Published Jun 24, 2020
11. Porridge Radio
Every Bad, Porridge Radio's second full-length release, is an emotionally complex statement piece. Lead vocalist Dana Margolin demands to be heard as she tears her voice apart, conveying her vigorous intensity. Even if indie rock may have declined in favour, Every Bad can be appreciated by absolutely anyone who wants to feel something.
Celebrating Black love while tracing systemic racism back to its capitalist roots and namechecking Beverly Glenn-Copeland, Floetry and Jill Scott along the way, this first expression of Lance Sampson's freshly reimagined Aquakultre project is planted firmly in an infinite river of creative music, exploding the expansive formula of early Arts & Crafts catalogue with open-hearted clarity.
Billed as an album-length meditation on climate disaster, this dark, ethereal dream pop goes beyond questions of the environment, reflecting on gender roles, artificial intelligence, depression and insomnia, and the pleasures of romance. Grimes's Miss Anthropocene is pop music refracted through a prism, with its beautifully eccentric melodies, floaty semi-verbal vocals, polished electronic production, and hyper-femme video game and fantasy aesthetics.
8. Freddie Gibbs and the Alchemist
Though Freddie Gibbs is a force in his own right, his collaborative projects draw a sharper energy from him that always seems impossible to improve upon — until he does. On Alfredo, Gibbs and veteran producer the Alchemist are perfect complements: Alchemist hangs back sonically, providing a simple yet impactful bowl of beats for Gibbs to devour.
A Filipina-Canadian collective mixing kulintang gongs with modern pop and R&B, the debut album from this Toronto collective expertly blends unexpected sounds with sensuous grooves and righteous anger. Wrapping the whole thing in a wholly unique point of view, Pantayo is truly one of the year's most singular listens.
6. Yves Tumor
Heaven to a Tortured Mind
Yves Tumor's visceral Heaven to a Tortured Mind is a sprawling noise creature that smashes disco strings, industrial glitches, grunge guitars and sensual R&B grooves against one another. This elusive experimental artist's latest album is dangerously unrelenting, building to nearly unbearable peaks, with literal fireworks acting as a centrepiece for this masterpiece.
5. Moses Sumney
Moses Sumney's double album græ is a lesson in absolute vulnerability, in unadorned, raw emotional connection. With his foundation of soul and funk, Sumney's exploratory and experimental navigation on græ includes collaborators like Thundercat and Adult Jazz, and embraces topics like pain, weariness, disgust and eroticism with consideration and often joy.
Inspired in part by the birth of his second daughter and sudden death of a close relative, Caribou's seventh studio album, Suddenly, finds Dan Snaith mulling over life's big moments atop some of his most shape-shifting tracks to date. Despite its woozy melodies and disorienting turns, it's an album that's easy to inhabit — a comfort during these uncertain times.
3. Run the Jewels
Pity the charlatans. Hide the crooked cops. And the meek? Well, they best duck inside. Killer Mike and El-Producto, a pair of 45-year-old rap snipers, have unleashed arguably their fiercest, funnest and freest record. As far as music to revolt to goes, RTJ4 is a thinking man's Godzilla. If you hate Run the Jewels, you don't love the truth.
2. Fiona Apple
Fetch the Bolt Cutters
Fiona Apple lives and creates on her own terms, and Fetch the Bolt Cutters captures that spirit of self-determination. Apple's voice drives the album with visceral vulnerability, against a backdrop of cacophony that remains controlled. Untethered and achingly self-aware, Apple's fifth record is a fiercely intimate testimonial to tender resilience.
God Has Nothing to Do with It Leave Him Out of It
Backxwash is fast cementing her place as a fiery MC with several quality albums under her belt thus far. With God Has Nothing to Do with This Leave Him Out of It, she makes the perfect aural parallel for the chaotic bizarro world that is 2020; an otherworldly blend of the darkest corners of horrorcore and industrial hip-hop, with warped samples (you'll never hear "Black Sabbath" the same way again) and equally chilling production.
At a time when Canada's role in propagating systemic racism and discrimination against BIPOC individuals is under the microscope more than ever, this record serves as its own form of protest song, as Backxwash turns the paranoia, fear, discrimination and persecution she faces as a Black trans woman into fuel for a series of tense, powerhouse tracks. Packed with plenty of intense moments throughout its short length, God Has Nothing to Do with This Leave Him Out of It is a vital reminder that when life throws everything it possibly can at you, sometimes all you can do is rage.