I’m no music critic. Far from it actually, but I do have what I like to call: a list of favorites. These helped me get through the first six months of 2020 by making it suck a whole lot less. Here are my favorite 15 records of the year (so far).
15) Suburban Delinquents : Exiles
Apparently these guys have been around for awhile. They started a band back in the nineties, grew up, missed the “fame-train” or something, then found each other again as adults & decided to do the band thing again. Yes. More please. Throaty, dirty punk rock.
Standout tracks include: Lost in the City, Our Delinquency, & New Detroit
14) Pearl Jam : Gigaton
Radio rock n roll is far from dead with Eddie Veder still parading around with these guys. It’s arguable their best since Vs. but that could just be my nostalgia talking.
Standout tracks include: Superblood Wolfmoon, Dance of the Clairvoyants, & Retrograde
13) Ray LaMontagne: Monovision
Classic. Throaty. Easy listening, and with some of the smoothest guitar riffs that John Mayer wished he’d wrote.
Standout tracks include: I Was Born To Love You, Strong Enough, & We’ll Make it Through
12) Norah Jones : Pick Me Up Off The Floor
Yea. I listen to Norah. She’s got one of the best vocals in popular music right now. And that piano. Oh god that piano. Press play. Sit back. Listen. Repeat.
Standout tracks include: How I Weep, I’m Alive, & Say No More
11) Waxahatchee : Saint Cloud
The best Waxahatchee record is also the most vulnerable. This is Katie baring her everything for everyone to hear. I love the lyrics. I adore the simple melodies.
Standout tracks include: Lilacs, Hell, & War
10) Christian Lee Hutson : Beginners
I had no clue of this guy until I heard “Lose This Number” randomly on an outlet I’ve since forgotten. If Elliott Smith were to reincarnate, this’d be it. If you take a chance on a white guy this year make this be him.
Standout tracks include: Atheist, Talk, Unforgivable, & Northsiders
9) Algiers : There Is No Year
Soulful and energetic anthems for.. the year with no number (?). I’ll admit that it took me a few listens to dig into this one, but once I chewed on it for awhile: whoa! So. Damn. Good!
Standout tracks include: Dispossession, Unoccupied, & Nothing Bloomed
8) Spanish Love Songs : Brave Faces Everyone
If there was an album to sum up my pain & anxieties it’d be this one. “In any given day I’m a 6 of 10” & “we throw a pill down our throats or ourselves into the ocean” are just a couple examples of the genius lyricist that Dylan is. Thought emo was dead and gone? Think again.
Standout tracks include: Routine Pain, Kick, & Losers 2
7) Jordan Mackampa : Foreigner
This is my favorite discovery of the year so far, and maybe ever. I can’t not toe tap when listening to this record. So much fun and so much heart. My favorite song of the year is also on this record, and it’s nearly biographical (hint: track 2).
Standout tracks include: Love At First Sight, What Am I, & Parachutes
6) Run the Jewels : RTJ4
Yes. It made my list too. I’m late to the RTJ train, but that won’t make me choose pride over admitting that this is the real deal. Relevant lyrics, hard truths, and the best rap in my rotation in a very very long time.
Standout tracks include: JU$T, never look back, & goonies vs. E.T.
5) The Strokes : The New Normal
Indeed, the rumors ARE true. They are back, and it’s as to be expected. But.. let’s be real. When the chef cooks up a dish that everyone’s trying to replicate.. why do anything different?
Standout tracks include: The Adults Are Talking, Brooklyn Bridge to Chorus, Bad Decisions
4) Gia Margaret : Mia Margaret
If an ambiance of soul settling music is something you’re into then I’d recommend this record highly. It is perfect for that temporary lapse of personal restraint needing overcome. Gia has the gift of peace within her art and creativity. Let her guide your mind.
Standout tracks include: barely there, lakes, lessons
3) Brian Fallon : Local Honey
Growing up and singing about it has kinda become a thing for bands that I’ve listened to for so many years. It seems fitting as they age alongside me being that I recently passed into my fourth decade of life. Brian Fallon’s songwriting has reached a level previously already assumed he’d reached with his band The Gaslight Anthem, but here he is proving to everyone that the best is still yet to come and I urge you all to listen.
Standout tracks include: When You’re Ready, 21 Days, & You Have Stolen My Heart
2) Phoebe Bridgers : Punisher
This will be a classic in the modern indie singer-songwriter genre. Not a threat. More of a promise. Phoebe is still very new to the grand scheme, but with lyrics as vulnerable and melodies so hypnotic I don’t see her star fading any time soon.
Standout tracks include: I Know The End, Kyoto, Chinese Satellite
1) The Cool Greenhouse : Self-Titled
Here it is. My favorite record of 2020 so far: the cleverly snarky & lyrically smart band from London. It’s a debut. It’s dense with social commentary. It’s punk rock for the future. Coming from me (the guy who correctly predicted that IDLES were gonna hit it big), this is a band to watch.
Standout tracks include: The Sticks, Life Advice, & Smile Love!