KWVA’s Top Albums of 2020

Our DJ’s have selected their favorite new albums and reissues of this year!

DJ Dronestream – As Lost Through Collision by Sprain

Easily one of this year’s best. They tastefully blend post-hardcore, slowcore, emo, post-rock, and piercing, wall-of-noise feedback into an incredibly focused, intelligent album. I knew they had potential after listening to their first release, but I didn’t expect them to produce something so fully realized this early on. This is only their first album. If Sprain continues along this trajectory, they’ll be slowcore legends in no time.

Lilyana Rain – For Certain album BIA

This is her first debut album. BIA has been making huge strides in the world of women in hip hop with her unique sound

Judge Rage – Getz / Gilberto (2020 Reissue) by Stan Getz & Joao Gilberto

One of the most important and satisfying albums in jazz history, “Getz/Gilberto” was the introduction to the world of both an amazing singer, Astrud Gilberto; and an amazing song, “The Girl From Ipanema”. This album laid the groundwork for the international bossa nova craze which 55 years later has yet to let up. Check out the reissue that came out earlier this year.


ALIVEDJP – Introduction by Presence Nation of Language

DJ Zombie Zeth – The Chocolate Conquistadors by BADBADNOTGOOD & MF DOOM

Craig Leve – Been Around by A Girl Called Eddy

Her aptly named sophomore release after a 15-year wait, “Been Around” is a masterpiece and a massive nod to the kind of sophisticated pop that’s become increasingly rare. Warm, organic, deeply resonant songwriting and production in the vein of Bacharach, the Donald Fagen side of Steely Dan, and classic Dusty Springfield. Every single track glistens and repeated spins reveal a depth of craft and adult emotion that’s uncommon.

DJ Alright – Microphones in 2020 by The Microphones.

One 45-minute long track that doubles as both a song and an album of the year. It’s a both sonically and lyrically expansive piece covering Phil Elverum’s reflections on his musicianship and life. The nostalgia, depth, and humor are balanced perfectly. I recommend listening to it with his accompanying music video, which is a curated “slideshow” of hundreds of his photographs


Felonius Monk – SAWAYAMA by Rina Sawayama

Probably my AOTY, the pinnacle of pop music, self-aware & unapologetic. Covers all the bases, from synth-pop to nu-metal to 90’s R&B, without sounding overdone or passé

DJ Mondrochuck – Traditional Techniques by Stephen Malkmus

Following his 2019 album, a twist on East-Berlin techno, the lead singer of Pavement is back in 2020 with a not-so-stripped-down folk album. Utilizing mostly acoustic instruments from both hemispheres to create a harebrained amalgamation of indie psych-folk that contains classic Malkmus syntax and some solid playing from veteran Portland studio musicians.


Scott – Fantasize Your Ghost by Ohmme

Mesmerizing vocal harmonies layered over+under+through amazing song structures. Fun, a little weird, and super catchy; like the best elements of earlier stuff from Dirty Projectors

DJ St. Clair – Pixel Bath by Jean Dawson

His first studio album is super interesting, with lots of synthwave stuff mixed with rock anthems, and a surprise Rocky feature later in the album. I just love how abrasive some of the tracks are, and how pop-y a lot of it is.

DJ B – American Head by The Flaming Lips

American Head was my Covid 19 soundtrack of the year, a cinematic look at growing up in Oklahoma in the drug-addled 70s and those that didn’t make it. A worthy successor to the Soft Bulletin, this release is full of earworms and chock full of riffs and tunes that don’t let go, at least in this covid damaged listener’s brain. One of the saddest albums ever made

Peewee – Farwell For Now Live at the Fillmore by Poor Man’s Whiskey

Reggae Rob – Signz by O.B.F.

An AMAZING dub/steppers record!


DJ Pigeon – Self Titled by Bonny Light Horseman

DJ PJ – Destroyer – Have We Met

2020 Tops with DJ Sleeve

KWVA DJ since 1998, DJ Sleeve gives shares his favorite new albums and reissues as well as his honorable mentions. You can tune in and hear DJ Sleeve every Monday from 4-6 p.m.!

NEW IN 2020

Gigi Masin – Calypso – Beach ambient bliss

Alex Dowling – Reality Rounds – Astonishing choral electronics using autotune and other tricks

Nicolas Jaar – Cenizas – Smoky late night club vibes

Rhucle – Middle/Nostalgia – More ambient bliss

75 Dollar Bill – Live At Tubby’s/Live At Cafe Oto/Live At Roulette – Tour de force band pulls out all the stops on their desert blues jams

United Bible Studies – Roses In The Voltage I-IV – Witchy weirdness and folky tunage

Horse Lords – The Common Task – Basically really loud math rock in just intonation

Powers/Rolin Duo -S/T LP – Dulcimer and 12-string ftw

Sault – Black Is – I was late to this, just a great band all around, check it

X – ALPHABETLAND – Mastered too loud, but great nonetheless

Bailterspace- Concret – Who woulda thought they’d make rock music this loud and dense in 2020

Sonic Boom – All Things Being Equal – Shockingly good space rock comeback album RIYL S3

HAMA – Music From Saharan Whatsapp 08 – The best of the series, keyboard mind melters

Jon Hassell – Seeing Through Sound (Pentimento Volume Two) – Trumpet mutates, dissolves

Shirley Collins – Heart’s Ease – Just the right blend of old and new, trad-folk with a psychedelic sheen

Nurse With Wound – Trippin’ Musik – Long meditative pieces, very trippy indeed

Matthew J. Rolin – Ohio – Truly excellent 12-string guitar work

Hailu Mergia – Yene Mircha – Comeback albums keep popping up, keyboard jams

Mulatu Astatke & Black Jesus Experience – To Know Without Knowing – FUNKY and angry

Mekons – EXQUISITE – Some really nice high points on this one, recorded separately in quarantine

HONORABLE MENTIONS:

N Chambers – Facets – Dreamy synths, very creative

Edward Ka-Spel – A Red Winter Night’s Dream – Typical but also excellent

Glass – Wilting In Mauve – This Heat worship, sure, but also fun!

Actress – Karma & Desire – R&B fragmented through a minimal techno lens

Tafi & Green Door Allstars – Ghana Glasgow Friendship – Very cool Africa/Scotland collaboration

Tuluum Shimmering – Sister Ray Meets China Cat Sunflower Uptown/Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun – How is this guy the first person to come up with this (great) idea for radical reworkings of rock songs? infinite jams that exist outside of any normal timeframe.

75 Dollar Bill – Power Failures – Studio work, not as essential as the live releases but still worth a listen

Sir Richard Bishop – Oneiric Formulary – Only 3 tracks on Bandcamp, but sounds great

Lonnie Holley – National Freedom – Free form improv poetry/music

Adrianne Lenker – Songs And Instrumentals – Big Thief singer goes solo

Spiral Galaxy – S/T – Kosmiche overload from Plastic Crimewave guy

Shabazz Palaces – The Don Of Diamond Dreams – More of their murky modern urban sound

Tashi Dorji – Stateless – Spiky thorny acoustic guitar explosions

Angel Bat Dawid – Transition East – great jazz single

Sarah Louise – Earth And Its Contents – moving away from guitar and into pure sound

Special Interest – The Passion Of – New Orleans dance/punk/funk

Sault – Rise – Not quite as amazing as Black Is, but still excellent

Six Organs Of Admittance – Companion Rises – A few tracks up on Bandcamp, mellow and good

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL:

Arthur Russell – Sketches From World Of Echo – Just incredible, cello dreams turned into sound

Trees – 50th Anniversary box – The original “acid folk” records, pretty much

Robert Turman – Chapter Eleven – Staggering synth genius from the late ‘70s-early ’80s

Sonic Youth – Rarities 1-3 – Some really great cuts on these

Nurse With Wound – To The Quiet Men From A Tiny Girl LP and Merzbild Schwet LP – Long-awaited vinyl reissues

Sun Ra/June Tyson- Saturnian Queen of the Sun Ra Arkestra – Great overview w/some good unreleased tracks

Prince – Sign ‘O The Times deluxe edition – What can I even say about this? essential

Neil Young – Archives 2 – Same as above

Neil Young – Homegrown – If you aren’t gonna buy Archives 2, just get this – Ditch Part 4

Espers – The Weed Tree LP – I am SO glad this FINALLY got reissued, perfect psych/folk in every way

No Trend – box set – Hateful nihilism was never this much fun

V/A – Vanity Demos – Weird and weirdly formatted, but the Tolerance Demos are essential

Zoviet France – Chasse 2 box – just a god damn masterpiece, impeccable remastering, and the two previously-unreleased records are very good

This Heat w/Mario Boyer DIekurroh/Albert Marcoeur – Untitled – Another “FINALLY” in the reissue department

V/A – Music (Vanity 2LP) – Really nice to see all the Vanity label stuff reissued, this is a great compilation of mystery Japanese bafflement

Sun City Girls – Live At Sky Church 2004 – Idk wtf is going on here, it’s impressive that they can still put out things that don’t sound like anything else they did. this one is not for the faint-hearted.

V/A – How The River Ganges Flows: Sublime Masterpieces of Indian Violin, 1933-1952 – Just what it says

Hiroshi Yoshimura – GREEN – More gorgeous ambient with extra twinkly sparkles

Coil – Musick To Play In The Dark – FINALLY a well-pressed vinyl version of this masterpiece, essential moon musick

The Ex – vinyl reissues on Superior Viaduct – Amazing that they reprinted all the booklets and posters as well