2020 was clearly not a great year, and in the early months of the pandemic, I wondered if I’d even be up for doing a year-end list with so many artists canceling their releases without the ability to go on the road to promote. There was certainly a lot of great music put on the back burner, but despite my original uncertainty, a plethora of exciting new music was released over the course of the year. In fact, some artists used the pandemic as a moment to try new things or used this moment to make a statement. In fact, music was one of the few avenues of escape during a year of perpetual lockdown. Here are some of the albums that helped me make it through the year.
The Covid-19 virus has changed the way we live in 2020. Almost all industries have been impacted by the changes to how we interact with the outside world, and the entertainment industry has not been immune to the crisis. The music industry, in particular, has found itself maneuvering through uncharted waters. In the modern era, artists make the bulk of their income from live shows where they can earn money via ticket sales and merch. Obviously, that money-stream has disappeared, and what remains are streaming services that fail to pay artists their fair share.
As a result, many artists pulled their material from release in 2020, and I don’t blame them. Despite this curtailment in new music, some brave artists have still released some pretty amazing new music. Below you will find 20 incredible albums released before July 1st that have helped buoy my spirits during uncertain times.
For me, this list is the most important thing I write all year. While I enjoy all the various writing avenues I take, the “Top Albums” list is really the end-all-be-all. I’d be beating a dead horse if I discussed what a disappointing year 2016 has been, but instead, I want to focus on some of the great music released. Once again, I’ve compiled a list of some incredible albums that hail from a wide range of genres. Give the first 20 a read through and a listen, and I’m sure you’ll find something that strayed beyond your listening peripheral in 2016.
2016 has been a comeback year for “the album” with artists like Beyonce, Chance the Rapper, Radiohead, Drake, and Kanye West dominating news cycles with the surprising arrivals of their new full-length albums. I see this as both a blessing and a curse. As a fan of the long-form listening experience, I love that albums as a whole are getting love in the age of Spotify playlists and Pandora radio. On the other hand, many of these albums do not deserve the hype that surrounds them (i.e: Chance the Rapper’s Coloring Book pales in comparison to his last effort, Acid Rap, and Drake’s VIEWS might be the most uninspiring, uninteresting albums of 2016). Lost amidst all of this album release hoopla is a lot of the great music not getting the attention it deserves. That’s where we here at BDWPS come. Below you will find 20 original, rousing, and memorable albums that you should have been listening to instead of wasting your time with the latest Rihanna album.
(All of the albums on this list were released before June 1st. I set this cut-off date to ensure I’ve had ample time to listen and connect with albums before placing them on the list.)
In this episode, I discuss some of the highlights from my week at SXSW including performances from Thao Nguyen, MONEY, Big Ups, and Nap Eyes. We also check out new tracks from Little Simz and Lucinda Williams, and I discuss The Descendents documentary “Filmage”. You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, and Google Play (search: BDWPS).
Thao & the Get Down Stay Down “Fool Forever”
MONEY “You Look Like a Sad Painting on Both Sides of the Sky”
Big Ups “National Parks”
Nap Eyes “Lion in Chains”
Little Simz “Have I”
Lucinda Williams “The Ghosts of Highway 20”
The Descendents “Hope”
Bob Dylan “Blowin’ in the Wind”