2020 albums of the year

Rockin’ it COVID style

Well – what can I say. 2020 simultaneously felt like the longest and fastest year that I can remember. Long, re: COVID. A friend posted on Facebook,

Do I think of you guys often? Yes. Do I love you? Yes. Do I miss you? I mean, not really…

I can relate. To the outside world, I do think, feel, and say this. Although I do miss the occasional beer with friends and seeing the excitement, understanding, and yes even the frustrations on my students’ faces, I’ve learned to adapt and I’m getting by. That all said, what I do really miss seeing is my fam – My dad, mom, bro, sisters, and all the kiddos as well as Nova’s fam – mom, dad, aunts, cousins, and bro. This holiday season has been different. It feels like I’m in a long, never-ending Zoom. At times I feel like this is fine and this experience has really challenged my approach to things – in a very good way. But when it comes to my family, nothing beats the in-person-ness of us. That all said, I’ve grown quite accustomed to my new clothing go-to’s, homemade masks, onebone toque, comfy/cozy sweats, onebone waffle Ts, camo mucks #sostylin.

I say fast as teaching this year has kept me on my toes in a constant rotation of developing remote learning content, weekly Zooms with my stoods (aka, students), endless Zoom meetings (faculty, program, projects, etc.), and did I mention Zooms? It’s been a crazy whirlwind. What scared me at first actually challenged me to rethink a few things. With the support of a few colleagues (one, in particular, being Dave Duguid, our Electronics Engineering Lab Instructor who has such a rock star attitude. He really helped me shift my attitude towards the positive) I was able to buckle down and persevere through it all. All in all, after brushing aside doubts and my negativity of it all, the experience has been a largely positive one. One that will actually change and shift the way I do things post-COVID in my teaching and life.

I digress. It’s been a year, to say the least. However, one thing that has remained unchanged from all previous years is the excellent music released throughout the year. So let’s go! My top 10 of 2020, starting first with honourable mentions (limited to 5+2, I couldn’t reduce to just 5 so. No particular order):

  • Drive-By Truckers, The Unraveling
  • The Smashing Pumpkins, Cyr
  • Anti-Flag, 20/20 Vision (#fucktrump)
  • Brian Fallon, Local Honey
  • The Lone Below, Half Moon Light
  • Sturgill Simpson, Cuttin’ Grass Volumes 1 & 2 (although the majority are remakes of his previous tunes this is some top-notch stuff and the bluegrass renditions are better than originals)
  • Basia Bulat, Are You In Love
10. Wolf Parade, Thin Mind

Released WAY back in January 2020, before the slide into the weird. This album came into the rotation early and stayed with me throughout the year. There’s something to be said for that as 2020 had so much great musical content released so to stick with me says a lot (so I think, ha). Favs include: Forest Green, Fall into the Future, Against the Day, Julia Take Your Man Home, Town Square, Under Glass.

9. Joel Plaskett, 44

I consider Joel Plaskett a Canadian gem with the likes of all of the folks in Blue Rodeo, Skydiggers, the Hip, BNL, etc. Oh boy, do we have such a wealth of talent in Canada! This is a behemoth of an album, comprised of four records with 11 songs on each. The whole thing is really excellent and I highly recommend you take it for a physical or digital spin. Favs include: Spray Tan, Tim, Matthew Grimson Songs, Collusion, Highland Heart, Hey Stu, The Right Direction. Actually, there is soooo much goodness here. It’s hard to stop picking tunes

8. The Chicks, Gaslighter

These gals are just so great. They are all just such great musicians. This album is actually my favourite of theirs. I feel their songwriting has truly come into their own. Favs include: Texas Man, Sleep at Night, March March, Set Me Free, Julianna Calm Down, Gaslighter.

7. Ron Hawkins & the Do Good Assassins, 246

Ron Hawkins and Co. never seem to disappoint. I was first introduced to Ron in the band “Lowest of the Low,” one of my all-time favourite (Canadian) bands. From excellent lyrics to super catchy riffs/jams, I highly recommend a spin or more! Favs include: Midway, Heartbreak in Hopper Street, Teenage Insurrection, Baby Fell Hard, Too Late.

6. Kathleen Edwards, Total Freedom

Taking a break from music a while back to focus on life and open a coffee shop called “Quitters” in Ontario, nothing pleased me more to see Kathleen back singing and playing. Having liked her music from her debut album in 2003 (Failer), I was actually sad (but understood) her move away from music. Having said that, as mentioned, I was pretty excited to see that she was coming back into the musical world (having seen her as well at the 2019 RFF – this new album really brought it into light how much I really appreciated her music). Favs include: Options Open, Simple Math, Hard On Everyone, Who Rescued Who, Take It With You When You Go. It’s all good really!

5. Avatar, Hunter Gatherer

Woooo. I love these fine lads from Sweden. My brother Joey introduced them to me a few years back now and I was super excited a new album was coming out this year. Really coming into their own with Hunter Gatherer, in my opinion, you can really hear how these folks are fine tuning their craft. I love this album. Favs include: Scream Until You Wake, Silence in the Age of Apes, Justice, Colossus, When All But Force Has Failed.

4. The Avett Brothers, The Third Gleam

Here’s where I say it starts to get super hard to narrow things down. I actually went back and forth several times with the remaining four albums, all of which could have the top #1 spot in my mind. Simply being nitpicky, here at #4 we have The Avett Bros “The Third Gleam.” There is nothing I can say bad about this album. It soothes my soul as all good music does. I love every song but if I were to pick a handful, favs include: Victory, I Go To My Heart, The Fire, Back Into The Light.

3. Alan Doyle, Rough Side Out

Alan’s concert at the Centre of the Arts was the last live show I saw in 2020 (way back in February) and boy was it a doozy! Nova, Joey, Isabel, and I attended and witnessed the finest of live music that there is. Playing most of the songs on this album and favs from his previous solo albums and, of course, some Great Big Sea favourites. This album was released in February and like a few gems I’ve already mentioned here, has stayed with me the whole year. I love it all in its entirety but if I were to pick a handful again: Anywhere You Wanna Go, What the Whiskey Won’t Do, We’re Gonna Love Tonight, We Don’t Wanna Go Home – I can’t do it – it’s all great! Give it a spin! Here’s Alan singing the last song on the album in 2019 while he was still recording and prepping it for its 2020 release.

2. Unleash The Archers, Abyss

Another great album from these folks from the west coast (BC). I can’t say enough great things about this band. They are the real deal! With this album, like with some others that came out this year, you can really hear the band fine-tuning and perfecting their craft. It’s been in constant rotation since it came out in August. I love it all, from the opening “Waking Dream,” but ya, if I must, favs include: Abyss, Legacy, Return to Me, Through Stars, Faster Than Light – Again – Pointless. I love it all!

1. Brothers of Metal, Emblas Saga

I came across this album and band just by browsing the new releases in YouTube music in January. Wowza! Like some other albums on this list, it has stayed with me all year (and has gotten me through some of the more stressful times this year has thrown my way). Nothing beats what heavy metal can do for the soul. It calms, it allows focus to emerge, and with that all of the crap that life seems to bring from time to time just melts away. I love to listen to this album in its entirety. From the narration in the opening track, a good mood is set for all of the most epic tunes that come after. It’s also a great album to workout/exercise to. Like all in the top four in my list here, I love it all. Picking a handful of favs: Theft of the Hammer, Weaver of Fate, Hel, Kaunaz Dagaz, Ride of the Valkyries – check that – it’s all damn great! Hit play and listen to the whole of it!

Well – That’s my top 10 albums of 2020. Here’s to one heck of a crazy year! …and here’s to 2021, when hopefully we can safely meet up with family, friends, bands, and the like…so I hope. Listen to doctors and scientists. They are trying their best but we all have to do our part as well. #socialdistance #wearamask #behuman

I am hoping to blog a bit more in 2021 so we’ll see if that happens. Have a great year all!

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