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Apparently, being shut up indoors all year has had quite the positive effect on the females of the music industry, since every single one of our top 10 favourite albums in 2020 have all been written and recorded by women. It’s amazing to live in a time where women are now so highly respected in the music industry, and these records are just a snippet of the female talent that is cultivating the terrain for that reverence.  

1. Fetch the Bolt Cutters – Fiona Apple 

2020 has been nothing if not an experiment of sorts, which makes Fiona Apple’s first album release in eight years quite the appropriate offering. Fetch the Bolt Cutters is a courageously raw album, deliberately imperfect and rarely pretty – and it’s that distinct lack of restraint that makes it so appealing. Despite the weirdness, Fiona still manages some seriously infectious choruses and we can’t help but feel like she’s re-writing the script for what music could and should be.

2. Sawayama – Rina Sawayama

No doubt one of the most exquisite vocals we’ve heard all year comes from this Japanese-British singer with her debut album Sawayama. A stunning voice is rarely enough to impress in such a competitive industry, however, Rina never uses hers as a crutch on her record. Her talents are broader, such as her ability to switch from pop to metal sentiments as easily as blinking, while still remaining accessible and certainly fit for the arenas. 

3. Fake It Flowers – Beabadoobee

Another debut album that has caught our eye comes from Filipino-British newcomer Beabadoobee. Fake It Flowers was an instant hit with us at Contactmusic, with its lo-fi quality, dirty guitars and nostalgic vocals. It felt strongly in the realm of 90s shoegaze with a light-heartedness that imbued every track with charm and fun.

4. Every Bad – Porridge Radio

Their first album under the indie label Secretly Canadian, Brighton four-piece Porridge Radio presents a hypnotic and emotionally complex second (official) studio output with Every Bad. While we’re worlds away from their DIY bedroom-studio days (though these days, such a sentiment hardly means anything when it comes to quality), this is a band that remains entirely on their own planet with a new confidence that has worked wonders.

5. Women in Music Pt. III – Haim 

We distinctly remember feeling a little disappointed with 2013’s debut Days Are Gone; for a trio that seemed to have this unique sisterly energy and such an independent attitude, we really expected something more than a generic two-dimensional indie-pop album. But third album Women in Music Pt. III was such a different experience. It’s a cliche to say that the Haim sisters have really come into their own with this record, but it’s the truth! Their seamless blend of moody folk with a southern rock flavour, country sensibilities and occasional reggae and R&B rhythms shows the kind of depth we knew they were capable of all along. 

6. Self-Surgery – Mrs. P*ss

If you’ve always been a fan of gothic rock singer Chelsea Wolfe, then you must give her new collaborative project with Jess Gowrie, Mrs. P*ss, a try. Debut album Self-Surgery is a riotous rock release that teeters on the edge of metal, but with industrial elements and a dark ambience that is effortlessly sexy and addictive throughout. There are so many layers to Self-Surgery that you’ll hear something different every time you hear it.

7. Punisher – Phoebe Bridgers

A nominee for the Grammy’s Best New Artist award, Phoebe Bridgers has found favour with her second album Punisher. Building on her mesmeric brand of emo-folk, the album is soothingly melancholic and perhaps the most lyrically memorable album we’ve heard this year. There’s nothing cliched about this LA singer-songwriter, and yet you’ll find it virtually impossible not to relate to at least one of these striking tracks.

8. Inner Song – Kelly Lee Owens

Make sure you’re ready for an out-of-body experience before you listen to this Welsh musician’s latest album. Inner Song has that futuristic vibe that can transport you instantly to the astral plane without the need for meditative practice. Naturally, we’re exaggerating (slightly), but this really is an enchanting record marrying dreamy pop with a techno edge and vocal minimalism. Highlights include (but are certainly not limited to) an incredible cover of Radiohead’s Weird Fishes/Arpeggi as well as an outstanding collaboration with the legendary John Cale.

9. Volume I – AViVA

Aussie singer Aviva Anastasia Payne dropped her debut album Volume I in the summer, and frankly it’s everything that an electro-pop record should be; rebelling against the status quo of “ordinary” pop and never once becoming a predictable mass of over-production and tried-and-tested formulaic melody. And yet, it’s fair to say that AViVA is, as of yet, criminally underrated. 

10. Song for Our Daughter – Laura Marling

An early favourite at ContactMusic, Laura Marling once again charmed us with an uplifting Joni Mitchell-esque folk collection in the shape of her seventh album Song for Our Daughter. There’s a refreshing simplicity running through the entire record, reflecting both Laura’s musical maturity and her songwriting elegance, and yet there are still so many surprising twists and turns. A very well-deserved Best Folk Album nominee for the Grammys.

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Gerry Marsden | Gerry Marsden has been laid to rest

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Gerry Marsden has been laid to rest.

The Gerry And The Pacemakers frontman – who passed away on January 3, aged 78, after suffering a heart infection – was remembered in a service at a church near the River Mersey in his home city of Liverpool on Saturday (16.01.21).

The private ceremony could only be attended by 30 friends and family, with his widow, Pauline, and Scottish football legend, Sir Kenny Dalglish, among those to pay their respects.

In a touching tribute, the late singer’s wife of 55 years said on behalf of their family: “We, his family, are totally devastated and have been so moved and amazed at the extent of the respect, love and affection received from all over the world.

“When the time is right and we have come out of this terrible pandemic we hope a fitting memorial can be held for him in the city he loved so much.”

Gerry is also survived by their daughters, Yvette and Vicky, and grandchildren, Tom and Maggie.

Sir Paul McCartney was among those to pay tribute to Gerry upon the news of his passing.

The Beatles legend promised to always think of the ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ singer “with a smile”.

He wrote on Twitter: “Gerry was a mate from our early days in Liverpool. He and his group were our biggest rivals on the local scene. His unforgettable performances of You’ll Never Walk Alone and Ferry Cross the Mersey remain in many people’s hearts as reminders of a joyful time in British music.

“My sympathies go to his wife Pauline and family. See ya, Gerry. I’ll always remember you with a smile.”

The 78-year-old musician also shared a photo of The Beatles with Gerry and the Pacemakers and the late Roy Orbison from 1963.

While Frankie Goes to Hollywood frontman Holly Johnson, who, like Gerry and Paul, hails from Liverpool, North West England, also remembered the singer.

Holly – who previously covered ‘Ferry Cross the Mersey’ – tweeted: “So sorry to hear about the passing of Gerry Marsden what a Liverpool Legend. So glad I met him. ferryacrossthemersey youllneverwalkalone.”

‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ was adopted as an anthem by Liverpool FC.

And there will be a tribute before the team take on Manchester United on Sunday (17.01.21).

Gerry had undergone a triple bypass heart surgery in 2003, before having a second heart operation in 2016, and ultimately had a pacemaker of his own fitted, which he once joked wasn’t “funny” given his band’s name.

When asked last year if he finds it funny to have a band called the Pacemakers in his older age, he quipped: “No. I’m wearing one, for Christ’s sake.”

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Julia Stiles | Julia Stiles wants Save The Last Dance sequel

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Julia Stiles and Sean Patrick Thomas want a ‘Save The Last Dance’ sequel.

The pair co-starred in the teen romance 20 years ago and revealed that they would love to find out what their characters are doing today.

Julia, 39, told E! News: “It would be so special. I would be a lot less nervous. I’m envisioning, like, me doing the Debbie Allen character in Fame, where now she’s a dance teacher and she’s smacking her cane against the ballet bar. And then, I don’t know.”

Sean Patrick, 50, said: “I can never think of something that sounds plausible. Unless, they ended up getting married somehow. But that seems too easy. So it’s tough for me to kind of wrap my brain around how that would come to pass. But, you know, if somebody had a good idea, I’d definitely take a look.

“I would love to work with Julia again, now. It would be an incredible pleasure because we’re grown-ups now.”

And he believes the movie was ahead of its time.

Speaking about the interracial romance at the heart of the film, Sean Patrick said: “Even now in 2021, you don’t see a whole lot of major studio films with an interracial couple as the two leads. It was remarkable for that time. It wasn’t really about, you know, Black and white and it’s so fraught. It was simple, it was sweet, it was pure. It had innocence to it. And I think that’s what resonates.”

Julia added: “Sean’s character believes in Sara. Their connection is something to me that’s deeper and just really beautiful.”

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Anne-Marie | Anne-Marie’s embarrassing music taste

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‘Mr Blobby’ was Anne-Marie’s first record.

The 29-year-old singer/songwriter admitted the novelty song by the character Mr Blobby was the first record she ever bought for herself, along with Brian Hyland’s ‘Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini’.

She told British GQ: “‘Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini’ on tape and also ‘Mr Blobby’. That was when I was really young. Then, later, my dad got me ‘Jagged Little Pill’ on CD from a charity shop. That was it. I was in love with Alanis Morissette, in love with music. My dad played music every day. He’d work such long hours, so his freedom would be coming home and banging in the music really loud. Seeing his joy in it made me interested in why it made him so happy. I really concentrated on what Morissette was saying in the lyrics.”

Anne-Marie also admitted she has always suffered with self-doubt.

She explained: “Rudimental discovering me and telling me, while I was in college, that they wanted me to come on tour with them was a really big thing. I’ve always been really anxious about it. I have huge self-doubt. Even when people told me I was good, I wouldn’t believe it. People might think that’s just me being humble, but honestly, it’s been a massive problem. I think if I actually believed in myself I could be one of the biggest pop stars in the world. I really struggle with imposter syndrome and what I’m able to do.

“As I was saying, though, after last year, when I had loads of therapy and tried to figure out that part of me, things are better. I’ve got a show coming up in Dubai and it’s the first time when anxiousness isn’t taking over. Right now I’m just thinking, ‘Wow, I’m so lucky to be able to get on stage and perform in front of all these people.’ It’s the first time my brain has switched into the excitement of doing it. It sounds cliche but 2020 has definitely changed my life.”

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