My Favorite Albums of 2020
The global pandemic produced some amazing works and honestly, music got me through the year. Here are my favorites from 2020.
Shape & Destroy by Ruston Kelly
Shape & Destroy, released on August 28, 2020, is the second studio album by singer and songwriter Ruston Kelly and it’s a doozy. Musical transcendence is a rare thing, but you can literally feel the weight being lifted on this album. It’s all so lush, airy, and pristine; a soundtrack for second chances. There are records that feel like they were written just for you and they come along at just the exact moment when you need to hear them. This has been one of those for me. I love this record.
Folklore by Taylor Swift
Folklore, released on July 24, 2020, is Taylor’s eight studio album. Folklore seems like it was written to be listened to alone, where memories and feelings can be discovered and re-discovered in private. After achieving the pinnacle of pop success on her recent albums, Taylor makes a powerful about-face on Folklore, an album that’s a beautiful experiment of emotional delicacy and intimate storytelling.
Reunions by Jason Isbell
Reunions was released on May 8, 2020 and is Isbell’s seventh studio album. His songs remain deeply personal, revisiting his drinking days and his pride in being done with them in “It Gets Easier” and his view on the importance of perseverance and grit in “Be Afraid” but my favorite track pays tribute to being a parent in “Letting You Go”.
After Hours by The Weeknd
After Hours is the fourth studio album by Canadian singer the Weeknd and was released on March 20, 2020. Three minutes into the album and it’s clear that this is the most tender and bare we’ve ever seen him. A stunningly cohesive project, After Hours emphasizes The Weeknd’s propensity for letting his voice saunter along smoldering rhythms as opposed to straining it to convey emotion.
Fetch the Bolt Cutters by Fiona Apple
Fetch the Bolt Cutters is the fifth studio album by American singer-songwriter Fiona Apple and was released on April 17, 2020, Apple’s first release since The Idler Wheel in 2012. The temperamental and sometimes secluded Apple made Fetch The Bolt Cutters at home, working with a small circle and expressively soaring through resentment and anger and depression without letting any of those feelings weigh down her giddy creativity. When the album arrived in the early days of quarantine, it felt like a gift from someone who had not only figured out how to be stuck-at-home but to actually chose it.
Color Theory by Soccer Mommy
colortheory is the second studio album by American singer-songwriter Soccer Mommy, released on February 28, 2020. Sophie Allison is stuck in her head, imagining her own death and the gradual slipping away of everyone around her, and she can’t snap out of it. She’s watching her heart go around and around, circling a drain that has no bottom. colortheory is an album about passive moods, but Allison and her band take action by writing songs that so perfectly capture depression and existential angst that their very existence suggests that there might be a productive way out.
Vignettes by Wesley Schultz
Vignettes is an album of covers and the first solo album from Wesley Schultz, the lead signer of The Lumineers. It was released on October 30, 2020. It’s always fun to hear the songs that inspire an artist whose songs inspire you and this one doesn’t disappoint. Schultz’s version of “If It Makes You Happy”, originally by Sheryl Crow, sounds like it could have been written today. Songs by Springsteen, Dylan, and Counting Crows all show-up in new, innovative ways.
Punisher by Phoebe Bridgers
Punisher is the second studio album by American singer-songwriter Phoebe Bridgers, released on June 18, 2020. Phoebe Bridgers is known for her candid, self-aware songwriting, lyrics that can sear your skin and swaddle you. On Punisher, she veers away from soft, folk-tinged acoustics toward something bigger. The album is colored by brilliantly simple quips and details: the saltines that aided an ecstasy trip, a tainted storybook house next to a scientology church, “a slaughterhouse, an outlet mall, slot machines, fear of god.”
Shore by Fleet Foxes
Shore is the fourth studio album by American folk band Fleet Foxes. It was announced one day in advance of its release, and was intentionally released exactly at the autumnal equinox on September 22, 2020. Robin Pecknold and his songs are bursting with feeling this time around — it sounds like he’s looked up from the darkness to see the dawn, and the complex textures Pecknold manages on Shore make that journey feel hard-won and worth it.
Saint Cloud by Waxahatchee
Saint Cloud is the fifth studio album by American indie rock act Waxahatchee, released on March 27, 2020. Waxahatchee (Katie Crutchfield) has come out on the other side of her twenties sober, in love, and making some of the best music of her career. But as she details on Saint Cloud, with the hard-won grace and wisdom of lived experience, you never really come out on the other side of anything. Real growth and change is a messy process that you’re always right in the middle of, a never-ending series of steps forward and missteps back. It takes patience. And with Saint Cloud, she’s made an album positively full of the stuff, a beautiful marvel of Americana songwriting that’ll blow you away while taking its sweet time.
It’s really hard to pick just ten albums!
But it sure is fun to reflect on all of the music and the impact it’s had on me and my life this year. Onward!