This year had so much to offer in terms of new music that really forced artists to push their creative limits. Many artists eased their frustration this year by creating music that listeners can relate to. These are the 30 albums from this year that I thought were not just great but got me and hopefully you through a very disheartened time. My favorite songs from the albums are linked as well.
30. A.G. Cook – 7G (IDM)
Truly one of my favorite producers in the last couple of years for being behind so many great artists’ music like Charli XCX, Hannah Diamond, GFOTY, and so many more. Even though his vocals are hit or miss, I really love his crazy unique IDM talents.
29. Sevdaliza – Shabrang (Art Pop/ Trip Hop)
A very loud sound with a very quiet voice that explores art pop in a whole new realm with her beautiful vocals. Her singing is the best part of the album. It reminds me of a SOPHIE or Charli XCX with some more subtle production.
28. Liturgy – Origin of the Alimonies (Experimental Metal/Classical)
An opera that is filled with noisy metal passages but quiet, down tempo, and slower classical moments that freak you out but also impress. This is a follow up of the amazing H.A.Q.Q which was one of the best black metal albums of the last decade.
27. HAIM – Women in Music Pt. III (Indie Pop)
Hands down the best and most textured HAIM record yet. Very impressed with the direction they went with production and song topics. I’m really looking forward to what the trio will do in the future.
26. The Flaming Lips – American Head (Psychedelic Rock/Pop)
One the most influential bands in the last 20 years and being one of my personal favorites, I’m happy to say that they are still coming out with relatable but very low key songs about the current state in the country. It’s a very nice listen especially for fans.
25. Rina Sawayama – Sawayama (Electro-Pop/Alternative R&B)
Rina proves herself to be one of the most exciting voices in upcoming artists in pop music. Her catchy, fun, but very aware lyrics and songs are definitely something to write about and listen to.
24. Against All Logic – 2017 – 2019 (IDM/Dance)
After releasing one of the greatest house/dance albums of the decade 2012-2017, Nicholas Jarr is a legend at finding weird samples and turning it into a strange dance track that sounds like a dream.
23. Mac Miller – Circles (Neo Soul/Pop Rap)
Circles being the final album from the late Mac Miller was a crazy left turn that producers took, but it is a very beautiful album with many styles of indie, hip hop, and pop. It was a wonderful goodbye and I thank the producers of the album for making sure it was perfect before releasing it instead of cashing it in.
22. Idles – Ultra Mono (Post-Punk)
Idles continues to surprise me with their three amazing album streaks with these crazy in your face punk songs with a great but creative political edge to them. It’s a perfect album to get anger out.
21. Perfume Genius – Set My Heart on Fire Immediately (Art/Indie Pop)
As a Perfume Genius fan and as someone who has been impressed with his work for a long time, this album surprised me that he still can have some fantastic production choices. It’s so good that it distracts you from some of the lyrics that are also just as good.
20. Arca – KiCk i (Industrial/Glitch Hop/Art Pop)
Arca has had a crazy amount of praise and influence in the pop and electronic world. Coming out as non-binary and working with artists like SOPHIE and Bjork, this album is a new chapter for their career.
19. Phoebe Bridgers – Punisher (Indie Folk/Singer/Songwriter)
Being her sophomore album, Punisher is an emotional potent album that does not deny its unique storytelling, after being in a band like Boy Genius and having a critically acclaimed debut. This album has a lot of Elliot Smith vibes with her sad smart lyrics.
18. Car Seat Headrest – Making a Door Less Open (Indie Rock/Pop)
Being one of my favorite bands ever, Car Seat Headrest are masterminds of indie rock and Will Toledo has transferred me to a world of relatability and comfort to some of my favorite albums like Twin Fantasy and Teens of Denial. I was not expecting this album to be as good as them. I knew Will wanted to take this album a different direction. Some people were disappointed with this one but the electronic and pop elements that were added I think are risky and it pays off. Not their best, but it’s a still enjoyable album if you understand it won’t be as brilliant as their others.
17. 100 Gecs – 1000 gecs and The Tree of Clues (Power pop/Bubblegum bass)
A remix album after their breakout debut, 1000 Gecs and The Tree of Clues has plenty of amazing collaborations from people in the experimental pop and hyper pop world. It’s the entertaining long remix album of the future of pop.
16. Code Orange – Underneath (Pure Metal Core)
After releasing one of my favorite metal albums ever, it’s so nice to hear a very unique metal album that gives us a good insight into what the genre might face in the future. Underneath will be very influential in the future due to its creative, glitchy, and noisy instrumentals.
15. Denzel Curry & Kenny Beats – Unlocked (East Coast Hip/hop)
Two of the most exciting voices in hip/hop today: Kenny Beats, who is one of the best producers today, and Denzel Curry, who is one of the most consistent rappers of all time. We got a quick, hard hitting, and throwback project that made me want so much more from these two.
14. Run the Jewels – Run the Jewels 4 (Hardcore Hip/Hop/Politcal Rap)
After three amazing, political, and banger filled hip hop albums last decade, we got the 4th installment in Killer Mikes and El-P’s next great hardcore hip/hop album with great tracks that will get you jumping up and down.
13. The Weeknd – After Hours (Alternative R&B)
The Weeknd’s best album since the Trilogy days brings a retro but futuristic sound that will bring you back but also make you think differently about the future of R&B. The Weeknd’s music can be very mainstream but his influences and his talent still changes each album. His artistic creativity separates him from so many other mainstream artists.
12. Jean Dawson – Pixel Bath (Genre blending)
A huge mix of different genres like pop, hip hop, indie, etc., Jean Dawson will become one of the most exciting voices in the new and changing genre of the mainstream.
11. Dua Lipa – Future Nostalgia (Dance Pop/Nu-Disco)
Dua Lipa could have just done the same pop songs and her huge amount of fame would have gotten her a lot of money. I’m so happy to say that her risk taking in moving towards disco and dance pop pays off well and it’s a sweet fun little project.
10. Poppy – I Disagree (Alternative Metal/Electro Industrial)
I Disagree was one of the first albums that came out this year, and it set off the year perfectly with the hitting, loud, and excessive sound. Poppy creatively brought the themes of being independent and finding yourself in an intense light.
9. Amine – Limbo (West coast hip/hop/ Trap rap)
Being one of my favorite hip hop albums of the year, Amine matured immensely in his new album. Great features, funny lyrics, good instrumentals, and you know that Amine can make a great album after 2 years of having a hit song.
8. Dorian Electra – My Agenda (Industrial pop/Bubblegum bass)
Being one of the craziest and off the wall albums of the year, Dorian knows how to express a simple but lovely message in a weird and jaw dropping way. Their concept is so interesting in a very short album, but every song gives you something different to take away from this insane year. The only issue is that I wanted more.
7. Tkay Maidza – Last Year Was Weird, Vol 2 (Pop Rap/Neo-Soul)
The artist getting her start in Australia, dropped one of the most creative and fun hip hop albums of the year. Since it’s only 27 minutes long, it feels like a full album with great production and intensive energy.
6. Gorillaz – Song Machine, Season One: Strange Timez (Synth Pop)
Also being one of my favorite artists, Damon Albarn has impressed me with album after album of great concepts and topics. This album is a change of pace since most of these songs are singles, and there are so many different ideas that are put into each song. Yet each song stands on it’s own and even my favorite artists are collaborating with him, so that’s always a plus.
5. The Strokes – The New Abnormal (Indie rock/Post-Punk)
Julian Casablancas’ band that changed rock music for the better returns with their 6th studio release and after 20 years of being together, this is one of their best. With the catchy hooks and production that instantly stays inside your head, this is a perfect example of great rock music to be inspired by.
4. Backxwash – God Has Nothing To Do With This Leave Him Out of It (Experimental Hip/hop)
The newer artist from Montreal proved themselves to blend the genres of hip/hop, emo, goth, and punk into a very dark but short project with production from Black Dresses. I love the overall aesthetic of this album that impacts you hard with tough lyrics and hard hitting instrumentals.
3. Clipping – Visions of Bodies Being Burned (Horrorcore, Industrial hip/hop, & Noise/Ambient)
So commendable to hear one the most ambitious experimental hip hop trios that in the past decade, put elements of noise, power electronics, and ambient music into hip hop, come out with one of the best hip hop albums of the year. Daveed Diggs is a one of a kind rapper and the trio brings in elements of horrorcore into a terrifying experience for a night like Halloween, adding references to horror movies and literature. It’s an experience that is different every time, but you definitely won’t forget the first time.
2. Charli XCX – how i’m feeling now (Electro-Pop)
A wonderful quarantine album that follows up her last album Charli, which is one of the most unique and left field pop albums of the last decade, proving Charli XCX to be a frontrunner in an exciting future sound of pop. It was so refreshing to hear that same sound from her fun, lovable, and sweet set of songs. Great hooks and lyrical content from Charli along with great production from A.G. Cook. It’s an album you can enjoy with someone special.
1. Black Dresses – Peaceful as Hell (Noise pop/Industrial)
Sad to see this amazing duo break up; however this album is a clear magnum opus to industrial and pop music for the next decade. A fantastic album about shoving the idea of being kind to people down your throat with very loud production and catchy choruses. Love seeing great commentary on being a good person and accepting everyone for who they are. It’s an album we all need right now. You just need to have the right ears for it. That’s why it’s the best album of the year. I hope they continue to make music even if they retire their name.
Peter Kannikal, Online Editor