cake which I mentioned earlier in my Top, a band like no others, and difficult to really describe, though I’ll try my best to give you an idea : first is the composition of the songs, it’s seamless, intricate, extensive, unexpected, wonderfully layered, a true show of musicianship. Now the music itself, well damn it’s hard man. It’s quite dense. It has those complex proggish melodies but sometimes they know how to play it heavy, the guitarist loves his effects which are used at the right moment to give that psychedelic touch, though it grooves a lot too. Oh and this sick bass tone paired with those drums full of technique, yummy ! Ah I almost forgot, the vocals are totally on point too, they give that poppish-side to the whole sound, which combines perfectly with the rest.
I don’t know if I made myself clear, but I just recommend you to press play and make your own opinion, it’s that kind of album which needs your full attention to fully enjoy it, while at the same time you’ll know you’ll like or not at the first listen.
And one last thing that is a seal of quality, “The Big Entrance” has been mixed and co-produced by Ben McLeod of All Them Witches, yup 👌
1 : Aunt Cynthia’s Cabin – Misty Woman
For Fans Of : Brian Jonestown Massacre, BRMC, Child, Radio Moscow
Aunt Cynthia’s Cabin has been on my radar since their short debut “Cabin Fever” released in 2018, then came “Mud Room #13” in 2019, but the real kicker is this 3rd one, a full-length and professionally recorded album, released at the beginning of the year, “Misty Woman”.
Another trio coming from the golden state, and indeed their music has that atmosphere that makes you travel instantly there. It’s as if they converted the vibe of the 2 major landscapes of California into music : the vast, arid, remote desert and the sea with its famous surf spots and sunsets.
Aunt Cynthia’s Cabin came up with an unpolished gem of reverb-drenched 60’s psych with drippy moments and more fuzzed-out grooves. The guitar has that typical dry sound which I love, add to that a lot of reverb (also to the vocals) and it can also quickly crank up to a delicious raw fuzz, the bass is warm and bounce in unison with the drums, everything fits together and makes this album highly addictive.
One day I’ll jump on my bobber to hit a random road bordered by big cactus, and spend the night watching the stars with a bonfire to warm me up, and Misty Woman will be the soundtrack of this adventure 🏍️🏜️🌠
Honourable Mentions by Atmosphere Levels
By Fat Level
REZN – Chaotic Divine
Buffalo Fuzz – Volume II
KIND – Mental Nudge
Fuzzcrafter – CD
Gaupa – Feberdröm
Soldati – Doom Nacional
Psychlona – Venus Skytrip
By Purple Haze Level
Elder – Omens
All Them Witches – Nothing as The Ideal
Mount Hush – ST
The Re-Stoned – Thunders of The Deep
Robot God – Silver Buddha Dreaming
King Buffalo – Dead Stars EP
By Temperature Level
The Heavy Eyes – Love Like Machine
The Atomic Bitchwax – Scorpio
Fuzz – III