The Chicago music scene had a very good year, despite everything that happened in the world (gestures broadly at the flaming dumpster that’s been 2020). Seriously, I’m incredibly thankful for the many, many artists that work hard and make their city proud by releasing wonderful music that inspires and radiates with feeling. While many of these releases came out or were recorded pre-pandemic with an obvious eye on touring to support them, the tragedy of all that getting cancelled was lessened primarily because the albums themselves were so wonderful. It’s been a pleasure to live with these songs and absorb them in ways we otherwise might not have been able to had the hustle and bustle of a normal year gotten in the way. In lieu of concerts and events and social engagements, I got to press play on that Dehd record for the tenth time or drop the needle on Ohmme’s latest until the groove started to crackle a bit due to frequent wear and tear.
As this is a Chicago-based site, I felt it was particularly important to give some additional representation to some of the local artists and bands that helped make my year much more bearable. Many of them are scraping by and doing their best given the circumstances, and they could use your support! Buy some vinyl, downloads, and/or some merch if you can afford it – especially on Bandcamp Fridays (the 1st Friday of every month) when the site waives their cut of fees so more money goes back to the artists. You can also stream their music, which is helpful but doesn’t pay nearly as much. Some also have Patreon pages and accept direct donations on Venmo or CashApp, so look into that too if you’re interested. Most of that information can be found on their social media pages.
When it comes to this list, it doesn’t feel right to assign anybody numbers or claim that some records are better than others. I’d be doing a disservice to the community that is the Chicago music scene by ranking and encouraging competition. My hope is that you’ll check out all of these albums, because each one is worth your time and consideration. They cover almost every conceivable genre, and often play with your expectations by taking some wildly fun detours. So here are my 20 favorite LPs released by Chicago artists in 2020. Can’t wait to hear each one performed live at some of our legendary local venues once it’s safe to do so again!