As we return from Thanksgiving and head into December, our Annual Report will spend the next few weeks looking back upon the strange year that was 2020 and the music, film, and television that came with it. We begin today with our Top 50 Albums of 2020.
You’ve heard it from me dozens of times already: 2020 has not been a normal year. And by that, I mean absolutely nothing has been normal. The music world hasn’t been immune, of course. I’ve spent more time cancelling flights and accommodations and trying to get tickets refunded than I actually did watching live music this year. Instragram became a concert venue, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductions had no performances, and livestreams (which are pre-taped) seem to be the often-underwhelming future of live music at least for the forseeable future.
I’ve also never spent so little time in a record store as an adult. And when I have shopped and browsed, it’s been sporting a mask, eyeballing my fellow customers like they’re Patient Zero, and all of this usually after having waited in line to get into my small, hole-in-the-wall, go-to record shop like a Tuesday afternoon was Record Store Day morning in a normal year. I also have to admit that times have been tough. The vaunted collection of vinyl that sits in my living room has actually shrunk this year because, well, I needed a buck. It’s also the first year of my adult life where I sold off my record collection instead of adding to it.
Stuck at home, I figured, if nothing else, I’d finally get a chance to listen to music more than ever, discover a million new bands, and finally put a serious dent in that bucket list of albums to listen to and live with before I die. And that didn’t really happen either. Truth is, that was our biggest discovery while piecing together our top albums list over the previous weeks. While nothing was normal about the music industry or the world around us in 2020, we all kinda used music in the same ways that we normally do. We looked for the same distractions, comforts, understanding, and inspiration. And we got them … maybe when we needed it most.
Despite the strangeness of 2020, the year has been full of first-class artistry. We’ve seen tomorrow’s stars emerge, yesterday’s heroes return triumphantly, and the most hyped acts of today back up that excitement with records that seem both timeless and so of the time as to be almost prophetic. To all those who’ve grieved the loss of a loved one this year, felt the pain of racial injustice create fresh wounds and open old ones, or lost sleep not knowing how they would be able to protect and care for their loved ones in these uncertain times, we can only hope that music had their back in some small way like it did ours.
Here are 50 albums we leaned on in 2020. Be safe and take care.
Editor’s Note: If you enjoy this list and our other content, consider supporting Consequence of Sound by purchasing an item at our web store. Additionally, a portion of all proceeds are being donated to MusiCares’ COVID-19 Artist Relief Fund supporting independent musicians.