As a chronic re-listener, it usually takes me 2-3 business years to properly process new music. I find a good song, replay it until I hate it, forget about it for some time and then go through the whole process again. The only thing that somewhat redeemed 2020 for me was that the extra alone time allowed me to engage with far more music than I normally would’ve been able to.
2020 saw a glut of amazing music that will probably go down as the top something of all time (I’m looking at our mothers Fiona Apple and Rina Sawayama). That being said, some really interesting work was overshadowed by some of the more popular stuff. Below are fifteen albums and EPs from 2020 that didn’t get as much love as they deserved!
[Disclaimers: This is obviously arbitrary (and gay). Many of these are critically acclaimed but don’t have as much traction. Also, I have no idea what a music genre is so I’m relying heavily on the internet.]
The Baby by Samia
Favorite tracks: “Fit and Full,” “Big Wheel”
This list is in no particular order, except for the first pick. I have recommended this album to death and it is one of the only LPs that truly embodies what it means to be a “no-skip album.” Samia’s music hits that sweet spot between soft pop and indie rock that would be perfect for a spring day. This August album was given new life in January 2021 when Samia released The Baby Reimagined, which features remixes and covers you didn’t know you needed, like Briston Maroney’s take on “Is There Something in the Movies?”
Projections by Tomberlin
Favorite track: “Floor”
I have never seen a more perfect cover for a project because that lush, killing green is exactly what this EP sounds like.
Hannah by Lomelda
Favorite tracks: “Hannah Sun,” “Wonder”
This album feels like what I imagine a feather would feel like on your tongue. As someone who loves walking, I have a lot of playlists dedicated to that specific misty feeling of walking down Sheridan in the winter (when the weather permits) and every song from Hannah features on them at least once.
BREACH by Fenne Lily
Favorite tracks: “Berlin,” “Birthday”
Life gives you lemons and Spotify gives you love. Their algorithm has introduced me to some of my favorite artists. Fenne Lily’s BREACH will fill the hole in your heart when you can’t listen to any more Punisher. You’ll be happy to know that Lily is signed by Dead Oceans, the label that also gave us Mitski and Phoebe Bridgers. BREACH is rough and soft at the same time, and I think it speaks to early adulthood in such a personal way; I know I will be coming back to it for many more years. (Pro tip: If you like listening to music about weed, go to “Alapathy” first.)
gay and bored by Claud
Favorite track: “Soft Spot”
There’s a lyric in Soft Spot that I can guarantee will tap into some kind of repressed nostalgia: “I thought I saw you at a party but I finally got close, it wasn’t you.”
The Long Goodbye by Riz Ahmed
Favorite tracks: “Toba Tek Singh,” “Fast Lava,” “Can I Live”
What can I say about Riz Ahmed that people before me haven't already said (much more articulately)? I don’t know if this album will mean as much to someone who isn’t brown, but if you want to hear some brilliant rap about how much British people suck, I think you’ll like it. The political themes of the album remind me of Noname’s music (in terms of conception, if not sound). I came to Swet Shop Boys, an earlier music endeavour of Ahmed’s, after I was introduced to The Long Goodbye. Now, having listened to a lot of his oeuvre, I can say all of his art is both healing and wounding.
Moonstone by Raveena
Favorite track: “Headaches”
Raveena should patent the word “divine” because she might as well have invented it. Listening to this EP feels like the sun is hugging you.
Saint Cloud by Waxahatchee
Favorite tracks: “Lilacs,” “Fire”
2020 brought me to Waxahatcheee and to be honest, I don’t mind that I had to sacrifice seeing some of y’all’s faces for the beauty that is this album. My limited music vocabulary informs me that this is indie rock to perfection. I don’t know what kind of things convince people, but if I could describe this project in two words they’d be lemongrass soap.
Honeymoon by Beach Bunny
Favorite tracks: “April,” “Cloud 9”
I don’t know what the parameters of a ‘big’ and ‘small’ artist are anymore, but Beach Bunny is going to blow up soon. Beach Bunny brings to indie pop/punk rock what no one else is bringing to it right now. Their music makes me want to wear pastels and those birthday hats with little pom poms. It makes me want to bake frog cakes and become a cloud. Lili Trifilio has such a unique voice that defies the stereotype that all indie music sounds the same. If you need any other reason to give it a listen, the band is from Chicago!
Græ by Moses Sumney
Favorite tracks: “Neither/Nor,” “Me in 20 Years”
Sometimes people should just shut up, not over-explain art and just appreciate it. This is one of those times. (Euphoria lovers, here’s a hidden egg for you.)
Nightmare Vacation by Rico Nasty
Favorite tracks: “Pussy Poppin,” “iPHONE”
You might be familiar with Rico from Digital Dillo 2020, when she graciously performed for an empty room and then stayed for a Q&A. She has the baddest bitch energy. I worship Rico. Every few weeks there’s a new song of hers trending on TikTok, but I haven’t really seen people listening to her lesser known songs, which is a shame. This album could replace any of the stimulants in my diet. Ride the Rico high till the end of this pandemic.
Skullcrusher by Skullcrusher
Favorite track: “Places/Plans”
Such a misleading and perfect artist/album name because the music will crush your skull but in a soft, loving way?
Color Theory by Soccer Mommy
Favorite tracks: “yellow is the color of her eyes,” “lucy”
And a new icon for the gays emerges. I bet someone out there has a lot to say about her production choices — from the acoustic guitar and almost-shoegaze vibe to the melodies — but I’m not entirely sure what any of those mean so I just want to say that Sophie Allison is an artist I can bet you will love at some point and being an early(ish) fan is always a good thing!
Making a Door Less Open by Car Seat Headrest
Favorite tracks: “There Must Be More Than Blood,” “Martin”
I don’t know anyone who would call this album Car Seat Headrest’s best, but I don’t want to compare it to something as perfect as Teens of Style. (Shame on you if you think Twin Fantasy is better!) By itself, this album does a lot. It brings a new sound to Car Seat Headrest, it goes hard and sardonic on the lyrics and it’s great company in this snow.
Modus Vivendi by 070 Shake
Favorite track: “Guilty Conscience”
070 Shake is going to be your new favorite lesbian rapper. She’s currently on my bedroom wall (in poster form, of course). The Tame Impala remix of Guilty Conscience is the perfect song for your psychedelic nights. Enough said.