Let’s get something out of the way right out of the gate here – you won’t find the album of the year in this Missive. This is because we haven’t actually chosen an album of the year this time around. Well, that’s not really true. You see, we actually did the whole song and dance; we opened a list for everyone on staff to submit their top twenty five albums, we ran some fancy algorithms on the resulting data (yes, plural), and we got a few different lists. But they all felt wrong. They all felt less like a cohesive group of albums that were indicative of a shared perspective on 2020 in music from our staff. To add to that, the whole exercise felt wrong, as it has felt wrong for the past few years. We’ve never been secretive about the fact that giving albums scores and ranks is something we don’t like to do (which is why we no longer have review scores, by the by).
So, we decided to say what we’ve decided to say about these rituals and customs for the past few years: “no”. We’re not going to run through a process just because it is “the way we’ve always done things”. We’re not going to publish a list that feels irrelevant and outdated, a list in a format that no longer represents who we are. Because here’s the most important thing that going through the steps of aggregating a big ol’ list taught us: the blog’s staff no longer exists. That sounds scary, right? I’m here to tell you that it’s really not. You see, people like order. They like when things fit into clearly demarcated boxes, whether those boxes are genre shaped, list shaped or what have you. And that’s fine; I like that as well. I use genres everyday and I’ve made a top twenty five list for 2020 myself (as you’ll see in the separate Staff Top 25 post).
But the reality of boxes is that sometimes they don’t fit. When all you have is a hammer, etc. So, why use them? The tastes of Heavy Blog’s staff have diverged further and further from anything anyone might want to call cohesive over the past few years and that’s a good thing. This is why we created the different columns, admittedly, without perhaps even understanding why we were doing so. That lets each one of our writers pursue and develop their own fascination and love of a genre as its own thing, diving deeper into the sub-section of music which they adore. Of course, we have our shared meeting points; most of us listen to multiple genres and there are a few albums each year which leap out of the genre fragmentation and cut across sub-sections of the staff’s taste.
But does that make them better? That is the logic of the aggregate, the logic of cohesion: that which most people like is superior. And that’s fine! That’s not “wrong”. There is something to be said about albums which manage to be so good, so moving or ambitious, that they wow even those who do not frequently enjoy the style they are in. But is that what we want to say? We could say that; that’s what our lists in the past have said, whether we knew we were saying it or not. And it was fine, it was what we wanted to say back then, one way or another. But that’s no longer the case; Heavy Blog’s end of year content should no longer be about which album is best, or not primarily about that, but about which albums were great. In other words, it should not be about ranking but about curation because curation is what we’ve made our chief trade in the past few years.
So, instead of one big list of top twenty five or top fifty albums, we present to you sixteen categories of varying seriousness into which each staff member was allowed to submit one album. We call this list the Albums of the Year list. Now this list is not about that one album which is “better than all” but about albums that did what they did better than most. It’s also about having some god damn fun! Remember fun? That’s the thing we do all of this for, that’s the thing which keeps us coming back to music. We love music, we love to write, and, by Jove, we should have some fun while doing it! So some of the categories on the list are serious and precise. Some of them are funny and fuzzy, not well defined on purpose. All of them contain marvelous albums for what they do, excellent pieces of music that channel their specific category in ways which at least on member of the staff loved.
Listen, the real secret allure of fragmentation is that we know that we are all broken. We know that we all have our own perspectives on the world and that the blue that I am seeing might not be the blue that you are seeing (to borrow a notoriously simplistic way of looking at this). The real secret is that we would all like to let go of that as a problem and stop obsessing over how we might be different than each other, over who is correct and who is wrong. The real secret is that we all know that there is no one answer to the question of identity, perspective, and truth. So why try and answer it? Why not, instead, revel in the diversity which it gives us? If chaos is the rule of the day, and you can bet your ass that it is, then why not embrace it?
That’s the Albums of the Year list. We have embraced chaos with it because music is irreducible. We have embraced our fragmentary nature because it is our fragmentary nature which gives us our strength, when all of the fragments are brought, not together, but alongside each other. We know, and we also finally say, that music can not be hemmed in, cannot be pre-selected, cannot be fully reduced to numbers, ranks, and lists. Some of the other columns on this Missive do have ranked lists and that’s fine but at the core of it, at the center of our madness that is the Albums of the Year list, there are no ranks. The Albums of the Year list says something different. It says: “these are the albums we love and we bring you a lot more of them because we know that everyone who reads us will find at least one new album to love from this list”.
Oh, and if you bloody insist, there are also individual top twenty five lists from all members of the blog. And, as mentioned above, members of each column got the chance to summarize the year in their own way. Some went with top ten lists. Some went with even more albums, presented without rank. Some didn’t even focus on 2020, instead choosing to use the opportunity to look further into the past. However they decided to run things, we let them. We knew that whichever method they chose, it would bleed over with the love of music that actually makes us all, at the end of the day, staff members of Heavy Blog. It’s also that love, more than ranks and lists, that unite us with you, the readers. It is that love that has brought us all here to celebrate music and to enjoy. It is that love that cannot be hemmed in by fences, defined, ranked, and consumed. It is the love we all feel when we listen to an album we love, a love beyond assault, defense, justification or logic. Chaos rules on that love! Music abounds in that love! Fantastic albums are waiting to be loved!
Let’s get to it.
The Year in Review
Albums of the Year
Sixteen categories, over eighty albums, and lots, and lots, and lots of great music
The Best Year – 2020 in Review
Eden muses on the year we just had, pattern-seeking brains, music as times, and more. You know, Eden stuff.
Heavy Blog’s Staff’s Top 25
We know you love your lists, so here’s a bunch of them! Each staff member’s top twenty five albums, to be exact
Albums of the Year – Reader’s Poll Edition
We asked all of you what were your favorite albums of 2020. Here are the results!
Scott and Jonathan look at how death metal interacted with the mainstream, hype, and expectation in 2020!
Pete, Jordan, and Eden look back on a year of cavernous echoes from an abyss of blackness. You know, the riffs.
Post Rock Post
Nick highlights a year of women finally making some noise in the post- scene, Eden applauds upbeat music in an otherwise downer of a year, and the PRP gang reveal their favorite post- albums of 2020.
The gang tackle lo-fi, sci-fi, and antifa trends in 2020’s black metal releases.
Into the Pit
All the thrash riffs that are fit for print.
Can the GG crew survive the dreaded gauntlet of tunes derived from our favorite albums of 2020?
Rotten to the Core
Sure, you’re hardcore but are you this hardcore? Are you 2020 hardcore? Click here to find out.
The staff dissect their very favorite music that wasn’t very loud and/or very angry, tapping into a different toolset for handling 2020.
A Gift to Artwork
Karlo dives into his favorite cover art from 2020.
The masters of Green Metal return to Heavy Blog to recommend some truly excellent music
Cinder Well’s Amelia Baker takes us on a journey deep into the realms of folk, indie, alternative, and experimental music
Caligula’s Horse’s Dale Prinsse dives deep into his favorite releases from the year
Beaten to Death
The enigmatic, mysterious, and grind-intense Anti-climax runs us through all the music he listened to while tripping on mushrooms in forests and recording four EPs
The German masterminds of weird, jazz-y, unhinged progressive metal showcase their favorite albums from 2020, mind-bending and otherwise
The Void Screameth
Can we just chill with judging other people’s lists? Will anyone actually bother to fix the broken music industry? Will Josh learn to accept growing out of the music he once loved?
Heavy Blog Yearbook
Our favorite deep dives, articles, reviews, and posts from 2020