And now we conclude my top albums of the year that was started yesterday. There are so many albums that I never got around to listening to – if there are any you’d think I would enjoy, please leave a comment below.
#10 – Róisín Machine by Róisín Murphy
In a year filled with disco, it only makes sense that the first album in my Top 10 would be disco-pop done Róisín Murphy style. Despite loving Hairless Toys, I never did listen to the follow-up. However, with Róisín Machine there was no doubt that I had to get on this straightaway.
After all, so many amazing tracks from this album had been released over the last 8 years, it was hard to imagine that this wouldn’t end up being her best album yet – and she got there. I’ll always have a soft spot for her solo debut Ruby Blue for introducing me to avant-pop, but I have a new champion now.
Top Tracks: Narcissus, We Got Together, Kingdom of Ends
Future Nostalgia was one of those albums that I heard very early in the year and knew that it would be a guaranteed Top 10 placement by the end. The fact that an album I enjoyed this much ends up at number eight, shows just how strong a year this has ended up being in terms of music. It was the carefree romp through a number of retro-pop tropes that really would have smashed a year with actual dancefloors. Even some of the questionable tracks on the remix album didn’t manage to dull how cool and fun this album was.
Top Tracks: Physical, Hallucinate, Break My Heart
#8 – Chromatica by Lady Gaga
When I heard the promotional singles and even on my first listen through of Chromatica, I would not have expected that this would end up in my end of year list – let alone this high. However, ‘Sour Candy’ and ‘Sine From Above’ would not stop invading my brain – and here we are. Now I am in love with her electro-pop opus where, at least for me, she’s back at The Fame Monster quality. I may not have loved all the albums in between (although Born This Way got plenty of spins), but I never truly left her – which makes this return all the sweeter.
Top Tracks: Sour Candy, Sine From Above, Chromatica II/911
#7 – Fetch The Bolt Cutters by Fiona Apple
When this album came out, I went to bed with my headphones and listened to this alone in the dark. It isn’t every year that Fiona Apple releases an album, so you have to experience it properly. By the end of the first track I had already cried, by the time it ended I knew that it would need a lot of extraction.
Then the rest of the year happened. In a year where I didn’t have to deal with anxiety and depression, I would have given Fetch The Bolt Cutters even more of a dissection and given it the analysis it deserves. Instead, this is an album I had to fit in whenever I felt lucid and stable enough. Means that the positioning here is going to be lower than if I was retroactively talking about 2020 albums in a few year’s time, but it is what it is.
Top Tracks: Shameika, Under The Table, Cosmonauts
#6 – Miss Anthropocene by Grimes
It bums me out that, upon releasing Miss Anthropocene, Grimes more or less disowned Art Angels. It won’t stop me listening to that, or having ‘Flesh Without Blood’ as my favourite Grimes track. This was also the Grimes album I feel I waited the longest for as I made the conscious decision to not listen to the version that leaked online four months earlier.
In the end, this album’s dystopian aesthetic was oddly prescient of what 2020 would end up being. Sure, this was meant to be more about the climate crisis than a world pandemic – but really the difference pretty much ends there. At least there will be good industrial inspired pop in the future.
Top Tracks: My Name Is Dark – Art Mix, So Heavy I Fell Through the Earth – Art Mix, Violence – Original Mix
#5 – What’s Your Pleasure? by Jessie Ware
I am still not entirely sure why disco made a comeback in 2020. It’s so weird that a number of artists got the same memo, but I am glad for it giving me the first Jessie Ware that I paid attention to since her debut. What’s Your Pleasure? is such a sexy and euphoric album that is exactly the kind of disco music that I can well and truly get on board with. It feels like what I was hoping for with Honey, but hey maybe that is the album that was needed in order to give me this.
Top Tracks: What’s Your Pleasure?, Ooh La La, Save a Kiss
#4 – Bonny Light Horseman by Bonny Light Horseman
Okay, so I never thought that I would end up falling for an album like this – a folk supergroup that reinterprets a number of traditional folk songs. However, there is some real magic in those songs and these three really managed to make an album that balances the beauty and the melancholy.
If there was an album that was the soundtrack to my terrible summer and actually helped get me through it, it was Bonny Light Horseman. Singing along to ‘Deep in Love’ and ‘Magpie’s Nest’ – I saw singing, I was wailing – was a regular occurrence and it really helped to lift my spirits.
Top Tracks: Deep In Love, Bonny Light Horseman, Jane Jane
#3 – That’s How Rumours Get Started by Margo Price
Silly as it sounds, I still have a slight regret that I didn’t get into Margo Price’s exceptional debut quick enough for me to be able to put in my Top 20 of that year. Well, here we are a few years later and she’s released yet another album that I adore – and this one has been extra special because of how, like Bonny Light Horseman, it helped get me through the summer.
Hearing her first perform ‘Stone Me’ on Full Frontal in Samantha Bee like a zillion years ago made me so excited for the album – which just delivered exactly the country experience I was needing. No matter what happens, she is a true star and one of the few singers who I actually follow on Instagram.
Top Tracks: Letting Me Down, I’d Die For You, Stone Me
#2 – SAWAYAMA by Rina Sawayama
One of my best friends introduced me to Rina Sawayama last year through the excellent song ‘Alterlife’… and now I think I have become the bigger fan of the two of us. In terms of being a proper pop album, this left all the others in the dust this year. It is such a collision of genres into an album that is incredibly inclusive and is personal almost to a fault. There’s nu-metal, funk, RnB, house, electroclash and pretty much every genre that people have been puzzling over in their Spotify Year in Review.
Top Tracks: STFU!, Comme des Garçons (Like the Boys), Dynasty
#1 – 回 by GFRIEND
This year, GFRIEND have pretty much dominated my listening with their 回 series of albums. For most of my list making, I had their three releases separately and it felt a bit off to have the same artist appear three times. So, I decided to combine them and effectively give them the position of the highest of the three releases – 回:Labyrinth – which was my album of the year.
I have tried other K-Pop this year, but nothing just quite hits the same spot as GFRIEND – which is insane for a group I only listened to because of a funny gif I saw on Reddit. I also love that they have been able to release singles that just end up being repeated ad nauseum for about a fortnight at a time. It has been such a treat seeing their development from their 2019 album (which was the soundtrack to my trip to South Korea). I don’t know where they are headed in 2021, but I will be along for the ride.
Top Tracks: Labyrinth, MAGO, Here We Are