Talk Show Host's Favorite Albums of 2020
We've always described our band with the beginning to a lame joke (“two recovering punks and an indie rocker walk into a bar...”) so our list is divided accordingly and, otherwise, in no particular order.
THE FRENCH PUNK (Fab, bass/pastry [basstry?]):
Envier Les Vivants (Guerilla Asso)
This 3rd album from the quartet from Bordeaux, France, hits you right in the heart. Fresh and original, powerful yet moving, melodic but melancholic, this album is a punk rock masterpiece. There is no other band like them.
Guerilla Poubelle –
L'ennui (Red Scare)
Like always, Guerilla Poubelle delivers the finest political and personal punk songs. Moreover on their fifth album, the French trio even pushes its music to new heights. Don’t miss them at the Fest.
Laura Jane Grace –
Stay Alive (Polyvinyl)
The pandemic has been rough on everyone but somehow LJG created out of this forced isolation a little safe and welcoming bubble to share with us. 14 songs to suspend you from reality. Indispensable.
THE OTHER PUNK (Chris, guitar/vox):
American Fail –
American Fail (self-released)
It's “The Decline” updated for 2020 but with a severe case of ADHD and zero filler. I am jealous of the writing on this. By the time it gets to the climactic bass solo I just want to climb into my headphones and live there.
Illuminati Hotties –
FREE I.H: This Is Not The One You've Been Waiting For (self-released)
It's weird, catchy as heck, and there wasn't another record like it this year, especially not one that sounded so darn good. I put this on to drown out my downstairs neighbour's daily marathon of “How I Met Your Mother.”
Bob Mould –
Blue Hearts (Merge)
Bob's angry, Bob's loud, and sometimes you can't hear Bob over his fifty billion guitars, but that's fine because Bob is life. He's now released more great albums in the last 8 years than most artists can muster in a lifetime.
Green Day –
Father of All Motherfuckers (who cares)
They finally nailed the vibe they were going for on the trilogy. Between this and the new Network record, they sound like they're having fun again. That means I'M having fun.
THE INDIE ROCKER (Sean, drums/backing vox):
I Feel Alive (Arbutus)
A solid album from top to bottom! Every track will make you either bop in your living room on a Sunday morning, or cozy up on a cold winter's night. But hats off to Tops for writing “Take Down” in 5/4. It makes me feel alive!
Auto-Pain (Fire Talk)
Angular guitar riffs on a Jaguar, chorus pedals, and Robert Smith vocals from The Forest era. That opening riff in “The Knife”...SO FRIGGIN' CATCHY!
Video Age –
Pleasure Line (Winspear)
I think I listened to the track Aerostar like 50 times just this summer alone. Comic Relief will take you back to the 70's along with “Shadow on the Wall.”
photo via Bandcamp American Television's Top Albums of 2020
Kill Lincoln -
Jerred: I’ve known the lads in Kill Lincoln for a long time, they’re hometown heroes, like comfort food. But they also put out my favorite record this year. If there’s one common connection that keeps me coming back to certain bands, it’s the presence of self deprecating humor and sarcasm used to describe the existential dread and the disappointment in humanity we’re all feeling. Especially now. Can’t Complain does not disappoint in this department and the occasional double time drum beat doesn’t hurt either! The intricate horn lines cut through the mix with laser-like precision and the ups and downs take you on a journey through the land of checkered flags and circle pits. Seriously though, that baseline in “Confession Obsession,” I’m dead. There’s a lot to get lost in, but that’s the beauty of it. A word of advice... if you plan on giving this one a listen you’d better be ready to dust off your dancing shoes.
Laura Jane Grace -
Edwin: This is such a great album, stripped back to just an acoustic guitar which absolutely benefits the songs. Laura’s voice truly shines through as she sings about what the vast majority of us have felt and experienced through the pandemic, while still trying to maintain that little bit of optimism.
Bryan: This album perfects the indie synth-punk sound to me. It’s just so good. It’s a fun record, despite some heavy subject matter and I’m always impressed when bands can make such personal topics so accessible. The songs are great and the recording by J Robbins is top notch.
Maxwell Stern -
Steve: This album came out in late September. It feels like the songs were written for that time of year; when fall is offering up crisp mornings and you can throw on a hoodie to enjoy a coffee on the porch. The lyrics paint vivid pictures in my mind's eye, as Max's words often do. In what has been a depressing year, this album had the power to make me feel whole for a moment.
Spanish Love Songs -
Brave Faces Everyone
Edwin: 2020 in a nutshell. This is probably the most relatable album I’ve listened to this year. Lyrics dealing with depression, anxiety, and the sad state of current affairs delivered by Dylan’s raw and cathartic vocals absolutely grab your attention every moment. This is definitely a special album; one that left me thinking not to give up, but to put on a brave face and, with that tiny glimmer of optimism, hope things will get better.
Mercy Music -
Nothing in the Dark
Jerred: I absolutely fell in love with “Until The End Of Your World” when it came out in 2018. So when I found out Rob (who has an ear for bands like none other) was putting out their latest release on Wiretap, I was beyond stoked. Their self described brand of “sad bastard power pop” really comes to life within the ten songs on this heartbreakingly beautiful record. Brendan Sholz’s melodic vocal delivery and piercing guitar work is the driving force behind the themes of loving and losing and all the feelings in between. The obvious musical chemistry within the trio is displayed throughout. Despair never sounded so good. If the title track doesn’t give you goosebumps, you might wanna check your pulse.
Ways Away -
Bryan: This is what melodic punk is supposed to sound like. When you see the list of other bands that the members are in, you get a pretty good idea of what this will sound like. Then the record exceeds those expectations when you listen. Catchy, yet powerful with just such well written songs.
Jerred: I’m a sucker for self loathing pop punk and its instant relatability, but the surprising thing about this record is that it’s easy to forget that’s exactly what you’re listening to. It’s full of bright, poppy melodies and sugary sweet harmonies that pair incredibly well with a perfectly paced rhythm section. It’s catchy as hell, plain and simple, but it’s not until you get sucked into singing along that you start to realize just how dark the subject matter really is. It’s not every day you find yourself relating to an album from front to back but we all know the euphoria that comes along with it when you do. This record wasn’t written for me, but it sure as hell feels that way
Bad Cop/Bad Cop -
Edwin: The Ride is a solid album all around. I’ve heard some say that their anger and rage has subsided a bit, but it makes way for that sense of hope and wanting to come through the other side if we can keep it together.
Bryan: I’ve been waiting for this record for 20 years. I’ve been a fan of the band since they appeared on Beavis and Butthead, even though only the intro to Stars was played. Hum takes the noisiness of shoegaze and adds melody and heaviness like few other bands do. The songs are devastating, but pretty at the same time. I can’t help but be affected emotionally because they affect you physically, whether you feel their live performance in your chest (remember live shows?) or the album is shaking the rearview mirror in your car.
photo via Facebook Mercy Music's Favorite Albums of 2020
2020 has been a complete shit show! These are some of the releases we thoroughly enjoyed this year in no particular order:
Get Dead -
Dancing With the Curse Bracket - Best of the Würst Movin in Stereo - New Blood Ways Away - Ways Away Descendents - Suffrage Spanish Love Songs - Brave Faces Everyone The Lawrence Arms - Skeleton Coast Red City Radio - Paradise Vulfpeck - Live at Madison Square Garden Caspar Babypants - Bug Out! Eminem - Music to be Murdered By Ricky- Palm Trees photo via Bandcamp LOVEBREAKERS' Favorite Albums of 2020
We are always skeptical when bands leave such a long period of time in between records, but
Alphabetland is amazing. We think that it's the best X record, it sounds so fresh but still true to their trademark sound. There's not a single bad song on the record & this record makes us want to pick up our guitars and get onstage again. Exene & John Does vocals are on top form as are the rest of the band. It's just a great, upbeat rock & roll record that brings an air of positivity into a truly woeful year.
Tom Petty -
Wildflowers And All The Rest
Tom Petty is a pretty big influence on our band. One of his theories is “Don’t bore us, get to the chorus”, how sick is that! Rick Rubin produced this record and it sounds perfect. Originally released in 1994, this 2020 release has been remastered and released with a lot more studio tracks, live tracks and home recordings. “California” sounds like you are driving down the PCH, it gives us tingles each time we spin it.
Green Day -
Father of all Motherfuckers
Although not our favourite Green Day record, we still like this record a-lot & it still stands out as one of the best records of 2020. It's relatively simple. It isn't a rock opera & it isn't 3 fully grown men trying to remake
Dookie. Instead, it's something that they've never really done before. It's just straight up rock & roll with a bit of Motown thrown in for good measure. Highlights are “Graffitia" and "Take The Money & Crawl". Billie has always been a genius when it comes to vocal melodies & this record is full of them. It makes us wanna dance and have a good time.
Bad Nerves -
We've shared the stage a few times with Bad Nerves, our friends from Essex, England. Every time they put out a new single, we have it on repeat to try to learn the lyrics but also because every song they've put out makes us realise how much we love punk rock & roll. They're electric live, Bobby the singer reminds us of a punk rock version of Mick Jagger. Their debut self titled record is great, every song is a banger & is played at 200bpm plus. The perfect soundtrack to split kicks & stage diving.
Women in Music Pt.III
The incredible guitar work on "The Steps" stands out in particular. A real melodic, full of hooks, pop record.
Bruce Springsteen -
Letter to You
The Boss is for sure a strong influence in our music.
Letter To You displays that he certainly hasn't lost his way and continues to show the world how it is done.
Liam Gallagher -
Being a huge fan of both Oasis and Liam Gallagher's following solo career, this live album ticks all the boxes. The live orchestra and overall sound really highlight how incredible the atmosphere must have been in Hull City Hall that evening. We challenge anyone to dislike "Once", especially with an orchestra. This has to be one of the best songs of the past decade.
Arctic Monkeys -
Live at the Royal Albert Hall
A wonderful collection of songs from their past six albums. It’s a rollercoaster ride of moody, in-your-face, loud and subtle rock n roll. The roof must have been close to caving in when they go into “Brianstorm”. This live record truly shows what a wide variety of musical styles they have.
Get your light blue jeans on, your AC/DC tee ready and start head banging and two stepping! That guitar tone from Angus Young will live with us forever. "Through The Mists Of Time" is a great track on this record and it’s great to hear Brian Johnson singing again. A classic rock album that should be played at 11.
Foolish Loving Spaces
Feel good indie that you can dance to. We really like the production on this record. "The Keeper" will be sung at many weddings we’re sure!
photo via Bandcamp Catholic Guilt's Favorite Albums of 2020 Brenton (Vox):
Spanish Love Songs -
Brave Faces Everyone
There's a level of emotional depth and intensity to this record that is almost overwhelming. From the opening moments of "Routine Pain" to the final seconds of the titular finale, Dylan Slocum and co. immerse listeners in a world of desperation, anxiety, loss, disconnection, confusion and angst that is as painfully relatable as it is oddly reassuring. This record is a work of emotional alchemy that drew me in with its combination of earworms and unbridled honesty in February and has had me captivated ever since.
Sex, Death and the Infinite Void
Sex, Death and The Infinite Void takes the 2000's emo/punk sensibilities of Creeper's fantastic debut album Eternity in Your Arms and blends them together with Britpop, New Wave and Goth elements to create a soundscape that is entirely their own. Creeper showcases their considerable range as songwriters here, drifting between goth-tinged pop-punk ("Be My End"), glam ("Cyanide"), Britpop ("Annabelle"), 50's slow bop's ("Thorns of Love") and goth balladry ("All My Friends"), as Patricia Morrison of Sisters of Mercy, guides us through the narrative. If MySpace was a musical, this album might be it! Bryce (Guitar/Vox):
Machine Gun Kelly -
Tickets to My Downfall
MGK broke the mould on this record, leading the trend of post-genre-ism. This album is catchy, emotional and vulnerable. Not having listened to any of MGK other albums it was a pleasant surprise.
Eddie Perfect -
Beetlejuice: The Musical Soundtrack
Eddie perfect, the mastermind behind the Shane Warne musical, has nailed this retelling of Tim Burton's horror-comedy classic. It's witty, funny and catchy as hell. You'll find yourself with these songs stuck in your head for days after just one listen.
It Is What It Is
One minute you find yourself floating in the clouds of falsetto, synth and smooth bass lines, the next minute you're balls deep in a filthy funk bath. It's quirky and fun but also heartbreaking and comforting. It is what it is and what it is, is exactly what I needed in 2020.
King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard -
A brilliant album from one of the hardest working bands on the planet. Even after 16 albums, they are still chugging out unique riffs and melodies that get stuck in your head for days on end.
Tame Impala –
The Slow Rush
Kevin Parker has delivered the goods again with
The Slow Rush. His carefully crafted drum production, sweet falsetto vocals and tasty synth textures had me grooving along at my desk, day after lockdown day.
Ball Park Music –
Ball Park Music
Ball Park Music always seem to find the perfect balance of toe-tapping bangers and sweet heartfelt ballads. The selection of guitar tones and synth layers give a wonderful sixties vibe with tastes of psychedelia, and it’s always a big thumbs up from me when a band delivers tight three-part vocal harmonies.
The Death of Me
Best metal record this year by a long shot. Best Polaris record to date. Flawless record, every track makes you want to move. 10/10.
To Better Days
One of my most overplayed. Which means I have to love it. Great heavy guitar work over pop vocals. Great choruses and my newborn daughter loves it.
Answering Machine's Favorite Albums of 2020
Year of The Snake Year of The Snake is just some wild & fun NYC rock ‘n’ roll. I first heard “Neon Nightmare” listening to Little Steven’s Underground Garage and I’ve been hooked ever since. (JD)
Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band -
Letter To You
The E Street Band recorded this album live together and they sound as beautiful as ever! Bruce has a way of making you appreciate life and everything that comes along with it even when things seem hopeless. (JD)
Tom Petty -
Wildflowers & All The Rest
This is a re-release of the 1994 album
Wildflowers with a full album’s worth of unreleased recordings from the sessions. I’ve been in love with Petty’s music for my entire life but I never gave Wildflowers any real attention until adulthood. It’s a flawless record from start to finish and now with the new pressing I can actually afford the vinyl. (JD)
I am the Avalanche -
I love the catchy riffs, and I have to rep Long Island! This album actually came out on my birthday so when I heard this was being released, it felt like a sweet little birthday gift. (Sam)
Frances Quinlan -
Frances has such a knack for telling beautiful stories. In each song, the vocals and instrumentation paint surreal pictures of small moments that I can’t help but visualize as I’m listening. (Sam)
Heavy Lag -
In a year full of shit, the demo by pals Heavy Lag brought me life. (Louis)
Jeff Rosenstock -
My favorite artist released my favorite album of the year. Top tier musicians backing the most creative songwriting delivered by urgent vocals. This is one of the few records that sums up what it's been like to live through the last 4 years. (Craig)
Maxwell Stern -
Best known for the amazing band Signals Midwest, Max channeled the best of Nashville for his debut solo record. What makes a good song? I'm always guessing but I feel like Max knows. (Craig)
Good Looking Friends -
The Light of the Well
This band just gets better and better. Do you feel like you missed out on Algernon Cadwallader or any other underrated twinkly emo band? Listen to Good Looking Friends and catch them live when it's safe to do shows again! (Craig)
The Chicks -
Do you like emo for the feelingsy break up songs? That's child's play compared to this divorce inspired Chicks album. Don't cheat on your partner on the boat you named after her, that's asking for an album of call-out tracks. (Craig)
In Parallel's Favorite Albums of 2020
Two People -
Ethereal, dreamy, and beautiful. Phoebe has one of the best voices in music.
The almighty HUM drop an album out of the blue, 22 years after their last release.
Inlet picks up right where they left off. No one does crushing, melancholic riffs like HUM.
The Chain Gang of 1974 -
Honey Moon Drips
Nostalgic yet modern. This album is full of hooks and a night driving pulse.
We needed something to count on in 2020 & nothing delivers proper grounding like a Terry Date produced Deftones record. Hooks & riffs & riffs & hooks all day long.
Ghosts VI: Locusts
A beautifully twisted soundtrack that thoroughly captures every lurch & shadow of this piece of shit year.
Black Aura My Sun
This record is full of nostalgia (The Cure, MBV, etc.), but there's a confidence and intention behind it that makes it uniquely powerful. "Hide" is worth the listen alone, but all 7 songs compliment each other brilliantly.
Diamond Thug - "Empty Streets"
I love this band. This single is a great example of how they continue to write songs that feel as if they've always existed.
Soft Kill -
Dead Kids R.I.P. City
This record has vibes for days. Lush and atmospheric is an understatement - it's easy to get lost in each song. There is a sense of melancholy throughout, but it is balanced by a beauty and hopefulness woven in every note and melody.
This is the soundtrack you want playing when you get in a fight with your boss and tell him to go to hell. IDLES remain the best way to get punched in the face.
The Psychedelic Furs -
Made of Rain
Three words - THE PSYCHEDELIC FURS.
Browse our Best of 2020 tag for more year-end lists.