For the second year in a row, I continued my album project in which I try to listen to at least one full-length album a day. In 2019, I got to 778 full albums, in addition to all the other random-scattered listening I do. This year the number is slightly lower, 711 (and counting).
I enjoy reading lists like this, though haven’t used this blog to share my own until recently. I don’t pretend that my taste is any better than anyone else’s. End-of-year lists help me find music I missed, or prod me to listen again, more closely, to albums I may have dismissed too quickly. I heard 146 new albums that came out in 2020, up from 125 last year. I liked most of them, and really liked a lot.
Microphones, Microphones in 2020
Waxahatchee, Saint Cloud
Run the Jewels, RTJ4
Taylor Swift, folklore
SAULT, Untitled (Black Is)
Fiona Apple, Fetch the Bolt Cutters
Bob Dylan, Rough and Rowdy Ways
Mac Miller, Circles
Laura Marling, Song for our Daughter
Cut Worms, Nobody Lives Here Anymore
Adrianne Lenker, Songs/Instrumentals
Oliver Coates, skins n slime
Alasdair Roberts, Songs of My Boyhood
Rose City Band, Summerlong
Low Cut Connie, Private Lives
Ambrose Akinmusire, on the tender spot of
Flaming Lips, American Head
Drive-By Truckers, The New OK
Shabaka and the Ancesters, We Are Sent Here
HONORABLE MENTIONS (35)
Nubya Garcia: Source
Mary Lattimore: Silver Ladders
Gia Margaret: Mia Gargaret
Makaya McCraven/G. Scott-Heron: We’re New Again
Yves Tumor: Heaven to a Tortured Mind
Max de Wardener: Music for Detuned Pianos
Ryan Adams: Wednesdays
Sam Amidon: s/t
Bonny Light Horseman: s/t
Bill Callahan: Gold Record
Jeff Tweedy: Love Is the King
Bill Fay: Countless Branches
H.C. McEntire: Eno Axis
Brigid Mae Power: Head Above the Water
A Girl Called Eddy: Been Around
Beach Bunny: Honeymoon
Fontaines D.C.: A Hero’s Death
Habibi: Anywhere But Here
Blake Mills: Mutable Set
Eve Owen: Don’t Let the Ink Dry
Peel Dream Magazine: Agitprop
Perfume Genius: Set My Heart On Fire
Frances Quinlan: Likewise
Jeff Rosenstock: No Dream
Andy Shauf: Neon Skyline
Courtney Marie Andrews: Old Flowers
Sam Doores: s/t
Chris Stapleton: Starting Over
Gillian Welch: All the Good Times
Jaime Wyatt: Neon Cross
Dua Lipa: Future Nostalgia
Freddie Gibbs, The Alchemist: Alfredo
Lianna La Havas: s/t
KeiyaA: Forever, Ya Girl
SUPER HONORABLE MENTION!
Amelanchier, Sparrow Inside
Amelanchier, Is This the Doorway?
Amelanchier is the name that my son, Gavin Preller, recorded under earlier in the year. These were his first two homemade albums, available on streaming services. He has a proper vinyl album coming out next summer under his own name, put out by Shimmy-Disk/Joyful Noise. Every year it’s the same for me: I listen to Dylan more than anybody else. But I gotta say, there’s nothing in this world quite like listening to your own kid. Move over, Bob, make some more room at the table.
Also for fun: Here’s a Spotify playlist of 100 best, new songs I really liked that represented 2020 for me, the only rule was only one song per artist. Feel free to follow. Again, of course, your mileage will surely vary.
ABOUT MY “NOT NEW” INTERESTS
Because I’ve now got this large file on my desktop, I noted the not-necessarily-new artists I listened to most widely (by the arbitrary measure of at least 3 different full albums). This sub-list reflects little jags I went on, where I’d get inspired and go deep on, say, Giant Sand or Lambchop, for extended periods. Surprisingly, this part of my list — the supposed staples — varied quite a bit from 2019.
Those included this year: Don Cherry, John Coltrane, Bill Evans, Miles Davis, Charles Mingus, Keith Jarrett, Ahmad Jamal, Pharoah Sanders, Radiohead, Brian Eno, William Basinski, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, John Prine, Nick Lowe, Freedy Johnston, Bill Callahan, Smog, Adrianne Lenker, Mount Eerie, Elliott Smith, Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci, Silver Jews, Andy Shauf, Khruangbin, The Go-Betweens, Big Thief, Wilco, Jeff Tweedy, Waxahatchie, Lambchop, Stew, Liminanas, PJ Harvey, Fiona Apple, Mountain Goats, Badly Drawn Boy, Alex G, Sufjan Stevens, Yo La Tengo, Bright Eyes, Flaming Lips, Giant Sand, Shelby Lynne, Drive-By Truckers, Jayhawks, Steve Earle, Lucinda Williams, Ry Cooder, Willie Nelson, Jason Molina (Magnolia Electric Company), Bonnie “Prince” Billie (Palace Music), Jason Isbell, Neil Young, Rolling Stones, Tom Waits, Grateful Dead, Lou Reed, Kinks, Steely Dan, Jefferson Airplane, Bruce Springsteen, The Who, Bert Jansch, Michael Chapman, Sam Amidon, Alasdair Roberts, and Kanye West.
From 2019, but not listed in 2020: Aimee Mann, Arcade Fire, Avishai Cohen, Beach House, The Beatles, Beth Orton, Big Star, The Byrds, Cass McCombs, The Clash, Courtney Barnett, David Bowie, Death Cab for Cutie, Elvis Costello, Elvis Presley, Florist, Frank Zappa, Genesis, Gillian Welch, Hayes Carl, Hot Tuna, James Blake, Joe Henry, Jimi Hendrix, John Lennon, Laura Cannell, Laura Marling, Leonard Cohen, Mitski, Pavement, Penguin Cafe, R.E.M., Ryan Adams, Stevie Wonder, Sun Kil Moon, Teenage Fanclub, Thelonious Monk, Tom Petty, War on Drugs, Waylon Jennings, William Tyler, an Van Morrison.
CONCLUSION: It’s an impossible task, a fool’s errand. Forget what I like or dislike, whether I have “good taste” or bad. The best part is the music itself, and the artists who put it out into our world. Thanks goodness for music.