The 50 Best Albums of 2020

30. Waxahatchee Saint Cloud

2020 • ROCK/COUNTRY • MERGE

Going in the opposite direction of Miss Anthropocene, Saint Cloud, Waxahatchee’s fifth studio album, sounds better and better every day. Although on its release, the album sounded dull, slow and even boring at times, nowadays, months later, it exudes a shine, beauty and veracity that we did not notice on its release. Now, the simplicity of almost impeccable synthesizers, few guitar notes, a timid drums and church organs sound beautifully in the background, dancing majestically, while Waxahatchee plays with the sharpest lyrics of her career so far. The songs here, despite sounding simple, are her first work after being sober. In a way, it makes sense now: she has reached a place of peace and purity so great that nothing needs to be as agitated, aggressive or raw as before. Now, her romantic lyrics leave the listener silly with happiness and love and her confessions are enchanting. ―Leonardo Frederico


29. Soccer Mommy color theory

2020 • ROCK • LOMA VISTA

On her fourth album, Sophia Allison, under the artistic name of Soccer Mommy, invites everyone to enter her room, show us her collections, photos hanging on the walls and tell us some secret. Or at least that’s the feeling we have when we hear color theory, Allison’s latest release, a well-directed, calculated, sentimental, transparent and expressive intimate project, hovering over influences of the current alternative Pop Lo-Fi and even some touches that resemble 1998’s In the Airplane Over the Sea by Neutral Milk Hotel ― as in “royal screw up,” an almost raw account of Allison and her guitar. Likewise, the lyrics look like sentimental catharses that make it look like Soccer Mommy is collapsing with a friend. In “circle the drain,” for example, she makes a clear outburst, “Hey, I’ve been falling apart these days/Split open, watching my heart go.” For the greatest evils, color theory may seem to be at a standstill but Sophia keeps everything going regardless. ―Leonardo Frederico


28. Bill Callahan Gold Record

2020 • ROCK/FOLK • DRAG CITY

Right on the first track of his sixth album, Gold Record, we can already see what Bill Callahan came for. In “Pigeons,” the opener, Callahan tells the story of a car driver who drives newlyweds after weddings. In this track, he traces the man’s story with delicacy, subtlety and rich details: the driver drives and reflects on his life. He sings, “Outside of Concan, the groom noticed the gold band on my left hand/And said “You got any advice for us, old man?”.”

Likewise, the rest of Gold Record is: all the tracks are well-narrated stories and contacts, with a wealth of details that mix between everyday scenes, which gain a special touch through Callahan’s writing, and thoughts and dreams. In “The Mackenzies,” for example, we see Bill narrating the story of a man with a broken car who is mentally saved by his neighbor. However, for all this lyrical majesty there is a sonorous grandeur configured by synthesizers, guitars, drums and basses. In some songs, Bill seems to come out of an alternative Jazz bar and in others he seems to take us into the middle of the western desert. But at all times, there is a magical story and an appropriate sound that hugs us. ―Leonardo Frederico


27. The Microphones Microphones in 2020

2020 • ROCK/EXPERIMENTAL • P.W. Elverum & Sun

Within the countless musical experiments that took place in 2020, none is as surprising, impressive and interesting as Phil Elverum’s first project under The Microphones name in years. On his new album, Microphones in 2020, which contains only a 45-minute track, Elverum narrates his whole life ― literally, his whole life. Accompanied only by a guitar that plays only two chords during the whole duration, Phil makes a narrative of his whole life. Passing through his childhood and adolescence, he paints scenes of his own trips with his family, an idealized relationship and a job in a record store. Subsequently, with some turbulence in the instrumentation ― sometimes we see synthesizers that make all the sound more intense and dense ―, he reaches the crises of his life, as when he burned the name of The Microphones in a dark and cold cave in Norway. In the end, he arrives at metalanguage singing, “I will never stop singing this song/It goes on forever/I started when I was a kid and I still want to hold it lightly.” Everything here is very well written and, despite demanding a lot from the listener, it is incredibly vivid and immersive. ―Leonardo Frederico


26. Christine and the Queens La vita nuova EP

2020 • POP • BECAUSE MUSIC

Even though La vita nuova is not a complete album, it does not make it incomplete, on the contrary. Christine and the Queens’ latest EP is full of life, dances on European roofs and electronic beats. Accompanied by Caroline Polachek on one of the tracks, the EP traces a path about passion, ending and finding yourself after the storm. In the opening, she sings, “It’s true that people, I’ve been sad” and in “Mountains” and “Nada,” she sings hooks that are captivating despite their simplicity and repetition. While she mixes her native language, French, with English, she also mixes elements of vintage Pop with Electronic beats and EDM influences. A homogeneous mixture that leaves you instigated for her next project. ―Leonardo Frederico


25. Charli XCX how i’m feeling now

2020 • POP/ELECTRONIC • ASYLUM

In the last few years, with the help of A. G. Cook, Charli XCX has built a kind of musical utopia in which she is a kind of queen. Her experiments, that started on the mixtapes Number 1 Angel and Pop 2, were essential for Charli to reach her artistic peak on her album from last year, Charli. She did it and now, during the quarantine, in a surprise and almost reckless way ― she announced how i’m feeling now without any ready material ―, she extends her electronic adventures to an even more sparkling and totally synthetic but isolated space.

Like her previous projects, Charli makes heavy use of synthesizers, voice remixing, digital instruments, samples, dancing robots and noisy machines. This time, however, unlike what happened in her previous projects that were full of collaborations, here she appears alone, fully enjoying her synthetic life alongside her boyfriend, isolated in quarantine. Most of the songs here are about her relationship, with these showing Charli totally in love or feeling that none of it will last. Although at times how i’m feeling now sounds more stuck and limited in some ways, it is still Charli’s most different project to date. ―Leonardo Frederico


24. Mac Miller Circles

2020 • POP/RAP • WARNER

It becomes difficult to talk about Mac Miller’s Circles since any word you type does not sound good enough to describe the unique feeling and sensation that come out of the American singer, songwriter and rapper’s first posthumous album. Completed by Jon Brion, Circles shows Miller in a way never before. Despite being a Rap album, Mac rarely seems to care about creating rhymes that fit the end of each line. On the contrary, he is much more concerned with passing on his feelings through his unmistakable voice and well written and poetic lyrics. However, it is neither the well-directed lyrics nor the diverse and minimalist instrumental ― one hour we see a Waltz, another a Trap and then a Pop ― that hit you hard, but rather the feeling of farewell that Miller constantly gives around the album ― remember that Circles was being made at the same time as 2018’s Swimming. In “Complicated,” he sings, “Some people say they want to live forever/That’s way too long, I’ll just get through today.” On the album’s lead single, “Good News,” we heard an outburst, “Good news, good news, good news/That’s all they wanna hear/No, they don’t like it when I’m down.” Miller’s life was not easy but, on this album, he makes us understand that, despite everything, it is worth it. He continues on “Circles,” “But when I’m flyin’, oh/It make ’em so uncomfortable/So different, what’s the difference?” ―Leonardo Frederico


23. Blake Mills Mutable Set

2020 • EXPERIMENTAL • NEW DEAL

On the cover of Mutable Set we can see figures that do not make sense by themselves or in a combined context: nails, matches, fish, an eye and a chair. The only thing in common, perhaps, is a certain strangeness around them. Like the cover, the songs on the fourth album by Blake Mills also bear the resemblance of sounding strange, but not because they have an extremely different sound or something, but rather an atmosphere that is so artistic that it seems to be much deeper than just songs. Here, synthesizers make everything sound like a dream: the notes on the piano seem distant, strings can disappear at any moment and Mills’ voice always seems uncertain. Throughout its duration, Blake works on several themes ― as well as the diversity of objects on the cover ― however, they all seem to carry the same density and uniqueness ― the strangeness of the objects. Despite that, Mutable Set is still nice and mesmerizing while creating its own universe. ―Leonardo Frederico


22. Westerman ― Your Hero Is Not Dead

2020 • FOLK/COUNTRY • PARTISAN

British singer Westerman’s debut is full of spirit and soul. Worked around Folk and Pop Lo-Fi trends, the album carries varied songs that seem to arise spontaneously inside Will’s head: here he works with love, political and social crises, internal issues and existentialism. In “The Line,” for example, he sings, “You choose not to choose thatʼs a choice and it brings new choices”. Accompanying these ideas, he uses a guitar, bass, piano and drums to create his bases that are remixed and refined with atmospheric and deep synthesizers that give charming to all the songs. All the simplicity of Your Hero Is Not Dead seems to be unique and something that only Westerman knows how to do. ―Leonardo Frederico


21. The Weeknd After Hours

2020 • POP/R&B • XO/REPUBLIC

The Weeknd was one of the Grammy’s biggest snubs of the last few years ― if not of history since his After Hours, one of the strongest albums of the year, was not nominated for anything and “Blinding Lights,” one of the best-selling songs of all time, not even see the taste of an indication. However, this does not mean that Abel’s fourth album is a bad thing. On the contrary, After Hours is far and away from being one of the weakest projects of the year.

The Weeknd’s sharpest, cohesive, consistent and ambitious album to date, After Hours arrives not only as a well-calibrated album, but also a well-organized bag of hit songs. Perhaps, this is what most impresses about the album, the fact that he manages to be so good in his lyrics and production and the songs still managed to fit within the standards of success to get the number one on Spotify. While songs like “Snowchild” are a dark orchestra about the singer’s addictions and fame, “Hardest To Love” appears as an instant hit. However, “Blinding Lights” is the strongest point, which mixes all the sound qualities of the best produced songs with an undeniable potential to be a great worldwide success ― and after all it is. Of course, After Hours is not only that, it is also the important point in Abel’s career in which he seems to find himself in the purest and the most truthful way. He got stronger here. ―Leonardo Frederico


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