The Bam Team’s 5 Favorite Albums & Songs of 2020

Best of 2020 - Run the Jewels, My Morning Jacket, Fiona Apple, Hum, Fleet Foxes

Wow, 2020 … what can we say? This year will certainly be remembered for a lot of things, but none more so than the COVID-19 pandemic that has ravaged both the U.S. and world over the last 10 months and forced the live music industry to mostly shutter as musicians pivoted to livestreams and drive-in concerts to keep the show going as best they could and however possible. Yet along the way, we lost musical legends who spanned multiple generations from Neil Peart to Bill Withers to John Prine to Little Richard to Eddie Van Halen to MF DOOM — some due to COVID-19 unfortunately — making these past 12 months even more painful to endure than they already were. Ready to officially flush 2020 down the toilet and start anew? Don’t worry … you’re not alone!

In retrospect though, it has been a very quiet year for The Bam Team. You’ll notice there haven’t been a lot of updates in this space, and that’s partly due to the lack of live music on Planet Earth right now. But it’s also been a hectic time for all of us as we try to navigate our way out of these dark days and into some brighter ones, and like any good remedy nowadays, new music has definitely played its part in helping us physically and emotionally cope with the chaos.

It’s why after several months of inactivity here, we decided to dust the cobwebs off Showbams and deliver a modified version of our annual “Best of” lists like we have done since this blog first started (see our 2019 picks here). While that doesn’t mean we had time to hear and dissect every new album or song in the last 365 days — we are still in a pandemic after all — sharing our own individual picks offers a fun and stimulating opportunity for us to reflect on the year that was in music.

So, without further ado, Showbams presents The Bam Team’s five favorite albums and songs from 2020.

Listen to The Bam Team’s favorite songs of 2020:


Run the Jewels - RTJ4

Josh Herwitt // Los Angeles

Top 5 Albums of 2020
1. Run the Jewels – RTJ4
One might think that after three critically acclaimed albums with some of the most socially and politically charged material since Rage Against the Machine burst onto the scene, it would only seem natural for Run the Jewels’ act to turn a little stale by their fourth time around. But despite the three-year wait for RTJ4, the longest that the hip-hop duo has gone between releases, the final product — like a fine wine — has only gotten better with time. Anchored by stellar production (a RTJ trademark) and provocative rhymes, the 11-track offering sees the two emcees sounding off on everything from corporate greed to police brutality just days after the tragic death of George Floyd. It also boasts a guest list loaded with star power, with DJ Premier, 2 Chainz, Pharrell Williams, Zack de la Rocha, Mavis Staples and Josh Homme each lending a hand while El-P and Killer Mike inject truth serum into our ears with one verbal haymaker after another. In what proved to be a shitstorm of a year, this was the soundtrack a lot of us needed to survive 2020.

2. My Morning Jacket – The Waterfall II
3. Fleet Foxes – Shore
4. Tame Impala – The Slow Rush
5. Caribou – Suddenly

Favorite live album: Sylvan Esso – WITH

Top 5 Songs of 2020
1. Royal Blood – “Trouble’s Coming”
The British rock duo composed of lead singer/bassist Mike Kerr and drummer Ben Thatcher are gearing up to drop their third LP in 2021 and wisely chose to wet our palette with an absolute banger for its lead single. “Trouble’s Coming” has all the makings of a Royal Blood song — catchy bass riffs that sound like they’re coming out of a guitar, heavy-metal drums and Kerr’s falsetto vocals — while charting a slightly different path for the band, one that conjures up some serious 70’s disco vibes. Just watch this scene from Charlie’s Angels to see what we mean, and if you have a pair of fingerless leather gloves handy, you might as well put those on too. We think Sam Rockwell would approve.

2. My Morning Jacket – “Wasted”
3. Run the Jewels – “JU$T” feat. Pharrell Williams & Zack de la Rocha
4. Pearl Jam – “Dance of the Clairvoyants”
5. Sylvan Esso – “Ferris Wheel”

Favorite remix: Bonobo – “Final Days” (Michael Kiwanuka)


Hum - Inlet

Andrew Pohl // San Francisco

Top 5 Albums of 2020
1. Hum – Inlet
This four-piece’s fifth studio effort came as a complete surprise when it dropped in June, and it was honestly THE album I needed. Being knee-deep into the COVID-19 pandemic, I wasn’t sure what the rest of the year would look like musically, and it was exactly the type of record that hits all the marks for me. It’s sonically huge, it showcases Hum’s trademark ultra-layered, dense instrumentation and it ebbs and flows between energetic and emotive. Inlet was easily my most-listened-to album in 2020.

2. Coriky – Coriky
3. PEARS – PEARS
4. Fiona Apple – Fetch the Bolt Cutters
5. Run the Jewels – RTJ4

Favorite live album: NOFX – The Decline (Live at Red Rocks)

Top 5 Songs of 2020
1. Run the Jewels – “Walking in the Snow”
Oh man, this track was just the thing I needed during what may have been one of the most tense times in modern history. And like all of RTJ4, it absolutely crushes as El-P and Killer Mike bring their signature styles to full effect on this dramatic, yet bouncy tune. The middle section, which sees Mike taking the lead, is not only effective, prophetic and timely, but it also serves as a reminder that the time for action is now and that history has a tendency to repeat itself if we’re not careful. Check out the song’s brand-new music video here, too.

2. Hum – “Desert Rambler”
3. IDLES – “War”
4. Middle-Aged Queers – “Gary’s Making Biscuits”
5. PEARS – “Zero Wheels”

Favorite remix: Squarepusher – “Pink Maggit” (Deftones)


Fiona Apple - Fetch the Bolt Cutters

Rochelle Shipman // Los Angeles

Top 5 Albums of 2020
1. Fiona Apple – Fetch the Bolt Cutters
I almost feel cheated that my two No. 1 picks went to the same artist, but this year belonged to Fiona as much as it did to Dr. Fauci. FTBC busted us out of our mental prisons and allowed us to imagine our lives were more exciting than they actually were in 2020. It reminded us that we are strong enough to survive anything, to use our voices to speak even louder for what we believe in and that we can work on our own healing even if we can’t quite get outside. Ms. Apple set women free together.

2. Fleet Foxes – Shore
3. Mura Masa – R.Y.C.
4. Kari Faux – Lowkey Superstar
5. Liv.e – Couldn’t Wait to Tell You…

Favorite live album: Dolores Diaz & The Standby Club – Live at O’Leaver’s

Top 5 Songs of 2020
1. Fiona Apple – “Shameika”
This is a badass, “can-do” tune that was inspired by a passing comment made decades ago, one Fiona surely never thought twice about until now. And as she pounds the piano with the strength of RBG, it’s clear that this is the song 2020 needed — not to mention that it came full circle, inspiring Shameika herself all these years later. Sweet.

2. Noname – “Song 33”
3. Open Mike Eagle feat. Kari Faux – “Bucciarati”
4. Liv.e – “Lessons From My Mistakes…but I Lost Your Number”
5. Quakers feat. Sampa the Great – “Approach with Caution”

Favorite remix: Thundercat feat. Smino & Guapdad 4000 – “Dragonball Durag”

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Fiona Apple & Blake Mills stun Berkeley crowd by playing ‘Anything They Want’

Fiona-Apple-and-Blake-Mills4Photos by Sam Heller // Written by Molly Kish //

Fiona Apple & Blake Mills //
Zellerbach Hall – Berkeley, CA
October 8th, 2013 //

Walking into the Zellerbach Hall at UC Berkeley last Tuesday, it felt more like entering a lecture on music theory than a full-scale concert. The intimate venue, more commonly known for hosting fine arts performances and symposiums, was prepped for something very different on October 8th. The stage was packed with a drum set, stand up bass, piano, an eclectic array of guitars, various percussion instruments and one large, ambiguous treasure chest.

Photographers were lining the aisle ways of the orchestra and balcony sections, and seats were filling quickly with people audibly buzzing in anticipation. With expectations running high fueled by recent rumors and speculation, the audience came to a sudden hush as the theater lights dimmed. Fiona Apple and Blake Mills took the stage to truly perform “Anything They Want.”

Fiona-Apple-and-Blake-Mills2

“First things first,” Fiona came scampering onto the stage in a cyclone of discontent as she feverishly scribbled and erased words on a chalkboard in the backdrop. She continuously apologized and muttered while trying to get everything in order before she officially addressed the crowd. Blake Mills, on the other hand in near perfect inversion, casually walked over to his vast assortment of guitars, tuned his first choice for the evening and remained completely unaffected by the spectacle unveiling before him.

After finally achieving peace of mind enough to acknowledge the crowd (buzzing in anticipation), Apple took a very reluctant moment to set the record straight about her most recent outburst in Portland. She stated “she didn’t want to, but had to” further elaborate on comments she made regarding her continuous battle with an innately fiery temper and unwarranted liberties taken by the press.

When speaking, she seemed at times to be so uncomfortable that if physically possible, she would have leaped right out of her skin. Draped in a floor length silk slip and sporting an ill fitted bandana, she constantly adjusted the rag around her newly cropped hair — Apple eventually solicited the audience for a rubber band. At this point, Blake began to reel in Fiona in order to get the show started. What followed was a perfect combo of showmanship and grace — these two seemed like they had been touring together for years.

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After publically clearing her mind with the help of coy coaxing efforts from Blake, the duo selected songs from each other’s catalogues. Duets included, both artists shared the spotlight in one of the most beautifully free form jam sessions fans could have hoped for. Switching the lead role every two to three songs, both musicians transferred between guiding songs and supporting the other with ease.

Setting the pace for the night, the drummer and stand-up bass players were impeccable. Beyond their incredible musical prowess, these two provided an unbiased perspective amongst the theatrics of the evening, and occasionally joined in on the fun as both main acts playfully duked it out as joint headliners.

Captivatingly distracted, Apple seemed ingrained in some kind of internal battle with her psyche most of the evening. She spastically fluttered about the stage, rummaged through her chest of percussion instruments, and communicated nearly indecipherable murmurs with Mills about the real-time set list choices. Mills, on the other hand, remained collectively calm throughout, keeping the show from derailing into emotionally dark places.

Watching the chemistry between the performers was in itself just as entertaining as hearing them perform. The two divergent personalities played off one another like a pair of siblings lovingly prodding each other to raise the bar. Mills jokingly commented on Apple’s erratic behavior as she pushed his buttons, all while exchanging laughter.

Fiona-Apple-and-Blake-Mills

The musical selections covered a vast majority of material off each other’s most recent releases, along with a few throwbacks to appease the auditorium full of devoted fans. Fiona danced around vocal scales that ranged from gut wrenching bellows to glass shattering shrieks in a physical display of emotion that stunned the crowd into near silence. Spellbindingly beautiful, Apple looked as though she could tangibly feel the compositions running through her bloodstream. Her sentiment ranges from vehement aggression to utter submissiveness — she threw her entire being into every song she played.

Mills put on an equally impressive display of mind-blowing talent, transcending the space of Zellerbach Hall into a soundscape that was all his own. Mills took the crowd on an audio excursion that touched upon his various artistic influences and improvisational techniques. Mills rotated through an arsenal of axes, including danelectros, telecasters, hollow body Gibson’s, six string ukuleles and more. Apple remained on stage during much of Mills’ solo routine, writhing on a large marching band drum, occasionally beating it in dramatic fashion.

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Every component of this evening was perfectly crafted to play out in a wonderfully successful manner. Fiona Apple and Blake Mills may be in the middle of what will be considered one of the most impacting tours of either of their careers. The audience got to see both artists in their most naturally raw state.

What more could an artist, or audience member, want out of a live music experience? Running out of time for an official encore, Apple and Mills eventually exited the stage to a standing ovation from the sold out Zellerbach Hall crowd.

Coachella 2013: Predictions, wishes & rumors vs. reality

Coachella 2013By Mike Frash //

With a casual tweet, festival season is about to begin. Anticipation over the imminent 2013 Coachella lineup is building, and recent history shows the festival lineup could come this week.

Do you have your accommodations set? Hopefully your ticket is taken care of, because Coachella 2013 could already be close to sold out.

Presale ticketing for this year’s Coachella sold out within hours of going on sale both weekends last May, and it was the first time pre-sale sold out in such a quick fashion. The Coachella 2012 general on-sale sold out within an hour for both weekends a year ago, and if you weren’t ninja-quick at getting into the waiting room, you were shit out of luck. Take all this into account, and there might be a very limited amount of tickets available after the 2013 lineup drops. Is it possible Coachella 2013 is completely sold out from presale ticketing?

Coachella

Headliners: Reality vs. Rumors
The headliner rumors arrived early this year, with speculation over The Rolling Stones and Daft Punk dominating the conversation. At this point The Rolling Stones seems like the more likely of the two to be headlining, even though they haven’t played a whole lot of festivals since Altamont in 1969. Besides, Coachella rumors about Daft Punk and David Bowie playing Coachella are a yearly running gag at this point — we’ll believe it when we see it. Bowie even has a confirmed album coming out in the spring, but his bandmates are saying Ziggy has ruled out performing live … forever.

Reunions are a big part of Coachella’s top-notch lineups, and last year saw the regrouping of At The Drive-In, Pulp and Refused. This year it looks like The Postal Service and My Bloody Valentine could happen. Blur would also make sense since they reunited at the Olympics last year. Black Sabbath was reportedly on board to headline last year until they had to pull out at the last moment, and they have a new album coming out in June. Outkast would be the perfect hip-hop headliner, but that seems unlikely with Big Boi pushing his new LP. Wu-Tang Clan seems like the most likely rap act to play the main stage, but are they big enough to headline one of the three days each weekend?

Last year saw The Black Keys headline Friday along with Swedish House Mafia, and most people thought The Black Keys weren’t worthy of headliner status. But Coachella is good at king-making groups and artists, elevating them to the top level simply by making them headliners. Goldenvoice could repeat last year’s Friday concept by crowning Phoenix, The xx or Mumford and Sons headliners while putting deadmau5 on the top line to satiate the EDM masses.

Reality (likely headliners):
The Rolling Stones, The Postal Service, deadmau5, My Bloody Valentine, Black Sabbath, Pearl Jam, Phoenix, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Wu Tang Clan, No Doubt, Mumford & Sons, The xx

Rumors (probable wishlist-fiction):
Daft Punk, Outkast, David Bowie, Nine Inch Nails (How to Destroy Angels is likely)

Artists to see before they get big:
Last year, Frank Ocean, Kendrick Lamar, Death Grips, Azealia Banks, First Aid Kit, and lots of other artists performed at Coachella before getting exponentially bigger by the end of 2012. Possible contenders for 2013 include Angel Haze, AlunaGeorge, FIDLAR, Foxygen, Wilde Belle, & Earl Sweatshirt, although the hype for Earl is already tremendously loud.

Coachella

Best EDM acts most likely to not perform in the Sahara Tent:
• deadmau5
• Bassnectar
• Tiesto
• Simian Mobile Disco
• Andy Stott
• Nicolas Jaar
• Dan Deacon
• John Talabot
• Disclosure
• Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs

Artists most likely to return for second consecutive year:
Kendrick Lamar and Dawes, because Dawes somehow plays every festival.

Headlines we’d like to see:
“Frank Ocean, Tyler The Creator join Earl Sweatshirt’s first solo set”
“Progressive-house trend baffles Sahara tent candy-kids”
“Thom Yorke, Bradford Cox & Trent Rezner play a combined 9 sets each weekend”
“Katie Perry attends Coachella again, never considered for performing duties.”

Plausible Acts We’d Like to See:
Alabama Shakes
alt-J
AlunaGeorge
Andy Stott
Angel Haze
Animal Collective
Atlas Sound
Atoms for Peace
Bassnectar
Bat for Lashes
Beach House
Ben Howard
Big Boi
Bjork
Black Sabbath
Blur
Cloud Nothings
Chromatics
Crystal Castles
CHVRCHES
Dan Deacon
Divine Fits
Disclosure
Die Antwoord
Django Django
Ducktails
Earl Sweatshirt
Father John Misty
Fiona Apple
Frightened Rabbit
Grimes
Grizzly Bear (Added 1.17.13)
Haim
Hot Chip
How to Dress Well
James Blake
Jamie Lidell
Japandroids
Jessie Ware
John Talabot
Jim James
Kendrick Lamar
Kishi Bashi
Killer Mike
Local Natives
New Order
Nicolas Jaar
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
Major Lazer
Matthew Dear
Mumford & Sons
Passion Pit
Penguin Prison
Phoenix
Pretty Lights
Sigur Ros
Skrillex
Spiritualized
Stars
STRFCKR
Tame Impala
The Faint
The Joy Formidable
The Knife
The Postal Service
The Rolling Stones
The Walkmen
The xx
Toro Y Moi
TNGHT
Ty Segall
Unknown Mortal Orchestra
Vampire Weekend
Warpaint
Wavves
Wild Belle
Wild Nothing
Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Yeasayer
Yo la Tengo
!!!

Coachella