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2020 YEAR IN REVIEW: Our Last Words on a Dream Year

Favorite EPs of the Year

A shorter list for the lazy artist's LP

10 SINEAD O'BRIEN / Drowning in Blessings

Some people open their mouths and cool words come out. Sinead O'Brien is one of those people. I imagine urban poets like Patti Smith or Laurie Anderson would very much appreciate her spot at a Dublin poetry slam. She's always interesting, often compelling, but I have a feeling she hasn't come close to reaching her peak yet. On "Strangers in Danger," she asks, What worth do you unearth with the way of your words? and the answer, of course, is quite a lot.


Glasgow punk band, the Roly Mo, offered up their six-song debut EP this year and it had one of my favorite qualities in a record: it actually gets better as it progresses. The real potential appears in its second half with the arrival of “Stuck in a Rut,” a song that made our year-end favourites list. Not far behind was “I’ll Be Happy When You Die” which sounds to me like a modern punk classic that just missed its ideal window by about 40-years or so (and was accidentally the wrong song to release during a pandemic, but punks will be punks). “Control Yourself” ends the EP on another high note and bodes well for the band's future. It hints that they have even more to show us in their arsenal. Guarded optimism abounds!

08 DO NOTHING / Zero Dollar Bill

This Nottingham, England band's debut EP is loaded with raw promise. The first time I listened to it, I let it play three times straight through. Singer Chris Bailey (not the Chris Bailey of Saints fame) is a compelling singer/ conversationalist, initially recalling Mark E. Smith of the Fall, sometimes Tim Darcy of Ought, and a host of other notable post-punk poets along the way. He spews shards of found lyrics, locking onto a highly quotable phrase now and then (“The results are in and it looks like everybody gets a big old slice of nothing!” or “Say something, goddamnit, you’re on TV!”) and then moves on to some other thought plucked from somewhere in the stratosphere. Bailey is expectedly backed by choppy drums and angular guitars—the mandatory post-punk staples—but the math adds up to something special in the end. Surely they are the square root of some crooked number deep in the mechanics of your calculator. Start with the single “LeBron James” and proceed without caution from there.

07 TOMMY AND THE COMMIES / Hurtin' 4 Certain

It's a good old-fashioned lo-fi punk-pop record, and whether you like it or not, it's over in under nine minutes so the investment isn't a big risk. They jam econo, to say the least. Undertones and Buzzcocks fans, make special note. No, not that good yet, but pretty damn effective nonetheless, and there's reason to hope for an elevated level of inspiration in the near future.

06 JEB LOY NICHOLS / Season of Decline

If your front porch could make a record, this would be it. This little quarantine gift features Jeb stripped back to just the basics, and it's a warm, charming night under the stars in the company of a guy who knows how to settle down to earth without losing his innate funkiness. On this EP, you get the title track, one of his better recent songs, and it goes down like a glass of smooth hooch and soothes just like a discrete application of Cramer's Red Hot Ointment—just the things you need to accompany your slow descent into irrelevance. But there's hope for the aged, it turns out. Nichols isn’t the type to slowly drift away. Instead, in his “decline,” he’s chosen to got out living on the edge, or at least somewhere in its vicinity. Some nights I go out breaking into people’s homes / I just sit and watch TV, leave their stuff alone. Creepy. There’s not a bad song on the EP mainly because Jeb always follows his own personal mantra, “Don’t overthink it, just get in the groove and let it happen.”


Instrumental band seeks vocalist for side project. It’s just a recording session—no obligations for long-term commitment. On paper, this seems like a love connection. One part has gained acclaim through their instrumental work—combining influences previously thought uncombinable—and ended up becoming a bona-fide buzz band in the process. The other, a modern R&B singer with a rich, smooth voice that sometimes recalls a slightly raspier Sam Cooke. An intriguing recipe promising all kinds of exotic flavors. The resulting EP is excellent, even if it isn't exactly what I was hoping for. The title track is a shimmering slab of Texas blacktop; “Midnight” finds the motley Khru starting to percolate; “C-Side” delivers the intended chemistry and makes you wish for a full-length someday. All-in-all, an enjoyable ride across the Lone Star State.

04 LA MARISOUL / La Marisoul & the Love Notes Orchestra, Vol. 1

This EP will make you feel like you’ve just stumbled into a sophisticated Mexican nightclub from the 1950s. There on the bandstand is a precisely calibrated Mexican big band fronted by a robust female vocalist who goes by the name La Marisoul (aka Marisol Hernandez). They begin the show with “Intro-Como Fue,” which kicks off with just the band vamping spectacularly until La Marisoul takes the stage three-minutes into the song. From there, they both zip off in a new direction together and don’t let up for the rest of the record. It’s an absolute thrill to hear and sitting still isn't part of the bargain. La Marisoul is actually the lead singer of one of my favorite bands, the Los Angeles-based La Santa Cecilia, who have released some joyous, life-affirming albums over the past few years. This record finds her stepping back in time with the Love Notes Orchestra for a short session of Mexican favorites and the results are simply heavenly. Let's hope Volume 2 isn't far behind.


"People, I've Been Sad" was the song everyone picked from this EP this year mainly because it captured, for many, the prevailing mood of 2020. No qualms, it just did. But if that's where you left it, big mistake. The song is perhaps the third or fourth best on the EP.

02 ORVILLE PECK / Show Pony

Starts out with two modern standards ("Summertime" and "No Glory in the West"), includes thee definitive gay trucker anthem ("Drive Me, Crazy"), adds a duet with Shania Twain ("Legends Never Die"—disappointing in my opinion), and ends with a Bobbie Gentry cover ("Fancy") about a boy whose mother dresses him up as a girl so he can make money as a prostitute to help the family survive (The Hallmark Channel has already optioned the rights). So, if you're looking for an EP that covers a lot of ground in a short time, here's your show pony indeed.

01 KILLER KIN / Bad, Bad Minds!

I live for nasty garage-rock and I don't care that this band hails from hoity-toity New Haven, Connecticut, as long they still hammer down on the throttle, drop the transmission, and burn out the engine. Few bands can pull it off convincingly and Killer Kin do just that on this sleazy 17-minute EP. They start out with their theme song (nice touch), type up their manifesto, deliver a tongue-in-cheek left hook to your jaw, then write another manifesto in case the first one didn't stick, and end with a statement of dominance that few can deliver let alone pull off.

Favorite Cover Songs of the Year

We had a lot of time on our hands this year

10 PHOEBE & MAGGIE / "Iris" (Goo Goo Dolls)

A song I presumed dead forever for me has been resurrected by the ubiquitous Phoebe Bridgers and cohort Maggie Rogers, and we have Donald Trump to that for it. Phoebs promised to cover this song if Trump lost and so we now have this unlikely cover to enjoy for more reasons than I care to count. It makes the list for that reason alone, but it also happens to be pretty darn good, too, and benefits from restraint, which the Goo Goo Dolls never met during their career.

09 COUNTRY WESTERNS / "Two Characters in Search of a Country Song" (Magnetic Fields)

Credit this savvy bar band for picking a neglected minor classic from ace songwriter Stephin Merritt (originally released on The Magnetic Fields 1994 album, The Charm of the Highway Strip). The song begged for some bite and this whiskey-soaked curveball has some serious sticky-floor swagger. Better than the original.

08 HINDS / "Spanish Bombs" (The Clash)

Some covers make more sense than others and this one finds Hinds, an excellent garage-pop band from Spain, taking on the Clash anthem. It seems almost like their birthright in a way. Madrid Calling, if you will.


This Big Star classic gets a lot of love, and rightfully so—it's a perfect little pop song about a forbidden (well, at least discouraged) high school romance. These three distinct voices combine perfectly, retaining the song's innocence while maintaining the hopeful, melancholic tone that is at the core of the original. Real purty.

06 ORVILLE PECK / "Smalltown Boy" (Bronski Beat)

I had to refresh my memory on the Bronski Beat's original, but Orville's version obliterates it, so I won't have to go back in time any more from this point forward. The definitive version now resides in the 21st century.

05 SINEAD O'CONNOR / "Trouble of the World" (Mahalia Jackson)

Sinead, like her or not, has one of the singular voices of her time. Plus, she's a highly spiritual being (and a fellow priest who has gotten herself into a pickle or two in her days) who knows how to highlight the raw core of an issue by finding just the perfect song for a moment in time. She's done it again here, by covering Mahalia Jackson's hymn about leaving the troubles of this world behind by moving into the peaceful afterlife. It's beautiful and heart-wrenching all at once.

04 SHARON JONES & THE DAP-KINGS / "This Land is Your Land" (Woody Guthrie)

They've previously released this as a single, but it's back on Sharon's posthumous covers album from this year, which has numerous flashes of brilliance throughout. That said, there's something special about their soulful rendition of Woody's should-be national anthem that stirs the pot of national pride. It's a new version of an old classic that could be my favorite ever.

03 RONNIE EARL & THE BROADCASTERS / "Lord Protect My Child" (Bob Dylan)

If you're a parent, all you want to do is protect what’s most important to you, and this Bob Dylan-penned song expresses that instinct in dramatic fashion. Imagine if everyday you feared for your child's safety, really feared for it—on the streets, walking to school, dealing with the police, sleeping in your bed at night. Diane Blue, with support from Ronnie Earl’s crying guitar, does just that with one of the great vocal performances of 2020. It's a staggering cover that to me sounds like the only version you'll ever need.

02 EMMA SWIFT / "Queen Jane Approximately" (Bob Dylan)

I didn't get clued into Emma Swift's magical Dylan covers album, Blonde on the Tracks, until late in the year—and I'm not ashamed of dropping the ball since most Dylan tributes are well-intentioned, but usually fall short. But Emma's record is the best of its kind, featuring inspired takes on several Dylan classics old and new from "Simple Twist of Fate" to this year's "I Contain Multitudes." She even successfully pulls off Dylan's epic "Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands," in all its 12-minute glory. Girl's ambitious! I also appreciate that she's taken on some lesser-known Dylan tracks ("The Man in Me" and "Going Going Gone"), too. Obviously, my choice here isn't one of those, but "Queen Jane" gets the nod because on first listen it sounded like an instant classic. It has the Rickenbacker jangle that made those infamous Byrds covers so great back in the 60s.

01 MOLLY TUTTLE / "Olympia, WA" (Rancid)

I feel like I have to put my top-ranked cover song from this year's favorite songs list at #1—it just follows common sense. But I would be remiss if I didn't also put "Walking on the Moon" (Grateful Dead) and "A Little Lost" (Arthur Russell) on the list with a strong nod to the Stones "She's a Rainbow" as well. Heck, let's just put her whole album in this spot and call it a year.

Favorite Album Titles of the Year

The title is just as important as the cover. Ask anyone who knows.

10 JAPANDROIDS / Massey Fucking Hall

As I was listening to the new Arctic Monkeys Live at Royal Albert Hall album, I wondered how they must've felt when they first played the storied venue. Then I thought of this Japandroids live album from earlier this year and my question was answered...Royal Albert Fucking Hall!!!! Or, if Canadian, Massey Fucking Hall!!!!!

09 PERFUME GENIUS / Set My Heart on Fire Immediately

Set My Heart on Fire would've been a damn good album title, too. Who hasn't felt that way at one time or another? But what makes this title great is the time-sensitive demand. I will never get over this, so do it now. Just get it over with....please!

08 IRON WIGS / Your Birthday's Cancelled

The perfect Covid-19 title for a year when everything that could be cancelled was cancelled.

07 ARLO MCKINLEY / Die Midwestern

Not every title has to be entertaining or amusing to make this list. We're deeper than that. Some titles just evoke a feeling and, being from the Midwest, this does just that. No region is as boringly consistent or as devoid of promise as the Midwest. Whether that's an asset or not is up to the individual. It simply is what it is. The East has New York (if you can make it there...), the West has Hollywood (if you can make it there...), the South has eternal warmth (for transplanted retirees mostly). People are drawn to each for one reason or another. But the good old Midwest is always there, plugging along, existing, stuck in the middle with you by design, a weigh station for transients on the way to their dream, even a destination for some people trying to put some stakes in the ground. But for others it's a grave. A sign of giving up and settling six feet down.

06 FANTASTIC NEGRITO / Have You Lost Your Mind Yet?

Some titles capture the proverbial Zeitgeist, even if it's by accident, and few were more dead-on than this one.

05 FIONA APPLE / Fetch the Bolt Cutters

Fetch the bolt cutters, we've been in this year too long. And when you want, no need, to get out of somewhere, a pair of industrial strength bolt cutters may seem like overkill, but it's always best to go heavy or keep staying home.

04 BACKXWASH / God Has Nothing to Do With This Leave Him Out of It

I like this perspective on the ills of 2020. It's common to default to the will of a higher power for some sort of explanation, but that's not for everyone. For some, there's not a simple rationale for our troubles this year. We might have to find our answers elsewhere this time.

03 CONWAY THE MACHINE / From a King to a God

A great title for a rap album that evokes that heavy, deep thunder of Notorious BIG. The next step after genre dominance is far more ambitious in nature. This album takes boasting to literally a whole new level.

02 YVES TUMOR / Heaven to a Tortured Mind

A great title draws you in and makes you want to explore the music. If you don't want to know what heaven sounds like to a tortured mind, then you need to rediscover your childlike curiosity. If you're willing, the album really delivers on its promise.

01 TROLL TEETH / Goes Nowhere, Does Nothing

This brilliant title by a relatively unknown band summed up 2020 in a perfect little nutshell. It's not only a great take on the classic titling format which pairs a band name with a subsequent action (The Ramones / Leave Home; Lucy and the Rats / Got Lucky, ), but it also is immediately relatable for every man, woman, and child on the planet this year. With such a universal appeal, it is easily the #1 album title of 2020. (Cool album cover, as well!)

Honorable Mention

MISTER GOBLIN / I Used to Play in a Punk Band

DUNE SEA / Moons of Uranus

ALIEN NOSE JOB / Suddenly Everything is Twice as Loud

GUIDED BY VOICES / Styles We Paid For

GUIDED BY VOICES / Mirrored Aztec

ALGIERS / There Is No Year


Favorite Song Titles of the Year

Even if your song sucks, at least it'll look cool on a mixtape

10 OSEES / "Gong of Catastrophe"

If one existed, it would've been reverberating all over the world this year. Sadly, we didn't even have Neil Peart to do the honors anymore.

09 RUN THE JEWELS / "Holy Calamafuck"

How this didn't become a Batman and Robin-esque catch-phrase this year, I'll never know.

08 NADINE SHAH / "Ladies for Babies (Goats for Love)"

I love a song with a double-take parenthetical!

07 FANTASTIC NEGRITO / "Chocolate Samurai"

The main question is: Quentin Tarantino, are you listening?

06 SPARKS / "Sainthood is Not in Your Future"

I wouldn't be surprised if Trump inquired as to the possibility during his meeting with the Pope and got this response. Same answer at Mr. Rushmore.

05 THE EXBATS / "I Got the Hots for Charlie Watts"

We've had songs about Jagger's moves and Keith Richards' stagger, but finally the drummer gets some love (or lust in this case).

04 THE MAGNETIC FIELDS / "Kraftwerk in a Blackout"

Leave it to the clown prince of song titles, The Magnetic Fields' Stephin Merritt, to come up with this one, showcasing the worst fear of a band specializing in electronic music. Other Merritt songs considered: "The Biggest Tits in History" (about birds), "The Day the Politicians Died" (wishful thinking), "Kill a Man a Week" (therapeutic), "Death Pact (Let's Make a)" (another wonderful use of parenthesis), "I've Got a Date With Jesus" (dinner and a crucifixion?) and, of course, "I Wish I Were a Prostitute Again," (the only thing that would've made it better is if the "again" was in parenthesis, like a country song), all of which deserve a spot on this list.

03 LANZON / "Mexican Dracula"

The main question is: Quentin Tarantino, are you listening?

02 GUIDED BY VOICES / "Haircut Sphinx"

Robert Pollard has a PhD in song titling and he didn't let us down this year, especially with this ode to the difficulty of expressing to your stylist exactly what you want. Hint: you'll never figure out the riddle. I'd go with a perm if I were you.

01 SLUM OF LEGS / "The Baader-Meinhof Always Look So Good In Photos"

A great song title not only makes you want to listen to the song, but it makes you curious as to its origin, perhaps (as in this case) even setting you off on a semi-rewarding adventure down a research rabbit hole. So, to save you some time here's the abbreviated scoop. The Baader-Meinhof were a West German faction of the The Red Army in the 1970s (primarily), known for committing crimes and having a half-female membership, which wasn't common among most militant groups. Both Baader and Meinhof, the leaders of the "gang," were eventually killed as a result of their roles in the group. I have included a couple photos of the group, so you can independently decide if the titular claim holds water or not. My vote is in the affirmative.

Favorite Long Songs of the Year (9:00+)

We had nothing but time this year, so...

10 THE HELIOCENTRICS / "Telemetric Sounds" (13:31)

Telemetrics, by definition, provide measurement of long-distance communications, often from space, so it makes sense that it would take more than thirteen minutes to convey all the sounds streaming in from other galaxies.

09 JEFF PARKER / "Max Brown" (10:36)

If any song gets an automatic pass for being lengthy it's one dedicated to the artist's mother, quite the classy lady if the photo is any indication.

08 HUM / "Desert Rambler" (9:02)

No desert ramble has ever taken less than nine-minutes so this makes sense.

07 OH SEES / "I Got a Lot" (23:10)

I appreciate the song title/run-time symmetry. Truth in titling.

06 CABARET VOLTAIRE / "Universal Energy" (10:58)

Energy should be renewable and this can be put on an endless loop, 11-minutes at a time.

05 THE NELS CLINE SINGERS / "Stump the Panel" (17:19)

How many songs can you name that are over 15-minutes and every second is deserved?

04 ROBERT VINCENT / The End of the War (9:06)

To anyone fighting in a war, the end always seems so far away, I'm sure. So this is fitting.

03 THE NECKS / "Bloom" (21:18)

This Necks own this list every year. On their latest album, Three, they cram three (duh) songs into 65 minutes, with the shortest being 21-minutes flat. At least we know what the single will be. The Ramones they are not.

02 BOB DYLAN / "Murder Most Foul" (16:55)

Dylan's "Murder Most Foul" may not be the outright masterpiece some have claimed, but it's undoubtedly jam-packed with intriguing historical theories and enough musical references to make "American Pie" seem lazy by comparison.

01 SLIFT / Lions, Tigers and Bears (13:19)

Getting stoned to The Wizard of Oz has always been a beloved pastime, but the movie will take on new life if you turn the sound down and turn up the new Slift album while you watch. I guarantee a mind-blowing experience.

10 Things We Loved That Didn't Make Our Year-End Lists

We simply had too many albums and songs we loved this year. It's a good problem to have. But in the shuffle, some amusing or energizing records were still left off the list, but should not be forgotten. Here are some of our faves.

01 Sparks / A Steady Drip, Drip, Drip

The album was a little too odd to get into heavy rotation and its songs a little nutty to crack the year-end list, but when it came to providing little pockets of madcap, mixtape-worthy joy, few albums delivered as consistently as the latest album by Sparks.

02 The Magnetic Fields / Quickies

Nobody commits to a project quite like Stephin Merritt and Quickies finds him at his very best, with one short little lark after the next, all of which will make you shake your head, wince, or chuckle (often all three during one song) when you need it most. See our full commentary here.

03 Sonic Boom / All Things Being Equal

The latest from the Spacemen 3 co-founder was on par with his best work ever, which means almost a full hour of shoegazing that's best experienced in one sitting with a fresh toke at the ready. In other words, a boutique item. But when it's time, you'll know where to turn to soundtrack your buzz.

04 Special Interest / The Passion Of

Most of the records on this list have a few things in common. Usually, they serve a very particular purpose, so they aren't called upon except in highly specialized situations. Others simply don't do well when dismantled for parts. In other words, the collective power of the album absolutely works best when taken in one sitting. This is a good example of both. See our full commentary here.

05 Ghost Funk Orchestra / An Ode to Escapism

This odd yet still funky release from Karma Chief, an offshoot label of the venerable Colemine Records, is meant to be taken not only in one sitting, but in a pitch black room with a good set of headphones as well. It is styled like an old-school instruction, or self-help, record, complete with soothing narrator to get you in the proper head space. It's not something you'll need every day, but I must say the music is so good, you may find this audio escape room to be to your liking.

06 Baxter Dury / The Night Chancers

Yet another "experience" record, something akin to hitting a Beat bar for a night of spoken word jazz or poetry. The world of Baxter Dury is best taken in its entirety, and he's made that easier for us by giving us his best 30-minutes one rock & roll vignette at a time with an overall thematic foundation to boot. See our full commentary here.

07 The Dedicated Men of Zion / Can't Turn Me Around

I'm human. I only had this on vinyl (no download card, grrrr), so I didn't realize I slipped it in my record stack away from my new records (which I keep sequestered until December 31st). This is a gospel-soul record that'll work even for those not religious at all. You'll at the very least be moved by the passion contained herein. This is a record that is religion and not, as our slogan says, a record in place of it! We can play that game, too! See our full commentary here.

08 John Mulaney & the Sack Lunch Bunch / Original Soundtrack

I'm glad they released this on CD because I don't think I appreciated the songs enough when I watched the comical Netflix special of the same name. They really hold up and make me laugh each and every time. Mulaney is always hysterical, but here, a childless adult doing a children's special, it comes off both naively charming and intentionally bent at the same time. I expected nothing less.

09 The Return of AC/DC

Power Up is just another AC/DC record. What more do you want? As long as they tour, that's all that matters, right? But along the way, something happened. They actually made a balls-out, surprisingly deep (not in lyrical content, but in song quality) record of songs you'll actually love hearing live someday. It's got to happen.

10 The Tomb of the Forgotten Album

Here's a cheap way to acknowledge records I may have forgotten to list this year.

Lost But Never Forgotten

It's been a tough year on music in many ways. We've lost a lot of amazing artists this year, and too many from Covid-19. I'm not going to do a comprehensive "In Memoriam" segment here and we certainly can't afford to have Yo Yo Ma play some chamber music in the background while you read this, but here are just a few short comments about some artists who passed this year that I haven't covered at some point already (mainly since I started Picked Priest in early Q2).

Charlie Baty

The namesake and lead guitarist for Little Charlie and the Nightcats, the beloved Alligator Records band who pretty much toured their trademarked brand of often-humorous jump-blues and swinging R&B non-stop for 30+ years (and continue on to this day as Rick Estrin and the Nightcats). I've seen many guitarists in my relatively long life so far and without any exaggeration I can say that Little Charlie was right at the very top when it came to jaw-dropping and mind-blowing guitar dominance. It was a spectacular sight to witness.

Paul Kopasz (aka Paul K)

I've been a big fan of Paul K (and his backing band, The Weathermen) for a long time and he remains, in my mind, without a doubt, one of the most criminally undervalued songwriters I've ever heard. His loss didn't generate much more than a blip on most radars, but those who were converted by his broken rock and roll songs all felt a sudden emptiness when he passed, I assure you. I know I did.

Adam Schlesinger

His loss this year was mourned by anyone who appreciated a great pop songwriter or just a good human being. With Fountains of Wayne, Ivy, or any of his many side-projects, he always proved his natural brilliance. When I saw FoW one time back in their prime, I marveled at the catalog of incredible songs his band had already amassed. Then I realized they had only two albums to their credit at that point!

Neil Peart

Just as every kid yelled "Dr. J!!" when they made even the most remotely difficult move to the hoop back in the 1970s, whenever I did any air-drumming back in the 1980s (and since), I've always been, in my mind, Neil Peart. The Rush concerts I witnessed in the early 80s (Permanent Waves, Moving Pictures, Signals) rank, to this day, as some of my favorite live shows ever and my friends and I worshipped at his feet then and still do now. His quiet, stoic, demeanor only made him that much more intriguing. How many bands have you seen live where you watch the drummer more than any other band member? A drummer that doesn't even sing, no less.

That's how amazing he was when surrounded by his massive drum kit.

Betty Wright

The under-appreciated soul singer routine is getting old, but do you have room for one more? The influential, but not majorly successful, Betty Wright passed earlier this year without much fanfare. Unless you're a lover of great R&B that is. Betty's name, to this day, gets trotted out whenever a new R&B diva comes onto the scene as a reference point. A tribute to her lasting legacy.

Bill Withers

I'm just going to say it, against my better judgement. There ain't no sunshine when he's gone.

10 Positive Musical Thoughts at the End of a Long Year

I thought I would end this year's 2020 Year in Review with some positive thoughts, all of them music related. Big and little things that provided hope for the future, comfort in troubled times, or just a few moments of unbridled personal joy. I'm sure I've left many out, but these are the ones that pop to mind right away.

01 The Resourcefulness of Musicians & The Music Community's Response

I spent some time this year talking about the importance of supporting artists who have been left on the short end of the stick due to the pandemic. Many rationalized getting every song ever recorded for a paltry monthly fee because artists could still make money from touring. That approach turned out to be a house of cards in a tornado. But how else to rationalize the fact we're paying 99% of all artists chicken feed for their recorded work in the new "business model"? Thankfully, artists are creative by nature, so they did other things to survive, most often in the form of online concerts for their fans. While an inadequate stop-gap solution, many true fans did "come out" to support their favorite artists, albeit not to deserved levels. It wasn't a viable long-term financial solution, but it showed that passion wins at all costs. That said, let's pause and show some appreciation for resilient musicians and for those who supported them this year.

02 Musical Support for Black Lives Matter

Predictably, the arts community was all-in for the BLM movement. If only that support carried over to the general population. But so many great songs resulted this year, seemingly a new one every week, that provided, as music always does, a soundtrack to America's shame. Now comes the hard part; real action.

03 NIVA's Save our Stages Initiative

During the pandemic, our local venues—the heart and soul of all musical activity in any city—decided to band together to have one collective and powerful voice. Hence, the creation of NIVA, or the National Independent Venue Association. Under the 'Save Our Stages' initiative, 2.1 million constituents (aka voters!) around the country appealed to their Washington representatives asking for help in saving this essential part of our cultural community. And it worked! The Save Our Stages Act was passed and countless venues will get the aid they desperately need to survive (it's not the sole solution, but a big help). Hurray! Something good happened!

04 Bandcamp Fridays

Bandcamp, in support of struggling artists everywhere, picked the first Friday of each month and declared it Bandcamp Friday, a day where 100% of the profits for the sale of music went directly to the artist. So far, that's added up to more than $40 million dollars with no skim for the site (which they deserve for services rendered). A great thing.

05 Artists Fight Back Against Politicians

As we noted earlier this year, more and more artists were lashing out at, or outright suing, politicians for using their music without permission at campaign events. A common problem over the years, of course, but certain orange politicians made the practice untenable for many artists this year. I don't know how the courts will rule in the end, but I know I would've been pissed if a single Pickled Priest t-shirt was worn at a maskless rally by someone I didn't support or respect. Also, kudos to the many musicians who contributed unreleased songs to the Good Music compilations made available on Bandcamp to raise money for Voting Rights Lab, whose goal is to protect and defend voting rights.

06 The Global Blender

Hip-hop mixed with jazz. Jazz with Afrobeat. British DJs with African musicians. Italian garage rock. Indie-rock mixed with African pop. American bands singing in Spanish. Spanish rock bands singing in English. Canadians singing southern soul. A New Zealand singer writing a song titled "Oh Canada." American rappers teaming up with a British rapper. Polish punk bands. British and Norwegian singer/songwriters doing Americana better than Americans. African bands playing rock music. It all happened this year. And it makes everything more interesting in the process.

07 Nick Cave's The Red Hand Files

I wrote about this earlier this year, but as the year got heavier and heavier, Nick Cave's answers to some broad and far-reaching questions from his fans got better and better, revealing an artist of great intellectual and emotional depth (which we kind of knew already, but had confirmed).

08 Wind of Change podcast

Did the CIA really write the Scorpions massive hit "Wind of Change" as propaganda during the Cold War? This podcast starts with a tip from inside the agency and runs down every lead possible. The investigative process is fascinating, the possibilities intriguing, and the premise far more plausible than I ever dreamed. But I won't give any spoilers here.

09 The Continued Vitality of Older Artists

Cacti: The secret to longevity?

Excellent records from Bruce Springsteen, Chrissie Hynde, Tony Allen & Hugh Masekela, Tino Contreras (96!!), Bootsy Collins, and X this year, all with members in excess of 60 (at least!), made my year-end Top 50 this year! A very good sign for the Priest!

10 Bootsy Collins Marionette

Guilty as charged! I love atypical music swag, so when I saw this on Bootsy Collins's website, I knew I had to have one. Only nine are being made (or so they say), so I'm sure it will be worth millions some day (irrelevant because I will never sell and will instruct my heirs not to do so either, for it is now a family heirloom, baby!). Made by a master puppet maker in Nova Scotia (of course), this masterpiece is now the crown jewel of my oddball collection of accumulated music memorabilia. Feast your eyes.

On that note, that's a wrap for the Pickled Priest's 2020! I appreciate all our readers and look forward to a great year for music in 2021, hopefully with some live music in our future.

Happy New Cheers,

The Priest


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