Crxmateo
Mateo Ottie
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01.03.21 Crxmateo's Top Albums of 2020

Crxmateo's Top Albums of 2020

While being a rather lousy year, 2020 was one of the best years for music that we have had in quite a long time, largely in part to lockdowns and the insane volume of music created during them, with many of those albums being actually really good and worth listening to. Here is my personal top 20 ranking of the best albums I listened to in 2020.
25Trivium
What The Dead Men Say


HONORABLE MENTION
24O'Brother
You and I


HONORABLE MENTION
23Protest the Hero
Palimpsest


HONORABLE MENTION
22Mountaineer
Bloodletting


HONORABLE MENTION
21Tired Lion
Breakfast for Pathetics


HONORABLE MENTION
20Hayley WIlliams
Petals for Armor


Paramore frontwoman Hayley Williams first solo album is her most raw and vulnerable effort yet, dealing with the aftermath of her divorce with Chad GIlbert (of New Found Glory fame) and taking the 80s influence of After Laughter in a much more mellow and darker direction. To put it simply, Petals For Armor’s lyrics are built upon years of hidden rage and disgust finally making their way out into the form of a song. It’s far from a Paramore record sonically, and that’s part of why it works so well. Taking obvious influences from Cindi Lauper and Radiohead, the album’s best tracks come when she experiments the most, with a mostly very creative and unique sound throughout most of the record. Unfortunately the record does stall out and overstays its welcome a bit due to it’s lengthy tracklist, but it’s still a solid indie album and it’ll be interesting to see if this is a taste of what is to come for Paramore, as most of the band has writing credits on this album as well.
19Phoxjaw
Royal Swan


The chaotic rock band from the UK, Phoxjaw dropped one of the biggest surprises of the year, with a progressive post-hardcore influenced debut album titled Royal Swan. Frantic and haphazard song structures power the best parts of this album, such as the completely unexpected breakdown at the end of “Trophies In The Attic” for example, grab your attention and maintain interest throughout the record. Despite this, at times the unique vocals don't quite work well with the instrumentals and the back half of the record feels lacking compared to the incredible first half of the album. Regardless, it’s a solid effort with great ideas though inconsistent in execution.

Best tracks: Trophies In The Attic, Triple AAA, Half House
18I DON'T KNOW HOW BUT THEY FOUND ME
Razzmatazz


IDKHOWBTFM finally released their long under development debut album RAZZMATAZZ in 2020, and while it’s far from perfect, gosh is it a bop. So much of the album goes way harder than it should, with 80s synth pop being the primary influence here. The record is a bit all over the place, causing some pacing issues and it’s tracklist could certainly be rearranged for a better overall experience, but it’s such a fun album and one that has so many layers for a two-man band I noticed things I previously didn’t notice about the songs upon each listen. Dallon Weekes is still an unbelievably underrated songwriter and this album proves it.

Best tracks: Clusterhug, Need You Here, Leave Me Alone
17Nothing But Thieves
Moral Panic


The ever-experimenting alternative rock band Nothing But Thieves released their long-awaited follow up to 2017’s Broken Machine titled Moral Panic. Moral Panic is very much a politically charged and angry record, taking jabs at both sides with screams and aggression unusual for the band. While there are certainly some very weak cuts on this record, the album’s wide array of sounds oftentimes makes up for it and Conor Mason continues to prove that he is one of the best singers of the genre hitting even higher notes than before on several tracks.

Best tracks: Real Love Song, Unperson, Can You Afford To Be An Individual?
16Broadside
Into the Raging Sea


I did a full review for this album so I’ll keep this one short. It’s an enjoyable and incredibly catchy pop/punk/alt record that literally has no right to even be on this list, but I enjoy it way too freaking much for it to not be here.

Best tracks: The Raging Sea, Foolish Believer, The Setting Sun
15Snarls
Burst


Continuing down a shoegaze-influenced emo route we have Snarls, an incredibly underrated new band out of Columbus, Ohio. Recalling sounds from the 90s indie rock and dream pop scenes, Burst is a pleasant throwback in 2020, with the title track and “Walk In The Woods” being standout tracks with incredibly catchy chorus melodies sung by ¾ of the band, creating a huge dynamic and adding to the raw emotion heard throughout. The album has a hazy, dreamy atmosphere full of reverb and airiness that makes Burst an incredibly cohesive an enjoyable experience, however it’s greatest strengths are also the record’s biggest flaws, as many of the tracks do run together and even after streaming the album many, many times, I still have trouble telling most of the second half of the record apart. That said, it’s a must listen for any fan of indie rock and shoegaze and another great new band to watch for.


Best tracks: Burst, Walk In The Woods, What’s It Take
14Off Road Minivan
Swan Dive


Much unlike his main band, Tuck O’Leary (of Fit For a King fame) dropped one of the best albums of 2020 with his side project Off Road Minivan. 2000s emo influence is all over this record, but the ever reflective and emotional sounding overdriven drop B telecaster sound throughout the album really sets the tone and puts the band in a unique spot for the genre. Tuck’s vocals sound better than ever on this record, showing off a side to his voice never heard before in FFAK. The album is a rather depressing one however, because in true emo fashion, about half of the album is about dead people… But get past that and it’s sonically a perfect record for any mood and features some great dynamic playing in the guitars, drums, and even piano.


Best tracks: Vampire, Supernova, Carousel Blues
13Polaris (AUS)
The Death of Me


Australian metalcore outfit Polaris released their highly anticipated album “Death of Me” early on in the year that, while not as good as “The Mortal Coil” in my opinion, is still a solid album combining post rock with metalcore in a way that hasn’t been done too many times before. I will add that this album gets old fairly fast, though some cuts like “Hypermania” I keep coming back to. The choruses on this album are extremely catchy and massive, with some of which never fully leaving my head since the album’s release. Ryan Siew also continues to make his presence known as one of the best rising metalcore guitarists with technical riffs and even some solos that provide the core sound of the album.


Best tracks: Hypermania, Vagabond, Above My Head
12The Ghost Inside
The Ghost Inside


To say The Ghost Inside have the comeback of the year would be an understatement. Like, a really big understatement. In the fallout of tragic deadly bus crash in 2015, which killed the drivers and left the band's drummer with one leg, The Ghost Inside returned with the emotional single "Aftermath", an incredibly touching and emotional track about pushing forward despite the tragic outcome of the crash. The album proves nothing will stop TGI and the passion heard on the album is incredible. While musically a traditional hardcore/metalcore album, the production is absolutely phenomenal, with clear and articulate screams that drive the album. It's truly an incredible feat for a band to return with their best album ever following a tragedy like the bus crash they experienced, and it is one they more than accomplished.

Best tracks: Aftermath, One Choice, Unseen
11Boston Manor
Glue


Boston Manor continues down their high-energy 90s alt path and delivers one of the best alternative rock albums of the year despite it not being quite as good as it’s predecessor, Welcome To The Neighbourhood. The 6 song stretch between “On A High Ledge” and “Ratking” is one of the most consistent and fun stretches on any album this year, but despite this, the weak tracks “Everything Is Ordinary” and “Stuck In The Mud” bring the album’s rating down with grating distortion effects on every instrument and lacking production on those two songs.

Best tracks: 1’s and 0’s, You, Me, & the Class War, Playing God
10Haken
Virus


Progressive metal act Haken dropped their best album yet with “Virus”, featuring punishing drums and weird time signatures all over the place. Virus is everything a prog fan could ever want, with crisp and clear production from Nolly Getgood and a melodic sound best described as combining Periphery with Dream Theater. The 5 part song “Messiah Complex” is easily the highlight of the album spreading across 5 tracks seamlessly, while also continually referencing previous songs in the band’s discography. This album is a must-listen for any fan of progressive music and will not leave you disappointed.

Best tracks: Messiah Complex, Prosthetic, Carousel
9Invent, Animate
Greyview


Metalcore outfit Invent Animate released some of their best songs to date with Greyview, their first album with Aviana vocalist Marcus Vik and crushing djent instrumentals with atmospheric layers. It’s an expansion of the band’s core sound and it’s pulled off really well. In a year full of incredibly mediocre metalcore albums, this one stands out and is a must listen if you’re a fan of atmospheric metalcore.

Best tracks: Fireside, Monarch, Cloud Cascade
8Palm Reader
Sleepless


A crushing post-hardcore flavored album from the once self-proclaimed "British answer to The Dillinger Escape Plan" sees the band lean into new territory, providing more structure and soaring hooks to their powerful vocals and driving guitars, while still sounding as bleak and brutal as ever at the same time. The lead single and opening track "Hold/Release" eases you into the album's brutal sound with an atmospheric tone and a massive chorus and a much more mellow sound before unleashing into the unrelenting chaos of "Stay Down", a brutal, driving cut that sets the tone for the rest of the album. DIsplaying top-tier instrumentation and a great vocal performance, this album stands out as one of the best metal albums of the year, despite only being out for 3 weeks as of the writing of this list.

Best tracks: Stay Down, Hold/Release, False Thirst
7Phoebe Bridgers
Punisher


One of the most loved releases of 2020, Punisher showcases what Phoebe does best, with chill indie instrumentation and sad lyrics making this the perfect album for those depressed late nights (you know what I'm talking about, there were a lot of them this year) and just enough experimentation without distracting or subtracting from the tone and subject matter of the album. While there are a few pacing issues, the album grips your attention and doesn't let go till its final moments, an explosion of frustration and screams closing off "I Know The End", a serious contender for song of the year. Songs like "Kyoto" and "ICU" combine slightly more upbeat instrumentation and catchy choruses while "Chinese Satellite" and "Savior Complex" take somber and mellow sounds matching their contemplative lyrics. It's a stellar album that's worthy of the praise it has been receiving since it's release that only gets better with each listen.

Best tracks: I Know The End, Kyoto, Chinese Satellite
6Tallah
Matriphagy


Nu-metal is back and better than ever. Case in point: Tallah.

Heavily influenced by the likes of Slipknot and Korn, Tallah bring nu-metal to a new generation with drummer Max Portnoy (son of the famous Dream Theater drummer) and vocalist Justin Bonitz's incredible vocals and twisted lyricism that perfectly encapsulates the the concept of the album, mixing the aforementioned nu-metal soundscape with deathcore breakdowns and a brutally dark atmosphere. Truly one of the most exciting new bands in the scene right now, and if you have been waiting for an answer to Iowa, this might be what you're looking for.

Best songs: Overconfidence, Red Light, Cottonmouth, Too Quick To Grieve
5Oh Broken Remedy
Saintification


An extremely obscure and underrated album, alternative and post-rock newcomers Oh Broken Remedy dropped their debut album Saintification this summer with emotional performances and phenomenal production perfect for fans of O'Brother and mewithoutyou and brutally honest lyricism. While it's religious themes may be a turn-off for some, It's a record I cannot speak highly enough of and one that certainly deserves more attention than it has been given so far.

Best tracks: Ghost, Overtake, Vindicate
4The Reticent
The Oubliette


If you thought Loathe was an experience, boy did The Reticent flip the meaning of that word on the side of its head with The Oubliette, a concept album following Henry, a man dying of Alzheimer's disease and the 7 stages of the horrible disease perfectly orchestrated through the chaotic instrumentation of each song. If you're a fan of any form of progressive metal, this is absolutely a must-listen and an absolute tearjerker of a record. Albums never make me cry, but this one did. To sum it up, it's the shorter metal version of The Caretaker's Everything At The End Of Time.

Best tracks: Just listen to the whole dang album because it's practically one giant song.
3Loathe (UK)
I Let It In And It Took Everything


Speaking of Deftones being influential, look no further than Loathe. Combining filthy low tuned ambient distorted guitars and intense breakdowns with Chino Moreno style vocals, Loathe wears their Deftones influence on their sleeve, only to take it a step further and make it their own with heavier instrumentation and dark lyrics on I Let It In And It Took Everything. It's an experience of an album that keeps you on your toes with each sudden genre change with each track, with stellar singles "New Faces In The Dark" and "Two-Way Mirror" leading the album with incredible replay value and songs for those who want brutally heavy bangers and chill ethereal songs. I highly recommend checking this album out, but the experimentation with its production and it's blatantly obvious Deftones worship has made this a controversial and mixed album here on Sputnik.

Best tracks: A Sad Cartoon, Two Way Mirror, New Faces In The Dark
2Deftones
Ohms


Very few bands that last 30 years manage to continuously expand upon their sound and put out their best albums this late in their career, but that's exactly what Deftones accomplish here with Ohms. After the mediocre album "Gore", I wasn't sure what to expect going into the album, but the entire band is locked in and firing on all cylinders with this record, putting out their heaviest material with stellar production and the return of Terry Date and the introduction of 9-string guitars to the band's signature sound. It's a must-listen album if you are a fan of Deftones or rock music in general and it is truly a testament to why the band has been one of the most influential rock bands of this year.

Best tracks: Error, The Spell Of Mathematics, Genesis
1Nord (FRA)
The Only Way To Reach The Surface


A French progressive masterpiece. An insanely fun record to listen to that is very hard to fit into a genre box, taking inspiration from post-hardcore, black metal, jazz, indie, alternative, rock, and metalcore, among other genres, Nord has created an epic of an album, with a nearly 16 minute long title track to close out the album (Which is my song of the year as well) and extremely skilled and talented musicianship all over the record. This album is difficult to describe other than you really just have to listen to it to get a feel for how it actually sounds.

Best tracks: The Only Way To Reach The Surface, We Need To Burn Down This Submarine, Violent Shapes
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