The unprecedented circumstances in 2020 mean it hasn’t been the best of years, with life turned upside down for all of us in so many ways. Music has continued to inspire us though, so as it draws to a close we reveal our annual Alternative Friday Awards… so who are the winners?
Album of the Year: The Howl & the Hum – Human Contact
From the dark disco openers Love You Like a Gun and Human Contact, to the emotional story within Hostages, each track showcases the incredible songwriting and vocals of frontman Sam Griffiths, as well as the whole band’s musicianship. I’ve seen York 4-piece The Howl & the Hum live a number of times now and they always put on a stunning show, so it’s a shame that they’ve not been able to tour the album properly in 2020, but I’m sure they’ll more than make up for this next year. Ones to watch, as previously mentioned here, as well as an Award winner, in 2018.
Best EP: Conchúr White – Bikini Crops
Formerly fronting the Northern Irish band Silences, Conchúr (pronounced Conor) White set off on a solo path this year, and if this debut EP is anything to go by, he’s made an excellent move. It is led by the the powerful dream pop title track, in which he sings about the positive effects of a new relationship, and flows wonderfully onto the more mellow & tender Channing Tatum. Equally as strong is the track Daisies, before Nightdrives closes the EP. It’s a stunning collection of songs, and I can’t wait to hear more. You can investigate him further in a Q&A from earlier this year.
The Infectious Indie Tune: Seprona – Lost In The Lonely Hearts
The work that must go into a great piece of music, from writing to recording and producing, is no doubt challenging, but sometimes a song comes along that appears effortless. Lost In The Lonely Hearts is one of those tunes, with the guitars & druming creating an energetic and contagious melody, and along with some addictive singalong vocals it makes for a captivating track that never tires. For more about the band you can catch my Q&A with front man Danny Badger here.
The Electronica Ballad of 2020: Kyoti – Campion
I’m not sure how many tracks could be classed as an ‘electronica ballad’, but this summer’s release from the 3-piece known as Kyoti is a stunning piece of music. More known for the electronic pop within this year’s Project Twelve series of releases, Campion is a more intimate song, with heart-pulling vocals reminiscing on lost love, and a beautiful soundtrack to boot. Along with the next winner below, it’s a perfect track to end an evening on. You can explore Kyoti further in this recent Emerging piece.
Best Orchestral Jazz Instrumental: Skeeboo – Liaisons Dangereuses
The equally superb No More Fears was vying for this award, which is a more up-tempo piece of music from Skeeboo’s Moods & Modes series, but the more classical and emotional piano led Liaisons Dangereuses just pips it to the award. This Italian composer is splitting his output between two projects, Moods & Modes, which are a series of these more orchestral tracks, and Tableaux Électroniques which are further towards the electronica remix field. To investigate further, check this Q&A with the man behind Skeeboo.
Best Campfire Anthem: Tina Boonstra – Talk It Over
If ever we needed a song to highlight the warmth & love we get from our friends it would be in this very strange Covid year, and Talk It Over captures that emotion perfectly. An indie-folk track at its core, it’s so much more than that as a whole song, with an uplifting melody and lyrics to join in with. Tina Boonstra is a singer-songwriter from Watford, and when the festival season hopefully resumes next year I’m sure she’ll be a fixture. Now join in: If I’ve got all my friends with me, then I know I have all I need…
The Hypnotic Dance track: Soccer 96 – I Was Gonna Fight Fascism
This is a humorous 7-minute dig against those who claim to be too preoccupied to match their political words with action. I was gonna fight fascism, but honestly, I just had so much on… gives you an idea, but the music is without doubt its equal, which is hardly surprising given those involved. Soccer96 is the synth and drums duo of Danalogue (Dan Leavers) and Betamax (Max Hallett), who are also two thirds of the brilliant The Comet Is Coming, & they’re joined here on vocals by poet and saxophonist Alabaster DePlume. There is a 4-minute edit, but don’t let that distract you from the full version. Superb!
Best Garage Punk track: Sprints – The Cheek
Dublin-based quartet Sprints hit the jackpot early this year with this track, which tackles issues of sexuality. It’s a raw & ferocious mix of post-punk and garage rock, and immediately captures your attention with the drums and bass in the intro, before the forceful and frustrated vocals of singer Karla Chubb join in. The energy grows from there as the sarcastic lyrics stick a defiant two fingers up at those who mock people with a different sexuality, while the turbocharged soundtrack ensures you’ll hit repeat at the end! He said baby are you straight… I said bi, bye, bye!
To hear some early contenders for next year’s awards, do keep a close watch on the Evolving Tunes playlist in 2021.