Trevor Graham’s Top Albums of 2020

Best of 2020

If you’re here, I’m gonna guess it’s not to read my ramblings about 2020. So let’s ignore the elephant in the room, yeah? No one invited it, anyway. This was definitely another superb year for music though, as always, and the artists that were there for us had every reason not to be. Ranking just 50 records hasn’t ever been so difficult for me to do — the top 35 or so I wish could all just be in my top 10. But alas, numbers.

Once upon a time, I did end of the year write ups similar to this where I wrote lengthy blurbs about each record in a very composed “review” kind of tone. But as the years went on, writing 50 mini-reviews felt kind of like a chore. As a result, 2018 and 2019 wound up just being lists. Sad. And what’s the point of just sharing a list of records if I’m not gonna say anything about them? So this year, I wrote a little bit about each record, but made a goal to keep it casual. Just typing off the cuff, a little bit about each selection — a few sentences on why I liked the record. Some more than others, but for no real reason. Parts of this might be a little repetitive (ctrl+F ‘jazzy’) or rambling, but hopefully it’s a little easier to digest for anyone that’s made it this far. It was certainly easier to throw together on my end. So without further ado, here are my top 50 records of 2020! Catch me in the forums with a hot take if you’ve got them!

(and if you’re not here for the words, just scroll on down to the very bottom for the list alone)

1. Touché AmoreLament
Weirdly, this is the last selection I’m writing about on this list. It’s hard to concisely state all of the things I love about this record. Is it Touché’s inventive, emotional approach to writing a hardcore record in 2020? Maybe. Is it Jeremy Bolm’s absolute jet engine of a voice shattering my skull and fragile emotional state? Yeah, probably. Is it Ross Robinson’s mind bending production job that captures the band’s live energy like a fucking Pokéball, immortalizing it with buzzsaw guitar tones and hints of 80’s New Order colorization? Gotta be. I dunno, really just all of it. This is a heart-racing piece of music that will stick with me forever. After nearly 10 years of having never earned my fandom until 2016’s Stage Four, I gotta be honest, I really did not think Touché Amore were capable of making that magic happen again. But the spirit that shines through here is remarkable, undeniable, and flat out addictive. From peaks of blue, come heroine.

2. Taylor Swiftfolklore
I mean, come on. Have you heard this record? Of course it’s hugging a top spot on this list. Taylor surprise attacked us with a career defining record this year that I think may have even been just as big a bombshell to her. A sprawling hour long journey that left the forums on this site — users notorious for fervently ranking every god-damned thing the entertainment industry throws at us — unable to even confidently claim three favorite tracks from. It’s the lush folk inspired record I’d wanted her to make since 2012’s Red, and with the help of Aaron Dessner and longtime collaborator Jack Antonoff, she was able to pull it off with a confidence and precision that I honestly couldn’t have even dreamed of.

*it should be noted that Taylor released a second surprise album just a few weeks ago, titled evermore. I do like evermore, and with more time, it may have been on this list somewhere. But to me, the purpose of these lists is to cement an image of the new releases that my mind will tie to each year throughout my life. Releasing an album with absolutely zero buildup in the final 3 weeks of the year… yeah, I just don’t think I’ll ever look back on 2020 and think about evermore. Looking forward to spending time with it in the new year, though.

3. Hayley WilliamsPetals For Armor
When you front one of the biggest, arguably most scrutinized bands on the planet, I imagine it’s hard to not become known for just that one thing. Hayley Williams, despite quietly becoming one of the most respected women in rock music during this last decade, has had a name synonymous with the word “Paramore” for not only her entire career, but the majority of her life. But much like the trope of a band releasing their self-titled album to indicate it being the most representative of themselves, Hayley’s first solo outing is a stark, exuberant characterization of herself and the deeply personal intricacies of her singular experience. It’s a kaleidoscopic showing of intimacy, pain, and resilience, all masterfully crafted to present the experience of processing trauma. It’s one of those records made impossible to be defined by any one sound, while maintaining a level of cohesion only accomplished by a woman striving to untangle herself more with every passing day. Plus, those bass lines tho!!

4. Phoebe BridgersPunisher
So, I wrote about this record for our mid-year list. As stated above, I’m going for more of a “casual” feel with these write-ups, but I like what I wrote for that piece and am just gonna paste it here anyway:

It’s hard to believe Phoebe Bridgers has only been a part of most of our lives for the last half decade. Hell, even in the last three years alone, she’s arguably had a more diverse and fruitful run than many musicians do in their full career. But with Bridgers, it’s about more than just flooding our collective attention with the allure of new music. An artist that has made a habit of lending universal language to her most introspective moments, her presence often commands the intimacy typically only earned by a lifelong friend or loved one. Sure, we haven’t experienced the literal moments she puts pen to paper about, but the raw emotion she pulls from them are so intrinsically human that it’s hard to not see bits of ourselves in them anyway.

Punisher continues this trend, as Bridgers offers a variety of scenes from her life to accompany her most ambitious musicianship and songwriting to date. In “Garden Song”, she pens lines like ”The doctor put her hands over my liver / she told me my resentment’s getting smaller”, which hold less significance in the oddity of the specific memory than they do in the color they add to the overarching theme of manifestation and frame of mind. Elsewhere on “Graceland, Too”, she recounts a trip to Memphis, and sings of a reflective evening where ”We spent what was left of our serotonin / to chew on our cheeks and stare at the moon”. Another beautifully vivid memory at face value, but also one that speaks to the theme of adoration and the way in which we show up for the people we love.

Bridgers will be the first to tell you that the recurring conclusion surrounding the themes explored on Punisher is, well, just that — that they conclude. That despite living lives inherently full of endings, we’re still so obsessed with the unknown path that follows the door in front of us. But rather than being afraid of endings, she chooses to embrace them for all of the invigorating moments that led her there. Perhaps that’s why she didn’t find herself crushed with anxiety over following up her critically acclaimed debut album, or why she’s widely known for her delightfully informal demeanor. Perhaps it’s what fuels her gift for transforming little moments of her life into statements of greater importance, when others may have seen them as nothing more than trivial in their own. But regardless of whether or not you remain fully on board with her mindset after the album’s explosive closer draws its final curtains, the certainty here lies in the 40 minutes that she’ll undoubtedly make you feel less alone.

5. CaribouSuddenly
It’d been ages since I last checked out a Caribou record. Couldn’t tell you why, but I really just fell out of the loop with him. Very glad I found my way back this year, because Suddenly is one one of the most engaging EDM-adjacent records I’ve heard, period. Records in this genre can often feel more like mixtapes or playlists, but the variety of sounds and knack for songwriting Dan Snaith employs here add a very emotional element that I found easy to connect to on a more intimate level.

6. ovrkast.Try Again
Man, there were really a lot of super impressive hip hop debuts this year. Ovrkast. checked into the game with an immersive 18 minutes of ambitious beats that come and go so fast that you might not realize you finished the record until it occurs to you that you’ve heard “Face” three times in the last hour. It’s an immediate mastery of texture and exercise in restraint, as ovrkast. delivers a heavy handed dose of quality over quantity.

7. Jenny DeeDancing From A Distance
At first, I found this to just be a really enjoyable, mellow indie-pop record. As I became unable to go more than a couple of days without listening to it, finding new layers within these songs began to feel like more of a hobby. And then, months down the road, my dog passed away. And this was the record first record I found myself turning to. To call this a remarkable debut record from an extremely promising young artist is true, but this record wound up meaning a lot more to me than just that in 2020. As if this needed any more assistance in winning my heart, the record was produced by Aaron Marsh, whose fingerprints on it may as well be literally visible. Warm string and horn arrangements really make this thing stand out as more than the singer-songwriter-y energy it may have had in the wrong hands. I always tell people this is like Ixora meets Colbie Caillat — and here at the end of the year, I’m gonna stick with that comparison.

8. Trace MountainsLost In The Country
The early days of quarantine held a lot of…. readjusting. Part of that, for me, was stretching in the backyard every morning with a cup of coffee and the warm sunlight — something I never really felt the need to do before, but damnit I just needed to be outside. Stress is a hell of a thing. Anyway, this record accompanied me on a lot of those mornings. It’s just got that indie rock/slight optimistic americana tinge that screams “get the day going”. This also likely got the most physical spins on my turntable out of the new vinyl additions to my collection this year, so y’know, there’s that.

9. VasudevaGenerator
Vasudeva make music that only Vasudeva could make. Interesting instrumental music that balances itself carefully upon the rendezvous of post rock, emo, and pop music. This was a record I played repeatedly this year, perfect tunes to zone out to while still having moments of “fuck, this band rules”.

10. HundredthSomewhere Nowhere
I’m certain this was my most anticipated record of the year. So much so that upon hearing it, I was actually a little let down. Hundredth released four tracks from this album over the course of last year, one of which (the wispy alt-rock, “Whatever”) likely had a strong case for being my most played song of 2019. These four songs shared a sonic space which turned out to only faintly harbor any resemblance in the remaining 10, if any at all. Instead, the majority of this turned out to be much more comparable to that of a moodier Tame Impala, The 1975, and even shared some DNA with the latest from Now, Now. All are artists I like, but when you’re expecting water and you get Sprite… it takes a minute to re-acclimate. Truth is that while this feels slightly mismatched in some places, the effort to create a sonically enveloping experience here is met with overwhelming success, and it grew on me wonderfully.

11. R.A.P. FerreiraPurple Moonlight Pages
Poignant and completely untethered, the rapper alternatively known simply as Milo flows through this brilliant hip hop record with slam poetry-esque bars, like he’s pouring the words directly from his heart right in front of you. This record felt special to me right from the get go, with the jazz trio known as The Jefferson Park Boys providing a complicated jazz instrumentation backdrop for Milo’s rhymes to give the whole thing a very “live” feel.

12. Frances QuinlanLikewise
Frances Quinlan’s first solo outing from her day job equivalent of fronting Philadelphia’s indie rock gem, Hop Along, was a smash success in this house. It feels reductive to call it “Hop Along-lite”, but this record sure does paint a picture of how closely her sole influence matches the idiosyncratic wonder accomplished within her band’s discography. It’s beautiful, it’s off the beaten path, and it succinctly defines over and over why Frances is one of the most unique songwriters of our generation.

13. Freddie Gibbs & The AlchemistAlfredo
The first of a few collabs on this list, and by far the most popular. Alfredo made big waves in the hip hop community this year, as two of the most beloved names in the genre put together a full track list of bangers for our pleasure. These are definitely some of the busiest, hardest working people in hip hop right now (but don’t worry, we all see you Kenny Beats, Boldy James, and Westside Gunn), and having them put their heads together for this was such a joy.

14. GleemerDown Through
There will always be a place in my heart for music like this. Very downtrodden, shimmering alt-emo that fits a moody evening like a warm cup of coffee in the rain. Had this record come out as late as maybe 4-5 years ago, I’m pretty certain I’d be properly obsessed. In 2020? It did just enough to keep me coming back. LIke… a lot. Nothing groundbreaking here, but so extremely up my alley that I couldn’t stay away. If you love Peripheral Vision era Turnover, but for whatever reason don’t check this record out, you’re gonna have a bad time.

15. Adrianne Lenkersongs
Speaking of moody — here we have Adrianne Lenker alone in a cabin with an acoustic guitar, a paintbrush, the needles of a white pine tree, and the field noise from her surrounding environment. “Moody” doesn’t even being to cover it. From late April to late May of this year, indie-folk’s most prolific gem took full advantage of her early quarantine days by recording an album. It’s as raw and intimate as I’m trying to make it sound, which should be no surprise to anyone that has heard her previous albums, or anything by the band she fronts, Big Thief. For being so bare bones, she has no problem effortlessly reminding us that she was a previous student at Berklee College of Music in her guitar playing, while also delivering what actually turned out to be some of the catchiest vocal melodies of her career. This is one that nearly necessitates the warm crackle of a vinyl record.

16. LogicNo Pressure
Logic hit us with a final record this year, as he exits the music industry and enters fatherhood. I’ve never been particularly buzzed about his projects in the past, but he really came through on this one. Air-tight production, smooth beats, and flashy rapping all contributed to this being comfortably one my most played records this year. Just has this constant bounce and energy to it that made it very easy to reach for any time I simply needed some music to vibe out to for an hour.

17. redveilNiagara
And as one artist leaves the building, another enters the ring. This is an impressive debut from a promising up-and-comer that accompanied me through many days of sunny daydrinking weather this year. It’s all the grit found in the Earl Sweatshirt crowd mixed with the upbeat energy of now seasoned rappers like Joey Bada$$. Soulful shit with an almost lofi feel. Get in on the ground floor — at only 16 years old, redveil is without a doubt a rapper everyone should be keeping their eyes on.

18. Bartees StrangeLive Forever
Really, really did not know what to expect with this record. In the week following its release, I saw a ton of praise for it around these forums, but couldn’t tell what comparisons I should’ve been expecting. Turns out…. all of them. All of the comparisons. Sometimes this thing rocks like King of Leon, and other times grooves more like Sampha or Foxing. Pretty unpredictable from start to finish, but the creativity here has earned Bartees and his incredible, unique voice all of the well deserved buzz around the internet.

19. Mac MillerCircles
I fucked up. When Mac first broke out, he wasn’t for me. I’ll be honest, a lot of that really early stuff still doesn’t really turn my head. But in return, I essentially hand-waved all claims of his incredible progression as an artist for the next, I dunno, like 9 years. This guy was something else, and after seeing the light sometime in early 2019, it felt like a blessing to experience his phenomenal posthumous release right alongside his deservedly dedicated fanbase. Hearing the delicate beginnings of his departure from hip hop heavy releases will always keep my mind running about where he might have gone. RIP, legend.

20. Fenne LilyBREACH
Fenne Lily’s new record turned out to not be all too different from 2018’s On Hold, a record I adored and had very high on my list that year as well. Could I have used a little more? Sure. But does that mean I needed it? Definitely not. I’ll sing her praises forever, Fenne absolutely deserves to be much bigger than she is. How she didn’t explode when the world fell in love with the Boygenuis trio is beyond me. She repeatedly hits the perfect combination of writing profoundly sad songs that remain catchy and pleasing to listen to. She wrote a song called “I Used To Hate My Body But Now I Just Hate You” that I wouldn’t change if it came on during dinner, I mean come on!

21. Action BronsonOnly For Dolphins
This guy continues to just be a blast. It feels like he’s coasting and I don’t even care. Jazzy weekend cookout beats and off the cuff vocals with random dolphin samples is some shit I needed this year.

22. WestermanYour Hero Is Not Dead
Alright, I don’t have a ton to say about this one. But I checked it out on a whim back in June and just couldn’t stay away. It’s beautiful, understated alt-pop that carries some serious Peter Gabriel energy to massage the brain. A perfectly soothing record to have throughout this hell year, but definitely interesting enough to hold it’s own weight at any time.

23. Dua LipaFuture Nostalgia
Dua won my heart in 2017 with her debut record, but I still didn’t see this one coming. Full of funky flare and explosive hooks, this record fully embraced Dua’s childhood influences and brought them into modern pop music in a way that commercial pop music hasn’t dared in far too long. Perhaps what excites me most about this record is the possibility we see real bass guitars back in major pop records — it didn’t even take a year for Katy Perry to come in swinging with her own take on the sound Future Nostalgia has perfected. This record will also be tied to 2020 in my mind forever as being the album that Dua went full steam ahead on releasing at the beginning of a pandemic, when other artists of all different mediums were scrambling to suspend their projects. She had the spotlight this year and deserved every second of it.

24. CaspianOn Circles
I’m somewhat certain this was actually the first record I checked out this year. Geez, what a way to kick things off: a cacophonous post rock album by one of the best acts in the genre. Normally this is a genre I reach for when I’m not really trying to focus on the music I’m listening to, but man — this one just demands the listener’s attention over and over. I cannot wait to see these enormous, sonically crushing, and undeniably cinematic songs live someday. Also, shoutout to the Grammy nomination for best art direction. This must have had a helluva packaging job for the vinyl release.

25. Navy BlueÀdá Irin
This was the first hip hop record I really fell in love with this year. Jazzy beats to the gills, LA’s skateboarding Gen-Z’er Sage Elsesser hit us hard with a record not unlike a few of the other hip hop debuts on this list. The new school is bringing their A game and I’m fully embracing it.

26. Tom Misch & Yussef DayesWhat Kinda Music
Love a collab record. Tom Misch has been a go-to of mine since his 2018 debut album — he’s not the most inventive guy, but his brand of smooth and soulful guitar playing is flat out addictive. Yussef Dayes, on the other hand, I wasn’t familiar with going into this record. But the chemistry between these two is palpable, and if I was none the wiser, I’d guess they’d been playing and writing together professionally for years.

27. Novo AmorCannot Be, Whatsoever
This one took a little bit to grow on me, as Novo Amor’s 2018 release was nearly a start-to-finish flawless record for me. So I guess to be fair, it had a pretty high bar to leap. But after a few weeks of letting it sink in, the bouncier sound found in a lot of this record really made its way into my heart. And it has a lot more of the somber ghost folk dynamics than I gave it credit for, too! Novo Amor has really done a fantastic job picking up the old Bon Iver torch and giving us a vision into what may have been if Bon Iver hadn’t gone down a completely different (but equally awesome) sonic path.

28. ThundercatIt Is What It Is
Funky, weird, and… kind of hilarious at times? Thundercat is one of the best bass players alive right now, but his technical proficiency would almost feel cold if his charm didn’t radiate through every note. Plus, I’ll gladly take whatever Dragonball Z references in music I can find.

29. CrismanCrisman
Topshelf Records always putting out that top shelf shit. This self titled record is full of songs Crisman wrote and released in 2018, but has now been “officially” released with a few additional tracks. It’s moody indie rock that I reached for any night this year that it was even remotely windy or rainy out. Its free flowing song structures and fluidity between tracks made it very easy to let play on repeat for hours before realizing how many times I’d actually ran through it. Love how sparse the instrumentation is on this, too.

30. LoatheI Let It In And It Took Everything
There was a small window of time near the beginning of this year when this was the only thing I was listening to. And when I say “small”, I do mean small — but when I say “only”, I mean it just as much. It’s a restless, chaotic record that hits levels of heaviness exhibited by bands like Vein and END, while also sometimes doing its best pretty-parts-of-Deftones impression. As well as Loathe pull off both sides of the coin here, this album can sometimes feel like a bit of an identity crisis. I’ve had a running playlist all year long, where I add one song from every new release I like, updated every week. I use it as a reference point for any time a friend asks me about what new records they should be listening to. Point being: this was the only record I could not in good faith only add one song from for a sampling. It’s that divided. The musicianship and creativity here is off the charts, but I really do think this band still resides just on the cusp of putting out their true magnum opus.

31. GiverSculpture Of Violence
This will sound like a lie coming from a person that listed a Touché Amore record as his album of year — but I really don’t listen to a lot of this straight up hardcore stuff anymore. It’s a genre where if the tunes aren’t the cream of the crop, it will border on being almost entirely derivative. But the refreshing stuff still hits like it always has. Cologne’s own hardcore outfit, Giver, have managed to create a record that lives in both of those worlds. Blistering classic hardcore that will knock you on your ass without so much as a warning. Familiar riffs delivered with an urgency that refuses to be ignored.

32. HumInlet
With an initial run of 1989-2000, Hum came and went just slightly before my time. As highly praised as they’ve always been in the shoegaze/alt-rock community, I’d sort of just accepted that I might have just missed the boat since I couldn’t really get into them after the fact. But with this sudden surprise release… they finally clicked. This gargantuan record deals riff after riff and creates spacey atmospheres bigger than any speakers should legally be able to handle.

33. WhitneyCandid
So… ranking is hard. It’s full of arbitrary decisions, overthinking, back and forths, and a healthy dose of self deprecation. Because like… why? I have one life and this is the thing I’m choosing to do right now. Anyway, the arbitrary reason that this particular album started in my top 10 and just… kept… falling… is that it’s a cover album. And I’m not saying there’s no merit in covering songs! In fact, this is decidedly in the conversation of “favorite cover albums of all time” for me, due to how well Whitney treated these selections. If you went into this album being familiar with Whitney, but having never heard any of the originals of these songs, you would have absolutely no reason to believe this wasn’t just their third canonical LP. The Chicago indie-folk duo have done an impeccable job making each of these tracks reflect the magical twang of their two previous albums, and regardless of the arbitrary reason for where it placed on this list, I’d be remiss without assuring you that it is 100% worth your time.

34. Tame ImpalaThe Slow Rush
Kevin Parker has certainly come a long way from his early days as an indie psychedelic-pop darling. I think most would agree that his sound has taken a turn for the more accessible, but it’s safe to say that he didn’t sacrifice his musical integrity in doing so. Right from the jump, this thing is a party — and as I make my way through the record each time, it’s less and less surprising how Parker has managed to stay as relevant as he has throughout his career. The dude is just fucking good at what he does. Pristine production, sugary sweet hooks, and beautifully layered instrumentation.

35. Soccer Mommycolor theory
The first time I heard “Circle The Drain” from Color Theory, I nearly double checked that I wasn’t hearing a cover. Sophie Allison did an excellent job this year trying to convince us she could time travel by releasing an album that sounds like it came from 1996. My Big Unpopular Opinion (TM) is that, front to back, it didn’t quite stack up to 2018’s Clean — though the highs are inarguably higher.

36. MommaTwo Of Me
The moody indie rock of Two of Me is not all that dissimilar of Now, Now’s 2012 release, Threads, an album I adore and have written extensively about in the past. I’ll be honest, I don’t come back to this one as much as I should — but when it hits, it really hits.

37. Blu & ExileMiles
Excellent throwback hip hop from LA’s Blu & Exile. At over an hour and half of music, this really took me back to the days when long track lists didn’t bother me, particularly in this genre.

38. EmancipatorMountain Of Memory
This was one of those records I came back to a lot when I just needed some background music on. And that’s not a knock on its quality — Douglas Appling has put together yet another stunning series of instrumental beats that don’t tire out or feel too similar to one another. But just as there’s something to say about the albums that get us through the good and bad times, there’s just as much to be said about the albums that get us through our day to day. An impressive collection of tracks here that will always be tied to my 2020.

39. WaxahatcheeSaint Cloud
The singles from this record are among my most played tracks of 2020. Did the rest stack up? In some places, yeah. To be honest, I expected to like this way more than I did. Okay, that’s unfair — I did still really enjoy this. It’s a great indie folk/americana type of record, and without a doubt Waxahatchee’s finest to date. But there are definitely like 3 or 4 songs on this that are clearly miles above the rest, and that took some time to get acclimated to before I could actually start really getting into it. Shout out to Katie being one of the first to start live streaming on social media at the start of quarantine, though. She made some bleak days feel a little more manageable.

40. Dominic FikeWhat Could Possibly Go Wrong
Here’s one for the kids. Dominic Fike is a blossoming newbie who, from what I’m told anyway, has captured the hearts of Gen-Z folks everywhere. He’s got that kinda pop/kinda hip hop sound we often hear from the likes of Post Malone or other rising stars like Blackbear. Yeah, I get it, not for everyone. But I’m not even gonna use the term “guilty pleasure” here — this was just a plain ol’ pleasure in 2020. There’s something about him and this record I just really want to root for, but from the sounds of his current career trajectory, he probably doesn’t even need me to. I expect this guy to be everywhere in a couple of years.

41. KhruangbinMordecai
Khruangbin, a band name I refuse to attempt saying out loud, has got a perfect background music jam band sound. Spanky, clean guitar tones that drip with soul and equally warm bass lines soaked in reverb. These three really click together in a special way that comes through in the generous nature they play with each other. Should be noted that their collaboration EP with Leon Bridges that came out this year is a fantastic companion piece to this, too.

42. The BethsJump Rope Gazers
I put this record on one Friday having never heard this band, and within about 25 minutes I was calling my local record store to place a curbside pickup order. The whole thing’s got this nostalgic 90’s pop rock energy, a charm I didn’t expect to last but just kept me coming back.

43. The 1975Notes On A Conditional Form
It’s hard to even know where to start with this one. The 1975 are a band that has no qualms with just doing whatever the fuck they want. It’s endlessly astounding that they’ve reached this level of eccentricity in their mission to be as meticulous and uniform as possible. There are multiple songs on this 22-track album that don’t entirely align with me, but I can’t deny that they nailed each and every one in their own unique way. My main issue here wound up being the length — something the band has always been known for, but executed with a more organic flow in the past. It’s a record that I might let play through to the end after starting with whatever song it was I wanted to hear, but never a record I actually crave hearing front to back. Just a little too all over the place, tonally. For that reason, it just… didn’t come through my speakers much this year.

44. MandancingThe Good Sweat
This is a really cool record if you’re into the almost post rock-leaning-emo tendencies of bands like Valleyheart, Moving Mountains, or even Special Explosion. The drummer here in particular kept me returning — that guy does a lot with what he’s given.

45. DeftonesOhms
2016’s Gore didn’t do a lot for me, but Deftones came back in a big way with Ohms. It’s got all of that aggressive, ear punishing riffage the band has honed in on in the back half of their career, mixed with some inspired Chino vocals that are hard to believe he’s still capable of at near 50. I think this would’ve wound up a little higher had it not motivated me to revisit their back catalogue so much instead. I listened to a ton of Deftones this year, but most of it did not consist of this album. And that’s not a knock! The way this record blends seamlessly with so much of their past material is honestly impressive. But, it also hindered the actual hours clocked in my listening time.

46. Pink Siifu & Fly AnakinFlySiifu’s
I think this record is maybe the newest one on this list? These two slid right in at the end of the year just before I stopped legitimately considering records for this list. It’s full of jazzy hip hop that satisfies a Dilla or Madlib craving, which is really plenty enough to make me fall in love with a hip hop record nowadays.

47. DryjacketGoing Out Of Business
This record really snuck up on me. In terms of the relatively underground modern pop punk/emo wave, I would’ve put Dryjacket near the top of the pack after their first record alone. But Going Out Of Business showed the band settling into a slightly more distinguished traditional math rock sound that sets them apart from the rest in a much bigger way.

48. Katie PruittExpectations
A strong debut from this Atlanta native, Nashville local. Someone told me the title track reminded them of Fleetwood Mac, which I definitely can’t argue with. It’s one of my favorite tracks of the year, hands down. But for the most part, this is a delicate, country-lite record that hits heavy on the emotional triggers, and shouldn’t be overlooked. I have a feeling we’re gonna be hearing a lot from Katie in the coming years.

49. Jennah BarryHoliday
Jennah’s voice is smooth like that dollop of honey in your freshly brewed tea. This whole record is, actually. If you’re a fan of the low-key, sun kissed country vibes found on records like Kacey Musgraves’ Golden Hour, this one’s probably for you too.

50. SamePlastic Western
The 50 spot. This is always the hardest one. I know most people don’t actually care about other people’s end of the year lists, but I feel like if I’m putting in the effort, I need it to be accurate at least! And this last spot always has a few records in contention. This year, I’m handing it off to Same (sorry, Andy Shauf!!) for putting out a pretty intriguing emo record. In places, it gives me the intimate feel of the Crisman record found earlier on this list, but more mixed with a slowcore energy like that of bands like Duster or Field Medic.

Honorable mentions, because this year was just so damn close.
Andy ShaufThe Neon Skyline
ENDSplinters From An Ever Changing Face
DidesFresh Cut Flowers
Liza AnneBad Vacation
Nat VazerIs This Offensive And Loud?
Young JesusWelcome to Conceptual Beach

Most anticipated for 2021, because we all need a little something to look forward to right about now:
Another MichaelNew Music and Big Pop
Sun JuneSomewhere
The Dirty NilFuck Art
Sydney SpragueMaybe I will see you at the end of the world
Danielle DurackNo Place
Teenage WristEarth Is A Black Hole
Every Time I DieTBA
Lucy DacusTBA
The MaineTBA

Top 50 list (condensed):