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Top 15 Kansas City Area LPs/Full-lengths Of 2020

After a month or so of agonizing over this list (you can tell by how many honorable mentions there are), I am happy to deliver you a fully objective list of the best LPs and full-length projects released in the Kansas City metro last year. Without further ado, in no particular order, here is the top 15. Click each release's title to give it a listen. If you missed the EPs/demos list, you can find that here.

-False Brother - Uncanny Valley

As soon as some of the songs from Uncanny Valley started making their way into False Brother’s live sets a year or two ago, I knew this album would be one of my favorites in whatever year it would come out. If no one has done so yet, I would like to declare False Brother the greatest Kansas City post-punk band of all time. Moody, sexy, and intelligent, this longplayer deserves a spot in the collection of any fan of the genre.

-Ebony Tusks - Heal_Thyself

I’ll keep it a buck with you all. While I’m very proud of my Ebony Tusks feature for The Pitch that came out around the release of this album, I wish I worked harder to uncover some of the stories that inspired Marty’s raps on Heal_Thyself (and the abundance of pop culture references I apparently missed, too). Was this all a 4D chess move to make sure we have things to talk about when the Tusks eventually guest on the Shuttlecock Podcast? No, but let’s pretend so. This record is nothing less than a modern Midwestern hip-hop classic and I’m confident that myself and anyone else who listens to it will be picking it apart and appreciating it for years to come.

-Kye Colors - With Love. By Faith.

Arguably Kansas City’s foremost rapper-producer, Kye Colors’ With Love. By Faith. is his most dynamic project yet. Over the course of 10 tracks, Kye expertly blends our city’s brand of g-funk with R&B in a way that sounds simultaneously fresh and classic. Here’s to Wasteland Records’ very own.

-Daniel Gum - Thirteen

Daniel Gum sings about a lot of heavy topics on Thirteen. His reflections on family, mortality, regret, and loneliness could overwhelm a listener if the songs weren’t so gorgeous and the production so crisp. Honest and diary-like, Gum’s writing mines his childhood and adolescence, searching for the meaning behind it all. And while some questions aren’t meant to be answered, Thirteen is the perfect companion for when the answers feel particularly far away. Bask in the happy-sad melodies of “Ruin Your Life,” the Elliott Smith piano bounce of “Mary,” and steel guitar sorrow of “In The Worst Ways.” You should come out feeling a little less alone.

-Devil’s Den - Barbed New Religion

Plenty of hardcore scene veterans that have been around for the last decade know about Devil’s Den through following the band’s members over the years, but it’s a real shame that they didn’t get to tour on this record and build a wider audience. Right beside Spine’s Faith, Barbed New Religion is one of Kansas City hardcore’s finest LPs of the last several years. Few vocalists can muster the level of contempt that Max Chaney holds for modern society, and the band does a fine job of writing music that sounds just as evil.

-Kevin Morby - Sundowner

Released just over a year after his ambitious, pop art concept album, Oh My God, Kevin Morby’s Sundowner makes for an intriguing companion piece. Sundowner was written mostly in Morby’s backyard studio shed behind the Overland Park home he shares with Katie Crutchfield, and draws inspiration from both the uneasy stillness and scenic beauty of settling back down (momentarily at least) in Kansas. Some of the themes of Oh My God reappear on Sundowner -- friends that are no longer here, and a certain strain of adventurousness -- but are offered up in quieter arrangements and with more inventive styles of percussion, likely a result of Morby’s solo four-track tinkering. I didn’t connect too deeply with the album on my first listen or two, but replaying it in a cozy, post-Thanksgiving meal haze as the sun set was a treat. I anticipate enjoying it even more when I can play it on a warm day’s drive down K-10.



-Jass - At The Close Of A Decade

I do my best to avoid making comparisons between artists sometimes, but I’m fairly confident in my belief that if you were to throw Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange and Jamila Woods’ Heavn in a blender, you’d get something that sounds a lot like Jass’ debut, At The Close Of A Decade. Steeped in themes of love and late ‘90s nostalgia like the former and composed with earthy, intuitive R&B grooves similar to the latter, this recording and an impressive appearance on Coop Sessions from Jass caught me by surprise in the final moments of 2020. Jass gives her songs room to breathe and evolve, but never once do they overstay their welcome.


-Mentira - Nada Es Sagrado

Okay, so listen: despite being a dedicated fan of punk rock for over a decade now, I’m still no subgenre scholar. Sure, I can recognize the elements of hardcore, d-beat, and more psychedelic variants of punk rock at play on Mentira’s debut LP, Nada Es Sagrado, but all you really need to know is that this thing rips. It also drives, shreds, and echoes on in your head long after the music stops.

-Southside Dame - Pretty Girls Listen To Dame

After allowing this one to sit with me for a moment, I’m now certain that Southside Dame’s latest project is his most consistent to date. Pretty Girls Listen To Dame paints a grandiose and romantic portrait of a young rapper sitting atop the game in Kansas City -- think Drake on the CN Tower, but maybe swap in One Light? I don’t know. What I’m saying is that on “Live From The View,” Dame makes an evening spent shopping with a love interest in Westport sound like the height of glamour. Pop-rap doesn’t really get much better than this.

-Aaron Alexander - The Kushlov Effect, Vol. 1

The first time I wrote about this album, I spent much of the article exploring Aaron Alexander’s rapping and storytelling abilities. This time around, I figure I should make clear how impressive its production is, too. Alexander’s de facto production team of Odds, Eric Rice, and Alexander Preston helped make Kushlov as fun and inventive as it is sleek and modern. Each effort from the group seems to outdo the last, so let’s hope volume two comes sooner than later.

-Koney - Koney

Long delayed, the debut LP of singer-songwriter Konnor Ervin’s post ACBs project, Koney, finally arrived in October. Each of these 11 songs is equal parts playful and thoughtful, carefully constructed from the ground up in the pop playground of the Shy Boys Cinematic Universe. Plenty of bands that play with the psychedelic seem to ask, “How trippy can we make this?!” Ervin knows that approach is usually bullshit. The moderation displayed on Koney makes it an extremely replayable record and evidence that Ervin is one of Kansas City’s most talented songwriters. Koney is ear candy that won’t make you feel sick if you eat it all in one sitting.

-Cale246 - Gang Side Of The Story

Many regional scenes have had their first breakthrough melodic street rapper over the past few years. Chicago has Polo G, Compton has Roddy Ricch, New York has Lil Tjay, Louisiana has YoungBoy. I would like to posit that Kansas City’s answer to these artists will be Cale246. Cale dropped five projects in 2020 and each has songs essential to his catalog, but the most bang for your buck can be found on Gang Side Of The Story. Cale’s autotuned raps of heartbreak, betrayal, and grief hit harder with every listen and could very well prove anthemic for a generation of young Kansas Citians.

-Shiner - Schadenfreude

Kansas City’s foremost space rock band returned after nearly two decades to release its fifth LP. The heavyweight blows landed on past records may have been knocked down a class on Schadenfreude, but the compositions are arguably more dialed-in than ever. If you haven’t yet, tune in, turn on, and blast off.

-Fullbloods - Soft And Virtual Touch

Soft And Virtual Touch, much like Koney’s self-titled, is an album that incorporates vintage styles into its songs without becoming a one-dimensional piece of genre worship. On the third Fullbloods full-length, primary songwriter Ross Brown melds soft rock grooves, synth pop flourishes, and an indie rock backbone to create a dream world where he can sit and ruminate on modern technology, relationships, and how the two affect each other. “Stand Up For Me Now” struck me as one of the most hypnotic and cathartic pop songs I heard all year.

-Blackstarkids - Surf

If any Kansas City act tries to tell you they had a bigger 2020 than Blackstarkids, they’re pulling your leg. The Raytown hybrid pop trio released two full-length albums, Surf and Whatever, Man, signed to Dirty Hit (home of The 1975, Rina Sawayama, and Beabadoobee), and landed features in several major music publications. While the interludes and cameos that dot Whatever, Man (their most recent album, and first for Dirty Hit) are good fun, the streamlined, homegrown pop-rock-rap joy of Surf makes it my favorite of the two. “Love, Stargirl” is an all-timer.


Honorable mentions:

Shy Boys - Talk Loud, Soft Kathryn - A Trip To The Creek Bed, Rory Fresco & CashMoneyAP - Rare Form, AyEl - Seventeen Summers: A Short Story, The Freedom Affair - Freedom Is Love, Dom Chronicles - Let's Go Outside, Fritz Hutchison - Wide Wild Acres, Stik Figa & Conductor Williams - Tomorrow Is Forgotten, Hammerlord - Wreck Shop, Victoria Falls Stillwater - Radioshack, Mister Water Wet & Monkey20 - Mind Phreak

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