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
- 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