The Fire Note Top Albums of 2020: Writer Edition

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The Fire Note would not be possible without the talented writers that share their educated thoughts and true enjoyment of music with our readers. The time and commitment that goes into writing consistently is appreciated by TFN and taken for granted by everyone else!

Our official year end Top 50 is coming at the end of the week but clearly everyone has different tastes and ideas when naming the best albums released in 2020. Thanks again to all our contributors and check out their thoughts below!

We also are always up for some new voices so if you want to be on this list next year send us an email to [email protected] with your interest in writing.

Thomas Wilde

  1. Waxahatchee – Saint Cloud
  2. Slift – Ummon
  3. Knot – Knot
  4. Hum – Inlet
  5. Tobin Sprout – Empty Horses
  6. The Chives – The Chives
  7. Illuminati Hotties – FREE IH: This Is Not The One You’ve Been Waiting For
  8. Protomartyr – Ultimate Success Today
  9. Sweeping Promises – Hunger For A Way Out
  10. Bee Bee Sea – Day Ripper
  11. METZ – Atlas Vending
  12. Jeff Rosenstock – NO DREAM
  14. Rose City Band – Summerlong
  15. Guided By Voices – Surrender Your Poppy Field
  16. Trace Mountains – Lost In The Country
  17. Dehd – Flower Of Devotion
  18. Elder – Omens
  19. Stiff Richards – State Of Mind
  20. Kimono Drag Queens – Songs Of Worship
  21. Ghost Funk Orchestra – An Ode To Escapism
  22. Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – Sideways To The New Italy
  23. Andy Shauf – The Neon Skyline
  24. Karkara – Nowhere Land
  25. Jason Henn – Jazz Pigs In High School
  26. Intercooler – Read The Room
  27. Cable Ties – Far Enough
  28. Beach Bunny – Honeymoon
  29. Destroyer – Have We Met
  30. Aquiles Navarro & Tcheser Holmes – Heritage Of The Invisible II

Brian Q. Newcomb

25. Kansas: The Absence of Presence
24. Neal Morse, Sola Gratia

One of the by products of this COVID lockdown year, besides all the binging of TV shows you never got around to watching back in the day, has been rediscovering listening to some newer prog rock. In the 70’s psychedelic and progressive music came mixed in with all the rest of the more intense rock bands, we had Yes, Gentle Giant, Genesis, Kansas, Rush and the like playing on most FM rock radio stations. But by the mid-80’s, my tastes had moved on to other things, a different aesthetic defined more by Elvis Costello, R.E.M. and U2. A couple years back a 40th Anniversary tour of Kansas’ “Leftoverature” album came to town and it was a no-brainer to check it out, and the new players were pretty impressive so when they released a new album of original music, I had to hear it and found it a lot of fun. And, I had been intrigued by the relatively new guy, Neal Morse, as I have a prog rock friend who’s been sharing music from his bands Transatlantic and Spock’s Beard for years, so when he released “The Similitude of a Dream” and “The Great Adventure,” I made sure I got to hear them. Morse’s solo album this year, “Sola Gratia,” telling the story of the Apostle Paul… well, that clicked way too many boxes on my list of favorite things to not grab my attention. Both of these two records managed to keep finding their way into my play lists, so while I’m surely not going pure prog, but I’d love it if the Dixie Dregs or Gentle Giant made another album of new material.

23. Drive-By Truckers: The Unraveling

Drive-By Truckers 12th album was released early in 2020, before we knew the pandemic was going to shut us down more or less for the next year, but the 9-song jeremiad felt like the perfect angry album to get us through the coming Presidential election. Most political anthems make the mistake of forgetting that if it’s not a good song, people will tire of listening to your poignant lyrics, but that’s never been a problem for songwriters Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley who often find catchy musical hooks and bring a more personal tact to issues like school shootings in “Thoughts & Prayers,” and many other of the songs here describing the economic decline that’s ripping through small towns all across the U.S. in the “21st Century.”

22. Jeff Tweedy: Love Is King

With Wilco pulled off the road along with every other touring act, it’s a real plus that Jeff Tweedy and his two sons, Spencer and Sammy, had a recording studio nearby to occupy them during the shut-down. Making a goal of writing a song a day, allowed the singer/songwriter and guitarist to return to his folkier, more country roots, while making it a family affair. The title says it all, as these warm, approachable songs proved to be a perfect accompaniment for a quiet afternoon.

21. Soccer Mommy: Color Theory

Sophia Allison came as a fun, surprise, writing a smart, catchy folk rock entwined with textured synths and loops, it has a engaging pop hooks and plenty of sly turns of phrase.

20. Waxahatchee: Saint Cloud

After being very impressed by Katie Cruthfield’s Waxahatchee 2017 release, “Out In the Storm,” I made a point of catching her band which included her twin sister Allison play live that same year in Brooklyn. For “Saint Cloud,” she brings a bigger, band sound to songs that apply her Southern, Alabama-bred lilt to darkly personal songs of recovery and sobriety.

19. The Flaming Lips: American Head

I’ve long had a warm place in my heart for the Lips… that silly single, “She Don’t Use Jelly” and their opening set in ‘93 for Butthole Surfers and Stone Temple Pilots when they were louder than the two main acts, their headlining Side Stage set at Lollapalooza in ’94, the night my nine-year-old son and I wore Santa suits and danced on stage beside the band for their entire show, and that the state of Oklahoma made their song, “Do You Realize?” the official state rock song. The band has continued steady releasing fun, curious, weird albums, see: “Oczy Mlody.” But with this new album, singer and songwriter writes more personally about his formative years in his mid-western family, experiences with drugs and death, which gives his storytelling a more meaningful grounding. Songs like “Watching the Lightbugs Glow,” “Mother I’ve Taken L.S.D.,” “Mother Please Don’t Be Sad,” and “My Religion Is You,” provide deeper connections.

18. Greg Dulli: Random Desire

Greg Dulli has never lacked for opportunities to record his music. His main band, the Afghan Whigs was formed in Cincinnati, recording 6 albums in their first eleven years, then regrouped in the 2010’s for two more. In the interim years, he formed The Twilight Singers and recorded 5 more studio albums and a live album. For this solo album, Dulli was inspired by Prince and Todd Rundgren, who had made studio albums where they played most of the instruments, and Dulli embraces that challenge big time here on “Random Desire,” and makes a strong personal artistic statement.

17. The Strokes: The New Abnormal

As an indicator for how much live music shows have been missed this year, I’ve started tuning into Saturday Night Live just to hear the bands, and gratefully Jack White and The Strokes showed up prepared to deliver on their two nights. 20 years in The Strokes are not interested in breaking new ground, they just continue to write and play at a remarkably strong level, and this year we needed more new, seriously rocking music than we even knew, and this seventh full-length release rose to the occasion.

16. Love Coma: Love Coma

San Antonio band, Love Coma made a great album back in ’96, but then broke up a year later when their label went bankrupt. Singer/songwriter Chris Taylor has produced a steady string of solo indie albums and steadily evolved as an artist to follow, but there was always a sense of unfinished business with his band. In 2019, the band crowd funded a reunion album, and self-released this strong self-titled effort this fall. Taylor regroups with drummer Chris Dodds, guitarists Chris Mattingly and Mitchell Connell, with guest spots by original guitarist/cellist Matt Slocum, who went on to form Sixpence None the Richer. The band need to prove they had something to say musically that warranted their fans investment, and it’s good news on all fronts that they delivered such a fine, well produced fully rounded rock album.

15. Pearl Jam: Gigaton

Seven years after their last trip into the studio, Pearl Jam has reached a point where they could tour every summer, no doubt selling out Wrigley Field, just replaying the golden oldies from their first three albums. While the first single, “Dance of the Clairvoyants,” revealed a band willing to explore fresh sounds, well fresh for them as they appeared to be trying on the Talking Heads’ sound for size, much of the rest of the hard rocking album reveals a solid band of grunge rock veterans that still have a fire in their bellies.

14. Bruce Springsteen: Letter To You

With Springsteen finally ready to embrace the sound of the E Street Band that defined his earliest successes, gathering the band to record for four straight days in his home studio, “Letter to You,” with songs the retrace his earliest days in a band, the death of old friends, and music and the ghosts that haunt our days, sounds like a great idea on paper, and it sounds even better coming through the speakers.

13. Perfume Genius: Set My Heart on Fire Immediately

While we often praise when an artist writes artfully about their own life, their story and experiences, it can be uncomfortable when it feels like a songwriter opens a vein and bleeds all over their songs. It’s one step beyond the cliché of wearing your feeling on your sleeves. Singer/songwriter Mike Hadreas manages to pull off that by presenting his heartfelt lyrics in a variety of pop music formats, some dipping back as homages to classic soul and pop music styles, as well as more modern art pieces. “Describe” can dig into a grunge vibe, while “Your Body Changes Everything” leans toward electronic dance music, and Hadreas can take Perfume Genius into a variety of pop, torch and new age styles to evocative effect.

12. Jason Isbell And The 400 Unit: Reunions

It’s enough that Jason Isbell is likely the best songwriter playing Americana these days, that another collection of his fine songs played by his cracker-jack band are easily going to get a lot of airplay around our house, but when I learned that he and his wife Amanda Shires, a fine singer/songwriter in her own right, a member of the Highwomen, and violinist in Isbell’s 400 Unit, angrily quit the Country Music Assoc. when they failed to honor the memory of veteran artists like John Prine, Jerry Jeff Walker and Billy Joe Shaver, who all died this year, well, they earned a special place in my heart. It doesn’t make this album any finer than it already is, but it does make me wanna play it louder.

11. Pretenders: Hate For Sale

And speaking as badass women who rock, is there anybody in the same league as Chrissie Hynde, who has found an amazing musical foil in guitarist and co-songwriter James Walbourne. The title track is a tribute to 70’s punk/goth band The Damned, turn in a soulful reggae turn in “Lightning Man,” rock tough on “Turf Accountant Daddy,” and yet be tender for “You Can’t Hurt A Fool” and “Crying In Public.” 40 years in the spotlight, and she’s still ready for her close-up.

10. X: Alphabetland

40 years to the month from the release of their classic punk-defining and defying debut album, “Los Angeles,” and 27 years after their last studio album, the original quartet that made up the band X returned to the studio for another set of songs celebrating the “Strange Life.” That the edgy mix of root rock, country and rockabilly edgy sound worked the first time around is made all the stranger by how well it works all this time later. With so much of pop music produced on computers by programmers, it’s still refreshing to hear four rock players set up plug in and play it live, loud, and fast straight to tape in a burst of noise that last 97 seconds and manages to both satisfy and make you hungry for more.

9. Lucinda Williams: Good Souls Better Angels

There are few artists who keep it as real as Lucinda Williams keeps it, and if you think she’s taken no prisoners on previous albums, well 2020 was an election year, and she came to play. “Man Without a Soul” got a lot of the attention up front with it no holds barred take down of the current President, but she’s delivering solid take downs across the full wide swath of this 12-track album, whether she’s got a “Bone of Contention” or needs to “Pray the Devil Back to Hell.” Supported by her live touring band, with strong support from guitarist Stuart Mathis, Williams is at her most intense here, her strongest work in quite some years.

8. The Beths: Jump Rope Gazers

I’m a bit of a sucker for a power-pop band, in the vein of Material Issue or Crowded House, and the New Zealand band The Beths have delivered two solid albums, with smart songs, crisp guitars, great vocal harmonies and a lot of energy. Just two years after that impressive debut, “Jump Rope Gazers,” reveals solid growth, with vocalist Elizabeth Stokes and Jonathan Pearce on guitar both taking things up a notch.

7. Bob Mould: Blue Hearts

So, we’ve all been complaining about 2020, but we got new, vital strong albums from X, The Pretenders, Springsteen, The Strokes, Pearl Jam, and Bob Mould… maybe we’ve not more to be thankful for than we realized. Of course, like Perfume Genius, Mould is wearing his “Heart on My Sleeve,” and like Williams he’s stirred up by the political situation and this “American Crisis.” I’m beginning to sense a theme. And like X, Mould is all loud buzzsaw guitars, fast punk energy and angry driven lyrics… has somebody forgotten to tell these guys how they’re supposed to act in their latter years? Pity the fool that tries.

6. Phoebe Bridgers: Punisher

Up and coming singer/songwriter Phoebe Bridgers is breaking out everywhere here in 2020, singing on The 1975’s new album, and singing with Ethan Gruska, after he co-produced her last album, and teamed up with Conor Oberst, who co-writes somethings here. While “Graceland Too” has a folky banjo that recalls her first album, here her music as progressed into more indie rock directions, while tapping a rich pop vein with singles like “Kyoto” and “ICU.”

5. The Mountain Goats: Getting Into Knives

It’s been a bit too easy to be a fan of John Darnielle’s songwriting, he’s just too damn clever. I mean how can you not be excited about a new album from the guy who’s last one had a track called “Cadaver Sniffing Dog.” Well this one opens with “Corsican Mastiff Stride,” which actually feels a bit like a Barenaked Ladies’ song, which is a good thing in case you’re wondering. While his songwriting has always been worthy of one’s attention, here with his live bandmates playing live in the studio with him in Memphis. it’s great to hear a record with stronger production values. “As Many Candles As Possible” is a rocker with a philosophical edge, and like many of Darnielle’s quirky storytelling songs, many of these accessible folk/rock tracks hint at deeper thoughts, and caring sentiments.

4. The Psychedelic Furs: Made of Rain

For some reason 2020 was a great year for releases from bands that haven’t recorded recently. The Psych Furs have been touring on the basis of their classic “hits” for the last two decades, and this is the first studio album from Richard Butler & Co. in 29 years. Even more interesting, at least to me, is that Butler turned to former songwriting and band partner Richard Fortus to produce, and the current Guns N’ Roses sideman brought the band to his native St. Louis to record. My affection and appreciation for Fortus goes back to his band Pale Divine (formerly The Eyes), and the two albums he made with Butler in Love Spit Love. Butler remains in impressive voice, and Fortus and the Furs’ instrumentalists manage to create a big rock sound that has connections back to their 80’s heyday and hits like “Heaven,” “India,” and “Heartbreak Beat,” while creating something that feels relevant, if not forward thinking. This one got played a lot this year. And it got played loud.

3. Sufjan Stevens: The Ascension

Often when an album is preceded by a huge buzz, it’s nearly impossible for it to live up to the raised expectations. So, it was surprising to come across the much-hyped new Sufjan Stevens release and find it so completely enthralling. With his 2010 album “The Age of Adz,” embracing techno and dance mixes in a new way, and then his very quiet 2015 folk album, “Carrie & Lowell,” we’d been led to expect something more in line with the earlier work, but here on “The Ascension” he takes the computer loops and synths to new, unexpected heights, matched by his smart lyrical observations and catchy, clever ways of approaching songcraft. It’s quite a revelation, taking on deeper subjects with greater thought and reflection on the human experience than we’re used to in a “pop album.”

2. Bob Dylan: Rough And Rowdy Ways

If we were surprised to get new albums from artists who’ve not recorded original music for some time in this strange year, little was as unexpected as the arrival of Bob Dylan’s release of “Murder Most Foul,” the lengthy 17-minute song that contained the author’s rambling stream of conscience poem on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. When he followed it with a full-length album, his first of original material in 8 years, with little to no advance promotion it dropped with a major impact, as people tried to absorb the 10 songs spread over 70 minutes of music where his band lays down solid, rock and blues influenced tracks that are dominated by the poet’s carefully worded songs. As he said, “I Contain Multitudes,” but he’s no “False Prophet.” Full of pop culture and literate references, Dylan is writing with the power of a Whitman, the descriptive storytelling of a Shakespeare or a Steinbeck, and it’s compelling from start to finish. After my first half dozen listens I wanted to give this one 5 stars, and that only happened one other time this year, so it was lady’s first.

1. Fiona Apple: Fetch The Bolt Cutters

Given all music that we hear year after year, it’s harder and harder to be surprised, or to hear anything that feels really new and completely different from anything you’ve heard before. Fiona Apples’ 2020 album feels like seeing a unicorn for the first time. She’s made lots of great, fresh unique pop in the course of her career, often going to the piano to write in linear melodic style that suggested Joni Mitchell, but something more. With Fetch The Bolt Cutters, she threw all the songwriting rules out the window, and followed the muse, and made something edgy, immediate and intense. Basically using only her piano, a variety of percussion instruments and her unique vocal skills, and a daring imagination and the courage to go where the songs took her. Sometimes it feels like she’s chanting a children’s sidewalk rhyming game, at others experimenting with fun percussion loops and scat singing and making animal noises, mixing and matching, following her feelings, and trusting that the results will matter, will connect, will be worthy of listening again and again, and it is. The result is a very personal reflection on relationships, living in the confines of others’ expectations, and being willing to break free. This album comes in a year when we’re all trapped in our homes, and it’s about one woman breaking all the rules, telling her truth, and singing a very unique song. It’s freeing.

Here are two that also deserved notice:
Best Re-Issue: Tom Petty – Wildflowers and All the Rest
Best Live Album: The War On Drugs – Live Drugs

Christopher Tahy

20. Tame Impala – The Slow Rush
19. Narrow Head – 12th House Rock
18. Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – Sideways To New Italy
17. Andy Shauf – The Neon Skyline
16. Dehd – Flower of Devotion
15. Holy Wave – Interloper
14. Black Market Brass – Undying Thirst
13. Jeff Rosenstock – NO DREAM
12. Frankie and the Witch Fingers – Monsters Eating People Eating Monsters
11. …And You Will Know Us By Our Trail of Dead – X: The Godless Void And Other Stories

10. Pallbearer – Forgotten Days

With Pallbearer’s last release, Heartless, many critics thought they strayed a bit. Forgotten Days was the album that got them back on track. Pallbearer has always been about the theater, drama, and anguish. Now some of these might sound like negatives but, for Pallbearer it’s exactly what we needed. Forgotten Days makes a statement with its plodding brutality. Therefore, it’s the best doom album of the year.

9. The Flaming Lips – American Head

I find it pretty amazing that with 35 years under their belts, The Flaming Lips can still make one of the best albums of the year. If An Ode To Escapism is a warm hug for the ears and brain, American Head is a warm blanket and bed for the weary traveler.

8. METZ – Atlas Vending

One of the most brutal records this year, METZ haven’t lost an ounce of vim and vigor. Atlas Vending is an album that brutalizes your ears in the best way possible. With 2020 being what it was, an escape to METZ musical kill room is just what the doctor ordered for relief of anxiety and aggression.

7. Deftones – Ohms

When Deftones started to write this album they wanted to get back to their roots. Chino, Abe, and Steph kept it basic in the beginning sessions so it was easy to experiment. Before the album was released the group already dropped hints that a White Pony mindset had been held in writing this album. What transpired is a soft mix shoegaze and a brawny riff slug fest. The balance is this albums greatest strength and shows that sticking to a previously enacted formula isn’t always a bad thing.

6. Slift – Ummon

Clocking in at a little over an hour, Slift’s Ummon could be pretentious and bloated. The group staves that off with a high energy that can be felt through every track of the album. The progressive and psychedelic wizardry make this an album that needs to be heard.

5. Fiona Apple – Fetch The Bolt Cutters

Fetch The Bolt Cutters is the most celebration of raw talent released this year. Apple’s first album in 8 years – to quote my contemporary Brian Q. Newcomb – is a metaphor for an artist who won’t be put in chains, who will shake off the shackles of pop convention, as well as the other subtle limitations. This is what strength, beauty, and power should sound like moving forward. Apple didn’t do it for pity, validation, or praise. She just wanted to write an amazing album. Everyone should really take notice if you haven’t already.

4. Post Animal – Forward Motion Godyssey

I’ve known of Post Animal but, this is the first time I’ve dove into their work. Forward Motion Godyssey is an album that bends to many different genres of music. Some cited that as a negative stating that the album lacked general flow. It’s the groups adventurous spirit that only enhanced my enjoyment of the album. Post Animal throws a lot at Forward Motion Godyssey, I feel, that all of it mostly sticks.

3. Elder – Omens

Elder isn’t a stranger to making great albums. 2017s Reflections of a Floating Word cemented the groups mastery of doom metal, prog rock, and psychedelics. Omens continues that trend with flashes of Rush, King Crimson, Led Zeppelin, and Yes. The album bucks some of the doom in favor of a more rock direction but, that still doesn’t lessen the impact and appreciation. Elder released one of the best metal/rock albums this year, full stop.

2. Ghost Funk Orchestra – An Ode to Escapism

Sneaking into my ears before the buzzer, An Ode to Escapism is exactly the album we needed for the end of 2020. From the beginning we’re invited to a safe space of tranquility. The vibe and instrumentation are diverse and the album continues to check in on the listener with their best interest in mind. If there ever was and album that was destined to be the exact opposite of 2020, this is that album. Ghost Funk Orchestra has created a musical psychologist that embraces the brain in a nice, warm hug.

1. Hum- Inlet

I’d never thought I’d be talking about a new Hum record in 2020 but, here we are. Now, if I’m being honest, Hum is a band that never crossed my ears in the 90s. I had to go back later when I had more developed tastes and dive into You’d Prefer and Astronaut. I’m glad that I did, because one of the #1 surprises of the year ended up being my #1 album of the year. Inlet plays like a neutron star: dense, beautiful, and volatile. For any band that records a reunion album, this is what a gold standard looks like.

Simon Workman

Top 25 of 2020

  1. Ghost Funk Orchestra – An Ode To Escapism
  2. Guided by Voices – Mirrored Aztec (& Surrender Your Poppy Field & Styles We Paid For)
  3. Monophonics – It’s Only Us
  4. Bob Dylan – Rough and Rowdy Ways
  5. Laura Veirs – My Echo
  6. King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard – K.G.  
  7. Andy Bell – The View From Halfway Down
  8. Eyelids – The Accidental Falls 
  9. Sven Wunder – Wabi Sabi 
  10. Tobin Sprout – Empty Horses
  11. Denison Witmer – American Foursquare
  12. The Flaming Lips – American Head
  13. Speaking Suns – Terrestrial Year
  14. Once and Future Band – Deleted Scenes
  15. Lo Tom – LP2
  16. Rudy De Anda – Tender Epoch
  17. Fleet Foxes – Shore
  18. Osees – Protean Threat
  19. Coriky – Coriky
  20. Joseph Airport – Cosmosis 
  21. Ed O’Brien (EOB) – Earth
  22. Fuzz – III
  23. Slift – Ummon 
  24. Arbor Labor Union – New Petal Instants
  25. Black Market Brass – Undying Thirst

Notable Reissues/Archival

  1. V/A – Brown Acid: The Tenth Trip and The Eleventh Trip
  2. Prince – Sign ‘O’ The Times (super deluxe box set)
  3. Grateful Dead – Dave’s Picks vol. 34: 6/23/1974
  4. Trees – 50th Anniversary Edition (box set)
  5. Ice – The Ice Age
  6. V/A – Sumer Is Icumen In: The Pagan Sound of British and Irish Folk 1966-1975 (box set)
  7. V/A – Strum and Thrum: The American Jangle Underground 1983-1987
  8. King Crimson – 1969: The Complete Recordings (box set)
  9. Neil Young – Homegrown
  10. Tom Petty – Wildflowers and All The Rest

Daniel Taylor

  1. Knot: Knot – Krill reformed, called themselves Knot and released one of my favorite albums of 2020.
  2. CLAMM: Beseech Me – Aussie power post-punk done right.
  3. The Chives: The Chives – Blown-out power pop from Boston. A pure joy to listen to.
  4. Run the Jewels: RTJ4 – RTJ knocked it out the park with this timely and ultra-catchy album.
  5. The Imbeciles: The Imbeciles – Weird and discombobulated slacker rock from the UK.
  6. Lewsberg: In This House – Laconic jangle rock that seeps into your subconscious.
  7. Psychic Graveyard: A Bluebird Vacation LP and Mouths EP– Noisy electro punk.
  8. Kneeling in Piss: The Mob and Music For Peasants EPs – Ramshackle lo-fi bliss
  9. Eyelids: The Accidental Falls – Beautiful album.
  10. Mr. Bungle: The Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny Demo – Mid-80s thrash classic released in 2020.
  11. Stuck: Change Is Bad – Lean post-punk from Chicago
  12. Wallplant: Nothing For Sure -After hearing Stuck, I discovered the wonderful world of Donny Walsh (Stuck’s guitarist)
  13. Idles: Ultra Mono – Solid album. Lots of fun, if not a bit heavy handed on the woke culture cliches.
  14. The Spits: VI – The Spits do what they do and once again they do it well.
  15. Moon Attendant: One Last Summer– For fans of Grandaddy and Built Like Alaska
  16. Landowner: Consultant – Spindly post-rock.
  17. Stiff Richards: State of Mind – Powerful and catchy Aussie punk.
  18. Youbet: Compare and Despair – Wobbly and wonderful.
  19. Sleepies: Time vs Pleasure – Always listen to Sleepies. They never disappoint.
  20. Shell of a Shell: Away Team – If Pile and Rodan/Slint had a baby.
  21. Rectangle Creep: Bayocean – Mitchell’s Bayside Hotel may be one of the best songs of 2020.
  22. Raspberry Bulbs: Before the Age of Mirrors – Lo-fi heavy metal.
  23. Sleaford Mods: All That Glue – If you have Chubbed Up + this isn’t that vital, but for me it worth every penny for the song Second.
  24. Guided By Voices: Surrender Your Poppy Fields – My favorite GBV album of this new generation.
  25. Holiday Music: Certified Ailments – All the fuzzy power-pop you will ever need.
  26. Them Airs: Doped Runner Verse and Union Suit XL– If you like Thinking Fellers Union Local 282 and Trumans Water, you may want to hear these guys.
  27. Daughter Bat and the Lip Stings: Internet Creeps & Quarantine for Real This Time EP & Love Songs single– Goofy and fun lo-fi pop gems.
  28. Brandy: The Gift of Repetition – Hits a sweet spot that normally only Spray Paint can satisfy.
  29. Blue Ray: Blessed Fruit EP and Legends Split – Blue Ray continues to impress and make me smile with their blown-out lo-fi power pop.

Scot Lade

  1. Sparks: A Steady Drip, Drip, Drip
  2. Guided By Voices: Mirrored Aztec
  3. King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard: K.G.
  4. Bombay Bicycle Club: Everything Else Has Gone Wrong
  5. Land Of Talk: Indistinct Conversations
  6. Biffy Clyro: A Celebration Of Endings
  7. Knot: Knot
  8. …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead X: The Godless Void and Other Stories
  9. Field Music: Making A New World
  10. Poppy: I Disagree
  11. Deerhoof: Love-Lore
  12. Waxahatchee: Saint Cloud
  13. The Strokes: The New Abnormal
  14. Taylor Swift: Folklore
  15. Wolf Parade: Thin Mind
  16. Fiona Apple: Fetch The Bolt Cutters
  17. Fleet Foxes: Shore
  18. The Microphones: Microphones In 2020
  19. The Killers: Imploding The Mirage
  20. Bright Eyes: Down In The Weeds Where The World Once Was

Kevin Poindexter

  1. Bob Mould – Blue Hearts
  2. Guided By Voices – Styles We Paid For, Mirrored Aztec, Surrender Your Poppy Field
  3. The Flaming Lips – American Head
  4. Bill Fay – Countless Branches
  5. Lavender Flu – Barbarian Dust
  6. Coriky – Coriky
  7. Basic Plumbing – Keeping Up Appearances
  8. Idles – Ultra Mono
  9. Bruce Springsteen – Letter To You
  10. Testament – Titans of Creation
  11. Bob Dylan – Rough and Rowdy Ways
  12. Waxahatchee – Saint Cloud
  13. Arbor Labor Union – New Petal Instants
  14. Old 97’s – Twelfth
  15. Deeper – Auto-Pain
  16. Freddie Gibbs/Alchemist – Alfredo
  17. RVG – Feral
  18. Elder – Omens
  19. Greg Dulli – Random Desire
  20. Arbouretum – Let It All In
  21. Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – Sideways To New Italy
  22. Jayhawks – xoxo
  23. Country Westerns – Country Westerns
  24. The Third Mind – The Third Mind
  25. Moaning – Uneasy Laughter

Everett Wallace

Top of 2020 (strictly in alphabetical order):

  • Susan Alcorn Quintet – Pedernal
  • Ambrose Akinmusire – On the Tender Spot of Every Calloused Moment
  • Autechre – Sign
  • Anthony Braxton/Eugene Chadboure – Duo (Improv) 2017
  • Brigid Dawson and the Mothers Network – Ballet of Apes
  • Bob Dylan – Rough and Rowdy Ways
  • Chicago Underground Quartet – Good Days
  • Cut Worms – Nobody Lives Here Anymore
  • Sarah Davachi – Cantus, Descant
  • Tashi Dorji/Tyler Damon – To Catch a Bird in a Net of Wind
  • Bill Frisell – Valentine
  • Ben Goldberg – Plague Diary
  • Guided by Voices – Mirrored Aztec
  • Gunn-Truscinski Duo – Soundkeeper
  • Mary Halvorson’s Code Girl – Artlessly Falling
  • Jyoti – Mama, You Can Bet!
  • Stephen Malkmus – Traditional Techniques
  • Rob Mazurek Exploding Star Orchestra – Dimensional Stardust
  • Joe McPhee/Dave Rempis/Tomeka Reid/Brandon Lopez/Paal Nilssen-Love – Of Things Beyond Thule, Vol. 1
  • METZ – Atlas Vending
  • Ron Miles – Rainbow Sign
  • Osees – Levitation Sessions
  • Osees – Protean Threat
  • Jeff Parker – Suite for Max Brown
  • Sam Prekop – Comma
  • Protomartyr – Ultimate Success Today
  • Lee Ranaldo/Raul Refree – Names of North End Women
  • Eric Revis – Slipknots Through the Looking Glass
  • Gil Scott-Heron – We’re New Again: A Reimagining by Makaya McCraven
  • 75 Dollar Bill Little Big Band – Live at Tubby’s
  • Shabaka and the Ancestors – We Are Sent Here By History
  • Shabazz Palaces – The Don of Diamond Dreams
  • Sun Ra Arkestra – Swirling
  • Luke Stewart Exposure Quintet – S/T
  • Talveg – Arbori
  • Thumbscrew – The Anthony Braxton Project
  • Jeff Tweedy – Love is the King
  • Jim White/Marisa Anderson – The Quickening
  • Immanuel Wilkins – Omega
  • Nate Wooley – Seven Storey Mountain VI
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