Kansas City post-hardcore outfit The Casket Lottery jumped back onto the scene this year, after a short hiatus, with their latest album, Short Songs For End Times (Wiretap/Big Scary Monsters/ Second Nature). The long-awaited release calls on their sonic roots, in addition to channeling the uncertainty and unrest undeniably present throughout 2020, amounting to a collection of relevant, truly cutting tracks. They also recently released a one-off Bandcamp exclusive single, "Another Holiday," which they described as a "recap for the 2020 holiday season."
With the year coming to a close, we asked guitarist/vocalist Nathan Ellis what his favorite albums of 2020 were, and he made us a list that includes Phoebe Bridgers, IDLES, Fugazi offshoot Coriky, Metz, Tera Melos offshoot Disheveled Cuss, and more. Nathan writes:
2020 was not without its peaks and valleys. Among the highlights for me, personally, was the completion of The Casket Lottery Short Songs for End Times record. In a premonitory 2019, this grouping of songs was fueled by fever dreams and nightmares about what was happening around me in America on a daily basis. I was lucky to have the constant companionship and influence of my favorite records by The Cure, Peter Gabriel, The Police, Bjork, and XTC, but also some more recently released records by Tropical Fuck Storm and Hot Snakes.
When 2020 crept in and we finished our recording process, we were all still really lucky to have new recordings to spend some time with even though bands had to all but cancel their plans and lives and timelines around how to best release a record mid-lockdown during a global pandemic. I don't know what is going to happen in 2021, but if we are lucky enough to get a year as rich with great recordings as 2020, I think we will be ok. My sincere gratitude for everyone still making art right now. Listeners, support your favorite bands and venues, please.
Nathan also gave commentary on each of his ten picks, and you can read on to see his full list and what he had to say...
NATHAN ELLIS' (THE CASKET LOTTERY) TOP TEN OF 2020
1. IDLES - ULTRA MONO
A strong contender for record of the year from this Bristol punk band. I'm convinced you could only get away with this sense of humor and these lyrics with that accent. It all works.
2. HUMAN IMPACT - HUMAN IMPACT
Members of Unsane, Swans, Cop Shoot Cop and Xiu Xiu, dropped this debut on Ipecec Recordings mid year, and it was the perfect soundtrack to 2020. Chris Spencer's trademark tele cuts through and the electronics and keys really add to the dystopian feel of the whole project. I'm really looking forward to seeing this live.
3. DEEP SEA DIVER - IMPOSSIBLE WEIGHT
A great collection of pop and rock songs from this new project fronted by Jessica Dobson. It's not surprising that a member of the Shins touring band would come up with quality tracks, great production tricks and undeniable vocal hooks. The icing on the cake is the Sharon Van Etten vocal appearance on the title track.
4. METZ - ATLAS VENDING
I just love when a band can assault you with big guitars and sneak in a hook. Metz is a band that has always man-handled their instruments in order to beat the listeners head in with a riff, but on Atlas Vending, we get to see the band highlighting their harshest tones ever with some of their most infectious melodies. See "Hail Taxi," for example, stick around for the rest.
5. PHOEBE BRIDGERS - PUNISHER
That Phoebe Bridgers is so hot right now. I've been a fan since the first time I heard "Smoke Signals," and I love seeing her growth here. "ICU" is a perfect pop song, and a textbook example of a song you would never hope to have written about you, as a parent. The video for "I Know the End" is mind blowing. And to top it off, I may even like the Copycat Killer 4 track strings versions even better than this record.
6. FACS - VOID MOMENTS
When FACS released Void Moments at the start of 2020, we had just finished the mixes for our album Short Songs for End Times, and I was immediately bummed that I hadn't heard this record first. That hard pan on "Boy" is so fucken good, that I will rip off that idea someday. The record is cold like a Joy Division record, but the big roomy drum sounds really round it out. A treat for all the headphone stoners.
7. WAYS AWAY - WAYS AWAY
Pro-band with members of Samiam and Knapsack. It's all hooks all of the time. It's pretty much the new Samiam record, and that was refreshing this year.
8. DANIEL DAVIES - SIGNAL
This is cinematic music with drone notes turning into epic melodies provided by whatever instruments necessary to get you there. The collaboration track with John Carpenter, "Destructive Field," might be my favorite song of the year.
9. CORIKY - CORIKY
This is easily my favorite post-Fugazi, members of Fugazi band. I love how much room there is in this production. Just a 3 piece showing off their songs. With songs as good as "Clean Kill," adding anything else is entirely unnecessary.
10. DISHEVELED CUSS - DISHEVELED CUSS
This band really hits the spot for me. It's a grunge and pop rock band that don't play easy songs. They've figured out how to make the hook interesting again, and I really appreciate it. Sometimes sounding like Built to Spill and sometimes like Weezer, but it's the unexpected hiccup or off time that really make this one special for me.
Browse our Best of 2020 tag for more year-end lists.