My Top Albums of 2020

Thomas Wilson

On 2020

I feel a little obliged to acknowledge 2020 for what it has been: a source of collective trauma for, conservatively, tens of millions of people across the globe. I, like a lot of other young people (note how I'm clinging onto that term as I race towards 30?) have had to put much of my life on pause while things work themselves out. This year has been, at times, unfulfilling, frustrating, and disheartening. Luckily, I have not lost anyone I know to this virus. I have lived in suitable, and safe housing. I have been able to talk to people I love, and who love me. I have been able to find alternative outlets for my creative and professional energy. I truly hope that I, and everyone else, never has another year like 2020. I hope that 2021 is better, and it's looking like it will be. I hope you are keeping well and so are the people you love.

Thomas Wilson, London, December 2020

Introduction

Last year I did a round-up of my top albums of the year (here). I really enjoyed producing this, so I've done it again this year. Given what 2020 has been, I strongly suspect that all the stay-at-home orders are going to produce some interesting sounds in the next 6-18 months. So I suspect I'm going to produce at least three of these lists.

This is a list of albums released in 2020, and which I loved in 2020. The criteria is simple: was it an album? Was it released between December 2019 and December 2020? And did I love it? They're not the “best” albums of the year, and I'm tempted to go back to my 2019 list and swap out a few albums in retrospect. But that's part of the joy of this: it's about capturing this year as I experienced it in music.

I think albums are the purest, best form of music. They're created by the artist, produced, carefully ordered and curated, and then released as a single *thing*. They capture a specific feeling, or idea from the artist, or a certain mood or theme.

There are albums here which I used as my running soundtracks, cooking soundtracks, working soundtracks, or as deserves-my-full-attention soundtracks. I hope you find something here that you love.

The Albums

Heavy is the Head

Stormzy

Music to be Murdered By

Eminem

no future

Eden

Breathing Exercises

Frankie Stew and Harvey Gunn

Svalbard

Niklas Paschburg

Placement

Watsky

Foreigner

Jordan Mackampa

Transitions II

Fabrizio Paterlini

Empty

Nils Frahm

Wake Up, Sunshine

All Time Low

Nothing is True & Everything is Possible

Enter Shikari

Floral LP

Floral

RTJ4

Run The Jewels

No Pressure

Logic

All Distortions Are Intentional

Neck Deep

Pink Elephant

Stand Atlantic

Open Up Your Head

Sea Girls

Some Kind of Peace

Ólafur Arnalds

20/20

Knuckle Puck

Boreas & Zephyrus

The Oh Hellos

evermore

Taylor Swift

Album Reviews

Sort By
  • Heavy is the Head (Stormzy)
  • Music to be Murdered By (Eminem)
  • no future (Eden)
  • Breathing Exercises (Frankie Stew and Harvey Gunn)
  • Svalbard (Niklas Paschburg)
  • Placement (Watsky)
  • Foreigner (Jordan Mackampa)
  • Transitions II (Fabrizio Paterlini)
  • Empty (Nils Frahm)
  • Wake Up, Sunshine (All Time Low)
  • Nothing is True & Everything is Possible (Enter Shikari)
  • Floral LP (Floral)
  • RTJ4 (Run The Jewels)
  • No Pressure (Logic)
  • All Distortions Are Intentional (Neck Deep)
  • Pink Elephant (Stand Atlantic)
  • Open Up Your Head (Sea Girls)
  • Some Kind of Peace (Ólafur Arnalds)
  • 20/20 (Knuckle Puck)
  • Boreas & Zephyrus (The Oh Hellos)
  • evermore (Taylor Swift)
Heavy is the Head
Stormzy
2019-12-13
# Grime
This album came out just as I was writing my write-up for last year and I wasn't sure if it had much staying power. It does. This is a great album, and again Stormzy manages to balance the quite obviously different parts of himself: as a loving, patient, and grateful person of faith and family - and as one of the undisputed most popular (and talented) grime writers out there. The difference between these two vibes isn't as stark as 2017's *Gang Signs & Prayer* - but the album is full-to-bursting with characters, ambition, extremely slick grime production, great features, and a real sense of what it is to be Black and/or successful in London in 2020.

2019 Albums I slept on

There were a couple of albums released in 2019 that I didn't feature in last year's round-up. Some of them I knew about, and some of them I hadn't heard of. This is an unconditional apology to these albums. None of us are perfect.

  • The fall of Hobo Johnson, by Hobo Johnson. This album is a peach scone. Imagine if the poetry you tried to write when you were 18 actually sounded as good as you wanted it to. That's this guy, and you should all long him. Predictably, it's a sequel to The Rise of Hobo Johnson.
  • Chon, by Chon. This self-titled instrumental album is either chaos or complete precision. It might depend on your mood. Listen to it when you're working or working out - the genre defies a single use case.
  • 1998, Silas. Silas featured on a Logic song and I looked him up. This album is honest and biographical, he's got a polished hip hop sound, with lyricism and flow.
  • Joshua, French 79. This synth-heavy instrumental album got me through some really tough cycles during the summer of 2020. It pumps you up, but it's not too simplistic.
  • Big Talk Vol. 1, Ocean Wisdom. I struggle to believe this album was released in 2019. Time is weird. Ocean Wisdom is Camden's own Grime MC. This album is fantastic grime beats with Ocean's typical too-many-words-a-minute delivery.