Aural Delights 422 – The Best of 2020

It has been a strange old year and in the context of that I decided to abandon the usual tradition of doing a top 50 albums show(s) and just do two hours of tunes that made a lasting impact on me. Of course the list below says more about what I had to leave out than what is in it. Suffice to say all of the nigh on 60 releases by German Shepherd Records would be also on the list but I don’t want to be accused of rank nepotism (there’s enough of that at the heart of government at the moment) so I’ve selected a few memorable tunes from that massive chunk of music. Australian music dominates this list, mostly Melbourne, which has to be the music capital of the world at the moment, but also some Brisbane notables. Also missing are some standout releases from other great artists, if I’ve played them during the year they’ll know I appreciate what they do. Some context notes below explain why the particular tracks were chosen…..

  • Covid wrecked a great gig planned for April which would have celebrated what we do at German Shepherd records but also bring The Cravats back to Manchester after a couple of years gap. We would have been celebrating their excellent new album of course so there had to be a track from that. The Shend has also generously played a lot of German Shepherd artists on his radio show.
  • As for our antipodean chums well Peter Milton Walsh returned with another stunning album, The Apartments are one of my favourite bands and it was great to get some new music. Younger bands also were to the fore with Cable Ties proving that the Melbourne scene isn’t just about established artists. Dave Graney and Clare Moore released two live albums and also produce a weekly Stage It Show which helped to fill the huge gig shaped hole in my life. Graney associate Stu Thomas was back with a stunning solo album, and also anchored Kim Salmon‘s remarkable live album recording – a brave and impressive endeavour. Another ex Graney bassist Adele Pickvance released a fantastic debut solo album which reached back to her Manchester roots and demonstrated the fundamental interconnectedness of all things. Fellow Brisbanites The Stress of Leisure returned with an insanely catchy and fun album. Rob Snarski was involved in two impressive projects, his own Song Gifts double album and a great homage to the music of David McComb. Harry and Edwina brought Atom back with some great new music and it’s pleasing to see that The NDE with Dave and Clare are gigging again. The Woodland Hunters returned with a great new album and the always challenging and ground breaking TFS had a couple of releases. I should mention sycloner from the Gold Coast who released a great EP on German Shepherd records sadly not enough room for them on this show. Finally Malcolm Hill was on fine form as usual with some great music. There were loads more Aussie bands of note and fellow Antipodeans New Zealanders Cowboy Machine emerged with a notable debut.
  • American music seemed to be dominated by jazz, which is a different show of course, but I’ll make mention of the return of The Dream Syndicate, which I didn’t have space for on this show, and the retrospective Steve Wynn box set. Also worth mentioning is the Magnolia Series of raw and honest americana. There was room for Royal Horses on this show, and there’s a lot more that I just didn’t have time to fit in.
  • As for other parts of the UK which are not Greater Manchester there is space for the excellent The Room In The Wood from Merseyside, the wonderful The Red Propellers (another gig I missed because of Covid), and Michael Baines Woolcraft who made me smile. Dead Sea Apes were remarkably prolific as was their wonderful record label Cardinal Fuzz who provided lots of great music throughout the year.
  • Greater Manchester is where I live and I am bound to reflect the music from there. Great to see Ben and Dom Corry back with the great new project, The Battery Farm, and, the wonderful Easter returning with a great EP – proving that all the good music in Manchester is not made south of the city centre (despite what some would have you believe) and that north side, represented by those two bands from Moston and Crumpsall respectively, are blessed with great talent. The late 1980s in Manchester seems to have been a theme this year. Harry Stafford who was in The Inca Babies at that time emerged with a stunning blues drenched solo album which was particular highlight. A band that was around at the same time Slum Turkeys was lead by Paul Morley (no not that one) and he came back after a long break from the music business with a new project with Boz Hayward called Filed Fangs which got a lot of praise.
  • As well as Filed Fangs German Shepherd are represented by the best band in Manchester at the moment Four Candles (I continually point this out because it’s true and it annoys the cognoscenti), the ever present Moff Skellington, who released five albums, three podcasts and loads of other things, and returning after a hiatus Dislocation Dance with EP/Album which raised money to Help Joel Live Longer – if you can support that fundraiser please do as although an impressive amount of money has been raised there is still a long way to go.
  • Track of the year is a toss up between Four Candles “Doughnuts” and “Trouble In Paradise” so I included both……
  1. The Cravats “Goody Goody Gum Drops” from Hoorahland
  2. Harry Stafford “She Just Blew Me Away” from Gothic Urban Blues
  3. The Apartments “Write Your Way Out Of Town” from In and Out of the Light
  4. The Red Propellers “Double Elvis” from Double Elvis
  5. The Room In The Wood “Mars (Won’t Save Us)” from We’re the Martians, now
  6. Cable Ties “Tell Them Where To Go” from Far Enough
  7. Dave Graney, Clare Moore, Malcolm Ross, Georgio “The Dove” Valentino “Robert Ford On The Stage” from Dave Graney, Clare Moore, Malcolm Ross, Georgio “The Dove” Valentino Live
  8. Stu Thomas Paradox “Rebuild My Head” from Counting To Infinity
  9. Adam Stone & Dead Sea Apes “21st Century Nausea” from 21st Century Nausea / The Mirror Laughed Back
  10. Adele & The Chandeliers “Gourami Fish” from First Date
  11. Woolcraft “Asda Bag Town” from Trench Art Lol
  12. Atom “Bad For My Health” from Bad For My Health / Heroes (single)
  13. The Battery Farm “Maggot Line” from Endless Unstoppable Pain
  14. Filed Fangs “Chaff” Single
  15. Cowboy Machine “To The Border” from U Up?
  16. Royal Horses “Rattlesnake Smoking A Cigarette” from A Modern Man’s Way to Improve
  17. Moff Skellington “Creosote In Fact And Fable” from Y E A S T
  18. Four Candles “Doughnuts” from Alternative Golf
  19. Easter “No End In Sight” from Doubt Rings (Eternal) EP
  20. Malcolm Hill & Live Flesh “Eyes That Stare Forever” Single
  21. Kim Salmon and the Surrealists “Burn Down The Plantation” from Rantings From The Book Of Swamp
  22. Rob Snarski “Michelle Cannane” from Song Gifts
  23. The Friends of David McComb “Kiss Him (He’s History)” from Truckload Of Sky : the lost songs of David McComb Vol1
  24. TFS “Legal Ghost” from Legal Ghost / Heaven
  25. The Stress of Leisure “Faux Romantic” from Faux Wave
  26. The Woodland Hunters “Bad Voodoo at the Tiki Bar” from Pale Horse
  27. Dave Graney, Clare Moore, Robin Casinader “Three Dead Passengers In A Stolen Second Hand Ford” from In Concert
  28. Four Candles “Trouble In Paradise” Single
  29. Dislocation Dance “Sunshine” from From The Kennel

Thanks to all the promotion companies, musicians and other luminaries who made this show possible this year and special thanks to Bob Rogers at taintradio, and Garry Lee at Starship Overflow/River Gibbs for letting me loose on the airwaves.

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