The Glide 20 – Glide’s 20 Best Albums of 2020

2020 surely was a weird one and still is. Ask anyone what their favorite live show of the years was and your pretty much going back to a two and a half month period, so if you didn’t get out in the winter- there’s not much to call out for. So make 2020 the Year of the Album and there was quite a lot of them. There were also a lot of surprise albums – Fiona Apple, Drive-By Truckers, Phish, Fleet Foxes, Run the Jewels all graced us with sudden releases to fill the gaps. So. here we go with our 18th version of the Glide 20 – Glide’s 20 best albums of 2020 followed by 20 honorable mentions – all in alphabetical order….


Bananagun- The True Story of Bananagun

Taking inspiration from such wide-ranging influences as afro-funk, retro soul, exotica jazz, folk, rock, and garage punk The True Story of Bananagum keeps listeners guessing from moment to moment as the rich sounds blend into delicious tropical cocktails with serious bite.  With serious musical chops, these Australians cover the gamut, making this a party album, tripping companion, and a progressively daring debut statement.


Chris Stapleton – Starting Over

Stapleton delivers a generous heaping of 14 songs here. He has nothing left to prove, but somehow, he just gets incrementally stronger as a performer and gets some solid guest spots via Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench. Even the covers here sound original courtesy of Guy Clark and John Fogerty.  Appealing to fans of Southern rock, outlaw country, Americana singer-songwriters, and even commercial country, Stapleton’s combination of grit and natural delivery with straightforward, relatable lyrics and song subjects speaks volumes. 


Circles Around the Sun – Circles Around the Sun

This purposefully late 70’s Dead influenced dance-oriented album comes off as its own doozy. But, in its own way, it’s just as spacious and equally infectious as the late Neal Casal’s sleek guitar lines mix with the otherworldly tones Adam MacDougall coaxes from his battery of keyboards. While renowned as a live act, this recording makes for an ideal soundtrack where a listenable spontaneity grooves, rolls, and flows in a spacious song-oriented form. Cornell ’77 “Dancing in the Streets” jam meets Giorgio Moroder. 


Country Westerns – Country Westerns

Although this google unfriendly band name might reveal too much or scare away others, Country Westerns offer a brash sound that was pure alt-country when the term actually meant something – think Uncle Tupelo or The Replacements pre Let It Be. These rambunctious sons buzz like a punk outfit yet retains harmonies that beat out a frantic place while keeping a charming infectious underbelly. This is one band that might sound as good live as they do on record- we hope to hear these songs in 2021.


Fantastic Negrito – Have You Lost Your Mind Yet?

This Oakland artist continues to carve out his own genre by fusing elements of hip-hop, R&B, funk, soul, and rock ‘n roll into his signature style. Inspired by and reminiscent of the socio-political albums coming from black America in the late 1960s and into the 70s, (i.e. Gil Scott-Heron and Sly Stone) Negrito explores the struggle and complexities of mental health issues while continuing his long-running lyrical examination of America’s increasingly broken social and political state of affairs.


Fleet Foxes – Shore

This one came out of nowhere considering Robin Pecknold’s previous long gaps in albums, but this dense collection of songs hits on all the senses. Imagery, rhythmic energy, and big climatic compositions fill this most joyful Fleet Foxes release to date. Pecknold finds hope in a hopeless world with his folk-pop leanings that stray in the harmony lane and rekindle the warmth of old CSN Records. Hauntingly precise and beautiful might seem overdone, but yeah Shore surely just gives us the feels..


Haim – Women in Music Pt. III

A certain light rock playfulness has always encapsulated LA sister trio Haim, but not they really hit their most direct and fully realized album yet. Combing garage rock, Lou Reed type scat folk, and odes to of course Fleetwood Mac FM rock, Haim have hit their homer here. Pop music with an organic rock twist that shines with sing-along choruses and enough incisive songwriting to make this a rare first listen “you gotta hear this” collection of songs.  


Jaime Wyatt- Neon Cross

In what is destined to be a modern Americana/Country classic, with Neon Cross, Wyatt revels in honky-tonk brilliance on songs like “LIVIN” and the acceptance anthem “Rattlesnake Girl,” and just as easily slays with the devastating powerful “Mercy” all in the span of just 11 songs. Wyatt careens in and out of a range of emotions, each with unabashed sincerity. Produced by Shooter Jennings, there is a focus to this record that is undeniable. Neal Casal – in one of his last recordings – provides some amazing organ and guitar work throughout the record. 


Jerry Joseph (with Drive-By Truckers) – The Beautiful Madness

Backed by Patterson Hood and the Drive-By Truckers, Jerry Joseph steps it into high gear on this politically outspoken album full of piss, vinegar, and some damn good songs.  Joseph more than understands the darker side of the human condition and explores some of the unspoken aspects of relationships and truths about ourselves that we’d rather keep hidden. This is the album that Hood and Joseph had talked about for years and finally got to make it happen.


Laura Marling – Song For Our Daughter

Marling sure has a way with words and this Mercury/Grammy-nominated album, her seventh full-length, is scaringly perhaps her best yet, and arguably the top singer-songwriter effort of the year. Melodic, sparse, and flowing, Marling continually is in a league with few others in modern folk. Pastoral soundscapes never sounded so exciting as on this poetic offering, as this songstress continues to one-up her discography.



Low Cut Connie – Private Lives

Who knew Low Cut Connie, a boisterous band from Philly with a 17-track double album would be the salve for our current times? Frontman/visionary/composer Adam Weiner’s blend of piano banging, staccato horns, and guitar rings in echoes of Motown sound with big hooks and east coast soul that is Springsteen meets Jerry Lee Lewis. This sprawling effort is Weiner’s strongest batch of songs in his underdog career, and he gets plus points for having the most watchable live stream series going.


Lydia Loveless – Daughter

Loveless shatters the expectation of releasing more alt-country flair and instead of echoing her Emmylou she goes after her Stevie Nicks.  While there was a theme of recklessness on her previous albums, this one shows her at her most vulnerable and pop with FM radio guitar moods that sound more radio than dive bar and that’s a good thing. Loveless has always been one of indie rock’s most promising voices and with Daughter she brings a fulfilling statement that wins.


Pokey LaFarge – Rock Bottom Rhapsody

In LaFarge’s wonderfully poetic style, he spills out his own story of drugs and drinks across a vintage sound that is equal parts jazz, blues, swing, and an always-evolving umbrella of Americana. Everything about LaFarge, from his name, his dress, his instruments, and his influences reeks of nostalgia, and nowhere is that more obvious than on this full disclosure LP. Embellished music with simple messages marks a triumphant record for one of America’s finest troubadours. 

Pottery – Welcome to Bobby’s Motel

Like Parquet Courts and Idles, there are primitively infectious bands with rousing vocals and eruptive drums that reek of reckless energy- in all the best off-kilter ways. The debut album from Montreal five-piece Pottery gives a throwback nod to the CBGB scene and with five vocals together (“Reflection”), there is a bashing free-form and super-tight full steam ahead attitude of a future festival headliner. 


Rose City Band – Summerlong

Ripley Johnson might not be a household name but As bandleader of Wooden Shjips and one half of Moon Duo, he certainly has the creds to cradle a riveting sense of Workingman’s Dead Americana and heady sounds into the mix. Going to a more accessible place than other psych folkers, eight songs seems to be the key here as a classic country with sprinkles of twang and downtempo folk makes for a mysteriously cool vibe around.


Run The Jewels – RTJ4

2020 ain’t no easy year and  Killer Mike and El-P sure now how to make some music medicine and or molotov cocktails. RTJ has always written directly about police brutality, distorted politics, and the sad state of American affairs as their lyrical eyes are continually cast, capturing that palpable sense of rage and need for systemic change. Doing this consistently over inventive sounds without becoming preachy is a nifty trick as the outfit’s talents are visible on every song,


Sault – Untitled (Rise)

Well, this is a mystery British soul-funk collective that narrates a house and disco vibe that is seductively cool. Nobody knows the band members but “In “Black,” a male voice repeats the words “Black / I’m Black,” over funk nuances and evoking the soul music of the ‘70s that matters: Marvin, Aretha, Stevie, and JB. Most importantly it’s an album of the turbulent times as spoken-word and protest chants are meant to educate and groove.


Songhoy Blues – Optimisme

Songhoy Blues of Mali is a unit that incorporates traditions but leans more heavily toward blues-rock and brash rock n’ roll than the mentioned bands and artists. Their distinct sound blends West African cross-rhythms with strong rock and punk influences from the West, along with an incredible virtuosic guitar player who has a unique style of his own. Songhoy Blues is an activist rock & punk band, not just a “world music” act.


Thundercat- It Is What It Is

Thundercat has been crafting genre-bending music for years, but 2017’s Drunk was a break-out record propelling Stephen Lee Bruner to a higher level and It Is What It Is, is even better. Bruner exuberantly deploys his bursting at the seams electro-funk, but also adds a layer of emotional depth showing growth, maturity, and a deeper sense of purpose. A modern Jaco Pastorious type genius, the album sports dynamite bass runs, hook and catch songwriting, and modern pop leanings that make this an album for both young and old to hold onto.


Yves Tumor – Heaven To A Tortured Mind

The fourth studio album by experimental electronic adventurer Yves Tumor, is a uniquely intricate journey through the mind of the artist. The album is an extremely cerebral approach to experimental music and reflects in Parliament-Funkadelic as much as TV on the Radio and Grace Jones. Psychedelic soul for a troubled 2020 sounds desperate but in fact, this record soars with originality and rule-breaking cadence. 


20 Honorable Mentions (in alphabetical order)


Bob Dylan –  Rough and Rowdy Ways
Caribou –  Suddenly
Coriky-   Coriky
Deep Sea Diver-   Impossible Weight
Deftones-   Ohms
Destroyer –  Have We Met
Drive-By Truckers-   The Unraveling 
Fontaines D.C. –   A Hero’s Death
Fiona Apple –  Fetch The Bolt Cutters
Kathleen Edwards-   Total Freedom
King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard-   K.G.
Nada Surf –   Never Not Together
Phish –   Sigma Oasis
Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever –   Sideways To New Italy
Shabaka & The Ancestors –   We Are Sent Here By History
Sparks –   A Steady Drip, Drip, Drip
Tame Impala-   The Slow Rush
Thurston Moore-   By The Fire
Woods –   Strange to Explain
Waxhatchee –   Saint Cloud




Related Content

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Recent Posts

New to Glide

Keep up-to-date with Glide