Y E A R E N D – M U S I C W R A P – U P
Anindya Arif, Faiyaz Ahmed
By all accounts, 2020 has been a tumultuous year for everyone, during which the initial instinct of many was to revert to the familiar music of the past. However, this surprisingly dark year has produced some robust records that have helped a lot of us push through the paranoia and loneliness. In no particular order, here are nine albums that helped us the most.
The Weeknd: After Hours
Genre(s): Dream pop, Rhythm and blues, New wave
After Hours portrays Tesfaye as a cinematic libertine anti-hero over a smooth and confident dream pop, new wave, R&B production. This album sees Abel being on the opposite end of heartbreak and trading LA for Vegas after yet another breakup. In Vegas, he falls back into an incessant cycle of past inclinations that have always helped him move forward. But all this does is make him feel incapacitated by his own feelings, as he ends the album bleeding out and all alone.
Even with a rough start, After Hours is the best record Weekend has put out since his trio of mixtapes, with a fully realised narrative of destructive love, fame, and perpetual loneliness.
Standout tracks: Hardest To Love, Snowchild, Blinding Lights, and Until I Bleed Out
Charli XCX: How I’m Feeling Now
Genre: Hyper pop
Run time: 37 mins
As the album title states, it’s an album that reminds you of every emotion you’ve probably endured in this pandemic. You may say this is Charli taking us through how she’s feeling through the quarantine and it definitely translates through all her songs. For those who are new to hyper-pop, Charli happens to be one of the pioneers of this increasingly popular genre which consists of loud, distorted electronic bass, synths, and a lot of auto-tune. This album talks about mental health, relationships, isolation, and everything we felt this year, being stuck between 4 walls.
Standout tracks: 7 years, enemy, I finally understand
YouTube: how i’m feeling now [album]
Gorillaz: Song Machine Season One: Strange Timez
Gorillaz’s new record is fun, funky, and at times, depressing, with a foundation built on high-profile collaborations including, but not limited to Beck, Annie Erin Clark (St Vincent), Elton John, vSchoolboy Q. Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett (illustrator). They seamlessly and cohesively make it all work, along with Gorillaz’s usual bizarre brand of political satire and innovative techno music.
More than ever, the band takes the full freedom of not having a physical presence and paves the way for the next chapter for the Gorillaz in this new decade
Standout Tracks: The Valley of the Pagans ft Beck, Chalk Tablet Towers ft St Vincent, The Pink Phantom ft Elton John & 6LACK, and Aries ft Peter Hook & Georgi
YouTube: Song Machine Full Album
clipping: Visions of Bodies Being Burned
Genre(s): Experimental hip hop, horrorcore
Run time: 52 mins
This album is themed after horror movies, if that wasn’t clear from the title itself. The vocals in this record are powerful and unique. Rapper Diggs shows off his strong vocal prowess, creativity and versatility in this album in a bold manner. The songs have elements of murder, death, violence and all other horror staples. The album starts off with a soundscape that feels like you’re stuck in an abandoned factory alone in the dead of night with someone chasing you. And the as the songs progress, the experimental elements kick in. From the bass heavy “Say the name” to the song “Eaten Alive” that has literal sounds of things falling and tumbling over, the sounds in the album change throughout while staying true to what it’s about. This album is truly an experience.
Standout Tracks: Say the Name, ’96 Neve Campbell, Pain Every day, Body for the pile
The New Abnormal: The Strokes
Genre(s): Indie rock, new wave, post-punk, pop electronica
Run time: 45:07
The new abnormal marks the return of Julian Casablancas and Co after a seven-year hiatus. Produced by Rick Rubin, the album houses some of the best tracks since their debut album “Is this it”. In true Strokes fashion, the album gives up on a fixed narrative to provide a sentimental experience and to prove that the strokes are far from finished in 2020. Despite the record’s structure catering more to traditional Strokes listeners, the band’s experimental new direction along with the album’s snappy guitar work presents the perfect segue into their discography.
Standout Tracks: The Adults Are Talking, Selfless, Why Are Sundays So Depressing, and Ode to the Mets
YouTube: The Strokes ‘The New Abnormal’ Album
Windswept Adan: Ichiko Aoba
Genre(s): Indie/Alternative, Chamber Folk
Run Time: 50 mins
Japanese singer/songwriter Ichiko Aoba has a reputation for writing serene and soft music that puts your mind at ease, but this time her album exceeded every expectation of how calming and tranquil music can be.
This album is like taking a walk by the empty beach, barefoot and without a care in the world. The added ambience sounds and the sounds of waves crashing against the sand really bring it home with the mood it’s trying to set. The starting track paints a picture of the world you’re about to dive into and it’s a stunning journey from then onwards.
You don’t need to speak Japanese to feel soothed by her voice and the lines she sings. The last 3 songs are heart wrenchingly beautiful and the final track leaves you in a state of sorrow and wanting more. Truly a record so picturesque that it transcends just being music. It’s a precious piece of art.
Standout Tracks: Pilgrimage, Dawn in the Adan, Adan no Shima no Tanjyosai
Tame Impala: The Slow Rush
Genre(s): Disco, Soft rock, Psychedelic pop
Run time: 45:07
Kevin Parker continues what he started with 2015’s Currents’ superabundant synth riffs and heavy bass lines in The Slow Rush. The album explores the passage of time and how we adapt to the changes that come along with it. Even though the album deals with heavier aspects of life such as a perpetual obsession with the past, losing a parental figure, or still seeking closure from people we know we are incapable of getting it from, by the end of the masterfully produced album, Kevin learns to embrace change and live life to the fullest truly.
Standout Tracks: Instant Destiny, Posthumous Forgiveness, Breathe Deeper and Lost in Yesterday
Folklore: Taylor Swift
Runtime: 1 hr 3 mins
This was released as a surprise album and has been popularly deemed to be an album nobody knew they needed. Taylor takes a strong detour from the style of music she has been making for the past few years and goes back to her Back to December and Red era, that so many in this generation grew up listening to.
However, the songs are mostly stripped of the electric guitars and the rock song drum beats. This new sound consists of soft acoustic guitars, the piano, mellow voices, and heart wrenching lyrics. The production is fantastic, which is expected from someone like Jack Antonoff. Truly one of the highlights of 2020 in the music scene.
Standout Tracks: cardigan, exile, epiphany, the last great American dynasty
YouTube: Folklore Album
Yves Tumor: Heaven to a tortured mind
Genre: Experimental Electronic
Runtime: 36 mins
From the experimental electronic musician Yves Tumor, this album starts off with powerful hip hop and brit pop influenced bass and drums, reminding you of the early Arctic Monkeys’ and MF Doom’s works. While the influences follow through till the end, it does a tremendous job of setting itself apart from being simply another rock/hip hop inspired record.
As the album progresses, the psychedelic noise and other experimental sounds kick in, making the album’s tone unique and memorable in its own way. Definitely one of the top end albums to have come out in 2020.
Standout tracks: Romanticist, Dream Pallete, Gospel for a New Century, Kerosene!
Faiyaz is morbidly seeking attention, help him out at [email protected]
Anindya eats music, fiction, and reality — all for breakfast. Send him fresh recipes at [email protected]