Western Addiction’s Jason Hall discusses his favorite albums of 2020
San Francisco punks Western Addiction ended a 12-year gap between albums with 2017's very good Tremulous and this year, they came back with yet another great new record called Frail Bray (released via Fat Wreck Chords). The record — produced by Jack Shirley (Deafheaven, Jeff Rosenstock, Joyce Manor) — found the band churning out ripper after ripper while combining themes of "hope, rejuvenation, motherhood and positivity through grief," as frontman Jason Hall said when he gave us a track-by-track breakdown of the album in May.
Now that the year is coming to a close, we asked Jason what his favorite albums of 2020 were, and he made us a top 10, including records from Sturgill Simpson, Spirit Possession, IDLES, Bright Eyes, and others. He also included a list of honorable mentions with the following statement: "All of these releases below have merit. I listen to so much music, but these jumped out to me. Meth Drinker is the best band name I've heard in a long time. So good." Read on for Jason's list...
JASON HALL'S (WESTERN ADDICTION) ALBUMS OF THE YEAR
1. Sturgill Simpson – Cuttin' Grass Vol. 1 (Butcher Shoppe Sessions)
When I think of "punk," I don't think of mohawks or safety pins (and as it turns out, that is just a falsehood and caricature, listen to this). I think of people like Sturgill Simpson, a person that believes what he says and says what he believes, regardless of consequence. He does exactly what he wants AND respects other humans. A true artist, a true musician, a true punk. You may not like real country or bluegrass, but I can assure you, there is some absolute shredding on this record. The mandolin player is incredible. And Sturgill's voice is just angelic warmth.
2. Old 97’s – Twelfth
One of my favorite bands and Rhett Miller is among the best songwriters on Earth. Their twelfth record and still making fantastic songs and melodies. They picked the wrong single, though; "Diamonds on Neptune" is the one. You rarely meet and like your heroes, but I met him once and he's a good, kind man; everything I hoped for in a human, and everything I strive to be as a person. Exactly what this world needs.
3. The Avett Brothers – The Gleam
I almost feel like this band flies under the radar, just a little, but it shouldn't be that way. They write perfect songs with beautiful melodies. I may scream all the time but I love good songwriters and this band is unparalleled. Listen to "Prison to Heaven."
4. Jesse Daniel – Rollin' On
KEXP in Seattle is the best radio station on Earth, hands down. There is a specialty show called "Swingin' Doors" and they play real country and Americana that is expertly filtered for quality. Sometimes when I hear something I like, I write the band a letter, just like I did when I was a kid. I sent Jesse a direct message and he responded immediately, and it turns out, he's a punk from Santa Cruz and knew of our world and band. I'm always impressed when someone can take a genre that has seen everything under the sun and still make a solid, catchy, fresh record.
5. Shopping – All or Nothing
Listen to the song, "Initiative." A great angular, indie-pop record. Again, heard this on KEXP. I had tickets to see them and Automatic, but it was the day that every show on the planet was being canceled and it was just too risky to go.
6. Spirit Possession – Spirit Possession
I love witchy black metal; the screechier the better. There are SO many metal releases but this record feels different. There is something exotically chaotic and comforting about it. One thing that bothers me about the genre is that you can't really learn anything about the bands and members because everything is so mysterious; [it's] understandable, but I am a fan who likes to explore and learn. As it turns out, a member of the band is also in this band Mastery who put out a great record called Valis. I had no idea this person was also in Spirit Possession but I instinctually felt it, I guess.
Funny story, I was in Amoeba a few years ago in my square-guy work clothes in the metal section. I was chatting with the guy who runs the section and I asked him if he ever heard the Mastery record because it's insane. He said, "Yeah, I've heard it, it's my record, I made it." I recommended his own record, to him. Slightly embarrassing.
7. IDLES – Ultra Mono
This is the modern, socially conscious, big production Jesus Lizard. I completely understand why they are so big. They took what Jesus Lizard did and added great melody and excellent choruses. I like really interesting lyrics and his strong accent is so fitting and wonderful. They feel dangerous in the best way.
8. Bright Eyes – Down in the Weeds, Where the World Once Was
Another solid record from a premier songwriter. He knows how to construct a song, pure and simple. I'll listen to everything he does, forever.
9. Dragged Into Sunlight – Terminal Aggressor II
This is the most exciting band in metal. I saw them live once and couldn't believe what the singer was physically and humanly capable of. A mix of black and death and it's absolutely brutal and scary. They had a very public falling out with their record label. I like bands that are fearless.
10. Belle & Sebastian – What to Look for in Summer
B&S are in my top five bands of all time. Stuart is one of the best, most consistent songwriters in music. They have interesting lyrics and the best vocal melodies. This comes out in December but I know it's going to be great. High Fidelity was on TV the other night and I was reminded of when I first heard them. Love at first listen. This is a live record and they are a great live band. The shows are so fun and life affirming.
Äkth Gánahëth – From the Cursed Glades, Crowned in Shadows, Shadows Dance Under the Crimson Moon
Dearth – To Crown All Befoulment
Deradoorian – Find the Sun
Drouth – Excerpts from a Dread Liturgy
Evoker – Evil Torment
Kvaen – The Funeral Pyre
Lifvsleda – Det Besegrade Lifvet
Meth Drinker – Oil + Discography
Moaning – Uneasy Laughter
Napalm Death – Throws of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism
Nimbifier – Demo I&II (Compilation)
Paralysis – Mob Justice
Run the Jewels – RTJ4
Silver Knife – Unyielding/Unseeing
Skeleton - Skeleton
Strike Anywhere - Nightmares of the West
Tom Petty – Wildflowers and all the Rest
Uada – Djinn
Witchcraft – Black Metal