Andrew Stewart Poop 2020


BEST: 2020


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1. Jeff Rosenstock / NO DREAM: Pent up, angry, lonely, frustrated? This guy’s got your back. Here Rosenstock spits fire and explodes, stutter-steps and surges again with this impassioned, imperfect, incredible punk album that just feels emblematic of the year we’ve had. The thing about Jeff? He’s also got soul, sounding notes of hope throughout about the importance of sticking it out, and sticking together. This year, this album was the best kind of medicine. (playlist: “Ohio Turnpike”)

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2. Dehd / Flower of Devotion: Sounding like a deep cut from the far end of the vinyl bin, this deceptively rich album mixes surf-inspired guitar work with yelping, reverb-drenched call-and-response vocals, sounding like a haunted-house Roy Orbison/Beach House mashup, both retro and future-forward. (playlist: “Disappear”)

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3. Waxahatcheee / Saint Cloud: Katie Crutchfield has finally landed in her spot, putting down roots and blooming upward and outward; here she’s produced an all-time classic of modern folk music, her lyrics like tortured, gorgeous branches growing toward the sky, the songs Midwestern meditations evoking a walk by the river at sunset. (playlist: “Ruby Falls”)

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4. John Moreland / LP5: You thought he was a country singer? Think again. These are spare, soulful songs about fear, love and loneliness, the pure, gorgeous production highlighting his black-coffee baritone, the lyrics poetic, resonant and real. Like John Hiatt, he writes songs that feel like they’ve always existed. (playlist: “A Thought Is Just a Passing Train”)

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5. HAIM / Women In Music Pt. III: Resistance is futile; the acclaim is deserved. This time the Haim sisters are firing on all cylinders, delivering a modern pop powerhouse album, love songs fortified with exhilarating dance beats that never let up. With Rostam producing (among others), it’s a slick, shiny party boat; and every song here is a winner. (playlist: “Gasoline”)

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6. Disq / Collector: These young Wisconsinistas gnash and smash their way through a pugnaciously melodic set of three-chord jams that keep the blood pumping. In a year without Parquet Courts, here’s that sneering, off-kilter, punk-infused power-pop you didn’t know you needed so badly. (playlist: “Loneliness”)

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7. The Strokes / The New Abnormal: Criminally underrated (likely due to Casablancas fatigue), this album is nothing short of spectacular. Abandoning any pretense of writing hits, these guys instead get weird, and it’s brilliant. Perhaps it was the low expectations, but this album overdelivered more than anything else this year. (playlist: “Not The Same Anymore”)

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8. The Dead Tongues / Transmigration Blues: Hiss Golden Messenger sideman explores concepts in psychedelic folk, with songs that unwind like a country river, lazy bends revealing surprising and occasionally breathtaking vistas; but it’s the ride itself, the slow float, that’s the reason to listen. (playlist: “Bama Boys Circa 2005”)

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9. Silverbacks / Fad: Confident Dubliners kick in the door with this dynamic, propulsive debut, adopting the crisp sound and neck-snapping rhythms of late Talking Heads without ever imitating, quoting Malkmus here and there, and generally just being awesome. This one stayed in rotation all year. (playlist: “Dunkirk”)

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10. Kevin Morby / Sundowner: Morby’s “Nashville Skyline,” indubitably. A quarantine album recorded a full year before the pandemic began, this one speaks of an isolation of the mind brought on by external forces, and is beautifully timed, a necessary palate cleanser after the voluptuous too-muchness of last year’s sessions. (playlist: “Wander”)

11. Trace Mountains / Lost in the Country: Dave Benton (formerly of LVL UP) relocates to Kingston, producing a sweet, weird indie-folk ramble that feels inspired by the Hudson Valley and her open spaces. (playlist: “I Am Leaving You”)
12. Young Jesus / Welcome to Conceptual Beach: Chasing Big Ideas and unafraid to reach for something grand, this L.A. group really lets the horses run, delivering songs that sound like extended hymns for a secular age, in a year that felt devoid of spirit and spirituality. (playlist: “Lark”)
13. I’m Glad It’s You / Every Sun, Every Moon: Massive hooks, big refrains, enormous choruses; we all need a bit of uncomplicated emotional uplift sometimes and, hey, that’s why emo never really goes out of style. This one here is emo you can live with. (playlist: “Myths”)
14. Gum Country / Somewhere: Coming out of the gate at full speed and never slowing down, this is all buzzing guitars and dazzling hooks; but the band is also expert at building tension with their hypnotic, looping jams. A true delight. (playlist: “Talking To My Plants”)
15. Bonny Light Horseman / Bonny Light Horseman: A set of traditional folk songs from this supergroup-in-name-only, all dressed up and ready to party in denim and bolos; here Eric Johnson (of Fruit Bats) is the glue that holds it all together. (playlist: “The Roving”)
16. Kiwi jr. / Football Money: PEI punkers play party rock proudly. Did I mention Parquet Courts already? Yeah, here’s that sound again. Pure fun, no complaining. (playlist: “Salary Man”)
17. Nation of Language / Introduction, Please: Razor-sharp and nearly flawless, the best of the new New Wave this year is pure Numan worship, in the best way. (playlist: “Indignities”)
18. Lawn / Johnny: Straight-up, uncomplicated indie rock from the Big Easy, charming away your doubts with big energy and even bigger hooks. (playlist: “Night Time Creatures”)
19. Bad Bunny / YHLQMDLG: Bright and shiny upbeat Latin pop with dancehall beats, and absolutely out-of-this-world production; inscrutable, but irresistible. (playlist: “Pero Ya No”)
20. Bill Callahan / Gold Record: Suddenly this stripped-down, barren baritone is just what you need to make you feel grounded, like ballast for your soul. (playlist: “Pigeons”)
21. Beach Bunny / Honeymoon: The album you wish The Beths had made this year, this one’s terser, poppier, rawrrrrr. A nice pop-punk nugget to elevate your mood. (playlist: “Rearview”)
22. H.C. McEntire / Eno Axis: A deeply soulful folk-country album, saturated and atmospheric. Solo seems to suit her, and here it’s all moody ballads and slow burns. (playlist: “Final Bow”)
23. Diet Cig / Do You Wonder About Me?: New Paltz goes nationwide with this album of bright, chirpy power-pop, with confessional lyrics custom-made for now. (playlist: “Night Terrors”)
24. Bartees Strange / Live Forever: A true mélange of sound and style, this is hard-edged guitar rock at its core, the sharp edges softened with accents of soul and blues. (playlist: “Boomer”)
25. Fontaines D.C. / A Hero’s Death: A comedown from last year’s brilliant debut, this one’s deep and thoughtful, but that angry, animating spark has dimmed. (playlist: “You Said”)

THE REST

Fiona Apple / Fetch the Bolt Cutters: Super-cool, maybe even groundbreaking; but too much work.
Phoebe Bridgers / Punisher: Some truly amazing lyrical moments, though monotony drags it down.
Zachary Cale / False Spring: Another smart, distinctive album of sneaky-good folk songs.
Cloud Nothings / The Black Hole Understands: Rock on a mission, a straight line to the horizon.
Mikal Cronin / Switched On Seeker: A complete reworking of last year’s album, Moog-forward.
Cut Worms / Nobody Lives Here Anymore: Genius tempered by obsession, in sepia tones.
Deeper / Auto-Pain: Three Imaginary Boys-era Cure? In imitation, a band could do worse.
Destroyer / Have We Met: A masterpiece, if not for his inability to look away from his own reflection.
The Districts / You Know I’m Not Going Anywhere: Underrated arena-rock from Philly, a grower.
Bob Dylan / Rough and Rowdy Ways: He hasn’t sounded this good, or this weird, in many years.
Tim Easton / Campfire Propaganda, Vol. 1: Our pal from Nashville only makes great records.
Empty Country / Empty Country: Cymbals Eat Guitars by any other name…are still fucking great.
Extraa / Baked: Paris-based band makes lo-fi crunchy folk pop that warms you up on a cold day.
Dominic Fike / What Could Possibly Go Wrong: A guilty pleasure, this slick rap hybrid just grabs you.
Fruit Bats / Siamese Dream: Eric Johnson strikes again, covering Smashing Pumpkins and winning.
Fuzz / III: Ty Segall climbs behind the kit for this one but his influence remains, and it’s heavy.
Hello Forever / Whatever It Is: Like Queen meets the Beach Boys, it’s a mess of charming psychedelia.
illuminati hotties / FREE I.H.: A throwaway album of garbagey punk-rock slays without even trying.
Juice Wrld / Legends Never Die: The tragedy is, you’re dismissing this without ever listening to it.
Jim Lauderdale / When Carolina Comes Home Again: Pure, classic country from a modern legend.
Gabe Lee / Honky Tonk Hell: Largely ignored, this one is full of joltingly great country-rock songs.
Adrianne Lenker / songs: Her lyrics are as good as anyone’s, but the absence of the full band hurts.
Lomelda / Hannah: Wallflower anthems reveal their gravity with patience and repeated listens.
Stephen J. Malkmus / Traditional Techniques: A weird new world for SJM, slinkily sidewinding, solo.
Jon McKiel / Bobby Jo Hope: Washed-out ’70’s-tinged soft rock, collaged from old reels found in a garage.
Blake Mills / Mutable Set: Contemplative set from this guitar maestro is like a ribbon studded with gems.
The Mountain Goats / Getting Into Knives: The more interesting of two albums this year, sharp and jaunty.
My Morning Jacket / The Waterfall II: Not bad for a five-year-old set of songs from the leftovers bin.
Night Shop / The Fountain EP: A short, smart set from this Morby sideman, reverberant and haunting.
PUP / This Place Sucks Ass EP: PUP fucking rules. Still seething, here they’re finally fixing to blow.
Mike Polizze / Long Lost Solace Find: Purling Hiss frontman teams up with Kurt Vile, and gets sensitive.
Porridge Radio / Every Bad: Insanely accomplished moody modern rock, like a panther in the wild.
Porches / Ricky Music: He’s undone by his inconsistency, but this is seriously underrated candy floss.
Pottery / Welcome To Bobby’s Motel: Like White Denim, their brilliant, scattered rock sound needs focus.
Ratboys / Printer’s Devil: Full of beautifully crafted songs, but suffers from a lack of adventurousness.
Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever / Sideways To New Italy: Aussies slip a bit but still jam hard here.
Rose City Band / Summerlong: Wooden Shjips side project sounds like an updated Workingman’s Dead.
Run The Jewels / RTJ4: Heroes aren’t afraid, and here they stand firm against everything wrong right now.
Shopping / All or Nothing: With a hard-edged New Wave sound, it’s all rubber bands and sharp corners.
Sturgill Simpson / Cuttin’ Grass: A fascinating guy with a counterintuitive outlook, gettin’ back to basics.
Sorry / 925: Self-serious Londoners shimmer like Laura Marling covering Bloc Party, and sound amazing.
Chris Stapleton / Starting Over: Simple country-soul songs from one of the most powerful voices in music.
Stay Inside / Viewing: With the year’s best band-name-by-mistake, these are Brooklyn’s answer to Deftones.
Sufjan Stevens / The Ascension: Beautiful and ambitious, but simply too formless this time around.
Sweeping Promises / Hunger For a Way Out: Like early Sleater Kinney through an AM radio, it’s all energy.
Teenage Halloween / Teenage Halloween: Excellent punk-pop album, like Sum 41 covering Buffalo Tom.
Tennis / Swimmer: Still having fun with their flawless homage to that ‘70’s soft rock sound, updated.
Three Queens in Mourning & Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy / Hello Sorrow, Hello Joy: Killer covers, two ways.
Westerman / Your Hero Is Not Dead: Rich production highlights his ethereal voice, made for late nights.
Hailey Whitters / The Dream: Self-produced Nashville album recalls early Dolly Parton, pure and simple.

STILL DON’T GET IT

The 1975 / Notes on A Conditional Form
Grimes / Miss Anthropocene
Perfume Genius / Set My Heart on Fire Immediately
Rina Sawayama / SAWAYAMA
Donald J. Trump / Toxic Waste
Yves Tumor / Heaven to a Tortured Mind

Andrew Stewart
Rhinebeck, NY

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