(Read the review. —Stephen Thompson, "Welcome to Miss Colombia: quinceañera," Lido Pimienta announces as an introduction to her Tiny Desk (home) concert. (Read the review.). “Heaven to a Tortured Mind,” the most straightforwardly tuneful album from the Knoxville, Tenn.-raised art-rocker, combines the glam sneer of Marc Bolan with the forward-thinking shape-shifting of Tricky, plus a bit of Yves Tumor’s own special sparkle. Fleet Foxes, Shore. With time on our hands, we all discovered the damnedest things inside our brains – squashed demons, inappropriate desires. 2020 hasn’t been an ideal year, but it still produced exemplary new albums, so check out our ranking of the year’s best below. The Soft Pink Truth - Shall We Go On Sinning So That Grace May Increase The debut album from the Alabama rapper Flo Milli is a fusillade of bratty taunts and bratty flirts over beats so ornery and wobbly they sound like they’ve been assembled from Tinkertoys. The lasting impression Garcia leaves here is an air of cresting possibility, crossed with that most precious and least cynical of qualities, which is hope. —Ann Powers. Green Day - Father Of All Motherfuckers. Whatever your taste, the best 50 albums from this year have something for everyone. Amazing piece of art! In a nutshell: You can describe 2020 in a number of ways, but the most appropriate word for the last 12 months is perhaps ... 2. The Strokes – The New Abnormal Drew Anthony Smith for The New York Times. What if the most innovative mainstream Nashville performer was also the most reverent of tradition? —Jewly Hight (WNXP 91.ONE), Few make rapping sound as purely fun as Lil Uzi Vert. Through its 15 songs, Burna Boy is by turns exuberant, pensive, confessional and political. As she affirms on the tectonic "Eso Que Tu Haces," her work is a ceremony that names violence so that it can not call itself love. FKA twigs, Magdalene. (Read the round table; hear the Popcast. Over several years, she'd invited a small inventive band into her home to bang on walls and pots and her dead dog's bones. It was a good year for the most personal, idiosyncratic statements. And it’s a welcome and frankly astonishing bonus that Jay-Z is riding shotgun on most of these songs, invigorating his 1990s flows with 2020 perspective. Seamlessly shifting gears from flow to breathless flow, “Eternal Atake” is a breakneck joy ride through the cosmos of Uzi’s own brain. However, it has certainly underlined the importance of music and the role it has to play to unite us, heal us and make the hard times more bearable. There was no better time for the return of pop's most determined ugly-truth teller, the woman with a dagger voice and a switchblade mind, Fiona Apple. On this understated album, he finally arrives at his sweet spot. ), Yves Tumor struts and slithers like the most famous rock star on an as-yet-undiscovered planet. (Find our 100 Best Songs of 2020 list here.) Here are the 50 best albums of a year unlike any we can remember. On the other hand, Totentanz, awesome in its ferocious grandeur, simultaneously offers a great work of art and bleak reminder of our impermanence. His first album of 2020, … The momentum hardly ever lets up on “RTJ4”; the problems it targets have been all too vivid in 2020. Read this list. If you don’t know Polo G, we suggest you correct the situation immediately. —Briana Younger, The justly celebrated major-label debut by tenor saxophonist Nubya Garcia is more than a statement of arrival from across the pond. These are Complex’s picks for the 50 best albums of 2020. At certain moments, 2020 felt like a year that might not ever come to an end. 1. Taylor Swift – ‘folklore’. Historically, Mary Magdalene is a conflicted character: vilified, sanctified, … But he has never been the thing he is in fact best suited to, which is a singer of dewy R&B. The puffed chests. Anxiety and rage ran a red line through daily experience. The harpsichord-kissed “Jason” is a gently heartbreaking tale of a man’s hesitant exploration and ultimate rejection of his own desires (“clumsy, shakily, he ran his hands up me”), while the melody to the upbeat, yearning “On the Floor” has a retro-60s feel. (Read the review.). The beautiful album brought endless moments of quiet bliss during this relentlessly chaotic year. (Read the review. This new release was all about the beat: Like Joni Mitchell with Hejira or Kate Bush on The Dreaming, throughout Bolt Cutters Apple explored and refined her relationship to rhythm, bolstering her poetic expressiveness. —Stefanie Fernández. Sometimes art breaks through. Her unexpected steps form a new path for any listener to follow toward self-awareness. Apple faced it all. (Read the review. Intensely personal work swelled into large-scale statements this year, and women often led the way, revealing scars left by different kinds of emotional and political skirmishes, and reinforcing that their voices must be heard. Run the Jewels, ‘RTJ4’. As its title implies, Source is also a nod to Garcia's heritage — her parents came to London from Trinidad and Guyana — and an acknowledgment of the root systems behind the musical tradition she embraces as her own. (Read the profile; hear the Popcast. “I knew everything when I was young,” Swift sings. "Up until now in a rush to prove," she chanted, "but now I only move to move." 3. On “Folklore” she is swathed in acoustic instruments and Minimalistic patterns within patterns. ), Mortality looms on “Rough and Rowdy Ways,” but it only makes Bob Dylan, 79, more ornery. Lil Uzi Vert’s “Eternal Atake” is a statement that could only have come from his unique creative mind. She fronts Beach Bunny, a Chicago band that toys with flickers of garage rock, pop-punk and indie rock. Asbury Park Press. The ever cryptic, ever exploratory electronic duo Autechre greeted 2020 with something approaching moderation and introspection, releasing a single CD (as opposed to the marathon “NTS Sessions” from 2018) with 11 tracks that usually accept the regularity of a beat. It’s filled with unerringly sad songs made up of notebook-scrawl lyrics with deep-exhale melodies; you can almost hear the downcast eyes and sloped shoulders. Suzanne Cordeiro/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images, Mike Hadreas, who records as Perfume Genius, explores a complex spectrum of queer desire on “Set My Heart on Fire Immediately.”, Jessie Reyez, “Before Love Came to Kill Us”. The anarcho-futurist comfort takers. On release, they were heard privately. The best albums of 2020 include top albums from BTS, BLACKPINK, Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande and more artists and singers. YHLQMDLG is an homage to the reggaeton bangers that raised Bunny, complete with collabs from some of the greatest vets in the game, including Daddy Yankee, Ñengo Flow and Jowell & Randy. It’s regal, an announcement of an alpha figure asserting his primacy. But the unifier is Trifilio’s voice: sweetly pleading, sweetly exasperated, sweetly resigned, sweetly vengeful. (Read the review. "I will rise. He tries to summon a moral compass and enough faith to overcome wholesale confusion, lies and fear. Carried by these noisy grooves, Apple could say even more than she'd ever said before, about putting up with bad men, romantic abjection and self-abandonment; about being bullied by girls and being taught to hate other women; about living with depression and nearly dying from the hunger for love. Seattle’s Fleet Foxes make gorgeous, rustic folk designed to lift the listener up … Top music of the year. Until this year, rapper Dave was a singles artist – he managed 11 before his debut album was released – but Black marked a sea change: serious, reflective and grown-up. 4. (Read the review.). It wasn't until the grim statistics of the pandemic began piling up that the Totentanz (Dance of Death) came knocking. The bitter, furious single he released soon after nonviolent anti-corruption protesters were killed by soldiers, “20 10 20,” made a compelling postscript. Sometimes it’s been bigger than his songs, but on this, his fourth album, the thrill is back. Apple doesn’t forget or forgive; she just moves ahead. Any time you try to lock her in to any one genre, narrative or state of being, you can already feel her eyeing her toolbox. What if the guy who wrote great, smart party songs also excelled at devastating heartbreak anthems? Instead, I think of a wild bunch of hometown heroes whose fame almost never stretched past I-285. —Isabella Gomez Sarmiento, This extraordinary album, which features the Boston Symphony Orchestra in debut recordings of an effervescent piano concerto and a dark, massive work for voices and orchestra, represents for me, the joy and horror of its late February release date. The music touches down in slow-motion R&B, but moves toward abstractions — orchestral, jazzy, electronic — as Sumney ponders solitude and connection, masculinity and identity, self-doubt and self-realization, existence and transcendence. From his gusts of ruefulness during "High Horse" — about his father's death preventing a reckoning — to his elegant pining during the orchestrated pop tune "Old Blue Eyes" — for a companion he lost to shared addiction — and his terse but deeply felt desperation during the churning country-blues of "All the Trouble," his range as a personalized storyteller is riveting. 5. The debut album by Jay Electronica, a connoisseur favorite better known for the idea of his potential than for his actual output, has a satisfying heft to it: the raps feel as if they emanate from the Earth itself. (Read the profile; watch the Diary of a Song.). That it’s also his career capstone is enraging. Her listeners will understand. It is as encouraging as it is combative, as invigorating as it is cathartic. Bad Bunny only waited about four years. The heaviness of the very need for the album is countered by an outpouring of motivational words and mantras. (Read the review. The 21-year-old Chicago rapper has delivered the best album of 2020. The songs avenge and exorcise all sorts of slights and traumas, distant and recent, mixing spite with amusement. At every turn, she's quotable — not only in richly explanatory turns of phrase, but also in simple statements that stuff massive feelings into blunt, concise moments: "You hold me just like water in your hands." The grizzled vets. Charli XCX was one of the first pop musicians to make an album entirely in quarantine. Throughout, Punisher is a rich, roiling stunner. Sawayama mines shimmery and chaotic early 2000s pop and also rap-rock and nu-metal on songs that would resonate in front of a raging crowd of 100,000 people or a chin-stroking gaggle of 100. Fetch the Bolt Cutters arrived without too much warning in mid-April and startled listeners into instant adoration. On duets like the soaring “Kerosene!” and the slinky “Strawberry Privilege,” masculine and feminine energies mingle and detach from their earthbound bodies, their eventual combustion giving way to plenty more interesting byproducts. What if the soft-focus blur preferred by the rest of the town didn’t make an album like this such a shock? As a result, her songs feel like transmissions from a ruefully funny friend; they're warm and inviting, even when she's reflecting on hospital traffic and serial killers. Everything is insane, the drums, the grooves, the synths and the audiovisual. ), “Grae” demands to be heard as a rhapsodic whole, a suite of songs and fragments continually dissolving and rematerializing around Moses Sumney’s otherworldly voice. Fiona Apple put out an album's … The Grammy Award for Album of the Year is presented by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences of the United States to "honor artistic achievement, technical proficiency and overall excellence in the recording industry, without regard to album sales, chart position, or critical reception." (Read the round table; hear the Popcast. Untitled is made to comfort and empower Black people, and to unsettle anyone who's against their liberation. Best Albums of 2020. Sometimes Hadreas and his producer Blake Mills seem to be updating the earthy rumbles of ’80s goth rock; at other times, their layered arrangements queer the Wall of Sound. Clockwise from left: Rina Sawayama, Fiona Apple, Moses Sumney and Sufjan Stevens. Dua Lipa, ‘Future Nostalgia’. 21 Savage and Metro Boomin, “Savage Mode II”; Benny the Butcher, “Burden of Proof”; Natanael Cano, “Trap Tumbado”; The Chicks, “Gaslighter”; City Girls, “City on Lock”; Code Orange, “Underneath”; Conway the Machine, “From King to a God”; Drake, “Dark Lane Demo Tapes”; Freddie Gibbs and the Alchemist, “Alfredo”; Ariana Grande, “Positions”; Hardy, “A Rock”; Haux, “Violence in a Quiet Mind”; Ian Isiah, “Auntie”; Junior H, “Atrapado en un Sueño”; King Von, “Levon James”; Lil Durk, “Just Cause Y’all Waited 2”; Lauren Mascitti, “God Made a Woman”; John Moreland, “LP5”; Jessie Reyez, “Before Love Came to Kill Us”; Dua Saleh, “Rosetta”; Sunday Service Choir, “Jesus Is Born”; Myke Towers, “Easy Money Baby”; Jessie Ware, “What’s Your Pleasure?”; Waxahatchee, “Saint Cloud”; The Weeknd, “After Hours”; Hailey Whitters, “The Dream”; YoungBoy Never Broke Again, “Top”. Graceful melodies, supple guitar syncopations, sophisticated harmonies and a voice that can sparkle with anticipation or cry out in pain capture all the hope and heartache of her narrative. The 50 Best Albums of 2020 The albums that got us through this chaotic year, featuring Fiona Apple, Bad Bunny, Lil Uzi Vert, Phoebe Bridgers, and more By Pitchfor k Album of the Year is the award for a whole-ass album. The whole album is a masterpiece. ), “Someday, I’m gonna look up from my phone and see my life,” Phoebe Bridgers vows wryly on “Garden Song.” A few tracks later, she tries it out and remains unimpressed: “I want to believe, instead I look to the sky and feel nothing.” But oh, the miracles she’s able to mine from the vast space between those two extremes: a memory of sneaking behind a truck’s wheel as a child; a heartfelt hallucination of a conversation with her musical hero Elliott Smith; a final, fearless stare into the face of the apocalypse. El Conejo is, for the most part, done missing his ex jeva for now — instead he's dressing up as his female alter ego to call out creeps at the club, de-stigmatizing a particular romantic pursuit on a perreo-fueled symphony, and rocking out to his own success on an emo-trap anthem. For a year that teetered much of the time on the verge of total shutdown, 2020 saw the release of a lot of very good music. Here’s our unranked rundown of the year’s most noteworthy releases. To be eligible, it has to have at least five new full songs and be 15 minutes long or be 30 … Sure, there are timely allusions to stir-crazy anxiety (“Anthems”) and video chatting (“in real life, could the club even handle us?” she wonders on the corrosive opener “Pink Diamond”), but these circumstances have also made Charli extra attuned to her emotions, lending the depth of genuine introspection to many of these songs. When he chants "Balenci" enough times to void it of any meaning on "POP" or when he spits out a multibar hook that skirts repetition altogether (or, really, any qualities that usually make up a hook) as on "Homecoming," it's the chutzpah, but it's also the musicality of it all, the way the melodies are both instrument and a vehicle for lyrics. ), The Nigerian songwriter Burna Boy calls his music Afro-fusion, not the more specifically Nigerian term Afrobeats, and “Twice as Tall” lives up to that broader mandate with a profusion of sleek, diverse, constantly inventive grooves that traverse Africa and its diaspora. (Find our 100 Best Songs of 2020 list here. These songs are fresh-air triumphs of the downtrodden. ), Run the Jewels — Killer Mike and El-P — uphold a worthy, now-vintage style of hip-hop, with densely and aggressively produced tracks and rhymes that are declaimed rather than moaned, for songs that address broader issues between boasts. Code Orange set the bar almost impossibly high for themselves with 2017's Forever, our pick for the best album of that year. On their previous albums, Este, Danielle and Alana Haim could sometimes feel hemmed in by their pristine, showy chops. Katie Crutchfield, who records as Waxahatchee, released an album featuring some of her most evocative lyrics. “What if I told you I feel like I know you, but we never met?” she wonders on the flickering title track. Five albums into her visionary career, Apple remained deeply committed to pushing herself lyrically and vocally. —Nate Chinen (WBGO), From the moment Bad Bunny's sophomore album begins, over a synthesized interpolation of bossa nova staple "The Girl From Ipanema," the Puerto Rican superstar leans heavily on past classics to breathe new life into Latin trap. The international symbol for the year 2020 was the surprise emoji. He does what he wants, and he gets away with it, too. (Read the interview. 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