By Spencer Davis. My wife likes to joke with her co-workers that the pandemic is the best thing that’s ever happened to me. That’s because working from home is pretty much my dream come true. That said, it has fundamentally transformed how I listen to music. In the past, my commute was my music space, and I could usually knock out a full album each way, giving me a lot of time to explore new music. I listened on earbuds, putting me in a sonic environment where (other than the occasional obnoxious train passenger) I could focus on the music and nothing else.
Now, all of that has basically reversed. I listen to music while I work and write in my home office or on my couch. Headphones have been exchanged for stereo speakers, where I fear I miss out on some of the more intricate production details—but rather than being immersed in a sonic space of artificial separation, the music and the outside world now blend together in ways that can make the music feel more natural.
And while I certainly listen to a lot of new music, I am no longer restrained by the built-in time limits of my commute—and I find myself using the freedom afforded by this almost limitless amount of listening time to do “deep dives “into the catalogues of a lot of older artists I’ve previously failed to fully explore. So while the albums below represent the highlights of 2020’s new music, the music I will most remember from 2020 came from the likes of John Prine, Neil Young, Van Morrison, Pet Shop Boys, The Replacements, George Harrison, Paul McCartney, Depeche Mode, The Clash, Elton John, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Nat King Cole, Heatmiser, Rush, Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez, and R.E.M.
Which seems fitting—in a year that otherwise felt like it was somehow forcibly plucked out of the ordinary timestream, maybe the soundtrack needed to feel timeless.