OK, let’s start with the obligatory cliché intro text. The only good thing about 2020 was that by being at home more often you could listen to even more music and for those who want to hear it, enough good music has been made. Since January I have checked out 1,100+ new albums. Sometimes after half a minute I knew it wasn’t for me, sometimes I just couldn’t get enough. No doubt I missed a few things that I should not have missed, but right now this is what it is. And it doesn’t really matter either. Music lists are by definition debatable, because they say something about taste and taste is personal. What follows does not really say anything about quality, but simply reflects what I have played and enjoyed the most. In my list guitars and distinctive voices predominate, it’s mostly rock orientated (alternative, garage, jangle, roots, post-punk, …) plus a little bit of soul, with both debuting bands and old rockers with renewed energy who could have been their grandfather. It turns out that 2020 was not that bad at all!
So here’s my Top 50 (you can also find it in this playlist on Spotify (1 track per album)). Links point to Discogs or Bandcamp – add to wantlist what you like!
1. Floodlights || From a View
Great guitar songs with appealing lyrics sung convincingly on the debut LP – my version on yellow ochre vinyl – from this Melbourne 4-piece. The record I kept putting on the turntable. Out through Woo Me and Spunk Records.
2. Fontaines D.C. || A Hero’s Death
Difficult to follow up on a successful first album? Not for this band. Lyrics that keep haunting your mind.
4. Lewsberg || In This House
‘Assumptions are wrong, so your assumption was … wrong,’ Arie van Vliet argues somewhere between talking and singing.. Not. My expectation that it would be another hypnotic and addictive record was correct.
5. The Nude Party || Midnight Manor
You should actually see this band live, but luckily you can also hear the fun of making music together in this way.
6. Bee Bee Sea || Day Ripper
There was no good shit around, so they formed a band and now there is some fun garage rock coming from Northern Italy.
7. Tami Neilson || Chickaboom!
The “hot rockin’ lady of country, rockabilly & soul” sings so powerful it almost hurts to take it in. Boom!
8. Chuck Prophet || The Land That Time Forgot
Does this American singer-songwriter get the recognition he deserves? Music at a consistently high level. Respect.
10. Fleur || Fleur
11. Swampmeat Family Band || Muck!
They get better every album. This roots rock makes you drive too fast.
12. Chubby and The Gang || Speed Kills
Actually this is too punk for me, but thanks to handclaps, organ and harmonica this is an irresistible release even for me.
13. Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard || The Non-Stop EP
The album title (with 10 songs you can’t call this an EP) and the arty nudity on the sleeve (and in the video) show that this band likes to mislead you, but in the meantime they play a good set of glam rock.
14. Projectmanager || NEXT!
What a strong collection of short rock songs full of good ideas.
15. Bob Dylan || Rough And Rowdy Ways
A new classic. How many good albums can one man make?
16. Bruce Springsteen || Letter To You
Recorded in 5 days, live in the studio with the E Street Band; imho the most enjoyable Springsteen album since The Rising. Material of which you can already imagine how it will sound in concert.
17. Loose Koozies || Feel A Bit Free
A successful mix of country, rock, Americana and psychedelia. They also made my favorite music video of the year.
18. Close Lobsters || Post Neo Anti (Arte Povera In The Forest Of Symbols)
They are still making very good jangle pop, 32 years after Headache Rhetoric. Don’t be put off by the title and artwork of this LP.
19. Jason Joshua & The Beholders || Alegría Y Tristeza
Soul music as soul music is intended.
20. Bastards Of Soul || Spinnin’
More soul music as soul music is intended.
21. The Weeklings || 3
In the absence of new Beatles work, this is a very good alternative.
22. The Yum Yums || For Those About To Pop!
The sound that came from my car last summer.
23. Black Lips || Sing In A World That’s Falling Apart
That country hat fits the garage rockers well.
25. Low Cut Connie || Private Lives
Adam Weiner enlisted the help of about 30 other artists and recorded 17 songs that keep you discovering something new.
26. Corb Lund || Agricultural Tragic
Varied country album full of fascinating or funny stories.
27. Samantha Martin & Delta Sugar || The Reckless One
As mentioned, the combination of the singing skills of songwriter / arranger / band leader / “vocal powerhouse” Samantha Martin and the soul / funk sound of Delta Sugar make this an album that deserves a place in more year-end lists.
28. Naked Giants || The Shadow
Besides The Nude Party, also Naked Giants are in my Top 50 (again), but I prefer to keep my clothes on.
29. Supersuckers || Play That Rock n’ Roll
The long-standing American rock band is still going strong. The album title says it all.
30. The William Loveday Intention || People Think They Know Me But They Don’t Know Me
One of the four albums that Billy Childish’s new band will be releasing this winter, varied and honest songs with an appropriate Ennio Morricone feel.
31. The Exbats || Kicks, Hits, and Fits
More catchy bubblegum power pop tunes.
32. Thelonious Monster || Oh That Monster
Bob Forrest is back on the rock front and is picking up the sound of his early work.
33. Other Lives || For Their Love
Melancholic quality folk rock to dream away with. I want to be where they are.
34. Willie Nile || New York At Night
This experienced American singer-songwriter proves with this cheerful ode to New York City that he can still rock.
35. Stop Calling Me Frank || Haberdashed
Gritty pub-rock with a sax. Party time.
36. The New Madness || After Hours
Energetic garage / blues rock with punchy riffs, a high-pitched voice and lots of whoohoos.
37. The Dirty Knobs || Wreckless Abandon
American, old-fashioned, familiar-sounding, quality rock and roll. How great that such music is still being made.
38. Phish || Sigma Oasis
Unexpected new studio album with strong songs that reflect the live energy of the jam band well.
40. The Ratboys || Click
They sing ‘Everybody Loves The Ramones’, and this Belgian rock band clearly does that too, with an enjoyable record with a cool pop art sleeve as result. Not on Spotify.
41. Mike Polizze || Long Lost Solace Find
Quite different from what Mike Polizze did with Purling Hiss, but this collaboration with Kurt Vile resulted in relaxed summer music.
42. Psychic Temple || Houses of the Holy
Chris Schlarb created an eclectic 2LP, collaborating on each side with other artists: Cherry Glazerr, Chicago Underground Trio, Dream Syndicate and Xololanxinxo respectively. I am still processing it.
43. Green Leaf Rustlers || From Within Marin
Although covers are the basis for this live / jam songs, this – the best Black Crowes record in years – will make you smile and dance.
44. Daniel Donato || A Young Man’s Country
I hadn’t heard of “Cosmic Country” before, but if this is what it is, I want more of it.
45. DeWolff || Tascam Tapes
They emphasize that it was recorded on the road for less than 50 dollars, but you don’t hear that. It’s all about good songs.
46. My Morning Jacket || The Waterfall II
Leftovers from 2015’s The Waterfall, but maybe even better.
47. The Dream Syndicate || The Universe Inside
My fellow blogger over here believes that a song should be no longer than 3 minutes, haha.
In addition to the Top 50 above, these are 50 honorable mentions that fell just off my list (in alphabetical order):
Bad Nerves || Bad Nerves
Bananagun || The True Story of Bananagun
The Bats || Foothills
Moonlight Benjamin || Simido
Cordovas || Destiny Hotel
Elvis Costello || Hey Clockface
Country Westerns || Country Westerns
Cut Worms || Nobody Lives Here Anymore
The Crystal Furs || Beautiful And True
Datura4 || West Coast Highway Cosmic
Dramarama || Color TV
Dune Rats || Hurry Up And Wait
Eels || Earth To Dora
Eight Rounds Rapid || Love Your Work
The Electric Soft Parade || Stages
Girlatones || Horn If You’re Honky
Green / Blue || Green / Blue
Nana Grizol || South Somewhere Else
Ryan Hamilton & The Harlequin Ghosts || Nowhere To Go But Everywhere
Hayley and the Crushers || Vintage Millennial
Will Hoge || Tiny Little Movies
Immigrant Union || Judas
Marcus King || El Dorado
Khruangbin || Mordechai
Ray Lamontagne || Monovision
Errol Linton || No Entry
G. Love & Special Sauce || The Juice
Monophonics || It’s Only Us
André Moya || André Moya: Volume I
Mujeres || Siento Muerte
The Mystix || Can’t Change It
Nada Surf || Never Not Together
Nah… || Nah…
Nap Eyes || Snapshot of a Beginner
The Parson Red Heads || Lifetime of Comedy
Permits || Time Permits
Porridge Radio || Every Bad
The Pretenders || Hate For Sale
Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever || Sideways to New Italy
Rose City Band || Summerlong
Smokescreens || A Strange Dream
Sports Team || Deep Down Happy
The Spunloves || Too Deep For The Desert
Sunset Canyoneers || Sunset Canyoneers
Super 8 || Head Sounds
Tiña || Positive Mental Health Music
The Total Rejection || The Time Travellers 3rd Will And Testament
The War And Treaty || Hearts Town
Lucinda Williams || Good Souls Better Angels
Woods || Strange To Explain
From 99 of these 100 albums you will find a track in my Spotify playlist. Enjoy!
If this is not enough for you: Niek will publish his list next week. Different taste, so different choices. 🙂 UPDATE: It’s HERE.