Whatever it was, we made it to the end of 2020 and boy it couldn’t come soon enough. I, for one, can’t wait to bathe in the waters of a New Year like it will bring absolute resolution to all the crap that has been going down in our world. Will that happen? Who knows. But, at this point, any glimmer of hope is one that I’ll hang onto.
To say 2020 was a strange one is no novel statement. There were times when I turned to music to get me through each passing moment and there were times when the notes of my favorite songs only increased the anguish. Not wanting to listen to music was a new one on me. Thankfully it didn’t last.
Perhaps it’s because of that dissonance that the songs and albums that did stick with me through the last 365 seem to mean
a bit more more than usual.
Without further ado, below is a list of my favorite releases from 2020—each with a 50-word review—and a playlist of the individual songs that helped shape my 2020. Hopefully you’ll find something that sticks with you and helps you through when you need it.
As always, PLEASE support your favorite musicians buy purchasing music, merch, and anything else they may be into. They need us as much as we need them.
Here’s to a year filled with love, hope, and kindness.
Best of 2020 Playlist
Bonny Light Horseman — Bonny Light Horseman
Bonny Light Horseman is the superest of super groups. Perfect harmonies, great storytelling, and supreme musicianship shine listen after listen. If you’re looking for an album to get you through a crappy winter, this is it. This album also cements my theory that anything Josh Kaufman touches turns to gold.
Transmigration Blues — The Dead Tongues
You can glean a lot about a musician by the company they keep. In his QuaranTV series, Ryan Gustafson (aka The Dead Tongues,) pairs with the likes of Phil Cook, Mandolin Orange, and more. That series sets a high bar for Gustafson’s fourth album—a bar that it easily surpasses.
Fetch the Bolt Cutters — Fiona Apple
Not long after it’s release, someone asked what I thought about Fetch the Bolt Cutters, Fiona Apple’s fifth studio album and first in 8 years. “It’s a complicated listen,” was the best I could mutter at the moment. This is still true, it may also be her best effort ever.
The Romantic — Taylor Ashton
Didn’t see this one coming. The debut album from Taylor Ashton lodged itself in my earholes and simply would not leave. Chock full of clever, insightful, funny lyrics, the banjo maestro weaves together an incredibly enjoyable sonic masterpiece that has me pushing play and letting the whole thing run through.
That’s How Rumors Get Started — Margo Price
It seems like a lifetime since Midwest Farmer’s Daughter introduced us to Margo Price, but in reality, four short (?) years have elapsed. Those years have brought changes and challenges—from children to covid—and you can hear and feel all of them in this Sturgill-Simpson produced gem of an album.
Make it Better — Francesca Blanchard
Another album I can’t put down. Blanchard’s second LP is full of the kind of songs you end up rewinding to hear again and again. Her website calls it “melodic indie-pop bursting with bold vulnerability, cathartic relief and a refreshing dose of self-awareness.” I call it a fucking great album.
Reunions — Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit
If it hasn’t already been cemented, it is now time to call Isbell what he really is: one of the best singer/songwriters to ever do it. Social justice, coming of age, parenting… I’m convinced there isn’t a topic the man can’t wax poetic about. His band ain’t bad either.
HARK! — Andrew Bird
Who puts a holiday album on their best of the year list? I do, I guess. After his request to add lyrics to some Vincent Guaraldi songs was denied, Bird decided to pen his own holiday tunes, whistling and all. The Prine cover alone is worth the price of admission.