What’s been good about this year, kiddos? Aside from my new interest in bonsai and growing lions mane mushrooms under my sink, I’ve had the privilege to discover and delve in to all sorts of delicious audio delights. And to my delight, so many musicians have been locked up in their studios with nothing to do but create and produce music this year — so we’ve got a lot of great stuff to go through. So while we haven’t been able to travel as much as we planned, I think there’s been enough music this year to take us elsewhere within our own minds.
I don’t know about you, but for me, music transports me back in time better than any other form of art. So how will my ears look back on 2020? Here are 10 albums from my playlist that have made my 2020 so much more enjoyable. Add your 2020 playlist to the comments if you’re brave enough to share.
- Mordechai, Khruangbin
The Houston trio with the unpronounceable name have been in my ear buds for years. They’ve gotten me through countless college reports, held my hand through my thesis, accompanied me throughout my daily work life, and prayed with me on many a long flight — which just so happens to be what Khruangbin means in Thai. Each and every one of their albums transports you to a better, more colorful, funkier place in the deep musical dimension. They come back for another great album to add to their golden discography, as Mordechai builds upon the depth of this band I am now realizing I have an unhealthy obsession with. Just listen, and let Khruangbin take you to another place. Also, check out their Midnight Tales collection that just came out.
- She’s a Beam, Ty Segall
Even though Ty Segall is one of the most prolific musicians out there right now — we had a fairly quiet year from him. And by “quiet”, I mean he only released like, three albums instead of twenty this year. Along with his limited release cover album of Harry Nilsson’s, Nilsson Schmilson (which he aptly title Seagol Smeagol), we got the chance to hear Ty take up a project with the frontman from Wand, Cory Hanson. The two banged out a lovely little EP headed by She’s a Beam, a catchy tune with Hanson’s unique aural weaving that transports the mind to the fields behind your high school where you still go every now and then to reminisce about days you never actually experienced.
- Odd Cure, Oddisee
Ya so we spent way too much time on our couches this year. D.C. rapper Oddisee does couch time ode to the Two Oh in his album, Odd Cure. Mixing songs critical of the years miss-handlings in with calls to loved ones and friends, Oddisee shows us a view from the couch writing, dreaming, and thinking about the ones that matter most in our lives. It’s an easily relatable album for those of us who were stuck inside a little bit too lost in our thoughts and critiques of the system, and calling loved ones to make it all feel better.
- Elä Totuudesta, Kohti Tuhoa
People tell me punk is dead and I tell them Punk’s not dead, you’re just not listening. Punk is a way of mind and it’s everywhere this year, in the hearts of every artist, concerned citizen, and protester wanting change and angry with our system. Punk in the musical embodiment is alive and thrashing as well, even in the polar caps of Finland with the hardcore heavy hitters Kohti Tuhoa. This album takes me back to better times, thrashing in dark underground bars where your only worry was not having enough people in the mosh pit. There was no such thing as two meters of distance, and you were more likely to catch some STD just by getting someones blood in your eye than you were to catch a bat flu. The good ol’ days.
- #KingButch, Butcher Brown
2020 was a brilliant year for funk, Hip-Hop, and punk of all tastes. Butcher Brown didn’t disappoint either, with his punchy funk album with vibes spanning from the wandering solos of Herbie Hancock Head Hunters days to Sly & the Family Stone bass slappy goodness. Music is evolving, and I think we need these genres of intense pleasure and thought more than ever. It feels like your dude just invited you over for a garden party, and you were out anyway at KingSoopers so you just buy a pack of Coronas and head over. You haven’t changed, you’re just hanging out in sweatpants and flip flops and a Beer Lao shirt you picked up at a flea market and theres a dreadlock forming in the back of your head. You get to the party, Lexus’ and Mercedes’ are parked out back and you roll up in your rusty Subaru. Your dude opens up the door gives you a hug and welcomes you in, everyones wearing nice clothes and that girl over there with black bangs has a Gucci purse, but she looks at you like “who’s that trash”. But you’re feelin good, ready to get a nice garden party buzz on even though you haven’t showered in a few days. You’re the true artist here.
- Idol Eyes, Common Saints
With the help of our friends Khruangbin and many other bands like Common Saints, we’re entering into a funkiness never before experienced in this planar existence. Last funky album I swear. Prepare yourselves to sit back in a bean back, fill the room with incense, and see faces in a lava lamp on your bed side table. Common Saints are doing the good good, giving us a bit of poppy snare and traveling guitar solo to lose ourselves to for a lil while.
- When Jah Shall Come, Various Artists
After your vision quest with Common Saints, you may need a little Dub cool down. This collection of classic roots dub doesn’t fail, with just enough hip bending hits to make you feel like you’re walking Trench Town. You’ll need a good bit of bass and a mindset to keep you in a meditative repetitive mood for the long while to make this album work its glorifying magic.
- Invisible People, Chicano Batman
Ok I lied, one more funkadelic album please. Listening along to the Chicano Batman journey has been a fun ride, but this year’s album felt strongly influenced by a lot of the social uprise of 2020. It was a tough year, not just with a pandemic but it made us really take a look at how we intermingle and work together in society. Chicano Batman takes the hard topics from 2020 on while weaving in enough catchy hooks to make it enjoyable. Reminiscing about a garden party and a Shakespearian college party a cute girl invited you to even though you don’t know anything about Shakespeare. You go to the Shakespeare party anyway, and meet a cool dude named Joey at the snack table who’s just here because a cute girl invited him too — and he hasn’t read a lick of Shakespeare either. You peace out and drink 40’s watching the city view from Lookout Mountain and give a prayer to your grandma at the Jesus statue on top of the hill on your way down.
- Monsters Eating People Eating Monsters…, Frankie and the Witch Fingers
One of the best band names in history comes out with another great slosh brained headbanger in 2020. Seeing them perform live in 2019 won my heart, and this year they kept it going with an album full of repetitive garage weavers and just enough fuzz to make you question your underwear decisions. I’m always reminded of Thee Oh Sees, another great band with amazing music this year, but with a vibe that’s a bit easier to show to your partner’s momma. Frankie will make her fall in love with you, and Thee Oh Sees are what you’ll play later that night when you need a good old fashioned face melting.
- Protean Threat, OSees, Thee Oh Sees
The face melting has begun. You just took your girlfriend, Frankie and the Witch Fingers, and your girlfriend’s mom who’s a caretaker at a retirement home out for dinner at the Olive Garden. You impressed her with your ability to twirl noodles. Such agility, yet such class. Such supple wrist strength. You and Frankie really won her over with your charm and humor. It went so well that you took them all out for pie at the Village In, on you, and you made your girlfriend and her mom almost blow key lime chunks out of their nose from laughter as you and Frankie read the description to pies in your sexiest most sensual voice possible. “Sweet sumptuous Lemon Merengue oh yessss.” You drive them all home, drop Frankie and your girlfriends’ mom off at home, and her mom gives you a hug and big wet expired lipstick kiss on the cheek, saying thank you for tonight I haven’t felt this young since 1992 y’all have a fun night now. You pop back in the car and your girlfriend is holding a sticker with a smiley face on it, she puts it on her tongue and makes out with you and suddenly this album comes on and your transported to the 7th goo dimension where words have become sentient and your thoughts have formed vibrations that cause them to to be conscious of themselves and question their own existence. Who judges judgement, and what thoughts do thoughts have? Ya ok anyway, Thee Oh Sees really melted my mind into another dimension this year.
Man there’s been way too much good music here this year. It’s been one of the things that’s kept me happy in these long days at home — and it’s one of the only things giving me faith in humanity as we go into another year starry eyed and hopeful that it’ll be better than the last. Share your favorite tracks from the year and keep the conversation rolling.