SCM Music’s 25 Best Albums of 2020 So Far
YOU DON’T need me to tell you just how much of a fucked up year 2020 has been so far.
We’ve started off the new decade with the wrong type of bang, but with this has come an influx of incredible new music that has come from different directions. From quarantined pop stars, reclusive singers, notorious rappers and more, here are the 25 best albums of 2020 so far…
AG Club – Halfway Off the Porch
Take Brockhampton, strip them of the overly glossy production and stick them in a garage. What do you get? AG Club. Following the lineage of both Brockhampton and Odd Future, the collective pull from old school Hip Hop, RnB and Jazz on their debut record. Clocking in at only nine songs and 29 minutes, AG Club cut out the bullshit to deliver clear, concise and, most importantly, packs in some great songs. Highlights include ‘Hngover’, ‘Paprika’ and ‘Memphis’.
Ani Glass – Mirores
The debut album from former Pipette Ani Glass is a sonic tour through the city of Cardiff. With apocalyptic Synth Pop and samples from new reports, local choirs and spoken word passages, Mirores is an extremely gratifying listen. Some of the best Pop songs of the year can be found on this record, including ‘Ynys Araul’, ‘Y Cerrynt’ and the title track. It’s great to see Glass finally being able to put out a full length project, and hopefully we can expect more from her in the future.
Aoife Nessa Frances – Land of No Junction
Often sounding like Cate Le Bon playing Lounge Jazz, Land of No Junction is an incredibly contemplative piece of Folk music, utilising soft beats and Aoife Nessa Frances’ stunning double tracked vocal performance. With minimal instrumentation, Frances uses her lyrics and sense of melody to craft the soundtrack to a sombre, night-time walk.
Charli XCX – how I’m feeling right now
After receiving vast critical acclaim for last year’s Charli, one would not expect Charli XCX to release a new project so soon. Perhaps one of the silver linings of lockdown is the creation of one of the best records of the year so far. How I’m feeling right now is an absolute triumph. Charli has created another colourful sonic soundscape, with songs that do so much with so little, and without outstaying their welcome. A brilliant record.
Deerhoof – Future Teenage Cave Artists
Deerhoof’s music has always gone one step further than your average Psychedelic Rock, and their 15th studio album, Future Teenage Cave Artists, is no exception. With woozy guitars, dreamy vocals and some surprising musical ideas, Deerhoof create a fantastic sonic soundscape which ranges from the serene to the abrasive. A must listen for any Alt Rock fans out there.
Dua Lipa – Future Nostalgia
If you had told me at the start of the year that Dua Lipa’s new album would be one of my favourite albums to be released in 2020, I would have said you were mad. But it’s true; Future Nostalgia is an absolute banger of a record, with some excellent production harking back to Pop music from the late 90’s and early 00’s. Dua’s vocals are confident as she swaggers through such hits as ‘Break My Heart’ and ‘Don’t Start Now’.
EOB – Earth
Expanding on Radiohead’s already existing platter of Experimental Alt Rock (see: In Rainbows), Ed O’Brien steps into the spotlight with his debut solo album. With clear influence from Britpop and the more symphonic side of British Alternative music, Earth is a delightfully chill and atmospheric listen. O’Brien really gets to spread out of the constraints of the usual Radiohead set up. Any fans of his usual band will love this, but so will fans of Folk and Electronica, the two crossing over nicely on this record.
Fiona Apple – Fetch the Bolt Cutters
Eight years after the release of her last studio album, Fiona Apple is back, with a stunning new record. Heavy on piano, percussive sounds and Apple’s trademark hard-hitting lyricism, Fetch the Bolt Cutters is one her best records yet. Tracks such as ‘Newspaper’ and ‘Ladies’ touch on the topics of exploitative power and a woman’s position in the world. In many ways, this is a poetry set to an Avant Garde experimental; with the passion of Auden, the anger of Plath and the whit of Milligan.
Freddie Gibbs & The Alchemist – Alfredo
Freddie Gibbs has a somewhat patchy discography in my opinion. But he’s always shown to be at his strongest with a solid collaborator by his side. Alfredo is no exception to this rule; The Alchemist lays down some vintage beats that sound like they’ve come straight from a dusty record. Meanwhile Freddie gives us some of his finest bars to date, notably on songs ‘Scottie Beam’ and ‘1985’.
Hayley Williams – Petals for Armor
Coming away from Paramore’s last record, Hayley Williams carries elements of their Pop sound over to this, her debut solo album. With this comes some Avant-Pop (‘Cinnamon’), Radiohead worship (‘Roses/Lotus/Violent/Iris’) and confessional singer-songwriter (‘Dead Horse’). It’s a great success, with a vast musical landscape and will surely capture new fans who aren’t necessarily a fan of Paramore.
I Break Horses – Warnings
Warnings is a truly triumphant record; effortlessly combining the mystique of Angelo Badalamenti with the dreamy ambience of Beach House. Over the course of 12 tracks, the Stockholm duo craft a Darkwave Pop music, that echoes 80s Synthwave (‘I’ll Be the Death of You’), what sounds like a Daft Punk B-Side (‘Depression Tourist’) and everything inbetween. If you’re a fan of classic Indie Pop, Shoegaze and Dream Pop, do not let this record pass you by.
Islet – Eyelet
Seven years after the release of their last full-length studio record, Islet return with Eyelet, on their new home at Fire Records. Now as a three-piece, Eyelet is a much more subdued, medatative record. Pulling the band in woozy, Dream Pop direction, with Emma Damon-Thomas taking over most of the vocal duties with a subdued, beautiful approach. A must-listen for any fans of Psychedelic Rock or Dream Pop.
King Krule – Man Alive!
The third record from Archy Marshall under the King Krule moniker, Man Alive! is his most fully-formed to date. Marshall perfectly fuses Jazz and Post-Punk together, to create these vignettes of a twisted, distorted world, with a Billy Bragg inspired vocal delivery. There’s a definitely Frank Ocean influence on the way Marshall puts himself forward, edging towards the Avant-Garde and loosely constructed song structure, but still remains uniquely English.
Lido Pimienta – Miss Columbia
The third album from the Polaris Prize winning singer, Miss Columbia is a fantastic record, combining contemporary Western Synth Pop with Columbian Folk Music. Miss Columbia is an uplifting, mesmerising listen, where Pimienta shares a platform with contemporaries Rosalía, Björk and Animal Collective, and pulls from Folk influences such as Rafael Cassiani. This is definitely a record for those who appreciate the album as a construct, and the variation of sounds Pimienta presents in these tracks.
Morgan Powers – Bugs in a Jar
With a stream of lo-fi, dreamy, indie singles over the last few years, Morgan Powers have wracked up a dedicated online following. Her debut album, Bugs in a Jar is a collection of these very intimate, personal songs with minimalist instrumental backing. Powers’ mesmerising compositions make for one of the finest Indie records of the year, and hopefully setting her up for a great decade.
Nicolas Jaar – Cenizas
After releasing two records under his Against All Logic name, Nicolas Jaar is back. Cenizas feels like a combination of both his debut, and his last album, Sirens. Once again, Jaar utilises space in his music, creating minimal, yet beautiful atmospheres through the use of synths and his own voice. At 13 tracks and nearly an hour in length, Jaar isn’t rushing for anyone, instead crafting a beautiful piece of work that echoes the work of the late 90s.
Perfume Genius – Set My Heart on Fire Immediately
With every new record, it feels as if Perfume Genius expands his artistic platter. Set My Heart on Fire Immediately is his latest (and best) creation yet, effortlessly weaving Art Pop, Downbeat Singer-Songwriter and Dream Pop together to make a mesmerising statement. It feels as if his entire discography has been leading to this moment, with this album acting as Perfume Genius’ magnum opus.
Phoebe Bridgers – Punisher
Without realising it was even possible, Punisher is an even darker turn for Phoebe Bridgers. With some absolutely heartbreaking moments (‘Halloween’), moments of light (‘Kyoto’) and a triumphant ending (‘I Know the End’). On this record, Bridgers proves herself to the one of the brightest voices in Indie at the moment, as her winning streak continues.
Poppy – I Disagree
What Poppy began on her Am I a Girl? LP she continues on I Disagree, but to a greater effect. With even greater influence from Thrash and Black Metal, Poppy hits us with a 1, 2, 3 from the off, with ‘Concrete’, ‘I Disagree’ and ‘BLOODMONEY’. There’s still that beautiful contrast of the K-Pop vocals and Pop Sensibilities, but Poppy isn’t afraid to go hard, vocally, notably on tracks ‘BLOODMONEY’ and ‘Sit/Stay’.
R.A.P. Ferreira – Purple Moonlight Pages
The next in the line of many projects from Milo, a.k.a. Scallops Hotel a.k.a. R.A.P. Ferreira. Purple Moonlight Pages is easily his best project, or the project I certainly have taken too quickest. Modern Beat Poetry spat over laid back Lounge Jazz never sounded so good. Purple Moonlight Pages is a very colourful album, owing to Ferreira’s vivid descriptions and metaphors, and his beautifully smooth backing track.
Rina Sawayama – SAWAYAMA
Rina Sawayama tackles her debut album like a cross between an 00s Chart Pop Star and a Nu Metal band. The combination is absolutely astounding, and as a result SAWAYAMA sounds unlike anything else to be released in the last few years. It’s absolutely overblown and brilliant with Rina at the centre of it giving a vocal performance that would blow many other Pop stars out of the water.
Run the Jewels – RTJ4
In these times of trouble, it seems fitting that El-P and Killer Mike return after a four year break with one of their most consistent and hard hitting records yet. After the patchy RTJ3, RTJ4 presents the duo refreshed, ready to roll and angry at the world they find themselves in. This is reflected in their lyrics, most notably on the track ‘Walking in the Snow’ where Killer Mike spits lines about police brutality that could have been written yesterday.
Soccer Mommy – Color Theory
While her previous efforts have underwhelmed me, Color Theory, the new album from Nashville’s Soccer Mommy is easily her most fully formed to date. This record sounds like something that would sit next to Alanis Morissette in the “Adult Alternative” section of a Mid-90s record store. Elsewhere, Soccer Mommy flexes her lyrical muscle on tracks such as ‘Circle the Drain’, ‘Royal Screw Up’ and ‘Yellow Is the Color of Her Eyes’.
Tame Impala – The Slow Rush
Kevin Parker’s fourth album under the Tame Impala name is an introspective mix of Disco, Prog Pop and Psychedelic music. With less glaring upbeat pop influence than Currents, Tame Impala feel the sands of time weighing them down. The prospect of wasted potential and the romanticising of the past are projected into such bangers as ‘Borderline’, ‘Lost in Yesterday’ and the Supertramp-inspired ‘It Might Be Time’.
Yves Tumor – Heaven to a Tortured Mind
Another artist who in the past I have been pretty ambivalent towards until this new release. Effortlessly combining Old-School Hip Hop, Electro Pop and Experimental Rap, Heaven to a Tortured Mind is a excellent and concise record. Clocking in at 36 minutes and 12 tracks, Yves Tumor wastes no time in creating a series of invigorating hooks and off-kilter melodies.