Hey fuzzers ! I am glad to present you my Top 20 albums of 2020 !
2020 has been quite a strange year. Covid-19 pandemic changed everyone’s plans in many ways. The sanitary crisis stole from all fuzz addicts what they like best: to go and see their favorite bands playing live music. Thankfully, 2020 also delivered its load of outstanding albums. These fuzzy gems have been a great help while we were stuck at home. So here is my Top 20. As usual, I hope it will help you to catch up with golden albums you might have missed. By the way, do not forget to check the honorable mentions. Most of them could have been part of the list. May 2021 be doomed and stoned again! And with live music, please.
Top 20 Albums of 2020
20: Acid Mammoth – Under Acid Hoof
I open this Top 20 with Under Acid Hoof by Greek band Acid Mammoth. Under Acid Hoof is a very efficient stoner doom psych album, with its Ozzy-style voice, crushing low riffs, and corrosive solos. Maybe the most addictive Sabbath worship album released this year. If you pray before Black Sabbath, Electric Wizard, Monolord, and their other satanic fellows, you will definitely enter Acid Mammoth’s cult.
19: KARKARA – Nowhere Land
Last year, the French band KARKARA entered my Top as a surprise guest. I have been immediately seduced by the variety of psychedelic approaches used in their first album Crystal Gazer. Nowhere Land follows the same path. Fuzzy garage riffs still meet oriental melodies and space psychedelia. This acid mix works as the fuel for a cosmic journey on a desertic planet. We are already looking forward to the next one.
18: Lamp of the Universe – Dead Shrine
It has been quite a long time since I listened to Lamp of the Universe. Nothing surprising when you love psychedelic rock music. In 20 years, the band from New Zealand imposed itself as a major influence in the psych scene with their spiritual approach of compositions and atmospheres. With Dead Shrine, Lamp of the Universe adds some heaviness to its psychedelic folk maelstrom. The result is a meditative journey, a visual and colored trip bathed in a divine smoke.
17: Humulus – The Deep
Humulus is an Italian band formed in 2009. However, I discovered it this year when it released its third album The Deep. This is a very mature psych stoner sound. Compositions are progressive and the tracks are quite long. The atmosphere goes from contemplative build-ups to sentencing sections. Psychedelic choruses combine with doom metal riffs to create an epic narration. All of this served with great instrumental mastery.
16: Kanaan – Double Sun
Norwegian power trio Kanaan was founded two years ago but these guys already sound like old masters of the sharp and selective psychedelic stoner jazz scene. Double Sun is a 40-minutes hectic and sunny space odyssey. It has the force of the heavy side and the harmonic wealth of jazz. Jams never stop crafting complex and beautiful soundscapes before the eyes of the listener. Enjoy!
15: Pallbearer – Forgotten Days
You may find Forgotten Days’ artwork a bit creepy but you will love the music! Pallbearer’s fourth opus stands out by its originality in the doom metal scene. This originality resides in this fusion between harsh crushing sections and melodic maestria. From the singing to the solos, Forgotten Days is always expressive, almost lyrical. It conveys strong emotions in a high-quality metal box. And never falls into easy pathos or commercial production.
14: Forming The Void – Reverie
It is no longer necessary to present Forming The Void. Louisiana Quatuor is the rising (dark) star in the heavy scene and it hits the top logically with their fifth long production. Reverie is epic, monolithic, but also groovy and psychedelic. All of this served in a more progressive and melodic perspective. No doubt: Forming the Void reached a new top of its apocalyptic art.
13: The Spacelords – Spaceflowers
When we look back in 2020, we notice that pure heavy psych albums were not that numerous. But when heavy psych lacks, we can always count on The Spacelords to catapult us into the void. Like every album from German spatial gurus, Spaceflowers is an epic instrumental journey from one hazy planet to another. Get on the ship, fasten your seatbelt, open your eyes, prepare your mind, and enjoy the trip!
12: Pretty Lightning – Jangle Bows
If you like your music a bit less heavy but still highly psychedelic, Jangle Bows by Pretty Lightning is made for you. The German duo (guitar/drums) probably delivered the best psychedelic rock album this year. Fuzzy compositions and atmospheres from the Black Angels, dirty southern blues from The Black Keys, sweet vaporous melodies from the Velvet Underground, acid psychedelia from The 13th Floor Elevators: all you need rock and psych is there. Beware of its addictive power…
11: Tia Carrera – Tried and True
Texas trio Tia Carrera has been active since 2005 but only released two discs during the nine past years. But what a smashing comeback! Tried and True is a 37 minutes injection of hectic psychedelic jams. An instrumental ode to master Hendrix served with desert rock sauce and cosmic candies. Intense as an electric shock and most entertaining. Give me some more!
10: King Buffalo – Dead Star
Dead Star is the last masterpiece by New York power trio King Buffalo. It may be their most ambitious production so far. Forged with a progressive approach, the music always gains intensity and complexity throughout the different tracks. A round bass, cosmic keynotes, super-efficient riffery, and a sound signature always more singular: Dead Star is another kind of psychedelic stoner. The kind of album that discreetly modifies the genre.
9: Elder – Omens
When the time of writing these lines came, I realized that Elder never arrived that “far” in my tops. Some might say it is normal: Omens is probably not their most striking album. Still, Boston Quatuor cultivates their unique recipe and Omens does not look like any other stoner album. It is more contemplative, less riff-oriented and it heads to krautrock territory. It represents a new coherent step in Elder’s mighty musical quest.
8: Causa Sui – Szabodelico
As always, Danish band Causa Sui puts its last gem among the best albums of the year. Years go by but their psychedelic and jazzy jams still make Causa Sui a unique and forward-looking band on the heavy planet. Szabodelico highlights the influence of Hungarian guitarist Gabor Szabo in their music. The journey is sweet, shiny, exotic, and relaxing. Just let yourself be enchanted by this cosmic Eden.
7: Yuri Gagarin – The Outskirts of Reality
If I had to describe the sounds of The Outskirts of Reality, I would say that it is the soundtrack of an epic and futuristic interstellar war. This is music made for space crusaders. It is too violent to be heavy psych and too psychedelic to be metal. The Outskirts of Reality follows the direct path of Yuri Gagarin’s precedent albums and pushes their extraterrestrial exploration even deeper. The kind of album that expands space rock boundaries. Yuri Gagarin definitely is a UFO.
6: Elephant Tree – Habits
If I tell you “Elephant Tree” you may think about their eponymous and quite amazing 2016 album. Well, the English trio came back this year with Habits, and you know what? They did not lose a single piece of their musical genius. On one hand, riffs are massive, compositions are super-efficient and the vocals are brilliant. On the other hand, the work on sonorities and textures is definitely modern and original. This is what psych stoner doom looks like in 2020.… and for the next years.
5: Turtle Skull – Monoliths
Two years ago, a new band from Sydney called Turtle Skull made a discreet but very interesting entry on the fuzzy scene. Their eponymous album displayed a soft but complex psychedelia and the sharpness of their composition was most promising. Two years later, the Aussies have grown up. With Monoliths, they prove they are among the most creative minds in their genre. Monoliths is a definitely modern album built around the fuzz. It is rooted in contemporary psychedelic rock (King Gizzard, Osees, etc) and seeks to join the orbit of the heavier space rock (Pink Floyd, Elder). This is a transcendental experience.
4: Ruff Majik – The Devil’s Cattle
You feel like you get rid of classic stoner rock these days? That this is too difficult, in 2020, to take all the best influences of the genre and still manage to be creative and very catchy? Well amigo, you just have to listen to The Devil’s Cattle. With their third album, Ruff Majic crafted the catchiest stoner album this year. The loudest too. And the craziest. And even the grooviest. From early QOTSA to Jack White’s garage rock, from evil and slow Sabbath riffs to enraged punk fury, The Devil’s Cattle mixes up all you love in stoner with the special Ruff Majic’s sauce. I challenge any fuzzy mind to get bored with this music.
3: SLIFT – UMMON
With their first album in 2018, SLIFT drew the attention of observers but remained a relatively confidential band. Everything changed with their new production. UMMON is the mega space rock asteroid that hit the Earth this year. Its impact is huge: it destroyed the entire heavy scene. UMMON is a 72 minutes stellar onslaught of a hectic and hallucinated space rock with a punk attitude and krautrock vibes. Simply the best space rock album this year. Great masters Hawkwind would be proud.
2: REZN – Chaotic Divine
REZN’s story is the story of an ascension. An ascension that began in 2017 with the already excellent Let It Burn. Two years ago, Chicago’s trio explored the darkness of the abysses with Calm Black Water. A world full of diluted echoes and unknown shadows. With Chaotic Divine, our three dark wizards decided to head to the abyssal void. And what is remarkable with REZN, is that each exploration’s step of these infra worlds corresponds to a new stage of their musical evolution. In Chaotic Divine, their sound signature still drives the odyssey. Their hypnotic but still corrosive and crushing psych doom does not lose its efficiency when it comes to take control of the listener’s mind. Chaotic Divine also adds some contemplative heavy psych sections. A more experimental approach can be heard and the album works as a spectral shamanic initiation. REZN’s music reached a new dimension.
1: Lowrider – Refractions
20 years. Fans of Swedish desert rock band Lowrider had to wait 20 years since the mythical Ode to lo released in 2000. 20 years waiting for the next album of the most promising European stoner band. How could it have been otherwise? Ode to lo was a pure stoner album following Kyuss’s path at a time when this particular music was not as common as it is now in Europe. But does it have a sense to wait for 20 years? With Refractions, Lowrider answers a big big yes. They managed to craft another perfect desert rock album, keeping this original stoner feeling and primal energy that made them famous in such a short period of time. They even went further, looking for modern sonorities and more developed compositions. 2020’s best comeback story, the best album, and the greatest pleasure of the year.
Arcadian Child – Protopsycho
Bismut – Retrocausality
Black Magic SS – Rainbow Nights
Dopelord – Sign Of The Devil
Fuzz – III
Geezer – Groovy
Hazy Sea – Coast of the Immortal
IAH – III
Kimono Drag Queens – Songs of Worship
Kind – Mental Nudge
King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard – K. G.
Orgöne – Mos/Fet
Psychlonia – Venus Skytrip
Slomosa – Slomosa
Stonebirds – Collapse and Fail
The Pilgrim – From The Earth To The Sky And Back
Vinnum Sabbathi – Of Dimensions And Theories
Voidian – Through Eyes of the Flame
Wight – Spank the World