After a busy 2019 that included the release of two Drowse albums, main member Kyle Bates stayed quieter in 2020, but he did listen to plenty of other people's music, and he now made us a list of his 11 favorite albums of the year. It includes Flenser labelmates Sprain and Midwife, the comeback album by one of his biggest influences The Microphones, some ambient (Sarah Davachi), some black metal (Paysage d’hiver, and more), and Kyle had plenty of interesting things to say about each album. Here's his list, in no particular order...

The Couch Scene - Opening

Myriam’s songs deserve attention. Opening was lovingly recorded over years in a backyard shed where we drank and tried to figure out how to live. Every sound is haunted and right where it needs to be.

Oneohtrix Point Never - Magic Oneohtrix Point Never

I was on the fence about this record at first, but I kept finding myself returning to the album before bed with Daniel Lopatin’s melodies echoing in my head during the day. This is the catchiest and possibly most lush sounding record he’s ever made. Magic Oneohtrix Point Never returns to the language of some of my favorite records like Replica while also revealing a new form of pop music that exists on the borders of time and reference.

Sprain - As Lost Through Collision

Touring with Sprain a couple months prior to this record’s release was a blast. I would play these droning solo sets, putting the audience in a calm space right before Sprain would come out and confront them with walls of feedback and sludge. Sprain sound like my favorite post-hardcore/rock/punk/whatever bands filtered through the minds of people who get down with Krzysztof Penderecki and Iannis Xenakis. Alongside Elizabeth Colour Wheel, Sprain are one of the few loud guitar bands making interesting music right now.

Samuel Regan - Behind Veils

Samuel Regan is a master of spectrums, both emotional and sonic. He mixes his sounds with precision and grace. On Behind Veils somehow mirrors the scale and ambition of a major symphonic work from his bedroom studio.

Midwife - Forever

I wrote part of the press release for this record so I got to hear it early; Forever is still on pretty constant rotation almost a year later. Here is a line I wrote back then that sums up what I love about the album: “Forever is a latticework of soft focus guitars and precise melodies–anthems of light piercing through gray clouds of drone.”

Being Awone - banished

Taylor Malsey builds songworlds that could only come from one specific mind: unique miniature spaces to lose yourself in. Taylor's fingerprints are all over the last couple of Drowse records (vocals, drums, violin, etc...) so listen to banished if you are a fan of Light Mirror or Cold Air.

Paysage d’hiver - Im Wald

Although I prefer the lofi quality of his earlier work, on Im Wald, Wintherr (what a pseudonym!) gives us the coldest melodies he’s ever written. The two hour runtime only adds to the album’s immersive isolation.

Lula Asplund - Saltlick

Lula is a feedback hypnotist who I met at the Center for Contemporary Music at Mills College. Their sonic sensibility is as ecstatic and exploratory as it is disturbing and confrontational. They also create sounds in a duo with Naomi Harrison-Clay, Junior Mint Prince, that played one of the most genuinely impressive shows I’ve seen in years.

The Microphones - Microphones in 2020

I keep repeating myself, like two chords played over and over past where the song ends, but every record Phil Elverum makes finds a space to resonate in me endlessly. On a purely musical level this might be my favorite thing he’s released since Clear Moon/Ocean Roar. Microphones in 2020 imagines an indie rock without boundaries.

Sarah Davachi - Cantus, Descant

Every year there seems to be one record that accompanies me to sleep for months on end--this is that record for 2020. Davachi’s compositions are immaculate. Gorgeous music.

Sally Decker, Brendan Glasson - An Opening

An Opening’s release show was the only actual real life live show I’ve seen during the pandemic. Decker and Glasson played a socially distanced set in the middle of night and nature, beaming tones down to the listeners from the top of a pitch black hill. I was absorbed.

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Watch Drowse's video for "Klonopin" from 2018's Cold Air:

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Browse our Best of 2020 tag for more year-end lists.