No doubt. In almost every respect, 2020 was a tough year.
One of the few exceptions was music.....there was SO much great new music.
There were albums I had HUGE expectations for, like, "Imploding The Mirage", by The Killers. I LOVED the first 2 songs I heard and the rest just didn't match up to those, but still a solid effort from one of my favorite bands.
An album I was super late to the party on was "The Slow Rush" by Tame Impala. Was released in February. Admittedly, I didn't care. Then I heard a track and it sucked me in. Another solid effort.
A really great album that is my top "honorable mention" is "Out Of Body" by needtobreathe. I love the evolution in the sound. Also, the storytelling is wonderful and the sentiment hit the mark for 2020.
The album I have NOT heard but, apparently, really need to hear is "Punisher" by Phoebe Bridgers. Quite a few I respect have mentioned her and her album pops up on a bunch of "best of the year" lists.
Alright, all that said. Here are my favs:
These are in no particular order.....I stopped "ranking" them a long time ago. Because at some point in the year, these were all #1.
I'll start with the most predictable of them all......"Gigaton" from Pearl Jam. It's got grit, it's got a snarl to it I have heard from my boys in awhile. Largely fueled by disdain for much of what's going on in the world. I'm not going to catalog it all. It's much better if you hear it from them first hand. The lyrics are sharp and pointed, with purpose. The music is hard. Even the acoustic, more down tracks have an edge to them. It's unsettled. A good reflection of how things have been lately.
Standouts: Dance Of The Clairvoyants, Retrograde, Quick Escape
Perhaps the album on my list that most surprised, even me......Chris Stapleton "Starting Over". I'm not even sure what drew to this, but once I was there the songwriting kept me around. He's a great storyteller and I'm a sucker for great storytelling. Passion is there in the voice. This album was a comfort.
Standouts: Cold, Starting Over, Joy Of My Life
The next album on this list, another I did NOT see coming....and that's cuz none of us saw it coming because it was a huge late summer shocker......Taylor Swift's "folklore". It's also a surprise on this list because I thought I was done with Taylor, other than listening when the kids want to hear her. On this album, Taylor got some help with the writing, as most artists do. But she didn't just get help from just anyone. Largely, Aaron Dessner & Jack Antonoff. However, as you likely know, Bon Iver joins in on the writing and vocal of "exile" along with Taylor's main squeeze, listed as "William Bowery" in the writing credits. The album is delicate, again really well written. In fact, I think "exile" is the song of the year. It's brilliant.
Standouts: Exile, Illicit Affairs, Invisible String
*If you haven't, you HAVE to check out the version of exile below
For me, 2020 was the summer of hip-hop. It just felt right. I went back in my personal catalog, dug up Public Enemy, NWA, Beastie Boys, Ice Cube, Eminem, Dre, etc. I think it was the angst of our summer. With the social turmoil, the pandemic, etc. Well, that was all fueled by Run The Jewels and their album "RTJ4". It's possibly the most important album of 2020. Fresh beats and sounds. Incredibly on point lyrics. Passionate, boisterous vocals. Seriously, just go listen to ANY song on this album. It's a sonic sledgehammer to the side of your head.
Standouts: goonies vs. E.T., walking in the snow, JU$T
Last, but CERTAINLY not least. My guys. Blue October. This is the album I probably listened to the most. There are SO many great songs. It shows such growth from the band. Various sounds throughout, which I believe is the mark of a great album. It's vulnerable, at times tender, at times in your face. It tells the truth without fear. It digs into a delicate subject, mental health, and deals with it head on. Please, please, please, listen.
Standouts: The Weatherman, Moving On, I Will Follow You