2020 Readers Poll: The Results

The staff nominates, the readers add to the nomination list, the readers vote, and we write some comments back. That's how it is. The Brainwashed Annual Readers Poll is a snapshot of what our readers and staff were listening to for the year. As always there are some rankings that are surprises along with others that come as no surprise.

This year we decided to get rid of the "worst album of the year" category (2020 was harsh enough). We also decided to add honorable mentions to the Lifetime Achievement Recognition category because it seems like there's so many people who we cherish that it's an injustice not to give a nod to musicians who have left a lasting impression on music as a whole.

Thanks again to all who participated and we wish you all a safe and healthy 2021.

Album of the Year


  1. https://f4.bcbits.com/img/a1757556983_16.jpg

    Cabaret Voltaire, "Shadow of Fear" (Mute)

    “I am really pleased to see this at the top spot as I found it to be a tremendously strong release, on par with their classic work, despite it being down to just a single original member. I was initially worried putting something to the legendary name, but this is worthy of the name, a work that retained the CV magic and ended up being a perfect addition to their catalog. Despite the year, I still expect to hear many of these tracks appear as dancefloor staples.” - Eve McGivern

    "I still have somewhat mixed feelings about this one.  I certianly enjoyed it, but it is hard not to feel like opting to use the CV name instead of one of Kirk's multiple aliases was a bit of a marketing ploy.  Which, certainly did work given its ranking here.  Although I think it is somewhat justified given there were some obvious usages of old school CV drum machines and other elements that drew a clear line to the band's history.  I dug it, I just wish Stephen Mallinder was on it as well." - Creaig Dunton

    "Excellent album. Richard H. Kirk has been releasing music under any name he so desires as long as he has made music and if he didn't feel it was a Cabaret Voltaire album, he wouldn't have released it as Cabaret Voltaire. In the grand trajectory of CV, it doesn't sound far off from the last new music released as CV back in 1994." - Jon Whitney

  2. Einstürzende Neubauten, "Alles In Allem" (Potomak)

    “I knew this would certainly be up there, considering our readership and the long gap between releases.” - Eve McGivern

    "The more I listen, the more I love this album. It's a slow burner." - Jon Whitney

  3. William Basinski, "Lamentations" (Temporary Residence)

    "Quite an unusual release by Basinski standards (shorter pieces, operatic elements, etc.), but quite an inspired one as well.  The achingly beautiful 'Please, This Shit Has Got to Stop' absolutely floored me." - Anthony D'Amico

    "Certainly the most 'pop' of his solo albums, the shorter pieces don't make it any less powerful, however." - Jon Whitney

  4. Anna von Hausswolf, "All Thoughts Fly" (Southern Lord)

    "I understand how important technicality is to a composer and performer—the album was recorded on the largest pipe organ of its unique tuning using very particular recording equipment, etc,—but technicality can't match the power of the composition of a song itself. Recorded in January of 2020, nobody could foresee the toll on humanity COVID19 was going to take, but released in September, there was no way to escape the feelings of sorrow and despair the world was experiencing by then. I assume this album resonated with so many listeners because it felt like it was there at a time many of us needed to grieve and mourn all of the loss and come to terms with the pain. That pipe organ brought us to a place we couldn't be and shared an experience, if only in listening, amongst others." - Jon Whitney

  5. Drew McDowall, "Agalma" (Dais)
  6. Mary Lattimore, "Silver Ladders" (Ghostly International)

    "I'm delighted to see that this near the top of the chart, as there is often a very significant gulf between my own favorite albums and the poll results.  'Til a Mermaid Drags You Under' is easily one of the most gorgeous pieces that anyone released in 2020." - Anthony D'Amico

    "Aided by Neil Halstead, this is a magical album: bringing a tantalizing sense of flowers, forests, the sea, and planes taking off, into our more interior 2020 worlds." - Duncan Edwards 

  7. Ian William Craig, "Red Sun Through Smoke" (130701)

    "In hindsight, this was probably the most unintentionally prescient album of 2020: tender, intimate vignettes of quiet beauty composed in isolation while surrounded by fire, death, and heartache." - Anthony D'Amico

  8. KMRU, "Peel" (Editions Mego)

    "This was probably the year's most pleasant surprise for me.  I thought I was completely burned out on ambient/drone, but I fell totally in love with this album before I even got to the end of the epic opener 'Why Are You Here.'  A truly sublime and beautiful album from start to finish."  -Anthony D'Amico

  9. MJ Guider, "Sour Cherry Bell" (Kranky)

    "I had never heard of MJ Guider before this release, and what an amazing introduction. This album became a favorite of 2020 for me." - Eve McGivern

  10. Clarice Jensen, "The experience of repetition as death" (130701)

    "I had incredibly high expectations for this album after 2018's stellar For This From That Will Be Filled, but I was still floored by most of this release anyway.  'Final' still kills me absolutely every time I hear it." - Anthony D'Amico

  11. Wire, "Mind Hive" (Pink Flag)

    "I'm not sure Wire can do any wrong. Everything they do is magic. It's refreshing to see longstanding legends Wire continuing to release such powerful music." -Eve McGivern

    "Wire without Bruce Gilbert is probably my least favorite era of the band.  That does not mean I dislike it per se, it just is not the same without the tension between him and Colin Newman.  I would say this is probably their strongest record in this phase, however."  - Creaig Dunton

  12. Ana Roxanne, "Because of a Flower" (kranky)

    "An intimate and stunning recording, in which the balance of fragility and strength is perfect. Maybe that's (part of) the point. The album encourages such concentrated listening that when a guitar appeared I nearly fell over." -Duncan Edwards 

    "Such a powerful and personal statement, I'm disappointed this hasn't been appearing on many other year end lists, but as other publications start writing their year-end lists in November I shouldn't be surprised." - Jon Whitney

  13. Autechre, "Sign" (Warp)

    "Like everyone else, I liked the first few Autechre albums a lot, but I could never understand how they somehow became revered as the gold standard of electronic music as their later releases became increasingly obtuse affairs that felt like they could have been composed by AI.  I'm still perplexed, mind you, but something finally clicked for me with SignPlus and I now appreciate Autechre the way I would appreciate an ambitiously impractical and futuristic-looking building."  - Anthony D'Amico

  14. Alva Noto, "Xerrox, Vol. 4" (Noton)
  15. Nurse With Wound, "Barren" (ICR)

    "It's wild how stealthily NWW managed to transform into something akin to an extremely professional-sounding Fenn O'Berg-style supergroup. The conspicuous absence of Stapleton's more whimsical & mischievous eccentricities is certainly felt, but this album captures some impressively absorbing and focused performances.  I like this phase!  It's a shame Stapleton already burned through Space Music & Trippin' Musik as titles, because this is some prime deep-psych/heavy drone." -Anthony D'Amico

  16. Matt Elliott, "Farewell To All We Know" (Ici d'ailleurs)

    "Wow was this terrifyingly predictable." - Jon Whitney

  17. FACS, "Void Moments" (Trouble In Mind)

    "The winning album title for 2020. Raw power captured on vinyl." -Eve McGivern

  18. Black To Comm, "Oocyte Oil & Stolen Androgens" (Thrill Jockey)

    "This was some of the most surreal music I listened to in 2020." -Eve McGivern

    "Between Black to Comm and Mouchoir Etanche, Marc Richter somehow managed to release three wonderfully immersive and hallucinatory full lengths in single year.  This was probably the best of them, but all three had some legitimately wonderful pieces." -Anthony D'Amico

  19. The Necks, "Three" (Northern Spy)
  20. Sarah Davachi, "Cantus, Descant" (Late Music)

    "I could not keep up with the impressive flood of new Sarah Davachi music this year, but both this album and its companion (Figures in Open Air) featured some characteristically sublime and heavenly pieces." -Anthony D'Amico

  21. Ak'chamel, The Giver of Illness, "The Totemist" (Akuphone)

    "I'm delighted to see such a deeply weird project do so well in the poll.  It is heartening to see deserving fringe-dwellers celebrated in something that so often feels like a popularity contest." -Anthony D'Amico

  22. Richard Skelton, "These Charms May Be Sung Over A Wound" (Phantom Limb)

    "I don't think I have ever been disappointed by a major new Richard Skelton release, but I definitely preferred the warmer first half of this one to the colder, more gnarled second half.  The slow-burning beauty of 'For Either Deadened or Undeadened' easily ranks among Skelton's finest work." -Anthony D'Amico

  23. Beatriz Ferreyra, "Echos +" (Room40)
  24. Windy & Carl, "Allegiance and Conviction" (Kranky)

    "Easily one of my top choices of the year." - Jon Whitney

  25. Jesu, "Terminus" (Avalanche)

    "I think this may be the best release of the more recent Jesu work.  Not overly electronic, but not metal enough to infringe on Justin Broadrick's Godflesh work, it stands strongly on its own.  It also features the clearest evidence of Broadrick's post-punk influences, with some of these songs recalling the Cure's earliest (and best) material." - Creaig Dunton

  26. Sarah Davachi, "Figures In Open Air" (Late Music)
  27. Belbury Poly, "The Gone Away" (Ghost Box)
  28. Bohren & der Club of Gore, "Patchouli Blue" (Ipecac)
  29. Sparkle Division, "To Feel Embraced" (Temporary Residence)
  30. Autechre, "Plus" (Warp)
  31. Gnod & João Pais Filipe, "Faca de Fogo" (Rocket)

    "Filipe's powerful percussive rhthyms added a deeply tribal feel to the tripped out Gnod sounds. It is indeed great, but found it surprising it ranked as high as it did. Praise Gnod." -Eve McGivern

  32. Andrew Chalk, "Incidental Music" (Faraway Press)

    "Collecting Andrew Chalk music has historically been difficult on the wallet but fortunately with Bandcamp, however Incidental Music is easily more essential than incidental." - Jon Whitney

  33. Noveller, "Arrow" (Ba Da Bing!)

    "Not a bad ranking for this one, but not truly indicative of one of the most gorgeous releases of 2020." - Eve McGivern

    "I have no grievance with this album, but I was surprised that it did not feature at least one song that instantly struck me as impossibly great, given Sarah Lipstate's stellar track record in that regard.  I guess she was in 'album mode' rather than 'single mode' this time around." -Anthony D'Amico

  34. Current 93, "If A Star Turns Into Ashes" (The Spheres)
  35. Edward Ka-Spel, "Angel Trombones" ([self-released])
  36. Lawrence English, "Lassitude" (Room40)
  37. Less Bells, "Mourning Jewelry" (Kranky)
  38. Félicia Atkinson, "Everything evaporate" (Shelter Press)

    "Atkinson just keeps quietly releasing one fascinating album after another.  This one felt like a portal into a mysterious subconscious oasis of floating memory fragments.  Also, 'Don't Assume' is wonderfully creepy and unsettling." -Anthony D'Amico

  39. OOIOO, "Nijimusi" (Thrill Jockey)
  40. CS + Kreme, "Snoopy" (The Trilogy Tapes)
  41. Daniel Avery & Alessandro Cortini, "Illusion Of Time" (Phantasy Sound ‎/ Mute)
  42. Beatriz Ferreyra, "Huellas Entreveradas" (Persistence of Sound)
  43. Matmos, "The Consuming Flame" (Thrill Jockey)
  44. Four Tet, "Sixteen Oceans" (Text)

    "Another gorgeous entry into the Four Tet catalog. A shining achievement." - Eve McGivern

  45. Bob Mould, "Blue Hearts" (Merge)

    "Another album that fit right in with all the anger and pain 2020 gave us." - Jon Whitney

    "Another album that deserved to be ranked higher in the list. An absolutely soul-bearing raw rock statement." -Eve McGivern

  46. Jasmine Guffond, "Microphone Permission" (Editions Mego)
  47. Magik Markers, "2020" (Drag City)
  48. Juliana Barwick, "Healing is a Miracle" (Ninja Tune)
  49. Christina Vantzou, "Multi Natural" (Edições CN)
  50. Joseph Allred, "The True Light" (Meliphoric)

    "If there was any benefit to a miserable year of lock down, it was the volume of beautiful music that came from the insanely prolific and talented Joseph Allred's fingers.

  51. The Soft Pink Truth, "Shall We Go On Sinning So That Grace May Increase?" (Thrill Jockey)

    "The standout of several albums from 2020 which make me wish I still had a bath. In fact, I don't even need a bath to luxuriate in the warmth of this embrace. Descriptors such as "ambient' or "minimal" and "house" are apt, but the choices of instrumentation and the subtle variety of flickering and enveloping textures make this a healing, almost rebirthing, experience." - Duncan Edwards

  52. Sarah Davachi, "Five Cadences" ([self-released])
  53. Actress, "Karma & Desire" (Ninja Tune)

    "The full album did not leave a particularly deep impression on me, but it probably would have been among my favorites of the year if every song had been like 'Angels Pharmacy.'" -Anthony D'Amico

  54. Franck Vigroux, "Ballades sur lac gelé" (Raster)
  55. X, "Alphabetland" (Fat Possum)

    "Another perfect angry rock album that 2020 begged for." - Jon Whitney

    "Perfect for the year that was." -Eve McGivern

  56. Monolake, "Archaeopteryx" (Imbalance Computer Music)
  57. Jim White and Marisa Anderson, "Jim White and Marisa Anderson" (Thrill Jockey)
  58. Laraaji, "Moon Piano" (All Saints)
  59. Laraaji, "Sun Piano" (All Saints)

    "A pleasant and unexpected turn, I first thought Sun Piano was going to be part of the Sun-themed releases over the last few years, however it began an entirely new and marvelous piano trilogy which ended with the EP Through Luminous Eyes." - Jon Whitney

  60. Regis, "Hidden In This Is The Light That You Miss" (Downwards)
  61. Soft Kill, "Dead Kids, R.I.P. City" (Cercle Social)

    "My most played rock album of 2020." - Jon Whitney

    "What an incredible slab of classic post-punk sound." -Eve McGivern

  62. Joseph Allred, "On Whatever Ground" (Meliphoric)
  63. JK Flesh vs Echologist, "Echology Vol 1" ([self-released])
  64. Teleplasmiste, "To Kiss Earth Goodbye" (House of Mythology)
  65. David Toop, "Apparition Paintings" (Room40)
  66. Sarah Davachi, "Gathers" (Boomkat Editions)
  67. Jim O'Rourke, "Shutting Down Here" (SN Variations)
  68. The Psychedelic Furs, "Made of Rain" (Cooking Vinyl)
  69. JK Flesh, "Depersonalization" (Hospital)
  70. Richard Skelton, "Lastglacialmaximum" (Corbel Stone Press)
  71. Pinkcourtesyphone, "Leaving Everything To Be Desired" (Room40)
  72. Rival Consoles, "Articulation" (Erased Tapes)
  73. Howard Stelzer, "Invariably Falling Forward, Into the Thickets of Closure" (No Rent)

    "Three packed CDs of new material from one of the masters of contemporary cassette manipulation.  Howie's work is always so varied and diverse, and this is no exception.  Excellent set." - Creaig Dunton

    "An epic album that I always knew Stelzer had in him. It is a truly remarkable piece of work." - Jon Whitney

  74. Ulver, "Flowers of Evil" (House of Mythology)
  75. Black To Comm, "A C of M" (Cellule 75)
  76. Six Organs of Admittance, "Companion Rises" (Drag City)
  77. Robert Haigh, "Black Sarabande" (Unseen Worlds)

    "Given the subject matter, this is an appropriately slightly harder-edged and darker recording than Haigh's "Creatures of The Deep" but every bit as precise and mournful." - Duncan Edwards   

  78. Big Blood, "Do You Wanna Have a Skeleton Dream?" (Feeding Tube)

    "Big Blood made their formal debut as a trio with an entertainingly eccentric homage to '60s 'girl groups.'  I did not love this album quite as much as their usual oft-brilliant fare, but it is certainly a fun one-off.  And 'Heaven or South Portland' probably would have been a highlight on any Big Blood album.  Consistently one of the most compelling projects around, as far as I am concerned." - Anthony D’Amico

    "They're like a hit factory from a parallel universe." - Jon Whitney

  79. Midwife, "Forever" (The Flenser)

    "WHY IS THIS SO GODDAMN FAR DOWN THE LIST?!?!" (hurls computer out window, starts smashing all the furniture in the room) -Anthony D'Amico

    "I don't get it either, this is one of my top listened to albums of the year too." - Jon Whitney

  80. Clipping, "Visions of Bodies Being Burned" (Sub Pop)

    "I came to know the beast that is clipping. late in the game this year. This amazing blend of genres won me over, expanded my musical circle, and drove me to seek out the rest of their catalog. Incredible output year after year, I hope their musical reach expands to a wider audience." -Eve McGivern

  81. Okkyung Lee, "Yeo-Neun" (Shelter Press)

    "A solid balance of traditional form and creative exploration gives this music the airy balance and restrained power found in chamber music. On this form I'd trust Okkyung Lee with a scalpel, never mind a cello bow." -Duncan Edwards  

  82. A Certain Ratio, "ACR Loco" (Mute)
  83. Morphology, "Horta Proxima" (FireScope)
  84. CV & JAB, "Landscape Architecture" (self released)
  85. Golden Retriever and Chuck Johnson, "Rain Shadow" (Thrill Jockey)
  86. Vladislav Delay, "Rakka" (Cosmo Rhythmatic)
  87. Joseph Allred, "Traveler" (Feeding Tube)
  88. KMRU, "Saal" ([self-released])
  89. Mint Field, "Sentimiento Mundial" (Felte)
  90. Tara Jane O'Neil, "Songs for Peacock" (Orindal)
  91. Throwing Muses, "Sun Racket" (Fire)
  92. Wrangler, "A Situation" (Bella Union)
  93. Helen Money, "Atomic" (Thrill Jockey)
  94. TALsounds, "Acquiesce" (NNA Tapes)

    "One of my top choices for album of the year, it's a fantastic album." - Jon Whitney

  95. Protomartyr, "Ultimate Succes Today" (Domino)
  96. Ben Chatwin, "The Hum" (Village Green)
  97. Sir Richard Bishop, "Oneiric Formulary" (Drag City)
  98. Eleh, "Home Age" (Important)
  99. Jeff Parker, "Suite for Max Brown" (International Anthem)

    "For this tribute to his mother, Parker conjures a great balance of drum loops and guitar improvisation. A blend of machine and human elements which avoids over-sentimentality but retains love. - Duncan Edwards

  100. Simon Scott, "Apart" (12k)



Single of the Year

  1. Ike Yard, "Night After Night" (Superior Viaduct)

    “Not quite as revelatory as the LP that was also reissued this year, but still cool as hell.  And—unlike the LP—this release was largely unheard before its reissue.  My six-year-old self really should have been much more focused on hunting down Belgian import vinyl in 1981." - Anthony D'Amico

  2. The Legendary Pink Dots, "The Legendary Pink Dots Hallowe'en Special 2020" ([self-released])
  3. Edward Ka-Spel, "Splendid Isolation  (Day 1)" ([self-released])
  4. Edward Ka-Spel, "Splendid Isolation Chapter 2" ([self-released])
  5. Jesu, "Never" (Avalanche)

    "This one was a bit hit and miss for me, and some of it overlaps heavily with the Pale Sketcher vibe (although I am not sure if that project is dead or not).  Good, but Terminus was the winner." - Creaig Dunton

  6. Alva Noto, "A Forest" (Noton)
  7. Panasonic, "Zoviet France / Muslimgauze remixes" (Sähkö)
  8. Four Tet, "Baby" (Text)
  9. Laraaji, "Through Luminous Eyes" (All Saints)
  10. Klara Lewis, "Ingrid" (Editions Mego)

    "I've always found Lewis's work compelling, but this EP still totally blindsided me.  Smoldering, eerie, and mesmerizing perfection." -Anthony D'Amico

  11. Pye Corner Audio, "Where Things Are Hollow 2" (Lapsus)
  12. Future Museums, "Leaving the Vessel" (Holodeck)
  13. Michael C. Sharp, "Motor Pt. 2: White Lines" (Holodeck)
  14. Public Memory, "Illusion of Choice" (felte)

    "I was sad to see Ripped Apparition didn't make the top 100 in the list, but am happy the Single of the Year category. Robert Toher continues to create gorgeous ethereal works in any of his incarnations." - Eve McGivern

  15. Angel Bat Dawid, "Transition East" (International Anthem)
  16. SPC ECO, "11月EP November EP" ([self-released])
  17. Mary Lattimore, "Hold Your Breath" ([self-released])
  18. Mary Lattimore, "We Wave From Our Boats" ([self-released])
  19. Big Joanie, "Cranes in the Sky b/w It's You" (Third Man)
  20. KMRU, "Drawing Water" ([self-released])
  21. Craven Faults, "Enclosures" (Leaf)
  22. HTRK, "ヾ(⌐■_■)ノ♪ *・゚✧ ✧゚*ヽReal Headfuck ♪  *♪ Reverse Déjà Vu *:・゚" ([self-released])
  23. Celer, "As It Grows, It Dies" (Two Acorns)
  24. Celer, "Up Here Without You" (Two Acorns)
  25. Marisa Anderson & Tara Jane O'Neil, "You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To" (Jealous Butcher)

Vault/Reissue of the Year


  1. Coil, "Musick to Play in the Dark, Vol. 1" (Dais)
  2. Swans, "Children of God" (Young God)
  3. Current 93, "Sleep Has His House" (House of Mythology)
  4. Nurse With Wound, "Rock 'N Roll Station" (Abstrakce)
  5. Nurse With Wound, "To the Quiet Men from the Tiny Girl" (United Dirter)
  6. Nurse With Wound, "Merzbild Schwet" (United Dirter)

    "Examples of perfect reissues: faithfully restored artwork, no additional gimmicky new label logos, replica inserts, and excellent sound." - Jon Whitney

  7. Ike Yard, "Ike Yard" (Superior Viaduct)

    "Now that I have listened to this album a lot, I believe a strong case could be made that Ike Yard may have secretly been the best band on Factory Records.  I'd personally still give Joy Division/New Order the edge (better songs), but Ike Yard were inarguably years ahead of all their peers in terms of sheer vision.  This is a legitimate classic." - Anthony D'Amico

    "^^^ What he said." - Eve McGivern

  8. Diamanda Galás, "The Litanies of Satan" (Intravenal Sound Operations)
  9. Coil, "Astral Disaster Sessions Un/Finished Musics Vol. 2" (Prescription)
  10. Current 93, "Horsey" (House of Mythology)
  11. Loscil, "coast/ range/ arc//" (Kranky)
  12. The Legendary Pink Dots, "Kleine Krieg" (Klanggalerie)
  13. Wire, "10:20" (Pink Flag)

    "The first half, previously released on the limited Strays EP was strong to begin with, but the additional four songs are excellent in their own right.  'Art of Persistance' was great to begin with on one of those ultra-limited 2000 reform era releases, and I was pleasantly shocked to hear Manscape represented in a reworked 'Small Black Reptile.'" -Creaig Dunton

  14. Bourbonese Qualk, "Hope" (Klanggalerie)

    "I sincerely doubt reissuing Bourbonese Qualk albums is a lucrative endeavor, but I am thrilled that Klanggalerie is doing it.  Such an intermittently fascinating and underappreciated project.  Their discography is definitely a wildly uneven one, but there are a plenty of gems lurking in it for those inclined to dig.  I can easily think of several revered post-punk bands that were far less adventurous and compelling than these guys." -Anthony D'Amico

  15. The Legendary Pink Dots, "Festive 2" ([self-released])
  16. Nurse With Wound, "Trippin' Musik" (United Dirter)
  17. Mirror, "Some Days It Rains All Night" (La Scie Dorée)
  18. Pale Saints, "The Comforts Of Madness 30th Anniversary Re:Masters" (4AD)
  19. Pale Saints, "Mrs. Dolphin" (4AD)
  20. Panasonic, "Zoviet France / Muslimgauze remixes" (Sähkö)
  21. Tod Dockstader, "Aerial #1" (Important)
  22. Windy & Carl, "Unreleased Recordings 1992-1995" (Blue Flea)
  23. Big Blood, "Dark Country Magic" (Feeding Tube/Cardinal Fuzz)
  24. Valium Aggelein, "Black Moon" (Numero Group)
  25. Stephen Mallinder, "Pow Wow" (Suction)

Various Artist Compilation of the Year


  1. "A Little Night Music: Aural Apparitions from the Geographic North" (Geographic North)

    "Geographic North put so much (fiendish) care and (diabolical) thought into curating and sequencing their Halloween albums.  I am not at all surprised that this is at the top." - Anthony D'Amico

  2. "Deutsche Elektronische Musik 4: Experimental German Rock And Electronic Music 1971 - 1983" (Soul Jazz)

    "A fantastic series that continues to mine German rock and electronic history, perfect for musical purveyors of all knowledge levels, a perfect mix of both well-known and more obscure artists." - Eve McGivern

  3. "Love In The Time Of Covid" (Veni Versus)
  4. "From Brussels with Love" (Les Disques Du Crépuscule)

    "A worthy reissue of a classic compilation." - Eve McGivern

  5. "Anthology of Persian Experimental Music Vol. II" (Unexplained Sounds Group)
  6. "Decima Circuits_Cottage Industries 10" (Neo Ouija)
  7. "Anthology of Contemporary Music From Indonesia" (Unexplained Sounds Group)
  8. "Anthology of Experimental Music from Mexico" (Unexplained Sounds Group)
  9. "Anthology of Post Industrial Music From Balkan Region" (Unexplained Sounds Group)

    "Unexplained Sounds Group continue to astound me, putting out stellar material that breaks musical and cultural boundaries. I can't wait to see what they do for 2021." - Eve McGivern

  10. "Call Me Old Fashioned" (Numero Group)
  11. "Eccentric Soul: The Renfro Label" (Numero Group)
  12. "Lost & Found Vol. 1" (Dark Entries)
  13. "Maghreb K7 Club: Synth Raï, Chaoui & Staifi 1985 - 1997" (Sofa / Les Disques Bongo Joe)

    "My roommate turned me onto this, and I have to say it was a delight." - Eve McGivern

  14. "Vanity Box I" (Kyou)

    "Good luck getting your hands on one of these!" - Jon Whitney

  15. "Eilean 100" (Eilean)

    "A wonderful swan song for a great label.  Almost every time I listen to this, I find a new album that I simultaneously want immediately and feel like a total chump for sleeping on." -Anthony D'Amico

  16. "Brown Acid - The Eleventh Trip" (Ridingeasy)
  17. "Interstellar Funk Presents Artificial Dancers: Waves Of Synth" (Rush Hour)
  18. "Pop Ambient 2021" (Kompakt)
  19. "Mogadisco: Dancing Mogadishu, 1974–1991" (Analog Africa)

    "I feel like a goddamn broken record saying the same thing every year, but I'll say it again: every single Analog Africa compilation in recent memory has been an absolute delight." -Anthony D'Amico

  20. "Pirate's Choice 2" (Studio One/Yep Roc/Rock a Shacka)

    "I was not really expecting a second volume, given that it has been roughly forty years since the first one dropped, so this was quite a pleasant surprise.  Pretty sure I will spend my entire life constantly finding classic Studio One songs that I didn't know existed." -Anthony D'Amico

  21. "Particle Count" (Room40)
  22. "Psi-Solation - A Global Compilation Of Music Made In Lockdown" (Celebrate Psi Phenomenon)
  23. "A Bloxham Christmas" (Bloxham Tapes)
  24. "Going to Georgia" (Merge)
  25. "Tokyo Dreaming" (We Want Sounds)

Boxed Set of the Year

  1. Einstürzende Neubauten, "Phase IV: The Box Set" (Potomak)
  2. Zoviet France, "Châsse 2ᵉ" (Vinyl-on-Demand)

    "Predictably, I frantically ordered this as soon as it was announced, but still haven't listened to it because I am rarely near my record player and I have been regularly listening to most of these albums for like twenty years already.  I'm damn glad that this exists, but I mostly just want all the good Zoviet France albums to be widely available and affordable." - Anthony D'Amico

  3. African Head Charge, "Drumming Is A Language 1990 - 2011" (On-U Sound)
  4. No Trend, "Teen Love / Too Many Humans" (Drag City)
  5. Sun Ra, "Egypt 1971" (Strut)
  6. Gang of Four, "77-81" (Matador)
  7. Robbie Basho, "Song of the Avatars: The Lost Master Tapes" (Tompkins Square)
  8. Global Communication, "Transmissions" (Evolution)
  9. The Residents, "Cube-E: The History Of American Music In 3 E-Z Pieces" (Cryptic Corporation)
  10. Celer, "Future Predictions" (Two Acorns)

    "As someone who very much appreciates the hypnotic beauty of a perfectly crafted loop, I played this album to death this year.  Definitely one of my favorite Celer releases ever." -Anthony D'Amico

  11. King Crimson, "The Complete 1969 Recordings" (Discipline Global Mobile)

    "Already having the 40th Anniversary boxed edition of In the Court of the Crimson King, did I really need this as well?  Nope.  Did I still buy it?  Yep." - Creaig Dunton

  12. The Magnetic Fields, "Quickies" (Merge)
  13. Bob Mould, "Distortion: 1989-2019" (Edsel)
  14. Loop, "Sevens" (Reactor)
  15. Pole, "1 2 2003" (Mute)
  16. Pylon, "Box" (New West)
  17. The Primitives, "Bloom! The Full Story 1985-1992" (Cherry Red)
  18. Claudio Simonetti, "Demons (Original Soundtrack) - 35th Anniversary" (Rustblade)
  19. [V/A], "Vanity Box I" (Kyou)
  20. øjeRum, "Nothing Is Meant To Be" (Art Into Life)
  21. Michael Rother, "Solo II" (Grönland)
  22. Ulrich Schnauss, "Now Is A Timeless Present - A Retrospective" (Scripted Realities)
  23. Merzbow, "Laptop Noise" (Slowdown)
  24. Merzbow, "Dadarottenvator" (Urashima)
  25. Merzbow, "Go Vegan" (Slowdown)

Artist of the Year


  1. Edward Ka-Spel

    "Isolation and lockdown kept EKS insanely prolific with some of the best releases this year." - Jon Whitney

  2. SPC ECO

    "Another example of a prolific act during lockdown and isolation, the duo of Dean Garcia (formerly of Curve) and Rose Berlin issued EPs on the first of every month with the exception of one LP and another soundtrack. Perhaps it wasn't popular enough to chart with the readers  but the volume of material was sufficient enough to earn the numeric at to this point." - Jon Whitney

  3. KMRU
  4. Sarah Davachi
  5. Joseph Allred
  6. Mary Lattimore
  7. Einstürzende Neubauten
  8. Celer
  9. The Legendary Pink Dots
  10. Cabaret Voltaire


Label of the Year

  1. Thrill Jockey
  2. Kranky
  3. Editions Mego
  4. Room40
  5. Dais
  6. Drag City
  7. House of Mythology
  8. Mute
  9. United Dirter
  10. Superior Viaduct


New Artist of the Year



"Although technically his debut EP was self-released in 2019, 2020 was notably the breakthrough year Nairobi-born sound artist/DJ/producer Joseph Kamaru. Currently resising in Berlin, he released three excellent full-length LPs on the Editions Mego, Seil, and Dagoretti labels as well as an astounding amount of self-issued music through his own Bandcamp site. Much of it is currently available at a name-your-price feature and is well-deserving of the attention." - Jon Whitney


Lifetime Achievement Recognition

Cabaret Voltaire


"While the name Cabaret Voltaire is currently only in use by Richard H. Kirk, all three original members continue to have a significant effect on music over four decades after they began. Stephen Mallinder remains quite active with solo releases while being a current member of the groups Wrangler and Creep Show while Chris Watson, also with an active career as a solo artist, is one of the world's leading recorders of wildlife and nature, and has received multiple awards for his sound work." - Jon Whitney

"Of those early bands that became synonymous with industrial music, Cabaret Voltaire had not only the longest, but also the most diverse career.  From early electronic improvisations to bleak funk, then setting the foundation for EBM and ambient techno, their influence is unquestionable.  Even into their solo careers, with Richard H. Kirk's seemingly infinite pseudonyms, Stephen Mallinder's work both in collaborations and alone, and Chris Watson's lauded field recordings and his early work as part of the Hafler Trio, all three continue to innovate.  With Kirk's reactivation of the moniker and an excellent album in 2020, and promises of more to come, it is the perfect opportunity to recognize Cabaret Voltaire." - Creaig Dunton

"Cabaret Voltaire has had a significant impact on the outer reaches of electronic music for over 40 years, hugely influential to a vast swath of like-minded musicians, serving as a beacon to the far reaches of turntablism, field sounds, and tape manipulation. The individuals -- whether as Cabaret Voltaire, solo, or as part of a myriad of side projects -- have never shied away from conveying uneasy messages through these sound vehicles, and each member continues to practice their craft to this day. Each member had a release in 2020, with Cabaret Voltaire and Wrangler both in this year’s Brainwashed poll. With Shadow of Fear landing the top spot of Album of the Year, it stands as a vital testament to the rollercoaster of 2020, proof that Cabaret Voltaire’s sound messages continue to matter." - Eve McGivern

"Cabaret Voltaire and I got off to an extremely bad start, as my first exposure to them was an improbable haul of 'industrial tapes' I found at a flea market as a teen.  As soon as I got home, I excitedly put a CV tape in my deck expecting something akin to Skinny Puppy, Throbbing Gristle, or Coil...and I got some kind of clunky electro-funk instead.  I instantly decided that I intensely hated Cabaret Voltaire.  My hostility was then rekindled a few years later when I lived with someone who would constantly play their early '90s techno albums.  Then I heard The Conversation and 'Project 80' has been one of my favorite songs ever since.   Unsurprisingly, I have since found several other great Cabaret Voltaire albums to enjoy, but their larger achievement lies in somehow being a ubiquitous presence in seemingly every phase of my personal musical evolution and how all three original members have continued to fitfully release compelling albums in various incarnations for more than four decades.  I suppose there is some small element of nostalgia involved, but I still genuinely want to hear whatever Chris Watson, Richard Kirk, and Stephen Mallinder are up to in 2020.  Sometimes I am admittedly disappointed, yet not a single member of that band has ever stopped being a viable creative force capable of releasing a legitimately good and relevant new album."  - Anthony D'Amico


Honorable mentions:


"Simeon was unquestionably one of the greatest (if woefully underappreciated) iconoclasts to emerge from an era that was absolutely teeming with radical ideas, radical culture, and iconic figures (the late '60s).  Even now, the first Silver Apples albums still sound like they were made by an alien who had rock music explained to them with some EXTREMELY crucial details left out (what do you sing about?  which instruments are acceptable?).  And he built his own weird and complicated instrument to do it (he was totally the Rube Goldberg of the avant-garde).  I also love that he managed to accidentally destroy his own band (and arguably their record label) by subversively putting a crashing plane on the back of an album that was bizarrely sponsored by Pan Am.  Obviously, the aftermath of that was not great for anyone, but that does not make it any less punk as fuck (and years before punk even really existed).  Plenty of artists can be reasonably described as singular or unique, yet Simeon was truly on another plane altogether, embarking an a strange and entirely new path that absolutely no one could possibly follow (though still inspiring plenty of other great artists along the way).  I definitely wish the Silver Apples story had been a happier one, but Simeon was (and is) a true outsider hero." - Anthony D'Amico

"It seems medically impossible (or at least improbable) that a human who suffered as many electric shocks from his own engeineered gear continued to be a creative force well into his 80s. On top of the legendary recordings that continue to sound fresh and have a resounding influence over a half century later, he was an absolutely wonderful gentleman and a pleasure to work with and see perform." - Jon Whitney


Harold Budd

"If someone wrote Harold Budd's life story as the plot of a novel or a film script, it would seem so crazily improbable that it would be rejected instantly: he started as a drummer...then got drafted and wound up in an army band with Albert Ayler...then he was briefly a cowboy...then he went to a community college for architecture until a teacher talked him into studying music...then he started teaching at CalArts...then became a significant figure in the LA avant-garde scene...and then decided that none of it was for him at all and abandoned composing altogether. 

A few years later, he started writing music in a completely different vein, Gavin Bryars fatefully shared one of those newer compositions with Brian Eno, and a life-changing collaboration was born.  I played those Budd/Eno albums quite a lot in my twenties and I still think they are great, yet Budd's life and trajectory amount to much more than a handful of beloved albums.  Few artists have even a fraction of Budd's integrity, persistence, and vision, as he walked away from quite a promising life to focus for decades on making gentle, impressionistic piano music that went completely against the cultural tide (and basically pioneered a new playing technique to do it).  He may have departed the physical realm this year, but he remains a legitimately inspiring figure (and his work remains instantly recognizable, which is no small feat for a pianist)."  - Anthony D'Amico