Michael McFarland Shares His Top 10 Albums of 2020

Cleveland Singer-Songwriter Michael McFarland is back to share his favorite albums of 2020. If you don’t know McFarland, you should catch up! Garnering comparisons ranging from modern rock acts such as Weezer and Bastille to classic singer-songwriters such as Paul Simon and Elton John, McFarland’s songwriting is frank, expressive, and clever. You can check him out here.

Ready? Here we go!

#10 – Handsome Ghost – Some Still Morning

  • Favorite Tracks: Massachusetts, Weeds
  • On their sophomore album, the Boston-based duo Handsome Ghost deliver more of the dreamy melancholy you’d find on their previous records. Some Still Morning is a record you can sink into, as it softly carries you from lament to lament.

#9 – COIN – Dreamland

  • Favorite Tracks: Cemetery, Crash my car
  • Dreamland was recorded while the band was on tour, in greenrooms, buses, and hotels. That’s always a risky approach for a band, as many acts discover their recordings lose their luster without the studio sheen, but the gamble paid off for the Nashville trio. There’s a grit and life to the tracks that’s rare in modern synth-pop acts.

#8 – Glass Animals – Dreamland

  • Favorite Tracks: Heat Waves, Tangerine
  • The music of this Oxford-based psychedelic pop has always given me the same feeling as the parts of a horror movie between the scary moments. There’s a delicate beauty to the compositions that draws you in but keeps you feeling a bit uneasy the whole time, as if at any moment something could go terribly wrong.

#7 – IRONTOM – Cult Following

  • Favorite Tracks: Call Me the West, Down For Whatever
  • I tend to like my rock music with a bit of swagger, and when your father was a founding member of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, as is the case with IRONTOM’s guitarist Zach Irons, one has to imagine that you’d be born with swagger in your veins. It’s hard to pin down all the stylistic elements that went into the Cult Following album – a bit of glam, a bit of electro, and a whole lot of attitude – but they somehow work together in a bit of brash, loud, swaggering fun.

#6 – Neon Trees – I Can Feel You Forgetting Me

  • Favorite Tracks: Skeleton Boy, Living Single
  • If you’ve enjoyed the music that the pop rock quartet from Provo, Utah has released in the past, you’ll probably enjoy I Can Feel You Forgetting Me. I have, and therefore I do.

#5 – I DON’T KNOW HOW BUT THEY FOUND ME – Razzmatazz

  • Favorite Tracks: Nobody likes the opening band, New Invention
  • Blending modern rock and new-wave influences with a nod to Sergeant Pepper’s-era Beatles and some impressive vocal theatrics, the Salt Lake City-based duo (often shortened to IDKHow) makes you wonder how Panic! at the Disco would sound if Ryan Ross had remained with that project. For any musician who’s ever fought for the attention of an unenthused crowd just waiting for the headliner, track three may hit a little close to home.

#4 – Hayley Williams – Petals for Armor

  • Favorite Tracks: Simmer, Creepin
  • It’s always fun to see an artist who made their bones on powerhouse vocals over high-energy music, like Williams did with Paramore, turn in an album built on nuance and vulnerability. Petals for Armor finds itself following in the musical footsteps of angular pop artists like Imogen Heap more than one might expect, given Williams’ pop-punk roots, and its layers demand that you re-listen.

#3 – Run the Jewels – RTJ4

  • Favorite Tracks: Walking in the snow, JU$T
  • Brooklyn-based rapper and producer El-P, and Atlanta-based rapper Killer Mike continue to prove themselves to be one of the smartest and most relevant hip hop acts. Running by police barricades blocking access to downtown Cleveland while “Walking in the Snow” played through my earbuds will be one of my defining memories of the summer of 2020.

#2 – Biffy Clyro – A Celebration of Endings

  • Favorite Tracks: Tiny Indoor Fireworks, Space
  • Sometimes when listening to a record, you can tell the band enjoyed the process of writing and recording it. I found this to be the case with A Celebration of Endings, as the Scottish alt-rock band shed the cinematic weight of 2019’s Balance, not Symmetry and loosened up a bit on their eighth studio album.

#1 – Misterwives – SUPERBLOOM

  • It’s My Turn, Rock Bottom
  • Intra-band romantic relationships can be challenging, as Misterwives’ lead singer Mandy Lee and percussionist Etienne Bowler discovered. Instead of breaking up the band, they made an album about it, and while unsurprisingly less sentimental than their previous releases (no “Coloring Outside the Lines” to be found here), the determination and resilience made for a great record, and the lyric “I deserve congratulations / ‘cause I came out the other side” is one we can all hold on to as we relegate 2020 to the dustbin of history.

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