Top 15 Albums of the Year

Top 15 Albums of the Year

With the COVID-19 pandemic, the whole world seemingly stood still. Nowhere was this more apparent than the entertainment industry. Canceled tours, album delays and lack of new music made this year hard for music fans. Despite this, we still got some amazing albums and exciting new artists. Here are my picks for the best albums this year.


1. Circles by Mac Miller

Mac Miller’s final, posthumous album, and sister album to 2018’s Swimming left me utterly speechless. As a huge fan of Mac, writing this paragraph is pretty hard for me. This album is, in my opinion, one of Mac’s best. Tracks like the fun, quirky “Blue World” and synth-heavy “Complicated” are the only breathers on this gut-wrenching album. This album was nearly completed by the time he passed, and was finished by his closest friends and accomplices to make it sound exactly like Mac would have wanted. The scarily predictive “Good News” was the first single leading up to this record, and it instantly had me bawling my eyes out. There is nothing easy to listen to on this album, but its beauty is found in every single track. The stunning and heartbreaking intro and title track “Circles” sets a great tone for the rest of the album. This album is utterly devastating, and an absolute must-listen for any music fan.

2. Pixel Bath by Jean Dawson

Jean Dawson creates a brand-new, revolutionary style of music on Pixel Bath. Blending too many different genres to count, Dawson crafts an album full of fresh and interesting songs that I can’t relate to anyone else. He is in a lane of his own. While giving off some hints of Nirvana, Kevin Abstract, Tyler, the Creator, Frank Ocean, and Mac Demarco, comparing Jean to any of these artists would be a huge slight against the creativity of this album. There is nothing like it. The track Devilish is vaguely comparable to Kevin Abstract’s “Miserable America,” but other than that, trying to compare these songs to other peoples is very difficult. Tracks like “Power Freaks,” “StarFarce,” and especially “Clear Bones.”

3. Last Year Was Weird Vol. 2 by Tkay Maidza
Underground Australian rapper Tkay Maidza delivers one of the most consistent and impressive albums of the year. While relatively unknown, Maidza managed to pick up quite a bit of traction off of her 2018 album Last Year Was Weird Vol. 1; traction she used to swing full throttle with a batch of the best songs I have heard all year. While extremely brief, sitting at 8 songs, this rollercoaster of a record displays everything that makes Maidza such a unique artist. The gorgeous singing showed on cuts like “Don’t Call Again”, cutthroat, nocturnal, and brutal rapping on cuts like “Shook”, and “Awake”, the latter of which features underground legend JPEGmafia, prove just how effective an artist Maidza is. Punchy production, interesting song topics, amazing lyrical passages, as well as the talent to out-rap or out-sing 99% of her contemporaries demonstrates what Maidza is capable of. Maidza comes through with 8 of the best songs of 2020. Do not let this 27-minute album fly under your radar.

4. How I’m Feeling Now by Charli XCX
Charli follows up her amazing 2019 self-titled album with a new, fresh crop of songs, all relating to the state of her mind at the time the pandemic started. 2020 is the year of hyper pop. Charli XCX expands on the hyper pop and electronic sounds from Charli, creating one of the wildest and weird albums from any mainstream artist. Charli has made one of the biggest switch-ups in modern popular music, Charli XCX went from Iggy Azalea’s Fancy to working with members of the PC music label. Nowhere is this change from mainstream to weirdo-electronic pop more apparent than this record. Tracks like “Pink Diamond” and “Claws” demonstrate the bubblegum bass and hyper pop flavors Charli is working into her music. Hard snares, fun melodies, and some of the catchiest songs of 2020 make this album one of the craziest and interesting statements in popular music. Charli XCX is doing her best to capitalize off her old mainstream credibility to bring the sounds of hyper pop to the wider pop-listening audience. How I’m Feeling Now will turn off some long time radio friendly listeners, but if you’re willing to step out of your comfort zone, Charli does not disappoint.

5. Lil Uzi Vert Vs the World 2 by Lil Uzi Vert
While technically being a deluxe version of Uzi’s extremely disappointing album Eternal Atake, this album sounds nothing like the one that came right before it. LUV vs the World 2 ditches the boring, generic, futuristic trap beats of Eternal Atake, and replaces it with bubbly, fun, unique songs very reminiscent of his earlier work. This album serves as the sequel to my favorite Uzi record, 2016’s LUV vs the World. What makes this album are the memorable hooks, and great guest verses, two aspects which were severely lacking in Eternal Atake. 21 Savage, Chief Keef, Young Thug, and even Nav deliver some of their best, and most fun verses yet. Even the tracks Uzi handles alone like “Myron” and “Moon Relate” are blindingly exciting. Uzi captures the bright, bubbly spirit of his earlier work on this album, and outshines all of his contemporaries.

6. Punisher by Phoebe Bridgers
California-based newcomer Phoebe Bridgers follows up her critically acclaimed 2017 album Stranger in the Alps with a new, even better, patch of neatly written indie-folk cuts. Phoebe proves her chops as a singer songwriter, with her delicate voice gently complimenting her limp guitar playing and depressing lyrics. Phoebe calls back to the days of Ellliot Smith, John Denver, and Bob Dylan, with a distinctly modern and feminine twist. If this is a style of music you like, you absolutely can not miss this album.

7. American Head by The Flaming Lips

Neo-psych superstars The Flaming Lips return to form with their best album in nearly 20 years. After a tumultuous decade, filled with failed experiments and a lot of collaborative albums, and even a Pink Floyd cover album, The Lips return to their original psychedelic rock/ pop sound, mixing elements of the genre both old and new. Wild, eccentric songs and super catchy lead melodies make this one of the most consistent and enjoyable psychedelic albums of the past 50 years. Although there is a ton of very obvious influence from acts like Fever Tree and Funkadelic, as well as more recent psych outfits like King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, The Flaming Lips manage to make their lane in this ever-changing genre. American Head throws it back to the sounds of the late ’60s and is the band’s most entertaining album since 2002’s Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots. Every song on this album is captivating and mesmerizing. A truly unique attempt at this style of music that will most likely join the Lips growing catalog of classic albums.

8. The New Abnormal by The Strokes
After a somewhat disappointing 2013 release with The Comedown Machine, Julian Casablancas and company are back under the Strokes name. After a brief departure under his other band, The Voidz, Casablancas pulled through with the most diverse and lavish strokes album yet. The Strokes dive into a new, absurd, and extremely catchy style, that calls back and builds off of their first and most critically praised album Is This It?, using lo-fi recordings and creative guitar passages to create a super fun and creative blend of indie rock. Tracks like ‘The Adults Are Talking’ and ‘Why are Sundays so Depressing’ are the definition of the Strokes, where tracks like ‘Brooklyn Bridge to Chorus’ and ‘Eternal Summer’ are a fresh step forward for the band. The New Abnormal sees the Strokes stepping out of their comfort zones, resulting in a fresh and new take on indie rock staples.

9. Song Machine by Gorillaz
After a series of underwhelming releases, with the extremely bloated and inconsistent Humanz as well as the generic sunshine pop departure in The Now Now, the virtual band sees a return to form with Song Machine. Each track is stylistically different, and the focus of this album is on each song, instead of creating a sonically consistent album (hence the name Song Machine), a method that leads to Gorillaz’ most diverse and interesting album yet. Every song on this album has a feature, whether it’s Robert Smith from the Cure on the opening track “Strange Timez”, or 6lack and Elton John on “The Pink Phantom”. Gorillaz covers everything from rap to punk, to stunning pop-balladry, and nearly every style of music under the sun. The ambition on this record is pretty much unmatched by any other album I have listened to this year.

10. Starting Over by Chris Stapleton

Chris Stapleton continues to prove his vocal prowess and passionate songwriting on Starting Over. Infusing elements of blues, tear-in-your-beer, and outlaw country, Stapleton gives us one of the best and most diverse country albums of the past fifty years. The dynamic contrast in this album is insane, with hard-rocking, bluesy, almost Helter Skelter level tracks like “Cold’ and “Devil Made Me Think Twice” as well as soft, gorgeous, tear-jerking country ballads like “Nashville, TN” and “When I’m With You”. Stapleton uses Starting Over to cement himself as one of the most interesting and refreshing faces in country music right now. Even if country music isn’t your thing, and it isn’t mine, the power of this album is undeniable.

11. 333 by Bladee
Bladee pulled through with two albums this year, and choosing between them was not easy. Bladees (pronounced Blade) first project this year, Exeter showed him improving on every front, showing off better songwriting, better vocals, and a distinctly androgynous sound. However, what ultimately killed this one is the inconsistency. 333, however, is Bladees most creative and consistent album yet. With spacey, atmospheric bangers that combine feminine and masculine imagery in a very serene way, Bladee proves that his success was not a mistake. Songs like ‘Mean Girls’, ‘100s’ and ‘Hero of my Story 3style3’ are all perfect examples of what makes him, and his style so appealing.

12. 1000 Gecs and the Tree of Clues by 100 Gecs
After the sleeper success of tracks like “Money Machine,” 100 Gecs come through with an album chock full of remixes and high profile features. Dylan and Laura’s distinct brand of hyper pop and glitchy- electronic music wowed critics and hardcore music fans alike last year (I even got to see them in concert). Although tough to swallow on first listen, the catchiness and sheer genius songwriting displayed in ‘1000 Gecs’ was seemingly unmatched by anyone else trying this same style. In response to the success they saw through this album, Gecs dropped a new album full of remixed tracks from 1000 Gecs, as well as some new material they have been teasing live for a while. With features from underground sensations like Injury Reserve, Dorian Electra, and A.G Cook, all the way up to mainstream acts like Fall Out Boy and Kero Kero Bonito, 1000 Gecs and the Tree of Clues, is a blindingly fun and creative project that paves a lane for the future of hyper pop.

13. After Hours by The Weeknd

RnB juggernaut The Weeknd shows off his talent for making 80’s synth-pop and new-wave anthems in After Hours. After Hours is a major departure from Abels’s usual alternative RnB sound, swapping it out for blends of IDM and 80’s synth passages, but this album is undoubtedly The Weeknd. After Hours still has Abels trademark moody and illicit lyrical content, as well as his bombastic and grand vocals that fit perfectly on this new style. The singles ‘Blinding Lights’ and ‘Heartless’ perfectly capture the poppy and creative direction of this album. After Hours is a unique and interesting blend of genres, and Abel kills it.

14. Folklore by Taylor Swift
Taylor Swift, one of the biggest names in mainstream music, wows with stunning, gorgeously lavish, folk-flavored ballads. Now, though I am not the biggest Taylor fan, by any means whatsoever, the raw talent and songwriting capabilities displayed on this album just can’t be ignored. This change came out of nowhere, with Taylor ditching the poppy sound she rocked for the entirety of the 2010s and writing very compelling, rustic, and somewhat poppy singer/songwriter anthems. I really can’t stress enough how much this album surprised me. From the second I heard the single “Exile” with none other than folk music legend Bon Iver, I knew I was going to be really into this album. Songs like “Epiphany” and “Betty” really show off the beauty in Taylor’s songwriting. I hope she continues down this path and continues to improve on this style

15. Man Alive! by King Krule
King Krule, one of the most elusive figures in modern indie, returned in 2020 with Man Alive! This album follows up his 2017 record, The Ooz, which was a stunningly abstract dive into a despondent, eerie, and isolating blend of indie rock and hip hop that has become King Krule’s calling card. The long-winded-abstract sound collages left some listeners bored to tears, and others totally in love with the mood created by The Ooz. In contrast, Man Alive! has much more cohesive, clearly defined songs. While still using a lot of the same sounds found on The Ooz, King Krule calls back to his early days as an indie-pop sensation, with prettier guitar licks and very well structured songs reminiscent of tracks on 6 Feet Beneath The Moon. Songs like “Cellular” and “Alone, Omen 3” perfectly showcase this hybridization. The blend of lonely, dreamy soundscapes and indie rock songwriting is what makes Man Alive! a unique entry in the King Krule catalog, and the music landscape at large.