Thursday, December 31, 2020

Year In Review 2020 - Favorite Albums of 2020

Here are our all of our favorite albums of 2020. This is the year end review, all in one place.

It starts with our honorable mentions then moves into our top ten albums of the year. There is a short blurb about the album and a song from it, click on the title to read our full review of the selected records. The focus here is on full albums, not singles, but long playing releases you can slap on and listen to all the way through.

It has been a weird year to say the least... 

Thanks for reading.

RtBE's Honorable Mentions...In no particular order...

A solid blues record with gospel influences from the veteran Cray who comes through as an elder statesmen that still has it on That's What I Heard.

The debut from a folk trio that delivers Sunday morning folk ease with historic underpinnings. Great start from this outfit. 

Ho-hum just another rock solid retro soul album from the James Hunter Six and Daptone records.

An excellent jazz record from an artist RtBE has enjoyed in  the past. This is a confident first full length release from Garcia.

Good English pub punk/rock that really cooks throughout. A super solid debut from Chubby and The Gang.

A textured album from Isbell and company and while not quite up to the heights of past effortsRtBE certainly liked this one more than The Nashville SoundThere are certainly a few amazing songs on it like this one...

RtBE have been long time fans of CSaA and ranked his Centennial Trilogy as our favorite jazz release of the 2010'sAxiom is an excellent capturing of his live sound. 

One of the most solid top to bottom releases from Earle in sometime, Ghosts of West Virginia is a dynamite listen. 

The debut from Ian Mackaye and crew as the angular art rock in restrained style is very front and center and reminiscent of a toned down Fugazi.

A hell of a New Orleans second line brass band record from top notch NOLA players, if not well known names outside of the Crescent City. 

A punchy collection of southern rock in a smokey English style, A cool combo 

A very cool instrumental record that touches on tropicalia, modern and funky all around the vibes of Mike Dillon. An album that really surprised with its cool tone and adult vibes, yet playful spirit. 

The drunk hardcore punks from NYC keep it rolling as they dropped Wasted For Life, another collection of kick ass tunes. It is not all drunken good times though as the band gets older and deals with our shitty modern society on a few tracks.

An excellent return after seven years off from the Goodie Mob. This one flirted with our top ten as it is a sold full length hip hop release. 

RtBE's favorite live album of the year, because when you listen you are transported to this family gathering in the deep deep south via the interlocked playing and the literal calls to lineup for some food. A great capturing of creole music. 

This record was in our top ten all year until very recently, so in fairness this is probably number eleven for us in 2020. A record of the times, except the band topped themselves later on in 2020. 

Now RtBE's  top ten:
A completely random bandcamp find that worked it's way into our ear early in the year and never left. Fast, heavy, to the point, and dangerous, the way the best punk/hardcore should be. These French kids are worth keeping an eye on. 

Scully's first truly solo record captured the early days of Covid-19 lock down better that any other album to these ears. The confusion, the humor, the pain, the straight up bizarre. "Manhole" could be the most appropriate song of this insane year.

The most complete thrash metal album in some time with an all-star lineup of mercenaries brought in to spruce up the sound as Dave Lombardo and Scott Ian add grit and determination to the original Bungle trio.  

Thurston Moore continues creating engaging noise rock and adventurous guitar based outings. A bit more restrained than his last release and a bit more out there than one of our favorites from him. Moore and his band are certainly keeping the Sonic Youth vibe alive with these creative offerings.  

A cool dose of African desert rock and roll with added punk and dance vibes. The band's strongest album to date and one of the best of the year.  

Fiona Apple excels at coupling honest and brutal lyrics with music that is at the same time spare, melodic, and powerful. This album was so significant because many of its themes mirrored the heightened, intense mood of the earliest days of the pandemic, but even if it didn't coincide with quarantine and lockdowns, it would still be a stellar encapsulation of the trauma and the glimmers of hope and humor most of us have experienced over the last few years.

The second great album from the Drive-By Truckers released in 2020. The New OK has a more cohesive feeling than The Unraveling, perhaps because all of the original songs minus one were written by Patterson Hood. The Ramones cover, the funky outlier, the Cooley penned Palin tune and the political songs written from the front lines make this one hit home no matter where you live. DBT are a hell of a band and keep adapting to the times with grace and strength. 

From old southern rock warhorses like DBT to brand new youngsters straight from Australia, this is why RtBE continues reviewing music; there are always surprises. The debut from Bananagun is a great mix of afro-pop, indie rock, and psychedelic/surf/garage styling culminating in the most fun listening experience RtBE had in 2020. This record made us dance and smile in the summer sunshine. Our top five are mostly deep, angry, depressing/introverted albums which fit 2020, but Bananagun brought the fun, hopefully more is coming in the near future.  

Written with the untimely passing of his good friend Mac Miller weighing heavy on his heart, It Is What It Is is a darker, moodier album than Thundercat has delivered in the past, but the grounding helps the songs gain emotional heft. Also some of the free jazz Thundercat delivers live is captured on the album which feels transitional for the artist, but who knows where this bass maestro heads next time... 

Run The Jewels are custom made for trying times and Killer Mike and El-P delivered the goods when most needed. Released for free during the height of the protests surrounding George Floyd's murder RTJ4 is tighter than their strong last album and somehow remains of the moment even when it feels removed from it. 

From the RTJ theme song "Yankee and the Brave" to the theme song of 2020, "Walking in the Snow" the band pulls out all of the stops with no filler. A guest like Mavis Staples connects modern struggles and sounds to past efforts confronting the same god damn problem of white supremacy in this country. 

RTJ have been excellent in the past and they continue their string of successes on RTJ4, delivering RtBE's pick for album of the year. 

Top Ten Favorite Albums of 2020

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