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 #31 – check them out here – we continue our countdown from #30 to #21 below.
30. Jay Electronica – A Written Testimony
Jay Electronica is one of the most mysterious names in hip hop today. Only a handful of material got released throughout the 2000’s. 2020 was the year a full length album by Jay Electronica named A Written Testimony finally saw the light of day.
The conscious hip hop star touches down on religion, speaking about the return of the Annunaki, the Nation of Islam and often referencing symbols of Christianity as well as on social issues such as the water crisis in Flint or ICE breaking up families all with a frequent help from fellow rapper Jay-Z. With lo-fi samples, chant music and precise production we definitely think he is deserving of the attention Jay Electronica is getting.
29. Jessie Reyez – Before Love Came To Kill Us
Another amazing debut of 2020 is the Colombian Canadian singer-songwriter Jessie Reyez’s album Before Love Came To Kill Us. Explaining her songwriting process as using it to be able to sing about things she doesn’t like to talk about, she creates a straightforward and honest collection of music.
She isn’t afraid to show her anger on Coffin, a collaboration with Eminem himself and her astounding vocal abilities on the slow ballads such as “Love In The Dark” or “Figures”, the smooth R&B track “Ankles” or “La Memoria” sung entirely in Spanish. Jessie Reyez dug deep into her heart to give us this record and we definitely think it is worth listening to.
28. Charli XCX – how i’m feeling now
With live music basically disappearing off of the face of the Earth and not returning anytime soon, many artists took their involuntary break from touring and turned it into an opportunity to write and record more music. One of these artists was the alternative pop queen Charli XCX.
Her fourth album how i’m feeling now was created from scratch in thirty nine days. It’s Charli’s most personal music yet with self-loathing, isolation, boredom and losing yourself amongst the topics she delves into. Sonically, she is once again pushing the boundaries of pop music and innovating the genre with this energetic quarantine project.
27. Kelly Lee Owens – Inner Song
Three years after her debut album, Kelly Lee Owens is back with her second creation called Inner Song. In those three years she has faced many difficulties that made her come out stronger as she learned how to turn loss into creation again.
Written in a flood of inspiration in just one month, she uses minimalistic beats and energetic synth loops that create dramatic tension just enough to get caught up in the music on the first listen. With tracks such as the opening “Arpeggi, Jeanette” about letting go and the passing of Owens’ grandmother or the melancholic “L.I.N.E” standing for “Love Is Not Enough”, she reminds us she is a name to stay on the UK electronic scene.
26. Thundercat – It Is What It Is
Stephen Bruner aka Thundercat has released his fourth album under this pseudonym. The name of the record – It is what it is – suggests just that as he tries to accept and get over his friend Mac Miller’s death and makes him appreciate the time he still has.
The album sees both sides of the coin, on “I Love Louis Cole”, he celebrates friendship, while on “Existential Dread”, he examines death and mortality. Combining and inovating the sounds of Afro-jazz, hip-hop, funk and R&B, Thundercat creates a positive and groovy yet real exploration of life.
25. Jyoti – Mama, You Can Bet!
When the avant-garde jazz icon Alice Coltrane met Georgia Anne Muldrow and gave her the name Jyoti, as though she knew that this is the right identity she is supposed to become famous by. An ongoing side project that introduces Afrofuturistic elements in the spirituality of paying honor to the greatest of the past.
Mama, You Can Bet! is a consoling speech to her mother and an attempt to stand equally tall next to her father Ronald Muldrow, a guitarist who passed on to her the genre’s microbe. She experiments with funk and hip hop melodies while stargazing piano synths take the stage to light her edgy view of traditional jazz.
24. Mac Miller – Circles
Unlike many posthumous albums Circles is a fine-calculated piece of art. Mac Miller, whose loss at the age of 26 devastated the industry, granted a series of beaming tracks to remind us that happiness does not need much. Producer Jon Brion treated the singer’s fragile voice with respect, and managed to make it the core of the playlist.
The tranquil instrumentals mainly consist of light, playful synths, sublime piano arrangements and easy, still drums. Mesmerizing lyrics about dreams, expectations from life, struggles reveal Mac’s vulnerability who prefers not to rap. This studio recording is an intimate session as listeners are drawn to flow with it.
23. Hayley Williams – Petals For Armor
The pop-punk superband frontwoman Hayley Williams needs no introduction as we all jumped up and down to their 2007’s hit Misery Business and many others. 2020 is the year that Hayley Williams went solo with her debut album Petals For Armor.
The name Petals for Armor hints at vulnerability, which permeates the whole record. The deeply personal and great songs like Simmer or Leave It Alone deal with marriage and divorce, depression, self-doubt, loss and rage.
Delicate beats and Björk-like electronics perfectly fit her style, yet don’t steal the focus that is on her voice and the emotion it portrays. Hayley Williams continues to prove she is a versatile artist that can get through anything and come out stronger.
22. Moses Boyd – Dark Matter
Dark Matter may be his debut solo studio album but remember the name Moses Boyd and be sure to anticipate many more things from this jazz – dare we say – phenomenon. Brought up in a family of music aficionados in South London, it is no wonder why the audience may recognize so many diverse influences.
From swinging dancefloor rhythms to complex experiments with grime and pop, prepare to feel intrigued by unfamiliar sounds.
This is the performer’s initial attempt to appear at the forefront of his band and produce, while collaborating with Poppy Ajudha and Joe Armon-Jones among other singers. Vocally, consider this as a protest statement and musically, an original artifice where old is merged with new and simple instrumental cuts match electronic embellishments.
>21. Caribou – Suddenly
Canadian composer, Dan Snaith, best-known as Caribou is back after five years of absence to deliver a self-recorded electronic masterpiece. Having left behind his Ibiza banger maker nature, the musician releases Suddenly to present a more personal approach of his art and expose his feelings.
There have not been many cases before where dance music has sounded homy and warm. The secret ingredient may be his glistening vocals that take the lead in a soundtrack designed for sunny calm mornings. The successful result of this studio album is the combination of intimate singer-songwriter material with shoegazing and bedroom pop elements.
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