It's been a pretty dreadful year in many ways, apart from when it comes to new albums. Whether that's perhaps a feature of lockdowns giving creatives extra time to create, or maybe a creative response to the state of the world or something I don't know, but I think 2020 has been an exceptional year for new music. This is probably partly why my usual annual list generation process has got a little out of hand, but more of that later.
Firstly, I should add the usual disclaimer up front - this is just a list of the albums I enjoyed the most this year - the 'best' according to me and my tastes, and no way claims to be an objective or qualitative survey of albums released this year. Nor does it claim to be entirely complete - I spend a lot of time searching out new music to enjoy, but I certainly haven't heard everything.
Next, for a change I thought I'd add in a brief summary of what that musical taste of mine tends to enjoy, just so the reader might understand something of why some of these albums appeal to me so much. So, very briefly:
1. I like 'heavy', and often the heavier the better.
2. I like 'proggy', and often the proggier the better.
3. I like 'quirky', and often the quirkier the better.
There's more to my taste than that, but it's a useful summary - those three kinds of things tend to work for me, and combinations of them work even better.
Finally, before we get underway with the list itself, I thought I'd give an outline of my process. This year I've formalised it a little, to help me to not forget stuff in December that I heard in January, and so on. Every album I have heard this year that I've liked at first listen has been added to a playlist. I've then gradually over the year gone through that list giving each a score out of 10, and separating them into three new playlists:
a) The 10s and 9s out of 10 - those highly likely to end up in the top 20 (with 10s likely to be fighting for inclusion in the top 10).
b) The 8s - those that could end up in the top 10, but aren't 'nailed on' or likely to be in serious contention for a top 10 spot.
c) The 7s - not likely to get into the top 20, but still great albums kept around for further listening and consideration in case.
I then went through those lists trying to put them in order, swap things about as I listened to them more, and so on, until I ended up with a final, ordered Top 20.
So, without further ado, here is my Top 20 favourite albums of 20, in reverse order (counting down from 20 to 1):
20. Elder - Omens
19. Kansas - The Absence of Presence
18. Sepultura - Quadra
17. Heathen - Empire of the Blind
16. Intronaut - Fluid Existential Inversions
15. Karfagen - Birds of Passage
14. Humavoid - Lidless
13. Viscera - Obsidian
12. Luna's Call - Void
11. Motorpsycho - The All is One
10. Trivium - What the Dead Men Say
9. Dunwich - Tail-Tied Hearts
8. Rikard Sjöblom's Gungfly - Alone Together
7. Protest The Hero - Palimpsest
6. Ayreon - Transitus
5. Thy Catafalque - Naiv
4. Mobius - Kala
3. Igorrr - Spirituality and Distortion
2. Blue Öyster Cult - The Symbol Remains
1. Fish - Weltschmerz
And, as usual, here is a Spotify playlist featuring one track from each album: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/161YQdf8figrTtgp2OicMQ?si=2HyGrIBkQJSIeriYsv7-yA
This is where I get to that aformentioned 'a little out of hand' thing. Having initially checked out a couple of hundred newly released albums and ended up with the Top 20 above, I also ended up with two further playlists of great albums, part sorted into a vague order. Initially I was just going to use them to add some tracks to my own general playlists, but I thought I might as well make use of the resource I'd provided for myself.
So, for anyone who is interested, here is a similar 'one track per album' playlist for my 'Top 150 Albums of 2020'! OK, I'll admit that I haven't gone so far into it as to directly compare number 132 with its neighbours in great deatail to ensure that the entire list is 100% accurate to my preference (and, given how mood dependent music can be, that would probably all change next week anyway!), and the eagle-eyed may notice that it's not actually 150 yet (I know there's another album or two coming out this month that won't trouble my Top 20 but may well be Top 150), but the general principle holds. The top 20 is obviously as above (though this playlist starts and number 1 and counts up, rather than counting down as the other list does) and very much sorted, and below that it's more general 'the further up it is the more I like it':
So there you have it, my favourite albums of 2020. As I said at the start, it's been a fantastic year for new music. Enjoy!