Best Albums of 2020

2020 was a crazy year, but within that time a lot of amazing music came out. From Chloe x Halle solidifying themselves as pop queens to Bad Bunny bringing Puerto Rican pride to the main stage, there were so many artists who gave their fans much needed emotional release with their music. I asked the staff of Mixed Mag, as well as some of our featured artists to select their albums released in 2020 and tell us what they meant to them. I hope you are put on to some new artists, I for sure was. – Joana Meurkens (Artistic Director/Music Editor)

  1. Moses Sumney: Græ

This album is the most beautiful thing to have come out of 2020. Moses Sumney is IT. His sophomore album offers a bit more optimism wrapped in his god-like voice, as his first album was the ultimate sadness soundtrack (in all the best ways of course). This album came to me exactly when I needed it to, when I was deep in quarantine and the weight of the world was truly getting to me. Sumney manages to offer protection with the richness of his music from a world that feels so fleeting at times. 

Another reason why this is my album of the year is because of how it was executed within the 2020 performances abilities. Sumney gave an incredible Colors performance of the song Cut Me, which gave a glimpse of how powerful his voice is in such a stripped down context. He also gave a virtual performance of the album for Afropunk, in which he utilized space and nature to amplify his deeply personal album. The track “Me in 20 Years” was also featured in the special Euphoria episode, and the song did exactly what it was intended to do, elevate Rue’s inner turmoil while offering the possibility of hope into her unknown future. Listen to this album and let Sumney help you heal from the mess that was this year. – Joana Meurkens (Artistic Director)

Honorable Mentions: SAWAYAMA (Rina Sawayama), Limbo (Aminè) 

Listen: Spotify / Apple Music 

2. Kali Uchis: Sin Miedo (del Amor y Otros Demonios)

Sin miedo, sin vergüenza, sin duda, the trailblazing bilingual album sets a new precedent for Uchis as an artist by highlighting her unique vision of feminine empowerment and combatting monolithic ideas of Latinx artistry. 

Her sampling is ingenious and oscillates between these old school cantos including Tito Puente y La Lupe’s iconic 1984 “que te pedi,” which is covered with beautiful instrumentation. La luna enamorada, her original composition which leads the album, suggests Kali’s culminating realization of her training as a Jazz musician and her unique poetic vocabulary as a LA-based Colombiana and reggaetonera setting the stage in an international pop-soul stardom of “muñequitas”. 

Tying together electrified reggaetón with seamless pop-synth percussion and acoustic melodies, the sonic journey of the work is not understated in its promise of euphoric catharsis. The album is highly personal and uses cunning poetics in both English and Spanish as the artist wrestles with her feelings of alienation, love, grief, and heartbreak. 

The genre-bending record is no small feat for the artist who has quickly risen to international acclaim, holding multiple awards for her compositional prowess (including a Grammy for her work on KAYTRANADA’S “10%”). – Zoe Ervolino (Issue 1,2 and 3 contributor)

Listen: Spotify / Apple Music

3. Bad Bunny: El Último Tour Del Mundo 

Like most of Bad Bunny’s catalogue, El Último Tour Del Mundo is affecting in a way no trap album has a right to be. There’s something about reggaetón and the Spanish language that lends itself to lyricism in a way that still escapes Bad Bunny’s English-speaking counterparts. In a year when we could only stomp and gyrate in the confines of our houses and apartments, when we could only dream of clubs and dancing with strangers, Bad Bunny’s particular brand of melancholic musica urbana hit home. I, for one, can’t wait (fingers crossed) to hear these songs on a crowded dancefloor in 2021. – Marc Andrea Fiorina (Issue 4 Contributor)

Listen: Spotify / Apple Music

4. Chloe x Halle: Ungodly Hour

My favorite album of 2020 was “Ungodly Hour” by Chloe x Halle. They are undeniably talented and it’s amazing to watch them grow vocally. It was nice to hear them break out of their shell and amplify an emotional connection with listeners. The warmth of their tones blended so seamlessly with the instrumental production. The overall production of the album is ridiculously clean and their vocal range as a duo is out of this world. – Summer Breeze (Issue 4 Feature)

Listen:  Spotify / Apple Music

5. MIKE: Weight of the World

Yeah so for my favorite album I chose Weight of the World by MIKE. It’s kind of hard putting it into words but this project is just like a feeling. It feels like more than just under ground, avant-garde hip hop. It feels like real life. I think it’s how MIKE expresses things like his experiences and mentality during times like these not only lyrically but sonically is what makes this record so moving. Also he’s just the goat. – Cisco Swank (Mixed Fest Performer)

Listen: Spotify / Apple Music

6.  Busta Rhymes: Extinction Level Event 2: The Wrath of God

I like to think of Busta Rhymes as a bad ‘mothafucka,’ he is creative, pungent, and harder than your favorite rapper (yes, AT ME!).  Twenty-two years ago, he gave us Extinction Level Event: The Final World Front and now we have the honor of relishing in Extinction Level Event 2. Chris Rock states us in (“Czar,”)  “there is no place in the world where Busta Rhymes aint the baddest mothafucka…do you understand? Do you understand how hard he brings it?” There is a level of rawness that makes you bop your head in  (“Outta My Mind”) but also makes you feel like you’re in familiar territory with the sampling of Bell Biv DeVoe “Poison.”

In (E.L.E. 2 The Wrath of God”) Busta Rhymes recruits Mr. Louis Farrakan who reminds us that, “You killed your last man when you killed Dr. King, you will not get that chance to do that to me. Later in the song Busta asks, “when you witness the abuse of power, sometimes it’s seductive. Then I question God, why create a creature that is so destructive?” But the mood picks up like in (“Boomp!”) where Busta makes me feel like I am strolling in New York, hanging with my dudes. The whole album cranks, makes you think, and makes you feel sexy like in (“Where I Belong”)  feat Mariah Carey. Busta Rhymes has been in the game for over 20 years and still continues to be the gift that keeps on giving. -Stephanie Eyocko (Food Editor)

Listen: Spotify / Apple Music

7. Linda Diaz: Green Tea Ice Cream

Most of us entered the year not knowing who Linda Diaz was, but since winning the 2020 NPR Tiny Desk Contest, she’s been on her way to becoming the next up and coming neo-Soul/ R&B artist. As someone who listens to a lot of old school Jazz, I was struck by how Linda’s vocals alluded to a previous era of jazzy harmonies and rhythms, with lyrics that are relevant to modern emotions and circumstances. “Green Tea Ice Cream” was the single that won Linda the Tiny Desk Concert and it speaks of the joy one can tap into through hard times. Seeing a high school classmate that I played with in the music video also touched my heart.

The togetherness of Linda and her bandmates vibing together in the video made me reminisce on playing music with friends in high school and college. But Linda’s music goes beyond vibing with her friends. Her sound is truly one of a kind and I look forward to seeing what she puts out next. – Carolina Meurkens (Editor-in-Chief)

Listen: Spotify / Apple Music

8. Lianna La Havas: Lianna La Havas

Equal parts transparent and tapestry, singer-songwriter Lianne La Havas’ return to music after an agonizing half-decade hiatus was undoubtedly worth the wait. In a year where my emotions were left in freefall, her July self titled album was a ledge for me to hold onto, when everything else was numb to the touch. The bulk of the album details where her mind has been during her artistic (and social media) recluse, mostly anchored by a failed relationship and the self reflection it necessitated. And, in one way yes, that is what the album is about; lost love, the fear of disappointment, the fear of faith.

But for me, it was also about what is gained on the other side, when we pick up the pieces. Scored by La Havas’ virtuosic guitar playing and intimate, down to earth lyrics (You didn’t pay your rent/so I guess you’ll be leaving)  multiple songs made it to my Spotify Wrapped, on the strength that beyond her tales of doubt, anger, and anxiety, was something more powerful and attractive to me: clarity. Clarity in tomorrow, that it will come. And we’ll still be here when it comes. – Tayo Omisore (Poetry Editor)

Listen: Spotify / Apple Music

9. Childish Gambino: 3.15.20

This joint is all feeling man, the way they incorporate acoustic guitar with those hard ass drums, shit is so fresh!!! It’s crazy how much weird shit he and Ludwig were trying. it’s still a pop album somehow, but with the most out production. Inspiring! – Yoshi T.(Issue 2 Feature)

Listen: Spotify  / Apple Music 

10. Kenny Mason: Angelic Hoodrat

At times, Angelic Hoodrat is Black joy, floating triplet flows and wholesome hooks over soul samples (“Chevron”). In other places, Angelic Hoodrat is Black angst, meshing the menace of baying dogs with metal guitars to create a soundtrack for a mosh pit (“Metal Wings”, “Pretty Thoughts”). Still elsewhere, Angelic Hoodrat celebrates Kenny Mason’s Atlanta roots, all dirty synths and trap snares (“PTSD”). Mason does it all, blending Hip-Hop, Rock, and Alternative music without fear. He thrives everywhere, turning in an ambitious project that showcases his enormous talent and potential. Angelic Hoodrat might be your last chance to claim you listened to Kenny Mason before he blew up. Don’t miss the bandwagon. – Marc Andrea Fiorina (Issue 4 Contributor)

Listen: Spotify / Apple Music 

11. Megan Thee Stallion: Good News

I tipsily pressed play on Megan Thee Stallion’s album “Good News” at midnight on November 20th, 2020 and my jaw immediately dropped. My roommates and I had spent the evening sipping our drinks while throwing ass to her entire discography in preparation for the debut album. Hearing her so undeniably BODY (pun absolutely intended) every single song on that album left us feeling so proud and so excited to continue to watch her solidify her place as one of the icons of this generation. The fact that she has come out on the other side of her trials with the brightest smile so deeply inspires me. Megan deserves the world. – Murielle (Issue 3 Feature]

Honorable Mentions: Chloe x Halle, “Ungodly Hour”, Victoria Monét “Jaguar”, Jhéne Aiko “Chilombo” Kehlani “It Was Good Until It Wasn’t”, Brandy “b7”, Ariana Grande “positions”

Listen: Spotify / Apple Music

Honorable Mention: Mac Miller: Good News

Circles begins with guitar chords so warm they register more as vibrations than sounds. For an artist often defined in the popular eye more by his struggles and depression than his joy for life, Mac Miller’s crooning throughout the album comes almost as a shock. Where Mac’s past music – think Faces or Swimming – obsessed over posterity and the fear of dying, Circles is Mac accepting the permanence of death and celebrating the spark of living. Throughout this album, Mac elevates the triumph of small moments: “Once a day, I rise / Once a day, I fall asleep with you.” In a year so marked by death, Mac spoke from the grave to let us know that things turn out okay. He knew there was a lot waiting for him on the other side. We were lucky to keep some piece of him over here.

Marc Andrea Fiorina (Issue 4 Contributor)

Listen: Spotify / Apple Music

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