Best Of 2020: Albums In Alphabetical Order Through January 31st
Ten years on, my monthly round up of the best albums of the year will be done alphabetically because there is so little difference between the 50th and the 70th best album it isn’t worth the parsing. I will add an additional post, much less albums, by preference… I will no longer separate reissues.
Good Luck Everybody – AJJ – Of the three state of the nation albums, AJJ’s folk rock horror story is the better, with a melodic yet wide eyed relentless horror at the state of the nation, the strength of the songs, the single of the year so far “Normalization Blues” especially, are in no way weakened by making their point with quiet and intense lovelines
The Neon Skyline – Andy Shauf – He’s like Mac DeMarco without the snark and with better songs, and excellent storytelling skills with intelligence, skills, and a consistent melodic sensibility
The Deadbeat Bang Of Heartbreak City – Beach Slang – Beach Slang meets Tommy Stinson on a gritty, hard hitting ‘Mats like rocker of an album which might appear to be a rip off, maybe, right? Maybe and sure it sounds maybe a little too close to the originals, but if you don’t wanna hear songs that sound like “I Will Dare” (not to mention Westerberg’s “Knocking On Mine”) what, precisely, do you want?
Beethoven: Late String Quartets – Ludwig van Beethoven, Brodsky Quartet – six quartets, composed two years before his death in 1827, were dismissed as minor at the time but were reassessed as among his finest work. The Brodsky Quartet, Elvis Costello’s old pals circa The Juliet Letters, were made for it and don’t disappoint in the nearly four hour long work
On Circles – Caspian – Undoubtedly some of the most gorgeous ambient by other means sonic dream landscape. It’s a little boring, though “Nostalgist” -which is the first song in five albums to feature vocals, proves they might want to reconsider their world of sonic beauty next time round
Music To Be Murdered By – Eminem – The former Slim Shady knows the pop world wants him murdering his enemies and taking on the vast majority of everybody though middle aged hasbeens whining about how the world doesn’t understand him has a very limited shelf life. Having said that, Eminem is one of the best rhymers and rappers ever, and sometimes it is all worthwhile, the end of “Godzilla” is the best speed rapping you’ll hear, the Outkasts by other means “Yah Yah” is a world class banger, and “Stepdad” -his best revenge fantasy because its enemy deserves Em’s ire. If The album was 30 minutes it would be as great as anything he has done
Manic – Halsey – I should never have left Jingle Ball early last year, as Halsey drops a grown up look at romantic malfeasance, and while it is nauseating to imagine she is concerned enough to use so much effort on the G-Eazys of the world, she sure knocks the world into shape and we can only hope it breaks pop
Finding Harmony – The King’s Singers – King’s College Cambridge choir sounding absolutely gorgeous with full harmonies that Pentatonix can’t dream of, plus the Kesha and Ariana Grande covers just add depth and vision
Miracle of Science – Marshall Crenshaw – an extended version of his 1996 album, after regaining the copyright from the dreaded Razor And Tie. Nobody’s fave Crenshaw, it felt at the time like “Starless Summer Night,” the Grant Hart song, and ten others. A lovely album but too many covers. Nearly a quarter of a century later, it is clearly as good as anything in his catalog and the addition of two new covers, as well as MC’s shaking up of the song placement, and releasing one song backwards, all works completely… what’s not to like?
Bowie Cello Symphonic: Blackstar – Maya Beiser, Ambient Orchestra, Evan Ziporyn – the best Bowie tribute so far, Blackstar rearranged for cello
Rare – Selena Gomez – Gomez’s best album is a post-heartbreak-health scare set of fast on its feet pop-dance tracks with a point of view
3 – The Weeklings – Forget the Easybeats and Beatle covers because you knew they were going to be great anyway, and settle into the harp solo and then realize that’s the Beatles cover. Elsewhere the four piece power poppers meet garage rockers can occasionally come over more the late great Neil Innes then Lennon And McCartney, and that actually improves the tight and taut set of songs from the best at what they do (not Beatles impressions, power pop) on their best release to date
Silver Tongue – TORRES – Torres is such a romantic, and on her first album for Merge, she is electrically, by which I mean sonically, strong and boundless. This isn’t the one for her, maybe the next, but she is getting close to breaking it down and finding herself in St. Vincent land of production heaven and a wonder of love. It’s all good and “Good Scare,” which opens the album, is hard not to put on repeat, but hang around for “Two Of Everything”
Street Shots 2020: Streets of Kingston – Various Artists – Reggae with beats, lots of reggae, lotsa beats but a touch difference than dancehall
The Gershwins’ “Porgy and Bess” (Live) – Various Artists – The acclaimed production with Eric Owens and Angel Blue is available to stream on Apple, superbly performed opera, they just simulcast it at movie houses, and it is still at the Met. Very good news they decided to release a recording of the opera