Welcome to instalment number twenty-six of my 2020 ‘Album of the Year Top 30 countdown’. That means we have reached the Top 5. The five best albums that, in my opinion, were released during a turbulent, hideous 2020. Thank goodness for music is all I can say.
Thank you for sticking with me all this time. I hope you continue to enjoy this series, and are interested in the final five picks.
Before I dive into the main event though, please excuse the usual reminder to anyone new to this series, to check out the links at the bottom of the post to find out who made the cut, from 30 down to 6, as well as my lists from previous years too.
Score Of Much Metal: 98%
It says an awful lot about the quality of the music released in 2020, when another fantastic, magical album from one of my all-time favourite bands only reaches number 5 in my end-of-year list. I wasn’t expecting it, and I bet for those of you who know me, this is a slight surprise for you too.
I absolutely love ‘City Burials’, but I think that my heart ran away with my head just a smidge. At the time of the review, I gave it a score of 98%. It was relatively early on in the first pandemic lockdown, and here I was listening to a typically emotional album from an amazing band, a band that had previously announced they were going on a hiatus. So to hear a new record from them at such a difficult time, made me very happy indeed.
In late December of the same year, I’d admit that a score of 95-96% would have been more accurate. It means that ‘City Burials’ is still an incredible album, just not quite worthy of top spot when you consider what else was released this year. There are some world-class songs nestled within ‘City Burials’, such as ‘Lacquer’, ‘Heart Set To Divide’, and ‘The Winter Of Our Passing’, all of which stand among Katatonia’s very best. And I love the more organic feel of the music, the atmospheres, and the intriguing ebb and flow, from heavy to quiet and back again with such ease and smoothness.
I can honestly and confidently say now that this isn’t their best album ever. But, as I said in my review, Katatonia cannot write poor music. They don’t come close. So even a band like Katatonia at 85% is better, in my opinion, than most other bands at 100%. It most certainly deserves its place in my top 5 for the year because I still listen to it so often, and I remain beguiled by much of the beautifully-composed and executed material. It is, after all, Katatonia, and I adore them. I utterly adore them.
What I wrote at the time:
“And the simple fact of the matter is that Katatonia are incapable of creating bad music. Further, they are incapable of writing anything that could even be considered as ‘sub-par’. When you listen to a Katatonia record, there is very rarely an occasion where the word ‘filler’ springs to mind. Even if the songs take a little more time to make their mark, they will eventually hit you and you understand what it is that they are trying to achieve. That’s very true here.
What is immediately striking about ‘City Burials’ is the amount of variety on offer, as we are treated to quieter, more introspective songs, right through to some impressively heavy material, arguably the most overtly aggressive since the almost peerless ‘The Great Cold Distance’. The various press releases that I’ve read fail to mention the name Frank Default, the guy who has been responsible for the electronic sounds that have adorned much of Katatonia’s more recent output. I can only surmise that he is not involved this time around. But those now-familiar textures and sounds remain evident throughout ‘City Burials’, much to my personal delight as I find them to be intriguing, beguiling and a welcome addition to the Katatonia palette.
I also mentioned that ‘City Burials’ features some genuinely heavier material and that’s equally true.
…I am emotionally invested and moved by ‘City Burials’ and the more I listen to it, the more in love I become. I will fully admit to the fact that I am a fanboy of Katatonia, but you don’t become one for any old reason. You become a fanboy because the music speaks to you, it moves you, it scratches an itch that cannot be touched by any other band. And ‘City Burials’, despite its forays into ‘softer’ territory, or its subtly different textures and ideas, scratches that itch for me. But more than that, the music has burrowed itself deep into my heart and I already cannot imagine a world in which this music does not exist. I know that I will listen to this album for the rest of my days and it will maintain a special place in my heart;”
Read the full review here.
The list this year so far…
If you’ve missed my lists from previous years, you can check them out here: