Chorus.fm’s Top 30 Albums of 2020

Best of 2020

Um. So, that was quite a year.

We’ve been publishing some version of our favorite albums of the year since at least 2005, and the past twelve months have been unlike anything I’ve ever been through. It’s a year that will leave an indelible mark on all who experienced it, and I worry it will be years before we will be able to best understand and cope with the collective mass trauma. It was a year of uncertainty, a year of isolation, and a year of reshaping even the little routines that make up our lives. Tasks as simple as a trip to the grocery store are now measured risks, and going outside includes masks and a social construct with those around us to keep a safe distance. And I don’t know about you, but I found it very comforting to have music to turn to this year. It’s been such a constant in my life, and I often found myself reaching for it like a comfort blanket. As a way to regain a shred of normalcy, or as a way to connect with others across the internet as we shared a moment or discussion about a new song.

Before we reflect on the music that was released last year, I wanted to take a quick moment to thank everyone who read this website this year. We all went through this together, and I’m as appreciative as ever for having an outlet to write about things I’m passionate about and share with likeminded readers. Thank you.

Now let’s rank things.

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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.

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Garrett Lemons’s Top Albums of 2020

Best of 2020

I wanted to call this piece, “On The Surprise Joy of Raising Chickens and the Importance of the Small Things,” but that would really bury the lede that this is an End of the Year celebration list. Because, somehow, in the myriad of catastrophes, pandemics, elections, family feuds, break-ups, loss of friendships, and everything in between, 2020 still managed to deliver some immensely great music.

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Adam Grundy’s Top Albums of 2020

Best of 2020

What a year, huh? Luckily for us, the music that came out of this hellish year was nothing short of remarkable. From the exponential growth of female artists taking the lead in 2020, to some interesting emo and pop-punk bands making their landmark artistic statements with their latest albums, this year had a little bit of everything. Also, being the shameless self-promoter, I hyperlinked to the reviews I contributed to this site this year. These are the 30 albums that I enjoyed the most over the course of this year.

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Brett Bodner’s Top Albums of 2020

Best of 2020

Good riddance 2020. We’re finally saying good-bye to one of the worst years on record and are hoping for a much better 2021. While 2020 was a turd wrapped in burnt hair, it did give us some fantastic music for our ears and souls to enjoy over these many months spent social distancing. Phoebe Bridgers’ blessed us with Punisher, her highly anticipated follow-up to Stranger in the Alps, and a few EPs to help end the year right. This was also the year Taylor Swift’s music won me over for the first time in my life thanks to her two impressive albums folklore and evermore. We also got a killer Spanish Love Songs album to start the year, Touche Amore somehow found a way to follow up Stage Four with their epic new record Lament, a long awaited new full length from The Front Bottoms and a powerful debut solo album from Hayley Williams. I could go on-and-on with all the new music I enjoyed this year, but it’s best I let the records on my list below speak for themselves.

This was my first year writing for Chorus and it’s been such an honor writing alongside everyone on the website. Through contributors here, I discovered artists I probably wouldn’t have given a chance or found on my own, but I’m glad I did. The result of all these discoveries is what’s probably my most diverse end-of-year album list yet. I never thought I’d have pop records from Taylor Swift or Dua Lipa on my list, but here we are. I’m excited for the new music to come in 2021 and to continue to write about it here at Chorus.fm.

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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:

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Aaron Mook’s Top Albums of 2020

Best of 2020

I think this is the first year since 2017 I’ve written a blog to accompany my list on the site. It’s discouraging when your work starts to suck the energy out of the things you love to do; I am thankful to write for a living, but unsure of where that leaves me when I only feel inspired to review one or two albums a year. Regardless, I feel fortunate for the opportunity to continue contributing to the site, both as a moderator, an occasional writer, and a loathed poster. (I kid, probably.)

It feels like every year after 2015, these wrap-ups have started with a sentiment like “What’s left to say about 2017? It sucked!” And to be honest, I don’t have much insight to offer regarding 2020. It was a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad, fucked-up year for a lot of reasons, and I’m not here to say it was any worse for me than it was for other people. All I can say is that it’s years like this that make you extremely grateful to have a community that loves art and discussing art as much as you do. Thank you for that.

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Craig Manning’s Top Albums of 2020

I never thought I’d need music again like I did in 2020.

I spent big chunks of 2018 and 2019 sorting back through records that had been formative in my life, first from the 2000s and then the 2010s. If anything, those processes showed me that the way I listened to music and connected with it had largely changed. And that made sense: the 2000s were the decade where I came of age, where I fell in the love with music for the first time, and where I went through the tumult of high school and all the joys and stumbles that path entails; the 2010s were my college years, the decade where I fell in love with my wife, where I saw my big youthful dreams die, where I saw another set of dreams sprout up to take their place, where I got married, and where I found my way toward contentment in my professional and personal life.

That kind of contentment is a gift, but it can also change the way you connect with art. When you’re young, you latch onto music in a primal way, because your emotions are heightened and every year brings so many milestones and so much change. Settling into the routine of adulthood affords fewer reasons to rely on an album like it’s a lifeline, or to listen to a song and feel like it might have just saved your life. Looking back at my year-end lists from the past two years, it’s clear to me that I was losing that visceral bond with the songs I thought I loved. While there are albums I adore on those lists, there are also many that don’t have any true relationship with beyond simple appreciation. 2020 was different. The world was a storm and I turned to music again as my raincoat, not unlike the way I used to in high school or college and facing a broken heart or a moment of crisis.

In recent days and weeks, as countless music fans across the internet have shared their “best of 2020” lists, I’ve read time and time again that folks “didn’t listen to much new music in 2020.” Maybe they felt they lacked the mental or emotional capacity to process anything else that was new and unfamiliar when our entire way of life suddenly seemed alien. Maybe people were just retreating to albums and songs they’d loved for years, taking solace in sounds that felt like old friends.

That wasn’t me: I spent the year putting out a call to the music world to give me something, anything that made me feel alive, or that spoke to the hope or grief or resilience or frustration I was feeling at any given moment. And the artists more than answered that call, delivering music that kept me afloat through it all, from the early days of the pandemic to a summer that never quite was, and from the jitters of election night through to the melancholy sadness that floated over the holiday season. It’s my favorite single-year slate of albums in at least half a decade – a list where I feel a more emotional connection with the LP at number 26 than I did with last year’s number 6. For the sake of the world and my own mental health, I hope I don’t have a reason to lean on music as much in 2021 as I did in 2020. But during a time when almost everything around me felt like it was falling apart, these albums gave me the hope and faith to keep going. I’ll never forget that.

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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!

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