93 Favorite Albums Of 2020

Hanif Abdurraqib
8 min readDec 30, 2020


Well, it seems this number keeps jumping higher and higher. There was a clearer method of listening this year, with more time at home to set a practice around all things, listening was no different. On Friday mornings, I would set aside a couple of hours for discovery — something I’d neglected to do consistently last year with my travel schedule. I’d forgotten about the excitement of it. I’d scour Bandcamp, search for blogs, text my pals who listen even more adventurously than I do and ask them to send me things. I’d compile a list (by hand, foolishly) of any new release that got my interest. Ones I was expecting, ones from artists I knew well. But also ones from artists I was barely familiar with. I’d go into the weekend with anywhere from 10–30 new albums to spin through while cleaning my house or doing laundry or playing a video game or (if you’re like me and pretty indifferent to most NBA announcers) watching a basketball game. What this meant is that usually by Sunday afternoon, I was coming out of the weekend with 2–4 albums that were my favorite among the bunch. Ones that stayed atop the new music rotation for a week until the process started all over again the next Friday. I still listened to more old, comfortable, familiar tunes this year. Still spun more classic records from my preexisting collection and (especially with 68to05 as a project that consumed me) still immersed myself in the music of my youth, the music from before I was born. But streamlining this new release listening process meant that I was pulling more new music from more corners. And so, while this number is bigger this year, in relation to the albums I listened to, it’s actually a good, healthy sliver.

I am someone who doesn’t require music to be revelatory in all ways, or in any ways. It shows me what it can when it can, and I’m thankful for that. I was especially thankful for that this year, when I had a lot of questions that no sounds could answer on their own. A few big big notes:

I generally don’t put EPs on here, but a few that I felt great about and want to uplift:

Chika — Industry Games

Natalie Gardiner — 6

Tomberlin — Projections

Soul Glo — Songs To Yeet At The Sun

And, as usual, disclaimers: I’m not saying these are the best albums of the year, just my personal favorites. Ones that I loved the most in a kind of vague (but also thought-through) order. I listened to well over 550 new albums this year (I stopped doing the math and because I was writing new albums by hand on paper, I have no logical tracking system but hope to change that next year!) — if I had to guess, I’d say around 800 is the final tally. Among those albums, there were undoubtedly many not on this list that I liked a lot about. What I love sharing more than the albums is sharing the writing that I loved on these albums and artists this year, so I hope you’ll spend time with that as well. Ultimately, I’m hopeful that you found something/anything good to help you get through the year, be it one song, or 93 albums.

93. Mungbean — I Love You Say It Back

92. Open Mike Eagle — Anime, Trauma, and Divorce

Read: “Open Mike Eagle Turned A Very Bad Year Into A Very Honest Album”

91. Porridge Radio — Every Bad

I really enjoyed this NME piece from March, which I read just as I was going into lockdown.

90. Brigid Dawson and the Mothers Network — Ballet of Apes

89. Jerreau— Keep Everything Yourself

88. Boldy James & Alchemist — The Price Of Tea In China

Read: “Boldy James Is Having A Better 2020 Than You Are” — I really appreciate any chance to read Alphonse Pierre.

87. Rina Sawayama — Sawayama

I did not feel (entirely) the same about the album as this reviewer did, but I really enjoyed reading this thoughtful review back in the spring.

86. Drakeo the Ruler x JoogSZN —Thank You For Using GTL

Always gotta read Jeff Weiss on Drakeo.

85. Atramentus — Stygian

84. Soccer Mommy — Color Theory

Loved this piece, and was good to return to it (since the albums that dropped before March feel especially far away to me.)

83. Quelle Chris & Chris Keys — Innocent Country 2

82. Khruangbin — Mordechai

A good piece here.

81. Loathe — I Let It In And It Took Everything

Really really big on Kadeem France, and appreciated his writing here.

80. Gillian Welch & David Rawlings — All The Good Times

79. Ka — Descendants of Cain

Read: “Ka & the Power of Mythology in Rap” by Dylan Green

78. Katie Pruitt — Expectations

Always excited to read/listen to Jewly Hight.

77. Pa Salieu — Send Them To Coventry

Read: “Pa Salieu is Coventry’s Hopeful Rap Star” by Colin Gannon

76. Matt Berninger —Serpentine Prison

75. Half Waif — Caretaker

Love The Creative Independent and Nandi Rose had a great interview there this year.

74. Thanya Iyer— Kind

73. Junglepussy — JP4

Good piece here.

72. Shamir — Shamir

Read: “The Second Coming of Shamir Bailey” by Safy-Hallan Farah

71. Adrianne Lenker — songs

Read: “Adrianne Lenker’s Radical Honesty” by Amanda Petrusich

70. Pallbearer — Forgotten Days

69. Benny The Butcher — Burden of Proof

I really enjoyed Benny’s home Tiny Desk thing.

68. The Muslims —Gentrifried Chicken

67. Capolow & Kamaiyah — Oakland Nights

Kamaiyah had a strong year. Here’s a good read.

66. Mourn— Self Worth

65. Blaque Dynamite —Time Out

64. Cartalk— Pass Like Pollen

63. Locate S,1 — Personalia

Really dug this Talkhouse in-conversation that Christina Schneider did with Kevin Barnes.

62. Akai Solo — Eleventh Wind

Read: “Akai Solo Is One Of Rap’s Brightest Talents” by Phillip Mlynar

61. The Chicks — Gaslighter

60. Megan Thee Stallion — Good News

59. OHMME —Fantasize Your Ghost

Read: “A Room Of Ohmme’s Own” by Jessi Roti

58. Killah Priest — Rocket To Nebula

57. Ganser— Just Look At That Sky

56. Ego Ella May — Honey For Wounds

A good lil feature here.

55. Code Orange —Underneath

54. Flo Milli — Ho, Why Is You Here?

Read: “Flo Milli Came To Flex” by Melinda Fakuade

53. Dragged Under— The World Is In Your Way

52. Wednesday — I Was Trying To Describe You To Someone

51. Charli XCX— how i’m feeling now

It is interesting looking back because it feels like this was one of the first big albums that had an entire press cycle dedicated to it being A Quarantine Album and the tone of so many of those pieces felt like people imagining our predicament would be far more temporary than it has been (this is no fault of theirs, really, it was early in this long year.) — that said, a piece I really dug was this one by Olivia Horn.

50. Palm Reader— Sleepless

49. Moe Dirdee & Dert Beats — Moe Dert

48. Gunna — Wunna

In September, someone tweeted a video of a person kind of horrifically crashing their car while listening to this album and Gunna quote tweeted it with “Caution: WUNNA ALBUM DANGEROUS” and the prayer hands emoji and that was truly something.

47. Veda Black — Sad Girls Club

I enjoyed this thoughtful interview about heartbreak and The Sims!

46. Spanish Love Songs — Brave Faces Everyone

Good interview here.

45. Empress Of — I’m Your Empress Of

44. Armand Hammer— Shrines

43. illuminati hotties— FREE I.H.: This Is not The One You’ve Been Waiting For

42. Demae —Life Works Out…Usually

This piece.

41. Jake Blount — Spider Tales

Kaia Kater (also immensely gifted) talks about/with Blount here.

40. Mozzy — Beyond Bulletproof

This Cherise Johnson convo with Mozzy is great.

39. Adrian Younge & Ali Shaheed Muhammad — Jazz Is Dead 001

38. Yaya Bey— Madison Tapes

37. Freddie Gibbs & Alchemist — Alfredo

36. U.S. Girls — Heavy Light

Enjoyed this piece by Jesse Locke.

35. Huntsmen— Mandala of Fear

34. Chief State— Tough Love

33. Babeheaven —Home For Now

32. City Girls — City On Lock

Read: “City Girls Are Finally Free” by Brittany Spanos

31. Jyoti— Mama, You Can Bet!

I read this just last week and really enjoyed it.

30. Diet Cig — Do You Wonder About Me?

This lil chat on American Songwriter was cool.

29. Candace— Ideal Corners

I will briefly say that this album was such a perfect album for my summer inside. It sonically built an outside world without putting me in a position of heartbreaking longing, which is the most I could have asked for.

28. Pink Siifu & Fly Anakin — FlySiifu’s

Read: “The Necessity Of Pink Siifu’s Rage” by Marcus J. Moore

27. Chloe x Halle — Ungodly Hour

I liked this piece where the two interviewed each other!

26. X— Alphabetland

25. Jessie Ware — What’s Your Pleasure?

Good Interview Mag thing here.

24. Yaeji — What We Drew

23. Bartees Strange— Live Forever

Good interview here.

22. Sa-Roc — The Sharecropper’s Daughter

Another good Tiny Desk (Home) that I loved.

21. Anjimile — Giver Taker

Great interview here. Also look at this tweet.

20. Sault — Untitled (Black Is)

19. Nubya Garcia— SOURCE

Enjoyed this interview.

18. Moses Sumney — Grae

Read: “Moses Sumney’s World Of Possibilities” by Hua Hsu

17. Lianne La Havas — Lianne La Havas

Though the album was not my first time hearing it, I do wish I could bottle and store the energy that explodes at the end of that “Weird Fishes” cover. Also, I liked this piece by Tracey Onyenacho.

16. Victoria Monét— Jaguar

15. Fiona Apple — Fetch The Bolt Cutters

I know there was a lot written about Fiona this year, but this piece about Shameika Stepney was the one that fascinated me the most.

14. Marcus King — El Dorado

13. IDLES — Ultra Mono

Was hard to pick just one thing to read because I am just such a fan of this band, but this wins out.

12. Nova Twins — Who Are The Girls?

Good piece here.

11. Yazmin Lacey — Morning Matters

10. Ariana Grande — Positions

9. Phoebe Bridgers— Punisher

I made this.

8. bbymutha—Muthaland

If this is indeed it for bbymutha, what a bow to put on an already outstanding run. Also, enjoyed this profile by Cameron Cook.

7. KeiyaA — Forever, Ya Girl

Read: “KeiyaA’s Divine Soul” by Vrinda Jagota

6. Nothing— The Great Dismal

5. Girlhood — Girlhood

Every year, there is one album that I feel like I scream about from the top of my lungs, running from place to place shaking a bell to get the townspeople out of their homes to hear the good news, or sneaking on playlists for friends, or playing in my car with the windows down while parked near busy intersections, etc etc. this was that album for 2020.

4. Radiant Children— There’s Only Being Yourself

Good piece here. Also, I don’t think any album I loved this year had a better closing song than this album, except for maybe….

3. Emma Ruth Rundle & Thou — May Our Chambers Be Full

…this album. I’ve always been compelled by Emma Ruth Rundle and Thou individually, and even more when they’re together. (I have often said that everything ERR sings sounds like a threat or a warning.)

Not a piece of writing and not even connected to this album, but this ERR Highway Holidays performance is so stunning — not just because of the band she’s playing with, but also the sound engineering is…perfect?

2. BLACKSTARKIDS — Whatever, Man

I don’t like assigning The Future as anyone’s responsibility, but I am hopeful that we get this group around for a good, long time. Check out this piece.

  1. Special Interest — The Passion Of

This is a good interview and also this Zine is really great and was good to keep up with this year.