GSC’s Top 100 Albums of 2020

The album of the year list has become quite a funny spectacle in the last half decade or so. They started off as fodder for debate as to what albums best-defined a given year and in exactly what order, usually just by the handful of music publications who could reasonably call themselves an authority on the question at hand. However our clicks driven & takes based media economy has incentivized everyone and their mother to put together a list, from Good Housekeeping to a good third of the people I follow on twitter. It has also driven those who want to put out the first lists to establish “the narrative” to put them out earlier and earlier in the year. The first notable AOTY list I saw dropped December 5th, basically ignoring the 8.5% of the year’s amazing albums that were released between then and now. I don’t know why the collective media apparatus doesn’t turn January into “last year’s retrospective month” rather than making critical appraisals of a given year a rat race that incentivizes publications to rank albums long before they had a chance to listen to them all. For that reason GSC decided to nobly wait to release this list in January so we could properly assess every album released all the way through the end of the year, and thus this list is really the only true authority on the best albums to come out in 2020.

We had our entire team stack rank their top 100 albums of the year in meticulous order and plugged those rankings into a very convoluted algorithm to determine our definitive best albums of the year, and wouldn’t you know it there were a couple ties. Our top 10 albums of the year has closer to 15 albums in it once you factor the ties in and then after that all 85 albums that fell outside of our top 10 came in a deadlocked tie for 11th best album of the year. What’re the odds! Bananas. Then again one album may have fallen through the cracks and snuck in as the last ranked album on the list, but I guess you’ll have to read all the way through to find out. Below is our complete albums of the year list, starting with our number one best album of the year and with any albums tied listed in reverse alphabetical order by artist name. I know that most lists like to countdown to the coveted #1 spot to keep you on your toes but that kinda incentivizes you to be in last place, we’d rather shine the spotlight on the best albums at the top rather than make you scroll for ten hours to find them. Sorry we didn’t include a halfhearted treatise on how it’s been such a rough year and these albums made it better in this introduction, but if you’d like to read one of those go take a look at just about any other albums of the year list that came out last month. You also may notice that the majority of the albums in our top 10 were artists we wrote about and talked to. That’s because this is our list! If you’d like to go interview all your favorite underground musicians and rank them highly on a hundred album list like we did, knock yourself out. Finally, just as it was true with our mid year list, if your favorite album was excluded it was done to make you, yes specifically you, pissed off about it. Anyway, enjoy!

1.

Forever, Ya Girl

KeiyaA

One of a rarified few artists whose production work is as beautiful as her singing, KeiyaA exploded onto the underground hip hop and R&B scene this year with Forever, Ya Girl. The Chicago bred, New York City based musician put together a gorgeous and raw body of music with her debut project. These are self-empowerment anthems, meant to lift herself up as she brings up every person listening with her. At the same time KeiyaA is candid about her struggles from emotional longing and loneliness to navigating her financial reality in a way that is relatable and cathartic. While her smoky voice is immediately captivating, KeiyaA’s production work is as strong as anyone working in the underground, as the eclectic collage of samples she invokes throughout the album set the mood as much as her singing. This is deeply rewarding album, and the start of what will undoubtedly be a long and prosperous career.

2.

Melee

Dogleg

The Michigan boys rocked the world with this one. Dogleg came onto the scene like a lighting bolt with their debut album Melee. As raucous as the fighting game that inspired it, which their bassist plays at a semi-professional levelMelee hits you like a ton of bricks from the second the album opens and it never lets up for a second. It has been one of the biggest surprise smashes of the year, it’s hard to imagine the dizzying heights Dogleg could have achieved if they had the chance to properly tour this record. The album is massive and furious, like a Falcon Punch to the gut.

3.

Weight of the World

MIKE

In a year fraught with loss and grief, NYC based artist MIKE’s Weight of the World reflects the madness of 2020. Mostly self-produced, Weight of the World continues MIKE’s yearly run of experimental introspective albums. With a focus on miscommunication and the burdensome expectations of friendship, MIKE’s ability to bare his emotions in a conversational yet poetic manner makes him one of the best artists in the DIY underground rap scene.

4.

ve·loc·i·ty

H31R

A contender for producer of the year, Jersey beatmaker JWords ended 2020 with 5 excellent solo projects and one collaborative album ve·loc·i·ty with Brooklyn rapper maassai as H31R. H31R pairs JWords’ energetic and frantic hip-hop indebted dance sound and maassai’s lyrical prowess to create a reflective dance record that reflects the chaos and built up energy of a year spent mostly inside.

5.

Things I Never Said

Oceanator

Elise Okusami has been playing in bands since she was in the fourth grade. At one point while living in NYC she played in as many as six bands at once, balancing those commitments with a full time job. Her debut album under the Oceanator moniker, Things I Never Said, is a tight yet expansive body of work that encompasses the many sounds she played in her more than ten thousand hours mastering her craft. Elise covers a wide variety of styles on the album, seamlessly flowing between grunge to synth pop to punk rock tracks, each punctuated by her detailed and personal lyrics. It is a stunning debut that builds on the successes of her previous EPs. Elise told GSC in an interview that while both her previous EPs Lows and the Oceanator EP are good snapshots of where she was at the time of recording, Things I Never Said is the most fully formed version of her artistic vision to date, and we’d have to agree.

6.

I Couldn’t Wait to Tell You…

Liv.e

In the middle of “Lessons from My Mistakes… But I Lost Your Number” Liv.e pauses the song for a good two and a half seconds before jumping in to let us know in a calm yet quietly authoritative that, “I know I know you thought the song was over, that’s incorrect because life keeps going on, and energy never dies does it? No it doesn’t,” as the beat switches over and she sings us into the second half. That is a neat summation of the experience Liv.e provides with Couldn’t Wait to Tell You. You never know where her energy will bring you next, whether she is singing, rapping, or just talking you through the song, but you know it’ll never die. A hypnotic and enchanting debut from a talented artist with a clear artistic vision.

7.

Teenage Halloween

Teenage Halloween

On their self titled debut Teenage Halloween sing about the difficulties of being young and queer in our exploitative capitalist world with enough joy to help anyone listening lift themselves through it. This album contains multitudes of genres and subject matters, though all tracks have a punk undercurrent in both respects. These are radically political songs with a ton of heart that you can both dance and scream to. The album is as catchy as it is heartwarming, a triumph from Asbury Park’s finest.

7.

I Don’t Hate You

Ogbert the Nerd

For a group of t-shirt barrons Ogbert the Nerd could not have kicked any more ass on their debut album if they tried. Their shouty Snowing inspired brand of emo feels like it was tailor made to make a basement explode. Each track is catchier than the next, these were made to scream back at the band at the top of your lungs with a sweaty mess of people bouncing around like bumper cars.


7.

Gandhi Loves Children

Fatboi Sharif

For how menacing and twisted the album can be, Gandhi Loves Children is without a doubt a labor of love. Fatboi Sharif met Roper Williams somewhere in the swamps of Jersey over a half decade ago thanks to their mutual friend Boogaveli and have been talking about recording a tape since, as the trio told GSC in an interview. It’s safe to say that GLC was well worth the wait. The tape is one part lofi and one part horrorcore, a combination that could only happen thanks to Roper’s lugubrious loops and Fatboi’s dynamic and unforgettable voice. Fatboi spent ages pouring his soul into the lyrics and the attention to detail shows. We cannot wait to hear more from both Roper and Fatboi in 2021.

8.

Shrines

Armand Hammer

Brooklyn duo ELUCID and billy woods somehow live up to the gargantuan expectations set by Shrines cover art. Their raps reflect the reality of the New York City on the cover, they’re tigers fighting the militarized police force and the constraints that capitalism puts on us, all over some woozy ass beats. The album boasts a litany of features of everyone popping in the underground from KeiyaA to R.A.P. Ferreira, and pits ELUCID and billy woods as the strongest duo in the scene.

8.

Soak

Guitar Fight From Fooly Cooly

 Guitar Fight From Fooly Cooly’s Soak opens with a familiar voice, though not lead singer Uri’s. The band starts off ripping at a hundred miles an hour while none other than Mario introduces you to the album, his yelps barely able to keep up with the fury the band is producing. Guitar Fight seem to take themselves with the exact right amount of seriousness throughout this album, as songs about lost love and self-discovery butt up right against tracks about fighting Team Galactic and Tea and Crumpets. To that end, no album better articulates the sounds, interests, and attitudes of the present day extremely online emo scene. Between this album and their phenomenal additions to both the Fatal Four Way and Shojo Beats Split tapes, Guitar Fight has had the most impressive output of any band in their scene this year.

9.

Eleventh Wind

AKAI SOLO

Philosopher-King AKAI SOLO released his brief yet necessary Eleventh Wind in the midst of the largest civil rights protest movement of the 21st century. Working with an array of producers from the Wavy Bagels, argov, and the unstoppable Roper Williams, AKAI manages to paint the modern radical artist without falling susceptible to the commodification of protest. AKAI’s testimony is free game for any DIY artist looking to come correct in the path for liberation.

9.

Smart Mouth

Riverby

On their impressive debut, Riverby took the passion that was always present in their sharp, personal songwriting and let it bleed through the music. Lead singer Sophia Greenberg’s voice is as dynamic and captivating as fellow Philly crooner Frances Quinlan. Sophia is similarly able to reach those massive anthemic highs and quivering quiet lows, often in the same song. It’s a catchy and inspired project that has something everyone will love.

10.

An Unknown Infinite

AMANI+ KING VISION ULTRA

Interdisciplinary artist Amani and producer King Vision Ultra teamed up to release the philosophical An Unknown Infinite. The cold yet warm and hazy but illuminating record finds Amani laying rhymes about life, death, and the crosses we carry in the in-between as King Vision lays a dark and head bobbing score. An Unknown Infinite sounds like two artists trapped in solitary confinement leaving a testament of pain and truth for the next poor soul to occupy the dungeon.

10.

Emergency Faith

Corner Soul

On their masterful new album Emergency Faith Corner Soul brings together an amalgamation of sounds and styles that sounds and feels like modern disco music. It’s held together by lead singer Tom O’Donnells unforgettable voice, sounding like if David Bowie grew up dreaming of signing to PC Music. It’s a funky collection of tracks guaranteed to leave you dancing around your apartment. In an interview Tom told GSC that the record was inspired by a playlist that featured everyone from Richard Hell, Prince, Moodyman, and Liv.e, an eclectic mix that makes perfect sense in Corner Soul’s universe.

11.

Welcome to Conceptual Beach

Young Jesus

On their new record, California emo-adjacent rockers Young Jesus take you by the hand on a freewheeling journey to our own personal conceptual beach. It’s a floaty and meandering record that swims between jazz, indie rock, experimental, and emo, a stylistic flow that lead singer John Rossiter told GSC was a goal for the album. It’s among the most engrossing records that was released this year, everyone at GSC spent hours getting lost in our own conceptual beaches.

11.

Anyways

Young Nudy

Young Nudy raps his ass off and has a perfect ear for beats. What more could you ask for in a rapper? Nudy also has such a simple yet distinct ear for a good song title, from the food inspired “Blue Cheese Salad” to the video game inspired “GTA Lifestyle”. Another knockout tape from one of the most consistent men in rap.

11. / 11. / 11. / 11.

Alone Time / Born Again /

LoCaesar2 / Jesus is My Homeboy

YL

YL has had him one hell of a year. The man has dropped tape after tape like his life depended on it, each harder than the last. While he is great at curating his own sonic landscapes, as he does working with a myriad of producers on Alone Time and Jesus is My Homeboy, I love when YL teams up with someone for a full tape. Him and Zoomo push one another to greater heights on Born Again and his hotly anticipated collaborative tape with Starker Lo.Caesar2 exceeds the high expectations of the original. Hopefully YL blesses us with as much silky smooth shit talk in 2021 as he did in 2020.

11.

Internal Incarceration

Year of the Knife

The Year of the Knife channeled the hell life put them through the past year into one brutal record. The record is as violent as all holy hell, discussing and matching the depths of pain the band felt after losing friends and family to addiction. Catchy and destructive while still having something to say.

11.

here, online

Worst Party Ever

Florida has had a strong and resilient DIY scene for ages now, and the latest group who seems destined to take over the Sunshine State next has to be Worst Party Ever. There had been plenty of online chatter about how good their live show was before those were no longer a possibility. Luckily however their excellent new EP here, online is streaming here, online. The album features a smathering of newer cuts and old tracks that have been updated, reimagined, and renamed, most notably “False Teeth” which used to be called “Worst Party Ever”. They provide a fresh take on tracks that everyone from Sarasotta to Miami has been calling classics for ages, and serve as a perfect introduction to this promising group.

11. / 11.

Woodrose & Woodrose++

Woodrose

Maybe my favorite surprise smash of the year, Woodrose’s two albums were each made over the course of a month of file sharing during quarantine. Both albums are full of tunes that sound like the audio embodiment of laying on a grassy hill with someone you love and pointing out the shapes in the clouds. These bright, beautiful tracks have touches of Mac DeMarco, Morrissey, and Michael MacDonald. To think that these three are just sophomores at Villanova, I cannot wait to see what the next few years of classes brings them.

11.

Heat Check Vol 2

WiFiGawd / Tony Seltzer

When a rapper with bars as hard as WiFiGawd gets the chance to connect with a producer as hard, left field, and forward thinking as Tony Seltzer, you know the results are going to be prime. On the second volume of their Heat Check Wifi continues to pull up from half court and reign threes all over Tony Seltzer’s bubbling beats. The more these two work together the better they seem to understand what makes one another tick, as the pockets in beats like the bumpin “Bora Bora” feel like Seltzer custom fit them for Wifi to slide into.

11.

Pray For Paris

Westside Gunn

While this album did start Virgil’s streak of fucking up great NY rapper’s album covers, Westside Gunn was able to overcome that with ease and drop by far his best project to date. On standout “327” rips through the xylophone plucks on the gorgeous Camo Munk beat before letting Joey Bada$$ and Tyler the Creator in on the fun. Griselda is on top in 2020, Westside Gunn and his illustrious cohorts have officially put Buffalo on the map.

11.

The Sound II

Weave

The long awaited follow up to their 2013 smash, The Sound II surpasses the highest expectations a long waiting fan could have. A record that harkens back to the emo of the early aughts, The Sound II is a soaring and anthemic record that is among the best emo music to come out from any country this year let alone from Japan.

11.

St. Cloud

Waxahatchee

You can take the Crutchfield out of Alabama but you can’t take the Alabama out of the Crutchfield. Katie Crutchfield got back to the southern roots her band is named for and was rewarded with the most critically lauded album of her career, without losing anything that made her music so special to begin with. A career highpoint from an artist who was consistently excellent to begin with.

11.

Lament

Touche Amore

Touche Amore took everything that worked on their gut-wrenching 2016 release Stage Four and kicked it into overdrive. Front man Jeremy Bolm is continuing to lament the unfortunate passing of his mother with grief stricken lyrics that match the tenor of the music to a tee. Lament is as strong an album as the long loved band has put out.

11.

Avenues

Tony Seltzer + A Lau

Two of NYC’s hottest producers teamed up with a smorgasbord of NYC rappers both established and upcoming for one of the grittiest tapes of the year. Listening to the tape feels like riding the subway through the NYC underground rap scene, from Leaky G Bando and Edot Babyy on the drill anthem “James Bond” to the piano loops on “Cash Out” where Wiki spills his soul on the woes of navigating the major label system. Paired best with a chopped cheese and a 40.

11.

from a lockless cage

Tommi Crane

Tommi Crane represented his Tokyo based Solgasa music collective well with his album from a lockless cage. Tommi slides between English and Japanese seamlessly across the ten tracks while rapping about growth and self actualization. The beats are mostly produced by Crane himself and feel distinctly Japanese while providing a perfect floor for Tommi to dance all over. We’re excited to hear more from him and the whole Solgasa collective in 2021.

11.

What Kinda Music

Tom Misch and Yussef Dayes

London based musician and producer Tom Misch and Yussef Dayes, one of the most innovative and intereting drummers coming out of the UK today, came together as mutual appreciators of one another’s art for a one off studio session. Quickly they had a handful of tracks and considered an EP, and then before they knew it they had ten tracks and an album. This is an LP full of two inspired musicians at the height of their powers trying to one up one another in the best of ways.  

11.

Last Year Was Weird, Vol 2.

Tkay Maidza

Australian singer and rapper Tkay Maidza reinvented her sound and broke through to the mainstream with Last Year was Weird Vol. 2. Eschewing the bubblegum pop that made her a sensation down under, Tkay took on a number of styles on Vol 2. from the industrial JPEGMAFIA assisted “Awake” to the sunny R&B bounce of “My Flowers”. There is nothing that Tkay can’t do.

11.

It Is What It Is

Thundercat

We are all lucky to be walking the earth at the same time as Thundercat. The Grammy award winning king of the bass is one of the most impressive and talented musicians of his time. Starting out as a member of Sucidal Tendencies and then becoming a household name thanks to his work with Flying Lotus and Kendrick Lamar, Thundercat has now released two of the funkiest albums of the decade. After getting Kenny Loggins and Michael MacDonald on his last album Thundercat seems as inspired by those two as ever Thundercat’s falsetto bounces off the musty bassline on standout slap “Dragonball Durag”, though I don’t think Mike or Kenny have a video nearly as funny as Thundercat does to boot.

11.

New Ways of Living

The Winter Passing

The Winter Passing has all the small town angst of their former tourmates Modern Baseball though hailing from Tipperany, Ireland left them with a distinct edge that you couldn’t find in Philly. The group sounds more like Tigers Jaw however, featuring both male and female vocalists whose duets truly bring the best out of one another. It truly gives the band a dynamic range that sets them apart from their peers. New Ways of Living is one of the most fun records I’ve heard from the Emerald Isle in some time, even if the shop on the cover reminds me of the one Robbie got shot in front of in the first episode of Love/Hate.

11.

WAYS OF HEARING

the goalie’s anxiety at the penalty kick

While The Goalie’s Anxiety at the Penalty Kick has taken emo’s love of sports themed name to its logical extreme, their sound is quite unlike the majority of the bands they pal around with. It’s a delicate and wistful album with grandiose orchestral touches that make it feel of its own universe. The album is more chamber pop than emo, and it sounds fantastic whatever you call it.

11.

Night Network

The Cribs

Hey Scenesters! The West Yorkshire brothers came back strong with their best record since 2009’s Ignore the Ignorant when Johnny Marr was palling around with the group. The band went through a bit of legal turbulence between then and now and Night Network sounds like a properly inspired effort by a group happy to have those worries in their rearview. So I guess we have Dave Grohl of all people to thank for this awesome album.

11.

It Is What It Is

Swami Sound

Marcus ‘Swami Sound’ Harley nearly skipped the trip on which he would record his excellent It Is What It Is EP. Even though it was an incredibly unique opportunity to perform in Nairobi, he’d have to pay for his flight and he wasn’t sure it was worth the investment. However, Swami Sound made it more than worth his investment recording this EP on that trip. Swami thrives off of collaborating and on this tape bridges continents not just with the artists he features but with the genres he blends, with tracks inspired from everything from UK garage to Afropop.

11.

Viewing

Stay Inside

Brooklyn’s Stay Inside is not only the mostly aptly named band of 2020 but on Viewing they explore a range of topics that couldn’t be more penchant for the bizarre malaise of 2020. They explore everything from the value of personal immorality in a deeply amoral world to the value of creating something you tend to be permanent in a deepy transient and temporary world over ten post-hardcore rippers. Viewing is the rare album that is as thought provoking as it is catchy.

11.

Songs to Yeet at the Sun

Soul Glo

With their new EP Soul Glo was able to pack a hurricane into just a little over ten minutes time. The tape is equal parts screamo and black metal which makes for as brutal a combination as you could imagine, though they’re able to bring that same anger over Richmond based musician Archangel’s barn burner of a beat on “2K”. Fun, ferocious, and unforgettable.

11.

color theory

Soccer Mommy

While half the tapes uploaded to BandCamp seem to owe Soccer Mommy royalties, its remarkable how Sophie Allison is still able to make music that feels like it could only come from her. She’s as catchy as Shina Twain and as striking a songwriter as Dave Berman.

11.

Shawn Wick

Shawny Binladen

The Mayor of Woodhull closed out the year strong with Merry Wickmas. The tape shows off his sonic versatility and lets people know why him and YTB have had Queens on lock for almost a half decade. Shawny brings along a lot of his YTB homies for the ride, with Big Yaya shining on the Cash Cobain produced “Faith” and with Yaya and FOUR50 going off on album closer “Big Worm”. It’s been a big year for Shawny and with this album he showed that he’ll be grinching to the very end.

11.

Shamir

Shamir

Shamir did the impossible and went from popstar to respected DIY artist. The self titled Shamir is a long way from the dance-pop of his debut Ratchet, though the alt-rock, country, and synthpop tunes you’ll find on the self titled are as catchy as anything in his catalogue. This is a career highlight from an artist who seems endlessly able to reinvent himself.

11.

Toutes Ces Horreurs

Satan

A decade into their career French metal group continues to find ways to surprise. With Toutes Ces Horreurs the group is continuing to move away from their grindcore roots in favor of the hypnotic rhythm of black metal. They have a sound furious enough to start a riot.

11.

Róisín Machine

Róisín Murphy

With Róisín Machine, Irish singer-songwriter Róisín Murphy put out the funkiest and most confident sounding record of her post Moloko career. In interviews Murphy talked about how important sequencing was to this record, intending it to feel like a DJ mix as much as it did an album, and to that point the album moves as fluidly as Travolta navigating the dancefloor.

11. / 11.

Mount Marci / Reasonable Drought

Roc Marciano & Stove God Cooks

Since he started coming onto the scene over a decade ago Roc Marciano has not only inspired a generation of underground rappers but has become one of the country’s most quotable artists and most distinct writers. Few rappers could warrant Stereogum to pen a list detailing their most memorable lines from an album as they did with Mount Marci, with “Bitch, I just bought a unicorn. Ho, that’s a horse with a horn” topping the list. With Reasonable Drought however Roc seems to have found a potential heir to that throne in Stove God Cook$, producing the entirety of the Syracuse rapper’s excellent record.

11.

Nightmare Vacation

Rico Nasty

It’s always a tad funny when an artist who seems years into making their imprint on the scene finally releases their “debut” effort. However Nightmare Vision is not a major label siphoning her talents into a more palatable format but an artist using the full set of resources at her disposal to show the wide breadth of her talents. “OHFR?” has the same anger that attracted so many fans to “Smack a Bitch” while tracks like “Don’t Like Me” show off Rico’s bubbly singer side, fresh with features from Gucci Mane and Dom Toliver. Rico has unparalleled sonic range and does everything well, you’ll be hearing her for years to come.

11.

Runaway Dog

Retirement Party

For fans of Retirement Party, Runaway Dog is a prime sophomore effort. Their high energy approach lets them measure up with the best pop-punk bands, but moments of intricate guitar and drums echo classic emo influences and show that Retirement Party brings more to the table than fast-paced fun. Frontperson Avery Springer’s stream of consciousness lyrics make the familiar world surreal, turning laments like “I’ll always know to look both ways before I cross the road/If I get hit, all that means is compensation” into catchy hooks that stay with you long after the record ends.

11.

I’m Allergic To Dogs

Remi Wolf

I know what you are thinking. One look at this cover and you are afraid, because you know that Remi Wolf is younger than you and cooler than you and knows more about memes and Tik Tok than you and would probably even make fun of you if she met you. But do not get intimidated out of listening to one of the funkiest and most fun pop releases this year. Every song feels like it’s soundtracking a debaucherous party full of characters pulling hijinks, and every track is a slapper.

11.

White Noise for Sleep and Relaxation

Raw Materials

Raw Materials’ new album could not be better advertised. This is quite literally a collection of white noise tracks from the Massachusetts based musician and producer, that were meant for sleep and relaxation. He had heard enough attempts from others and figured he would try his hand at developing pleasant and relaxing sounds, and boy did he hit the nail on the head.

11.

Printers’s Devil

Ratboys

If I was a betting man I’d bet that Julia Steiner, the lead singer and ring leader of Chicago band Ratboys, was a Wilco fan. After graduating Notre Dame she started a band that they labeled “post-country” which might leave you thinking country had been outlawed with how little is present. Now the young group is transitioning to a poppier alt-rock release with a few long, experimental, drony jams thrown in for good measure. Sound familiar? This is also far and away the strongest release from the group, with songs that are sure to stick on your Spotify pregame and road trip playlists for years to come.

11.

100 / 10 / 1

Rachel Rose

Brooklyn based singer songwriter Rachel Rose came out the gate incredibly strong with her debut EP. On 100/10/1 Rose has the polish and confidence of a career singer songwriter, her sultry voice gives her such command over these tracks. Moving between styles from the electro-infused R&B of “How Does It Feel” to the stripped back “Give You Me” both shows off her range and the breadth of her abilities. A great snapshot of an artist we’re excited to hear more from.

11.

Wen Ballace

POOTIE

Hudson County’s POOTIE is best when he has the chance to link with one producer for an entire project to make a cohesive tape. He sought out to do exactly that with beatsmith Tab Jones, experimenting in the studio over the course of a few nights. After one particularly fruitful session the lights crashed except for one which served as a spotlight on the Ben Wallace Piston’s jersey that hangs in Pootie’s recording studio, and like that the name of the tape was set. Tab Jones chops up some samples and lays them down for POOTIE to stomp all over them, sounding like if Ghostface had a son from New Jersey. A tape as strong as the four time Defensive Player of the Year it’s named for.

11.

No Swimming

Plans

No Swimming was both an important step forward for Indianapolis emo rockers Plans while being in many ways a return to their roots. After an LP where they felt at times they put themselves into a box, Plans was feeling heavy and decided they’d write some heavy songs. They wrote some of their catchiest songs yet, including their ripping first single “Do You Feel Anything” and even put a spin on an old favorite. “Sleep” was the first song the band wrote together originally a seven minute meandering jam but here is reimagined as a four minute shred-fest. While much has changed for the band over the years, as GSC talked to lead singer Cody Almond about, some things will always remain the same.

11.

NEGRO

Pink Siifu

Pink Siifu dropped an album that matched the justifiable rage that Black people all over the country have been feeling for a long time and have been expressing since the murder of George Floyd. NEGRO feels inspired by 80s hardcore and punk as much as it is the lo-fi rap Siifu has become known for, employing each in equal measure to powerful ends. The album takes the radical politics that had always been present in Pink Siifu’s music and presents them with the anger and urgency that the current moment demands.

11.

Viscerals

Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs

With their third record Viscerals, the Newcastle quintet came through with their leanest and most viscous release yet. Viscerals is the longest record Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs has put out and feels like the most proper reflection of their sound, as it is definitely their most ambitious record to date.

11.

Procuram Quati

Pedroso & Pedrosa

Rafael de Toledo Pedroso (they/them, he/him) and Pedro Pedrosa (he/him) hail from Paraná and Rio de Janeiro and spend the majority of their album in search for a coati, a Brazilian subtropic raccoon/aardvark. The album is an eclectic combination of traditional Brazilian music with modern electronic instrumentation, which comes together for a combination that both sounds natural while not sounding like anything else being put out on a DIY label this year. Big ups to Grimalkin records for helping this album get international support.

11.

Mestarin kynsi

Oranssi Pazuzu

Oranssi Pazuzu seem to have been on a hell-bent path to push the boundaries of their established psychedelic black metal sound after their first release, but Mestarin kynsi seems to be their most enthralling work yet.  The guitars churn and wail while being driven by the drums and bass to establish an almost hypnotic groove (particularly on the final track “Taivann portti) and the vocals just tear into you with their ferocity.  The band shows further elements of experimentation that they had shown on their previous album, which only adds to the massive wall of sound they are creating.  Though several of the tracks clock over the 8 minute mark, it never seems like a moment is either wasted or unnecessary in creating a dynamic atmosphere for the listener that will have fans constantly returning to this album to just dive right back in again. For Fans of:  Wolves in the Throne Room, Blut Aus Nord, Earthless and Dark Buddha Rising.

11.

About Your Imaginary Friend

Oolong

It’s a shame how few opportunities Oolong have had to play About Your Imaginary Friend since it dropped in February. The band, in an emo-Voltron like move, has members from Long Island AND Philadelphia. I am surprised the SEC didn’t come in to break up that monopoly on suburban angst, and to boot they are among the most promising acts coming out of either part of the tri-state right now. Oolong has the balance of mathy and noodly riffs that meander on their merry way while still making tracks that would rock any basement from Philly to Fresno. Imagine one part Prince Daddy and the Hyena and one part Queen Moo. Also we gotta talk about how fucking incredible this cover is. My man is getting some massive air on that Arizona Green Tea board. I can’t wait to read the story about the band the kid in the orange shirt forms in a decade.

11.

Magic Oneohtrix Point Never

Oneohtrix Point Never

On his first album since the Uncut Gems soundtrack, Oneohtrix Point Never takes inspiration from Ancient Greek tragedy in the form of what he calls eulogies while giving the sound a modern industrial sheen. Many of the sounds will have you question which are instruments versus computer creations, all being extremely evocative and moving. Another fantastic effort from an auteur still doing some of his best stuff.

11.

Illinois / no one gives a shit

Old Hands

Spencer Rose didn’t even wanna drop illinois. He was nervous enough about it all to the point of recording all the album’s vocals in his car like he was Will Toledo. Luckily Spencer did indeed upload illinois to BandCamp, providing the world with a gorgeous lofi rock record that sounds equal parts My Bloody Valentine and Guided By Voices. There is a touch of whimsy to the album, but these are honest songs that often represented conversations that he couldn’t bring himself to have verbally with the person in question, so the humor really seems to be to cheer himself up rather than for us. As he is on the absolutely perfect cover, Spencer spends the album doing everything he can to try and smile as he works his way through his troubles. His second release of the year no one gives a shit reached similar highs as Illinois even if it was a bit less optimistic.

11.

Watch This Liquid Pour Itself

Okay Kaya

Okay Kaya, the bedroom pop alter ego of Brooklyn by way of Norway singer song writer Kaya Wilkins, brings listeners on an intimate journey through her delightfully odd life with Watch This Liquid Pour Itself. Over lovely folksy arrangements Kaya coos about her interests and habits and traumas and hopes and fears and dreams.

11.

Source

Nubya Garcia

After helping her friends Makaya McCraven, and Sons of Kemet, and Moses Sumney give their albums a distinct jazzy edge, Nubya Garcia has finally come out with her proper debut and stunned critics along the way. She plays with a tight knit group who still sound completely free wheeling on this fantastic record.

11.

Embroidered Foliage

No Thank You

No Thank You’s new record is about making it through to the other side of that tunnel of grief and picking up the pieces of the person you become along the way. Embroidered Foliage is somewhat tidily broken up into an A side of giving in to that morose and hateful voice inside your head bringing you further down and a B side of shutting that voice up as you learn to love the person you are becoming. Embriodered Foliage is a deeply personal album littered with inside jokes and references that only people closest to the band will ever properly appreciate, and yet its messages couldn’t be more universal. We’re all out here going through depressing shit and trying to become better people while at the same time just trying to hold on for dear life. Part of loving the person you hope to become is loving the person you are today and recognizing they are one in the same.

11.

Will This Make Me Good

Nick Hakim

Brooklyn based Nick Hakim’s psychedelic and otherworldly new album, Will This Make Me Good, is a deep groovy album that rewards attentive listening. I’d recommend nuzzling up with a warm cup of coffee and more importantly with a high quality pair of headphones that can help you properly chart the ebbs and flows of this wailing odyssey.

11.

everything green and overgrown

Ness Lake

Ness Lake is one of the many small but promising emo bands from the great state of Michigan. Their latest release, everything green and overgrown, is a stripped back meditation on a year gone wrong. The tracks are entirely self-produced by band leader Chandler Lach and feature little more than an acoustic guitar, a simple drum machine, and a synth here or there. Chandler plays with his voice a good deal, pitching it up and down to fit the song, but this music is as simple and lo-fidelity as you can come by in the digital age, all to match the melancholy of the music. The end result is a sort of digital age emo Nebraska, with Bruce’s harmonica subbed out for synths as Chandler takes us through the hell he has suffered and back.

11.

HOODRAT NOIR

NcL-DøøFus

Døøfus teamed up with producer NCL-TIM on Hoodrat Noir, the best project either released this year. Døøf feels like Roc Marciano melded with the late MF DOOM, with an intricate deadpan flow and enough references and inside jokes laid into his lyrics to keep you coming back listen after listen. The tape couldn’t be better named, it feels like a man whose been forced to play detective rolling through his hood piecing together what went wrong.

11.

Àdá Irin / Song of Sage: Post Panic!

Navy Blue

Skateboarder turned rapper and producer Sage Elsesser aka Navy Blue has been making noise in the hip hop underground for quite sometime. With both Àdá Irin and Song of Sage he more than lives up to the considerable hype that Navy has built off his features and production work. Navy Blue told BandCamp that the title Àdá Irin comes  from the ancient story of Ogun, the God of War and Iron known to West Africa’s Yoruba peoples, and Navy shows a great deal of gratitude for both his immediate family and his ancestors throughout the project. On both of these records you can find beautiful beat selections and thoughtful lyrics from this man of many talents.

11.

Græ

Moses Sumney

Moses Sumney, the San Bernadino born and Asheville based singer-songwriter, blessed the world with this ambitious, sprawling, and gorgeous double LP. The beautiful string and horn arrangements feature performances from Thundercat, Shabaka Hutchings, and Adult Jazz. That kind of firepower was necessary to cover the scope of Sumney’s mission, and to provide a worthy accompaniment to his rich, dynamic, alluring voice. He’s a man working on a different plane of vision than the rest of us.

11.

CRIMINAL THREATS

Mikem Nahmir

Long Beach rapper Mikem Nahmir teamed up with producer AASIR for a tape full of soulful jams about the plight of being Black in America. The tape flows seamlessly from one track to the next as the two truly have effortless chemistry together on the mic.

11.

The Good Sweat

ManDancing

On their debut record ManDancing sound melodic and massive. They continued to hone in on their folk influenced sound that garnered them comparisons to Manchester Orchestra while reaching absolutely soaring highs, like on one of 2020’s most unforgettable songs “Coffer”.

11.

Waiting Rooms

Maeve Aikin

For how sparse and quiet the tracks on Waiting Rooms can be, they contain massive emotional and sonic depth. There are touches of Jeff Buckley and Sufjan Stevens throughout the record, particularly from the later’s Lowell and Carrie days, but no influence shines through stronger than Julien Baker, the artist who had originally inspired Maeve to pick up a guitar. Maeve was struck by how generous Julien’s performance was after seeing her play live and by how Julien was able to distill such intense experiences into concise and digestible lyrics. On Waiting Room Maeve does exactly that herself, singing about coming to terms with her body and her relationships in a way that is relatable for anyone whose felt like they were a discarded by a friend or who had to read old copies of People Magazine while waiting for a medical professional you barely know dictate your future to you.

11.

Mach’s Hard Lemonade

Mach Hommy

I paid $444.44 for the vinyl just to hear this record so while I may be tight that it has in fact found its way to streaming services I cannot deny that it’s among if not the strongest records of Newark rapper Mach Hommy’s career. It features the only collection of artists that deserve to be in Mach’s presence on the mic: Earl Sweatshirt, Tha God Fahim, Your Old Droog, and Navy Blue chief among them.

11.

Supply & Demand

Lord Apex

English rapper Lord Apex has been on a steady rise since our man Luke hosted his smash USA debut in H0L0 in Queens early last summer. He teamed up with V Don for Supply and Demand where he continued to show why he’s among the most unique rappers coming from the UK. He’s a rapper for starters, opting for traditional instrumentation that’d have him fitting in better with the NYC DIY underground than his native drill or grime scenes. Smart bars over airy soul-tinged instrumentals.

11.

C0n$truct!0n 002:

The Caution Tape

Maassai

Maassai is one of the most impressive rappers in an extremely deep NYC underground. She has been making fans at live shows and with her excellent features on fellow underground standouts Medhane and Pink Siifu. More recently she has begun to prove herself as a solo artist with her phenominal C0n$truct!0n mixtape series, the second volume of which dropped back in March. Theses quick burst show maassai sounds good over just about everything, though they left me hungry for even more music.

11.

World’s Strongest Dog

Long Neck

Long Neck had a longer than expected road to releasing their excellent sophomore album, World’s Strongest Dog. However they took the lemons of unexpectedly needing to leave their label into the lemonade of connecting with fans in ways that they likely would have never had the opportunity to. The album is packed with power pop jams that all tie back in one way or another to the forests of the Garden State that our titular World’s Strongest Dog can be seen exploring on the cover. It’s a fun, at times funny, and always rewarding album, best accompanied by your favorite pooch, the local natural trails of your choice, and a pair of binoculars to catch a bird or two.

11.

Hannah

Lomelda

On her new semi-self titled record, Lomelda continued to provide fans with the folk kissed indie rock that always has a trick up its sleeve. The album is much more experimental than the initial sound may lead you to believe; Songs are both joyous and melancholy, though rarely do you know exactly what is around the corner.

11.

Whatever Happened To Avery Jane?

Little Hag

Whatever Happened to Avery Jane? is not only a nod to the 1962 horror film What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? But a demarcation of change for the young New Jersey band. The group started off as an extended solo project for guitarist/vocalist Avery Mandeville, but as her sound and the band she wanted to play with expanded they felt like a new proper moniker was due. These songs are blunt, shameless, and often hilarious meditations of modern love. “Walk of Shame” feels like it was tailor made for Lena Dunham to skip home to in a late era episode of Girls, and no song better documents the pain of seeing an ex-loved one in a tagged picture with someone other than you than “Facebook”.

11.

Eternal Atake

Lil Uzi Vert

An album that had Uzi tied with his twin for Twitter’s most anticipated album of the year, Eternal Atake somehow lived up to the monumental hype. The track as expected featured some superb eerie trap beats from Philly production stalwarts Working on Dying, but the bests beat may have come from Chief Keef, whose “Chrome Heart Tags” has stayed in my playlist rotation since EA dropped. And then after keeping everyone begging for music for the better part of three years he blesses us with not just one but two tapes worth of excellent music, the later of which was packed with long awaited snippets and loosies that fans had been asking about for ages. Thank you Uzi!

11.

Recycle Bins

Lil Gray

The DMV is a hot bed of young rap talent right now. The likes of Xanman and Yung Manny have the area outside of DC popping harder than the city itself. The strongest of these DMV acts may have to be Lil Gray, who dropped his excellent Recycle Bins tape last month. Tracks like “Hoodrat” make it hard to believe these were the songs that Gray nearly left on the cutting room floor.

11.

My Turn

Lil Baby

Everyone seems to be in agreement that it was Lil Baby’s year. He hit the top of the charts with his 4PL brother 42 Dugg on “We Paid” and showed the mainstream that he was capable of thoughtful and political music with his reaction to the George Floyd protests, “The Bigger Picture”. He’s both the future and present of Atlanta rap, and in 2020 cemented himself as the leader of the new school.

11.

Lianne La Havas

Lianne La Havas

Lianna La Havas kept things simple on her self-titled third album. The London singer/songwriter doesn’t need much more than a light piano flourish, her eclectic guitar playing, and her husky, sensuous voice to set a room on fire.

11.

Man Alive!

King Krule

Having a child has not made Archy Marshall any less melancholic. The London based singer songwriter continues to use his deep bellowing voice to chart the anguish and malaise of modern life over positively deary instrumentals.

11.

Rocket to Nebula

Killah Priest

The Wu Tang affiliate and Sunz of Man member showed that he can still hang with the new school on Rocket to Nebula. The album comes with his patented metaphysical musings over a series of eclectic and ethereal samples. An old school rapper who sounds completely at home with the new school underground.

11.

Can’t Complain

Kill Lincoln

Against all odds, ska is making a come back baby. Kill Lincoln laid down an album worth of jammy hits that sound tailor made for the Tony Hawk soundtrack. A perfect mesh of the hardcore adjacent ska-punk of the early 90s and the horn heavy melodic work of late 90s bands like Less than Jake.

11.

Mordechai

Khruangbin

While the members of the Huston, TX band may prefer their anonymity opting for long black wigs on stage to lower the likelihood anyone recognizes them off stage, their sound continues to be among the most distinct in modern music. Their dub inspired groovy rock sound has made them fans all over the world, and on Mordechai they let those international styles continue to permeate into their sound.

11.

DOG

Kahlil Blu

In an NYC underground filled with talent, Khalil Blue sets himself apart. On his latest mostly self-produced release, “DOG”, Khalil takes the high minded raps and choice sampling of his underground friends and gives it a pop bounce. Tracks like Runway Talk, which features a stand out verse from Charlotte rapper Mavi whose among one of the most thoughtful lyricists out today, might be the most accessible track either rapper has ever been on. Regardless of what kind of rap fan you may be, there is something for you to like on DOG.

11.

Khaki Cuffs

Khaki Cuffs

The Delaware band with not only the best merch but the funniest twitter account put out a magnificent self-titled release that is equal parts emo and screamo. The group balances the two well and is excellent at both, making bright poppier tracks and heavy languid screamo. While the band is unfortunately calling it quits for the time being, lead singer Brody is continuing their efforts with two new promising projects, Heisman and Blue Deputy.

11.

Son Of A Gun

Key Glock

Memphis is one of the strongest regional scenes in rap right now. Historically the city has always been a hotbed for brilliant oddballs putting their unique spin on the southern rap tradition. Three Six Mafia may have put Memphis on the map, but Key Glock is part of a new wave keeping it there. Son of a Gun opens with a frantic violin sample that feels like it was ripped out of a Beethoven symphony. Key quickly finds a pocket of the beat you didn’t even know was there and never gives up the reigns.  

11.

how will i rest in peace if

i’m buried by a highway?

Kenny Hoopla

Kenny Hoopla didn’t know how to play the guitar when he wrote the song “how will I rest in peace if i’m buried by a highway?//” a track that sounds and feels like a spiritual successor to Bloc Party’s “Banquet.” And to be honest, he still doesn’t know how to play the guitar, but that didn’t stop him from releasing the best britpop-meets-emo album of the year. Talking to NME he said ““There’s an aura about indie rock music, and a sound and energy that I can’t explain, but I feel like I have it in me,” and these six tracks absolutely back up that claim.

11.

Angelic Hoodrat

Kenny Mason

Kenny Mason is one hell of a story teller. On his debut album, the West Atlanta native grabs you by the hand and takes you into his world, not wasting a second on a track. While his voice is so young there is a wisdom to his words. He can both ride a beat and say something while he’s doing in a way reminds me a whole lot of his mentor Denzel Curry.

11.

WU HEN

Kamaal Williams

Kamaal Williams swims all over the sonic map on Wu Hen, from the disco of “Save Me” to the slow, subdued, and ethereal “Street Dreams”, though the variation couldn’t feel more natural. Its as if Kamaal and his group are taking a team saunter through the sonic woods and are just cataloguing whatever they happen to hear along the way. Another fantastic effort from one of the stand outs of the UK jazz scene.

11.

Sin Miedo

(del Amor y Otros Demonios)

Kali Uchis

Sin Miedo (del Amor y Otros Demonios) ∞ continues the excellent trajectory Kali Uchis set for herself with Isolation. While the songs are now sung in Spanish, they continue to be dreamy thoughtful meditations on love, loss, and trusting both yourself and others.

11.

Descendants of Cain

Ka

Brownsville’s Ka continues to be among raps most vivid storytellers, and on Descendants of Cain his native Brooklyn gets a Biblical seriousness to it. Throughout all the grief that Ka and his loved ones suffer through at the hands of God, he cannot help but have an optimistic air to him.

11.

Mama, You Can Bet!

Jyoti

The third installment of Georgia Anne Muldrow’s solo jazz project as Jyoti is both in response to the present moment of racial upheaval while being in lockstep with all those who have historically struggled against the oppression of our police state. This jazz album serves as a tribute to her mother, and plays with sounds and styles from Black musicians throughout history. A beautiful piece of art from a talented musician who is able to find joy though the struggle.

11. / 11.

Dancepackvol.1 // SÍN SÉNAL 

JWords

Jersey born and bred production extraordinaire JWords has been on an absolute tear as of late. Her most recent two projects have shown that she can do just about anything and do it well. From the lofi dance bops she gave us on Dancepackvol.1 to the distorted electronic beats she had MIKE and Maassai rap over on SÍN SÉNAL, when JWords has her synthesizers and a drum machine there is nothing she cannot accomplish. And she can rap! Definitely a name to get used to hearing a lot more of.

11.

JP4

Junglepussy

On her trip hop laced fourth album, Junglepussy continues to be as unpredictable as ever. From monotone rapping about her regrets to R&B crooning about lovers she has faith in, what ties this tape together is Junglepussy’s impeccable ear for production.

11.

If I Never Hit Land

Juletta + Ishan

If I Never Hit Land is a collection of tracks comprised of stories from flesh and bone New York women, the album promises more singer-songwriter driven melodies married with dynamic production elements. For a duo that has only worked together for roughly two years, Juletta + Ishan have managed to create a cohesive sound that still leaves room for experimentation.

11.

Before Love Came to Kill Us

Jessie Reyez

BEFORE LOVE CAME TO KILL US is as dramatic an R&B album as the title might lead you to believe. Every song has life or death steaks, whether Jessie is ready to die for someone she loves or ready to kill them for their transgressions. Her powerful and sensuous voice guides us through this life or death anti-rom com.

11.

NO DREAM

Jeff Rosenstock

Jeff Rosenstock’s ascendance since WORRY! dropped has been one of the most inspiring stories in music. He’s gone from playing any and every basement that would have him across Long Island and eventually the country to scoring television shows and getting interviewed by the Grammy’s. And to think all it took was damn near three decades making music outside of the major label system, preaching the exact same values on every release that lead to last month’s surprise release bash, NO DREAM. Present are the massive pop punk licks and ripping guitars that have made Jeff a folk hero for DIY kids, another great album from a talented musician working at the peak of his powers. Jeff writes songs that feel topical regardless of what day you listen, he’s clued into the unfortunate realities of life under capitalism and articulates them better than anyone else alive.

11.

FLY ART

Jay NiCE & RUSH

Jay Nice and RU$H came together for another movie with Fly Art. The two glide over JLVSN’s soulful beats, and even take the time to bring in Roc Marciano and Willie the Kid for some supporting actor support. The two cousins have a familial chemistry and wholly bring you into their fly universe.

11.

A Written Testimony

Jay Electronica

To say that people were waiting for this album would be the understatement of the century. Ever since Electronica came on the scene with ACT 1 he’s been hailed as a potential savior of rap, the next in a long line of legends. But a proper album never materialized, and the hype for Electronica’s debut was equal in fervor to the doubts that it would ever see the day, as he reached a level of anticipation that could only be matched by the likes of Half Life 3. And thanks to some help from none other than Jay Z, Electronica was able to meet those gargantuan expectations with A Written Testimony, as the two bounce off one another like Plato and Socrates.

11.

SEVENTY​-​FIFTH & AMSTERDAM

Jah Monte Ogbon

The self proclaimed best rapper in Charlotte was in NYC for the summer and decided to figure out what the vibe was. He keeps his song titles long and hilarious and his production choices varied, from the murky DJ mastermind produced “Peace to the Queens and the Babies and ALL THAT” to the soulful Roper Williams produced “Perfume Smell”.

11.

FREE I​.​H:

This Is Not The One You’ve Been Waiting For

illuminati hotties

While Illuminati Hotties let us know right away that this was not the album they expected to release, we still ended up with a pretty kickass record in FREE I.H.: This Is Not the One You’ve Been Waiting For. The band was stuck releasing one more record through Tiny Engines and channeled that anger and passion into a bubbling and diverse indie rock smash.

11.

Inlet

HUM

Twenty-three years later and Hum is still gazing at their shoes. The highly influential band shocked the world with their return, and showed that they absolutely still got it. A legacy cementing record from a band who didn’t have anything to prove.

11.

You’ll Be Fine

Hot Mulligan

Hot Mulligan seem to have their brand of midwestern emo twinged pop punk down to a science. Just about every song features some twinkly guitars, a catchy chorus, and singing that quickly extends into screaming whenever the emotional tenor of the song calls for it, racking up millions of Spotify plays in the process.

11.

Don’t Lose Your Cool

Horus Ra Mindset

Don’t Lose Your Cool is soulful and vivacious. Georgia rapper Horus Ra Minset has been on a tear this year, and talked to GSC about releasing three projects in 2020 to one up the two he dropped in 2019. Don’t Lose Your Cool reaches the highest highs of all the tapes and showcases Horus Ra’s thoughtful bars over jazzy production.

11.

Crashed My Car

Hook / Nedarb

Riverside rapper Hook’s breathy and frantic flow found a perfect partner in former Lil Peep collaborator Nedarb. Nedarb put together a collection of bass heavy hyphy beats as Hook at times both nervously and hilariously talks us through a day in the life after crashing her car.

11.

The Prettiest Curse

Hinds

This follow up to 2018’s I Don’t Run shows Hinds in evolution. The Prettiest Curse offers expanded instrumentation and lyrics in both Spanish and English, while maintaining the garage-pop sensibility and trade-off vocals that fans have come to adore. The album demands to be taken seriously without sacrificing fun, with tracks like “Just like Kids (Miau)” taking a sarcastic look at the misogyny female artists are subjected to in the music industry. Hinds continues to impress with each new album, and I’ll be on the lookout for their next American tour.

11.

Someone New

Helena Deland

Helena Deland’s debut album Someone New is quiet, ethereal, and profound. Over thirteen tracks she meditates on new love with her soft melancholy voice that leaves you feeling like you are floating down the river, just buoyant enough to make your way down stream. She sings about feeling both unknowable to a partner and worrying about losing yourself in another, documenting the complex web of emotions new love can spark in someone.

11.

Shapes I’ve Never Seen

Have a Good Season

With Shapes I’ve Never Seen, Have a Good Season dropped an album that has me nostalgic for an era I didn’t know I could be nostalgic for yet. The Jersey Shore boys dropped a stellar alternative rock album that would have rocked the Boat House on the OC had it dropped in time. It sounds just as gorgeous in 2020 as it would have then luckily, as HAGS eschewed their pop punk roots to get both poppier and punkier. A beautiful rock and roll album with touches of Real Estate and REM while staying true to their DIY roots.

11.

Haunted Painting

Sad13

Speedy Ortiz frontwoman Sadie Dupis truly came into her own as a solo artist with Haunted Painting. Inspired by the experience of seeing Franz von Stuck’s portrait of Saharet at Seattle’s Frye Museum, on Haunted Painting Sadie is looking in the mirror and can’t help but notice she’s not the energetic and wholly optimistic person she once was. “Ghost (of a Good Time)” is sure to become a college reunion staple, a dancy bop for anyone trying to make lightning strike in a bottle one last time while hoping to also be self-aware about it.

11.

Impenetrable Cerebral Fortress

Gulch

On Impenetrable Cerebral Fortress, Gulch manage to kick an army’s worth of ass in just six songs and fifteen minutes. It’s a roller coaster ride through hell that no listener will forget anytime soon, with frontman Elliott Morrow’s murderous scream serving as your Virgil through this journey.

11.

GRiMM & EViL

Grimm Doza

The Jersey Gremlin himself, GRIMM Doza has been producing and rapping for almost eight years now, making bangers with everyone from XXXTentacion to Retch. Doza is a uniquely versatile producer, few can make beats that work with such a wide range of artists. I mean look at how stacked the line up on GRiMM & EViL is. Who else can get Wifisfuneral, Robb Bank$, Nickelus F, Bishop Nehru, YL, WiFiGawd, Medhane, and Mavi all on the same tape? I can’t think of anyone else. And did we mention he’s only twenty-one? You’ll be hearing his sinister laugh introing hits with your faves for years to come.

11.

Ignore What’s Missing

GILT

Gilt have become mainstays of the Florida DIY community, writing songs about the trials and turbulations of being queer in the south while channeling the sound of their early aughts emo forefathers Cursive and Mewithoutyou. The album is full of tracks that roller coaster between the massive loud highs and their tender quiet lows, constantly keeping you on your toes. GILT can also jam the night away and have tracks like “What Color Is The Light When It’s Turns Off” that will have many basement, bars, and backyards moving their feet whenever it’s safe to do so again

11.

Dry Spell

Ghost Town Remedy

Everyone whose heard Ghost Town Remedy agrees they sound like a combination of two great bands, but nobody can seem to agree on who those bands are. They told GSC in an interview that after a concert once a fan said they sounded like Weezer meets Van Halen, where we compared their sound to Bowling for Soup meets Pup. Regardless of who you think they sound like, Ghost Town Remedy pumps out catchy as hell rock and roll anthems with an emo touch and a distinctly southern underbelly.

11.

Grove EP

Gabe ‘Nandez

Gabe ‘Nandez has been playing guitar longer than he’s been rapping, and on the Groove EP finally had the perfect opportunity to combine those two passions. He told GSC in an interview it was something he had been hoping to do for a while, and the Groove EP is a stellar showcase for the menagerie of talents Gabe possesses that make him such a unique rapper. Most tracks see Gabe plucking away at a guitar loop, finding some funky drums to pair it with, and laying down his low-voiced and hypnotic bars, mostly in English though opting for his native French when the track calls for it. The sparse but distinct instrumentals pair perfectly with his strong but melancholy voice, and show he’s can be as compelling a producer as he is a rapper.

11.

Alfredo

Freddie Gibbs / The Alchemist

Freddie Gibbs can do no wrong. He’s got to the point in the career where he can chose to only work with the best producers in the game for full length projects, and luckily for us he finds the time to do exactly that on a regular basis. Freddie and Alchemist are well acquainted, having teamed up with Curren$y for 2018’s incredible and underrated Fetti and the two work even better together here. Freddie hasn’t dropped a bad verse or picked a bad beat since 2012, and from the looks of it I can’t imagine that happening any time soon.

11.

Likewise

Frances Quinlan

I worry about solo material—I’ve been let down by side projects before, so I put off listening to Likewise for a long time. I regret the wait, the record’s a beautiful, unique work that stands apart from anything Quinlan’s done before, despite it being built around two songs intended for Bark Your Head Off, Dog. Her lyrics feel familiar as she blurs the lines between personal experience, historical event, and natural cycle, everything captured in small detailed moments. But she trades the immense noise of Hop Along for a more minimal, tempered sound that invites listeners to come closer. Even Built to Spill’s “Carry the Zero” sounds new, right at home as it rounds out the album.

11.

FlySiifu’s

Fly Anakin & Pink Siifu

Flysiifu’s was four years in the making but it was well worth the wait. Richmond’s Fly Anakin and LA by way of Birmingham’s Pink Siifu brought fans into their record shop for their collaborative album, giving a funny day in the life at their record store in between tracks where they bounce off one another like they’ve done elsewhere for half a decade.

11.

Lucky Me

Florida Dame

Florida Dame recently headed back home to Tampa Bay to recoup. While at home she became self reflctive on her life, accomplishments and short comings. While she has accomplished a great deal in her life as a transwoman, having performed at the White House back in 2015, she couldn’t help but still feel like something was missing, like she just was not herself. This lead to the production of her introspective and impressively sonically diverse new album, Lucky Me. Florida Dame here shows her wide range while talking about the unique trials and tribulations of her life.

11.

No Panic, No Pain

Flohio

South London rapper Flohio put together a project that feels like a saunter through her native Bermondsey. Most beats feature those British industrial booms while allowing for some American polish here and there, with Take a Daytrip helming album highlight “Unveiled”. A memorable debut from a woman with something to say.

11.

Ho, Why is You Here?

Flo Milli

Dicks up when Flo Milli steps into the party. The Alabama bad ass stepped onto the scene last year with “Beef FloMix” and with jams like “In The Party” Flo Milli proved her rude and hilarious brand of rap is here to stay.

11.

All You Admire

Equipment

While All You Admire is a bit calmer than the fury of their previous EP Madrigal, Equipment is able to expand the scope of their sound while still feeling all their own. Here they sound more like Jimmy Eat World than anyone that the young band might be touring with, and I have no doubts they’ll be reaching Jimmy’s dizzying highs whenever they release their proper debut LP.

11.

May Our Chambers Be Full

Emma Ruth Rundle & Thou

Louisiana sludge band Thou teamed up with Kentucky songwriter Emma Ruth Rundle for a collaborative tape that feels like the soundtrack for a descent into Hades. Rundle’s evocative voice is buoyed by Thou’s guttural screech for a gothic combination that is nothing short of majestic.

11.

Blockwork Orange

Elry Jtsn

On Blockwork Orange Elry Jtsn gets a smattering of underground rap up and comers from Bb!, E.L.I.T.E, Porterhouss, Audubon, Gardner and Justice Yen who dance over Jtsn’s bass thumping trap beats. Blockwork feels cinematic, taking you on a glide around the block, from the melodic unwinding of the hi-hats to E.L.I.T.E’s butterscotch flow on the track “Floater”. It later brings you to the otherworldly bounce of “One of A Kind (Paranoid)behind Jtsn’s strummed bells which play perfectly with the icy ‘one of a kind’ voice of Bb!.

11.

Looking Good Feeling Good

Elephant Jake

Elephant Jake Are looking good & feeling good on Their New EP. All four tracks feel equally inspired by the kind of 90’s pop rock that the band likely grew up with on the radio and the Modern Baseball era emo that I have a feeling every member of the group filled up their iPods with a little later in their lives. Much like MoBo, Sal Fratto and Colin Harrison split the singing duties on this EP and each brings a nasally edge that comes off as charmingly DIY rather than whiney or mopey. These tracks are as catchy as the musicians that inspired them, and each had a chorus or refrain that got lodged in my subconscious. Aidan from Jail Socks correctly pointed out that the EP’s third track “The Time I Brought You Soup” sounds like Rusted Root before turning into Hootie and the Blowfish, and yes, he meant those both as massive compliments. You’ll inevitably end up humming “Do you wanna do somethiiiiiin, do you wanna do something with me,” to yourself the same way your pops was humming “Only Wanna Be With You” when he bought his first Life Is Good shirt back in 1996.

11.

Splinters from an

Ever-Changing Face

END

The term “supergroup” tends to carry a kind of negative connotation, but when it came to the formation of END, that phrase definitely fits here as their members came from a whose who of modern acts within the heavy music scene.  After dropping an EP in 2017, anticipation just kept building for what was to come next.  Unsurprisingly, Splinters from an Ever-Changing Face is an uncompromising and dynamic beast of an album that more than satisfies what fans were looking for.  The production on this album feels almost disorienting at times, and producer/guitarist Will Putney adding what appear to be sound clips of psychiatric consultations during or between tracks make every one of the thirty three minutes of this album an unforgettable listen. For Fans of:  Jesus Piece, Vein,  Year of the Knife and Aversions Crown. 

11.

Omens

Elder

The Massachusetts psychedelic prog rock formerly-trio now quad Elder seem like they are trying to one up their last release every time they drop an album. The floating world from their last album all but seems to be crashing into the earth on this release, as the band could not help but chart the world falling to ruins around them. The album is fifty six minutes spread across just five songs, as you are meant to get lost in these long meandering rhythms.

11.

The Baby in the Game

Edot Babyy

Edot Babyy blends the charismatic demeanor of Harlem’s native Dipset, with aggressive shit talk born from Harlem’s street life. His “babyyyyy” war cry has already become iconic uptown, and between “Ready for War” and “James Bond” the fifteen year old already has a pair of local hits on his hands. Expect to hear a lot more from the fifteen year old in the coming years.

11.

Future Nostalgia

Dua Lipa

Dua Lipa became a household name on the back of a string of absolutely gargantuan global hit singles with Calvin Harris and Silkcity. Her rich, deep voice had clubs bumping from Berlin to Brisbane, and with Future Nostalgia Dua proves she has much more than just a pretty voice. Dua dropped a borderline concept record inspired by the pop hits of the 80’s she grew up singing in her mirror. In the months since as retro inspired tracks like “Say So” have topped the charts, you can argue Dua reoriented the pop music landscape in her image.

11.

Thank You for Using GTL

Drakeo the Ruler

Drakeo Tha Ruler’s latest album is a triumphant fuck you to the police state that runs California. Locked up for crimes he has long been acquitted of, Drakeo has been fighting against the blatant racism of the LAPD for over a year, and clearly his entire life. Drakeo was not going to let the LAPD or anyone get in the way of his recording, and had producer JoogSZN mic up his raps from over a jail phone. The two made an instant classic in the process, as the record is already being hailed as one of the best jail rap albums of all time. Over nineteen fire beats Drakeo talks his shit and talks about the bullshit he’s being forced to deal with. The final track, “Fiction”, highlights how the cops are using his fictional raps against him in court. He tells a tall tale of a heist and predicts the cops trying to use this track in a court case in the future. It was a beautiful day when he was finally freed on November 4th, our hearts are with everyone effected by the evils of the American carceral state.

11.

California Cursed

DRAIN

For those left wanting more after their performance the Axe to Grind Podcast, DRAIN’s debut LP “California Cursed” has more than delivered on expanding the frantic yet fun sound they have established for themselves.  Fun is honestly a key word for me with this album, yet not in a way that demeans the amazing performances by the band on this record.  It’s fun in the sense that it transports you directly into a mosh pit, as these riffs just seem to demand movement from the listener.  DRAIN have proven themselves here to be one of the most unrelenting providers of crossover thrash in the hardcore scene, and I for one cannot wait until I can experience them in live setting.  For now,  fans will have more than enough to handle with this 22 minute absolute sprint of an album. 

11.

Black Water

Diz

Diz, The Boston Bred Seventeen-Year-Old Rapper, Producer and Saxophonist, Shines on Debut Album Black Water. His rhymes prove he is wise beyond his years and his production work is impressive throughout Black Water with pitched up, diced, and looped samples that are as catchy as they are enigmatic. Not only did Diz produce the majority of the album however, the man broke out the saxophone for a handful of tracks. On “To See is to Believe” Diz invites Carlos Gomez and fellow Illegal Advisory crew member Ziggy to rap about their struggles and how they plan on overcoming them over his ethereal and haunting saxophone. The track feels like Diz is soundtracking his own film noir, as the sax, the slow rolling drum, and spooky keys feel like they’re driving a hazy, suspicious fog into town.

11.

Ohms

Deftones

Every rock writer over 40 lost their minds this year when Deftones came back with Ohms and they were right to insist we all check it out. Buncha old alt-metal dudes doing everything in their power to prove they still got it and they absolutely do. I don’t know how Chino Moreno is still screaming like that almost into his fifties but God bless him for it.

11.

City on Lock

City Girls

JT got freed and the City Girls celebrated with one of the most fun rap albums of the year. JT and Young Miami made the most of 2020 reminding everyone how hilarious they can be on twitter and instagram and their album matched that manic energy in spades. An album of bops from a pair who are around to stay.

11.

Good Cops Don’t Exist

Chris Crack

Chris Crack is nothing short of prolific. The Chicago rapper released three albums this year, none better than Good Cops Don’t Exist. The tape features gorgeous sample loops which serve as perfect vehicles for Chris’ patented poignant and often hilarious lyrics.

11.

Ungodly Hour

Chloe x Halle

Chloe and Halee have come a long way from YouTube sensations to Beyoncé protégées.With their second album Ungodly Hour the sisters continue to come into their own, cultivating their sound, while proving they’re a force that’ll be around for a while.

11.

how i’m feeling now

Charli XCX

Chaaaaaaaahhhliiiii was determined to make lemonade out of the lemons that COVID had provided her. Cooped up in her apartment with the realization that all her fans were in the same state, Charli decided to see if she could come up with a new album in a month and a half while letting fans in on the process. She held regular Zooms letting her angels know updates on where tracks were in production, their potential titles and every little detail that popped into her head in the process. It truly was a family affair as Charli crowdsourced everything from cover art for her singles to full music videos from her fans, letting them not just watch but be fully immersed and involved in the project. And it worked out to say the least, every track on how i’m feeling now that is a timely and relevant bop.

11.

Say Goodbye Enterprise

Cheesemind

One of the tragically beautiful realities of life on the internet is that there are without a doubt dozens if not hundreds of albums released just about every day across the globe that could be your new favorite album if you were lucky enough to have it pass your ears. I cannot remember why or how I ended up hearing the Xiamen, China based surf/dream pop trio Cheesemind, but I sure as hell am glad I did. This is a bright, breezy, and beautiful album that has cheered me up on many a cloudy day this year.

11.

Nether Wound

Cold Deck

Cold Deck put together a little under ten minutes of fury on this quick and brutal EP. Cold Deck is the side project of Show Me the Body lead singer Julian Pratt, which he described quite accurately as black metal riffs with hardcore vocals. Fans of the Corpus family of bands will certainly fund something to like here.

11.

Lulu

Conway the Machine / The Alchemist

Conway the Machine is a long way from Doat Street. He and his Buffalo bred Griselda crew seem to be everywhere in 2020. On LULU, after grinding for the past six years, Conway is toasting to all the haters who wished him hell that propelled him to the place he is today. Alchemist drops icy samples for Conway to glide right over.

11.

UNLOCKED

Denzel Curry / Kenny Beats

Only Denzel Curry could begin a project with a fake beef and end it with a cartoon inspired by an episode of the Fairly Oddparents. Unlocked is a quick journey through the information superhighway as Denzel rips Kenny’s beats to shreds. Best paired with the music video/cartoon pilot that Denzel and Kenny made for it, and of course a fat J.

11.

How Do You Feel About

Getting Married?

Dijon

Baltimore bred, Los Angelas based singer songwriter Dijon is not someone you could nail down in one genre. How Do You Feel About Getting Married? was listed as a R&B album on release, but there are tracks on here that sound like digital folk music, and the album fits in a slice of everything in between. The music is as bizarre and magical as the marriage it celebrates on its cover. You wouldn’t think that you could make a song with vocoder laced crooning over an acoustic guitar that could fit on your baby making playlist, but you’d be wrong!

11.

…on aging gracelessly

celebration guns

celebration guns new EP combines mathy midwestern riffs with home cooked dream pop bubbles and affects, like if Clairo got her hands on some old Owen tracks. Hailing from Arizona, these four tracks are deceptively catchy with hooks that get lodged in your head. …on aging gracefully is as emo as the name of the EP would lead you to believe, and it lives up to the high expectations set by the absolute masterclass of a cover that features both bandmates having the best day of their lives at Medieval Times.

11.

Erotic Nightmare Summer

Carpool

While nowhere near its commercial peak, emo music is as strong and deep as a genre as it ever has been. For every different subsection of the genre that one can conjur up there are three or four bands making excellent records and helping prop up scenes in towns across the country. You could even argue that upstate New York is kicking the city’s ass right now, with bands like Carpool holding it down for everyone north of the Bronx and south of Canada. Carpool’s lead singer Chris “Stoph” Colasanto said his personal top three musical influences were Glocca Morra, Third Eye Blind, and the Highschool Musical 2 Soundtrack, with Buffalo emo stalwarts Del Paxton coming in a close forth. And in a weird way that comp makes sense to me, the band has the pop sensibilities and massive hooks of Third Eye Blind with the grit and basement edge of Glocca Morra. Not sure exactly how the HSM2 fits in tbh but good lord do I wish I could see Del Paxon and Carpool rock a basement to shreds, because this album was meant to be heard live.

11.

Muvaland

Cakes Da Killa & Proper Villians

It takes a special talent to rap over high BPM dance music and make it sound like the beat is keeping up with you, and Cakes Da Killa is exactly that kind of talent. On Muvaland Cakes teams up with Proper Villians for fast paced dance tracks with the most casually furious raps of Cakes’ career. This is talented people teaming up to do what they do best, and they end up bringing the best out of one another to boot.

11.

Fuck the World

Brent Faiyaz

Brent Faiyaz isn’t the most satisfied R&B singer. He cannot help but yell out Fuck the World in anger as he does his damnedest to have as much sex as humanly possible, regardless of whose relationship may get destroyed as a result. His relaxed, unconcerned, and even dreamy style sets him apart from his countless peers doing everything in their power to sneak a track into the Spotify playlists he dominates.  Make sure to give this album a spin if not just to figure out which of your homies has been stealing Brent’s bars for their IG captions for the last few months.

11. / 11.

The Wizard’s Scroll / Marmalade

Brainorchestra

Brainorchestra is one of the hardest working people in rap. He released five projects in 2020, none better than his conceptual beat tape The Wizard’s Scroll and his High Water Music released album Marmalade. Brain became known for his production work and The Wizard’s Scroll is him at his most creative, formatting the tape as an adventure where a young wizard is in search for his master. On Marmalade meanwhile Brain reminded the world that while he’s known for production he can still rap his ass off, getting on beats from underground friends from Roper Williams to Ohbliv.

11. / 11.

The Price of Tea in China /

The Versace Tapes

Boldy James / The Alchemist / Jay Versace

It’s been a good year for rappers who have been long overdue on getting their shine. Boldy James and the Alchemist first linked on their 2013 mixtape My First Chemistry Set, which while being a critical darling did not capture the masses. In the seven years since Alchemist has become as Pitchfork put it, “this century’s great album length auteur” and Boldy continued to rack up a loyal and dedicated fanbase with his bullshit free street raps filled with extremely rich detail. The Price of Tea in China is two veterans doing exactly what they do best. Alchemist lays a grimy sample and Boldy talks enough shit for six rappers, taking you on midnight trips to Kentucky and into every Kroger in Detroit. Boldy similarly kills it on his collab tape with producer on the rise Jay Versace who might have the best twitter account in rap.

11.

God Has Nothing to Do With This

Leave Him Out of It

Backxwash

Rapper/Producer/Cryptid/Underground Princess Backxwash put forth an unpredictable and innovative industrial rap album unlike anything else out in 2020 with God Has Nothing to Do With This Leave Him Out of It. She captures the pain and anger that one inevitably goes through being a Black trans woman with heavy gothic imagery. While Backxwash is certainly inspired by rap left fielders JPEGMAFIA and Death Grips, she is safely in a lane all her own and will no doubt be inspiring others in her wake.

11.

GMTO, Vol. 1 (Get Money Take Over)

Bizzy Banks

Bizzy Banks broke onto the Brooklyn drill scene with last year’s “Don’t Start” and with GTMO Vol 1 the young rapper proved he’s here to stay. He raps about Brooklyn’s changing landscape, where money is pouring into profitable parts of the borough while leaving his native East New York to fend for themselves. As he professes on “Top 5” he’s one of the best talents coming up in NYC right now, you’ll hear him bumping on every corner soon enough.

11.

Gold Record

Bill Callahan

Bill Callahan is a storyteller of the new American canon. His characters are bleak and unassuming but there is an importance and a brilliance in even the most mundane detail, his low voice narrating you through their lives. These are the meditations of a man who has loved, lost, learned, and lived to tell the tale, and we’re lucky to have him.

11.

Beauty

Beauty

This is the new sound baby! Jersey alt rockers Beauty sounds like The Lemonheads had moved to Illinois to try and fit into the post-Uncle Tupelo alt country scene. Their debut EP sounds like nothing else being recorded in DIY right now, they’re fresh and familiar in all the right ways.

11.

Fake It Flowers

Beabadoobee

Beabadoobee takes the modern sensibilities of the Soundcloud generation and spins them on a modern take on 90s rock. She’ll repeat the same bar a dozen times in a track that sounds like your mom could flip to it on the radio and go “this is nice,” while your brother is at home learning all the Tik Tok dances for it. A unique talent who feels like she’ll have a chart topping monoculture recreating hit before things are all said and done.

11.

Muthaland

Bbymutha

Chatanooga’s bbymutha put out a southern rap classic with Muthaland. Full with banging beats, raunchy bars, and full of hilarious game show skits, bbymutha is one of a kind and in a class all her own. While she has teased that this may be her exit from the rap game as well, we’re all praying this is just the beginning.

11.

Live Forever

Bartees Strange

Bartees Strange must be spending all 2020 walking around going, “Ay bruh, ay bruh, ay bruh look I’m the man.” He proved as much with Live Forever, a monumental release that took the indie rock world by storm with its seamless blending of styles and roaring catchy choruses. The twenty teens are looking like they very well could be Bartees’ decade.

11.

I’ll Figure This Out

Barely Civil

Will I’ll Figure This Out, Barely Civil truly feel like they’ve come into their own as a band. The album has the chill of the first day the leaves fall in autumn, complete with thoughtful lyrics that meditate on who the band is, where they come from, and where they wanna go from here.

11.

Ska Against Racism

Bad Time Records

Ska has quietly been having a bit of a resurgence the past few years, thanks to a strong crop of new bands making a scene happen and old favorites continuing to chug along and make solid tunes outside of the limelight. Ska Against Racism is a compliation tape of ska artists raising money for The Movement for Black Lives, The NAACP Legal Defense Fund, The Conscious Kid, The Alpha Institute, and Black Girls Code. The first Ska Against Racism tour was put together in 1998 by Mike Park and the good folks at Bad Time Records are continuing that great legacy with this comp.

11.

YHLQMDLG

Bad Bunny

The nightclub streams that Bad Bunny would have racked up this year. If YHLQMDLG could have gotten a proper summer it may have become the most streamed album of all time. An album full of dancefloor albums from one of the most qualified men for the job on earth.

11.

Honeymoon

Beach Bunny

A few years ago Chicago’s Lili Trifilio recruited a few friends to help fill out a live band so her group, Beach Bunny, could compete in a local battle of the bands in promotion of her Prom Queen EP. Before she even knew what the platform was the EP’s eponymous single went viral on TikTok, and thousands got introduced to Beach Bunny on their phones. With their debut album, Honeymoon, Beach Bunny takes advantage of their forward momentum and dropped an album’s worth of sunny power pop licks with a pop punk bent. Fans of Charly Bliss and Hop Along will no doubt find something to like about Beach Bunny.

11.

Making It Up

Babers

BABERS, the LA dark pop duo of Dana Cargioli & Lisa Haagen, dropped a collection of tracks that are equal parts soft spoken sighs and honest loud declarations. While most tracks open soft and tender the two can’t help but get emotional as they reach into the heights of their vocal registers. These songs make for a deep and warmhearted debut album, we could not be more excited to see where BABERS takes us next.

11.

The Liz

Armani Caesar

Grizelda had themselves a landmark year in 2020, even their newcomers had stand out releases. Buffalo’s own Armani Caesar. Armani took Grizelda’s gritty sound and gave it her modern bounce to put together one of the crew’s strongest releases of the year.

11.

As Above So Below

ANKHLEJOHN

DC’s ANKHLEJOHN teamed up with underground all star Navy Blue to helm the production of his third release this year, and the two come together like peanut butter and jelly. ANKHLEJOHN spits thoughtful bars over Navy’s soulful loops while bringing around a highlight reel’s worth of underground talent along for the ride.

11.

The Angel You Don’t Know

Amaarae

Amaare covers a menagerie of styles on The Angel You Don’t Know, swimming between R&B, southern rap, mall rock, and pop over the albums 14 tracks. The Ghanaian-American artist luckily has the confidence and charisma to pull off everything she tries with ease, as it is all held together by her distinct smooth voice.

11.

The Wretched World

Alice Dreamt

I have a feeling for the rest of my life whenever I think of music made during the COVID 19 lockdown, This Wretched World will play in my head. The album was recorded in the Detroit home of Tim Jones and perfectly encapsulates the milase that isolation can bring. No song better represented my feelings about 2020 than “Every Single Fucking Day” after all, a lighthearted sounding bop about the pains of waking up every morning knowing the day has nothing to present you that the one before it didn’t. Alice Dreamt set out to make the quarantine era Revolver or Pet Sounds, a perfect pop record that reflected the feeling of the moment, and with This Wretched World Alice Dreamt came as close to a perfect encapsulation of the moment as anyone else recording music.

11.

Good Luck Everybody

AJJ

Phoenix folk punk legends, the artists formerly known as Andrew Jackson Jihad, released their first album in four years back in January and showed that they very much so still got it. Good Luck Everybody features their loud and proud anti-authoritarian politics coupled with the good natured humor that has earned AJJ fans from coast to coast. If you need me, I’ll be in my bunker trying to build us a “Mega Guiottine.”

11.

Girl Kiss II

Ahomari

Girl Kiss II is an escapist fantasy about how love could and should be. Ahomari’s entrancing brand of R&B has a way of transporting you to the world they inhabit: the good and the bad, the beautiful and the ugly, the fun and the annoying. Girl Kiss II is a tape full of queer slow jams that encompass the multitude of feelings that come with being Black, gender non-conforming, and in love in South Carolina.

11.

Only for Dolphins

Action Bronson

Action Bronson is a television star with multiple successful series, an accomplished actor with roles in Judd Apato and Martin Scorcese directed pictures, is a full fledged celebrity chef with cooking shows and food collaborations, and still finds time to be among the most consistent rappers alive. He even lost over a hundred pounds during quarantine and has become a good enough painter where he did his own album cover, there is literally nothing this man cannot do. His raps continue to sound like the tastiest action movies imaginable, full with massive bets on sports games and triple backflips into exotic bodies of water, and if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.

11.

Young & Turnt 2 (Deluxe)

42 Dugg

Dugg made a simple whistle one of the hottest ad libs in hip hop and helped solidify 4PF as one of the strongest collectives in hip hop. However even with all the friends he has made in Atlanta Dugg stays to his Michigan roots on Young & Turnt 2, with highlight tracks like “Hard Times” featuring that distinct Detroit bounce.

11.

Attack of the Future Shocked,

Flesh Covered, Meatbags of the 85

$ilkmoney

Virginia native and Divine Council member $ilkmoney kept things gritty and relentless on his third album. Keeping his titles as long and open to interpetation as ever, Attack of the Future Shocked, Flesh Covered, Meatbags of the 85 continues $ilkmoney’s streak of dense thought provoking bars over gorgeous golden era sounding beats. You won’t find many if any people rapping better than $ilkmoney in 2020.

100.

Punisher

Phoebe Bridgers

It’s been a pretty great year for Phoebe Bridgers so hopefully she won’t mind coming in dead last on our list. After all we’re still including her among the top hundred albums of the year so it’s technically not a snub, I am sure Run the Jewels would have killed to replace her in this slot, after all I’m sure they thought they were shoo-ins after being on our mid year list. She nearly had enough votes to tie for eleventh too, but a few staff writers were concerned about her inclusion on American lifestyle influencer Barack Obama’s songs of the year list after controversial footage where he threatened to drone strike the Jonas Brothers surfaced, leading a few to chose to exclude her from their list, and leaving her here at the hundredth slot. I am assuming I won’t need to convince anyone to listen to this album after all, if you’re the kinda person to dig through a hundred albums trying to find a new one I would bet you already have listened to this album and have a crush on Phoebe like everyone else in America, well at least everyone else on twitter. However, it is indeed a phenomenal album from a talented artist who ultimately won’t see, let alone retweet, this list.

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