2020 has been a chaotic year to say the least. Just how much it would affect the music industry, however, was entirely unforeseen.
With bars, venues and clubs being forced to close, never had there been such a demand for the escape music provides. Despite artists being starved of the resources to thrive, and massive financial loss within the sector, it seems that great music will always continue to be produced no matter what.
So, here are 5 great albums to come out of 2020.
King Krule – Man Alive
March 2020 saw the return of South London’s very own Archy Marshall, with his 3rd full length project under the King Krule moniker. The birth of his first born in 2019 signified a coming of age for Marshall, something that seemingly has carried over into this record.
The eerie themes and jazzy undertones to King Krule’s brand of post-punk darkwave are ever-present on Man Alive, but everything feels more polished this time around. Opening track ‘Cellular’ and album highlight ‘Stoned Again’ exemplify this more enhanced sound, both musically and lyrically. The bass heavy tracks are aggressive in tone and are reminiscent of a certain loneliness, ultimately revealing a more vulnerable side to this artist.
‘Comet Face’ pairs a narrative surrounding a mugging in Peckham with a simple drum loop, all tied together with another textbook King Krule bassline, which are so prominent throughout the album. ‘Alone Omen 3’ offers an insight into the mind of King Krule as he reassures himself he is not alone, a much more laid-back number and certainly one of the highlights of the record. The sinister, other worldly atmosphere throughout is broken up by various other tracks (‘The Dream’, ‘Perfecto Miserable’, ‘Theme for the Cross’ and ‘Please Complete Thee’), as Marshall invites the listener to follow him into his idealistic dreamscape, while ‘Underclass’ paints a picture of newfound love accompanied by a jazzy, doo-wop saxophone.
Yves Tumour – Heaven to a Tortured Mind
Originating from Tennessee, Yves Tumour is known for their experimental approach, and this theme of experimentalism was ever-present once again throughout their fourth studio album. Heaven to a Tortured Mindis Tumour’s most technically advanced project to date, and seemingly, at this stage in their career, Tumour has found the perfect balance of experimentalism and precision.
The opening track ‘Gospel for a New Century’ is a testament to Tumour’s perfectionist approach. It explodes forward with an ensemble of brass and horns whilst it’s domineering bassline ties it all together and drives the track forward. The standout anthem of the album ‘Kerosene’, featuring singer Diana Gordon, is a startlingly powerful rock ballad that is brought to a head by a thunderous guitar solo. Amongst all this chaos, Tumour’s raw tone and heartfelt lyrics come together and what ensues is a thing of pure elegance.
Other standout tracks such as ‘Romanticist’ and ‘Super Stars’ continue to boast this combination of precise composition, clever lyrics and interesting themes, the latter of which has an almost Prince feel to it, as Tumour ventures out of their comfort zone and adopts a higher pitch within their singing.
Megan Thee Stallion – Good News
2020 was a big year for Megan Thee Stallion. For starters, the looming pandemic wasn’t even the biggest threat to her health, having been shot in both feet by none other than Tory Lanez. 2020 also saw the release of her most successful venture to date in the form of her verse on Cardi B’s single ‘WAP’. So, with all that in mind, there was of course much anticipation for Megan’s debut studio album.
Straight off the bat, Megan rose to the occasion sampling the Notorious B.I.G classic ‘Who Shot Ya?’ in her song ‘Shots Fired’. The Biggie classic was alleged to be in reference to his involvement with an attempt on Tupac’s life, so Megan took inspiration from this and executed it to a tee. Everything about this was genius on her behalf. She had outed her alleged attacker while using a widely recognised, legendary sample, and ultimately made it impossible to ignore the release of her album.
Highlights on the album include tracks such as ‘Body’, a remix of her hit ‘Savage’ featuring Beyoncé and the song ‘Cry Baby’ featuring DaBaby, whilst there are also notable features from the likes of SZA, Popcaan and Young Thug (to name a few).
Khruangbin – Mordechai
Khruangbin’s brand of soothing, Thai psychedelia and Mediterranean funk could not have come at a more appropriate time. Generally known for their instrumentals, Mordechai already brought something entirely new to the table, as every track, except for ‘Father Bird, Mother Bird’, features lyrics performed by the band.
Mordechai holds up Khruangbin’s traditions of globetrotting musical exploration, and is musically, a seamless display of technicality and genre-melding. Lead single ‘Time (You and I)’ deviates from their psychedelic roots and takes heavy influences from the disco and funk sounds so prominent throughout the 1970s. The single also features phrases spoken in a myriad of differing languages.
The track ‘Connassais de face’ is one of the sharpest on the record, and features a question that’s more relevant now than it ever has been: “shouldn’t we all enjoy life?”. The track ‘Pelota’ is a non-stop fiesta that’s sung entirely in Spanish and features another one of guitarists’ Mark Speers iconic riffs. Though not their best project to date, and certainly with room to improve lyrically, Mordechai is another musical triumph for Khruangbin to add to their repertoire, and certainly was the meditative vaccine to isolation that was so desperately needed at the time.
The Alchemist X Freddie Gibbs – Alfredo
Gibbs 2019 effort and second collaborative project with Madlib: Bandana was always going to be a hard act to follow. And, naturally, it seemed the only way to counter one all-star team up was with another. Following on from their 2018 release Fetti, Gibbs and The Alchemist’s sophomore project Alfredo certainly rose to the occasion.
The surprise release could be likened to a Martin Scorsese-esque Mafioso blockbuster; charming and slick yet brash and arrogant all in tandem. Gibbs’ gruff tone and knack for storytelling solidifies his place as the narrator of the tale, whilst Alchemist lays down that box office soundtrack to match. Everything from the album artwork to the samples screams ‘gangster movie’. Gibbs’ delivery radiates the class and swagger of the typical leading character, whilst also boasting an element of the unhinged. Tracks such as ‘God is perfect’ and ‘Frank Lucas’ are prime examples of this in your face, Mafioso narrative, even name dropping the famed drug trafficker if things couldn’t be more obvious.
Musically, the beats on this album are fantastic. The Alchemist’s ability to set the scene on every track shines through, and really demonstrates the technical prowess and diversity the now veteran of the game possesses. The opening track ‘1985’ comes in heavy and hard via a rock guitar intro, ultimately grabbing the listener’s attention from the off.
Tracks such as ‘Something to Rap About’ and ‘Babies and Fools’ possess the elegance and feel of a luxurious Miami beach cocktail bar, whilst tracks like ‘All Glass’ and ‘Baby $hit’ present that gritty New York feel. Alfredo proves once again just what a killer combination the pair are when put together, and it’s safe to say its success is certainly a sign of more to come.