2020. Man, what a shit show this year has been! The beginning of a new decade is one of the weirdest we’ve had to live through. With this plague that 2020 brought us, we didn’t get to see near as many shows as we would have liked so discovering new music wasn’t nearly as easy as it has been. All that being said and as much of a nightmare as 2020 was, there actually was a lot of good music released this year. This list is just a taste of some of the good tunes that were brought to us by some pretty amazing artists. Enjoy!
10. Frank Turner and Jon Snodgrass – Buddies II (Xtra Mile Recordings)
Frank Turner is one of my favorite solo artists. His album Be More Kind is one of my favorite albums of all time and the title track of that album is one of my all time favorite songs. This is one the newer releases to end up in the Top 10 list but definitely worth it. I had actually never heard the 2010 prequel to this collaboration with Jon Snodgrass but this album, released in November via Xtra Mile Recordings, is a joy to listen to from beginning to end. My favorites from this album include “Retractions,” “Stephen Plays the Drums,” “Bad Times Good Vibes,” and “Hold Me, Homie.”
9. Cables & Arms – EP IV (Wiretap Records)
I first discovered this San Francisco band in 2016 when they released their LP Framing Defeat for the Critical Eye on Wiretap Records. They were actually one of the first bands that got me into listening to that label. This EP was released in August by Wiretap and the only negative thing that I could even fathom saying about it is that it wasn’t an LP instead of an EP. I wanted more! Check out my interview with them from back in October here!
8. Brand New Friend – A Cure For Living (Xtra Mile Recordings)
This band from Castlerock, UK appeared on both my 2018 best albums list with their LP Seatbelts for Aeroplanes and my 2018 top songs list with their tune from that album “Hate It When You Have to Go.” Needless to say, I was pretty happy that they were releasing a new album this year. Ever since it came out in February via Xtra Mile Recordings, I knew this was going to be a contender for this year’s list. My favorites from this one include “The Letter A,” “Plastic Flowers,” and “Nothing Stays the Same.”
7. Airstream Futures – Le Feu Et Le Sable (Little Rocket Records)
This is another band that has appeared on previous best of lists of mine. This Chicago outfit’s 2016 LP Spirale Infernale appeared as #6 on that year’s best albums list. Le Feu Et Le Sable was another early release in the year that I was happy to hear and knew it would show up on this year’s list. This one was released by Little Rocket Records in February. Some of my favorites from it are “King of Prussia,” “Stubborn Bones,” “Brighter Blue,” “My Moral Line,” and “Faster Than You Know.”
6. Benchmarks – Summer, Slowly (Self-Released)
So Benchmarks. Well, this is a band from Nashville, Tennessee. Prior to this year, I had, in fact, heard of the band and had heard a tune or two but to be completely honest, none of it really resonated with me. This year’s August released of their LP Summer, Slowly changed that mentality. This self-released album is a masterpiece and had me going back into their back catalog to absorb more. There are a lot of really great songs from this album, my favorites being “Cicada Year Pt 1,” “Our Finest Hour,” “Six One Way,” and “Technicolor.”
5. Fire in the Radio – Monuments (Wednesday Records)
Strangely, Fire in the Radio was a band I had never heard of prior to the release of this year’s album. Hailing from Philadelphia, Fire in the Radio released Monuments in April via Wednesday Records. These guys give off a very 80s vibe, with tunes reminiscent of bands such as The Jesus and Mary Chain, Echo and the Bunnymen, and the Cure, and maybe even a dash of REM. I will definitely have to go back and listen to their previous albums. My favorite songs from this one include “Let’s Get to the Start,” “Tulare,” “Ex-sf,” “This is My Document,” “I Said, ” and “Save Me.”
4. F.O.D. – Sleepville (Wiretap Records)
I don’t remember how I had first heard of this Belgian band but I do remember that it was because of the video for “Thirtysomething and Counting” that was released back in January. Hearing this album got me pretty excited for this LP that Wiretap Records released in March. This album mixes Punk Rock with progressive and orchestral elements that present one hell of a product! Some amazing songwriting that gives us a great experience from beginning to end. My favorite songs on this album include “Days of Future Passed,” the aforementioned “Thirtysomething and Counting,” and “On an Island.”
3. Jon Snodgrass – Tace (A-F Records)
The first time I heard Jon Snodgrass was on an album released by Stephen Egerton on which he (Jon) provided vocals for one of the tunes. I first met Jon at Stephen’s solo show in Oklahoma City ten years ago. A hell of a nice guy. He is a busy musician. His work with Armchair Martian, Drag the River, and his multiple collaborations are all worthy of multiple listens including this second appearance of Jon on my best albums of the year list. Tace was released in October. Some of my favorites on this one are “Renaissance Man,” “Don’t Break Her Heart,” “Bad New Lands,” and “1-2-3-4.”
2. Television Supervision – Waldo (Standby Records)
This album by Tampa Bay-based Television Supervision was released in January via Standby Records. Everything you need to know about why I love this album comes from my review of the album which you can find here. My favorites on this album include “Gimme a Girl, “Cannonball,” “War,” and “Daydreams.”
1. Nathan Gray – Working Title (End Hits Records)
Nathan Gray is an artist that I actually had not even heard of until this year (or possibly late last year). He is the vocalist for Delaware-based Post-Hardcore band BoySetsFire. Released in January via End Hits Records, from the time this album first hit my ears, I knew it was going to be very high on this year’s top albums list.