One of the more curious aspects of the pandemic is the way it has re-shaped the rhythm of the release schedule.
August, for example, is traditionally a quiet month – not so in 2020, where it contained some phenomenal releases.
October is normally a busy month, a place for huge names to reveal colossal surprises – perhaps the big names weren't exactly out in force, but last month still felt vital, with a string of incredible albums landing in our Inbox.
Here's our take on the best albums October had to offer.
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Oneohtrix Point Never – 'Magic Oneohtrix Point Never' // REVIEW
It is a personal, self-referential record, then, but one of the tenets of radio is the shared listening experience it provides, the sense of togetherness. It isn’t too much of a reach to say that listening to this album helps to process and make sense of these times and, especially, of the state of play of pop-adjacent electronic music. Since it’s archived already, you won’t have to wait for a repeat broadcast.
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Adrianne Lenker – 'Songs + Instrumentals' // REVIEW
Both 'Songs' and 'Instrumentals' end with pieces that are more ruminative than much of what has come before.
'My Angel' and 'Mostly Chimes' feel like reluctant resets, underlining the fact that these songs were written while Lenker was going through some things. They don’t tie a bow or make false promises – the former twists its title into a repeated dirge before the tape is abruptly shut off, the latter’s chimes fade into found sounds before a silent full stop. The feeling that everything carried on hurting after our view was obscured is tangible.
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Che Lingo – 'The Worst Generation' // REVIEW
‘Hunch’ is a personal standout. Sonically, it sits at the intersection between UK Garage and grime. Che’s bars are rapid-fire here as he considers who he can and can’t trust. The content is typically thoughtful, and his openness is something we should always commend: “therapy I need it cah my whole life’s restless.”
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Gorillaz – 'Song Machine, Season One: Strange Timez' // REVIEW
A record that walks the streets of West Africa and West London with equal confidence, ‘Strange Timez’ offers respite from the dark clouds that swarm above 2020, a gateway into another realm. Seasons come and seasons go but Gorillaz remain – we’re lucky to have them.
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Bruce Springsteen – Letter To You // REVIEW
As a whole, ‘Letter To You’ is a wonderfully warm experience, perhaps Springsteen’s most human for some time. An attempt to deal with the realities of ageing, and the processes of growing older, it’s also a vivid depiction of friendship, one enacted with figures who – in their own unique way – have helped to sculpt his own mythology.
Bold, defiant, and thrillingly driven, it locates the songwriter on a plain marked both by vulnerability and stubborn defiance. As Springsteen’s own song has it, he’s Last Man Standing.
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John Frusciante – Maya // REVIEW
Frusciante has managed to pay ode in a way which sounds original, yet adheres to the formula… all in all making for an impressive electronic album.
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Actress – Karma & Desire // REVIEW
After listening to ‘Karma And Desire’ one this is apparent, Cunningham is probably one of the most vital and inspiring musicians working. The music is engaging, yet thought provoking. It sounds unlike his previous three releases, but there is a continuation of ideas throughout. It’s an album from an artist who doesn’t pander to trends and goes his own path.
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Open Mike Eagle – Anime, Trauma, And Divorce // REVIEW
Art-rap pioneer Open Mike Eagle has been going through some emotional turbulence, and after being prompted by his therapist, has shaped his pain into a remarkable album. ‘Anime, Trauma And Divorce’ is an unapologetically honest, darkly humorous dispatch from what he terms his “own personal winter”.
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Autechre – SIGN // REVIEW
Only time will tell if ‘SIGN’ is as lauded as ‘Incunabula’, ‘Tri Repeate’ or ‘Confield’, but after these initial dalliances with it I have to admit that it is their most immediate and enjoyable album to date. The music has a distant, crushing vibe to it, that is totally captivating, but the music isn’t claustrophobic. It gives itself, and the listen, room to breathe and move. In the past their album tended to come at you, or to overwhelm before you had a chance to make your mind up about them. Here, Brown and Booth allow you to settle into the tracks before they start twisting the screw. And it works.
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beabadoobee – Fake It Flowers // REVIEW
A real pearl of a record, ‘Fake It Flowers’ is a starting statement that runs on unmitigated confidence, a revealing, enthralling, enchanting debut record, one that finally finds beabadoobee throwing open the gates and letting the world into her life. It’s a joy to behold.
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Headie One – EDNA // REVIEW
The tension between music and road still exists, and Headie continues to explore it in his art. ‘Breathing’ touches on his friends' struggles, and racial disparities when it’s time for sentencing: “in this life that we’re living you can make the wrong decision, then have to spend longer than you’ve lived stuck in prison.”
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Working Men's Club – Working Men's Club // REVIEW
This rhythmically expansive body of work could pass as a mixtape, traversing through a medley of sounds, eras and genres. The one thing consistent throughout are the standout vocals of Minsky-Sergeant. His utterings on modern-day life fee truly iconic, representing a generation who have never quite felt as isolated and uncertain about what lies ahead. It is during a pandemic, Brexit, and economical disharmony that Working Men’s Club emerge, with a boundless sense of energy and lyrical poignancy that we can’t wait to witness live.
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