Jason Tate’s Top Albums of 2020

Best of 2020

I don’t know how historians will write about 2020, but there’s a good chance future generations just flat out don’t believe the truth. I just lived through it and can barely believe everything that happened over the last twelve months. I know one day in the future, I’ll be scrolling through my phone and will come upon photos of my wife and I in masks and be like, “Oh, yeah, remember that whole thing?” It’s virtually impossible for me to wrap my head around this past year and everything that’s happened. So, deep breath, let’s put the head down and keep powering through.

The staff compiled best of 2020 list can be found here.

Favorite Albums of 2020

  1. Phoebe Bridgers – Punisher
  2. PVRIS – Use Me
  3. All Time Low – Wake Up, Sunshine
  4. Dua Lipa – Future Nostalgia
  5. Taylor Swift – Folklore
  6. Lauv – How I’m Feeling
  7. Ruston Kelly – Shape & Destroy
  8. The 1975 – Notes on a Conditional Form
  9. Stand Atlantic – Pink Elephant
  10. Slick Shoes – Rotation and Frequency
  11. Cold Years – Paradise
  12. Soccer Mommy – Color Theory
  13. Nightly – Night, Love You
  14. Bartees Strange – Live Forever
  15. Brian Fallon – Local Honey
  16. Acceptance – Wild, Free
  17. Yours Truly – Self Care
  18. Taylor Swift – Evermore
  19. Hayley Williams – Petals for Armor
  20. The Weeknd – After Hours
  21. Fiona Apple – Fetch the Bolt Cutters
  22. Rina Sawayama – SAWAYAMA
  23. Katie Malco – Failures
  24. Perfume Genius – Set My Heart on Fire Immediately
  25. Selena Gomez – Rare
  27. Miley Cyrus – Plastic Hearts
  28. The Chicks – Gaslighter
  29. Sufjan Stevens – The Ascension
  30. Girlfriends – Girlfriends

My favorite album of 2020 came down to a battle between the album I think was the best of the year versus the one I listened to the most often. I reached for PVRIS’ Use Me more than just about any other album throughout the year, with All Time Low’s Wake Up, Sunshine right behind. But my heart tells me Phoebe Bridgers released the best album of the year. It was an album that took her songwriting, and popularity, to the next level. And it’s the album that feels the most quintessential 2020 to me. I may have played other albums more, but nothing quite felt like it had the same gravitas as Punisher.

I was shocked by how much I returned to that All Time Low release throughout the year, it had a real argument for the number one spot as well. LAUV fell off for me as the year went on, but Dua Lipa’s pop brilliance kept chugging along. I ended up feeling slightly disappointed by The 1975’s mishmash of an album, but even in that frustration I still found plenty to love. 2020 was also the year where I found a comfort in a return to form, of sorts, for pop-punk. From Stand Atlantic, to Slick Shoes, to Yours Truly, to Girlfriends, to Seaway, there was quite a bit in this genre that actually excited me for the first time in a while.

On the whole, my tastes continued to seek out catchy choruses this year. And I found myself returning to a handful of albums throughout all seasons. In time, I could see some of these releases being ones I consider classics and specifically reminding me of 2020 as a whole. And I’m incredibly thankful that those albums were there for me during this trying year. I know that for a lot of artists this year was extremely difficult. Trying to navigate an album release in the best of times is stressful, but I thank each and every one of them for putting out their music anyway, it made the year bearable. It gave me something to look forward to and helped get me through each day. It gave us something to talk about, to discuss, to share together. The drop of Taylor Swift’s Folklore felt like a glass of ice water in hell, a brief couple of days where everyone was online talking about new music and escaping reality for just a little bit. It was remarkably refreshing.

Thank you to everyone that read this website this year, it’s because of you, and especially those of you that support the website, that we exist. Also, if you want to hear more from me throughout the year, specifically once a week as I write about music and entertainment I find interesting, sign up for my newsletter.

To make it easy to check out some music from everyone on my list, I put together a playlist containing two songs from each of these albums on Apple Music and Spotify.

Honorable Mentions

  • 5 Seconds of Summer – CALM
  • Anti-Flag – 20/20 Vision
  • Bad Cop/Bad Cop – The Ride
  • Bright Eyes – Down in the Weeds, Where the World Once Was
  • Bruce Springsteen – Letter to You
  • Charli XCX – How I’m Feeling Now
  • Christian Lee Hutson – Beginners
  • Deftones – Ohms
  • Glacier Veins – The World You Want to See
  • HAIM – Women in Music Pt. III
  • Jason Isbell – Reunions
  • Jeff Rosenstock – NO DREAM
  • Kacy Hill – Is it Selfish If We Talk About Me Again
  • Lady Gaga – Chromatica
  • Laura Jane Grace – Stay Alive
  • Lil Uzi Vert – Eternal Atake
  • Momma – Two of Me
  • Neon Trees – I Can Feel You Forgetting Me
  • Niall Horan – Heartbreak Weather
  • O’Brother – You and I
  • Perfume Genius – Set My Heart on Fire Immediately
  • Protest the Hero – Palimpset
  • Run the Jewels – RTJ4
  • Sasha Sloan – Only Child
  • Seaway – Big Vibe
  • Seer Believer – Bent
  • Sylvan Esso – Free Love
  • Tame Impala – The Slow Rush
  • The Airborne Toxic Event – Hollywood Park
  • The Bombpops – Death in Venice Beach
  • The Frights – Everything Seems Like Yesterday
  • The Lawrence Arms – Skeleton Coast
  • Vasudeva – Generator
  • Waxahatchee – Saint Cloud

All of these albums were in contention for a spot on my top 30. In fact, this may be one of the largest honorable mentions sections I’ve ever put on one of these lists. There’s some great stuff here that just missed the cut, but I know all these albums will remain staples of my playlists for years to come. Based on my rudimentary tracking I listened to over 350 different albums in 2020.

Favorite EPs of 2020

  • Sara Kays – Camera Shy
  • The Dangerous Summer – All That is Left of the Blue Sky
  • Phoebe Bridgers – Copycat Killer
  • Dave Hause – Paddy
  • Dave Hause – Patty

Movies I Enjoyed in 2020

  • Banana Split
  • Big Time Adolescence
  • Birds of Prey
  • Emma
  • Hamilton
  • Host
  • Knives Out
  • Never Rarely Sometimes Always
  • Palm Springs
  • Relic
  • Spontaneous
  • The Invisible Man
  • Weathering With You

2020 was a strange year for film. A lot of stuff got pushed to streaming but I didn’t really have a movie that hit me in a way that made me think, “that’s going to be an all time classic for me.” I could see myself returning to Knives Out and maybe Palm Springs in the future. With the chaos around us through the past twelve months, I found myself reaching to entertainment for an escape, and just needing to ignore the reality of the world for a few hours at a time.

I watched over 101 films in 2020. You can find more of my movie watching habits and ratings on Letterboxd.

TV Shows in Enjoyed in 2020

  • Atypical
  • Below Deck
  • Dark
  • Devs
  • Doom Patrol
  • Elite
  • Harley Quinn
  • High Fidelity
  • His Dark Materials
  • Love Life
  • McMillions
  • Middleditch & Schwartz
  • Mr. Robot
  • Nora from Queens
  • Normal People
  • Outer Banks
  • Pen 15
  • Perry Mason
  • Queen’s Gambit
  • Search Party
  • Star Trek: Picard
  • Ted Lasso
  • Teenage Bounty Hunters
  • The Boys
  • The Last Dance
  • The Mandalorian
  • What We Do in the Shadows

We watched quite a bit of TV this year. I guess quarantine will do that. Dark was far and away my favorite show of the year, but Ted Lasso’s absolute unbridled joy made a late run for the title. Combine that with the excellent Queens Gambit, The Mandalorian, and Normal People, and that’s a great year of entertainment. And don’t sleep on Harley Quinn, it may be one of the best written shows on television right now.

You can find more of my TV watching habits and ratings on Trakt.

Books I Enjoyed in 2020

  • Creative Selection by Ken Kocienda
  • Fall of Giants by Ken Follett
  • Flash Boys by Michael Lewis
  • One of Us Is Lying by Karen McManus
  • Only Mostly Devastated by Sophie Gonzales
  • Recursion by Blake Crouch
  • Red, White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
  • Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang
  • The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
  • The Stand by Stephen King
  • The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss
  • This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohatr
  • Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson
  • Solutions and Other Problems by Allie Brosh
  • The Undoing Project by Michael Lewis

One side effect of the global pandemic was it convincing me to start reading every day. I needed something to do with the couple of hours after the work day was over, before we were ready to just call it an evening and watch TV and zone out. To keep myself from doomscrolling on Twitter, I got back into reading. A library card and a Kindle Paperwhite led to me reading the most books I think I’ve ever read in a year. 53. I went in waves of reading non-fiction, to murder mysteries, to coming of age novels, to science fiction, and/or really anything that sounded interesting. By far my favorite thing I read this year was The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss. Both were incredible. This is one new tradition that I hope to continue into the next year, and maybe I’ll even pass this year’s book total next year.

You can find more of my book reading habits and rating on Goodreads.

Apps I Discovered and Enjoyed in 2020

  • FitBod
  • Lichess
  • MyNetDiary
  • Nova
  • Raindrop.io
  • Soor
  • Widgetsmith

I think I started using the app toward the end of last year, but 2020 was where FitBod and I really bonded. It’s a great workout app that helped me keep up a routine while having to make do with a home gym (buying resistant bands early was a life saver). I moved all my calorie tracking into MyNetDiary (better design, widget support, and Shortcut support), and the ability to put widgets on my home screen in iOS 14 led to me re-thinking how I use my phone. Widgetsmith and Soor helped lead the way of this customization and being able to see favorite photos rotate each night brings me more delight than I expected.

My Favorite Articles of 2020

All-in-all 2020 was one of the most, um, do I call it interesting?, years of my entire life. That moment in the middle where we were all on lockdown, and then there were fires breaking out out all around, and then that led to an orange smoke filled sky over the city? Yeah. That was one of the most eerie feelings I’ve ever had. 2020 has made me appreciative of all the things I miss. Hanging out with friends. Going to a nice restaurant or stopping into a bar to order a quick beer. Seeing family on a regular basis. And though we made it through, I worry that there will be a psychic toll that will hang over us for generations. Over a quarter-million people have died and we’ve been unable to grieve as a nation. I don’t know what kind of longterm effects that will have on society, but I can’t imagine it’ll be good. On the other end, we got rid of Trump, this was undeniably good, but the rot remains. We have a lot more work to do, a lot more battles to fight, but I, for one, am exceptionally ready to close the door on 2020.

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