Grimes once treated lyrics as meaningless sound, but here, she’s shockingly honest about the pain of posh isolation: “I’ll tie my feet to rocks and drown/You’ll miss me when I’m not around.” –Arielle Gordon, On Every Bad, Brighton indie rock four-piece Porridge Radio make a strong case for curative self-scrutiny. –Ross Scarano, Megan Thee Stallion’s official debut album is a triumphant joyride that more than fulfills the promise of its title. “You are such a golden child. Still, without question, it’s Garcia’s performances and curatorial instincts that make this such a powerful statement of self. LEGACY! What value is conforming in a world where norms have ruined us? When you buy something through our retail links, however, Pitchfork may earn an affiliate commission. Girls: Heavy Light 14. One soul seems devoted to self-pity and the other to splendor, and throughout the album, this internal battle plays out via guitar rock that’s marked by a dappled radiance. Lyra Pramuk: Fountain. Where on his debut album Sumney lingered on lack and absence, on græ he delivers effulgence and multiplicity with a shapeshifting swagger. The wintry decay that initially clouds the album disintegrates on “Garden Song,” where the arrangement blooms and burbles, thumping steadily, like a walk home in crisp evening air. Pitchfork may earn a portion of sales from products that are purchased through our site as part of our Affiliate Partnerships with retailers. Offering nine tracks in 18 minutes, the project burns quick and bright: Mostly, Rico jumps in, commands a raucous beat, and dips before the three-minute mark. You can duck in and out of deep listening: Binge Tears of Joy’s 20 short songs as one complete thought or rewind when a particular detail pricks your ears, like the stuttered beat of “Planet” or the vividly abstract bildungsroman of “Memorial.” The album closes with another type of lo-fi recording: a voicemail MIKE’s mother left him before she died. –Jazz Monroe, Listen/Buy: Apple Music | Bandcamp | Spotify | Tidal, “My execution might be televised.” That line and others from Freddie Gibbs’ “Scottie Beam” appeared in black marker on handmade signs this summer, held aloft in cities across the country during what may have been the largest wave of civil-rights protests in American history. For the past few years, Bad Bunny has remained a true original in an urbano scene littered with talented copycats, and X 100PRE is his hard-to-catch victory lap. For as fragmented as this carousel of mall punk, trap-pop, video-game soundtracks, and melodramatic Euro-trance can feel, the lingering mood is one of intimacy, of inner children mashing the pleasure button without boundaries or shame. Eventually, they were shared on Instagram by Gibbs himself, completing an utterly contemporary loop of art and life. Pitchfork ' s critical acclamation of Bon Iver is widely seen as lifting the artist to commercial mainstream success, which culminated with his Grammy Award for Best New Artist and Best Alternative Music Album . November 8, 2019. Alfredo, the dexterous 38-year-old MC’s collaboration with beloved producer the Alchemist, is by turns heavy and light—his “Beam” verse ends with a rude kiss off to an ex in the form of Jordan-Pippen wordplay: “without me the bitch wouldn’t have got a ring.” More than a time capsule, Alfredo is an unruly feast of language. –Rawiya Kameir, Sam Barker is wary of taking the easy route in getting people to move their bodies. –Katherine St. Asaph, Tyler, the Creator’s IGOR is an album about heartbreak, but the bright chords and harmonies suggest hope, not self-pity. –Jillian Mapes, New Orleans electro-punks Special Interest see catharsis in demolition. The droll, phantom-like singer writes music for faithless burnouts who still want to believe: lost souls clinging to astrology and fucked-up intimacy, striving to get by in a brutal universe with no pre-ordained meaning. ), drawing on the subject’s specific history as a spiritual guide for locating her own truth. The music exists on an expanded scale, too, with producer Slot-A helping guide the proceedings from cosmic soul to garage-rock grit and on through to Chicago house. On their pop- and R&B-bending second album Ungodly Hour, they’re figuratively slapping an ID card on a bar and saying, “Bartender, I need a drink.”, The Bailey sisters have quietly lost some of the wide-eyedness of the past and instead turned towards the flotsam and jetsam of twentysomething life. –Allison P. Davis, The followup to Kelly Lee Owens’ breakthrough self-titled LP is rooted in pain and loss—the shedding of a toxic relationship, the death of her grandmother, and the decay of the environment. Among all the record’s big themes—the brush with death recounted on the album’s opener, the closing letter to her child—it’s the little details that stick out, like a line of dialogue that gives “Comeback Kid” the feel of a finely turned short story. (“Percy Miller, ‘bout it ‘bout it, ‘bout the dough/Macarena to the money after shows,” she sings on single “Fancy.”) And yet, maybe improbably, she synthesizes wide-ranging references into a genreless style that could very well be predictive of a post-Spotify moment. It’s the sound of a super-rational person realizing the limits of reason and letting loose with 44 minutes of pure feeling. For No Home Record, she worked with producer Justin Raisen, whose credits include the Kim-indebted brooder Sky Ferreira and experimental shapeshifter Yves Tumor, and the pair conjure a dissonant, avalanche-sized sound. “I will never stop singing this song,” he acknowledges, 40 minutes in. But it’s important to remember what Berman’s friends at Drag City said following his death: His music didn’t predict his death; it was written despite his depression. –Olivia Horn, Listen/Buy: Rough Trade | Apple Music | Spotify | Tidal, Quality Control / Wolfpack Global / Motown / Capitol, It’s taken time for Lil Baby’s My Turn to grow into the beautiful, sprawling mess that it is. Aldous Harding is frequently inscrutable. Gulch - Impenetrable … But Lilitri shows why that spotlight—that glow to bask in—is worth fighting for. It lies at the intersection of beats and ambience, where sounds are just vibrations entering and leaving the body, cleansing it of toxins. If you have a burning hot desire to answer these questions, then you’re probably already obsessed with the RAP album. So she built one via her fourth album, how i’m feeling now. She flaunts her vulnerability. Pitchfork: 50 Best Albums of 2016. The album’s underlying note is a kind of supreme confidence, the sound of an artist seeking truth with open eyes, a gentle heart, and a practiced commitment to the possibility that under the politics and advertising lies a beautiful experience of the world. Owens wrote the lyrics in a depressive state following a trauma-release therapy session, transforming that cathartic expulsion of her pain into a record with healing properties of its own. Synth stabs that at first seem uniform take on entirely new shapes with every repetition. Death and apocalypse lurk in every corner of Punisher—lightning flashes, sirens wail, a Giants fan gets killed at Dodger Stadium—and Bridgers shuffles through this ominous fog, still alive, still growing taller. –Mankaprr Conteh, When Big Thief scrapped their international tour this year, Adrianne Lenker found a world of her own in a cabin near the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts. You can hear its selflessness in the myriad tones, instruments, voices, and happy accidents that come and go, subverting ego while sidestepping excess. After eight years, five albums, and complete political and cultural upheaval, Lana Del Rey has risen to her greatest musical heights. As on 2017’s No Shape, producer Blake Mills reveals the music with startling clarity and subtlety, bringing out lifelike strings and trembling synths through sound design as much as conventional production. –NM Mashurov, Rina Sawayama’s debut album is unafraid to present all of her paradoxes. LEGACY!, her sophomore album. With the poise of Sade’s Love Deluxe and the zapped attention span of Pavement’s Wowee Zowee, Miss Universe triple-axels between silky soul, smoldering jazz, and ripping alt-rock—and then adds hybrids like “Tears,” a song that seems to imagine what Timbaland might have sounded like if he made ’80s new wave records. The Microphones: Microphones in 2020 12. The lyrics are elliptical yet striking, so successful at filling you with what feels like an ancient longing that it sometimes feels like you’re discovering a new language entirely. And, finally, she finds liberation in feeling equivalent to an annual plant, blooming once briefly and then fading into the forest. Create your own list of music and share it with the world. –Laura Snapes, Jamila Woods, the Chicago-based teacher, activist, and R&B poet, takes an audacious leap forward on LEGACY! III. The song’s title sentiment is simply uttered on the hook—he’s wounded, yet hopeful that the sentiment’s warmth can be felt. That Dylan Brady and Laura Les recorded most of it through remote collaboration makes sense: 1000 gecs taps into a kind of communication predicated on separateness, mining the difference between what you can say aloud in your imperfect human body and what you can express in a boundless cyberspace. But even though she’s sick of the bullshit surrounding her, she doesn’t let it consume her being. I was familiar with many of these but hadn't heard the full album for the majority. Throughout the record, the quartet subtly distort their sugar-pie group vocals, whisking them into frenzied disco-grrl guitars, hectic brass bleats, and fluorescent electro blips. On Have We Met, the Vancouver-based Destroyer maestro slips into another velvet interior, only to find it's a sort of Black Lodge. Over the alluring trap beat of “holy terrain,” she asks coyly for fidelity, nervous and brave in her open-heartedness. Kanye West — My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. –Dani Blum, Cut off from her usual muses—her crew and the club—Charli XCX needed a different kind of community space to inspire her this year. “Get Yr Life Back” sits uneasily atop tensely arranged found-sound; “Sketch Artist” seems to be tearing itself apart; “Paprika Pony” rides a minimal toy-piano rap beat that sounds like it was created by the world’s most sinister toddler. But what happens when that hope is suddenly dashed? These songs are intimate and personal, with Le Bon carefully leveraging a broader, deeper palette of instrumentation than on past work. –Stacey Anderson, On his major label debut, North Carolina rapper DaBaby is tireless behind the mic, weaving words with a boxer’s nimble intensity. Solange — A Seat at the Table. 2018. But even going the comfortable route, she is constantly disrupting her own ’70s soft rock pastiche with sounds that represent the future—space-age synths, satellites trying to connect. –Aimee Cliff, Do you think Lifetones are far and away better than This Heat? Pop/R&B. Neither hot mess nor robot, sisters Chloe x Halle have chosen a different route, from YouTube sensations to Beyoncé protégées to grown women. Amidst the neverending whirlwind of 2020, it was tempting to crawl into a cocoon of nostalgic favorites and never come out. On these four songs—ranging from gnarled chaos in “The Giza Power Plant” to the psychedelic slow burn of “Inner Paths (to Outer Space)”—Blood Incantation find their own corner in a storied cosmos, where even the most familiar textures can feel thrilling and extreme. It is a testament to Dylan’s spectral presence as a singer, and the sympathy of his accompanists, that the uptempo tunes often seem as misty and elusive as the slow ones. –Evan Minsker, PUNK, the second album from Nagoya, Japan’s Chai, is as anthemic and glossy as it is insurgent. The most revelatory sound Haim make room for on Women in Music Pt. May 15, 2020 4. With this intimate hospice of a record, Allison gave us both. [see also 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011 ] Frank Ocean — Blond. His publicity stunts—like brandishing Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s decapitated head at an awards ceremony—can’t help but recall the Sex Pistols (and Sid Vicious got a namecheck in one of his songs). With its loose, almost jazz-like form, When I Get Home elevates Solange’s artistry to another plane: The grace and wisdom that flowed through 2016’s A Seat at the Table is chopped and screwed, complicated not just spiritually but musically as well. Del Rey’s melodies also find their ideal setting in producer Jack Antonoff’s airy Laurel Canyon psych-folk, where she follows in the lineage of Joni Mitchell and Carole King. Using only her transmuted and multi-layered vocals, the Berlin-based composer creates a dense architecture where choral music and meditative techno meet. –Rawiya Kameir, For 25 years, Dan Bejar has come across as the smartest absinthe-sipping aesthete in the room. The material on this site may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, cached or otherwise used, except with the prior written permission of Condé Nast. –Alphonse Pierre, Dua Lipa’s second studio album is anchored by popular sounds of the past, but it’s less attached to a memory than the promise of a feeling. Lyrically, Burna muses on fame, destiny, and, on “Monsters You Made,” the legacy of colonialism in Nigeria. She finds solace in the frequent repetition of phrases and calls on powerful forebears for guidance, be they Alice Coltrane, Steve Reich, or DJ Screw. –Jayson Greene, Like white light refracted through a prism to reveal an array of colors, ordinary words and phrases—wrinkled hands, silver hair, clear water—take on new meanings when sung by Big Thief’s Adrianne Lenker. 2021. See which albums are sitting at the top of this year's charts. Elastic, off-kilter guitar lines carry the prickly “Mother’s Mother’s Magazines,” while “Sad Nudes” floats along slack percussion and metallic adornments. –Noah Yoo, By the time Bad Bunny dropped his debut LP on Christmas Eve 2018, the Puerto Rican star had already demonstrated fluency in the trap, R&B, and reggaetón sounds that dominate urbano music through a deluge of hit singles and features. Catch up every Saturday with 10 of our best-reviewed albums … Warmed by humming amps and the presence of four bodies pressed in close, the album unspools as effortlessly as a campfire session—stray counterpoints, offhand vocal harmonies, tiny details dancing like shadows on the treeline. Check out all of Pitchfork’s 2020 wrap-up coverage here. He sounds possessed here, supercharged by something supernatural—even when he’s just shouting a luxury brand’s name into the ether 15 times in a row. –Jia Tolentino, From her early punk recordings alongside sister Allison to her quietly devastating solo albums, Katie Crutchfield is always steadfast in her truth. Killer Mike’s verse on “walking in the snow” offers a particularly stop-you-in-your-tracks moment, as he raps, “And 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.’” Alongside production that subtly expands the Run the Jewels sound, the duo offer more insight into the modern American psyche than any cable news pundit could hope to muster. Then there’s Harding’s voice itself, an androgynous instrument that glides from deep-chested husk to nasal yowl, often within the same song. –Stacey Anderson. “Imminent annihilation sounds so dope,” she sings on “My Name Is Dark,” a prescient picture of doomsday raving. is an album that arrived feeling like a greatest hits collection. The British-Japanese singer’s triumphant songs, which meld the fabulosity of Y2K-era Britney Spears with Korn-inspired nu-metal and campy stadium rock, invite sing-alongs and stylish TikTok choreography. –Jamieson Cox, No one does maximalism like Beyoncé. Sure, Radiohead’s “Idioteque” kind of banged, and the singer has been known to flail around to syncopated rhythms from time to time. In a cultural moment when black women’s labor and contributions are still underrecognized and diminished, Homecoming is the distillation of 21st century black female fabulosity. Buy: Rough Trade (Pitchfork earns a commission from purchases made through affiliate links on our site.) FKA twigs’ second album plays like an unsparing breakup manual for a distant species, some glamorous alien race presumably as brilliant at everything as she is: singing, producing, writing, dancing, seducing, exorcising, empathizing. –Madison Bloom. October 23, 2020 2. “I no be politician/Me no like no politics,” Burna insists—and that rings true. Expertly sequenced and absent of fluff, the album deploys only a choice few guest appearances designed for maximum impact: a rare Spanish verse from Drake, dirty bass programming by Diplo, and a romantic harmony courtesy of Ricky Martin. On his first album, Live Forever, there’s a righteous defiance to the way the D.C.-via-Oklahoma artist scrambles 2000s indie rock (the intimacy of Bon Iver, the bombast of the Arcade Fire) with hip-hop cadences, emo intensity, and punk catharsis, as though he’s working it all out in real time. For all of the record’s industrial squall and techno blast beats, it doesn’t just inspire destruction—it asks what you’ll rebuild from the rubble. No matter how long they go away, Vampire Weekend will always return perfectly out of time. “Murdered Out” is three-and-a-half minutes of a patient bass loop being continuously, relentlessly sandblasted by one thing after another: distorted guitar, encroaching noise, and Gordon’s roar, the strongest blast of all. The majority of the original wave of bands had either broken up or morphed into something more streamlined; meanwhile, only a handful of new bands had popped up to supplant them. A married mom in her mid-30s, Ware is still able to capture one of nightlife’s great gifts—the exhilarating thrill of being single, looking out onto a packed dancefloor, and seeing the possibility of magnetic attraction. Opener “Alewife” finds 21-year-old singer-songwriter Claire Cottrill revisiting suicidal thoughts that she had in eighth grade, and over the next 10 tracks, we are with her through so many growing pains and regrets. Let’s hope the planet survives that long. Brexit broke Britain, fast-rewinding the country to the ’70s, when it first joined Europe and last seemed this close to collapse. On his first collection of original material in eight years, he sounds unusually attuned to the suggestive power of his craggy instrument, using small changes of inflection to convey wry self-mockery, roaring prowess, and a certain uneasy nostalgia. Vampire Weekend — Modern Vampires of … But in her instrumentation, she reaches for organic matter, sometimes painstakingly: Grimes meticulously tweaked acoustic guitar loops on “Delete Forever,” layering actual violins and banjo until they recall a post-apocalyptic campfire song. –Colin Lodewick, In 2019, Chicago indie rock trio Dehd released the sparse and scrappy album Water, with songs informed by the romantic breakup of bassist Emily Kempf and guitarist Jason Balla, accompanied by Eric McGrady’s one-tom, one-snare minimalism. Perfume Genius, Phoebe Bridgers, Fiona Apple, Lil Uzi Vert, Bad Bunny, and Moses Sumney. The album soars when Megan nods to the greats of rap and R&B, from a jolly rework of Juvenile to the Jazmine Sullivan-indebted bad bitch anthem “Circles.” More than anything, these songs remind us that even when the worst comes to pass, good times might be right around the corner. Instantly, it felt more like an unfocused, loose, and chaotic mid-aughts Lil Wayne mixtape with memorable tracks like “All In,” where the flexes are brilliantly batshit (Lil Baby threatens to wreck his Lambo truck just to prove, to no one in particular, that it’s not rented). –Jayson Greene, After rewriting rock’s rulebook with Sonic Youth, establishing herself as a star in the art world, and writing a memoir, Kim Gordon finally got around to making her first solo album. “Sh’diah”—which Vernon began writing the morning after the 2016 election, with a title that stands for “shittiest day in American history”—fights the ugliness of modern politics with an understated call for rationality. His nostalgia for reggaetón’s mixtape-era reaches its peak on “Safaera,” a crowning jewel of a record featuring elder statesmen Jowell & Randy and Ñengo Flow, with Bad Bunny’s subterranean voice bridging the past and present. Nigeria’s Burna Boy titled his fourth album African Giant to reflect his own outsized stature in his home country and, more broadly, the continent’s eons-long cultural footprint. You can parse out the weight, hope, and humor of Mering’s poetry, or you can sit back and let her dulcet tone and excellent taste in George Harrison-esque slide guitar wash over you. But in Solange’s generous hands, heady ideas don’t feel out of reach. Jay’s strange sense of humor appears regularly, like when he builds a perfect woman who “had an ass like Rosa Acosta” and “smelled like strawberries” on “Rough Love,” or when he’s absorbed by the flaws of Western civilization on “Run and Hide.” The rumors have been justified. GTL is a technical marvel as well as a creative one: producer JoogSZN’s beats retain their funk and low end while making space for Drakeo’s vocals, which come through impressively crisp. But he also wants his listeners to know about all the goodness that South Florida has to offer, all the day-one friends he’s made on its sun-soaked streets. In the summer of 2011, Pitchfork noted Bon Iver's self-titled release as "Best New Music", and later chose the release as the best album of 2011. –Sasha Geffen. Chicago’s latest star is Polo G, whose debut album Die a Legend contains some of the best hip-hop ballads in recent memory. –Madison Bloom, Ka has spent his 40s laboring over how to animate the ghosts of his home. Credited to singer-songwriter Emily Sprague’s band but very much a solitary project, the record comes on the heels of a few years in which she underwent three of the biggest changes a person can undergo: the dissolution of a relationship, the death of a parent, and a major shift in location, from upstate New York to California. (All releases featured here are independently selected by our editors. Infinite worlds are contained within the threads of that teal yogurt shop shirt and that infamous cardigan, carving a path for the Taylor Swift Cinematic Universe to expand ever onward. (I thought this was a lock for Pitchfork lmao) 2017. Norman Fucking Rockwell! Even the side-long closing track, “Awakening From the Dream of Existence to the Multidimensional Nature of Our Reality (Mirror of the Soul),” seems like a nod to the ’70s prog acts whose dark visions helped inspire countless subgenres of heavy music. Jazz. The 50 Best Albums of 2020. “Oh, emptiness/Tell me about your nature,” she sings on “zombie girl.” While songs mostly consists of Lenker’s silvery vocals and brambled acoustic guitar, and instrumentals turns toward fingerpicked meditations and wind-chime drones, both sound like nothing so much as the rustic abode that Lenker has likened to “the inside of an acoustic guitar.” These records put you right inside that hollow. On the slow-burning “It’s Lomelda,” she croons off a list of her musical heroes and their work, from Yo La Tengo to Frank Ocean to Sufjan Stevens’ devastatingly spare “The Only Thing.” She turns a conversational bit of advice into a soaring mantra on “Wonder,” repeating the phrase “When you get it, give it all you got, you said” across vocal peaks and valleys. 1. Violence ripples through these songs like a vein of quartz—“Rock and Sing” might be a children’s lullaby about lost souls, “The Toy” an intimation of great evil. Putting that lens to the side, his stories about the ease of embracing hate (“Solitude of Enoch”) and post-prison families (“Unto the Dust”) are just as gripping and vivid. With its queasy synths, snatches of stray trumpet, and gas mask imagery, “Jelmore” conjures a landscape from a not-too-distant future that’s been left desolate by climate change. Do you feel like Gang Gang Dance were never the same after Tim DeWitt left the band? But until ANIMA, there was something a little stiff about Yorke’s beats, both solo and with his band, a studiousness that suggested a lifetime of nervously eyeing the dancefloor. A list of Pitchfork's best music of 2020. Stories of depression and despair are easier to take with full knowledge of the happy ending. The resulting songs pierce her party girl persona with something more sentimental—and sometimes quotidian—but, true to form, she buoyed the vibe with sugar-rush hooks and blowout beats. According to bandleader Robin Pecknold, Fleet Foxes’ fourth album carries the mission to live “fully and vibrantly” in celebration of lost heroes like Arthur Russell and John Prine, an especially poetic resolution in the grey hours of the present. With significance Phoebe Bridgers will tweet about eating ass with one hand and crush your heart with wish... The rap album a privilege to spend a half Hour in the work to make his big talk a.. 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