While 2020 won’t top anyone’s list of best years ever, it still was a great 12 months for music.
Now it’s time for my personal top 20 albums. Here’s the first part of the countdown with excerpts from the original reviews. Check back next week for the rest of the list.
20. Beach Bunny — ‘Honey Moon’ (February)
Beach Bunny started out as a solo project for singer/songwriter/guitarist Lili Trifilio. Forming a band was the next logical step. “Honeymoon” shows its sound fully fleshed out. The songs are loud and melodic. I hear Vivian Girls, Charly Bliss and, at times, a heavier version of Eisley.
19. Hazel English — ‘Wake Up!’ (April)
Australian singer/songwriter Hazel English delivered a confident debut album. English wrote the entire record herself. “Wake Up” displays both her sparkling vocal presence and penchant for coming up with fantastic melodies.
18. Cults — ‘Host’ (September)
Cults albums delivered a sunny ‘60s sway in a more modern and even cynical setting. The melding of two different worlds worked to the duo’s advantage. “Host” continues the tradition. Madeline Follin delivers the soaring hooks over the top, while Brian Oblivion makes sure those melodies have the proper slick and vibrant settings.
17. Dead Famous People — ‘Harry’ (October)
New Zealand indie poppers Dead Famous People came back with their first album in 18 years. “Harry” is a very welcome return, with 10 tight tracks built on catchy hooks and basic yet slick arrangements. Dons Savage still writes all the tunes. Hopefully, this is the dawning of a new and more active era for DFP.
16. Bright Eyes — ‘Down in the Weeds, Where the World Once Was’ (August)
“Weeds” is a grand musical statement flirting with folk rock, strange electronics, guitar pop, swaying melodies and orchestral arrangements. Conor Oberst, along with multi-instrumentalists Mike Mogis and Nate Walcott, falls into perfect sync once again as if 10 years apart never happened.
15. Haim — ‘Women in Music Part 3’ (June)
“Women in Music” is easily the band’s best and most sonically interesting outing. The sisters had to deal with a few demons during the album’s creation. The music is not quite as carefree as before, yet Haim flourishes in these darker settings.
14. Fontaines D.C. — ‘A Hero’s Death’ (July)
Irish post-punk rockers Fontaines D.C. came back with their second album. The guys quickly recorded it this past spring and almost redefined themselves in the process. A lot of the music slows down, bringing on the hazy and slightly psychedelic.
13. Tame Impala — ‘The Slow Rush’ (February)
Kevin Parker remains knee-deep in psychedelics and otherworldly sounds. The music is trippy and chill, yet his vocals have never been this important, the arrangements never this tight. The songs sound more planned these days.
12. Caribou — ‘Suddenly’ (February)
Canadian electronic artist Dan Snaith churned out his fifth as Caribou. This is NOT a single-tempo set. What really sets “Suddenly” apart is the beats are secondary to Snaith’s vocals, melodies and songwriting. Here we get splashes of ambient, R&B, hip-hop and straightforward pop.
11. Best Coast — ‘Always Tomorrow’ (February)
Bethany Cosantino and bandmate Bob Bruno cranked out some seriously infectious melodies over driving arrangements. “Tomorrow” gets glossy in spots, but the jubilation of these tunes makes that studio polish a welcome part of the equation. This is actually a GOOD feel-good record.