2020’s Honorable Mentions

For the albums that *just* missed my yearly list.

Every year when I write my top albums list, there are a few records about which I end up having very little I want to say. Normally I’ll either drop them from the list entirely, or eke out some mediocre blurbs and try not to think about it. Neither solution is optimal. So I figured that this year, I should dedicate a segment to those albums which I enjoyed greatly, but wouldn’t feel quite at home on the list proper. Here they are.

Jeff Rosenstock defended his title as pop-punk’s eminent torchbearer with No Dream, another excellent chapter of candy-coated disgruntlement. On a more hardcore stage at the same festival, bagdadski vor came through with a blistering EP entitled Колхида (Kolhida). This one rips.

The New Abnormal is the first time a Strokes album actually made me feel something, probably due to the colorful Rick Rubin production. Also filed under ‘albums my friends liked more than me,’ The Weeknd’s glossy 80s drug binge After Hours was arguably the apex of pop music this year. That Grammy snub is seriously mind-boggling.

There are usually a number of very cool, but sort of innocuous electronic albums every year that I want to quickly recommend. 2020 was no different. For future bass, there was Medasin with RIPPLS, his strongest showing to date. Skee Mask further carved out his aquatic dancefloor niche with two great EPs, ISS05 & ISS06. And for, uh… “electroacoustic,” Nicolas Jaar had another jog through the corner of experimental music he all but owns on Cenizas.

2020 was a strong year for rap: even the honorable mentions are stellar. Though Anime, Trauma, & Divorce isn’t Open Mike Eagle’s best work, it maintains his heartfelt touch and storytelling. Freddie Gibbs’ collaboration with The Alchemist, Alfredo, was about as technically dazzling as you’d expect from that billing. Billy Woods and Elucid put together a fantastic showcase for one of contemporary hip-hop’s most vital scenes with Shrines, the latest in Armand Hammer’s consistent streak.

As usual, there were a couple projects on the outer fringes of genre that I really dug, but couldn’t begin to describe what exactly was great about them. Memnon Sa’s World Serpent is definitely the most badass album about the Egyptian god Aphopis that I heard this year, and Horse Lords made thousands of nerds, including me, Google “totalism” with the polyrhythmic jams of The Common Task.

Lomelda put together a deeply charming blend of indie folk songwriting and house-show slowcore with Hannah, one of the prettiest albums here. Andy Shauf delivered another detailed singer-songwriter concept album with The Neon Skyline, the best poignant rom-com movie of the year that was actually a musical album. After releasing one of my favorite albums ever, King Krule delivered a satisfying iteration on his acid-soaked, tortured indie rock with Man Alive!

That’s all! Listen to some albums, and I’ll see you in a couple weeks for the big kahuna.

two-stepping through banality

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