My favorite albums and EPs of 2020

Since nobody asked, I picked out my favorite albums of this year. I thought 2020 was a really strong year for music! There’s a baker’s dozen here, with some cheating to double and triple down for a couple artists that released more than one thing this year (honorable mention to Knxwledge. who releases so much great stuff every year that I don’t know what to pick). With bandcamp embeds where possible because that’s where I buy my stuff whenever possible. Shout out to bandcamp for being great.

I’m Your Empress Of by Empress Of

I played this album out pretty good this year. Just wall-to-wall hits from top to bottom. The electropop vibe reminds me a bit of Robyn’s Honey which was one of my favorite albums of 2018. The sound is completely different—I’m Your Empress Of is more busy and lively—but they have the same four to the floor spirit.

Introduction, Presence by Nation of Language

To be honest I bought this one on spec after the first sentence of a review promised me that it was good synth pop and it really delivers. I’m a sucker for the genre but the songs are genuinely excellent, making this easily one of my most played albums this year. The album gets stronger as it goes on—it’s all great, but you couldn’t put together a better four track run than the last four tracks of this one.

So When You Gonna… by Dream Wife

Probably my pick for my favorite rock album this year. What I love most about this one is that it’s super fun. There are a lot of little unexpected little moments that are super creative. It takes the already great songs into a place that feels surprising and unique. Lead singer Rakel Mjöll has a really great sound.

What We Drew by Yaeji

Speaking of things that remind me of Robyn, this one is from the pandemic was just getting started and it has a kind of faded, anxious energy that’s hard to resist. Waking Up Down is one of my most played tracks of the year.

UNTITLED (Black Is) and UNTITLED (Rise) by SAULT

I know everyone’s said this already but I have no idea how SAULT have put out four full albums in the last two years and have them all be so good. This band is the one that I get asked about the most when I play it. They have their own sound and it’s phenomenal.

I Feel Alive by TOPS

My most favorite track on this album is the closer Too Much, which I cannot get enough of. Every beat in that song comes in just in time, a really perfect pop song with a great arc. The album really plays, and it has a momentum that’s hard to resist.

Every Bad by Porridge Radio

Long is a ridiculously good song, and it’s not even obviously the best song on the album. A lot of the songs on this album make me wonder how anyone could write them. The middle third of this album is irresistible.

Sell Sole II, It’s A Set Up! and No Saint by Dej Loaf

Prolific year for Dej Loaf and I’m a fan, so. … And See That’s The Thing from 2015 is an EP I come back to again and again and I’ll always stop to listen to whatever Dej Loaf puts out there. I love her sound. Sell Sole II is the album and the other two are EPs. No Saint might be my favorite, but why choose?

Burst by snarls

Jangly and grungy in equal doses. Loads of great hooks but also loads of those little one and done ideas that can make an album really great, those special moments that come along once per song and make you want to play the whole thing back to hear them again. This album really grew on me this year.

Live Forever by Bartees Strange

This, Set My Heart on Fire Immediately by Perfume Genius, and SAWAYAMA by Rina Sawayama were the three most surprising albums of the year for me. I got a lot out of all of them, but Live Forever is the one of them that I keep coming back to the most. It’s a lot and it’s so eclectic and it sounds like a hundred different things. But it really works as an album I think.

Future Nostalgia by Dua Lipa

An early MVP of shelter-in-place, this came along at just the right time. I played it out early on and kind of got away from it a bit, but Break My Heart is absolutely an exception because that is an easy song of the year contender.

Is It Selfish If We Talk About Me Again by Kacy Hill

It’s dangerously close to lo fi beats to study slash relax to but I found myself pressing play on this album again and again this year. The last three tracks are a great three song set. I like how comfortable the whole album sounds with itself.

Dedicated Side B by Carly Rae Jepsen

Because if CRJ releases something I’m not leaving it off my favorite of the year list. It’s really good though!

Finally, a special shout out for 2019’s MAGDALENE by FKA twigs because I was so hyped to see the show this year… in April. So much for that. I really hope to see it one day because I love this album and the live TV performances I’ve seen of some of these songs are just awesome.

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