Favorite Albums of 2020, Part 2…

(back to part 1…)

34. Homeboy Sandman, Don’t Feed The Monster

The Queens indie rapper’s latest is at once a profoundly forthright, confessional odyssey of self-discovery and a quirky, laid back rap album with a ton of character and humor. Highlights: “Waitin’ On My Girl,” “Alone Again,” “Monument”

35. Nadine Shah, Kitchen Sink

With a bold, rich, knowing voice, the British, half-Pakinistani, part-Norwegian singer delivers powerful, soulful vocals and evocative lyrics over steady, rolling indie rock rhythms. Highlights: “Ladies For Babies (Goats For Love),” “Buckfast,” “Kitchen Sink”

36. Moses Sumney, Grae

Ghanaian-American singer/composer Moses Sumney weaves an aggressively broad array of genres into a cohesive celebration of personal multiplicity and complexity. Highlights: “Virile,” “Conveyer,” “Neither/Nor”

37. Rufus Wainwright, Unfollow The Rules

Described as a bookend to the first half of his career, Wainwright‘s 10th album is full of sweeping, operatic, often Queen-inspired harmony-soaked pop that splendidly recalls his earliest work. Highlights: “Peaceful Afternoon,” “Angels and Devils (Hatred on the Horizon),” “Damsel in Distress”

38. Aesop Rock, Spirit World Field Guide

The Brooklyn underground rapper takes us on a characteristically hyper-literate, verbally dexterous street-level magical mystery tour of international and inter-dimensional haunts. Highlights: “Pizza Alley,” “Jumping Coffin,” “Marble Cake”

39. Grouplove, Healer

Fronted by a pair of lead singers married to each other, Grouplove’s 4th album invigorates its social conscience with a transcendent sense of optimism, guitar-driven 90s alt-rock and synth-laden indie rock. Highlights: “Hail to the Queen,” “Promises,” “Deleter”

40. Frances Quinlan, Likewise

The Hop Along singer’s solo debut displays her usual gift for melodic acrobatics, trippy song structures and literate, alluring lyrics, but replaces the fuzzy indie rock warmer electronic sounds. Highlights: “Your Reply,” “Rare Thing,” “Went To LA”

41. DakhaBrakha, Alambari

Come for the majestic, internationally sourced avant-folk; stay for the power, the wildness and jazz-infused playfulness of this wonderfully bizarre Ukrainian band. Highlights: “Torokh,” “Lado,” “Sonnet”

42. Bombay Bicycle Club, Everything Else Has Gone Wrong

Rich and melodious, the London band’s 5th album is full of danceable indie rock, its post-punk and krautrock sensibilities enlivened by vibrant synths, woodwinds and warm, emotive vocals. Highlights: “Get Up,” “Eat, Sleep, Wake (Nothing But You),” “I Can Hardly Speak”

43. En Attendant Ana, Juillet

The second set from Margaux Bouchaudon and her spry Parisian garage rock band keeps the punk energy but adds in horns and more sophisticated song structures. Highlights: “Do You Understand,” “Enter My Body (Lilith),” “The Light That Slept Inside”

44. Everything Everything, Re-Animator

This Machester band’s 5th album sees an eccentric art pop / indie rock outfit reining in its natural chaos to produce a much more tightly crafted musical statement. Highlights: “Arch Enemy,” “Black Hyena,” “Moonlight”

45. Thundercat, It Is What It Is

At the forefront of alternative R&B, Steven Bruner continues to meld psychedelic soul with spacious jazz and squonky bass-driven funk on his 4th solo album. Highlight: “I Love Louis Cole,” “King of the Hill,” “Dragonball Durag”

46. Indigo Girls, Look Long

Striking a fine balance between venturing into new territory and doing what the Indigo Girls do best, the folk duo is both still shining and still growing, 15 albums deep. Highlights: “Howl At The Moon,” “Favorite Flavor,” “Country Radio”

47. Moon Hooch, Life On Other Planets

The fourth proper studio full-length from New York’s most exciting sax-driven dance music trio comes the closest yet to capturing the exhiliration of the band’s live shows. Highlights: “Nonphysical,” “This Is Water,” “Candlelight”

48. Daniel Romano’s Outfit, How Ill Thy World Is Ordered

Much more direct than some of his previous work, despite the hyper-literate and sometimes archaic lyricism, Romano makes full use of his still new Outfit for a brighter, more energetic sound. Highlights: “First Yoke,” “Joys Too Often Hollow,” “No More Disheartened By the Dawn”

49. Coriky

Somewhere between a supergroup and a Fugazi side project, Coriky’s debut offers gritty, tuneful post-punk with crunchy, clear-toned guitars and three very well-matched lead singers. Highlights: “Hard to Explain,” “Too Many Husbands,” “Inauguration Day”

50. Hamilton Leithauser, The Loves of Your Life

Rock, soul, pop and Americana from various eras flow gracefully in and out of center on the former Walkmen frontman’s third solo album — his first as sole performer and producer. Highlights: “Cross Sound Ferry (Walk On Ticket),” “Don’t Check the Score,” “Wack Jack”

51. Hinds, The Prettiest Curse

This lovesick but playful third album from the all-woman Spanish lo-fi indie rackers takes well-planted step in the direction of sharper arrangements and a cleaner sound. Highlights: “Just Like Kids (Miau),” “Boy,” “Take Me Back”

52. Ohmme, Fantasize Your Ghost

With clear vocals and dirty-ish guitars, the Chicago indie duo’s sophomore set leans into sophisticated indie rock, full of angular melodies and odd time signatures. Highlights: “Flood Your Gut,” “Selling Candy,” “3 2 4 3”

53. Fantastic Negrito, Have You Lost Your Mind Yet?

The eccentric Bay Area blues maverick pivots toward funk, gospel, R&B and hip hop on his third album and returns toward rockier, more political music on the 2nd half. Highlights: “I’m So Happy I Cry,” “These Are My Friends,” “King Frustration”

54. Darlingside, Fish Pond Fish

The formerly all-strings-and-vocals indie folk-rockers open up their sound via a more spacious recording setup and the addition of (excellent) drums. Highlights: “Crystal Caving,” “Ocean Bed,” “Mountain + Sea”

55. Arbouretum, Let It All In

This Baltimore band’s mystical blend of British folk-rock, psychedelia and the blues is in good form here with exquisite melodies and stellar guitar work throughout. Highlights: “A Prism in Reverse,” “Buffeted by Wind,” “Let It All In”

56. Sault, Untilted (Black Is)

A celebration of Black music of all sorts, the UK-based collective’s first of two 2020 albums meets police brutality and white violence with a trenchant rebuke but also pride, power and joy. Highlights: “Monsters,” “Bow,” “Wildfires”

The esteemed Tragically Hip frontman and Canadian national treasure’s posthumous 6th solo album is brave, beautiful and direct. Highlights: “About Blank,” “Hotel Worth,” “Untitled — Acoustic”

58. Open Mike Eagle, Anime, Trauma and Divorce

The self-described art rapper delivers his most personal album, often driven by pain and introspection but still full of playful, nerdy, self-deprecating humor. Highlights: “Sweatpants Spiderman,” “Wtf is Self-Care,” “Death Parade”

59. Wire, Mind Hive

Propelling the sound of their heavy new wave with driving, crunching guitars along with a plethora of heavy synths, Wire enter their 6th decade with confidence and poise. Highlights: “Primed and Ready,” “Cactused,” “Hung”

60. Melt Yourself Down, 100% Yes

Afro-Indio-Latin jazz-based dance music with a ton of punk energy, this UK supergroup’s third album is rife with insurgent passion and exultant and exuberant as well. Highlights: “This Is The Squeeze,” “Every Single Day,” “Crocodile”

61. Sault — Untitled (Rise)

On their second diverse epic album of 2020, UK R&B-and-more collective Sault still focus on lifting up Black voices but also amp up the fervor of their protest. Highlights: “The Beginning & the End,” “Fearless,” “Street Fighter”

62. HAIM, Women In Music Pt. III

This 16-song sprawler, which wends its way through a more genre-fluid mix than the three sisters have attempted before, is a delightful, colorful pop smorgasbord. Highlights: “Up From A Dream,” “Man From The Magazine,” “Leaning On You”

63. Sevdaliza, Shabrang

Marrying trip-hop with art pop, orchestral sound and the music of her native Iran, the dexterity and visionary nature of Netherlands-based artist Sevda Alizadeh‘s second LP is riveting. Highlights: “Eden,” “Oh My God,” “Gole Bi Goldoon”

64. Isobell Campbell, There Is No Other…

On her first album in a decade, the Scottish singer/songwriter offers a gentle batch of folk and acoustic pop, aware of the tensions of its time but comforting, heartfelt and warm. Highlights: “The Heart of it All,” “Ant Life,” “Catching Fireflies”

65. Seamus Fogarty, A Bag of Eyes

This Dubliner’s third album is spacious and experimental, augmenting both traditional folk and folk-rock with electronic adventurism and structural experimentation. Highlights: “Horse,” “Bus Shelter Blues,” “Nuns”

66. Throwing Muses, Sun Racket

On their third album of the 21st century, Kirstin Hersh and her band keep the swirl and sludge of their signature sound and manages to intensify it as well. Highlights: “Dark Blue,” “Bystander,” “Frosting”

…Or, check out my Highlights of 2020 playlist!

Stef is a Bronx-bred, California-dwelling, 1977-born Libra-Aquarian lifelong music junkie. He is also a writer, improviser, singer, director and voice actor. .

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