Two of the best albums of 2020 were created in lockdown. One of the best albums of 2020 arrived as the perfect soundtrack for the Black Lives Matter protests. And all of them kept us hopeful and excited for the return of live music.
Charli XCX – how i’m feeling now
Best tracks: anthems, enemy, forever, party 4 u
I’m so bored (Woo)Charli XCX – Anthems
Wake up late, eat some cereal
The concept of Charli’s Mercury Prize-nominated lockdown album started as a diary entry. For the self-proclaimed “workaholic party animal”; ‘how i’m feeling now’ is Charli’s best work to date. Sonically high-octane and turbulent, the glossy alt-pop album is a yo-yo of distorted chaos. Beneath its shiny surface however, ‘how i’m feeling now’ reads as a confessional diary entry – honest, vulnerable, raw – “It hurts, here, it like hurts, you know”. The album is a snapshot in time, and when Charli XCX finally takes these songs to the stage it will have a liberating effect on fans.
Taylor Swift – folklore
Best tracks: exile (feat. Bon Iver), this is me trying, the 1, epiphany, hoax
The, “yeah I showed up at your party”, chapter. It’s unsure whether Taylor created characters so she could tell a story, or invented the characters to keep parts of herself and her past hidden and private. Either way, folklore is a delicate body of work that shows yet another side to the world’s most famous popstar. We didn’t get a Glastonbury headline set from Taylor in 2020, but she surprised us with folklore – an album to cherish in these dark times with stories, fictional or not, to distract us from reality.
Run The Jewels – RTJ4
Best tracks: ooh la la (feat. Greg Nice & DJ Premier), never look back, walking in the snow
Run The Jewels said BLACK. LIVES. MATTER. When hip hop’s smartest rap duo dropped RTJ4 it instantly became what the world needed to hear. Not only is this album a rap masterclass, it’s an education on systemic racism and police brutality. RTJ4 was recorded before America was ignited in protest; almost as if the events of 2020 were predictable. holy calamafuck. They were. It’s been a long time coming for change and there’s still so much work to do. Listen. Learn. Repeat.
The 1975 – Notes On A Conditional Form
Best tracks: If You’re Too Shy (Let Me Know), Yeah I Know, I Think There’s Something You Should Know, Shiny Collarbone, Tonight (I Wish I Was Your Boy), Jesus Christ 2005 God Bless America, Nothing Revealed / Everything Denied
Never gettin’ sleep and forgettin’ to eatThe 1975 – Nothing Revealed / Everything Denied
I pretend that all these things agree with me
And I get somewhere but don’t like it
Get somewhere, change my mind, eh
Get somewhere but don’t find it
I don’t find what I’m looking for
Life feels like a lie
I need something to be true
The 1975 made their live debut of tracks from Notes On A Conditional Form at Reading Festival last summer. It’s easy to forget this album was released in 2020 because it already feels like a classic. On album number four, The 1975 boldly throw out the rule book on genre. Healy is the champion of social narration with soul. Notes On A Conditional Form is a body of work that requires deep listening. Take from it what you need, you’ll find something new on each revisit.
Tame Impala – The Slow Rush
Best tracks: One More Year, Is It True, On Track, Breathe Deeper
Do you remember? We were standing here a year agoTame Impala – One More Year
Our minds were racin’, time went slow
If there was trouble in the world, we didn’t know
If we had a care, it didn’t show
But now I worry our horizons bear nothing new
‘Cause I get this feeling and maybe you get it too
We’re on a roller coaster stuck on its loop-de-loop
‘Cause what we did, one day on a whim, will slowly become all we do
The passing of time is a complex concept. Listening to The Slow Rush after a summer without festivals hits different. ‘One More Year’ dared to admit that too much of a good thing gets boring; that times change and the magic we once loved starts to feel old. Throughout The Slow Rush, Parker worries that horizons bear nothing new. But there’s something this album doesn’t consider – What if one day the music just stops? No one could have predicted that many of the things we enjoy most in life would be taken away. Perspective has changed. Nothing in life is guarenteed. Sit and ruminate with The Slow Rush.
Yaeji – What We Drew
Best tracks: WAKING UP DOWN, WHEN I GROW UP, IN THE MIRROR
What We Drew is Yaeji’s first full-length release, and entirely self-produced, but she’s careful to classify it as a mixtape, which best describes the way that these songs came together. Call it what you want, What We Drew is the freshest, coolest record of 2020 so far.
Caribou – Suddenly
Best tracks: Never Come Back, You and I, Home, Cloud Song, Like I Loved You
Caribou’s long-awaited seventh album, Suddenly, spins through genres as smoothly as an ice cream sundae. The album never loses its flow; yet is filled with sudden moments from toes in the sand feelings on Like I Loved You, to piano bar mood swings on Filtered Grand Piano, and fuck you I’m at the disco vibes on Never Come Back.
Phoebe Bridgers – Punisher
Best tracks: Garden Song, Moon Song, ICU
You couldn’t havePhoebe Bridgers – Moon Song
Stuck your tongue down the throat of somebody
Who loves you more
Phoebe Bridgers makes the kind of sad music you want to make love to. Filled with lust and longing, Punisher is all at once the saddest and most sultry album of 2020.
Childish Gambino – 3.15.20
Best tracks: 12.38 (feat. 21 Savage, Ink and Kadhja Bonet), 32.22, 42.26, 53.49
As though headlining Coachella in 2019, and starring in the remake of The Lion King wasn’t enough, Donald Glover was working on another Childish Gambino record the entire time. He spent two years working on 3.15.20, a head-spinning collection of tracks influenced by funk, soul, psychedelia, and the cosmos that’s underpinned by a strong message of social justice and his flexible vocal style.
Glass Animals – Dreamland
Best tracks: Heat Waves, It’s All So Incredibly Loud, Your Love (Déjà Vu), Domestic Bliss, Dreamland
Pulling down backstreets deep in your headGlass Animals – Dreamland
Slipping through dreamland like a tourist
That first friend you had, that worst thing you said
That perfect moment, that last tear you shed
Just as 2020 denied us the chance to catch flights not feelings, Glass Animals arrived with their third album, Dreamland. Dreamland is one of the best places to go this year. The album drifts between escapism and reality. Bayley’s fitting dreamy vocals float delicately over the band’s signature happy, eccentric sound. The lyrics are sharp, fearless and confessional. Pandemic survival tip… When you’re tired of sitting with your feelings; aeroplane mode your phone and slip through a Dreamland with Glass Animals.
Grimes – Miss Anthropocene
Best tracks: IDORU, Before the fever, Delete Forever, You’ll miss me when I’m not around
Miss Anthropocene is regarded Grimes’ first project as a bona fide pop star. In 2011, Grimes was eager to say in an interview that she had been “studying pop stars.” Alas, in 2020, on her own creative terms, Grimes has delivered the alt-pop album of the year. Grimes calls the sound “ethereal nu metal,” a genre we can get behind. Miss Anthropocene delves deeply into dark romance. IDORU and Before the fever are modern-day, soul-moving songs about love – for the planet, for that person.
Amtrac – Oddyssey
Best tracks: Accountable, Between The Lines, Replica, Radical, No Place
Never made it back home from the moment,Amtrac – Accountable
I laid eyes on you
With Oddyssey, Amtrac has achieved the perfect blend of indie rock with melodic electronic music. It took one listen of the album to fall completely in love, which is rare; and only a few more to form a deep attachment to the tracks that resonate. Oddyssey is an album that will sonically stand the test of time and emotionally stay with you forever.