Here’s the bottom half of the top twenty albums of 2020.
11. David Ramirez – My Love is a Hurricane. If first heard David Ramirez in 2015 when he released his first album on the Thirty Tigers label titled Fables. I’ve been paying attention to his music ever since. His 2020 release is more fleshed out with rich arrangements of guitar, piano, synths, and even a little electronic stuff that work really well with this breakup-themed album. “Coast to Coast” is standout track about hitting the road together with your lover to somehow escape a failing relationship.
12. Chuck Prophet – The Land that Time Forgot. Chuck Prophet consistently puts out great rock ‘n roll records, and this new one has to be one of his best. The closing track, “Get Off the Stage” got some good airplay in the runup to the election because the calls to get off the stage are directed at Donald Trump. Hopefully he will be off the mainstage a few weeks from now. The best track on the album is this one.
13. Phoebe Bridgers – Punisher. I’ve known of Phoebe Bridgers for a while, because she’s done some work with one of my favorite artists, Julien Baker, but I had not bought any of Phoebe’s albums until this year. Like Baker’s songs, Bridgers’ are very personal and draw you into her world – sometimes troubling, sometime not. Check out “ICU”.
14. Bob Dylan – Rough and Rowdy Ways. Bob Dylan, age 79, has released 39 albums during his long career. On this album, he reflects on history and people and events that have shaped his life and his music. The 17-minute single, “Murder Most Foul” about President Kennedy’s assassination, was released on his YouTube channel a couple of weeks after we all went into quarantine. Fiona Apple plays piano on that track. The album was highly ranked in the best-of-2020 list of many major publications. Both MOJO and Uncut magazines ranked it number one.
15. Jim White – Misfit’s Jubilee. I’ve been a fan of Jim White ever since when in 1997 I mistakenly bought his first album, Wrong-Eyed Jesus, because I thought it included a song about a guy picking up a hitchhiker who ends up being Jesus, who pulls a gun on him and steals his car. The song I was looking for was “Gimme a Ride to Heaven” by Terry Allen on the 1983 album Bloodlines. Anyway, I was glad to have bought Jim’s first album, and I still listen to it often. Here’s what No Depression says about his new album:
A cross between a hysterical lunatic and a road-weary sage, Jim White really lets loose on the electrifying Misfit’s Jubilee, the latest installment in his ongoing quest to make sense of reality in all its dazzling weirdness.
Check out “The Divided States of America”.
16. Drive By Truckers – The Unraveling. This is another political album they wrote and recorded before the coronavirus quarantine started and it was released in early February. The album addresses many of America’s most troubling problems like opioid addiction, mass shootings, racial violence, extremism, and divisiveness. “Thoughts and Prayers” got a lot of airplay oh KEXP (#74 non their list), and it’s a very good song. I think “Rosemary With a Bible and Gun” is really great. (They released another new album last Friday titled The New OK. I bought it today and I’m listening to it right now for the first time, but it’s too late for consideration on this list or the accompanying cd I made a few weeks ago.)
17. Bruce Springsteen – Letter to You. Bruce is getting old. He’s 71, but he keeps writing great songs and sometimes releases them as solo albums but most times with the E Street Band. Interesting thing about this release is the cover does not say “and the E Street Band” after his name, but when you listen to it, it’s definitely them backing him up. Curious as I am, I read the fine print at the end of the liner notes, and found “Performed by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band”. I don’t know why they aren’t named on the cover. They were named on SNL last week. The music business is weird. Anyway, this album includes a couple of songs that he wrote when he was just a New Jersey punk trying to make a name for himself, and he’s revisited them and freshened them up for the better. Check out “Janey Needs a Shooter” and “Rainmaker” to hear what I’m talking about . The title track is also very good.
18. Lydia Loveless – Daughter. It’s been four years since Lydia put out a new album. She’s been through a divorce since then, and more! Americana Highways says:
Since the release of Real, Lydia Loveless has been the subject of a documentary, got divorced, moved from her native Ohio to North Carolina, came forth with allegations of sexual harassment at her former record company and started her own label.
For fans and artist alike, it has seemed like an eternity. With the release of Daughter, (Honey, You’re Gonna Be Late Records), Lydia Loveless returns with songs of trials and tribulations and the detailed self-analysis of someone one who has been performing publicly for nearly half of her life.
The single “Wringer” is a great track. Check it out.
19. Angel Olsen – Whole New Mess. This album contains the stripped down versions of the songs on last year’s All Mirrors. These recordings are pretty much just Angel Olsen singing with her own accompaniment on guitar. There are some quiet organ tracks on some songs. It’s all pretty raw and spacious sounding. It reminds me of what Nick Cave did for Idiot Prayer, and maybe even what Bruce Springsteen did on Nebraska. This video for “Waving Smiling” captures its essence.
20. Pretenders – Hate for Sale. Chrissy Hynde finally found a suitable replacement for James Honeyman-Scott and put out a Pretenders album this year that sounds like it fits right in with the band’s first two albums from the early eighties. The new guitarist is James Walbourne. Listen to the title track and you’ll know what I’m talking about.