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
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
41. Jake Blount — Spider Tales
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
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
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.
- 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.