Wow, what a year 2020 has been! Pandemics, social unrest, lockdowns, and crazy political pageantry… It’s almost like an episode of The X Files! And who better than The X to bring it all home at the end? In a year without live music and touring revenue, some artists have decided to do the unthinkable– and release albums! I’m sure that most of you have gotten to know your music streaming service in a most intimate way this last 11 months (cue the Boogie Nights theme), however, there’s always room for more tuneage. So please allow me to present your relief package– the 100.5 The X Top Ten Albums of 2020!
Notes on a Conditional Form, The 1975
The 1975 return with an album that is chock full of material. This album is 80 minutes in length and contains everything from a long spoken intro track and garage rockers to symphonic interludes and pop hooks that would make Phil Collins green with envy. As with any Matthew Healy release, listener discretion is advised as he pulls no punches and leaves no innuendo unturned. Highlight tracks include “If You’re Too Shy (Let Me Know)”, “Jesus Christ 2005 God Bless America”, “Then Because She Goes”.
Father of All…, Green Day
Green Day goes back to the garage with their newest album. Father of All… contains a few firsts for the band including the distorted falsetto vocals of the title track as well as “Oh Yeah!”, a song which borrows quite a bit from a certain 70’s glitter rocker, who we don’t talk about anymore. The band’s 2020 plans included headlining The Hella Mega Stadium Tour and bringing Father of All… to all corners of the globe. With the tour’s postponement, Green Day made the decision to release their new album anyway and maybe that’s the most punk thing about this collection. Overall, Father of All… is full of fun, poppy songs that make you forget that you’ve been locked away for the past 200 days. Highlights include “Fire, Ready, Aim”, “Stab You in the Heart”, “Graffitia”.
Saint Cloud, Waxahatchee
This is undoubtedly the most mellow album on this list and one that took me a while to catch onto. While I’m still not a curator of the Waxahatchee music vault, I found this album to be poignant and something I could come back to again and again. This album was conceived during a tumultuous period that saw singer/songwriter Katie Crutchfield overcome her battles with alcoholism. Special mention goes out to the lyrical wizardry on “The Eye”– seriously, she was able to plant the word cryptogram into this song and it works! Highlights include “War”, “St. Cloud”, “The Eye”.
Magic Beach Motel, One Horse Parade
Macon’s One Horse Parade released Magic Beach Motel this past summer– and we were listening. Hell, we’re still listening to this album with great enthusiasm. Magic Beach Motel highlights the things that have always made this band special– oceans of guitars, layers of synths, and seductive rhythms– however, this go-round, singer Brent Thomason brings new elements to the recipe. Seriously, the vocals have opened up new avenues for this band to parade around your headphones. Highlights include “Analog Maps”, “Between You and Me”, “Temple of Convenience”, and the magical album cover.
The masters of combining clean, washy guitars and melodic vocals with crushing riffage and blood-curdling screams are back with perhaps their strongest album in a decade. What started with Diamond Eyes has turned into years of searching for new avenues with which to weave melodies and grooves, sometimes harkening back to 80’s arena riffs, while at other times evoking the darkest parts of New Wave’s frozen underbelly. Like the ouroboros, Deftones come full circle with an album that showcases the most memorable parts of their now 25+ year career. Highlights include… Just put the album on and hit play already!
Blue Hearts, Bob Mould
When Bob Mould releases an album, you generally feel transported back 30 years ago to when rock n’ roll was avant-garde, sweaty, and still on the dimly lit dangerous side of the block. With Blue Hearts I find myself feeling like I did the first time that 90’s alt-rock entered into my ear canals, penetrating my brain and signaling the end of the aqua net and saccharin coated 80’s rock party. Still, Mouldy proves that he has more than enough angst left in the tank to upstage any number of LiveNation arena packages gearing up to go play the hits at an amphitheater near you during the summer months. Blue Hearts is chock full of highlights, check out “American Crisis”, “Forecast of Rain”, and “Leather Dreams”.
Heartwork, The Used
The Used decided that their 2020 New Year’s resolution was to release an album that showcases their ability to dig deep into the emotional well while gifting the listener with choruses catchier than a Randy Moss highlight reel. The Used aren’t ones to party alone as they invited a who’s who list of pop punk luminaries to join the festivities including Blink 182’s Mark Hoppus and Travis Barker as well as Beartooth frontman Caleb Shomo. The Used have thrown down a winning hand with Heartwork. Raise the stakes and add this to your playlist. Highlights include “Big”, “Wanna Be”, “Obvious Blasé”, “Bloody Nose”.
City Burials, Katatonia
Every good story has a plot twist– and here it goes! Super Overdrive listeners were given a vote for album of the year and the front runner is none other than Katatonia’s City Burials. This group of Swedish rock veterans continue to push the boundaries of their abilities and quite often to thunderous plaudits. City Burials has something for everyone, from huge guitar riffs and top-notch production to heart-wrenching ballads and haunting harmonies. Katatonia returns from their long winter with a marvel of a record that will surely have the listeners digging through their back catalog. Highlights include “Lacquer”, “Behind the Blood”, “The Winter of Our Passing”.
Fetch The Bolt Cutters, Fiona Apple
From the depths of Fiona Apple comes one of the most interesting albums of the year. Recorded over the course of 5 years, Fetch The Bolt Cutters features frantic piano and wacky percussion underneath Fiona’s eccentric (ok loony) vocal phrasing. This woman has somehow found the border between ambition and morosity. I’ll admit this took a few listens to get into but once I found the right headspace, I was taken by all that this album has to offer. Fetch the device and add this to your playlist. Highlights?Just put it on and take it all in.
The New Abnormal, The Strokes
While some of the low fi, garage tones have been left behind, The Strokes seem comfortable to delve into the swagger of post-disco rock, and perhaps none more so than frontman Julian Casablancas. Pop this one on if you want to post-rock around the Christmas tree. Highlights include “Bad Decisions”, “Brooklyn Bridge To Chorus”, and “Eternal Summer”.