Kalporz X Monolith Cocktail: Kalporz Album Awards Of 2020

January 20, 2021

The Monolith Cocktail has been exchanging posts with our pen pal partners at the leading Italian music publication Kalporz for the last two years or more now; an exchange that now continues into 2021. The Kalporz editorial team share with us their top twenty album choices of last year.

2020, the year that is not here. But the music has been there, also to keep us company in the more or less lockdowns, quarantines and various misfortunes. As has been the case for many years now, reading the charts that have already been published there are many directions – and this confirms the huge production of music in which it is difficult to find one’s bearings – but a few albums have been conveyed rather crosswise.

Spin, Pitchfork (with a surprising Waxahatchee in second place), Volture, and AlbumOfTheYear all focused on Fiona Apple (and it’s the album that appears the most in their charts), NME (who didn’t really stick to Brit-pop…) and Riff Magazinechose RTJ4 by Run The Jewels, while Popmatters and Esquire liked Punisher by Phoebe Bridgers (Apple in second place) the most. The New York Times went against the grain with The Ascension by Sufjan Stevens (again, Fiona second), Rolling Stone, Insider, Time and the Los Angeles Times opted for Taylor Swift‘s Folklore (making it the most “national-popular” album in the States), The Vinyl Factory put together two releases by Sault (Black is / Rise), while The Quietus stood out with Hey ColossusDances/Curses.

And Kalporz? Well, our chart is always beautiful. Jokes aside, when we finish it, do the maths and discover it, we always comment that it represents us very well. It is us.

Happy reading then, and let’s look ahead now, as we need to.

20. Nazar – “Guerrilla”

Had it been released in any other year, Guerrilla would simply have been an excellent record of ‘deconstructed-club music’, but the extraordinary conditions of this year give it an extra layer, leaving the listener lost in the reverberations and samples of a world that was and is now, literally, deconstructed.

19. Metz – “Atlas Vending”

“This one is one of the records of the year. Something keeps moving year after year at Sub Pop Records and it happens in a discontinuous way, as it should in a context that doesn’t want to be reassuring but a real call to arms to which you always want to answer: “present””.

18. Jeff Parker – “Suite For Max Brown”

International Anthem is the most important record company in contemporary jazz. So it is no coincidence that Suite for Max Brown was published by the Chicago label in collaboration with Nonesuch Records. Jeff Parker‘s work, like few others, knows how to look to the future: starting from an analogue past, he elaborates a digital and futuristic present. In the making.

17. Tame Impala – “The Slow Rush”

“If anyone could complain of a lack of adrenaline throughout the track list, it’s because Parker wanted to steer her peculiar vision of music onto a more relaxed and, if possible, even more dreamlike side than in the past. And he does so by hitting the mark once again and confirming himself more and more as the authority he has become on the international music scene.”

16. Kelly Lee Owens – “Inner Song”

Kelly Lee Owens has the ability to know how to remain in that limbo that should exist, but that we didn’t know before her, between new age and Berlin techno, and it is a very pleasant feeling of enjoyment and fun. With Inner Song she consolidates the ideas of her amazing (and maybe not surpassed by this test) first self-titled album, but reaching more people.

15. Bob Dylan – “Rough and Rowdy Ways”

“On Rough and Rowdy Ways Dylan takes multiple journeys, both physical and mental. (…) Everything seems so fragile, as the album tries to fix this fragility in vitro. While speaking in code, Dylan tells his story with a rare sincerity, as he has done few times in his life. When in ‘Mother of Muses’ he whispers, “Forge my identity from the inside out”, it is the moment of agnation, the moment in which Dylan recognises his own greatness and we recognise him. And in the meantime he paints landscapes, paints nudes, contains multitudes”.

14. Lorenzo Senni – “Scacco Matto”

“Another electronic world is possible, to paraphrase the subtitle of the historic Italian sitcom Boris. And we should be proud that today it is led by an atypical Italian boy, who manages to combine love for research and experimentation with real music, the kind that strikes the heart and shakes the senses of the people who listen to it. Lorenzo Senni is all fire and no smoke, and with humility and intelligence he has managed to arrive in the pantheon of the current scene without distorting or commercialising his message”.

13. Mac Miller – “Circles”

Mac Miller remains poised between depression and liberation, between damnation and salvation. “Everybody’s gotta live / And everybody’s gonna die / Everybody just wanna have a good, good time / I think you know the reason why”, he sings on ‘Everybody’ and brings us back to the simple truths of life: everybody wants to have fun because they know, sooner or later, they’re gonna die. It’s not a Troisi-like question of whether or not we should write it down, the fact is that Mac tells us so lightly that we believe him.”

12. Empress Of – “I’m Your Empress Of”

“Nothing is sacred, everything is profane, or maybe even prosaic. And Empress Of is among the most profound of today’s singer-songwriters in this materiality”.

11. Sevdaliza – “Shabrang”

Shabrang is the strength to overcome shame, pain and fear to proudly show one’s humanity and wounds; but there are many more keys to be discovered, listen after listen, in an album that will perhaps make this September less bitter”.

10. Nicolas Jaar – “Cenizas”

Jaar‘s baritone seems to come straight from the depths of who-knows-what cliff, struggling to climb a wall of noise and glitch. The summit never seems to arrive, just as there is basically never a trace of a real drop, which eases the restlessness that accumulates in almost an hour of music (…). Maybe rising from the ashes is not possible, but at the end of a ghostly record, in the middle of a gloomy period, you can go back to dancing”.

9. Perfume Genius – “Set My Heart On Fire Immediately”

“Look at him now, Mike Andreas, on the album cover, bare-chested and stained with motor oil, with that fierce, belligerent look. Look at him as he rolls around on the dirt floor or as he stages a choreography that resembles a duel to the death. Look at him, while for the first time he faces openly those masculine and macho imaginaries that he has always felt repulsive and threatening: now he even challenges them, embodies them, and radically changes their symbolic connotations. His is a conquest. A liberation. It is yet another metamorphosis. Perfume Genius is another person again.”

8. Caribou – “Suddenly”

“I have the feeling that the exit from the spotlight together with the diversification of the proposals (Caribou on one side and, precisely, Daphni on the other) is not hurting the guy, who at 42 seems the same old as when he was young: so OK. And this is what happens to his music: Caribou had the ability to recreate the bittersweet taste of nostalgia even when expressing a more “contemporary” sound. Imagine how well it works for him now that his compositions have a natural patina that makes them sound beautifully out of focus.”

7. Moses Sumney – “græ”

“Throughout this album the tension exists between opposites and between the like, in a tireless dialectic between the different parts that make up the artist’s self and its relationship to those of the self of those around it: on græ Moses Sumney breaks down himself, others, the world, to then recompose everything in the finale of a new language that promises a way of making music that is far from grey.”

6. Run The Jewels – “RTJ4”

“To call them prophets is reductive”.

5. Fiona Apple – “Fetch The Bolt Cutters”

“It is beautifully crafted pop, albeit built on a framework of dissonance and rough sounds. It is risky to speak of minimalism, given the quantity of elements, but it is equally impossible to speak of pomposity. Perhaps the right adjective is measured.”

4. Sault – “Untitled (Black Is)”

Apparently there are four of them, their identities are cleverly concealed, but we’re pretty sure this isn’t a new Damon Albarn side project. In one of the hardest and most significant years for the international anti-racist movement born on the web, they come from a country shaken by changes that are dramatic to say the least, but able as in few other eras of the past to offer so many musical excellences rich in contaminations and cultural crossovers where it is black music and its African roots that shine, from grime to Afrobeat. Sault‘s Untitled (Black Is) is a record that speaks of the present, released on the 19th June, when the so-called Juneteenth is celebrated, the date chosen in America to commemorate the abolition of slavery. R&B psychedelia, soul and UK funky echoes, the same ones that have given an incurably black imprint to contemporary British electronics. Without too much proclamation in Sault’s fourth record (their second of the same year, following their two 2019 works, 5 and 7) they wrote the British equivalent of D’Angelo’s Black Messiah. But in the twenty tracks of Untitled (Black Is) there are no heroes or messiahs; there are everyday stories that we’d all like to leave behind sooner or later.

3. Fontaines D.C. – “A Hero’s Death”

The raw material is the rock we know, but the progression is inevitably current: by a strange temporal crossroads, Fontaines D.C. manage to improve on their first album, making A Hero’s Death less thunderous than its predecessor but more focused, between nocturnal ballads and a daring attitude that goes beyond post-punk.

2. Arca – “KiCk i”

Alejandra Ghersi is an artist who gives the impression of having very clear ideas about her role as an author of artistic products. It is no mere chance or coincidence that the most accessible episode in her discography to date, this KiCk i, begins with the words: “I do what I wanna do when I wanna do it”. Arca’s album released this year in fact marks the achievement of a perfect balance, coherent and narratively dense, between the instances that the Venezuelan artist has shown, at varying intensities, up to now. There is experimentation, there is pop, there is traditional Latin music, and above all there are ideas: a record that has to do with identity pride, the importance of art as a communicative tool within society, the redemption of the non-aligned.

1. Yves Tumor – “Heaven to a Tortured Mind”

Heaven to a Tortured Mind is the result of Sean Bowie‘s latest transfiguration, which more firmly embraces those murky, corrupt and perverse glam-rock scenarios he brought to the stage in the months he was completing the recording of the album. And much more. Degenerate, lascivious, deliberately over the top, at times in a way that can seem contrived and constructed, Yves Tumor‘s character building is matched by ideas and songs that definitely leave their mark. Yves Tumor has once again led everyone astray. And while people are trying to find a key to interpreting this turn of events, rest assured, he will have already found another one.”

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