2020 was rough.
Our editors rounded up the best albums of 2020 that helped us all make it through a hell of a year.
Enjoy this years picks, in no particular order.
[+] Fiona Apple – Fetch the Bolt Cutters
Released mid-April 2020, during a time of global uncertainty and a heightened level of anxiety, Fiona Apple birthed her masterpiece, Fetch the Bolt Cutters, a chaotic, unvarnished, and liberating album so perfectly timed for the moment we are living in. Maybe Fetch the Bolt Cutters would not have worked any other year. Still, against the backdrop of a pandemic and a day of reckoning, Apple provided a path forward for those discovering themselves (the good, the bad, the ugly) alone in solitary. Fetch the Bolt Cutters is a triumph. It is an empowering eruption of individuality and mindfulness. It is musically daring and on paper should not work. However, It does. And it does so fearlessly. Great music is about breaking down barriers, taking risks, and trying something new and different. Fetch the Bolt Cutters will down as one of the best, if not the best album from 2020. -Brad
[+] Bad Bunny – YHLQMDLG
Bad Bunny was a savior in every sense of the word this year for music fans across the genre board. The crossover king took top positions on every chart and list possible this year with the help of not only one, but three incredible albums released in during quarantine. Our favorite has to sit at YHLQMDLG. Perfecting his fused genre blending of classic Reggaeton, modern Trap, a little Pop-Punk Emo and everything else in between. Mix in heavy hitting features like Jowell & Randy, Daddy Yankee and Sech on top of that and it deliciously cooks into an instant classic. Trust me, I dare anyone to say they didn’t dance to “Safaera” at least once this year. -Jeanette
[+] Kid Cudi – Man On A Moon III: The Chosen
We’ve finally reached the end of Kid Cudi‘s trilogy which is memorable straight through. His book of work has always been personal taking you deeper into his life, which is dark at times and addresses a lot of mental health issues which most people can relate to. Cudi style is none other than his own, blending indie-rock, trap beats and great lyricism. A great album coming through just in time to end off 2020. -Mitch
[+] Moses Sumney – græ
It is hard to find anything remotely negative about the second studio album from Moses Sumney, græ. Græ requires repeated listening to grasp just how extraordinary this album is in its entirety. Græ, who fuses jazz, folk, art-rock, and classical, is complex, daring, and poignant. And yes, we believe he was signing to just us and only us. We feel his vulnerabilities, insecurities, and neediness, but we also feel his ambition and light. Like Sumney, we have been yearning for closeness and intimacy during a time we are all asked to keep a distance. Græ feels like a journey that will last a lifetime or at least for 20 more years. From “Virile” to “Cut Me” to “Polly” to “Me in 20 Years”, Græ is Sumney’s seminal work. Græ is an album that will only get better with time. -Brad
[+] Hinds – The Prettiest Curse
Spain’s garage-rock queens Hinds‘ third studio album The Prettiest Curse is more polished, more pop, more produced and more arena-friendly than their past two albums but is that always a bad thing?
For many bands it can be, but the ladies of Hinds pulled it off without changing their essence or identity. This record is one of those you can listen to straight through and features some of their best songwriting to date.
RECOMMENDED TRACKS: “Boy”, “Good Bad Times”, “Just Like Kids (Miau)”, “Riding Solo” -Sonic
[+] The Strokes – The New Abnormal
Famed New York rockers The Strokes made a long-awaited return with their latest studio album The New Abnormal. An appropriately titled LP for the current times, the album was a striking return to the scene providing a fresh sound and breath for the long time band. With a touch of magic provided by Rick Rubin, the album is a transfixed journey through self-reflection of a band growing up in the spotlight. Sonically, the album was an ambitious leap from their tendency to remain within their signature sound, which was a decision well made as the album has earned them their very first Grammy Nomination. -Jeanette
[+] Yves Tumor – Heaven To A Tortured Mind
Yves Tumor‘s Sean Bowie‘s musical aesthetic is hard to pin down. He keeps you guessing, often marching at the beat of his own drum. Heaven To A Tortured Mind, Yves Tumor’s 4th studio album, is best described as a “psychedelic soul record for the 21st century” and, in our opinion, their best. Heaven To A Tortured Mind is tumultuous, emotional, and at times disorganized. However, the album is filled with songs that need to be played repeatedly, such as “Gospel For A New Century,” “Super Stars,” and “Kerosene!”. Much like the year, there is hope and calm in Heaven To A Tortured Mind, even if it is hard to feel it first. The more you play it, the calmer you will feel, which is a lesson for us. Through all the chaos and uncertainty, calmness isn’t that far away; you need to embrace it to get to the other side. -Brad
[+] Bring Me The Horizon – Post Human: Survival Horror
What to do during lockdown as a band? Write new songs and play video games of course! Inspired by the soundtrack to Doom Eternal, Bring Me The Horizon enlisted video game composer Mick Gordan to help produce the track “Parasite Eve” (Named after a popular 1998 video game) and their upcoming release.
Written to cope with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and appropriately titled, POST HUMAN: SURVIVAL HORROR is Bring Me The Horizon doing whatever they want in the best way.
The sound? Just as the title sounds, starting with the manic, heavy and hard hitting track “Dear Diary” and finishing with the haunting and ethereal “One Day the Only Butterflies Left Will Be In Your Chest As You March Towards Your Death” featuring Evanescence vocalist Amy Lee.
The record also features YUNGBLUD and BABYMETAL and is the perfect pandemic slash video game soundtrack themed with frustration, struggle and digital chaos. -Sonic
[+] Omar Apollo – Apolonio
Apolonio marked the first album for the soulful, yet funky R&B crooner Omar Apollo. A star in his own right before a full-length, his fans have been long awaiting the singer to release a body of work that stepped outside of his famed EPs. Apollo excellently delivered on his album that weaves its way between R&B. Pop, hints of Disco and even being as edge pushing as debuting a Corrido in the mix. The risk was surely worth the reward as the LP is a straight winner played all the way through. -Jeanette
[+] Sault – Untitled (Black Is)/ Untitled (Rise)
This is a twofer. Both Untitled (Black Is) and Untitled (Rise) are worthy of this year’s best albums of the 2020 list. And yes, we could have separated these two, but we felt it is essential to listen to these together. The back-to-back albums of “protest songs” by the UK collective Sault seduce you with their sounds just when it hits you with truthful lyrics that force you to think about things you may not have thought about before. Or something you chose to ignore but now can’t. Untitled (Black Is) was written and recorded in response to the murder of George Floyd and released a month later. Untitled (Rise) was released a few weeks after Untitled (Black Is). Listening to both albums, you realize you are listening to something revolutionary. When you learn how quickly these songs were written and produce, you are forced to acknowledge the brilliance you are listening to (they also put out two albums in 2019 — so four albums in 18 months). Sault manages to play with our emotions, like no group/collective ever has. These albums are much more thoughtful than some other protest albums and songs that came out in 2019, and in no way does it feel they are placating a white audience. You feel the grief and anger, but you are left feeling resolved that change is possible. If only we listen. It is not lost on us that these albums were produced by Inflo, who also produced Highlark’s best album of 2019, Little Simz, Grey Area. -Brad
[+] Lido Pimienta – Miss Colombia
Lido Pimienta presented us this year with her long awaited follow-up album, the vividly striking Miss Colombia. A testament to her exploratory music, the album was recorded both within her home studio in Toronto and parts of it in her historic Colombian hometown of San Basilio de Palenque. A superior level of musical hybridity that fluidly fuses roots of cumbia, electronic nods, percussion heavy beats and hauntingly beautiful vocal melodies; Lido Pimienta has returned on an electrifying album that explores here identity through vibrancies of her songs and visuals. -Jeanette
[+] Death Valley Girls – Under The Spell Of Joy
If occult garage rock group Death Valley Girls‘ first three albums was of earth, their fourth album Under the Spell of Joy transcends into the world of the psychedelic and metaphysical.
Heavily doused with organ and reverb, the echoing chants and choruses throughout this record will resonate in your mind and have you singing along as if casting a spell. -Sonic
[+] Queen Naija – Misunderstood
Who doesn’t love some classic R&b vibes that gives you those feeeeels. I almost feel myself too much when I listen to this album, then I realize I’ve been stuck in quarantine and it’s back to reality. However, we all need those moments where we transport to another place and feel good, so if you want to feel yourself like I do, spin this record. -Mitch
[+] Perfume Genius – Set My Heart on Fire Immediately, Perfume Genius
The fifth studio album from Mike Hadreas (aka Perfume Genius), Set My Heart on Fire Immediately, is his most approachable while staying true to his form: daring. At no point in Set My Heart on Fire Immediately does Hadreas abandon his art-rock deity-like status. Set My Heart on Fire Immediately is grandiose yet elegant. It is delicate yet unbreakable. It is densely packed yet feels light and magical. Set My Heart on Fire Immediately is described as an art-rock and pop album with elements of baroque pop, synthpop, funk, R&B, disco, chamber ambient, swamp rock, doo-wop, heartland rock, and psychedelic. Yes, you read that right. Any other artist, you might get a huge mess with all those influences; however, Hadreas delivers an enjoyable, fresh, and iconoclastic album. -Brad
[+] Rina Sawayama – SAWAYAMA
A striking debut album that plays into every cavity of complexity that makes up Rina’s identity. The duality of the British-Japanese singer plays throughout the album from its interwoven nature of mixing upbeat pop tempos with the heavier metal sounds, lyricism that touches on both subjects of personal and collective. Rina has redefined the world of pop on her own terms, with just her first album because who doesn’t want to dance around a little while feeling like a heavy metal Britney? -Jeanette
[+] Phoebe Bridgers – Punisher
No one has ever made the end of the world sound as good as Phoebe Bridgers has in Punisher. Bridgers’ second studio album tackles her inner and outer self in a multi-dimensional indie-rock soundtrack that is prime for whatever coming-of-age film comes next. And we say that in a positive way. Punisher is truthful during a time of so many lies. It is marvelous during a time when it’s hard to find beauty in the world. And it is clear in a time of so much confusion. What makes Punisher work is that Bridgers comes across as confident in her ambition and comfortable in who she has become. -Brad
[+] Dua Lipa – Future Nostalgia
There was no station, channel or social app that could escape the influence of one of the year’s pop queen Supremes. An album filled with track after track of certified bops, this album is a disco-pop tinged dance party through and through that helped us dance a difficult year away. Dua Lipa has successfully maneuvered between borrowing the energizing music of the past from heavy disco to commercial pop and maleate them into the now, but more importantly shaping the future of pop. -Jeanette
[+] Benny The Butcher – Burden Of Proof
I can listen to this album straight through and feel like I never left the 90s. A blend of soul loops and boom-bop beats by legendary producer Hit-Boy, coupled with Benny’s lyrical prowess makes this record timeless. -Mitch
[+] Nation Of Language – Introduction, Presence
A stunning debut album from Brooklyn synth-pop trio Nation of Language showcased a reimagined world of new wave. Fueled behind haunting synths and reflective lyricism, their music is an entrancing sonic culmination that breathes new life into an older sound genre. Heavy on our rotation list this year repeatedly making our playlists, Introduction, Please really needs no further introduction. A simply play and set on repeat will do all the explaining it needs. -Jeanette
[+] Saint Phnx – DDMN
Some bands naturally have the type of sound fit for the biggest stadiums and arenas. SAINT PHNX is one of those bands, not only because of their musical style but because they simply write great songs.
Their debut album DDMN is a masterclass in modern day songwriting and production, mixing analog rock elements with the electronic using a wide arsenal of techniques. The band blends genres seamlessly into a consistent record full of head-nodding rhythms and anthemic singalong choruses.
The hype is real with this one. -Sonic
[+] Rocket Pengwin – Planet Earth
One of the most exciting things about music in recent years is that it has become harder and harder to place in a genre. Electronic music is a genre that has greatly benefited from this, birthing artists like Rocket Pengwin who fully embrace the “do whatever the fuck you want” era of music.
The latest EP Planet Earth‘s opening track “Unique” starts with a guitar riff as if you’re about to hear a pop-punk song, then breaks into an electronic beat that slowly builds to a drop. Lyrically, the record has everything from a familiar electronic dance styling of infectiously repetitive phrases to a pop format complete with verses, choruses and bridges.
You can’t predict what you’re going to get with this record which makes it enjoyable to listen to over and over again.
The best part of Rocket Pengwin and this record is the storytelling – the point of view of a penguin just trying to figure out his place in the human world. It’s you, it’s me. It’s a story of all of us. -Sonic