This past week, I undertook my annual review of the year’s top releases in order to determine my much-ballyhooed Album of the Year. It was, in its way, a not-so-grueling slog through the plethora of platters (both digital and physical) that have captured my attention since January 1st. In years past, much of this last-minute “research” would have been performed during my weekday commute to and from work but, thanks to the pandemic, I now generally drive my car once a week – to the grocery store for curbside pickup – so this year my listening was primarily done in the den and living room – sometimes while I worked, sometimes not.
In short, I winnowed a super-long list to a few dozen, winnowed again, and then winnowed some more, and finally concluded the process this morning, when I wrote my top choice and a few runners-up on a piece of paper that I sealed in an envelope and left to fester inside a mayonnaise jar on Funk & Wagnalls’ porch. Next Saturday afternoon, aka November 28th, the jar will be transported by armed guard to a park about 30 minutes from where I live; the socially distanced ceremony will take place not long after the honorees and invited guests have chowed down on delicious brisket sandwiches from the Hillsborough BBQ Company.
Yep, attendees are fed well.
For those curious about past winners, here’s the list – along with a less tongue-in-cheek explanation of the process. Below is the list of this year’s nominees prior to my second-to-last pass (the “few dozen” mentioned above). I’ve written about most, though not all; where possible, I’ve linked to my “First Impressions” pieces about them. (Those marked ** were archival delights/re-releases.) They’re listed in alphabetical order.
- Courtney Marie Andrews – Old Flowers
- Country Westerns – self-titled
- Natalie Duncan – Free
- Bob Dylan – Rough & Rowdy Ways
- A Girl Called Eddy – Been Around
- **Roberta Flack – First Take 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition
- Lianne La Havas – self-titled
- Emma Langford – Sowing Acorns
- Shelby Lynne – self-titled
- Maria McKee – La Vita Nuova
- Melody Gardot – Sunset in the Blue
- Malin Pettersen – Wildhorse
- Zach Phillips – The Wine of Youth
- Niamh Regan – Hemet
- Rumer – Nashville Tears
- Stone Foundation – Is Love Enough?
- **Style Council – Long Hot Summers: The Story of the Style Council
- Bruce Springsteen – Letter to You
- **Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band – Philadelphia 9/25/1999
- Emma Swift – Blonde on the Tracks
- Suzanne Vega – An Evening of New York Songs and Stories
- Paul Weller – On Sunset
- Jess Williamson – Sorceress
- **Neil Young – Homegrown
- Neil Young – The Times