Exclaim!'s 50 Best Albums of 2020

BY Exclaim! StaffPublished Dec 2, 2020

This was a year of solitude and introspection, whether we wanted it or not. It was a year that forced everyone to confront their deepest, darkest feelings and push forward despite a categorical lack of support and diminishing capacities to cope. This year's best albums — most of which were well on their way to release before the lockdowns began — speak to the ever-increasingly desperate need for change. Whether dismantling the boundaries of hip-hop, drawing on influences from across the globe or rewriting the rules of popular music, 2020's best albums carried the weight of the world on their backs and took as many steps forward as they possibly could.

50. Illuminati Hotties
Free IH: This Is Not the One You've Been Waiting For

Artists have churned out plenty of dodgy releases in the name of fulfilling a contract. Yet, even in extracting herself from a bad deal (royalties go to former label Tiny Engines) Sarah Tudzin delivers a winner. Framed as a mixtape, the songs on Free IH are both musically diverse and playful, showcasing Tudzin's production chops and personality while pushing her self-proclaimed "tender-punk" sound to new heights.
Ian Gormely

49. Fleet Foxes

After two albums of cerebral compositions and minor-key ruminations, Robin Pecknold has returned to his roots, delivering an album that is as jubilant, accessible, and awe-inspiring as Fleet Foxes' debut was over a decade ago. These days, it's hard to feel grateful. But Shore — with its climactic choruses, effervescent eulogies to those lost and times before us, and buoyancy throughout — makes it easier to cope with the churn, even as the waters crest around us.
Matthew Ritchie

48. Kathleen Edwards
Total Freedom

Kathleen Edwards took eight years between albums and went on a near-complete hiatus from music. By the sound of Total Freedom, she spent that time reflecting and looking inwards. Whether reassessing a past relationship with gratitude ("Glenfern"), rekindling a childhood friendship ("Simple Math") or paying tribute to a late dog ("Who Rescued Who"), these 10 elegant folk rock songs are a tender celebration of life's little pleasures. She sounds practically weightless when she sings, "I got birds on the feeder / I got dogs and they're sleeping / I got total freedom."
Alex Hudson

47. clipping.
Visions of Bodies Being Burned
(Sub Pop)

The seventh release from rap trio clipping. is a haunted house of terrifying nightmares you actually want to explore. Visions of Bodies Being Burned is dark and psychologically twisted, an album that makes you jump, twitch and grin devilishly. Witches cackle, chainsaws roar and teens whisper over Ouija boards until the project ends on "Secret Place," where you hack through the forest and discover a highway, rejoining civilization — you've survived, for now.
Sarah Jessica Rintjema

46. Dua Lipa
Future Nostalgia

Future Nostalgia is one of those rare pop albums that feels current yet timeless. The record is a history lesson on pop music, distilling decades of pop music and the catalogues of seminal pop artists into its own unique, club-ready statement. For Dua Lipa, it's a brilliantly confident statement. She sounds right at home creating exuberant pop, perfectly optimized to deliver true dancefloor catharsis.
Matt Yuyitung

45. Adrianne Lenker

Adrianne Lenker invites you into her one-room cabin in the woods with songs. Accompanied by nothing but her guitar, the creeks in the floorboard and the faint sounds of nature, the Big Thief singer digs deep into life's souvenirs and sorrows in solitude. It is a profoundly intentional yet simple record that displays Lenker's sincere talent in all its glory, proving her to be one of the best folk songwriters right now.
Ryley Remedios

44. Code Orange

Code Orange's follow-up to Forever came with high anticipation. The former Code Orange Kids are children no longer on this cutting-edge piece of industrial hardcore. Their everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach led to feverish overtones and terrifying electronic attacks on the songs "In Fear," "Last Ones Left" and "Swallowing the Rabbit Whole." Like someone crumpling up Trent Reznor's best work and copy-pasting it to Converge's Jane Doe, Code Orange have dragged heavy music into the new age. 
Max Morin

43. Khotin
Finds You Well

It's not often a record comes along that not only soothes the soul but blows your mind too. Khotin might be the only producer to have mastered the ambient hook — this album is oddly catchy. Something about Finds You Well repeatedly beckons you to lay down in its toasty cocoon. Once inside, Khotin's softly-nudging electronic explorations will coax you on a wistful journey through a simpler time. Come, climb inside.
Daryl Keating

42. Yves Jarvis
Sundry Rock Song Stock
(Flemish Eye)

Pervasive throughout Sundry Rock Song Stock is a feeling of growth. Yves Jarvis once again utilizes colour theory, this time tapping into the emotions and mood that arise around the colour green. Jarvis pitches the listener into a pseudo-psychedelic journey of overdubbed guitars, lush synths and experimental indulgences, all while barely singing above a whisper. Don't be mistaken by the trippy instrumentals or impressionistic lyrics — the album is richly accessible with catchy hooks and melodies.
Myles Tiessen

41. Soccer Mommy
color theory
(Loma Vista)

Soccer Mommy, a.k.a. Sophie Allison, lyrically explores depression, illness and loss in her colour-coded sophomore album. The tracklist moves through blue, yellow, and grey, detailing mental health struggles and coping with her mother's cancer among other grim yet relatable topics. As if its alt-rock palette wasn't enough, color theory evokes '90s nostalgia with its video game-like album artwork, the production of "Circle the Drain," and Allison's signature pigtails.
Karen K. Tran

40. Rod Wave
Pray 4 Love

There's something beautiful about a new artist who isn't afraid to be fully vulnerable; Rod Wave, a 21-year old rapper from Florida, is just that artist. Pray 4 Love is enveloped by street tales and raw melodies bound together by the language of pain. Whether it's "Ribbon in the Sky" or "Rags2Riches," Rod Wave serves wisdom beyond his years, allowing Pray 4 Love to creep into your soul when you least expect it.
Erin Lowers

39. Helena Deland
Someone New 

Helena Deland's vulnerability takes front and centre on her debut album; it feels as though she has ripped a page from her diary and fearlessly welcomes us to read it along with her. Raw emotion — with Deland's voice occasionally wavering as if she is trying to keep it together — with evocative lyricism and melancholic guitar riffs make the album so intoxicating, real and timeless, it may prove impossible to turn off.
Kaitlin Irving

38. Porridge Radio
Every Bad
(Secretly Canadian)

On Every Bad, UK quartet Porridge Radio have evolved their lo-fi indie pop sound into something much more heartfelt and tumultuous. Frontwoman Dana Margolin belts out her poetic lyrics with a palpable sense of passion, all while using her guitar to transition from calm indie rock to turbulent, uptempo punk in an instant. Every Bad solidifies Porridge Radio as a band with the ability to craft immersive moods to get lost in until they quickly change it up again.
Spencer Nafekh-Blanchette

37. William Prince
(Six Shooter)

William Prince's sophomore album arrived just a month prior to the pandemic, but it has proven to be an ideal aural balm in a deeply troubled time. We are all in need of a warm hug, and Prince's gorgeously rich and resonant voice provides just that. The subtle strengths of Prince's well-crafted songs reveal themselves over time, and they are perfectly complemented by the production of Nashville ace Dave Cobb.
Kerry Doole

36. TOBi

Nobody writes slow jams in 2020 like TOBi, be it the metronome-esque hip swings he sultrily sings about on ELEMENTS Vol. 1 highlight "Conquest," or his staccato spitting about a "sacred" bedroom on "Faces." Impressive as all that is, the Nigerian-Canadian hip-hop/R&B star deepens the album's tracks with candid tangents like the father-son strife he divulges on "Shine," or his singing about enduring racist condescension on the triumphant "Made Me Everything." 
Larry Mullin

35. Atramentus
(20 Buck Spin)

Atramentus condemned listeners to the non-Euclidean dungeons of their funeral doom debut Stygian, subjecting them to the grand inquisitor's preferred methods of torture — rotten guitar and bass, spectral voices from the void between worlds, snare beats spread out over eons, and chilling synths culled from cursed Zelda cartridges, all dispelling the illusion of life and joy. Lofty and lumbering, Stygian gleams like the phantasmal ghost of an armour-burdened knight while bristling with the grit of frosty funerary turf.
Jack Kelleher

34. Lianne La Havas
Lianne La Havas

Most breakup albums focus on the ugliest, saddest parts of a split: the anger, the hurt and the regrets. But Lianne La Havas' exceptional self-titled album is more honest and well-rounded. After all, in order for a love to end, it had to have begun somewhere. La Havas pays as much attention to capturing the beauty of love's beginnings as she does the sorrow of its demise. And she sings her face off along the way.
A. Harmony

33. Against All Logic
(Other People)

Nicolas Jaar kicked off his prolific 2020 by returning to his Against All Logic moniker with 2017-2019, a collection of club bangers we should have bopped along to all summer had the year not gone completely off the rails. Opening the record with vintage Beyoncé/Sean Paul samples on "Fantasy," Jaar never lets up thanks to his collection of jagged house beats, ambient rap verse and, yes, more crowd-pleasing samples.
Allie Gregory

32. Mac Miller

Mac Miller's posthumous album, his masterpiece of depression, is a Cassandra moment. A depressive album created by a depressive in the middle of a depressive time; not hitting hard, but piling its affectlessness and obsessive — almost needy — moments on the chest of its listener, until the body collapses. Even before COVID, this benzo-fueled blankness, while not didactic, told us all we needed to know about how deep the feelings of not-feeling run.
Steacy Easton

31. Ingested
Where Only Gods May Tread
(Unique Leader)

"Slam King" Jason Evans and his court are constantly looking to expand their kingdom. The Level Above Human found the death metal titans perfecting their plan of attack, allowing them to take over territories with ease on Where Only Gods May Tread. Brutal riffs are still prominent, even on nine-minute epic closer "Leap of the Faithless," which ebbs as much as it flattens, but the hook in "Another Breath" (care of Crowbar's Kirk Windstein) will stick in your "MEMORIEEEEEEEES."
Bradley Zorgdrager

30. Black Dresses
Peaceful as Hell

Black Dresses were one of Toronto's best and most innovative industrial outfits, as proved on their final release, Peaceful as Hell. The abrasive sounds and glitches pair nicely with lyrics about the power of companionship. Black Dresses' legacy lives on thanks to its ever-prolific members Ada Rook and Devi McCallion, hard at work at new projects already, and through the new generation of glitchcore artists inspired by their blend of hyperpop, metal and punk.
Teodor Zetko

29. Witch Prophet
DNA Activation
(Heart Lake)

For an album that is all about Ayo Leilani loudly asserting her voice, identity and ancestry, DNA Activation is often a quietly confident affair. In what has been a banner year for Canadian independent music, Witch Prophet's slow and steady ascent is far from over. If there's any justice in the world, DNA Activation will continue to find its audience long after the year's over.
Scott Simpson

28. Jessie Ware
What's Your Pleasure?

This year's disco revival made sad, private clubs of our kitchens and living rooms, pulsing with songs that begged for more bodies and less space. None, however, did it quite like What's Your Pleasure? Endlessly stylish, hot-blooded and icy cool, it rises beyond the pastiche and recasts Ware as an unflappable, towering diva. In these sparkling, sweat-flecked mirages, she finds the heart of truly great dance music — complete abandon. 
Kaelen Bell

27. Benny the Butcher
Burden of Proof

Rap is a young person's sport. You're not supposed to be charging into your prime — creatively, commercially — at age 35. And yet, here's indie emcee Benny the Butcher spilling his coke tales over a dozen dirty Hit-Boy bangers. There is wisdom as Benny wilds out alongside the best of 'em — Lil Wayne, Freddie Gibbs, Rick Ross, Big Sean — and never gets swallowed by his guests' star power. "Only rapper that would've thrived in the 2Pac era," he boasts. Not since Pusha T's DAYTONA have we heard a dope boy go this crazy.
Luke Fox

26. The Weeknd
After Hours

No one is more indebted to the tradition of popular music's charming excess and insatiable pleasures than Abel Tesfaye. People don't take drugs and have sex to the Weeknd's music  they listen to the Weeknd's music because they wish they were having sex and taking drugs. After Hours is a fierce balance of Trilogy's brooding late-night quarrels, My Dear Melancholy's sexual self-loathing and the sleek, stadium-sized radio pop moments of his Top 40 hits. 
Connor Atkinson

25. The Microphones
Microphones in 2020
(P.W. Elverum and Sun)

Some artists bring back their long-dormant, more popular stage names for a crass payday, but as with every other facet of his career, Phil Elverum's Microphones resurrection was something far stranger and more vital. Elverum's newest album is a meta diary that explores his life's work in great detail, referencing his "hits" while swarming through decades of creativity in a deceptively simple 40-minute song. In lesser (read: anyone else's) hands, the project would have felt wanky, but Elverum has once again proven his singular greatness as an artist.
Josiah Hughes 

24. Daniel Romano's Outfit
How Ill Thy World Is Ordered
(You've Changed)

Where the holy muses do hold court, they did grant Daniel Romano his miracle year. Ten splendid sun twirls since his first solo release, the star child of Welland, ON, has at last blasted past his peers to the very apogee of Canada's musical consciousness. How Ill Thy World is Ordered is a fusillade of genre-bending rock bangers, a brandied cocktail cherry to top a year in which the fully-realized folk hero has prolifically pushed out more than 10 albums. Each one, a winner. This one, a classic.
Joe Bagel

23. Wake
Devouring Ruin
(Translation Loss)

Incorporating everything from sludge and doom to black metal and grindcore, Wake have created one of 2020's most all-encompassing heavy releases. Devouring Ruin draws many comparisons to classical music in that it feels like one flowing arrangement rather than a smattering of discrete units. The album builds up to these emotional releases in a way that brings reinvigorates blast beats and other metal tropes throughout. Devouring Ruin is one of 2020's most complete metal experiences.
Mark Tremblay

22. Taylor Swift

While the rest of us were baking bread and hoarding toilet paper during the early days of the quarantine, Taylor Swift made a career highlight. Collaborating with the National's Aaron Dessner, folklore is her most experimental yet cohesive record, adding alternative rock and indie folk influences to her pop wheelhouse. Rife with sparse synths, resonant pianos and haunting reverb, she delivers 16 of her most vulnerable tracks without seeming desperate.
Eva Zhu

21. Aquakultre
(Black Buffalo)

Aquakultre's Legacy is hard to define. Lance Sampson's soulful croon, powerful lyrics and the kinetic energy of his band make for a funk-fuelled R&B record that never tires. Covering everything from systemic racism to vulnerable love, Legacy slides seamlessly from bops to slow jams — all while reminding you it's never too late to change. In a year like this, this is a stellar album to pull you through.
Oliver Crook

20. Sufjan Stevens
The Ascension
(Asthmatic Kitty)

The Ascension, Sufjan Stevens' first solo album in five years, is a swirling kaleidoscope of post-human sound in the overlapping realms of trippy and spiritual; comforting and unsettling. Lyrics like "I don't want to play your video game" and "Don't do to me what you did to America" suggest abandoning structure in favour of a search for authenticity. The album is as much about dissolution, blasting through the rational and conscious mind and penetrating deeper into the psyche to find new ways forward.
Sarah Chodos

19. Deftones

Ohms is another reason why listeners should celebrate Deftones as one of rock's most consistent bands rather than see them as survivors of nu metal's collapse. Here, it's less a tug-of-war between the slamming and serene than it is a stunning meld of their styles, both at album-length and within single songs. With Ohms, Deftones demonstrate a much more intuitive handle of this dynamic balancing act compared to 2016's Gore — perhaps the product of a reengaged lineup.
Calum Slingerland

18. Waxahatchee
Saint Cloud

Katie Crutchfield sitting on the cab of a Ford truck full of roses is a cover image that asserts her roots are still deep in the swelter of Alabama summer nights. Saint Cloud offers the kind of Americana that grows out of tradition but knows its time and place. You don't need an arena-ready chorus to get people to listen. Say it plain and you'll have an album that's lilac sweet and Spanish daisy bitter.
Eric Hill

17. Destroyer
Have We Met

Though his sounds and aesthetics greatly change from album to album, a throughline of Destroyer's oeuvre could be "ruining a good time by thinking too hard." Have We Met might be the most convincing proof to date that Dan Bejar's ruminative songwriting truly knows no bounds — he brings his sardonic streams of consciousness to the dance floor with the disco-adjacent "Crimson Tide" and "It Just Doesn't Happen" while showing off his tender side elsewhere.
Matt Bobkin

16. Moses Sumney

From isolation to freedom, Moses Sumney's double album græ operates on a scale that is cinematic, with unbound roots that pointedly skirt the periphery and travel across boundaries. Both complex and unconventional, sprawling yet intricate, græ's vulnerability pushes a narrative that the undefinable still exists, a space where resistance is found. Sumney's astonishing range and the ebb and flow between throbbing solitude, weariness, and accountability of self is considered with a tenderness only he can accomplish.
Ashley Hampson

15. Freddie Gibbs and the Alchemist

As the reigning monarch of gangster rap, Freddie Gibbs is all too familiar with the threat of regicide. On Alfredo, his collaborative LP with producer extraordinaire the Alchemist, the MC approaches the exigencies of the rap game like high court drama, detailing the ins and outs of power plays, money moves, and hood existentialism with thick-and-fast bars and a smooth flow that effortlessly rides the Alchemist's gritty soulful beats and sinister mafioso samples.
Owen Morawitz

14. Grimes
Miss Anthropocene
(Crystal Math)

Where Art Angels committed to escapist dance-powered potency, Miss Anthropocene opts for off-world sanctuary in rifting, tractor-beaming electronica, designed less for modern ears than denizens of a distant civilization. Mid-'90s crossover country is wedged in with "Delete Forever," an anomaly amongst the album's cosmic climes, futurist sonic bursts that reach their pinnacle with the i_o collaboration "Violence." Grimes has always occupied a celestial niche of her own — a singularity that continues to accelerate without fail. 
Chris Hamilton-Peach

13. Andy Shauf
The Neon Skyline
(Arts & Crafts)

After the quiet success of 2016's The Party, the pressure was on for Saskatchewan-born/Toronto-based singer-songwriter Andy Shauf to produce another heartfelt studio effort. On The Neon Skyline, he marvellously creates intimate narratives of idiosyncratic love and half-drunken chit-chat accompanied by light woodwinds and crystalline keys. With character development as thematically rich as a novella and jauntily catchy choruses, Shauf reminds audiences that he's a master storyteller with a lot to say. 
Hayden Godfrey

12. Thundercat
It Is What It Is

Thundercat uses his signature falsettoed humour to explore loss and paranoia, all while really wanting to party with you. His seamless blend of R&B, jazz, and funk permeates It Is What It Is as he confronts the passing of his friend Mac Miller. The title acts as a mantra throughout, as the master bassist finds solace in impermanence. It's as breezy as it is contemplative, making it the perfect soundtrack for dancing into the unknown. 
Sydney Brasil

11. U.S. Girls
Heavy Light
(Royal Mountain)

The personal is always political with Meg Remy, whose work as U.S. Girls consists of penetrating character studies that reflect a strong social conscience. Heavy Light is no exception: stacked top to bottom with sweeping ballads, its sentimentality only reinforces its stinging critiques. Home to heartrending pleas ("Denise, Don't Wait") and anti-consumerist bops ("4 American Dollars"), nostalgic piano odysseys ("Woodstock 99") and funk-inflected laments ("Overtime"), Heavy Light proves Remy can truly do it all.
Matthew Blenkarn

10. Pantayo
(Telephone Explosion)

Toronto-based kulintang ensemble Pantayo weren't content with merely breaking genre barriers on their debut record; they also felt the need to break the fourth dimension. Pantayo sounds both ancient and futuristic, blending the distinctive ring of Filipinx gongs with synth pulses in order to craft their unique blend of R&B, pop and punk rock. While the album flows freely through instrumental passages, percussive explosions and cinematic choruses, it is unified by a feeling of communal triumph. These self-proclaimed "everyday witches" cast off conservative bullshit, opting instead to celebrate the magic of queer camaraderie with the cheeky temerity of international icons.
Sam Boer

Full disclosure: Pantayo member Kat Estacio is Exclaim! Magazine's layout editor.

9. Bob Dylan
Rough and Rowdy Ways

Marking his first album of original songs since 2012, Rough and Rowdy Ways found Bob Dylan and his band working at full power — blunt yet enigmatic (and funny) lyrics swimming at the surface of positively stirring and hypnotic soundscapes. The sentiments are either plain as day or else shadowy and weird, but, in its reflection of American history and his own lives and times, it's beguiling, forward-thinking, and some of his best work. As he has been wont to do for so long, Dylan again teaches us history lessons as though he is looking back at us over his shoulder, from the future. 
Vish Khanna

8. Yves Tumor
Heaven to a Tortured Mind

Change is the only true constant in Yves Tumor's discography, which sees them trying on mask after mask and creating through different sets of eyes. In Heaven to a Tortured Mind, their fourth full-length release, the many worlds Tumor traverses — from noisy psych rock to ambient R&B — fuse and are polished into a brand new persona. An apocalyptic foray through strange dualities is the result. Tumor seduces the possibilities of contrast: doomsday poetry swallows love songs, musique concrète weaves into raw instrumentals, and even the most grating distortions feel refined. Collisions abound between morbidity and magic, chaos and coordination, reverent lust and disgust.
Safiya Hopfe

7. Lido Pimienta
Miss Colombia
(Fontana North)

Taking a brassy strut down the catwalk, Lido Pimienta intercepted Steve Harvey's 2015 Miss Universe fumble and ran with it, giving the country she formerly called home a postcolonial pageant. With contributions by Sexteto Tabala and Bomba Estéreo's Li Saumet, Afro-Colombian rhythms serve as Miss Colombia's heartbeat as Pimienta unpacks colonialism's residual effects and delivers sermons about self-worth and the importance of second chances. Arriving in a year where we're all forced to reduce our worlds, Miss Colombia's widescreen vision let Pimienta get lost in a larger sandbox, emerging with intimate truths resonating on multiple levels.
Tom Beedham

Women in Music Pt. III

On Women in Music Pt. III, the HAIM sisters dig into a buffet of sounds and styles on their lengthiest — and strongest — project so far. Dipping into R&B on "3AM," country/folk guitars on "Leaning on You" and bluesy horns on "I've Been Down," the album is rich with experimentation. Singles "Now I'm in It," "The Steps" and "Summer Girl" are some of the strongest songs in the band's catalogue, and are reflective of the sisters' ever-evolving passion for crafting a variety of innovative pop-rock hits.
Sarah Jessica Rintjema

5. Caribou

Caribou's Suddenly feels like a culmination of all of Dan Snaith's past work — the off-key folktronica of his early days as Manitoba, looped hip-hop samples like his club-ready Daphni work, and organically clarified dancefloor beats reminiscent of 2010's Swim and 2014's Our Love. Suddenly's abrupt shifts are gleefully stitched together, sweetly brushed with an air of heartache as Snaith's falsetto is left more open and vulnerable, adding a subtle personal element to Caribou's multicoloured approach. Vocal samples are masterfully atomized into indecipherable bits and purposely mixed into Caribou's warm and tidy collages, eliciting an emotional response based purely on Snaith's impeccable ability to pair cerebral sonic adventurism with disorienting familiarity. 
Chris Gee

4. Run the Jewels
(Jewel Runners/BMG)

Released during the height of global protests about racial injustice, RTJ4 might as well fill in for Merriam-Webster's definition of "zeitgeist." El-P and Killer Mike capture America's searing anger and moral crossroads unlike any album in 2020. In under 40 minutes, Run the Jewels drop atomic truth bombs on everything from the evils of corporate media to the prevalence of police brutality. It is undeniably punchy and raw, leaving the listener emotionally drained; both a healing and a revolution enmeshed. Channelling America's blunt force trauma, RTJ4 cuts deep and cuts often. 
Dylan Barnabe

3. Phoebe Bridgers
(Dead Oceans)

If Phoebe Bridgers' Stranger in the Alps was the type of debut that hinted at greatness, Punisher is the kind of follow-up that proves the theory. The 26-year-old is already a master of exposition, description and mood-setting, making poetry that's imbued with rich details, lived-in memories and an air of mystery. With Punisher, she has drawn comparisons to Elliott Smith and Joni Mitchell, and for good reason. In just a few years, Phoebe Bridgers has demonstrated that she has the sharp mind, musical instincts and sense of whimsy to eventually join them among the ranks of all-time great singer-songwriters.
Adam Feibel

2. Fiona Apple
Fetch the Bolt Cutters

Coming eight years after mystifying singer-songwriter Fiona Apple's previous album The Idler Wheel…, Fetch the Bolt Cutters couldn't have arrived at a more perfect time. Meticulous and poetic, Apple explores the intimate and explosive moments of womanhood while breaking free of isolating restrictions, cutting her way out by whatever means necessary. With swerving rhythms, galloping pianos and vocals that range from guttural hums to feral rasps and squeaks, the album maintains its splendour while keeping a charmingly unpolished and homemade quality. With each brazen track, Fetch the Bolt Cutters grounds listeners back to our primal human emotions.
Jordan Currie

1. Backxwash
God Has Nothing to Do with This Leave Him Out of It

Although chances are that you may have first heard of Backxwash from the many music critic co-signs, culminating in her Polaris Music Prize win in October, no one deserves credit for the success of God Has Nothing to Do with This Leave Him Out of It but the rapper-producer herself. Across a scant 22 minutes, the Montreal-based/Zambia-born musician manages to pull together a hefty and unlikely range of sounds, influences and moods, coming off compellingly dark and gothic on "Into the Void," expertly melding a Black Sabbath sample into the album's potent title track, and sharing the spotlight with a variety of expertly curated guest stars. God Has Nothing to Do with This is a sonically raw, emotionally honest and starkly creative piece of art that completely blows minds, challenges how we think about the art of hip-hop, and — most importantly — stands on its own merit.
Daniel Sylvester

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