By: Park Butterworth
Take a deep breath … If you’re reading this, you’ve survived 2020! WOW. What a year. The last 365 days have brought so many unique challenges. Many of us have had family, friends, and people in our communities suffer from the COVID-19 virus. People from all walks of life, all around the world have been affected. One industry that’s been hit the hardest has been the music industry. Touring artists had to cancel months and months of planned shows all around the world. Not only did that result in lost ticket sales, but lost sales in merchandise. The obvious parties affected by this were the artists and the venues. But I think we forget about all the people behind the scenes that make these shows possible. What about the audio engineers, tour managers, photographers, stage managers, and just crew in general. I have friends in this space who have really had to scrap to make ends meet. With 2021 on the horizon, I know we’re all hopeful for a nearing end to this “new normal.” We’re all ready to get back to business as usual.
With all the downtime 2020 brought us, we saw so many artists quarantine in their homes with family, friends, and band mates. This inevitably produced some incredible music to help get us through the year. We’ve compiled a small sample of that music in this year’s Mason Music Family Friendly Playlist. We’ve included songs you may have heard on the radio, as well as tunes from independent artists, and a few local faves!
Let’s kick this list off with some QUARAN-TUNES! This year brought us a really unique new genre of music. We saw several artists release quarantined-themed music. These songs address the highs and lows of quarantine life. We picked three of our favorite quarantunes for you to enjoy:
Twenty One Pilots – “Level of Concern”
First up is “Level of Concern” from the world famous Twenty One Pilots. This iconic duo dropped an upbeat, incredibly catchy, groove tune. This one is SURE to get stuck in your head! And for those of you who still jam out to the iconic band MUTEMATH from the past decade, we think you’ll enjoy the contribution from Paul Meany on this track.
Jared Minnix – “Slow Down”
Our second pick for this category comes from Nashville-based indie artist Jared Minnix. Minnix is no stranger to Birmingham, having played here many times over the past couple of years. His self-produced songs bring the Nashville singer-songwriter sound to the polished pop production that anyone can enjoy! Check out his song “Slow Down” on this year’s playlist.
Leon Bridges featuring John Mayer – “Inside Friend”
Rounding out this category we have Leon Bridges featuring John Mayer on the track “Inside Friend.” This track features “in your face” lyrics that perfectly paint a picture of quarantine life with your significant other. Leon Bridges smooth vocals coupled with John Mayer’s iconic guitar tone make this track a must listen for 2021.
Carver Commodore – “Tell Me What You Want”
Local and regional artists were also putting in work this year. 2020 brought us albums, EP’s and singles from some of our local favorites. On our playlist you’ll find several songs from Carver Commodore’s debut album “Tell Me What You Want.” Carver Commodore is an indie rock band from Florence, Alabama, with several of their outfit living in Birmingham. Their guitar player, Phillip Blevins, is a friend and employee of Mason Music. We’re stoked to have such incredible talent on our team! If you enjoy guitar-based, alternative music, you’ll fall head over heels for Carver Commodore. Go show some love to our other team members’ bands such as Venture Boi, JUCO, and Park. We think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the talent in our own backyard!
Taylor Swift – “Evermore”
Let’s not forget what the ladies brought to the music scene this year. Taylor Swift went to bat at the “bottom of the ninth” this year and released the surprise album “Evermore.” While we can’t vouch for every track on this album being family friendly, we were thoroughly impressed that Taylor was able to release not one but two full-length albums in 2020! Both albums were produced by Jack Antonoff of the bands F.U.N. and, more recently, Bleachers (one of whom also makes an appearance on our playlist). Jack’s influence is all over these records. And if you keep your eyes and ears open, you may find some features from other incredible artists on Taylor’s albums.
Lennon Stella – “Three. Two. One.”
Another female artist who ROCKED our world this year was Lennon Stella. Stella’s pop music is like no other. Incredibly catchy, yet intentionally profound. The melodies will hook you in, and the message will keep you there. Her 2020 album “Three. Two. One.” was a top contender for my personal album of the year. We added it in its entirety to our playlist. However, please note that the track “Older than I Am” does have very minor language concerns. However, we believe if you’re able to get past this, that the message of the song will have you looking at your life in the rearview mirror. It’s a reflection on growing up, getting older, and seeing your pain in a new light. It’s a beautiful journey and we keep coming back for more.
Our Pick For Album Of The Year
And now for the moment you’ve all been waiting for … ALBUM OF THE YEAR. Selecting the album of the year in 2020 was extremely difficult. The quality of content released this past year was bar none, and I think we’ll all look back in 10 or 20 years and realize just how special 2020’s music really was. We had several contributors to this playlist and many discussions regarding our personal albums of the year. Jones Willingham, a Mason Music team member, music photographer, and music journalist placed Phoebe Bridger’s “Punisher” at the number 1 spot this year. He’s not alone in that sentiment. The Grammy awards have her up for 4 nominations in 2020. Although none of the songs carry the EXPLICIT tag, we found that only a few of the tracks passed the test to make it onto our playlist. But if you’re able to give the full album a listen, we know you won’t be disappointed.
Jones’ second pick for album of the year, and my first choice, goes to “Shore” by Fleet Foxes. I’ll admit, while I’ve always been aware of Fleet Foxes, I’ve never been an avid listener. That all changed with “Shore.” I have had this album on repeat literally since its release on September 22. We’ve added it in its entirety to our playlist. This is an album you can play from top to bottom without skipping a single track. It offers sounds for every taste, and lyrical content to boot. It’s peaceful, inviting, suspenseful and inspiring. This record finds a way to be calm but not boring. I always know I’ve found a winner when I can’t tell you the name of any single track, but I can sing you each melody without skipping a beat! If you’ve got a collection of vinyl at home, go ahead and place your order for “Shore.” You will not be disappointed.
That about wraps it up for 2020. What did we miss? Who did we forget? We’d love to hear from you on your favorite albums, artists, and tunes of 2020. We’re looking forward to hearing these songs played live in 2021. We’ll see you in the New Year!
Get more music news on Mason Music’s blog.