The Practice of Love asks more questions than it answers: Are we more responsible to ourselves or to our species? Out came Crush, a record that vibrates with sadness and anger, buoyed by squelching melodies that flutter and pop. –Eric Torres, With each record, Angel Olsen’s music grows grander and darker, and on All Mirrors, she spreads her leathery wings and nearly blots out the sky. Of course, Justin Vernon’s elastic howl will always be the catalyst that transforms Bon Iver from just another experimental indie rock project to a quasi-religious cult of emotion, but on i,i, he sounds like he’s simply flowing through a slipstream, his load lightened. Emily Alone is the kind of delicate album that doesn’t compete for your attention so much as it waits patiently for you to return to it. With this intimate hospice of a record, Allison gave us both. Consider The Angel You Don’t Know proof-of-concept of an alt-afropop offshoot, destined for a global audience without sacrificing its cultural roots. Righteous anger pointed at society’s rulers flows throughout RTJ4, which was released at the start of June amid nationwide protests in response to the police killing of George Floyd. With no stadiums to fill, Swift could take risks that would have previously seemed unimaginable in a discography calibrated to reach the cheap seats: work with the National’s Aaron Dessner as her principal collaborator, duet with Bon Iver, make tracks that sound like Low and the Sundays, drop an s-bomb within the first 20 seconds of the first song. Surveying a wounded forest, Hval finds spirits stronger than God: herself, her friends, the continuums of art and ecology. And on the exquisite centerpiece “cellophane,” she is as exposed, fallen, and overwhelmed as the album’s namesake. Emily Alone dares you to tell her she’s wrong. A list of Pitchfork's best music of 2020. With ZUU, Curry kicks at the darkness surrounding him until it bleeds daylight. –Philip Sherburne, Most rap songs are composed of two main elements: the rapping and the beat. Opener “Alewife” finds 21-year-old singer-songwriter Claire Cottrill revisiting suicidal thoughts that she had in eighth grade, and over the next 10 tracks, we are with her through so many growing pains and regrets. He does a lot more of whatever he wants throughout the rest of the record—from sad boi trap to acoustic rap balladry to emocore—but not without first celebrating those who made it all possible. You air-drum the little hitch in “Fox” again and again across your steering wheel; you throw your chest forward in your home-office at all the perfectly executed half-time breakdowns; you do isometric lunges while Stoitsiadis sings about disintegrating. But he also wants his listeners to know about all the goodness that South Florida has to offer, all the day-one friends he’s made on its sun-soaked streets. Infant Island - Beneath. Heavy Light is filled with existential dread, but it aspires to a gentler world, one where the burden of being isn’t so leaden. The song’s title sentiment is simply uttered on the hook—he’s wounded, yet hopeful that the sentiment’s warmth can be felt. –Chal Ravens, There was the ambient danger that El-P and Killer Mike would eventually begin to bore us with their roughneck brilliance—another bruising Run the Jewels album to add to the pile, is it? Pitchfork may earn a portion of sales from products that are purchased through our site as part of our Affiliate Partnerships with retailers. Cottrill, who went viral in 2017 with the charmingly homemade track “Pretty Girl,” has said that Immunity is partly about the process of coming out as bisexual, and songs like “Bags” and “White Flag” feel undeniably about the beginnings of things. Alfredo, the dexterous 38-year-old MC’s collaboration with beloved producer the Alchemist, is by turns heavy and light—his “Beam” verse ends with a rude kiss off to an ex in the form of Jordan-Pippen wordplay: “without me the bitch wouldn’t have got a ring.” More than a time capsule, Alfredo is an unruly feast of language. Pitchfork's 35 Best Rock Albums of 2020. Elsewhere, the evocations are early-millennial: The loping, strings-propelled beat on “Drug Dealer” nods to the Streets, and he shouts out Dizzee Rascal. Brexit broke Britain, fast-rewinding the country to the ’70s, when it first joined Europe and last seemed this close to collapse. Each track feels like a selection on a mixtape, chosen for a specific emotion: “RUNNING OUT OF TIME” is a slow-groove journey into his subconscious, reminding you how singular Tyler’s vision can be behind the boards; “EARFQUAKE” is one of Tyler’s most ambitious songs, a catchy symphony that features Playboi Carti in the squeakiest and strangest version of his baby voice. –Madison Bloom, Ka has spent his 40s laboring over how to animate the ghosts of his home. She sings like no one else in indie rock, as though she is guided by a golden energy from within. With its loose, almost jazz-like form, When I Get Home elevates Solange’s artistry to another plane: The grace and wisdom that flowed through 2016’s A Seat at the Table is chopped and screwed, complicated not just spiritually but musically as well. Pitchfork: The 50 Best Albums of 2019 [see also 2020 , 2010s , 2018 , 2017 , 2016 , 2015 , 2014 , 2013 , 2012 , 2011 ] Lana Del Rey — Norman Fucking Rockwell! –Alphonse Pierre, On Microphones in 2020, Phil Elverum revived his earliest moniker to ponder his formative years across a single, wistful, 45-minute song. But even going the comfortable route, she is constantly disrupting her own ’70s soft rock pastiche with sounds that represent the future—space-age synths, satellites trying to connect. That’s the precise kind of biting honesty that Alana, Este, and Danielle brilliantly amplify on Women in Music Pt. (All releases featured here are independently selected by our editors. Traditional structures melt into long vamps, as on the tormented psychedelic ballad “Kerosene!,” which distills the album’s beguiling agony. It is. this past May, you might’ve thought they deserved some time off: It was their third album in four years. LEGACY! According to bandleader Robin Pecknold, Fleet Foxes’ fourth album carries the mission to live “fully and vibrantly” in celebration of lost heroes like Arthur Russell and John Prine, an especially poetic resolution in the grey hours of the present. You become a parent with the wish that your kids outlive you. “Oh, emptiness/Tell me about your nature,” she sings on “zombie girl.” While songs mostly consists of Lenker’s silvery vocals and brambled acoustic guitar, and instrumentals turns toward fingerpicked meditations and wind-chime drones, both sound like nothing so much as the rustic abode that Lenker has likened to “the inside of an acoustic guitar.” These records put you right inside that hollow. A list of the top albums of the year from Pitchfork (Rock). Twirling in the fog of producer DJ Parrot’s near-industrial spin on 12” disco, Murphy lets us into her wildest dreams and wrongest desires (“Ten lovers in my bed / But I want something more,” she sings on “Something More”). –Olivia Horn, Listen/Buy: Rough Trade | Apple Music | Spotify | Tidal, Quality Control / Wolfpack Global / Motown / Capitol, It’s taken time for Lil Baby’s My Turn to grow into the beautiful, sprawling mess that it is. Changing to a 1-10 scale. “I will never stop singing this song,” he acknowledges, 40 minutes in. Create your own list of music and share it with the world. –Jazz Monroe, Listen/Buy: Apple Music | Bandcamp | Spotify | Tidal, “My execution might be televised.” That line and others from Freddie Gibbs’ “Scottie Beam” appeared in black marker on handmade signs this summer, held aloft in cities across the country during what may have been the largest wave of civil-rights protests in American history. Beach Bunny – Honeymoon. Listen to selections from this list on our Spotify playlist and Apple Music playlist. Jay’s strange sense of humor appears regularly, like when he builds a perfect woman who “had an ass like Rosa Acosta” and “smelled like strawberries” on “Rough Love,” or when he’s absorbed by the flaws of Western civilization on “Run and Hide.” The rumors have been justified. Yaeji: What We Drew 48. LIVE. They pierce the conformist pressures of contemporary Asian femininity without clichès or sloganeering: “Too much makeup/Just lips and eyebrows all set,” chirps frontwoman Mana in Japanese. –Jillian Mapes, © 2021 Condé Nast. Designer is a fitting headphone companion for wandering the city in a melancholy fog, but it never fades into the background. Norwegian art-pop philosopher Jenny Hval floats between these logical dots throughout The Practice of Love, an album of festering generational unease set to the twilit synths and entrancing pulses of ’90s raves. Flo Milli – Ho, why is you here ? Mary Lattimore: Silver Ladders 49. Like the water Sprague often sings about, and by which she is so evidently moved, the music here is rippling and continuous, bedroom folk rendered with the meditative heart of new age. Girls: Heavy Light 14. 2021. The resulting songs pierce her party girl persona with something more sentimental—and sometimes quotidian—but, true to form, she buoyed the vibe with sugar-rush hooks and blowout beats. If only we could make like Sumney and turn self-interrogation into a singular kind of art. –Peyton Thomas, London-based tenor saxophonist Nubya Garcia made her debut album Source with the goal of exploring her roots: both her heritage as a child of Guyanese and Trinidadian immigrants, and the things that ground her as a person. Each element, shorn of everything extraneous, glows with significance. But she ignored the haters and plowed forward, steadily carving out her own dark corner of the pop landscape. He’s frank about the violence plaguing his beloved home; frank about the murder of his brother, Treon Johnson, who was Tasered to death by police in 2014. When making Agora, his first solo album in five years, the experimental ambient producer was forced to work minimally—after losing his studio space, he was relegated to using headphones in a bedroom—and he translated these restrictions into one of his most oversized works yet. But Spawn isn’t a computer simulation made to appear human, like other recent CGI novelties. Jazz. –Cat Zhang, The first half of græ, Moses Sumney’s tour de force sophomore album, came out just before lockdown; the second was released a few months later, after its audience had been humbled by the soft brutality of isolation, the brutal clarity of wandering our own inner landscapes day after day. Over the album’s inky expanse, Olsen tries out an entirely new, gothic corner of her record collection: The Cure’s Disintegration, Cocteau Twins’ Heaven or Las Vegas, Siouxsie and the Banshees. Check out Pitchfork's Year End List. “Get Yr Life Back” sits uneasily atop tensely arranged found-sound; “Sketch Artist” seems to be tearing itself apart; “Paprika Pony” rides a minimal toy-piano rap beat that sounds like it was created by the world’s most sinister toddler. At times, listening to PROTO can feel like being immersed in a language you’re only just beginning to understand, where obvious phrases seem to stick out of inappropriate contexts and the familiar is not quite so. Tha Brothahood. What We Drew burbles between frenetic drum patterns and hip-hop cadences, glossy electro beats and sinister synths. Check out Pitchfork's Year End List. Like all of Fennesz’s best work, Agora evokes memories and the way they linger and change. November … Among all the record’s big themes—the brush with death recounted on the album’s opener, the closing letter to her child—it’s the little details that stick out, like a line of dialogue that gives “Comeback Kid” the feel of a finely turned short story. Much like Sufjan Stevens in the songs of Carrie & Lowell, Allison ventures into the tundra of her despair and emerges with an unsparing and unsentimental account of survival. –Evan Minsker, PUNK, the second album from Nagoya, Japan’s Chai, is as anthemic and glossy as it is insurgent. By now, Drakeo has been released from jail, making GTL a testament to resourcefulness that will hopefully remain an anomaly in his catalog. is a more unified work than Woods’ 2016 debut, HEAVN, which marked her as a graceful champion of self-love, black feminism, and her Windy City hometown. The album soars when Megan nods to the greats of rap and R&B, from a jolly rework of Juvenile to the Jazmine Sullivan-indebted bad bitch anthem “Circles.” More than anything, these songs remind us that even when the worst comes to pass, good times might be right around the corner. Run the Jewels: RTJ4 15. The young New York City artist’s delivery is somewhere between talking and rapping, and the album’s production, composed of short loops of various dirgelike sounds, matches that intermediary state. “Power has come to me,” Vernon said earlier this year, “but it’s not fun to wield by yourself.” i,i is the solution, a collective effort as endless as it is empathetic. Best New Albums. Later, on “Venice Bitch,” she’s “fresh out of fucks forever,” like so many of us aspire to be. by: Owen Myers. Danny Brown’s fifth full-length offers heartening proof that the 38-year-old has settled snugly into a demographic of middle-class rappers who can sustain livelihoods without the pressure of storming charts or selling out stadiums. For kids raised under the threat of mass extinction, of course a dead-eyed 17-year-old whispering about night terrors, benzos, suicide, and the climate crisis over a post-genre stew of trap beats, dubstep drops, and twee-ish bedroom pop would be hailed as a savior. Sometimes those two things complement each other nicely; sometimes they don’t. This music invites friends to wade in its relief, conjuring an aura of lush abundance amid solitude: Shore’s opening moments are ceded to 21-year-old newcomer Uwade Akhere, who murmurs about summer passing into fall, and loving with a violent passion; later on, over 400 recorded voices, solicited by Pecknold over Instagram, swell in the chorus of “Can I Believe You.” As Pecknold reaches his mid-30s, he leaves behind the fidgeting anxiety of youth. –Allison P. Davis, The followup to Kelly Lee Owens’ breakthrough self-titled LP is rooted in pain and loss—the shedding of a toxic relationship, the death of her grandmother, and the decay of the environment. May 15, 2020 4. Pitchfork 1. –Andy Cush, Produced while Drakeo the Ruler was awaiting retrial in Los Angeles on a bogus gang charge, Thank You for Using GTL is punctuated with robotic warnings from the extortive inmate phone service over which it was recorded. These solitary songs about unrequited love are full of intimate moments and gestures: hanging on the dead air between her and the silent recipient of a love letter; sleeping in an ex’s shirt to keep the memories fresh; begging an old flame to come back into town and renew their spark. FKA twigs - MAGDALENE. She turns liquid on the synth-sheathed “Time,” raps on the chaotic “Riquiquí,” and glitches with her voice pitched high on “Rip the Slit.” Presented as the first of four eventual albums, KiCk i shares all the promise of becoming, in both its pain and its joy. Music reviews, ratings, news and more. Destroyer: Have We Met 17. It’s both the country album she was destined to make and an acknowledgment that self-acceptance is hard-won; Saint Cloud reckons with addiction, sobriety, imperfect romance, trauma, and trying to navigate it all. And of course, when the surface dressings fall away, Ezra Koenig is writing as searchingly as ever about lasting happiness, low-grade fear, and the certainty that if bad times are here, worse times are on the way. But instead of corroding Margolin further, this music uplifts her, more like an exorcism of destructive thoughts than a platform for them. Burna Boy: Twice as Tall 45. –Sam Sodomsky, Was 2019 the year Thom Yorke finally got funky? Abel even got snubbed on the Pitchfork list. “Glossy yellow skin/Have nothing more than this.” Looking like what society demands of you isn’t weakness, they seem to say—it just means you can start your fire within its walls. Fetch the Bolt Cutters is the sound of someone freeing themself from a mental prison built by others but unknowingly reinforced by the self. “My son, I love you so much,” she says. See which albums are sitting at the top of this year's charts. Across the hour-long odyssey, Uzi hops between kaleidoscopic new worlds: one where it sounds like he’s skipping across a Sega Genesis circuit board, another where he’s hosting an ethereal party alongside a turnt choir. Throughout the record, the quartet subtly distort their sugar-pie group vocals, whisking them into frenzied disco-grrl guitars, hectic brass bleats, and fluorescent electro blips. The songs follow an elusive—and affecting—dream logic. Vampire Weekend ambled away from the spotlight for a half-decade or so, but even as the delays mounted for the follow-up to their 2013 masterpiece Modern Vampires of the City—and even as Rostam Batmanglij, long thought to be their behind-the-scenes mastermind, left to pursue other projects—they returned on Father of the Bride as if they’d just stepped out of the country club for a breath of sea air. Gordon’s howls are hell-bent and infatuated, with Tumor’s raspy pleas pushing them both closer to the edge of oblivion. Within these entrancing soundscapes, stray ruminations float to the surface. But Shepherd, like the rest of us, has comparatively little control over his input, and the chaos of the past three years—Brexit, Trump—shook something loose inside him. Lil Baby: My Turn (Deluxe) 46. –Jillian Mapes, New Orleans electro-punks Special Interest see catharsis in demolition. Owens wrote the lyrics in a depressive state following a trauma-release therapy session, transforming that cathartic expulsion of her pain into a record with healing properties of its own. Inescapable spirals of desire—whether for control, companionship, or instant gratification—are manifested as voids desperate to be filled. –Matthew Schnipper, Nilüfer Yanya plays her guitar the way some people pick at their nails—as if she wouldn't know what to do with her hands if she stopped. –Ivie Ani, The warm, gracious folk on Shore seems to materialize from an alternate universe where there are no storm clouds or push notifications. Fiona Apple - Fetch the Bolt Cutters. –Jenzia Burgos, On her fourth studio album, UK singer-songwriter Jessie Ware conjures the erotic frisson of the cruisy dancefloors we aren’t permitted to congregrate on while the global pandemic rages on. Only a few lyrics pop out from her baroque melodies, like, “This time around, has it gone so grey that my faith can't hold out?” Her nylon-string guitar recalls sunny ’70s Brazilian pop, but her voice is all fog and rain. Daily reviews of every important album in music. Rhythmically, Burna’s Afro-fusion sound connects homebase Lagos to Kingston, Atlanta, and London. See which albums are sitting at the top of this year's charts. His simple arrangements for guitar, strings, and percussion are filled with purpose: Every new note and lyric is in service of communicating a pure thought. For all of the record’s industrial squall and techno blast beats, it doesn’t just inspire destruction—it asks what you’ll rebuild from the rubble. “You girls mean business,” he bellows to two “fleet-footed guides from the underworld” on the swaggering “False Prophet.” “And I do too.” –Andy Cush, In a year of isolation and unattainable intimacies, Perfume Genius’ Mike Hadreas is our poet laureate of constant longing. Stories of depression and despair are easier to take with full knowledge of the happy ending. –Alphonse Pierre. Pitchfork Contributor Brent DiCrescenzo wrote, “When the headphones peel off, and it occurs that six men...created this, it's clear that … But the raw energy of Apple’s voice is the album’s life force, and there’s no mistaking the subjects of her missives—be it the men who refuse to recognize their abusive behavior; the women who, like Apple, were conditioned to compete with other women; the mean girls and those who called their bullshit; the users and the silencers; the people she fears will leave her. “You are such a golden child. She is silly and silky and occasionally swaggering, not in spite of her tumultuous recent past but because of it. 2018. One soul seems devoted to self-pity and the other to splendor, and throughout the album, this internal battle plays out via guitar rock that’s marked by a dappled radiance. Killer Mike’s verse on “walking in the snow” offers a particularly stop-you-in-your-tracks moment, as he raps, “And you so numb, you watch the cops choke out a man like me/Until my voice goes from a shriek to whisper, ‘I can’t breathe.’” Alongside production that subtly expands the Run the Jewels sound, the duo offer more insight into the modern American psyche than any cable news pundit could hope to muster. MAGDALENE is an overwhelming collection of intimacies, a generous feat of communication that turns her specific pain (not all of us have to get over a breakup with a celluloid vampire) into communion. Plenty of people come to Bill Callahan’s music just to hear him string sentences together as he explores an absurd, beautiful world one song at a time. –Evan Minsker, Grimes embodies the unhuman on Miss Anthropocene. Charli XCX: how i’m feeling now 47. –Simon Reynolds, When Chicago drill first hit mainstream rap like a sonic icepick seven years ago, it was due to the distinctive, abrasive sounds of Chief Keef, Young Chop, and King Louie. The final addendum came in June: the protest anthem “The Bigger Picture” is a jarring inclusion on an album that isn’t overtly political—and that also makes it perfect. –Marc Masters, The most striking aspect of Helado Negro’s This Is How You Smile isn’t the dreamy production, with its lush acoustic guitars wound around intimately rendered drums. On their pop- and R&B-bending second album Ungodly Hour, they’re figuratively slapping an ID card on a bar and saying, “Bartender, I need a drink.”, The Bailey sisters have quietly lost some of the wide-eyedness of the past and instead turned towards the flotsam and jetsam of twentysomething life. After eight years, five albums, and complete political and cultural upheaval, Lana Del Rey has risen to her greatest musical heights. When the spirit calls for sparkling old soul, it’s there, as on the perennially festive “Stay High”; when Howard addresses a racist attack on her mixed-race parents, she doesn’t smooth over the stumbling piano refrain, nor her stunned delivery. Like a freshly polished lens, the album’s eclectic production only pulls Van Etten’s songwriting into sharper focus. House of Sugar is his most ambitious and immersive album yet. III is themselves. You can see its vision of egalitarianism across the LP’s inner gatefold, which shows obscured portraits of the 52 people who helped create the record. –Jeremy D. Larson, The solitary piano chords that launch Clairo’s debut album sum up the emotional tone of everything to come. Fiona Apple — The Idler Wheel…. “I no be politician/Me no like no politics,” Burna insists—and that rings true. Blending skittering percussion with stoned-out synths and charmingly monotone vocals, EXPORT is warm and playful, a genreless exploration of rhythm. Her most dramatic release yet, All Mirrors telegraphs to us in Andrew Lloyd Webber-sized gestures: When Olsen's voice ascends an octave on “Lark,” the accompanying drum resounds like a cannon aimed at a fortress, and the dive-bombing glissandos from the orchestra mimic debris streaming around her. Her Houston of the bullshit surrounding her, she climbs to solid ground, emerging from TV., EXPORT is warm and playful, a grime MC from the reflection to sit with other! Nobody ’ s howls are hell-bent and infatuated, with Tumor ’ s debut album is an ordered pitchfork best albums Pitchfork... Harpist ’ s namesake has become obvious that the RYM 5 Star scale is inadequate for list... 2020, it was an album that arrived feeling like a safe place to rest in her observations, his. 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