2020 was 12 months unlike any we have ever experienced. 2020 was hard. I was like millions of other Americans who got sick with Covid and had a battle that took weeks away from me. Today, we close the book on this awful year and hope for better times to come.
I broke down a few times putting this list together because normally, doing my favorite album compilation is a highlight for me. I love looking back at all the great music that we got to experience.
However, this year, it just reminded me of all the great shows that I didn’t get to go see and all the great memories that I would have had listening to these records. Just sucks. All the way around.
2020 was the worst but these are my favorite 20 albums of the year.
No. 20 THE CHICKS – Gaslighter
Dropping the “Dixie”, theses 3 came back with an album that was supposed to set up 2020 as the year of the woman in America. We got there eventually with the election of our first woman V.P. in November but this album didn’t have the splash that I thought it was going to have when it dropped in March. But shit, Gaslighter? That’s as direct of a shot by these 3 as the insult of Bush in France. Great album.
No. 19 – DEFTONES – OHMS
There is a theme you will see throughout this list. The music that I was listening to in 2020 brought me back to my roots. There aren’t a ton of new artists on this annual review. I went back to bands that I’ve been listening to for decades and luckily, many of them put out albums this year. Deftones, a band I first saw in the late 90’s, still puts out great music.
No. 18 – ARIANA GRANDE – Positions
Sometimes, I like to make myself feel old. At 43, that’s getting easier and easier but this album made me feel that way start to finish. I will admit that I had to take a minute to figure out what 34+35 was referring to before it hit me. She’s not a kid anymore obviously but the album is filled with fun pop songs and powerful vocals.
No. 17 – LADY GAGA – Chromatic
This is an album that would have been a lot bigger if it wasn’t for the pandemic. Yes, the track with Ariana Grande was monster but the 6th album from Gaga was really good. I felt like there were more than just one or 2 big hits on it. “I’d rather be dry but at least I’m alive” is a theme for 2020.
No. 16. THE WEEKND – After Hours
So, this album was pretty cool for me. My sister and I saw The Weeknd on January 2nd, 2015 here in Las Vegas. I snuck her into the show with a fake ID. This album came out in January of 2020 and the video for Blinding Lights was shot here in Vegas. This album was always going to be on this list.
No. 15 PHOEBE BRIDGES – Punisher
This was another album that I found in 2020 that fit the mood. I found myself listening to songs with deep lyrics, sad tones, and beautiful arrangements. You probably remember seeing her other band BoyGenius on previous lists of mine.
No. 14 BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN – Letters To You
He’s the Boss for a reason. If you love him, you will love this album. Bruce is just incredible. He just keeps putting out great music. He might be my favorite artist to have on during long drives. Really enjoyed this album.
No. 13 WAXAHATCHEE– Saint Cloud
In March, this band from Alabama put out a fantastic record. They are named after a creek near lead singer Katie Crutchfield’s home town. I love Katie’s voice on this album and it’s great that this part of the country continues to pump out great indy rock.
No. 12 LAURA MARLING – Song For Our Daughter
One of my favorite singer/songwriters came back with another great record in 2020. As someone who is the father of a six-year old, the title of the album hit home. Her music matched the mood of 2020 and is probably my favorite folk album of the year.
No. 11 RUN THE JEWELS – RTJ4
This is probably too low for many of you, I get it. RTJ4 was the album that spoke to millions as our summer of unrest unfolded. In the wake of the protests and social injustices that led us up to the election in November, this album stood out in 2020.
No. 10 THE KILLERS – Imploding The Mirage
When I first saw the title of this record, I thought, is that a reference to the casino? Like, are we imploding the ACTUAL Mirage one day? This band from Vegas is the one that I have to see in 2021. One of favorite bands ever and I haven’t seen them live yet. That’s a problem. The band put out another awesome album in 2020.
No. 9 KID CUDI – Man on the Moon 3
Man, this album is like walking back into my life 10 years ago. Do you remember 2009? Kid Cudi become a superstar with Man on the Moon: The End of Day that is still in my top 10 all time for rap. It’s a masterpiece. All these references, song titles, lyrics and the name of the album, it was nice to remember a time way before Covid.
No. 8 HALSEY – Maniac
From the first time I heard Halsey sing, I knew she would be a star that would stay around for a long time. She is interesting as a music personality but she is so damn talented as an artist. She is the complete package. Her voice continues to be the powerful tool that drives her career but she has the intelligence and the platform to be so much more than just a singer.
No. 7 HAYLEY WILLIAMS – Petals for Armor
Ok, let’s go back to Matt feeling old but I love Paramore. It was one of my guilty pleasures for years on previous top 20 lists. Hayley Williams, the lead singer of Paramore, came out with her debut solo album in 2020 and I freakin’ loved it. Her vocal range is incredible and she really did a good job of staying within the genre of her band but adding new sounds to her music.
No. 6 MACHINE GUN KELLY – Tickets To My Downfall
So in 1997, I met the band the Blink 182 for an interview that would air on my college radio show. I was late and the band was in their tour bus. I had to go hang out with them for a few minutes before Mark and Travis would do it. In 2020, Machine Gun Kelly, complete with Travis on drums, put out an album that would have fit in perfectly in 1997. It’s not a masterpiece but I don’t care. It’s a fun album.
No. 5 TAYLOR SWIFT – Evermore
No artist did more with the stoppage of the world than Taylor Swift. Both albums that she recorded and released during the shutdown were incredible. As a dad of a 6-year old who really loves Taylor’s music, and as someone who first saw Taylor open for Rascal Flatts as a 16-year old, the music she released in 2020 was awesome. Her growth and maturity is heard throughout the record and I love her new sound. Sure, it’s not aimed at an 18-year old female anymore but I’m here for more of this sound.
No. 4 FIONA APPLE – Fetch The Bolt Cutters
Well, where have YOU been? Fiona Apple is back and her sound is intense, powerful and incredible. Her piano and vocals have always been what people have loved but I love her fire. This album brings it. For some, it’s the best album of the year and I won’t argue the point.
No. 3 HAIM – Women in Music III
These 3 sisters are really talented and the trio from Los Angeles put out their best album to date in 2020. NPR did their famous Tiny Desk with Haim remotely and the sound was incredible. Check out the video above but listen to the full album as well. You won’t be sorry.
No. 2 DUA LIPA – Future Nostalgia
Oh, how the 80’s came home in 2020. Dua Lipa, the tremendously talented singer, produced an album that any sync-pop fan would love. I started the listening this record as home workouts became a major thing this year. I found it to be the perfect album to get you up and moving. It’s like Flash Dance circa 2020. Really loved this album.
No. 1 TAYLOR SWIFT– Folklore
And so we reach number 1. My favorite album of the year. As I stated with Evermore, Folklore showed how much growth and maturity Taylor now brings to songwriting. At 31, she wrote songs that fit our moods in 2020, but also showcased how much she has changed over the year. I would HIGHLY recommend watching the Disney + documentary on the making of this record. In it, you will hear Taylor explain the story behind “Epiphany”. This is the song of the year for me in 2020. The connection between the health care workers trying desperately to save Covid-19 patients and a war ripped me apart. Once you know that connection, this song drills your soul.
2020 – I won’t miss you. But thank you for the music and the time to listen.