PUP’s Stefan Babcock discusses his 10 favorite albums of 2020
Even with no touring, Stefan Babcock managed to stay busy in 2020. PUP released the This Place Sucks Ass EP (which we named one of the best punk albums of the year), did a full-band livestream, and put out a "quaranzine" and flexi with a ska song for their label Little Dipper's zine/flexi series (which also released one by Chastity). Stefan also did some virtual solo stuff and he released a "nihilistic kids book for adults," Rupert Reaper and the Search for Happiness.
Now that 2020 is coming to a close, we asked Stefan what his ten favorite albums of the year were, and he made a list that includes friends/collaborators like Jeff Rosenstock, The OBGMs, and Ratboys, as well as big 2020 albums like Run The Jewels, Phoebe Bridgers, HAIM, and more. Stefan included commentary on each pick too - read on for what he had to say...
STEFAN BABCOCK'S 10 FAVORITE ALBUMS OF 2020
1. Run The Jewels - RTJ4
This is by far my favourite album of 2020, nothing else comes close. Though this album was written in 2019, the lyrics are the perfect soundtrack for a year of social and civil unrest and racial reckoning. It’s also straight up banger after banger. In my opinion, “JU$T" is hands down the best track of the year.
2. Phoebe Bridgers - Punisher
I love everything that Phoebe Bridgers does. It seemed like a tall order to top Stranger in the Alps (my favourite record of 2017), but Punisher is at least as good if not better.
3. The OBGMs - The Ends
I might be a bit biased here because I played a very (very) small part in the writing of this record, but honestly, the songs I helped out with are the worst ones on this album. The OBGMs are the most underrated band in Canada. They’ve made something really special, really different, and really dangerous. It’s fucking good. Best new punk band of 2020.
4. Bright Eyes - Down in the Weeds, Where the World Once Was
Bright Eyes is one of my favourite bands in the world, they could’ve recorded themselves pissing into a microphone and it would’ve made my top 10 list. But they didn’t do that. Instead they played it safe and wrote another incredible record. Boring.
5. Jeff Rosenstock - No Dream
My friend Jeff has done it again. What a guy. When I first listened to No Dream, I liked it, but felt like it wasn’t as strong as his other albums. But the more I listen, the more I love it. Each time I find a new thing that hooks me in. I think the best records are the ones that you appreciate more over time. Always better to be a grow-er than a show-er… or something. “State Line" is maybe my favourite Jeff song so far.
6. Illuminati Hotties - FREE I.H.: This Is Not the One You’ve Been Waiting For
For an album written and recorded in 3 weeks in order to free herself from recording commitments to her label, this is one hell of a record. Sarah is an amazing, and extremely unique songwriter. She has the perfect balance of weird / quirky and catchy, something that’s really hard to get right. The first line on this record is “Let’s smash to a podcast," so if that doesn’t rope you in, you’re probably not the type of person I want to be friends with.
7. HAIM - Women in Music Pt. III
Let me be honest here, I put off listening to this record until last week. HAIM is a band I’ve always liked but never loved, something I’d put on only when I was bored of Maggie Rogers. I’ve only listened to this record three times but I’ve decided that I'm an idiot and have got this band all wrong. They are so fucking good. This album is so fucking good. Also, great record title.
8. NOBRO - Sick Hustle
A four song EP has to really rip to make a top 10 album list. And this EP fucking rips. What a bunch of shredders. This band has me fired up about the future of rock music for the first time in a long time. Can’t wait for a full length.
9. John Prine - Crooked Piece of Time: The Atlantic & Asylum Albums (1971-1980)
I guess this is cheating, since this is just remastered versions of old material. But since John Prine died of COVID earlier this year, these songs have taken on new meaning. So many of them are about him dying, and he wrote them like 40 years ago, so listening now is pretty wild. He’s one of the best lyricists of all time, I’ve been unsuccessfully trying to rip off his self-effacing, lighthearted, but also emotionally complex style for years.
10. Ratboys - Printer’s Devil
This is a really great record that just got steamrolled because of bad timing. It came out February 28th, and two weeks later no one was writing about music, it was all pandemic talk. Their whole press cycle cut-off, so was a year of touring they had planned. But one of the things I love most about Ratboys, is they are such positive people, I never once heard them complain that they got the short end of the stick. Instead, they got back to work, and have been one of the hardest working rock bands during this pandemic. To mention but one of their projects, on halloween they did a 24 hour all-night telethon, that raised over 13K for Equal Justice Initiative and Girls Rock! Chicago. What a wonderful and talented group of humans.
Browse our Best of 2020 tag for more year-end lists.