My Top 10 Albums of 2020 | TUNED UP

It goes without saying that this year was unlike any other. However, my yearly top 10 album tradition must live on!

Shall we?

10. The Chicks, Gaslighter

After a 14-year hiatus, The Chicks (formerly The Dixie Chicks) release their new album through a unique collab with producer Jack Antonoff and arrive together at a new era of protest country-pop. “Gaslighter” is super fun and dynamic and I was thrilled they covered Charlotte Lawrence’s heartbreakingly relateble “Everybody Loves You.” So glad this iconic trio is releasing music again!

Best Tracks: Gaslighter, Texas Man, Everybody Loves You, March March

9. Overcoats, The Fight

This underrated duo, always singing as one voice whether in unison or perfect harmony, released a really solid sophomore release this year. “Leave If You Wanna” has a fun, rebellious flair and “Fire & Fury” is anthemic and “Keep The Faith” shows their equal strength within hopeful ballads.

Best Tracks: Fire & Fury, Leave If You Wanna, Keep the Faith, The Fight

8. Donovan Woods, Without People

What an eerily perfect album title for 2020, although Without People is not about isolation due to a pandemic, but the pain caused by one person (or an amalgamation of several people addressed as one). A friend of mine shared this album and said something like: “why is this making me feel like I’ve been through a huge break up when I’ve never even been in a serious relationship?” Great songwriting can make you feel the way the writer feels, even if it isn’t a directly relatable lament. This is what Donovan Woods does with Without People -it’s one of those records that simply makes you stop in your tracks.

Best Tracks: Seeing Other People, Last Time I Saw You, We Used To, Clean Slate

7. Lennon Stella, Three. Two. One.

Though she had very successful singles prior to this release, this album really established Lennon’s true departure from her innocent beginnings on Nashville. Her lyrical prowess shines particularly in “Much Too Much” and “Fear Of Being Alone,” and she carries on the current pop tradition of vocals that feel like whispers in your ear paired with production that is dynamic and clean as a whistle. The seamless transition to (year) “I Love You Always Forever” in “Save Us” is also just so satisfying and nostalgic.

Best Tracks: Much Too Much, Fear Of Being Alone, Jealous, Save Us

6. HAIM, Women In Music Pt. III

Women in Music Pt. III is LA pop rock at its finest. HAIM took more experimental liberties with this record and it paid off. Each song is unique, fun, dark and personal. I love music where the production and instrumentation is antithetical to the subject matter, which is particularly well executed in “I Know Alone.” “Gasoline” feels like a grittier callback to the melodic and vocal choices of Sheryl Crow and “3am” has an infectious groove with R&B and funk influences. *chef’s kiss*

Best Tracks: I Know Alone, Don’t Wanna, Gasoline, 3am

5. NEEDTOBREATHE, Banks

The heartbreaking announcement of the departure of Bo Rinehart earlier in the year was combatted with the release of my favorite album from NEEDTOBREATHE since college. This album brought me a much needed comfort at a point in the year where it really started to feel like…will this pandemic ever be over?

NEEDTOBREATHE never fails to emote in their music the kind of optimism that is real, impassioned but never once flirts with denial or artifice, and the title track is a perfect representation of the kind of love that is the very antithesis of ownership.

Best Tracks: Out of My Body, Who Am I, Banks, Bottom of a Heartbreak

4. Dua Lipa, Future Nostalgia

Our neo-disco pop queen! Dua Lipa has had some great hits in recent years but she really found her perfect sound with Future Nostalgia -a title that captures the progressive yet reminiscent feel of her sound so well. She blends pop, disco and R&B perfectly and the production on this record is insane.

Best Tracks: Don’t Start Now, Cool, Pretty Please, Break My Heart

3. Conan Gray, Kid Krow

I still can’t stop listening to this album. The production is infectious and the lyrics are conversationally relatable.I think what I love most about Kid Krow is how tangibly youthful it is. Conan is the embodiment of the Gen Z sound and I love how emotional his voice is-it’s intimate and playful and each song is an anecdote of navigating identity, relationships and growing up.

Best Tracks: Wish You Were Sober, Maniac, Checkmate, Little League, The Story

2. Joy Oladokun, in defense of my own happiness (vol. I)

I’m at a loss of words for this album. Joy Oladokun is the artist of the year in my opinion: capturing helpless heartache with “Who Do I Turn To?,” the in-transit opener embodying the slog of the everyday “smoke,” the Peter Gabriel-reminiscent ballad “lost” and more. Her singles all year were the broken, beating heart of our country’s struggle and resilience in 2020.

You can also read my full gush about this album here.

Best Tracks: smoke, bad blood, sunday, lost, who do I turn to?

1. Taylor Swift, folklore

Taylor finally secured the very coveted, sought-after #1 spot on my top albums of the year list. She must be so excited! I love supporting rising indie artists.

This album was not only the perfect album to release mid-way through an isolated year but the perfect album to release at this point in her career. I’ve loved her transformation into pop, but this took us back to what she’s best at: writing darn good songs in this comforting crux between realism and whimsy.

To read my full-on gush about this album you can read my review of folklore here.

Best Tracks: All.

Close Calls:

Katie Pruitt, Expectations
Devon Gilfillian, Black Hole Rainbow
Hayley Williams, Petals For Armor
Jordy Searcy, Love? Songs
Chris Lee, 1000
Soccer Mommy, color theory
Phoebe Bridgers, Punisher
Lianne La Havas, Lianne La Havas
Friend Group, I’m the Sea, and You’re the Moon
The Killers, Imploding the Mirage
Lecrae, Restoration
Sylvan Esso, Free Love
Fleet Foxes, Shore
Sasha Sloan, Only Child
Miley Cyrus, Plastic Hearts
Taylor Swift, evermore

Honorable Mentions:

Selena Gomez, Rare
Lauv, ~how i’m feeling~
Halsey, Manic
Kelsea Ballerini, kelsea
Bre Kennedy, Twenty Something
Colony House, Leave What’s Lost Behind
TORRES, Silver Tongue
Justin Bieber, Changes
Tame Impala, The Slow Rush
COIN, Dreamland
The Weeknd, After Hours
Childish Gambino, 3.15.20
Lapsley, Through Water
Fiona Apple, Fetch The Bolt Cutters
Kehlani, It Was Good Until It Wasn’t
JoJo, good to know
Carly Rae Jepsen, Dedicated Side B
The 1975, Notes on A Conditional Form
Lady Gaga, Chromatica
John Legend, Bigger Love
Donna Missal, Lighter
MisterWives, SUPERBLOOM
Glass Animals, Dreamland
The Avett Brothers, The Third Gleam
Delta Spirit, What Is There
Josh Ritter, See Here, I Have Built You a Mansion
Sufjan Stevens, The Ascension
LÉON, Apart
Sam Smith, Love Goes
Ariana Grande, positions
Chris Stapleton, Starting Over
Washed Out, Purple Noon
Jacob Collier, Djesse Vol. 3
Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, Reunions
Kid Cudi, Man On The Moon III: The Chosen
Jack Garratt, Love, Death & Dancing
David Ramirez, My Love is a Hurricane

Best EPs of 2020:

Alec Benjamin, The Book of You & I
allie, Junior Coder’s Experiment
Houston Kendrick, Yung Rudy’s Speech, Vol. 1
JP Saxe, Hold It Together
Rand, Reimagined:, Vol. 1 (Acoustic)
Skyline Motel, After Dark
Trella, Waiting Games
Amber Mark, My People
Holly Humberstone, Falling Asleep At The Wheel
The Pressure Kids, Other Lives
Sia, Hey Boy

&&& check out my Top 100 songs of the year:

Originally published at http://www.iamtunedup.com on December 27, 2020.

Monica Moser is an Austin-based singer/songwriter, podcaster, & freelance journalist working in digital marketing in the music industry. TW/IG: @monicamoser

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