The year is finally almost over, and it's time to reflect on the year that was 2020 in my annual, year-end rundown of my Top 10 albums of the past year. 2020 was a definitely a year that most of us would like to forget with the global pandemic going on, but music was our only constant companion during this dark year, and provided us for some much needed comfort and distraction during the lockdown. New efforts from artists such as Niall Horan, the Strokes, and 5 Seconds of Summer were the highpoints for me, plus debut gems from Esteban Cajigas and Start The Week Over provided a glimpse of the depth of talent that is currently running rampant right now. And without further ado, here is my rundown of the Top 10 Albums of 2020:
Niall Horan - Heartbreak Weather
The incredible, sophomore effort from Niall Horan "Heartbreak Weather" was in heavy rotation this past year from me. The follow up to 2017's "Flicker" finds the former One Direction member basking in his element, crafting a sonic opus that establishes Niall's potential and ceiling as an artist who craft a diverse array of tunes from a host of different genres, without having to rest on his laurels as a member of 1D. First single "Nice To Meet Ya" is just the beginning of what is truly a career defining effort form Niall, and only scratches the surface of what he's capable of moving forward.
Key Tracks: "Nice To Meet Ya", "Heartbreak Weather", "No Judgement", "Black and White"
The Strokes - The New Abnormal
NYC garage rockers The Strokes returned with their marvelous sixth studio album this year titled "The New Abnormal". A fitting title for this past year with mask wearing and social distancing becoming the norm for now, frontman Julian Casablancas familiar, crooning voice provides for some much needed relief along with Nikolai Fraiture, Albert Hammond Jr. Fabrizio Moretti, and Nick Valensi creating an incredibly fulfilling and melodic effort that captures the elements of what made some of their past work so great. It also acts as a beacon and reminder of what 2020 was, and lets us know that we were in the company of such incredibly talented individuals.
Key Tracks: "The Adults Are Talking", "Bad Decisions", "At The Door", "Ode To The Mets"
The Relevant Elephants - Major Plastic Sabotage
Formerly based in Boston but now residing in LA, The Relevant Elephants released their sophomore studio album this past year titled "Major Plastic Sabotage". Zack Hankins and company have created an album that defines their jovial, fun loving personalities and their musical evolution that sees them evolving from a bunch of party animal musicians performing at T subway stops, to bright-eyed ambitious musicians who want to make a world of difference for themselves. Starting off by moving out to California which was a great move on their part, their time out on the West Coast has subtly seeped into their music, and has transformed them into a band that is definitely going to make a name for themselves post-pandemic.
Key Tracks: "Less Than A Mile Away", "Empty Sidewalk", "At The Grocery Store",
Start The Week Over - Wonderland EP
The glorious debut of Boston based pop-punk outfit Start The Week Over with their "Wonderland" EP was outstanding to say the least. Fronted by Bobby Gioiosa alongside Matt Wikstrom, Cooper Gould, Mandy Pasqualini, and Stephen Dorris, the band created a sound that is an explosive, bombastic pop-punk charge that is hard to look away from, and you'll find yourself not skipping one track throughout the effort. That is how good the effort is, and seeing Matt coming into his own as a brilliant musician shows you each of the individual qualities from each member that make the band so indelible, infectious, and one to take note of moving forward.
Key Tracks: "Blackberry Gin", "Daisytop", "She's Got It All", "Wish I Didn't Know"
5 Seconds of Summer - Calm
Brisbane, Australia's 5 Seconds of Summer released their eagerly anticipated 4th studio album titled "Calm". The follow up to 2018's "Youngblood" finds the band continuing to build off the kinetic and almost sexual energy from their prior effort, and builds upon that to create an effort that shows the band settling into their comfort zone and creating a slight more darker edge to their sonic repertoire. While it may take getting some used to, the effort shows their creative juices flowing to the extreme and hints at what we may see from the lads moving forward.
Key Tracks: "No Shame", "Easier", "Teeth", "Old Me"
Esteban - Mitsubishi Xtacy
Esteban Cajigas, formerly of Boston based Jack Romanov released his eagerly anticipated solo debut this past year titled "Mitsubishi Xtacy". Esteban has since moved to NYC, and during his time spent in lockdown created this aching and hauntingly beautiful effort that shows all the unique talents that make him so creative. What Esteban does best is inject atmospheric soundscapes into his music that make you feel like you're holed up in his apartment, experiecning the sheer beauty and wonderful talents that he has to offer you. You'll be even more enthralled with Esteban after finishing listening to his magnum opus.
Key Tracks: "Permanent", "Every Time It's Freezing", "Voice Memos"
DJ Bean - Vineyard Nights
Boston's own DJ Bean released his creative and unique effort late this past year titled "Vineyard Nights". What's incredible and stands out from this is that each song is titled "Vineyard Nights", but they're all three entirely different compositions. The first track is a relaxing, summertime rocker that makes you want to bust out some wine and take in the vibes, the second track is more downtempo and makes you want to dim the lights down low with that special someone, while the climatic third song is an upbeat, reflective 80's era throwback tune that ties everything up in one, unique package that makes you appreciate Deej's talents even more. A truly outstanding artist that I can't wait to hear more from in 2021.
Key Track: "Vineyard Nights (3:05)"
Boston Manor - Glue
From across the pond in Blackpool, United Kingdom comes the dark edged emo sounds of Boston Manor, returning with their 3rd studio effort titled "Glue". The follow up to 2018's "Welcome To The Neighbourhood" finds the lovely lads continuing to veer down the uncharted path experienced in their aforementioned effort, and finds the band evolving greatly from when they first hit the scene back in 2015 with "Be Nothing". Henry Cox, Daniel and his brother Mike Cunniff, Jordan Pugh, and Ash Wilson continue to forge ahead with their musical partnership that has since blossomed into a full forged brotherhood, and this time there's no stopping that said partnership from settling its roots even further.
Key Tracks: "Everything Is Ordinary", "Plasticine Dreams", "Liquid"
Mac Miller - Circles
The late Pittsburgh based rapper Mac Miller released his sixth and posthumously released final studio album titled "Circles" at the beginning of the year. A sad and tragic end for Mac Miller who died of a drug overdoes back in 2018, this final collection of his works shows Mac shying away from the hip-hop sound that made him so popular, and transitioning into a more psychdelia influenced effort that coupled together a host of different genres that was difficult to classify and quantify at the same time. It's just further proof of Mac's genius, and we desparately need someone of his caliber in this day of age which we'll sadly never see again.
Key Tracks: "Good News", "Blue World", " Circles"
Louis Tomlinson - Walls
Rounding out the list is another entry from a former One Direction member, this time it's Louis Tomlinson and his much anticipated debut effort called "Walls". This album took a long time to finish, and when it was all said and done it came out much the way that Louis had envisioned it, albeit some little changes here and there along the way. Louis is an immensely gifted musician, and along with the many struggles that he encountered along the way that caused the album's delay, along with a breakup and the deaths of his mother and sister, he was finally able to find himself and the music that he wanted to make on his terms, and he wouldn't have it any other way.
Key Tracks: "Kill My Mind", "Don't Let It Break Your Heart", "Walls"