Top 20 Albums of 2020 (20-11)

20. Devi McCallion & Katie Dey: Magic Fire Brain

This past spring saw the unfortunate breakup of the Toronto electro-industrial act Black Dresses, of which Devi McCallion made up one half. Fortunately, the void left time for a return collaboration between McCallion and Australian experimental electronic pop artist Katie Dey. The product of this cross-pollination is Magic Fire Brain, a nine-song sequel to the pair’s 2018 collection, Some New Form of Life. The new album finds the songs more focused and accessible, offering unexpected moments that include singalong pop choruses (“Mirror”, “Trying Not to Die”) and embarrassingly sincere emotional outpourings (“Circumstances”, “Open Heart”). Katie Dey’s sweet and gentle vocals make for a perfect contrast to Devi’s raw, emotive delivery. Lyrically, over swirling electronics, the two dive headfirst into such subjects as self-doubt, self-forgiveness, good and evil, God and religion, and what it means to navigate the strange feelings that come with being human. With Magic Fire Brain, McCallion and Dey have managed to conjure recordings that are at times intensely personal but always universally relatable. – Andy Mascola

19. Sunwatchers: Oh Yeah?

18. Freddie Gibbs & The Alchemist: Alfredo

One of the lyrically strongest projects of 2020, Freddie Gibbs’ collaboration with The Alchemist is also one of the best produced. Packed with core-shaking lines such as “my execution might be televised,” the album is intensely modern while feeling lived in and established. The Alchemist’s thoughtfully composed production courses through excellent tracks that manage to capture the tradition of hip-hop while defining new pathways, letting Gibbs perform with the skill of an artist at their prime. – Hunter Waswick

17. Osees: Protean Threat

16. Fiona Apple: Fetch the Bolt Cutters

Her first album in over seven years, Fetch The Bolt Cutters showcases Fiona Apple embracing experimentalism with a contagious sense of confidence and life. The songs tumble and grow of their own volition, climbing and turning as Fiona’s intense vocals burst and shapeshift. While using traditional instruments, the songs also explore the merits of clapping, stomping, and moaning. Fiona’s lyrics match the textured intensity of her instrumentals and production, exploring trauma, womanhood, and ultimately liberation. Fetch The Bolt Cutters is brilliantly multi-dimensional and unrelentingly raw. – Hunter Waswick

15. Megan Thee Stallion: Good News

Recovering from a gunshot wound during a pandemic, Megan Thee Stallion recorded her official debut album, Good News. After the hard-bodied opening “Shots Fired” where she repeatedly says “should’ve let them lock your ass up” to the unnamed Tory Lanez, the album becomes a mixture of braggadocio and sex-positive lyrics. On standout track, “Circles,” Megan insists on no drama because she can always find another man over a playful Cool N Dre beat. On “Girls in the Hood,” she brags “I’m a hot girl, I do hot shit” over a Scott Storch instrumental. That’s not even to mention the Beyonce featuring hit, “Savage (Remix).” – Adam Tercyak-Morgan

14. Sweeping Promises: Hunger for a Way Out

13. Wax Chattels: Clot

12. Hollow Ship: Future Remains

The Gothenburg, Sweden psych-rock quintet Hollow Ship set the bar exceedingly high for themselves regarding any forthcoming albums as their debut, Future Remains, is of exceptionally high quality with respect to musicianship and production. Taking a cue from hip hop, the band’s rhythm section is brought to the fore sonically, and every track is delivered with a retro feel by the inclusion of a subtle, underlying analog hiss. Percussion is an important aspect of every song on the record, and drummer Mårten Magnefors is a force to be reckoned with. On each of the nine songs on Future Remains, Magnefors and bassist Johannes Cronquist lay down a groove so deep and seductive you’ll want to lay down and die in it. With the rhythm bed made, guitarists Vincent Vensal and frontman Thomas Frank soar over each hypnotic pattern with lead guitar work at times on a par with the finest prog rock. Future Remains is a stunning debut from an extraordinary band. – Andy Mascola

11. Protomartyr: Ultimate Success Today