Favorite Albums of 2020

Well, 2020 was a year, wasn’t it? I know, I haven’t been very active at all on here, but a lot of stuff came up that demanded my attention. And, I just plain burned out on the music stuff. That, coupled with all the weirdness and added general stress that the year brought just meant that I didn’t really feel like working on a blog that felt like a second job. All that may still have an effect on when things can get back to something resembling normal on this site, but I do have a plan to make things easier. And that will all be covered in another post.

Anyway, while I wasn’t writing, I was still listening, and I feel like I owe my readers something to wrap up 2020. Normally, my year-end stuff would be spread out over multiple lists and far more polished, but I think the best thing for this year is to just put it all out there in one big list. Below you will find my top 50 albums of the year in alphabetical order with a genre description for each. After that will be a list of 25 honorable mentions. No pictures, no blurbs, just the list. If you would like me to elaborate about any of my picks or argue about them, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment. And now, to the lists!

FAVORITE ALBUMS OF 2020

  • ADRIANNE LENKER – SONGS/INSTRUMENTALS – (folk)
  • AFTERBIRTH – FOUR DIMENSIONAL FLESH – (technical death metal)
  • ALESTORM – CURSE OF THE CRYSTAL COCONUT – (pirate metal)
  • BACKXWASH – GOD HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THIS LEAVE HIM OUT OF IT – (horrorcore, industrial rap)
  • BEACH BUNNY – HONEYMOON – (indie rock)
  • BLACKLAB – ABYSS – (sludge, doom metal)
  • BLU & EXILE – MILES: FROM AN INTERLUDE CALLED LIFE – (hip-hop, jazz rap)
  • BORIS – NO – (sludge, hardcore)
  • BRANDY CLARK – YOUR LIFE IS A RECORD – (country)
  • CHRIS CORNELL – NO ONE SINGS LIKE YOU ANYMORE – (rock, covers)
  • CHRIS STAPLETON – STARTING OVER – (country)
  • CLIPPING. – VISIONS OF BODIES BEING BURNED – (horrorcore, industrial rap)
  • CODE ORANGE – UNDERNEATH – (metalcore, industrial)
  • DENZEL CURRY/KENNY BEATS – UNLOCKED – (hip-hop, rap)
  • DUA LIPA – FUTURE NOSTALGIA – (pop, nu-disco)
  • FÉLETH – DEPRAVITY – (death metal)
  • FIONA APPLE – FETCH THE BOLT CUTTERS – (art pop, singer-songwriter)
  • FIRE-TOOLZ – RAINBOW BRIDGE – (avant-garde metal, vaporwave)
  • FREDDIE GIBBS/ALCHEMIST – ALFREDO – (hip-hop, rap)
  • FREEWAYS – TRUE BEARINGS – (hard rock, heavy metal)
  • GHOSTEMANE – ANTI-ICON – (industrial rap, rap metal)
  • GORILLAZ – SONG MACHINE, SEASON ONE: STRANGE TIMEZ – (alternative, indie pop)
  • HAIM – WOMEN IN MUSIC PT. III – (indie rock)
  • HAKEN – VIRUS – (progressive metal)
  • HAUNT – FLASHBACK – (heavy metal)
  • HELLRIPPER – THE AFFAIR OF THE POISONS – (black metal, speed metal)
  • HYBORIAN – VOLUME II – (stoner metal)
  • HYMN – BREACH US – (sludge, doom metal)
  • IGORRR – SPIRITUALITY AND DISTORTION – (avant-garde metal, industrial)
  • INFANT ISLAND – BENEATH – (screamo, post-hardcore)
  • JASON ISBELL AND THE 400 UNIT – REUNIONS – (alt country)
  • JOHN REUBEN – self-titled – (hip-hop, rap)
  • KILL LINCOLN – CAN’T COMPLAIN – (ska punk)
  • LAURA MARLING – SONG FOR OUR DAUGHTER – (folk)
  • LOWRIDER – REFRACTIONS – (stoner metal)
  • THE MIDNIGHT – MONSTERS – (synthwave, synthpop)
  • MIDNIGHT DANGER – CHAPTER 2: ENDLESS NIGHTMARE – (synthwave, darksynth)
  • PHOEBE BRIDGERS – PUNISHER – (indie rock, indie folk)
  • PROTEST THE HERO – PALIMPSEST – (progressive metal)
  • RADIANT KNIFE – THE BODY/THE GHOST – (sludge, progressive metal)
  • REVERED AND REVILED ABOVE ALL OTHERS – TOPPLING THE ROTTEN PILLAR – (“doomviolence”)
  • RINA SAWAYAMA – SAWAYAMA – (pop)
  • RUN THE JEWELS – RTJ4 – (hip-hop, hardcore rap)
  • SHIRLEY COLLINS – HEART’S EASE – (folk)
  • SPECIAL INTEREST – THE PASSION OF – (industrial, noise, post punk)
  • THOU/EMMA RUTH RUNDLE – MAY OUR CHAMBERS BE FULL – (sludge, doom metal)
  • TKAY MAIDZA – LAST YEAR WAS WEIRD, VOL. 2 – (hip-hop, rap, electronic)
  • TOUCHÉ AMORÉ – LAMENT – (screamo, post-hardcore)
  • WOBBLER – DWELLERS OF THE DEEP – (progressive rock)

HONORABLE MENTIONS

  • BELL WITCH/AERIAL RUIN – STYGIAN BOUGH VOLUME I – (funeral doom metal)
  • BRING ME THE HORIZON – POST HUMAN: SURVIVAL HORROR – (alternative metal, nu metal, industrial)
  • CHARLI XCX – HOW I’M FEELING NOW – (electropop, hyperpop)
  • DEAFKIDS/PETBRICK – DEAFBRICK – (noise rock, industrial)
  • THE FEARLESS FLYERS – TAILWINDS – (funk)
  • FLEET FOXES – SHORE – (indie folk)
  • HEALTH – DISCO 4 :: PART I – (noise rock, industrial)
  • JUICE WRLD – LEGENDS NEVER DIE – (hip-hop, emo rap)
  • KOTA THE FRIEND – EVERYTHING – (hip-hop, rap)
  • LO TOM – LP2 – (indie rock)
  • LOGIC – NO PRESSURE – (hip-hop, rap)
  • MAC MILLER – CIRCLES – (hip-hop, R&B)
  • MOONS – GO OUT SWINGING – (sludge, doom metal)
  • NEW FOUND GLORY – FOREVER + EVER x INFINITY – (pop punk)
  • ORGÖNE – MOS/FET – (stoner rock, heavy psych)
  • SLICK SHOES – ROTATION & FREQUENCY – (pop punk)
  • SÖLICITÖR – SPECTRAL DEVASTATION – (heavy metal, speed metal)
  • SONGHOY BLUES – OPTIMISME – (blues rock)
  • STATIC-X – PROJECT REGENERATION, VOL. 1 – (industrial metal)
  • STONE MACHINE ELECTRIC – THE INEXPLICABLE VIBRATIONS OF FREQUENCIES WITHIN THE COSMIC NETHERWORLD – (stoner metal, “doom jazz”)
  • SUFJAN STEVENS – THE ASCENSION – (electropop, experimental)
  • TAME IMPALA – THE SLOW RUSH – (psychedelic pop)
  • TAYLOR SWIFT – FOLKLORE/EVERMORE – (indie pop)
  • TRIVIUM – WHAT THE DEAD MEN SAY – (heavy metal, metalcore)
  • X – ALPHABETLAND – (punk)

And there you have it. My picks for the best of 2020 and some Honorable Mentions. Like I said above, if you’d like me to go into more detail on any of my picks, ask why an album is in one list and not the other, or point out a glaring omission, feel free to leave a comment.

Sean’s Favorites: 2014

Yeah, we’re on a roll now! In 2014 I was right smack in the middle of full time engineering school, so keeping up with things like music took even more of a back seat. As such, this is going to be the shortest list of albums in my retrospective series. Yes, I know a lot of really good, and even important albums were released this year. But I’ll just remind you that these lists have to do with albums that were important to me at the time and have stayed relevant through the years. Engineering school must have been brutal this year, because I can’t remember much of anything else that happened in the world. And when I tried looking stuff up, it was all depressing. So we’ll just focus on the music this time.

Downtown

CHET FAKER – BUILT ON GLASS–Like everyone else, I was introduced to Chet Faker with his cover of “No Diggity.” I immediately bought his EP with that track. I loved his blend of trip hop, downtempo electronic, and soul vocals. He was one of the few artists I kept tabs on in this time of my life, so when his full-lenght, Built On Glass came out, I snapped it up. Nick Murphy (Faker’s real name) was already getting tired of being limited to his more soul-oriented sound, so Glass is split into two sides. The first is more like his EP and Blackstreet cover, and the second is more experimental electronic pop. I was surprised with the change, but I ended up liking some of the tracks on the second half more than ones on the first. “1998” in particular is still one of my favorites. Murphy makes music under his own name now instead of Chet Faker, and nothing has quite appealed to me the same, but I still check in once in awhile.

Last Gang

DEATH FROM ABOVE 1979 – THE PHYSICAL WORLD–Dance punk and dance rock are a couple genres that are weirdly specific but they sure do something for me when they’re done right. I also have a thing for rock duos, especially when the duo is drums and bass guitar. Death From Above 1979 happen to check all those boxes. The Physical World is the band’s second album, released a decade after their first due to a hiatus. Apparently the break was a good thing because they came back firing on all cylinders. The riffs and grooves hit just right with fuzzy bass lines and punk energy. I don’t think there’s a single skip on the album for me. They did come out with another album in 2017 but it didn’t quite capture the same magic. Let’s hope a future release can.

Big Machine

TAYLOR SWIFT – 1989–Yes, I’m publicly admitting that I like a Taylor Swift album, but I have my reasons! I personally believe that this album is monumental in Swift’s career because it’s the moment that she stopped kidding herself about being a country artist and fully embraced the role of pop star. Even Red, the album that came right before this was marketed as a country album when there was hardly anything to classify it as such. Swift also made the transition with a relatively simple synth-pop sound that contrasted with her typical over-produced country pop. Some songs even flirt with synthwave. The tracks might not hit as hard as say, a CHVRCHES song, but it’s the first album of hers that I can honestly say that I enjoyed. And there’s even a track that features and was co-written with Imogen Heap!

Vulf

VULFPECK – FUGUE STATE–Ever since their first release in 2011, Vulfpeck have faithfully released new material every year. There were a couple EPs before Fugue State, but this was the first one since their debut where every track is a winner and there are no skips. The title track shows the group flexing their classical music muscles (they are music college students, after all) and “1612” is their second collaboration with vocalist Antwaun Stanley. The rest of the tracks find the band playing even more with studio and production tricks to develop the signature Vulf sound. 2014 would also be the year that Vulfpeck would release the silent Sleepify album to exploit Spotify’s payment model. Seriously, if you’re not on the Vulf train, you really should go digging through their catalog.