The Music of 2020 felt like divine intervention. In a year so universally challenging, Music rose to the occasion and presented a vast array of unforgettable records that will long outlive this pandemic.
As usual I listened to about 500 albums this year, reviewed about 200 of them, and now I have distilled from those my Top 100.
And it really was an amazing year for Music. This year’s top 25 albums, for example, share a standard of quality on par with most years’ Top 10. I love 50 albums this year as much as I loved my top 20…
If the last month is any is any indication of 2021 as a music year, we’re in for good times. My favorites this month were split between very new bands who’ve only made an album or two, and established artists I’ve loved for decades — not much in between. There’s a pretty good international spread here, with at least 8 countries represented.
I’ve also made a playlist of some of my favorite songs from January.
Shame, Drunk Tank Pink
67. Kevin Morby, Sundowner
Pulling back on the rock and roll and mostly setting his piano aside, the LA-based singer/songwriter focuses on a heartfelt, acoustic guitar-driven set. Highlights: “Provisions,” “Jamie,” “Don’t Underestimate Midwest American Sun”
68. Kali Uchis, Sin Miedo (del Amor y Otros Demonios)
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
The most prominent theme of my favorite November albums is that whatever genre they’re in, they’re mostly on the indie / underground side of that genre. Ultra-prolific psych rockers King Gizzard dominate this month for me. But it was also an excellent month for rap.
King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, K.G.
Many of October’s best albums were politically driven, with the top 3 (and various others made) by artists who are also activists and organizers. We have a couple of great comeback albums here, and at least 6 albums by artists who’ve been making music for over 20 (and in some cases 40) years. October’s highlights also favor solo artists over bands.
Sa-Roc, The Sharecropper’s Daughter
This was a rock-oriented month for me, with a variety of styles are represented here, from punk to indie folk to West African desert-blues to psych rock, and even a little metal. September also mostly favored established bands over new ones, as 2020 so often has.
Idles, Ultra Mono
Unlike most of 2020, my August was dominated — with a few notable exceptions — by newer, lesser-known bands, with Another Sky’s debut album leading the charge. Most of my favorite selections here are either fronted or entirely created by women. There’s a fair bit more jazz here than usual too, which may mean I’m growing; otherwise we’ve got a pretty broad spread of genres here.
Another Sky, I Slept On The Floor
My favorites albums of July are diverse enough that I can’t actually find a theme that unites them. The first 5 here are all from different countries. South African jazz makers Keleketla! dominated most of my July, but then a couple of indie rockers came toward the end to hold court. Aside from my normal slight slant toward indie rock, it’s a pretty broad spread of genres represented here. Let’s get right to ’em:
Fontaines DC, A Hero’s Death
As 2020 the calendar year has gotten more and more trying, for so many, 2020 the music year just keeps getting richer. The new Run The Jewels album dominated myJune; beyond that, singer/songwriter albums and all-women indie bands filled out most of my heavy rotation this month.
Aside from my little blurbs this month, I’ve also compiled a Spotify playlists with my favorite songs of 2020 so far!
Run The Jewels, RTJ4
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. .