Top Albums 2020

What can I even say about this year? It flippin’ sucked. It sucked even worse for musicians who suddenly had no shows to play. I do have to give another shout out to KEXP for being my remote working soundtrack. Anyhow, here are my recommendations (and here’s last year’s list).

Run The Jewels – RTJ4

The latest effort from Killer Mike and El-P rails against racism and capitalism in equal measures. The album is brimming with anger, frustration and truth. It feels like an appropriate and timely soundtrack for our summer of unrest. “Look at all these slavemasters posin’ on your dollar,” goes the chorus on “Ju$t” – reminding us that the rot was there from the beginning and is venerated in all kinds of seemingly innocuous ways.

And when Killer Mike pauses during his live performance of “Walking in the Snow” after delivering the lines: “… every day on evening news they feed you fear for free; And you so numb you watch the cops choke out a man like me; Until my voice goes from a shriek to whisper, I can’t breathe,” it hits like a ton of bricks and the truth should make us all very angry.

Tame Impala – The Slow Rush

It took me a minute to warm up to this one. The album is bookended by the – meandering? unfocused? – songs “One More Year” and “One More Hour,” both observations on how time seems to stretch in front of us and then suddenly contract. I guess I like the idea and not so much the execution. “Posthumous Forgiveness” embraces that dual nature by wanting to be two different songs at once, and I’m not sure why, especially in comparison to songs like “Breathe Deeper” and “Lost In Yesterday,” which are so tightly composed. Not every song needs to be a banger, but they shouldn’t feel like an album’s speed bumps, either. Kevin Parker has said in interviews that he obsesses over the drums first and foremost, and most of the songs on the album benefit from his attention to rhythm. While it’s not my favorite Tame Impala album, it’s one of my most listened to albums of the year.

OSEES – Protean Threat

This band has such a huge body of work, it’s taken me a while to latch on to what I like. And still I can’t really describe it. It’s the sound of a rock fever dream.

Shopping – All or Nothing

This album is just fun. We seem to be in a new wave of great rock from the UK. The guitar sound and technique seems to draw on surf rock influences, yet the songs lean closer to punk.

Moodymann – TAKEN AWAY

Through sampling and live instrumentation, Moodymann creates pulsing soundscapes that make you feel like you are having the coolest night.