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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Five female emerging artists you need to hear

Billie Eilish, Sigird, Sampa the Great, Mabel & Jessie ReyezWritten by Krystal Beez //

Get ready to discover your new favorite artist.


1. BILLIE EILISH

Billie Eilish

Who: Billie O’Connell

Origin: Los Angeles, California

What she’s about: Better known by her stage name Billie Eilish, LA’s Billie O’Connell is our youngest emerging artist this month. At only the age of 15, she’s releasing the kind of music that ethereal, dark pop dreams are made of. Her debut single “Ocean Eyes” was released in 2015. Eilish collaborated with her brother on the track, and it’s a beautifully arranged and highly impressive debut. Her voice just seems to float in the air as the chorus comes in: “No fair / You really know how to make me cry when you give me those ocean eyes / I’m scared / I’ve never fallen from quite this high falling into your ocean eyes”. Though Eilish had been a part of the LA Children’s Choir, her initial focus was dance. We’re so glad that this rising star decided to explore recording. Her latest song “Bored ” comes from the Netflix original series “13 Reasons Why” soundtrack. And don’t forget to check out Marian Hill’s sultry “Bellyache” remix, too.

File next to: Lorde. Lapsley. AURORA.

Follow: Facebook. Soundcloud. Twitter. Spotify.


2. SIGRID

Sigrid

Who: Sigird Solbaak Raabe

Origin: Alesund, Norway

What she’s about: Our next emerging artist young’n is Sigrid, a 20-year-old from a small town in Norway. Her debut single “Don’t Kill My Vibe ” is about the time she was put in a writing session with middle-aged men. Spoiler alert: they killed her vibe. The single was released in February and was immediately named “Hottest Record in the World” on BBC Radio 1. In the few short months since then, Sigrid has released her debut EP, and Gryffin remixed “Don’t Kill My Vibe“. One thing that I love about Sigrid, and what I think sets her apart from others is the fact that even with big production, each song is piano-based and focused on the songwriting. This aspect might be due to being influenced by Joni Mitchell along with Chet Baker when she was young. Make sure to pop on Sigrid’s live and acoustic versions to really hear those lyrics and that big voice. You’ll want to keep an eye on this one.

File next to: MO. Lorde. Jessie Reyez.

Follow: Facebook. Soundcloud. Twitter. Spotify.


3. SAMPA THE GREAT

Sampa the Great

Who: Sampa Tembo

Origin: Zambia, South Africa

What she’s about: Born in Zambia, raised in Botswana and currently residing in Australia, Sampa the Great is a modern poet. Her lyrics contain political and societal themes, while her debut release The Great Mixtape is an inspiring and accomplished piece of work. With tracks like “Female” and “Blue Boss ” and a tour in support of Kendrick Lamar, it’s easy to see why Sampa is about to the next big thing. Last month, the urban poet unleashsed HERoes Act 2, a three-track EP for Red Bull Sound Select featuring British songstress Estelle. So, if you need a new hip-hop artist in your life, go listen to Sampa’s EP. It’s beautifully produced and uplifting with poetic lyrics. Plus, Estelle is on each track so what’s not to love? Furthermore, check out her feel-good collaboration “For Good” with Remi. You won’t be disappointed.

File next to: Lauryn Hill. Ray BLK. Remi.

Follow: Facebook. Soundcloud. Twitter. Spotify.


4. MABEL

Mabel

Who: Mabel McVey

Origin: London, United Kingdom

What she’s about: Despite having quite famous parents (Neneh Cherry and Massive Attack producer Cameron McVey), Mabel is beginning to make a name for herself. She spent a large portion of her childhood in London before moving to Stockholm at the age of 15. It was there that she undertook a three-year course at Rytmus (where Robyn and Tove Lo also attended). But it wasn’t until she came back to London that she felt free to create her specialized R&B sound that’s 90’s-influenced with London beats. Mabel first stepped onto the scene in 2015 with “Know Me Better” before her second single “My Boy My Town” caught the attention of Annie Mac and was remixed by Shura. The following year, she was nominated for the BBC Music Sound of 2016 poll. Get familiar with the name and check out the latest track from her Bedroom EP below because we expect Mabel’s debut album to be the stuff 90’s R&B dreams are made of.

File next to: RAY BLK. Bibi Bourelly. NAO.

Follow: Facebook. Soundcloud. Twitter. Spotify.


5. JESSIE REYEZ

Jessie Reyez

Who: Jessica Reyez

Origin: Toronto, Canada

What she’s about: Reyez first garnered attention in 2014 for her collaborative track with King Louie entitled “Living in the Sky”. From there, Reyez was approached for her songwriting and vocal talents by the likes of Diplo, Chance the Rapper and Babyface. Last month, she released her debut EP Kiddo. The great thing about Reyez is not only how she blends pop, hip-hop and R&B influences, but also her honest and at times, intense storytelling ability. Reyez dives deep into the story about her cheating ex like on “Figures” and what it’s like dealing with sexism in the music industry as she explains on her latest single “Gatekeeper”, which even she created a short film for. You definitely don’t want to miss her SF debut at The Rickshaw Stop this June.

File next to: Bibi Bourelly. Sigrid. Melanie Martinez.

Follow: Facebook. Soundcloud. Twitter. Spotify.


Who is your favorite emerging artist? Let us know in the comments section below!

Isaiah Rashad makes a statement at Echoplex while giving fans a lesson in reverse psychology

Isaiah RashadBy Joseph Gray //

Red Bull Sound Select – 30 Days in LA: Laneway Presents Isaiah Rashad with Mansionair, Sampa the Great //
Echoplex – Los Angeles
November 14th, 2016 //

Isaiah Rashad is a liar. On the surface that sounds absurd, considering how unregretful the Chattanooga, Tenn., emcee is about wearing his desires, anxiety and near self-demise on his sleeves. Hundreds of restless LA-area residents who were at Echoplex last Monday can vouch for my improbable story, though they’d also probably say how happy they were to be duped by the Top Dawg Entertainment (TDE) member.

On this night, as part of Red Bull Sound Select’s 30 Days in LA series, Rashad, TDE’s talented outlier, was originally scheduled to arrive onstage around 10:20 p.m. Yet, nearly an hour later, fidgety concertgoers were still jockeying for position in the darkened Echoplex tucked under an overpass not far from downtown LA.

With liquid courage taking over one attendee as he attempted to start altercations during anxious “Zaywop” (Rashad’s nickname) chants for the 25-year-old, there was a brief reprieve coming in the form of Mansionair, a Sydney-based band that mixed exceptional vocals with sweet electro-soul, culminating in a cool surprise as they brought out a full choir to perform with them for the first time ever. Despite the well-liked appetizer that came after Sampa the Great’s passionate set, the apprehension for more was palpable until Rashad’s DJ emerged, signaling it was almost time for the real fun to begin.

And when it did, Rashad torpedoed onto stage and turned the restlessness in the room on its head with “Smile”, the apropos homecoming banger he released after years of uncertainty that followed his 2014 EP Cilvia Demo. It was fitting because prior to his reemergence, which was sparked by the song, Rashad admitted to being addicted to Xanax and alcohol, and it almost led to him being dropped from his West Coast record label on several occasions.

Isaiah Rashad

From his issues with substance abuse to the tears he shed while listening to Kid Cudi’s music and his open-book thoughts on the humanizing of mental-health issues, Rashad’s journey from being the contemplative unknown in superstar Kendrick Lamar’s crew to a complete artist deserving of your attention has been steeped in honesty.

One song down and beads of sweat already dripping down his face, Rashad nevertheless promised that despite the frenzy that Sampa the Great and Mansionair created, his show in support of his latest release The Sun’s Tirade wouldn’t be too crazy. That, though, couldn’t have been more of a lie.

Manipulating fans of all ages with a nimble flow that was heightened to match the crowd’s energy, Rashad excitedly took us to the same place where his reflections have led him during his two-year hiatus. And not to be outdone by a couple of surprises, but he brought out rapper Hugh Augustine for “Tity and Dolla” before he really took things up another level.

The latter revelation came in the form of songstress SZA, Rashad’s TDE labelmate who assisted, danced and caused a near trampling of excited women near the stage as the two bounced smiles off each other while performing “Stuck in the Mud”. Folks were more than appeased at this point, but the good vibes kept on coming.

Isaiah Rashad

“Wop! 4r Da Squaw, dog?! Where’s 4r Da Squaw?!”

One spectator in the audience let me move in front of him to photograph Rashad with the promise that I’d switch spots during “4r Da Squaw”, a shared album favorite about growth which was repeatedly requested after Rashad finished each song. Considering it’s more of a slower-paced song, I wasn’t sure the young fan would get his wish during Rashad’s hour-long set, but soon after the guest appearances by Augustine and SZA, I made good on my promise when “4r Da Squaw” finally came on.

Even though Lamar was not in attendance on this night, Rashad let the crowd fill in for the Grammy winner during his rapid-fire guest spot on “Wat’s Wrong”. And when Lamar’s verse got to the part about his desires to vandalize President-elect Donald Trump’s headquarters, the left-leaning crowd erupted as expected.

Moving the focus toward a vote all could agree on, Rashad called for his groovy single “Free Lunch” to christen his feel-good show. Soon after, more “Zaywop!” chants would resume, this time beckoning Rashad to return for an encore, but when they eventually went unanswered, fans dispersed knowing their patience was still well worth the wait.

Setlist:
Smile
Brenda
Soliloquy
Cilvia Demo
R.I.P. Kevin Miller
Tity & Dolla (with Hugh Augustine)
Heavenly Father
Rope // Rosegold
Menthol
Nelly
Stuck in the Mud
Ronnie Drake (with SZA)
Warm Winds (with SZA)
4r Da Squaw
Find a Topic (Homies Begged)
A Lot
Wat’s Wrong
Free Lunch
Park
m.A.A.d. city (Kendrick Lamar cover)