Here is my list of the 100 best albums of 2020 (all styles, all genres) — and another 100  honorable
mention titles (below) also worth hearing. Happy listening!

John Luther Adams & the JACK Quartet  
Lines Made by Walking         
Contemporary Landscape Music for String Quartet

Tunde Adebimpe        
A Warm Weather Ghost         
Soulful Synthpop Meets Classical Music

The Altogether            
Artisan Folk-Pop (with Bits of Bluesiness)

Sam Amidon   
Sam Amidon   
19th Century Singing Style Juxtaposed with 21st Century Soundscapes

The Red Book of Ossory       
Medieval Music Mixed with Folk Sounds, Jazz and Celtic Witchcraft

Fiona Apple    
Fetch the Bolt Cutters            

Arab Strap      
Primavera Sound: Live in Barcelona
Scottish Indie Rock

Yukihiro Atsumi         
Traditional Japanese Music Updated with Guitar

Bab L’ Bluz    
If Motown Had Existed in North Africa...

Jeremy Beck   
By Moonlight
Contemporary Classical Music from Kentucky

Art Blakey and  The Jazz Messengers           
Just Coolin'     
Previously Unreleased Album by a Classic Hard Bop Combo

Carla Bley/Andy Sheppard/Steve Swallow    
Life Goes On  
Jazz Trio

Louise Bock    
Sketch for Winter VII - Abyss: For Cello      
Mystical Drone Music for Cello

Stefano Bollani            
Piano Variations on Jesus Christ Superstar    
Solo Piano Reworking of Influential Rock Opera

Stephen Bradley & Edward Ruchalski           
Ringing Rock Geo-Phonics     
Soundscape Music Made on Mysterious Boulders at Ringing Rock County Park in Pennsylvania

Brooklyn Rider           
Healing Modes            
Five New Chamber Works with Possible Healing Properties  

Medieval-ish Portuguese Bagpipe Music

Chouk Bwa & The Ångstromers        
Vodou Alé       
Haitian Drumming and Singing with Touches of Electronica and Dancehall Music

Chronos Ensemble      
Old Russian Polyphony of the Passion Service         
Majestic Russian Polyphony from the Time of Ivan the Terrible

The Ciderhouse Rebellion (Adam Summerhayes & Murray Grainger)         
50-Minute Folk/Celtic Accordion and Violin Improvisation Recorded in a Single Take

Noah Cline      
Mountain Opus          
Solo Banjo

Federico Colli
Domenico Scarlatti: Piano Sonatas, Vol. 2      
A More Italianesque Interpretation of the Baroque Keyboard Master

Jacob Collier   
Djesse Vol. 3   
Experimental Pop/R&B/Electronica

Balafon Sketches         
Gamelan, Percussion and Traditional Instruments Meet Synthesizers, Software and Pedal Effects

Mauro Arias Contreras           
Abismo de los Pájaros            
Chilean Guitarist and Songwriter

Saskia Coolen  
Driftwood — A Gift of Time
Zen Music for Recorder Inspired by the Shakuhachi Tradition, Beat Boxes and Minimalist Ethos

Hugh Crosthwaite/Stefan Cassomenos           
16 Lullabies     
Contemporary Lullabies for Piano by Australian Composer

Søren Mikkel Dalsgaärd          
Emotionally Intense Neo-Noir Music for Medieval Arpeggione, Electronics and Hints of Voices

Darling West   
We'll Never Know Unless We Try     
Nordic Americana

Deadstring Orkestra    
Rhapsody in Blue       
Percussion-Driven Reinterpretation of Rhapsody in Blue  

Kiko Dinucci   
Guitar-Driven Experimental Brazilian Pop

Dirty Projectors          
Epic 5 EP Rock/Pop Project from Brooklyn-Born (and LA-based) Band

Steve Earle & The Dukes        
Ghosts of West Virginia         
Country/Roots Music Tribute to West Virginia Coal Miners

Field Music     
Making a New World
Indie Rock Song Cycle About the Aftermath of World War I

Ella Fitzgerald
The Lost Berlin Tapes            
Previously Unissued Live Recording of Jazz Diva Ella Fitzgerald from Norman Granz's Private Archive

Floral (Nate Sherman & Ty Mayer)   
Guitar-and-Drum Rock Instrumentals

Bengt Forsberg            
Swedish Miniatures    
Piano Vignettes by Swedish Composers

Sam Gendel     
Satin Doll        
Los Angeles Nu Jazz Meets the Jazz Standard Repertoire

The Gilberts    
The Gilberts: One       
Three Siblings Sit on the Floor of their Nova Scotia Home and Record a Folk Album with One Mic & One Take

Michael Gordon/The Crossing           
Anonymous Man       
Music for 24 Unaccompanied Voices

Grand Valley State University New Music Ensemble           
Dawn Chorus: Music Inspired by Our National Parks          
New Music from 11 Composers Inspired by (and Performed in) National Parks

Tigran Hamasyan        
The Call Within          
Jazz Trio with Traditional Armenian Ingredients

Blake Hargreaves        
Improvisations on the Pipe Organs of Europe           
Improvisations on the Pipe Organs of Europe  

Clifton Hicks  
Banjo Heritage            
Music for Archaic Handmade Banjos

Eleanor Hodgkinson    
Nino Rota: Complete Solo Piano Works, Vol. 1        
Solo Piano Vignettes by Italian Film Composer

Horse Lords    
The Common Task     
If La Monte Young Ran a Funky Microtonal Rock Jam Band

Luke Howard  
The Shadow    
Ultra-Minimalist Piano Trio Music from Australian Composer/Improviser

Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra (with Wynton Marsalis and Wayne Shorter)       
The Music of Wayne Shorter
Jazz Tribute to Wayne Shorter

Nothing But Cosmos  
Experimental Japanese Electronica/Electropop

Karuna Trio    
Imaginary Archipelago            
Non-Idiomatic Aural Tapestries

Kitgut Quartet           
'Tis Too Late to be Wise        
An Inquiry into the Origins of the String Quartet

Rupert Lally   
Strange Systems          
Fractal-Based, Computer-Assisted Music ("with a Human Touch")

David Lang/Quince Ensemble
Love Fail         
Austere Lovelorn Music for 4 Voices

Lee Han           
Piwa Pi            
Organ Improvisation by a Mysterious 16-Year-Old Korean Woman  

Lina_Raül Refree        
Lina_Raül Refree        
Contemporary Fado with Synthesizers

Lionel Loueke
Solo Guitar Reworkings of Herbie Hancock Compositions

Dmitry Masleev/Siberian State Symphony Orchestra           
Rapid Movement        
Soviet Union Classical Music Influenced by Jazz

Madison McFerrin     
Madison McFerrin on Audiotree Live           
R&B Dreamscapes

John McLaughlin / Shankar Mahadevan / Zakir Hussain       
Is That So?      
New Performances by Pioneers of East-West Musical Fusion

André Mehmari and Danilo Brito       
Nosso Brazil   
Mandolin and Piano Duet Performances of the Works of Brazilian Choro Composers

Joni Mitchell   
Joni Mitchell Archives Vol. 1: The Early Years (1963-1967)            
Previously Unreleased Music Featuring Joni Mitchell Before Her Rise to Stardom

Meredith Monk (with Bang on a Can)           
Memory Game           
Extracts from a Dystopian Ritualistic Sci-Fi Opera

Thelonious Monk       
Palo Alto         
Previously Unreleased Thelonious Monk Live Recording from 1968

Tatiana Nikolayeva     
J.S. Bach: The Art of the Fugue (The 1993 Sibelius Academy Recital, Helsinki)       
Contemplative and Stately Final Live Recording by a Leading Bach Keyboardist

Onyx Collective          
Manhattan Special      
Richard Rodgers Songs Turned into Art Rock/Pop

Aaron Parks    
Little Big II: Dreams of a Mechanical Man    
Trance Jazz

Penya (with Msafiri Zawose)            
Penya Safari    
East African EDM/Call-and-Response Tanzanian Pop

Vanessa Perica            
Love is Temporary Madness
Debut Album from Australian Composer and Big Band Leader

Bek Phoenix    
Park Variations           
Man Sits in Park in Geneva, Switzerland and Plays Guitar

Gregory Porter           
All Rise           

Lyra Pramuk   
Futurist Art Pop Drawing on Choral Music, Sound Collage, and Contemporary Dance Club Stylings

Hania Rani      
Mystical Singer-Songwriter from Gdansk

Reverso (Ryan Keberle/Frank Woeste/ Vincent Courtois)     
The Melodic Line       
Classical/Jazz Chamber Music for Trombone, Piano and Cello

Roomful of Teeth/Michael Harrison  
Just Constellations     
Celestial Harmonies of the Spheres (for Eight Voices)

Ryuichi Sakamoto       
Soundtrack to The Staggering Girl     
Film Soundtrack

Maria Schneider          
Data Lords      
Contemporary Music for Jazz Orchestra

Raymond Scott           
The Jingle Workshop: Midcentury Musical Miniatures 1951-1965             
Mid-20th Century Commercial Jingles by Electronic/Cartoon Music Innovator

Shabaka and the Ancestors     
We Are Sent Here by History            
Collaboration Between British-Barbadian Sax Star and Young South African Musicians

Ravi Shankar/London Philharmonic Orchestra           
Premiere Recording of Ravi Shankar's Only Opera

Emilio Solla/Tango Jazz Orchestra     
Puertos: Music from International Waters     
Big Band Tango Jazz

The Sorcerers  
In Search of the Lost City of the Monkey God         
Moody Late Night Ethiopian-Flavored Funk  

Esperanza Spalding & Fred Hersch    
Live at the Village Vanguard   
Jazz Duets

Colin Stetson  
Soundtrack to Color Out of Space      
Horror Film Soundtrack

Georgie Sweet
Debut Album from 20-Year-Old British Singer with an Amy Winehouse/Laura Mvula/Thundercat Vibe

Johanna Summer         
Schumann Kaleidoskop          
Solo Piano Improvisations Inspired by Robert Schumann (1810-1856)

Brother Theotis Taylor          
Brother Theotis Taylor          
New Music from 92-Year-Old Georgia Gospel/Soul Musician

Richard Thompson     
Bloody Noses
Contemporary Acoustic Folk (Recorded at Home During Lockdown)

Jaan-Eik Tulve / Vox Clamantis          
Cyrillus Kreek: The Suspended Harp of Babel          
Choral Music by Estonian Composer Cyrillus Kreek (1889-1962)

William Tyler  
Soundtrack to First Cow        
Film Soundtrack Performed on Guitar, Lap Dulcimer, Harp and Other Traditional Instruments

Gottlieb Wallisch        
20th Century Foxtrots Vol 1 - Austria and Czechia  
Modern Classical Composers Write in Popular Dance Rhythms

Max de Wardener (composer) & Kit Downes (performer)    
Music for Detuned Pianos      
Music for 4 Types of Detuned Piano

Marcin Wasilewski and Joe Lovano   
Arctic Riff       
Moody Chamber Jazz

The Westerlies            
Wherein Lies the Good           
Genre-Fluid Music for Brass Quartet

Cristina Vane  
Old Played New         
Traditional Blues

Various Artists           
Apala Groups In Nigeria 1967-70      
First Collection of Apala Music Released Outside Nigeria

Various Artists           
11 New Solo Piano Compositions by Prominent Composers

Various Artists           
Imaginational Anthem, Vol. 10: Overseas Edition      
European Exponents of the American Primitive Guitar Tradition

Various Artists           
The Missing Link        
Compilation of Rare Tracks That Provide a 'Missing Link' Between Ragtime and Jazz

Caetano Veloso & Ivan Sacerdote       
Caetano Veloso & Ivan Sacerdote      
Leading Brazilian Singer-Songwriter Collaborates with Choro Clarinetist

Frank Zappa   
The Mothers 1970      
Four Hours of Unreleased Frank Zappa Tracks from 1970


Here are another 100 albums from 2020 (all styles, all genres) well worth hearing.
Happy listening!

Algiers: There is No Year         
Contemporary Electrified Rock

Anrimeal: Could Divine   
Computer Folk

Mara Aranda: Trobairitz        
Spanish Singer Performs Songs by Trobairitz (Female Troubadours of the Late Medieval Era)

Kyshona Armstrong: Listen  

Bookie Baker: The 1st EP      
Folk Pop/Alt Country

Kenny Barron: Without Deception     
Jazz Piano Trio

Majid Bekkas: Magic Spirit Quartet   
Trance-Indusing North African 'Gnawa' Music Meets Jazz

Jerry Bergonzi: Nearly Blue     
Tenor-Sax-Driven Exploration of Jazz Standards

Clair-Obscur Saxophonquartett: Nikolai Kapustin: Saxophone Chamber Music          
Jazz-Oriented Russian Chamber Music Adapted for Saxophone

Fabrice Bollon/Freiburg Philharmonic Orchestra: Albéric Magnard: Symphonies 1 & 2
Orchestral Music from the "French Bruckner"

Guy Buttery & The Bandura Express Marimba Ensemble: Guy Buttery & Bandura         
Marimba-Driven South African Jazzy World Pop  

Caixa Cubo: Angela
Electric Brazilian Jazz-Rock-Pop

Sharel Cassity: Fearless           
Jazz Saxophony

Evelyn Chen / Brinton Averil Smith: Exiles in Paradise: Émigré Composers in Hollywood             
Music by 20th Century European Composers Living in the US

Childish Gambino: 3.15.20            
Experimental R&B

Evan Christopher & David Torkanowsky: Live at Luthjen's         
Clarinet and Piano Jazz Duets in a Traditional Style

Shirley Collins: Heart's Ease    
Traditional Folk Music from 85-Year-Old Who Helped Launch 1960s Folk Revival

DakhaBrakha  Alambari         
Eccentric Folk-Pop from Kiev

Dumama + Kechou: Buffering Juju
African Traditional Song Meets Synthpop

Seamus Egan: Early Bright    
Alt Celtic

Kurt Elling (with Danilo Pérez): Secrets Are the Best Stories   
Jazz Vocals

Ensemble Italiano: Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco: Chamber Music           
Chamber Music from an Émigré Hollywood Composer (& Teacher to J. Williams, Mancini, Previn, Riddle, etc.)

Ēriks Ešenvalds: There Will Come Soft Rains   
Contemporary Choral Music from Latvian Composer Ēriks Ešenvalds

Eteria: V Sadu, V Sadu          
Ukrainian Choral Folk Music

Elliot Galvin: Live In Paris, At Fondation Louis Vuitton     
Solo Jazz Piano

Tim Garland: ReFocus          
Reinterpretation of Stan Getz's Seminal Focus Album

Grimes: Miss Anthropocene    

Trilok Gurtu: God Is a Drummer      
Drum-Driven Improvisational Music

Idjah Hadidjah/Jugala Jaipongan: Jaipongan Music of West Java           
Classic Tracks of Sensual Indonesian Slow Groove Music (Influenced by Rural Fertility/Harvesting Rituals)

Harmonicblend: Sandhikala: Mantradeva Vocal Soundtrack     
Video Game Music Sensibility Infused with Gamelan Sounds and Balinese Mythology

Heare Ensemble: Vox      
Contemporary Classical Music

Daniel Hersog (with Noah Preminger and Frank Carlberg): Night Devoid of Stars
Compositions for 16-Piece Canadian Big Band

Ray Wylie Hubbard (with Guest Stars): Co-Starring      
Outlaw Country/Roots Rock

Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra (with Wynton Marsalis): Duke Ellington: Black, Brown & Beige          
Concert Hall Presentation of Duke Ellington's Most Expansive Work

Clarice Jensen: The Experience of Repetition as Death          
Contemporary Music for Cello (with Electronic Effects)

Seu Jorge & Rogê: Night Dreamer Direct-To-Disc Sessions        
Acoustic Brazilian Popular Music

Matthew Joseph: Mood Masala
Funk Influenced by Indian Music and Fingerstyle Guitar

The Just Joans: The Private Memoirs and Confessions of the Just Joans      
Scottish Indie Pop

Jyoti: Mama, You Can Bet!  
R&B/Hip-Hop/Nu Jazz

Nick Keeling: A Slow Dance With Someone Who Is Leaving You   
Nostalgic Experimental Music for Piano and Four 8-Track Cartridge Players

Khruangbin: Mordechai       
Psychedelic Texas Trio

Sonny Landreth: Blacktop Run  
Contemporary Louisiana Roots/Blues/Country Music

Lauv: How I'm Feeling          
Pop Singer-Songwriter

Lighthawk: Shape Shifter   
Atmospheric (and Sometimes Punk-ish) Music for Didgeridoo  

Charles Lloyd 8: Kindred Spirits (Live from the Lobero)      

Rudresh Mahanthappa: Hero Trio        
Jazz Sax Trio

Meadow Maker (Ty Maxon): Newborn         
Solo Guitar Music for Sleeping

Stephen Malkmus: Traditional Techniques
Psych-Folk/Alt Folk

Laura Marling: Song for Our Daughter            
Pared-Down Songs for an Imaginary Child

Matthew Marshall: Fragments       
Music for Classical Guitar by 7 New Zealand Composers

Wall Matthews: The Plum Women's Blues: The Guitar Music Of Wall Matthews, Volume 3, 1994-96        
Solo Blues Guitar

Makaya McCraven/Gil-Scott Heron: We're New Again: A Reimagining by Makaya McCraven     
Reworking of the Final Album from Jazz Poet and Proto-Rapper Gil-Scott Heron

Brad Mehldau: Suite: April 2020        
Solo Jazz Piano

Pat Metheny: From This Place          

Cahalen Morrison: Wealth of Sorrow        
Stark, Underproduced Folk Made with a Guitar, Banjo, Wood Stove and the Wind

Ali Shaheed Muhammad & Adrian Younge: Jazz is Dead 1
LA Hip-Hop/R&B Producers Collaborate with Jazz Veterans

Wolfgang Muthspiel: Angular Blues
Jazz Guitar Trio

Willie Nelson: First Rose of Spring    

Uncle Nop Nen: Kite Songs: Traditional Music from Cambodia          
Traditional Songs Performed on the Chapei (2-Stringed Cambodian Guitar)

Johnny Nicholas: Mistaken Identity       
Louisiana Swamp Rock

Oregon Symphony/Carlos Kalmar: Aspects of America: Pulitzer Edition
Pulitzer Prize-winning Symphonic Works from Walter Piston (1961), Morton Gould (1995) and Howard Hanson (1944)

Orgone: Connection      
LA Funk Ensemble (with Lots of Horns and Voices)

Owl's Head Mountain: Loon Callas     
Minimalist Guitar Plus Soundscapes of Wind and Birds

Ed Palermo Big Band: The Great Un-American Songbook    
Unconventional Big Band Arrangements of Unconventional Songs

Maceo Parker: Soul Food: Cooking with Maceo        
R&B Saxophony

Ed Peekeekoot: Front Porch     
Native American Roots Guitarist

Bec Plexus: Sticklip            
Björk-ish Amsterdam Art Pop

Giulio Prandi / Ghislieri Choir / Orchestra Ghislieri: Niccolò Jommelli: Requiem    
Serene Requiem Mass by Neglected Neapolitan Composer

Gabriel Prokofiev: Concerto for  Turntables and Orchestra No. 1           
Concerto for  Turntables and Orchestra

Gwenifer Raymond: Strange Lights over Garth Mountain  
Neo-Noir Traditional Folk Guitar

Joshua Redman & Brad Mehldau (with Christian McBride and Brian Blade): RoundAgain    
All-Star Jazz Quartet

Ricardo Richaid: Travesseiro Feliz        
Brazilian Pop with Rock/Jazz/Funk Ingredients

Rookie: Rookie
Chicago Rock (in More Ways Than One)

Roomful of Teeth/Wally Gunn: The Ascendant            
Unconventional Contemporary Choral Music

Royce da 5'9": The Allegory   
Allegorical Hip/Hop

Denzel Sachs: I Thought About You
Tenor Sax Playing Out of a Time Machine from the 1930s  

Caroline Shaw: Is a Rose/The Listeners          
Contemporary Classical Music

Andrei Shereshovets & Mamkin Maxim: Six Fragments  
Music for Two Shakuhachi flutes (and Other Wind Instruments)

Patti Smith with Soundwalk Collective: Peradam          
Metaphysics and Soundscapes

Martial Solal & Dave Liebman: Masters in Paris          
Piano-and-Sax Jazz Duets

Son Rompe Pera: Batuco
Traditional Mexican Marimba Music

Luciana Souza and the WDR Big Band: Storytellers     
Brazilian/Jazz Vocals with Big Band

Swamp Dogg: Sorry You Couldn't Make It   

Benedict Taylor: Swarm
Hive-Like Drone Music for 100 Violins/Violas and 1 Guitar

Fred Thomas: J.S. Banjo        
Renaissance and Baroque Music Performed on Solo Tenor Banjo

Triantán: Triantán          
Unaccompanied Irish & Scottish Traditional Songs Performed by 3 Singers (in Gaelic & English)

Jimmy Triplett: Lee Hammons Repertoire Vol. 1        
Traditional Fiddle Music from West Virginia

Various Artists: Anthology Of Contemporary Music From Indonesia           
Experimental and Underground Music from Indonesia

Various Artists: Blue Note Re:imagined           
Updatings/Remixings of Blue Note Hard Bop Tracks in Contemporary Commercial Stylings

Various Artists: New Horizons            
Anthology of New Jazz Music from South Africa

Varo: Varo    
Traditional Irish

Andrey Vinogradov: Distant Calls   
Neo-Medieval Music for Hurdy-Gurdy

Doc Watson and Gaither Carlton: Doc Watson and Gaither Carlton       
Previously Unreleased Live Tracks from Folk Music Legend from Greenwich Village 1962

Gillian Welch: Boots No. 2: The Lost Songs, Vol. 1
Previously Unreleased Home Recordings of a Leading Contemporary Folk Singer-Songwriter

Immanuel Wilkins: Omega
Rising Star Jazz Saxophonist

Marcel Worms: Piano Works by Jewish Composers 1922-1943        
Modern Concert Works for Solo Piano

yMusic: Ecstatic Science           
Contemporary Chamber Music

Benny Yurco: You Are My Dreams  
"Alternative World Album of Instinctual Free Thought, Spirit-Guided"

Denny Zeitlin: Live at Mezzrow        
Jazz Piano Trio

Evritiki Zygia:  Ormenion        
Thracian Fusion-Funk
Follow Ted Gioia on Twitter at
Selected articles by Ted Gioia on the web

The African Origins of the Love Song
The Rise of the Fragmented Novel
Why Are Music Scholars Ignoring Musical Universals?
The Adventurer's Guide to Finnegans Wake
Notes on Conceptual Fiction
Has Music Criticism Turned Into Lifestyle Reporting?
Schopenhauer for Millennials
Where Did Music Come From? (NPR Interview)
Vladimir Nabokov, Sci-Fi Writer
Bach the Rebel
How Sartre Cured Existential Angst with Jazz
If John Coltrane Had Lived
Lectures on Proust in a Soviet Prison Camp
Why Gregory Bateson Matters
The Decline of Satire
Music as Cultural Cloud Storage
My Year of Horrible Reading
The Backlash Against Jazz
The Con Man Who Invented American Popular Music
The Bumbling Shostakovich
The Rise of Artisan Music
The Year American Speech Became Art
What We've Learned About the NSA
The 8 Memes of the Postmodern Mystery
Ted Gioia Interviews Composer Terry Riley
Four Essays on Leo Tolstoy
Why the Fuss About Jonathan Franzen?
Slaves for Love: How Bondage Shaped the Love Song
A Conversation About Jazz with Ted Gioia
The 100 Best Recordings of 2018
The 100 Best Recordings of 2017
The 100 Best Recordings of 2016
The 100 Best Recordings of 2015
The 100 Best Recordings of 2014
The 100 Best Recordings of 2013
The 100 Best Recordings of 2012
The 100 Best Recordings of 2011
The Weirdest 1960s Novel of Them All
Franco: The James Brown of Africa
How Alice Got to Wonderland
Does the Music Business Need Musicianship?
The King of Western Swing
Post Cool
The Year of Magical Reading
Why Music Ownership Matters
The Tragic Story of America's First Black Music Star
Frank Sinatra at 100
Ella Fitzgerald at 100
Music and Violence (video talk)
What is the Clumsiest Classic Novel?
The Crisis in Music (podcast)
The Weird Tales of H.P. Lovecraft
How to Fix Online Music
My 10 Favorite Novels on Music
A Conversation with Ted Gioia about Love Songs
The Music of the Tango
The Letter That Changed the Course of Modern Lit
The End of the Angry Guitar
Is Miles Davis's Kind of Blue the Greatest Jazz Album?
The War Between Music and Mathematics (Video)
How Joan of Arc Conquered Mark Twain
The West Coast Jazz Revival
The Most Intriguing Musicians of 2017
Doris Lessing's The Golden Notebook
Do Blues Musicians Need to be Really, Really Old?
The Unconventional Sci-Fi of Kurt Vonnegut
Twelve Essential Tango Recordings
Alan Lomax and the FBI
Robert Musil and The Man Without Qualities
Cool Jazz in 100 Tracks (Part 1) (Part 2)
Lecture on the History of Love Songs
Henry James, Horror Writer
Why Only Revolutions Will Not Be Televised
David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest
The Crisis in Music (video lecture)
How Good a Singer Was Dean Martin?
How Music Videos Changed Love Songs
Why Bessie Smith Matters
The Zombification of Popular Music
The New Revolt of the Masses
Was Ambrose Bierce Inspired by Agoraphobia?
Apple's New Paradigm for Music
Fix-Up Artist: The Chaotic SF of A.E. van Vogt
Jazz Vocals in the New Millennium
A History of New Orleans Music in 100 Tracks
The Making of Ulysses
The Great American Novel That Wasn't
In Search of Dupree Bolton
Gulliver's Travels and the Birth of Genre Fiction
Five Essays on Novelist John Fowles
Where Did Our Revolution Go?
How Lester Young Changed the English Language
The Reinvention of the Cowboy Novel
The Many Lives of James Joyce
The Complex Gender History of the Love Song
William Gaddis's The Recognitions
5 Lessons the Music Biz Can Learn from TV
Hipsters: The New Scapegoats
B.B. King's Best Performances
The Most Mysterious Woman in Sci-Fi
Whitney Balliett: The Poet of Jazz Writing
12 Memorable Works of Hispanic Fiction
Thomas Pynchon's Inherent Vice
The Alt Reality Nobel Prize
The Decline of a Great Jazz Record Label
Don DeLillo's Underworld
How NY Became Center of the Jazz World
Milton Nascimento: 12 Essential Tracks
When Science Fiction Grew Up
The Most Influential Film of the 20th Century
Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch
Is Sleep Music a Real Genre?
Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections
Curse You, Neil Armstrong!
Bill Evans: 12 Essential Tracks
Early Vintage Wynton Marsalis
Remembering Cordwainer Smith
My Favorite American Novel
Q&A with Ted Gioia
The Jazz Pianist JFK Saved
A Look Back at Martin Gardner
Robert Heinlein at One Hundred
The Fourteen Skies of Michael Chabon
Is Bird Dead?
Philip K. Dick's VALIS
Why Lester Young Matters
Vladimir Nabokov's Pale Fire
Making a Case for Clark Ashton Smtih
Italo Calvino's Winter's NIght
Jonathan Lethem's The Fortress of Solitude
Could Chet Baker Play Jazz?
Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow
The Jazzy Side of Frank Zappa
Fritz Leiber at 100
Günter Grass's The Tin Drum
John Coltrane: Prophet and Seer (video)
David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas
Harlem Jazz: 12 Essential Tracks
Mark Z. Danielweski's House of Leaves
The Postmodern Mystery: 50 Essential Works
Art Tatum at 100: 12 Essential Tracks
Fringe Guitar
J.G. Ballard's Crash
Interview with Dana and Ted Gioia
The Puzzling Case of Robert Sheckley
Robert Johnson and the Devil
Fear and Self-Loathing in Scandinavia
Herbie Hancock: 12 Essential Tracks
Remembering Drums of Passion
Three Existential Horror Novels
Keith Jarrett: 12 Essential Tracks
In Defense of The Hobbit
Brad Mehldau: 12 Essential Tracks
David Foster Wallace's The Pale King
The South Asian Tinge in Jazz
Assessing Brad Mehldau at Mid-Career
Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian
Can Clubs Legally Ask Musicians to Play for Free?
Jonathan Littell's The Kindly Ones
Lennie Tristano: 12 Essential Tracks
Virginia Woolf's Orlando
Why Cool is Dead
A Tribute to Richard Matheson
The Pianism of Denny Zeitlin
The Chronicles of Narnia
David Bowie's Jazz-Oriented Valedictory
Tito Puente: The Complete 78s (1949-1955)
Toni Morrison's Beloved
The Tragedy of Richard Twardzik
Michael Chabon's Telegraph Avenue
The Science Fiction of Samuel Delany
Can Tarzan Survive in a Post-Colonial World?
Duke Ellington's Sacred Music
Ian McEwan's Atonement
Can a Dictionary be a Novel?
New Details About the Young William Gaddis
Interview with Ted Gioia (on Delta Blues)
William Gaddis's JR
Roberto Bolaño's 2666
Talking to Myself About the State of Jazz
Harper Lee and Her Great Southern Novel
Thomas Mann's The Magic Mountain
Italo Calvino's Neglected Sci-Fi Masterpiece
Philip Roth's American Pastoral
Ken Kesey's Novel-in-a-Box
How I Learned I Was a Jazz Fan

"I can't speak highly enough about Music: A
Subversive History
Michael Dirda in Washington Post

“A dauntingly ambitious, obsessively researched
labor of cultural provocation."
Robert Christgau in the Los Angeles Times

"An entirely new way to look at how music
The Atlantic

"One of the most perceptive writers on music has
cut a wide swath down the path of history,
illuminating details often left in the shadows and
broadening our understanding of all things sonic.
Gioia vividly points out that the wheels of cultural
advancement are often turned by the countless
unsung heroes of inventiveness. A mind opening
and totally engaging read!"
Terry Riley

“In the past, [Gioia has] written a series of
acclaimed books about jazz, but
Music: A
Subversive Histor
y is by some distance the most
wide-ranging and provocative thing he’s come up
Alexis Petridis, The Guardian

“The highlights are too many to list, and mostly
arrive via Gioia’s refreshingly non-academic take
on the subject – he knows how to tell a story in a
way that will keep people reading….He has a
lovely light touch, a mischievous sense of humour
and a determinedly skewed take on how music
has been chronicled.”
Lloyd Bradley, The TLS

"In this excellent history, music critic Gioia dazzles
with tales of how music grew out of violence, sex,
and rebellion. Crisply written with surprising
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Gioia's sprawling and deeply interesting history
of music defies all stereotypes of music
scholarship. This is rich work that provokes many
fascinating questions. Scientists and humanists
alike will find plenty to disagree with, but isn't that
the point? 'A subversive history' indeed."
Samuel Mehr
Director, The Music Lab, Harvard University

“This book fells like the summation of a lifetime’s
avid musical exploration and reading. It has an
epic sweep and passionate engagement with the
topic that carries one along irresistibly.”
Ivan Hewett, The Telegraph

"Ted Gioia's Music: A Subversive History is one of
the most important and welcome books I've
encountered in the last decade. If ever there were
a book the world sorely needed, it's Gioia's."
Jeff Simon in Buffalo News.

"As a fan of 'big histories' that sweep through
space and time, I gobbled this one like candy as I
found myself astounded by some idea, some fact,
some source, some dots connected into a fast-
reading big picture that takes in Roman
pantomime riots, Occitan troubadours,
churchbells, blues, Afrofuturism, surveillance
capitalism, and much more. A must for music
Ned Sublette
Author of
Cuba and Its Music and The World
That Made New Orleans

"In this meticulously-researched yet thoroughly
page-turning book, Gioia argues for the
universality of music from all cultures and eras.
Subversives from Sappho to Mozart and Charlie
Parker are given new perspective--as is the role
of the church and other arts-shaping institutions.
Music of emotion is looked at alongside the
music of political power in a fascinating way by a  
master writer and critical thinker. This is a must-
read for those of us for whom  music has a central
role in our daily lives."
Fred Hersch

“A sweeping and enthralling account of music as
an agency of human change.”
Booklist (starred review and selected as one of the 10
best arts books of 2019)

"A bold, fresh, and informative chronicle of
music's evolution and cultural meaning."

“Thought-provoking….Gioia’s argument is
persuasive and offers a wealth of possibilities for
further exploration.”
Library Journal
The One Hundred
Best Albums of 2020
One of the 15 Best Books of the Year
(The Atlantic)
One of the 50 Notable Nonfiction Books of the Year
(Washington Post)
One of 13 Best Non-Fiction Books of the Year
(Christian Science Monitor)
Best Art Books of the Year
(Library Journal)
Best Art Books of the Year


I am often asked how I compile my
annual list of the 100 best albums.
Here is some background information.  

Why isn't this list in rank order (from
best to worst)?

I am listing my top 100 and honorable
mention albums for 2020 in alphabetical
order, rather than ranking them. This
marks a change from some of
my earlier end-of-year lists. I am doing
this because each of these albums
deserves recognition and a purely
sequential ranking tended to focus
too much attention on just a few

What styles of music do I include in my

I listen to all genres and all styles of
music. I like to listen to music that is
fresh and different, and this spurs me
to search outside the dominant
commercial categories and hit
releases. But I also listen to the
heavily promoted albums from the
major labels.    

How much music do I listen to?   

I like to hear new music every day.   
During 2020 I listened to more
than 1,000 new  album releases.
(The exact number was 1,032.)  

Why do I compile this list?

Like any music lover, I enjoy
sharing my favorite music with others.
But in the last few years, a different
motivation has spurred me. I believe
that the system of music discovery is
broken in the current day. There is
more music recorded than ever before,
but it is almost impossible for listeners
to find the best new recordings. The
most creative work in music is
increasingly found on self-produced
projects and releases from small
indie labels— to an extent hardly
conceivable only a decade ago. Very
little of this music ever shows up on
the radio or the heavily-promoted
playlists, where formats seem to get
narrower and narrower with each
passing year. Music fans once heard
good new music at indie record stores,
but most of them have closed. Or
they could read reviews in the
newspaper, but both the newspapers
and the music reviews are shrinking or
disappearing. And the big record
labels are the worst culprits of all,
picking acts for their looks or their
potential appeal to fourteen-year-olds,
or some other egregious reason, and
in general jumping on the most trivial
passing fads. On the other hand,
the Internet presents an almost
infinite amount of music and music
commentary—yet where do fans
even begin to separate the good from
the bad and ugly?  My personal solution
to this dilemma has been to listen to
lots and lots of music, and try to
identify recordings of quality and
distinction. I share my list because
I know, from past experience, that
many other listeners are frustrated
with the broken system of music
discovery, and are also looking for
good new music.  

Why is this list so strange?

There are two kinds of end-of-year
lists. The first type celebrates
cultural heroes and popular successes.
But there's a second type of list that
focuses on musical discovery and digs
deeply into under-the-radar releases
seeking hidden gems. This list is
clearly in the second camp.

What criteria do I apply?  

I have no axe to grind.  My list is
filled with music I enjoy, and suspect
others will too—especially if they
have a reasonably good ear, and
an open mind.  I like recordings that
show some flair and creativity, a
sense of style, solid musicianship,
and an emotional commitment to
the moment of performance. I
appreciate it when an artist
possesses a sense of musical
tradition; on the other hand, I don’t
want to see slavish imitation of the
past.  When music strikes me as
too formulaic or contrived or cold,
I start to lose interest. Like any critic,
I want my readers to think that I am
cool and hip and oh-so-up-to-date,
but I learned some time ago that
many of the best recordings are
decidedly uncool and unhip. So if
you want to laugh at me for honoring
some superannuated country star or
unfashionable Celtic or lullaby album,
go right ahead. But also check
out some of the lesser-known titles on
the might just be pleasantly
surprised by what you hear.

Happy listening!

Related Links:
The 100 Best Albums of 2019
The 100 Best Albums of 2018
The 100 Best Albums of 2017
The 100 Best Albums of 2016
The 100 Best Albums of 2015
The 100 Best Albums of 2014
The 100 Best Albums of 2013
The 100 Best Albums of 2012
The 100 Best Albums of 2011