Top 2020 albums
More than ever, it seems, 2020 was a year when we relied on music to get us through difficult seasons. And thankfully, many great albums were released during that time. Here are our favorites. Feel free to tell us in the comments about yours.
Impulse Voices by Plini
If I had to use one word to describe this album, it would be “dynamic.” This virtuosic guitar player from Australia is an expert at drawing the listener in with delicate, jazz-inspired chordal melodies followed by pummeling and complex progressive metal sections. If you’re a fan of instrumental music that grabs elements from several genres in one piece of music, I urge you to give this album a spin.
— Max Abood
Boreas by The Oh Hellos
I’ve been a fan of The Oh Hellos since 2012. They continue to produce music that is chill and folksy, which is the escape we all needed in 2020. Boreas is actually one of two albums that they released last year (the other being Zephyrus), which is pretty impressive.
— Ainsley Cotherman
Song Machine, Season One: Strange Timez by Gorillaz
Gorillaz, the virtual band created by Damon Albarn, have always been masters of multiple genres, and their newest album is no exception. Song Machine, Season One, as much of Gorillaz’ previous music has, features many guest artists who greatly enhance each song, as the songs were made specifically with the guests in mind. Each song was released throughout 2020 in an episodic fashion, which means the songs aren’t as coherent as some of Gorillaz’ earlier music. But I think this works well, as each release bred new anticipation for the album’s release near the end of 2020. It also allowed the band to explore many different styles that meshed with the guest artists chosen for each song. This album, while experimental, seemed to come at the perfect time, as many songs address the ongoing battles and deadly situations that have been well-known throughout 2020.
— Samuel Heinrich
Everlasting Country by Upchurch
An independent artist who is working on starting his own record label, Upchurch has released albums in three separate genres (rap, rock and country) and has multiple gold records from his charting songs. A few of the songs on this album are still stuck in my head, they’re that good (check out the third song, “Sonic Drive-In”). I generally don’t enjoy a lot of modern country, but this album reminds me of some of the classics in a way.
— Patrick Madden
City of Doubt by Tina Boonstra
Now that I have a Spotify subscription, I don’t often give full albums the time of day to show me what they’ve got. One album I had to listen to last year comes from London-based, singer-songwriter Tina Boonstra, who fits well into the Christian indie scene alongside contemporaries like John Mark McMillan. The EP only consists of six songs, but it ranges from the funky and choppy grooves of “More than Your Head” to smooth and slow songs like “What is the Rush?” and “I love you like sunshine in Bangor.” The lyrics are incredibly memorable and speak to anyone who struggled with isolation in 2020. Boonstra struggles with the road God has put her on in “Out of My Depth,” but she instills hope into the album amidst the angst via the community she seems to have found in “Talk it Over” and God’s omniscience in “What is the Rush?” The album has a lot of fun and upbeat alt-pop, despite the angst, and can be listened to on the drive to work or on a lonely day at home. I’ve had this album on repeat since it came out due to the lyrical candor and fun beats — it has revived my spirits many times in the last few months.
— Brennen Smith
Fetch the Bolt Cutters by Fiona Apple
Listening to Fiona Apple’s Fetch the Bolt Cutters, released roughly a month into quarantine last year, felt like a deep breath of the fresh springtime air that accompanied it. Fiona’s message is one of personal liberation, and, although the tone is urgent and stern, it also has moments of levity and silliness (dogs barking, Fiona scolding herself for mistakes, etc.) that make it intimate, fun, and exciting. It was so unlike any other music I was hearing at the time. With driving percussion, a musically stripped-down vibe, and precise lyrics, the album rings with honesty and self-realization. I loved it!
— Maci Ward
Lost In The Sound Of Separation (Observatory) by Underoath
Last July, Underoath played all the way through my favorite album of theirs live. I had the opportunity to watch the show online from my living room, and it was an incredible experience. This album is the collection of songs recorded from that performance. It breathes a new mentality into the original studio album from 2008, one of heightened chaos and even more palpable desperation. The frenetic nature of Lost In The Sound Of Separation is expressed brilliantly, and the band sounded great all-around. I’d go so far as to say that Lost In The Sound Of Separation is my favorite metal album of all time; revisiting those songs as live recordings is simply exhilarating.
— Levi Yager
Red’s first album as an independent band did not disappoint. It was very heavy, and that made me very happy. Declaration took everything Red does well and perfected it.
— Noah Yager