12 Essential Art Rock Songs From 2020 So Far


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Featuring Young Jesus, Silverbacks, Moses Sumney and more

was a genre-bending experiment of a double album, attempting to capture parts of the human experience that can’t be contained by neat emotional boundaries or philosophies. On standout track “Conveyor,” Sumney explores the ways in which society can breed uniformity and even worse, inconsequential beings: “I will step on a belt, put my life on a shelf, one of many,” he sings. There’s an ominous march to the instrumentals, heightening the sense of dangerous obedience Sumney is alluding to: “The fire ants die for a chance at the queen.”
—Lizzie Manno
Silverbacks’ 2020 LP
is one of the strongest debuts of the year so far. The Irish quintet makes sharp, detailed art-punk and indie rock, and one of their finest selections is “Pink Tide,” a track about generational differences (“The old heads clash and the youth mellow out”) and failed revolutions. Produced by Girl Band’s Daniel Fox, the song has an explosive refrain (“Make way for the guard!”) and an even more thrilling guitar solo.
—Lizzie Manno
Irish poet Sinead O’Brien recently announced her Dan Carey-produced (Speedy Wunderground) debut EP
Drowning in Blessings
, out on Sept. 16. O’Brien has released a number of stark, razor-sharp tunes over the years, but “Strangers in Danger” may be her best work yet. “I am not worried or certain / Because this is not my life / This is just the dust before the fall and the rise,” she sings with an assured, almost all-knowing aura.

It’s a dark, tension-packed tune about cycles of time, history and philosophy, but more so our everyday relationship to those ideas which underlie even the most mundane interactions. O’Brien makes one question not just what things are meaningful and what aren’t, but what is “worth” itself.
—Lizzie Manno
London-based trio Still House Plants met at Glasgow School of Art back in 2013 and have been making experimental guitar music ever since. Their latest LP
Fast Edit
, out now via British indie label Bison Records, is a taxing listen to say the least, but rewarding if you surrender to it. The opening track “Pleasures” is marked by Jessica Hickie-Kallenbach’s fascinating, R&B-inflected vocals and their mangled, discordant guitars. If you like black midi, but think they’re a bit too easy to listen to, I’d recommend Still House Plants.
—Lizzie Manno
California outfit Young Jesus just dropped their best album yet,
Welcome to Conceptual Beach
, a record filled with impressionistic lyrics and a beautiful recklessness spanning math rock, jazz and folk. One of the most triumphant moments sees vocalist/guitarist John Rossiter wildly and repeatedly proclaim, “I wanna be around and live it” on the flute-laden rock odyssey “Meditations.” It sounds like the work of a bumbling madman and a compassionate, spiritually in-tune prophet at the same time.
—Lizzie Manno

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