My Favourite Albums of 2020
Last time I wrote up one of these Favourite Albums posts, it was the end of 2017, which I deemed a “clusterfuck” in all kinds of ways except musically. Do you remember that year when everyone famous died left right and centre? Well, hold my viral beer said 2020 and here we are with our backs on a difficult year for most and the hope for better days ahead. But we’re here to talk music.
MANY albums of note this year and I don’t even know where to begin, so I might as well start with the highlight. Sault, the mystery collective from the UK, graced us with two powerful albums in 2020 and Untitled (Black Is), which followed Untitled (Rise), is my favourite work of 2020. It’s timely and unambiguous, and necessary, and beautiful.
Staying with the UK, IDLES released their third studio album, Ultra Mono, and it’s just as you’d expect from them. Direct and angry and sweet at the same time. Nuance isn’t their forte, but that’s not what I go to them for. Fiona Apple returned after 8 years like she never stopped. Fetch the Bolt Cutters has all the energy her previous albums had and is mature and beautiful and unapologetic. Beautiful work and a great reason to return to her back catalogue all year.
I’ve waited long for Laura Marling‘s Song Of Our Daughter, which she released earlier than expected, in April 2020 in response to first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s as beautiful as I had hoped for and I’ve listened to it many a time when the house is quiet.
Sufjan Stevens returns with The Ascension, which is magical, and Thundercat released his fourth album, It Is What It Is, which competes for favourite album title and is addictively fun. King Khan surprised me with a jazzier album than I expected from this Canadian troublemaker, but The Infinite Ones is a great album. Speaking of jazz, some notable albums are Nubya Garcia‘s Source, Jyoti’s Mama, You Can Bet!, Ambrose Akinmusire’s On The Tender Spot Of Every Calloused Moment, and Clarice Jensen’s The Experience Of Repetition As Death. All of them worth your time. I suppose, here I can also mention Ólafur Arnalds’ Some Kind Of Peace (though I’m not sure jazz is the right label).
Rounding off with Run The Jewels who are back, and as good as ever, with RTJ4, Victoria Monét’s JAGUAR (which sounds so much like Janelle Monae’s work), Oh Sees’ Metamorphosed, Perfume Genius Set My Heart On Fire Immediately, Spillage Village’s Spilligion, and two old-timers: Neil Young with Homegrown and Bob Dylan with Rough and Rowdy Ways.
But I’ll close with two new discoveries for me. The Haim sisters from Los Angeles released their third studio album Women in Music Pt. III and… it’s got some real gems, though I don’t love every single track, what they do is worth talking about. And finally, Anjimile’s Giver Taker, which made me dance.
You can listen to some samples from each album below and see what you think. Is there anything I’ve missed that I should give a listen to? Let me know!
Sault – Don’t Shoot, Guns Down
IDLES – Model Village
Fiona Apple – Shameika
Laura Marling – Song For Our Daughter
Sufjan Stevens – Run Away With Me
Thundercat – Funny Thing
King Khan – Wait Till The Stars Burn
Nubya Garcia – Pace
Jyoti – Mama, You Can Bet!
Ambrose Akinmusire – Mr Roscoe (Consider the Simultaneous)
Clarice Jensen – Day Tonight
Ólafur Arnalds – Loom
Run The Jewels – ooh la la
Victoria Monét – Jaguar
Oh Sees – I Got A Lot
Perfume Genius – Whole Life
Spillage Village – Ea’alah (family)
Neil Young – Homegrown
Bob Dylan – Murder Most Foul
Haim – The Steps
Anjimile – Baby No More