01. Fiona Apple: Fetch the Bolt Cutters – It’s flawed, it’s messy, but it’s also wonderfully honest. It also has some of Apple’s best lyrics strewn across it’s 13 tracks.
02. The Microphones: The Microphones in 2020 – The true state of all things is taking your shirt off in the rain.
03. Deftones: Ohms – Their best since White Pony. And that’s saying something since the 2010s were great for them.
04. Fleet Foxes: Shore – One of the brightest spots on a markedly cloudy year.
05. Cindy Lee: What’s Tonight to Eternity – Not as stellar as Acts of Tenderness but assuredly their most accessible.
06. Perfume Genius: Set My Heart On Fire Immediately – Dance, baroque, chamber pop and shoegaze? Um, yes please.
07. The Flaming Lips: American Head – Their best since Embryonic, which isn’t saying much technically since most of their 2010s output was trash. But a true comeback album that reminds us how great this band has always been.
08. Boldy James / Sterling Toles: Manger on McNichols – A lot of people will look to The Price of Tea in China as Boldy’s best for the year, but Manger flourishes with jazz-rap that hearkens back to (but doesn’t surpass, obviously) To Pimp a Butterfly.
09. Lianne La Havas: Lianne La Havas – One of the surprises for me this year, it’s just one of those records that’s easy to pop on and kick back to.
10. Car Seat Headrest: Making a Door Less Open – His most polarizing record for sure, but if you can remind yourself that Toledo’s been doing the same thing for a decade, you can appreciate him spicing things up. It’s way better than you think it is.
11. Open Mike Eagle: Anime, Trauma, and Divorce – As honest as Fetch the Bolt Cutters, but with more humor.
12. Yves Tumor: Heaven to a Tortured Mind – Not as instantly gratifying as their last record, this one is more immediate with its lyricism and intent. It leaves behind some of the nuances that I enjoyed previously, but it’s also a ton of fun.
13. Waxahatchee: Saint Cloud – I wasn’t particularly thrilled about country-esque record from Katie Crutchfield, but she opens herself up so much on this that it doesn’t matter what genre it veers towards. This is just great songwriting with a lot of heart and humility.
14. King Krule: Man Alive! – It doesn’t come anywhere close to the post-punk classic status of The Ooz, but there’s enough here to remind us of how gifted Archy Marshall is not just as a vocalist but as a songwriter too.
15. Blake Mills: Mutable Set – Underappreciated for a long time, Mills has made his best album to date. Not only that, but his fingerprints are on some of the best records of the year by other artists.
16. Adrianne Lenker: songs/instrumentals – Big Thief’s U.F.O.F. was my favorite album from 2019, but since that album Lenker has grown so much as a songwriter that what she does here seems so effortless, and we’re eating it up graciously.
17. Blu & Exile: Miles – The duo’s first album in eight years is a gigantic rap and soul odyssey that needs no comparisons. Those willing to tackle such a behemoth are in for wildly satisfying results.
18. Califone: Echo Mine – Quietly released, with little hype, the Chicago experimental folk band delivered a film soundtrack that touches on so much of what they are good at. It took some warming up to, but it’s a truly unique album for a band who has been sorely missed since their last one.
19. Serengeti: Ajai – Unquestionably the best album from Serengeti to date, thanks in part to Kenny Segal.
20. No Age: Goons Be Gone – Another polarizing record for some, but I’m a sucker for this type of noise rock, especially with how much pop the duo has injected into it. It doesn’t hold a candle to Nouns or even Snares Like a Haircut but it’s just a fun rock record.
01. Fleet Foxes: “I’m Not My Season” – I may not have played this song as much as I did others, but I always came back to this as being the definition of right now. 2020 was hell. But it won’t define us, so long as we don’t allow it to.
02. Fiona Apple: “For Her” – It was really difficult to choose just one song from Fetch the Bolt Cutters. Maybe tomorrow it’ll change, but for right now I’m going with “For Her” since it accomplishes so much in a short amount of time. It transitions between four different musical styles in less than three minutes, all while recounting the (latest) moment her country failed her and other women.
03. Car Seat Headrest: “Deadlines (Hostile)” – A lot of folks hated this record, but I enjoyed it quite a bit. “Deadlines (Hostile)” stands out the most because it has a banging chorus, and it’s one of the tightest tracks he’s done. When Toledo sets out to make a rocker, he succeeds.
04. King Krule: “Comet Face” – Marshall’s most elaborate pop rock song to date.
05. SAULT: “Wildfires” – Coming out of nowhere this year with some pretty intricate pop, SAULT captivated me with “Wildfires”.
06. Perfume Genius: “Describe” – Hadreas doing shoegaze = love
07. Tierra Whack: “Peppers & Onions” – This just came out and it’s already one of my favorite songs of the year. Best Tierra Whack song to date, imo.
08. Yves Tumor: “Gospel for a New Century” – Easily the best opening track of the year. It kicks the new record off with a blitzkrieg of dance punk jams.
09. Deftones: “Ohms” – The title track from their latest effort is one of their strongest lead singles in years, and a great way to close their spectacular ninth album.
10. Boldy James / Sterling Toles: “Middle of Next Month” – At the heart of their collaboration album James and Toles tug at the heart strings with this dark tale of loss and anger.
11. Cindy Lee: “Heavy Metal” – Technically released in 2019, but easily the most intriguing track on their latest album, “Heavy Metal” is a solid sampling of what Pat Flegel does best – moody, atmospheric, cinematic experimental pop.
12. Kassa Overall: “Darkness in Mind” – Mixing pianos and beats together for a song about mental health is never an easy task, but Overall does it successfully and somberly.
13. Blu & Exile: “African Dream” – The most fun you’ll have listening to a rap song all year.
14. Lianne La Havas: “Can’t Fight” – Most will point out her cover of Radiohead’s “Weird Fishes”, which is also great, but for me “Can’t Fight” captures everything one would love about La Havas’ style.
15. Open Mike Eagle: “Bucciarati” (feat. Kari Faux) – One of the more serious tracks on his new album, “Bucciarati” draws a jagged line between himself and Faux who offers the track’s stickiest lines.
16. Waxahatchee: “Fire” – “Lilacs” might be the most reflective, but “Fire” is the one that I go back to as it’s the midway point between what Crutchfield was doing before and what she’s doing now. It bridges that gap for those like me who weren’t ready for a full country/folk album from her.
17. Adrianne Lenker: “anything” – Capping off a stellar two year run with “anything” from her new solo record was the right move by Lenker. It’s the most Big Thiefian track on the album and ranks up there with some of her best work.
18. The Flaming Lips: “God and the Policeman” (feat. Kacey Musgraves) – I would have never expected these two styles to work well, but the tandem of Musgraves and Coyne is the lowkey collab we didn’t realize we needed till now
19. Illuminati hotties: “melatonezone” – DIY mixtape’s best song that puts a dishonest label on blast is the under-appreciated heroine of 2020.
20. Bon Iver: “AUATC” – Definitely should have been included on last year’s i,i but it was a nice surprise that helped make 2020 a little easier.