2020 was the year the world stood still, as the COVID-19 pandemic spread and took music legends like Harold Budd and Manu Dibango from us and propelled the whole live music industry into crisis. Sonically, it felt like a strong year in music, as some artists powered through and soundtracked the year’s events: Taylor Swift addressed love and loss in isolation while remotely writing and recording her album Folklore alongside contributors Jack Antonoff and Aaron Dessner, as they all quarantined separately. Anderson Paak’s compelling soul-funk protest song, “Lockdown,” touched on the pandemic, systemic racism and police brutality after the death of George Floyd. Jorja Smith’s powerful cover of St. Germain’s Rose Rouge featured a video of Black Lives Matter protests from around the world, in a moving montage, leaving an impactful and soulful sentiment.
Artist: Matt Berninger
Album: Serpentine Prison
Track: One More Second
This record has been on heavy rotation since its release in October. Berninger’s (better known as the frontman of US alt-rock behemoths The National) solo debut is a laid-back and effortlessly cool album. Aided and produced by Memphis legend Booker T. Jones, alongside a long list of contributors including Matt Barrick (The Walkmen, Jonathan Fire*Eater), Andrew Bird, Gail Ann Dorsey (David Bowie, Lenny Kravitz), Harrison Whitford (Phoebe Bridgers), and a whole host of others.
Serpentine Prison feels like a return to form for the frontman. While I lost track of The National in the latter years, they are an important band in my life as they were the first-ever show I put on back in 2001 and led me to be a music promoter in Bristol for the following 9 years. The album sounds very in tune with the band’s early folk-rock ballads and brings Berninger and his love letter style lyrics into their element with Booker T’s soulful tone, giving this humble record a potent musical hook throughout.
Top Albums 2020
1. Matt Berninger – Serpentine Prison
2. Bill Callahan – Gold Record
3. The Microphones – Microphones in 2020
4. Six Organs of Admittance – Companion Rises
5. Hania Rani – Home
6. Matthew Halsall – Salute To The Sun
7. Horse Lords – The Common Task
8. Sevdaliza – Shabrang
9. Glass Animals – Dreamland
10. Various – Blue Note Re:Imagined