2020- The Year in Music pt. 1
Without a doubt 2020, was the year where everything changed and the music business was no exception. While live concerts and public appearances were mostly cancelled, many artists retreated to their home studios and produced an enormous amount of thoughtful, reflective music. Several artists produced two or even three full albums during the last twelve months, while others released double albums with 20-30 songs. Despite the limitations everyone faced, this was a prolific year for music and though no truly spectacular album was released this year, dozens of interesting and diverse records were. Each year I listen to 80 or 90 new releases and make a Spotify playlist of my favorite songs from the best albums that year. I use a website called www.albumoftheyear.org , that collects critics list of the year’s best albums from over a hundred publications and combines them into one definitive list. My goal is to introduce everyone to music they may not have had a chance to hear and hopefully support these artists on Spotify.
Return of the Dinosaurs:
One of the most interesting developments this year was the arrival of quality material from so many of Rock’s elder statesman. With critically acclaimed albums by Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young, and Elvis Costello all dropping in quick succession, the year was a treat for fans of these stalwarts. Neil Young’s Homegrown was a hidden treasure, featuring songs from a long forgotten project and never released together until this year. While many of the songs are familiar to hard core fans, this is a collection of material from Neil’s heyday and they were never released together until now. Elvis Costello, who has been a Changeling of sorts, over the years, flitting from one genre of music to the next, creating a mystifying discography. His new album, Hey Clockface, is like a sampler of Costello’s back catalog, weaving his original post-punk anthems, with Soft Jazz crooning, and intimate confessional dirges. Most casual fans won’t like every turn on the record, but everyone should find a song or two that they can treasure.
Bob Dylan has received the most praise for his Rough and Rowdy Ways. After delving into the Great American Songbook for a few albums of covers, Dylan returns here with a fresh new perspective and some of his most engaging music in years. His original nasally tone has been weathered over time and now carries even more weight, making his delivery somehow a strength instead of a drawback. These songs are the road weary tales, full of hope and desperation at the same time. This is truly an exceptional album, don’t overlook it as just another release from a washed-up has-been. This is a haunting statement from one of our greatest writers, who still has something to say.
My favorite record from this group was the album, Letter to You, from Bruce Springsteen. To be fair, I have always preferred the Boss, to these other icons, but in this case I think most people would agree. Letters to You is literally a love letter to us all in this time of despair and pain. Bruce writes intimate new material and mixes it in with a few unreleased songs from his Born to Run/The River era. These songs are current yet nostalgic like finding out your favorite album had a flip side that you never heard. This album though, is wizened with age in a way that those early albums could never have been. Bruce is reflective and cryptic about his past. He’s not just reliving the “Glory Days” but is offering a unique perspective on what comes next. All of these records showcase excellent songwriters, aware that there are more days in their past then their future, but somehow they’ve made peace with that and it is reflected in their music. Don’t expect to hear this kind of music on any radio station anymore, but settle into your best comfy chair with a glass of aged Cabernet and let the collective wisdom of these dinosaurs wash over your soul.
Next Blog - Year in Review Pt. 2