The first two months of 2020 seem like a decade ago. It was certainly a different world than the one we live in now. As I look over my listening habits during 2020, it is clear that all of the chaos of the year had me seeking somewhat calmer music than I normally listen to. That said, there was an abundance of excellent music to choose from. Artists who were prevented from touring channeled their energy into recording new albums, and we are the beneficiaries of that.
Number 11: Katatonia’s City Burials
Katatonia improved on 2017’s amazing Fall of Hearts with City of Burials. Jonas Renkse’s vocals are some of the finest in rock, and the rest of the band are worthy accompanists. While there are still some crunchingly hard tracks, the standout ones – like “Lacquer” – are full of stillness and hushed tones.
Number 10: Lunatic Soul’s Through Shaded Woods
There are all kinds of primal rhythms and timeless melodies happening here, and the result is Mariusz Duda’s finest release as Lunatic Soul . You can read more of our thoughts on it here.
Number 9: Kevin Keller’s The Front Porch Of Heaven
Keller is one of the finest composers of classical music today. This song cycle was composed and recorded after he underwent open heart surgery. It is an extraordinary work that is life-affirming and encouraging. It is rare for instrumental pieces to communicate such feeling and reassurance.
Number 8: The Bardic Depths
Spirit of Cecilia’s own Brad Birzer and Dave Bandana joined forces for this tribute to J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and Owen Barfield. The music runs the gamut from elegant spaciness to funky prog. It is a blast to listen to, and I hope Robin Armstrong’s Gravity Dream label plans to release more from them. You can read my full review here.
Number 7: Pineapple Thief’s Versions of the Truth
Bruce Soord has really come into his own with the past few PT albums. Having drummer Gavin Harrison on board has injected a huge dose of energy into their music, making Versions of the Truth their best album ever.
Number 6: Loma’s Don’t Shy Away
The most interesting sounding album in this list. Loma is an American trio who take loose jams and breathy vocals to create an utterly beautiful sound that is compulsively listenable.
Number 5: Glass Hammer’s Dreaming City
Has Glass Hammer ever released a mediocre album? Not that I’m aware of, and I have 29 in my music collection. Dreaming City is one of the hardest-edged albums of their career, conjuring up memories of classic Rush, but maintaining that unique Glass Hammer sound. You can read my full review here.
Number 4: Gazpacho’s Fireworker
A new direction for Gazpacho, as they incorporate choirs and orchestra into their sound. The “Fireworker” of the title is the primal presence in every human that we have to control if we are to be civilized. You can read more of our thoughts on this album here.
Number 3: Kyros’ Celexa Dreams
What do you get when you mash up the best of ’80s pop/rock with a contemporary prog sensibility? This fantastic album that has logged dozens of listens on my stereo. I can’t say enough good things about it, and I hope Kyros doesn’t take another four years to record a followup.
Number 2: Sanguine Hum’s A Trace of Memory
Recorded during UK’s lockdown, this sounds like all the members of Sanguine Hum were in telepathic communication instead of Zoom. A tremendously satisfying set of songs that reward repeated listens. You can read more of our thoughts on this album here.
Number 1: Days Between Stations’ Giants
In my earlier review, I suggested this might be the album of the year, and you know what? I was right! Billy Sherwood, Colin Moulding, and Durga McBroom all join forces with Oscar Fuentes Bills (keyboards) and Sepand Samzadeh (guitar) to create a wonderfully fun and thoughtful work that is comparable to the best albums of the, well, giants of prog rock. This album is destined to be a classic that will be cited years from now.
So, those are my ten favorite albums of 2020. Honorable mentions go to Lonely Robot, Kansas, Pain Of Salvation, and Neal Morse. Meanwhile, I hope you have a Merry Christmas and a wonderful New Year.
Update: Mr. Bandana of Bardic Depths pointed out that I listed eleven albums (two number 7’s), so I’ve corrected that mistake. In my defense, I blame 2020.