Double Feature: 2020’s Pairings
Written by Sam Bowden
In 2020, music was there for us in our pre-pandemic bliss, during our most isolated times, and at our most anxious and frustrated moments. As an avid music listener, I have sought refuge in music throughout the year to live vicariously and seek a bygone sense of normalcy. In this special edition of Double Feature, I sorted some of my favorite albums from the year into distinct pairs for your listening leisure. Listen to one, two, even all of them, to catch up on some of the best music from this year. I would suggest visiting whichever of these categories resonates with you the most! There are some obvious omissions, these albums simply stood out as refreshing and worthwhile.
Listen to these albums…
If you need a meditative space, or want to pretend like you know what meditation is:
Haux – Violence in a Quiet Mind
In an Instagram post, Woodson Black thanked Pitchfork for “articulating so beautifully what this album is about… so well [he] had to break out the dictionary a few times.” This gracious post made me laugh and realize why I enjoyed the album so much: Black’s authenticity and simplicity in songwriting provokes without being pretentious. “Hold On” and “Heavy” are personal highlights from an album tailored for anxious, introverted souls.
Waxahatchee – Saint Cloud
“I’m wiser and slow and attuned” Katie Crutchfield sings on one of the best songs of the year, “Fire.” Overcoming addiction, battling codependency, and examining one’s self all come to center in these songs about healing. Indie rock with a bit of southern twang, Saint Cloud has a little bit for everyone and a whole lot of wisdom.
If the sitting president refuses to concede the election and you want to go off the grid:
Adrianne Lenker – songs / instrumentals
Lenker’s latest sounds like the forest, which is where it was recorded. Humbly titled, it transports the listener into a grand world fraught with bittersweet memories. As always, her signatures are her frail but confident vocals and magical fingerpicked guitar.
Fleet Foxes – Shore
Instead of taking us to the wilderness once again, Fleet Foxes take us to the coast with their new sound. There, we can wade in waist high water, revel in the sunlight, and abandon our worldly stressors and anxieties.
If you long for a messy pregame where you are stumbling before you even get into the Uber:
Charli XCX – how i’m feeling now
Seconds into the album, Charli states plainly what we’re all longing for: “I just wanna go real hard” (“pink diamond”). Written and released entirely in early quarantine, Charli XCX’s latest project summarized our collective feelings about the pandemic: missing affection, our friends, long nights, all over glitchy electropop beats.
Chloe x Halle – Ungodly Hour
“I beat my face / Moving fast ‘cause the Uber on the way” Chloe and Halle Berry sing on album highlight “Do It.” The album reaffirms the duo’s talent and it’s a travesty that we weren’t able to play songs like “Tipsy” before going out to our favorite bar with the girls.
If you miss the peculiar camaraderie of the line to the bathroom at the Root Cellar Lounge:
Yaeji – WHAT WE DREW 우리가 그려왔던
In Yaeji’s addictive house music, she raps in both English and Korean and invites a wide array of lesser-known collaborators to contribute. Much of the album is about fostering community amongst marginalized groups. “SPELL 주문” highlights her diverse palette, featuring Brooklyn-based G.L.A.M. and Tokyo-based YonYon who together rap in three different languages– and it slaps.
Róisín Murphy – Róisín Machine
Róisín Murphy’s sultry voice sounds like she’s the new omniscient narrator to your life. The Irish disco queen has been around for years, but as she sings on the opening track “Something” and later bop “Murphy’s Law,” she feels “[her] story is still untold.” These tracks pulse with kinetic energy and transport you back into the lusty, cathartic setting of the pre-pandemic club.
If, in all senses except physical, you are “baby”:
Samia – The Baby
Never would I have expected that my favorite debut album of the year would come from the daughter of a Hocus Pocus witch and a Hangover actor, but it did. Within the first song of The Baby, Samia delivers stingers like “I’m afraid that I need men” and “Are my legs gonna last / Is it too much to ask?” It’s a revelatory album for people navigating the anxieties of aging, self-confidence, and youthful relationships.
Soccer Mommy – color theory
Indie rock favorite Soccer Mommy provides once again on her second album color theory, a synesthetic journey through nostalgic memories and personal struggles. It’s a gorgeously heartfelt listen that for me, only provokes an infantile response: I’m baby.
If you are constantly disappointed by the world and need the sweet release of scream singing:
Flo Milli – Ho, why is you here?
In Flo Milli’s world, everyone is an “opp,” your boyfriend is in her DM, and even if she was on crutches she would still walk around “Like That B****.” Her unbridled confidence is infectious, and her signature tagline, while too explicit to publish, will surely get stuck in your head and become an intrusive thought. Also, I would trade anything to go back and hear the opening line of “In the Party” for the first time.
Porridge Radio – Every Bad
A very different approach to frustration, British band Porridge Radio’s latest is a scream into the abyss. Lead singer Dana Margolin’s voice is silky and wrought with anxiety as she delivers lyrics like “My mum says that I look like a nervous wreck because I bite my nails right down to the flesh” (“Sweet”). The record is dynamic, wavering between explosive punk and intimate confessionals.
If you want to slip into a wig and have a 2 A.M. bedroom recital:
Yves Tumor – Heaven to a Tortured Mind
Yves Tumor’s new album is equal parts lively glam rock and chilled out instrumentals, a perfect 2 A.M. listen. To me, their vocals call to mind legends Lenny Kravitz and Prince, while the production carries the music into an otherworldly experimental realm. Put this one on late at night and channel the artist’s signature extravagance.
Jessie Ware – What’s Your Pleasure?
From the ballroom grandeur of “Spotlight,” the pulsing disco of the title track and “Save a Kiss,” to the sensual R&B of “Adore You” and the “The Kill,” Ware’s new album is sprawling, danceable, and euphoric. If you need a new pop act to lend your stan card to, look no further.