2020 was a year that was ultimately unpredictable in every way possible. With the COVID-19 pandemic turning the world into a global lockdown in March, the status of the music industry was unknown. With touring immediately affected indefinitely, and album release cycles having to be reinterpreted, everyone had to start thinking outside of the box on how to move forward.
A lot of artists retrieved to the studio and took this downtime to experiment with where they wanted to head creatively, and some magic really come into fruition. And what really shone through brighter than anything else this year through music was how highly regarded honesty was.
Feelings were felt, and experimentation was made, so here are the Top 15 Albums of 2020 as curated by ThomasBleach.com
15. Mothica – Blue Hour
Honesty is the key foundational elements that Mothica’s debut album ‘Blue Hour’ resides on. Soaked in brooding synths and smooth melodies, this body of work is a raw embodiment of sobriety, mental health, heartbreak and self-discovery.
Sonically found somewhere in-between VERITE and Taylor Swift, this album will captivate you on the very first listen, and will have you feeling understood and not alone with whatever you may be going through.
Must Listen Tracks: ‘Everything At Once’, ‘VICES’, ‘Hungover’
14. DMA’S – The Glow
For their third studio album DMA’s journeyed into uncharted territory with their most pop-leaning release yet. ‘The Glow’ is an unapologetic representation of who they are as artists and the sonical evolution that they genuinely want to have. Highlighting a diversity in their sound, this record proved why they are the Australian music festival favourite. It’s bold, exciting and genuinely impressive.
Must Listen Tracks: ‘Criminals’, ‘Life Is A Game Of Changing’, ‘The Glow’
13. Kylie Minogue – DISCO
After her confusing country music era, Kylie Minogue has returned to disco-pop music and proved why she is a queen in her own right. DISCO’ is a cohesively sparkly and playful collection of tracks which also acts as her strongest body of work since ‘Aphrodite’ in 2010.
From the well executed concept, to the immaculately produced tracks, and the infectiously written hooks, she transports you back into the 80’s while looking through a fresh new perspective.
Must Listen Tracks: ‘Dance Floor Darling’, ‘Magic’, ‘Where Does The DJ Go?’
12. Halsey – Manic
Halsey’s third studio album ‘Manic’ is her most cohesive and strongest records to date. The sixteen track album is an immersive body of work that allows you into the most honest, and reflective parts of her mind. Going through her battles with bipolar, heartbreak, trauma and self realisations, ‘Manic’ hears her coming out on the other side feeling empowered and confident with who she is as a person which also translates into her confidence within her artistry.
Must Listen Tracks: ‘You Should Be Sad’, ‘3am’, ‘Still Learning’
11. Tayla Parx – Coping Mechanisms
Tayla Parx is an artist who has been excitingly growing her name behind the scenes as a songwriter on some of the biggest songs by the likes of Ariana Grande, Little Mix, Troye Sivan, Megan Thee Stallion, Panic! At The Disco, Christina Aguilera, Janelle Monae, and Guy Sebastian to just name a few. But in 2020 she steered towards the release of her impressive sophomore studio album ‘Coping Mechanisms’ which was an honest, vulnerable and empowering body of work.
The break-up record is all you need to feed your soul as it explores the different stages of a break-up and the multiple different emotions that you may experience. Truly therapeutic.
Must Listen Tracks: ‘Sad’, ‘System’, ‘Dance Alone’
10. Ellie Goulding – Brightest Blue
Following the bold pop experimentation of ‘Delirium’ in 2015, Ellie Goulding stripped it all back to her vulnerable foundations for her highly anticipated fourth studio album, ‘Brightest Blue’. The cohesive collection of tracks is a return to the intimate storytelling that captured the world’s attention on her sophomore album ‘Halcyon’. Every song feels like a raw telling from a page ripped out of her diary as she tackles love, heartbreak, self acceptance, and the struggles of the music industry.
Must Listen Tracks: ‘Brightest Blue’, ‘How Deep Is Too Deep’, ‘Love I’m Given’
9. The Chicks – Gaslighter
Detailing the different intimate stages of a divorce, The Chicks’ eighth studio album ‘Gaslighter’ is a cathartic release of emotions that hears Natalie Maines telling it exactly how it is. Opening with the fiery lead single and title track ‘Gaslighter’, they lay down the storyline of the ultimate betrayal in a marriage; cheating. With the lyric “cause, boy, you know exactly what you did on my boat” thrown into the second verse, this almost throwaway line ends up becoming a centrepiece for the rest of the album as they explore what actually happened on that boat during her marriage.
It had been 14 years since the iconic country music trio had released an album, so there was a lot of speculation around how this body of work would sound and feel. Teaming up with Jack Antonoff, who has most famously recently worked with Lorde, Taylor Swift, Lana Del Rey and Carly Rae Jepsen, they took their classic sound and brought it into a whole new light.
Must Listen Tracks: ‘Sleep At Night’, ‘Tights On My Boat’, ‘Set Me Free’
8. Cub Sport – Like Nirvana
Created to be an outer-body listening experience, ‘LIKE NIRVANA’ is a cohesive collection of tracks that takes you on an empowering journey of self reflection. It’s a record that embraces love and hope, but not just romantically, but also in the personal love that we should learn to have for ourselves.
This is Cub Sport’s most personal body of work yet, and it will have you entranced throughout the whole duration. Prepare to immerse yourself in a world of self-reflection
Must Listen Tracks: ‘Confessions’, ‘Be Your Man’, ‘Best Friend’
7. Chelsea Cutler – How To Be Human
Finding a freedom within embracing her vulnerability, Chelsea Cutler opened her heart to the world with the release of her ultimately personal debut album ‘How To Be Human’. The raw collection of songs heard her processing a break-up, the ups and downs of life, the struggles of love, crossing into adulthood, and the metaphorical picking up of the pieces along the way.
Originally written as an emotional release for herself, the album has gone on to soundtrack those personal revelations for her growing legion of fans, including this writer who struggled to listen to sad music during their own break-up but found solace through the honesty of Cutler’s words.
Must Listen Tracks: ‘What Would It Take’, ‘I Was In Heaven’, ‘I Miss You’
6. Chloe x Halle – Ungodly Hour
Chloe x Halle honestly served one of the most impressive RNB records of the year with ‘Ungodly Hour’. This album was an addictive listen filled with ear-worm hooks, smooth transitions, and honest truths. The cohesive listen takes you on a ethereal journey from start to finish, and will have you wanting to listening again immediately.
Must Listen Tracks: ‘Ungodly Hour’. ‘Wonder What She Thinks Of Me’, ‘Lonely’
5. Lady Gaga – Chromatica
Lady Gaga reclaimed the dance floor with her immaculately produced return to pop-dance music. But at it’s core ‘Chromatica’ is so much more than just an album full of big pop hooks, as she writes from her heart about her struggle with mental health and her search for a positive change, which is something that the world truly needs right now.
This record is intended to be listened to from start to finish and I don’t think you will want to do it any other way after the first listen. Broken into three distinct sections, this sixteen track album is actually quite short in length as it runs for only 43 minutes. With each song sitting comfortably around the 3 minute mark or under, she packs in big drops, huge hooks and smooth melodies to give you something that feels equally futuristic and nostalgic.
Must Listen Tracks: ‘911’, ‘Alice’, ‘Babylon’
4. Taylor Swift – Folklore
Without the confusion of pop gimmicks, ‘folklore’ relies solely on her vulnerable songwriting and incredible musicianship. Produced by Aaron Dessner from The National and regular collaborator Jack Antonoff, they help transport listeners into Taylor Swift’s mind as her storytelling runs rampant with these vivid anecdotes that stem from real life and imagination.
There is a common theme of heartbreak that runs in the veins of this record and the hauntingly beautiful production that accompanies it sounds like it’s taken straight from the soundtrack of an accompanying film. With strong piano, guitar and folk-pop elements intertwining with orchestral arrangements, this moody collection of songs will immediately captivate you. Breathing in a new found maturity, these tracks stand on their own as incredible works of art without needing to use her name to sell them to people.
Must Listen Tracks: ‘exile’, ‘the 1’, ‘this is me trying’
3. Sasha Sloan – Only Child
After introducing herself to listeners as the self-proclaimed sad girl in 2017, Sasha Sloan released a trio of EP’s that explored heartbreak and mental health through a hilariously opened wit and candidly poignant anecdotes. But when looking back at those releases she realised that she relied too heavily on humour as her safety blanket, and that sometimes there was no joke that could be made to make something less vulnerable.
Heading into the release of her debut album ‘Only Child, she was actively aware of this safety net she had created, and challenged herself to write away from that comfortable structure. The result is her most honest, vulnerable, heartbreaking and authentic material yet. Each song takes you into the frantic mind of the Californian singer-songwriter who overthinks everything, and sometimes forgets to believe in herself. But this album also captures an impressive maturity that hears her singing about love and hope for the first time, and finds pride in who she is and how far she’s come.
Must Listen Tracks: ‘House With No Mirrors’, ‘Hypochondriac’, ‘Until It Happens To You’
2. Dua Lipa – Future Nostalgia
‘Future Nostalgia’ is brief in duration with only eleven songs, but creates a huge impact with it’s fine precision of production and lyrical exploration. In contrast it’s everything that her debut album should’ve been, but instead it was self indulgently long and lacked cohesiveness. She’s learnt from that mistake and has instead delivered something that people are going to be talking about for a very long time.
Adapting her sound into this nostalgic synth layered world, she brings back the aesthetic of some of Madonna and Kylie Minogue’s best body of works, and creates a banger after banger affect.
Must Listen Tracks: ‘Levitating’, ‘Hallucinate’, ‘Cool’
1. Rina Sawayama – SAWAYAMA
Finding the right balance between experimentation and vulnerability, Rina Sawayama’s poignantly titled debut album ‘SAWAYAMA’ is the perfect embodiment of a personal journey.
The thirteen track collection fused together a unique sonical backdrop of nostalgic 2000’s pop (think early Britney Spears) meets heavy metal influenced drums and guitars. It’s something that you wouldn’t expect to work so flawlessly, but this record proved us all wrong as she impressively captivates with the genre-bending tracks ‘STFU’, ‘XS’ and ‘Who’s Gonna Save You Now’. In-between all of the sonical experimentation there is also vivid storytelling that will capture your heart particularly in ‘Bad Friend’, ‘Chosen Family’ and ‘Snakeskin’.
It’s a special record, that immediately feels that way upon the very first listen
Must Listen Tracks: ‘XS’, ‘Bad Friend’, ‘Chosen Family’