2020 has been a crazy year, that much is clear. The music industry has not been immune to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Concerts and festivals have been canceled for the foreseeable future, live music shifted to an online endeavor, live venues and music stores in particular have been hit hard by the pandemic. While this year has truly been unlike any other, we did see a masterclass of music put out from artists this year. Much of this has not only made quarantining tolerable, but have been a much needed source of joy for many.
Today we would like to honor the 30 albums that in particular we felt had an impact this year. Some of the albums come from emerging artists, while others are from established acts that made triumphant returns in 2020. Regardless, these are all great entries into the alt music genre and we're happy to highlight them.
30. Duncan Fellows - The Sadlands - True to our word, Duncan Fellows' album The Sadlands has landed on our end of the year list! This album features a slick mix of alt and indie sounds that can be bright at times, while other times can be quite massive sonically. This Austin, TX group is one to watch as they're on the rise.
29. Hinds - The Prettiest Curse - An exciting, noisy, poppy album that inspires hope, The Prettiest Curse was a summer winner for Hinds. At times, it has a throwback feel to it that is so genuine, you'll feel like you've been in a time machine (see "Good Bad Times"). While it's able to cleverly nod to the past, it does keep a foot in the present, presenting an alt pop mix you'll be sure to love.
28. Bright Eyes - Down in the Weeds Where the World Once Was - To the great delight to all Bright Eyes fans, they return after a decade with their tenth studio album. DITWWWTWOW can be looked back on as an ominous warning of all that 2020 was to hail, having been recorded before the pandemic hit full force in March. Since 1995, front man Conor Oberst and the Bright Eyes gang have treated fans to well arranged Pop music with the vastness of including full orchestra and choir segments along with their signature warped and blown out distortion sprinkled throughout. That familiarity rings through in this album while also expressing the Middle Age that has come for Oberst and Bright Eyes both personally and musically.
27. The 1975 - Notes on a Conditional Form - As the fourth studio album for the 1975, Notes on a Conditional Form also serves as the second album of their third release cycle, following A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships (2018). The 1975 have always been coined as genre-hoppers, and this release is no different as it mainly focuses on dance music and electric pop. While critical acclaim for the album was polarized, there remained the general consensus that Healy’s unfiltered lyrics allow his listeners to settle into album, no matter how it differs in sound from its predecessors. It is to be expected The 1975’s fan base will only grow and they will consistently put out albums for years to come.
26. COIN - Dreamland - Alt/pop superstars COIN were busy this year releasing their Dreamland LP and their Indigo Violet EP this year. Receiving rave reviews for Dreamland, the band has continued to push themselves to greater heights. COIN has such a unique ability to make songs that just bop and are addicting to listen to. Dreamland has the same qualities and helped the band continue to build their already massive following.
25. Porridge Radio - Every Bad - Porridge Radio returned with their first release since 2016, and what an album it was. Every Bad highlighted the band's strength as an alt powerhouse. Every Bad is an indie darling sure to make many Best Of lists and for good reason. It's one of the strongest releases of the year from an emerging band that is sure to only get stronger.
24. Perfume Genius - Set My Heart on Fire Immediately - Set My Heart on Fire immediately is a champion of 2020 as it explores queer themes and pays homage to 80s pop music and is to be considered Mike Hadreas’ best work. The album appears on several “Top 50 Albums of 2020” lists including Billboard and NPR. Not much more can be said than this- go listen to the glamorous “On the Floor”.
23. Moses Sumney - Græ - Græ is one of the most unique albums to have come out in 2020. The production/writing process for the album was massive; it featured a collective group of artists which were featured. Among them were Thundercat, James Blake, and Ezra Miller, to name a few. The release was also special as this 20 track work was released as a double album. The first portion of the album was released digitally on February 21st while the second part was released with full album on May 15th. The album was preempted with a selection of singles, one of which was “Polly”; it was accompanied by a music video. Sumney recorded the video on a webcam, intently looking right into it as he cries. Once he wipes away the tears, a smile breaks across his face and the expression that remains is that of elated happiness.
22. Fleet Foxes - Shore - Fleet Foxes front man Robin Pecknold has disappeared and reappeared in the music scene over the last 15 years- one hiatus nearly 6 years long. After releasing Cracked Up in 2017 and disappearing again, he reemerged on September 21st of this year and announced Shore only one day in advance of its release, coming out on the autumnal equinox. This was a cheeky ploy by Pecknold, as the album’s themes focuses on the seasons and the elements. As their most compelling album yet, Shore was universally acclaimed.