As much as I enjoy reading and making “Best of” lists at the end of a year, I have a terrible time trying to narrow down the music I loved throughout the last twelve months into a definitive list. With the way I listen to music and explore new releases, it feels daunting. Do I split them into a heavier and more accessible list? Do I do Top 50? Top 100? How do I decide what releases just miss the list versus which ones make it? It is all so arbitrary, and all I really want to do is share the great releases I found throughout the year.

I have been keeping a monthly playlist of my favorite releases since the beginning of 2014. And it got me thinking about why I need a list at all. Why not just share the playlists? People can find new stuff, be baffled by why I like certain things, and hit me up to discuss how they loved some of the same things. These lists are ever changing. Stuff gets removed if they do not hold up for me after more listens. New stuff gets added that I missed when it first came out. If something is on a playlist that is not available to listen through the streaming service, that means I got it off of Bandcamp. I still have a backlist of stuff I purchased from there that I have yet to add to my local files for these monthly lists. Never the less, here is a look at the music that connected with me each month of 2020 along with some commentary. Keep in mind that embedded Spotify playlists only show 100 tracks, so click into each for the full list.

January

It is easy to forget releases that came out early in the year. Especially when they came out before the entire world was upended with a pandemic. But January had a solid set of releases including new music from old favorites like Lil Wayne, Eminem, Wolf Parade, of Montreal, AJJ, and Anti-Flag. The month also saw the release of I Disagree by Poppy. The first album from the pop metal artist that managed to capture my attention.  Frances Quinlan released a solo album that is on par with anything that Hop Along has put out. And metal releases were prominent with a great 7 inch from Loma Prieta, a collection of odds and ends from Déhà, and the start of several excellent releases throughout the year from bands like Fucked and COAG.

February

It might be the shortest month of the year, but February was no stranger to a ton of excellent releases. The punk / emo scene continued to push out awesome material from bands like Spanish Love Songs, Rat Boys, Worst Party Ever, Soakie, and Free Throw. Denzel Curry and Scarlxrd pushed the boundaries and excellence of hip-hop. Japan gave us the killer new album from post-rock screamo legends, envy. And the indie rock scene impressed with albums from Best Coast, Gregory Pepper and His Problems, Mo Troper, and Beach Bunny.

March

Violet Cold is a one person black metal project that deserves so much attention. Their latest album, Noir Kid, continues a trend of unbeatable albums filled with incredible soundscapes. On top of that, releases from Hot Mulligan, Riz Ahmed, Dogleg, Honey Cutt, Porridge Radio, Lil Uzi Vert, Grouplove, and Waxahatchee helped round out an excellent month. And for those into the more extreme side of things, Earth Groans, Carnosus, Serpent Column, Wardaemonic, Igorrr, and a killer new 30-minute track from Converge kept March interesting.

April

Fionna Apple’s spellbinding album, Fetch the Bolt Cutters, was the highlight of April. It is an example of an artist at their prime. But Apple wasn’t the only female artist to crush it that month. Releases from Charmpit, Ellis, The Lippies, and NOBRO proved that anyone with a bias against women in music are fucking idiots. Benighted released another killer album, keeping up a streak of excellence from the band. WVRM crushed with their release of Colony Collapse. NNAMDÏ continued to reinvent  indie hip-hop.  And the world of screamo remained alive and well with releases from the likes of Viva Belgrado and Infant Island.

May

Heavy music led the pack in May with an onslaught of excellence from bands like Umbra Vitae, An Autumn for Crippled Children, Winterfylleth, …And Oceans, afsky, ACxDC, Couch Slut, and Old Man Gloom. Jeff Rosenstock continued to prove why he is one of my all time favorite songwriters with the release of NO DREAM. Diet Cig infected our brains with their indie pop prowess. Lights & Motion and Sleeping At Last showed that heavy music is not the only thing worth listening to. BACKxWASH released another genre defying trap metal album, God Has Nothing To Do With This Leave Him Out Of It. And hip-hop saw the release of cool shit from Kota the Friend and Scarlxrd.

June

It would be impossible to talk about June without mentioning the release of RTJ4 by Run The Jewels. These guys are on the forefront of hip-hop excellence. On top of that, Protest The Hero returned with an incredible album of chaotic metal, Palimpsest. Phoebe Bridgers released the untouchable gem, Punisher. Vile Creature not only had one of the coolest album covers of the year with Glory, Glory! Apathy Took Helm!, but backed it up with excellent songs. The album was complimented by other great, heavy releases from END, Justice for the Damned, and VVilderness. Not to mention the return of No Age to the noise rock scene with their Goons Be Gone album.

July

Mora Prokaza released one of my favorite albums of the year in July, By Chance. It combines black metal and trap into a crazy, awesome cacophony of musical genius. I like when bands push music to do new things, and you will not find much else like this. Rebel Wizard released another killer set of blackened heavy metal tunes. Broadway Calls continued to show their punk rock chops. Sharptooth shredded the patriarchy with Transitional Forms. Juice WRLD had a posthumous release, Legends Never Die. Previous albums had failed to keep my attention, but something about this one had me hooked. Plus Taylor Swift released folklore, working alongside indie rock legends to craft something super cool and outside the norm for her.

August

Bully kicked August’s ass with their release, SUGAREGG. Bright Eyes and The Killers returned with albums that continued to show their chops as mainstay musicians over the years. The Front Bottoms , Oceanator, and NØ MAN showed the depths of indie rock and punk. Primitive Man, Nug, and Misery Signals continued the streak of excellent heavy releases this year. And Nas returned with King’s Disease, a solid release from the hip-hop veteran.

September

If Uniform and Fawn Limbs fail to grab you with their crushing albums in September, bands like Lomelda and Sad13 had less chaotic stand out releases. Napalm Death proved that they will forever be mainstays in the grindcore scene. Plus, Svalbard and Melted Bodies not only had awesome album covers on their releases, but backed it up with worthy music.

October

Touché Amoré is one of my all time favorite bands, and Lament proves that they still have so much more to offer the world. PUP and Zeal & Ardor, two other personal favorites, released killer EPs in October. Weird ass hip-hop was bolstered with clipping.’s release of Visions of Bodies Being Burned. War On Women kicked ass and took names on Wonderful Hell. Emma Ruth Rundle partnered with Thou to release the incredible May Our Chambers Be Full. King Von put out an excellent hip-hop album before his untimely death this year. The Sound That Ends Creation managed to pack in all the chaotic, creative genius that makes mathcore so fun. Plus, Anaal Nathrakh might be the band to finally convince me that there is a place for clean vocals in extreme metal.

November

November started with releases from Soul Glo and Record Setter, proving that it was going to be a month not to be fucked with. Aesop Rock thrilled with the inventive word play and quirky beats of Spirit World Field Guide. Fuck The Facts drilled their way into my heart with Pleine Noirceur, along with a head stomping release from Of Feather And Bone. Plus, Liturgy continued to redefine themselves as humans and musicians with Origin of the Alimonies.

December

It has been awhile since punk was flooded with raspy voiced rockers, but Red City Radio showed that the “genre” is not dead. Paradise was a solid, well crafted release filled with some of their best songs. Taylor Swift, Dueling Experts, Lights & Motion, and Eminem all released their second set of material for the year. Folterkammer combined operatic vocals and black metal into the phenomenal experience of Die Lederpredigt. Goldfinger and Less Than Jake proved they are still relevant bands after all these years. Respire and Yashira ended the year showing that amazing extreme music is not going away any time soon. Plus, The Moore Family Band released Missy, an album showing that current rock music does not have to be boring and safe.