OutOfShapeMusic’s Top 50 Albums of 2020
Photo By: John Vaughan
The end of the year is here, prompting me and anyone else with an interest in music to discuss their favorite records of the year. As terrible as the year has been, at least there were a number of fantastic records, so many that it took quite a long time for me to finalize this list.
Keep in mind, every record that’s listed is fantastic and deserves to be listened to, but I tried to rank my favorite records of the year in order (as you’ll see). Since there were so many great records, I listed a number of other notable records that I enjoyed as well, which can be read after the list concludes. Also, even though I listened to a lot of records this year, I more than likely missed out on a number of other great records that aren’t listed, so don’t hold it against me.
Nevertheless, here are my top 50 albums of 2020:
50. Soccer Mommy - Color Theory
Favorite Track: bloodstream
Great second record from Soccer Mommy that’s a bit of a melancholy twist on a coming-of-age soundtrack. Catchy and simple in the best way, what’s not to love?
49. Conway the Machine - From King To A God
Favorite Track: Front Lines
A very impressive hip hop and rap debut studio album from Conway the Machine. Killer and groovy beats with a powerful delivery system from Conway. If you love good rap, From King to A GOD is for you.
48. Waxahatchee - Saint Cloud
Favorite Track: Arkadelphia
A fantastic indie-rock album with infectious hooks and a relatable vocal performance by Katie Crutchfield.
47. Yaeji - What we Drew
Favorite Track: Waking Up Down
A wide range of electronica with house and hip hop elements forming a very solid and interesting listen that’s a novel experience compared to similar records in the genre.
46. Jay Electronica - A Written Testimony
Favorite Track: The Neverending Story
An impressive debut release from Jay Electronica that features undefeated lyricism and a production that compliments that record entirely.
45. Horse Lords - The Common Task
Favorite Track: Against Gravity
A banger of an experimental and math rock record from Horse Lords that features a remarkable level of musicianship and technical skills I haven’t heard done in this way in a long time.
44. Clarice Jensen - The experience of repetition as death
Favorite Track: Day Tonight
A dense ambient piece featuring multiple layers and loops of a stunningly gorgeous and frightening cello performance from Clarice Jensen.
43. The Soft Pink Truth - Shall We Go on Sinning So That Grace May Increase?
Favorite Track: We
A thought-provoking and experimental piece of music that dares listeners to pay a closer amount of attention to detail. Grace and gloom are blended in such a way that makes listeners want more.
42. Vikingur Olafsson - Debussy Rameau
Favorite Track: The Arts and the Hours
A lengthy amount of piano music that can invoke an emotion out of any person who listens through entirely. It’s gorgeous and an all-around captivating record.
41. Samantha Crain - A Small Death
Favorite Track: Pastime
A great modern indie-folk record with an enchanting vocal and performance by Samantha Crain. Can’t get much better than a solid indie-folk record.
40. The Koreatown Oddity - Little Dominques Nosebleed
Favorite Track: Koreatown Oddity
An excellent hip hop and rap record that has great production, excellent lyricism and storytelling capabilities, with a great performance by Dominique Purdy.
39. Code Orange - Underneath
Favorite Track: Cold.Metal.Place
A brutally heavy yet interesting enough experimental hardcore record from one of Metal’s most popular groups in recent years, Code Orange.
38. The Strokes - The New Abnormal
Favorite Track: Not The Same Anymore
A return to form for The Strokes who are back better than ever with a great nine-track record that features some of the most intimate lyrics by Julian Casablancas, on top of their usual Strokes riffage.
37. Lomelda - Hannah
Favorite Track: Hannah Sun
A beautiful open-hearted record that keeps listeners engaged with a friendly and touching performance filled with transcendent hooks and tunes.
36. SAULT - Untitled (Black Is)
Favorite Track: Hard Life
An excellent mix of modern rhythm and blues tracks that makes it impossible not to groove with. A fresh and powerful listen to experience in 2020.
35. Matmos - The Consuming Flame: Open Exercises in Group Form
Favorite Track: Cocktail Party How Glad Am I
A jaw-dropping range of experimental electronic music that embodies a number of elements such as odd overlapping vocal tracks that create an all-around intriguing listen.
34. Medhane - Cold Water
Favorite Track: TRS
A fantastic experimental hip hop and rap record that’s filled with conscious lyricism, fantastic hooks, beats, and an excellent performance by Medhane.
33. R.A.P Ferreria - Purple Moonlight Pages
Favorite Track: Greens
A great free-spirited rap and hip-hop record with a unique range of beats and a level of production that’s always ear-grabbing to hear nowadays.
32. Ka - Descendants of Cain
Favorite Track: Old Justice
An excellent record that takes a blend of psychedelic with conscious hip-hop and brings the listener on a journey that’s challenging to describe.
31. Julianne Barwick - Healing is a Miracle
Favorite Track: Healing is a Miracle
A gorgeous and captivating record that combines elements of ambient and electronic music into one beautiful long stream of consciousness.
30. Ichiko Aoba - Windswept Adan
Favorite Track: Porcelain
One of the best chamber-folk records of 2020 that paints a picture in a person’s imagination while listening through such a delicate piece of music.
29. Hum - Inlet
Favorite Track: Step Into You
A new modern shoegaze record from 1990s shoegaze masterminds, Hum. A really solid record that doesn’t pride itself too much on nostalgia and instead, is a great record that’s filled with all of the noise and fuzz you could want.
28. Idles - Ultra Mono
Favorite Track: War
A brilliant record from modern punk superstars Idles that features anti-authority lyricism and powerful music pieces that support it.
27. Homeboy Sandman - Don't Feed the Monster
Favorite Track: Stress
A vulnerable and poignant conscious hip-hop record with excellent storytelling from Homeboy Sandman that features great production, lyricism, and songs.
26. Run The Jewels - RTJ4
Favorite Track: the ground below
A banger of a hip-hop and rap record from Run The Jewels, one of the best rap-duos in the game right now. Can’t get much better than a Run The Jewels record.
25. Gleemer - Down Through
Favorite Track: TTX
A beautiful modern alternative-rock album that has some of the best modern lyricism in the alt scene right now, on top of a great layer production behind it.
24. Black Thought - Streams of Thought Vol. 3: Cane and Able
Favorite Track: Thought vs Everybody
A fantastic conscious hip-hop record that’s drilled with excellent lyricism and a unique production of beats and music on every track.
23. Fleet Foxes - Shore
Favorite Track: I’m Not My Season
A fantastic new record from Fleet Foxes that’s everything to love about indie rock and indie folk music in 2020. Catchy, beautiful, with upbeat and personal tunes to add a bit of everything on the record.
22. Deerhoof - Future Teenage Cave Artists
Favorite Track: Sympathy for the Baby Boo
It’s fitting that Deerhoof is on Joyful Noise for their record label as it’s a perfect description of their music. It’s catchy and put-together but features elements of off-the-wall musical pieces at times. All in all, a brilliant record.
21. HAIM - Women in Music Pt. III
Favorite Track: Gasoline
A great mix of indie pop and soft rock tunes that ended up crafting one of the best releases in the genre for the year. Excited to hear what’s next from the group.
20. Boris - NO
Favorite Track: Kikinoue
A brutal and energetic record that’s filled with elements of sludge, doom metal, stoner rock, and pieces of avant-garde music that’s one of the most intriguing listens of the year.
19. Freddie Gibbs & The Alchemist - Alfredo
Favorite Track: Something to Rap About
A wide range of hip-hop tunes from Freddie Gibbs and The Alchemist that are amongst the best in the genre from this year. Can’t get much better than a record from Gibbs and The Alchemist.
18. Anna von Hausswolff - All Thoughts Fly
Favorite Track: Sacro Bosco
A terrifying album cover for an album that has elements of beauty and darkness that combine into a novel listen that’s unlike anything else from this year.
17. Ambrose Akinmusire - on the tender spot of every calloused moment
Favorite Track: Tide of Hyacinth
An incredible level of musicianship and fantastic song-writing from Ambrose Akinmusire. Pieces range from straight jazz to a maddening avant-garde experience.
16. Fiona Apple - Fetch The Bolt Cutters
Favorite Track: Fetch The Bolt Cutters
An excellent return for Fiona Apple with her first record in eight years that features unbelievable song-writing and stripped-back production that offers a specific occurrence unique to Apple.
15. Nine Inch Nails - Ghost V: Together
Favorite Track: Letting Go While Holding On
A beautiful and sumptuous range of ambient pieces that has a co-album from this year as well, deemed Locusts. Not what you’d expect from Nine Inch Nails unless you’re familiar with their previous Ghost releases. I can’t get enough of it.
14. The Microphones - Microphones in 2020
Favorite Track: Microphones in 2020
One-track accompanied by a visual album is a daring return for The Microphones by Phil Elverum, but it paid off as it’s one of the most intimate records from Elverum and is a sole listening experience that separates it from the rest of The Microphones discography.
13. Jeff Parker - Suite for Max Brown
Favorite Track: Fusion Swirl
Multi-instrumentalist Jeff Parker crafted a level of musicianship that’s unprecedented and one of the best records of 2020. Suite for Max Brown is an experimental-jazz jam and a half to say the least.
12. Jyoti - Mama, You Can Bet!
Favorite Track: Hard Bap Duke
A powerfully resounding and captivating record that takes the soul of jazz with a modern twist to it. It’s engaging and demonstrates a level of groove that’s fascinating to hear in 2020.
11. Blake Mills - Mutable Set
Favorite Track: Money Is The One True God
A record that combines the best elements of Blake Mills’s reserved voice filled with a level of production that catapults the singer-writer to a dimension that makes it one of the best albums of the year.
10. Nubya Garcia - Source
Favorite Track: Pace
An absolutely fantastic debut for Saxophonist Nubya Garcia who puts her high-level of musicianship on display for an all-around phenomenal jazz record. A new note and lick are heard even after multiple listens, truly impressive.
9. Phoebe Bridgers - Punisher
Favorite Track: Garden Song
An indie-rock record with elements of emo-folk that makes every listener feel like they’re having a conversation with Phoebe Bridgers. There’s a reason so many people love this record, it’s reserved yet daring when it needs to be.
8. Blu & Exile - Miles
Favorite Track: Miles Davis
A phenomenal jazz rap record that features a level of songwriting, lyricism, and musicianship that’s not very common in the genre today. A 100-minute record with no-filler, how often do you see that?
7. Perfume Genius - Set My Heart On Fire Immediately
Favorite Track: Without You
An album that’s concerned with beauty and impact that evokes an experience that deserves a listen from everyone. It’s gorgeous, deep, and has a little bit of everything in the art-rock genre.
6. Clipping - Visions of Bodies Being Burned
Favorite Track: Say the Name
An absolute banger of a record from Clipping, one of the best experimental hip hop groups today. The horrorcore and industrial overtone of the record makes it distinctive and a sound that hasn’t been done in 2020.
5. Nicholas Jaar - Cenizas
Favorite Track: Mud
A beautiful piece of ambient and experimental music from Nicholas Jaar that has wailing and haunting vocals on top of musical passages that make it seem like you’re in a movie with no ending. It’s great, to say the least.
4. Nothing - The Great Dismal
Favorite Track: A Fabricated Life
An incredible sorrowful and dejected record that takes elements of shoegaze, emo, and rock to bring them all together for a record that doesn’t borrow anything from artists that were making similar records in the 1990s. Great record.
3. Adrianne Lenker - Songs
Favorite Track: Anything
A captivating listen that has a level of intimacy not many artists are able to accomplish in such a powerful and emotional way. Every song will demand an emotional response while providing unforgettable hooks and lyricism along the way.
2. Mac Miller - Circles
Favorite Track: Woods
It’s a shame and sad reality that the world lost Mac Miller in 2018. Back in January, the last project Mac was working on, Circles, released to the public, presenting an unbelievably difficult listen as the record had a prominent motif of sadness, wanting to get away, and death. As difficult of a listen as it might be, it’s a fantastic record and one of the best of the year.
1. Lianne La Havas - Lianne La Havas
Favorite Track: Can’t Fight
Of all the records released in 2020, Lianne La Havas’s self-titled release stood out to me more than any other record. It’s a captivating and purposeful listen with songs that deserve to be the neo-soul soundtrack to your life. Every song is memorable and is a great return for La Havas as it’s her first release in five years, thus, making it my favorite album of 2020.
NOTABLE MENTIONS/OTHER RECORDS I LOVED:
Anjimile – Giver Taker
Baauer – Planet’s Mad
Bartees Strange – Live Forever
Backxwash – God Has Nothing To Do With This Leave Him Out Of It
Beatrice Dillon – Workaround
Benny the Butcher – Burden of Proof
Carpool – Erotic Nightmare Summer
Charli XCX – how i’m feeling now
Chris Stapleton – Starting Over
Dan Deacon – Mystic Familiar
Dehd – Flower of Devotion
Destroyer – Have We Met
Dope Body – Crack a Light
Duma – Duma
Duval Timothy – Help
Fontaines D.C. – A Hero’s Death
Gorillaz – Song Machine, Season One: Strange Timez
Intronaut – Fluid Existential Inversions
Jessie Ware – What’s Your Pleasure
Kate NV – Room for the Moon
KeiyaA – Forever, Ya Girl
Kelly Lee – Inner Song
King Krule – Man Alive!
Liturgy – Origin of the Alimonies
Lyra Pramuk – Fountain
Moor Jewelry – True Opera
Moses Sumney – grae
Mono Lake – Archaeopteryx
Nas – King’s Disease
Natalia Lafourcade – Un Canto por México, Vol. 1
Porridge Radio – Every Bad
Ray Lamontagne – Monovision
Sevdaliza – Shabrang
Special Interest – The Passion Of
Sufjan Stevens – The Ascension
Tame Impala – The Slow Rush
Taylor Swift – Evermore
Taylor Swift – Folklore
The Casket Lottery – Short Songs for End Times
The Flaming Lips – American Head
Yves Tumor – Heaven to a Tortured Mind
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