1. Spanish Love Songs – Brave Faces Everyone: If you still haven’t listened to this album, please do so now. I was already loving this album before the pandemic hit, but once it hit, this album quickly became my soundtrack. This was the album that I listened to every single day during the first two weeks of my quarantine. The lyrics are the words that we as people needed and still need to hear right now. A few days before I was laid off I posted a picture of myself with the words, “So I’m leaving the city, maybe the country, maybe the earth. Gotta find a place of my own.” A lot of people just thought those were words, a few knew they were lyrics from an SLS song. But the thing is, I had no idea that over the next few months, those words really would become how I felt, as I watched my world fall apart around me. As you listen to this beautiful album, you will find plenty of moments such as that. In five years I truly believe we will look back at this dark time in American history and lots of people will mention this album was their soundtrack.
2. House & Home –Find Sense. Fell Love. Make Light.: Every so often I remember when I first heard of a band, House & Home is one of those bands. Last year I was at a show and I was talking with the guitarist of touring act Nominee. We were talking about upcoming bands that we were digging. He mentioned a band from Virginia. He said they had played with them a few times and that I should remember the name. So of course when I got home that night, one of the first things I did was look them up. I liked what I heard but didn’t listen to them again until this album came out months later. I was instantly hooked. It’s one of those albums that is full of great honest lyrics. And the instrumentation is on point. Yes, I have listened to Spanish Love Songs a lot the past few months but this album is right there with it. The raw emotion just pulls me in every time I listen. This is the one band I HAVE to see live when it’s safe for artists to resume touring.
3. American Aquarium – Lamentations: BJ Barham and boys have crafted their masterpiece. When I talk about songwriters, BJ Barham is always one that I mention. He has a gift, one that he has mastered and it gets better with every album. He is a natural storyteller and man with this release, does it shine like a lighthouse off the Outer Banks of North Carolina. When we look back at the career of American Aquarium, this is the album we will be talking about. On songs like “A Better South” he sings about how his world can be better, something we all want, but maybe even more so right now. He of course had no clue what the world would look like when he wrote that song but it’s what needs to happen not only in the south but the United States as a whole.
4. Run The Jewels- RTJ4: I know you probably didn’t expect to see this album on a list from me. I listen to hip-hop from time to time. And right now this album has my attention. As one that is from the south, Georgia no less, I’ve known of Killer Mike for years. How could I have not, he was a member of The Dungeon Family, a famed hip-hop collective based in Atlanta. Which also included Outkast, Goodie Mob, Future, and others. I just remember them being different from most hip-hop acts and that was what attracted me to them. But this is about RTJ and this amazing album. While hip-hop isn’t a genre I listen to often, it’s one that I enjoy from time to time. Not to sound like a snob, but it takes something different for me to really get into an act and RTJ has that. The way Killer Mike and EL-P mesh is outstanding. They truly feed off of each other and it shows in their music. I also enjoy that they add a fun element to this project, a project that can also be perceived as serious. Add the fact that if you can get Josh Homme, Mavis Staples, Zack De La Rocha, and other huge names to guest on your album, you have to be doing something right.
5. Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit – Reunions: This guy right here does nothing but release gold and Reunions doesn’t let up. I don’t know where he gets it from. I bet Jason Isbell is one of those musicians that could release an album every year if you wanted and they all would be top-notch. Nothing changes with him, he has figured out what works for him and his band and they stick to that. I will say this, if you are feeling a certain way about the world right now, listen to “What’ve I Done to Help”.
6. Brian Fallon – Local Honey: Even before I started writing for Tuned Up back in 2013, I’ve been doing AOTY lists. The Gaslight Anthem is the only act to land at #1 twice. The reason is simple, Brian Fallon!!!!! He is unlike anyone else. The way he writes just makes you want to stop what you are doing and just listen to him. And he has continued that with his solo career.
7. Anti-Flag – 20/20 Vision: It’s 2020 and the world is in shambles. Of course, Anti-Flag is going to be on my list. That’s all that needs to be said here.
8. Fake Names – Fake Names: This one might be unknown to a lot of you but this super group is here to educate us all. Fake names are comprised of members from Dag Nasty, Minor Threat, Embrace, Bad Religion, and Refused. All bands that have shaped punk and hardcore. Without any of those bands, punk and hardcore wouldn’t be what it is today. ‘Nuff said!!!!!!!
9. Dogleg – Melee: Don’t make the same mistake I almost did. Listen to this band now!I have this awful habit of discovering bands after they have played a show in the city I live in. This has happened forever. Dogleg is the latest. I found out about them the day after they played Columbus. To make matters worse, it was at a venue that I work at. Stupid me. Anyways this band very well might be the next big thing. Their mix of post-hardcore, emo, and indie has this writer transporting back to 2000, 2001. This is a sound I have missed.
10. Lindsay Jordan – Live at the Shrunken Head: You really didn’t think I’d do this and not include some local love did you? Shame on you! LOL! Lindsay Jordan is that local act. And if not for the world acting like a drunk college kid, she very well might be on her way to owning Columbus right now. If you need validation, then this live album is just what you need. It showcases just what she is about so well. While I missed this show, I’ve seen her a few times and she puts on one hell of a show. If you want to read more, I reviewed this album earlier in the year, so go check that out.
Well, that’s my top ten of 2020 so far. I’ll see you back here in December and maybe some of these will hold up, I’m sure some will. But also albums by New Found Glory, Ashley McBryde, Broadside, Hum, and others may break into the top ten. Let me know your top ten as well, what did I miss? And as always, let’s start the conversation.