here are thirty albums that i liked the most.
thirty: barely civil – i’ll figure this out (take this to heart)
sure emo is on its fifth wave or something by now already but barely civil is one of the brightest spots within it still – their second record is a classic case of “making the leap” and these wisconsin fellas feature all the things I love most about the genre.
twenty-nine: sinai vessel (single occupancy)
caleb cordes followed up the fantastic brokenlegged by essentially scaling back sinai vessel into solo venture and creating his most immediately personal and heart felt music ever. there’s a quiet appreciation throughout this record – big big thief vibes throughout.
twenty-eight: mandancing – the good sweat (take this to heart)
t3h records had a hell of a solid 2020 and the good sweat is bound to be remembered as one of the best offerings in the label’s history. taking all the good parts from moneen and manchester orchestra it’s a perfect record for both the old heads and new comers to the scene.
twenty-seven: sprain – as lost through collision (the flenser)
an incredibly moving slow core record that unleashses it loudest moments when the record’s at its most unpredictable. hauntingly beautiful and one of the many perfect soundtracks for this year’s hell world.
twenty-six: diet cig – do you wonder about me? (french kiss)
darker and heavier than swear i’m good at this yet still maintains the band’s infectious charm thanks to alex luciano’s upbeat vocal delivery and vulnerable lyrics. a lot of big time noise from alex and noah bowman – the record is quick but memorable.
twenty-five: metz – atlas vending (sub pop)
the canadian trio’s fourth release explores the space and silence between the constant heaving riffing and pummeling drumming. alex edkins draws from all his influences over countless eras as chris slorach and hayden menzies pace the constant onslaught of noise. “a boat to drown in” is a career highlight.
twenty-four: deftones – ohms (reprise)
figured this would be higher on my list but alas it was a dope year for music (and not much else). it’s easily one of the band’s best records to date and a nice step up from the polarizing gore. chino and Stef sound as united as ever and the riffs have never been heavier (“this link is dead” – hello!) – this band isn’t running out of steam any time soon.
twenty-three: gulch – impenetrable cerebral fortress (closed casket activities)
this record is truly wild – relentless hardcore/grindcore/holy shit it doesn’t matter heaviness – basically sixteen minutes of doing the most dangerous shit possible and seeing if it’ll kill you or not. plus there’s a fucking siouxsie and the banshees. might be the band’s only release but it won’t be forgotten.
twenty-two: bartees strange – live forever (memory music)
one of 2020’s breakout indie stars – bartees strange began 2020 with a killer ep of national cover songs (and a few originals) before blessing the timeline with his debut. vibing from everything like tv on the radio to bloc party – live forever is a beautiful eclectic collection of songs that sound incredible and keeps that diy ethos.
twenty-one: record setter – i owe you nothing (topshelf)
years in the making, the denton texas screamo band is finally get the recognition it deserves with the ballistic i owe you nothing – a title the music lives up to and more throughout its eleven tracks. the album begins by hitting you with a ton of bricks as judy mitchell bares everything behind music that swells and zooms at break neck speeds.
twenty: bright eyes – down in the weeds, where the world once was (dead oceans)
it’s always exciting and kind of weird when one of your all-time favorite bands return after a lengthy hiatus (not the first band on this list to check that box – stay tuned!). conor oberst revived bright eyes for the first’s release in nine years. it took a few months for it to grow on me but yeah this record is top-tier conor release – feels like no time had passed at all as the lyrical wit is still there – the way he can turn a phrase remains elite. the perfect balance of passion, sadness, and grace.
nineteen: hayley williams – petals for armor (atlantic)
i’ve written a ton about this record and it still hits the same way if not more since its spring release. musically, it’s the most innovative and poignant work she’s ever been a part of, as petals for armor leaves no style untouched. There’s ethereal introspection, quiet devastation, and finding redemption within forgiveness with plenty of room for huge pop anthems, funk, and r&b. who knows what’s next for hayley but petal for armors possesses a quiet rage and with a fearless embrace of the future.
eighteen: end – splinters from an ever-changing face (closed casket activities)
oooooo baby this one is a scorcher. wall-to-wall heaviness from the genre’s greatest hybrid metal core power violence group (birthed from members of counterparts, fit for an autopsy, and structures) this is one of the year’s most unforgiving records.
seventeen: i’m glad it’s you – every sun, every moon (6131)
a graceful journey through life, death, grief, and love – i’m glad it’s you chronicles the loss of their late friend chris avis and how it’s impacted them and beyond. kelley bader is profoundly sad throughout the record but discovers that – eventually – the strength to carry on does emerge, the sting begins to subside, and the joy and grief exist together.
sixteen: stay inside – viewing (no sleep)
imagine a record that combines the best of thursday, balance and composure, and xerxes and melds it into one of 2020’s most memorable heavy releases (it’s been quite a year for those who dabble in the style of music). once we are allowed to do live music again, expect stay inside to be thee band – one of the best debut’s in recent memory.
fifteen: respire – black line (church road)
what a fucking great screamo release – black line, is forty-one minutes of pummeling drums, jazzy time signatures, and swelling horns. exhilarating blackened screamo with the ethos of broken social scene – respire burns down the boundaries of what extreme music can be.
fourteen: sharptooth – transitional forms (pure noise)
the fucking best heavy band you probably aren’t listening to – this record kind of went under the radar but man if you love the stylings of every time i die and that sort of ilk, then this needs to be the next record to spin. also lauren kashan cemented herself as one of the best front people in the world (the video for “say nothing (in the absence of content)” is one of the coolest videos).
thirteen: ratboys – printer’s devil (topshelf)
released pre-pandamic in late february, the song writing on printer’s devil is too powerful to be forgotten by this shit year. an unique vision executed to perfection – the ratboys (tm: bernard sanders) delivered one of the strongest indie folk/pop releases to emerge from topshelf’s storied discography
twelve: hum – inlet (polyvinyl)
just like bright eyes, i wasn’t expecting hum to release a new record in 2020 – much less their best record ever. you know that skit on I think you should leave with the aliens who love motorcycles? yeah, they have guitars.
eleven: sad13 – haunted painting (wax nine)
the best paranormal-inspired record of all time, sadie dupuis blessed (or haunted?) our ears with the best power-pop guitar album of the year. I still haven’t gotten that transition change on “ghost (of a good time).” also legally I guess we were supposed to rank this record at thirteen so i’m sorry sadie.
ten: emma ruth rundle and thou – may our chambers be full (sacred bones)
a collaboration born out from the roadburn festival and something I never knew I desperately needed – emma ruth rundle and thou combine their two incredibly different and distinct sounds into one of the finest heavy records to ever grace my ears. never has the infusion of dark folk and sludgy doom metal sounded this good (if ever!).
nine: dogleg – melee (triple crown)
fuck this pandemic man, dogleg was bound to be the biggest rock band in 2020. melee is easily one of the strongest and most thrilling debuts i’ve ever heard and hopefully 2021 catapults the band past the highest of ceilings. there is no quiet, no calm throughout the record’s ten tracks so buckle up, motherfuckers.
eight: clipping. – visions of bodies being burned (sub pop)
the final part to the experimental hip-hop trio’s horror anthology, william hutson and jonathan snipes’ experimental production pushes their concepts even further, creating an atmosphere that rarely allows a moment to catch your breath, allowing daveed diggs’ narration to take center stage and take control of your deepest fears.
seven: young jesus – welcome to conceptual beach (saddle creek)
this record doesn’t follow any sort of indie-rock blueprint, instead reveling in that genre’s eccentricities while broadening their musical palette. john rossiter’s vocals shift between high and low registers, allowing his bandmates to equally explore both calming and unnerving elements of existence. the patience and space presented throughout the los angeles quartet’s fifth full-length allows for fuzzed-out jam sessions and jazzy interludes. a record that reexamines and cherishes all of life’s imperfections.
six: the acacia strain – slow decay (rise)
the acacia strain had one of the coolest and weirdest years – the band began 2020 with the surprise concept ep it comes in waves and then slowly fed us ten of the album’s twelve tracks between the first half of the year before setting the world on fire with their best album ever, slow decay. vincent bennett has never sounded better and the record’s lyrics hit extremely hard – the perfect soundscape for our impending doom.
five: code orange – underneath (roadrunner)
no days off for this band. code orange successfully all of 2020’s trappings with continued innovation and hard work. you could argue that they’re the band that revolutionized the art of live streaming – producing a handful of interesting and boundary pushing live performances from behind the computer screen. the album itself is another feather in the band’s cap – a punishing collection of metal, hardcore, and glitchy electronica. there are no walls stopping this band – code orange just continues to smash through a motherfucker’s face.
four: phoebe bridgers – punisher (dead oceans)
one of the few reviews i wrote this year – punisher is absolutely a stone-cold classic. the type of record you share with anyone and everyone you know regardless of preference, the type of record you lend to a younger sibling that shapes their musical journey. phoebe bridgers is one of the few artists to jump from “indie darling” to “house hold name” – all during a year in which she couldn’t tour. “i know the end” will top many of the “best songs of the decade” lists ten years from now.
three: fiona apple – fetch the bolt cutters (epic)
her first album since 2012’s incredible the idler wheel, fetch the bolt cutters is the kind of record that elevates the culture and surrounding discourse around it. this album showcases an artist at the peak of their powers, bolt cutters feature apple’s most striking and poignant work ever. clearly “shameika” is the stand out but apple doesn’t mince words or feelings on moving pieces like “ladies,” “cosmonauts,” and the title track. we absolutely throw around the word ‘masterpiece’ so much that it’s lost its luster, but this record embodies every true meaning of the word. an incredible record that was much needed during this terrible year.
two: nothing – the great dismal (relapse)
gaze into the black hole. gaze into the darkness. the great dismal was the soundtrack for every nihilist in 2020. nicky palermo put every ounce of his being into this record because there is no other option for him. an intoxicating blend of shoe gaze, slow care, and guitars loud enough to fill up air plane hangars. the great dismal is a perfect record released at a time where we all needed it. there are few better moments than alex g showing up on “april ha ha” or the continual descent from closing “ask the rust.”
one: touché amoré – lament (epitaph)
I didn’t know what to expect with this one – I don’t know how you follow up a record about the passing of your mother to cancer. I dunno how to rebound from something so fucking sad. lament, however, feels like the band – and more specifically jeremy bolm – coming up for air for the first time in a long time. essentially an update on how he’s doing – ranging from an appreciation for his partner to the panic of shouldering other people’s grief and feeling abandoned by those closest to him. musically the band just keeps surprising me – nick steinhardt working in a little pedal steel guitar was absolutely a wow moment on the record. I don’t want to repeat myself too much but I knew this would be my favorite record immediately after hearing “from peaks of blue come heroine!” – what a fucking band, man.
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