We Present To You… We Plug Good Music’s Best Albums of 2020
Finally, we kissed 2020 goodbye and we have the chance to wish it never comes back. Just like a Hollywood action movie, this year had it all. The global pandemic put the world on hold and united us in a unique way. Each one of you deserves an applause for staying strong and going through one of the most difficult times the modern age history of the planet has ever seen.
Even if your plans did not turn out as expected, we hope that your dreams still stand strong and you are prepared to make them true as we feel the 2021 breeze. From the bottom of our hearts, we send all our positive energy to our readers in the prospect of good health, endless growth and unconditional love.
It is true that Covid-19 affected tremendously the creative industries, resulting in the cancellations of live performances and closing down of venues for many months. Luckily, creators garnered support from fans and did not postpone their projects. In fact, many successful works based their inspiration on the occurring circumstances.
As far as the music industry is concerned, the idea of public events was enormously altered as well as most fresh tracks had a sensation of maturity and exploration of inner thoughts. You already know we are music nerds, so believe us when we say that we spent loads of free time listening to new releases and we narrowed them down to our annual ‘Albums Of The Year’ list.
Afrobeats and grime were at the core of the widespread hip hop genre when indie and electronic pop conquered the hit charts. Furthermore, K-pop bands managed to break the barriers of the countries left for them to become a phenomenon not only sonically. Latest technologies transformed fan experiences to connect instantly with their favourites from their homes.
Brace yourselves for a wide range of different genres and never heard before names. From the greats such as The Weeknd, Dua Lipa and, once again, Taylor Swift to the unexpected additions of progressive artists like SAULT and Perfume Genius, this is a master class of meaningful lyrics and quality instrumentation.
We appreciate Tereza Bittnerova and Zoe Eskitzopoulou who are back as the writers of our list again this year and brought all the details of each piece. The first part of our ‘Albums of 2020’ list highlights the best albums of the year, from #50 to #11 – check them out here – we continue our countdown from #10 to #1 below.
10. HAIM – Women In Music Pt III
The trio HAIM, consisting of sisters Alana, Danielle and Este Haim, has delivered their third record named Women In Music Pt. III. Unlike their two previous albums, the only rule they had was no rules. The experimental approach of not sticking to one genre and just having fun and expressing themselves paid off and the group has given us some of their best work yet.
They tackle personal issues such as depression and anxiety on “I Know Alone”, illness of a close person on “Summer Girl” or their experiences of misogyny in the music industry on “Man From The Magazine” as they say “I drove too far for you to hand me that starter guitar”. The lightweight moments of this record are mostly found in the sound as they draw inspiration from classic rock and combine it with soothing harmonised vocals.
9. Freddie Gibbs + The Alchemist – Alfredo
Already packed with a Grammy Award nomination for Best Rap Album, Alfredo should be a handbook for high quality lyrical rap and outstanding musical atmosphere. The hip hop veteran Freddie Gibbs reunites with notorious producer The Alchemist in an angry declaration of Black History that was written in 2020.
On the other hand, do not expect intense, rapid tracks. Both artists, showcase mature severity in innovative composing and songwriting. Remarkably, Gibbs touches sensitive chords when talking about gun violation and drug trafficking. Accompanied by some of their fellows Tyler, The Creator, Benny The Butcher and others, this plate is served ice-cold.
8. Fiona Apple – Fetch The Bolt Cutters
It’s been twenty four years since Fiona Apple entered the music scene with her debut Tidal in 1996. Now after eight long years of silence her fifth album named Fetch The Bolt Cutters is out.
It was recorded in her house in Venice Beach, not only serving as her home studio but an instrument itself. Banging on walls, stomping the ground and using whatever she could find to make sounds, she breaks the traditional pop song form to create one of the best albums of the year.
Fiona Apple is mad, she has things to say and she isn’t afraid to say them. She uses her vocals in every way possible, be it whispering, shouting or deep breathes. Her rage is supported by an incredible instrumental element and lyrics that clearly state she is not to be silenced.
7. Joseph Solomon – Find Me
Every list has its fierce underdog and on WPGM’s Top 50 list, it is going to be Joseph Solomon. Most people call him Joe and he is widely famous as a YouTuber, operating a channel for the last 8 years. Even though, at first his videos concerned topics surrounding God, Christianity and religion, he has gained much popularity from his latest acoustic covers of popular hit songs.
In 2020, he released the harmonious album Find Me on all platforms except for YouTube surprisingly. On many tracks of the album, the musician’s soft vocals are regularly accompanied by the sound of his guitar.
However, there are distinctive moments where instrumentation is enhanced by rhythmic afrobeats or electronica notes. Furthermore, thirsty to get all his thoughts expressed, he touches a wide range of subjects like love, separation and family affairs.
6. Moses Sumney – grae
There is a color which has no exact chromatic combination. Moses Sumney tranfers himself from black to white, in search of the middle ground, grae.
The double album is an ongoing riot against societal boundaries on identity, relationships, justice and race. This piece of art rock commands a revolution even from the title with defying the original spelling g-r-e-y.
The Gambian performer comforts the socially acclaimed outsiders and provokes the conservatives during the head-spinning playlist. Minds are tripping with so many events happening sonically. A musical galaxy rotates in sync with elegant vocals, whimsical tempos and confusing but structured instrumented layers.
5. Run The Jewels – RTJ4
The rap duo Run The Jewels consisting of Killer Mike and El-P has tried to make the horrible 2020 better by releasing their fourth album RTJ4 earlier than expected and making it free. They succeeded by giving us what we think is the best hip hop record of the year.
They conquer social issues as America has found itself in the midst of a revolution for black rights, with Killer Mike stating “and you so numb you watch the cops choke out a man like me, until my voice goes from a shriek to whisper, ‘I can’t breathe’”.
They also speak out about media, religion and internal spiritual conflict accompanied by big names such as Mavis Staples, 2 Chainz, Pharrell or Zack de la Rocha. RTJ4 is an album full of protest rap music we more than need at this time.
4. Rina Sawayama – Sawayama
The Japanese British musician Rina Sawayama offers her personal story wrapped in an experimental cloak on her full-length debut album named after her, Sawayama.
Graduating in politics, psychology and sociology from Cambridge while being a model as well, her music break was uncertain. In 2020 Rina Sawayama showed us she is ready to fight her way up to selling out stadiums.
Sawayama definitely cannot be put into a genre box, with songs spanning from a nu-metal STFU! dealing with racism to a bubblegum pop on Paradisin that has the singer reminiscing about her time spent with friends when she was a teenager. Despite the variety in sound the album sounds cohesive, as if you would take away the production, you would be left with great pop melodies.
3. Wizkid – Made In Lagos
In a melting pot of Afrobeats, R&B and pop, the Nigerian singer Wizkid is celebrating his roots alongside with Burna Boy, Skepta, H.E.R and many more. Made In Lagos is supposed to connect cultures and expand the African musicality unaltered globally.
No need to question why this album excludes maximum experimentations. The performer prefers to remain faithful to distinct melodies of tapping drums, while ingrained saxophone notes make this recording a lounge soundtrack suitable for every ear.
With Nigeria’s music industry undertaking changes on its local sound, Wizkid has succeeded in securing his recognition as the country’s lading pop star via Made In Lagos.
2. J Hus – Big Conspiracy
Since we are just a step away from the top, it is safe to claim that music inspired by the African content did have its honorable representatives during the year of 2020. London rap artist and musician J Hus is not one to be ignored considering his release Big Conspiracy. His second studio release introduces him as one of the trendsetters in today’s UK music scene.
Stunning, melodic rap enters the elegant soundspace where starry embellishments of swing, and poppy perplexes appear. Listeners might find themselves smile as the rapper describes his life experiences disguised with an anti-hero personality and relatable lyrics. Supported by the likes of Koffee and Burna Boy, he sets the bar high enough to determine UK rap’s upcoming transformations.
1. Phoebe Bridgers – Punisher
With her 2017 debut album Stranger In The Alps, Phoebe Bridgers caught our attention. Now in 2020, she perfected her craft on Punisher and made it all the way to the top of our 50 Best Albums of 2020.
Her songs are autobiographical, drawing from personal relationships that according to her words make her feel like wallowing as there are bigger and worse things happening in the world. But that is how people are and the intimacy of her lyrics make her more relatable and true, only made better by both bedroom pop guitar hooks and great symphonic arrangements.
Phoebe Bridgers isn’t trying to portray a character and it shows. Her brutal honesty combined with a beautiful gift of poetry create an incredible listening experience all through Punisher.
Click HERE for a full list of our Top 50 Albums of 2020!
Words by Tereza Bittnerova and Zoe Eskitzopoulou // List curated by Ayo Adepoju