The 50 Best Albums of 2020

2020, huh? This was complicated, right? In January we had threats from a Third World War. In March, the world entered a worldwide virus pandemic that has so far killed more than 1.5 million people. Also, throughout the year, we had police violence, racism, xenophobia, protest, stress from chaotic elections and explosions. However, in all of these cases, we all turned to our favorite artists, bands and groups who, as a kind of savior, never stopped producing albums and tracks so that our time during that year was more bearable. Fortunately, it was an excellent year when we analyzed artistic productions and now it’s time to look back and remember what are the best albums of 2020!

Note: December 2020 releases will be considered for the 2021 year-end lists

50. Sufjan Stevens The Ascension

2020 • FOLK/ELECTRONIC • Asthmatic Kitty

Few artists can afford to make a long-lasting album. Sufjan Stevens was one of them. When he announced The Ascension, we all expected this to be one of those big projects that would be memorable, dense and mesmerizing. In fact, The Ascension is a big project, it is 80 minutes long, however, it rarely sticks to the mind and is a more tiring than impressive experience. However, don’t get me wrong, there are several excellent songs in the religious view of the end of the world that this album is, like “America” and the title track of the album. For both and all the cases, the songs work much better separately than compiled here. Of course, there is an ambition and desire for this album to be something much bigger, but it ended up being the confirmation that Stevens really needed: he is no longer part of the select group of artists who can afford a long-lasting album. ―Leonardo Frederico

49. Conan Gray Kid Krow


The debut of young singer and songwriter Conan Gray, Kid Krow, is like a conversation between friends: casual, fast and with purposeful distractions while both talk about relationships, parties, drinking and broken hearts. So, in this way, although Gray is already 21 years old, in Kid Krow he sounds like a 17-year-old teenager who is going through the same cliché dramas that any other teenager goes through, the difference is that he turns it into a kind of sentimental fun. In tracks like “Maniac,” for example, they take us to a party environment while sending a hint to a guy who only wants to know about him once in a while. “Tell them you hate me and dated me just for laughs/So, why do you call me and tell me you want me back?” he sings. Even the cringiest, like “Checkmate,” don’t sound so bad in this casual conversation in a school hallway. ―Leonardo Frederico

48. Joji Nectar

2020 • POP/ALTERNATIVE • 88rising

Imagine a teenager becoming a mature adult man, leaving his troubled past behind and taking on less childlike responsibilities that seem to be more relevant to life. This transformation is Nectar, Joji’s second album, where he appears in a more mature way, alongside heavy beats and dark samples from Trap and Pop. Everything here seems to be more refined and mature: his existential crises seem more real and intense, his romances seem to have a stronger connection and his revolt seems to arise from a genuine hate. However, that is not all that makes us look at Nectar with a less rigid look. Joji’s vocals are better, the lyrics are better written and, although generic, the instruments really seem to be better produced and we can even see Joji proving himself in some interesting mixes, like in “MODUS,” which is a melancholy Trap orchestra with him painting himself as If he was a group of codes. Nectar is the spotlight that Joji needed to prove himself. ― Leonardo Frederico

47. The Chicks Gaslighter


Perhaps the biggest mistake on the first album in 14 years of The Chicks ― formerly known as Dixie Chicks ― is its direction. Rather than addressing the diverse themes that made them what they are today ― the 2003 crises that made them fall from the top of the world, feminism and even racism ―, the girls preferred to address the end of a Natalie Maines’s toxic relationship. Of course, this is not a problem ― it really should be discussed ― however, at the end of the day, it sounds too weak to keep Gaslighter standing. However, this does not mean that the album is bad. On the contrary, it is full of very beautiful songs, very well produced (with the help of Jack Antonoff) and very well written ― one or the other a natural hit. The title track on the album, for example, is the best example of all this: it manages to tell a story by means of a great lyrics and incredible instrumentation and it is very catchy and memorable. At the end, the only Gaslighter’s mistake is its thematic limitation and direction. ―Leonardo Frederico

46. Hamilton Leithauser The Loves Of Your Life


There are two main factors that make The Loves of Your Life a special album: its dynamic stories and the freedom that Leithauser’s instrumental, lyrics and voice have when singing these stories. Both factors work together to create this set of songs that, at the same time, sound refined and chic but also fun, simple and very homemade. Take for example “Isabella,” where Leithauser tells the story of a girl from New York who lives free of strings. “Gonna rock ’til dawn/Isabella sings/And when our dreaming dies away/Well, I’ll be glad I did,” he sings. In the instrumental we hear a mixture of Rock, Alternative and Pop while Hamilton’s vocals vary between boring seriousness and fine-high and striking moments. Fortunately, healthily, the whole album is like that. ―Leonardo Frederico

45. My Morning Jacket The Waterfall II

2020 • ROCK • ATO

During the quarantine of 2020, Jim James, the lead singer of My Morning Jacket, finally decided to release the band’s infamous lost album. At the time they were recording The Waterfall, they wrote and recorded so many songs that they had material for a second album. However, due some problems, the project was abandoned, until this year when James finally decided to release the project. Although The Waterfall II is not like a lost album by other artists, it still has countless qualities. One of them is the sound diversity, ranging from classic Rock to contemporary Alternative Folk ― in some, they make us jump for joy and shout, in others, they make us sit and watch the sunset and think. For all cases, however, they present songs with great sound, lyric and sentimental quality. ―Leonardo Frederico

44. Grimes Miss Anthropocene


Over time, albums tend to sound different than the first week we heard them. In the case of the Grimes’s fifth album, Miss Anthropocene, this aging happened in the worst possible way. Working around a theme that, ironically, not even the album itself was able to deliver ― the end of the world, in case you’re wondering ―, Miss Anthropocene is loaded with heavy and complicated concepts, synthesizers and loud noises and the voice of Grimes almost all the time stuffy. On its release, the album felt like a deep project that seemed to want to work on all the environmental, social and political issues in the world ― take “New Gods” as an example, where she talks about computers being the new gods of the world. However, now, almost a year later, Miss looks more like something we’ve never heard before: it’s forgettable, with just a few flashes of some memorable songs, and it sounds, in many moments, overwhelming. Of course, it still has its merits since the production is sharp and very well done even today. In the end, we didn’t agree when Grimes said that Art Angels was a piece of shit and Miss Anthropocene was an excellent album ― it’s more the opposite. ―Leonardo Frederico

43. Hayley Williams Petals for Armor


Petals for Armor is full of energy, intimacy and sincere feelings. Paramore’s lead singer Hayley Williams’ first album works on the concept of using vulnerability as armor ― being at the bottom of the well and then rebuilding. Fortunately, she manages to achieve this with well-written and well-produced tracks, like the stripped-down hit “Dead Horse” and the expressive “Cinnamon.” Also, Williams puts all her power into her voice, presenting a wide and surprising range ― one time she sounds like a spirit and whispers, the next she sounds like the head of a parade. Even if Petals was not released in the best possible way, still too long and has some very weak moments, it still manages to have the merit of being something liberating in some way. ―Leonardo Frederico

42. Lady Gaga Chromatica


Lady Gaga canceled Earth and moved to Chromatica, home to her sixth studio album that bears the same name. Showing a Pop that, for many, was dead years ago, Gaga presents several facets of herself: she dances for hits Dance, shows herself vulnerable in well-produced sad ballads and sings with all her strength in songs that seem to come out straight from a Broadway musical. In all of these cases, she doesn’t have a single bad song, or at least, something you look at and think, “ugh, that shouldn’t be here.” In other words, Chromatica can be seen as Gaga’s most complete, well-written and well-produced album, even if you consider the shallow lyrics and generic beats of the singles “Stupid Love” and “Rain On Me,” with Ariana Grande. Certainly, here is a song that will make you dance. ―Leonardo Frederico

41. Bonny Light Horseman Bonny Light Horseman

2020 • FOLK • 37d03d

During all the times I heard Bonny Light Horseman throughout this year, the rustic scene was easily painted in my head: a black and white hut with smoke coming out of the chimney, someone chopping wood in the front, horses grazing on the side and a scary pine forest in the background. All this fluent imagery that emerges from the union of Anaïs Mitchell, Eric Johnson and Josh Kaufman culminates in an atmospheric, deep and unique album. Indeed, Bonny Light Horseman is all of that and more. The folk album traces stories in different ways where each song has a perspective sung by each member. In the opener, for example, we see a tragic romance story that took place at the time of the Napoleonic Wars. It also highlights another point on the album, the spirit that hovers over all the songs and makes everything here look much more vintage, old and rustic than it really is ― you can risk saying that these songs look like they are from the 1800s. All these factors ― the well-written lyrics, the dominance of a guitar in the instrumental and a whole well-worked and well-forged atmosphere ― make Bonny Light Horseman a unique album. ―Leonardo Frederico

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