[MarsNews] Top Ten Albums for 2020 (A Definitive List)

It really did look like 2020 was going to be a complete bust for new music for a long while.  We had a few releases for the first couple of months, then Covid-19 derailed it all.  It seemed like sometime after the summer, labels and bands came to the realization that live shows were not coming back anytime soon.  So the fall was crammed with new releases.  2020 was saved!

There are a lot of Top Ten Lists on the blogs at this time of year, but what makes this the “Definitive” one is the wording in the title.  So enjoy and if you don’t agree with me, remember The Dude’s words…

 

#10. Armored Saint | Punching The Sky

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John Bush’s “other” band has certainly impressed me with Punching The Sky.  One of my goals for 2021 it to dive into their back catalog and discover more.  This really does put on display how much Bush added to Anthrax in the ’90s.

Full Review
Best Song: Never You Fret

#9. Testament | Titans of Creation

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Titans of Creation came out in April and remained to be my favourite thrash metal album of 2020.  It is another example of how Testament has come into their own as a band that delivers some hard thrash with a hint of rock ‘n roll swing.  It is really time to extend “The big 4” to “The big 5” to include them, isn’t it?

Full Review
Best Song: Dream Deceiver

#8. Neil Young | Homegrown

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A lost album from Neil that was originally recorded in 1974.  Many of its tunes have popped up elsewhere over the years, but they fit best right here. 

Full Review
Best Song: Star of Bethlehem

#7. The Strokes | The New Abnormal

The Strokes - The New Abnormal Cover

The Strokes made a comeback in 2020 with The New Abnormal.  It’s best tune is Bad Decisions, a mash up of Modern English’s I Melt With You and Billy Idol’s Dancing With Myself with original vocals and arrangement.  Listen to it for yourself!  It completely works! 

Full Review
Best Song: Bad Decisions

#6. Ella Fitzgerald | The Lost Berlin Tapes

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Ella was best on stage and The Lost Berlin Tapes I believe captured her better than any other recording I have heard.  I normally would not include a live release in the top ten, but I can make an exception for Ella.  Her live performances are better than most who spent months in the studio.  Even if you don’t like jazz I think you should check it out. 

Full Review
Best Song: Mack The Knife

#5. John Fogerty | Fogerty’s Factory

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Throughout the past spring and summer, John gathered with his children to make YouTube videos covering some of his classic tunes.  The band was dubbed Fogerty’s Factory, and listening back to it is like a time capsule for 2020.  I will cherish this positive side effect of continuous lockdowns forever. 

Full Review
Best Song: City Of New Orleans

#4. Huey Lewis & The News | Weather

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Thank goodness the next two albums are short because that was the ONLY thing that made the rest of this list a wee bit easier to rank.  Weather is likely Huey Lewis’ final appearance in the recording studio.  It is a blessing how they recorded all 7 tracks before he was diagnosed with Ménière’s disease.  Every song is performed behind the idea that is was just “another album” instead of a final one.  Not a somber note is played making his last run a sweet one.

Full Review
Best Song: I Am There For You

#3. Freeways | True Bearings

Free ways True Bearing cover

Hard Rock done without shenanigans!  You can’t get more Canadian than that!   Freeways’ debut is short and left me wanting more.  These guys sound a bit like Thin Lizzy/’70s Judas Priest/Budgie while bringing their own into the mix.  Follow the links, listen to their tunes, then support them on Bandcamp.  I want to see this little ol’ band from Brampton performing live at some point!

Full Review
Best Song:
Dead Air

#2. Storm Force | Age of Fear

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Labeling Storm Force’s debut album as a throwback to the sound of ’80s hair bands does it injustice.  Their music really does transcend the genre.  Think Cinderella, Van Halen, or Guns ‘n Roses.  Bands that were part of the scene, yet above it at the same time.  That’s where Storm Force belongs!

Full Review
Best Song:
Breathe – Words

#1. AC/DC | PWR/UP

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Thank goodness my favourite band of ALL TIME took some time this year to spread their anti-noise pollution message!  Another stroke of luck for me as it made the decision for top spot a little easier.  I’ll admit, part of the reasons why I give PWR/UP the distinct honour of #1 are AC/DC’s legacy and timing of this release. 

As we began to enter the “2nd wave” in September, it cemented the notion I had for a while.  That one trip I took to the record store in August was really going to be it for a very long time.  The end of the year won’t be spent with friends and family.  We got the extended dance version of Covid-19 instead of the radio edit.  Forget 2020, I’ll be surprised if 2021 delivers “normal” at all.  That was a funk.

Then PWR/UP was officially announced.  Wait a minute… yes, things are garbage right now but good can still happen!

And AC/DC did deliver a fantastic album.  Many are saying it is their best since The Razors Edge.  I might even go back further.  Every spin of PWR/UP has me liking it more and more.  It is different while being their usual comfort food. 

Full Review
Best Song: Through The Mists Of Time

I’ll be handing out some awards tomorrow! Stay tuned!

[Album Review] The Strokes | The New Abnormal

I’ve been really lucky with The Strokes back catalog, finding their first three albums at my local mission thrift for $2 a piece.  But when I heard The New Abnormal, I had to buy… when I saw it for $10 on amazon on Black Friday.  Deals are king around here!

With Rick Rubin in the producer’s chair, The New Abnormal is some of The Strokes best stuff in 15 years and it is VERY new wave at times.

It isn’t apparent at first.  The opener The Adults Are Talking is straight up classic, turn of the millennium The Strokes.  A solid pop-rocker with simple delayed guitar effects that give them that clean garage band sound a ton of bands copied for the following 20 years.

Selfless is the same deal, just midtempo and a little more grit in the tone of the lead guitar. 

Brooklyn Bridge to Chorus is full on new wave.  An synth driven pop tune mixed with The Strokes rock sensibility.  Something you can rock out to half of and dance to the next.

As I was listening to Bad Decisions, I could hear a mash up between to new wave hits from the past, Modern English’s I Melt With You with Billy Idol’s vocal melody from Dancing With Myself.  I thought, “Oh boy, here is a lawsuit in the making”; but I was happy to see both Billy and Modern’s English’s Tony James listed in the credits. I never associated these two songs together before but it completely works. 

Two members of Psychedelic Furs are listed in the credits for Eternal Summer.  I’m don’t know enough about Furs to tell you which tune was used as an influence for it, but my wife Sarah thought I was listening to Pink Floyd when she overheard the stereo.  I can totally see that.  

The 2nd half of the album has the band mellowing out with At The Door, Why Are Sundays So Depressing, and Not The Same Anymore.  I normally don’t care for albums that bunch all of their slower tracks together, but these guys make it work.  There is enough variations between the melody and tone of each track to keep it interesting.

The Strokes - The New Abnormal inside

At the Door‘s opening features only Julian Casablancas’ on vocals with an “synth guitar” backing him up.  I’m not usually much of a lyrics guys, but these ones hit home.

You begged me not to go
Sinkin’ like a stone
Use me like an oar
And get yourself to shore

The album’s closer, Ode to the Mets does involve New York City’s OTHER baseball team as Casablancas wrote the lyrics after the Mets lost the 2016 National League Wild Card game.  The lyrics are not exactly about baseball.  They are either about the feeling of loss after success or completely nonsensical.  I can’t tell.  I think they play it after every loss at Citi Field now. 

And that is The New Abnormal.  I give bonus points for its 9 tunes to clocking in at 45 minutes.  The perfect length for a rock ‘n roll album.  I’m glad I didn’t wait to find this one in a wild.  The $10 cover charge has already paid for itself.

4.5/5

The Strokes - The New Abnormal back Cover

November 2020 Music Collection Update, Part 1

Like last month, I’m splitting up the monthly pickups into two posts.  These are all of my online purchases for November 2020.  It is turning out to be a great year with a lot of excellent new releases and collections are up for grabs this holiday season!   

These are the ones I had pre-ordered on amazon:

Ella Fitzgerald, The Lost Berlin Tapes

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Ella was best on stage and The Lost Berlin Tapes I believe captured her better than any other recording I have heard.  Even if you don’t like jazz I think you should check it out.   Full Review

Pantera, Reinventing the Steel

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Reinventing the Steel The 20th Anniversary Edition is a no-brainer must-have for any Pantera fan even if you already own and prefer the original CD.  Full Review

Jimi Hendrix, Live In Maui

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Jimi performing in front of an active volcano two months prior to his death.  This collection includes the concert on two 2CDs and a Blu-ray of the show. 

AC/DC, Power Up

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What do you do when your favourite rock band ever releases new material for the first time in six years?  You double dip with the CD and the vinyl release.  Worth it. Full Review

I grabbed a couple of CDs off of amazon on Black Friday.  $10 each. 

The Strokes, The New Abnormal

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I haven’t bought a new release from The Strokes… ever!  I have been lucky finding their previous releases out in the wild for $2, but I gave this one a spin on Spotify and it is their best in years.  A full review is incoming for this one. 

John Fogerty, Fogerty’s Factory

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The global pandemic of 2020 has had a few highlights, and John Fogerty’s YouTube channel has been one of them.  Sequestered with his kids during the lockdown(s), he recreated a bunch of classic tunes with them.  Full review is incoming. 

And finally, I ordered from the band’s website a signed copy of:

Storm Force, Age of Fear

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Thanks to all of the write ups from fellow bloggers, Mike DeLano, Deke, and The Mad Metal Man, I was finally gave Storm Force’s Age of Fear my full attention.  It is truely a fantastic piece of ’80s hard rock that shouldn’t be missed! Full Review 

So, that is all.  Stay locked in right here for Part 2, coming up!  It will feature some Weezer, Aerosmith, and Bob Dylan!  All $2 grabs  You don’t want to miss it!

October 2020 Music Collection Update, Part Deux!

As I mentioned in part one, October was such a good month for adding new tunes to the collection that I had to split the post into two.  Part one is all of my eBay, amazon, and other purchases that you can read right here.  Part Deux, features all of my mission thrift pickups I got for $2!  That’s a Canadian Toonie each, folks!

Now, on with the countdown:

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I’m slowly building a decent collection of CDs from The Strokes.  I’ve already picked up their first two albums from the mission thrift now I have their third, The First Impressions of Earth from 2006.  I recognized the first tune, You Only Live Once.  As of now  but that is as far as I got.   Look forward to the future spin.

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Someone dumped out of their Paul Simon collection which is good news for me.  The only tune I knew from Graceland is You Can Call Me Al.  I loved the video for it with Chevy Chase when I was a kid.  I listened to the whole thing the other night and it is very nice.  I haven’t gotten around to his debut yet, but it has to be good, right?  

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I had never heard Bonnie Raitt’s Road Tested before but of course it is good.  Guests include Bryan Adams, Jackson Browne, and Bruce Hornsby.  I had a “back up” copy of Buddy Guy’s Sweet Tea back in the day.  It’s a bit of a mellow one but there is still some great guitar work on it.

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The Blues Brothers was my introduction to Sam & Dave.  Otis Redding and the Coasters, are great albums to put on while doing chores around the house. Just like how… 

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…Sarah and I listened of Marvin Gaye Live! last night while making dinner the other night and it… cooks.  I haven’t got to Barry White yet.  Michael Jackson’s Bad I had on cassette when I was a kid.  So that’s a bit of a nostalgia grab.  I also had on cassette… 

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…Cocktail – The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack.  It is not great but loaded with memories.  I still know all of the words to The Beach Boys Kokomo because of it.  Speaking of The Beach Boys…

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…how about The Pet Sounds Sessions for $2?  Even this basic 3CD set goes for $40 on eBay. With the Beatles is labeled as a German mono version, but all of the artwork is in English.  So, I’ll have to do some research on that one. 

And finally, I got both kinds of music.  Some country and some western.

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Keen observers of this series will note how I already picked up a Willie Nelson collection last month, but The Essential is a deeper dive with a second disc, so why not?  Kenny’s Twenty is all the Kenny I’ll ever need. 

And that is all of it.  CDs are so fun to collection when their $2.  Stay locked in to this blog for more coming soon!