Best of 2020: Non-metal releases

We’ve said it from the start that though this is a site dedicated to heavy metal, to only immerse yourself in that type of music would be incredibly boring. There’s a lot going on outside of that massive realm, and we wanted to highlight some of the records we really loved this year that deserve praise. There are a few albums I want to mention that we didn’t write up below—Fiona Apple’s “Fetch the Bolt Cutters,” Waxahatchee’s “Saint Cloud,” Phoebe Bridgers’ “Punisher”—that we just adored, but they’ve been written about in pretty much every publications’ lists. So, yes, we love and own them, but let’s look at 10 other records that are absolute must haves as well. These are listed alphabetically.

MOANING, “Uneasy Laughter” (Sub Pop): The icy, synthy, sometimes claustrophobic music made by this LA-based trio really peaked on “Uneasy Laughter,” their great second record. The music also is driving and impossibly catchy quite often as songs such as “Ego,” “Fall in Love,” and “Connect the Dots” can attest. You get the feeling a lot is going on in their psyches, much of it dark, and it came across brilliantly on this album. (March 20)  

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/moaningmusic/

To buy the album, go here: https://megamart.subpop.com/

For more on the label, go here: https://www.subpop.com/

MIDWIFE, “Forever” (Flenser Records): Madeline Johnson terms her music as “heaven metal,” and while it’s not particularly loud, it can definitely make you feel like you’re existing on a different plane. This record, her second under the Midwife banner, was written in remembrance of her friend and creative partner Colin Ward, and it’s gripping, emotional, and devastating front to back. (April 10)

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/Midwife-1544620965823272/

To buy the album, go here: https://nowflensing.com/collections/flenser-releases

For more on the label, go here: https://nowflensing.com/

MRS PISS, “Self-Surgery” (Sargent House): It’s not like Chelsea Wolfe and Jess Gowrie make easy-to-digest music for the most part, but their alliance here on noise-mashed “Self-Surgery” is the most abrasive work of either of their careers. It could have been at home on the metal list, but we felt it belonged better here. It’s a blast that’s over fast, but you pay the price over and over again on “Downer Surrounded by Uppers,” “Knelt,” and the title cut. (May 29)

For more on the band, go here: https://sargenthouse.com/mrs-piss

To buy the album, go here: https://www.hellomerch.com/collections/sargent-house

For more on the label, go here: https://sargenthouse.com/

MARGO PRICE, “That’s How Rumors Get Started” (Loma Vista): Whatever the fuck most people call country music is about the worst shit ever, but there are great artists operating away from the influence of the CMA who are making fantastic art. Margo Price is one of them, and her awesome third record is the portrait of a bad-ass woman battling broken heart, pain, assholes, and misunderstandings, coming out of it bruised but tougher than ever. (July 10)

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/MargoAndThePriceTags/

To buy the album, go here: https://bodega.lomavistarecordings.com/collections/margo-price

For more on the label, go here: https://www.lomavistarecordings.com/

PURITY RING, “Womb” (4AD): I admittedly was kind of worried about Canadian electro pop duo Purity Ring after their second record “Another Eternity” fell really flat for me five years ago. “Womb” is more of the alien fog weirdness and psychedelic sugar they introduced on “Shrines” but worlds apart, as they just shine on “rubyinsides,” “peacefall,” “silkspun,” and “stardew,” one of the best album closers of the year. Also, Megan James could sing the back of a cereal box and be absolutely otherworldly. (April 3):

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/purityringmusic/

To buy the album, go here: https://4ad.com/store

For more on the label, go here: https://4ad.com/

ULVER, “Flowers of Evil” (House of Mythology): It’s still funny putting Ulver on a non-metal list, but the days of their black metal trilogy are way behind us, and we’re solidly entrenched in their synth-driven rock, which again just nails it on “Flowers of Evil.” There is darkness, death, cults, and even a dream into their past on this incredibly infectious record, peaking on “Russian Doll,” “Hour of the Wolf,” “Apocalypse 1993,” and pain-drenched closer “A Thousand Cuts.” (Aug. 28)

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/ulverofficial

To buy the album, go here: https://store.houseofmythology.com/

For more on the label, go here: https://www.houseofmythology.com/

US GIRLS, “Heavy Light” (4AD): Meg Remy has that rare gift of being able to put out an entire album of songs that all have distinct personalities and sound nothing like each other, yet they work so perfectly as a whole. This is her finest moment yet, and “4 America Dollars” is in the conversation for one of the best songs of the entire year. But there’s plenty of good stuff here including hot “Overtime,” “Born to Lose,” and “The Quiver to the Bomb” that’ll get you moving and then gut you. (March 6):

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/yousgirls/

To buy the album, go here: https://4ad.com/store

For more on the label, go here: https://4ad.com/

KATIE VON SCHLEICHER, “Consummation” (Ba Da Bing): Immersing yourself in Katie Von Schleicher’s world demands a commitment to her psychedelic darkness and allowing yourself to be washed away by her alluring voice and wonderfully dreamy music. “Consummation” is loosely based on an alternative version of Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo, and it has so many arresting moments including “You Remind Me,” “Loud,” “Brutality,” and “Nowhere,” which is one of my favorite songs of the entire year. (May 22)

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/KatieVonSchleicher/

To buy the album, go here: https://www.badabingrecords.com/store

For more on the label, go here: http://www.badabingrecords.com/

WAILING STORMS, “Rattle” (Gilead Media): This band is here to shake your cages, which “Rattle” does over and over again. In fact, if the title track doesn’t grab you and hold you under, then I wonder about your ability to feel emotion because it’s a pounder. The band claims they jammed grunge, doom, rock, and blues into their mix, and you can hear that on every bursting edge of “Rope,” “Grass,” “Teeth,” and “Crow.” This is a record you’re required to play on whatever top volume you can achieve, other people’s feelings be damned. (May 15)

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/wailinstorms/

To buy the album, go here: https://gileadmedia.bandcamp.com/album/rattle

For more on the label, go here: https://gileadmedia.net/

JESS WILLIAMSON, “Sorceress” (Mexican Summer): Jess Williamson’s great fourth record “Sorceress” was a revelation to me. I didn’t know much about her before this album came out, and I was pulled right in by the woodsy title track, complete with her pantomiming whip sounds and ending with an exhilarated “wooo!” Elsewhere, there are country-flavored folk tracks such as “Wind on Tin,” “How Ya Lonesome,” breezy “As the Birds Are,” and “Smoke,” where she drops, “Every couple months, I like to be bad,” as she saunters off to break you. (May 15)

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/jesswilliamsonmusic/

To buy the album, go here: https://shop.mexicansummer.com/

For more on the label, go here: https://www.mexicansummer.com/

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