2020: Halftime Report

Best New Albums and Best Reissues


Time moves in strange ways in 2020, as we all know. Having days, hours, weeks and months expand and contract at will is surely a byproduct of living through a pandemic, and because of this elasticity, it can be harder to assess what's happened over the last six months. Still, it's an interesting exercise, perhaps even a useful one: with the world spinning so fast, it's easy to miss things so hopefully, you'll find a new album or two to explore here.

I know I have missed many records in 2020 already. Listening time has been at a premium in a way it never has been during my adult life, so I've had to prioritize due to work, taste, and mood. (I haven't been able to get through or to Perfume Genius, Jehnny Beth, or Maria McKee due to the latter.) Additionally, this limited listening time has meant that I've spent more time with old favorites than perhaps I would've had otherwise but, then again, there is a lot to explore on the Fiona Apple, Bob Dylan, and Stephen Malkmus albums.

On the other end of the spectrum, it does seem as if the reissue release schedule is slowing down, a situation not helped by the pandemic throwing the physical marketplace into turmoil. Still, there have been some terrific archival work happening, including excavated unreleased albums by Bobby Bare and Neil Young. Additionally, I would offer a blanket recommendation for any compilation from Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs: they do tremendous work in documenting lost yet vital eras and styles. 

Standard disclaimer: albums are arranged in loose order of preference, a ranking that's bound to change by the end of the year. All of the following are records I like enough to spin a second time this year, possibly even more than that. 

New Albums

  1. Fiona Apple—Fetch The Bolt Cutters

  2. Bob Dylan—Rough And Rowdy Ways

  3. Stephen Malkmus—Traditional Techniques

  4. Soccer Mommy—Color Theory

  5. Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit—Reunions

  6. Phoebe Bridgers—Punisher

  7. The Strokes—The New Abnormal

  8. Brandy Clark—Your Life Is A Record

  9. Lilly Hiatt—Walking Proof

  10. Waxahatchee—Saint Cloud

  11. HAIM—Women In Music, Pt. III

  12. Mike & The Moonpies—Touch of You: The Lost Songs of Gary Stewart

  13. X—Alphabetland

  14. Kip Moore—Wild World

  15. Whitney Rose—We Still Go To Rodeos

  16. Caroline Rose—Superstar

  17. Ashley McBryde—Never Will

  18. Carly Rae Jepsen—Dedicated Side B

  19. Kelsea Ballerini—Kelsea

  20. Mandy Moore—Silver Landings

  21. Charli XCX—How I’m Feeling Now

  22. Puss N Boots—Sister

  23. Norah Jones—Pick Me Up Off The Floor

  24. John Anderson—Years

  25. Hot Country Knights—The “K” Is Silent

  26. Dua Lipa—Future Nostalgia

  27. Hayley Williams—Petals for Armor

  28. Wade Bowen & Randy Rogers—Hold My Beer, Part 2

  29. …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead—X: The Godless Void And Other Stories

  30. Lady Gaga—Chromatica

  31. Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever—Sideways To New Italy

  32. Sam Hunt—Southside

  33. Brendan Benson—Dear Life

  34. Jessie Ware—What’s Your Pleasure?

  35. Pam Tillis—Looking for a Feeling

  36. Frances Quinlan—Likewise

  37. Torres—Silver Tongue

  38. Run the Jewels—RTJ4

  39. Pearl Jam—Gigaton

  40. Paul Weller—On Sunset

  41. Kenny Chesney—Here And Now

  42. Luke Haines & Peter Buck—Beat Poetry for Survivalists

  43. Drive-By Truckers—The Unraveling

  44. The Cadillac Three—Country Fuzz

  45. Huey Lewis & The News—Weather

  46. Tim Burgess—I Love the New Sky

  47. Tenille Townes—The Lemonade Stand

  48. Butch Walker—American Love Story

  49. Marcus King—El Dorado

  50. Little Big Town—Nightfall

  51. Willie Nelson—First Rose Of Spring

  52. Corb Lund—Agricultural Tragic

  53. Margo Price—Perfectly Imperfect at the Ryman

  54. M Ward—Migration Stories

  55. Early James—Singing For My Supper

  56. Niall Horan—Heartbreak Weather

  57. Selena Gomez—Rare

  58. Gone West—Canyons

  59. Lukas Nelson & Promise Of The Real—Naked Garden

  60. Ben Watt—Storm Damage

  61. The Claudettes—High Times in the Dark

  62. Watkins Family Hour—Brother Sister

  63. Aoife Nessa Frances—Land of No Junction

  64. The Cadillac Three—Country Fuzz

  65. Carly Pearce—Carly Pearce

  66. Swamp Dogg—Sorry You Couldn’t Make It

  67. Algiers—There Is No Year

  68. Pet Shop Boys—Hotspot

  69. Kesha—High Road

  70. Ingrid Andress—Lady Like

  71. Maddie & Tae—The Way It Feels

  72. Hinds—The Prettiest Curse

  73. Built to Spill—Built To Spill Plays the Songs of Daniel Johnston

  74. Lucinda Williams—Good Souls Better Angels

  75. The Howling Hex—Knuckleball Express

  76. Della Mae—Headlight

  77. Secret Sisters—Saturn Return

  78. Shelby Lynne—Shelby Lynne

  79. Black Lips—Sing in a World That's Falling Apart

  80. Ray LaMontagne—MonoVision

  81. Courtney Barnett—MTV Unplugged: Live In Melbourne

  82. Liam Gallagher—MTV Unplugged

  83. The 1975—Notes on a Conditional Form

Reissues

  1. Bob Stanley & Pete Wiggs Present Occasional Rain [Ace]

  2. Tea & Symphony: The English Baroque Sound 1968-1974 [Ace]

  3. Supergrass—The Strange Ones 1994-2008

  4. Bobby Bare—Great American Saturday Night

  5. Neil Young—Homegrown

  6. Iron City Houserockers—Have A Good Time…But Get Out Alive (40th Anniversary)

  7. Kursaal Flyers—Little Does She Know: The Complete Recordings [RPM]

  8. Bob Stanley & Pete Wiggs Present The Tears Of Technology [Ace]

  9. Cream—Goodbye Tour Live 1968

  10. Mojo Nixon—The Mojo Manifesto: The Original Album Collection

  11. The Everly Brothers—Down In The Bottom: The Country Rock Sessions 1966-1968 [Cherry Red]

  12. Grateful Dead—June 1976

  13. Sam Cooke—The Complete Keen Years 1957-1960

  14. Andrew Gold—Something New: Unreleased Gold

  15. The Shoes—Elektrafied: The Elektra Albums 1979-1982 [Cherry Red]

  16. Johnny Cash—The Complete Mercury Recordings

  17. Stone Crush: Memphis Modern Soul 1977-1987 [Light in the Attic]

  18. The Honeycombs—Have I The Right: The Complete 60s Albums & Singles [RPM]

  19. Game Theory—Across The Barrier Of Sound: PostScript

  20. Scott Walker Meets Jacques Brel  [Ace]

  21. Duke Ellington—Money Jungle [Blue Note Tone Poet]

  22. Elton John—Live from Moscow 1979

  23. Kraut! Teil 1 Der Norden [Bear Family]

  24. Def Leppard—The Early Years 79-81 

  25. John Lee Hooker—Documenting the Sensation Recordings 1948-1952 [Ace]

  26. The Coasters—Rocks [Bear Family]

  27. Destination Lust—The World Of Love, Sex And Violence: 32 Erotic Fantasies From The Vault [Bear Family]

  28. Destination Health: Doc Feelgood’s Rock Therapy, 30 Bop Pills for Your Recovery [Bear Family]

  29. Iggy Pop—The Bowie Years

  30. Brian Wilson & Van Dyke Parks—Orange Crate Art: 25th Anniversary Edition

  31. Herbie Hancock—The Prisoner [Blue Note Tone Poet]

  32. Laura Branigan—Self Control (Expanded) [Cherry Red]

  33. Grant Green—Nigeria [Blue Note Tone Poet]

  34. The Grateful Dead—Workingman’s Dead: The Angel’s Share

  35. The Stooges—The Stooges (John Cale Mix) [Vinyl Me Please]

  36. David Bowie—ChangesNowBowie

  37. David Bowie—Ouvrez Le Chien (Live in Dallas 95)

  38. The Staple Singers—Come Go With Me: The Stax Collection

  39. Big Joe Turner—The Complete Boss Of The Blues [Bear Family]

  40. Rush—Permanent Waves [40th Anniversary]

  41. Bobby Hatfield—Stay With Me: The Richard Perry Sessions

  42. Hank Williams—Pictures from Life’s Other Side

  43. Prince—Up All Nite With Prince: The One Nite Alone Collection