For the Record: Top 10 albums of 2020

Audrey Morrison, Staff Reporter

record player
In For The Record, Audrey Morrison talks new albums, concerts, and more. (Graphic by Ellen Chadwick)

Foreword: I will not hear NO Taylor or Cudi slander. They simply cannot be compared. Each of their musical abilities have no part in taking from each other’s talents. That being said…

10. color theory – Soccer Mommy

Despite being ranked at last place I actually really enjoyed this album. For some reason I’ve never really been attracted to her work, but Color Theory really knocked my socks off. Sophie Allison (Soccer Mommy) has evolved musically, vocally, and conceptually. Even her album art is stunningly and contrasts starkly to her previous albums. If I could describe the vibe of the album in three words they would be: space age melancholia. In a way, Color Theory foreshadows another highly anticipated extraterrestrial album from this year (featuring a Man on the Moon). 

9. Notes on a Conditional Form – The 1975

I already talk about The 1975 too much, I know. So I’ll try to keep it short. Unlike this album. My love for The 1975 and everything they’ve ever created did not leave me blind to the mess that was Notes on a Conditional Form. Obviously there were a ton of really good songs (The 1975 has a lot of trouble really creating a bad song) but there was SO MUCH FILLER. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good instrumental track, but I couldn’t justify the amount of musical beeps and boops that were on this record. Maybe it was a statement on the inanity of technology and the whirlwind that this year has been, but mostly I just think it could have melodically sounded better. Nevertheless, Notes on a Conditional Form holds a dear place in my heart. Somewhere buried under A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships and the Music for Cars EP, but it’s in there somewhere. Check out “Tonight (I Wish I Was Your Boy),” “If You’re Too Shy (Let Me Know),” and “Nothing Revealed/ Everything Denied.” And maybe steer clear of “Streaming” and “Having No Head.” Or don’t, who cares.

less is moor album cover
Audrey’s eighth best album of 2020 is LESS IS MOOR by Zebra Katz. (Photo via Pitchfork)

8. LESS IS MOOR – Zebra Katz

After listening to Zebra Katz recently for the first time, I found him completely fresh and contemporary. He provided a much needed break from my music rut – listening to artists from my childhood like The Beatles, Jason Mraz, etc. He is the perfect break for anyone slipping too deep into their comfort zone. He blends a forceful mix of rap and hyperpop, creating an incredibly loud and bold sound. LESS IS MOOR is Katz’s second studio album. If you like BROCKHAMPTON or any similar influences, you’ll definitely like this album. Check out the songs “IN IN IN,” “MOOR,” and “BLUSH.”

7. folklore (deluxe version) – Taylor Swift

Folklore was the second best gift that Taylor Swift gave us this year. I really didn’t think it could get better than this. We got a glimpse of Taylor’s return to folk and acoustic, but what was the most dizzying aspect of the record was her induction of indie influences. The songs “mirrorball” and “august” felt starkly like dream pop and indie folk. Folklore also featured Bon Iver, a folk artist who has been drifting towards electronic music throughout his past few records. Taylor plays into this, while also staying true to her folk roots, in the track “exile” (featuring Bon Iver). Some of my favorite songs from the album include “mirrorball,” “betty,” and bonus track “the lakes.”

6. Rough and Rowdy Ways – Bob Dylan

After years of musical performance, Bob Dylan knows how to play to his strengths like very few other artists. Despite having a rough and bizarre personality and a terribly froggy voice, his lyricism and instrumental dexterity make him one of the greatest rock and folk artists of all time. Rough and Rowdy Ways feels extremely Springsteen-esque, with similar ballads and fervent anthems. There’s really very little that can be criticized about this album. It remains true to his character – sometimes irregular and harsh, but brings with it sentimentality and a deep amount of affection. Listen to “I Contain Multitudes,” “My Own Version of You,” and “I’ve Made Up My Mind to Give Myself to You.” It is also worth noting that this album has an adequate amount of yearning.

5. The New Abnormal – The Strokes 

The long-awaited 6th studio album by The Strokes was extraordinary. The Strokes’ guitarist, Albert Hammond Jr., amazed us again with his beautiful, beautiful riffs and solos. Even though I feel they played a bit safe: relying on Hammond’s musical prowess and lead singer, Julian Casablancas’, droll vocals, I found that each track was pretty catchy and compelling. I just wish that we could hear a little more of Fabrizio Moretti’s drums! The proof of his finesse is featured on the track “Bad Decisions” – one of the strongest songs on The New Abnormal. Also, we’ve waited 7 years since their last release and they give us 9 songs? Come on! Anyway, listen to “The Adults are Talking,” “Selfless,” and “Eternal Summer.”

4. how i’m feeling now – Charli XCX

Along with mass global tension, disease, and rage, 2020 was the year for hyper pop. I understand that a large group of people hate hyperpop with a passion and some may believe this genre of music was the catalyst of all these worldly events. I think the name for these people are philistines? I may have to check my thesaurus, but that being said – Charli XCX’s how i’m feeling now was otherworldly. It made me break out into a cold sweat, it was so good. The album should come with a warning not to drive while listening. How i’m feeling now is car-wreck inducing in the best possible way. If you don’t like it first, maybe give it another chance. It may or may not grow on you. Listen to “detonate,” “claws,” and “pink diamond.”

3. Man on the Moon III: The Chosen – Kid Cudi

The third installment to Kid Cudi’s Man on the Moon series feels cinematic. The opening to each track was incredibly strong, bringing a force of will that has drawn fans of Cudi since The End of Day. Cudi struggles with the balance of dark and light, exoticism and comfort, alienation and stagnation. Without trying to sound too obvious or reducing Cudi’s work to a backtrack, The Chosen is like the coolest sci-fi soundtrack ever. Recurring themes of isolation, regret, and the escape from small-town suffocation draw similarities to Taylor Swift’s and Phoebe Bridgers’ most recent albums. The Chosen also features Phoebe Bridgers on the track “Lovin’ Me”. Overall, the album is incredibly deliberate and headstrong. You’ll find songs including “Elsie’s Baby Boy (flashback),” “Lord I Know,” and “4 Da Kidz” in the Spotify playlist linked on the bottom.

2. evermore – Taylor Swift

MORE YEARNING, YES PLEASE. As a self-proclaimed country music cynic, I couldn’t be more excited that Taylor Swift is easing back into her rock & country roots. Her voice is so powerful and well-suited for balladic country but this record also played on her versatility. “No body, no crime” is the classic country whodunnit, while “happiness” feels like an ode to 80’s romantic synth-wave serenades. And the featuring artists?! Incredible: the sisters Haim, The National, and Bon Iver. Taylor’s ability to hold the center of focus while never overstepping her vocal accompaniment is flawless. I never cease to be amazed by her artistry. Songs like “ivy,” “marjorie,” and “evermore” (featuring Bon Iver) defined her 9th studio album.

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Audrey’s top album of 2020 is Punisher by Phoebe Bridgers. (Photo via Wikipedia)

1. Punisher – Phoebe Bridgers

THE AMOUNT OF YEARNING in this album is incomprehensible. Like there are no words for the pain and longing I feel after listening to Phoebe. I cannot shut up about Punisher. This album confirmed Phoebe Bridgers as the best lyricist since the dawn of time. And to cushion the blow to all those Bob Dylan fans, I included his most recent album in my list as well. If you feel like crying or screaming or being completely emotionless and vacant listen to Punisher by Phoebe Bridgers. She covers every possible human emotion in the span of 40 minutes. Be sure to check out “Garden Song,” “Kyoto,” “Graceland Too,” and of course: “Moon Song.”

Honorable mentions:

Otkrovenie – Dasha & Seryozha

Fetch the Bolt Cutters – Fiona Apple

songs – Adrianne Lenker

Man Alive! – King Krule

Shore – Fleet Foxes

græ – Moses Sumney

Check out the playlist here: