Obviously 2020 has been backasswards, but it hasn’t stopped plenty of artists from releasing some really great music. First thing’s first, I realize this is a rock station and at my core i’m an indie/alt rock type of guy, but I do listen to many kinds of music, so don’t be surprised to find some things you may have never heard of on the list.
I also struggle with obsessive compulsive disorder, which really doesn’t negatively impact my life other than my constant need to organize things, especially when it comes to music. All of that being said, please enjoy my Top 10 Albums of 2020.
10. The Slow Rush by Tame Impala
-”Lost In Yesterday”, “Breathe Deeper”, “It Might Be Time”, “Is It True” and “Borderline” are the standout tracks on Tame Impala’s 4th record, and 1st in five years. I’ve been critical of them in the past, but they always find a way to pull me in.
9. Float Back To You by Holy Hive
-This was recommended to me by Jeff “Skin” Wade from the Ben and Skin Show, heard 2-5pm weekdays on 97.1 The Eagle. I would describe this as a very dreamy album. Beautiful vocals, and sincerely beautiful arrangements that will take you on a psychedelic smooth ride.
8. Death of the Party by The Magic Gang
-It’s early in the career of The Magic Gang, largely unknown in the United States, this band had a stellar second album. It’s a band still finding their sound, but the mix of catchy guitar riffs and horns really makes for a fun listen. Off the top “Think” makes sure to let you know that the brass is here and doesn’t plan on leaving. Meanwhile, the guitar groove on “What Have You Got To Lose?” will stick with me forever. One of my favorite bands is the now defunct Pete and the Pirates, and now The Magic Gang, hailing from the same part of the world is here to fill that void for me.
7. Gigaton by Pearl Jam
-I personally wasn’t sure if I’d ever dig a complete Pearl Jam album again, as it’s been since their self-titled 2006 album since i’ve enjoyed a COMPLETE record from them. Radio hits “Superblood Wolfmoon” and “Dance of the Clairvoyants” are so cool in their own unique Pearl Jam way, even though “Dance of the Clairvoyants” sounds more like The Talking Heads than PJ. “Retrograde” is a perfect song for a somewhat divided nation fighting off the Covid-19 pandemic. I don’t think Eddie was writing about that, but it doesn’t take much to make it seem that way. This is a good one top to bottom.
6. S#!%house Original Motion Picture Soundtrack by Various Artists
-I might be a little biased on this one based on the personal connections our show has to this movie as well as the soundtrack, but if I was truly biased it would be #1 right? First thing’s first, let’s get this out of the way, that movie is incredible, and the way the music is used in the movie is perfect. That being said, the soundtrack on it’s own is a fine listen even if you haven’t made the mistake of not seeing the movie yet. “Walk All Over Me” by 0Fret featuring Abby Quinn is probably the song of the movie, meanwhile in my honest opinion the best song on the soundtrack is the dance groove “Ain’t A Thing” by local music stars Cure for Paranoia. Also, contributing is John Dufhilo from Death Ray Davies fame with “Why Are You Lost?”
5. RTJ4 by Run The Jewels
-There may not be a more urgent album this year than the 4th installment from Run The Jewels. El-P and Killer Mike hold nothing back in this 40 minute triumph of an album. Maybe best known for an appearance at the end of Season 3 of the Netflix series Ozark, “Ooh La La” will be a rap classic for years to come. Don’t miss “Walkin In The Snow” and “JU$T” featuring Zach De La Rocha and Pharrell Williams. This record is a perfect combination of good music combined with a message, and when you combine the two and pay attention carefully, you realize that RTJ4 might have been the most important album of the year.
4. Dream Hunting in the Valley of the In-Between by Man Man
-Indie rock stalwarts for years, Man Man released their first album since 2013 and it did not disappoint. Generally piano heavy, lead single “Cloud Nein” is a fun sing-along with a twist, meanwhile “Future Peg” is probably my favorite song of 2020. “The Prettiest Song in the World” is like Electric Light Orchestra’s “Mr. Blue Sky” on crack. If you’re not a fan of Man Man, you might think they’re kind of strange on first listen because of how many styles of music they fuse into each album. This album may not be for you, but they’re clearly for me. Thank you Honus Honus, for yet another masterpiece.
3. The New Abnormal by The Strokes
-The long awaited album from The Strokes did not disappoint. Julian Casablancas delivers in my opinion his greatest vocal performance on this 9 song record, beginning with the beautiful track “The Adults Are Talking”. “Brooklyn Bridge to Chorus” sounds like “Rhythm of the Night” by Corona at the beginning before growing into its own mature pattern. “Bad Decisions” was a song meant for radio, sounding somewhat like “I Melt With You” by Modern English. The Strokes have never been shy about coming close to classic songs as “Last Nite” from their debut album could be confused with “American Girl” by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. One of my favorite songs on the album is “Eternal Summer” which isn’t intentionally about the global pandemic, but it’s not hard to make it seem that way if you want to let it hit you like that. Add in “Why Are Sundays So Depressing?” and the closer “Ode To The Mets” and you’ve got yourself a fine record, and quite possibly their “In Rainbows” moment. It’s not my favorite record of theirs, but as I get older, I could see it being my favorite if the question was posed to me 10 years from now.
2. Spinnin’ by Bastards of Soul
-Local supergroup Bastards of Soul had been making waves in the DFW music scene for nearly 5 years, before finally releasing their debut album on the Eastwood Music Group record label. Their live shows were always a fun and fiery soul experience, but their debut LP shows that this band quite literally may not have a ceiling. The record jumps out of the gates with the high energy “I’ve Got The Key”, followed by lead single “The Way It Should Be”. My favorite track on the record is “Spinning out of Control” with a nasty bass line from the handsome “Knox City Knocker” Danny Balis, and an incredible vocal performance from lead singer Chadwick Murray that will have you bouncing every single time. “Back To The City” kicks off with the ever so pleasant keys from Mr. Chad Stockslager, whose presence is felt throughout the entire album. “Hard Up & Lonely” drops a drum break on you out of nowhere, and God knows i’m a sucker for drum breaks. Before the pandemic it wouldn’t be crazy to be out and about and hear someone say “this band is going places”---and even though Covid-19 shut down the local music scene in 2020, it’s still not crazy to think this thing could go national. The Bastards of Soul are a rocketship, keep an eye on them in the future, and they won’t be hard to find in our own backyard as they have more new music in the works. The video below is from The Well Creative, with a drone shot of the city of Dallas on the weekend of the initial lockdown set to the music of “Back To The City”. It’s one of the more surreal, emotional, and also pleasant videos i’ve ever seen.
#1 Imploding The Mirage by The Killers
-The Killers 2017 album “Wonderful Wonderful” was clearly their worst overall album, but they rebounded nicely with Imploding The Mirage. I’ll admit, I thought they were done. I didn’t know if they could capture the magic again. And boy was I wrong. Even without the presence of their lead guitarist in original member Dave Kuening, the band was able to capture a sound that was different, more polished, highly produced, yet still felt like The Killers in the end. Catchy chorus after catchy chorus, as the album opens with the intense rocker “My Own Soul’s Warning”, and then goes on a ride from a classic Killers sounding “Dying Breed” with a tribute to CAN, the lead single “Caution” featuring Lindsey Buckingham, and “Fire In Bone” which sounds like “Dancehall Days” by Wang Chung. One of my favorite tracks on the album is “My God” featuring the incredible vocals from indie artist Weyes Blood, and then the albums penultimate track “When The Dreams Run Dry” which creeps into your brain with the ghostly but loud lyric “WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE”. It’s not their best work. In fact, I don’t think this is a top 3 record from the band, but it didn’t miss the mark at all. Every song is strong to quite strong.
And that concludes my list of Top 10 albums of 2020. Hopefully we get our live music back in 2021, and we continue to receive some extraordinary music from artists who had a little spare time on their hands in 2020. Rock on y'all and stay safe. Reporting live from the internet, I'mKevin"KT"Turner, and I love you.