40 Songs From 2020 That Immediately Grabbed Our Attention And Never Let Go

best songs of 2020

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It goes without saying that 2020 has been [insert some metaphor people have used thousands of times to describe its awfulness here] but the year wasn’t a total wash; we got Tiger King, stopped having to feel guilty about working from home, and got some incredibly solid (and much-needed) entertainment on the music front.

During its run, we were treated to albums from Tame Impala (pretty good), Taylor Swift (refreshingly interesting), Run The Jewels (nailing it as always), Pearl Jam (still good), and The Weeknd (criminally snubbed). My Morning Jacket and Phish also dropped surprise quarantine albums, The Strokes and Fiona Apple returned from the wilderness, and Miley Cyrus marched headfirst into the latest (and most impressive) phase of her career.

2020 was an especially big year for female artists, as we saw HAIM, Phoebe Bridgers, Margo Price, Dua Lipa, and Megan Thee Stallion all release great new albums and the list of nominees for Best Rock Performance at the 2021 Grammy’s is dominated by the women ushering in a bright new future for the genre.

So yes, 2020 was a rough ride, but it wasn’t a complete loss.

When it comes to compiling a list of the best songs of the year, I tend to do things a little differently. Instead of trying to act like I’m an authority with objectively good taste that no one should dare question, I’d rather focus on the tracks that jumped out to me the most, which I’ve dubbed “Hey-Oh!” songs, which I attempted to define when I first tackled the topic all the way back in 2013:

It’s a song that when it came on incited an unsolicited, deep from the belly & soul Ron Burgandy quality “Hey-Oh!”– as in, “Hey-oh! That’s a damn good song.” You might not have said it out loud, but you definitely thought it. You turned the volume up, you danced, you pressed repeat, and yelled to no one in particular: DJ! ONE MORE TIME!

The “hey-ohs” can be enthusiastic and full of life or they can be more restrained, complete with more stoic appreciation. Ultimately, it’s a song that stops you in your tracks one way or the other when it comes on.

I wasn’t going to let an untraditional year get in the way of one of my favorite annual traditions, and while most of you are probably counting down the seconds until 2021 arrives, I’d urge you to take one last moment to look back on some of the better things to come out of 2020

“Ooh LA LA”—Run The Jewels feat. Greg Nice, DJ Premier

Run The Jewels 4 earned my vote for Best Album of the Year due in no small part to its almost eerie timeliness, as Killer Mike and El-P managed to capture the zeitgeist of America by addressing many of the topics dominating the headlines when it dropped despite having no idea that would be the case when it was being recorded.

“Ooh LA LA” might not be the best song on RTJ4 but it’s easily its biggest earworm. If the Greg Nice sample from Gang Starr’s 1992 track “DWYCK” doesn’t get stuck in your head for hours after listening to it, you’re probably some sort of wizard.

“Trouble’s Coming”—Royal Blood

The concept of a two-person band is an interesting one. There’s a novelty to it, as it’s always fun to see how much noise a group can make when there are only a couple of people to generate it. However, that novelty usually gives way to reality, as a lot of duos end up feeling like they need to explore some new terrain.

This is what Royal Blood did with “Trouble’s Coming,” the first track Mike Kerr and Ben Thatcher have given us since the release of the 2017 album How Did We Get So Dark? And you know what? That’s totally cool. There’s a shelf life to a band with two members and it’s only natural that they’ll decide to switch things up a bit at some point. Royal Blood has nothing to be ashamed of. This track rocks and also shows the guys are still developing their sound for the better after two solid albums.

You can talk about Greta Van Fleet being the next great rock band all you want, but my money is on Royal Blood.

“Blinding Lights”—The Weeknd

When my five-year-old informed me this was her favorite song of the year, I asked her if she wanted to write a few words about it. However, she politely declining, mumbling something about “the crumbling erosion of the influence of the written word.” Kids, huh? They really do say the darndest things.

So I’ll just say this about “Blinding Lights”: it’s cool in a way I wish I could be at some point in my life but know I’ll never come close to and the Grammy people are lunatics for failing to nominate The Weeknd for anything.

“Freeze Tag” Dinner Party feat. Phoelix

Dinner Party is a neo-soul, jazz, hip hop supergroup consisting of Robert Glasper, Terrace Martin, Kamasi Washington, and 9th Wonder. The foursome dropped their self-titled debut album back in July, which is comprised of sweet and lush grooves and Curtis Mayfield soul vibes.

At face value, it’s some pretty easy listening, but the subject matter can be a bit harder to digest and there’s no better example than “Freeze Tag,” which features the rapper Phoelix joining the quartet to address the struggles that come with being black in America with lyrics like:

“They told me put my hands up behind my head/ I think they got the wrong one/ I’m sick and tired of runnin’/ I’ve been searching where the love went…/ If I move they gonna shoot me dead.”

It’s a message that’s as sad as it is powerful, but unfortunately, the song seemed to fly under most people’s radar. I may just be a man writing on the internet, but here’s to hoping this helps it gain a little more of the recognition it deserves.

“Running Red Lights”—The Avalanches feat. Rivers Cuomo, Pink Siifu

The Avalanches released their first album, Since I Left You, all the way back in 2000 and it took them 16 years to put out a follow-up in the form of Wildflower. Conventional wisdom would then lead one to believe we’d have to wait until 2032 for their next project, but they were kind enough to shorten the waiting period a bit this time around.

The Avalanches dropped a steady stream of singles prior to the release of We Will Always Love You, which came out in December. Their third album has a few standouts, but my top pick is “Running Red Lights,” which features Weezer frontman Rivers Cuomo and rapper/singer Pink Siifu. It might be missing the sheer musical lunacy of Wildflower’sFrankie Sinatra,” but it’s still hard to complain.

“Momentary Bliss”—Gorillaz feat. slowthai, Slaves

Back in January, Gorillaz teased Song Machine, a mixed-media project that would feature the Damon Albarn-led group releasing a couple of new songs every few weeks. The first track they dropped was “Momentary Bliss,” which featured Slaves and British rapper slowthai.

The start of the show sees slowthai showing off his snarling, distinctly British, and early 80’s punk/ska flow, and “Momentary Bliss” is yet another example of how well Albarn uses guest vocalists and musicians on Gorillaz tracks. It’s also worth noting that if not for a self-imposed rule that dictates an act can only appear once on this list, “Désolé,” would’ve also made the cut.

Sorry, Gorillaz. Rules are rules.

“Bad Decisions”—The Strokes

The Strokes were once known for their intensity and had a reputation for cranking out three-minute pop/rock torpedoes with machine-like precision. “Bad Decisions” reflects a more relaxed version of the band, albeit one that still prides itself on still being as steady and metronomically solid as a finely-tuned clock. This is especially evident in the case of the drums, which are decidedly more open and diverse compared to how militant they used to be.

And no, you’re not imagining things. The song’s melody does very closely resemble Billy Idol’s “Dancing With Myself,” but rest easy, friends: the snarling ’80s icon is credited as a co-writer on the track.

“Lost In Yesterday”—Tame Impala

I’m not one to get hung up on labels but I am one to be confused by labels, especially when it comes to labeling bands who defy genre. For instance, the powers that be continue to label Tame Impala “rock” but that’s never really sat well with me.

I’d go as far as to say you can’t really clearly label any musical act these days, as no one is dabbling in just one genre anymore. You can be a rock band, but you’re more likely to be accurately described as something like “rock/funk” or a “rock/reggae/punk” When it comes to Tame Impala, it’s definitely “rock,” but it’s more like “spaced-out-dance-rock.”

It is known.

Khruangbin—”Time (You and I)”

At the start, the whole “self-isolation” thing was as novel as the concept of a two-person band, but after around a month, I was officially over it. Walking aimlessly around your neighborhood should never be the highlight of your week, but I got a nice reprieve when the Texas trio Khruangbin dropped “Time (You and I)” at the end of April.

This song is just too damn fun. I don’t think that we as a country ever properly thanked Khruangbin for what they did and that’s a shame. If someone knows the best place to ship them something, please let me know, because I’d like to send an Edible Arrangement their way. Gifting Khruangbin a bouquet of chocolate-covered strawberries is really the least I can do.

“Checker Wrecker”—Lettuce feat. Big Tony, Jungle Boogie

The last entry might win my Fun Song of the Year award but Lettuce’s “Checker Wrecker” is a very worthy contender. I could listen to this track on repeat for hours on end and would have absolutely no complaints.

Part of the reason this song is so enjoyable is that it’s faithful to the go-go music that inspired it. The band even brought in two legends of the genre (Big Tony Fisher of Trouble Funk and Tyrone “Jungle Boogie” Williams of Rare Essence) to get in on the action, which was incredibly refreshing. There have been so many times when someone pays tribute to something but neglects to include the folks who made that particular thing so important, so Lettuce definitely gets bonus points for having some O.G.s get in on the action.

“I’m so Happy I Cry”—Fantastic Negrito feat. Tank

Fantastic Negrito wrote “I’m So Happy I Cry” following the death of rapper JuiceWrld, who passed away due to an accidental overdose in January. At the time of its release, the singer said that “there are so many young artists suffering from what I perceive as mental illness. Imagine having everything you want in the world and still feeling the need to medicate until it kills you. There is something very sick—and tragic —about that.”

Negrito wanted to write a track that spoke to young artists out there, emploring them to live in the moment and enjoy life. He’s joined on the track by singer Tank of Tank and the Bangas, who says that the song “is about being so overjoyed when change finally comes from living a life of constant fear and survival.”

It’s one thing to write a song about happiness and another that literally sounds like happiness, which is what “I’m So Happy I Cry” sounds like.

“Float Up”—Galactic feat. Anjelika Jelly Joseph”

We’re not done talking about Tank and the Bangas just yet, as another member of the group pops up here. This time, it’s singer Anjelika Jelly Joseph, who’d previously performed with the New Orleans-based Galactic but had never joined them in the studio.

Galactic was planning on celebrating its 25th year together with a tour before those stopped existing, and as if that wasn’t bad enough, they’d also bought a music venue in their home city that could no longer be used for that purpose. As a result, they found themselves in the incredibly unenviable position of being both touring musicians unable to tour and club owners unable to open their doors. Not ideal. On the bright side, they still made some great music—including “Float Up.”

This also seems like a good time to bring up #SaveOurStages, a campaign working to bring awareness to the potentially life-threatening situation live venues across the country are currently facing in the hopes concert fans actually have places to go when concerts can be a thing again.

“Take Me to the Good Times”—The Suffers

It’s easy to compare Houston’s The Suffers to an act like Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, but it doesn’t really feel right. The Suffers play a cleaner version of soul music than Jones and company did; the latter sound like New York City whereas The Suffers deliver a more traditional (albeit updated) take on the genre. Either way, both acts are great, so let’s just leave it at that.

“Take Me to the Good Times” was The Suffers’ first new release since 2018 and the song serves “as a love letter to the road while offering a promise to return back to it.” It was a message that was unintentionally poignant given how 2020 ultimately played out.

“Shameika”—Fiona Apple

When Fiona Apple’s new album Fetch The Bolt Cutters was released earlier this year, I had two initial thoughts.

  1. Fetch The Bolt Cutters is an amazing album title
  2. Why can’t every single music and pop culture writer I follow on Twitter stop tweeting about this? 

I did not realize that our society was so hungry for new music from Fiona Apple but that definitely seemed to be the case, so I figured I might as well join the party. The record opens with “I Want You To Love Me,” and while I enjoyed it, things got serious when it was followed by “Shameika,” which is best described as “organized chaos”; the sound of falling down the stairs or the soundtrack to a house being trashed while under the influence.

It’s madness in the best possible way.

“Shame Shame”—Foo Fighters

Like Galactic, Foo Fighters had big plans for 2020 as they were set to celebrate their own 25th anniversary before reality got in the way.

Thankfully, the band had mostly wrapped up recording their album Medicine at Midnight, which they formally announced was coming in February of 2021 when they performed on Saturday Night Live at the beginning of November.

One of the two songs the band played was “Shame Shame.” At first, I was skeptical, but I gave it a day and listened to it again. And again. And again. And a few times after. This was followed by it being stuck in my head for the rest of the day.

Just when I thought I was out, the Foo Fighters pulled me back in.

“Come On Outside”—Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds

Noel Gallagher dusted off that bombastic, arena-ready rock sound for “Come On Outside” off of the 2020 EP Blue Moon Rising. His solo stuff has been kind of hit or miss, but we’re putting “Come On Outside” in the “Win” column here because it kicks some major ass.

Do I wish I could hear what this would sound like if it was an Oasis song? Yes, but I’d also like to have a billion dollars, and at some point in life, you have to accept there are some things you’ll never get regardless of how much you want them.

“Travel On”—The Ghost of Paul Revere

“Travel On” would not be a good Oasis song. That much is pretty clear. What is also clear is that on The Ghost of Paul Revere’s 2020 album Good At Losing Everything, the Maine holler-folk band took steps to expand and further develop their sound while not abandoning the aforementioned holler-folkness that drew people into their circle in the first place.

It’s not the easiest trick to pull off, but they did it, creating an album full of rich textures and smooth harmonies. “Travel On” is the showstopper, giving off some vibes that call The Band to mind.

“Letter To You”—Bruce Springsteen

Given the unpredictable nature of 2020, it was kind of nice for Bruce Springsteen to release a song like “Letter To You,” which is so Bruce Springsteen that it hurts in the best way possible. It has everything you want in a track by The Boss: pounding drums, big guitars, rollercoaster dynamics, and a chorus that shoots out for the cheap seats.

The last thing we needed this year was for Springsteen to come out with a change-of-pace album; one of those vanity projects artists do after traveling somewhere or feeling the need to challenge themselves. We needed some pure, uncut Springsteen and that’s what we got. I don’t know about you, but I’m starting to think this Springsteen fella might know what’s up.

“Be Afraid”—Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit

Jason Isbell can get you with a slow song, infiltrate your soul with a haunting campfire tune, and—as he proves here—can also rip off a barn-burning Southern rocker with the best of them.

“Be Afraid” was the lead single off of his excellent 2020 album Reunions and it’s a monster of defiance and resistance, beckoning people to “be afraid, very afraid/ But do it anyway.” It’s a damn shame Isbell’s tours were canceled this year, because this song would have sounded amazing in sheds across this country.

It’s alright! We’ll get ’em next year, live music…I hope.

“She’s There”—Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever

Australia’s Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever don’t just have a fun name but a sound that makes you think it’s being produced by a band that is more than double its size. There are only five dudes in the group but you could be forgiven for thinking they had about ten people strumming guitars and just as many folks on vocals. From a sonic standpoint, they’re an absolute unit. 

“She’s There” was the second single off of their third album Sideways to New Italy, which was released at the start of the summer. The band plays music perfectly suited for speeding down the road with the windows down, so they couldn’t have dropped it at a better time. Well played, gents. Well played.

“Meet Me on the Roof”—Green Day

Contrary to popular belief, Green Day is still around and even released an album back in February. You know what? It wasn’t bad. They were planning on spending the summer playing stadiums with Weezer and Fall Out Boy with the turn-of-the-millennium time capsule dubbed the Hella Mega Tour, but we’ll have to wait at least another year before it’s unearthed.

“Meet Me on the Roof” is a bit of a departure from what put Green Day on the map, but it’s a great song, and if this is the kind of music they’re going to release going forward, I’m cool with it.

“Smash Shit Up”—Dropkick Murphys

I’ll admit that I was a little surprised Dropkick Murphys hadn’t already released a song called “Smash Shit Up.” This isn’t a knock on them by any means; it’s more an acknowledgment that they’ve perfected the art of making songs that make you want to, well, smash some shit up.

When this was released at the end of January, the plan was to include it on a new album that still hasn’t come. Oh well. At least we have this.

“Quick Escape”—Pearl Jam

If the world didn’t have some more pressing issues to focus on, I feel like Pearl Jam’s Gigaton would’ve been a bigger deal when it dropped earlier this year.

It’s another solid record from a band with a long line of them, but based on the singles that came out leading up to it, I was a bit skeptical. Then, I heard “Quick Escape” and everything started to fall into place. It has that old-school Pearl Jam edge to it, so while some people could call it more of the same, I’ll never complain about them checking that box.

“my future”—Billie Eilish

Billie Eilish can thank “bad guy” for her meteoric rise but it’s kind of an anomaly for an artist who gravitates toward a spacier, more tranquil sound.

As a result, I was curious to see how she’d follow up her breakout hit, and over the course of the year, Eilish gave us a few hints at where she’s heading. There was the theme song to the James Bond movie that’s apparently never coming out but we also got “my future,” a sneaky little bastard that opens with that tranquility I talked about before a nice little groove kicks open the door about halfway through.

I still don’t think we have a read on the direction Eilish might start to head in but I do think that intrigue adds to the fun and I’m pretty here for it.

“Good News”—Mac Miller

Mac Miller died in September 2018, but as is the case with a lot of rappers, his death didn’t stop new music from coming out. His estate released Circles back in January after producer Jon Brion revisited the project he was working on with the rapper prior to his passing and “Good News” was the first single off of it.

The song makes Miller’s death sting even more, as it showcases the honesty and rawness he came to be known for during a career that was tragically cut short. You’d have to think that more posthumous releases will be coming from Miller’s camp, and while I’ll take what I can get, it’s hard to imagine they’ll hit as hard as this does.

“Overlord”—Dirty Projectors

Dirty Projectors released a handful of singles throughout the year, and on each one, a different member was featured as the lead vocalist. The result was a slightly enigmatic view of the band, but that wasn’t a bad thing, as each person was able to put their stamp on their particular sound, creating something of a choose-your-own-adventure vibe.

“Overlord” features Maia Friedman and the result is a tune that sounds like an updated take on a Joni Mitchell song. Her vocals are beautiful and wistful and the music behind them is as easy as a Sunday morning. I don’t want to play favorites here, but it was definitely the strongest of all of the songs the band released this year.

“Let Go”—DJ Unwind feat. Freddie Gibbs, Black Milk

DJ Unwind had been keeping busy licensing music to shows like Sons of Anarchy, but this year, he decided to change things up some, electing to work with the endlessly busy Freddie Gibbs and Black Milk on this smooth reggae-ish track. There isn’t anything particularly flashy about it or much to take away from it other than it’s just a good tune.

That’s it.

Moving on!

“Black Qualls”—Thundercat feat. Steve Lacy, Steve Arrington

“Black Qualls’ is some dirty-ass, throwback seventies’ funk for you, so act accordingly. You should probably not play this song in front of children.

Featuring The Internet’s Steve Lacy and funk legend Steve Arrington (who Thundercat has said is one of his heroes), “Black Qualls” is a tune that doesn’t get old. Why? It’s simple. Funk this good never gets old. If you put on a Parliament album today, it sounds as good as it did back when it was released. Funk is timeless and “Black Qualls” is timeless funk.

And I’m serious, don’t play this in front of your children. Wait until they’re older. It’s for the best.

“Midnight Sky”—Miley Cyrus

2020 might very well mark a significant turning point for Miley Cyrus. Her Hannah Montana days are now firmly behind her and so is the “We Don’t Stop” period, as they’ve been replaced by a future where she’s poised to become a fucking rock star.

Cyrus spent a chunk of the pandemic playing old school rock covers in her backyard (she’s apparently working on an album of Metallica covers) and recently released the album Plastic Hearts. The first single was the late ’70s glam mover and shaker “Midnight Sky,” a song that does sound a little bit like Stevie Nicks’ “Edge of Seventeen (it’s cool, though, as Cyrus cleared it with Nicks before releasing it and the two ended up teaming up on a remix).

I like this new fad of artists owning the fact that their songs do kind of sound like other songs, whether it’s with this track or The Strokes’ “Bad Decisions.” All art is derivative, and at this point, there’s no point pleading ignorance when you can simply acknowledge the giants whose shoulders you’re standing on.

“Everything’s Right”—Phish

Phish pulled a fast one on people in late March when they appeared during the set break of one of their Dinner and a Movie shows and announced that they were releasing a new album in a few days. Apparently, the boys had gotten together in the studio before COVID struck and recorded Sigma Oasis. They then elected to release it at the beginning of April because why the hell not?

Some of the songs weren’t new, but that in itself isn’t new for Phish and their studio albums. “Everything’s Right” had been played at live shows since 2017, but for a guy like me (someone who had kind of given up on Phish but then fell back in love with them during quarantine) it was a new track that eventually became something of a mission statement for me towards the end of the summer.

But that my friends, is a story for another time.

“Cardigan”—Taylor Swift

2020 will be remembered for a lot of things we’d rather forget, but it’s also the year that a young, up-and-coming singer/songwriter by the name of Taylor Swift finally got “it”—and by “it,” I mean she learned what so many other big-name artists already had: traditional, lengthy album rollouts are a thing of the past.

Barely anyone is doing it the old way anymore and Swift had been one of the last heavyweights in the pop world still embracing the old model. However, that changed when she surprised everyone with the release of the excellent folklore at the end of July.

folklore also saw Swift changing things up musically. Over the past few years, she had been getting bigger and shinier with her sound, but folklore is small, intimate, mellow, and melancholy. It’s also the most interesting thing she’s done in years and proves my theory that pulling a Thoreau and spending some time alone in the woods is never a bad thing.

“Ain’t Nothin’ New”—The Texas Gentlemen

The lead single from The Texas Gentlemen’s 2020 album Floor It!!! is so deliciously retro in its sound it’s amazing. It doesn’t just sound like it was recorded sometime in the 1970s, it feels like it was. There’s a softness to the recording and you can almost hear the reels turning in the studio as they played this spaced-out rocker.

And then those horns! My god, those horns.

This is just a fun rock ‘n roll tune and we just don’t have enough of them these days.

“Climbing The Ladder”—My Morning Jacket

My Morning Jacket hadn’t released a studio album since 2015’s The Waterfall and it didn’t look like they’d be releasing one in 2020. However, like all of us, Jim James found himself with plenty of time to kill and was on a walk one day when “Spinning My Wheels”—a song that was recorded during The Waterfall sessions but didn’t make the cut—popped into his headphones.

This prompted him to take a second look at some other tunes that hadn’t been released, and as a result, we got The Waterfall II. The album was a welcome dose of tranquility during a decidedly untranquil time, full of soothingly atmospheric songs that were perfect for some many, many quiet moments of reflection that presented themselves this year.

“Climbing The Ladder” is not one of those songs; it’s a jolt of shit-kicking, good-time-having energy, which is something that was also very welcome this year.

“The Steps”—HAIM

HAIM’s Women In Music Pt. III this year featured the lead single “The Steps,” a tight but also loose little southern-feeling garage rock number. It’s HAIM, so you know the harmonies will be there, but on “The Steps,” the twangy guitars are a fun surprise as are the garage rock-sounding drums.

While writing this, I discovered we’re apparently capitalizing all of the letters in HAIM now, which I feel is a new development. It hasn’t brought me any closer to figuring out how the hell I’m supposed to pronounce it, but I still dig it.

“Hometown Heroes”—Moon Taxi

I like you, Moon Taxi, but your name is ridiculous. You keep releasing really good music but I’m having a hard time telling people I like this band called “Moon Taxi.” It sounds like the title of a book I’d read to my daughter, not a promising up-and-coming alt-rock/roots-rock band from the great city of Nashville, Tennessee.

Is there a meaning to Moon Taxi? Is it an inside joke among band members? Was it the nickname of a childhood friend? I really want there to be something behind the name and for it not to just be the result of them throwing two words together because they think they sound good (which they don’t).

Oh well. Sometimes bands have dumb names. What can you do? It doesn’t matter as long as their music is good and Moon Taxi’s music is really good—including “Hometown Heroes.”

“Starting Over”—Chris Stapleton

The last concert I saw was a Chris Stapleton show. It was late in the summer of 2019 at a spot on the Jersey Shore, where he and three other dudes performed on a weird stage that was too small for them to really move around, which was actually kind of nice because it made it feel a little more intimate.

It ended up being a great show, and If I had known it was going to be the last concert I’d attend for who knows how long, I would’ve tried to appreciate it a bit more. Thankfully, Stapleton has continued to make songs like “Starting Over” that make me look forward to when society can do exactly that while transporting me back to simpler times.

“Kyoto”—Phoebe Bridgers

After every music critic on social media decided they’d spent long enough trumpeting the joy of Fiona Apple’s return, they all collectively moved on to Phoebe Bridgers, who released a great album of her own this year with Punisher. 

Whereas Apple was a seasoned veteran surprising everyone by coming out of retirement for one last championship run, Bridgers was a fresh-faced gal on the come-up. Punisher is only her second album, but Bridgers has made waves throughout the indie world since she released her debut album in 2017, whether it was as part of boygenius or working with Conor Oberst.

Her indie days seem to be behind her now and as ascension into the mainstream is full steam ahead—especially when you consider she’s been nominated for four Grammys, including Best New Artist. You might be thinking, “Wait, didn’t you just say Punisher is her second album. How is she a ‘new’ artist?” The answer is simple: the Grammys don’t make any sense, have never made any sense, and will never make any sense.

“Witches”—Waxahatchee

I’m initially drawn to Waxahatchee in the same way that I’m drawn to the word “Gonzaga.” Both are incredibly fun words to say. They’re especially entertaining to say if you really throw some emphasis behind them; some real juicy mustard to make them sing.

This could come off as a bit of a stretch, but they’re also kind of related in another way: Gonzaga’s men’s basketball team keeps improving, and Waxahatchee’s fifth album, Saint Cloud, is Kate Crutchfield’s strongest yet; a confident collection of pure Americana (which is also a fun word to say).

“Twinkle Twinkle”—Margo Price

I appreciate a song with a good stomp to it; anything that has a real thumping coming from the rhythm section.

“Twinkle Twinkle,” off of Margo Price’s 2020 album That’s How Rumors Get Started, has one hell of a stomp to it. The song also has a mighty swagger to it. You can just feel it kicking the doors open of some roadhouse saloon and causing every rambler up at the bar to cautiously look over their shoulder and hope that whoever walked in isn’t there to see them.

“Armageddon’s Back in Town”—Drive-By Truckers

The lead single from the Drive-By Truckers’ first release of 2020, The Unraveling, actually came out in late November of 2019. I had to go back and see if it was on last year’s list, but it wasn’t, and I made the executive decision to throw it on here because this taught me to stop caring about the concept of time.

The band actually bookended 2020 with new records, as they followed up January’s album with The New OK in October, and both of them saw the group leaning into the politically-charged vibe it’s been exuding since 2016’s excellent American Band.

If anything, 2020 should be happy to claim “Armageddon’s Back in Town” as it’s own because it needs as many good things associated with it as it can get.

That’s all I’ve got for this year, and if clicking on 40 different YouTube videos isn’t for you, I took the time to put together a Spotify playlist for your listening pleasure.

See you next year.