2020 sure has been something… Musicians have been hit hard this year, so I’m prouder than ever to announce my Best of 2020 list!
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! Thank you for joining me in exploring 24 AMAZING artists in my Advent Calendar Features series! (If you didn’t read it, you’re missing out! Start from day one with Madame Daley for the full effect.) The new year is approaching, and with it comes new music. But how can we celebrate all of this year’s awesome releases while making room for next year’s? By discussing the best overall singles, EPs, and albums of 2020!
In order to be eligible for any of the below categories, the piece must have been previously featured or reviewed on this blog during 2020, and have qualified for one of the quarterly “best of” prizes (exception: Fall 2020 reviews are eligible for awards without previous Best Of Inclusion). One artist may not win multiple categories, even if they qualify, but will be bumped up to win the higher-ranked category.
While I can only include my top 10 winners, please know that if your band/your favorite band wasn’t included, it does NOT mean they lack in any way, it just means that the field is so competitive that only the best of the best (in my opinion) can be considered.
I’m excited to announce my favorite music of the season, highlighting some of the musicians that deserve recognition the most for their accomplishments in an unprecedented year.
Everything about these submissions was analyzed, from the production of the record as a whole to the quality of each instrument and vocal part. Without further ado, these are my top 10 of 2020!
Best Music Video of 2020: “Blood Runs Cold” by Rags & Riches
Like all of Rags & Riches’ tracks that I’ve reviewed, “Blood Runs Cold” has that special something that makes you want to listen over and over again. The song’s unique harmonies and carefully off-beat spacing of echo the off-kilter feeling of not knowing who you are. As usual, Tanner’s voice is crisply accentuated by powerful electronic rhythms and a dynamic, rising edge in the track’s aesthetic.Explore the Social Abyss with Rags & Riches’ New Single, “Blood Runs Cold”
The video accompanying the audio of “Blood Runs Cold” may not be a classic “music video,” but it is an incredible piece of art all the same. The imagery of people in gas masks evokes the dystopian aesthetic Rags & Riches has cultivated over the past year, but also suits the track in meaning and rhythms. Overall, this video was not only captivating in terms of visuals, but meaningful, making it my pick for the best music video of 2020.
Learn more about Rags & Riches:
Catchiest Song of 2020: “Come Follow Me” by Jame Doe
“Every individual element of “Come Follow Me” feels integral to the track as a whole. With every listen, there’s another well-placed detail to discover: a fill here, a well-phrased line there—it’s all purposeful and well-done. Even placement of vocals and space between the notes work well towards the overall picture of the track. For its catchy vocals, dance-able instrumentals, and all-around good vibes, “Come Follow Me” could very easily be a new summer playlist staple.”Meet Jame Doe: Avant-Garde Fashion Enthusiast, Plant Lover, and Electro-Pop Vocalist
“Come Follow Me” was a fun summer release that made you want to dance in your chair. Impressive all around, this track proves that Jame knows who he is, and his style shines through in every part of his music and persona. I couldn’t get that smooth bassline and those background vocals out of my head!
Connect with Jame Doe:
Best DIY Release of 2020: Creature by Old Old
The first track of Creature is “Skreamer. ” Bringing us into the EP with classic punk guitar lines and energy to spare, the song shows off the spaces between notes as much as its inherent rhythms. “Skreamer” is guided through its 3:30 running time by bouncy bass and dynamic percussion, every instrumental part falling into line to create a solid, steady song, even without vocals in the first two minutes. When the vocals do enter in an edgy mix of distorted whispers, the track is given extra depth and atmosphere, making it a great start to the record.“Creature by Old Old is the New New”
Creature is the classic DIY punk release we all need to get through a year without basement shows, dive bars, and backyard venues. Old Old’s understanding of their own sound is fluid in this record in the best way: Many of these tracks could be featured on indie playlists as well as punk playlists, a great thing for today’s melding of musical worlds.
Connect with Old Old:
Most Creative Artist of 2020: Bad Ties with “Venus Infers” and Music 4 No One Vol. 1
The track gets into the thick of things with dreamy bass, staccato drum beats, and loaded keyboard, all ready to spring into the story. Steadily creating an ambiance to help set the scene for the story, the instrumentals steady behind the vocals. Soon, the bass breaks free, its rhythms echoing the vocals’ rise and fall. The lyrics are delivered in spoken-word style, their balance wavering to reflect the story as it grows and swells.“Bad Ties Returns with Venus Infers”
Bad Ties always makes poetry cool! Based out of Asheville, North Carolina, since 2017, Bad Ties takes PoJazz to a new level with their experimental mix of spoken word, jazz, and post-punk to create a brand new style of beat poetry.
Music 4 No One Vol. 1 is their fourth LP. The record, mixed and mastered by Sid Saravanan, focuses on themes of heartbreak, displacement, and substance abuse, and was released on December 14, 2019 at a celebratory hometown show. With the single that followed, “Venus Infers,” the group blended irresistibly dreamy instrumentals with masterful storytelling to create another compelling and creative record.
Connect with Bad Ties:
Most Impactful Album of 2020: Quarantine Dream by Assorted Artists
When musicians come together with a cause, magic can happen. This is exactly the case with Quarantine Dream, a benefit album created with the selfless intentions of Minnesota musicians.
As mentioned in Coronavirus: Musicians Speak Out, the album was the brainchild of Ted Hajnasiewicz and Ryan Rud (Frequency Collisions, The Rabbit Hole). After the pair’s casual co-writing led to deeper conversations, Ted and Ryan created collective of Minnesota musicians. The group aims to raise money for Jessa Roquet. Jessa, a member of the Minneapolis folk-pop band Gambler’s Daughter, was “hit hard from all sides as a working musician and single mother of three”. When Jessa was diagnosed with stage four liver cancer at the start of quarantine, “her fellow artists answered the call.”-“Quarantine Dream: Musicians Sharing a Vision of Hope“
This album is proof that the music community is the best! We look after our own, and it was an honor to be involved with this record through reviews and promotional efforts. If you’re looking for an eclectic album full of talented artists that makes a tangible difference in the world, this one is for you!
Best Single of 2020: “Purple Skies” by Klemntyna
“‘Purple Skies’ showcases the hard work and thought behind Klemntyna’s music career. Long inspired by Scandinavian music and Nordic-style sounds, Klemntyna blends her unique interests with the “rawness and futurism” that she found from the inspirations of the city to create something all her own.
The song begins with ambient, echoing instrumentals reminiscent of a quiet New York night. Klemntyna’s gentle, sweet vocals enter like a wave rolling in, rippling over the rippling surface of the backing track as it almost imperceptibly builds towards the first chorus.”Explore the Purple Skies of NYC with Klemntyna
Klemnyna was inspired by New York City’s sunsets, and it shows in her rolling, smooth vocals. Showcasing a place close to my heart, New York City’s magic shines through in the longing vocals and minimalist instrumentals of “Purple Skies,” making it my top single for 2020!
Get to know Klemntyna:
Best EP of 2020: I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore by Constellations
“Cursed” starts things off with swinging guitar rhythms and a swell of incoming instrumentals. Sweetly rough vocals enter the mix, layering attitude and emotion over the foundation laid by classic pop-punk drum beats. Perfect for fans of Doll Skin, the track’s vocal phrasing combined with its instrumental rhythms make it easy to move to.
Powerful, self-assured lyrical delivery during the chorus combines with detailed verses to form a song that is equal parts catchy and full of story.–“Constellations Will help You Feel at Home in This World”
Constellations combines raw, powerful lyrical delivery with catchy instrumentals for the perfect mix of punk and pop. Not only is this album a pleasure to listen to, but it carries important commentary on everything from mental health and unhealthy coping mechanisms to the state of today’s world. As a whole, the EP was insightful, well-put-together, and professional.
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Best Female Artist of 2020: Giovanna Crescenzo with “You”
“Sweetly melodic and divine in its composition, “You” features mysterious, twinkling instrumentals and syrupy vocals. Giovanna’s clear, saccharine voice glides over the echoes of piano, twisting as it rises and falls throughout the track, highlighting the lyrics. Giovanna’s poetic talents come into play from the very first verse, her expert lyricism flowing through the track’s smooth diction….”Songwriter and Producer Giovanna Crescenzo Refuses to Water Herself Down
Even if Giovanna’s beautiful vocals and masterful composition weren’t enough to land her on this list, her ingenuity in writing an ode to the moon definitely was! I loved every facet of “You,” and so did the 1,200+ people that viewed the original article on the song. They have great taste!
Giovanna is exactly the kind of artist who proves women can kill it in the music industry, so I’m proud to honor her talent as my Best Female Artist of 2020!
Learn more about Giovanna:
Best Artist of 2020: “Boyfriend” by Quorum
“A cheeky, undeniably catchy track, “Boyfriend” has all the makings of a hit single. Perfect for fans of pop, rock, and alternative music, “Boyfriend” features unique, sweet vocal melodies that flow over the instrumentals in a way that makes it hard not to nod along. Strong harmonies and perfectly-placed pauses create a sense of movement within every measure, giving the track a depth that is only emphasized by soft, steady percussion, blended bass, and twinkling guitar lines.”Meet Quorum, Your New Favorite Band
From the moment I first listened to Quorum’s music, I knew they were a special group. Both the audio and music video for “Boyfriend” have just the right mix of fun, flirty, and individuality that can catch a listener’s attention and make them a full-time fan. Between their unique style, catchy choruses, and musical range, I was extremely impressed with their music in 2020.
Artist to Watch Out for in 2021: Heavenly Faded with Mt. Hope & “CTRL”
“Carefully held in check and ready to explode all at once, “CTRL” certainly suits its name, and is a steady favorite in my books.”Heavenly Faded is in CTRL and Here to Stay
Like many, Heavenly Faded has had a rough year. Still, they’ve managed to release several records that made it into regular rotation on my personal listening playlists. If they can be so successful in a year practically manufactured to ruin the music industry, I can only imagine what’s next! I’ll have my eye on them in the coming months, and I highly suggest you should, too.
Meet Heavenly Faded: