Album Notes - Best Music of 2020

Dispatches from the Highlands

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A new year is always reason for optimism, and boy do we need that more than ever. As we flip the calendar, unfortunately our reality won't be changed so easily. While certain pieces of news may shine a light to the end of the tunnel, we're still going to be dealing with 2020's unfinished business for quite some time. After the obvious wishes of being able to see friends and family in a more "normal" way, in talking with a number of my closest music-loving friends, a common thread of conversation occurs: we miss live music. When we'll be back seeing shows and how exactly those next concert experiences will unfold is anyone's guess. However, they will undoubtedly be a celebration by all in attendance, and may that day come as soon as realistically and logistically possible. Until then, the music we consume will continue to come mostly from the studio. 

With that in mind, I think back to 2017, the year I consider to have produced the best overall output since I started writing this back in 2015. The armchair psychologist in me considers that generous outpouring of brilliance a natural result of the tumult engulfing so much of the world the year prior. I suspect the latter half of 2021 into spring 2022 will play out musically in a similar manner. Many artists have shelved complete or nearly complete records in order for their release to coincide with a tour. Others are surely using this disruptive existence as a conduit for future masterpieces. If we listeners and fans are chomping at the bit for concerts to happen, thinking about a band reuniting in the same room for the first time in however many months makes me giddy. We still have a ways to go, but finally, there is that light. It will take time to get there, but we've always got the music to help us through. 

Anyway, we're ending this year the same way as the previous four, with a mix of some of my favorite tunes released over the last twelve months that were not featured in Album Notes. Per tradition, the songs are separated into two mixes, the first more upbeat, the second more relaxed. As always, some from both could be flipped to the other. 

Tracklist (Artist- "song" - Album)

Let's Forget 2020 Except the Music, Pt. 1
1 Theo Katzman - "You Could Be President" - Modern Johnny Sings: Songs in the Age of Vibe
2 Criteria - "Agitate Resuscitate" - Years
3 Grouplove - "Deleter" - Healer
4 The Courteeners - "Heavy Jacket" - More. Again. Forever
5 Cold War Kids - "Obsession" - New Age Norms 2
6 The Magic Gang - "Take Back the Track" - Death of the Party
7 Bahamas - "Up With the Jones" - Sad Hunk
8 Rat Boy - "Victim of a System" - Government Vacation
9 The Spitfires - "Life Worth Living" - Life Worth Living
10 Ghost of Vroom - "Rona Pollona" - Ghost of Vroom 2
11 Delta Spirit - "It Ain't Easy" - What Is There
12 Badly Drawn Boy - "Banana Skin Shoes" - Banana Skin Shoes
13 Circa Waves - "Jacqueline" - Sad Happy 
14 Twin Peaks - "What's the Matter" - Side A

Let's Forget 2020 Except the Music, Pt. 2
1 Shakey Graves - "Look Alive" - Look Alive EP
2 Ben L'onlce Soul - "Two Trees" - Addicted To You
3 Foreign Air - "The Apartment" - Good Morning Stranger
4 Haim - "Los Angeles" - Women in Music Pt. III
5 merci, mercy - "Fucked Myself Up" - No Thank You, No Thanks
6 Lianne La Havas - "Can't Fight" - Lianne La Havas
7 Dirty Projectors - "Searching Spirit" - 5EPs
8 Dan Croll - "Yesterday" - Grand Plan
9 moe. - "Skitchin Buffalo Reprise" - This Is Not, We Are
10 Small Forward - "Most of You" - Small Forward
11 Billy Martin - "In Doubly" - G U I L T Y
12 Nathaniel Rateliff - "Redemption" - Palmer (soundtrack)

Finally, the list of my ten favorite albums of year. In 2020, there really were no winners, and as such I decline the option to select any one of the following above the other nine. Rather, I have enjoyed all of these top-to-bottom countless times during our current year and look forward to hearing them on repeat in the years to come. I really can't pick one as an absolute favorite, although a handful do stand above the rest. Either way, in alphabetical order, my favorites of 2020:

Fiona Apple – Fetch the Bolt Cutters
Car Seat Headrest – Making a Door Less Open
Cut Worms – Nobody Lives Here Anymore
Glass Animals – Dreamland
Man Man – Dream Hunting in the Valley of the In-Between
Muzz – Muzz
Vikingur Olafsson – Debussy/Rameau
Nathaniel Rateliff – And It's Still Alright
Run the Jewels – RTJ4 
Skyway Man – The World Only Ends When You Die

Happy New Year everyone! Let's get 2021 started!

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