Top 50 Albums of 2020: 50-41

50.  THE MICROPHONES- MICROPHONES IN 2020

“Microphones in 2020” is one forty-five minute song from this resurrected alias of Phil Elverum, which delves deeply into his past, examining the process of making his art along with his often heartbreaking existence and many transformations.

Key track Microphones In 2020

49.  THUNDERCAT- IT IS WHAT IT IS

Loose, fast-moving and freewheeling album from standout L.A. bassist, with its heart rooted in deep funk and jazz.  

Key Tracks I Love Louis Cole; Dragonball Durag

48.  CHICANO BATMAN- INVISIBLE PEOPLE

Hooky, upbeat album from Latino, SoCal, psychedelic funk band.  They celebrate diversity and know that love conquers all.  

Key Tracks Invisible People; Color My Life

47. LUCINDA WILLIAMS- GOOD SOULS BETTER ANGELS

Angriest and most hard rocking album of Williams storied career.  “Good Souls” takes Trump and company directly as she takes her musical cues from punk and heavy blues.

Key Tracks Down Past The Bottom; Wakin Up

46.  BLACK THOUGHT- STREAMS OF THOUGHT VOL. 3: CANE & ABLE EP

Third volume in solo series from the frontman of Philly’s legendary The Roots.  Though the EP is often hit or miss, the highlights are worth the trouble as Thought collaborates with indie-pop group Portugal. The Man and The Artful Dodger.

Key Tracks Good Morning; Fuel

45.  RICO NASTY- NIGHTMARE VACATION

After a slew of EP’s and mixtapes, “Nightmare Vacation” is the official debut album from Baltimore rapper/singer Rico Nasty.  Employing 16 different producers over 16 tracks, Nasty runs the gamut of her different sounds, including aggressive rap, pop and Rihanna-influenced R&B.  

Key Tracks Smack A Bitch (Remix); iPhone

44. MEDHANE- COLD WATER

Gritty debut from Brooklyn independent rapper with beats rooted in soul & jazz.  Quiet but serious and deadly focused.  

Key Tracks I’m Deadass; TRS

43.  BOB MOULD- BLUE HEARTS

Long time indie hero continues his winning streak with hard hitting, straight ahead indie-punk, angrily focused on the sad and sorry state of America.

Key Tracks Siberian Butterfly; Everything To You

42.  BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN & THE E STREET BAND- LETTER TO YOU

Springsteen’s 20th studio album is his best and most upbeat in years, recorded live in the studio with the E street band.  

Key Tracks Janey Needs A Shooter; Ghosts

41.  HAYLEY WILLIAMS- PETALS FOR ARMOR

Lead singer of emo-punk band Paramore releases her solo debut of experimental pop with danceable undertones.

Key Tracks Simmer; Dead Horse

Top 50 Albums of 2020: 40-31

40.  SUFJAN STEVENS- THE ASCENSION

Overly long, electro album with select moments of brilliance which plays as a musical if not spiritual sequel to 2010’s “Age Of Adz”.  The beginning and end of the album contain some of Sufjan’s best songs but the middle drags.

Key Tracks The Ascension; Video Game

39.  JAY ELECTRONICA- A WRITTEN TESTIMONY

Long-awaited debut album from already legendary rapper lives up to the hype.  Electronica, notably an Islamic five-percenter, collaborates throughout with Jay-Z and addresses spirtuality and societal ills thoughtfully and directly. 

Key Tracks Shiny Suit Theory; Ghost Of Soulja Slim

38.  DRIVE-BY TRUCKERS- THE NEW OK

Second full-length of 2020. “The New OK” is the DBT’s quarantine album, taking on Trump, BLM protests and everything this crazy year has brought us from the unique perspective of a blue collar, liberal, deep southerner.  The 30 minute album ends with an on the nose cover of Ramones “The KKK Took My Baby Away”.  

Key Tracks The Perilous Night; The New OK

37.  THE CHICKS- GASLIGHTER

Dropping ‘Dixie’ from their name in the wake of BLM, the Chicks also capture the zeitgeist by naming their first album in 14 years after one of the most relevant, if overused, phrases today.  Though some of the album is a bit paint by numbers, the best half of its tracks contain the typical Chicks glorious harmonies, upbeat punch and skillful instrumentation to make “Gaslighter” a very worthy additional to their canon.

Key Tracks Gaslighter; Texas Man

36.  JASON ISBELL & THE 500 UNIT- REUNIONS

Low key album which continues this former Drive-By Trucker’s winning streak.  Isbell is slowly becoming an alt country star, whose deep, insightful and often autobiographical lyrics make him one of the best writing musicians today; both within and outside his own scene.

Key Tracks It Gets Easier; Dreamsicle

35.  PORRIDGE RADIO- EVERY BAD

Second album by Brighton, UK, female led four-piece band.  “Every Bad” is one of the better rock bands of the year.  Porridge Radio was completely off my radar prior to 2020.

Key Tracks Sweet; Don’t Ask Me Twice

34.  CHARLI XCX- HOW I’M FEELING NOW

Album made entirely during quarantine by one of the leading lights of forward thinking, futuristic electro pop.  Her beats are of the moment and hard hitting as usual, while she songs of love and loneliness while we’re stuck in this moment that we can’t get out of.

Key Tracks Anthems; Enemy

33.  MEGAN THEE STALLION- GOOD NEWS

2020 was truly this Texas rapper’s breakout year.  Megan is now emphatically one of rap’s biggest stars, if not in pop music in general.  “Good News”, arriving very late in 2020 is her official album debut, though she released the excellent EP “Suga” in the spring as well as some of the year’s best and biggest songs like “Savage” and “Wap”.

Key Tracks Savage (Remix); Girls In The Hood

32.  MOSES SUMNEY- GRAE

20 song, double album, which initially arrived digitally in two parts.  “Grae” is a soulful, gender fluid examination of both the masculine and feminine aspects of Sumney.  After a very promising debut, his second album delivers a bigger and deeper version from this leading light of indie-soul.

Key Tracks Polly; Neither/Nor

31.  SOCCER MOMMY- COLOR THEORY

Second album by early 20-something singer songwriter who once again delivers one of the year’s best songs in “Circle The Drain”.  “Color Theory” is a sadder record than her debut with three colors representing depression (blue), illness (yellow) and death (gray).  She (real name Sophie Allison) seems just on the verge of delivering a full-blown classic album.

Key Tracks Circle The Drain; Lucy

Top 50 Albums of 2020: 30-21

30.  CARIBOU- SUDDENLY

Long running project of producer Dan Snaith, “Suddenly” boils electronic music down into two to three minute slices mirroring perfect pop.

Key Tracks Home; Never Come Back

29.  FONTAINES D.C.- A HERO’S DEATH

Second album by one of punk’s leading lights, Dublin’s Fontaines U.K. a grimmer and more downbeat offering for this terrible year of 2020; showing the band more musically varied than previously thought.  

Key Tracks A Hero’s Death; I Was Not Born

28.  BOB DYLAN- ROUGH AND ROWDY WAYS

Just shy of 80 years old, Dylan is one of music’s truest legends and you can never count him out.  “Rough and Rowdy Ways” is her best album since at least 2006’s “Modern Times”.  “Murder Most Foul” is a hybrid of folk & blues and contains Dylan’s longest studio track ever, the meditative but mind-blowing “Murder Most Foul”.

Key Tracks Murder Most Foul; False Prophet

27.  LIL UZI VERT- ETERNAL ATAKE

Arguably 2020’s first rap event album, Philly rapper delivers a plethora of tasty tracks at a frenetic pace.  The results are so consistent that it’s hard to pick out the highlights.  

Key Tracks POP; Celebrity Station

26.  GRIMES- MISS ANTHROPOCENE

First full-length release by former indie-pop star, who is now a full-fledged pop star and married to Elon Musk.  “Miss Anthropocene” is experimental as ever though certainly more top heavy and a bit less consistent than 2015’s neo-classic “Art Angels”.

Key Tracks 4AEM; Delete Forever

25.  NINA SAWAYAMA- SAWAYAMA

Japanese-British singer’s promising debut embraces a huge tent for pop music drawing on turn of the millennium styles as wide ranging as Britney/Christina teeny popper pop to nu-metal, updating these sounds for modern ears.

Key Tracks Who’s Gonna Save us Now?; XS

24.  CHARLEY CROCKETT- WELCOME TO HARD TIMES

Country blues traditionalist who just came on my radar this year.  Though Crockett’s music sounds like it came straight out of the late fifties or early sixties, he doesn’t sound directly influenced by any single artist and his distinctive baritone and witty storytelling make him a vital part of an emerging country back to basics movement.

Key Tracks Run Horse Run; Fool Somebody Else

23.  KVELERTAK- SPLID

Fourth album by Norwegian metallers, who make party music to the sounds of NWOBHM (New Wave Of British Heavy Metal) & Black Metal.  “Splid” is the group’s first offering with new vocalist Ivar Nikolaisen and also their first with some songs in English- most notably “Crack Of Doom”.

Key Tracks Crack Of Doom; Bratebrann

22.  LAURA MARLING- SONG FOR OUR DAUGHTER

Seventh album by criminally underrated British singer-songwriter.  Just past thirty, “Song For Our Daughter” explores feminism, love and sexuality and celebrates Marling’s much earned wisdom after long being perceived as precocious.  

Key Tracks Held Down; Strange Girl

21.  TAME IMPALA- THE SLOW RUSH

Maybe a slight step down in quality by one of the most consistently great acts recording today.  Kevin Parker, leader and mastermind of the project, which started out as a psych-rock band, takes Impala even further down the synth-rock rabbit hole.  Tripped out disco prog for a new decade.  There is plenty to like here and it gets better with each listen.

Key Tracks Lost In Yesterday; Breathe Deeper

Top 50 Albums of 2020: 20-11

20.  DESTROYER- HAVE WE MET

One of Dan Bejar’s better album releases in a career filled with peaks and higher peaks of his now eleven albums.  Bejar is typically aloof and detached, providing winking commentary over groovy, soft rock beats.

Key Tracks Crimson Tide; Kinda Dark

19. NO AGE- GOONS BE GONE

Fifteen years into their career, this now underrated, L.A. two-piece punk outfit is still making incredible post hardcore to a diminishing audience.  “Goons Be Gone” veers between woozy, noise rock and anthemic punk for the pit.

Key Tracks War Dance; Turned To String

18.  U.S. GIRLS- HEAVY LIGHT

Seventh album by mastermind Meg Remy calls out capitalism and the patriarchy with the sounds of disco and sixties girl groups.  The more you listen the smarter “Heavy Light” sounds.  

Key Tracks 4 American Dollars; Born To Lose

17.  THE 1975- NOTES ON A CONDITIONAL FORM

Millennial Manchester quartet doubles down on their maximalist approach, filling this double album with screaming punk, perfect pop, experimental electronic and lengthy interludes; everything but the kitchen sink.  While a bit inconsistent, “Notes” begins to reveal its many delights on subsequent listens.

Key Tracks Jesus Christ 2005 God Bless America; Roadkill

16.  LADY GAGA- CHROMATICA

One of pop music’s biggest stars returns to her dance diva roots, delivering her best album since “The Fame Monster”.  Gaga’s plethora of club anthems are welcome in a year when we couldn’t even dance in public.

Key Tracks Stupid Love; Enigma

15.  ROISIN MURPHY- ROISIN MACHINE

Fifth solo album by Irish outre disco queen combines twelve-inch singles from her last decade of music with a handful of new tracks.  Murphy puts deep house music into a pop context.  

Key Tracks Something More; Jealousy

14.  BARTEES STRANGE- LIVE FOREVER

One of 2020’s top newcomers, D.C. based Strange’s promising debut album is a mish mosh of punk, folk, arena ready rock & rap, bringing to mind TV On The Radio.  “Boomer” and “Mustang” are two of the best powerhouse rock tracks of the year.  

Key Tracks Boomer; Mustang

13.  FLEET FOXES- SHORE

Fourth solo album by Robin Pecknold’s Fleet Foxes is a folk-rock beauty, reigning in the more experimental impulses of their previous album “Crack-Up”, presenting their most straight forward album since their perfect self-titled debut.  

Key Tracks Sunblind; Cradling Mother, Cradling Woman

12.  CHRIS STAPLETON- STARTING OVER

Fourth full-length album by one of country music’s best and biggest artists.  Stapleton is who he is by remaining authentically true to himself; his blend of blues, classic country, classic rock & soul is as potent as ever.  “Starting Over” is his best album since “Traveller”.  

Key Tracks Cold; Arkansas

11.  PERFUME GENIUS- SET MY HEART ON FIRE IMMEDIATELY

Fifth album by Mike Hadreas may be his best yet.  Here, Hadreas has taken a move away from the starkly personal and confrontational nature of his past work toward a look at an exploration of the human body.  Though there are always at least two or three genius songs per album, the highlights on “Set My Heart On Fire Immediately” are even more abundant.  Hadreas has quietly become one of the most consistently great artists in the indie world over the past decade. 

Key Tracks On The Floor; Nothing At All

Top 50 Albums of 2020: 10-1

10.  RUN THE JEWELS- RTJ4

RJT4 is duo Killer Mike and El-P’s best release since at least RJT2 and captures the zeitgeist perfectly in one of America’s worst years in its history- railing against the awful ruling class as well as the violent and racist police state. Starting off as a side project between two friends, Run The Jewels have become one of rap’s most indispensable groups. 

Key Tracks Walking In The Snow; Ooh La La

9.  TAYLOR SWIFT- FOLKLORE

“Folklore” is Swift’s eight record, her quarantine/pandemic record and her nod to indie folk pop.  Written and recorded with guitarist Aaron Dessner, and surprised released in early Fall of 2020, “Folklore” is surprisingly one of Swift’s strongest albums of her illustrious career.  By creating a low stakes album of bedroom pop, Swift ironically seems poised to further expand her audience.

Key Tracks Exile; August

8.  DUA LIPA- FUTURE NOSTALGIA

Second album of rising UK dancepop star, “Future Nostalgia” delivers banger after banger of club ready funkpop and modern disco.  With nary a ballad and relentless energy, “Future Nostalgia” is a nonstop blast from start to finish.

Key Tracks Love Again; Break My Heart

7.  YVES TUMOR- HEAVEN TO A TORTURED MIND

“Heaven To A Tortured Mind” shows experimental UK artist moving towards a more anthemic, pop sound while maintaining his stylistic blending of soul, noise-rock, krautrock and psychedelia.  They are somehow able to streamline all of these disparate sounds into an accessible pop context without losing an ounce of authenticity or original vibe.  Here’s hoping they become much bigger in the future as a result.

Key Tracks Gospel For A New Century; Dream Palette

6.  DOGLEG- MELEE

In a time period with a diminishing rock scene and in a year with no touring, Detroit emo band Dogleg recalls bands like Japandroids and At The Drive-In with it’s awesome debut album “Melee”.  While they aren’t re-inventing the wheel, “Melee” is filled with exhilarating break-neck punk and such a welcome release in a depressingly exhausting year.  

Key Tracks Kawasaki Backflip; Wrist

5.  PHOEBE BRIDGERS- PUNISHER

Second album by SoCal based 25 year-old singer songwriter, Phoebe Bridgers is a massive leap forward from her promising debut.  Her slow burning, emotionally intense songs mirror these dark times and though the album is great throughout, tracks like “Garden Song”, “Kyoto” and closer “I Know The End” are all among the best of the year.

Key Tracks Kyoto; I Know The End

4.  HAIM- WOMEN IN MUSIC PT. III

Third album by sister group, Haim, is stylistically their most diverse, and also their best album by a good bit, even eclipsing the quality of their awesome debut.  The difference is rather than a handful of great songs as on their past two albums, “Women” maintains its greatness all the way through.  At first, Haim’s Fleetwood Mac inspired sound and the sisters’ amazing harmonies, though undeniable, could come off as precocious and annoying.  After three strong albums it is time to recognize them as one of America’s best modern bands.  

Key Tracks The Steps; Summer Girl

3.  JESSIE WARE- WHAT’S YOUR PLEASURE?

The very best in a number of great 2020 disco albums, which includes Gaga, Dupa Lipa & Roisin Murphy, among others.  The British Ware has spent the past decade as a low key, underrated singer combing dance music with blue-eyed soul singing.  With “What’s Your Pleasure”, she emerges from the underground with a confident, in-your-face album which should be impossible to ignore.  Her sultry singing could sound equally great on the radio or dance floor and any just music landscape should see her star rise quickly.  Here’s hoping!

Key Tracks Remember Where You Are; What’s Your Pleasure?

2.  WAXAHATCHEE- SAINT CLOUD

Alabama born singer-songwriter, Alison Crutchfield, has slowly become one of the best songwriters of her generation over the past decade.  Her fifth album as Waxahatchee is easily her best yet and destined to become a classic.  Inspired by Lucinda Williams’s “Car Wheels On A Gravel Road”, Crutchfield provides exquisite detail in her indie folk songs, indebted to southern Americana.  While the album’s impact is immediate each song sinks in heavier with each listen.  

Key Tracks Can’t Do Much; Lilacs

  1. FIONA APPLE- FETCH THE BOLT CUTTERS

Only Fiona Apple’s fifth album in over almost 25 years, Apple has built a reputation as one of the most uncompromising and important artists of this millennium.  “Fetch The Bolt Cutters” was surprised released shortly after 2020’s March pandemic.  It alternates between fury and hilarity taking everyone to task- ex boyfriends, the patriarchy, our gatekeepers (either political or cultural) as well as herself.  The groundbreaking musical production, filled with percussion and clattering piano keys, manages to be both avant-garde and catchy.  Though this music is likely too weird for radio it’s the type to influence artists and bands for years to come and it’s Apple’s best album to date.

Key Tracks Heavy Balloon; Cosmonauts

Mixes By Year: Best of 2020 Volume 1

Best of 2020 Volume 1 (12/25/20)

  1. Jack Harlow- What’s Poppin
  2. Dogleg- Kawasaki Backflip
  3. Run The Jewels- Walking In The Snow
  4. Bartees Strange- Boomer
  5. Megan Thee Stallion- Savage (Remix) (Feat. Beyonce)
  6. Rina Samayama- Who’s Gonna Save Us Now?
  7. Yves Tumor- Gospel for A New Century
  8. Perfume Genius- On The Floor
  9. Haim- The Steps
  10. Waxahatchee- Can’t Do Much
  11. U.S. Girls- 4 American Dollars
  12. Tame Impala- Lost In Yesterday
  13. Fiona Apple- Heavy Balloon
  14. Billie Eilish- Therefore I Am
  15. Phoebe Bridgers- Kyoto
  16. Dua Lipa- Love Again
  17. Jessie Ware- Remember Where You Are
  18. Laura Marling- Held Down
  19. Soccer Mommy- Circle The Drain
  20. Taylor Swift (Feat. Bon Iver)- Exile

Mixes By Year: Best of 2020 Volume 2

Best of 2020 Volume 2 (12/25/20)

  1. Cardi B & Megan Thee Stallion- Wap
  2. Beyonce- Black Parade
  3. Lianne La Havas- Bittersweet
  4. Dua Lipa- Break My Heart
  5. Khruangbin- Time (You And I)
  6. Bumper- Black Light
  7. Jessie Ware- What’s Your Pleasure?
  8. Lady Gaga- Stupid Love
  9. Roisin Murphy- Something More
  10. Jayda G- Both Of Us
  11. Christine And The Queens- People, I’ve Been Sad
  12. The Weather Station- Robber
  13. Fiona Apple- Cosmonauts
  14. Waxahatchee- Lilacs
  15. Fleet Foxes- Sunblind
  16. Haim- Summer Girl
  17. Troye Sivan- Take Yourself Home
  18. Chris Stapleton- Cold

Mixes By Year: Best of 2020 Volume 3

Best of 2020 Volume 3 (12/25/20)

  1. Dua Lipa- Don’t Start Now
  2. Haim- Now I’m In It
  3. Charli XCX- Anthems
  4. Saweetie- Tap In
  5. Megan Thee Stallion- Girls In The Hood
  6. Fiona Apple- Shameika
  7. Grimes- 4AEM
  8. Lady Gaga- Enigma
  9. Drake- Laugh Now Cry Later
  10. Run The Jewels (Feat. Greg Nice & DJ Premier)- Ooh La La
  11. Terrace Martin & Denzel Curry (Feat. Kamasi Washington, G Perico & Daylyt)- Pig Feet
  12. Dogleg- Wrist
  13. Kvelertak (Feat. Troy Sanders)- Crack Of Doom
  14. Fontaines D.C.- A Hero’s Death
  15. Chris Stapleton- Arkansas
  16. Yves Tumor- Dream Palette
  17. Perfume Genius- Nothing At All
  18. Jessie Ware- Spotlight
  19. Taylor Swift- August
  20. Waxahatchee- Arkadelphia
  21. Phoebe Bridgers- I Know The End

Mixes By Year: Best of 2020 Volume 4

Best of 2020 Volume 4 (12/25/20)

  1. Destroyer- Crimson Tide
  2. Caribou- Never Come Back
  3. 24KGldn (Feat. Ian Dior)- Mood
  4. Grimes- Delete Forever
  5. Haim- Los Angeles
  6. The Chicks- Gaslighter
  7. U.S. Girls- Born To Lose
  8. Jessie Ware- Ooh La La
  9. Fiona Apple- I Want You To Love Me
  10. Beabadoobee- Care
  11. Yves Tumor- Kerosene!
  12. Bartees Strange- Mustang
  13. Dogleg- Fox
  14. No Age- War Dance
  15. Run The Jewels (Feat. 2Chainz)- Out Of Sight
  16. Future (Feat. Drake)- Life Is Good
  17. The Weeknd- Blinding Lights
  18. Phoebe Bridgers- Garden Song
  19. Waxahatchee- Fire
  20. Taylor Swift- Cardigan
  21. The 1975- Jesus Christ 2005 God Bless America

Mixes By Year: Best of 2019 Volume 1 (1/11/20)

  1. Vampire Weekend- Harmony Hall
  2. Diiv- Blankenship
  3. Fontaines D.C.- Boys In The Better Land
  4. Mannequin Pussy- Drunk II
  5. Chasrly Bliss- Hard To Believe
  6. Sharon Van Etten- Seventeen
  7. Mark Ronson (Feat. Angel Olsen)- True Blue
  8. Taylor Swift- Lover
  9. Helado Negro- Running
  10. Purple Mountains- Margaritas At The Mall
  11. Brittany Howard- Stay High
  12. Little Simz (Feat. Cleo Sol)- Selfish
  13. FKA Twigs- Mirrored Heart
  14. Angel Olsen- All Mirrors
  15. Big Thief- Not
  16. Bon Iver- Hey, Ma
  17. Jessica Pratt- This Time Around
  18. Lana Del Rey- The Greatest