Now that we're half-way through a truly troubling year, I'm sharing my favorite albums from the first six months of 2020.
Music might be the only thing I have enjoyed so far in 2020 and while I desperately miss going to live shows, I have enjoyed the extra time to listen to so many new releases. From the stunning return of Fiona Apple to the aspiring debut of Westerman, sensational hip hop from Medhane, Ka, and another Freddie Gibbs collaboration, and the staggering work of Phoebe Bridgers and Haim, there has been a lot of great new music to celebrate. New music from No Age, Pearl Jam, Woods, Hum, and so many others have also been great and unexpected and while I'm convinced more than ever that the Strokes will never recapture their old glory, even their new record is worth a few listens (and "Bad Decisions" is a pretty great song too). The reissues of Neil Young's "lost" album Homegrown and the Hiroshi Yoshimura's Green have also received a lot of attention this year. As we continue forward into such unknown territory, I hope these albums can be a balm in a relentless year.
01 FIONA APPLE | Fetch the Bolt Cutters
On her first album in eight years, Fiona Apple defies all expectations and released not only her crowning achievement in her already illustrious career, but a record for the ages as well.
02 RUN THE JEWELS | RTJ4
Run the Jewels always seem to appear just when we need them the most. Killer Mike and El-P are as fired up as ever on this one and once again they're here for some of the most timely music to soundtrack a dark chapter in American history.
03 WAXAHATCHEE | Saint Cloud
The latest from Katie Crutchfield is her most immediate, full, and best album yet. It's a strong, bold statement that perfectly captures a mood. It's a bright modern country classic.
04 CARIBOU | Suddenly
Caribou has had one of the most consistent careers over the past decade and while it's been a while since he released something under this moniker, Suddenly felt like an immediate return to his stunning sound and an instant triumph.
05 SOCCER MOMMY | Color Theory
Color Theory was the first classic sounding indie rock record of the year and it holds up many months later. Sophia Allison steps up her game on this one for some of her best and strongest songwriting to date and hinting at a great future.
06 SHABAZZ PALACES | The Don of Diamond Dreams
The last two records from Shabazz Palaces were the definitions of "grower" albums for me and only recently did I finally connect with them. The Don of Diamond Dreams hit me on first listen and was on constant rotation ever since. Another futuristic voyage from one of hip-hop's most classic and underrated MCs.
07 WESTERMAN | Your Hero Is Not Dead
The debut from Westerman might be the most consistent and fully-realized record of the year. Although the tracks on here have been released steadily over the past few years, there is a wonderful cohesion on this one. Incredible synth-pop charm that feels timeless and yet relevant all at once.
A new modern-jazz classic, Jeff Parker's wonderful guitar textures give this album incredible warmth and reel in the listener for repeated visits and a wonderful John Coltrane cover only adds to the beauty.
09 YVES TUMOR | Heaven to a Tortured Mind
Yves Tumor continues to push musical boundaries on this one and the sublime electronics on this record are dazzling. It feels futuristic, but also accessible. A real victory of an album and one that is sure to draw in more listeners, welcoming them to Tumor's strange, but accepting world.
10 SAULT | Untitled (Black Is)
Sault still feel quite mysterious, but this record captures so much across its sprawling tracklist. Drawing inspiration from Motown Soul, Afro-jazz, and hip-hop, it's truly sensational and a hallmark album for a rather disturbing summer.
(Albums 11-30 listed alphabetically)
AGAINST ALL LOGIC | 2017-2019
ANDY SHAUF | Neon Skyline
CARLY RAE JEPSEN | Dedicated Side B
DANIEL AVERY / ALESSANDRO CORTINI | Illusion of Time
FREDDIE GIBBS / THE ALCEMIST | Alfredo
HAIM | Women in Music pt. III
I BREAK HORSES | Warnings
KA | Descendants of Cain
LAURA MARLING | Songs for Our Daughter
MEDHANE | Cold Water
NAP EYES | Snapshot of a Beginner
NINE INCH NAILS | Ghosts IV / V: Together / Locusts
PHOEBE BRIDGERS | Punisher
ROLLING BLACKOUTS COASTAL FEVER | Sideways to New Italy
SHABAKA AND THE ANCESTORS | We Were Sent Here by History
TAME IMPALA | The Slow Rush
US GIRLS | Heavy Light
THE WEEKND | After Hours
YAEJI | What We Drew