This year has been different in a lot of ways, but experiencing and consuming music in 2020 has been absolutely abnormal.
At a time in which most of us were stuck inside social distancing ourselves from friends and family, new music became a gift -- not only for fans, but even for the artist making the music, as some decided to make entirely new works of music while stuck in quarantine.
With the lack of live shows to attend, we all really had to hunker down in our cars or with our headphones to get hooked on all the new music that came out this year, but in a period with so much time on our hands alone, connecting with a new album was the perfect amount of comfort to connect us to the world outside of our homes.
So here are a few albums that have been bright spots in an otherwise-grim year.
Fiona Apple: Fetch The Bolt Cutters
This was the first album that arrived during the early days of quarantine that felt like a big deal. Apple has come a long way since her “Criminal” days, and this year’s “Fetch The Bolt Cutters” was beloved by fans and critics alike. The album is raw, imaginative and unapologetic. It’s the best songwriting Apple has done in her career, and her vocals during each song are powerful and resonate with the listener.
Taylor Swift: folklore
While a lot of the albums that came out in 2020 were planned, Swift took advantage of her downtime in quarantine and wrote and produced an entire album, which she then released unexpectedly, blowing the minds of her millions of fans.
Instead of her usual pop, Swift went acoustic for a more chill folk album, and the result is one her best pieces of work to date. It really showcases just how talented of a songwriter she is. Oh, and as of just this week, she came out with a second album of the year, “evermore.” While we were baking bread, Swift was writing enough songs for two albums.
The Chicks: Gaslighter
After more than a decade of being out of the business and a band name change, The Chicks finally came back this year stronger than ever, still trying to light the world in flames. The women in the band are entirely different than they were more than 10 years ago, but that fiery spirit is forever present in their music. It was nice to see some good-time favorites come back this year with an incredible album about friendship, relationships and loss.
Mac Miller: Circles
Released before COVID-19 took over our lives, “Circles” by Mac Miller came out, after the rapper tragically passed away in 2018. Albums put out posthumously are always difficult to listen to, but “Circles” really shows just how talented Miller was as a writer and a performer.
HAIM: Women In Music Pt. III
In case you didn’t know, women are making some of the best rock music right now, and you don’t have to look any further than HAIM, comprised of sisters Este, Danielle and Alana Haim. The band’s third album came out this summer, and it tackles a complex variety of issues: depression, love and misogyny they faced in the music industry. It’s total California rock, harking back to the sounds of Fleetwood Mac and The Eagles, but with modern flashes that make it feel very centered in 2020. The album is so good, it even got them an Album of the Year nod at next year’s Grammys.
Dua Lipa: Future Nostalgia
Pop music is everywhere these days, but one trend that seemed to keep popping up was disco -- and that was very apparent of Dua Lipa’s second album, “Future Nostalgia.” Each song is upbeat, full of flashy synths and never-ending drum machines. It honestly sounds like it could be the soundtrack for a very intense aerobics class from 1979.
Tame Impala: The Slow Rush
The title of the Australian rockers’ latest album feels just like it sounds: A slow rush of music that gradually builds until it hits a crescendo. Tame Impala, led by the incredible Kevin Parker, is known for psychedelic rock, but in this album, Parker pushes the group to new heights while adding in touches of electronic to spice things up. It’s a fun trip from start to finish.
Jessie Ware: What’s Your Pleasure?
When we said disco was back this year, we really meant it.
Just like Dua Lipa, her follow Brit, Jessie Ware, took heavy inspiration from the disco era, except it’s a lot more sensual and relaxed. You can dance to every song (especially “Read My Lips” and “Save A Kiss”), but Ware’s fourth album isn’t going for the flash. It’s all very subdued, which makes for such an enjoyable listening experience. If Dua Lipa is giving you the Olivia Newton John side of disco in 2020, Ware is giving you Donna Summer.
Waxahatchee: Saint Cloud
Singer/songwriter Katie Crutchfield, also known as Waxahatchee, released her latest album “Saint Cloud” at the beginning of the pandemic, and it was truly a breath of fresh air during some pretty dark times.
Normally, Waxahatchee is known for indie rock, but Crutchfield really leaned into folk and bluegrass this time around, and the rest is a truly stunning Americana album that is just great to listen to. The lyrics are heavy, but the music is so beautiful that you almost forget about the sometimes-tragic lyrics.
Lady Gaga: Chromatica
We couldn’t go through this year of music and not mention the current queen of pop: Lady Gaga. After all, 2019 was a pretty big year for Gaga (she won an Oscar, after all), but that wasn’t stopping her from making 2020 her year. While it probably didn’t go as planned, her latest album, “Chromatica,” brought Gaga back to form, making undeniable and danceable pop music. Lead single “Stupid Love” was the perfect song to introduce fans to the new album, and her duet with Ariana Grande, the catchy “Rain On Me,” was one of the best songs of the summer.