Thursday, December 17, 2020

Year In Review 2020 - Favorite Albums Part 3: The Top 5

Another year is finishing up and @RockBodElec wouldn't be a proper music site if we didn't end the year with a "Best Of" list, so RtBE presents 2020's Favorite Albums Part 3: Top Five.

In the instance that RtBE has reviewed the album, either on this site or elsewhere, we will link to that review and just give a quick summation; click on the name/title and you can read our full opinion. RtBE worked with the Glide Team to give input on their Top 20 so you can expect some overlap if you already have seen that list.

Again the focus here is on full albums, not singles, but long playing releases you can slap on and listen all the way through. We know these are a dying breed, but it still is the way we consume music, no shuffle or singles for us.

The number ten just works for this, so here is the second part of our top ten, numbers five through one. You can see the back end of our top ten and the albums that just missed as well. Like all of our lists or 'best of's' these are meant to start conversations more than end them...

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 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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