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The Top 50 Albums of 2023

Well we have once again made it through another year. As such, the time for reflection and list making is upon us. Did you listen to a lot of new music this year? If you did, congratulations because 2023 happened to be a pretty great one overall in terms of pure artistry and quality recordings. Some years it’s a struggle to name 50 records that both held my attention and truly impressed. This one both came together with relative ease, and left me a little sad not everything I loved in 2023 could be included. 50 is a manageable number, plus another 10 honorable mentions because I can’t help myself. Even still, everyone from Jessy Lanza to PJ Harvey to The Armed to Lydia Loveless to Bar Italia all couldn’t quite survive the inevitable cuts and it breaks my heart.

The ultimate point of this list, and any list really, is to try and let you know both what amazing records you might have missed, but also to hopefully see if you agree or disagree with my take on things. Everyone’s taste is different, and that’s what makes it so great. So here are 50 (+10) records that meant a lot to me this year. And while I understand the spirit of the zeitgeist in including a record or two from December 2022 on some year-end lists, this isn’t one of them.

All the records listed here came out in 2023, and if you saw my year-end list from 2022 then you’d know SZA was on that. I sincerely hope you enjoy this list, and ideally make some great new discoveries along the way. Check out some albums you might not have done otherwise. Take this moment to reflect, then rest assured we’ll be right back at it again come January. Here we go, Faronheit’s Top 50 Albums of 2023.

Honorable Mention

Gia Margaret – Romantic Piano

Jane Remover – Census Designated

Jess Williamson – Time Ain’t Accidental

Margaret Glaspy – Echo the Diamond

Marnie Stern – The Comeback Kid

McKinley Dixon – Beloved! Paradise! Jazz!?

Overmono – Good Lies

Sampha – Lahai

Slow Pulp – Yard

Yo La Tengo – This Stupid World

The Top 100 Songs of 2023

One thing that fascinates me about year-end lists is how little true consensus there tends to be between them. It makes the moments when everyone actually IS in agreement so much more powerful, and a testament to the quality of something. Call it the Paddington 2 effect, or I suppose the Dolly Parton effect, because nobody actually dislikes either of those two things. My favorite song of 2023 falls into that “broad consensus” category. So many people and publications ranked it as their top track of the year that seeing another list fall in line like this one might induce another eye roll and a “here we go again”. But I can’t deny something that’s objectively true, as much as I’d like to be a contrarian. You’re of course more than welcome to disagree with me, along with the hundreds of other music writers who listed this as the #1 song of 2023. What’s wilder, in my mind, is how this 7+ minute track received no commercial or terrestrial radio placement, as far as I’m aware. Instead it just got a lot of organic, fully chosen plays across a variety of formats. If you know your music and have been paying close attention to year-end lists, hopefully my favorite song of 2023 won’t come as a surprise.

But for those who still aren’t sure what I’m talking about, there’s a list of 100 great songs here just waiting for your ears, stretched across a wide variety of genres and styles. A little something for everyone. The rules are relatively simple – so long as the song was released at some point in 2023, it was eligible for inclusion on this list. But also, to spread the love as much as possible, every artist and album only gets to be represented by a single track on this list. Featured guest spots do not count towards this total, which is how JPEGMAFIA, Danny Brown, and Lil Yachty all managed to show up more than once. Alternatively, even a Various Artists record like the Barbie soundtrack only gets one song to represent it. If you’ve got a problem with that, take it up with management. Otherwise, kick back and soak in the 6.5 hours of music that represent the finest tracks of 2023. The list is below, along with clickable links to hear every song on YouTube. There’s also an embedded Spotify playlist near the bottom if that’s your preference. Listen, explore, and enjoy! Cheers to the end of the year, and wishing you a great 2024 ahead!

Half A Degree Thru ’23

We’re officially six months into 2023, and you know what that means: time for a mid-year playlist! Feels like it’s been an exceptionally strong year for music so far, which is really heartening in a lot of ways. Not that the past couple were poor in any way, but sometimes it’s a bit of a struggle to fill an entire playlist and other times it’s a bit heartbreaking to make cuts and remove tracks because there are strict self-made “parameters” in place and you can’t go beyond them. When I say this playlist could easily have been 150 or 200 songs total, that hopefully gives you a sense of how challenging this was to assemble.

100 songs. All of them great in their own ways. You may not love every one of them because your tastes are likely different from mine, but that’s okay! There’s always some middle ground, and that’s what we’re searching for here. Are these the 100 best songs from the first half of 2023? I wouldn’t quite put that kind of label on it. They’re ordered primarily by style, so if you don’t hit the shuffle button you’ll get sections of rock, electronic, rap, pop, experimental, R&B, etc. Skip around if you’d like. Maybe find a song or artist you recognize, then listen to a song or two before and a song or two after. I may have imposed limits on what went into the playlist, but there are no limits in how you can listen to it.

You can listen to the playlist on Spotify and YouTube, plus each song can be heard individually by clicking on it below. Mostly I just hope you enjoy this, discover some new music, and maybe play it at a party or something to impress your friends.

The Top 50 Albums of 2022

Another year passes, another great set of albums worthy of your time and attention. 2022 saw quite a few major releases, as well-known names like Beyonce and Kendrick Lamar returned after long breaks. Scene veterans such as Bjork and Beth Orton also gave us new material that felt exciting and creatively risky. Meanwhile, acts like The 1975 and Alvvays essentially perfected their particular sounds on fresh records. It’s also heartening to witness some rising stars deliver LPs that followed through on their talent – looking in your direction, Wet Leg and Ravyn Lenae (among others). Honestly, overall it felt like this was another strong year for music, even as the industry continues to slowly re-shape itself coming out of the pandemic. Here’s hoping that artists start to get more of a fair cut of from their work, because streaming payments remain dismal and touring faces new challenges with rising costs.

Below you will find my Top 50 Albums of 2022, along with 10 more “honorable mentions” because there were a few more records deserving of a spotlight. If you’re so inclined and haven’t listened to all of these albums, it goes without saying (and yet I’m saying it) you should give them at least a cursory listen. You might just discover a new favorite. I’ve included a Bandcamp or Spotify link to each record so you can have easy access to streaming or buying them. Let’s get this party started!

Honorable Mentions (in alphabetical order):
Automatic – Excess [Bandcamp]
Daphni – Cherry [Bandcamp]
Dawn Richard & Spencer Zahn – Pigments [Bandcamp]
Fievel Is Glauque – Flaming Swords [Bandcamp]
Horsegirl – Versions of Modern Performance [Bandcamp]
Jenny Hval – Classic Objects [Spotify]
MUNA – MUNA [Bandcamp]
The Orielles – Tableau [Bandcamp]
Pusha T – It’s Almost Dry [Bandcamp]
Wild Pink – ILYSM [Bandcamp]

The Top 100 Songs of 2022

It’s always tough to try and sum up an entire year of music in condensed list form. This is particularly the case when talking about songs, given the sheer number that are released. Overwhelming only begins to describe the feeling. Obviously nobody can listen to everything, and even with your best effort there will still be stuff that slips past your radar, only gets one quick distracted listen, or simply just isn’t to your particular taste. Is any Top Songs list truly comprehensive? Probably not, even if you stretch the list all the way out to some absurd number like 500. The point is, we writers, music listeners, and fans do the best we can. A list like this one is put together with the idea that maybe somebody will read it, press play on a few of these songs, and ideally discover something that will totally blow their mind. No pressure!

My sincerest hope is that even the most uninformed and laziest music listener will find plenty to enjoy within these 100 songs. There are big pop hits from Harry Styles, Taylor Swift, The 1975, Lizzo, Beyonce, and The Weeknd. Electronic gets represented well with KH, Daphni, Jamie xx, HAAi, Two Shell, and Braxe + Falcon. Indie stalwarts such as Sharon Van Etten, Fever Ray, Father John Misty, Destroyer, LCD Soundsystem, and Big Thief all make appearances too. You may also want to become acquainted with some fresh new faces like Bob Vylan, Knifeplay, Shygirl, Automatic, Folly Group, piri & tommy, and Rachika Nayar.

To qualify for inclusion on this list, the song must have either been a single or part of an album/EP released at some point during the calendar year of 2022. In an effort to spread the love around as much as possible, no artist may appear on this list more than once (featured guests on a track don’t count). While the full Top 100 Songs of 2022 list is below, if you’d like to hear the whole thing in playlist format I’ve put that together for you in order via YouTube and Spotify. You can also click on any individual song and listen to it via YouTube. Apologies to Apple Music, Tidal, and Amazon Music users…I was too lazy to assemble this playlist more than twice. However you choose to consume these songs, I hope you give them a chance and explore a bit. Test your boundaries and see where that takes you. I feel confident this list represents the year that was 2022 quite well. Enjoy!

Halfway Thru ’22: A Mid-Year Playlist

Well, we’ve officially made it six months into 2022. Congratulations? Is that a milestone worth celebrating? Even I don’t know at this point. But we’re here and might as well make the best of it. I’m not going to spend any time recapping world events or making grandiose political statements right now. That’s what social media and your local news sources are for. This site is all about music, and as such I am going to share a whole bunch of it with you right now.

Given how things have been going, I suspect you may have missed a few songs or albums these last few months. I know I have! Reasonably speaking, you’d have to be almost superhuman to hear every great song or album in a year. But I have listened to a LOT of music in the first half of 2022 and am thrilled to have collected 100 of my favorite songs into a very convenient playlist you can explore to your heart’s content.

There are giant hit songs on this thing. You want Harry Styles and Beyonce? Oh, they’re both on here. Kendrick Lamar and Chance the Rapper? You’d better believe they’re back in excellent form. Maybe you’re more of a Florence + The Machine, Arcade Fire, or Yeah Yeah Yeahs kind of person. I’ve got you covered. Love indie darlings like Mitski and Big Thief? Obviously they’re on the playlist. But for those looking for genuine discovery, there are some sprinkles of up-and-coming artists to be found as well. May I offer up servings of girlhouse, Jane Inc., Madelline, and Folly Group for your ears? Cool, catchy tracks abound.

Please note this playlist is in no specific ranked order. I’ve arranged them largely for genre and flow, so for example you’ll get plenty of pop up top, a nice serving of rap in the midsection, and more rock-based flair towards the end. Of course you could always just listen on shuffle and see how that plays out. Anyway, at 100 songs and just over six hours in total length, this playlist should keep you busy and distracted for a while. You can play it when hanging out at home, hosting a party with friends, or simply trying to make it through a long work day. It functions well in all of those scenarios. Above all else, I hope you enjoy and feel encouraged to explore some new music outside of your traditional boundaries or bubble.

The Top 50 Albums of 2021

There were a whole lot of great albums released in 2021. Actually there are a whole lot of great albums released every year, so one could argue that 2021 wasn’t particularly unique in that aspect. But compared to 2020, which was a little lighter than usual on releases due to the pandemic and artists generally holding back until they could tour again, this year seemed much more normal. A lot of records came out from a number of big names, and things like touring and music festivals returned this past summer. It felt good to get back to basics! At the same time, things were still slightly off. Along with those big names and big albums came a lot of disappointment. Adele fared well, but Lorde did not. Kanye and Drake gave us new LPs, but the general reactions to them weren’t much more than a shrug. It provided the perfect opportunity for some artists to step up and make a real impact with fresh, exciting, and groundbreaking records. Many delivered, even if they didn’t always reach the widest audiences or establish a broad consensus to help certify their brilliance. The lack of a crystal clear frontrunner for the #1 album of 2021 among music websites and publications might imply that nothing was quite good enough to make a massive critical impact, but I would argue such a diversity of opinions is a huge positive. It gives a wider array of artists more of a chance to shine. A Jazmine Sullivan or Indigo De Souza or Arooj Aftab may now be on your radar when they might not have been otherwise in a more “standard” year. So embrace that difference, and dig into some music that challenges and inspires you. My Top 50 Albums of 2021 has no shortage of that. I’ve even included another 10 “Honorable Mentions” of records I genuinely loved that just barely missed the cut. In all sincerity, everything listed below is absolutely wonderful and worthy of your time to listen through at least once. Give them a shot if you haven’t already – I’m certain you’ll find something new to love.

Honorable Mentions (in alphabetical order):
Amyl and the Sniffers – Comfort to Me
The Armed – ULTRAPOP
Dave – We’re All Alone in This Together
Halsey – If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power
Hand Habits – Fun House
Home Is Where – I Became Birds
Iceage – Seek Shelter
Lost Girls – Menneskekollektivet
Rosie Lowe & Duval Timothy – Son
SPELLLING – The Turning Wheel

The Top 100 Songs of 2021

If you listen to enough new music in any given year, it becomes exceptionally difficult to pick your favorites once December arrives. Much of it blends together into one beautiful blur, and there’s so much to remember that sometimes you end up forgetting tracks that are truly great. Then on occasion you’ll also discover a song on somebody else’s year-end “best of” list and want to include it on your own, but it’ll either be too late to add it or you’ll be unsure of how much weight to give it because there’s no real way to tell if it hold up against something else you’ve loved for the past six months. So I guess what I’m trying to say here is that any “Best Songs of 2021” list, no matter how long or short, is imperfect. We’re all just doing the best we can with our personal tastes and fractured memories. The list below could have easily extended to more than 250 songs. It would have been many hours long and vast to the point where you’d get lost after a while and just give up on trying to listen to everything. Narrowing all of 2021 down to 100 songs may not fully encapsulate all of the music that made this year great, but at the very least it gives a nice snapshot of some amazing tracks you can enjoy and revisit whenever the mood should strike you. The best of the best. All killer, no filler. Just a whole lot of bangers, even when they’re ballads and sad folk songs. Before we begin, let me quickly run through the “rules” behind the creation of this list. First, no artist may be included on the list more than once. This is in an effort to showcase a more diverse collection of artists instead of having, say, three songs from the latest Japanese Breakfast album taking up slots that could have gone to others. Second, all songs on this list must have been released on a 2021 album/EP or as a standalone single. That’s why you won’t see any Mitski, Spoon, Charli XCX, Amber Mark, Beach House, or Big Thief on this list, even though they’ve already put out tracks from full length LPs due in 2022. Don’t worry, given their past histories I can almost guarantee they’ll end up on next year’s “best of”. And that’s it! Not sure what else I can say about this collection of songs other than I sincerely hope you enjoy them. Some may trigger fond memories, and others may introduce you to something incredible and inspiring that you’ve never heard before. It’s all pretty fantastic. One of the broader themes from my favorite tracks this year is that of healing and recovery. We’ve all been forced to face so many challenges these last few years, and it’s often felt overwhelming and detrimental to our overall health and well-being. Portions of 2021 managed to restore some semblances of normalcy, and that (often temporary) reprieve from suffering gave just enough leeway to allow some light back into our lives. So please feel free to use this list as you try to put your heart back together. Close your eyes, I’ll count to 100. Take a deep breath. Count with me. Let’s begin.

100 Songs from Half of ’21

We’ve once again reached the halfway point of another year, and as such it creates a perfect opportunity to reflect on the past six months just to check in and see how things are going so far. You don’t need another recap of pandemic fatigue, vaccine distribution, and the “return to normalcy” while our democratic institutions remain in constant peril. That’s not what this site is about. Everyone is stressed out enough already, so let’s take a moment to remember the good things, like music. Oh hey, remember music? It’s that thing you can play to soundtrack your life and enhance your emotional state. The right song can turn your entire day around, for better or worse. A fond memory can be triggered by a song, or an uptempo beat can somehow make a sunny day that much brighter. Great stuff, right?

After the last 15 or so months that we’ve had, your relationship with music may have changed. Perhaps staying home without constant obligations inspired you to revisit some favorite albums or go digging for something new to expand your horizons. Then again, maybe like some other activities, listening to music just doesn’t ignite the same spark within you it once did. I absolutely get that. Live music in particular has been a constant source of joy in my life, and not attending a single concert in a year and a half left a hole no livestream could ever fill. I’m excited to get back to shows and festivals later this summer, and to share some of those experiences with you here on this site. Part of me also worries it won’t be the same or at least inflame my passions as easily as it used to.

Thankfully, the well of freshly recorded songs and albums has yet to run dry. Things weren’t looking so great for a couple of months this past spring though, as it appears a number of high profile artists chose to hold off on announcing new records until it became clear the world was reopening again and they could go out on tour. Don’t get me wrong there was still plenty of good stuff being released, you just needed to dig a little deeper some weeks to find it. When I began composing this mid-year playlist, my concern was over finding enough quality tracks to make it a worthwhile endeavor. Were there 50-100 songs from the past six months that I truly loved? I wasn’t sure, and it took a few weeks of searching through my library and checking the calendar for release dates before the answer became clear.

Below you’ll find 100 songs (6.5 hours of music) that I genuinely love from the first half of 2021, in both embedded Spotify and linked YouTube formats. They are very much all over the place in terms of genre, mood, tempo, and any other qualifier you may consider. Some great representation from Chicago’s local music scene in the mix too. As always, you’re unlikely to agree with all of my choices. I’d also be extremely surprised (and impressed) if you’ve heard all of these songs before seeing them on this playlist! For every Lorde or Lil Nas X there’s an Alicia Walter or Geese. My hope is that you’ll press play on something completely foreign to you and fall in love with it. Explore a bit! Hit shuffle and see where it takes you! Or find an artist/song you already know and like, then listen to the one in order before and after it. Everything is organized by genre/vibe and purposely not ranked, so please scroll down and give those later tracks some spins too. Enjoy and Happy Summer!

The Top 50 Albums of 2020


I love albums. In my mind, they are the perfect way to digest music. Sure, a great song can change the world, but a great album requires artists to do the same thing over several songs in a row. It’s a high wire balancing act; choosing the right collection of songs and ordering them in just the right way to achieve a desired response from the listener. Not only do albums require careful focus from the artists, but in a similar fashion to a movie, the audience has to give it their full and undivided attention for an extended period of time to grasp messaging, subtext, and intent from the notes and lyrics. If you lose focus or find it unpalatable the whole experience can be ruined. Albums become classics when they transcend the acceptable and inspire a rapturous response from start to finish. In 2020, we needed great albums more than ever.

As the world consistently teetered on the edge of peril, we leaned on music like a crutch to stay upright and sane. Confined to our houses with nowhere to go, albums made those never-ending days seem just a little bit shorter and the voices offered comfort and company when it got too lonely. As people took to the streets to protest injustice and support important causes, albums relevant to these times got us fired up to push for change. While the bright moments this year came few and far between, some records provided joy for our celebrations. It could easily have been a terrible year for music as a whole, particularly since live music and touring has been nonexistent for most of it. Musicians could have curled up on the couch with the rest of us and stayed there for nine months without ever producing a single note. That would have been completely understandable! Yet so many chose to flex their creative muscles either pre-pandemic or right in the middle of it, and the results were nothing short of astounding.

We are so incredibly lucky to have more quality music in our lives than we could ever hope to listen to. This year’s Top 50 Albums list fully reflects that, along with the additional 10 honorable mentions because it was tough to stop. I’m thrilled to share it with you, because while we might not agree on everything, my hope is that you’re inspired to continue seeking out new music whether it’s mentioned here or not. While not every album can be as great as the ones listed below, each one does set out to inspire us in one way or another, even if it means helping us figure out what we don’t like. The kindest sentiment I can offer about 2020 is that maybe someday we’ll be able to look back and say it was a shit year for just about everything except for music. The fact that we got so many wonderful records amounts to a small miracle, so let’s treat it as such. Here are the 50 albums (+10 more) that kept me sane throughout one of the most insane periods of our lives to date.

The Top 100 Songs of 2020

Selecting and ranking 100 songs as the “Best of” any given year is a fool’s errand. There’s simply too much music to choose from and the notion that any of these lists can truly encapsulate what it was like to listen to music in 2020 inevitably leaves some important things out or places too much importance on certain artists or genres. In the end it’s all subjective anyway, and what captures one person’s imagination might leave another in the cold. Plus, with so much music available there’s no way you can listen to everything. I know I’ve discovered plenty of songs and artists weeks, months, or years later, only to wish I had known about them sooner so they could’ve been included in a year-end roundup. It’s the way life goes sometimes. But that’s also the benefit of any list like this! For anyone to tell you these are songs that meant something to them in 2020 automatically elevates those tracks above your standard fare. If you’re looking to put your music listening in focus, a list like this can help to some degree.

Honestly, outside of the top 30 or so, the order of the songs in this list are somewhat arbitrary. They were ranked in large part by gut feeling, which is to say that I weighed each one and placed it into the spot that seemed most accurate. This actually could have been twice as long, given how many cuts were made to keep this whole thing manageable. It makes me think the best approach and listening experience would be to use the “shuffle” function on this Spotify playlist quite liberally. Alternatively, if you’re anti-Spotify, I’d encourage you to click around and listen to these songs in a very random way. Give each one at least 30 seconds of your time to get an idea of what it sounds like. That should be enough to determine if you’re interested in hearing more. Maybe next year I’ll get rid of the ranking system altogether. The top 100 songs should be good enough without needing to tell you if one is “better” than another.

The overall criteria for qualification on this list was pretty simple: each song must have been released as a standalone single or as part of an EP or album from 2020. No artist was allowed to appear more than once, though exceptions were made for featured guests (looking at you, Megan Thee Stallion & Ariana Grande). That opened things up a bit to enable more artists to be included and represented on this list. Some Chicago favorites too! And not to spoil any surprises, but you might not find some of these names on other “Best of” lineups so it’s just great to show them some (deserved) love. There’s so much fun and catchy stuff I can’t wait for you to discover, so take your time and please enjoy!

The Top 25 EPs of 2020


Is it just me, or have more EPs been released in 2020 than usual? Maybe it’s a pandemic thing. Artists trying to fill the absence of touring by releasing something, even if it’s only a handful of songs. You can’t rush or force the creative process, and there’s no rule book that says you need to be productive when there’s nothing better to do. If the world can shut down, then you can too. Not everyone can be Taylor Swift and give us TWO LPs in less than eight months. Let’s just be grateful to the artists who felt inspired enough to give us something in 2020, whether it was a song, an EP, an album, or a combination of b-sides and remixes.

One trend I didn’t anticipate from this past year involved artists releasing multiple clusters of songs at once and eventually combining them into a full length album. For example, Paramore’s Hayley Williams gave us her first solo LP Petals For Armor in May, but back in February we got the Petals For Amor I EP and in April we got the Petals For Armor II EP, which comprised the first 10 tracks from the album. Similarly, Jordana released an EP titled Something To Say at the end of July, followed it up with a second EP titled To You in December, but also combined the two to create the Something To Say To You album. Given the way they were released it’s tough to classify those types of things as standalone EPs or actual albums, but for the sake of clarity I’ve decided the final product should be the only thing that qualifies for year-end lists. On the flip side of that, Dirty Projectors gave us FIVE EPs in 2020 and technically didn’t combine them into an album but rather assembled a compilation titled 5EPs, so those each count separately. If you’re confused, just go with the flow!

There’s a fair amount of weird or off-putting stuff on this Top 25 EPs of 2020 list, and that’s partly by design. One of the things I love most about EPs are how they give artists free reign to experiment without the pressure that comes with a traditional LP. You can play around with song structure and sounds that might not otherwise fit with your current or perceived aesthetic. You can respond to current events in the world without having to write 10 songs on the same topic. For new artists, an EP can be an opportunity to introduce yourself to the world and start to build a fan base. I’m very excited about a few of the artists that gave us their debut EPs in 2020, as evidenced by their inclusion on this list. Chances are you won’t like everything here, but I sincerely hope you discover something new to enjoy and that it expands your consciousness to some degree. There’s a little something for every kind of taste, along with some love for Chicago artists as well. If you’re unfamiliar with any of this music, dig in, sample a song or two, and decide whether or not you want to explore even more.

The Chicago 20 From ’20


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!

Six Times Twenty: 120 Great Songs From The First Half Of 2020


If you’re reading this, I’d like to congratulate you on surviving the first half of 2020. To say the past six months have been challenging would be putting it mildly. Pandemics and protests are only the start of our troubles. And even though most of us have been spending a whole lot of time at home, we could still use a break from everything. While I can’t sit here and tell you that the world will somehow magically get better and there’s light at the end of this extremely dark tunnel, my hope still remains intact that life will improve sooner rather than later.

The Top 50 Albums of 2019

Before we get into the nitty gritty of this Top 50 Albums list, let’s first talk about the honorable mentions. This is the space reserved for 2019 albums I also loved, just not quite enough to include as part of the main list. If this had been a worse year for music, they probably would have made the cut. It runs the gamut from two of the biggest pop stars in the world all the way down to some tiny names you’ve probably never heard before. These 10 albums are ordered alphabetically by artist.

Ariana Grande – thank u, next
Bedouine – Bird Songs of a Killjoy
Billie Eilish – When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?
Black Belt Eagle Scout – At the Party With My Brown Friends
Caroline Polachek – Pang
Floating Points – Crush
Fontaines D.C. – Dogrel
Peaer – A Healthy Earth
Sturgill Simpson – Sound & Fury
Wilco – Ode to Joy

As I was reflecting on the year in music and putting together draft after draft of this Top 50 Albums list, one of the main things I came to realize was that 2019 was a bit of a down year for hip hop. Familiar names like Drake, Jay-Z, and Kendrick Lamar took the year off for the most part, only dropping in with an occasional guest verse. Some of the established names that did put out records, such as Kanye West and Chance the Rapper, didn’t quite live up to their creative peaks. To a degree, that left room for others to step up and fill the voids left by these superstars. We were lucky enough to get some great introductions to names like DaBaby and Megan Thee Stallion in 2019, and it was refreshing to add their voices to the mix (though only one of those two is represented below). Other rappers managed to show significant growth and put out some of their best material to date. Shout out to Polo G, Rapsody, and Little Simz. Overall though, there are less rap albums in this year’s Top 50 than in previous years, and that’s a bit of a shame. I guess they can’t all be great, and given how much the hip hop scene has grown overall in the past decade we’re lucky to have reached this point. I’m excited to hear what the next 10 years will bring!

Beyond the scope of hip hop, there’s been plenty of music to love in 2019. It goes well beyond just songs too, because even though we continue to live in the era of the single, it takes a true talent to stretch beyond one or two great tracks and instead turn in an entire album’s worth. The 50 highlighted below each brought me considerable joy and comfort throughout the year, and they’re the ones I turned to over and over again to soundtrack everything from driving around running errands to cleaning my apartment on a rainy day to throwing a summer party to laying in bed feeling depressed after a long day. There’s a little something to satisfy just about any mood or particular taste. Chances are you haven’t heard all of these records, and I encourage you to check them all out! Even if they’re not to your liking, I applaud you for at least attempting to discover something new outside of your comfort zone. One last thing before we jump right into it: I haven’t included any direct links to places where you can find these albums, but Spotify, Apple Music, and Bandcamp are all your friends. Use their search functions and you’ll be fine. That said, here are my Top 50 Albums of 2019. Enjoy!

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