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Louise Bruton’s best albums of 2020 so far

By August 8, 2020No Comments

Our resident music journalist Louise Bruton counts from ten to one, listing the albums that, for her money, are the best of 2020 thus far…


10. Bleeding Heart Pigeons – Stir

Hlym Records

This is the second album from the Limerick band which follows up their 2016 major label debut Is. Leaving a major label and releasing it independently, it’s an Intentionally cold album, with an air of detachment connecting the characters of each song. With a haunting production that throws back to the moodier side of the 80s, it transports you directly in the mind of each song’s protagonist. An emotional journey, it brings you do low that any brief glimmers of joy, hit your heart directly. 

Listen to: Good Dogs Never Die

9. Grimes – Miss Anthropocene

Although her personal life can sometimes dominate, Grimes pushed boundaries on her conceptual fifth album by looking at the many shades of human extinction, from addiction to global warming. She witnesses earth’s atrocities through the fresh perspective of an “anthropomorphic goddess of climate change”. Using atmospheric techno, her own take on Wonderwall on Delete Forever, a tribute to rappers Juice WRLD and Lil Peep, who both died by overdose, and a crash of drum n’ bass, she took a massive swing away from the manic pop on 2015’s Art Angel and landed a hit. 

Listen to: My Name Is Dark

8. Chloe X Halle – Ungodly Hour

When most of our big pop stars are going indie or revisiting 90s dance music this year, sisters Chloe x Halle give us an album full of unapologetic pop. A more mature album than 2018’s debut The Kids Are Alright, this is sultry, arthouse R&B that climaxes with quirky pop hooks and smooth harmonies. Signed to Beyoncé’s label, Parkwood Entertainment, this is what Destiny’s Child would sound like if Solange fronted the group. 

Listen to: ROYL

7. Sault – Untitled (Black Is)

Not just treat for the senses but a curious one too because no one knows who Sault are exactly. A British funk-soul collective, the only names credited are Laurette Josiah, who runs a children’s arts programme in Islington, London, and singer Michael Kiwanuka. 

Released on Juneteenth, the band say that they intend  “to mark a moment where we as Black People, and of Black Origin are fighting for our lives.” Combining funk, soul, gospel, R&B, reggae and dub, this is a power blast of British Black culture. 

Listen to: Wildfires

6. Georgia – Seeking Thrills

One of the first big pop albums of the year, UK singer, drummer and producer Georgia also played Dublin on March 7, one of the last gigs before lockdown. Summoning us to the dancefloor in a whirling marriage of trip-hop, drum n’ bass and electropop, she delivers 4am vibes from start to finish.  If you want to feel like you’re in the club, turn the lights down low and this album up loud. 

Listen to: Started Out

5. Run the Jewels – RTJ4 

Released in June, Killer Mike and El-P released their fourth album two days earlier than planned as a response to the killing of George Floyd. Delivering a hard-hitting album that shows off their verbosity, their fury, their politics, their personal pain and their off the wall humour, this is a musical and political masterpiece as they take on police brutality, racial violence, capitalism and authority. Featuring guests like Mavis Staples, Josh Homme, RATM’s Zack De La Rocha, every song is a wake up call to do more, do better. 

“You so numb you watch the cops choke out a man like me/Until my voice goes from a shriek to whisper—‘I can’t breathe’/And you sit there in the house on couch and watch it on TV,” Killer Mike raps on Walking in the Snow, noting that the violence never ceases.  This is a protest album that doesn’t hold back. 

Listen to: Ooh LA LA

4. Taylor Swift – Folklore

Oh, Tay Tay. You’ve done it. A country icon and a pop force, you’ve proved that you can do it all so now you can focus on what you do best. Creating a fragile world in which teen heartbreak and misunderstood women find the courage to speak their truth, Swift reveals more of herself here than on any other album.  Battered and broken from the celebrity circles she once commandeered, this lockdown album lets her make sense of the whirlwind she was always at the centre of. Creating new characters but placing her own experiences alongside them, we get a real sense of what happens when your friends, the public, the media and your long list of ex lovers tear you down. 

Listen to: My Tears Ricochet

3. Dua Lipa – Future Nostalgia

For many people, Dua Lipa’s second album will always have a strong connection to the early days of lockdown. Back when we thought we could experience joy or ever dance with our friends again, songs like Physical, Don’t Start Now and Levitating united us, even if it was through a Zoom call. Largely produced by Stuart Price, who created Hung Up for Madonna among many other high-class bangers over the years, this is dance pop on steroids. This album gave us energy when we had none and until dance floors properly return, all we need is the kitchen floor and Future Nostalgia.

Listen to: Physical

2. Charli XCX – How I’m Feeling Now

Written, recorded and produced entirely from lockdown in her Los Angeles home, Charli XCX was the first artist to capture the many conflicting feelings of 2020. Wanting to party, needing to stay sane, missing your friends, holding onto memories of the good times while working through the bad ruts of a relationship, How I’m Feeling Now will always be symbolic of this hellish year but it brings happiness too. When it felt like there was no hope, there was Charli. 

Listen to: Claws

1. Jessie Ware – What’s Your Pleasure? 

Described by some people as the ode to the female orgasm, Jessie Ware’s fourth album is a sensual journey that starts with a flirtation and ends with a sexual revelation. Enjoying tender moments with a lover or stolen glances with a stranger, the London singer kisses goodbye to her usual sweeping romantic ballads of previous and demands that you get lost in yourself and the arms of another. What’s Your Pleasure is the older sister of Dua Lipa’s Future Nostalgia, the kind of cool sister who has the best drugs, the nicest coats and guest list to the biggest parties. As breathy disco seduces sultry house music, this is an after-hours album that just keeps on giving.

Listen to: The Kill