Mary Varvaris’s Best Albums of 2020

Best of 2020

2020, the year that was: I have stared at numerous blank documents, attempting to summarize how music shaped a truly terrible, often traumatic period in our lives. In 2019, we could have never imagined that by March 2020, life as we knew it would change irrevocably due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We said goodbye to movie theaters, concert halls, cafes and restaurants, wedding receptions; anniversaries, birthdays, and further celebrations. We said goodbye to travel and to see our loved ones on the regular. We had no choice but to adapt – we said hello to virtual meetings on Zoom, frequent takeaway meals, taking up baking and meditation, and live-streamed concerts, with a welcoming embrace. We binge-watched The Queen’s Gambit. For MasterChef Australia viewers, we were treated to the best season yet, thanks to a new round of judges and familiar favorites as the contestants. And, my god, some of the food was simply to-die-for.

It was the little things that kept me going in the year that was – finding comfort in being at home and bonding further with my family and my beautiful Labrador x Kelpie, Dane (I acknowledge my privilege here, I lost work for four months but as I live at home with my family, I never went without anything. Millions of Australians and millions more around the globe can’t say the same, and that’s a ringing indictment on lack of leadership), Netflix and other streaming services, reading magazines, doom-scrolling Twitter (yep, seriously), and of course, music.

It’s difficult to explain why the albums I have chosen as my favorite albums of the year have been ranked where they are, stayed with me for months or weeks, or overshadowed equally great releases. I found myself drawn to more guitar-based music than I have in years – rock music was a safety blanket in 2020, after all, it’s music that I have known and loved since childhood – and that’s OK. Here’s hoping that while I don’t hold much optimism for the year that’s just beginning, that a) 2021 is better than I expect, and b) that we all get to attend some concerts this year. Here are my personal favorite albums of 2020:

Fiona Apple – Fetch the Bolt Cutters
Hayley Williams – Petals for Armor
Rina Sawayama – SAWAYAMA
Fontaines D.C. – A Hero’s Death
Porridge Radio – Every Bad
Girl Friday – Androgynous Mary
Deftones – Ohms
Jessie Ware – What’s Your Pleasure?
Bartees Strange – Live Forever
Hum – Inlet
Gordi – Our Two Skins
Phoebe Bridgers – Punisher
Katie Gately – Loom
Yves Tumor – Heaven to a Tortured Mind
Alex the Astronaut – The Theory of Absolutely Nothing
Bruce Springsteen – Letter to You
Taylor Swift – folklore
Miiesha – Nyaaringu
Alanis Morissette – Such Pretty Forks in the Road
O’Brother – You and I
Perfume Genius – Set My Heart on Fire Immediately
Soccer Mommy – Color Theory
Algiers – There is No Year
Moses Sumney – græ
Jaguar Jonze – Diamonds & Liquid Gold
Barely Civil – I’ll Figure This Out
The Chicks – Gaslighter
Nat Vazer – Is This Offensive and Loud?
Dua Lipa – Future Nostalgia