Lists

musicOMH’s Top 50 Albums Of 2020



Róisín Murphy - Róisín Machine

At the end of Quite A Year, and against considerable odds, we look back on what has been a very fine 12 months for new music. Despite the particular trials and tribulations artists and the industry as a whole have faced thanks to Covid-19 and the economic fallout from lockdowns, tiers and furloughs, great works across the spectrum of genres have found their way out to ready audiences. With scarcely any gigs or festivals, we’ve contented ourselves with streaming gigs, singles and EPs, and of course albums, which have somehow continued to be released in quantities little changed from previous years. We’ve reviewed well over 400.

So congratulations to the artists featured here, and the teams behind them, but also to those not, for they’ve all overcome considerable odds and kept on with keeping on during a year quite unlike any other in our shared history.

Thank you in particular to artists who’ve taken the time to write pieces for us, or to do interviews or Q&As. Similar thoughts are with the labels and PRs who’ve kept in touch despite furlough, job losses and – to put things mildly – fluctuating incomes and the attendant stresses all of this has brought about.

Thanks too to musicOMH’s small team of writers and the editorial team, some of whom have had their own particularly difficult issues to deal with in amongst it all, yet have continued to bring albums they love to wider attention.

And finally, thanks to you, our readers, who’ve continued to read what we publish and engaged with us through social media channels as we entered our third decade. In a year of isolation, abnormality and strangeness, it’s been doubly encouraging and not a little touching to know you’re there. 

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Taylor Swift - Folklore1. Róisín Murphy – Róisín Machine

“Charismatic, confident and in control. Accept no imitations, this album has some of the best electronic music you’ll hear all year” – Ben Devlin

2. Taylor Swift – Folklore

“The National’s Aaron Dessner and Bon Iver appear on an album that is sad, beautiful, somewhat tragic, a little bit off the wall, but most of all one that feels free” – Chloe Johnson

Dua Lipa - Future Nostalgia3. Dua Lipa – Future Nostalgia

“A vibrant, audacious collection of pop bangers” – Nick Smith

4. Fontaines DC – A Hero’s Death

“By choosing to embrace their calmer, and often much darker side, the Dubliners could well have given us their masterpiece” – Nikki Bonnett

 

Nadine Shah - Kitchen Sink5. Nadine Shah – Kitchen Sink

“Sometimes claustrophobic but also infused with humour and empathy, a truthful account told in engrossing style” – Alan Ashton-Smith

6. Phoebe Bridgers – Punisher

“Punisher is a series of heartbreaking tales, heavy with woozy atmosphere, told with humour and panache” – Tim Lee

Fiona Apple - Fetch The Bolt Cutters7. Fiona Apple – Fetch The Bolt Cutters

“There’s an unsettling edge to one of the most remarkable albums of the year” – John Murphy

8. Ane Brun – Now Beauty Holds The Hand Of Sorrow/After The Great Storm

“Elegiac and reflective, wonderfully intertwines, both thematically and musically, with its predecessor… while the first of these two fine albums deals equally with personal relationships and bigger questions of how we live in our world” – AAS

Jessie Ware - What's Your Pleasure?9. Jessie Ware – What’s Your Pleasure

“A smoky and sensual delight, the ultimate in post-disco gratification, and one of 2020’s best pop albums” – NS

10. Yves Tumor – Heaven To A Tortured Mind

“One of the many avenues Bowie could have gone down, the effect of what he has done is fascinating and wholly satisfying” – BD

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Shirley Collins - Heart's Ease11. Shirley Collins – Heart’s Ease

“Heart’s Ease proves her to be a musical key worker, her songs compelling at every turn” – Ben Hogwood

12. Run The Jewels – RTJ4

“Speaking about the rot at the core of the USA for their whole careers, with this album they add to a rich canon of protest music” – BD

Annie - Dark Hearts13. Annie – Dark Hearts

“Back with sleek sophisti-pop and ’80s influences, synths that shine with a fluorescent glow, and unobtrusive beats” – BD

14. Caribou – Suddenly

“A record of lush sounds, inventive songwriting… spectacular” – BD

 

Fleet Foxes - Shore15. Bob Dylan – Rough And Rowdy Ways

“If this ends up being his last major work, it’s a hell of a way to bow out” – Chris White

16. Fleet Foxes – Shore

“A glorious, life-affirming collection of songs that shows Robin Pecknold’s absorbing of musical influences is paying rich dividends” – Steven Johnson

Thundercat - It Is What It Is17. I Like Trains – Kompromat

“An album of considerable depth and intellect that rewards careful investigation, and a well timed return from a band at the top of its game” – Sam Shepherd

18. Thundercat – It Is What It Is

“Sparkles with inventive songwriting, chunky production and pervasive good vibes” – BD

Bright Light Bright Light - Fun City19. Bright Light Bright Light – Fun City

“Rod Thomas’s latest collection of electropop disco gems has an underlying message of inclusivity, and a galaxy of LGBTQI+ guest stars on hand to assist” – NS

20. The Soft Pink Truth – Shall We Go On Sinning So That Grace May Increase?

“Matmos co-originator Drew Daniel responds to world events with a contemplative, meditative affair” – SS

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Perfume Genius - Set My Heart On Fire Immediately21. Laura Marling – Song For Our Daughter

“Songs of undoubted depth and longevity that make up her strongest album in a decade” – SJ

22. Julianna Barwick – Healing Is A Miracle

“Her most evolved and ambitious album, her most soothing and assuaging set of songs to date” – SJ

23. Perfume Genius – Set My Heart on Fire Immediately

“Mike Hadreas’ creative streak is comparable to very few artists of his generation” – Ross Horton

24. Rufus Wainwright – Unfollow The Rules

“A quality record. In fact, it’s an excellent record. Given it’s a Rufus Wainwright record, did you expect anything else?” – RH

Moses Boyd - Dark Matter25. Moses Boyd – Dark Matter

“A quietly trailblazing amalgam of sounds, a projection of well-founded confidence from an increasingly exciting operator” – SJ

26. Matmos -The Consuming Flame: Open Exercises In Group Form

“Showcasing intrepid sonic explorers pushing boundaries of musical orthodoxy and consolidating their unique position within the avant-garde” – SJ

27. Ben Watt – Storm Damage

“Battered and bruised, but his response is one of recovery, demonstrating the power of music as therapy in the process. His finest album yet” – BH

28. Humanist – Humanist

“The whole album is a triumph of collaboration, and should be seen as a celebration of artistic vision” – SS

29. The Cribs – Night Network

“As belligerently brilliant as could be hoped for, 12 more assertions of greatness from a band who you really should like” – TL

30. This Is The Kit – Off Off On

“Kate Stables’ fifth album works as the restart we all need, a therapeutic unwinding from the world around us” – Lewis Oxley

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Catherine Anne Davies & Bernard Butler - In Memory Of My Feelings31. Ben Lukas Boysen – Mirage

“Combines the organic and the synthetic in a way that feels fluid and natural, with the subtleties of his compositions often only becoming apparent after several listens” – CW

32. Erland Cooper – Hether Blether

“The final piece of his Orcadian trilogy, following Solan Goose and Sule Skerry” – AAS

33. Catherine Anne Davies & Bernard Butler – In Memory Of My Feelings

“If this is to be the sole result of their partnership, both parties can rest assured that they’ve produced one of the very best albums of the year” – JM

34. Jade Hairpins – Harmony Avenue

“Absolutely crammed with positivity, this is an album we need right now” – SS

35. Lady Gaga – Chromatica

“Engaging slaps and dancefloor empowerment: she’s back, with her bangers intact” – NS

AC/DC - Power Up36. AC/DC – Power Up

“Be thankful for the miraculous return of these masters of sleaze-rock. They do their thing, and it works” – Graeme Marsh

37. Romare – Home

“A groovy, infectious and deeply listenable record, recommended for all fans of repetitive electronic beats” – BD

38. J-Hus – Big Conspiracy

“Confirms his place in the new generation of post-grime British artists” – BD

39. Maria Schneider – Data Lords

“The impact of big data and the corporate internet on our creative lives provides the theme for exploration in large scale orchestral jazz arrangements” – Daniel Paton

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Max Richter - Voices40. Max Richter – Voices

“Inspired by the Universal Declaration Of Human Rights, it also feels like a celebration and validation of music itself” – SJ

41. Bill Callahan – Gold Record

“Another album of uniquely considered observations imbued with wisdom and sharpness of mind, undoubtedly music for the slow lane” – SJ

42. Oneohtrix Point Never – Magic Oneohtrix Point Never

“At the album’s core, he is distorting the mechanisms of listening to and researching sound, in order to facilitate retroactive analysis” – Matt Cotsell

43. Halsey – Manic

“Fits in well with the current pop landscape while also working beyond it” – BJ

44. Nothing But Thieves – Moral Panic

“It’s incredibly easy to get lost in the Essex band’s third album, with its whirlwind wonderland of bittersweet narratives” – CJ

Kylie Minogue - Disco45. BC Camplight – Shortly After Take Off

“The fifth album from Brian Christinzio completes his recent cycle known as the Manchester Trilogy” – SS

46. Future Islands – As Long As You Are

“Baltimore heartbreakers provide new ways of looking at old feelings on their sixth album, proving they are one of the world’s most consistently great indie bands” – RH

47. Matt Berninger – Serpentine Prison

“An excellent sidestep from The National frontman’s vitally important and highly respected day job” – GM

48. Baauer – Planet’s Mad

“Delivers on his promise by turning everything up to 11. Put simply, there isn’t a single misstep on the record” – BD

49. Kylie Minogue – Disco

“An uplifting set that pays genuine homage to carefree nights at the disco with gusto, charm and flair” – NS

50. Bruce Springsteen – Letter To You

“A truly collaborative spirit has fuelled the creative process, and the result is a timely and welcome burst of the sheer euphoria that only the E Street Band can inject” – DP

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musicOMH’s list of the top 50 albums of the year omits compilations, covers albums, EPs, albums not released in 2020 (!). The list also does not include albums nobody wrote about; if an album is good enough to submit for this list, it’s good enough to review.

musicOMH’s Top 50 Albums Of 2020 was compiled by Michael Hubbard

Contributions from Nikki Bonnett, Matt Cotsell, Ben Devlin, Ben Hogwood, Ross Horton, Michael Hubbard, Chloe Johnson, Steven Johnson, Tim Lee, Graeme Marsh, John Murphy, Lewis Oxley, Daniel Paton, Sam Shepherd, Nick Smith, Chris White


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More on Róisín Murphy
musicOMH’s Top 50 Albums Of 2020
Róisín Murphy – Róisín Machine
Róisín Murphy – Take Her Up To Monto
Nominations: Mercury Music Prize 2015
Róisín Murphy @ Roundhouse, London