Favorite Albums of 2020

What a crazy year. Personally and globally, lots of things going on. Either way, we all still listened to music (even if we couldn’t see it live). So I guess it’s time for my annual list of my favorite albums of the year. As always, numbers 20-11 will just be title and a video. The top 10 will have some notes from me included. All titles are also links to the album on Apple Music. Let me know what you think in the comments, what albums I missed, etc.

20. Punisher – Phoebe Bridgers

19. Imploding the Mirage – The Killers

18. Rare – Selena Gomez

17. KIKI – Kiana Ledé

16. Pick Me Up Off the Floor – Norah Jones

15. Women in Music Pt. III – HAIM

14. The Eddy (From the Netflix Original Series) – Soundtrack

13. SAWAYAMA – Rina Sawayama

12. Dedicated Side B – Carly Rae Jepson

11. The Ascension – Sufjan Stevens

10. Treppenhaus – LEA

Moving to Germany, I decided I needed to start listening to some music in German. Some of my favorites are the hip-hop group Deichkind, the pop singer JORIS, and LEA. A young singer-songwriter with great pop sensibilities, LEA’s music ranges from the ethereal to upbeat pop. Here’s the title track from her most recent record, “Treppenhaus”:

9. Positions – Ariana Grande

Since I’m a huge big fan of Ariana, you’re probably not surprised to see her album show up on here. There’s really not much for me to add since most people know what she’s been up to, musically and personally. I’ve chosen her music video for “positions” just because I like seeing a damn woman in the White House:

8. Down in the Weeds, Where the World Once Was – Bright Eyes

So I have a huge playlist that I listen to pretty often that is just the full discography of every member of the folk supergroup, Monsters of Folk. It’s all great stuff but every time a song from the newest record from Bright Eyes come up, I keep thinking ‘damn, this is really good.’ The whole album is worth a listen but here’s the animated video for “Mariana Trench”:

7. Visions of Bodies Being Burned – clipping.

This is a dark record, the second entry into clipping.’s collection of horror-themed hip-hop albums. The noisy, experimental production pairs perfectly with Daveed Digg’s rapping style and lyric selections. Violence, murder, witches, really anything you’d expect from a scary movie is all found within this record. The track “Say the Name” is about Candyman and uses a sample from Geto Boys for the hook. Check it out:

6. Supernova – Caitlyn Smith

One of my least favorite genres is country. So it might come as a surprise that country singer-songerwriter Caitlyn Smith’s record was one of my favorites this year, getting huge amount of plays each week. I don’t remember why I first listened to her album but I’m so happy I did. In a genre of unending amounts of inauthenticity, it’s lovely to hear someone who believes every word they sing, every note they hit. Listen to “Long Time Coming”:

5. Djesse Vol. 3 – Jacob Collier

So I’ve been following Jacob Collier for a while and he’s always been an insanely impressive multi-instrumentalist and vocalist. But he’s always seemed too talented for his own good and so much of his music got lost in layers and levels of his prodigious abilities. For the third volume of his Djesse records, he’s harnessed all of this talent into overwhelmingly perfect pop songs. I don’t know the reasoning, maybe it’s his maturity as he gets older or maybe it’s due to the numerous guest artists on this volume. Either way, I’m incredibly thankful for it. The track “In My Bones” features two of my favorite artists/groups, Kimbra and Tank and the Bangas:

4. Folklore & Evermore – Taylor Swift

This is technically two sister albums but since Evermore was just released, I decided to include it along with the earlier release, Folklore. They are both folky, stripped-back records that are perfect for 2020’s isolation and contain some of Swift’s best-written songs. She teamed up with a favorite of mine, Jack Antonoff, and Aaron Dessner of The National and has Bon Iver featured on one track per album. His feature on Folklore, “exile”, is one of my favorite with the incredible vocal back and forth between Swift and Justin Vernon:

3. Future Nostalgia – Dua Lipa

When this record was first released back in March, I slept on it. Not sure why it didn’t grab me then (pandemic anxiety?) but I started listening to it again recently and now I can’t stop. It’s playing every time I’m in the car, all day while working, music videos are playing on youtube in the evening. Non. Stop. It’s so good. The classic pop and disco sounds fit perfectly with her voice and the modern production. Every track makes me want to dance. “Levitating” is the best song to include the phrase ‘sugar boo’:

2. RTJ4 – Run the Jewels

I don’t know of a group of musicians in any genre that has as consistent of output album to album as Run the Jewels, and their fourth release is no exception. Every track is hard-hitting, fire-spitting, and impressively relevant for 2020’s summer and the protests in every corner of the country. This record is relentless from top to bottom, opening up with “yankee and the brave (ep. 4)”:

Later in the album, we get to my favorite track, “walking in the snow”. They point their lyrical guns at every direction in this track: fake Christians, the education system, migrant children in cages, police brutality. Every verse is important and it all culminates with:

All of us serve the same masters, all of us nothin’ but slaves
Never forget in the story of Jesus, the hero was killed by the state

  1. Petals for Armor – Hayley Williams

I’ve never really paid attention to Paramore through the years but when the lead singer released a solo record this year, I decided to check it out. After the 1 millionth listen, I can safely say this is my favorite album of the year. It’s an incredible blend of pop, rock. vulnerable introspection, fun instrumentation, and impressive vocals. The opening track, “Simmer”, perfectly encapsulates the opening lyrics, “Rage is a quiet thing”:

In the next track, “Leave it Alone”, the drummer Aaron Steel shows us how much you can accomplish in a slower tempo track. So much understated activity and jazz backbeats interlaced throughout the song:

“Cinnamon” is my favorite track and encapsulates so much of what Williams can do vocally. Moving from whispers to jocular melodies, every second provides entertainment for the ears. The odd music video (tying the previous two and an interlude I didn’t include) helps as well:

There we go. Let me know what you think. Tell what albums I missed or which ones I rated way too high. Like and share if you enjoyed. Thanks!

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