Best of 2020: Brandon Jones

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Despite all the despair, hopelessness, fear, anxiety, death, destruction, and uncertainty that 2020 has thrown at us, we have all taken solace in our music and found hope through it. We are carried through the pain with messages of inspiration, songs of motivation, and songs that just plain electrified our souls. The following is a collection of albums, eps, and songs that were meaningful to me in 2020. Not all of the releases listed below are “Christian” but most of them rocked me to my core! These are my (Brandon Jones) Top Albums and Songs of 2020.

Top 40 Albums / EPs

1. Nate Parrish – I’m a Wreck

If you’ve read my review, and seen all the various hype coming from IVM over the past year then you know this top spot was inevitable. Nate released not only a fantastic album but one of the best of 2020. I’ve always had a soft spot for independent artists and I felt as though Nate Parrish created an album that bridged the divide between underground independent music and mainstream punk worthy songs that would catapult him to instant stardom. “I’m a Wreck” is one of those special full length albums that comes around every so often, hitting my soul in all the right places and inspiring me to hit “repeat” over and over. I played this loud and proud throughout the year. Nate went on to release “Bullets and Blades” a few months ago and serves as one of the final IVM releases for awhile. Thank you Nate Parrish and I wish you all the success in the world that may come your way. If your day job doesn’t work out I certainly know this “solo” band work is certainly the next big thing. Rock on.

2. Less Than Jake – Silver Linings

This just came out a few weeks ago and I have listened to the album a dozen times already. I have the vinyl and I have my digital streams. This is quite possibly the best Less Than Jake album in years. “See The Light” and “Sound the Alarm” were both great but I lump this in with “Anthem” as my favorite. “Hello Rockview” started it all off with me as a fan and the next 2 further solidified my love for the band. “Silver Linings” brings about solid ska-punk, melodic punk, and pop-punk into one tasty package. “Lie to Me” is definitely my favorite new LTJ song but this is one of those full lengths where every song is great, not good, GREAT! They retain their punk edge, excellent major label worthy production, and catchy as heck songs that have you singing along.

3. Everything in Slow Motion – Influence

I’ve been a fan of Shane’s work through Hands (since the beginning) and now with Everything In Slow Motion. The first full length was explosive and one of the best of that year then they followed it up with “Laid Low” EP which took the sound to a more moody and introspective path. “Influence” takes all the best elements from both releases and amplifies it up a bit with a tad bit more moodiness. Yeah, it’s a moody record but conveys plenty of emotion, enough that it’ll have you singing along in a deep introspective gaze. The song with Aaron Stone (My Epic) is so amazing. One of my favorites is “Choke” alongside the title track. Facedown Records has proved themselves to be an underrated label with a deep catalog and plenty to say. Facedown releases are just as strong as any other label on this planet. A diverse set of artists and this record is certainly no exception. “Phoenix”, “Laid Low”, and now “Influence”, what comes next is anyone’s guess but I’ll definitely be listening.

4. Slick Shoes – Rotation & Frequency

So band reunions don’t always equal the best results. They come across like a bloated attempt at a fleeting piece of fame that has faded with the sands of time. In the case of Slick Shoes it is the exact opposite. How often does a band come out of retirement, in this case 17 years since the last proper album, only to release the finest album of their entire discography. I always thought the original lineup of Slick Shoes along with the producer of their first couple releases (Steve Kravac), produced the best music of their early years. This album has excellent production with drums clear to hear, thumping the beats straight to the chest. The guitar playing from Jackson blows “Rusty” and “Burn Out” away, producing some excellent solos and breakdowns. Jeremiah’s bass playing is heavy and defining to the Slick Shoes sound. Rounding this whole perfect record out is Ryan’s much improved vocals. In the beginning they were good for pop-punk but definitely lacked the maturity that came with age. Now with 17 years to grow and define that voice, he has found his footing and this record is proof of a collective of musicians that have perfected their craft to go on and release the best album of their careers. In fact, I would go on to say that this is one of the best punk rock albums of 2020. Thank you Slick Shoes and Thank you Tooth & Nail.

5. Grandpa Loves Rhinos – Searching In The Sarchasm

I used to have all IVM releases black listed from reviews at Indie Vision Music for fear of having a sense of bias and certainly conflict of interest. Now with the label somewhat behind me, I can say whatever the heck I want. I tended to work with bands I LOVED first and foremost. It was like a kid in a candy store, picking out his favorite treats to consume and enjoy in the car ride home. Or in my case, it’s like saving up your money to visit a record shop and splurging on your favorite records you’d been waiting on release day to drop. Well Grandpa Loves Rhinos is certainly one of those bands I’d waited years to hear and to throw my promoting weight behind. Everything about this album reeks of inspiration. To hear it and realize it is just 2 brothers producing this whole amazing collection of songs blows me away. How can two active military members release such ground breaking, inspiring, somewhat controversial, and altogether depth defining rock music? Well easy, they have passion and love what they do. Songs like the single “Gimme, Gimme”, “Fostering Patience for Patients”, “Why’d He Have to Die”, “It’s Gotta Be The Gaming”, “Living in a Cave”, “Rendezvous at Stardust Motel”, “It’s Not Home Without You”, and “Something About Lou” are my absolutely favorite tracks on this record. See what I did there? This whole album is pure perfection and everything you love about a band with something to say. These 2 mesh well together and their passionate exchanges are clearly reflected on every single song. Nostalgia and yearning for that youthful spark that set everything in motion when we were all in our younger years is what sets Grandpa Loves Rhinos apart from the rest. There is clearly diversity of music to be found on their songs. A few “Christian” radio stations picked these guys up and supported the music I released as Indie Vision Music and for that I am eternally grateful. This band really connects with people who give them a chance and “Searching in the Sarchasm” is proof of that.

6. Teddy at Night – At Night Ep

Teddy makes music for the masses to enjoy. This isn’t a genre specific artist and isn’t relegated to only one group of fan. It is new wave pop music with clear 80’s influence. Teddy played drums for Family Force 5, Wavorly, and more recently for KING & COUNTRY, but has stepped away from the set to become the frontman of his new creation. His voice and style straddles the line between Peter Gabriel, Simple Minds, Phil Collins, Walk the Moon, Neon Trees, and heck even Rick Astley. Seeing that Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins mention I guess would mean he is influenced by the band Genesis? Yes? This is just so different, unique, and unlike most groups in the scene. To top it off, he is entirely independent and doing it his own way. The music has a live band sound mixed with synths and the finished product is pure perfection. In the old, early days of IVM, Teddy and his father would come to my shows and buy stuff from merch table. We went to the same Church for a while. His family was an amazing group of people and Teddy reflects that positive upbringing in the music he creates. Go check out the “At Night” EP and give Teddy at Night a solid listen.

7. Homeplate – Derby City EP

The guys really impressed me in 2020. Their new project this year really came out of nowhere and they’ve gone on to raise quite a ruckus. Their first single “Broken Youth” was so perfect and a great introduction to a new band. This Indie Vision Music group (Duo) produced 5 awesome songs that filled hearts with hope as well as love for the pop-punk sound again. I love the break downs, guest spots (Eric of Brave Days), catchy anthems, and even some horn parts. Say what? Yeah “Ska” parts making their return in Christian circles in 2020 alongside No Lost Cause, and Must Build Jacuzzi. If this is just the beginning then they built up expectations quite high for what’s to come. 2020 has met it’s match and that’s Homeplate!

8. Starflyer 59 – Miami EP

This follow up EP to last year’s absolutely stunning full length, “Young in My Head”, is nothing short of extraordinary. It has those same road weary and time tested, wounded traveler like vibe from Jason Martin. I always say this is kick back music but its so much more than that. It’s like a dream sequence in a movie that opens up a gaping hole in your mind, filling you with life altering vibes from the music vibrations. I don’t know quite how to explain the music of Starflyer 59 to the casual consumer other than it is life changing. Some people don’t “get it” but those of us who’ve been listening for over 25 years understand that what Jason creates is truly original music that can’t be defined. “Miami” is one of those special eps that packs so much variety into just 5 songs that you’ll be wanting to hit repeat over and over. This is like a short sequel to “Young In My Head” but in the best possible way.

9. DENS – Taming Tongues

This full length came out at the beginning of 2020, a truly hellish year. It seems like a century ago but it really was just months. DENS have been making music for years even before the “DENS” name. A few guys were in an early IVM promoted band called Our City Sleeps then The Worship Collective. They have years of experience that is clearly reflected in the music they create with this album showcased that undeniable talent. I remember hearing this album earlier and being struck by the perfection in songs and hope as a driving force behind it all. The band has had songs on Christian radio and garnering praise all across the music scene which to me is extremely exciting. The band straddles the line between heavy and melodic, light and dark, wounds and scars, pain and hope. Having Leroy from War of Ages on the song “Foolish” was just plain awesome. Laura McElroy of Comrades was another perfect guest addition on the song “Are”. Even Foolish Men Are Wise When They Learn To Keep Quiet. Yep, that sums it up. Thank you Facedown Records for giving these guys a chance and putting out some incredible albums this year.

10. New Found Glory – Forever and Ever x Infinity

It’s heavy, melodic, catchy, and completely New Found Glory. I didn’t dig the last album (Makes Me Sick) but this album brings the band back up to forefront of pop-punk and keeping the scene in check. I love when these classic bands produce albums that motivate the “kids” into raging with a smile. Jordan’s voice sounds so good here on this record. All the instruments were produced perfectly and they all mesh well into this heavy wall of pop-punk sound. This is a perfect continuation of “Sticks and Stones” which sounds weird I know because that was almost 2 decades ago. It just goes to show that you can’t keep a good band down and age should NEVER limit talent or production of good music. That’s what it’s all about right? Good music is good music so no judgement on those old guys still rocking out. Remember that kiddos.

11. American Arson – A Line In The Sand

Another duo that made music so big, so grand, that you’d think there were 5 guys, a couple producers, and several songwriters behind the act. These two men have created this huge “A Line In The Sand” record for Facedown Records and it is unlike anything else this year. Explosive, in your face, gritty, and plenty of righteous anger to get people on their feet. Evan’s voice is one of the strongest in the punk/rock genre and among “Christian” artists, there aren’t many like American Arson out there. The beauty of good music is that it inspires you to think, to contemplate thoughts and ideas, and ultimately consume with a smile. I love American Arson and this record was one of the best heavy punk rock albums released in 2020. How great is “Forever”, “The King is Alive”, and “Unbreakable”? American Arson will bare a heavy weight in the years to come trying to tackle expectations because “A Line In The Sand” is one of the best debut full lengths a band of this caliber can release.

12. Goldfinger – Never Look Back

The new lineup of the band has released the best ska/punk album of 2020 next to Less Than Jake. This is the perfect follow up to “The Knife” that came out in 2017. It’s fast, punk rock, and has that ska/reggae element the band is well regarded for playing. Mike Herrera (MxPx) plays solid bass and adds perfectly placed BGV on several songs. Sure there are some naughty, expletive laced songs but for the most part this album is catchy as ****. Oops, see what these songs did to me? Anyway, this dropped a few weeks ago and it already is extremely likeable. Good stuff.

13. Fireflight – Who We Are: The Head and the Heart

This is the best Fireflight album ever, even beating “For Those Who Wait” and “Unbreakable”. This is an extremely current record. Fireflight have created a full length full of diverse and heavy sounds with their unforgettable melodies, and Dawn’s commanding voice. Her voice leads this band and this album is no exception. I love how they split it into two parts. It really is a cohesive collection of songs and the best the band has done in years. Everyone always throws the “Female led band” kind of comparisons around and I am even guilty of it at times but this band stands on their own as a great rock band regardless of who is behind the mic. Dawn has stood her own ground for years and conveys enough emotion that all their competition is leveled to a heap of dust. Fireflight are a special band for me and I’ve been following them for nearly 2 decades now since I first sold their independent album in my webstore all those years ago. The fact that they have kept me at attention even now in 2020 is proof of their staying power as a band and importance as songwriters. I am so glad they came back this year and released the best hard rock album of 2020.

14. Keith Settles – Stories to Tell EP

Keith Settles is a long time friend of IVM. He produced video interviews for this site almost 10 years ago and contributed many reviews/write ups. He also had a post-hardcore band during that time. When they broke up and he slowly stopped writing for IVM, I waited for him to return to his first love of music. This year Keith Settles released a 5 song EP of original songs done mostly acoustically. Production wise, is just perfect, showcasing his strong voice and solid guitar playing. Simplistic but altogether original and brutally honest. He wears his scars under his sleeves and lets his emotions run through in that grit-infused voice and sad sounding guitar playing. Moody and emotional but entirely captivating. An original journey through pain, hopelessness, despair, and a bit of hope tying it all together. It is honest storytelling set to music and like 2020, leaves many questions unanswered. “Stories to Tell” is just that, a road weary traveler seeking meaning and understanding to a broken world.

15. Lightworker – Fury by Failure

This heavy album marks a surprise entry by a new band on Solid State Records. This album literally came out of nowhere for me and struck me heavy in the chest. “Fury by Failure” straddles the line between hands held high melodies and a beast of heaviness. Bands like Killswitch Engage, As I Lay Dying, In Flames, Demon Hunter, come to mind but these guys are all original and do their own thing most certainly. If this album is any indication of what’s to come in the years ahead then we are looking at the next big band to break out, I’m telling you that now.

16. Scott Sellers – Influence (Covers Album)

Scott Sellers of Rufio fame has released a couple of really strong “solo” melodic punk albums the past few years. He is back in 2020 with a whole album of “Covers” which are done very tastefully. Not only are these raging, fast, melodic punk tunes but they are also covers of songs in that similar vein. It adds a fresh take to some songs considered classics by fans of the genre. Some of my faves are the covers of MxPx, Slick Shoes, No Use for a Name, Lagwagon, Face to Face, and Strung Out but the rest are really good as well. I consider checking out Scott’s work on digital networks, heck, maybe even check out his work with Rufio while you’re at it.

17. I Still Believe – Motion Picture Soundtrack

Ok, so this entry is a bit on the mainstream, CCM variety but I don’t care. I really enjoy these songs and their inclusion in the film are just perfect representation of positive and hopeful Christian music given a mainstream touch. The film itself was really good storytelling and a captivating movie in and of itself. I’m not entirely familiar with Jeremy Camp’s vast discography of music but this film just told his story through an unbiased lens for the casual listener to watch and understand. The soundtrack features some Jeremy Camp songs both done by the film’s actors and by the man himself. If you haven’t seen I Still Believe and you’re too cool for school, then I can’t help you but if you have an open heart and unbiased opinion of Christian music then you will find something to appreciate. I even teared up a couple of times, I can’t lie.

18. Bareheart – In The Mo(u)rning EP

Ethan Tyler Collins of the band Least of These embarked on a solo journey of sorts this year with his first EP titled “In The Mo(u)rning”. It is musical storytelling and bravery all rolled up in one sweet package. This man has clearly worn his heart on his sleeves, tears on his face, and pain beating in his chest all the while seeking out hope and forgiveness. I found this EP to be a really inspiring piece of work. It’s simple, much of it with just his guitar and voice, but the songs speak volumes. Songs about love and loss, a tug and pull remarkable look at the human condition. I highly recommend this EP from Bareheart as well as the music from Least of These.

19. Nathan Gray – Working Title

This album completely blew me away. I had been a fan of boysetsfire. and his work with The Casting Out for a long time but didn’t know Nathan had a “solo” album coming out until once it was out. Genre wise the album kind of straddles the line between gritty punk, rock n’ roll, and even some poppy moments. If you dug “The Misery Index” era of Boysetsfire (minus the screaming) mixed with some Hot Water Music, Face to Face, Bruce Springsteen, and The Gaslight Anthem, then you’ll love this. There is even a guest spot by Chuck Ragan on the title track.

20. Luther’s Hammer – Strength To Stand

This powerful, in your face, straight from the gut, and very hardcore EP serves as the debut by the project known as Luther’s Hammer. The production is spot on for this genre and actually sounds better than most indie hardcore bands. This is as spirit filled hardcore as you can get lyrically. Sound wise it’s like Comeback Kid meets Sleeping Giant meets Strongarm meets old Gideon. This is a perfect example of an underground, diy band that does it right and conveys emotion through a short package of songs while getting a very real message across. I’ve heard the “band” is calling it quits so this will probably serve as their first and last recorded music. A huge bummer because I saw immense potential with this release.

21. The Beautiful Mistake – You’re Not Broken. I Am

This release was a surprise. First of all, bands that make a comeback after nearly 2 decades away sometimes fail and go down in a rush of burning flames. In the case of The Beautiful Mistake that statement is certainly not true and anything but. This is a beautiful “comeback” EP and showcases each of these musicians in their prime, making music out of passion and because they love what they do. This is as good or better than the majority of post-hardcore out there, circling the scene. Fans of Saosin, Emery, Taking Back Sunday, Thrice, Defeater, Wolves at the Gate, and My Epic take note, this band is a refreshing take on the genre and scene at large. “You’re Not Broken. I Am” is one of those once in lifetime comeback releases that people will be talking about for years. That is of course once people discover it. Released by Wiretap Records near the beginning of 2020 and featuring 5 powerful, adventurous, blood pumping through veins ready to burst with explosive energy. This is mind blowing stuff, friends.

22. Four Year Strong – Brain Pain

This band has been making catchy pop-punk meets hardcore for almost a decade and half and have learned to make music the masses appreciate. Extremely catchy and melodic pop-punk set to some breakdown enriched, sort of hardcore-like music. It’s a formula that has served this band well for nearly every album (minus 1 that some people didn’t like). Pure Noise has one of the best rosters right now in the realm of pop-punk/emo/hardcore and it’s exciting to watch their bands grow, releasing one hit record after another. “Brain Pain” is proof of a band at their height of popularity and strength in musicianship. You need to check this record out!

23. Brave Days – Work In Progress

This is one of those smaller indie bands that you can’t help but root for. A band with impressive skills and a knack for producing music that will get people singing along and thinking about for days. Spiritually engaging heavy pop-punk for fans of a once dying genre. Released on new label, Honey Gold Records, earlier in 2020 in a package that can either be defined as a longer EP or short full length. This is the band’s first official release and an impressive collection of pop-punk songs that’ll erase any bad taste you may have from consuming “Bad” music of that genre. Simply said, this is GOOD STUFF!

24. Wolves At The Gate – Dawn

How does a band follow up a great full length like “Eclipse”, well they released a remix “Redux” version of classic songs from their own catalog. It is incredibly well done. It’s a bit of a departure from their heavy rock moments but then again the diversity felt here has always been a part of the WATG discography. If the band can take songs like this and add it to their already impressive musicianship, on the next record we will be in for quite a surprise. This is kind of like (slightly) when My Epic put out “Broken Voice” but a bit heavier. Wolves At The Gate are one of those underrated bands full of engaging and soul connecting songs that some people just don’t “get”. Extremely catchy songs that could appeal to any fan of rock or heavy music in general. If you haven’t heard Wolves At The Gate, then drop what you’re doing and flip on your favorite digital network.

25. Relent – Heart Attack

This band really impressed me a few years back when they self released some songs and then freakin’ exploded with the release of “Heart Attack” this year. While this is a re-release of some of the band’s earlier songs it doesn’t matter because the majority of people hadn’t heard this band. Their songs fit somewhere between Korn, Papa Roach, Tool, P.O.D., and Islander. This is undeniably heavy Christian rock and they have a clear mission of reaching out to people about the Gospel through rock n’ roll. This is very well done and sounds better than most music out there in the realm of this “Nu Metal” revival. New music is out in 2021 and it’s gonna rule. Also, the band’s nu metal cover of “Jesus Freak” by DC Talk (Last track) is really different sounding but still good.

26. Anberlin – Tear Us Apart & We Are The Lost Ones (Quarantine ‘Live’ Albums)

Since Anberlin surprised us with a comeback earlier this year, I’ve been patiently waiting for “new” music. While we didn’t get any new songs apart from that Anchor & Braille album, we DID get 2 LIVE records. Yes, I am well aware the band has quite the catalog and several other Live records in the past before the break up. These songs certainly didn’t need any sprucing up because the original Aaron Sprinkle production stands as near perfection but the live experience has translated quite well to these 2 records. “We Are The Lost Ones” is the band’s version of “Blueprints For The Black Market” which hasn’t been played live in it’s entirety before. “Tear Us Apart” is “Never Take Friendship Personal” and sounds amazing. Some of the slight guitar changes and new vocal touches to all these songs, sounds impressive. I loved these 2 records when they released years ago so I am a bit biased. I am kicking myself for not buying the vinyl to both of these but oh well. These quarantine stream “Live” editions are definitely a Live in the Studio kind of thing. The sound is as perfect as you can get, leaving little mistakes even noticeable which I think is some trick of the knobs 😉 I watched the Cities stream and while it sounded great on my stereo, there clearly mistakes made and some weak vocal moments. Stephen is a great vocalist but you know how “Live” records and shows typically sound. It was good hearing Christian’s awesome guitar skills evident on these old albums which he didn’t play on in the studio back then. Anyway, go listen to these 2 now on your favorite digital network and stream at your leisure.

27. The Classic Crime – Patterns In The Static

This was a MUCH better rock record than the last album, both style wise and lyrically. I’ve always dug this band musically dating back to their first record on T&N. “The Silver Cord”, “Vagabonds”, and “Phoenix” are incredible classics by any definition of the word. Matt’s vocals are clear and at the center of the mix, leading this record with a sound not all that different from “Phoenix”. Sure there are some electronic elements but it’s not so much of a distraction that you wouldn’t recognize this as a Classic Crime record. I really believe that this is a strong record for the band and showcases all of their strengths as musicians and producers. I own the Vinyl for this and you know what, I should just base this list on all the 2020 albums I own on vinyl lol.

28. Fit For a King – The Path

Right out of the gate with the first song, I’m digging the heavy and well produced sound of this band. Songs like “The Path”, “Locked (In My Head)”, and “God Of Fire”, it was clearly evident this would be one of the band’s strongest efforts since the beginning. This is more commercial sounding, a definite mainstream metal approach and one that should net them loads of music fans in the process. “The Path” is one of those special moments for a heavy band to bridge the divide between metal and mainstream rock fans. Solid State is on a roll lately and this album is certainly no exception.

29. Acceptance – Wild, Free

If anyone remembers, this band has had an extremely short career discography wise and interrupted by about a decade of inaction. The band only released an independent album, an ep on Militia Group, and a full length on a major before calling it quits. The band returned in 2017 with “Colliding By Design” which was a reintroduction of sorts, taking cues from their past and amplifying it a bit. The took the best elements from their Militia Group EP and Major Label full length, combining them in a blender with superb production and spitting them out for the masses to consume. That album was released on Rise Records and went mostly unnoticed except by a few die hards still left from the 00’s music (emo) explosion. This new album shows the band taking a markedly turn to more commercial alt rock radio songs. I have to say it, yes there is some clear similarities to The Killers and it’s unmistakable. What makes this band special is that they stay in their own lane, carving out a unique niche and gliding by on the strength of Jason’s voice. While Brandon Flowers and his band are remarkable musicians in their own right, his voice isn’t as strong (sorry, don’t hate). The synth laden sound of “Wild, Free” sets this band on a new path and production is some of the best I’ve ever heard from them and their label. It’s like The Killers, Imagine Dragons, Neon Trees, Anberlin, Walk the Moon, Duran Duran, and Genesis had a baby and that baby is Acceptance. Some 80’s influence, some pop-rock from the 90’s, and new Alternative radio stuff has combined into the powerhouse that is Acceptance. Now we wait for the next Anberlin record 😉

30. Off Road Minivan – Swan Dive

This is an exceptional debut full length. The band released an EP that started things off for this “side project”, a couple years back and definitely turned heads. The band takes their signature indie/emo rock sound and weaves together soaring melodies with intricate guitar parts and unmistakable vocals. 2020 is definitely one of the strongest years on record Tooth & Nail and this release is further proof of this fact.

31. Lo Tom – LP2

This super group of sorts is back with their 2nd full length record. You can definitely point out Jason Martin’s guitar work and David Bazan’s vocals, making this a rock n’ roll trip through soundscapes of wonder and amazement. I love this sound and I think this is a strong effort. If you dug the first LP then you will absolutely love this 2nd outing. This is what happens when you throw skilled musicians together in a studio and expect them to create anything other than pure perfection.

32. KIDS – Lost Cities

Another fantastic and mostly unheard collection of songs from the Tooth & Nail roster that I enjoyed in 2020. This band would definitely fit well on modern alternative rock radio stations or heck even mainstream pop channels. What they do, they do well. This release walks a steady line between pop and rock while incorporating a healthy dose of synth and soaring vocals. Another Vinyl purchase of mine and I’m pleased.

33. Slow Coming Day – Quarantine Sessions

While this wasn’t necessarily a “New” album, it sorta was. Catch me? This song featured a couple new songs “Father, Friend”, and “Ghost Town USA”, while mixing it up with some classic Slow Coming Day songs of the past all redone for 2020, acoustically. We even renamed a couple songs to fit in with 2020 “Watching L.A. Fall Apart”, “Mid-Quarantine Nightmare”, etc. I have been the biggest champion and supporter of Orion’s music for years and this release is further proof of the power of songwriting and a solid voice. The fact that more people don’t appreciate the music of SCD and Orion Walsh within the U.S. is a tragedy. This album just like the prior material, is powerful and alluring. You can’t help but feel drawn to these songs much like “1000 Years (Like a Day)” from last year. I was excited when Orion pitched the idea of bringing back Slow Coming Day for some “new” songs and the fact that Indie Vision Music got to release them was beyond a highlight of the past 2 years. If 2020 could be bottled up into an expression of thoughts, feelings, and deeply connecting emotions, it would be “Quarantine Sessions”.

34. Deathbreaker – Isolate

Not only did Tooth & Nail have a productive year filled with so many quality releases, our other favorite heavy “Christian” label – Facedown Records, had an explosive moment with so many quality albums. Deathbreaker are back with a follow up record and it is incredible. Heavy as heck and motivational in the form of hardcore music. Deathbreaker are one of those really talented metal (hardcore) bands that rely on riff heavy, drum pounding, screaming from the guts, fast paced music that hits you in the chest. There is something strikingly similar in their music that I can’t quite place. It’s like they draw from the past while incorporating current metal sounds into a super punishing package of exploding musical sounds. Good stuff and thank you Facedown Records for bringing such variety to your roster.

35. The Killers – Imploding the Mirage

This album deserves heaps of praise. Sure, it’s been done before but this band has perfected their craft and what comes out is nothing short of bliss. This is one of those albums that you can listen to in entirety and not get bored. The last album was definitely not my favorite but “Imploding The Mirage” is a definite return to form for the group.

36. Idle Threat – Empty House

This band surprised many with their debut Tooth & Nail release. Featuring 5 songs and an intro. This EP serves as a proper introduction to the band and they have been rightfully embraced by the masses who’ve heard them. This band hits all the right paces and sounds kind of like a Beloved meets Worthwhile meets Defeater meets Household kind of thing. I have high hopes that on their T&N debut full length, they’ll increase the heaviness, the melodic parts, speed up guitar playing and make it one of the best of 2021.

37. Weathered – Everything All At Once

A beautifully mellow 2nd full length from Facedown Records’ own Weathered. The album continues the laid back appeal of the first full length and capitalizes on the strength of lead vocals and guitar parts. This is quality production and some solid songwriting. The band definitely stepped up from the debut a couple years back and “Everything All At Once” is even more relatable. These songs are so mellow, so smooth, that you almost want to kick back into some sort of time warp dream sequence. It’s one of those records that invokes moments in your head of laying upon a field of grass in the warm summer sun, staring up at the passing clouds with your significant other lying next to you. Yeah, it’s one of those records. Good times, good memories, and full of nostalgic leaning tendencies.

38. Misery Signals – Ultraviolet

The originators of the whole melodic hardcore punk thing that has circulated for a number of years. So many bands owe this band credit and while I am somewhat of a fair-weather fan this album kicks serious butt. This self released album is a fine example of a band that should never have called it quits. It’s heavy, it’s melodic, it is in your face, and it is mind blowing. I found this late which is why it isn’t further up the list of discovery. Definitely check this out.

39. The Prettybads / What’s Your Damage – Split

Two very strong groups even if the majority of you haven’t heard of them before. This is underground pop-punk, garage-y, post-punk stuff that has real heart and a certain degree of catchiness. Both of these bands are led by strong female vocalists that wear their punk pride clearly on their sleeves and that passion radiates from their hearts. The Prettybads play that garage punk sound reminiscent of Ramones meets The Donnas and Huntingtons in a dual with Bad Cop Bad Cop while What’s Your Damage are very 80’s new wave, post-punk influenced with soft vocals and that unforgettable punk edge. If you were to be introduced to either band, this is that perfect opportunity. I was lucky enough to be able to release this through Indie Vision Music in partnership with both bands and I am so thankful I did. Check out both groups and make sure to keep your eyes on them for future music.

40. August Burns Red – Guardians

August Burns Red fills the huge gaping void left by the end of As I Lay Dying who dropped out of sight after the downfall of their vocalist. While one band has returned August Burns Red will remain at the top of their game, attracting fans of the genre who are searching for something heavy, melodic, fast, and furious. “Guardians” is a fine album. Is it their best? That’s for you to judge but I think this album is definitely some of their finer work.

Honorable Mentions:

Anchor & Braille – Tension

I ran out of space because I wanted to keep the list to just 40 albums/eps but this album is worthy of attention. Stephen Christian (Anberlin) has been doing solo work and side projects like this for years. This album was an exciting return to form and showcased an even more mainstream pop sound. I dig it and I even own the vinyl.

Tigerwine – Nothing is For You

Top Songs of 2020:

Toad The Wet Sprocket – Starting Now

Beloved – Like a Song (U2 Cover)

Benjamin Daniel – Fear Hymn

MxPx – Worries

Five Iron Frenzy – So We Sing

Fallstar – Waiting

For King & Country – Together

Coheed and Cambria – Jessie’s Girl 2

A Day To Remember – Mindreader

Lacey Sturm – The Decree

Less Than Jake – Lie to Me

Grandpa Loves Rhinos – It’s Gotta Be The Gaming

Orion Walsh – House Arrest

Nate Parrish – Bullets and Blades

Hangnail – One Small Child (Ft. Josh Kemble)

Collington – Against The Wall

Homeplate – Time Stands Still

Audiophile – The Coast

Seeker & Servant – Bring You Praise

Luther’s Hammer – Repent & Believe

The Prettybads – Jessica

The Frozen Ocean – Not Like I Used To

Slow Coming Day – Ghost Town USA

Sef Idle – A Place to Call Home

Dire – Forever New

Poetic Descent – Shallow Graves

Winona Ave – Masterpiece

Last Chance Marie – Lemonade Stand

Spoken – Awaken Me

Scott Sellers – For Better or For Worse (Slick Shoes Cover)

Nathan Gray – Still Here

Blink-182 – Quarantine

No Lost Cause – Hope For The Hopeless (2020 Version)

Goldfinger – Wallflower

Everything In Slow Motion – Choke

Saint Didacus – The Constant War

My Epic – Lower Still (2020 Version ft. Levi the Poet)

The Weeknd – Blinding Lights

Twenty One Pilots – Level of Concern

Ledger – My Arms

Drop Some Words of Wisdom

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Brandon.Jones
January 6, 2021 11:28 am

Thanks Vincent for pointing out the obvious typo mistake. I have now fixed it. I can’t believe I missed it, wow!

Vincent
Vincent
January 5, 2021 11:10 pm

Awesome list man … can I just make one correction? only because the album was so important to myself … #11 American Arson’s album is A Line In The Sand … not Sound … thanks man 😀

Daniel J
Daniel J
January 2, 2021 4:50 am

Sweet list Brandon and I enjoyed reading your comments on each album. Here’s my Top 30 Songs of 2020 (limit of 1 per artist): 1. Chris Renzema – 17 2. DeNS – Are (feat. Laura McElroy) 3. Holding Absence – Gravity 4. Katatonia – Untrodden 5. Gleemer – Leadings On 6. Hundredth – Out of Sight 7. Captives – Falling Apart 8. Currents – Let Me Leave 9. Hands Like Houses – Wired 10. American Arson – Unbreakable 11. Everything in Slow Motion – Clementine 12. Movements – Love Took the Last of It 13. Weathered – Quick Tempered 14.… Read more »

Luke Bremer
Luke Bremer
January 2, 2021 1:44 am

I always look forward to Brandon’s end of year lists. Here are a few things I recommend checking out if you haven’t;

Albums/EPs

-Driveways “October Forever”
-Hands Like Houses “Self Titled”
-House & Home “Find Sense…”
-Seaway “Big Vibe”
-Enter Shikari “Nothing Is True…”

Single

-Holding Absence “Beyond Belief”

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