The 50 Best Albums Of 2020

On December 14th 2020 » By VMP Staff

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This year was long, so I’ll try to make this short. And besides, you know the drill. These are a collection of VMP editorial & music staff’s 50 favorite albums to come out this year — the albums that got us through the extra-long nights of loneliness, the cabin fever, the digital crushes, the missing, the yearning, the mourning, the dancing on our own, the Zoom Doom, all of it. We recognize it was a particularly tough year to be a person, and an especially tough year to be a musician, so for that, our sincerest gratitude goes out to the artists on and outside of this list who shared a piece of their soul with us this year, who made it all a bit easier for the rest of us to get by.

We recognize that ranked lists satisfy an innate urge to quantify that which cannot cleanly be quantified, but just as we have for the past couple years, we refuse to rank our year-end list this year. Instead, we offer you a by-no-means all-encompassing alphabetized collection of albums that, for a variety of reasons, we think are important and will continue to covet into next year and beyond. We hope you have the distinct pleasure of holding even one of these titles as dear to you as we each have.

Ambrose Akinmusire

on the tender spot of every calloused moment

In an especially tough year for reasons I don’t need to tell you about, this album by genius composer and trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire felt like a salve: an affecting, heart-wrenching album of deep blues that felt like the score to a sad, solemn walk through existence in 2020. Akinmusire is often left out of discussions of the best in jazz’s new wave, but he shouldn’t be any longer; jazz in 2020 rarely got better than this. — Andrew Winistorfer

Amaarae

THE ANGEL YOU DON’T KNOW

Amaarae is a jack of all trades. A singer, songwriter, producer, and engineer, the Ghanaian-American artist brought afro-pop into the forefront this year with THE ANGEL YOU DON’T KNOW. An album that seemingly dropped out of nowhere, TAYDK is a forward-thinking and incredibly fun listen with a constant beat that keeps you nodding along. Her voice, high-pitched with a similar flow to contemporary Tierra Whack, makes you feel wrapped in her steamy breath with every lyric. A rich blend of afropop influence with clear ties to U.S. pop artists she was exposed to while growing up partly in the United States, THE ANGEL YOU DON’T KNOW is a must-listen for anyone looking to check in on the state of pop in 2020. — Alex Berenson

Anjimile

Giver Taker

Giver Taker is an album that’s built a peaceful, unwavering home right in the shifting crosshairs of life’s constant cycling.“The death of past relationships, the death of past relationship dynamics, the death of my life as an active alcoholic. It seems that death is looming, but not in a way that bums me out,” Anjimile told VMP earlier this year ahead of Giver Taker’s release. Just as its title suggests, Anjimile’s warm vocals, and the rich harmonies that accompany it, guide us through a folk-enlivened matrix of tension and release, buoyancy and weight, and release us on the other side better for it, itching to do it again. — Amileah Sutliff

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Fiona Apple

Fetch The Bolt Cutters

In true, blue Fiona Apple form, Fetch The Bolt Cutters is both completely unhinged — powered by pent-up animal instinct (sometimes literally, in the form of barking dogs) — and bound together by the deadly precision of a unimaginably talented woman hurt, healed, and freed a million times over, and ready to run up that hill all over again. Made in Apple’s Venice Beach home over the course of nearly eight years, Fetch The Bolt Cutters redefines the word “percussive” — everything is a drum! Walls, floors, furniture, household items, you. It does not matter, just let that shit out. For almost 25 years, we’ve been blessed to bear witness to Apple’s brilliance, but never has it sounded as euphoric, as free as this. — AS

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ARTHUR

Hair of the Dog

Like any good ARTHUR project, there’s a lot to unpack: the hauntings of familial trauma, the existential questions of self-fulfillment, losing friends, finding love and breaking up. He’s a master of brevity, leaping through sounds like a timewarp while shirking convention at every turn. He knows how to thrust you into a world, even if it’s a smokescreen for feelings only he knows. Then he just… drops the shit and hands you himself in a way that’s so disarming and messy. Hair of the Dog gave me a zany accompaniment for a year of my own madness, and it deserves so much more than what it’s received in comparison to its predecessor. — Michael Penn II

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Breland

Breland / Rage & Sorrow

A year removed from Lil Nas X taking his horse on a yet-to-be-completed trip to the Old Town Road, and the attendant debates around race, genre, and “country” that followed, Breland came through 2020 and dropped a nuke on all that, delivering two EPs that proved that country music can both totally bang and be about trenchant social issues… and also how you should never touch his truck. He’s a talent poised for a breakthrough, and next year might bring it. — AW

Phoebe Bridgers

Punisher

At the risk of sounding hyperbolic, Punisher echoes the voice of a generation, or at least a certain subset of one: endearingly indulgent, hyperactively droll, and if we’re being totally honest, pretty fucked in a number of ways, ranging from environmental to astrological — but somehow still painfully human and earnest. Punisher is an emotionally masturbatory NyQuil dream in which you’re screaming, whispering, and laughing all at once, and one of this cursed year’s few perfect indie rock gifts. — AS

Charli XCX

How I’m Feeling Now

How I’m Feeling Now is likely the first album to be conceptualized and made entirely in quarantine. Created in partial collaboration with her fans through Zoom during its rapid production process, the album is an of-the-moment diary that’s both deeply collective and deeply personal. Chronicling feelings and situations that didn’t even exist to many of us nine months ago, from the physical ache of needing to be on a dance floor that doesn’t exist anymore to the delights and trials of being locked in with a lover, Charli made a pop artifact great enough to trauma-rage to together long after this is all behind us. — AS

The Chicks

Gaslighter

After a decade-plus away after saying a resounding “Fuck Off” to the country music industrial complex, the Chicks came back with a new name, and a new album that absolutely scorched Natalie Maines’ ex-husband. This belongs in the pantheon of great divorce albums with Here, My Dear and Phases and Stages, an album that both reads its main subject for trash, but also brings the heat in the songwriting department. Remember, fellas: They always know what you did on their boat. — AW

Helena Deland

Someone New

In the single-shot video for title track and opener “Someone New,” Deland sits posed, even performing, just as she appears on the album cover’s painting, but with her glance averted and seemingly unaware she’s being watched. The experience, and joy, of listening to the nuances of Someone New is a similar situation: our narrator shows up through Deland’s feather-light voice and asks us to quietly bear witness to surreal dream pop depictions of candid fears, self-loathing and intimacies. — AS

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Disq

Collector

Personal bias aside, I give a damn what my Wrapped says… this is clearly the indie rock record I spent the most time with this year! At once deeply nostalgic and strangely prescient, Collector is the rock record you needed when you were 16 and kind of an asshole who thought they knew everything, but your adult self can cling to like a life preserver once you realize you still don’t. It’s an epic monument to all the Hell you’ve invented for yourself, with instructions for the way out, should you learn to trust yourself a little bit more. It’s a passionate salve for your chaos, best enjoyed during morning commutes, sunset rides, and staring at the ceiling. — MPII

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Dua Lipa

Future Nostalgia

Ahh, just what the doctor ordered: a fresh, steaming bottle of serotonin in the form of well-produced, time-traveling, sparkling pop music. On the aptly titled Future Nostalgia, we find Dua Lipa treading lightly down the sonic pathways of ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s, and high-fiving the icons along the way, but emerging fresh with an electric pop sound of her own to carry wherever her next moves take her. — AS

Fleet Foxes

Shore

A possibly incomplete list of nature scenes I think of when I listen to Fleet Foxes’ stunning — and for my money, best — fourth LP:

  1. An albatross returning to its nest after months away

  2. A polar bear with its cubs

  3. Any scene of a whale being reunited with its pod

  4. Barley whipping in the wind

  5. The entirety of the Werner Herzog documentary Grizzly Man

  6. Any scene from Star Wars where they establish the reigning climate of a new planet

  7. The time when I went to look at Lake Superior after my grandpa died

  8. The time 10 years later when I went to look at Lake Superior after my grandma died

  9. Every time I was able to take in some small infantesimal slice of nature in this hellish year. — AW

Gabriel Garzón-Montano

Aguita

This ain’t the same GGM you heard when his sample on a Drake record made you pine for the love you either don’t have, or fucked up. Naw, this Aguita tho? It’s GGM as a hitmaker, romantic, and deep student of the sounds that formed him as a youth. Not to mention his ear for morphing the times into fuel for some of his brashest, most confident works. It’s his first big step toward a star turn, and I wish we could hear it at day parties in the boroughs and slow-dancing in someone’s backyard. It also makes me wanna ride a motorcycle, but I can’t even drive a car at my big age, so… — MPII

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A.O. Gerber

Another Place To Need

For all the explosive news and fanfare this year brought us, it’s funny that much of our days were pushed into a more muted, understated version of existence. Expansive and warm-toned, Another Place To Need is an album that balances these two oppositional poles with a lot of grace and insight. “What is there left to do but fall into the labyrinth of my mind?” her honey voice asks on “Every Time,” and we just get to sit there and be lucky she let us fall with her for a bit. — AS

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Freddie Gibbs + The Alchemist

Alfredo

Freddie Gibbs has been anti his entire career, and he rode the Kane Train all the way to his first Grammy nomination at the tender age of 38. The trophies are trinkets, but I hope to see him and Alchemist snatch it! Alfredo is surely a worthy contender, distilling Gibbs’ and Alchemist’s most endearing tendencies into a focused, measured rap record that expands both their ranges out while catering deeply to the fans. Neither are known for missing, so indulge in the leanest, meanest presentation of such. You know what you’re coming for, but it’s the purest batch, pure enough to make you smile and be proud of that. — MPII

Green-House

Six Songs for Invisible Gardens

On paper, Six Songs for Invisible Gardens almost scans as a parody of an ambient album: there’s field recordings of chirping birds and running water, glacial, vintage synth smears and tape loops, and a Garson-esque, well, everything. Instead, Olive Ardizoni’s debut release is a deeply engrossing experiment that recognizes the power of using familiar tropes to create art as unassuming and universally delightful as the houseplants that serve as her gentle muses. — Stephen Anderson

Hardy

A Rock

As a songwriter, Hardy has delivered the goods for the likes of Morgan Wallen, Blake Shelton, Florida Georgia Line, and others in the post-Bro Nashville, so it should be no surprise that his debut solo album is full of pun-y, impeccably written songs. A Rock is a fun romp, an album that is as well-constructed as it is funny and fun to spend time in. Hardy’s songs for other people are among pop-country’s best; his own are even better. — AW

Sam Hunt

SOUTHSIDE

Sam Hunt’s reputation as an iconoclast is both deserved and overblown; what are his songs of love, loss, and heartbreak but dyed-in-the-wool country songs? His sophomore album, and second masterpiece, SOUTHSIDE is both a new relationship and a breakup album, an album of songs that push country music into new vistas, and songs that are just little dioramas of love-related anguish. This guy literally can’t miss — AW

Boldy James + The Alchemist

The Price of Tea in China

One time, I had a dream I was in my grandma’s basement and someone pulled the sample to “Carruth” off her shelf and played it. If that don’t speak to the impact Boldy had on my brain this year, I don’t know what will. He really went 4-for-4 on albums (albums!) but this first one with Alc set the whole shit off and will be tough to eclipse. It’s detailed monotone street rap, audible war wounds from a seasoned Detroit vet over some of the most striking and sinister Alc beats in recent memory. Let Bojack take you through his mind, and be careful what’ll spill on you. — MPII

Jay Electronica

Act II: The Patents of Nobility

It took a (prayerfully) once-in-a-lifetime global event for Jay Electronica to not only pop out with a Hov-assisted proper debut album, but for the one he was supposed to drop to fall out the sky in the same year! And if this shit dropped in the mainstream when it was supposed to, it would’ve changed rap forreal! Act II is painful, but blissful, down to the half-done mumblings and the larger-than-life samples. But if A Written Testimony was an olive branch for our disappointment, this leak serves as the true testament for what could’ve been, while still standing on its own as a breathtaking work, mere steps away from completion. — MPII

keiyaA

Forever, Ya Girl

keiyaA came outta nowhere with a record that moves across space and time so effortlessly, it’s as if it was bestowed upon us from somewhere else. It’s an album of weariness and triumph that’s connected to something beyond us, only accessible should one dive in. I was smacked by its power, and have yet to fully unlock its magic to this day! It glitches and stutter-steps, gliding through a comforting haze like a living lullaby. This gives keiyaA a divine space to speak for herself, for her Black girl dreams, for the real ones. Is that you? Then tap in. — MPII

King Krule

Man Alive!

This Archy album has the sneakiest quality to gently position itself as the best King Krule full-length of the three. That may feel blasphemous because it didn’t do the craziest numbers, but the longer this year went on, the more it could articulate miseres I’m acquainted with, and give sounds to the freedom I was able to snatch from the jaws of this year. I’m deadass — like, I can feel weightless sometimes, and I can feel the weight of the world pressing down on my shoulders when Archy offers a hand out of the darkness. I didn’t expect it to be my AOTY, but it makes the most sense as my security blanket for wading out of my head. Just give it time to do the same for you. — MPII

Adrianne Lenker

songs

Adrianne Lenker, best known for her work as front person of Big Thief, writes poetic folk songs that stick softly like silly putty to the inside of your cranium and reveal themselves to you with every layer you manage to strip back. Developed largely in a one-room cabin in the mountains of Massachusetts following a breakup, songs finds Lenker at her most sparse: just her voice over signature finger-picking, giving her ample space to gut you and sew you back up again. — AS

Lil Uzi Vert

Eternal Atake

I count Uzi’s album as one of the first (and most dire) casualties of The Year We Couldn’t See Nothing Live. I mean, we waited for years, then he dropped two albums, and then we’re trapped indoors within two weeks of it burning the streets up! The weather couldn’t even break! But alas, I thoroughly enjoyed this bloated Uzi offering for the fact that he decided to rap his ass off, give us more pop bops, and provide adequate panic-buying music for the moment we couldn’t touch anyone anymore. And the day I can hear the “Baby Pluto” drop with thousands of people surrounding me, I will cry the most thankful tears in honor of our Leo king. I might even eat blackened salmon that day, too. — MPII

Liv.e

Couldn’t Wait to Tell You…

Liv.e really brought the lo-fi soulful wave back with a vengeance on her first full-length. She strikes a delicate balance of orbiting around the familiar while pushing forward into a not-so-distant future by singing on some of the butteriest shit I’ve heard all year. It’s truly a delight, and Liv.e knows how to dazzle via voice and writing, even when she’s playing more reserved or coy about the feelings she works through. It’s an easy listen to catch the ghost to, crafted from the mold of soul eras past with an enchanting presence that can conjure something deeper from within you. It’s essential Bag Music: music for being deeply within one’s proverbial Bag. — MPII

Becca Mancari

The Greatest Part

Becca Mancari’s knack for translating vignettes of pain, memory, and emotion into indie pop songwriting as tight as it gets is in peak force on her second album, The Greatest Part. Following touring her 2017 debut album, Good Woman, and with the group Bermuda Triangle with Brittany Howard and Jesse Lafser, her second solo effort finds Mancari polished by intentional, crystal-clear production and at her most moving. — AS

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Arlo McKinley

Die Midwestern

Look, an album about Midwestern ennui delivered by a guy in his 30s was almost focus-grouped to appeal to me, a Midwesterner with ennui in his 30s, but Arlo McKinley’s Oh Boy debut belongs on this list for the greatness of its songwriting, and the way that it captures the various stages of Midwestern Grief in all its forms. John Prine left us this year, but at least his label has artists who can fill the sizable gap in our lives. — AW

Naeem

Startisha

Another deeply underrated rap/pop opus from this year, Naeem (fka Spank Rock) put his old self to bed and showed them people he’s an unstoppable force, no matter what style or sound he graces. It’s a gorgeous half-hour prime for raging, dancing, and remembering the people who impacted you most no matter how long the moment was. Naeem’s a romantic with a blade under his tongue, consistently reinforcing his ability to outclass anyone, regardless of what you knew him for or thought he was capable of. I still need my Startisha chain for the culture, so Naeem, if you see this, holla at me! — MPII

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Oneohtrix Point Never

Magic Oneohtrix Point Never

Oneohtrix Point Never’s Daniel Lopatin is back with what feels like a capstone on his nearly 15-year career. Magic Oneohtrix Point Never feels like an artist at the top of his game blending the stylistic innovations that peppered his earlier work into a heroically mutated pop classic. In many ways the pop album 2020 deserves, Magic Oneohtrix Point Never plays with distorted synth sounds from lost futures and radio station feedback fuzz from an unreachable past. Elevated by contributions from artists like The Weeknd and Caroline Polachek (as well as Lopitin’s increased use of his own vocals on the album), Oneohtrix has created a masterful pandemic-era soundscape that provides the perfect mood for a world increasingly stuffed with information, while simultaneously drained of meaning. — AB

Kelly Lee Owens

Inner Song

Appropriate, isn’t it, when there’s no club for club music to play in, and no one to safely dance next to, to turn club music into a sacred lesson in introspection? Inner Song deals with decay — of life, the environment, of ego and self — but it emerges as the divine. The Welsh electronic artist wrote the music for her sophomore album in a brief 35-day “flood of creation,” during a period of personal turmoil, and most of the lyrics after she underwent a “body release trauma session,” an experimental form of therapy. The result is visceral, and the payoff immense. For the many in need of a release themselves this year, Inner Song provides. — AS

Perfume Genius

Set My Heart on Fire, Immediately

Listen, if you haven’t depression-fucked the love of your life to “Describe,” I’m extremely sorry. This album lights up every individual nerve ending, sometimes all at once. — AS

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Caroline Rose

Superstar

Somewhere chain-smoking in the lobby of a swanky, garish hotel at a chaotic Hollywood intersection between the surreal discomfort of Mulholland Drive, earnest glamour of A Star Is Born, and camp of Drop Dead Gorgeous lies the absurd, enchanting pop-rock roller coaster that is Caroline Rose’s Superstar. The album weaves near-universal internal aspiration with the bloated, fickle concept of celebrity into a tumultuous cinematic and literary narrative of desire and delusion that’s too addictive, too infectious not to run back again and again. — AS

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SAULT

UNTITLED (Black Is) / UNTITLED (Rise)

The intentionally anonymous collective SAULT did in 2020 what they did in 2019: quietly made two of the year’s best albums, virtually without notice, promotion, or anything you come to expect from musicians in a year where promotion was basically all musicians could do. But that wasn’t all: There were few albums that captured this summer’s unrest, and overdue — if short-lived — moment of reckoning with this country’s brutal history toward Black people, while also celebrating the swath of Black music. There’s slices of jazz, blues, house, disco, R&B, Quiet Storm, Soul, rock, and rap across these albums and, with “Wildfires,” one of the year’s most utterly devastating songs. Taken as a whole, there were few musical projects that did so much, while refusing to do everything else, than this. — AW

Rina Sawayama

SAWAYAMA

Can you believe Rina came in hot on her full-length debut with nearly an hour-and-a-half of futuristic nu-metal-infused early aughts glitter pop with a titanium thematic backbone and a vocal performance I’d crush and snort each morning, should science one day allow it?? I totally can. All hail. — AS

Shabaka & The Ancestors

We Are Sent Here By History

Shabaka Hutchings’ latest offering is a towering, pan-African jazz masterpiece, an album that feels like 2050 and also like all the greats from Shepp, Coltrane, and Sanders. It’s an album that feels incendiary, and powerful, a jazz album that is wielded as much as it is listened to. By the time the album gets to “Teach Me How to Be Vulnerable,” you’ve been through the wringer. It’s an album that hits hard, and leaves you with thoughts of how you interact with your family history, your legacy, your privilege. — AW

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Skyway Man

The World Only Ends When You Die

Despite its hefty title, James Wallace’s second album under the cosmic moniker Skyway Man positively blooms with vivacity. Wallace explores the very fabric of living through both ends of the telescope: Maybe it’s reminiscing on that singular feeling, way back when you were 18, bummed all the way through the Desperation Play’s set at Dark Hollow ’cause Charlie stole your baby; maybe it’s doin’ the twist through the hellfire nuclear apocalypse — whose life is it anyway? They’ve still got music in the by-and-by, so take the pennies off your eyes and drop ’em in the jukebox. —SA

Slow Pulp

Moveys

Slow Pulp finally dropping their debut means we’re treated to a succinct journey through an emotional rollercoaster. It’s fitting material, given what this year’s done to their worlds and all of ours. But it’s also a testament to their ability to bend any style to their will, matched by impactful songwriting that functions well beyond the coded moments and the direct attacks to the heart. Moveys is the soundtrack to a young adult’s internal monologue: fighting feelings, fear of failure, fear of the future. But it sounds damn good in the headphones, and the mosh pit, should we ever get the latter again. — MPII

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Chris Stapleton

Starting Over

Starting Over has a cover that screams, “This is just an album, not a big achievement,” but that cover hides the maximal quality of the album; it’s a big, blown out, towering LP that makes room for songs about departed dogs, the Las Vegas Route 91 shooting, companionship, and the relative radness of the state of Arkansas. It’s Stapleton through and through; uncompromising and hard to define, it’s all buoyed by Stapleton’s mammoth of a voice. — AW

Moses Sumney

grae

Moses Sumney’s sophomore LP — released in separate parts through the beginning of 2020 — ended up being met with something of a reserved response, and when you listen to it, it makes some sense: this is an artist who refuses classification, and this is an album that is sprawling, emotionally wrenching, and basically impossible to consume in Spotify Playlists. I mean all of those things as positives: grae is a stunning achievement when you give it the time it deserves, an album whose epic expanses unfold for you in new ways on each subsequent listen. It’s a shame none of us could cry to this in a room with 800 other strangers this year. — AW

Sylvan Esso

WITH

With the swift demise of concerts as we know them this year, the live album has taken on a significance it’s not enjoyed for the better part of a half-century. So lucky were we that Sylvan Esso released WITH and its accompanying concert film a month into what felt like the end of everything good. Calling on a murderers’ row of musician-friends hailing from Landlady, Hand Habits, Bon Iver, Mountain Man, and Mr Twin Sister, the already-great-live duo burn through a jaw-dropping set that recasts their catalog with the warmth of eight further beating hearts, giving fans less of a reason to mourn the shows that could not be, but rather a glimmer of those to look forward to yet. — SA

Texas Gentlemen

Floor It!!!

The TX Gents filter the entirety of 20th Century American music into Floor It!!!, a sophomore album that makes space for trombone solos, songs about everyday folks down in the dumps, and songs that sound like Cadillacs rocketing down Route 66. There’s a sense of “anything goes” here that makes Floor It!!! so fun, and so worthy of obsession. Floor it here, ASAP. — AW

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TiaCorine

34Corine

You’d be hard-pressed to find an album from this year — or most years, for that matter — that’s as playful or fun as 34Corine. While the album dons TikTok-approved SoundCloud hit “Lotto” like a crown gem, TiaCorine proves she’s the furthest thing from a one-hit wonder with 19 minutes of pastel bubble-gum tinged bars, a baby register to rival Carti’s, enough earworms to catch an ocean of ear-fish, and to top it all off, a Sailor Moon sample as a closing statement. From her brain-busting spitting on “30” to her gentler, spacious vocal moments on “Avril Lavigne,” TiaCorine has the right combination of range and concision that’ll have you desperate to see what’s next. — AS

Joshua Ray Walker

Glad You Made It

Joshua Ray Walker’s sophomore album is a testament to his charms: his clarion bell of a voice, his tender songs about tender people, and songs that feel like little, contained short stories. He’s one of the best young songwriters that prove country is in great hands entering this new decade. *— AW *

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Colter Wall

Western Swing & Waltzes and Other Punchy Songs

“No hour of life is wasted that is spent in the saddle.”
— Winston Churchill

— AW

Jessie Ware

What’s Your Pleasure?

With 2020 almost behind us, I’m proud to say that this album still tops my list as AOTY. What’s Your Pleasure? could have been resigned to a single listen oddity by many, but what I’ve learned over the past few months is how deep this seemingly simple pop record goes. The album has one of the most impressive and expressive B-Sides of any albums released this year. Danceable and introspective, What’s Your Pleasure? provides a much needed mental safe haven to the stress of this year. It turns out that you can, in fact, put on your headphones, close your eyes, and transport yourself to a room full of people dancing to the same beat, feeling the same rhythm without a care in the world. I’m grateful for this album, and for the places it’s taken me. — AB

Watchmen (Music from the HBO Series)

Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross

Not only did HBO’s Watchmen break records with the most-ever nominations of any series at the Emmys (26, for the people counting at home), it’s nearly impossible to describe the genius of this show without lending a large round of applause to it’s soundtrack. I recognize it’s not entirely groundbreaking to heap praise onto Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross — as they time and again come out on top in the soundtrack sphere — but there is something quite special about what they were able to achieve in scoring Watchmen. One of my most listened-to albums of the year, this three-part soundtrack might just be the perfect soundtrack for….life? It mixes Reznor and Ross’ signature dissonant piano with some serious Nine Inch Nails pounding beats and occasional plot-specific interludes that make for a perfect blend of their twin talents. Watch the show! Listen to the soundtrack! Get angry! Get motivated! — AB

Immanuel Wilkins

Omega

Though he’s only 22, Immanuel Wilkins’ Blue Note debut is the kind of album that has people throw around words like masterpiece, and for good reason: it sounds like it was composed and played by an artist who’s road-tested and done his 10,000 hours. It’s also politically relevant — the songs capture the mood of Ferguson, Missouri, and the horrific lynching death of Mary Turner — and Wilkins’ playing is affecting and engrossing. It’s like attending a seance to wash out all the bad shit we carry, a therapeutic album in the form of 63 minutes of adventurous, swaying jazz. — AW

Yaeji

What We Drew 우리가 그려왔

Korean-American producer Yaeji’s debut full-length mixtape What We Drew 우리가 그려왔 is a brilliant collection of boundaryless, atypical club tracks that breathe deeply between pulsating, feverish drum machines, hip-hop beats, and a whirlwind of fever-dream-pop synths. As grounding as it is dizzying, it’s not only an impressive full-length debut, but a testament to sound’s capabilities to steer listeners through an universe and rhythm of its own creation. One day soon, with any luck, we’ll all enjoy this particular universe sweaty, moving, and close to one another. —AS

Yves Tumor

Heaven to a Tortured Mind

To call this Yves album a rockstar turn would be, for one, a fuckin’ joke! He’s been cleared that bar, but to see him put a new spin on the character has resulted in an album that’s made me wanna stick my head out a window on a summer day drive. It’s that blissful, but extremely dark with vivid images of being caught in a monster’s teeth and surrendering oneself to love (which can be mad dark). If MTV still existed, this would be the shit that made parents picket-sign ready; which is saying, we need Yves Tumor to be the rockstar overlord of our tainted society. Count me in, sacrifice me. — MPII

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