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Best of The Bridge 2020

In a year like no other, everything struck us a little differently — our day-to-day interactions and routines, the small things we’ve grown to appreciate, and of course, the music we consumed. 

At The Bridge, we’ve worked from our homes since March to keep the music rolling by expanding our new music playlist more than ever, highlighting more artists and organizations in the KC community, and connecting you with touring artists through Zoom interviews, “out of studio” sessions, exclusive premieres, digital features and more. 

Our staff and contributors are sharing their favorite songs and albums of 2020 — a variety that includes more than 150 artists! From songs of isolation and activism to empowerment, hope and escape, we’ve got the ultimate music discovery playlist for the strangest year of our lives.

Check out the full lists below, and tune between Dec. 28 and 30 at 3 to 7 p.m. to hear more from our contributors!

Michael Atchison, Host of Revival

Favorite Albums of 2020

Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit – “Reunions”
Run The Jewels – “RTJ4” · Bridge Album Spotlight
Drive-By Truckers – “The Unraveling”
Tony Allen & Hugh Masekela – “Rejoice”
Khruangbin – “Mordechai”
Paul Weller – “On Sunset”
Bob Dylan – “Rough And Rowdy Ways”
Salaam Remi – “Black On Purpose”
Nicole Atkins – “Italian Ice”
Fiona Apple – “Fetch The Bolt Cutters” · Bridge Artist of the Week Spotlight
Low Cut Connie – “Private Lives”
Rina Sawayama – “SAWAYAMA”
Paul McCartney – “McCartney III”
Tom Petty – “Wildflowers & All The Rest” (favorite reissue)

The Bridge Commemorates Juneteenth

On Juneteenth, The Bridge commemorated the fundamental contributions of Black musicians on modern music.

Michelle Bacon

20 Albums of 2020

Phoebe Bridgers – “Punisher” · Bridge Artist of the Week Spotlight
Run the Jewels – “RTJ4”
Thundercat – “It Is What It Is”
The Freedom Affair – “Freedom Is Love” · Bridge Album Premiere
SAULT – “Untitled (Rise)”
BLACKSTARKIDS – “Whatever, Man”
Shiner – “Schadenfreude”
Daniel Gum – “Thirteen”
Christine & the Queens – “La Vita Nuova” (EP)
HAIM – “Women In Music, Pt. III”
We the People – “Misunderstood”
Khruangbin – “Mordechai”
The Budos Band – ”Long In the Tooth”
Fiona Apple – “Fetch the Bolt Cutters”
Shy Boys – “Talk Loud”
Lianne La Havas – “Lianne La Havas”
Gorillaz – “Song Machine, Season One: Strange Timez”
Jo MacKenzie – “Let Me Give You What I Wish I Had” (EP)
Ebony Tusks – “Heal Thyself”
Kadesh Flow – “Motivated” (EP) · Bridge Song Premiere

10 Singles of 2020

Anderson .Paak – “Lockdown”
Brent Windler – “Around the Bend”
Hi-Lux – “Revolution” / “Get What You Give” · Bridge Song Premiere
Michelle ft. Arlo Parks – “Sunrise”
Khrystal. – “Magic”
Brass & Boujee – “Black In America”
Dreamgirl – “All U Wanna Do Is Dance”
Dandelions - "Take On the World"
Adeline – “Stay Up”
Saint Se ft. Allison Gliesman – “In/Out”

International Women's Day 2020: Artist Conversations

In celebration of International Women's Day 2020, we spent the day chatting with several musicians about their careers, influences and experiences as female-identifying and gender non-binary artists.

Sarah Bradshaw

Top 20 Albums of 2020

Bartees Strange – “Live Forever”
BLACKSTARKIDS – “Surf”
Daniel Gum – “Thirteen”
Declan McKenna – “Zeros”
Fantastic Negrito – “Have You Lost Your Mind Yet?”
Fontaines D.C. – "A Hero's Death" · Bridge Artist Interview
IDLES – "Ultra Mono"
Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit – “Reunions”
Laura Marling – “Song For Our Daughter”
Moses Boyd – “Dark Matter”
Moses Sumney – “Græ”
Phoebe Bridgers – “Punisher”
Porridge Radio – "Every Bad"  
Radkey – "Green Room"
Run The Jewels – “RTJ4”
The Sluts – “Enjoy The Show” (EP)
Soccer Mommy – “color theory”
The Strokes – “The New Abnormal”
Una Walkenhorst – “Woman of the Year” (EP)
Waxahatchee – “Saint Cloud”

Bridge Exclusive: Fantastic Negrito Interview

Fantastic Negrito joined Sarah Bradshaw via Zoom to chat about his incredible story and his latest album, "Have You Lost Your Mind Yet?".

Vicky Diaz-Camacho, Flatland Community Reporter

Fire Songs of 2020

Gaidaa – “Morning Blue”
Young Old Soul – “Passerby”
Aysia Berlynn – “Trip” 
Cleo Sol – “When I’m In Your Arms”
Dreamville ft. Ari Lennox – “BUSSIT”
Rosalia ft. Travis Scott – “TKN”
Ozuna ft. Doja Cat and Sia – “Del Mar”
Biig Piig – “Don’t Turn Around”
Donny Benet – “Moving Up”
Thundercat ft. Smino and Guapdad 4000 – “Dragonball Durag (remix)”
Tom Misch and Yussef Dayes – “Tidal Wave”
Poppy Ajudha – “Watermelon Man (Under the Sun)”
Lianne La Havas – “Green Papaya”
Buscabulla – “NTE”
Kali Uchis ft. Jhay Cortez – “la luz(Fin)”
YENDRY – “Nena”
Sam Smith ft. Burna Boy – “My Oasis”
KAYTRANADA ft. Lucky Daye – “Look Easy”
Odunsi (The Engine) – “luv in a mosh”
Drake ft. Lil Durk – “Laugh Now Cry Later”

The Mariachi Stars of Kansas on NPR's Alt. Latino

Flatland community reporter Vicky Díaz-Camacho joined Mornings With Bryan Truta during Hispanic Heritage Month. She illuminated various voices in the Latinx community, and worked on an extensive piece about Topeka-based legends Mariachi Estrella.

Timothy Finn, Host of Thursdays With Timothy Finn

10 Favorite Music Documentaries I Watched In 2020

“The Bee Gees: How Can You Mend a Broken Heart” (HBO) – For those who need to be reminded how many great songs they wrote.

“Song Exploder” (Netflix) – 25-minute histories of famous songs from the people who wrote them (There is a companion podcast, also)

“Echo In the Canyon” (Netflix) – The story of the music and stars who emerged from Laurel Canyon in the 1970s.

“A Song for You: The Austin City Limits Story” (Prime) – This celebration of the 40th anniversary of the longest running live music show in history includes breathtaking archival footage.

“Scott Walker: 30th Century Man” (Kanopy) – A rare close-up visit with a genuine, otherworldly genius.

“Other Music” (Kanopy) – An independent record store thrives and dies in NYC.

“The Rainbow” (Netflix) – This bar and grill on the Sunset Strip, a contemporary of the Whisky a Go Go, was a legendary West Hollywood music hub for rock stars in the 1970s and beyond.

“American Masters” (PBS) – This series of one-hour documentaries regularly features music legends, including Miles Davis, Charley Pride and Loretta Lynn.

“Beastie Boys Story” (Apple TV+) – Ad-Rock and Mike D take viewers and the live audience before them on a rollicking look back at the Beasties' illustrious story.

“Letter To You” (Apple TV+) – Bruce Springsteen's intimate tribute to band members, former and current, dead and alive.

10 Favorite Recordings From Kansas City/Lawrence Artists

The Freedom Affair – “Freedom Is Love”
Fritz Hutchison – “Wide Wild Acres” · Bridge Song Premiere
Shiner – “Schadenfreude” 
The Roseline – “Good / Grief” · Bridge Artist of the Week Spotlight
Daniel Gum – “Thirteen”
Shy Boys – “Talk Loud”
The Ants – “Sun City Vices”
BLACKSTARKIDS – ”Whatever, Man”
Radkey – “Green Room”
Miki P and the Swallowtails – “Right Where We Are”

Music Podcasts You Should Check Out

Broken Record
New York Times Popcast
Rockin' the Suburbs
Tiny Desk Concerts
Disgraceland

Gratitude and Love, In Memoriam

Molly Hammer
Steve Phillips

Frank Hicks Keeps the Good Times Rolling at Knuckleheads

In February, Tim Finn profiled one of Kansas City's most beloved live music venues, Knuckleheads.

Chris Haghirian, Host of Eight One Sixty

Favorite Full-Length Albums of 2020

BLACKSTARKIDS – “Surf”
The Casket Lottery – “Short Songs For End Times”
Ebony Tusks – “Heal Thyself”
The Freedom Affair – “Freedom Is Love”
Hermon Mehari – “A Change For the Dreamlike”
The MGDs – “Midtown” · Bridge Artist of the Week Spotlight
Radkey – “Green Room”
Shiner– “Schadenfreude” · Bridge Artist Interview
The Way Way Back – “Baggage or You're Never Going To Leave It All Behind”
We The People – “Misunderstood”

Favorite EPs of 2020

Kadesh Flow – “Motivated”
Katy Guillen & the Drive – “Dream Girl” 
Lava Dreams – “Good Energy + Focus”
Jo MacKenzie – “Let Me Give You What I Wish I Had”
Amy Marcus – “Two Years”
Silver Girl – “Silver Girl”
Nick Siegel – “For You Dear, Anything: Parts I & II” 
Una Walkenhorst – “Woman of the Year”
Jake Wells – “Sunday Morning”
Sam Wells – “For The Deflated”

COVID Hustle Awards

In the craziest year of any of our lives, these people/organizations went above and beyond:

Kadesh Flow & Kemet Coleman – From putting out new music, to livestream shows, to creating a fundraiser, Troostival — a social and virtual experience where the diversity of Black music in KC is celebrated and showcased.
 
Quixotic – During the summer they shifted from touring the world in theaters and on cruise ships to hosting amazing rooftop performances at The Westin at Crown Center.
 
Madisen Ward – He kept us laughing through the hard times with his series of Quarantunes via Madisen Ward & the Mama Bear’s social media. · Eight One Sixty Episode
 
Steve Tulipana, Frank Hicks and other venue owners – In July, Tulipana and a crew opened Lemonade Park, hosting outdoor concerts in a safe and socially distanced way, from the summer to Halloween. Frank pushed everything outside at Knuckleheads and kept the music going.
 
Una Walkenhorst & Nicole Springer – Unrelated but both hustled hard for charities. Una raised awareness and money for The Greenline Initiative, and Springer started a charity called No Shame: A Period Product Project for Our Houseless Community. · Greenline Grows KC Livestream
 
Victor & Penny – Early in COVID during the shutdown, Victor & Penny turned their living room into a studio and raised $20,000 to help musicians via Midwest Music Foundation. 
 
James “Sarge” Carter – He flexed and pivoted his organization You Found Music, and started hosting livestream concerts, providing a revenue stream to artists when most of the live gigs came to a screeching halt.
 
Midwest Music Foundation – In a year where the government failed us, MMF hustled and raised over $100,000 and provided relief packages for KC musicians. 
 
Mark Lowrey – He hosted over 100 “Jazz & Plants” livestream concerts from his living room and also raised over $5000 for different KC charities.
 
90.9 The Bridge and KKFI 90.1 – In a year filled with so much struggle, two all-locally staffed and programmed radio stations kept the music and content flowing, providing a stage to great musicians and a free outlet to help people cope with a crazy year.

In support and celebration of KC's music community, we co-hosted livestream concert KC Bands Together this summer.

Jon Hart

A Modest Pandemic Playlist

A very incomplete listing of love, loss and artistic perseverance in the face of COVID–19.

The Rolling Stones – “Living In A Ghost Town”
The Stones began recording this song in 2019 and finished it in isolation, as activity slowed to a crawl in cities around the world.

Adrianne Lenker – “Anything” 
In March of this year, Big Thief’s principal songwriter retreated to the woods of western Massachusetts with her acoustic guitar. The songs that came were subsequently recorded with a makeshift studio in the same one–room cabin where they were written.

Benjamin Gibbard – “Life in Quarantine”
In the early days of the pandemic, Benjamin Gibbard began doing daily livestreams, helping us come to grips with the massive changes in day–to–day life. Those shared experiences, as expressed in his lyrics, give this bare–bones song its power.

Ondara – “Lockdown on Date Night Tuesday”
Three days of songwriting served as therapy for the isolated J.S. Ondara. Recording those songs in a friend's living room followed, and the album went from conception to completion in less than a week.

Paul McCartney – “Find My Way”
Paul became a pioneer of the DIY school with the release of his first solo album in 1970. “McCartney II” came in 1980 and “McCartney III,” recorded during the pandemic, was released this month.

Ben Harper – “Don’t Let Me Disappear”
Ben takes the isolation, loneliness and fear of becoming invisible to those we love, and gives voice to our emotions.

Taylor Swift ft. Bon Iver – “Exile”
As a fan of the National, Taylor Swift had always wanted to work with Aaron Dessner. Isolation gave her the time. Aaron’s connection to Justin Vernon helped her realize another dream as he joined the collaboration for this song.

David George – “When We All Come Together”
Local Kansas City bands combined forces for a livestream fundraiser benefiting Midwest Music Foundation. David George pulled in a Who’s Who of the scene that epitomized the collaborative spirit of our city.

Lera Lynn – “Are You Listening?”
Recorded before the pandemic, Lera Lynn’s album features her playing all of the instruments. Recording alone, isolation became one of the album’s themes, unintentionally providing us with a soundtrack for our communal experiences.

Travis – “A Ghost”
The album was done, but they needed a video. Fran Healy served as artist, and his son Clay as cinematographer in an animated video, created in isolation, as beautiful as the song itself.

Hermon Mehari – “Eritrea”
The homeland of Hermon Mehari’s parents inspired this song. Recorded in isolation, it’s a beautiful reminder of the importance of family.

Pretenders – “Didn’t Want to Be This Lonely”
A perfect song for the distance we felt during 2020. It was recorded pre–pandemic, but the video was created under lockdown.

Randy Newman – “Stay Away”
What started as a musical PSA became a love song from Randy Newman to his wife Gretchen.

Ed O’Brien – “Shangri-La” Live from Capitol Studios · Bridge Artist Interview
Stripped of the ability to tour, artists found new ways to reach out. Ed O’Brien of Radiohead, recording as EOB, did a live session at the Capitol Studio in Los Angeles for The Bridge.

John Prine – “I Remember Everything”
Even though many of his songs of the last few years were about looking back as time drew short, I was still unprepared for his passing. This home demo of a new song is the last song John Prine recorded.

John Prine: An Appreciation Of His Life and Music

Jon Hart wrote a beautiful tribute to John Prine, who passed away in early April from complications of COVID-19.

Kliff Kuehl, CEO of Kansas City PBS · The Bridge · Flatland

Favorite Songs of 2020

Bruce Springsteen – “The Power of Prayer”
The Strokes – “Bad Decisions”
HAIM – “The Steps”
Nick Lowe – “Lay It On Me Baby”
Arctic Monkeys – “505” (Live)
Deep Sea Diver ft. Sharon Van Etten – “Impossible Weight”
Tennis – “Need Your Love” · NPR Music 
Waxahatchee – “Can’t Do Much”
Taylor Swift ft. Bon Iver – “Exile”
Katy Guillen & the Drive – “Willingly” · Bridge Video Premiere
Tame Impala – “Is It True”
Khruangbin & Leon Bridges – “Texas Sun”
My Morning Jacket – “Feel You”
Beabadoobee – “Care”

Right before the shutdown, Katie Crutchfield of Waxahatchee joined us in The Bridge studios to debut songs from her acclaimed album, "Saint Cloud."

Chris Lester, Flatland Managing Editor

Top Albums of 2020

Bob Dylan – “Rough and Rowdy Ways”
Fiona Apple – “Fetch the Bolt Cutters”
Hayley Williams – “Petals for Armor”
Sleaford Mods – “All That Glue”
Pearl Jam – “Gigaton”
Phoebe Bridgers – “Punisher”
Drive-By Truckers – “The Unraveling”
Tom Petty – “Wildflowers & All the Rest” · Bridge Artist of the Week Spotlight
Isobell Campbell – “There is No Other”
Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – “Sideways to New Italy”
Psychedelic Furs – “Made of Rain”
Steve Earle – “Ghosts of West Virginia”
Run the Jewels – “RTJ4”
Fontaines D.C. – “A Hero’s Death”
Bruce Springsteen – “Letter to You”
HAIM – “Women in Music Pt. III”
Gorillaz – “Song Machine Season One: Strange Timez”
Jarv Is – “Beyond the Pale”
The Strokes – “The New Abnormal”
Waxahatchee – “Saint Cloud”

Stray Cuts

Bryan Ferry – “The In Crowd” (Live)
Magnetic Fields – “The Day the Politicians Died”
Courtney Barnett – “Untitled” (Live)
Tony Allen – “Robbers Thugs and Muggers”
The 1975 – “Me and You Together Song”
Caroline Rose – “Freak Like Me”
Jason Isbell – “Be Afraid”
Billy Nomates – "No"

NPR Music dubbed this New Pornographers' 909 Session (filmed in February) as one of the best live sessions of 2020.

Robert Moore, Host of Sonic Spectrum

Top 20 Songs of 2020

Shame – “Snow Day”
Sleaford Mods ft. Billy Nomates – “Mork n' Mindy”
Khruangbin – “So We Won't Forget”
IDLES – “Grounds”
Tindersticks – “Trees Fall”
AC/DC – “Shot In The Dark”
The Bats – “Warwick”
Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – “Falling Thunder”
Madeline Kenney – “Sucker”
Freelove Fenner – “Shoulder Season”
The Dream Syndicate – “The Longing”
Ghostpoet – “Concrete Pony”
Georgia – “Started Out”
Caribou – “Lime”
Kevin Morby ft. Waxahatchee – “Campfire”
Destroyer – “Cue Synthesizer”
Doves – “Carousels”
A Certain Ratio – “Yo Yo Gi”
Baxter Dury – “Saliva Hog”
Nation of Language – “Friend Machine”

Honorable Mentions

Coriky – “Clean Kill”
X – “Cyrano DeBerger's Back”
Greg Dulli – “It Falls Apart”
Lee Walter Redding – “The Barber”
The Harrisonics – “That's The Thing (I Was Telling You About)"
Archers of Loaf – “Raleigh Days”
Girl Friday – “Earthquake”
The Homesick – “Focus on the Beach”
Spinning Coin – “Laughing Ways”
Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – “Cars In Space”
Future Islands – “Thrill”
Guided By Voices – “Mr. Child”
Fontaines D.C. – “A Lucid Dream”

Sonic Spectrum Comes To 90.9 The Bridge!

We are thrilled to welcome Sonic Spectrum to 90.9 The Bridge's airwaves! The long-running freeform music program will air Saturdays on The Bridge from 6 to 8 p.m., starting on Jan. 9, 2021! Featuring cutting-edge classics from the past and present, Sonic Spectrum is an award-winning radio show created in 2003 by Robert Moore.

Misti Mundae

Movie Music Moments of 2020

The year 2020 meant a lot of movies being delayed and put on hold while others just figured out a different game plan. I didn't have the plethora of movies and the music in them as I had originally planned, but there were some great music moments in the movies that were part of a year unlike any other.

Blind Melon – “No Rain” from “All I Can Say”
Sharon Van Etten – “Staring at a Mountain” from “Never Rarely Sometimes Always”
Lizzo – “Juice” from “King of Staten Island”
Khruangbin – “August 10” from “Palm Springs” 
Phoenix – “Identical” from “On the Rocks” 
Charlie Puth – “Free” from “The One and Only Ivan” 
Dido – “White Flag” from “Bad Education” 
David Byrne – “Road to Nowhere (live)” from “American Utopia”
Cold War Kids – “Story of Our Lives” from “Bill and Ted Face the Music”
Pokey LaFarge – “Banks of the Ohio” from “The Devil All the Time”
Janelle Monae – “Turntables” from “All In: The Fight for Democracy”
Cage the Elephant – “Social Cues” from “Hubie Halloween”
Bon Iver – “Heavenly Father” from “The Way Back”
Beastie Boys – “Paul Revere” from “Beastie Boys Story”
Otis Redding – “(Sitting On) The Dock of the Bay” from “Witches”
Cast of Hamilton – “My Shot” from “Hamilton”
Jonathan Goff – “You’ll Be Back” from “Hamilton”

'90s Week: A Conversation with Steve Tulipana

We kicked off '90s Week this summer with an interview/profile of Steve Tulipana, frontman of Season To Risk and co-owner of recordBar.

Skylar Rochelle, Host of The Z Show

Top Songs of 2020

Khrystal. – "Magic" 
Video Age – "Aerostar" from “Pleasure Line”
Shy Boys – "View From the Sky" from “Talk Loud”
BLACKSTARKIDS – "ACTING NORMAL" from “Whatever, Man”
Silver Girl – "Sweet Like an Apple" from “Silver Girl”
Daniel Gum – "Ruin Your Life" from “Thirteen”
Dehd – "Flying" from Flower of “Devotion”
Merce Lemon – "Moon Shots" from “Moonth”
Squirrel Flower – "So Hot You're Hurting My Feelings"
Charlotte Bumgarner – "Honey Touch" · Bridge Artist Interview
Phoebe Bridgers – "Garden Song" from “Punisher”
Tomberlin – "Sin" from “Projections”
Yaya Bey – "paterson plank" from “Madison Tapes”
Lomelda – "Hannah Sun" from “Hannah”
Jass – "pof (voice memo)" from “At The Close of A Decade”
Big Dog Bite – "Home" from “At the Park”
Wildlife Freeway – "Clouds"

Bridge Exclusive: Emily Kempf (Dehd) Interview

Emily Kempf of Dehd joined Skylar Rochelle via Zoom for an exclusive Bridge interview in November. Hear about the band's latest album, "Flower of Devotion," as well as more about Kempf's previous projects, influences and favorites.

Bryan Truta, Host of Mornings with Bryan Truta

Top Earworms of 2020

The songs I just couldn’t get out of my head (or off my phone) throughout the year, in no particular order:

IDLES – “Model Village”
HAIM – “The Steps”
Run the Jewels – “JU$T”
BLACKSTARKIDS – “Acting Normal”
BLACKSTARKIDS – “Britney Bitch”
Fiona Apple – “Shameika”
Anderson .Paak – “Lockdown”
Bully – “Where To Start” · Bridge Artist of the Week Spotlight
Janelle Monae – “Turntables”
Anna of the North – “Dream Girl”
Khrystal – “Magic” · Bridge Song Premiere
Boy Pablo – “Hey Girl”
SAULT – “Free”
Rolling Stones – “Scarlet (Killers Remix)”
Margaret Glaspy – “Stay With Me” · Bridge Artist Interview
Kurt Vile with John Prine – “How Lucky”
Kian Byrne – “All The Love” · Bridge Song Premiere
Hi-Lux – “Get What You Give”
The Freedom Affair – “Give A Little Love”
Blu DeTiger – “Figure It Out” · Bridge Artist Interview
The Strokes – “Bad Decisions”
Ultimate Fakebook – “After Hours At Melin’s”

Top Albums of 2020

Run the Jewels – “RTJ4”
Fiona Apple – “Fetch the Bolt Cutters”
BLACKSTARKIDS – “Whatever, Man”
HAIM – “Women in Music Pt. III”
Khruangbin – “Mordechai”
Bob Dylan – “Rough and Rowdy Ways”
Fontaines D.C. – “A Hero’s Death”
Taylor Swift – “Evermore”
Gorillaz – “Song Machine Season One: Strange Timez”
Jo MacKenzie – “Let Me Give You What I Wish I Had” (EP)
The Strokes – “The New Abnormal”
Phoebe Bridgers – “Punisher”
The Freedom Affair – “Freedom Is Love”
Childish Gambino – “3.15.20”
Arlo Parks – “Sophie” (EP)
Sylvan Esso – “Free Love” · Bridge Artist Interview
IDLES – “Ultra Mono”

Finally, here's a Spotify list with several of these selections, making up more than 12 hours of music! Happy holidays from all of us at The Bridge! 

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