Gathering 25 of our favorite releases so far in a year of pain, growth and unity. Artwork by Tyler Blankinship.
Bad Ambassadors – Bad Ambassadors
This new duo, comprised of respected Chicago veterans Rich Jones and Walkingshoe, pulls from hip-hop, R&B, pop, dance and beyond to craft an eclectic and much-too-short EP.
Brendan Eder Ensemble – To Mix With Time
The uber-talented Eder and his bandmates utilize woodwinds and electronics to create a unique, groove-based neoclassical sound that crosses between funk, jazz and countless other styles.
Bob Dylan – Rough and Rowdy Ways
At 79-years old, the age-old poet still has a lot to say. Surprised? Dylan’s first new album in nearly a decade is unexpectedly long-drawn yet packed with plenty of lyrics to mull on for years to come.
Bonny Light Horseman – Bonny Light Horseman
The highly-touted folk trio somehow exceeds expectations with a stunningly beautiful collection of tender ballads.
Cave Flowers – Cave Flowers
The SoCal country-rockers come through with a hard-hitting debut that celebrates the subgenre’s classic and contemporary West Coast sounds.
Dua Lipa – Future Nostalgia
The budding pop star brings together clean contemporary production with pure funk to make one of the year’s best mainstream releases.
Freddie Gibbs & The Alchemist – Alfredo
An always-stellar rapper and ever-reliable producer team up and turn in another slick and exceptionally-performed entry to the coke rap canon.
HAIM – Women In Music Pt. III
The highs of HAIM’s first two albums – undeniable hooks, catchy soft-rock guitar leads and rich harmonies – show up in full force on their third and best record.
Jeff Parker – Suite For Max Brown
In Chicago, jazz and all neighboring genres are forever intertwined. Over 11 groovy and jam-heavy tracks, Parker’s latest project puts the experimentalist’s virtuosity on full display by effortlessly blending avant-jazz, R&B, soul and rock.
Jeff Rosenstock – NO DREAM
Digging deep into his politics and New York roots, Rosenstock’s latest pop-punk masterpiece is scrappy, bombastic and infinitely catchy all at the same time.
Jeffrey Silverstein – You Become The Mountain
The Portland guitarist expands on his ambient folk stylings, adding pedal steel and percussion to round out his bucolic soundscapes.
Jesse Daniel – Rollin’ On
The Bakersfield Sound lives on in 2020 – with Daniel, it appears to be in good hands.
Laura Marling – Song For Our Daughter
Rich with mature perspectives on life and aging, Marling’s seventh studio album features a series of stark folky vignettes that are colorful in both language and musicality.
Mac Miller – Circles
As far as posthumous releases go, Circles is the ultimate musical send-off for one of hip-hop’s most beloved characters.
Matt LaJoie – Everlasting Spring
LaJoie’s sprawling new record hangs its hat on the tandem of his mesmerizing guitar loops and skillful improvisation, making for a long and profoundly enjoyable instrumental experience.
Marcus King – El Dorado
The Southern rocker dials back the fireworks and turns up the soul. The end result is a delicate album laden with passionate songs about love and perseverance.
Moses Sumney – græ
An impressionist gifted with an angelic voice, Sumney is quickly becoming a singer that transcends genre. Two albums in, he’s pushing musical boundaries few others are capable of glimpsing.
Phoebe Bridgers – Punisher
On her second full-length, the indie favorite perfectly captures our eternal need for intimacy with a compelling set of dark and moody folk songs performed in the vein of Elliot Smith.
Quelle Chris & Chris Keys – Innocent Country 2
Quelle Chris is as consistently great as anyone working in hip-hop today. His second collaboration with beatsmith Chris Keys is utterly smooth and infectious.
R.A.P. Ferreira – Purple Moonlight Pages
One of rap’s foremost poets lays down another verbose offering of dizzying rhymes, this time set to the opaque jazz-hop instrumentation of the Jefferson Park Boys.
Rina Sawayama – SAWAYAMA
Sawayama’s vocal talents and singular vision manifest into an enthralling pop debut.
Run the Jewels – RTJ4
The fourth installment in the duo’s essential self-titled series is as vital and of the moment as anything in their increasingly historic catalog. Abrasive, arresting and another welcome sock in the face.
Rose City Band – Summerlong
Heavily influenced by classic country while remaining subtly psychedelic, the sophomore effort from Rose City Band is a satisfying collection of warm and vibrant guitar jams that lives up to its title.
Tame Impala – The Slow Rush
Kevin Parker’s most impeccably produced set of songs to date also includes some of his catchiest and most memorable melodies.
Waxahatchee – Saint Cloud
Katie Crutchfield turns toward her Southern roots and crafts a punchy, soul-bearing Americana record.