We’re halfway through this strange year and sharing our favorite albums of 2020 thus far!
Here’s John O’s list of current favs with some words about each of his picks. Purchase in-store or online for curbside pickup or shipping worldwide!
What a year it’s been, right? Seems like a decade has transpired. Luckily the music is there, a constant thing to hold onto, and even though the live gigs are gone for awhile, and time is this weird elongated construct that makes little sense right now, the records are still there. And, I do have all of these on record. I still buy CDs, and still like them. It’s still a valid format for me with a sound of its own, and I still have a fair amount stacked up. We listen to albums on both CD and LP at the store, and we’re not even opposed to playing streams or files around the shop (even though it’s not our favorite sound, it is very useful from a research standpoint). We’re all fans of the music here.
All of the titles on my list resonate with me for various reasons having to do with the situation we find ourselves in, mostly because they instill a sense of hope, that we will persevere and find our way through this.
Curtis Stigers – Gentleman
Brilliant work from one of the best musicians on this planet. It’s somewhat easy to take Curtis for granted, since he is a presence around town when he’s here, but can someone who is as famous as Curtis be underrated? Let me tell you, he can. This is the work of a serious artist, a writer, an interpreter and an instrumentalist. He defies category. This is the work of a musician who means what he says. Who thinks about what he wants to say, how he’s going to say it, and delivers. “Lately I’ve Let Things Slide,” written by the great Nick Lowe, perfectly reflects these times, and “She Knows,” written by John Fullbright, would be a hit if there were justice in this world.
Honey Harper – Starmaker
Cosmic? Perhaps. Definitely exists in its own sphere. It envelops you in the sound. Cosmic music is one way of describing the sound here. It is reminiscent of the laid-back sounds of the singer-songwriter early ‘70s, say, Jimmy Webb with really pared-down lyrics. This record is good most times of the day, but is really good around Midnight, played kind of loud. In the dark.
Norah Jones – Pick Me Up Off the Floor
Just because she sings quietly does not mean there aren’t barbs in the songs. She is a gifted musician who is eclectic and wide ranging in her interests and taste. She can play in a variety of settings, and for a popular artist and star, she is equally comfortable and happy playing in the band.
Jaime Wyatt – Neon Cross
She wails, and inhabits the honky tonks like a boss. She has that intense “thing” that lets you know that you are in the presence of power. It’s similar in sound to Margo Price. Every time I play it in the store it gets a very positive reaction.
Mark Lanegan – Straight Songs Of Sorrow
I am not, and never will be, objective about this man’s work. Because his music will never let me down. Haven’t picked up his autobiography, but I plan to. The voice is unmistakable.
Drive-By Truckers – The Unraveling
These guys are on a hell of a roll. Full on rock band, reminds me of Bruce (Springsteen and Cockburn, maybe a hint of Dern). The lyrics are biting, a reflection of horrifying times. They are a living reminder of how complex the South is, and further, how complex America is.
Mint Mile – Ambertron
I don’t know what to call this…how about post-oblique indie rock? How about we dispense with the labels. Mr. Midyett is consistently adventurous and delivers music that rewards open ears.
Sleaford Mods – All That Glue
They keep rolling, and I keep listening. Jason’s style may have antecedents, but the combination of his brutal and profane wordplay and Andrew’s sound beds keep me coming back for more.
There’s a new Wire, which is at once a new album (their second this year!) and a retrospective, and a new Margo Price and a new Margaret Glaspy to listen to this year. I just haven’t dug in yet. There’s time, you just have to keep your ears open. Just in the two days since I compiled this list, I heard the American Aquarium “Lamentations” and the new Protomartyr and I oooh, I just remembered the new Coriky album from Dischord, and the Hammered Hulls 7” from Dischord, and the Old Death 7” that came out this year. It continues. And it can’t be stopped.