Top Ten Favorite Albums of 2020

Top+Ten+Favorite+Albums+of+2020

It is no secret that 2020 has not been the year that many of us expected. With a global pandemic, racial injustice, and much more wrong with the world, entertainment is an important and vital form of escapism. Unfortunately, the pandemic has stalled much entertainment that would keep many centered during such troubling times. However, in this sea of darkness, the bands and artists releasing new music have been a consistent source of entertainment for many. Being a musichead myself, I was extremely happy to see artists working hard and continuing their passion for music despite the hardships they had to endure. The result was, in my opinion, a very fruitful year in music. There were plenty of topics artists could talk about in 2020, and many compelling and sonically enjoyable projects were released. With all these great albums, it was extremely hard for me to narrow it down to my 10 favorites, so do not take this list as a set and concrete ranking. I am not saying album #4 is objectively better than album #5; this is all subject to change. Also, keep in mind this list is based off of my enjoyment of the music itself. This list was created in October, so any album released after that time will not be included in this list, and there are many albums that I enjoyed in 2020, but only listened to after creating this list. If you are looking to find some great music to listen to from this year, check these albums out, and consider stopping by the Music Appreciation Club if interested in any type of music!

 

Honorable Mentions: 

Man Alive!” – King Krule    

(Alternative / Indie)

Dinner Party” – Terrance Martin, Robert Glasper, 9th Wonder & Kamasi Washington

(R&B / Soul)

God Has Nothing to do With This Leave Him Out of It” – Backxwash

(Rap)

All three are great albums, but barely did not crack the top ten list.

 

10: “Death of the First Person” – Cinemartyr

Criminally underappreciated and unknown band Cinemartyr release one of the most creative noise rock album in a long time. The riffs are extremely high quality, and the mix of hushed and loud vocals from the two vocalists make for a great contrast of emotions riddled throughout every track. There are also two softer cuts of pure instrumentation that make for great cooldown points in the album. “Death of the First Person” is a very thoughtful album that, while messy at times, provides for an interesting and enjoyable listen.

 

9: “The New Abnormal” – The Strokes

The Strokes make a triumphant comeback statement in “The New Abnormal”, their first album in seven years. The well respected band’s mix of post punk, garage rock, and indie rock are at peak form in this album, but with a twist that makes their sound feel fresh. This project is fully produced by Rick Ruben, and the dense production mixed with catchy and emotional hooks, especially at the end of the tracklist, is great. Julian Casablancas’ lead vocals are filled with character, and the band seems to be working together extremely well here, which is always a positive sign.

 

8: “Descendants of Cain” – KA

KA is one of the rappers who makes me think when I am listening to his work. Bordering on spoken poetry, KA has a very interesting and hushed delivery that may seem dry on the surface, but is perfect in conjunction with his thoughtful lyrics and intentionally gloomy production. “Descendants of Cain” has some of his most energetic tracks to date, and he takes a more direct approach with his lyricism than other works in his discography, which is refreshing. This is, as the title suggests, a very spiritual album, and dives into KA’s spirituality and struggles with it. There are plenty of emotional moments, such as the closing track, “I love (Mimi, Moms, Kev)” which is a tribute to loved ones who are or were in his life. There are also more exciting moments, such as a feature from fellow MC Roc Marciano and upbeat guitar based production on the track “Old Justice”. This is overall a very quality listen from one of the most underappreciated faces in hip hop.

 

7: “Alfredo” – Freddie Gibbs & The Alchemist 

Another great collaboration from Freddie Gibbs and a producer. This time, it is Gibb’s second time working with producer The Alchemist, and the results are great. Gibbs delivers quality verses and very creative bars as always, and The Alchemist absolutely kills it with production. This album sticks to the classic Freddie Gibbs formula executed so well on previous works with Madlib, such as Piñata and Bandana. Gibbs delivers painfully real verses about gang life over groovy, sample heavy production. The contract makes for a compelling listen, and “Alfredo” has an abundance of tracks that follow the formula fantastically. 

 

6: “Lianne La Havas” – Lianne La Havas

R&B artist Lianne La Havas’ self titled album is a sweet and beautiful dive into the positive and negative sides of love. The song writing is very strong, and the production does a great job in matching emotions with sounds, but the highlight here is easily Lianne’s beautiful voice. Her voice is so versatile and strong, even during the softer songs. It is a great listen that can be enjoyed in any context, whether diving deep into the themes throughout, or enjoying the quality music.

 

5: “Innocent Country 2” – Quelle Chris & Chris Keys

Quelle Chris is one of my personal favorite artists, and creates some of the most experimental, odd, and thoughtful music in the whole alternative hip hop genre, so I was overjoyed to hear he was teaming up with producer Chris Keys to make a second edition of their “Innocent Country” series. Chris’ low, raspy voice is a perfect complement to Key’s jazzy production. While it may not have the overarching concept that Quelle Chris’s previous works have, this album is a sweet and calming project that manages to feel dejected at times, as well as uplifting at others. Even the funny skits and cuts of pure instrumentation, like the standout track “Sudden Death” feel just as important to the tracklist and make the listen feel all the more enjoyable. 

 

4: “Song Machine Season One: Strange Timez”- Gorillaz 

Originally a set of singles by British virtual band Gorillaz, “Song Machine Season 1” is a brilliant set of collaborative songs that, while not endorsing any concept, is filled with fun and enjoyable songs. No song here is alike. There are tracks inspired from U.S. rap, grime, pop, indie, J-pop, and so much more. The wide variety of features and sounds make for a listen that is always exciting, and contains some of Gorillaz’ most catchy songs to date. Even the deluxe version of the album adds new ideas and creative songs, something that is rare to find in this current age of deluxe album failures. 

 

3: “Miles: From an Interlude Called Life” – Blu and Exile 

Known for their classic 2007 record, “Below the Heavens”, MC Blu and producer Exile team up again for a monstrous 20 track 95 minute record. While I personally am not a fan of long albums, this album is not negatively affected as many long projects are by the tiring run time. This is due to the songs being well thought out and never feeling stagnant. “Miles” is jazz rap at its finest. All the songs have an extremely uplifting and feel good quality to them, and many risks are taken by the two, most of which pay off. Other than Exile’s one subpar verse on the record, the risks to make many five or more minute songs, and to have tracks with over three verses, (sometimes all from Blu) was a great one to take. The constant blue and miles metaphors in many song names and verses also make the album have a nice sense of unity and continuity that is hard to find on such a long album. 

 

2: “I Disagree” – Poppy

One of the most unique and creative albums this year, Poppy’s album “I Disagree” matches two wildly different genres to make an extremely entertaining and enjoyable listen. “I Disagree” is a half metal and half bubblegum pop album, integrating both sounds into almost every song. This creates songs that are sweet, yet also dark, and at times comedic. Every song is catchy, and while somewhat messy in structure and lyricism, all songs are extremely innovative and grow to feel like satisfying experiences on their own.

 

1: “RTJ4” – Run the Jewels

My favorite album of this year is the fourth album in the hip hop duo Run the Jewels’ self titled catalogue, “RTJ4”. This album is incredible, and is such a unique take on Run the Jewels’ already unique hard core hip hop formula. The album is full of fun exciting songs as well as emotional political cuts that truly make the album an experience, rather than a casual listen. With incredibly smart lyricism, loud and evolving production, and extremely high quality songs from start to finish, no other work this year has made me feel the way “RTJ4” has. I also wrote a full length review of this album, so click here to check that out.