FAVES OF 2020
50. Thou “A Primer of Holy Words” (Robotic Empire)
Artful masters of metal doing Shellac, Minor Threat and Sabbath covers? Yes.
49. USA Nails “Character Stop” (Hex Records)
Sneering London band does Sonic Youth meets The Fall but like really really well.
48. Blóm - Flower Violence (Line Box)
Newcastle upon Tyne’s Blóm carry the Slampt / Huggy Bear torch. SO FUCKING GOOD. If any of my UK pals see this - can you pick me up a copy of the 12”?
47. Aidan Baker + Gareth Davis “Invisible Cities II” (Karlrecords)
Cinematic, absorbing, emotional and otherworldly. It’s what I imagine interstellar space sounds like.
46. Mary Lattimore "Silver Ladders" (Ghostly)
This album is healing and soothing and perfect. If you like harps.
45. Body/Negative “Fragments” (Track Number)
The soundtrack to Audrey Horne’s dreams.
44. Richard Skelton - These Charms May Be Sung Over A Wound (Phantom Limb)
Minimal synth washes and dark John Carpenter vibes. Cinematic and in my back pocket. It’s not a party album but it’s a wonderful thing.
43. Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith - The Mosaic of Transformation (Ghostly)
The sound of your molecules interacting and your synapses firing but with hooks.
42. Katie Gately - Loom (Houndstooth)
Pop songs for replicants. Brilliant record.
41. Gil Scott-Heron + Makaya McCraven “We’re New Again - A Reimagining” (XL)
A straight up genius reinterpretation of Gil Scott-Heron's final album. There is so much good stuff
coming out of Chicago and Makaya McCraven is more proof of just how vibrant that scene is.
40. Matt Berninger “Serpentine Prison” (Concord)
Great songs. Not sure why it's not a National record but who cares when the songs are this good.
39. Konvent “Puritan Masochism” (Napalm)
My favorite metal album of the year. A death doom record for the ages. I was stoked to see them perform at SPOT Fest a couple years back and loved every second - primal Sabbathisms...
38. Sunda Arc “Tides” (Gondwana Records)
I first heard this at our record club night in 2020 BC (before COVID) and it's been on regular rotation on my turntable since. A synth record that transcends it's genre. Beautiful and cinematic.
37. Global Charming “Mediocre, Brutal” (Subroutine)
My buddy Scot in Melbourne turned me on to this great album via LinkedIn which is totally fitting with songs like "Office Hell". Angular post punk goodness in the vein of bands like Omni, Ought, and B Boys but with a little Pavement jangle in the guitars and a touch of Gary Numan in the vocals. Music for TPN reports. So good.
36. Jeff Parker “Suite for Max Brown” (International Anthem)
Tortoise guitarist and personal hero drops a soulful yet cerebral post rock-meets-jazz record of pure magic dedicated to his mom. Essential.
35. PJ Harvey “To Bring You My Love Demos” (Island)
Hearing these songs in their primal raw forms had me fall in love with this album all over again.
34. LITHICS “Tower Of Age” (Trouble In Mind)
Hyper angular post punk. If you dug Ex Models, Six Finger Satellite, and The Seconds you will
LOVE this record.
33. Deerhoof “Future Teenage Cave Artists” (Joyful Noise)
For their 15th record SF's best band dropped a concept album about post apocalyptic teenagers making art as the world crumbles. It's their best album yet and Greg Saunier's drumming is, as per
32. Jim White + Marisa Anderson “The Quickening” (Thrill Jockey)
Dirty Three drummer Jim White and amazing guitarist Marisa Anderson create magic across ten
31. Nick Cave “Idiot Prayer: Nick Cave Alone at Alexandra Palace” (Bad Seed)
Stark and emotionally raw piano and vocal arrangements of all my favorite songs. Watch the film for the full effect.
30. Neil Young “Homegrown” (Reprise)
Recorded between On The Beach and Zuma, this lost Neil album finally sees the light in 2020 and it as good as anything he's ever done. As Neil says "Sometimes life hurts." Essential.
29. Alison Cotton “Only Darkness Now” (Bloxham Tapes / Cardinal Fuzz)
Heartachingly beautiful. Music to get lost in.
28. Amon Tobin + Thys “Ghostcards” (Nomark)
Amon you fucking genius. In a year full of amazing releases from all of Amon Tobin's various guises on his Nomark imprint - Two Fingers, Only Child Tyrant, and Figueroa all had great releases this year - this ep affected me the most and I went back to the title track and "Letter from St. Anthony's" again and again.
27. Hey Colossus “Dances / Curses” (Wrong Speed)
Hey Colossus get better and better on every release, this third album ups the ante on last year's brilliant Four Bibles. Like if Bob Weston of Shellac played in Slowdive.
26. Deradoorian “Find The Sun” (Anti)
Tago Mago era Can, Neu 2, Melody of Certain Lemons era Blonde Redhead, and a dash of Stereolab. INCREDIBLE.
25. North Americans “Roped In” (Third Man)
My ease into the morning with a cup of coffee record. So glad Will Quiney introduced it to me. It's a soother.
24. Thelonious Monk “Palo Alto” (Impulse)
An unearthed previously unknown live set at Palo Alto High School in 1968. The story behind this set is amazing. The record on it's own is a pristine slice of history and in my rotation for Saturday late mornings and that 2nd cup of coffee.
23. Fontaines D.C. “A Hero's Death” (Partisan)
No sign of a sophomore slump, A Hero's Death finds our heroes at the top of their powers. Lead single "Televised Mind" is essential listening. Turns out these guys are a great band.
22. Joe Wong “Nite Creatures” (Decca)
An album full of chamber pop gems and razor sharp songwriting from the man behind the music to the brilliant The Midnight Gospel on Netflix. Elephant 6 fans rejoice.
21. Kelly Lee Owens “Inner Song” (Small-town Supersound)
The song Jeanette is a rave for one. An album of minimal melodic electronic music featuring gorgeous arpeggiated synth patterns, hooky melodies, Owens' ethereal voice, and even a John Cale appearance. This is what I wanted the future to sound like.
20. Jarv Is “Beyond The Pale” (Rough Trade)
Jarvis Cocker remains the sexiest man in rock n roll and released the ultimate 2 AM comedown album.
19. Coriky “Coriky” (Dischord)
Ian and Joe from Fugazi and Amy from The Warmers make a record and it's great. Urgent like The Evens best songs but even better because it's fucking Joe Lally on bass.
18. Jason Molina “Eight Gates” (Secretly Canadian)
This record destroys me. I miss you Jason Molina.
17. FACS “Void Moments” (Trouble In Mind)
Void Moments is damaged in all the best ways. Dive deep into these songs and be rewarded. FACS are Chicago's best band.
16. Sweeping Promises “Hunger For A Way Out” (Feel It)
As soon as I heard Cross Me Out I was sold. They would have killed it at Yoyo A Go Go in 1994.
15. Bill Callahan “Gold Record” (Drag City)
I love you Bill Callahan.
14. Adrianne Lenker “Songs” (4AD)
I mean c'mon. Heavy Focus is probably the best song of the year.
13. SAULT “Untitled (Black Is)” & "Untitled (Rise)" (Forever Living Originals)
If a set of songs better encapsulated America in 2020 I didn't hear it. A powerful pair of statement albums that defined this summer of awakening and protest. ESSENTIAL.
12. Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers “Just Coolin'” (Blue Note)
Never before released studio session recorded in Rudy Van Gellar's living room (!!!) featuring a band line up of Lee Morgan on trumpet, Hank Mobley on tenor, Bobby Timmons on piano and Jymie Merritt on bass and released on my birthday. Happy birthday to me. Yes.
11. METZ “Atlas Vending” (Sub Pop)
My favorite Canadians return with their best album to date. Still burning that metallic Albini / Amphetamine Reptile flame but turning it on it's head and making it their own. A record of vitalic crash and burn, Atlas Vending dominates. PLAY IT LOUD.
10. Steven Dayvid McKellar “ETHIO” (Sonic Ritual)
A record I loved so much I put it out myself. A beautifully fragile electronic pop concept record about a singular American neighborhood and the broken and hopeful and lost people who live in it from the former Civil Twilight frontman. Worth your while, I promise.
9. Daniel Davies “Signals” (Sacred Bones)
Dark brooding and cinematic. A total package. From the artwork to the design to the music. Inspired and perfect.
8. Protomartyr “Ultimate Success Today” (Domino)
Every song is great. Protomartyr are my favorite band. They are better than your favorite band. Buy this album.
7. Alabaster DePlume “To Cy & Lee: Instrumentals Vol 1” (International Anthem)
A wondrous and elegant album of interweaving melodies and tones that touch on Japanese and Celtic folk music, Ethiopian jazz, and soul all held together by DePlume's buttery sax phrasing.
6. Run The Jewels “RTJ4” (Jewel Runners / BMG)
5. Rival Consoles “Articulation” (Erased Tapes)
Vibrations On A String brings me to tears. An electronic record that feels so human and universal. We are all connected.
4. Sharhabil Ahmed “The King of Sudanese Jazz” (Habibi Funk)
Amazing compilation of Sharhabil Ahmed's 1960s recordings. A Sudanese legend who influenced Mulatu Astatke. The most fun record of 2020. I can't wait dance to this in a post covid world.
3. Bonnie Prince Billy & Matt Sweeney “Make Worry For Me” Flexi 7" (Drag City)
Will Oldham and Matt Sweeney's Superwolf is on my favorite record ever list and one of the most heartbreaking albums of all time. If this single is foreshadowing the return of the Wolves, I'm officially freaking out and can't wait for what's to come in 2021.
2. Gunn-Truscinski Duo - Soundkeeper (Three Lobed)
I wish I was in a band that sounded like the Gunn-Truscinski Duo do on Soundkeeper. Vibey and cool as fuck. The record has such impressive depth and range that you forget you're listening to "only" a guitarist and a drummer. Tracks like "Valley Spiral" and "For Eddie Hazel" are pure desert blues swagger, unrelenting and hypnotic. Like Trans Am meets Tinariwen. "Ocean City" recalls 1950's Polynesian inspired lounge music and the title track is an Eno-esque expansive mind melt.
I can't recommend this album enough. Every song is a sonic adventure. This is vision quest music.
drum roll please... my favorite album of 2020 was...
1. Bob Dylan “Rough and Rowdy Ways” (Columbia)
The record I listened to and loved the most this year. Beatles or Stones? Nah man, Dylan. I mean this album is just unbelievably strong. Opener I Contain Multitudes features the best lyric of the year: "You greedy old wolf, I'll show you my heart. But not all of it, only the hateful part" and I've Made Up My Mind To Give Myself To You is Dylan's best song since Dark Eyes. Every song is great. This album is the perfect soundtrack to watching the light change, drinking bourbon, and remembering the days gone by. It's exactly what I needed during a year where I realized that the small joys are the most important. As Bob tells us on Goodbye Jimmy Reed: "Gimme that old time religion, it's just what I need."