Exploring new genres in order to “modernize”, unusual collaborations, and taking a lot of pride in one’s beliefs and roots: these are the patterns we saw among creatives haciendo lo que les da la gana in 2020. That is why this latest edition of Top 100 albums includes music from Japan to Chile and everywhere in between, a few EPs, live albums, quarantine projects, and long-awaited comebacks.
Working for C/S was not in my plans this year—one of the many lessons of 2020, letting go of expectations while learning to adapt—but it has been exciting to see how our work benefits others internationally, while feeling the growing support our community has on us. When I joined, control and perfectionism were thrown out the window, as the structure we were accustomed to, started to collapse, and so did the magazine.
As media/content platforms begin to limit and censor its users, we must create spaces that are safe and inclusive, recognize those who deserve them, and to address the truth outside the mainstream—which are also the purposes of Con Safos Magazine and what convinced me to join in.
While we were all trying to balance our personal and professional lives, we did our best to keep C/S resilient by upgrading the website and improving our format, such as making bilingual articles and have inclusive language. We will remain working on this by editing past articles and continue experimenting to see what works best for our goals. 2020 also forced us to accept our limits and dependence in one another, as the habituating mortals we are on this planet, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
For the making of this list, we compiled the musical taste of Laura Andrea Vázquez, “Marifer” Venegas, Albert Silva Fernandez, Antonio Villaseñor-Baca, Caleb Ortiz, Andrea Sandoval, Maria Esquinca, and myself, Paulette Villa. Each album is color-coordinated to their corresponding writer sharing its views, experiences, reasons, and fun facts on why such album was included on the list.
We appreciate everyone’s patience and trust in us. We hope to continue reporting for you while supporting our local writers and musicians as well as those from around the globe. Let’s put into practice everything we learned from last year and give these albums a chance to resist your algorithm in 2021. – Paulette Villa, Managing Editor, C/S Magazine
1. Bad Bunny, YHLQMDLG
What can I say? It was Bad Bunny’s year and he helped us get through it. YHLQMDLG dropped just before all hell broke loose this year and I still treasure my first listen: alone in my room with some nice cheese and cheap wine I bought just for the occasion, dancing around like the alter ego kid in the visualizer vids. It seemed almost impossible to top the first album but Benito quickly assured all of us that, that was never even a concern.
Listening to this album is like going to a party at your friends’ with all the highs, lows, and in-betweens of that collective experience that’s hard to explain accurately to anyone who wasn’t there. Narrowing my favorite tracks is a Herculean task as there’s one for every occasion, every mood while still managing to feel part of a cohesive project. From the never danced at the club “SAFAERA” to the utterly heartbreaking “UNA VEZ”, we are shown the multitudes that are allowed within us if we manage to remember that being boring is one of the worst crimes.
Favorite tracks: “P FKN R”, “QUE MALO”, “25/8”, “SAFAERA”
2. Kali Uchis, Sin Miedo (Del Amor y Otros Demonios)
“La venganza es dulce, sabes? Muy dulce.” Revenge is sweet, is how Kali Uchi’s opens her sophomore, Spanish album, Sin Miedo (Del Amor y Otro Demonios ∞). The Colombian-American and certified “boss bitch” returns with a vengeance. She’s more self-assured, over the heartbreak and lovers she previously bemoaned. Fans who follow her on social media are familiar with her unapologetic, bad bitch persona. But since her first EP, her music has had a vulnerable melancholia. Here, we see the online persona merge with the musical one. Kali is reborn an angel with black wings.
The album retains its Kali Uchisms; her chill beats, funk, and dream-pop aesthetic. Yet, there’s genres and styles we haven’t seen in her previous albums. Influenced by singers she listened to growing up, the album includes two bolero covers; La Luna Enamorada,” a renamed cover of the 1960s song “La Luna en tu Mirada” by Los Zafiros, and a cover of “Que te Pedí” by La Lupe, as well as reggaeton songs. Kali said she wanted the album to represent the complexity of Latinx culture and music.
Favorite tracks: “fue mejor”, “la luna enamorada”, “la luz(Fín)”, “te pongo mal(préndelo)”, “que te pedí//”
3. Bad Bunny, EL ÚLTIMO TOUR DEL MUNDO
As I was once again wavering during quarantine under the exhaustion of everything, but especially colonialism, Benito decided to gift us a third time this year to tell us to buck the fuck up, you’re not here to put up with this shit. EL ÚLTIMO TOUR DEL MUNDO is the righteous fury and sadness that we are told to internalize because it does not benefit the powers that be.
Bad Bunny spends 47 minutes reminding everyone of two things: 1) that he’s Puerto Rican goddamn it! and 2) he will never give you what you want or expect of him and that is why you can’t get rid of him. Once again, Benito creates an album with a clear narrative arc about the mythos of El Conejo Malo while playing with different genres and sounds. With this mix of forceful and mellow tracks you’re hit over the head with the Bad Bunny that Billboard prays you forget but knows you won’t.
Favorite tracks: “Booker T”, “Dákiti”, “La Droga”, “120”
4. Tame Impala, The Slow Rush
Kevin Parker considered his influences to be anchored in pop music rather than psychedelic music. The Slow Rush is the Tame Impala album that wears these pop influences on its sleeve.
My first listen of this album saw me actually excited to see what Kevin Parker would feed my ears next. With top-notch production, an excellent time motif, and some truly catchy melodies, Kevin Parker delivers not only a truly excellent Tame Impala record, but one of the most interesting and exciting albums that I had the pleasure to experience this year.
Favorite tracks: “Borderline”, “Breathe Deeper”, “Posthumous Forgiveness”
5. Aminé, Limbo (Deluxe)
When Aminé’s Limbo dropped earlier in 2020, the album became a magnum opus of a rapper that is no longer rising, but at the top. With his third album, the Portland rapper showed that it wouldn’t be through assimilating to a mainstream hip-hop scene that he would make a name but by going against it. Lone single off the album “Shimmy” shows an indifference if not contempt at other hip-hop artists.
The deluxe album went a step further and became a testament to Aminé’s “Rip City” roots. With the nickname of his hometown tattooed on his back as the cover of the deluxe album, mention of Portland Trail Blazer’s Dame Liliard, and a feature of fellow Rip City artist Unknown Mortal Orchestra, the album became a love letter by and for Portland.
Favorite tracks: “Can’t Decide”, “Riri”, “Easy”
6. Natalia Lafourcade, Un Canto Por México Vol. 1
Mexican singer/songwriter/composer Natalia Lafourcade cemented herself as one of Mexico’s leading artists with this album. An ode to Mexico, she basks in the beauty and richness of traditional sounds like mariachi, cumbia, ranchera’s, and specifically “San Jarocho,” folk music from Veracruz, her home state.
There is an array of instrumentation throughout each song accordions, violins, trumpets, trombones, guitar. Listening to this album feels like you’re traveling the sonic landscape of Mexico. Its an album that lives both in the past and in the present. The album began as a benefit concert to raise funds for the Centro de Documentación del Son Jarocho, a cultural center in Veracruz that was damaged by the earthquakes in 2017. “We shouldn’t leave this only in a concert. We should actually put it in an album.” She said in an interview with Alt.Latino.
Favorite tracks: “Para Que Sufrir” ft. Jorge Drexler, “Nunca es Suficiente,” “Derecho de Nacimiento,” “Cucurrucucu Paloma,” “Veracruz”
7. Childish Gambino, 3.15.20 (Donald Glover Presents)
This album shows Glover in a more accepting manner of reality, such as singing in “Time” with Ariana Grande about the meaning of life on a hopeful tone, having the courage to say thank you to a partner for loving him despite his insecurities on “24.19” (Sweet Thing), and concluding with accepting his self-love along Donald Duck on “53.49” (Under The Sun).
Named after the date it first emerged online at donaldgloverpresents.com, the album played on loop for twelve hours and displayed the draft of a CD booklet design, still with its template layer and margins from an InDesign spreadsheet. But when it was released on music platforms a week later, the cover was changed to all white and most songs were titled after their corresponding timestamp.
Favorite tracks: “Algorhythm”, “12.38” (Vibrate), “19.10” (Beautiful), “53.49” (Under The Sun).
8. Thundercat, It Is What It Is
Stephen Bruner aka Thundercat continues from the vibe he created from 2017’s Drunk and refines that in It Is What It Is, with funky bass riffs that makes you groove from start to finish accompanied by notable features with Childish Gambino and Lil B. Truly the album for the 2020 summer that never was.
Favorite tracks: “How Sway”, “Funny Thing”, “Dragonball Durag”, “Unrequited Love”
9. Fiona Apple, Fetch the Bolt Cutters
The first time I listened to Fionna Apple was when she did a cover for Across the Universe by The Beatles. So when there was a fuss about her new album, I couldn’t resist listening to it. To describe her music is difficult as it has a range of pop jazz and classic sounds.
During this pandemic, Fetch the Bolt Cutters by Fiona Apple was the only album I wanted to listen to for a long time. Fionna’s album motivates you to get up and dance and learn how to play the piano to play her songs. Overall ,it is a tuney fun, upbeat album that will only make you happy and make you think about the good things that 2020 brought, like this album; it’ll make you see a silver lining in everything.
Favorite tracks: “On I go”, “Cosmonauts”, “Ladies”, “I Want You To Love Me”
10. Omar Apollo, Apolonio
The album feels youthful, melodramatic, and mysterious. It transports me to other worlds. Apollo displays a wide range of breadth and genre, from R&B, to funk, to a corrido. It’s an album at the cusp of youth and growing up, between both the freedom of your early 20s, yet figuring out your life.
He has an angelic voice, reminiscent of Frank Ocean. Smooth yet guttural. My favorite song is probably “Dos Une Nueve (219)” many Mexicans would immediately recognize the traditional corrido style. With this exciting re-imagining of a traditional Mexican genre. Omar Apollo proves he’s someone to watch out for.
Favorite tracks: “Dos Uno Nueve”, “Hey Boy (feat Kali Uchis)”, “I’m Amazing”, “Bi-Fren”, “Want u Around (feat. Ruel)”
11. Machine Gun Kelly, Tickets to my Downfall (SOLD OUT Deluxe)
It’s almost like MGK got up one day and decided, yes, we do need that late 90’s/early 2000’s teenage angst pop-punk vibe again. This wasn’t an artist that tried to reinvent a genre outside of his realm, it’s an artist bettering another genre. This is the album you wish you could travel back in time to cry to during high school. From the opening “title track” to Paramore homage and cover of “Misery Business”, the album is just one-upping Blink-182 and high-fiving My Chemical Romance.
Favorite tracks: “bloody valentine”, “forget me too”
12. Gorillaz, Song Machine, Season One: Strange Timez
Gorillaz remains in place as a sort of superstar within the pop genre, working with an ever growing number of artists throughout their career. This is only strengthened with the first release of Song Machine, featuring an immense variety of artists and musicians such as Robert Smith, Elton John, Peter Hook, and much more. Like any Gorillaz album, it features an array of genres with memorable melodies while keeping a steady vibe with its song order.
Favorite tracks: ”The Lost Chord”, “Pac-Man (feat. ScHoolboy Q)”, “With Love To An Ex (feat. Moonchild Sanelly)”, “MLS (feat, JPEGMAFIA and CHAI)”
13. Bad Bunny, Las Que No Iban A Salir
If we hold this album to the standard of Bad Bunny, it lacked cohesion and a narrative arc that we became accustomed to from El Conejo Malo. But by any other standard, this is basically a demo tape stacked with bops and bangers featuring royalty of musica urbana like Don Omar, Yandel, and Zion & Lenox. It also features Gabriela Berlingeri, his girlfriend of some years, in a song that was the anthem of the pandemic.
It’s also important to add context: we got this towards the beginning of a global pandemic where we had no idea what was going on. Bad Bunny had also just released his second album that had half of its 22 songs on the Billboard Top 100 at one point. It also came months before, unbeknownst to us, he would release his third album of the year. That’s why he’s the only artist that got multiple spots on the list, and why it was the year of El Conejo.
Favorite tracks: “PA ’ROMPERLA”, “COMO SE SIENTE”, “EN CASITA”
14. KORDELYA, Mal Hecha
Out of the ashes rises the phoenix; such was the case of KORDELYA, who released a sort-of debut that can really be better described as a rebirth. This album was vastly different from any of her previous releases. Mal Hecha is a tour de force that showed so much range and musical versatility, it almost felt like a compilation of different artists. This song is perfect dancing, grooving, crying, and pretty much anything else you can think of. The deluxe version adds even more flavor with a Jesse Baez feature and a remix by Dominican producer, Happy Colors.
Favorite tracks: “Guey”, “Terco”, “Mal Hecha”, “Consentido (Happy Colors Remix)”
15. Lido Pimienta, Miss Colombia
Lido Pimienta’s sophomore album, Miss Colombia, is a splash of color. When I first watched the music video for “Eso Que tu Haces,” I was mesmerized by the clothing, colors, and music in the video. The visuals alone bask in joy. The music video was filmed in San Basilio de Palenque, a town founded by enslaved people who escaped their captors and is the first free town in the Americas. The music video shows palanqueras, dancing in their brightly colored, traditional dresses. It’s full of Black and brown people laughing, existing, thriving.
To show Black joy is an act of resistance, the album simultaneously reclaims her Afro-Latinx identity, as well as speaks to racism experienced by Afro-latinxs like in “Pelo Cucu,”. The album has a wide array of genres and sounds from afro-Colombian rhythms, to electronic cumbia. This is an album that both heals, “Yo quiero que me curen, mi corazón,” and resists. “Yo resisto y ya.”
Favorite tracks: “Eso Que tu Haces,” “Nada” featuring Li Saumet, “Quiero Que Me Salves,” “Resisto y Ya.”
16. Ela Minus, acts of rebellion
Some of the songs in Ela Minus’ acts of rebellion transport me to Hardpop in Juárez, I’m dancing with my friends with a caguama in my hands. Other songs make me feel like I’m in Saturn jumping on a pogo stick with some aliens. It’s otherworldly. “Dominique” feels like the quintessential quarantine song.
The Colombian, Brooklyn-based artist produced, wrote and recorded the album in her home. She delivers an album that is full of range. I struggle to place it within a genre. Some of her electronic songs like “el cielo no es da nadie” and “megapunk” are very clubby. I could dance these at a rave. But then, there’s an instrumental song like “pocket piano.” And it’s what I would imagine plays when I die and my soul is moving into another dimension. This album refuses to be placed within a genre, within time, and space.
Favorite tracks: “Dominique”, “Close” featuring Helado Negro, “el cielo no es de nadie”, “they told us it was hard, but they were wrong.”
17. Jhené Aiko, Chilombo
Recorded in the Big Island of Hawai’i where her great-grandmother was born, Chilombo is named after Jhené Aiko’s last name, which her father chose for himself in his 20’s, meaning “wild beast/monster”. As Jhené wrote in an instagram story on December 31st, 2020, “the coolest thing about hearing songs from Chilombo on the radio is knowing that I got crystal alchemy sound bowls… healing tones; healing frequencies riding the airwaves at urban radio. Dreams come true.”
Favorite tracks: “Lotus”, “B.S.”, “Tryna Smoke”
18. Phoebe Bridgers, Punisher
Phoebe Bridgers is a Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter, and her album latest album, Punisher was released in June, is melancholically pretty. The album can be described as dreamy, folk, indie-pop. The album explores and grapples with the isolation that Phoebe Bridgers felt while touring and the home sickness she received from it as well. Ultimately, the album is about the impact love can have in our lives.
Favorite tracks: “Kyoto”, “Garden Song”, “I Know The End”
19. Code Orange, Underneath
Extremity and rage at its finest, Underneath is an entryway to modern metal, showcasing the current sounds of nu-metal and post-hardcore while pushing boundaries within industrial groundwork. Definitely a must listen for modern metal listening, especially newcomers barely deviling into the scene.
Favorite tacks: “Swallowing the Rabbit Whole”, “Last Ones Left”, “A Sliver”, “Underneath”
20. Cazzu, Niña Inútil
Cazzu’s Niña Inútil is the definition of a concept album. Channeling her poetic side, the Argentine trap artist brought new life and a unique interpretation to the poetry of legendary poet, Alfonsina Storni. This album was a reimagining of Storni’s poems, for which each song on the album is named after. In an Instagram post, the artist explained that the real “magic” comes when you listen to a song and then read the corresponding poem. Believe me, the magic is there. The most amazing part of this album is that it was another quarantine project.
Favorite tracks: “Dulce Tortura”, “Cancion de la Mujer Astuta”
21. Pedropiedra, Alo!
When I first heard this fresh version of Pedropiedra back in May 2019, when he released the first song of the album “Amar En Silencio” as a music video, his tone reminded me a little bit of Bad Bunny’s—which I later found out he did a cover of “Amorfoda” at a live show that same year—and to be honest, it really fits him.
This time he even has his own ad-lib “Aló!” throughout the album, but even as Pedropiedra sings that he’s not as young as he used to be, he never loses his signature style: with his witty lyrics narrating odd stories and never-boring compositions. Aló! takes us on a bizarre trip thru the Chilean coastline but dancing during every second of it.
Favorite tracks: “Perdido en Viña Del Mar”, “Quinta Costa”, “Sueños Por Cumplir”
22. Rico Nasty, Nightmare Vacation
The title is the exact reflection of what 2020 felt like, such as coping with “smoking so much gas I forgot to put my mask on,” as Rico raps in her most innovative song yet, “IPHONE”. In all of the music videos for this album, she makes fashion seem way more fun by accessorizing everywhere from head to toe and proving there isn’t anything that wouldn’t look good on her in “Own It“. This long-awaited debut album finally released after two years of her greatest hit “Smack A Bitch”, which appears at the end para cerrar con broche de oro. Rico makes the perfect music to put you in the mood to scream at everyone they don’t know who they’re fucking with.
Favorite tracks: “Don’t Like Me” feat. Don Toliver and Gucci Mane, “Back & Forth” feat. Aminé, “OHFR?”, “Own It”
23. Little Dragon, New Me, Same Us
New Me, Same Us, is the sixth studio album of and harkening back to the Little Dragon we’ve come to love of the Swedish band. It highlights unusual and experimental instrumentals, heavy synth and keyboard, and Yukimi Nagano’s voice, like an anchor pulling everything together. Her lyrics both surreal and grounding.
I found myself listening to “Water” a lot. The song is a journey, starting completely differently than it began. “I wanted to get that sort of feeling of a journey of life, starting somewhere and then ending in another space,” is how Nagano described the song. “Imagine us thirty years from now, in the same chair. Staring out.” Not only do the lyrics morph as the songs develop, “Crazy how I drip like water,” but new sounds start emerging. Reminiscent of raindrops. When I think the song is about to end around the three-minute mark, the synth crescendos, then falls again. I feel like I’m floating through space. I hear an echo of Nagano’s voice somewhere far away. The music slowly fades. That’s the beauty of Little Dragon. You never know what to expect.
Favorite tracks: “Water”, “Hold On”, “Another Lover”, “Where You Belong”
24. Buscabulla, Regresa
If dreamy pop is your thing, this album is for you. This short 31 minute album transported me outside of time itself and allowed me to love the place, even if it is just the couch I bought for $20 from my upstairs neighbor.
Lock yourself inside with this on repeat and remember to forget the screeching of now for the waves of always as the metallic drums and echo-y voice anchor you to yourself.
Favorite tracks: “Mío”, “NTE”, “Ta Que Tiembla”
25. Gordie, Our New Skins
Gordi’s album uses earthly imagery throughout her album and her songs speak about actual experiences and situations that Gordi had gone through throughout the year. Weirdly enough, as I was going through a mental chaos of my own and as I was attempting to find my own identity, Gordi was going through the same issue.
She was able to express those bottled up emotions and her truths about her identity through her album. The album was one that I would turn to when I needed to unwind and let my feelings go. Her songs such as “Aeroplane Bathroom” and “Sandwiches” are ones that any common folk like me, per se, could relate to it. I would meditate and relax whenever I listened to Our Two Skins which is what I recommend to people who want to listen to Gordi’s music.
Favorite tracks: “Sandwiches”, “Aeroplane Bathroom”, “Volcanic”
26. Terrace Martin, Robert Glasper, 9th Wonder, Kamasi Washington, Dinner Party
If you want to get a hint of what Terrace Martin stands for, you should watch the music video of their song, Sleepless Nights. The video is playful, artistic, funky and mentions the political movement of Balck Lives Matter, a movement that Terrace Martin supports. This jazz, hip hop album was made by four friends: Terrace Martin, Robert Glasper, Kamasi Washington and 9th Wonder. The title of the album is self explanatory and is the perfect description of listening to this album. The songs make you want to unwind and have fun with your friends just like the artists who wrote Dinner Party did, as they met in a jazz band camp.
Favorite tracks: “Sleepless Nights”, “Freeze Tag”, “Love You Bad”
27. Lianne Le Havas, Lianne Le Havas
Lianne La Havas self-titled album is sweet, smooth, soft and makes one want to sit back and enjoy little things of the day. If you want to read a nice book and drink a nice coffee while listening to music, it is the perfect listen.
However, Lianne La Havas does not only serve as background music. Her song “Read My Mind” is rhythmic, romantic, and funky that satisfies you just by listening to it. Her soul-folk album and music is influenced by artists such as Jill Scott and Mary J. Blige
Favorite tracks: “Seven Times”, “Read My Mind”, “Paper Thin”, “Please Don’t Make Me Cry”
28. Trixie Mattel, Barbara
The Trixie Mattel we got to meet on RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 7 seemed to want to look more like a “Malibu Barbie”; before losing the season and going back to her roots as a Milwaukee doll. It all worked out in the end, by chronologically starting her music career with 50’s Country in Two Birds, early 60’s Folk in One Stone, and now in Barbara (hence the Barbie reference) we hear a more self-assured Trixie with a mix of Pop Rock from the late-60’s-female-lead and early-2000’s-all-male-band. The A-side of the album feels like it should be played at the beginning of an all-girls’ road trip through California and the B-side is when you’re returning home by slowly taking back reality through Arizona.
Favorite tracks: “Malibu”, “Jesse Jesse”, “Gold”, “Stranger”.
Honorable mention, not included in the album: “Video Games” (better than the original.)
29. Rina Sawayama, SAWAYAMA
A pop album with a variety of influences such as Y2K, R&B, nu-metal and more–SAWAYAMA is the embodiment of the 2000s era that so many wish to return to. It’s an absolutely fun album and a memorable debut to boot. Elton John even said that it was his album of the year, so that should be enough incentive to check it out.
Favorite tracks: “XS”, “STFU!”, “Akasaka Sad”, “Tokyo Love Hotel”
30. Estereoromance, Estereoromance
Estereomance is a band that I hold dear to my heart because it was the first band that I was able to interview through our magazine. Luckily enough, Estereomance is also from El Paso, just like Con Safos and they are bilingual as well. Their new album is richly colored and serves as a tribute to 70s Mexican synth-pop. This album is optimistic and talks about the personal intimate feelings one goes through in a relationship. “Seen City” is about a person who has had enough of a toxic relationship and wants to express their true emotions, however, are expressed in Spanish even though the song is mainly in English. This album is one that you can slowly jam out to in your room given that it is filled with jazzy and soft beats.
Favorite tracks: “Up”, “Seen City”, “Slow Release”
31. San Cisco, Between You and Me
This Australian trio made the sweetest unrequited love album of the year within the genres of alternative folk and psychedelic pop. Along with the wholesome music videos and lyrics, Between You & Me is for all your perplexing relationships, such as a bad friendship in “Messages”, old hometown romance in “Alone”, fading love in “On the Line” and been dumped in “Skin.” The ideal soundtrack to live in your own modern indie rom-com fantasy.
Favorite tracks: “Reasons”, “Gone”, “Between You & Me”
32. Jessie Reyez, BEFORE LOVE CAME TO KILL US
The title song is a blow to the heart. Guttural. Forsaken. Full of longing. Like the song, the album is completely and utterly heartbreaking. Full of loss in all of its dimensions, from melancholia to anger. “I should’ve fucked your friends,” is the first line of the first song, ‘DO YOU LOVE HER.” It follows by, “It would’ve been the best revenge.” Anyone who’s had their heart broken has lived in this album. The nostalgia, the incessant memories, “No escapo tu memoria.” The messiness. Someone broke Jessie Reyez’s heart and she wrote a song with every ounce of her soul.
Often, she oscillates between sentimentality and anger. Sometimes she is over it like in “DEAF (who you are),” “Fuck love is my anthem.” Other times, she is devotional and sentimental like in the acoustic song “INTRUDERS,” where she sweetly sings, “Live in my veins. You are my kingdom.” All the stages of the fallout of a breakup live in this album. Often conjuring images of war and murder, once even comparing it to World War III. Jessie Reyez sings about a toxic relationship. Specks of her Colombian identity are scattered throughout, Colombia in my blood, yeah. The album also features a Spanish song, “La Memoria.”
Favorite tracks: “BEFORE LOVE CAME TO KILL US”, “DEAF (who are you)”, “SAME SIDE”, “DO YOU LOVE HER”
33. Wargirl, Dancing Gold
Dancing Gold is the first project that I had listened to from Wargirl. When Antonio had asked me to review it, I had little to no clue on what to expect from this album. What I found was that Dancing Gold is indeed a golden dance record that is filled from beginning to end with snappy lyrics, a soulful production, infectious rhythms, a fun attitude, and plenty of catchy melodies that had me humming them hours after I first listened to them. Trust me when I say that this album will consistently surprise you and leave you wanting more from the group.
Favorite tracks: “2069”, “Drive”, “Dancing Gold”, “Don’t Bring Me Down”
34. Bombay Bicycle Club, Everything Else Has Gone Wrong
Everything Else Has Gone Wrong was released nine years after Bombay Bicycle Club’s last album, A Different Kind of Fix. Albeit it almost being a decade that they had released new music, the long-awaited album manages to sync up with their much older, previous music. This album is one that you can listen to on a long road trip as it is filled with different music. The song, “Do You Feel Loved” is sunny and brings in woodwind instruments such as flutes. However, “Good Day” makes you stop and reflect on your day to day life.
Favorite tracks: “Do You Feel Loved”, “Is It Real”, “Let You Go”
35. Grimes, Miss Anthropocene
Ambient, dark, and nihilistic, Miss Anthropocene keeps Grimes’ signature electronic pop while experimenting with darkwave. Boucher’s production truly shines with the concept of climate change and other humanly follies ravaging the world, serving as a worthy attempt as a soundtrack for the end of days .
Favorite tracks: “Violence”, “4ÆM”, “IDORU”, “We Appreciate Power”
36. The Garden, Kiss My Superbowl Ring
Once again the Shears twins live up to their self-created creed “vada vada”. Their fourth album has a variety of genres from electronic rock to drum and bass with a certain structured absurdity all throughout (and I mean that in a good way). The album also features Khalif Jones (aka LE1F) and Ariel Pink, and was produced by Dylan Brady of 100 Gecs.
Favorite tracks: “Sneaky Devil”, “Kiss My Superbowl Ring”, “Hit Eject”, “Lurkin’”
37. The Avalanches, We Will Always Love You
This album…is loooooong. Sitting with 25 songs and stretching it’s run time to 71 minutes, We Will Always Love You hardly feels as long as it really is. This is due to a number of artists who are featured on the record. From Johnny Marr, MGMT, and Rivers Cuomo, the narrative of the album is constantly keeping fresh with clips of phone calls and the hum of a turntable. This really made me feel as if I were experiencing a story the album was trying to tell me. I truly was excited and eager to hear what each subsequent track had to offer me next.
Favorite tracks: “Song for Barbara Payton”, “The Divine Chord”, “Interstellar Love”, “We Go On”
38. Ozuna, ENOC
A fun fact is that Ozuna’s fourth released album ENOC is an acronym for “El Negrito de Ojos Claros”, a nickname given to him at the beginning of his career. It makes sense that this was the chosen title for his album as it resonates with his earlier music. Listening to ENOC and dancing in my room has been one of my favorite pastimes this year.
As a Sia fanatic, I had “Del Mar” on repeat when I first listened to it. My favorite aspect of the song is that it is bilingual. Ozuna also features other artists such as Daddy Yankee, Doja Cat, J Balvin, Jhay Cortez, Myke Towers, Karol G, Zion & Lennox, and Wisin. Comparing him to other well-known reggaetoneros such as Bad Bunny and J Balvin, Ozuna is more laid back and his music is uplifting that encourages you to get up and dance and get back on that grind.
Favorite tracks: “Del Mar”, “Despeinada”, “Caramelo”
39. Alexandra Savior, The Archer
I think I may be the only person I know of who loved Alexandra Savior’s first album. It was a moody, dimly lit masterpiece that I still cannot get enough of. Album 2 really did not have to change too much of the formula in order to have the same effect on me. But here we are.
The Archer still has those amazing femme-fatale sounding songs present on her first album, but every other track or so is a beautiful piece that shows a vulnerable glimpse behind Savior’s songwriting. “Soft Currents” is so heartbreaking while being so bare-bone. Title-Track, “The Archer”, is a beautifully moving piece on how we can lose ourselves completely in the people we have chosen to love. I’m 100% ready to follow Alexandra Savior wherever a possible Album 3 decides to take us.
Favorite tracks: “Howl”, “The Phantom”, “Can’t Help Myself”, “The Archer”
40. Princess Nokia, Everything Is Beautiful and Everything Sucks
Somehow Destiny Frasqueri (Princess Nokia) had a revelation and made the perfect music for my inner dialogue during the pandemic, two months before actually experiencing it. The album Everything is Beautiful includes many relatable lyrics for this year, such as: “pay the rent/ wonder where all my money’s spent/ college debt/ I am stressed/ tell me who gonna pay this next?” in “Wash & Sets”; “Social,/ isolated/ I pray that I’ma make it,” in “Gemini”, and “Fuck these cops (3x)” in “Green Eggs and Ham”.
Released concurrently with the album Everything Sucks—which has a more aggressive, fun, and cartoonish tone—gained sudden popularity by having the provocative song “I Like Him” go viral on Tik Tok. As she reminisced on her journey, culture, spirituality, and not giving a fuck what others think, Princess Nokia reminds us to embrace our inner child and multifaceted selves.
Favorite tracks: “Heart”, “Sunday Best” feat. Onyx Collective and OSHUN, “Harley Quinn”, “Balenciaga”
41. HAIM, Women in Music Pt. III
What a title. Isn’t it what we need most in music today? Women in Music. Haim gave us a punchy joyful pop, ‘70s rock-inspired album this 2020. The sisters of HAIM manage to bring you into their music-filled world with their latest songs and give you a taste of how it feels to live in Los Angeles in the Summer. This is one of the albums that you listen to and it makes you remember being able to get glammed up to go out on a sunny day with the best of your friends.
Favorite tracks: “All That Ever Mattered Was You”, “Los Angeles”, “Hallelujah”
42. The Strokes, The New Abnormal
It was always going to be an uphill battle for the Strokes to live up to their debut album. The New Abnormal comes closest to this feat as it finally feels as if all the band members are on the same page.
Songs are presented with a strong sense of confidence that includes amazing instrumentation and Julian Casablancas’ cool-as-hell attitude on full blast. Despite a few hiccups here and there, the album begins with a true masterpiece and ends with a goosebump-inducing finale.
Favorite tracks: “The Adults Are Talking”, “At the Door”, “Why Are Sundays So Depressing”, “Ode to the Mets”
43. The Districts, You Know I’m Not Going Anywhere
My first experience with the Districts was listening to their 2017 album, Popular Manipulations, based off a recommendation from a trusted friend. The album was bursting with beautiful sunset indie garage rock that nearly brought a tear to my eye. Nevertheless, I had high expectations for You Know I’m Not Going Anywhere. The band opts to take a drastic left turn and create an album that is sorrowful, heartbreaking, and truly inspired. The album is noticeably less noisy and more ambitious in instrumental experimentation, lending it to be a stand out for this year.
Favorite tracks: “Hey Jo”, “Sidecar”, “My Only Ghost”, “Dancer”
44. Le Butcherettes, DON’T BLEED
One of the few EPs on the list, Le Butcherette‘s released this album at the cusp of a pandemic that would lead to shows being canceled and tours being delayed. This EP is different from recent releases of the band. Teri Gender Bender’s vocals traverse strange and winding roads with new soundscapes and melodies that take us into a dark and unfamiliar place. It has a funk psychedelic bathed punk sound that makes it feel like a Jerry Harrison and David Byrne remade Wizard of Oz. Just switch out Dorothy with Teri and instead of Kansas, it’s just outside El Paso in the desert.
Favorite tracks: “OUT FOR YOU”, “NOW I KNOW”, “LOVE SOMEONE”
45. Loyal Lobos, Everlasting
I remember the first time seeing Loyal Lobos; it was a warm but slowly chilling night in downtown El Paso at an outside venue. It was my second time seeing the L.A. dream-pop band, The Marias. Then suddenly a woman with dark shining black hair went up onstage very casually. She could’ve been part of the set up crew. Then with a few chords and her soft but booming voice, she stole everybody’s attention. It wasn’t a show of The Marias anymore; it was Loyal Lobos and The Marias.
This debut album is full of tenderness and slow melodies that are mesmerizing and cathartic. They explore self and how this self connects to the world. It’s a perfect soundtrack to morose New York night or a humid summer night in the countryside. The only thing missing in the album was the addition of Loyal Lobos’ cover of “Alfonsina y El Mar”, which was shared prior to as a single.
Favorite tracks: “Whatever It Is”, “Heaven Adores Us”, “Everlasting”, “Si Te Portas Mal (Be Bad)”
46. of Montreal, UR FUN
of Montreal has always stood out to me as one of the weirder bands that I listen to. I have always been able to look forward to their new releases due to the excitement of seeing how Kevin Barnes will surprise us next. On an impressive sixteenth outing, of Montreal embraces the sounds of the 80’s with beautiful synths, drum machines, and strange genre couplings that could have completely fallen apart in the hands of a lesser band. Thankfully, this album is equally strange and fun in almost every corner of the album despite a couple of questionable song choices.
Favorite tracks: “Polyaneurism”, “St. Sebastian”, “Don’t Let Me Die in America”
47. 1 800 PAIN, BEST HOUSE ON A BAD BLOCK
This album is the absolute embodiment of aggression and violence. It pumps you up the minute it starts playing. While some of its beats feel a tad repetitive, it doesn’t dull the hip-hop lyricism mixed with experimental noise, serving as a notable debut album.
Favorite tracks: “DESTROYUSALL”, “HURT”, “LEGO”, “LURK”
48. Sylvan Esso, Free Love
Free Love is the latest album from the duo, Melia Meath and Nick Sanborn that comprise the indie pop band Sylvan Esso. The tracks are filled with bouncy nostalgic melodies that cannot seem to resist you from dancing. The songs bring existential mystical lyrics that could mostly be thoughts that one has at 3 AM. The album is a look back on the precious moments of our youth as it is upbeat, whimsical and drifty.
Favorite tracks: “Ferris Wheel”, “What If”, “Rooftop Dancing”
49. King Princess, Cheap Queen (Deluxe)
Cheap Queen is King Princess’ sophomore album. It was released in February with five additional tracks than her initial album released in 2019. Mikaela Straus came up with the title “Cheap Queen” after the name of the drag term for a queen that is resourceful. Her pop indie rock and R&B album can be compared to the music of Fionna Apple, Billie Eillish, Lily Allen, Prince, and Lorde.
Favorite tracks: “Cheap Queen”, “Do You Wanna See Me Crying”
50. Ases Falsos, Tacto
The album is a reflection on the relationship of humanity with the world, particularly for these Chilean artists who are living through a revolution in the middle of a pandemic. The last time I listened to Ases Falsos was back in 2014 with Juventud Americana and Conducción—but now on Tacto, they sound groovier than ever and Cristóbal Briceño’s vocals still make you want to sing along—and miserably fail at it when you try to reach his amazing Juan Gabriel-ish high notes.
My personal favorite is “Cómo Quieres Que No Me Enoje”, featuring Cony Lewin as lead vocals (from the all-women Chilean band Supernova), which summed up my situation when it was released as a single during the summer. It portrays how fed-up one can feel when someone inconsiderately insists on closure without fully recognizing the damage they’ve done. Tacto (touch) was something we missed physically this year but taught us to find other ways to do so, as it is mentioned on “Tigre”: “aunque duerma en una jaula sigo siendo libre”.
Favorite tracks: “Eres Una Bomba”, “Cómo Quieres Que No Me Enoje”, “Noche Falsa”
51. Harkin, Harkin
Do you love badass guitar sounds and rocking out? Then you’ll love this album, which sold out on vinyl in its first run in the UK. Katie Harkin, known simply under the moniker of Harkin, is the guitarist that has traveled with Sleater-Kinney and others for beyond a hot minute.
Her debut album was shared with the world between her getting back from a tour being canceled with TORRES and ending a tour with Sleater-Kinney for their most recent album. The album is a riff filled adventure that’ll make you introspective and happy in a reflective, melancholic sort of way. This is the perfect album to play with your headphones on, volume at full blast, and staring out a rainy window.
Favorite tracks: “Mist On Glass”, “New France”
52. Deep Sea Diver, Impossible Weight
It felt like an eternity before we finally got another album by this Seattle band. But it was more than worth the weight. Jessica Dobson’s vocals hit their stride and take us on this experience that ultimately helps us release any weight we carry with us. Deep Sea Diver has always, but more so on this album, had a uniquely particular way of making us think of the sad things going on in our lives while we keep a smile on our face. Add a Sharon Van Etten feature, and you get this gem of an album that landed as the #1 on KEXP’s listener rated top albums of the year.
Favorite tracks: “Shattering the Hourglass”, “Impossible Weight”
53. Francisca Valenzuela, La Fortaleza
Fashion icon/poet, Francisca Valenzuela shared this glossy pop album that can only be described in one way: empowering. An album delayed because of a literal revolution in the artist’s home country is built on a narrative arc of an introspective and self-discovery that shows the dark side of falling in and out of love. Ultimately, this album has a voice fighting to find strength within herself while reveling in permitting oneself to feel pain but never giving up. The album booms with vocals meant to be played in opera-like venues.
Favorite tracks: “Tómame”, “Flotando”, “Ya No Se Trata De Ti”
54. El Columpio Asesino, Ataque Celeste
El Columpio Asesino have been pioneers in the alternative pop/electronic scene in Spain and Latin America ever since the early 2000’s. One of the best bass players you’ll ever see live is Daniel Ulecia, I saw him back when the Spanish band performed at the 2015 Vive Latino in Mexico City.
They’ve accomplished making timeless music with Sable Sola’s hard synth and dictating their obscure lyrics in duet by guitarist Cristina Martinez and drummer Albaro Arizaleta. The strange calm aggressiveness of Ataque Celeste feels like it should be heard during a long drive at night before getting ready for a match.
Favorite tracks: “Huir”, “Preparada”, “Siempre Estás Tú”
55. Kylie Minogue, DISCO
The magic of pop is its ability to bring us joy. It’s infectious. You can’t help but feeling good. And sometimes we need that, especially when the world seems to be falling apart during a global pandemic. DISCO by Australian pop-icon Kylie Minogue, is one of those albums that dazzle in all of its glitter and shimmer, literally. In the music video for “Say Something,” Kylie Minogue iridescently sparkles in a glittery dress, a galaxy behind her. Comets spiral around her face and body.
Despite the album’s homage to disco, a club genre, there’s something very pandemic about this album. Minogue built a home studio to make the album. Her producers listened and guided her remotely. Although the album sounds more pop than disco, the influence of the genre is present through songs like “Last Change,” a nod to “Last Dance” by Donna Summers; its lyrics “shake it on the floor now, like Studio ’54 now,” in “Dance Floor Darling,” and its instrumentals and fast-paced beats. The album begs you to dance on an improvised dance floor in your home, your room, your office. Despite the pandemic, this album will transport you to a club in the cosmos.
Favorite tracks: “I Love It”, “Miss a Thing”, “Monday Blues”, “Real Groove”
56. Club Music, Beyond New Beat
Released under Chicago Research, Beyond New Beat emulates the classic industrial sounds that dominated the late 80s/early 90s a-la Front 242 while also incorporating their own spin to the genre. A debut with Electronic Body Music (EBM) rhythms reminiscent of the Wax Trax! Era.
Favorite tracks: “Beyond New Beat”, “Battery Acid”, “Mind Trader”, “New Films”
57. Alice Bag, Sister Dynamite
A dynamite punk record by a punk legend. Alice Bag returned with a boisterous riff-filled album that sounds like another angsty teenager that picked up a guitar in their garage and just starting making music, which is the way all the best music has always been made. Sister Dynamite specifically was the Queer magnum opus that is unapologetic about its normalized Queer themes as well as its mix and consistent code switching. The album is a constant, non-stop head banger that will leave you excited, sweaty, and happy.
Favorite tracks: “Switch Hitter”, “The Sender is Blocked”, “Subele”
58. Cancamusa, Cisne Lado Negro
The airy vocals of Cancamusa place us in a pastel music box with only moonlight brimming in. But slow-paced with calm but heavy pounding drums from the Chilean drummer turn the soft melodies and sounds into more eerie and ominous motifs. The album title tells us this is the dark side of something, and even if that something is a beautiful and graceful animal, it is still its dark side. And the music that ensues shows us exactly that, a dark introspection and journey that offers release and resolve only in acceptance and breath. It’s the perfect soundtrack for a gloomy day.
Favorite tracks: “Huracán de Fuego”, “Venus”, “Amor en Ocaso”
59. Sotomayor, Orígenes
The third album of the brother-sister duo, Sotomayor, this album is another giant stride forward for the electro-cumbia Sotomayor has been touring around the globe. This is the perfect album to dance at a dark club with friends with tequila, or with a significant other or rando back at their place with expensive whiskey, or even by yourself with cheap vodka in the shower. En otras palabras, it’s perfect to dance to. It has dark curves but is a fun and energetic album that forces you to move your hips. More so, it’s a celebration of Latinidad. It’s fun and playful, but taunting and alluring. It’s the music made while you play a game of tag in Mexico City.
Favorite tracks: “Tu Cuerpo y el Mio”, “Sin Control”, “Meneate Pa’Mi”, “Latin History Month”
60. Eladio Carrion, Sauce Boyz
In all honesty, it took me a minute to get into this album. I was thrown off by the amount of featurings on the album, but it ended up being a balanced combination and showcase of the different artists’ strengths. If you’re looking into getting into Latin Trap, this is an excellent introductory album to what the genre has to offer while still honoring it’s reggaeton influences like in Actriz with Arcangel and featuring artists that deserve a lot more attention on their own accord rather than featuring artists like Jon Z, Miky Woodz, Jhay Cortez and Cazzu.
The album is perfect listening for any chill living room hangout with sad boy hits like both versions of Mi Error and Lluvia to look at my drip flex tracks like Coroné and Kemba Walker. Lyrically, it’s one of the most diverse albums with dozens of verses fit for Instagram captions of our new pandemic life.
Favorite tracks: “Hielo”, “3 Am”, “Rapido”, “Hennessy”
61. Deftones, Ohms
A culmination of the sound Deftones has continued to shape since their fruition, excelling in refining the destructive sound they’re known for while also serving as a spiritual successor to Diamond Eyes. Did you hear that new Crosses single though?
Favorite tracks: “Genesis”, “The Spell of Mathematics,” “Headless”, “Ohms”
62. Margo Price, That’s How Rumors Get Started
Margo Price might not be with Third Man Records anymore but in her third album, she shows why a rocker like Jack White or anybody who likes heavy, metallic riffs would have seen interest in her music. This is a country album by any normal standard, but Price interweaves these heavy themes in her music, interlaces her caressing vocals with contrasting scratchy instruments and creates a unique blend of music only she is capable of. Orville Peck deserves a lot of credit for his lyric writing but now we can’t help but ask, what about Margo Price? She shows lyrical prowess and dynamic range in That’s How Rumors Get Started.
Favorite tracks: “Letting Me Down”, “Heartless Mind”, “Prisoner of the Highway”
63. Panchiko, D>E>A>T>H>M>E>T>A>L
Originally released in 2000, Panchiko’s D>E>A>T>H>M>E>T>A>L EP remained undiscovered until 2016 when a copy was found in a UK thrift store and later uploaded to 4chan’s /mu/ board. The project remained shrouded in mystery with only data rot songs circulating the web until 2020 when the vocalist of Panchiko was found, leading to a remaster of the EP with additional songs. The album charms listeners with dreamy melodies reminiscent of shoegaze with distorted guitars–perfect for late night drives.
Favorite tracks: “D>E>A>T>H>M>E>T>A>L”, “Laputa”, “The Eye of Ibad”, “CUT”
64. San Holo, album1: a lot of remixes
Album1: a lot of remixes by San Holo from the record label, Bitbird, contains a rhythmic beat that is played throughout the songs. Just like all his other albums, this latest one is vibrant. Most of the remixes are from underground acts. The remix of Lift me from the ground for example, features 17 year old Jaron. Interestingly enough, Jaron was brought out by San Holo to perform his spectacular take in Coachella. There are eighteen tracks in this new album and each track takes on a new role from his original songs that come from his original Album1.
Favorite tracks: “everything matters”, “lift me from the ground”, “surface”
65. La Doña, Algo Nuevo
La Doña’s first EP, Algo Nuevo, is a blend of traditional Latinx folk music, Bay-area hip-hop, and what she calls femmeton, “it’s reggaeton but kind of recentering around a feminist perspective and a feminist experience,” she said in an NPR interview. The upcoming artist has set herself apart through her unique sound and fierce feminist lyrics. She grew up in a musical family and started touring with them at the age of 7 to play the trumpet.
Her musical background influenced the traditional Mexican and Latin American folk sounds in the album, like mariachi, salsa, and cumbia. Instruments like trumpets and the iconic reggaeton beats are prominently featured throughout the album. The upbeat rhythms that bounce through her album will have anyone dancing. But she’s not afraid to cover serious issues in the mostly Spanish album. In “Cuando Se Van,” she sings about gentrification and the tech bubble in San Francisco “Sueño con terremotos, la ciudad para nosotros. Sueño con temblores y ellos se van.” In “Algo Nuevo” she sings about her bisexual identity, and it’s how she came out to her family. “Vete Papi ya no te quiero. No quiero tus caricias ni tu dinero. Vente Mami yo quiero algo nuevo.” This album is definitely full of surprises. It’s going to have you dancing, twerking, and rapping.
Favorite tracks: “Nada Me Pertence”, “Algo Nuevo”, “Dewbow y Sexo”, “Le Lo Lai.”
66. Summer Walker, Life on Earth
This 16-minute-long EP is filled with Walker’s acoustic guitar and soothing vocals, singing about one realizing they deserve a deeper connection and devotion from their lover. The song “My Affection” with PARTYNEXTDOOR was picked for Barack Obama’s Summer 2020 Playlist.
Favorite tracks: “Let It Go”, “Deeper”
67. Dua Lipa, Future Nostalgia
Dua Lipa managed to find the perfect title for her album that described the emotion that the beginning of 2020 gave most of us. Future Nostalgia reminds us of the thrill that we had for starting a new decade, a new promising era. However, the nostalgia that is the second word in her album title was instilled in us when we looked back at the ghosts of decades past. The allusion to the famous quote passed around during the 80s “let’s get physical” thanks to Olivia Newton John’s catchy song is written in her song, Physical. The song is emblematic to not only modern dancers but to old ones as well.
If you begin the album with the song, “Levitating”, you feel as if Dua is taking you on a space ride and you’re landing back in time to her own twisted late 70s and early 80s. One of her songs, “Fever” features the Belgian artist, Angele and talks about being physically heated over a lover. Even though her songs Don’t Start Now and Don’t Break My Heart are about the struggle it is to give someone a part of your heart, they are still action-packed and manage to give an immediate confidence boost to any listener. This heart aching self-assurance can be heard in her lyrics, “I’m indecisive but this time I know for sure, I hope I’m not the only one who feels it all, are you falling?. Furthermore Don’t Break My Heart and Don’t Start now are both songs that one can dance cry at the club or in this situation, in one’s room.
Favorite tracks: “Fever”, “Levitating”, “Don’t Start Now”, “Physical”
68. Ambar Lucid, Garden of Lucid
In this triumphant debut album, Ambar Lucid shows us tenderness can be fierce, that in finite spaces can exist a multiplicity of infinities. A nine track, half-hour album seems a whisper of an album on paper but when you listen to it, it seems a whole day’s worth of listening. In soulful R&B style, this album traverses language and gives us the perfect album to listen to soak in a bubble bath with and drink wine and cry. It’s sensual, it’s sensitive, it’s strong, it’s persevering, and it’s explorative.
Favorite tracks: “Cuando”, “Fantasmas”, “Universe”
69. Kehlani, It Was Good Until It Wasn’t
In this album, Kehlani expresses the grown-ass woman she’s become in her passionate and vulnerable songs, where she acknowledges toxic traits in past relationships, sets the record straight on her private life, and sings lots of clever sexual innuendos. Mis respetos to Kehlani for removing Tory Lanez on the sexy song “Can I”, after it was known he shot in the foot at, his then-partner, rapper Megan Thee Stallion—who is also featured on the album in a 15-second conversation snippet called “Real Hot Girl Skit”. This is the type of loyalty we hopefully get to see more among artists in the music industry.
Favorite tracks: “Bad News”, “Change Your Life” feat Jhené Aiko, “Serial Lover”
70. LP, Live in Moscow
Blessedly, I had the opportunity to discover LP from a trip I took in 2019 to a concert in Monterrey, Mexico called Tecate Liveout. Listening to LP live felt ethereal. I still remember the bird whistles and the mystical nature sounds she would throw around in between her songs. Listening to her songs such as When Were High, Muddy Waters, and Lost on You with a crowd full of LP enthusiasts enticed me to get attached to LP’s music in the following months to come. I noticed she was definitely an eccentric singer as I was leaving the Monterrey airport and had one last farewell with her when I saw her on the magazine rack, on the cover of Elle, the October issue, titled Women in Music. Her album, Live in Moscow allows me to reconnect to the wondrous and hopeful time that was 2019: going to a live concert and jamming out to artists with a special friend. To give you a glimpse of her tasteful voice range, LP took opera lessons to control her voice. She says, “I always thought of my voice as very wild and as I was writing I wanted to explore higher notes in certain songs”.
Favorite tracks: “Muddy Waters”, “Recovery”, “Girls Go Wild”
71. Raw Poetic & Archie Shepp & Damu The Fudgemunk, Ocean Bridges
My biggest regret will always be the fact that I had legendary jazz musician, Archie Shepp’s The Magic of Ju-Ju in my hands, a faded but still in good condition record, a piece of music history. I was low on money, it was the end of a hot August month in a record store that felt like a metal storage place. Sweat dripping down my face, I thought I would sleep on it. The next day I decided it was worth missing lunch or dinner for a couple of days, and went back, only to see the wall missing the red skull with flowers. I have yet to see a vinyl copy of that album again and that’s even after searching in record shops across the United States.
This album is a reintroduction to classic U.S. jazz as Shepp collaborates with his nephew and hip-hop artist, Raw Poetic as well as with Damu The Fudgemunk. It’s classic, smooth-as-whiskey-remember-Dizzy-Gillespie-Charlie-Parker-John-Coltrane-jazz-days, alto saxophone with the movement and rhymes of 90’s hip-hop. This album is a slow, intellectual, conversation but one you don’t want to miss out on.
Favorite tracks: “Tulips”, “2 Hour Parking”
72. RÜFÜS DU SOL, Live from Joshua Tree
RÜFÜS DU SOL, Live from Joshua Tree is an entire production done in the national park in California. The setting is a beautiful landscape of barren red dirt and rocks. This is nothing new to the Australian artists, Jon George, Tyrone Lindqvist, and James Hunt as they have their fair share of ethereal landscapes back home.
The poles of light turn on as the trio start to play and so the mesmerizing scenery is lit up for you to see. By the setting being Joshua Tree, you’d think that you can gain access to it by being outdoors. However, it is staged in front of not people, but cameras. The scenery and production allow you to find pleasure in their music and this spectacle by watching it remotely.
Favorite tracks: “Underwater”, “New Sky”, “Eyes”
73. Girl Friday, Androgynous Mary
This Hardly Art debut release is one for the books: Girl Friday, or “Goth Wiggles” as they have referred to themselves is a band from L.A. that sounds like a beautifully nostalgic mix between Elliott Smith and the Riot Grrrl bands of the 90’s. It’s pure punk, through and through, containing a soft balance between riffs, metronome-like drums, and dreamy vocals spaced out by these momentary progressions on the guitar that make you feel so alone. This is the music that works walking downtown with a lot of people passing you by or out alone in the desert looking up at the stars.
Favorite tracks: “Earthquake”, “Clotting”, “I Hope Jason Is Happy”
74. Katatonia, City Burials
This album was a rejoice for fans of the Swedish gothic metal band. It’s no secret that the band has shifted sounds over their decades of existence as the harsh caterwauling synonymous with metal were taking an early and deep toll on band’s front man Jonas Renkse’s vocal chords. And since their huge year in 2017 that had the band sharing a reissue, a new album, and a live album, the band had taken a break for the aforementioned reasons. With City Burials, the band returned to form and compensated for fans for the wait.
Favorite tracks: “Heart Set to Divide”, “City Glaciers”, “Neon Epitaph”
75. Aly & AJ, We Don’t Stop
Just a week ago, Aly and AJ shook the Gen-Z generation when they released the explicit version of Potential Breakup Song. I have been a fan of their movie CowBelles ever since it first came out and since their appearance on the Disney Channel original movie, I know them as a relatable quirky fun duo. We Don’t Stop is a reminder that Aly and Aj have not stopped releasing music and is a reminder that their music is even more funky, poppy, vibrant than their 2000s released music.
Favorite tracks: “I Know”, “With You”, “Attack of Panic”
76. Mon Laferte, Sola Con Mis Monstruos (En Vivo, Desde el Lunario del Auditorio Nacional)
Full disclosure, as a self-described Mon Laferte fangirl, this live album meant a lot. I was set to see Mon Laferte live for the first time in Ciudad Juárez in April and as March came to a close it was very evident I would not be able to see her. But, the pin-up tattoo I got of Mon for my birthday at the beginning of March is forever and shows will be back…someday…right? Either way, this album is a fun and intimate show with the Chilean superstar that can’t seem to go a year without at least winning a Latin Grammy. As fans painfully await her next album, a series of singles help and this live album filled with covers of Edith Piaf are a wonderful reminder of what live music feels like.
Favorite tracks: “Por Que Me Fui a Enamorar De Ti”, “Chilango Blues”, “Paisaje Japones”, “Tu Falta de Querer”, “La Vie En Rose”
77. Omar Rodriguez-Lopez, The Clouds Hill Tapes Pt. I, II, and III
The older generation had Frank Zappa. And this generation has Omar Rodriguez-Lopez, one of the most prolific artists around today. You could spend a lifetime listening to his music and it seems you’ll never have the metaphorical well dry out. And that’s not even including his At The Drive-In/The Mars Volta/Bosnian Rainbows work. THis year, Cloudshill released the tapes that began their run recording in Germany with the El Paso, TX grown Boricua releasing three separate tapes all of vastly different genres and each with a complete and solid sound. At this point, every release is like getting a different novel from a distinct writer.
Favorite tracks: “Arcos del Amor”, “Winter’s Gone”, “It All Begins With You”
78. Khruangbin, Mordecai
Mordecai is the third album from the trio, Khruangbin, which comprises of guitarist Mark Speer, bassist aura Lee Ochoa and drummer, Donald Johnson. Although they are Houston based, they’re music is geared towards those listeners who want to listen to tracks that sound like East Asian surf rock, psychedelia, and Thai music. After their touring of three full years, Kruanghbin released Mordecai which is surprisingly elaborate, and stylistically distinct, as it contains more vocals and new beats that give homage to the American soul-funk from the 60s and 70s. Mordecai is energetic and grounded, giving you a diverse musical pallet from different cultures such as Latin America while also allowing the listener to hear glimpses of the Houston roots from the trio.
Favorite tracks: “First Class”, “Time (You and I)”
79. Machine Girl, U-Void Synthesizer
Apocalypse incarnate. Electronic hardcore madness that will make you dance and headbang endlessly even if you’re fatigued from going so hard. You know that scene in Devilman Crybaby where Akira and Ryo first go to the club to hunt for demons? Yeah, you know this album is playing there.
Favorite tracks: “The Fortress (The Blood Inside)”, “On Coming”, “Scroll of Sorrow”, “Suck Shit”
80. Jazmin Bean, Worldwide Torture
Originally released as a 5 song EP, Worldwide Torture features a total of 11 tracks and re-released under Interscope Records. It presents itself as a twisted kind of cute with brutal lyrics and nu-metal elements mixed with pop sounds. It serves as a solid debut and leaves more to be desired.
Favorite tracks: “Worldwide Torture”, “Saccharine”, “Princess Castle”, “Hello Kitty”
81. Triángulo de Amor Bizarro, oɹɹɐzıq ɹoɯɐ ǝp olnƃuɐıɹʇ
The algorithms consistently suggested me Triángulo de Amor Bizarro (TAB) for years, but finally decided to listen to them with this new album. I thought they were going to be a pop band but turns out they are shoe gaze/punk band named after a New Order’s song. As many musicians from Spain modernized themselves this year, ꓭⱯꓕ is a renewed “pop” version of TAB, as they mentioned in an interview with Mondo Sonoro, since they usually have a lot more of cynicism in their songs. For me, it was nice listening to an album with various genres and switching vocals between female and male lead. They start with a lot of energy with punk on “Ruptura”, moving to The Cure samples on “Vigilantes Del Espejo”, to a lot of synth waves on “Fukushima”, and transition to pop with “Asmr para Ti”, and so on.
Favorite tracks: “No Eres Tú”, “Canción de la Fama”, “Acosadores” feat. Ariadna Punsetes, “Folía de las Apariciones”
82. Mija, Desert Trash
Mija’s debut full-length album is a journey through her mind, and the Queen of “Fck Genre” stays true to her musical fluidity. The music has electronic roots but never stays in the same genre for long. Loaded with dark twists and nuances, the album goes perfect with a cigarette and some low-lit dancing.
Favorite tracks: “Desert Trash”, “So Close”, “Most Beautiful Song in the World”
83. Mala Rodriguez, MALA
As Mala Rodriguez sings on “Antes de Todo Aquello”: “No quiero ná’ de lo mismo, quiero má’ de otra cosa/ algo que no haya probado(…)” is exactly what you can expect from her on MALA. For her twerk anthem “Dame Bien”, she was smart to collaborate with the queen of bounce Big Freedia along with Guaynaa, the singer of 2019’s summer hit “Rebota”—a bilingual coincidence (bounce).
The album takes a sudden turn on “Mami”, with a title like that you would expect a reggaetón song but is a heartfelt ballad dedicated to a hard-working mother, being one herself. After seven years of not releasing a new album, Mala Rodriguez is back singing trap and reggaetón but accompanied with her signature canto flamenco and fiery lyrics.
Favorite tracks: “Superbalada”, “Mami”, “Dame Bien” feat Big Freedia and Guaynaa
84. Junglepussy, Jp4
Shayna McHayle’s (Junglepussy) raps helped me in the past to remind myself to never devalue myself for men’s approval, and this album is no exception. Opening with “Bad News”, it sounds like a slowed version of Bowser’s Road sinister music from Super Mario 64, welcoming listeners into her dark thoughts. My favorite lyrics on this album were: “Why I gotta smile so you comfy?” on “Morning Rock”; “I’m my own snack, Why you brought me to the store?” on “Telepathy”, and “I may be goofy may be sexy but I’m not a joke” on “Arugula”. Need inspiration to set your boundaries and call shit out? Listen to more Junglepussy.
Favorite tracks: “Main Attraction”, “Spiders”, “What You Want”, “Stamina” feat. Gangsta Boo
85. Mula, Mundos
I was immediately captivated with the futuristic Caribbean sound of Mula when a friend recommended “No Hay Manera” in one of my instastories, asking for a song that helps you escape reality. From la Republica Dominicana, Mula consists of producer, designer/ animator Rachel Rojas along with the Acevedo twins as composers/singers, with Anabel “converting sonorous universes into words” and percussionist Cristabel “giving a twist to the lyrics while generating alternative voices & melodies”. The title Mundos says it all, it feels like listening to diverse passionate stories from a different planet in each song, while mixing the genres of electronic music with reggaetón, early 2000s Latin pop, dubstep, reggae and many more—is hard to define them in just one category. This is the type of music I wish to dance to at local clubs/bars hopefully in the near future.
Favorite tracks: “En el Aire”, “Fugitiva”, “Esta Noche”, “Y Ahora”
86. The Airborne Toxic Event, Hollywood Park
Much like Cazzu’s spot higher up in the list, TATE’s latest album also has a literary accompaniment. The album shares the title with band frontman Mikel Jollett’s memoir Hollywood Park and both follow the narrative arc of his running away from home. Like all other TATE albums, the music comes together by the boom and calming and swaying and exploding of Mikel’s voice. Of course, the book tour and band tour were postponed but TATE fans also had the exciting news of having the band’s discography pressed on vinyl again this year. Send me an email if you got any extra copies and are feeling generous?
Favorite tracks: “Carry Me”, “Everything I Love Is Broken”
87. Fantastic Negrito, Have You Lost Your Mind Yet?
Not yet. Just kidding. If you are in need of an explosion of positivity and hope filled with soul, hip-hop, R&B, rock, and funk, make this album part of your morning playlist. Born in Massachusetts but found himself in Oakland, Fantastic Negrito “is the story of a man who struggled to ‘make it’, who ‘got it’, who lost it all, and somehow managed to find his way back”, according to his bio in his official website. After focusing on making music regarding the struggles and division in society, Have You Lost Your Mind Yet? Goes into an individual level, by supporting those surrounding you and understanding the mistakes on how we relate to others. As he mentioned on an interview with Glide Magazine, “We can’t hide from the pain. We need to look right at it. We need to really look into someone’s eyes is to feel their power and their vulnerability, to feel humanity, and to feel love.”
Favorite tracks: “Chocolate Samurai”, “I’m so Happy I Cry” feat. Tank and The Bangas and Tarriona ‘Tank’ Ball, “All up in My Space”
88. CocoVera, All’s Well That Ends Well
Janelle Obert and Alejandra Robles front this band. The sophomore album features guitar work that is spectacular and it isn’t just the psychedelic riffs that will have you mellowed out and tripping, but the music videos will transport you into another space altogether. The album is a testament to musicianship all around. CocoVera also put out an equally trippy Christmas EP and if that isn’t enough for you, their IG is was filled with photoshopped photos of Janelle and Alejandra’s faces over Christmas episodes of The Office. Also they have cute cat photos aplenty.
Favorite tracks: “These Walls”, “Feel Better”, “Sky Blue”
89. Voyou, Des confettis en désordre
I discovered Voyou as I was on a bus on a trip to France with my family: my sister shared her earphones with me as she played On S’emmene Avec Toi. Listening to him felt as if my sister and I were disguising ourselves as any other french teen from our Mexican family.
My anecdote might seem as if I was trying to live the main character-in-a-French-movie life but it was Voyou who welcomed me first into his world. Like On S’emmène Avec Toi, Des Confettis en Désordre is optimistic, vibrant, and upbeat. This album makes you want to walk around the streets of any city in France, ready to meet new people and live life to the fullest by traveling, making new friends, and exploring new cultures.
Favorite tracks: “Carnaval”, “La cour d’école”, “Jardin d’hiver”
90. SCANDAL, Kiss in the darkness
The Japanese pop-punk rock band started their 14th year together with their 9th studio album. This album showed the eclectic range in their entire discography in this single album. Pop-centric songs like “Tonight” make up a bulk of the album that feature glossy bubble electronic sounds but are separated by drum and riff heavy tracks like “Masterpiece”, “Fuzzy”, “A.M.D.K.J”.
Favorite tracks: “Saishuheiki Kimi”, “A.M.D.K.J”.
91. Afrobeta, Illusion Hotel
This album carried a lot of different tempos and beats and sounds. And for that, it encapsulated so much of the chaos of the year. The album is a Miami nightclub dream soundtrack. While we may have been kept away from antros e ir de fiestas, this album was a nice supplement. This is perfect for playing poolside, at the beach, or if you just want to have some fun and feel the heat on your face, even in the middle of winter.
Favorite tracks: “Chancletazo”, “The Mango Song”, “Rio Miami”
92. Neon Trees, I Can Feel You Forgetting Me
Was 2020 awful? Yeah. Was the first Neon Trees album in six years a great consolatory perk? ABSOLUTELY. After his conquering of Broadway, Tyler Glenn returned to the band and thus gave the world a new fun filled, albeit somewhat dark, album filled with 80’s synth-pop motifs.
Another reason why this album is so important: Neon Trees became more than just “that band with two really catchy songs” for me in 2016 at Street Fest in downtown El Paso, TX. While I had been dragged through the crowd, of mostly older people with greying ponytails and goatees, by a friend who wanted to see the Goo Goo Dolls and Seether, it was the Neon Trees show that caused the most emotion. People exploded with smiles and laughter at the music but it was also maybe a week from when the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando happened. It was Tyler Glenn’s emotional appeal that stole the show, for everybody to just be happy and love who you love.
During the pandemic, closeted LGBTQIA+ found it more difficult to not just come out but to be themselves in a safe space. I’m not saying Neon Trees is a Queer beacon, but music that celebrates being yourself through romantic turmoil or otherwise just helped a lot. At least it did for this now out Neon Trees fan.
Favorite tracks: “Holy Ghost”, “Everything is Killing Me”, “New Best Friend”
93. City Girls, City On Lock
I hope one day to reach the level of unapologetic confidence of Yung Miami and JT, who have reached success just by being themselves and knowing their worth. On this sophomore album, the Miami-Dade County trap duo are back to show how their hard work has paid off, overcoming the odds, and letting everyone know to get on their level. With lyrics like “I ain’t Bonnie, fuck Clyde”, “Callin’ me your sis when you know it’s not that”, “I ain’t a stranger to the struggle”, and more, will inspire to twerk your way to be a more independent version of yourself.
Favorite tracks: “Enough/Better”, “Jobs”, “Pussy Talk” featuring Doja Cat
94. Acid Wave Band, Love Trauma
I first heard about Acid Wave from a friend during high school, as all three band members of Acid Wave went to the same high school as me when I saw they released an album I immediately knew I had to give them a listen and what I discovered was incredible. Acid Waves first ever album Love Trauma is a combination of Indie Rock and Bedroom Pop, the album is filled with complex drum rhythms, catchy guitar lines, and mesmerizing vocals. When I first listened to the album from the first song “Kids” of nothing but calm guitar it sets a tone of tranquility that makes you want to lay in bed and remember the better days and due to COVID-19 pandemic we are all stuck inside, but this album has given me a better reason to stay in my room and jam out by myself.
Favorite tracks: “Somewhere Else” “Cottage Dream Pt.2” “Love Trauma”
95. Anuel AA, Emmanuel
Anuel returned with his sophomore album and the Puerto Rican star solidified his status not just by notching a top hit that was playing at least twice an hour on every SPanish radio station with “Futbol & Rumba” featuring Enrique Iglesias, but he spread out across multiple audiences and genres with features of Travis Barker, Lil Wayne, Kendo Kaponi, and more. Add in two tracks featuring Bad Bunny who is at the top pf this list three times and you have a solid album. Ultimately what this album did was show his range all while staying true to his roots.
Favorite tracks: “Hasta Que Dios Diga”, “Ferrari”, “Secreto”, “Futbol & Rumba”
96. Rita Indiana, Mandiga Times
After 9 years of her departure from Los Misterios with their widely known album El Judiciero, Rita Indiana is back with the help of Eduardo Cabra (Visitante of Calle 13) to bring a soundtrack for the apocalypse with merengue, punk-rock, metal, reggaetón and more. The Dominican storyteller grabbed inspiration from various literary works and each song narrates a distinct tale of resistance, such as about creativity, her youth, the LGBTQ+ community, Puerto Rico, México, and more. You can watch Rita perform some of the songs on the YouTube video “After School”, live at El Goyco, one of the many public schools closed by the Puerto Rico’s government due to lack of funding.
Favorite tracks: “El Flaco de la Mancha”, “El Zahir” feat. Sakari Jäntii, “Claroscuro”
97. Choir Boy, Gathering Swans
A fantastic sophomore album oozing with haunting sensibility. Following up from Passive With Desire, Gathering Swans is loaded with synth-wave goodness while incorporating elements of gothic atmospheric gloominess.
Favorite tracks: “Complainer”, “Nites Like This”, “Shatter”, “Happy To Be Bad”
98. Circa Waves, Sad Happy
For the second time in a row, Circa Waves made it onto C/S’ top 100 albums of the year. It was impressive the short turnaround for this album to come out after their previous album. But the whole year through, it was than just the title that made this album so consoling and comforting. In Sad Happy, we get some sad topics in the lyrics but the music just fights to cheer you up.
Favorite tracks: “Wasted On You”, “The Things We Knew Last Night”, “Jacqueline”, “Move to San Francisco”
99. Lucia Tacchetti, ELETÉ
Lucia Taccetti is an underground Argentinian artist who I expect will make it as a well known latin pop artist one day. Her new album ELETÉ connects with anyone who feels trapped in this online frenzy and wants to unplug themselves from their own belongings and from other people as well. Her songs Laberinto, Apagón, and Todo Esta Donde Lo Deje seem to come from a different dimension and make one feel as if they are levitating. ELETÉ is an album that I have not been able to stop listening to, it is creatively written and it contains lots of rhythm that has led me to let loose and start freestyle dancing in the middle of her songs.
Favorite tracks: “Laberinto”, “Apagón”, “Honestidad”, “1k Agujas”
100. Chicano Batman, Invisible People
Chicano batman released their 4th studio album on May 1st, 2020 titled Invisible People. This album is a mixture of indie, alternative, and at times funk with presences of groovy bass lines. I loved the combination of multiple genres and throughout the whole album; it is clear that this was music was made with patience and precision. This is an album for those who want to expand their music taste every song on here feels different from the last but are all still as amazing and such a joy to listen to.
Favorite tracks: “Polymetronomic Harmony”, “Moment of joy”, “Invisible People”
About the authors (in order of appearance):
Laura Andrea Vazquez-Lopez (she/her) –
is a cuir, boricua writer and poet from Carolina, Puerto Rico. She’s currently pursuing her MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Texas at El Paso. You can follow her day to day on Instagram and Twitter: @lauranlora.
Maria Esquinca (she/her) –
Maria is a poet, writer, and freelance journalist. She studied journalism at UTEP and recently received her MFA from the University of Miami. She was recently a Report for America Fellow at Radio Bilingüe and has also reported for WLRN, News 21, The New York Times Student Journalism Institute, and the Dow Jones News Fund. In the summer of 2016, she was part of a crowdsourced Chucopedia investigative project. She reported on racial profiling by the El Paso Police Department and efforts to increase the minimum wage for contracted workers. She’s currently a typical millennial and taking time off to figure out her next move in life, while also handling an identity crisis. She enjoys binge-watching Netflix shows until five in the morning and self-deprecating humor.
⋆ Instagram: @corazon_d_poeta
⋆ Twitter: @m_esquinca
Caleb Ortiz (he/him) –
Born and raised in El Paso, Texas, Caleb Ortiz primarily focuses on writing music reviews for Con Safos Magazine while attending the University of Texas at El Paso. His passion for music comes from his early exposure to artists from the 60’s and 70’s. During his free time, he can be found playing games on his Nintendo Switch, crushing Antonio at iPhone games, or listening to the Strokes. At the moment he is pursuing a degree in Education as an Early Childhood through 6th Grade Generalist while wishing he were a character in a Wes Anderson film.
⋆ Instagram: @calebgethappy
⋆ Twitter: @calebgethappier
Antonio Villaseñor-Baca (he/they) –
Xicanx bilingual journalist, photographer, poet and writer from El Paso, Texas. He spends his time listening to music and working towards his MFA in creative writing at the University of Texas at El Paso, where he also teaches Rhetoric and Writing Studies courses. Antonio also serves as an online editor for Minero Magazine and has written for YR Media, 18-to-29 Now, Borderzine, and El Paso Inc. He focuses on border identity and how misconceptions and stereotypical narratives affect borderlanders along the United States-Mexico border.
⋆ Instagram: @elbilingüey
⋆ Twitter: @thebilinguey
Paulette Villa (ella/esa) –
Paulette has written for Borderzine and The Prospector at the University of Texas at El Paso—where she graduated with B.A. in Multimedia Journalism and a minor in Studio-Art Graphic Design in 2018. On her free time, she enjoys playing retro video games, listening to podcasts on mindfulness, and discussing social issues online. Paulette currently works on helping students at the Advertising Graphics and Design Department in El Paso Community College.
⋆ Instagram @_play.the.game
Andrea Sandoval (she/they) –
A graduate of the University of Texas at El Paso with a double bachelor’s in Creative Writing and Multimedia Journalism. She has published articles and photos in What’s Up Weekly and Borderzine. She’s currently working at the Headstand, a local novelty shop in El Paso, and makes mixes, which she publishes on MixCloud under DJ Astra. She enjoys playing video games, reading manga and novels, and working on cosplay in her free time.
⋆ Instagram: @_brutalities
⋆ Twitter: @brutalities
Marifer Venegas (she/her) –
Currently studying Marketing at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP), “Marifer” is also a member of theAmerican Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA). She enjoys staying up to date with novelties occurring in her city of El Paso and likes listening to Maluma and Taylor Swift.
Albert Silva Fernandez (he/him) –
Mexican-American bilingual student/journalist from El Paso, TX, currently studying Multimedia Journalism at UTEP. Albert is also a contributor at The Prospector and on his free time enjoys listening to music and playing video games.
⋆ Instagram: @The.w3asel
⋆ Twitter: @Bignoseboii