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The 2020 Year-After Year-End Music List: Best of a Bad Year

No, the year isn't a typo.

Hum / Bandcamp

Last year, I wrote on this very blog that the culture outlets and sections of America should let the year end before they ask their bloggers to do year-end lists.

This year is no different; as Vanity Fair TV critic Sonia Saraiya tweeted last week, a lot of most critically acclaimed shows are ending after many of these lists are getting drafted, submitted, and prepped to run in the traditionally content-starved holiday season.

Here at Discourse Blog, we try to live our ideals. So in the spirit of practicing what I preach, here’s my list of my favorite records that came out in 2020.

10. Dogleg – Melee

9. Soccer Mommy Color Theory

8. The Killers – Imploding the Mirage

7. Supercrush – SODO POP

6. Haim – Women In Music Part III

5. Rico Nasty – Nightmare Vacation

4. Jeff Rosenstock – NO DREAM

3. Choir Boy – Gathering Swans

Passive With Desire was a really solid debut in the vein of Soft Kill, Boy Harsher, and the more recent Ceremony records, but on Gathering Swans, Choir Boy leans into a dreamlike sound enveloping stellar pop songs, with a truly talented vocalist leading the way. I fully expected this to end up on a bunch of year-end lists last year and it didn’t, which is bewildering. Maybe next time.

2. Empty Country – Empty Country

This record’s release couldn’t have been timed at a poorer moment. Not only did it come out on March 20, 2020, but Cymbals Eat Guitars songwriter Joseph D’Agostino seemingly dropped his debut under the name Empty Country out of nowhere, with none of the fanfare it deserved.

But when this first came out, it was my own personal soundtrack to the chaos that was beginning to envelop the world and the slow realization that things would probably not be the “same” ever again. When everything appears to be collapsing around you and you feel like collapsing too, lines like “Don’t think I’ll ever feel like myself again” hit pretty damn hard.

  1. Hum – Inlet

I’ve never been a huge Hum fan. “Stars,” the band’s biggest song by every measure, came out in 1995, and though I’ve been a fan of that and a handful of others (“I’d Like Your Hair Long”) since I first heard the band, no particular album has ever kept my attention—until this one.

Reunion albums can go horribly wrong. But like Lifetime, American Football, and Slowdive before them, Hum’s reunion works for multiple reasons. They benefitted from the context of a slew of bands attempting to replicate and advance their sound, as well as the advances in music production since they put out their last record in 1998. But mostly, the songs just fucking slap. Inlet is not just Hum’s best record, it’s nearly an hour of perfect melodic metal music.

Sadly, Hum drummer Bryan St. Pere—a huge reason why this record sounds so good—passed away earlier this year, so this is the end of the band at least as we know it. But if Inlet is a final statement from Hum, it’s the best possible one they could have made.