As we take a moment to blatantly remember that its already going to be August even though yesterday was February we can at least appreciate the amazing new music that has come from the dumpster fire that is 2020.
Khruangbin’s 4th project Mordecai is an unlikely favorite to have found in 2020. To be completely honest with you, I still don’t know how exactly to pronounce the name. Although I struggle with my pronunciation, this is one of those albums that are hard to forget because you can play it from beginning to end, and it all flows together seamlessly. Some would consider it glorified background music, and to that, I say, “And?” The funky bass lines give “Mordecai” a nostalgic vibe, reminiscent of bell bottoms and tie-dye. The first track alone, “First Class,” feels like a teleportation into a scene from a 70s film. It’s the perfect soothing project to soothe you in the midst of a dumpster fire of a year like 2020.
Ah, Mac. How we miss you. “Circles” is the posthumous project released in pre-pandemic 2020 with unfinished tracks created in anticipation for Mac’s next project that unfortunately, he never got to see come to fruition. His death shook the music industry from what seems like top to bottom. I think the project is beautiful and a glimpse at the sound Mac was chasing for in this new chapter of his career. After becoming a fan in 2010 with the “K.I.D.S.” mixtape, I always had respect for Mac and his style. He pushed the envelope in his own way, and didn’t have to lean on being a culture vulture to do it. I think of “Circles” like a lullaby almost - it’s dreamy, ethereal, and all around feels much lighter than his last album released before his death, “Hurt Feelings.” It’s like you can hear the progress he was trying to make. Posthumous albums can be tricky, as we’ll sewn with the Virgil Abloh situation, but Mac’s team did a really beautiful job of representing the warm spirit and energy so many of his peers and fans will forever remember him for.
I think this album will always be considered my “pandemic album,” solely for the reason this project seems to be the album that soundtracked my watching of 2020 going to shit. “3.15.20” is special because it’s the first project since what supposedly was Gambino’s retirement tour. After attending in fall 2018 where he teased tracks off of this latest project, I thought he definitely had one more album in him, and that’s what this feels like. There have been Childish Gambino retirement rumors swirling since what seemed like the beginning of Glover’s TV show Atlanta, but I think he’s a little bit more hesitant to let go of the persona than he may want us to think. What’s special about “3.15.20” is that Gambino takes us through what seems like all the styles of his discography. He teases us with a combination of angst from “Because The Internet,” nostalgic groove and percussion from “Awaken My Love,” acoustic remnants from “Kauai,” and a cocky outro reminiscent of his “Camp” days. I sincerely hope this is not the last musical brainchild to come from the mind of Donald Glover, but if it is, I definitely feel as though I have received my fair share of closure - in the best way.
“Rose In The Dark” is the sophomore album from Cleo Sol released earlier this year, complete with its fair share of steady, rhythmic bass lines and velvety harmonies; think of her sound as the lovechild of Erykah Badu and Jhené Aiko. RITD is crafted as the perfect coming of age project for the girls everywhere to find themselves in. She is vulnerable with her lyrics, being gentle with her lyrics while style holding herself accountable at the same time. It’s a real self to self conversation - “Hey girl, I know you didn’t know how great you were before. You got lost, and it’s okay because now you’re found.” It’s like coming home back to your body after losing your way for so long. The songs resonate with anyone who may have gotten distracted on their journey after forgetting their self worth, but her songs have become the perfect anthems for being gentle with the healing process.
It’s a real fucking bummer that this magnificent piece of work dropped just as the world took a deep dive into peril. However, Chromatica is still a magnificent piece of work from Lady Gaga. For many this album lifted people out of their beds, chairs, and couches and got them a much needed shot of energy. Instead of partying to “Stupid Love” and “Rain On Me” in the club we are partying to “Stupid Love” and “Rain On Me” in our rooms in front of TikTok. Chromatica may as well be the final evolution of Lady Gaga’s 200 breakout album The Fame. Oddly enough it came packaged in this post apocalyptic branding that felt all too real for the times we were/are living in. The moment “Stupid Love” dropped as the first single we knew this was something that would eventually be a dance music anthem that will play in underground gay bars for years to come. The star studded features hold the album together like glue and may even include the song of the summer “Rain On Me (feat. Ariana Grande). A close second to that song is the K-POP laced “Sour Candy (feat. BLACKPINK)” which fuses the beats and finally gives us pop music in its purest form. It’s beautiful to see Lady Gaga come full circle in her career. She has really done it all but Chromatica is what she has done best.
It is not hard to overlook an album that was given a 10.0 rating on Pitchfork. Acclaimed to be a work of perfection, Fiona Apple took advantage of her pandemic situation and sat down to create one of the most elegant albums alternative music has ever seen. In an interview with Vulture, Fiona Apple details the story behind every track on FTBC. You can easily start to understand why this album clicks so easily. What makes perfection so evident is the source of imperfection the music comes from. Fiona is able to peel back memories that inspire each song. Her topics range from her time in middle school to sexual assault (which overlap) all the way to her own privilege as a white woman. To take this culmination of her experiences and give them sound and purpose is the greatest achievement from FTBC.
Currently riding out the pandemic in New York, Orion Sun is taking a break after releasing one of the most beautiful albums of 2020. Hold Space For Me is an album injected with sparkly bedroom pop vocals that move like water. Gentle yet powerful standout singles like “Lightning” will have you on your knees in the middle of the street if you aren't careful and “No Me Quitte Pas (Don’t Leave Me)” will make you get back up to dance. The songwriting on this album is one that could easily rival the likes of Frank Ocean and H.E.R. Orion Sun will rule the Alternative R&B festivals once the world opens back up again.
This 20 track masterpiece continues to elevate the power of Bad Bunny. With power comes great responsibility and thankfully that is no problem for Benito Antonio Martínez Ocasio. What may have almost been the perfect culmination of events, had fans ready to make this album of the summer. Unfortunately a pandemic took that summer away but that did not stop fans from hitting it hard online. Apps like TikTok and Instagram Stories were flooded with content from the album. Once the music video for “Yo Perrero Sola” revealed Benita, a dragged up version of Benito, the world shut down. Bad Bunny continuously manages to chatter the constraints of machismo with ease. In a mindset that is beyond his time, the Puerto Rican artist is constantly questioning why people are always so shocked by his ease of expression. He does what he wants with good intentions and that clearly is what makes him one of the greatest artists of our time.
The seemingly quick rise to stardom did not happen overnight with Megan. SUGA is an album that is coming from a new Megan. Having suffered great loss, the rapper is flexing on everyone in the music industry by continuing to amaze us.
SUGA gave us her next round of hits that have swarmed TIk-Tok and the like, while simultaneously helping us all challenge our inner hot girl. Short & sweet, she gave us bops like “Savage,” and “Captain Hook”, and autotuned features like “B.I.T.C.H.” featuring Kehlani, and “Stop Plating” featuring Gunna. It was giving me some “High Maintenance” vibes from Saweetie if I had to put my finger on it, but all in all it lived up to the hype.
Megan is groundbreaking. She reinforces the Outkast coined term “The South got somethin’ to say.” Thee Stallion is a champion for women to own their sexuality and prioritize pleasure, using every bar to put respectability politics on its ass.
2020 was off to a great start for Thee Stallion, until Tory Lanez allegedly shot her on the morning of July 26. The hotties are ready to ride to defend & protect Meg from the memification of her shooting, reigniting the conversation of how important it is to ride for black women and show up at the end of the day. I’d like to think most of the fans, BOP included, are wishing her the best after this attempt on her life.
The fourth album from the indie rock icons was ready to melt fans' faces off at festivals around the world. Thankfully we are able to feel the good vibes in the comfort of our own home thanks to the genius that is Kevin Parker. The funky flares from “Borderline” and steep base riffs from “Lost In Yesterday” paired with the vocals from Tame Impala frontman make for the perfect cocktail of music.
Having dropped on Juneteenth 2020, the iconic artist did everything she could to represent her culture. It was important to her that the album was led with singles such as “Made It” and “We Got Love” because these songs especially celebrate her culture and people. Although there were many roadblocks to getting the album released (one of them being a pandemic) the rollout was amazing and her artwork was sensational. The Album by Teyana Taylor is a stacked 23 songs filled with special guest features from Rick Ross, Erykah Badu, Quavo, Kehlani, Missy Elliot, Future, Big Sean, the one and only Ms. Lauryn Hill, and more. Teyana Taylor really moved through the emotions with this album, having recorded the tracks when she was pregnant. She knew that there was always something to celebrate despite the issues of the world swirling around her daily.
Chilombo is an album that was built with the intention to heal. Whether it be the sound bowls creating vibrations in the chakras, or the almost cleansing like lyrics Jhené Aiko sings throughout this album - you feel the weight begin to lift. The 29 track deluxe album features big name guests like H.E.R., Kehlani, Big Sean (her ex), and John Legend plus more and each song climbs a ladder towards self actualization. Many may think Self Actualization is a very pure and formal process but it's rendered in Chilombo to fit Aiko perfectly. She quickly clears her head from the negativity of her relationship at the top of the album and moves into a place where she is happy and free to be herself. See the full album review for Chilombo here.
I think deep down we all wish we were like Thundercat. Unapologetically fucking cool and stylish pretty much all the time. The moment he put out It Is What It Is and “Lost In Space / Great Scott / 22-26” plays you are literally sent into another world. The amazing guest appearances from artists like Childish Gambino, Steve Lacy, and Ty Dolla $ign are like the sprinkles added onto a Thundercat sundae. “Dragonball Durag” brings you back to that classic bouncy baseline that you may recognize from “Them Changes” and “Funny Thing” is a sassy drunk girl that is ready to come over and rage. Each track from this 15 song collection has its own personality and completely bodies what Thundercat is as an artist.
The Parkwood Princesses smashed expectations with Ungodly Hour. Having elevated their sparkly R&B sound, these sisters are a combined force of vocal power and range. The two of them are showing off a little more swag than they previously had in their earlier release The Kids Are Alright. Many more late night twists and turns have given them a new perspective of the scene and also the power to accost it. Chloe x Halle are firmly moving into their seat at the legends table under the watchful eye of their mentor Beyoncé.
Breaking the binary of pop music is Perfume Genius’ MO. This album gets injected into your veins like a morphine sedative and suddenly you can see the stars in heaven. This magical trip is fueled by tracks like “On the Floor”, “Whole Life”, and “Jason”. All of which are different tones of which Perfume Genius has carefully selected for the color pallet of the album. The layers that this album contains showcases the multidimensional artistry that weaves listeners in and out of completely unique settings. It is the pinnacle of what Perfume Genius has put out to date and can only further evolve into something even more spectacular. Set My Heart On Fire Immediately is gritty, riffy, and beautiful.