PAN M 360’s Top 100 of 2020! (Part 1 – January to March)

by Staff

It’s time for the tops! PAN M 360 concludes the year 2020 with a list of its 100 best albums, chosen by our contributors. Dig in!

Our community of enthusiasts offers a selection of 100 albums that have marked 2020. All styles, all expressions, all artistic generations, all parts of the world, all corners of our local culture combined. 

With few exceptions, music lovers love year-end lists, an opportunity to look back on all those months spent in a bubble. In spite of the increasingly exasperating, yet necessary, confinement, this time of year remains an opportunity to share one’s best finds, in immediate company or virtually.

The production of this Top 100 of 2020 is also an opportunity to remember that the PAN M 360 platform went public exactly one year ago, when our list of the Top 360 albums of the decade 2010-2019 was released. It was our first major production effort, not bad at all under the circumstances! Despite its imperfections, it was a huge postcard for PAN M 360 addressed to its first users. 

At the end of February 2020, we launched the full site, which has continued to grow ever since. At the end of 2020, we are very proud of our achievements, despite the enormous financial and physical constraints caused by the pandemic. We have exceeded a thousand album reviews, we have conducted nearly 150 written or audiovisual interviews, three performances filmed in full confinement, dozens of feature articles on the musical ecosystem, and much more. We’re delighted to have quadrupled our circulation since the first quarter of our online release. It’s still modest, but it’s only just beginning… if you, the music lovers, join the PAN M 360 community.

So enjoy the best music from all over the world at this auspicious time. Happy Holidays! – Alain Brunet

Philon TrioMax Bruch: 8 pieces for piano, clarinet and viola, op. 83

Country: Canada / Germany / Portugal / United Kingdom
Label: Analekta
Genres and styles: Classical
Release date: January 24

The chamber music repertoire of Max Bruch (1838-1920), a German composer best known, regrettably, for his Violin Concerto No. 1, benefits from the playing of the Philharmonic Trio. The latter deliver, with great sensitivity and lyricism, these eight pieces for viola, piano, and clarinet in a post-Romantic Brahmsian style that’s at once contrasting, sentimental and passionate. – Alexandre Villemaire

Gregory Privat Soley

Country: France (Martinique)
Label: Buddham Jazz
Genres and styles: Caribbean / Electro-Jazz / Jazz
Release date: January 31

How far will Gregory Privat go? No one can say. One thing is certain: he will dazzle us again so much he amazes us. Especially since he never does the same thing twice. The West Indian pianist goes by feeling and presents us with his new trio in which he sings amid the distortion. On “Làs”, he explains why he gave up a career in engineering for music. Sincere and stunning. – Ralph Boncy

Marie-Pierre ArthurDes feux pour voir

Country: Canada (Quebec)
Label: Bonsound
Genres and styles: Singer-Songwriter / Folk / Pop / Rock
Release date: January 24

With Des feux pour voir, her fourth album, Arthur fulfilled a fantasy: to play music for real, with a real band. Surrounded by Sam Joly, Nicolas Basque, and her friend François Lafontaine, the singer and bassist found the balance between the biting energy and a bit of punk she was looking for (palpable on the powerful “Les nuages tombent”) and her more melodious pop fibre (“Tiens-moi mon cœur”, “Dans tes rêves”). This is her greatest album to date. – Olivier Boisvert-Magnen

Hatari Neyslutrans

Country: Iceland
Label: Svikamylla ehf.
Genres and styles: Electronic / Industrial / Techno
Release date: January 17

Neyslutrans has a formidable technoid efficiency, with pieces modelled with as much aggression as sensuality: the fruit of an unlikely alliance, working wonderfully, between eroticism (the BDSM version) and anti-capitalist militancy. Hatari reveal themselves, even in the collaborative tracks, in all their versatility and singularity, permeated with a sense of political and erotic urgency. – Geneviève Gendreau

Mac MillerCircles

CountryUnited States
Label: Warner Bros Records
Genres and styles: Hip-hop / Folktronica
Release date: January 17

Closing the loop with Mac’s latest album, Swimming, released while he was still alive, this album is one of the best posthumous hip-hop albums of all time. Throughout Circles, Miller invites us into the darkest recesses of his mind, all over creative and intoxicating instrumentals. The ashen voice and authenticity of the Pittsburgh native make this one of the most haunting works of its time. – Félix Desjardins

Mon Doux Saigneur Horizon

Country: Canada (Quebec)
Label: Grosse Boîte
Genres and styles: Americana
Release date: January 31

After having accustomed us to projects with sometimes dark atmospheres, the Quebec group presents an album that evokes the prairie sun and western folklore. It’s no coincidence that Mon Doux Saigneur was born during a trip to Western Canada. The lassitude in Émerik St-Cyr’s voice, superimposed on simple but effective melodies, creates a unique atmosphere that would make an excellent soundtrack for a road trip in Alsama. – Félix Desjardins

Ted PoorYou Already Know

Country: United States
Label: Impulse!
Genres and styles: Contemporary Jazz / Jazz
Release date: February 28

You Already Know, drummer Ted Poor’s debut album, is one of the most singularly personal records of the jazz year. Its repetitive – yet rich – rhythms and subtle arrangements are fascinating from the very first listen. Backed by Blake Mills, Andrew Bird, and Andrew D’Angelo, Poor delivers a nocturnal work of bewitching charm.  – Steve Naud

Sepultura Quadra

Country: Brazil
Label: BMG / Nuclear Blast
Genres and styles: Metal / Thrash-metal
Release date: February 7

After releasing several more-than-ordinary albums – Dante XXI (2006), A-Lex (2009) and The Mediator Between Head and Hands Must Be the Heart (2013) come to mind – the Brazilians picked themselves up again in 2017 with Machine Messiah and with Quadra, prove that it wasn’t just a stroke of luck. They’re still in the game! – Christine Fortier

O LineaTripolaire

Country: Canada (Quebec)
Label: Slam Disques
Genres and styles : Rock
Release date: February 14

Reaffirming a direction taken with their eponymous album released in 2016, this EP sees the trio going even further – thanks not only to the compositions, with their solid base of melodic punk-rock crossed with the alternative rock of the ’90s and Quebec folk-rock, but especially to the production, which serves the songs even better and takes them to another level. Special mention goes to the track “Éphémère”. – Patrice Caron

Grimes Miss Anthropocene

Country: United States
Label: 4AD
Genres and styles: Pop / Electro-pop
Release date: February 21

Dark, sparkling electro-pop, sung with a childish, sulky voice. Pleasantly darker than her previous albums, and one could have fun saying premonitory given the surgical masks present in the video of the piece “Violence”. Grimes invents a mythological world to address the issue of human extinction on both a small and large scale,the basis of her best album to date. – Isabelle Marceau

Makaya McCraven & Gil Scott-HeronWe’re New Again – A Reimagining by Makaya McCraven

Country: United States
Label: XL Recordings
Genres and styles: Contemporary Jazz / Future Soul / Instrumental Hip Hop / Jazz / Soul Jazz / Soul / R&B
Release date: February 7

The original album produced by the great Gil Scott-Heron was already of great standing. To revisit it was almost impossible. Yet Makaya McCraven managed to magnify it by distilling jazz hip-hop sounds in just the right dose. Great art! – Yohann Goyat

Sightless PitGrave of a Dog

Country: United States
Label: Thrill Jockey
Genres and styles: Experimental / Industrial / Hardcore
Release date: February 21

Coming from the summit meeting of three great minds of the American hardcore scene – Lee Buford, drummer of The Body, Kristin Hayter, aka Lingua Ignota, and Dylan Walker, singer of Full of Hell – Grave of a Dog is a splendid success. Diverse musical forms are transcended in the same eschatological vision, revealing themselves to us in these pieces of great stylistic inventiveness and undeniable emotional power. -Geneviève Gendreau

Against All Logic 2017-2019

Country: United States
Label: Other People
Genres and styles: Downtempo / Electronic / House / IDM / Techno
Release date: February 7

Dark house from which emerge attacks of distortion, metallic percussion, and industrial spikes. Perfect for partying in an still-contaminated nuclear reactor. – Francis Dugas

Cindy LeeWhat’s Tonight To Eternity

Pays: Canada
Label: W.25TH
Genres and styles: Lo-Fi / Noise-Pop / Pop / Rock
Release date: February 14

On this fourth album by Cindy Lee (ex-Women member Pat Flegel), the noise drifts are more controlled, the whole better orchestrated and the production level much higher. Flegel’s dark melancholy, his penchant for the tragic romanticism of Motown pop and Richard Gottehrer’s ’60s productions takes us back a bit to the world of Badalamenti, Ela Orleans, and Suicide. What’s Tonight To Eternity is a rich and florid, work where chaos fits wonderfully into the light. – Patrick Baillargeon

Pomme Les Failles cachées

Country: France
Label: Universal
Genres and styles: Singer-Songwriter / Folk
Release date: February 14

2020 was the year of consecration for this young 24-year-old artist who’s gone straight into the mainstream of the great French chanson. Warm and melancholic voice, a sense of enveloping melody, Claire Pommet sings about life, love, motherhood and death in an atmosphere of light and elegance. – Claude André

Jasper Høiby Planet B

Country: Denmark
Label: Edition
Genres and styles: Contemporary Jazz / Jazz
Release date: March 6

Planet B, an ecological project by the double bassist from Phronesis, combines the fervour of jazz with awareness-raising. Excerpts from thought-provoking speeches punctuate the trio’s music, while Høiby’s dynamic playing fuels the passionate eruptions of saxophonist Josh Arcoleo and the imaginative polyrhythms of drummer Marc Michel. A masterstroke! – Steve Naud

Orchestre symphonique de Laval, Alain Trudel, Jean-Philippe SylvestreJacques Hétu : Concertos

Pays: Canada (Quebec)
Label: ATMA Classique
Genres and styles : Classical
Release date: March 6

In this year that marks the tenth anniversary of the death of composer Jacques Hétu (1938-2010), the Orchestre symphonique de Laval, under the baton of Alain Trudel and accompanied by pianist Jean-Philippe Sylvestre, pays tribute to this original trifluvian. From soundscapes evoking the Saint-Maurice River to the grand trombone sounds of one-man-band Trudel, the works on this album bring out the expressiveness of Hétu’s colourful and imaginative sound language. – Alexandre Villemaire

Bantü Salsa Kessaï

Country: Cameroon / Canada (Quebec)
Label: Miss-Meuré
Genres and styles: African Jazz / Afro-Cuban / Afro-Pop / Salsa
Release date: March 11

The surprise in world music in Quebec this year is Bantü Salsa! With a brass section and especially a miraculous kora played by Djeli Mory Kontuara, the band delivers Mandingo salsa that returns home to Africa, completing a Bamako-San Juan-NYC-Montreal circuit. Bravo! – Ralph Boncy

P’tit BelliveauGreatest Hits Vol. 1

Country: Canada
Label: Bonsound
Genres and styles: Folk / Country
Release date: March 27

Originally known as Jonah Meltwave, his hip-hop alter-ego, P’tit Belliveau has kept his original groove and given it a whole new flavour by sprinkling it with electric guitar, disco beats, and a good dose of banjo. The result is Greatest Hits Vol. 1, a liberated, refreshing, unique album. – Olivier Boisvert-Magnen

Julien Dumont Constance perdue

Pays: Canada (Quebec)
Label: Independant
Genres and styles : New Wave / Post-Punk / Rock
Release date: March 27

The music fan will spot echoes of Wire, Malajube, and Indochine on Constance perdue, an opus melancholium of new wave and post-punk type, with touches of retro etheral music, created by a young veteran (Moussette and Bateau Noir). Twenty-eight minutes is short, but that doesn’t prevent Constance perdue from being a very substantial album. – Luc Marchessault


Read Part 2 (March and April) of PAN M 360’s Top 100 here! >>

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