Ok, first off, I apologize. This year’s playlist is 32 goddamn songs long. I didn’t have the self-control to limit my top albums list to 10, so now that I’m unshackled, I went all in on the playlist too. There’s something here from every one of my top 12 albums of the year, a handful picked from some of the honorable mentions, and then some other tracks that I really enjoyed from throughout the year.
On another note, every year I have my big catch-all playlist of all the tracks I really like each year, which I then distill down into this list. The catch-all list is always some sort of pun with the term “jam” in it, because they’re all jams. In January, when I created the playlist, I named it “Before the Jampocalypse.” Little did I know what a harbinger of destruction it truly would be. It was before and during the world falling apart. As you can expect, the 2021 list, which has already started building, is aptly named “After the Jampocalypse.”
- Heart Attack Man – “Notes App Apology”
This was the first song added to this playlist. Once I heard this single, I knew it was going to be one of my favorites for this year. One of the worst tropes of the internet is when someone even marginally famous gets busted for being a dirtbag, and then posts their apology, written on the iPhone’s Notes app. Sometimes it’s accompanied by a YouTube video where they have to make it clear they were crying. It’s a wrote, soulless act, and this song pokes fun at it in all the right ways.
- Dogleg – “Fox” (my #7 album of 2020)
- blink-182 – “Quarantine”
It’s very clear that Mark Hoppus had enough of quarantine this year. So much so, he had to write a song about it. I mean, it’s gotta be tough living in your Beverly Hills mansion, right? Still, the song echoes the sentiments a lot of us felt early in the pandemic as we were itching to get out of our houses.
- Charmer – “December” (my #3 album of 2020)
This track is a great example of how well this album blends a variety of emo styles, serving as a great transition on this playlist between pop-punk and whatever the hell we’re calling what Conor Oberst makes these days.
- Bright Eyes – “Pan and Broom” (my #10 album of 2020)
Again, I just want to reiterate, this song steals its hook from Strong Bad’s “The Cheat is Not Dead“.
- Daði Freyr – “Think About Things”
Have you ever heard of Eurovision? It’s a massive song contest in the European Union where all countries hold their own contests to select a performer to send as their representative, then they perform on behalf of their country against all the other countries in the EU, and then the ENTIRE EUROPEAN UNION votes on a winner. Daði was chosen as the Icelandic representative with this song, but due to the pandemic, the Eurovision contest never happened. What a bummer. I found this song through Reddit, and never listened to any of the other entries, but I’m sure this one would have won.
- Saosin – “I Can Tell There Was An Accident Here Earlier”
A demo version of this song was on a Smartpunk compilation back in 2004, and since then has been one of my favorite songs of all time. It’s been one of the band’s most popular songs since, with a version recorded by each vocalist. Saosin used their quarantine time to re-record the instrument parts for this song, and layered the Anthony Green’s demo vocals over it. The new instrumentation really fills out the song, and gives it a new kick. This track still rips.
- Future Teens – “All Star”
Yes, that “All Star.” Future Teens puts their own spin on the Smash Mouth classic, and somehow makes it emo in a way that is not cringeworthy or awful. Looking forward to hearing some new music from the band in 2021.
- Ramin Djawadi – “Sweet Child O’ Mine”
One of the best parts of HBO’s series Westworld is the incredible covers that composer Ramin Djawadi does. It was used in a lot of the promotional videos for the season, so you may have encountered it in the past. Season 3 gained some real mixed reviews, but I really enjoyed it. There’s a great playlist on Spotify that has the Westworld covers of songs alongside the originals.
- Goldfinger – “Infinite” (my #11 album of 2020)
- Thief Club – “Bitter Blue”
This was a Spotify rec that I thought was a lot of fun.
- Alkaline Trio – “Minds Like Minefields” (my #12 album of 2020)
- Derek Sanders – “Rocks Tonic Juice Magic” (one of this year’s honorable mentions)
- Frank Turner – “Bob”
I’ve never been a big Frank Turner guy (sorry Frank), and I haven’t connected with much NOFX in years, but their West Coast vs. Wessex split gave me a chance to hear some fun reimaginings of classic NOFX jams like this one. “Bob” was one of my first NOFX songs, and Frank makes it his own, giving us a track that feels familiar and new at the same time.
- The Injured List – “Honest” (my top honorable mention for 2020)
- I Am The Avalanche – “Better Days”
- PUP – “Anaphylaxis” (my #9 album of 2020)
- The Front Bottoms – “everyone blooms”
- Into It. Over It. – “Living Up To Let You Down” (my #8 album of 2020)
- Dashboard Confessional – “Circles – Recorded at Electric Lady Studios NYC, 2020”
In all the weirdness of 2020, who would have expected Chris Carrabba covering a Post Malone song being one of the least weird things?
- The Strokes – “At The Door”
I haven’t really liked a song by The Strokes since “Reptilia”, and most of my love for that song came from Rock Band. This song has a weirdly catchy drone to it, and it got stuck in my head a lot after listening to it. I didn’t really dig much of the rest of the album, but it made me go back and listen to “Is This It?” again, and that album still rocks.
- Touché Amoré – “Reminders” (my #4 album of 2020)
- Weigh the Anchor – “Medicate” (one of this year’s honorable mentions)
- Knuckle Puck – “RSVP” (one of this year’s honorable mentions)
- Jetty Bones – “Taking Up Space”
If this is what we can expect from the rest of the new Jetty Bones album next year, I’ve got high hopes.
- Pet Symmetry – “A Detailed & Poetic Threat to the Person Who Intentionally Vandalized My 1994 Dodge Intrepid Behind Kate’s Apartment” (I made an entire category to include this album, and namely this song, in my list)
- ManDancing – “Coffer” (one of this year’s honorable mentions)
- Ruston Kelly – “Radio Cloud” (my #2 album of 2020)
- The Wonder Years – “Passing Through a Screen Door” (one of the best albums of existing songs of 2020)
- Spanish Love Songs – “Beach Front Property” (my #1 album of 2020 and my favorite track this year)
- Hot Mulligan – “SPS” (my #5 album of 2020)
- Rick Astley – “Everlong – Acoustic Version”
Who knew that the master of the Rick Roll singing this Foo Fighters classic in his living room would actually deliver on being a legit jam? The pop star’s soulful voice channels Dave Grohl’s emotion in the original version, and the fact that it’s just an acoustic cover still lets the song breathe. The kind of surprise we needed for 2020.