20. Fontaines D.C. ― A Hero’s Death
2020 • ROCK/PUNK • PARTISAN
Written, recorded and produced during the 2020 quarantine, A Hero’s Death arrives like a kick in the door. With a more abstract composition and sharper instrumental, the second album by Irish band Fontaines D.C., A Hero’s Death, is complex, deep, hypnotic, intense and works as a kind of obscure energy that involves the listener. Honoring the roots of Post-Punk, each song here works as a catalyst that will suck the listener into a kind of dark universe, where the lyrics tell metaphorical poetry while the guitars, basses, drums and synthesizers compete to see who can create the most dense, heavy and deep sound. Undoubtedly, it is one of those projects that is difficult to describe because it is so intense that you can barely understand what you are feeling and what is happening. While “I Don’t Belong” uses repetitions to create a progression from a state of calmness to an internal catastrophe of revolt, “You Said” and “Oh Such a Spring” seem to perfectly orbit this whole atmosphere that the album builds very well. In the end, its only mistake may have been not doing something more durable, but it doesn’t end with the instant impact it shows when you hear it. ―Leonardo Frederico
19. Neil Young ― Homegrown
2020 • COUNTRY/FOLK • REPRISE
Homegrown was supposed to be released in the 1970s, however, due to Young’s discomfort, he kept it in a drawer until today. Despite being almost 50 years old, it is still all the simplicity of the album that keeps it still fresh and new today. Homegrown‘s songs are short and tight, catchy little organic Country/Folk hits. However, no matter how fast they pass, they never seem to lack anything. “Love Is A Rose,” is a timeless reflective metaphorical romantic song while “Florida” is a terrible chronicle that uses the death of parents in a park to symbolize a couple’s separation and pain. In all the cases, Homegrown is an entertaining and memorable time machine. ―Leonardo Frederico
18. Tkay Maidza ― Last Year Was Weird, Vol. 2
2020 • POP/RAP/R&B • 4AD
Even though Last Year Was Weird, Vol. 2 is not a full-length album, it would be a shame not to name it among the best projects of 2020. In her third EP, Tkay Maidza takes everything to a different level, delivering a complete project in all aspects: all the songs here are well produced and well written, full of empowerment, fun and critical thinking. In “Flowers,” for example, she has a reverie and an epiphany in front of a catchy instrumental. “I’m too young to die/I’m feeling too old to cry,” she sings. In “Grasshopper,” in turn, she appears in her strongest form. The beats are loud and her voice sounds confident and rough as she sings, “Back then, they ain’t ever wanna see me grow/Took a minute, I stared deep in my soul/Caterpillar, now a butterfly with the doors.” It only makes us die of anxiety about her next project. ―Leonardo Frederico
17. Laura Marling ― Song For Our Daughter
2020 • ROCK/FOLK • PARTISAN
On the title track of her latest album, Laura Marling sings, “Lately I’ve been thinking about our daughter growing old/All of the bullshit that she might be told.” These are the kind of worries that only a mother has and more others that support the magic of the stories of the singer’s seventh album. In less than 40 minutes, Marling makes an incredible panorama: she tells stories well narrated by lyrics rich in details and diversity that often carry a much greater meaning. Accompanied by an instrumental that seems too classic to be something popular, but that also seems too popular to be refined like an orchestra, Marling paints a scene lived in our heads: throughout the album you can imagine a suburb in which all houses look like the infamous “grandmother’s houses.” In this neighborhood, she talks about death, birth and even past and murder. The highest point ends up being, again, the title track of the album in which she paints the whole life of her imaginary daughter, until her death. However, there is still a lot behind each word. ―Leonardo Frederico
16. Jessie Ware ― What’s Your Pleasure?
2020 • POP/DISCO • INTERSCOPE
On her fourth release, What’s Your Pleasure?, Jessie Ware performed a renaissance: she abandoned all of her characteristics from her past works and delivered her best project so far. Being her first project completely directed to Disco trends ― also, the most different one ―, What’s Your Pleasure? it is full of intensity, fun and, above all, sensuality. For almost an hour, while synthesizers drag us or to a retro nightclub with a ball over our heads or a vintage apartment or an ABBA show, Ware traces her lyrics about sensuality, love, passion and fun. On the title track, for example, it takes us to a level where sensuality is so high that you can even moan during the chorus. Meanwhile, “Remember Where You Are” feels like a cover from something from a 70s band and in “Ooh La La” we can hear cars passing by, reinforcing the images of something retro in our heads. In the end, we may not know what our pleasure is, but it must look something like this. ―Leonardo Frederico
15. Moses Sumney ― græ
2020 • ROCK/ALTERNATIVE • JAGJAGUWAR
The first part of Moses Sumney’s second album was released before the pandemic and quarantine that affected the whole world. In a worrying but even funny way, it seemed that Sumney could predict everything through a mythology that he himself created. On the initial track of græ ― which came out initially with græ: Part 1, in February ― Taiye Selasi appears reciting, “Isolation comes from “insula” which means island.” For the rest of the album, Moses works with all his concepts around the definition of loneliness, which, in a way, could not fit better in the current situation.
However, he does not spend more than an hour in length complaining, but asking questions for us and himself. On one track, he questions multiplicity and polarity and, on another, racial issues. All of this, of course, in an almost religious way: he does not deliver his words to us, but paints concepts and puns that lead us to the final clarification. All of this works perfectly thanks also to the whole sound of the album, which, like the lyrics, seems to be an eccentric and totally original unit. In “Virile,” with cosmological vocals, he sings about the stereotypes of masculinity and in “Cut Me,” with tugging on thick strings, horn and what appears to be a harp, he talks about the need for blood in order to grow. Of course, the album still sounds a little tiring because it is really very dense and long ― which can be uncomfortable for some ― but that is not enough to prevent someone from investigating the entire Sumney’s mythology of isolation. ―Leonardo Frederico
14. HAIM ― Women in Music Pt. III
2020 • POP/ROCK • COLUMBIA
One of the main factors that make Women in Music Pt. III the best HAIM’s album is its experimentation, freedom, boldness and confidence. The first factor is due to the almost unexpected mix of genres and trends that we see throughout the album ― take as an example the first track, “Los Angeles,” where we see a captivating, homogeneous and very interesting mix between Pop, Rock, R&B and a few touches of Jazz. The second one and the last one, in turn, are said in relation to the fact that the album has 16 songs and almost an hour in duration. Few artists can afford to make an album that big. Fortunately, HAIM passed to this group of artists when they managed to make Women in Music Pt. III interesting for almost an hour without having any monotone or irrelevant points. Finally, the third relates to their visionary look seen in their songs, whose are so different, but still talk really well to each other. While in “3am” we can see an organic R&B/Pop hit, in “Hallelujah” we see an emotional and sad story based on real events. At this point, no one holds them. ―Leonardo Frederico
13. Dua Lipa ― Future Nostalgia
2020 • POP • WARNER
Sometimes it can be difficult to try to understand Dua Lipa. Not because she is complicated, but rather, how she manages to popularize types of music that often seem like they would never fit into the most played in the world. This is clear on her second studio album, Future Nostalgia, where she unites the future with the past, the modern with the retro, mixing trends from the Disco with contemporary generic samples. Incredibly, she made it all work. So, in this way, Future Nostalgia carries a unique aesthetic and essence ― literally a nostalgic future ― where it would find songs that seem to be modernized versions of 80’s gym songs, “Physical,” outlandish feminist hymns that come to problematic everyday details, “Boys Will Be Boys,” and even timeless hits, “Don’t Start Now.” However, the highest point is when she is able to paint all this intergalactic retro adventure in an incredible way in “Levitating.” Future Nostalgia, in a way, not only highlights Lipa’s talent, but also shows that her skills are not stuck in music tied to generic standards. ―Leonardo Frederico
12. Yves Tumor ― Heaven To A Tortured Mind
2020 • ROCK/EXPERIMENTAL • WARP
While Sean Bowie’s adolescence established a desire to get out of the monotone world on him and his previous album as Yves Tumor, Safe in the Hands of Love, took him on a path where musical genres are not separated by boxes and lines and experimentation is synonymous with freedom, Heaven to a Tortured Mind unites the pleasant and useful: he escapes the monotone world and takes his experimentation to a cosmological place where there are no limits and barriers and everything seems to reach a metaphorical spiritual form. This place is Heaven.
This is probably the best explanation to Heaven: a place where there is no bottom or top, a place where feelings, pleasure, passion and desires are emphasized ― more or less what happens on the cover, in which two people dissolve among themselves under the light, blur and smoke. In this almost religion/spiritual state that Tumor creates is where he plays with everything he has learned: in one track he plays a violent guitar solo and synthesizers together and, in other, silky samples with dark bass. Ironically, everything seems to work. “Gospel for a New Century,” the opener, is one of the best examples where he mixes Pop with R&B and Soul while singing about dealing with a breakup. This song sounds captivating, refined, intelligent and bold, just like everything else in Heaven to a Tortured Mind that never leaves a loose end in its own unique and private universe. ―Leonardo Frederico
11. Creeper ― Sex, Death & the Infinite Void
2020 • ROCK • ROADRUNNER
The world has started to end, houses are falling, people are running down the street and cars are on fire. You lock yourself in your room and put Sex, Death & the Infinite Void as loud as you can. The scenario couldn’t be more perfect, right?
Of all the albums released in the year, no other followed a concept and was as cohesive as Creeper’s second full-length release, Sex, Death & the Infinite Void. With the help of voices of angels, noises of rain, violent and bloody lyrics and other sonorous devices, the band managed to make the album follow a basic concept: the world is fucking ending and we are going to play these last fucking songs for you. Not only did they do it, they did it very well. Undoubtedly, the album is that kind of closed sound unit that the listener enters and is pulled into a cloudy universe where girls and hearts are poisonous and the void is approaching. In other words, Sex, Death & the Infinite Void is original, cohesive, fluid, hypnotic and totally addictive.
However, the album is only like that thanks to the sound of the album, a kind of nostalgia rereading of Rock and Punk, and the lyrics, which all seem to follow the same line of thought: a universe where everything is gothic and macabre ― curiously you feel that this is extremely normal. In “Cyanide,” one of the best on the album, we have this instrumental composed of electronic keyboards, strings and percussions. Everything sounds like something you’ve heard but it doesn’t feel old or generic, but rather a feeling of longing. Still on this track, we see the type of narrative line that the album follows. In the chorus Will Gould sings, “She’s my cyanide/I drink her every night/And modern love can feel like suicide.” It’s like a low budget gothic bad movie ― but it’s fucking good. ―Leonardo Frederico