2020 has been the weirdest year, as just about anyone can attest. Me being a frontline healthcare worker has put me in an interesting dichotomy. To the world I am simultaneously facing a deadly disease and lying about its severity. I am a hero who deserves pizza while also being an over demanding prima donna who should be able to do my job with less. It has been infuriating and has changed my listening habits on an almost daily basis. So while my list may have a few albums that do not show up on others, this is more akin to a list of music that kept my sanity, that provided an outlet, and in some cases made me rethink some perspectives.
My choice of embedded songs are all of a personal nature, and may not be the best representation of each band’s albums. I am simply inviting you to a shared experience of how I got through the year. So with no further adieu, my best music of 2020.
“Lost in the Sauce” Special Mention
The Bombpops – Death in Venice Beach
Released March 13, 2020. A fantastic Punk album that got lost in the flurry of news of lockdowns, healthcare breakdowns, and concert cancellations. Released at the worst possible time, I even forgot about this album until I was revisiting my list of albums from this year. If this album was released at any other time, I feel it would be more prevalent in year-end lists. I know it deserves more spins, even in my own listening habits.
“That’s Not Very Punk” Top 5
Chris Stapleton – Starting Over
Lainey Dionne – Skin (single)
Molly Tuttle – …but I’d rather be with you
The Weeknd – After Hours
BlackBerry Smoke – Live from Capricorn Studios
“Can’t Believe I’ve Never Heard This Before 2020” Top 5
Ghetto on Phyre – Ghetto on Phyre
The Clockmakers- Good News
The Dualers – Summer of Ska Live
Blackberry Smoke – Leave a Scar: Live in North Carolina
Hamilton: The Musical
The Potato Pirates – Hymns for the Wayward
Technically released at the end of November 2019, so perhaps too late for last year’s “best of” lists and still not quite a 2020 album. Hymns is a wild ride, a little bit straight forward Hardcore, a little Street Punk, some small hints at Ska, a touch of Celtic Punk, this album was a preemptive recipe for how to survive 2020. Songs like “Trials,” “One Day at a Time,” and “Drink Ourselves Under the Table” are the exact kind of help punks like us need. Tales of finding support to overcome difficulties seems almost Nostradamus-esque in hindsight.
10 – The Agonizers – The Agonizers
First EP to hit my best of list, and usually EPs don’t make my lists but given how much this demanded my attention, I am forced into it. Punk with Ska liberally added, multilayered harmonies, driving lyrics (sometimes about actually driving), if this EP is the appetizer consider me ready for the main course!
09 – Stubborn Hearts – Tales From a Red Flag Galaxy
There is an honesty in Jenn’s lyrics and delivery that just sucked me into this album. The roaring guitar and drum cacophony were the catalyst to many mental mosh pits that occurred far too removed from the dive bars they deserve.
08 – The Cascadians – Windows Down
A soulful rocksteady ska stomp from the Pacific Northwest. I got so lost in the grooves of these songs that I took the long way home from work, on multiple listens, not on purpose. Meg’s vocals are powerful one moment, then disappear into the depths of the basslines the next. It is a mellower experience than most of this list, but it’s also much ruder.
07 – Western Addiction – Fail Bray
From start to finish this melted my face and my brain. A melodic hardcore album that attacks and retracts with an energy that is only just containing the poetic lyrical delivery. Bordering on the unhinged, colored with a heavy dose of metal, this album helped me dissipate a lot of pent up aggression.
06 – Frank Turner – Live at Newcastle
This album is just fun. In a year where music in live settings was forcibly taken from us, it is nice to get a reminder of live shows. Frank’s music is obviously enjoyable, but hearing the stories that led to the songs in a situation where Frank himself cannot help but laugh, is an intimate shared experience that is usually only existent when face to face with the artist.
05 – The Inevitables – The Inevitables
There is a lot going on in The Inevitables camp, where they have all sorts of multimedia projects in the works. This album, the soundtrack to a comic book, is full of giant hooks that burrowed themselves into my brain and had me singing along far after the music ended.
04 – The Skluttz – Confidence is Key
Led by some super powerful vocals, The Skluttz provided an EP that is equal parts quirky third wave ska and a strong stance on societal issues. I cannot wait to be able to see this crew live, the energy found here is sure to be amazing in a live setting.
03 – Stolen Wheelchairs – The America
Angry and pissed off, 2020 America in a nutshell. Stolen Wheelchairs presented an album that plants the punk flag for future generations, as they are a younger band playing an older style of Punk and delivering with the energy that eludes anyone who can predict the weather using the stiffness of their joints.
02 – Mad Caddies – House on Fire
Perfectly encapsulating the weird duality of this year is the Mad Caddies EP. It is bright and shiny and makes you want to dance, until you pay attention to the lyrics. Ska has always been candy-coated fury, a fun and happy outside, righteous anger inside. Here it is presented as candy-coated melancholy.
01 – The Drowns – Under Tension
As soon as someone says Jangly Street Punk Rock and Roll, my ears immediately perk up. Throw in some giant chorus’ that seem destined for rowdy bar sing-alongs, Dual vocals where some songs are angry growls, others pissed off lamentations, and have a cover of “The Harder They Come” make this the perfect remedy for everything 2020 had to throw at me.
“All the pressure takes its toll, Bearing down like cannonballs
Take your comforts where you may, Lift your chin and face the day”