2020, you really have been a year like no other. We have had the US air strike that killed Iranian general Qasem Soleimani which in another year could have stared a war. The Australian Wildfires, Black Lives Matter protests, floods, explosion in Beirut, Donald Trumps impeachment trial and election defeat. All that before we even mention the pandemic. I don’t think anyone woke up on 01st January 2020 predicting the twelve months we have just experienced. So many families have experienced heartache and lost lost loved ones during these past twelve months ago. First and foremost our thoughts goes out to each and everyone of you. We have all had to find a new way to live, in many cases having to rethink what is important in life. This is the time of year where we would sit down and come up with lists of our favourite albums of the year, favourite moments of the year, favourite gigs of the year. However, 2020 has not been a year of events and the usual timetable and rhythms of life. Music has always been there for me in my life however every piece of music I have listened to this year has felt that much more special. Making a list of my top albums really is impossible. I have always struggled to rank music and even more so this year. This piece is a way of saying thank you to all the music that I have listened to and acknowledge some other ways that have helped me to get through this year. I will make reference to some albums throughout this piece, however that is not to say that those that don’t get mentioned are any less notable. Firstly the new album from The Strokes came as a very welcome surprise. I honestly was not expecting this to be any good at all. However the now very aptly titled ‘The New Abnormal’ was like welcoming an old friend back into my life. That feeling of nostalgia and reuniting with old friends was also very strong when listening to Doves ‘The Universal Want’, Travis ’10 songs’, and The Cribs ‘Night Network’. Thinking back to The Spring I owe a lot of thanks to the following albums Georgia Ruth ‘Mai, Matthew Frederick ‘Fragments’, Seazoo ‘Joy’ those certainly helped to escape from the news during the first few months of lockdown. Badly Drawn Boy ‘Banana Skin Shoes’ and Tim Burgess ‘I Love The New Sky’ are also albums I will forever be in debt too. It was whilst listening to these two albums that we made the decision to start AMP back up after a hiatus. The Allergies ‘Say The Word’ has filled my home with so much happiness and dancing this year. If you have yet to hear this album you seriously need to get a copy. Cornershop ‘England is a Garden’, Caribou ‘Suddenly, and Sylvan Esso ‘Free Love’ have all gone a long way to lifting my spirits this year. Once again Bryde ‘The Volume of Things’, Courtney Marie Andrews ‘Old Flowers’, Laura Marling ‘Song For Our Daughter’, Adrianne Lenker ‘Songs’, Laura Veirs ‘My Echo’ and Phoebe Bridgers ‘Punisher’ have given us albums that are overflowing with vulnerability, honesty and heartbreak. These are all albums full of inspiration, hope, and emotion that every one of us can relate to. I also need to mention Taylor Swift here. If you told me on 01st January 2020 that I would spend much of this year being obsessed with two albums from Taylor Swift I would not have believed you. However through the release of Folklore and Evermore I have truly fallen in love with Taylor Swift this year. Folklore in particular has been the album that I have probably returned to most over these last twelve months. Another artist who released two incredible albums this year was Sault who with Untitled (Rise) and Untitled (Black Is) gave us albums that made us stop and think. These are without a doubt two of the most important releases of 2020. Whilst thinking back on albums that have delivered a vital message to the world we need to highlight Run The Jewels 4 and Welsh Music Prize winner Deyah ‘Care City’ these are albums that everyone needs to stop and pay attention to. Libertino Records have been an absolute godsend this year. This is a label that allow their artists to take their time, allow their minds to flourish and provide them with the perfect home for the incredible music they create. 2020 has seen releases from The Keys ‘Home Schooling’ an album that throughout the year has filled me with optimism. Kidsmoke also released their debut album ‘A Vision In The Dark’ through Libertino. As AMP has been writing about Kidsmoke since 2013 I felt like a proud parent when this exceptional debut album was released in the word. Kelly Lee Owens has also been a source of inspiration this year. Her second album ‘Inner Song’ is such a visionary and forward thinking album that transcends all musical boundaries and genres. Whilst talking about vision and genre bending albums we need to reflect on Ennio The Little Brother who with ‘Goodbye Magnolia Stump’ treated us to an album to get completely lost in. Islet whose album this year ‘Eyelet’ is probably their finest to date and that really is saying something. Ghostlawns ‘Motorik’ which transported us to a different universe. Further mentions also need to go to Waxahatchee ‘Saint Cloud’, El Goodo ‘Zombie’ Colorama ‘Chaos Wonderland’ , Ian Skelly ‘Drifters Skyline’, Jim Bob ‘Pop up Jim Bob’, Bob Dylan ‘Rough and Rowdy Way’, Andy Bell ‘The View From Halfway Down’, Christian Lee Hutson ‘ Beginners’, Trace Mountains ‘Lost In The Country’, The Avett Brothers ‘The Gleam III’, Steven Adams and The French Drops ‘Keep It Right’, Sania ‘The Baby, The Beths ‘ Jump Rope Gazers’. You have all helped a man in South Wales in ways that you could not have imagined. There have been so many heroes throughout this horrific year. All the NHS and Social Care Workers who have put themselves at risk to keep this country safe. All those who have kept this country going street collectors, delivery drivers, postal delivery workers, teachers, shop workers and anyone who has looked after the vulnerable in the community. Tim Burgess also needs a special mention who through his twitter listening parties brought us together. Tim created a community that was full of positivity and kindness whilst re-igniting a nations love for the album. Marcus Rashford has been a perfect role model this year, ensuring that children get fed and have books to read. It should not be down to a football player to do this but we are so grateful for everything Marcus has done this year. When stadiums are full again he will probably be the first Manchester United player to get a standing ovation at Anfield. Paul Heaton who on hearing of the demise of Q magazine made a donation to staff to “make sure that people weren’t left on their arse”. Tom Gray for all his work that he has done on the broken record campaign, raising awareness, getting this on the political agenda to try and fix the way that artists are paid from streaming services. Bandcamp have also been a shining light this year, through their bandcamp Fridays the company has raised $40 million for artists this year. Bandcamp have shown that a streaming model can work that encourages people to pay for the music they like. The news that Bandcamp Fridays will be continuing until May 2021 shows this is a company who truly care about music. There have been a number of villains this year. I am not going to spend too much time thinking about them. However, I do feel the need to once again state that the current UK Government is without a doubt the worst Government in our history. To have these people trying to guide us through a pandemic and Brexit is horrific. This leads me to mention No Justice No Peace from SZWE this for me has been the standout track of the year that fully captures all the wrongs of this nation. The track is full of powerful statements and gets the message across in an awe inspiring way. “For people thinking that the UK is any better / to my country hope you’re listening / here’s an open letter”.
2020 has been a year of conspiracy theories. I won’t give these theories any mention here as in my opinion they are ridiculous and the less we talk about them the better. What has stood out for me is how easy it now is for conspiracy theories and misinformation to rapidly circulate throughout the world via social media / the internet. Years ago a conspiracy theory would often start by someone talking in a pub to anyone who would listen and that person would often be laughed at. Now it is so easy for these theories to spread and influence peoples way of thinking, which is scary. Through thinking about this and after watching the documentary film ‘The Social Dilemma’ I deleted my personal social media accounts this year. I might no longer know what Jeff (name made up) from school had for tea. I might no longer get angry at Trevor (name made up) who I used to talk to in the pub sharing views from far right groups but my world feels a much better place through not scrolling through social media. I have also found myself at odds with some heroes of mine this year who have been supportive of some of these conspiracy theories. I have had to ask myself the question at what point do we separate the artist and their views from the music they create? I am coming down on the side that those times shared listening to the music we love, those memories created can not be taken away because the artist has views that are at odds to my own. The radio has also been life saving this year. I have never lost my love for radio. From an early age when I sat next to my stereo recording songs and football commentary off the radio it has always helped me to feel connected to the world. That connection has been needed more than ever these last twelve months. The radio has provided us with a community, a sense of belonging and a togetherness during these strange times. For me in particular I would highlight the shows by Adam Walton, Janice Long, Lauren Laverne and Steve Lamacq you have all done more than you may ever realise to help us through these tough times. I don’t think there are many of us that won’t be glad to see the back of 2020. With regards to the pandemic the vaccine has started to be rolled out. We all owe so much debt to everyone involved in the creation of the vaccine as it has shown what can be do when people work together and bureaucracy is removed. There is still a long way to go but the light at the end of the tunnel is there. My main hope is that the world learns from the mistakes of this year, although history tells us we don’t often learn. Music and the arts in general have been an absolute saving grace this year and hopefully this piece has highlighted how important each and every person is that is part of the arts. As we look forward to 2021 the arts will survive despite the Governments complete lack of interest in its survival. It will survive because of the creativity of human beings. I am looking forward to all the music that is going to be released, and hopefully we will all get to experience our love for music together at a gig at some stage in 2021. This piece has only just touched the surface of the heroes of 2020 and of the music that was released. It was impossible to feature everything but I have so much love and respect for everyone who releases music and everyone that does something good for the world. Finally a big thank you to everyone who has taken the time to read any of the pieces on AMP, we are a very small team who do all this in our spare time. As we enter 2021 make sure we do it with empathy and understanding for each other, and I wish you all a healthy and peaceful 2021.