At Least We Had Music: My Favourite Albums from 2020
Oh boy. That was a year. Good lord. I don’t want to waste a lot of time with some reflective preamble about 2020 because I don’t really feel the need to do so. Here is my yearly list of albums that I took quite a liking to during the chaos of the past 12 months. Perhaps you’ll get some enjoyment out of them too.
20. Plastic Hearts by Miley Cyrus (Rock/Pop)
Cyrus has explored many genres in her time, but she seems particularly at home in Plastic Hearts, where the smokiness of her voice and her strong 80s rock influences can really find their space, especially with guest appearances from Billy Idol and Joan Jett.
19. Hearts Town by The War & Treaty (Rock/Soul)
Spouses Michael Trotter Jr. and Tanya Blout have shifted their attention from past gospel/folk albums to a more dramatic rock sound, dipping into theatrics perfectly suited for their powerful harmonies.
18. Invisible People by Pomplamoose (Pop/Funk)
Nataly Dawn and Jack Conte have been delighting YouTube with smooth funk covers for years now, and their new album of original songs is exactly what a fan of theirs would hope for: quirky, groovy bops sure to inject some fun into your day.
17. VELVET by Adam Lambert (Rock/Pop)
Lambert carries the confidence and swagger one would expect from the current frontman for Queen into his newest solo album, full of thumping bass lines and heavy synthesizers.
16. Fantasy by Whethan (Pop)
The young producer’s debut album shows he knows how to put together a fun album, collaborating with a broad variety of artists and drawing their individual styles to compliment his own. The result is a collection of bright, summery jams with enough variety that there’s a good chance you’ll like something on the album.
15. I’ll Be Fine by John Louis (Rock)
Louis pours his heart out into these infectious jams, all of which come together into nothing more than a solid, unapologetic breakup album.
14. RAZZMATAZZ by I DONT KNOW HOW BUT THEY FOUND ME (Alternative Rock)
The debut album from the Salt Lake City duo of Dallon Weekes and Ryan Seaman marks nothing short of a bold entrance with smart bass riffs, in-your-face synth, and vocals heavy with 70s-rock showmanship.
13. Bad Vacation by Liza Anne (Alternative Rock)
The Georgia native reflects on her own flaws and dysfunctions in this charmingly frank album of off-kilter indie rock.
12. Zephyrus by The Oh Hellos (Folk Rock)
The final installment in the Texas-based folk band’s four-part series inspired by the cardinal winds, siblings Tyler & Maggie Heath explore growth and change with the same crunching guitar and rolling banjos that have defined the series.
11. Angel Miners & the Lightning Riders by AWOLNATION (Rock)
Exactly as chaotic as the album cover implies, AWOLNATION’s fourth album shows Aaron Bruno in his element with more fast-moving and unpredictable rock, never afraid to bend genre to his liking.
10. The Prophecy by Ninja Sex Party (Rock/Comedy)
Absolute creative visionaries Danny “Sexbang” Avidan and “Ninja” Brian Wecht return with another brilliant album of undeniably fun synth-rock jams tackling a wide variety of fascinating subjects, from aggressive bedtime lullabies to gonads infused with the power of Zeus, not to mention the almost 12-minute odyssey that is “The Mystical Crystal”.
9. I’ll Get By by Avi Kaplan (Folk)
Having left Pentatonix to pursue his own woodsy sound, Kaplan has used his past periods of hardship and depression to create a simple, wholesome, hand-crafted folk album that compliments his beautiful bass range.
8. Up Until Now by Us the Duo (Folk/Singer-Songwriter)
The most recent release since the birth of their daughter, spouses Michael and Carissa Rae Alvarado have created what is arguably their most musically impressive album yet. Balancing vulnerable ballads on mental health with boisterous declarations of love, it’s clear parenthood has only given Us the Duo more to sing about.
7. Andy by Raleigh Ritchie (Pop/R&B)
Nicknamed after his grandfather, Andy shows the Bristol native at his most authentic with songs illustrating Ritchie’s struggles as a young man in the music industry, from his social awkwardness to his frustration with his own ego and that of others.
6. Silent Conversations by Mute Choir (Alternative Rock)
This Torontonian trio has emerged with an equally fun and unpredictable album that thrives on change and instability, all the while grounded enough that you’re not thrown from the ride.
5. Phoenix by Dirty Loops (Pop/Fusion/Holy Crap)
Each of the three individuals in this Swedish pop-funk-jazz-rock outfit is outrageously talented in their own right, and together they’ve created some truly astounding jams. While only composed of five songs, the album spans a full half-hour with ridiculously impressive songs like “Work Shit Out” and “Next to You”, both of which run near (if not slightly past) the 8-minute mark.
4. Petals For Armor by Hayley Williams (Alternative Pop)
Williams’ first musical project outside of Paramore is a strong reflection not only on her songwriting prowess but on the growth she’s gone through in the making of the album. She expertly pairs deeply personal lyrics with subdued pop instrumentals, occasionally breaking out groovy breakdowns, inviting us to “watch me while I bloom.”
3. My Agenda by Dorian Electra (Electronic)
2020’s second album from non-binary icon and hyper-pop ambassador Dorian Electra is not for the faint of heart. It is a dark, heavy-hitting, unflinchingly shocking exploration into the mind of the “incel”: tackling internalized homophobia, misogyny, and unfair standards of beauty alongside absolutely show-stopping collaborations with The Village People and Rebecca Black.
2. I Disagree by Poppy (Metal/Pop)
Also not a particularly relaxing time, this album very effectively expresses the range of emotions that one might associate with this past year: frustration, outrage, numbness, and depression, and does so with such a fun combination of various styles of metal contrasted/complimented by Poppy’s uncanny ability to sing with angelic softness or startling aggression. If this album strikes your fancy, I highly recommend its extended version I Disagree (more) which contains an extra 4 songs that keep the end-of-the-world party going.
1. Love, Death & Dancing by Jack Garratt (Alternative Pop)
There is not a single song on this album that I don’t love to bits. Garratt has woven together 4 sets of 3-song narratives into one powerful work that features smooth-sliding guitars, piercing synths, and Garratt’s amazingly versatile voice capable of cruising along in falsetto or digging into a growl. A fantastic time the whole way through.
It’s been bananas, to say the least, but if any of these albums help you through 2021 the way they did for me this year, then maybe we’ll be okay.