10. HAIM ― “Los Angeles”
2020 • POP/ROCK • COLUMBIA
One of the pillars of HAIM’s new album, Women in Music Pt. III, is the experimentation. Throughout the album, Los Angeles girls play with building blocks, bringing together different genres and styles to create a powerful castle. In the opener, “Los Angeles,” this is no different ― in fact, it is the strongest and boldest point of this experimentation. The song begins with what appears to be a Middle Eastern wind instrument. Quickly, dry and opaque drum beats appear, alongside a soft piano and a stylized bass. Danielle’s voice comes singing, “Los Angeles/Give me a miracle, I just want out from this.” In the remainder of the track, they introduce more Pop and R&B trends that, at one time or another, seem to be played at a common Jazz rhythm. All this diversity results in an incredibly realistic track: for some reason, you can feel the California warmth while listening to it. The homage of one of the most unique and diverse cities in the United States could not be different: “Los Angeles” is diverse, bold, unstrung and warm. ―Leonardo Frederico
9. Fleet Foxes ― “Young Man’s Game”
2020 • FOLK/ALTERNATIVE • ANTI
In the midst of psychological crises and tributes to great stars in the history of music, it is “Young Man’s Game” that gains greater prominence in Fleet Foxes’ last release, Shore. The track begins as a kind of rehearsal in a studio: a few touches in a bass and someone says, “perfect.” In fact, it’s a perfect track. During his short (unfortunately), the music revolves around a relatively simple instrumentation: guitars, basses, electric guitars, synthesizers, drums and, sometimes, some buttery children’s electronic voices. All of this sounds very muffled as if they knew that the real star here is Pecknold’s voice ― and indeed it is. Undoubtedly, this track carries Robin’s best performance on the entire album, not because it has great vocals, but because it delivers something honest, smooth, free and beautiful. In the hook, when he sings, “But it’s a young man’s game,” you feel its simplicity and fall in love for it. ―Leonardo Frederico
8. Rina Sawayama ― “Chosen Family”
2020 • POP/ROCK • DIRTY HIT
Although Sawayama’s “Chosen Family” is not the most daring, visionary and most different song of her debut, it is the deepest and most beautiful. To create the album, Rina did extensive research on her history, interviewing family members about her childhood traumas, one of which was the divorce of her parents. That, without a doubt, shook Rina who, at various points on her album, questions the whole family issue. However, the strongest point is “Chosen Family,” in which she understands that family is not necessarily people of blood, but people who share love.
The track does not have the violent guitars and vocals influenced by Metal that several tracks have ― “Dynasty” and “STFU” ―, instead, it has synthesizers that play electronic samples that seem to have come out of retro video games and that put the voice of Rina highlighted at all times. She starts, “Where do I belong?” And, in the chorus, she reaches one of the album’s strongest points, when she sings, “We don’t need to be related to relate/We don’t need to share genes or a surname/You are, you are/My chosen, chosen family.” Of course, the song is not limited to the autobiographical questions of Rina and her family, but it is also a very beautiful letter for the entire LGBT+ community and everyone else who suffers from family abandonment and finds comfort in their friends who, in turn, are their true family. ―Leonardo Frederico
7. Charli XCX ― “claws”
2020 • POP/ELECTRONIC • ASYLUM
how i’m feeling now is Charli’s most different album to date. This is not due to its futuristic instrumentation ― something that is kind common nowadays to Charli ―, but because it is Charli’s first full solo album after she started to build her futuristic and visionary musical empire. Here, she appears totally alone in quarantine ― vulnerable, as seen in “i finally understand,” when she sings, “My therapist said I hate myself really bad” ― accompanied only by her boyfriend, who, as a result, ends up being the main target of XCX’s songs, which was certainly not a bad thing.
The song is short, less than two and a half minutes, but at no time do you feel that Charli forgot to say something. The music is very common, as a matter of fact, as you can see in the chorus, it’s basically about Charli really loving her boyfriend. “Like your mind, like your smile/Like your eyes, I could die,” she sings. Sonically, the track carries the same disturbed electronic sounds generated by futuristic synthesizers that Charli has been working on for a while. Fortunately, this does not mean that it sounds tiring, on the contrary, it seems the perfect match with XCX’s voice, which, despite being electronically modified, sounds sweet, honest and romantic. This is one of those unique moments in Charli’s discography where she performs a true catharsis of her heart ― fully loving and romantic but on her own way. ―Leonardo Frederico
6. Adrianne Lenker ― “anything”
2020 • ROCK/FOLK • 4AD
Among the moments of loneliness and sadness of Adrianne Lenker’s new albums, songs and instrumentals, the track that stands out most is the one in which the Big Thief’s vocalist allows her purest and truest feelings to flow like water. “anything” is this moment. With the help of only a guitar that plays few chords during its short duration, Lenker appears with her thin, low voice singing about a relationship, which she is so fissured in that she doesn’t want to think about anything else. First, she paints scenes of in-laws (“Christmas eve with your mother and sis”) and markets (“Grocery store list, now you get this/Brunch, had calls and messages”) and, in the chorus, reaches the purity of her feelings, which is transmitted by few words. On the hook, which is captivating and addictive, she sings, “I don’t wanna talk about anyone/I don’t wanna talk about anyone/I wanna sleep in your car while you’re driving/Lay on your lap when I’m crying.” Between the lines you can feel sadness, but in general it brings you peace with its lived scenes that makes you want to fall in love. ―Leonardo Frederico
5. Run the Jewels ― “walking on the snow”
2020 • RAP/HIP-HOP • JEWEL RUNNERS
Just by listening to a part of “walking in the snow” you can quickly understand why it is the best track on Run the Jewels’ new album, RTJ4, and one of the best of the year. In one of the moments on the track, Killer Mike sings, “And you so numb, you watch the cops choke out a man like me/Until my voice goes from a shriek to whisper,” I can’t breathe”/And you sit there in the house on couch and watch it on TV.” Although this track was written with Eric Garner in mind, it fits perfectly into the current social and political scene that it was released, days after a white police officer murdered George Floyd. The song is one of the rare cases where a work of art meets the social context perfectly ― and when it happens, it becomes worrying because in addition to representing the anger that the entire population feels, it reveals a painful truth: something that happened five years ago still happens today. Finally, the only thing left to be desired in the track ends up being its sonority that is not the most daring, different and original from RTJ4. But still, the track continues with its great importance. ―Leonardo Frederico
4. Phoebe Bridgers ― “Chinese Satellite”
2020 • FOLK/ALTERNATIVE • DEAD OCEANS
Within Punisher‘s many emotional and dramatic stories, none seems to hit as strong as Phoebe’s internal crisis in “Chinese Satellite.” With a painfully vivid handwriting, she paints a desperation of herself for not being able to believe in what she can’t see, whether that is a religion or ideas of after death. She sings in the chorus, “Took a tour to see the stars/But they weren’t out tonight/So I wished hard on a Chinese satellite.” She quickly delivers that her crises seem to be motivating far beyond just Bridgers’ skepticism, but also related to a breakup. She confesses, determined and timid at the same time, “Swore I could feel you through the walls/But that’s impossible,” and she says later, “I want to believe.”
But the track is not only special in its lyrics that works this theme in a unique way ― here, Phoebe sounds like an adult, however, she seems confused as a child ― but also because of its sonority: an alternative Folk sound that seems to reach a spiritual plane with the help of synthesizers as satellites pass by our heads ― or at least, what appears to be a satellite. In other words, a guitar that plays missing notes joins synthesizers that look like astral ghosts while samples of men talking on the radio that seem to convey a message off the planet plays here and there. She couldn’t have done anything more unique and as emotional as this. ―Leonardo Frederico
3. Perfume Genius ― “Describe”
2020 • ROCK/ALTERNATIVE • MATADOR
The lead single from Michael Hadreas’ fifth album, Set My Heart on Fire Immediately, is the most daring, different and intense song on the album, but also one of the most striking, memorable and well-produced songs of the year. The beginning is impressive and take your breath away: without strings attached, he almost deafens us with the surprise of a violent, strong and aggressive guitar solo that seems to shout as loud as it can ― something that we never thought that we would see on a Hadreas album. While all that sound develops perfectly, he sings the probably heaviest lyrics on the entire album. He asks, almost desperately, “Can you describe them for me?”, referring to the fact that he doesn’t even remember what happiness is like since he’s been sad for so long that the feeling seems somewhat blurred and daydreaming.
At the end of the track, he forgets all this violence, appearing as a lost voice among synthesizers that seems to imitate a deep sea ― the noise is as dense as water, some synthesizers look like creatures and some vocals seem like voices from beyond. We don’t really know what that means, we just know that this is a track that only people who heard it will know how good it is. ―Leonardo Frederico
2. Taylor Swift ― “my tears ricochet”
2020 • POP/ALTERNATIVE • REPUBLIC
Although one of the most striking things in folklore is the fact that Swift has stopped looking only at her and is now interested in telling external stories, the disguised self-biography “my tears ricochet” ends up being the best on the album. Narrating a story of betrayal in the most adult, intense, metaphorical and detailed way that Swift has ever narrated, the track features an undeniably emotional sentimentality and dramaturgy, being even sharper for those who know Taylor’s life more deeply and know exactly what she singing talking about.
However, of course, this does not mean that the track is just a mature and intense story just for the fans, but for everyone who hears it. The track begins with Taylor’s remixed vocals, seeming to come out of a terrifying spiritual place. Then, synthesizers appear performing a frequency while Swift announces, “if I’m on fire, you’ll be made of ashes, too” and asks, “Even on my worst day, did I deserve, babe/All the hell did you give me?” In both, Swift’s voice sounds beautiful and strong, but deep down you feel the tears and wounds that make the track resonate this way. Closer to the end, on the bridge, synth come knocking with loud bass, while she intelligently positions the phrase, “When I’m screaming at the sky,” being screamed by her, straight from a heavenly plane. She sings, “Look at how my tears ricochet.” We looked and almost wept together with her. ―Leonardo Frederico
1. Fiona Apple ― “Fecth the Bolt Cutters”
2020 • ROCK • EPIC
In many ways, Fetch the Bolt Cutters sounds like Fiona Apple’s release from a prison she built for herself inside her head. The title track of the album, without a doubt, is the moment when all this becomes clear, this being the strongest point of the album, when she frees herself from the chains that held her and finally rises up. “Fetch the Bolt Cutters” is a free track without barriers, unique in all aspects.
Using a line from the television series The Fall ― when a policeman says, “Fetch the bolt cutters,” to free a girl who was being tortured ―, Apple builds a sharp, precise, original and impressive lyric. She sings, “And I’m ashamed of what they did to me/What I let get done,” and then completes, “Fetch the bolt cutters, I’ve been in here too long.” Sonically, the track does not disappoint and manages to be even stronger than its lyrics. In the beginning, we have what looks like spoons hitting drums and cymbals, snapping fingers and clapping hands. Then, just after the bridge, Fiona’s dogs appear in the background barking, acting as the background singers ― perhaps, they were the only witness to this liberation. Like the whole album, this song is a piece that was born classic and carries an essence never seen before. ―Leonardo Frederico