Ah, the prestigious GG AOTY awards. Somewhat akin to the Grammys, without the shady snubs, The Glasgow Guardian team have assembled to bring you their top picks from a year in which music wasn't live with a pint in hand, but rather alone in your room, staring out the window, and perhaps genuinely missing the weirdest shaped music venue ever – the QMU (it’s really wide and the views aren't great, I said what I said).
Without further ado, in a year we needed music most, here are the albums that were, simply, better than the rest…
Jodie Leith (Deputy Culture Editor - Music)
Heaven To A Tortured Mind by Yves Tumor
Yves Tumor was unlike any artist I had ever heard before. As I was sitting on the inevitably delayed ScotRail service, late to my Film & Television class and planning the sneakiest entrance into the lecture; Spotify presented me with the great Yves Tumor. I was caught off guard by the unforgettable sound of Licking An Orchid, an experimental rock, pop, trip-hop fusion with angsty, lingering, poetic lyrics; half-spoken, half-sung. After that fateful day, somewhere between Blairhill and Easterhouse, snacking on a Belvita, I was hooked.
Heaven To A Tortured Mind, a genre-bending, avant-pop, 'sex God' meets rockstar-on-acid, hip-hop fusion was by far Tumor's best work. Kerosene!, a five minute long blend of glam rock encapsulates the album perfectly, with a Mötley Crüe reminiscent wailing guitar, an unapologetic rock/hip-hop beat and Beyoncé collaborator Diana Gordon providing passionate vocals, matching Tumor's unique sound, Kerosene! burned as volatile as its namesake.
But by far the greatest track, and my track of the year, was Gospel For A New Century, opening with powerful, sultry horn, as if lifted straight from a 1980s New York-based crime tv show opening, and descending into an edgy yet funky synthesis of guitar and the darkest, smoothest bass of 2020 … Tumor is like Prince meets Marilyn Manson (in the greatest way imaginable). And, in a post-lockdown world, Tumor asking, "Come and light my fire, baby / How much longer 'til December?" means a lot more upon wanting to leave this hellscape of a year behind. Criminally underrated and the sound of the future, you have to hear Heaven To A Tortured Mind. (Seriously, put this album on if you haven't heard it).
Jasmine Urquhart (Investigations Editor)
How I’m Feeling Now by Charli XCX
Charli XCX’s How I’m Feeling Now is album of the year for me because no other album articulates the feeling of being trapped in the house during a global crisis. Written in less than a month at home, the album features AG Cook, Kim Petras and Dylan Brady (of 100 gecs), so you will like it if you are a fan of hyperpop and PC Music. Released in May, it feels like 100 years since I was listening to "I’ll love you forever, even when we’re not together" every day, but it is a firm favourite for me, even during Lockdown 2.
Michelle Osborne (Science & Tech Editor)
Moral Panic by Nothing but Thieves
This instalment by Nothing but Thieves has had mixed reviews overall, but it is the standout album of the year for me. The varied sounds and inspiration dotted throughout this album create a collective masterpiece. There are many standouts in the album, such as Phobia, which seems to have some form of Billie Eilish inspiration but lyrics laced with intricate meanings, and “Can You Afford to Be an Individual?” with its thought-provoking ideas. My favourite song on the album is Impossible. This is probably because my boyfriend said it reminded him of me, but also due to the beautiful instrumentation – there is a gorgeous live orchestra version of this song at Abbey Road on YouTube which I would recommend to anybody. A full listen of this album is a delightful journey of creative instrumentation with different ideas interlaced throughout. If you enjoy albums with a huge variety and sound and political messages throughout, I’d highly recommend Moral Panic.
Genevieve Brown (Culture Editor)
Future Nostalgia by Dua Lipa
Part of the 2020 disco revival that spans from The Weeknd to Jessie Ware to Kylie, Future Nostalgia is just a collection of brilliant new songs to dance to. We don’t speak of the last two tracks, as they have a BPM which is simply not high enough. Previously, I knew Dua Lipa for the gorgeous New Rules and the vocals of absolutely transcendent Calvin Harris track One Kiss. Future Nostalgia positions her as a pop star with quality control. It soundtracked my lockdown, bringing some summer heat to my Scottish garden and my first reluctant forays into cardio. This album plus WAP, in a club context ASAP please!
Rosie Shackles (Culture Editor)
Song For Our Daughter by Laura Marling
For me, this year has pretty much consisted of going on walks, cooking, napping, and studying (and not a huge amount else). This album seems to accompany all of these pretty well and has been a bit of a one shop stop for me since its release in April. In general, the album is pretty mellow, singer-songwriter as you can expect. I was never a particular fan of Laura Marling before Song for Our Daughter; it is a bit more up my street than her previous stuff which I still haven't really gotten into. Alexandra and Song for Our Daughter are the more upbeat tracks on what can be described as a fairly low-key, sorrowful album. I reckon if I hear my personal favourites For You or Held Down in 20 years' time I will be transported right back to June time of 2020, cooking Bon Appetite's burnt butter pasta and hoping that this god awful year would be over eventually.
Madeline Pritchard (Deputy Culture Editor - Film & TV)
Fetch The Bolt Cutters by Fiona Apple
Her first album in eight years, Fiona Apple's Fetch The Bolt Cutters is a defiant ode to the growth from girlhood to womanhood, to being complicated and difficult and alive. This is less a cry for liberation than a declaration of her own freedom — a commitment to be herself entirely and without apology, to take up the space she deserves. She speaks to the complexities of relationships between women — your ex's new girlfriend, welcomed to whatever you left behind — and to the mundanity of male violence, patterns of abuse repeated across decades and industries. For Her, my favourite song on the album, was written in the aftermath of the Kavanaugh hearings, but the lyrics could apply to any of the men who harmed Apple and other young women in their formative years in the industry — "maybe she just got tired of watching him / sniff white off a starlet's breast / treating his wife like less than a guest".
Ananya Venkatesan (Deputy Culture Editor - Theatre)
Confetti by Little Mix
My love for mainstream popular music knows no bounds, and the teasing I receive for it, relentless. Yet I present to you a phenomenal album by the greatest girl band of all time. With styles ranging from the ballad-like My Love Won’t Let You Down, to a reggaeton beat in Sweet Melody, Confetti, shows more experimentation and adventure than previous tracks, probably a result of their break from Simon Cowell. So, if like me, you have a love for mainstream pop music, Confetti is definitely the album for you.
Tara Gandhi (Production/Social Media Manager)
Folklore by Taylor Swift
When Taylor announced she was dropping a surprise album, I was expecting something akin to Lover, a new happy album of pop bangers. Instead she switched it up and returned to her acoustic roots with a truly fantastic indie album. While the critically acclaimed album wasn’t the high energy sound I had wanted, it is perfect for listening to while you stare out of the window and pretend you’re the main character in a teen drama. Her storytelling makes it an album you love more with every listen, whiling away lockdown trying to find all the easter eggs and references she tucked in. And as someone from the Northwest of England, the fact that actual Taylor Swift has a song about Windermere and the Lake District has me reeling. I mean… we basically know each other, right?
Chloe Waterhouse (Deputy Editor-in-Chief)
The Slow Rush by Tame Impala
Until The Slow Rush, I had never given Tame Impala a chance. The only time I truly apprehended their music was inebriated, six jägerbombs down on a Firewater Thursday, deliriously pogo-ing to The Less I Know The Better. Even when my friend posited me on the direct spot in Jardin Du Luxembourg, where Kevin Parker shot the album cover for Lonerism, I was unimpressed, adamant in my scepticism. However, during lockdown, I found myself stuck in a numbing abyss of Spotify playlists I had curated, void of any fresh material, which, like lockdown itself proved to be Groundhog Day-esque. The Slow Rush, contrary to my expectations, acted as a meditative release for me. The album had me backstroking in a cosmic pool of psilocybins and synthesisers, the gushing sugar-pop psychedelics of Borderline and Lost in Yesterday putting me in an astronomical mood. The limbs of Acid House, EDM, Italian house piano, even 80’s power-pop (Borderline screams Club Tropicana) are all instrumental to this kaleidoscopic body of sound. The Slow Rush was my acupuncture, and prompted an overdue re-assessment of Parker’s multifaceted back catalogue. I love Khurangbin and Unknown Mortal Orchestra, how could I not have seen this one coming? First-time listeners; buckle up for a woozy ride.
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