Published Dec 02, 2020
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.
29. Witch Prophet
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.
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.
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.
26. The Weeknd
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.
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.
24. Daniel Romano's Outfit
How Ill Thy World Is Ordered
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.
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.
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.
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.