2020 will go down in the history books on par with 1941, 1968 and 2001 as a year that changed the world forever. In most ways, this was a tragic year. But music in general continued to bring joy to millions of vinyl junkies who couldn’t be with their loved ones.
In 2019, I realized that I had to break out of my arena rock and alternative music prison. A Chicago music legend introduced me to the many great vinyl subscription services available where you receive a record every month. Over the summer, I signed up for a few services, received a bunch of vinyl, then Covid hit!
I started digging into my vinyl collection and monthly deliveries. What follows is my list of finds, favorites and a few surprises too. What did you find that made 2020 just a bit more bearable?
Album of the Year — Lilly Hiatt / Walking Proof
Right when Covid hit, I started listening to a backlog of records that had arrived in January and February. I put this album on, played the Wii and never stopped spinning it this year. This album is more like a state of mind.
Favorite Live Album — Linkin Park / Live at Milton Keynes
This 2017 Record Store Day release sat in my collection until I was looking to kill some time. This record includes some songs that I wasn’t familiar with, but yo The record is available over $100 on the secondary market so if that’s too steep, check out the live concert on YouTube.
Best Record Store Day Release — Hooker ‘N Heat
My favorite RSD releases are ones that surface some long forgotten special recording by artists who are just outside the mainstream. This collaboration features Chicago’s John Lee Hooker in a recording with rock band Canned Heat, who I had never heard of. This live album just sounds so much better on vinyl than streaming. Sorry streaming nerds.
Out of Left Field Album — Caribou / Suddenly
When I received this record, the electronic genre and house style created a negative assumption. Never judge an album by it’s cover art! This album appeared out of left field so without subscribing to a vinyl delivery service, I would have missed this one.
Newly Discovered Archive Album — Nirvana / Live at Reading
Now I’ve been a Nirvana fan since the first time I heard Smells Like Teen Spirit at CO Daniels in Champaign, Illinois. And we are all familiar with their MTV unplugged live performance. But after Post Malone hosted his YouTube fundraiser in April, I dug in deep to Nirvana and was blown away by this peak performance.
Sorry to See You Go — Tony Lewis / The Outfield
You may not know the name of the singer or the band, but when the iconic late 80’s song comes on, everyone over 20 years old knows “Your Love”. I once saw them at Joe’s on Weed Street and they didn’t disappoint. One of my college roommates had a fake ID with the name Tony Lewis on it. RIP.
Best Live Performance — Foo Fighters / Times Like These
I planned to pick Post Malone’s Nirvana fundraiser, but this raw performance, right after the US election and with everything that we’ve gone through this year, was an instant winner. Dave Grohl is still at his peak.
Album Cover of the Year — Texas Sun / Khruangbin and Leon Bridges
The best album covers are art, which is another reason why vinyl is life. What I love about this one is the hint of Georgia O’Keefe’s “Sky Above Clouds IV” and the birth of a new day above the distant Texas horizon, this album cover is simple, colorful and positive.
Best Vinyl Subscription Service — Rough Trade
I’m very impressed with Rough Trade’s selections that don’t seem to follow a theme, but they always pull through with a special edition, additional content and no layups. I don’t always like what they send, but they stretch my boundaries every month.
That’s all from me. What have you been listening to this year even if you just discovered it this year?