The 50 Best Albums of 2020

This year has been an undoubtedly tumultuous time for everyone, musicians included. As a result of the pandemic, long-awaited releases have been shelved indefinitely, tours have been halted world-wide, and the independent music landscape looks rockier than ever. Regardless of tours or promotion opportunities many artists have continued to produce content in brand new ways, whether it be “quarantine albums” or virtual concerts. In some ways, COVID has challenged norms and created more empathetic audiences and consumers as a result. Whether or not the music landscape mostly returns to normal next year, its worth reflecting on the many incredible albums that released during 2020.

#50) Nas: King’s Disease

Hip-hop veteran Nas’ latest album is his strongest in the last decade, embracing quality production with executive producer Hit-Boy. In addition to some of his most thoughtful verses in years, reflecting on aging within the ultra competitive rap game, Nas also steps out of his comfort zone with modern trap production and features.

#49) Working Men’s Club: Working Men’s Club

The debut album from British band Working Men’s Club is a collection of retro bangers, full of synths that channel the likes of New Order and Devo. Maybe the most impressive aspect is the young age of the band, with multiple members being in their early 20s.

#48) Dope Body: Crack a Light

The second album of the year from Baltimore hardcore band Dope Body is an unrelenting collection of tracks. Crack a Light is filled with pummeling riffs and spacious drums, complemented by lead singer Andrew Laumann’s guttural vocals that seek to evoke a drudgy reaction.

#47) Jeff Parker: Suite for Max Brown

Suite for Max Brown is a mix of incredible jazz ideas from veteran jazz and rock artist Jeff Parker, standing out with its constant time changes, distorted vocals, and impressive instrumental variety. During the drought of music from the first few months of the year, Brown was easily my most played album.

#46) redveil: Niagara

The debut album from Maryland rapper redveil is an eclectic mix of hip hop, pop, and lo fi. Full of textured instrumentals and well-crafted performances, Niagara is even more impressive considering redveil is only 16 years old. Tracks like “Drown” and “Weight” are so full of character and creativity that they emanate the craft of a veteran artist rather than a teenager.

#45) Laura Marling: Song For Our Daughter

British folk veteran Laura Marling has presented an endearing and reflective set of ballads. Shifting from mellow to joyous from track to track, the emotional range on Song For Our Darling is worth celebrating. As a result, little is left right on the surface and the album’s deeper expressions are buried beneath the enchanting instrumentation.

#44) Medhane: Cold Water

Brooklyn rapper Medhane excels in the experimental rap lane where I think some of his contemporaries falter, presenting an album full of introspective lyrics and off-the-wall instrumentals (“TRS” being a major highlight). Cold Water’s simplicity is one of its strongest suits-each song is short but feels precisely focused.

#43) IDLES: Ultra Mono

Riding the high of 2018’s excellent Joy As an Act of Resistance, Joe Talbot and company double down on that project’s heavy riffs and booming choruses across Ultra Mono. In addition to blood-pumping singles like “Mr Motivator” and “Model Village”, there isn’t really a break across the first ten tracks of UM. The instrumentals are as consistent as ever, amped by Talbot’s simplified yet precise lyrics. It’s not quite as nuanced a project as Resistance, but having such a politically-charged punk group getting mainstream accolades and praise is much appreciated.

#42) Boldy James, Real Bad Man: Real Bad Boldy

Boldy James delivers a third standout hip-hop album this year, linking with producer Real Bad Man. Boldy’s lines come through both precise and callous, while Man’s production channels the likes sample-heavy veteran producers like Madlib and MF DOOM. Part Dick Tracy and part The Wire, tracks like “Light Bill’ and “On Ten” are clear standouts.

#41) Code Orange: Underneath

Underneath is yet another exhilarating blend of punk and metal from Pittsburgh band Code Orange. Keeping the volume cranked to a consistent 11, the tracks range from catchy post-punk ballads to chugging metallic riffs. One of the most impressive features of Code Orange is their consistent ability to innovate, with Underneath sounding little like 2017’s Forever or the band’s early 2010s project.

#40) Jeff Rosenstock: NO DREAM

While I think 2018’s POST failed to reclaim the animosity and impact of Rosenstock’s excellent WORRY, NO DREAM is an exhilarating return for his discography. There’s barely any breathing room on DREAM, with Rosenstock continuing ideas from track to track with little hesitance-letting his impassioned singing, paradoxical lyrics, and amplified guitar-work stay in the spotlight.

#39) Westside Gunn: Pray for Paris

Westside Gunn has won me over with his latest project, improving in quality across-the-board from his last few mixtapes. Pray For Pairs finds Gunn accompanied by excellent guest features (Griselda members Benny and Conway, Freddie Gibbs, Boldy James to name a few) and shimmering production (just listen to the heavenly sample of ‘Moonlight” on “Party wit Pop Smoke”).

#38) Eternal Rot: Putridarium

U.K. band Eternal Rot has put out the best debut metal album I’ve heard in some time. Putridarium is full of pummeling riffs, inhuman growls, and some excellent instrumental change ups over a breathless thirty minutes.

#37) Freddie Gibbs, The Alchemist: Alfredo

The long overdue collab album from veteran rapper Freddie Gibbs and enigmatic producer The Alchemist is a more subdued effort than the former’s excellent 2019 album Bandana. Alchemist supplies some beautiful, Madlib-lite instrumentals throughout (“1985”, “Something to Rap About”), while Gibbs is expectedly great-continuing his streak of excellent solo efforts and features. Overall, Alfredo is a trim and respectable addition to both artist’s discography and one of the standout hip-hop projects of the year.

#36) HMLTD: West of Eden

An exciting and unique debut from English artpop newcomers HMLTD that seemingly attempts to cover every genre in the book (succeeding with most). West of Eden has been years in the making-with singles dating back to 2017-but the end result touts some truly exhilirating tracks. Standout tracks include “LOADED”, a space-age pop banger, “ “Where’s Joanna?”, a modern cousin of Nick Cave’s writing on Murder Ballads, and “To the Door”, an addicting amalgamation of surf rock and The Good, the Bad And the Ugly.

#35) Taylor Swift: evermore

Taylor’s surprise second album of the year is arguably her best ever: lofted by diverse songwriting, great guest appearances (from the likes of HAIM and Bon Iver), and crisp production from The National’s Aaron Dessner. Her continual artistic growth and maturity is worth celebrating-who could have predicted 2008 Swift dropping something as possessive of candor as “Coney Island” or “Marjorie”.

#34) Perfume Genius: Set My Heart On Fire Immediately

Mike Hadreas’ fifth Perfume Genius album is full of moving, slow-burn art pop. Building upon the experimental moments of past albums like No Shape or Too Bright, Immediately is filled with monumental tracks like “On The Floor” and “Describe”.

#33) Klo Pelgag-Notre: Dame-des-Sept-Doulers

The latest art pop album from Quebec artist Klo Pelgag is a storied effort, coming across either maximal or intimate at a moment’s notice. Pelgag’s voice rises above the orchestral instrumentation on most tracks(channeling the likes of Bjork and Kate Bush), but she also embraces more dynamic sounds on tracks like “Melamine”. Easily a standout pop effort of the year.

#32) Fiona Apple: Fetch the Bolt Cutters

Fiona Apple has returned from an eight year musical hiatus with an album just as forward-thinking and unique as her last (2012’s excellent Idler Wheel). There’s an intimate quality throughout the project, with Fiona giving passionate performances that range from harrowing (“For Her”) to invigorating (“Heavy Balloon”), accompanied by a simultaneously minimal and cluttered instrumental palette. I don't think Bolt Cutters is quite the landmark album that certain publications do, due to a few weaker songs like “Rack of His” and “Drumset”, but its good to hear from Apple again.

#31) Armand Hammer: Shrines

Shrines is another excellent entry into the Armand Hammer (the New York city hip-hop duo comprised of Billy Woods and Elucid) discography, following excellent projects like Rome, Paraffin, and Woods’ Hiding Places. Woods and Elucid are equally dynamic, trading bars over increasingly multifaceted instrumentation (tracks like “Solarium” and “Leopards” being off-the-wall highlights).

#30) The Killers: Imploding The Mirage

The new Killers album is an unexpected high-water mark of the band’s career. Thanks to newly tapped production from production whiz Jonathan Rado, the project’s instrumentation is textured and overpowering, channeling the likes of Bruce Springsteen to suit the power ballad performances of lead singer Brandon Flowers. There’s tons of replayability across this album, being full of grandiose sentiments and catchy refrains, plus the addictive “My God” featuring my album of the year artist of 2019, Weyes Blood.

#29) Natalia Lafourcade: Un Canto por Mexico, Vol. 1

Natalia Lafourcade follows up her incredible 2018 album Musas Vol. 2 with another pristine love letter to her Mexican heritage. The charity album, intended to raise funds for a destroyed cultural center, is packed with collaborations from other impressive Mexican performers like Carlos Rivera and modern soneros Los Cojolites. Tracks like “Veracruz”, “Mi Religion”, and “Sembrando Flores” emanate sheer joy, letting Lafourcade showcase her dynamic range over authentic folk orchestration.

#28) Undeath: Lesions of a Different Kind

My favorite American metal album of the year — stemming from my hometown of Rochester, New York. Lesions of a Different Kind is absolutely pummeling throughout and boasts constant instrumental changeups and diverse production, complemented by lead singer Alex Jones’ gravely, bone-chilling vocals.

#27) Charli XCX: How I’m Feeling Now

Following up her radical project from last year, Charli XCX has paved a new lane with the “quarantine album”, a quickly assembled tracklist of songs recorded during lockdown. The singles “Claws” and “Forever” are easily the best tracks on the project, the former featuring commanding production from 100 Gecs member Dylan Brady and the latter being an anthemic mix of balladry and EDM. How I’m Feeling Now not only acts as a time capsule of the early months of quarantine, but also as a creative endeavor emerging from the loneliness and monotony of self isolation.

#26) Nubya Garcia: Source

An exhilarating debut album from British saxophonist Nubya Garcia, who has been quietly appearing on some of the best jazz albums of the past few years (Makaya McCraven’s Universal Beings and Sons of Kemet’s Your Queen Is a Reptile). I randomly saw her at Rochester Jazzfest last summer, where she stood out thanks to her fun attitude and carefree playing. But unlike her earlier EPs, SOURCE is a realized and focused project. Nubya’s playing throughout is immaculate, pulling from a myriad of influences but putting her on spin on the genre, while the production adds touches of reggae and world music.

#25) Open Mike Eagle: Anime, Trauma and Divorce

It’s always so refreshing to get new Open Mike Eagle music. While I wasn’t the biggest fan of his last album Brick Body Kids, Anime, Trauma and Divorce is an introspective and melancholic collection of tracks. Covering topics including generational abuse, self care in the age of COVID, and dead end jobs Divorce is Mike’s most varied album to date. If you’ve ever listened to Mike’s music in the past you’ll find some unique element of his past work here, namely the somberness of Kids and the weirdness of his earlier projects.

#24) Against All Logic: 2017–2019

While not quite as consistent as the excellent 2012–2017, Nicolas Jaar’s newest album under his Against All Logic moniker has equally compelling highs. Many tracks on this follow-up feel more experimental and less house inspired, making for an entrancing listen. Tracks like “Fantasy”, which features a distorted bass and heavily manipulated vocal samples, and “Deeeeeeefers”, which feels like a combination of the Run Lola Run and Superhot soundtracks, make for some of the most exciting electronic listens of the year.

#23) The Koreatown Oddity: Little Dominiques Nosebleed

Los Angeles rapper The Koreatown Oddity paints a number of vivid pictures across his latest project’s 16 song tracklist, mixing experimental rap, spoken word, conscious hip hop, and jazz rap at breakneck pace. Throughout, Oddity’s lyrics jump from hilarious (“Be ignorant for attention, Become the president for attention”) to jarring (“The place where I’m found wasn’t always called Koreatown, And from back then ’til now the percentage is mostly brown”) without a moment’s notice, with the project requiring numerous listens to fully digest.

#22) Dua Lipa: Future Nostalgia

Future Nostalgia is my first experience with Dua Lipa’s music and I found the listen incredibly gratifying. Her blend of forward-thinking electropop beats and emotive, robust singing makes nearly every track on the trim 37 minute runtime enjoyable. This album came out two weeks into the initial lockdown and tracks like “Physical”, “Break My Heart”, and “Levitating” are still firmly ingrained in my thoughts.

#21) Porridge Radio: Every Bad

Brighton indie rockers Porridge Radio have crafted a beautiful effort on Every Bad. Lead singer Dana Margolin’s voice is both expressive and anguished, amping up when needed to match the bustling instrumentals and reaching a guttural crescendo on highlight “Sweet”. More conventional tracks like “Don’t Ask Me Twice” are catchy, while more abrasive cuts such as “Circling” give the album added texture. Don’t get me wrong, I liked Michael Kiwanuka’s recent album quite a bit, but I thought Every Bad was a shoe-in for this year’s Mercury Prize.

#20) Mac Miller: Circles

The final, posthumous album from Mac Miller is a gorgeous swan song for a widely beloved and respected artist. I have fond memories of discovering “Kool Aid and Frozen Pizza” and Blue Slide Park back in middle school, and seeing his maturity and artistic evolution through projects such as Watching Movies and The Divine Feminine was a treat. Certain parts of Circles are near perfect in their simplicity (“That’s On Me”, “Blue World”), with the late Mac attempting to own up to his mistakes and repair burned bridges. Seeing the upward trajectory of his creativity and artistry before his tragic passing only adds to the impact and beauty of this project.

#19) Jessie Ware: What’s Your Pleasure?

Building off of her excellent single “Spotlight”, English singer Jessie Ware maintains a consistent vintage flair across What’s Your Pleasure?. Adding dynamic elements of disco and funk to her brazen pop vocals and energetic delivery, Pleasure sounds like something you’d hear at an exclusive Chelsea nightclub at two in the morning. With its unabating grooves and addicting arrangements, its an album I see myself constantly coming back to.

#18) Autechre: PLUS

Producer duo Autechre’s second album of the year is an improvement over its predecessor SIGN, creating even more complex and spell-binding IDM arrangements with its longer track runtimes. Tracks like “TM1 open” and “X4” are restless creations, breaking down and reassembling at a moment’s notice. 14-minute centerpiece “ecol4”’s channels Aphex Twin in his prime, only feeling comparable to the otherworldly (think assembly line on an alien planet). PLUS is easily my favorite electronic album of the year.

#17) Ka-Descendants of Cain

Brooklyn rapper Ka has dropped another expectedly impressive rap project, showcasing his unparalleled wordplay. There’s some absolutely ridiculous lines on this project (“The style Ka utter is highbrow gutter”/”I saw Lancelots at round tables”), further fleshed out by the Cain & Abel theme. Cain features excellent production as well, handled largely by Ka himself, like the jarring beat switch on “The Eye Of A Needle” and cryptic keys and strings on “Patron Saints”.

#16) Boldy James, Sterling Toles-Manger on McNichols

Boldy James is the only artist to be featured on this list twice, and for good reason. While Real Bad Boldy is a classic sample-heavy rap album, Manger on McNichols with Detroit producer Sterling Toles is something entirely different. This project is over a decade in the making, with Boldy recording the majority of his vocals between 2007 and 2010 and Toles tinkering with the project since then, adding vibrant jazz instrumentation from local musicians. The finished project is a marvel of storytelling, with songs like “Birth of Bold” and “B.B. Butcher” conveying the intense poverty and strife that inner city communities face. James’ stone-cold delivery is exemplified by Toles’ layers of dynamic drums, samples, and weeping guitars. Its a devastating end result and makes for one of the strongest hip hop albums in recent memory.

#15) Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings-Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Rendition Was In)

I never expected a covers album to rank this highly on my year end list, but Just Dropped In is sheer joy. The posthumous album from Sharon Jones is a delight throughout, with the late soul singer reinterpreting classic tracks in entirely new ways. From her clever reconstruction of “This Land Is Your Land” to her impassioned rendition of “Signed, Sealed, Delivered”, Just Dropped In is full of crisp jazz production and jaw-dropping vocals. Rest in peace, Sharon.

#14) Phoebe Bridgers-Punisher

Punisher has placed highly on many year end lists, boiling down to being a well-written indie rock album centered around the effortlessly likeable Bridgers. The album is no-frills and contemplative, building on already excellent single “Kyoto” with sorrowful and pensive cuts like “Halloween” and “Chinese Satellite”. It feels like a vastly mature album for a 25-year-old to be dropping as their sophomore effort, with a sea of emotional depth lying underneath the diverse instrumentals.

#13) Bring Me The Horizon-POST HUMAN: SURVIVAL HORROR

Look, I think metalcore is one of the most insufferable genres out there (alongside christian rock and EDM), but this Bring Me The Horizon EP is incredible. While I’ve never liked the band’s music much in the past, HORROR is full of tight riffs, conscious lyrics on the impact of COVID, and “videogamey” production from Mick Gordon (the mastermind composer behind 2016’s DOOM soundtrack). All this adds up to an infectiously replayable project, and easily my favorite metalcore project of the past five years. Unabashedly, “Kingslayer” IS A TOP 5 TRACK OF THE YEAR!

#12) Orgöne-Mos/Fet

French psych-metal band Orgöne’s debut album is probably the least well-known project on here, but its one of the most ambitious I’ve heard all year. Packed with sludgy riffs and an array of themes including the Cold War and Ancient Egypt, its a project that takes multiple listens minimum to unpack. A track titled “Soviet Hot Dog” sounds ridiculous, but when you pit vocalist Olga Rostropovitch’s self-described “ incongruous vocal(s)” against guitarist Marlen Stahl’s uncompromising playing around the one minute mark, its a near-religious experience.

#11) Run the Jewels-RTJ4

RTJ4 is hip-hop duo El-P and Killer Mike’s strongest effort since their landmark 2014 album Run The Jewels 2. Like Run the Jewel’s past three albums, every facet of this project is quality throughout. The production on tracks like “out of sight” and “holy calamaf*ck” is jaw-dropping, harkening back to El-P’s continually envelope-pushing production on earlier albums like 2002’s Fantastic Damage. In addition to improved production, Jaime and Mike have equally honed their lyrics. In addition to constantly impressive wordplay (“Wait to kill the petty and foul at the church services, Not a holy man, but I’m moral in my perverseness, So I support the sex workers unionizing their services”/ “Got a Vonnegut punch for your Atlas shrug”), verses like Mike’s on “walking in the snow” seem more topical than ever. The album was even released early in response to the George Floyd movements, the reasoning from the duo being “F*** it, why wait. The world is infested with b******* so here’s something raw to listen to while you deal with it all”.

#10) Yves Tumor-Heaven To A Tortured Mind

While I thought Yves Tumor’s previous projects like Safe In The Hands of Love and Serpent Music had some standout ideas, over-experimentation hurt their overall quality. Heaven To A Tortured Mind subverts this issue, being trimmer and more focused while maintaining the same level of experimental production and effective songwriting. Tracks like “Medicine Burn” and “Kerosene!” sound unlike anything else I’ve heard this year. They’re near alien in nature, full of Tumor’s anguished vocals, slow burn climaxes, and maximal production that blends alternative, rock, and R&B.

#9) clipping.-Visions of Bodies Being Burned

Experimental hip-hop trio Clipping’s surprise follow-up to 2019’s excellent There Existed An Addiction To Blood is the most terrifying listen of the year, full of macabre tracks dealing with witchcraft, slasher movies, and racial injustice. Daveed Diggs, who this year alone starred in family friendly properties like Hamilton and Pixar’s Soul, raps his ass off across this horrorcore album. Diggs’ continued ability to innovate on his delivery and lyrics has only helped the upward mobility and organic following of Clipping, with the group’s earlier projects (like their 2015 self titled album) aging perfectly alongside Blood and Visions. Meanwhile, the album’s production from William Hutson and Jonathan Snipes is downright boundary pushing. A major highlight for the producer duo is “Pain Everyday” which samples “real EVP recordings” from ghost-hunting expeditions, intended to evoke the idea of “call-to-arms for the ghosts of lynching victims to haunt the white descendants of their murderers”. If that doesn’t interest you in this album, I don’t know what will.

#8) Lianne La Havas-Lianne La Havas

The third album from British singer-songwriter Lianne La Havas is her finest album yet and one of the strongest R&B projects in recent memory. The loungey jazz instrumentals are intriguing and require multiple listens, reaching a gradual crescendo on highlight “Bittersweet” and bubbling on slower cuts like “Paper Thin” and “Weird Fishes”. La Havas’ music is direct yet challenging, mixing emotional weight with timeless production.

#7) Protomartyr-Ultimate Success Today

Ultimate Success Today is easily Detroit post-punk band Protomartyr’s best project since 2015’s Agent Intellect. Like past albums, Today is full of measured instrumental builds, slowly ticking along before reaching a crushing finale. Building off of these methodical arrangements, vocalist Joe Casey is absolutely entrancing throughout, spitting venomous poetry at every turn: “When the ending comes, is it gonna run at us like a wild-eyed animal?/A foreign disease washed upon the beach, A dagger plunged from out of the shadows”. Protomartyr has always been a consistent rock outfit, but Today is a clear highlight of their discography.

#6) Fleet Foxes-Shore

Modern folk legends Fleet Foxes’ surprise album is a blessing in disguise, full of comforting choruses and invigorating chords in a period of social unrest. Robin Pecknold’s lyrics have become only more refined with age, like on “Sunblind” where he pays tribute to the lost artists like Elliot Smith (“I’m gonna borrow a Martin or Gibson, With Either/Or and The Hex for my Bookends”). Highlights like the shimmering “Maestranza” and triumphant “Can I Believe You” are some of the band’s best material to date-pairing the mature songwriting of early projects like Helplessness Blues and the experimentation of their 2017 album Crack Up.

#5) Tkay Maidza-Last Year Was Weird, Vol. 2

Australian singer/rapper Tkay Maidza has been quietly putting out some of the most exciting pop and hip-hop music in recent memory. There isn’t a single miss on her new mixtape, with every track packed full of lush production and interesting ideas. Single “Don’t Call Again” sounds like a cousin of Tyler the Creator’s Flower Boy while “Shook” is a braggadocios mix of 90’s hip hop and trap. Tracks like “Grasshopper” and “Awake” sound like the future of rap, dynamic walls of sound with earworm. The only downside of Vol. 2 is its short length — I just want more!

#4) Rina Sawayama-SAWAYAMA

Built off a steady stream of provocative singles and her excellent 2017 Rina EP, Rina Sawayama’s debut album is one of the most innovative pop listens in years. The album’s tracklist is diverse and fruitful, including the nu-metal influenced ragers “XS”, which pokes fun at consumerism and nostalgia, and “Comme Des Garcons”, a galvanizing club mix of disco and house music. The slower cuts are standout as well, like the sorrowful “Bad Friend” and uplifting “Chosen Family”. The production behind Sawayama adds to the album’s longevity as well, with cutting edge instrumentals from electronic genius Clarence Clarity.

#3) Haim-Women In Music Pt. III

After nearly a decade of pretty boiler plate indie rock, the Haim sisters have put out their magnum opus Women In Music Pt. III. I can’t think of another album this year that plays with so many genres — pop, country, alternative to name a few. In addition to being extremely stylistically varied, the album plays a clever mix of earworm hooks on tracks like “The Steps” and “Another Try” (“Are we gonna give it another try?, ’Cause if it’s luck that’s not on our side, I’m wishing the best for the next in line”) and thoughtful lyricism (like on the lovesick “Gasoline”). Each track feels like an effortless first take, polished with textured production from Haim’s own Danielle and founding Vampire Weekend member Rotsam Batmanglij. I believe this album will age beautifully thanks to its relatable themes and rennovation of classic americana songwriting. Seriously, I can’t get over how good the stretch from “Up From A Dream” to “Another Try” is.

#2) Gorillaz-Song Machine, Season One: Strange Timez

Gorillaz has been one of my favorite bands since I was an early teen, and I’m happy to say their quarantine album is the groups best since their 2010 masterpiece, Plastic Beach. Song Machine, Season One seems to herald a new era for progressive pop music: its packed full of dynamic songs across all genres with a multicultural roster of guests. You have your staple celebrity appearances like Elton John and Beck, but Damon Albarn does a great job of enlisting prominent up-and-comers like Slowthai and Georgia. Unlike the misstep that 2017’s Humanz was, Damon Albarn has made a stronger attempt to lean into the strengths of his collaborators: expertly mirroring the woozy riffs of Joy Division’s Peter Hook on “Ares” as he does the socially-conscious trap of Kano on “Dead Butterflies”. Song Machine is the type of Gorillaz album I thought I would never experience again — but this project is full of some of the band’s best material to date.

#1) The Strokes-The New Abnormal

The New Abnormal is far and away my album of the year, but that wasn’t always the case. When I initially heard it in April I thought, “this is nice, sounds like Julian Casablancas and company’s best stuff in a while” and went back to listening to Sawayama. But as lockdown stretched on deep into summer, I found myself going back to Abnormal at a rate unprecedented to anything else this year. Everything about the album works a little too well — like the triumphant synths and bombastic chord changes on “Brooklyn Bridge to Chorus”, Julian’s gut-wrenching closing vocals on “Bad Decisions”, and the plodding opener “The Adults Are Talking”. Like any album, the more you relisten the more it makes sense, but this project is such a paradox. On a surface level it all seems so shiny and presentable, but this album is so damn complex. The cover art, the Basquiat painting Bird on Money is a good parallel to the album, it feels intimidating and high-art but also easily digestible and somewhat low-brow. I never expected The Strokes to be dropping argularbly their best album to date nearly two decades after indie rock scriptures Is This It and Room on Fire but here we are.

Thanks for reading!

I write reviews and opinion pieces on music, culture, and history.

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