The 25 Best Albums of 2020 (and more)

David Lorbiecke
Dec 14, 2020 · 18 min read
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What a year 2020 has been, but you already know that, that’s all you’ve heard over the past 12 months so I doubt you need yet another long diatribe about how 2020 is the worst year ever, right? With that in mind, let us instead focus on the good parts of 2020 — while there was an obvious lack of live shows, we still had a bevy of new releases grace our ears.

The year seemed to hinder some artists and invigorated others. Several used the downtime to write and record new music or work on different projects, but others suffered from canceled studio recording time — delaying a few anticipated albums (Samiam for example). All in all, there may have been fewer releases for the year (with some pushed forward to 2021), but there was still some absolute bangers.

This article is broken up into the following categories:

25. The Moore Family Band — Missy

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Despite a late year release limiting the amount of time to give the album a worthy amount of listens, The Moore Family Band (made up of siblings) were still able to prove, on their debut album, that they’re fully ready to be taken seriously. The songs are short, fast hits of punk, that feature guest spots from the likes of Jeff Rosenstock and Dan Potthast, to help round out their tunes. At barely over 22 minutes, the songs never outwear their welcome and almost insist the listener to give the album multiple repeat listens. [Punk]

Recommended Tracks: I’m a Mess, Take a Break, & Yelling Out of Tune

24. AJJ — Good Luck Everybody

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This album once again finds the band reinventing their sound while still taking bits and pieces from the rest of their catalogue. It’s the most stripped-down and soft-spoken of the AJJ discography, yet there’s still energy and biting commentary to be found throughout. The album’s best track, “Normalization Blues”, channels their blues influences and serves up a very good tribute to the genre — it’s somewhat surprising that they haven’t done it before. It’s great to see the band still trying new things, and I think it all culminates in the last 2 tracks, both songs are beautiful in their own right and a long distance from the snarky & sarcastic tracks from the band’s origins. [Folk Punk]

Read a Ranking of AJJ’s 7 Albums

Recommended Tracks: Normalization Blues, Your Voice, as I Remember It, and A Big Day for Grimley

23. Bobby Funk — Longing for the Bonging

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What an absolute blast of a record this is, the debut from Manchester’s Bobby Funk, a band that seamlessly combines early punk ethos with surf-rock melodies. The group really embodies the ideals of a new band — writing songs that make you and your friends laugh, and playing them with a sense of carefree joy. This is a record that never really takes itself seriously, and at barely over 20min, the jokes don’t get old. [Surf Rock/Punk]

Recommended Tracks: I’m a Cat, Dunch, & Onion Eyes

22. Big Loser — love you, barely living

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The type of music that Big Loser makes, a concoction of punk-infused emo rock, is one of the hardest to pull off well, but when done right — *chef’s kiss*. Much like similar band such as Sorority Noise and Modern Baseball, Big Loser uses its lyrics to paint an everyday picture of depression. The lyrics rarely romanticize the dark moments in life, but rather draw them out as trivial aspects of living. All said, on just their second album, these Texan musicians are showing that they’re an act that deserves your attention. [Indie Rock/Punk]

Recommended Tracks: blisters, beautiful dark room, & pessimist, for real

21. IDLES — Ultra Mono

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This was probably the hardest album to rank as, opposed to others in this list, the level of enjoyment for it really depends on mood. IDLES’ musical style combines heavy, aggressive instrumental production mixed with a version of yelling/talking vocals that a listener really needs to be ready for — some days you may hate it, but on others it could fit the mood perfectly. If you’re looking for some loud, in your face music, with the type of songs that make you want to start a protest or just go break some shit — I would definitely recommend this album. [Rock / Hardcore Punk]

Recommended Tracks: Model Village, Grounds, & War

20. March — Set Loose

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Sometimes straightforward, no nonsense, punk music is exactly what the day calls for and you’ll have a hard time finding a better record in 2020 that fits that model than March’s Set Loose. On their second album, this Dutch band proves that they’re a force to be reckoned with. Singer Fleur van Zuylen’s vocals draw comparisons with Brody Dalle from The Distillers, while the music behind it bares a resemblance to bands like The Bronx and Strike Anywhere. Ultimately, this means you know this album is going to hit hard and be fun live. [Punk Rock]

Recommended Tracks: Born a Snake, Nothing Ever Really Dies, & On High Heat

19. Yumi Zouma — Truth or Consequences

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Within the genre of dreamy indie pop, it’s hard to distinguish yourself from the rest, but Yumi Zouma is one of the few that are able to do so. This New Zealand based band is able to consistently create songs which are insanely catchy without feeling like another product of radio friendly pop — there’s something undeniably special about this band and this record. This is probably the calmest/poppiest record on the list and it completely deserves a position in the top records of 2020. [Indie Pop]

Recommended Tracks: Southwark, Cool For A Second, Right Track / Wrong Man

18. Sa-Roc — The Sharecropper’s Daughter

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This record hooked me in the moment I heard it. Sa-Roc’s ferocious flow and intelligent lyrics just beg the the listener to pay attention. It’s pretty amazing, but this is actually Sa-Roc’s 10th album in as many years and while I haven’t heard her previous releases, if they are anything like The Sharecropper’s Daughter than I’m in for a good experience. Like many hiphop records, this one includes several cameos from notable rappers to help add diversity, but at 50+ minutes, the only flaw in this record is that it’s maybe a little longer than necessary. [Hip-Hop]

Recommended Tracks: Goddess Gang, Gold Leaf, & r(E)volution

17. Cable Ties — Far Enough

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If you enjoy indie, post-punk rock with a heavily distorted bass in the forefront complimented with loose, improv-esque guitar lines and ferocious vocals — you’ll love this Australian group’s second album. At only 8 songs, it’s still 43 minutes long, featuring songs that lesser bands would wear out the welcome on, but Cable Ties manages to keep the listener engaged. Jenny McKechnie’s vocals do a superb job helping to build the tension — each song always feeling like it’s on the verge of breaking into chaos. [Alternative/Indie Rock]

Recommended Tracks: Sandcastles, Self-Made Man, & Hope

16. Vundabar — Either Light

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Such an easy record to put on and get lost in. The tracks tend to have this delightful tendency of getting wrapped up in your mind so that you’ll find yourself singing along to them hours after the album has finished. Vundabar does a terrific job here of drawing on nostalgic 80s rock while still feeling current and modern. Formed in 2013, they still have a bright future ahead and I recommend keeping them on your radar if you’re a fan of melodic indie rock bands — there’s few bands that presently do it as well as they do. [Indie Rock]

Recommended Tracks: Montage Music, Petty Crime, & Burned Off

15. Bright Eyes — Down in the Weeds, Where the World Once Was

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It’s so fantastic to have Bright Eyes back, and in many ways, they haven’t missed a step during their 9 year absence. The songwriting, as would be expected, is top notch as is the production. As opposed to the the stylistic variances found within the first few records, this album flows through in a fairly measured, yet still exciting way (reminiscent to their last album). It may be unsurprising, but Down in the Weeds sounds more mature than their prior records, and with that maturity comes a different sort of solemn vibe. Gone are the days of young angst and replacing them are songs dripping with heavy sadness that hang on only a tinge of hope. “Mariana Trench” particularly stands out as a song that reminds the listener what they’ve been missing since the band went on hiatus. [Indie Folk/Rock]

Read a Ranking of Bright Eyes’ 10 Albums

Recommended Tracks: Mariana Trench, Dance and Sing, & Hot Car in the Sun

14. The Aquabats — Kooky Spooky… In Stereo!

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After what seemed like an eternity, the Aquabats finally came back with a new album 9 years after their previous one. Although there was such such a long gap, the band doesn’t sound rusty, instead there’s a strong energy throughout that is only strengthened by the same crisp production that was provided to the previous 2 records. The record kicks off with the instantly memorable and catchy track “Karate Body!”, which may just be the band’s best intro song to date. Through the next 9 songs (or 10) the band explores more of the synth rock that it has been perfecting over the past 20+ years while also incorporating reggae, swing and some hiphop elements. Unfortunately, the album is quite short (especially considering the long absence between records) at just under 30min if you don’t include the bonus “jam” song. [New Wave/Ska Punk]

Read a Ranking of The Aquabats’ 6 Albums

Recommended Tracks: Karate Body!, Sneak Attack!, & Pajamazon!

13. Screeching Weasel — Some Freaks of Atavism

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I’ve got to say, this album is, regrettably, the best pop-punk/Ramones-style album of the year. Why is it regrettable? Because I can’t stand the singer Ben Weasel. That alone should tell you how brilliant this record is. For a group that’s been together for nearly 35 years (albeit with lineup changes), they have no business putting out such an excellent album, but it’s really a testament to why the group has such a loyal fanbase to begin with. One of the most remarkable things about this release is, for a genre that can wear out its welcome fairly quickly, Some Freaks of Atavism never sounds repetitive or dull — every single track is an example of experienced songwriting. [Pop Punk]

Recommended Tracks: Brain In A Jar, Back of Your Head, & God Help Us

12. Bombay Bicycle Club — Everything Else Has Gone Wrong

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It seems the 6 break really benefited this group of indie rockers as Everything Else Has Gone Wrong, the band’s 5th album, is excellent from beginning to end. The record is one of those few releases that can conjure up dreamy and surreal imagery while never feeling boring or lazy itself. If you’re searching for breezy and carefree record with no fillers, look no further than this album — it’s chock-full of relaxing melodies accompanied by a mystifying backdrop of musical styles. [Indie Rock]

Recommended Tracks: Is It Real, Eat, Sleep, Wake (Nothing But You), & Good Day

11. Western Addiction — Frail Bray

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Although it doesn’t match the perfection of their debut album Cognicide, their 3rd album Frail Bray is as close as they’ve gotten so far. Despite their debut being released 15 years ago, they’re still able to retain much of the same energy and passion that fueled that debut. Western Addiction are one of the few bands who are able to awaken the spirit of 80s hardcore punk without sounding like they’re simply replicating it. A lot of their distinction in style comes from their lyrics, eschewing the cliched topics of a lot of punk songs, singer Jason Hall instead covers stories from history as well as personal narratives through a unique lenses. [Hardcore Punk]

Recommended Tracks: They Burned Our Paintings, The Leopard and the Juniper, & Wildflowers of Italy

10. Coriky — S/T

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On Coriky’s highly anticipated debut album, IanMacKaye (Minor Threat/Fugazi), Amy Farina (The Evens), and Joe Lally (Fugazi) luckily don’t disappoint. Unsurprisingly, the album bears a significant resemblance to Fugazi records, yet still comes off as something new and original. Including all 3 members on vocals helps give the album a dynamic advantage and prevents it from getting stale. In addition, you’ve got a genre mixture of rock, indie, and punk played in an almost free-style jazz form — particularly from percussion. At times, the record is laidback and chill, while when needed, there’s underlying current of rage that bubbles to the top. [Indie Punk]

Recommended Tracks: Clean Kill, BQM, & Have a Cup of Tea

9. The Suicide Machines — Revolution Spring

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There was a lot of anticipation leading up to this album. How would they sound after 15 years without a release? How different would their style be without founding member Dan Lukacinsky on guitar/backing vocals? Luckily for us all, they managed to pick up nearly right where they left off. Yes, the production isn’t quite as nice as their last 2 albums ( it’s still great though), and yes I do miss Lukacinsky’s vocals backing up Navarro, but overall this is an album that’s far better than expected. With the inclusion of horns and organ on a few songs, Revolution Spring is probably the most similar to their debut album that they’ve come — bringing it full circle. Lyrically, the songs are a mix of politics and personal issues, but without quite the same ferocity of their previous two releases — although you can still find some full-on furious hardcore songs. [Ska Punk]

Read a ranking of The Suicide Machines’ 7 albums

Recommended Tracks: Potter’s Song, Impossible Possibilities, & Detroit is the New Miami

8. Cloud Nothings — The Black Hole Understands

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It’s at times difficult to fully articulate what makes, not only this album, but Cloud Nothings so great. There’s a melodic and technical subtlety that seems to permeate through their entire indie rock sound. Dylan Baldi’s nasally vocals often tend to drown out the instruments, but not in a negative way — rather it compliments the end product more than you’d expect. If you’re a fan of the heavier side of Cloud Nothings, you may be disappointed with this record, but I personally adore the less strained and more melodic style that Dylan sometimes incorporates. The whole record is great, but the second half is where the album particularly picks up speed. What is maybe most remarkable is how prolific the group is, in 2020 they released 2 albums (this being one of them), several EPs, and already have another record on its way in early 2021. [Indie Rock]

Recommended Tracks: The Black Hole Understands, The Mess Is Permanent, & Right on the Edge

7. Marlowe — Marlowe 2

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Marlowe is a duo project made up of producer L’Orange and rapper Solemn Brigham that perfectly compliment each other. On only their second album, they’ve released arguably the most consistent rap album of 2020. Not a single track on this record is dull. All of the songs feature phenomenal rhymes, mixed with creative beats that give a nod to some of the instrumental tracks of the 90s. Probably the most surprising aspect of the record is how it clearly owes allegiance to 90s rap, yet still sounds refreshing and unique at the same time. None of the modern day gimmicks are used, instead there’s just a reliance on funky/jazzy beats mixed with Solemn’s more than capable flow. If there’s any negative, it’s that it becomes slightly repetitive, but only mildly so. [Hip-Hop]

Recommended Tracks: Future Power Sources, Can’t Have Me Nothing, & Dead a Lot

6. The Front Bottoms — In Sickness & In Flames

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I could see people being initially turned off by the sound of this record, but I personally love the overall sense of maturity on the songwriting. In the past, Brian’s vocal style seemed almost improvised, but In Sickness & In Flames is an album of carefully thought out tracks. This may not work for every song, but it does as an end product. In addition to a further polished sound, you’ve got the band exploring more aggressive styles (“leaf pile”) and creating surprisingly catchy and danceable tunes (“bus beat”). The clever wordplay can still be found throughout, but it’s more subtle than previous records — another nod to a new level of maturity. My only complaint with record would be the little “skits” added to the endings of a couple songs, at over 52min it’s already the band’s longest record and these extra seconds could’ve been removed. [Indie Rock]

Read a Ranking of The Front Bottoms’ 7 albums

Recommended Tracks: jerk, leaf pile, & new song d

5. Get Dead — Dancing with the Curse

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There’s something really special about this album. It arrived from seemingly nowhere and hits hard in all the right places. Dancing with the Curse doesn’t reinvent any genre, but it’s still clearly makes its own path. Throughout the record you find touches of punk, ska, folk and even some hiphop elements. This bricolage of styles helps to create something truly unique and offers up aspects of music that a lot of people can find common ground on. The 31 minute runtime and use of different styles means you’re likely to stay invested into the album from beginning to finish without the annoyance of any filler tracks. [Ska Punk]

Recommended Tracks: Disruption, Confrontation, & Hard Times

4. Run The Jewels — RTJ4

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Death, Taxes, and Run The Jewels — is anything more consistent than those 3? With RTJ’s 4th album, I think we can finally crown them the most important hiphop group of the past decade. They can’t seem to put out a bad album and each record is better than the last. The rhymes here are on point — topical, political, and personal while still being humorous in all the right spots. The production is unsurprisingly top-notch with memorable beats that are sure to raise your blood pressure and get your head nodding along. The whole record is great, but the first half is where the album really shines. The second half features more chilled out beats that rely more heavily on the lyrics, which is great but can’t match the hard-hitting songs where the group is at their peak. The “I can’t breathe” line still gives me chills with how well it flows together with the rest of “walking in the snow”. [Hip-Hop]

Recommended Tracks: ooh la la, out of sight, & goonies vs. E.T.

3. Worriers — You or Someone You Know

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Probably the most slept-on album in this entire list, the Worriers have turned in another fantastic example of songwriting on their 3rd record. As opposed to many albums, it’s hard to really appreciate this without multiple listens as a lot of the songs rely on the lyrical tenacity to settle in to the listener. Lauren Denitzio pens lines that are drenched in relatability while still being clever. Musically, you’re never going to be blown away, but that has never been the point of Worriers, the music is always the backdrop to the personal heartfelt lyrics. Through 10 tracks, the album never wears out its welcome, moving between mid-tempo rockers to slower, more paced ballads. If you haven’t given this band a chance, I highly recommend putting this album on repeat and letting the songs dig into your subconscious and hit you right in the feelings. [Punk/Indie Rock]

Recommended Tracks: PWR CPLE, Relentless Noise, & End of the World

2. The Lawrence Arms — Skeleton Coast

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There’s few things as enjoyable as when one of your favourite bands releases a new album, particularly when it’s been quite awhile since their last release (6 years in this case). While it’s undeniably a terrific record, it’s also one that fills me with overwhelming nostalgia — listening to it reminds me of memories spending time with friends who I haven’t seen in nearly a decade, since I moved away from the US. Aside from a personal connection, this new album conjures up images of a desolate, dry, and near post-apocalyptic world, through both direct and indirect, more personable lyrics. As someone who usually prefers Brendan Kelly’s vocals, this album surprises as it is undeniably held together by the full vocal and lyrical tenacity of Chris McCaughan. Sonically, Skeleton Coast may be the best the band has ever sounded, the guitars are particularly rich and give off a very full-bodied listening experience that makes the record sound big. [Melodic Punk]

Read a Ranking of The Lawrence Arms’ 7 Albums

Recommended Tracks: Ghostwriter, How To Rot, & Last, Last Words

1. Jeff Rosenstock — NO DREAM

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It’s rare when one of your favourite artists, who’s been prolifically releasing music for over 20 years, puts out a new album and it becomes your favourite of theirs. It almost never happens, but when it does… bliss.
When this was surprise released, I was ecstatic, but also holding back expectations. Luckily, all my concerns were dropped upon the first listen. My favourite tracks change on nearly every listen because it’s such a completely solid record and the amazing thing is that it seems to do it with as little “tricks” as possible — it’s pretty much a straightforward rock album in a lot of ways. Lyrically, it’s a hopeful, yet also nostalgic record. It’s a record that represents change, perhaps not overly evident, but subtle enough to pick up on. Sure, maybe it misses some elements of BTMI! and ASOB that I love, but under the “Jeff Rosenstock” moniker, it’s undeniably his best work. Are there any negatives? I’m not really a fan of the cover art.[Punk/Indie Rock]

Read a Ranking of Jeff Rosenstock’s 12 Albums (with ASoB & BTMI!)

Recommended Tracks: Scram!, ***BNB, & Ohio Tpke

— — — Playlist of the Recommended Tracks — — —

  • War On Women — Wonderful Hell
  • Less Than Jake — Silver Linings
  • Rotting Out — Ronin
  • Kill Lincoln — Can’t Complain
  • Say Hi — Diamonds & Donuts
  • The Chats — High Risk Behaviour
  • Of Montreal — UR Fun
  • Dboy — New Records in Human Power
  • Aesop Rock — Spirit World Field Guide
  • Ozzy Osbourne — Ordinary Man
  • Spanish Love Songs — Brave Faces Everyone
  • Havok — V
  • PEARS — S/T
  • PUP — This Place Sucks (not included because it’s an EP)
  • NOFX/Frank Turner — West Coast Vs. Wessex Split
  • Various Artists — Ska Against Racism
  • The Dirty Nil — Fuck Art (January 1st)
  • Viagra Boys — Welfare Jazz (January 8th)
  • Pom Poko — Cheater (January 15th)
  • Psychedelic Porn Crumpets — SHYGA! The Moonlight Mound (Feb 5th)
  • Foo Fighters — Medicine at Midnight (February 5th)
  • The Hold Steady — Open Door Policy (February 19th)
  • Cloud Nothings — The Shadow I Remember (February 26th)
  • Weezer — Van Weezer (May 7th)
  • Dropkick Murphys (TBA)
  • Herzog — Fiction Writer (TBA)
  • The Mighty Mighty Bosstones (TBA)
  • NOFX (TBA)
  • AFI (TBA)
  • The Offspring (TBA)
  • Direct Hit! (TBA)
  • Samiam (TBA)
  • The Interrupters (TBA)
  • Left Alone (TBA)

Playlist of over 1000 songs from 2020

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