How's everyone's 2020 been so far? Same. Coronavirus has turned the whole world upside down and has affected just about everyone (maybe not David Geffen) from macro to micro. On that micro level, this will end up being the longest I've gone without seeing live music since I started actively going to shows. Thankfully, there is still new music even though some records are getting postponed, just like tours. (Jarvis, we'll see you in September.) We just posted the list of Our 25 Favorite Albums of 2020 So Far, which contains a bunch of my picks, too, but here's my Indie Basement-specific list of my favorites from January, February and March.

This list is in alphabetical order (though I have a clear favorite found at the center of the above collage) and who is to say how many of these records will end up making my End of Year 2020 list. December seems very, very far away right now so let's live for today and my list of 2020 faves is below.

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Activity - Unmask Whoever (Western Vinyl)

Previously on Indie Basement: After a decade leading Brooklyn’s Grooms through a variety of transformations both sonically and personnel-wise, Travis Johnson broke up the band and started Activity with their exceptional, inventive drummer Steve Levine, adding bassist Zoë Browne (Field Mouse) and guitarist Jess Rees (Russian Baths). Sonically, Activity’s debut album is not that far from the alien landscapes Grooms were terraforming on their final album but they lean into it, adding electronics and playing to everyone strengths. A lot of music gets called Lynchian, usually by way of lonesome twangy guitars, and it’s an overused analogy but I’m gonna go there anyway cause Activity get there without ever sounding like Angelo Badalamenti or Chris Isaak. Unmask Whoever is doppelganger music: unsettling, sensuous, sinister, familiar but alien and undeniably captivating. Bob would dig Activity.

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Caribou - Suddenly (Merge)

Previously on Indie Basement: It’s been six years since Our Love, Dan Snaith’s last album as Caribou. He’s stayed busy, with tours, making records as Daphni, and some serious life stuff, but he’s also admitted new album Suddenly just took the longest to make. Snaith had made over 900 little loops, riffs and samples that he then poured through, combining, discarding, embellishing, to make this 12-song, 44 minute album. It seems like an insane, Eno-like amount of work, but Suddenly feels entirely effortless and, more than any previous record, connects the early psych-heavy Caribou (and Manitoba) records with the housey, electronic sound he surprised fans with on 2010’s Swim.

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Cindy Lee - What’s Tonight to Eternity? (W. 25th)

Previously on Indie Basement: As Cindy Lee, former Women singer/guitarist Patrick Flegel makes music that is eerie, beautiful, nostalgic, and sometimes a little disquieting, like the Lady in the Radiator from Eraserhead covering The Carpenters by way of Sonic Youth and The Radio Dept. The Carpenters, and the tragic story of Karen Carpenter in particular, were a direct influence on Cindy Lee’s fantastic fifth album, What’s Tonight To Eternity?, a record whose otherworldly pop is perfectly matched to its quizzical, somewhat nihilistic title.

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Cold Beat - Mother (DFA)

Previously on Indie BasementMother is Cold Beat’s warmest, most tuneful record yet. (It’s also the group’s first for DFA after three albums on their own Crime on the Moon label.) There is still a palette of blue synths, but the melodies are more inviting and the whole record feels more human. “Paper” could’ve been a folk song in another life, and the wonderful closing track “Flat Earth” feels like a lullabye even though it’s inspired by climate change deniers’ reactions to California wildfires. There are still a few of the group’s spiky numbers — like the discordant “Gloves” — but Mother has a floating quality to it that is very satisfying and attractive.

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Julian Cope – Self Civil War (Head Heritage)

Previously on Indie BasementSelf Civil War is, at 13 tracks and 73 minutes, a lot. (“I tried to represent the sheer volume of discontent in people’s lives,” Cope told the BBC’s Marc Radcliffe.) There are cosmic psych jams, krautrock rhythms, mellotrons, cheesy synths, sound effects, mushroom tea folk, sea shanties, ren-fair ditties about norse gods, the terrible things we’re doing to our planet every minute, plus anti-technology parables (“Your Facebook, My Laptop”), and at least a couple songs about drugs. (It would not be that hard to argue that all Julian Cope songs are about drugs.) But it’s all rather charming, with great wit, empathy and no shortage of melody, either.

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Destroyer - Have We Met (Merge)

Previously on Indie Basement:  Have We Met is like a third cousin twice removed to 2011’s brilliant Kaputt (one of our favorite records of the last decade). This is a much different beast, though. Where Kaputt was warm, rainswept, neon-lit and thick with saxophones and flute, Have We Met is gleaming and sleek, like brushed steel in outer space. Boldly going where Destroyer hasn’t gone before, it’s colder, louder, more bizarre, but still sexy.

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Baxter Dury - The Night Chancers (Heavenly)

Previously on Indie Basement: “I’m not your fuckin’ friend.” Baxter Dury kicks off his sixth album, The Night Chancers, on an especially surly note and sets the tone for the whole record. It’s a 3 AM kind of album, a time where nothing good happens and the only thing up is trouble. Following his great 2017 breakup album Prince of Tears (my favorite of that year), The Night Chancers takes its cue from that record’s “Miami,” offering up lurid character sketches of drunks, losers, miscreants and other pathetic specimens, all set to groovy basslines, throbbing synthesizers, and funky guitars, all swathed in disco strings for an air of seedy romance.

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En Attendant Ana – Juillet (Trouble in Mind)

Previously on Indie Basement: First: Parisian band En Attendant Ana write exceedingly catchy songs and then give them interesting, often psychedelic arrangements full of hooks that compliment the melodies. Second: frontwoman Margaux Bouchaudon has a great voice and doesn’t shy away from the microphone, can really belt it out but knows when and when not to do so. And third: this band are not as demure as pictures may lead you to believe. They may not own a distortion pedal, but the guitars are louder and less polite than they first seem, and drummer Adrien Pollin is not shy with his instrument. Juillet is is an all-around better record than 2018’s Lost and Found which, as that record was terrific, is good news and high praise. Need I mention they sing in English?

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FACS - Void Moments (Trouble in Mind)

Previously on Indie Basement: Chicago trio FACS music has always been more about mood and atmosphere than tangible hooks, but third album Void Moments really feels like the soundtrack to a disturbing, nightmarish sci-fi horror film that has yet to be made. (David Cronenberg might have been the man for the job 20 years ago.) Or maybe just the soundtrack to right now which I guess could be the same thing. Part post-punk, part post-rock, Void Moments is towering stuff, the sound of dread, cities in the sky floating above clouds of black pollution. Distorted basslines spiral upwards, guitars sounds like klaxons, while guitarist/singer Brian Case intones commands, cold and distorted, to the terrified masses below. Resistance is futile.

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A Girl Called Eddy – Been Around (Elefant)

Previously on Indie Basement: On her first A Girl Called Eddy album in 15 years, Erin Moran is a master of the wistfully melancholic, that happy/sad vibe that can tug at the heartstrings with a well observed lyric or just a perfect little sonic flourish. “Charity Shop Window,” a song about seeing an ex’s coat on display at a thrift shop which she co-wrote with the great Paul Williams (who wrote many of The Carpenters’ hits, not to mention “The Rainbow Connection”), does both. Moran’s voice, at turns breathy and powerful, is deeply emotive and never goes for gymnastics/theatrics. Even when the production tiptoes near treacle, it makes everything sing.

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Luke Haines & Peter Buck - Beat Poetry for Survivalists (Omnivore Recordings/Cherry Red)

Previously on Indie Basement: Former Auteurs frontman Luke Haines makes his most enjoyable record in a while, thanks to Peter Buck (and Scott McCaughey & Linda Pitmon)There are songs about a pirate radio station that only plays Donovan songs, the search for Bigfoot (that involves Liberace and The Ramones), Andy Warhol, a bunch of “Gallic macho men” who “prowl the back roads of rural France looking for a ‘discotech’ to ‘detest’,” and “Ugly Dude Blues,” which they describe as “an old Troggs song that Reg Presley didn’t get around to writing so we wrote it for him.” Beat Poetry for Survivalists' title track is about the co opting of counterculture by the clueless and rich. Haines is as bitter and witty as ever, but he also sounds like he’s having fun here.

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Honey Harper - Starmaker (ATO)

Previously on Indie Basement: William Fussell has been in a few bands over the last 10 years — all various strains of dreampop, including Mood Rings and Promise Keeper — but has found his voice with Honey Harper that incorporates everything he’s done before but applies it to ’70s-style country. If the imagery on the album cover — his glitter dusted lips and kaleidoscopic lens flare beaming out below his closed eye — have you questioning his sincerity, one listen to the genuinely gorgeous Starmaker will let you know he’s for real. His voice falls somewhere between Glen Campbell and Randy Travis, capable of high falsetto and deep bellows and it cracks just the right way when shifting between between them, with a quiet quiver that sounds like a lump in your throat. Musically, Starmaker is like Glen Campbell’s “Rhinestone Cowboy” by way of Weyes Blood’s wide-eyed, wide-screen space-pop and the floating guitar cascades of Cocteau Twins’ Robin Guthrie (if he sported a Stetson).

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Juniore - Un Deux Trois (Outré)

Previously on Indie Basement: Parisian trio Juniore make what they call “yé-yé noir,” which is to say a sound steeped in mid-’60s artists like France Gall, Françoise Hardy, Serge Gainsbourg and Jacques Dutronc, but with a sultry surf-psych twist. It’s in the same universe as La Femme and The Liminanas, and if you dig slinky French pop at all — or even things like Khruangbin — Junior’s new album Un Deux Trois is definitely worth a spin. Basslines are groovy, the drums really snap, twangy leads snake through songs, vintage organs add an air of mystery, and leader Anna-Jean has that breathy, sexy voice this kind of stuff demands.

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Stephen Malkmus - Traditional Techniques (Matador)

Previously on Indie Basement: While associated with staunch indie rock snobbery, Stephen Malkmus has long dabbled in jam band territory, all the way back to Pavement’s final album, Terror Twilight. (Before? Maybe.) So when he announced Traditional Techniques, his third album in three years, as “stoner folk” it wasn’t really as much of a stretch as Matador may have wanted you to believe. At least not in that way. It is, however, his quietest, most introspective and straight-from-the-heart record he’s ever made.

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The Orielles - Disco Volador (Heavenly)

Previously on Indie Basement: The Orielles are inhabiting a psychedelic party planet — neighboring “Planet Claire” perhaps — decorated in acid house day-glo and lava lamps, and standout cuts “Rapid i,” “The Square Eyed Pack” and “Space Samba (Disco Volador Theme)” are overflowing with all manor of quirky keyboards, an arsenal of percussion instruments, shouts, sitars, flanged-out guitars, spiky riffs, and otherworldly sound effects. And good songs. Two years on the road for Silver Dollar Moment, plus the addition of a fourth member, has made The Orielles a tight unit that knows how to uncoil, and just have fun, as this album amply shows.

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Pictish Trail - Thumb World (Fire)

Previously on Indie Basement: A contemplation on “life repeating and gradually degrading, the inevitable cyclical nature of things, and the sense of their ultimately being no escape,” Thumb World cites our opposable digits as the things that both separate us from “lower species” but are also what we use to operate our handheld devices. That idea is also borne out in the album’s awesome cover art, which was created by Swatpaz (aka Scottish artist Davey Ferguson who worked on Adventure Time), which also ended up inspiring some of the song’s lyrics. Undeniably whimsical, Thumb World is also delightfully realized and tuneful, and his style falls somewhere between Grandaddy, Super Furry Animals, Spiritualized and Mercury Rev. Thumb World is apocalyptic, but he greets the end with good humor and even better tunes.

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Porridge Radio - Every Bad (Secretly Canadian)

Previously on Indie Basement: Misery loves company — just look at arenas full of Cure, Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails fans — and sometimes you just want to wallow with someone that’s down there too. Please welcome Porridge Radio to the stage. Singer/songwriter/guitarist Dana Margolin is wallowing, stewing, obsessing and generally spending too much time in her own thoughts across the whole of Every Bad, the band’s brilliant new album. “I am waiting for you to get out of my mind,” she wails on “Don’t Ask Me Twice,” one of 11 visceral, memorable songs on the record that aims straight for the gut.

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Real Estate - The Main Thing (Domino)

Previously on Indie Basement: Real Estate were breezy right from the start but have mellowed further with every record. The Main Thing, the band’s fifth album, is their most settled yet. Also one of their most enjoyable. This is Real Estate’s second album with Julian Lynch as the group’s other guitarist, alongside frontman Martin Courtney, and everything feels comfortable if thankfully not quite predictable. Keyboardist Matthew Kallman’s presence is increased, with swirling synthesizers intertwining with the rippling guitar leads, and Jackson Pollis is credited not just with drums but drum programming. In that way, there’s an added emphasis on rhythm and groove, with Alex Bleeker’s basslines more fluid than they’ve ever been before.

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Shopping – All or Nothing (Merge)

Previously on Indie Basement: Shopping have been making, danceable politically minded post-punk for most of this decade and have been one of the most consistently fun live bands as well. While they’ve always had something to say, over the course of three very good albums they stretched their taut, minimal, “angular” (RIP Andy Gill) sound about as far as it could. For their fourth album, All or Nothing, they veer a little to the right, adding synthesizers, more layered arrangements, and elements of pop production. Which in this case is a good thing. It’s not a drastic pivot or a glossy makeover — songs like “Initiative,” “About You,” and “Expert Advice” are clearly Shopping songs — but there are melodies and hooks to match the band’s still boundless energy.

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Tan Cologne - Cave Vaults on the Moon (Labrador)

Previously on Indie Basement: Swing a dreamcatcher at a psych fest and you’re bound to hit a band that kinda sounds like Tan Cologne but this album is better than 97% of what’s out there today, though I’m not sure if I can exactly explain why. It hits me like the tripped out first Verve album, A Storm in Heaven, with expert use of reverb and echo that, when combined with slow groove melodic basslines, atmospheric guitarwork, lithe drumming and Lauren and Marissa’s voices, lifts you an inch or two off the ground. It’s warm and enveloping, and more than happy to stretch out and groove in the warm morning sun. Which also sounds like an ideal way to listen to this record.

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Looking for more? Browse the Indie Basement archives. Also check out BrooklynVegan's 25 favorite albums of 2020 so far for more.