Art of the Apocalypse: The Best Indie Rock Albums and Songs of 2020

Never have we needed music more than in 2020. Never have we seen a tougher environment for new music. The constant assault of this year on our collective sanity has made it substantially tougher than normal to focus on and appreciate art. Now imagine how much harder it has been for creators to produce said art during the year. They have either had to block out all of their 2020 stressors in order to create anything or channel those stressors into their creations, all while knowing that touring — the musician’s main source of income in the backwards music industry model — had disappeared in an instant, without hope of returning for…a year? Two years?

Despite <gestures wildly> all of this working against us, we have gotten some fantastic records in 2020. Some were produced pre-pandemic and came out early in the year. Many of these were casualties of COVID, with all grand plans for tour support having disappeared into the ether. Others were written right in the middle of everything, and had to compete for attention with the siege of pandemic and election news. They may have come and gone while you were obsessing over one or more of the big events of the year, but if you missed them then, you should take some time for them now.

Best Albums of 2020

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Beach Bunny — Honeymoon (Mom + Pop)

Beach Bunny — Honeymoon

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Greg Dulli — Random Desire (Royal Cream/BMG)

Greg Dulli — Random Desire

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Diet Cig — Do You Wonder About Me? (Frenchkiss)

Diet Cig — Do You Wonder About Me?

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Long Neck — World’s Strongest Dog (Self-released)

Long Neck — World’s Strongest Dog

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Oceanator — Things I Never Said (Plastic Miracles)

Oceanator — Things I Never Said

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Teenage Halloween — S/T (Don Giovanni)

Teenage Halloween — S/T

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The Beths — Jump Rope Gazers (Carpark)

The Beths — Jump Rope Gazers

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Bob Mould — Blue Hearts (Merge)

Bob Mould — Blue Hearts

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Ratboys — Printer’s Devil (Topshelf)

Ratboys — Printer’s Devil

Best Songs of 2020

Next up: Anika Pyle did it again this year. She only put out a couple of songs in 2020, but one of them was this indie-pop gem: Poetry vs. Reason. This song would have taken the top slot for me if I hadn’t gotten so wrapped up in Colorblind.

Then, we have Fishbone. As you may or may not have heard, Fishbone is red hot. Fishbone has also been playing in recent years with their full original lineup (minus Kendall), and it’s been amazing to see. This year, news broke that they recorded a new album with Fat Mike, for 2021 release. They teased one track in a live performance — a modern take on Strange Fruit called Estranged Fruit, and holy crap is it good. Since it’s not officially out yet, I will save that song for next year’s list. However, Fishbone also performed a cover of Alice in Chains’ Them Bones for the Museum of Pop Culture Founders Award. For this, they had the full original lineup — Kendall included. And they just slayed it. That one makes the 2020 list, even if it was a live performance and not an official single.

And finally, we got news this year that Sincere Engineer had been signed to Hopeless Records, and with that news, we got a new track, Trust Me, and it kills. When I first heard this band, I considered it a guilty pleasure. The more I listened to their first album, Rhombithian, though, the more I realized that, no, they’re a work of emo-punk beauty, and they crush it without exception. This is their newest, and it makes me pretty excited for the next album.

So here we are…my top tracks of 2020:

  1. Beach Bunny — Colorblind
  2. Anika Pyle — Poetry Vs Reason
  3. Archers of Loaf — Raleigh Days
  4. Greg Dulli — Black Moon
  5. Sincere Engineer — Trust Me
  6. Ratboys — I Go Out at Night
  7. The Beths — Dying to Believe
  8. Long Neck — They Shoot Horses
  9. Diet Cig — Flash Flood
  10. Oceanator — Heartbeat
  11. Greg Dulli — The Tide
  12. Beach Bunny — Cloud 9
  13. Fishbone — Them Bones (live)
  14. Bob Mould — Next Generation
  15. Teenage Halloween — SMH City
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John Pette is too curious for his own good. He is a data scientist, researcher, archivist, and music reviewer. He has run Pette Discographies since 2007, a site for record collectors who want to go deeper into bands’ discographies. Connect with him on Twitter or Instagram.

A version of this article appears on the Pette Discographies Blog.

Written by

Data Scientist at NYU | Ex-U.S. Diplomat | Music Historian and Discographer | Armchair Sociologist | One-time Chemist. None of it makes sense to me either.

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