My top albums of 2020 – and some other music that got me through it

2020. An inarguably shite year. But one of the things that emerged early on as a small salvation was the continuing stream of music releases.

The live scene may have been completely shuttered – my last gig was the fantastic-as-ever Meursault on 13 March, a show like many around that time which shouldn’t have been allowed to go ahead, with the benefit of hindsight – but at least recorded music stumbled on through the lockdown.

I’ve not had a chance to think about this too much and I’m not going to try to do the usual arbitrary ranking, so here, in no particular order, are my favourite records of 2020:

  • Róisín Murphy – Róisín Machine
  • Fleet Foxes – Shore
  • Everything Everything – RE-ANIMATOR
  • Kelly Lee Owens – Innersong
  • Four Tet – Parallel
  • Phoebe Bridgers – Punisher
  • Bob Dylan – Rough and Rowdy Ways
  • Run the Jewels – RTJ4
  • Bombay Bicycle Club – Everything Else Has Gone Wrong
  • The Avalanches – We Will Always Love You

(The point of this is to satisfy my own tradition of doing these annual lists, rather than any public act. But if you do discover anything, that’s great – and feel free to comment below with your own tips if you feel that way inclined…)

Why only 10? Well there were more than a few “critics’ darling” albums I just couldn’t get into, and one or two disappointments from artists I usually love (naming no names).

I also think I spent 2020 listening to a lot of older music (The Zombies, Bill Withers, Thom Yorke, Bon Iver and Brian Eno all featured heavily), as well as a lot of instrumental or ambient electronica from years past. (The Flow State newsletter is a great source of music to focus your mind).

Some artists I discovered in 2020 for the first time included CUTS, Hildur Guðnadóttir (who composed the scores for Joker and Chernobyl), Hélène Vogelsinger and Las Nubes.

Later in the year, probably in need of a musical holiday, I also tried to introduce myself to Latin music, mainly inspired by Huey Morgan’s 6 Music show, and I enjoyed the likes of Eddie Palmieri and Tito Puente (I know, start with the icons).

Finally, 2020 was also the year we sadly lost Toots Hibbert, and seeing him perform with the Maytals at the Liquid Room in Edinburgh in 2012 remains one of the best and sweatiest gigs I’ve ever been to. Here’s my five-star Scotsman review from the time. RIP.

Want more dodgy recommendations? Here’s my top albums of 2019 list.

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