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These DC-Area Albums Are Showing up on Best-of-the-Year Lists

There are more than you might think!

Bartees Strange. Photo courtesy of Brassland

Despite the pandemic, it’s been a great year for new music, and with the end of 2020 now in sight, media outlets are starting to put out their roundups of the year’s best albums. The last 12 months have brought great tunes from all over the world: the UK, Nigeria, Los Angeles, Kansas City, and on and on. But what about our area? Here are the artists with DC roots that we’ve spotted so far.

Beauty Pill
Please Advise

This cerebral, eclectic DC group is the brainchild of Chad Clark, previously of Dischord band Smart Went Crazy. Also check out the band’s Sorry You’re Here, a recently released album that began as the soundtrack to a 2010 play. Listen here.

Jake Blount. Photo by Margot Schulman.

Jake Blount
Spider Tales

An acclaimed clawhammer banjoist, Blount fell in love with old-time music after encountering a band in an Ethiopian restaurant on U Street when he was attending Georgetown Day School. In his debut album, Blount explores how Black creators have historically been denied the recognition and compensation they deserve. (You can read Washingtonian’s profile of him here.) Listen here.

(Mojo, Rough Trade)

Featuring Fugazi’s Ian MacKaye and Joe Lally along with MacKaye’s Evens bandmate (and regular mate) Amy Farina, the DC band dropped its first album this year. Listen here.

Brent Faiyaz
F*** The World
(NPR, Noisey)

The Columbia, Maryland, native is still probably best known for his appearance on GoldLink’s “Crew,” but the R&B star’s second studio album is its own thing. Listen here.

Nick Hakim
Will This Make Me Good
(Rough Trade)

Now living in Brooklyn, the DC native uses his second album to ponder subjects ranging from climate change to depression to capitalism. A shuffling reworking of his 2018 single “Vincent Tyler,” included here, was likely inspired by a 2007 DC murder. Listen here.

Walter Martin. Photo courtesy of Missing Piece Group.

Walter Martin
Common Prayers

The DC native and St. Albans grad, who co-founded Jonathan Fire*Eater and the Walkmen, released three albums in 2020 (one of them for kids). Common Prayers has a pleasingly weary, late-hour vibe. The album closes with “Old as Hell Blues”: “Oh well/I’m old as hell/Supposed to be wiser/But I can’t Tell.” Listen here.

Bartees Strange
Live Forever
(Pitchfork, Noisey, Rolling Stone, NPR, Stereogum)

The DC musician’s impressive debut album defies genre classification—he effortlessly mingles indie rock, post-punk, and R&B. “These songs make sense because I’m Black and because my voice ties these songs together,” he told NPR. Listen here.

Happy Birthday
(Rough Trade)

A departure from the minimalist punky sound of previous work, this new one from DC’s Eva Moolchan (who records as Sneaks) explores dance rhythms and soundscapes. It’s her fourth album in four years—and one of her best. Listen here.

Notice anything we’ve missed? Email and we’ll add it to the list.


Jane Recker
Assistant Editor

Jane is a Chicago transplant who now calls Cleveland Park her home. Before joining Washingtonian, she wrote for Smithsonian Magazine and the Chicago Sun-Times. She is a graduate of Northwestern University, where she studied journalism and opera.