Our Top Albums of 2020
Published on 29 December 2020
2020 may have been a little strange. Well, actually a lot strange. In our wildest dreams, no one could have ever predicted that this year could have turned out this way. However, there has been one good constant this year… and that is great music!
Like us, you might have found yourself with a lot more time on your hands and had the chance to explore the music of new artists or dipped your toe into genres you wouldn’t normally listen to.
While we were caught up in the mix of baking banana bread, watching Tiger King, taking up new craft hobbies and screaming into our pillows (just us?) many artists have released amazing albums this year and that’s exactly what we’re celebrating today.
Join us as we take a look back at the albums that got us through 2020 and the songs that became the soundtrack to a very interesting year.
Punisher - Phoebe Bridgers
We imagine that Phoebe Bridgers’ Punisher will make its way onto more than a few Album of the Year lists for 2020. Her music has always married together an enchanting mix of folk and indie, alongside a gloominess that could possibly be compared more appropriately to pop-punk or 2000's emo.
Punisher, however, is the perfect storm. All of those styles blend together perfectly with stunning arrangements, clever lyrics and really tasteful production throughout. Our standout tracks are Garden Song, Halloween and Earth Song, although Kyoto also deserves an honourable mention for showing Phoebe can craft a bouncy indie-pop song as well as a stripped-back acoustic track. This is the type of album you can throw on and get lost in and come to think of it, we’ve done exactly that many times this year!
Cuttin' Grass, Vol. 1: The Butcher Shoppe Sessions - Sturgill Simpsons
Released as part one of a double album, this is the ideal addition to Sturgill's extremely eclectic back catalogue. Released in October, this album is filled with Bluegrass renditions of previously released songs and features some of the best players that Nashville has to offer. Tracks like All The Pretty Colours and Sitting Here Without You are bursting with energy and can't help but bring a smile to your face. For us, this record truly captures the magic that can happen when you have a group of extremely talented musicians recording together live. No overdubs or seeking perfection, just the spirit of what makes music so great!
The New Abnormal - The Strokes
The Strokes are back! Fueled by nostalgia, we’ve been obsessed with the band's sixth studio album since the dark days of lockdown. Up there with our favourite vocalists, Julian’s voice just gets better and better with every release, and this album is no different. His lower register is rich, buttery and just utterly captivating while his sweet falsetto reaches soaring heights, adding a certain je ne sais quoi to the record. This album was definitely worth the wait and almost seems like a strange spiritual sequel to their 2001 release, Is This It. Did anyone else feel that? The arrangements gave us a nostalgic feeling and sound, with the feeling of newness the same time.
With songs that tug at the heart, extended jams and just good old Strokes vibes, this is a triumphant return for them.
RTJ4 - Run The Jewels
Packed with defiance, straight-talking and massive beats, RTJ4 was just what 2020 needed. Among the many things that have been thrown our way this year, we are all aware of the events and scenes that lead to the Black Lives Matter movement becoming ever more important this year, with people all around the globe coming together, uniting and standing up for these issues. While this album was recorded before these events, this album seems scarily apt for the situation.
Chants From Another Place - Jonathan Hultén
Chants From Another Place by Grammy-winning Swedish songwriter Jonathan Hultén has been one of those albums that we keep coming back to. This album is truly beautiful, inspiring and suitably named after the year we’ve had. Released in March, just as the world was descending into chaos, this album provided us with a much-needed dose of calm. Throughout the album, tales are weaved and musical influences collide as Hultén draws comparisons to artists including Nick Drake, Sufjan Stevens and Fleet Foxes. If this is the first time you’ve heard of Jonathan, we’d recommend listening to the track ‘Wasteland’, our favourite from this album!
We had the absolute pleasure of chatting with Jonathan all about his musical influences, performing live and all about this wonderful album. Check it out here.
A Hero’s Death - Fontaines D.C.
Here’s some Irish modern post-punk action for you. In July, Fontaines D.C. returned with their sophomore album, A Hero’s Death, a much slower, darker yet even more poignant record than their debut. Their raw intention and weirdly poetic lyrics really did it for us and we were lured in from the get-go. What we love about this band is the juxtaposition featured in each of their songs. On the surface, their lyrics seem optimistic but are always met by anxiety-inducing guitar riffs, making the lyrics seem more ironic.
With sharp sing-along hooks, single repeated lines and mantra-esque lyrics, this band is definitely at the top of our “To See Live” list. Hopefully in 2021… please? We may be thinking far too ahead already, but we can’t wait to see what direction they take the next album.
Forgotten Days - Pallbearer
This wouldn’t be a guitarguitar album roundup without some Doom Metal, right? While you may associate the genre with muddy, dragged-out riffs, the Arkansas quartet’s fourth album is packed with emotion - from crushing gloom to soaring uplift. Not many Doom Metal bands can do that!
Forgotten Days is a beast. If Sabbath and Rush had a baby, it would be this album. These guys mix beauty with death and reality better than anyone, refining that special aspect of the Doom genre. With heavy riffs and huge anthemic moments, this is another great album to their legacy.
Well, there you have it, folks. One thing that we’re looking forward to is hearing the material that our favourite bands have been cooking up during the pandemic. We have hope that there is lots of good music and better days ahead.