A&E’s top 10 albums of 2020

There were few bright moments this year, but here are 10 albums that brought a little bit of light to 2020.

Illustration+by+Hailee+Schievelbein

Illustration by Hailee Schievelbein

Frankie Carlson

There is an argument to be made that one of the only good things to come out of 2020 has been the music. As Gov. Tim Walz urged us to stay indoors and away from others, we found company in our favorite artists. Though choosing the best of the best is no small task, here are the top 10 albums that stood out above the rest.

10. City Girls: “City on Lock

The sophomore project from Miami rap duo City Girls is nothing if not a good time. Delivering the same energy from their studio debut “Girl Code,” the unique flows from both Yung Miami and JT are the driving factor on this project. Complete with minimalist production and features from Doja Cat, Lil Durk and Lil Baby, this album is one headbanger after another.

9. Tame Impala: “The Slow Rush

Tame Impala ended their five-year hiatus this year and came back with a vengeance. Following their 2015 masterpiece, “Currents,” Tame Impala chose to dial back the energy and focus on a slightly more laid back sound for their fourth studio album. Complete with the familiar groovy basslines and distinctive drum sounds, “The Slow Rush” hypnotizes with its meditative synth leads and soaring vocals. While there may not be as many standout hits on “The Slow Rush” as there were on “Currents,” Tame Impala has blessed us with an endlessly interesting addition to their discography.

8. The Strokes: “The New Abnormal

Another long-awaited release, “The New Abnormal” is the first new project from the Strokes in seven years. With a nine-song tracklist running 45 minutes in length, Julian Casablancas and the rest of the New York rock band teleport us back to the early 2000s with their one of a kind sound and style. With engineering from Rick Rubin and outstanding performances from the band, this record is a masterclass in sound quality. The album features hits like “The Adults Are Talking” and “Eternal Summer” — immediate additions to the list of greatest Strokes’ tracks.

7. Thundercat: “It Is What It Is

A musical virtuoso, a pensive and introspective lyricist, a certifiable geek, and so much more, Thundercat continues to pour all aspects of his eclectic personality into his music on his latest record, “It Is What It Is.” The LA native keeps us asking ourselves, “How the hell does he do it?” with his jaw-dropping bass stylings featured on tracks like “Miguel’s Happy Dance” and “How Sway.” His patented groovy instrumental paired with his signature falsetto make way for some of his most fun tracks to date. Skillful, thoughtful, artistic and goofy, his fourth studio album hits from all angles.

6. Lil Baby: “My Turn

With his latest record, Atlanta rapper Lil Baby shows his growth as an artist and why he’s one of the greatest rappers out right now. While a 20-song album can be daunting for listeners, Lil Baby shatters all doubt with consistent quality and low points that are few and far between. While there is a cast of notable features from the likes of Young Thug, Future and Lil Wayne, Lil Baby proves to us that he does not rely on his guests with each solo track outshining the one before.

5. The Weeknd: “After Hours

Canadian superstar The Weeknd takes his sound in a nostalgic new direction with “After Hours.” Channeling elements of 80’s synth-pop and dance music, these songs are simply infectious. While sticking to his melancholic and reflective lyrical themes, the Canadian singer sings his stories of heartbreak and self-acceptance over a backdrop of dazzling synths, 80’s drums, and melodies that refuse to leave our heads. This record is one of a kind and truly a highpoint in The Weeknd’s career… regardless of what the Grammys’ judges have to say.

4. Run the Jewels: “RTJ4

Rappers Killer Mike and EL-P made their mark on 2020 with their iconic fourth installment of their Run the Jewels series. Delivering their first release in four years, the rap duo hits harder than ever before, which is saying a lot considering the quality of their previous three albums. “RTJ4” is chock full of mind-blowing verses from both members alike and features some of the group’s heaviest songs of all time. The production refuses to slip, the lyrics are murderous and the political commentary is in your face and without apology.

3. Freddie Gibbs & Alchemist: “Alfredo

The collaboration of rapper Freddie Gibbs and producer Alchemist proved to be a match made in heaven with their 2020 release “Alfredo.” The production is captivating with its jazz, funk and R&B influences, and it is executed with precision throughout the project. Gibbs’ masterful lyrics and flow are a return to the proficiency seen in his opuses “Bandana” and “Piñata.” Running just 35 minutes, this album manages to pack in a plethora of poetry, musical fusion and experimentation all in one concise package.

2. Fiona Apple: “Fetch the Bolt Cutters

The fifth studio album from New York singer-songwriter Fiona Apple is an artful and wonderfully experimental project like no other. Written and recorded entirely in her home over multiple years, the album is outside of the box in the best ways possible, whether it’s her heavy vocal contrast throughout, the obscure samples used or her experimental song structure. Her songwriting style on this album is original and refreshing as she tinkers with attention-grabbing lyrics, unique soundscapes and themes of the mundane and ordinary life. It’s wholly new and much needed in a year like this.

1. Mac Miller: “Circles

The first posthumous release from rapper Mac Miller is a poignant walk through his career and talents as a songwriter. The album contains 12 previously unreleased tracks that highlight Miller’s versatility as an artist and showcases his explorations into various genres. While the album contains prolific rapping from the Pittsburgh MC, the standout of “Circles” is Miller’s singing voice. His vocal performance on songs like “Everybody” and the title track “Circles” make for sobering moments of reflection on the life and the untimely loss of a beautiful artist.