100. Matt Maeson – We Were The Same
99. A Day To Remember – Mindreader
98. O’Brother – Halogen Eye (featuring Simon Neil)
97. Foster The People – The Things We Do
96. Car Seat Headrest – Hollywood
95. twenty one pilots – Level of Concern
94. Thad Cockrell – Higher (featuring Brittany Howard)
93. James Bay – Chew On My Heart
92. Childish Gambino – Algorhythm
91. PVRIS – Dead Weight
90. The Band Royale – Money Well Spent
89. Phantogram – Dear God
88. Wild Nothing – The World is a Hungry Place
87. Oh Wonder – Dust
85. Kevin Garrett – Gone Again
84. Declan McKenna – Daniel, You’re Still a Child
83. The 1975 – If You’re Too Shy (Let Me Know)
82. Tame Impala – Breathe Deeper
81. King Princess – Ohio
80. Pearl Jam – Dance of the Clairvoyants
79. Syqem – Dopamine
78. Colony House – Julia
77. Bastille – survivin’
76. Shadowalker – Wait 4 U
75. BLOXX – Coming Up Short
74. Yam Haus – Cute
73. Emma Peridot – So High
72. Joywave – Half Your Age
71. COIN – Valentine
70. Mad Wave – Caroline
69. Perfume Genius – On the Floor
68. Grouplove – Youth
67. Winnetka Bowling League – CVS
66. Dream Chief – Overflow
65. VANT – Atlas Falling
64. Moses Sumney – Me in 20 Years
63. Phoebe Bridgers – Chinese Satellite
62. Caroline Rose – Freak Like Me
61. Lauren Sanderson – But I Like It
60. Zoé – Karmadame
59. Dua Lipa – Levitating
57. Baby Ebony – You Know It
56. Incubus – Karma, Come Back
55. Run The Jewels – walking in the snow
54. Cold War Kids – You Already Know
53. Declan McKenna – Be an Astronaut
52. We Are the City – Song in My Head
51. Royal Blood – Trouble’s Coming
50. Childish Gambino – Time (featuring Ariana Grande)
49. Bad Suns – Unstable
48. Washed Out – Too Late
47. The Palace – Rainbow Shades
46. Taylor Swift – exile (featuring Bon Iver)
45. Hundredth – Slack
44. VEAUX – Tell Me That You Love Me
43. Brother Moses – What Does It Take?
42. Lianne La Havas – Can’t Fight
41. Billie Eilish – Therefore I Am
40. FEVER 333 – BITE BACK
39. BAYEM – Pressure
38. Mitski – Cop Car
37. Polyenso – Dust Devil
36. Poppy – Fill the Crown
35. King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard – Intrasport
34. Bad Bunny – Safaera (featuring Jowell & Randy, Ñengo Flow)
33. Foo Fighters – Shame Shame
32. Andy Greenwell – Beg
31. Taylor Swift – closure
30. Lately. – Perfume
29. Thundercat – Black Qualls (featuring Steve Lacy, Steve Arrington & Childish Gambino)
28. The 1975 – Jesus Christ 2005 God Bless America (featuring Phoebe Bridgers)
27. THE WLDLFE – How To Move On
26. Phoebe Bridgers – Garden Song
25. Author – Blur
Their sole release from 2020, “Blur,” is a blistering single from Minnesota indie trio Author that builds and builds and builds, the culmination being this grandiose, orchestral-like refrain. Eventually the song slowly recedes into nothing, but not before the “damage” has been done.
24. Nothing But Thieves – Can You Afford to Be An Individual?
Although there are several highlights on the English rockers’ third full-length album, most of them pale in comparison to the impassioned penultimate cut. The roaring guitars are the perfect musical match for frontman Conor Mason’s convicting diatribes, which will leave you asking yourself the very question he ends the song with.
23. Bonelang – Like a Bird in a Jet Engine
2020 saw Chicago-based experimental hip-hop duo Bonelang release their second LP in less than a year’s time. SAINTMAKER may not make as many waves as Sunny, Sonny. did last year, but the electro-tinged infectiousness of “Like a Bird in a Jet Engine” helps it shine through as the clear album standout, one that can hold its own with the high points of its 2019 counterparts.
22. Lately. – Something About You
Tulsa trio Lately. released their debut EP at the beginning of 2020. Three of the EP’s five tracks were already unveiled the year before, but it’s the brand new opener, “Something About You,” that really sets things off for the indie rockers. The mind-bending groove will get you hooked, while the soulful chorus will leave you coming back for more.
21. Deftones – Pompeji
Deftones is one of those bands well-known for their use of musical contrasts, and while their latest offering Ohms is full of those, none are more staunchly apparent than that of the vicious, mid-tempo stomp that is “Pompeji.” While Chino Moreno trades off between melodious croons and piercing screams throughout, the song’s most notable change-up comes on the ambient, seagull-ridden outro.
20. Moses Sumney – Bless Me
Moses Sumney closes out his massive double-album masterpiece græ in grand fashion with “Bless Me” and “before you go,” the former being this equally-massive tune that could fill a stadium. Meanwhile, the lyrical nature of “Bless Me” comes across more as a lament than a triumph, even in the midst of its sweeping, soaring instrumentation. This juxtaposition is precisely what makes the song so fascinating.
19. Superlaser – 7×8
Alicante’s Superlaser is a band who blew me away a little over year ago with their debut single “Interestelar” and whose album I was fully expecting to have been released by now, but alas, as we all know, this year came with all kinds of changes of plans. I’m afraid we’ll just have to wait until 2021, but at least we have this electrifying rocker to hold on to in the meantime.
18. Matt Berninger – One More Second
The third track off Matt Berninger’s solo debut, Serpentine Prison, is a somber plea with simultaneous riffing from piano and guitar. The organ on “One More Second” really helps take it to the next level, but it’s the ever-so-unsettling nature of the piano part that meanders about near song’s end that makes things haunting and in turn memorable.
17. Future Islands – For Sure
I imagine Future Islands sounds a lot like what would result from pairing ‘70s yacht rock with ‘80s synth pop. Mix in some 2000s-era post-punk, and there’s perhaps no better example of such a sonic fusion on “For Sure,” the lead single from their latest LP, As Long As You Are. The driving, pulsing rock chart is one where you would just as likely find yourself tapping your foot as you would singing along.
16. Coastl – Swagger
The second single of the year from Indianapolis duo Coastl is a bouncy banger that epitomizes the very “Swagger” it’s named for. With staccato-like rhythms and syncopated verses though, the “swagger” here comes not from a walk, but from a stomp. The song’s only downfall is that, just as you feel you’re really getting in sync with the groove, it’s over—just like that.
15. grandson – Dirty
After years of singles and EP’s galore, left-field alt.-rocker grandson finally pulled through this year with a full-length record, and it’s about as rock solid as expected. “Dirty” certainly isn’t the only highlight from Death of an Optimist, but there’s a metallic forcefulness to this uplifting call to arms that makes it the album’s most notable highlight.
14. andrews’ – Wait
“Wait” is this booming, infectious, sing-along of a tune that hits hard, and does so in all the right places. There’s a slight ethereal-ness to “Wait” sprinkled over top of the song’s concrete-like structure. Needless to say, it may be the first single that andrews’ released in 2020, but “Wait” is still the best by far.
13. Ethan Gruska – Enough for Now (featuring Phoebe Bridgers)
Speaking of songs with ethereal undertones, Los Angeles native Ethan Gruska teams up with fellow indie star Phoebe Bridgers for the upbeat “Enough for Now.” The bright, driving nature of the song’s instrumentation contrasts its more melancholic message quite nicely. Case in point: the subtle nuance in the line “maybe I’ll die trying,” which shifts to “maybe I’ll try dying” at the very end.
12. Declan McKenna – Beautiful Faces
The roaring guitars and driving beats immediately pull the listener into this relentless pop rock jam. As the lead single from Declan McKenna’s sophomore LP, it set the tone for the entire album, which didn’t come until eight months later. Now, even with the hype for Zeros long gone, “Beautiful Faces” still holds its own.
11. Glass Animals – It’s All So Incredibly Loud
“It’s All So Incredibly Loud” is a bit of a deep cut that I overlooked at first and didn’t end up truly appreciating until much, much later. But the more I listen, the more I pick up on the layered intricacies, from the jungle-like beats underneath, to the vibey electronics over top, to the devastating situation depicted in the lyrics. So very real and yet at the same time so incredibly surreal, this is Glass Animals at their best.
10. Deftones – Ohms
I can’t remember the last band or artist with an album where the closing track was also the lead single released from that same album. It doesn’t happen often, and yet Deftones has done just that with “Ohms.” I guess it just goes to show how phenomenal the song (and the album) is. Its heavy yet melodic, accessible yet futuristic mood makes this title track the perfect closer.
9. Loathe – Is It Really You?
“Is It Really You?” is a soaring slow-burner that stands smack dab in the middle of one of the most brutal, relentless metal releases of the year. And yet, this song is anything but brutal and relentless, oozing this inherent beauty and espousing this almost singalong level of catchiness, all of which makes it much more than just the reprieve.
8. Moses Sumney – Neither/Nor
Much like its part two counterpart “Bless Me,” the massive “Neither/Nor” feels like the entire culmination of all ten of the songs that came before it. There’s a slow yet steady build throughout, and the lyrics—although not a lament—are still profoundly contemplative. Add to that the prominent inclusion of a kora to help supplement Sumney’s guitar line, and it’s no wonder that this track tops its successor.
7. Hayley Williams – Leave It Alone
The second single from Hayley Williams’ solo debut, Petals for Armor, is an intense, mid-tempo shuffle that comes off as just eerie enough to keep the listener on edge. Lyrically, “Leave It Alone” tackles grief, so it makes sense that it would possess this sort of melancholy. As a result, it easily shines through as one of the album highlights.
6. Taylor Swift – cardigan
As the first single from folklore, “cardigan” signifies Swift’s groundbreaking shift into the wonderful worlds of indie and… yes, folk. With a soothing, sultry groove, there’s no denying here that producer and co-writer Aaron Dessner’s (of The National fame) fingerprints are all over this piano-driven chart. Swift’s story about the mark left behind by a lost romance serves as the perfect lyrical foreground.
5. Nothing But Thieves – Impossible
Nothing But Thieves has been quoted as calling “Impossible” the “antithesis” to Moral Panic, and honestly, I can’t think of a better way to describe it. Where the vast majority of the Brits’ third LP focuses on the anxiety, confusion, and quite literally, “panic” in the world, “Impossible” is this soaring, uplifting moment of beauty in the midst of it all. Another song that I didn’t truly fall in love with until later on, the subtle orchestration here really goes a long way in making “Impossible” so special. If you’re truly going for the waterworks though, listen to the orchestral version live from the famed Abbey Road Studios.
4. Hundredth – Bottle It Up
While the vast majority of bands don’t deviate too much from a signature sound between albums for fear of alienating their fanbase, South Carolina natives Hundredth have never been one to reject sonic evolution. In fact, the once-hardcore group has completely transformed stylistically, first into shoegaze and now dream pop. The newest album’s lead single “Bottle It Up” is tangible evidence of the trio sounding both rejuvenated and re-motivated. The driving indie rocker is held in place by bright xylophone, genius one-liners, and this indestructible riff, particularly on the bridge of the song.
3. Hayley Williams – Simmer
On her debut single as a solo artist, Hayley Williams funnels all of this pent-up rage into a fast-paced, searing tune that literally “simmers,” all while maintaining a relatively low-profile just above the song’s surface. Instead of the expected unbridled anger or aggression typical for many songs like this, “Simmer” provides a controlled, calculated atmosphere for Williams’ anger, making it that much more powerful.
2. Deftones – This Link Is Dead
If “Simmer” is rage at its most controlled, “This Link Is Dead” is its polar opposite. Sacramento’s Deftones have been known for their fair share of angry songs throughout their career, but “This Link Is Dead” is a wholly different beast. It is easily Deftones at their most intense, from the riffing to the screams to the aggressive nature of the lyrics. Not only is it the highlight from Ohms, which itself takes some doing, but “This Link Is Dead” is one of the strongest songs the quintet has ever released in three decades as a band.
1. Phoebe Bridgers – I Know the End
The apocalyptic closer from Phoebe Bridgers’ sophomore record starts out as this calm folk ballad that slowly builds and builds until it evolves into this full-bodied, wall of sound. Up to this point there’s just the right amount of eeriness to go mostly unnoticed, but this all changes over the course of the third and final verse, when Bridgers shoves aside musical subtleties in favor of a more forceful way to end things. By the time she declares “the end is here” on the song’s outro, the bassline and horns are in perfect unison, and she is joined by a host of guests and collaborators. Together, this “doomsday chorus” preps the listener for the climactic catharsis of a scream that all of the song, and quite frankly, Punisher in its entirety, has been building up to. Indeed, “I Know the End” is exactly the song we needed for 2020.
Listen to all of the songs below on my Spotify playlist: