|dmathias100 Best of 2020|
Albums, EPs, and Compilations all included!
|99||Brigid Mae Power|
Head Above the Water
Your Life Is A Record
Indie Rock/Trip Hop
Someday I’ll Make it All Up to You
|92||Anchor and Braille|
For Their Love
Kiss My Super Bowl Ring
|88||The White Buffalo|
On The Widow's Walk
Forever Just Beyond
Lightning on the Mountain and Other Short Stories
Western Swing and Waltzes and Other Punchy Songs
|83||The Smith Street Band|
Don't Waste Your Anger
American Jackpot / American Girls
Halo of Hurt
|78||Days N Daze|
Show Me The Blueprints.
Petals for Armor
Alt Rock/Post Punk
|70||The Amazing Devil|
The Horror and the Wild
|69||Bonny Light Horseman|
Bonny Light Horseman
Light of the Risen Year
Healing Is a Miracle
The New Ok
|62||The Dangerous Summer|
All That Is Left of the Blue Sky
|59||Courtney Marie Andrews|
Welcome to Conceptual Beach
You'll Be Fine
|51||Lianne La Havas|
Lianne La Havas
The Passing Scene
Deep Dark South
As it Grows Dark/Light
Fish Pond Fish
Alternative Rock/Hip Hop
That's How Rumors Get Started
Farewell to All We Know
Days of Effort and Ease
Into the Depths of Hell
Weaving a Basket
Ambient Dream Pop
Cuttin' Grass - Vol. 1
Hear Your Voice Again
Out of Body
“Out of Body” is Needtobreathe at their Southern rock pop worship best, a description that will either intrigue you to leave you running away and screaming
Closest Thing to Heaven
Chill country music for modern day cowboys gathered around a campfire, but that works just as well for a guy sitting in his apartment searching for jobs.
“Re-Animator” sees Everything Everything with a little more sheen and a little less chaos, sometimes working (Violent Sun) sometimes not working (the moments where you get bored, which has never happened in an Everything Everything album before.
Touche Amore are beginning to recover from tragedy, but their music remains just as powerful.
Orville Peck does what Orville Peck does, but with just a hint of Shania Twain.
With “Shore” Fleet Foxes decided to just make some good, accessible folk music. Maybe that’s not what a lot of people turn to Fleet Foxes for, but when the music is this good, it’s hard to complain. Sunny, fun, and captivating.
Overture To A Dream
Mara Mothaus has a beautiful voice and a talent for creating a unique composition. Her music falls mostly into the folk realm, but also incorporates flourishes from trip hop, shoegaze, and many other influences. These all combine into a hauntingly beautiful four tracks that, despite its length, is one of the more staying listens of 2020.
|18||Spanish Love Songs|
Brave Faces Everyone
I’m currently on unemployment for the first time in my life, although luckily it was a planned job loss after the ending of the 2020 election cycle. Many people have not been so lucky and, seeing the inaction of Congress in terms of supporting working people, COVID-19 as exacerbated the the class disparity present in the United States. Although “Brave Faces Everyone” was released before the pandemic truly hit, Spanish Love Songs captured that feeling in ways that really only pop punk can.
Moses Sumeny goes full on artistic indie and we’re all better off for it. One of the most creative albums released in 2020, “grae” is a two-part album full of wonderfully executed ideas. The album also shares important thoughts on Blackness, gender, and many differerent forms of identity, hitting themes that should always be relevant, but are particularly important in this new decade of ours.
Cuttin' Grass - Vol. 2
This may technically not be a new album, as it is a collection of past Sturgill songs recreated through a bluegrass lens. However, the artistic mastery that went into rewriting these songs surely deserves them a ranking this high. Sturgill brilliantly returns to the most basic of his roots in this album of re-recordings, fully letting loose and embracing the concept on this second outing.
|15||Ian William Craig|
Red Sun Through Smoke
Ian William Craig was isolated before the rest of the world, crafting much of “Red Sun Through Smoke” as he was trapped in his deceased grandfather’s house while wildfires roared around him in California. His grandfather’s passing served as the inspiration for “Weight”, a beautiful piano ballad that perfectly encapsulates grief. Surrounding that highlight is a number of masterfully created drone and ambient creations.
What does a singer/songwriter without a voice do? With “Mia Gargaret”, Gia Margaret decided to hone in on her songwriting, taking her accessible folk sensibilities and pouring them into beautiful ambient soundscapes. While her voice will be a welcome return, “Mia Gargaret” serves as an exciting example of what Gia is able to create in the future.
Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit return with their most Americana/rock driven album yet and their efforts clearly pay off. Much of Isbell’s stellar storytelling skills remain, while other aspects of the music shine at a level equal to them. “Reunions” may not be “Southeastern” 2.0, but that is certainly not a knock against it.
Fetch The Bolt Cutters
Quirky, unconventional, but also a (to steal from the Pitchfork review) “a symphony of the everyday.” There have certainly been listens where the music has grated on me, the dolphin-esque noises not hitting, lyrics catching me as awkward, the percussion seeming more cacophonous than brilliant. However, when you have a listen where “Fetch the Bolt Cutters” hits, there isn’t an album in 2020, or really any other year, quite like it.
Did Sufjan bite off way more than he could chew with the Ascension, creating an absolutely chaotic, barely functional album filled with flourishes that aren’t needed and a chaos that is difficult to listen to, therefore making his normally standout lyrics suffer? Yes. Do I love it? Also yes.
What can I say about this indie darling that hasn’t already been said? “Punisher” meanders along in a perfect way, making the larger emotional payoffs all the more effective. The album takes a lot of large emotions, large questions, large events, and packages them into a reflective case. “Garden Song” starts the album off with an uncomfortable, eerie welcome and “I Know the End” sends us off into the end of the world, but at least we’re all sent off together. Every song between those two builds an important step on that journey.
A perfect slice of country pop. I will say that I don’t think this album would be nearly as successful if it weren’t for Pruitt’s vocals, which are some of the most powerful vocals I’ve heard in the genre (or any other). One only needs to listen to the title track for the clearest example. However, that’s not to say that the other aspects of Pruitt’s debut aren’t excellent in their own right. Her lyrics are particularly impactful, as she writes about being a gay woman in the South. The production is tight, the vocals are astonishing, the lyrics are moving. This is everything that country should be in the year 2020.
“The Baby” is near perfect indie pop. It spans multiple iterations of the genre, from the catchy chorus and straightforward song structure of “Fit n Full”, to “Limbo Bitch” veering much closer to straightforward pop, and “Something in the Movies”, one of the most impactful and emotional closers of the year. The production is absolutely immaculate across its run“The Baby” also spans emotions, from concerns satirisation of self-image to growing up a step away from stardom (Samia is the daughter of actors Kathy Najimy and Dan Finnerty). “The Baby” is raw, fun, sad, peppy, and above all, real.
The Good Sweat
2020 did not lend itself well to any music that wasn’t lowkey and introspective, which is pretty well reflected in my listening habits for the year. Sitting around reading, working from home, and staring at my dog didn’t lend itself much to high energy pop punk or angry post-hardcore (although don’t get me wrong, there were plenty of opportunities for angry music). ManDancing, however, fit the bill perfectly what I was looking for in rock music this year. Conversational powerful vocals and lyrics, simple but effective musicianship (although with phenomenal drums), and a whole lot of options for catharsis. “The Good Sweat” is the emo/alt rock that 2020 needed, making it a shame it was closer to the end.
A Temporary Soothing
If you combined most of my 2020 listening habits into one album, I think “A Temporary Soothing” would come out on the other side. Its warm brand of Nordic folk centered around piano, acoustic guitar strings, some heavenly vocals, and lyrics that alternate between anxiety and love. “A Temporary Soothing” doesn’t necessarily reinvent the wheel in any way, but it does create an almost impeccable orchestral folk album. It’s raw, it’s beautiful, and it draws you into its beauty. Innovation isn’t needed where near-perfection is achieved.
I don’t buy into the idea that “Starmaker” is going to revolutionize the country genre, largely because I don’t believe that another artist will be able to recreate what Honey Harper made with “Starmaker”. His brand of cosmic country could feel so incredibly hammy in the wrong hands. That isn’t to say that country isn’t embracing hamminess (Orville Peck for the positive side of hamminess, most boyfriend country for the bad side), but Harper could have easily made something that sounded more like self-parody if he went one iota further and wouldn’t have made anything very unique if it was one iota less than what it is. But his drawl combined with the lush orchestrations and undoubtedly country background can make songs like “Something Relative” and “Vaguely Satisfied” industry standards. Anything that tries to imitate Starmaker without the deft and Care that Harper brought will just sound like a cheap knock off.
You could call JFDR folk, pop, electronic, or any number of genres. Sometimes when I listen to “New Dreams” it’s the electronic flourishes that stand out to me; at other times, it’s the piano driven hooks; sometimes it’s the hushed vocals and the drearily pastoral atmosphere they create. It would be very easy to listen to “New Dreams” without actually hearing it. JFDR has created an intentionally subdued masterpiece, one that sounds simple with a casual listen, but has countless details to offer. If you only listen to this album once, then you won’t experience it, but if you give it a chance, it will never leave you.
Shape and Destroy
Sometimes all you really need is some earnest, raw emotion. Ruston Kelly provides that in droves. He takes the best of pop punk and country and pieces them together meticulously to make what is, essentially, a ton of accessible tracks that are equal parts heart wrenching and heartwarming. There is nothing complex about his music or his lyrics, but that perfectly matches the genuine nature of his artistry. With its acoustic picking and Ruston explaining his journey to sobriety, “Brave” is perhaps one of the most basic songs I’ve ever heard - It’s also one of my favorites. That is the mastery of Ruston Kelly.
Songs of Sonoma Mountain
I have absolutely no idea what it is that mesmerizes me so with Ismay’s debut album. They largely write with just their voice and guitar with occasional strings making an appearance, as well as some of the hypnotic nature-based imagery that I have ever heard. “The Stones” is literally a song about a couple of rocks and it may just be one of my songs of the year due to the beauty in its simplicity. That being said, Ismay knows how to write an incredibly evocative and personal song as well; “When I Was Younger I Cried” documents their experience of growing up while non-binary. “Songs of Sonoma Mountain” is effortless beauty perfectly captured into an album.
I lost my dad to a heart attack this year, the day after my 24th birthday. I'm still horribly unprepared to not have him in my life. Nineteen days after my dad’s death, Keaton Henson released “Monument”, an album largely about the loss of his father, a deterioration of life due to cancer. Although the “hows” of our father’s deaths are different, listening to “Monuments” on repeat has been helped me cope, all while being some of the best music of Keaton's career.. This is by far his most sparse creation, often featuring little more than his haunting voice and lyrics alongside some piano and simple instrumentation, with a few stellar exceptions. The song has a beautiful climax in its middle with “Prayer”. This is in the song in which his his father dies, beginning with simple piano and heartbreaking vocals and all culminating in a stirring string movement. I will always be thankful for “Monument” and, at the same time, will always be heartbroken that I am able to relate to it.