Best albums of 2020 – Top 25

..and what a year that was indeed. None of us working and living in the so-called First World countries have never experienced such a thing but who are we to complain really? This is a music blog so I do not have neither the skills nor the knowledge to write any particular relevant comments. What I can confess though is that more than ever listening to music has been a blessing, especially in a context with (almost) no live action. As with all lists, it is done to be challenged and commented. And as will all lists, it should be considered as a picture in time. I selected the following 25 albums after a pre-list of 53 of them but this is not the end (as an example, I already have regrets not to have included Cornershop‘s “England Is A Garden“…). I guess though my number 1 album of the year actually makes sense with what our world is today and I hope it will be remembered as such.

I also wanted to thank Ben Gibbard from Death Cab For Cutie for all his many at-home sessions. These were a real treat and made the first lockdown a not so bad time (well, you know what I mean…). Go and catch them on line!

#1 Phoebe Bridgers “Punisher”. Released in: June 2020. I must confess that it was a very close call and that, depending on the mood of the day, my top 3 could have been differently sequenced. What made the difference probably came from the emotion felt every time I listen to this amazing record. Everything is in its right place and the attention to detail given by Phoebe Bridgers in her lyrics and arrangements is really awesome. I could of course add that she is a young lady of her time, with the hopes and issues women face today but this is more a consequence than the actual reason of recording such a piece of music. Final track “I Know The End” also happens to be my favourite song of 2020 so I guess the choice was pretty obvious. RECORD OF THE YEAR!

 #2 BC Camplight – “Shortly After Takeoff”. Released in: April 2020. This record is the third and probably final one of the so-called Manchester trilogy. BC Camplight is actually the sole project of American musician Brian Christinzio who finally found a bit of peace of mind in the North of England. His personal story and struggles would need an entire book to write but what is more important here is the way he balances dark and funny lyrics with an incredible sense of melody and musical skills. Discover this album (and his previous efforts too) and the rewards will be immense.

 #3 Fiona Apple – “Fetch The Bolt Cutters”. Released in: April 2020. Fiona Apple is an extraordinary talent and having her as number three in this list is just confirmation of all the greetings she received this year from musical reviewers all around the world. I do not have much to add vs. the review I did when she was my album of the month in April, except that this is really an record to discover if not done yet…and if you like dogs!

 #4 Happyness “Floatr”. Released in: May 2020. This album was a real grower for me throughout the year; the kind you find better and better after each listening. Happyness are a London trio and this record sounds like what kind of music Elliott Smith would have done in 2020, mixing psychedelic sounds with incredible beautiful melodies.

 #5 Childish Gambino – “3.15.20”. Released in: March 2020. Those curious enough to look more closely at the cover will spot the ‘Donald Glover presents’ mention but this is the only clue about this record which was released on digital form only on the 15th of March, hence the title… For some reason, this album is nowhere to be seen in any end of the year list while I think this is his best so far. All tracks are good and collectively have this very naked sound and inventiveness… which reminded me of the best Prince records.

 #6 Ghospoet  “I Grow Tired But Dare Not Fall Asleep”. Released in: May 2020. This is the fifth album of London born musician Obaro Ejimiwe and the least one can say is that he is getting better and better with each release. Ghostpoet is to me the kind of people we need in today’s musical world, questioning society without losing sense of what a great track should be.

 #7 L.A. Salami – “The Cause Of Doubt & A Reason To Have Faith”. Released in: July 2020. This blog does not want to differentiate on purpose and promote artists you will not find in any other list; as a reminder my main goal is to share those records which genuinely moved me last year and that is no exception. Also from London, Lookman Adekunle Salami is a very active figure on the local musical scene. When he does not collaborate with others, he releases his very personal blues rock songs, making them instant classics.

 #8 Moses Sumney  “Græ”. Released in: May 2020. I am not afraid to state that Moses Sumney is probably one the greatest artists of our times and when life goes back to normal, catching him live is almost a compulsory thing. Released in two parts in 2020, “Græ” is a very ambitious record and one may sometimes feel that releasing twenty tracks was too much. However, I must say that what one lacks in immediacy, one gets it back in terms of being rewarded on the long term. A future classic?

 #9 Benjamin Biolay  “Grand Prix”. Released in: June 2020. First of all, let me confirm to all that this is not Romain Grosjean on the cover after his horrendous crash but this is indeed quite disturbing to have this man in flames. I was not that enthusiastic about his latest ”Argentinian” records but with “Grand Prix“, Benjamin Biolay is back on pole position (I know…). This is a very interesting record for 80’s post punk British music lovers and also for those attracted by smart lyrics in French. The best of both worlds really…

 #10 Lianne La Havas  “Lianne La Havas”. Out in: July 2020. This is the third album from London-based former Prince protégée Lianne La Havas and without any question her best so far. It took me a bit of time to get all this album’s subtleties but when you get there, you are quite addicted to it. For those Radiohead fans, her cover of “Weird Fishes” may be the best ever done. Your favourite record for all summers to come!

Also not to miss, the next 15!

  • 11. Arbouretum“Let It All In”
  • 12. This Is The Kit“Off Off On”
  • 13. Jetstream Pony“Jetstream Pony”
  • 14. Laura Marling “Song For Our Daughter”
  • 15. Paul McCartney“McCartney III”
  • 16. Blake Mills – “Mutable Set”
  • 17. Andy Shauf – “The Neon Skyline”
  • 18. Elvis Costello – “Hey Clockface”
  • 19. Ichon – “Pour De Vrai”
  • 20. Tom Misch & Yussef Dayes – “What Kinda Music”
  • 21. The Apartments – “In And Out Of The Light”
  • 22. Khruangbin – “Mordechai”
  • 23. Kevin Morby – “Sundowner” (very popular in Bordeaux, France!)
  • 24. The Avalanches – “We Will Always Love You”
  • 25. Fontaines D.C. – “A Hero’s Death”

Other voices’ (websites, magazines, records stores, etc…) Top 10.

You will find below a selection of other lists but there are so many of them that you may also want to go to the albumoftheyear.org website to get an aggregation of them all.

  • Mojo (UK music mag): 1. Bob Dylan Rough And Rowdy Ways 2. Fiona Apple Fetch The Bolt Cutters 3. Fontaines D.C. A Hero’s Death 4. Bill Callahan Gold Record 5. Fleet Foxes Shore 6. Cornershop England Is A Garden 7. Jarv Is… Beyond The Pale 8. Run The Jewels RTJ4 9. Phoebe Bridgers Punisher 10. The Flaming Lips American Head
  • Uncut (UK music mag): 1. Bob Dylan Rough And Rowdy Ways 2. Fleet Foxes Shore 3. Phoebe Bridgers Punisher 4. Drive-By Truckers The New OK 5. Thundercat It Is What It Is 6. Waxahatchee Saint Cloud 7. Bill Callahan Gold Record 8. Jarv Is… Beyond The Pale 9. Shirley Collins Heart’s Ease 10. Laura Marling Song For Our Daughter
  • NME (UK website): 1. Run The Jewels RTJ4 2. Taylor Swift Folklore 3. Dua Lipa Future Nostalgia 4. The Strokes The New Abnormal 5. Phoebe Bridgers Punisher 6. Kelly Lee Owens Inner Song 7. Rina Sawayama Sawayama 8. Haim Women In Music Pt III 9. Beabadoobee Fake It Flowers 10. J Hus Big Conspiracy
  • Rough Trade (London, Nottingham, Bristol and Brooklyn stores): 1. Sault Untitled (Black Is) 2. Phoebe Bridgers Punisher 3. Rina Sawayama Sawayama 4. Laura Marling Song Four Our Daughter 5. Jarv Is… Beyond The Pale 6. Dream Wife So When You Gonna… 7. Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Viscerals 8. Bdrmm Bedroom 9. Porridge Radio Every Bad 10. Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever Sideways To New Italy
  • Sister Ray (London Soho store): 1. Juniore Un Deux Trois 2. Andy Bell The View From Halfway Down 3. Billy Nomates Billy Nomates 4. Freddy Gibbs & The Alchemist Alfredo 5. Bdrmm Bedroom 6. Laura Marling Song Four Our Daughter 7. Kate NV Room For The Moon 8. Four Tet Sixteen Oceans 9. Thurston Moore By The Fire 10. Working Men’s Club Working Men’s Club
  • Greg Kot (Sound Opinions radio DJ #1): 1. Sault Untitled (Black Is) & Untitled (Rise) 2. Run The Jewels RTJ4 3. Melkbelly Pith 4. Angelica Garcia Cha Cha Palace 5. Fiona Apple Fetch The Bolt Cutters 6. Bartees Strange Live Forever 7. Coriky Coriky 8. Idles Ultra Mono 9. Porridge Radio Every Bad 10. Jyoti Mama, You Can Bet!
  • Jim Derogatis (Sound Opinions radio DJ #2): 1. Shemekia Copeland Uncivil War 2. Ganser Just Look At THe Sky 3. Angelica Garcia Cha Cha Palace 4. Jason Isbell Reunions 5. Run The Jewels RTJ4 6. Lucinda Williams Good Souls Better Angels 7. Drive-By Truckers The Unravelling 8. Margo Price That’s How Rumors Get Started 9. Lydia Loveless Daughter 10. Sault Untitled (Black Is) & Untitled (Rise)
  • Pitchfork (US music website): 1. Fiona Apple Fetch The Bolt Cutters 2. Waxahatchee Saint Cloud 3. Moses Sumney græ 4. Phoebe Bridgers Punisher 5. Perfume Genius Set My Heart On Fire Immediately 6. Bob Dylan Rough And Rowdy Ways 7. Yves Tumor Heaven To A Tortured Mind 8. Haim Women In Music Pt III 9. Jessie Ware What’s Your Pleasure? 10. Bad Bunny YHLQMDLG
  • Paste (US music website): 1. Fiona Apple Fetch The Bolt Cutters 2. Waxahatchee Saint Cloud 3. Run The Jewels RTJ4 4. Sault Untitled (Rise) 5. Perfume Genius Set My Heart On Fire Immediately 6. Porridge Radio Every Bad 7. Soccer Mommy Color Theory 8. Rina Sawayama Sawayama 9. Adrianne Lenker Songs 10. Moses Sumney græ
  • Les Inrocks (French mag): 1. The Strokes The New Abnormal 2. Working Men’s Club Working Men’s Club 3. Andrea Laszlo De Simone Immensita 4. Fontaines D.C. A Hero’s Death 5. Helena Deland Someone New 6. Chassol Ludi 7. Bob Dylan Rough And Rowdy Ways 8. Gorillaz Song Machine, Season One: Strange Timez 9. Ela Minus Acts Of Rebellion 10. Damso QALF
  • The Guardian (UK daily newspaper) : 1. Fiona Apple Fetch The Bolt Cutters 2. Dua Lipa Future Nostalgia 3. Rina Sawayama Sawayama 4. Perfume Genius Set My Heart On Fire Immediately 5. Sault Untitled (Black Is) 6. Waxahatchee Saint Cloud 7. Haim Women In Music Pt III 8. J Hus Big Conspiracy 9. Taylor Swift Folklore 10. Moses Sumney græ
  • The Independent (UK website) : 1. Fiona Apple Fetch The Bolt Cutters 2. Dua Lipa Future Nostalgia 3. Waxahatchee Saint Cloud 4. Laura Marling Song For Our Daughter 5. Moses Sumney græ 6. Perfume Genius Set My Heart On Fire Immediately 7. Haim Women In Music Pt III 8. Sufjan Stevens The Ascension 9. Adrianne Lenker Songs 10. Taylor Swift Folklore
  • Magic rpm (French bimonthly magazine) : 1. Cabane Grande Est La Maison 2. Fiona Apple Fetch The Bolt Cutters 3. Fontaines D.C. A Hero’s Death 4. Car Seat Headrest Making A Door Less Open 5. Mary Lattimore Silver Ladders 6. This Is The Kit Off Off On 7. Adrianne Lenker Songs & Instrumentals 8. Oneohtrix Point Never Make Oneohtrix Point Never 9. Matt Elliott Farewell To All We Know 10. Perfume Genius Set My Heart On Fire Immediately
  • Noise Magazine (French bimonthly magazine) : 1. Emma Ruth Rundle & Thou May Our Chambers Be Full 2. Human Impact Human Impact 3. Oranssi Pazuzu Mestarin Kynsi 4. Napalm Death Throes Of Joy In The Jaws Of Defeatism 5. Hum Inlet 6. Nothing The Great Dismal 7. Butch McKoy The Sick Rose 8. Tar Pond Protocol Of Constant Sadness 9. Higher Power 27 Miles Underwater 10. Untitled With Drums Hollow
  • Resident (Brighton very cool store): 1. Working Men’s Club Working Men’s Club 2. Porridge Radio Every Bad 3. Sink Ya Teeth Two 4. Moses Boyd Dark Matter 5. Bdrmm Bedroom 6. Juniore Un Deux Trois 7. Craven Faults Erratics & Unconformities 8. Fontaines D.C. A Hero’s Death 9. BC Camplight Shortly After Takeoff 10. Tom Misch & Yussef Dayes What Kinda Music

5 thoughts on “Best albums of 2020 – Top 25

  1. Odd that Shortly After Take-Off barely gets even a mention in any of the other listings you’ve, er, listed 🙂 Definitely album of 2020 for me. Nothing came close. I also dug Soccer Mommy’s Color Theory and Lewsberg’s In This House, v. much, too.
    As for singles… nothing managed to topple the BCNR’s Sunglasses in the end! (Although Wedding Present held the door for them with their Bond number!)

    Thanks, Stephane for yr great work here^ happy new year!

  2. Dear Stephane
    You said in your latest comment that maybe more than ever music has been a blessing … I can’t agree more!
    So thank you ! because each week (and week-end !) I know I have my « Virgins & Philistines » blog to read !! and these are the kind of little pleasures that helped me (us?) to go through this crazy fu….. year !
    As I did last year I can’t resist to share with you my Top 25😉
    Happy New Year!

    My Top albums 2020
    1- Bruce Springsteen « Letter to you »
    2- Melody Gardot « Sunset in the blue»
    3- The Flaming Lips « American Head »
    4- Destroyer « Have we met »
    5- Baxter Dury « The Night Chancers »
    6- Bob Dylan « Rough and Rowdy Ways 
    7- Rose City Band « Summerlong »
    8- Black Pumas « Black Pumas »
    9- Roberto Fonseca « Yesun »
    10- Gogo Penguin « Live from Studio 2 »
    11- Paul McCartney III
    12- This is the Kit « Off Off On »
    13- The Jayhawks « XOXO »
    14- A Girl Called Eddy « Been Around »
    15- Marilyn Manson « We are Chaos »
    16- Isobel Campbell « There is no other… »
    17- Lianne La Havas « Lianne La Havas »
    18- Matt Berninger « Serpentin Prison »
    19- Dominique A « Vie étrange »
    20- Fleet Foxes « Shores »
    21- The Strokes « The New abnormal »
    22- Pearl Jam  « Gigaton »
    23- Larkin Poe « Kindred Spirit »
    24- AC/DC « Power Up »
    25- Phil Campbell & The Bastard Sons « We ´re the bastards 

    • Hi Laurent,
      Thanks for the kind words and the support; always good to read. Regarding your list:
      1) thanks for sharing!
      2) we (only) have 3 albums in common (Paul McCartney, This Is The Kit and Lianne La Havas) but there are lots of favourites which were very close to making my list. A Girl Called Eddy’s “Been Around” for instance is a beautiful record
      3) I just did a Spotify list with your Top 25!

      Thanks again and Happy New Year!

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