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Best Albums of 2020

Premier Guitar editors reveal the records that helped them cope during COVID-19 quarantine. Plus, their most-anticipated releases of 2021.

We made it. To the end of a year that has already gone down in infamy as one of the weirdest (and worst) in decades.

As the pandemic turned the world upside down nine months ago, many musicians and their livelihoods were heavily impacted. No concerts, no touring, album release dates postponed, restricted studio access, and let’s not forget the dangers of actually being in the same room with other humans (sometimes that’s necessary to make songs). But let’s try to forget all that for a moment and focus on what really matters: music! The silver linings of tough times can be sweet: beautiful and amazing albums were made this year, connecting us isolated social distancers, and helping us tread water.

At best, this list will open up some new tunes for you to spin at home this holiday season as you’re welcoming a new year ahead. At worst, you can just skip what you don’t like. (But surely listening to any of these albums would be better than reliving this year!) Either way, let us know which albums were your favorites in the comments below.

As we say good riddance to 2020, we wish you this sentiment with more oomph than you know: Happy Freakin’ New Year!

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Stray Cats Live at Montreaux 1981 Eagle Rock Entertainment Brian Setzer’s albums over the last couple of decades have been so progressively ambitious that some might look back on the

Stray Cats
Live at Montreaux 1981
Eagle Rock Entertainment


Brian Setzer’s albums over the last couple of decades have been so progressively ambitious that some might look back on the early Stray Cats days as almost quaint—like he, bassist Lee Rocker, and drummer Slim Jim Phantom almost lucked out with a handful of catchy songs when there happened to be a rockabilly revival across the Atlantic.

But the 15 tracks on the new Stray Cats DVD Live at Montreux 1981 will smack any such notions right out of your pompadour. Filmed six months after their first album debuted, it’s a thumping, sweat-soaked testament to just how hungry, relentless, and dedicated they were. Setzer, just 22, looks like a London street punk with his platinum hair, black leather, and sneering stage presence, but armed with his famed 1959 Gretsch 6120 and a blonde Fender Bassman head driving a Vox AC30 cabinet, he howls and prowls like a seasoned showman and holds the elbow-to-elbow crowd enthralled for 70 minutes with the same raw rave-up riffs and jazzy chords that are the core of his style today. Rocker, then 19, is incredible too—manhandling his upright like a vet with his taped-up knuckles—while Phantom, 20, stands atop his kit and never misses a beat (the former also croons shockingly well on his own blues number “Drink That Bottle Down”).

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