Year-end blitz: RIFF’s 2020 in review lists are coming!

2020 in Review, Best of 2020, best albums of 2020, best concerts of 2020, 2020 in review, The Most OK of 2020

Illustration: Skott Bennett/STAFF.

It’s been a year like no other. When the Bay Area shut down on March 11 and 12, RIFF had to quickly pivot away from concert reviews—a staple for us—to something else. We ramped up our news coverage, especially in terms of how the music industry and the Bay Area were responding to the new coronavirus pandemic, as well as opinion pieces by our staff and guest writers, and features.

As a team, RIFF provided more interviews with artists this year than in our nearly five years. We continued to take steps into the realm of classical music, TV and film, expanded into the world of fine dining and beverages, and even dance. I’m a ballet fan now. It’s so rock.

Then George Floyd was murdered by police. And Rayshard Brooks. Then Jacob Blake was shot. We stared at our TV screens, participated in protests and eventually looked at ourselves. We made a concerted effort to give more space to deserving Black voices, as well as other people of color and the marginalized. We had numerous open dialogues with artists. We considered what sharing a black tile on social media could achieve. We addressed the election, covered California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s coronavirus press briefings, rang up San Francisco Mayor London Breed’s office on weekends and, in general, found a way to stay busy despite a lack of concerts.

The illustration we’re using this year, designed by graphic artist extraordinaire Skott Bennett, represents how we feel this year. So much great art was created, in what is otherwise a horrible year for so many of us. “The best of 2020” just didn’t sit right. Most of us are stuck at home, overusing Zoom, Slack and Google Hangouts. You’ll notice that in place of the “leave meeting” button is an “ugh.” We want out.

Thanks for sticking around with us.

Over the next few weeks, you can expect to read our editorial team’s list of the best albums of the year—according to us—as well as:

  • Max Heilman’s massive list of the best metal albums of the year
  • Tim Hoffman’s look at the best hip-hop albums and mixtapes
  • Our photographers’ look back at their best concert photography work (which sadly consisted of two and one-third months)
  • The top 10 concerts we missed this year (you’ll laugh; you’ll cry)
  • Rachel Goodman’s favorite alt-rock and pop songs of the year
  • Two special editions of Tuesday Tracks: a holiday round-up and the team’s favorite under-the-radar songs of the year
  • A look back at some of the artists we lost this year
  • I’ll guide you through my year in interviews, primarily through Zoom.
  • Daniel J. Willis’ annual Festivus tradition: the things he hates most this year. We asked him to keep it under 10,000 words. Fingers crossed.

And if you follow us on Twitter, you can catch some of the memorable stories we followed and covered in 2020.

Our year-end column blitz begins tomorrow, and the machine will keep churning through the end of the year. Is there something missing from our list that you’d like to see covered? Have a suggestion to make? 

Follow editor Roman Gokhman at

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