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Best Twenty Of 2020

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Paul Heaton and Jaqui Abbott Invited You To Hear Manchester Calling


Neither the pandemic, nor the urban unrest, nor the volatile Presidential election, nor any of the other scourges that beset us in 2020, could destroy the creativity of talented musicians. For proof I offer these twenty albums, all which came out amid the turmoil of the past eight months.

It was not only the newer bands who found courage to flex their musical might, but veteran artists as well. Australian rockers ACDC actually topped the charts with a new album last fall, the appropriately titled Power Up. Paul McCartney, too, dropped a new studio release last week, and 2019 newcomers Fontaines DC provided a sophomore disk called A Hero's Death.

Here are twenty other new records that helped ease the suffering endured during this past year.

1. Manchester Calling by Paul Heaton and Jaqui Abbott

Already having established an impressive rock resume with the Housemartins and the Beautiful South, Heaton has added to his legacy with this double album of delightful melodies and sharp lyrics that span a dozen music genres.

2. More Again Forever by the Courteeners

Just one listen to “A Better Man” and “Take It on the Chin” could hook you to More Again Forever, a pleasant potpourri of late Seventies punk and British Invasion pop.

3. The Slow Rush by Tame Impala

Kevin Parker put everything together, jaunty rhythms and reflective lyrics, on tracks such as “Is It True”, “Instant Destiny” and the Top Ten hit “Lost In Yesterday.”

4. Endless Dream by Peter, Bjorn, and John

Their third album in just over five years proves to be as accessible as its predecessors, as evidenced by “Rusty Nail”, “Endless Reruns” and “Reason to Be Reasonable.”

5. The New Abnormal by the Strokes

Marking their twentieth anniversary of the excellent debut, the New York alt rockers continue their electric magic with the single “Bad Decisions” as well as cuts like “The Adults Are Talking” and “Brooklyn Bridge To Chorus.”

6. Down in the Weeds Where the World Began by Bright Eyes

Conor Oberst sprinkles allusions to the pandemic throughout the indie band's first album in ten years, a decade which proves well-worth the wait. “The closing death bell tolls, hear the market crash,” he sighs on “Mariana Trench” while “Calais To Dover” has him admitting “Now this winter I have an excuse not to go home.”

7. Earth to Dora by the Eels

The Deconstruction from 2018 had been an uneven effort, but Mark Oliver Everett makes up for it with quite catchy tunes like “Anything for Boo,” “The Gentle Souls” and “Waking Up.”

8. American Head by the Flaming Lips

Quaaludes, LSD and weed are the subjects in titles before you get to “When We Die When We're High,” when thereafter Wayne Coyne closes the mellow record with religious-focused tunes like “God and the Policeman” as well as “My Religion Is You.”

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9. No Time To Cry by James Maddock

Not since his work with Wood back at the end of the century has Maddock made such a solid record, arife with gems like “The High Came For You” and “New York Skyline.”

10. Dear Life by Branden Benson

Dedicated primarily to family, the sweet new songs like “Richest Man” and “Beautiful Babies” appear to be autobiographical.

11. On Sunset by Paul Weller

Nearly forty years have passed since he jammed with the Jam and Style Council yet, as the catchy new disk certifies, the veteran songwriter has not lost his knack for intelligent lyrics amid catchy hooks.

12. A Billion Heartbeats by the Mystery Jets

Album number six has messages about the odd year, the most memorable being “History Has Its Eyes On You” and “Hospital Song.”

13. Strange To Explain by Woods

If you only listened to just the first two tracks “Next To You and The Sea” and “Where Do You Go When You Dream” you would find the purchase well worth it, and after hearing the rest of the songs you would be convinced that it was a steal.

14. Whoosh by Deep Purple

Several veteran acts released quality records, but none quite reached the status of this five decade rock group, whose growth is evident in “No Need To Shout” and “The Power of the Moon.”

15. The Glow by DMAs

OMG what a brilliant ND LP or CD is this set of songs, especially the singles “Silver” and “Life Is a Game of Changing” as well as closer “Cobracaine.”

16. Hey Clockface by Elvis Costello

His first release with the Imposters in a decade has Declan McManus splitting the songs between snarling (“No Flag” and the title track) and introspective (“We Are All Cowards Now” and “Byline”), playing alternately over a soundtrack navigating comfortably from new wave electric to brassy jazz to burly blues.

17. Love Is the King by Jeff Tweedy

“Opaline”, “Gwendolyn” and “Guess Again” have Tweedy exhibiting some of the fiery pop from the early days of Wilco, making it one of his best works since Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.

18. In Sickness & In Flames by the Front Bottoms

I had nearly forgotten about this indie duo since their first two albums of almost a decade ago, but I am glad I happened upon this new release. Its contents features the same wry lyrics, while the lo-fi rock seems to have matured musically.

19. Rough and Rowdy Ways by Bob Dylan

Never knowing what to expect from Mr. Zimmerman, I was pleasantly surprised with the rootsy style here. What is most impressive, as is always the case with Dylan, are the lyrics and imagery.

20. Drain the Swan by Frank Lloyd Wrong

Even though it sounds like something from the psychedelic Sixties, “Forgive Me” shows its currency with mention of John Mayer. Other standout tracks are “Corporate Rock”, “I Hate My Stepdad” and “Boston Wrong” make John Taylor and his mates from Indianapolis the true “Indy” indie band.

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