Exclaim!'s 33 Best Albums of 2020 So Far
Published Jun 24, 2020
22. Charli XCX
how i'm feeling now
Following last year's commercially viable Charli, Charli XCX has returned to her experimental approach with how i'm feeling now. Recorded during COVID-19 lockdown over the course of six weeks, how i'm feeling now is a vibrant and timely affair, but what's more notable is that it's just as catchy as anything else she's done.
21. Jay Electronica
A Written Testimony
Thirteen years after his debut mixtape, Jay Electronica finally dropped one of hip-hop's most long-awaited projects. A Written Testimony is complete with conscious rhymes, spiritual merit, and substantial collaboration from rap legend and label boss Jay-Z. The doctrinal album offers fans a peek into the enigma that is Jay Electronica.
Devouring Ruin is ugly yet deceptively beautiful, the latter not often used to describe grindcore's raw sound. On their third album, Calgarians Wake have swallowed death metal and black metal whole, breaking down their tenets using their longtime genre's acidic vitriol and adding to their DNA.
Waxahatchee's Katie Crutchfield paraphrases her disposition on Saint Cloud when, on "Fire," she sings, "I'm wiser and slow and attuned." Crutchfield wrote Saint Cloud after getting sober and the album, in turn, is marked by profound clarity. The songs also twang warmly, which will make you browse Kijiji for the truck that Crutchfield sits atop of on the album cover.
18. William Prince
On sophomore album Reliever, William Prince's rich, husky baritone is a deeply soothing sound, and it's framed more beautifully than ever by warm, elegant arrangements. Filled equally with hurt and hope, these songs are palpably personal while exuding a sense of empathy and togetherness. The weight of the world doesn't seem quite as heavy when you realize it's everyone's burden to share; Reliever is a reminder of that.
17. Dua Lipa
Tapping into sentimental yearning for the carefree, beat-driven dancefloors of the 1970s, Dua Lipa's sophomore album shines bright as a disco ball. Future Nostalgia delivers one of the fresher takes on modern pop music in recent memory, deeply rooted in the sheer abundance of funk, pulse and energy of the disco era.
16. The Weeknd
After Hours presents an intricate universe of sound, with layers of electronic rhythm and melody. Abel Tesfaye, a.k.a. the Weeknd, uses his smooth voice to soar over this constructed soundscape and connect with emotions that are deep and raw. After Hours is both impossibly surreal and heartbreakingly honest.
15. Lido Pimienta
Harnessing currents of reggaeton, cumbia and electroclash, Lido Pimienta soars to new heights on Miss Colombia. Her voice is powerful in its versatility, bringing immense sorrow ("Nada," "Pelo Cucu") and blistering triumph ("Eso Que Tu Haces") to direct and intimate accounts of continuing legacies of sexism and colonialism.
Have We Met
Dan Bejar has mastered his musical dreamscape. In Have We Met he traverses its synthy slopes and streams of consciousness with wonder, making much-visited spots new again. At once ruminating and riffing off of moment-to-moment revelations, Bejar twists and turns through existential tunnels without ever seeming to lose his way.
13. U.S. Girls
U.S. Girls' Heavy Light opens with swirling strings and a disco groove, moving adeptly through pop styles. But when everything drops out, leaving Meg Remy alone with nothing but a piano, she really shines. With layers of voices, a wide range of instruments and a tackle box of hooks, it's another standout statement.
12. Soccer Mommy
On Soccer Mommy's sophomore album, Color Theory, Sophie Allison's distorted state of mind deepens with a grainy '90s indie rock sound reminiscent of Liz Phair or early Avril Lavigne as she experiences depression, loss, and seeing the past and present through a wistful lens. It's a record equally as bright as it is bleak.