Hello everyone! Today, I want to talk about the music of 2020. During this crazy year, music has once again been my escape. There’s been lots of great tracks and near-perfect albums, but today I wanted to share with you my favorite albums of the year.
It was really hard to narrow down which albums resonated with me the most. Almost everything I’ve been able to listen to has been SO well crafted, it was almost impossible to rank any of the projects musical artists have done this year! However, I was able to get six albums solidly on the list, as well as two honorable mentions (because they can’t be left out!). Let’s dive in!
1. “Monsters”, the Midnight
Listen to: “Fire in the Sky”
I had waited for “Monsters” since the night I saw the Midnight in concert in 2019. I knew they were releasing a new album in 2020, and I couldn’t wait until they toured with those new tracks!
Unfortunately, the Coronavirus Pandemic started to get bad (the first time) right when the singles for the album started to come out in early spring of this year. By the time July 10th rolled around, we were right in the middle of the first wave of the virus. There was no way they were going to go on tour. I was devastated.
My upset mood quickly vanished as I listened to this album for the first time. “America Online” was released a year prior to the album’s release, yet hearing it in the context of the new album made it different somehow. The album is true to the Midnight’s retrowave sound, but they definitely took influence from some modern hip hop beats, as well as influence from Tyler Lyle’s folk roots (a common theme in the Midnight’s discography).
I’ve already written a review of “Monsters”, so I won’t go too into the meat of the album. I will say that with every listen, I find more to love about each song, and the novelty of the album itself hasn’t faded at all. I’m still as excited to listen to it as the first day I pushed play.
2. “In Another Life”, Active Child
Listen to: “Brighter Day”
Active Child has always been an artist who is true to his self and the music that he creates. His first release in five years, as well as his debut major label release with Sony, was a success in my book. He didn’t lose the fairy-like allure of his self-releases over the years, only adding to the pristine harp-and-piano based sound Patrick Grossi is known for.
“In Another Life”, compared to Active Child’s past releases, sounds bigger, fuller even. It makes sense that it does, seeing as he’s with a major label now. As an amateur variety blogger, I can only assume that with signing to a major label comes major label sound! Of course, that’s not saying that past Active Child albums sounded unprofessional. Quite the opposite, actually.
Hearing the amazing quality of each and every song reminded me of his first EP, “Curtis Lane”, and how even though I figured it was a self-release, it sounded so professional. It’s amazing to see just how far Active Child has come in those 20 years since. I’m excited to see what he accomplishes with Sony! If it’s anything like this album, he’ll be around for many more years to come.
3. “I Love Hating You”, FrankJavCee
Listen to: “I Love Hating You”
I first heard FrankJavCee as a guest on Super Mega, one of my favorite YouTube channels. He had a good rapport with Matt and Ryan (cohosts of said YT channel), and when they mentioned that he made music, I figured I’d check him out.
Admittedly, I wasn’t a huge fan of Frank at first. His sound is unique, falling under the indie umbrella pretty squarely. Upon first listen to some of his popular tracks, I decided he wasn’t for me. It wasn’t until “I Love Hating You” that I started to go back and listen to an album of his over and over.
“I Love Hating You” is a quarantine project of Frank’s. On his Bandcamp, he has said: “When I was a young teenager, I wanted to be a rock star so I dug deep into my early influences and came out with this particular sound.”
I think he did a phenomenal job with this short EP. It’s only 30 minutes, but each second is packed to the gills with sound. You can hear some Nirvana, some of the Cure, maybe even some Foo Fighters in each song. It’s an amazing piece of art and I’m a little embarrassed that I didn’t take FrankJavCee seriously earlier on in my exploration of his discography. He’s got TONS of tracks, so if you like the title track and decide to listen to the entirety of “I Love Hating You”, make some time to listen to more of his work. If you’re like me, you’ll be pleased with what you hear.
4. “Ocarina of Time”, Super Guitar Bros
Listen to: “Temple of Time”
I know what you’re thinking. “Mary, none of these tracks are new. They’re from 1998!” Technically, you are not wrong.
“But Mary,” you may add. “This album came out in 2018!!” Technically, you’re not wrong about that either!
What I will say about the timing of this album is that yes, it came out in 2018, and the music in said album came out 20 years prior, but Super Guitar Bros released a whole medley on their YouTube in August of this year, and that’s where I heard their arraignments first!
That all being said, let me go into a little backstory about who the Super Guitar Bros are. Steve Poissant and Sam Griffin met in 2007 and formed Super Guitar Bros shortly after realizing they had two things in common: playing guitar and loving video games. Their YouTube channel has about 70k subscribers and all of their releases have tons of views and streams, so I’d say they’re doing a great job all these years later!
While they did release an album with Dan Avidan (1/2 of Game Grumps) this year, I didn’t listen to that album as much as their “Ocarina of Time” covers, so here we are!
I came across their YouTube channel after a Legend of Zelda lore binge, something I do every so often because I just love the world of that video game. Their “Ocarina of Time” medley was the most recent video, so I watched it.
I’ve been a fan of the Super Guitar Bros for a while, but I was genuinely impressed with how they took the soundtrack of a classic, almost untouchable video game and made every composition feel brand new. If you’re a fan of video game soundtracks, or are really impressed by advanced guitar players (or, if you’re like me, all of the above), take a listen to their “Ocarina of Time” album.
5. “SOHN Live with the Metropole Orkest”, SOHN and the Metropole Orkest
Listen to: “Nil”
I’ve been a big fan of SOHN ever since I stumbled across him on the Active Child Pandora Radio station way back when. He was just starting out when I first started to listen to him, but now he’s established himself as a soulful electronic artist, which is something that is hard to replicate in most mainstream music these days.
I heard about this live album the day after its release, and I immediately turned it on. I was obsessed with it for a good chunk of time, and for good reason! SOHN’s style has changed ever so slightly from album to album, with his latest studio release, “Rennen”, sounding much more R&B and Soul based than his electronica/ambient pop release, “Tremors”. Making different sounding albums cohesive enough to be played live without a jarring reaction from your audience isn’t easy, I can imagine. So I was floored when I listened to this album for the first time because once again, every song sounded as if it was remastered and elevated into something new.
Having the Metropole Orkest (the largest full-time hybrid orchestra in the world, based in the Netherlands) accompany SOHN onstage brought a different kind of depth to his melancholy sound, and a different kind of brightness to his more upbeat songs. I found myself being blown away by how bombastic every arraignment was.
If you aren’t a fan of live albums, it’s okay, I’m not either. Listening to other people experience a concert that I can’t be at irritates the selfish part of my head pretty badly. Luckily, the audience only hoots and hollers a tiny little bit on this album, making it so that you can enjoy the new arraignments of SOHN’s most popular tracks. And you don’t have to go and listen to his entire discography in order to listen to this album; to be honest, I enjoy some of the new arraignments more than the originals! A first-time listener can appreciate the album just as much as a long-time fan.
6. “Suffer”, Freddie Dredd
Listen to: “Devil’s Work”
Freddie Dredd is a rapper based in Ontario who is signed to Doomshop Records. I was introduced to him, once again, through Super Mega. He was a guest on their podcast, and I fell in love with the way he said words. His diction, if you will. If you know anything about real life Mary, you’ll know I love interesting accents (and I parrot them…a LOT. I’m sure it’ll get me into trouble eventually!), so hearing him speak about how he approaches his art made me curious as to how his music actually was.
If I were to describe the genre of music Freddie Dredd makes, I’d say it could be described as devil music pretty unironically. A healthy mix of rap and darkness binds each Freddie Dredd song together like rough twine. It’s perfect to listen to his discography when you’re feeling like you want to fuel any rage you might be holding onto.
“Suffer”, his recent release, came out a few days after my birthday this year. The August heat was perfect for listening to some evil shit, and Freddie Dredd fit the bill. Admittedly, every song is similar lyrically. Killing people, being evil, unable to stop the violence within…it’s a common theme in this album.
Of course, I wouldn’t be down to kill people in real life. But…I do like listening to Freddie Dredd rap about it.
“Ouch!”, Matt Watson
Matt Watson, 1/2 of Super Mega, has dabbled in making music over the course of his career. With “Ouch!”, he debuted his more serious side, making six songs that spoke on his personal life more so than jokes and bits.
I particularly like “Come Over”, a song about being satisfied with and chill about life. It’s a very laid-back sound, and in my opinion, it’s the best song on his self-produced, self-written album. The overall feel of the EP is definitely “written in my bedroom late at night while tipsy off of hard cider”, and although some might complain about the quality of the production value, I genuinely like how imperfect the songs are. It adds to the overall hang out feel of the EP.
I highly suggest checking out this EP, as it’s about 20 minutes of sad boy music that really fits a relaxing vibe.
“Hades Original Soundtrack”, Darren Korb
Right now, I am currently obsessed with the game Hades. It’s on the Switch and PC, and if you like rouge-like games and Greek Mythology (or if you’re just looking for a game that, while easy to pick up, is quite challenging), then go buy it!!
The music is what drew me into the game. Matt has been playing it a lot, and the soundtrack is unbelievably good. Darren Korb (who also voices a handful of characters) arranged and composed all of the tracks on the soundtrack. Each one has a completely different feeling. From the fields of Elysium to the House of Hades itself, each zone has its own theme to it musically that really lends to the amazing scenery and the intense gameplay.
If nothing else, listen to the soundtrack. It’s very well done, and has some lyrical tracks that dip into Greek Mythos that are beautiful as well.
I hope that I’ve piqued your interest about these albums! If you’re interested in my Top Albums playlist that Spotify made for me, check it out here! Feel free to follow me on Twitter for daily groans and gripes, and consider leaving me a tip on Ko-fi, if you’d like.
Thanks for reading!! See you next week!