Welcome to the first post of 2020! So let’s start this year off wrong! I mean right. Shit.
So, a whole top ten? I don’t know. I didn’t listen to much this year. Maybe because I need to fix my car stereo? Yeah, that’s right, I listen to music on the radio. Like a neanderthal. Which means this list is a weird mishmash of mainstream stuff you could (and probably did) hear everywhere and then one or two deep cuts that are the result of me actually trying. But whatever. Go music!
There is no honor among thieves.
Before this year, I hadn’t heard from Fruit Bats since 2009 when the indie drama film Adam came out. What? You haven’t seen it? Neither have I, but I did see the trailer and it introduced me to the song “When U Love Somebody” which has been a staple of every indie playlist I’ve made in my adult life. Never checked out the album though. It’s probably fine.
Flash forward to last fall when I heard “Gold Past Life” and fell for its Bee Gees pop melody. So I checked out the album and I liked it. Eric D. Johnson (the only constant of the group) is my kind of singer/songwriter with his Beatle-y hooks and vocals. It’s a shame it took me so long to check out his band. I can only imagine what my life could have been. I probably would have seen that movie Adam. which is probably fine.
I’m sure a lot of people are sick of that darn tootin’ “Old Town Road”. I for one embrace our new hip-hop cowboy overlords. This EP may only be seven tracks—two of which are different versions of “Old Town Road”—but it’s a surprisingly diverse collection of songs.
“Panini” is a synth bop complete with a sweet Blade Runner video. “F9mily (You & Me)” featuring Travis Barker is a catchy piece of pop/punk. I mean, is there anything this guy won’t try? Naturally, Lil Nas X is a natural at trap music but his talents extend to many styles and genres. He’s a go-getter and I say go get it, Lil Nas!
Guitar Wolf is so fucking intense. I can’t even tell if these guys know how to play their instruments. What’s more rock and roll than that? Formed in the late ‘80s, this leather-jacket wearing dumpster rock (my term—patent pending) trio from Japan released their latest album through Jack White’s Third Man Records this year and it’s a fucking riot.
Check this out. That’s the single because it’s the one song that doesn’t immediately descend into a mob of guttural howls and cymbal crashes. If you want the musical equivalent of three guys smashing their guitars into your headphones for 25 minutes check this out. You will die.
It’s real… Real good. Print that.
Listening to Awakening makes me think about knights with flaming swords riding flying horses through space. This is some sweet blacklight poster shit right here. Also, these guys dress like robot monks. Which is a big bonus in the Daft Punk-less handful of years we’ve been living in. If you like keyboards and metal guitars and also wizards, this is the album for you.
If you would have told an 18-year-old me with my ripped jeans and Rolling Stones t-shirt that someday a former Nickelodeon star would be on my top ten albums list, I would have fallen to my knees and vomited with rage. I used to be defiant in my distaste for mainstream pop but as more sand has fallen in the hourglass of life, I find myself less cynical and more open-minded towards pop. Also, this album slaps.
Five albums deep and Ariana Grande has solidified herself as the Mariah Carey of her generation. Though she’s not a carbon copy popstar by any means. Ariana is opinionated, her music is highly sexualized, and she swears like a sailor. It’s awesome. All that attitude over a layer of dreamy synths and beats. This album is a sexy party with bangers like “Thank U, Next” and one of my favorites “NASA” which has given me a newfound appreciation for National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
I was dismissive of FOTB when it first came out. I’ve always loved Vampire Weekend but the album felt bloated and I could feel the absence of Rostam Batmanglij. But a good song is a good song and there are some gooduns on this one. “Unbearably White” and “Sunflower” are masterclasses in guitar-based dad rock. “This Life” makes me want to boogie and then there’s a bunch of weird experimental shit. I like it when Vampire Weekend tries weird shit. Let’s see how much weirder they get from here on out.
The lead single on this album is called “Giving Up” which is how I felt when I started this list. BADUM TISH. HA. Seriously though, I like these kids and I love that song. It makes me want to cry. I wasn’t sure if Julien Ehrlich’s perpetual falsetto vocals would lose its charm on album no. 2 but when the music is this good I don’t care. These guys are a couple of old souls fully embracing ‘70s California folk and the best of blue-eyed soul. I can’t think of a better band to listen to in the summertime.
Tacocat makes me proud to be from Seattle. They’re fun and relatable. When they play live they come running out to the “Friends” theme. It’s like they’re my friends! And This Mess is a Place is my favorite release from the group yet. Always catchy with their bouncy rock-pop sound, some of my favorite tracks include “Hologram”, “New World”, and “Crystal Ball”. This album is a definite pick me up on those rough days. This good is a music.
This is the only album I reviewed on the blog this year so it must have made an impression. Everyone was talking about this album in 2019. It didn’t matter where I went, “Bad Guy’s” thumping baseline was always close behind.
It’s cool Billie Eilish has established herself on her own terms. The music on this debut is by no means conventional pop. The music is creepy with whispery vocals. It sounds like a ghost singing to you. The songs and production by Billie and her brother Finneas are sparse but inventive. I only wish I didn’t feel like such a creep for being an adult man who likes this album. Then again, it’s a creepy album. Maybe 2020 is the year I finally embrace my creepiness. Scratch that. I’m not a bad guy 😉