In 2014 I started doing a yearly “Best Of” post on my blog about media that I liked and considered to be the best of the year – really my favorite things of what I’m into, not necessarily the best of everything out there. I didn’t do one in 2019 as I kind of got tired of the format and moved on. However, after almost a year of doing Downbeat.fm I’ve decided to put out a list of my favorite albums of 2020.
I’m not a music writer – hell most of the time I have a hard time putting into words why I like something, I just know that I like it. I’m going to try my best to put across why I was drawn to each album, and I hope you’ll check them out.
If you’ve been following the newsletter and playlists these albums won’t shock you at all, which except for the first album, they are presented in no particular order.
Brave Faces Everyone by Spanish Love Songs
Brave Faces Everyone by Spanish Love Songs is definitely the favorite of my favorite albums of 2020.
The album was written, recorded, and came out before the pandemic hit the US, but it quickly became an allegory for 2020 for me.
Without having a full blow therapy session here, it’s been a tough year for everyone. 2020 has given all of us a lot of things to be angry, depressed, and/or anxious about. Everything from your job, the state of our country and the government, Trump, the way people have neglected basic decency during this pandemic, being locked in your house, the election, you name it.
This was a tough year for everyone – and it affected people in different ways. People who never had anxiety or bouts of depression were hit with it, so many people lost their jobs or had to make insane compromises to continue working and handle homeschooling.
Vocalist/guitarist band leader Dylan Slocum said in an interview that he “wanted to channel the energy of Bruce Springsteen’s album Born to Run” but ended up with something more like Darkness on the Edge of Town or Nebraska. Putting a punk spin on those albums I definitely see the comparison. You’re trying everything you can to pull yourself up, and the world keeps pushing you down.
I put this album on and it’s time to rock, and hopefully work out some stuff.
Genre(s): Punk rock, pop punk
Break out tracks:
- Beach Front Property (Apple Music / Spotify)
- Kick (Apple Music / Spotify)
- Losers (Apple Music / Spotify)
Fetch the Bolt Cutters by Fiona Apple
I have been a casual fan of Fiona Apple fan since Criminal – but really only knew her radio singles. I never really dove into her full catalog until this album came out in April. In fact I ignored it for a few days after it came out until finally surrendering to the countless people on my Twitter timeline shouting praises for this album non-stop.
After the first listen I think I went back and listened to it three or four times that day, and a bunch more that first week.
I have weird taste in music and really get into some weird stuff. I don’t consider this a weird album, but it is definitely not traditional – which I say in the absolute best way possible. Reading about the album, most of it was recorded in her home using objects in her house as percussion instruments. Even her dogs show up in some songs as part of the melody.
The album opens up with “I Want You to Love Me” and has this piano melody that I can’t help but be reminded of the opening theme of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood and from there, I was hooked on the song and album.
This album feels like it was therapeutic for Apple to write and record, and it definitely came at a time in the quarantine when we needed it.
In any other year this may have been my top album of the year.
Genre(s): Pop, art pop
Melee by Dogleg
Like Fetch the Bolt Cutters, in any other year, this may have been my favorite album of the year. I am very much here for the emo revival that has been going on these past few years and Dogleg is one of the best out there right now. They apparently were even the band I listened to the most of this year according to my Spotify wrap-up for 2020.
This is the full-length debut from Dogleg and man they knocked it out of the park from the start. The album is tight, raw, it rocks and it is a bunch of fun. I suggest putting it on, turning it way up, and rocking your face.
I had tickets purchased to a number of shows this year that was unfortunately canceled (along with everything else) because of the pandemic. Seeing Dogleg is one of the shows I am most upset about missing. I mean, just look at the energy in this video.
Genre(s): Emo, post-hardcore, hardcore punk
Color Theory by Soccer Mommy
This album is also very 2020 to me as it deals with themes of anxiety, depression, and loneliness – something a lot of people have experienced during this pandemic and quarantine.
The first three songs on this album are a hell of a hook to pull you in and then it keeps going from there. I really don’t know what else to say about this album other than like the others in this list it was a strong contender for my favorite albums of 2020.
Genre(s): Indie rock, dream pop, indie pop
Ohms by Deftones
I’ve been a fan of Deftones for at least 23 years which somehow feels both impossible and not long enough. I remember being a sophomore and junior and just being blown away by their first two albums. Their next two albums tracked just as well for me. I kind of lost them for a bit in the middle but was still a fan even though I wasn’t crazy with some of the albums that came after. That changed with Gore and again this year with Ohms.
While trying to write this blurb I listened to the album five times in a row and had a hard time trying to figure out what to write here but kept coming up short.
I think this album has something for a fan of any and all eras of Deftones, it has strong ties to White Pony and their self-titled fourth album as well as subsequent albums. In classical Deftones fashion the album is very melodic and straddles an experimental line between metal, synth, and so much more.
Genesis, the first single, is a great album opener and perfectly sets the mood for what is about to follow. Urantia feels like the most White Pony-esque song on this album but with the growth and maturity, you’d hope a band would have after 20 years.
Genre(s): Alternative metal
Coriky by Coriky
A “new” punk band made up of members of legendary bands such as Fugazi, Minor Threat, The Evens? I was sold right away. For a while, the only song available, and the only way to listen to the song was on their Bandcamp page, but after what felt like months more songs were made available on streaming services shortly before the whole album’s release.
I love bands that trade-off lead vocal responsibilities like early Queens of the Stone Age, or even legendary bands like The Beatles. I always felt like it brought so much more depth to a band. Coriky does that on this album and that was definitely something that kept me interested while listening.
“Clean Kill”, “Hard to Explain”, “Say Yes”, and “Too Many Husbands” are great tracks on an album that is worth your time.
Genre(s): Indie, post-punk, post-rock
Inlet by Hum
I really only know Hum’s 1995 record You’d Prefer an Astronaut – from which you may have heard their biggest hit Stars (Apple Music / Spotify). That album is under-appreciated and solid front to back, as is Inlet – their first in 22 years.
Waves, the lead song, sounds like a long lost friend who you haven’t seen since high school – but one you actually want to see and hang out with again.
I don’t think it’s groundbreaking or that it will kick off a resurgence of sound-a-likes, but it’s just good to have that friend back.
Genre(s): Post-hardcore, shoegazing, space rock
Break out track: (Apple Music / Spotify)
American Beauty EP by American Beauty
An emo/punk band with touches of math rock from New Jersey? I was on board before I even heard one note.
This is an EP, and I struggled whether or not to include it on this list since it’s not full length – but then I remembered that this is my list and I can do what I want. It’s also one of two EPs on this list.
Math rock is a weird genre. It’s not for everyone, hell it’s not for most music fans. It can sound messy and disorganized (probably why I like it so much), but when you dig into the bands and listen you start to realize that it is orchestrated that way.
American Beauty’s self-titled EP grabbed me right away with the math rock angel. I’m not sure which of the songs off of it I heard first (though I know it wasn’t “Soy Boy”) but they are all great and this is a quick listen clocking in at under 15 minutes.
A down note, this EP is the only one of my favorite albums of 2020 that I do not own on vinyl because it was never pressed. I hope they get on that soon.
Genre(s): Emo, pop punk, punk, math rock
Here, Online by Worst Party Ever
This is the second EP on this list, but probably the stronger of the two.
This EP is definitely more on the pop punk side of the genre, but this wave of pop punk seems more mature, more musically inclined then some of their predecessors in the 90s and early 2000s.
Clocking in at under 12 minutes, this five song EP is worth a quick listen. The EP is bookended by two bangers on the intro and outro with some great variation in between.
Genre(s): Punk, emo, pop punk
I’m Glad We’re Friends by Thank You, I’m Sorry
I’m not sure how this album fell on my lap, but I’m glad it did. Thank You, I’m Sorry is a fun little indie pop band mixed with emo that when added together makes a great sound.
When I ordered this album it came with a handwritten thank you from the band, which is so great. I love that.
If I were to compare Thank You, I’m Sorry to another band, I’d have a hard time finding a mainstream name for that, but I do get notes of Remember Sports, another indie/alt band that I really like.
Genre(s): Emo, dream pop, indie
This first year has been a fun journey of Downbeat.fm – and this list of my favorite albums of 2020 barely scratches the surface of what I’ve listened to this year. I can’t wait to continue this journey into 2021. If you’re not already, be sure to subscribe to the newsletter so you don’t miss a single playlist!