Sunday, July 4, 2021

Top 10 Albums of 2020

    2020 was a pretty good year for music, I'd say. The releases I heard were very diverse and the sound was very different from previous years. I would hate to say why I think that is. But you can probably figure it out. These are my top 10 albums of 2020, starting with some honorable mentions.

Honorable Mentions

070 Shake - Modus Vivendi

I was excited for 070 Shake's debut, but skeptical as I was not a huge fan of the Glitter EP she released in 2018. This album exceeded my expectations. Morrow is perhaps the prettiest song I've ever listened to and The Pines blows me away for completely different reasons. I wish GOOD Music would put this on CD.

Playboi Carti - Whole Lotta Red

I was not sure what to expect from Whole Lotta Red, since I was not as big a fan of Playboi Carti's self-titled and Die Lit as I had hoped. But Whole Lotta Red turned out to be my favorite of the three, with more than a handful of addictive tracks that get stuck in my head. I wish AWGE would put this on CD.

Ty Dolla $ign - Featuring Ty Dolla $ign

You simply can't go into an album with Ego Death on the tracklist and expect it not to be good. Ty may not be my favorite artist by a long shot, but he is a really talented singer with a powerful voice. As the name of the album refers to, any song with Ty's name on it gets instantly better when he shows up. Plus Kid Cudi is here too. I wish Atlantic would put this on CD.

Grimes - Miss Anthropocene

This is not too much of a left turn from Art Angels, but it can't live up to Art Angels. In fact, I'm not confident c will ever be able to live up to what she did on Art Angels. But songs such as My Name Is Dark and 4AEM are some of my favorite songs of hers. Delete Forever is such a pretty song, and it is the only cut from the record I admit completely threw me for a loop. Unfortunately, I really can't stand You'll Miss Me When I'm Not Around, and Idoru is simply not interesting.

Denzel Curry and Kenny Beats - UNLOCKED

I don't know much about Denzel Curry himself, but this album is really punchy and to the point. It's only 20 minutes long, maybe even a bit less, but there really isn't a dull moment. Kenny Beats seems to have improved from his Rico Nasty collab album Anger Management because UNLOCKED hits much harder and just generally sounds cooler. I don't follow NotRealMusic's complaint about Denzel using too many similes. Personally I just think he's having fun and that's a mindset to be in while listening to this album.

Anyways that's the honorable mentions, I just put them in whatever order I thought of them in. Now for the list proper.

#10 Adrianne Lenker - Songs

This was recommended to me by my cool bro Jacob. I thought he just meant to listen to some songs by Adrianne Lenker, but he meant this album. Despite the lame name and the criminal act of writing everything in all lowercase, Adrianne provides a very enriching experience with this album. It's maybe the most woodsy album on my list (and that's not a spoiler, by the way). I have yet to listen to Instrumentals (the companion piece to Songs) nor any Big Thief album, but I'll have to do that soon if they're as good as this.

#9 Logic - No Pressure

Logic was supposed to retire after this album. Just like Jay-Z was supposed to retire after The Black Album, or Lil Wayne was supposed to retire after Tha Carter V. So we knew that he wasn't actually going to, but if you suspend disbelief for a moment and pretend he was serious, this project is a pretty good one to go out on. The music produced by No ID sounds pretty cool, more like the hip hop of 20 years ago. (Or maybe not, I don't know anything about music history.) And I know that everyone gets a kick out of making fun of Logic for being corny, but there is very little corn here. When there is, it seems tongue-in-cheek. For example, the line about "I love my wife like I am Chance" is followed up with a compliment. It's all a very nice package. And such a massive improvement over Supermarket.

#8 Fiona Apple - Fetch The Bolt Cutters

This was a big event when it came out, but it almost feels like a distant memory now. If I had put this album at #8 exactly one year ago, I may have gotten some nasty emails about it. But now that the dust has settled, I am confident in saying that this album is really good but not amazing. Shameika and Under The Table get played on the radio a lot, and I like them, but I'm not a huge fan of the song Ladies. Other than that, I don't have much else to say. Good album. Go listen to it.

#7 Poppy - I Disagree

For context, Poppy's previous release the Choke EP really shocked me when it released in summer 2019. Voicemail completely blew me away with how different it is, not just from Am I A Girl tracks such as X and Play Destroy, but especially compared to all of Poppy.Computer. Then I Disagree came out. Now the Choke EP seems like a mere stepping stone. I Disagree is so full, so grand, and so self-confident that what were once some of my favorite songs seem to be missing a major element that I Disagree has in spades. I Disagree is not even very long, but it hits all the marks for me. BLOODMONEY may be my new favorite song of hers, although Sit/Stay comes close. Sorry Voicemail.

#6 Taylor Swift - Folklore & Evermore

Sure, these are technically 2 albums, but they're like the same thing. They are so similar they both get the same slot on the ranking. Anyway, listening to Folklore when it came out was enthralling. It was the first new album I had heard in a few weeks that really blew me away. It was so pretty. Taylor's voice was so smooth. The instrumentation felt so grand. The writing was so interesting. It was so fun. It felt as if Taylor had finally experienced some meaningful character growth and creative inspiration. Plus the Justin Vernon vocals are always pleasant. Pretty much the same things apply to Evermore, which is more of the same; but more of the same greatness isn't necessarily a bad thing. Evermore seems more like a Big Red Machine album than Folklore, which I hope hints at Taylor Swift featuring on the next Big Red Machine project if it ever comes out. I hear the lead singer of Fleet Foxes has been working with them so....

I think Folklore and Evermore will be highly regarded in about 10 years. It's really hard to imagine what direction Taylor will go once she's done redoing her back catalog, but it will be hard to top this. Personally I'm hoping for something in line with Black Country New Road. Until then, I am more than satisfied with these releases.

#5 The Flaming Lips - American Head

This is the best Flaming Lips project in probably 10 albums or more. I am not ashamed to admit I have a very mixed opinion of Deap Lips, King's Mouth, Oczy Mlody, and that really weird Miley Cyrus Dead Petz album. But American Head seems to be calling back to the days of The Soft Bulletin, Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots, and At War With The Mystics- but taking all those sounds, stirring them up into one big stew, and adding new ingredients that take it in a new direction. Like a reboot of Embryonic, really. Nothing about American Head is written to blow you away, nothing will come completely out of left field, but the back to back really solid tracks are what make it special. Kacey Musgraves gives perhaps the greatest guest performances on a Flips album, even better than Kesha. Steven Drozd's seeming increase in vocal contribution also adds a lot to make American Head unique in its own right. I am really thankful this album exists. Good job guys.

#4 Kid Cudi - Man On The Moon III: The Chosen

Do you guys remember when Man on the Moon III was supposed to come out after Satellite Flight? I'm glad it didn't. Not only because Speedin' Bullet 2 Heaven took its place and is awesome, but because the Man on the Moon III we got simply could not exist in 2015 or even 2018. The album has a very modern sound to it with the drums and vocal effects especially. But it still keeps intact what makes Kid Cudi's music so interesting. There's great melodies, great vocal performances, great humming, and Solo Dolo. Not to mention what is hands down the best Kid Cudi album cover ever. There are tons of callbacks to older Kid Cudi songs including of course the Solo Dolos, Mr. Rager, Scott Mescudi vs. The World, Fire, Confused!, and Man In The Night just to name a few. It never feels like pandering, it feels like using these past tracks to show growth in musicianship over the decade. The audience waited 10 years for the third entry in the Man On The Moon series, and it was worth it. Phoebe Bridgers has a pretty voice.

#3 The Necks - Three

This was unintentional placement. This was my #2 album for a long time. There isn't much I have to say about Three, since it's just three instrumental tracks with no lyrics. It's good music to listen to while working on something by yourself, and if you want more The Necks albums like it I recommend Body and Silverwater. Those are my favorites anyway. It's not something to think about. It's just something to experience. And what an experience it is.

#2 An Unkindness - 10 Years

This is the most professional sounding indie record I've heard in probably my entire life, if you don't count Swans as indie. It amazes me just how intricate a lot of the songs are. There can be, like, 40 instruments playing at once it seems. I concede that some of the songs do sound like they were written by a teenager, but isn't that the idea? Adam learns to love himself over the course of 12 songs. It's such a grand experience. Spools of Thread, The Scab, Freedom P2, Stop The Hand, and The Prophet are all especially amazing. I remember walking around downtown on a lovely sunny autumn morning listening to The Scab. On top of that, The Prophet is exactly what I needed at the time with its different acts, all of them unique but still well-connected. The buildup in Acceptance is something to be marveled, and Anything sounds grand in the best way. I love this project so much. I'm glad I waited for it to come out. 

#1 Dua Lipa - Future Nostalgia

This album literally gave me a feeling I had never felt before. So for that, 10/10. What that feeling is, I could not tell you. But because I should probably include a bit more than that, I will. Our lovely Dula Pipa did a full 180 from her crummy underwhelming self-titled release and made a pop album with 11 songs, 11 of which are great. Every one is catchy, and every one does exactly what it needs to do for maximum effect. And I don't mind the man-splaining line. Not a single thing is unaccounted for, every element is intentionally designed as is. The track sequencing is one of those elements, although listening to this album on shuffle would not really harm the experience. It gives me My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy levels of largeness at many times. I hope Dua Lipa can make albums like this forever. Based on that We're Good song she released, it unfortunately seems like we're back to crummy underwhelming music from her. But it sure was nice while it lasted. It sure was something great.

Buy These Albums