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”

Showbams_Sticker_Rectangle2

Mumford & Sons control crowd immaculately at the Greek

Mumford and Sons

Mumford & Sons, the folk-rock force that has influenced contemporary pop music more than any other group in a decade, made an interesting choice by performing at The Greek Theatre in Berkeley May 29-31. Tickets sold out instantly for all three dates when they went on sale, proving the group could have filled Oracle Arena twice over most likely (the band hooked up fans by offering pre-sale ticketing that you could purchase at your own pace by signing up at their website). As always, the outdoor theatre on the UC Berkeley campus proved to be a beautiful setting, a much more intimate and sonically special space for live music than a vast arena. Heart-on-sleeve leader Marcus Mumford even thanked the faithful for snapping up tickets so quickly Friday night, and he did seem humble – something he has down to a veritable science.

With their second tour and massive mainstream success, the foursome now tours with an extensive group of support – at times there were 11 performers on stage, almost exclusively string-based. The other obvious change in Mumford & Sons’ live performance is the gaudy amount of stage aesthetics they are now surrounded by – massive LED panels, epic spotlights, never-ending fog machines – something that could contradict their throwback sound. What a challenge it is for a folk/americana/country group to integrate contemporary visual effects into a live show, and it was successful overall because they didn’t overdo it. They took a minimalist approach to a setup that would have worked for a Bassnectar show. During “Lover of the Light”, at the peak point when Marcus screams the name of the song, it seemed logical for a blinding white light to overtake the audience, but that must have been too didactic since they kept the visuals mellow at that moment. Those present were slightly subdued at times for a Friday night crowd, but that’s because they were at the whim the headliners, following the musical cues with trained obedience.

Mumford and Sons

The Mumford & Sons crowd are the type of folks that don’t go to very many shows, something that became clear as a chatty buzz overtook Michael Kiwanuka’s opening performance. A couple inebriated strangers gave me a beer to apologize for taking the space directly in front of me. I appreciated it since the beer lines were epic, but was it their first concert? While collective disrespect was handed out to Kiwanuka, which included a bare spattering of claps after his final song, Mumford fans were immersed in the main act. The quiet pauses in the songs brought solumn respect from the crowd, yet the age-diverse but very white crowd erupted in celebration during radio anthems like “Little Lion Man”, and the expected sing-alongs brought a surprisingly blended audience harmony.

The hits were spread out, but the show didn’t really take off until the last third of the evening. The four song run of “Holland Road”, “Awake My Soul”, “I Will Wait”, and “Dust Bowl Dance” to end the set was the first time I joined the rest of the Greek theater entranced by the emotional up-and-downs that is the center point of the Mumford ethos. The most memorable part of the evening came at the encore, when Marcus told the audience that the next song will only work if everyone is absolutely silent. Of course, someone within the bowl of the theatre screamed as loud as possible. Marcus said, “now don’t do that. That’s our friend Tom. We put him there to show you what not to do.” Then they jumped into a stripped down version of Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m on Fire” gathered around one antiquated microphone for an acoustic take on the classic, and a deafening silence that lasted the entire song elevated it, creating a memorable moment. After the song, Marcus said, “that’s the quietest it’s ever been for that song…so we’re gonna do another one.” That was perfect timing for the obligatory yelling of “Freebird!”, which actually happened. Regardless of the noob-tastic Cliché spouted, the band played “Not With Haste” unplugged as well, and at the song’s conclusion Marcus smacked the microphone with triumphant gusto. He then said, “We play lots of shows, and we’ll never ever forget that.”

10 best tracks about “Home”

HomeSubscribe to our “Home” Spotify Playlist

This is the time of year when a lot of people spend time at home. People go home for the holidays, as most of us did for Thanksgiving and will do this month. People get stuck in their house when it’s raining & snowing. And we recognize how important home is when catastrophic events like hurricanes and earthquakes destroy so many dwellings.

Home can also have an abstract meaning, especially when it comes to music. Home can be a state of mind, and the idea of home shifts for many over the course of their lives.

Enough deep analytics – here are 10 of our favorite songs about home.
What did we miss?

10. Band of Horses – “On My Way Back Home”

On my way back home, by chance I thought of
All my favorite songs, where I’d gone wrong
The only words that I could think of
I’m pissing my life away in the form of a song
On my way back home

9. Japandroids – “The House That Heaven Built”

I happened on a house
Built of living light
Where everything evil dissapears and dies…
I settled in slowly, to this house that you call home
To blood and breath, fear, flesh and bone…
Its a lifeless life, with no fixed address to give
but your not mine to die for anymore
so i must live

8. Al Green – “Call Me (Come Back Home)”

If you find you’s a long way from home
And if somebody’s doin’ you wrong
Just call me baby
Come back home

7. The Head And The Heart – “Lost in My Mind”

Momma once told me
You’re already home where you feel loved
I am lost in my mind
I get lost in my mind

6. Grateful Dead – “Brokedown Palace”

Goin home, goin home, by the riverside I will rest my bones,
Listen to the river sing sweet songs, to rock my soul.

5. John Denver – “Take Me Home, Country Roads”

Country roads, take me home
To the place I belong
West Virginia, Mountain Mama
Take me home, country roads

4. Michael Kiwanuka – “Home Again”

Home again, Home again
One day I know I’ll feel home again
Wrong again, Wrong again
One day I know I’ll feel strong again
And lift my head

3. Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros – “Home”

Home
Let me come Home
Home is wherever I’m with you

2. LCD Soundsystem – “Home”

Home, home, home
Home, home, home
Take me home…
If you’re afraid of what you need
Look around you, you’re surrounded
It won’t get any better…

1. Talking Heads – “This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)”

Home is where i want to be
Pick me up and turn me round
I feel numb – burn with a weak heart
(so i) guess i must be having fun…
Home – is where i want to be
But i guess i’m already there
I come home – -she lifted up her wings
Guess that this must be the place

Subscribe to the “Home” Spotify Playlist