My 9 favorite albums of 2020

Photo+credits%3A%0ATop+row+%28left+to+right%29%3A+Ashton+Irwin+%28via+YouTube%29+and+Randy+Holmes+%28Getty+Images%29.%0ABottom+row%3A+Live+Nation%2C+Columbia+Records%2C+and+Lindsey+Byrnes.

Photo credits: Top row (left to right): Ashton Irwin (via YouTube) and Randy Holmes (Getty Images). Bottom row: Live Nation, Columbia Records, and Lindsey Byrnes.

As the end of the year approached, the panic set in. 

I am extremely indecisive. When I have to make a decision, I can spend hours contemplating my choice, and then, hours wondering if I made the right choice afterward. So, as you can imagine, end-of-year lists are a nightmare for me. I mean, I know what I like and don’t like, but of what I like, how am I supposed to choose what I like the most?

Therefore, this is a very loose ranking of my favorite albums of the year; I’ve switched the positions of these records numerous times, as I love and enjoy them all pretty equally. 

A quick disclaimer before I get into it: obviously, I haven’t heard every single album that was released this year; in fact, there are projects I wanted to listen to, but unfortunately, just never had the time to do so. Also, if you don’t agree with me or my ranking, just know that I’m in the same boat—this was very difficult to put together. 

Note: All of the albums included on this list were released from Dec. 1, 2019, to Nov. 30, 2020. 


Honorable Mentions: COIN’s Dreamland — Harry Styles’s Fine Line — Rina Sawayama’s SAWAYAMA


 #9) Eyes wide open – TWICE

Eyes wide open is a cohesive, well-written blast from the past, with the 80s-inspired synths and city pop influences that, though following trends, show TWICE at the top of their game.


#8) Three. Two. One. – Lennon Stella

Lennon Stella was not an artist I had my eye on but one who commanded that I see them. I used to keep casual taps on Stella, following her on Instagram and checking out her new releases on my own time. Her previously released singles like “Kissing Other People” and “Golf on TV” didn’t intrigue me the way her EP and previous one-off releases had. It wasn’t until I sat down and gave her debut record, released in April, a fair chance that I realized how wrong I had been about Stella’s newer sound.

Three. Two. One. is a fantastically cohesive and chill indie-pop record that’s easy on the ears but not forgettable. As much as the writing is a bit basic and not much of an improvement from her previous work, it’s charming in a straight-from-the-heart way. Stella relatably maneuvers through heartbreak, anxiety and the general complications of human relationships—familial, platonic and romantic, alike—atop tightly-produced, for lack of a better word, bops.


#7) Future Nostalgia – Dua Lipa

Dua Lipa doesn’t follow trends; she starts them. Alongside The Weeknd, Lipa led the wave of synth-pop, 80s-inspired tunes that dominated the charts this year with Future Nostalgia, her sophomore album released back in March. Less than 40-minutes-long, Future Nostalgia is a high of irresistibly danceable choruses and catchy tunes that demonstrate Lipa’s ability to capture the lively spirit of the 80s while putting her own twist on it. 


#6) JAGUAR – Victoria Monét

Whether it was a casual recommendation from someone I follow on Twitter or a review I saw somewhere on the internet, I’m not exactly sure what it was that compelled me to check out Victoria Monét’s debut album, but regardless, I’m glad that I gave JAGUAR a listen. It quickly (and completely unexpectedly) became one of my favorite projects released this year. 

The production, the writing, the sound—it’s rich and lush and mesmerizing in a way that, honestly, makes JAGUAR feel akin to an out-of-body experience. When the horns start doing their funky little thing in “Dive,” or the electric guitar solo kicks in on “A** Like That,” I feel like telling God to open up the gates and send down the ladder because I’m coming up. The insane production, combined with Monét’s honey-like, dreamy vocals and themes of sexual empowerment and feminism, easily make this one of my favorites of the year. 

I don’t say this lightly, and I don’t think I can even say it in the way this superb project deserves, but JAGUAR is a magical, once-in-a-lifetime kind of project that I am hopeful Monét will be able to replicate in her future works, and I am absolutely looking forward to the day when those albums grace my ears with their presence. 


#5) Women in Music Part III – HAIM

I’ll be honest, I don’t know much about HAIM. I’m not at all familiar with their discography, and I wasn’t even planning on giving Women in Music Pt. III (WIMPIII) a listen until I saw critics raving about it and decided to join in on the action; the critics were not wrong.

WIMPIII is an organic, refreshing album that attests to what HAIM have proudly declared: “Women make the best rock music.” Through the eloquent writing and intricately-crafted melodies, HAIM effortlessly (and beautifully) chronicles the ups-and-downs of life, love and being a woman in a male-dominated industry and world. Front to back, WIMPIII is a phenomenal album that has brought me to tears (“I Know Alone,” “Hallelujah”), made me nostalgic for moments I haven’t experienced (“Los Angeles,” “Gasoline”) and left me with an excitement for the future.


#4) folklore – Taylor Swift

It’s about damn time that Taylor Swift is finally being appreciated as the artist she is. folklore may be the result of quarantine boredom, but it is easily her best album. While I love the chamber pop, indie folk sound that brands folklore as the musical epitome of sweater weather, Swift’s songwriting is what truly makes this album remarkable. With her imagination running wild, Swift explored the life of the former owner of Swift’s $17 million mansion in Rhode Island (“the last great american dynasty,” “mad woman”); created “the teenage love triangle” (“cardigan,” “august” and “betty”); and touched on her own life (“invisible string,” “peace”)—all done in an articulate but not overwhelming way, as one might expect for an album over an hour long.  

If there’s one positive to the pandemic, COVID-19 gifted us, what is quite possibly, Swift’s magnum opus. 


#3) Superbloom – Ashton Irwin

Superbloom is a delicious cocktail of 90s grunge influences; beautifully-written, earnest lyrics; and heartfelt vocals that command upon addicting melodies. It’s that simple.


#2) Petals for Armor – Hayley Williams

I never expected a solo side project from Paramore’s Hayley Williams, but hey, I’m not complaining (as evident by Petals for Armor’s position on this list). What can I say—I’m a sucker for a good concept album, and wow, what a story Williams delivers on her debut record. 

From her rocky relationship with Chad Gilbert to debilitating struggles with depression and anxiety, Williams has been through a lot, and Petals for Armor is the angsty, emotional, cathartic tale of that “lot.” Yes, Petals for Armor may heavily borrow from its influences (Björk, Radiohead, etc.) and feel repetitive in places, but I almost admire it for that—it portrays, sonically, Williams’s wearing of her heart on her sleeve, just as the raw, impassioned storytelling does.


#1) SUPERBLOOM – Misterwives

For one as indecisive as myself, you’d probably expect that choosing my favorite album of the year would be the most difficult part of putting this list together, but it was actually the easiest. Misterwives have been a favorite band of mine for a while. Our Own House, their debut record, is one of my favorite albums of all time. I have very fond memories of listening to it for hours on end while I skateboarded up and down my driveway in sixth grade. In the present, almost six years after its release, the tunes are just as infectious, the writing still as magnificent, and I grow to love and appreciate Our Own House more each time I listen to it. 

So, for a new Misterwives album to be as good, if not better, than Our Own House, all the other albums I loved this year simply had no shot at bagging the album of the year title. SUPERBLOOM is the heartbreakingly detailed, beautifully told story of lead singer Mandy Lee’s journey of learning to love again after the excruciating breakup she had with drummer Etienne Bowler, her lover and bandmate of over nine years. We have the privilege to watch Lee go from, “I try to stay in love and do it without your help,” to “I deserve congratulations / ‘Cause I came out the other side,” all wrapped up and neatly-packaged into a digestible, 61-minute-long project that is topped to the brim with fast-paced, fervent guitar riffs, synth-heavy choruses and colorful mixtures of saxophone, cowbell and trumpet. 

SUPERBLOOM is exactly the album I had been waiting to hear again from Misterwives: the kind where, from top to bottom, there’s not a single flaw in the impeccable melodies and cathartic storytelling.  

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