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.