Exclaim!'s 50 Best Albums of 2020
Published Dec 02, 2020
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.
39. Helena Deland
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.
38. Porridge Radio
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.
37. William Prince
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.
ELEMENTS Vol. 1
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."
(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.
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.
33. Against All Logic
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.
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.
Where Only Gods May Tread
"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."