—Daoud Tyler-Ameen, It's breathtaking to witness Moses Sumney use the expansiveness of his imagination as an instrument of artful resistance: against racially coded categories of genre; binaries of gender performance, identity and outsiderness/belonging; the choice between isolation and intimacy; mind-body dualism. At this moment in time, in this hard year, I need it. to give him his flowers. She rose from poverty to become the first woman to sing taarab, a cross-pollination of Arab and Indian music originally performed in the palaces of Zanzibar's Omani sultan. Ka is Brownsville, N.Y.'s Homer, a firefighter by day, rapper by night who, for the last decade, has documented cyclical violence in his neighborhood through a string of vivid, writerly, self-released albums, each a world in itself. But now that we're several months into pandemic living, the album feels more like tenacious, hazy grief over lives lost. Call it tragedy. The artist explained that after years feeling intimidated by a baroque technology with free-range rules, she took a chance on a few pieces of gear and couldn't believe what she'd been missing: "The first time I even turned it on and started making sounds with it, I was like, 'Yeah, this is the way that my brain works. how i'm feeling now. ), sizzling passages deftly navigated by pianist Kirill Gerstein and a central slow movement that pushes yearning to new emotional levels. But in six full months packed with moments where we needed music to cope with challenges new and old, there was so much to see us through. On its relentless whiplash toward the middle, the first six months of 2020 have reframed, redefined, shocked, torn down, confounded and crumbled our expectations, our priorities, our concepts of distance and closeness, of responsibility, of tragedy, of joy. This information is shared with social media, sponsorship, analytics, and other vendors or service providers. Anjimile - Giver Taker 47. —Tom Huizenga, The celestial, meditative start of Dark Matter, "Stranger Than Fiction," marked the beginning of my new pandemic-induced dystopian existence. 1. The 50 Best Albums Of 2020. Nick Hakim, WILL THIS MAKE ME GOOD 3. Each is the favorite of one member of the NPR Music team. He told the French music service Qubuz that "there was a lot going on in the U.K., politically and socially. The 50 Best Albums Of 2020: 50-41 / 40-31 / 30-21 / 20-11 / 10-1 NPR Music's Best Albums Of 2020 // Illustration: Rae Pozdro for NPR. At certain moments, 2020 felt like a year that … His lectures online comforted Gia Margaret, and hearing him speak these words against her plaintive music feels comforting to me: "All that you see in front of you is how you feel inside your head." Explosion In … These artists had their lives upended as well – it's amazing to look back on this six months of music and realize they made nearly all of it before the year even began. The 50 Best Albums Of 2020: 50-41 / 40-31 / 30-21 / 20-11 / 10-1. Mia Gargaret is a thoughtful album that loops on repeat in my apartment. The romance of such encounters, partly imagined, hits like a stomach drop. Perfect understanding, humiliating as it might be, seems to be in short supply lately; I've returned to Quinlan's meticulously constructed songs to be reminded what it looks like to keep trying. These two have been ringing an alarm bell about the state of America for years, but it's never resonated more acutely or definitively than it does on RTJ4. Can we make sense of layer upon layer of fear, anger, frustration, confusion, exhilaration and exhaustion that … View on npr.org. If you click “Agree and Continue” below, you acknowledge that your cookie choices in those tools will be respected and that you otherwise agree to the use of cookies on NPR’s sites. Sadness and hope are inseparable here. The 50 Best Albums Of 2020: 50-41 / 40-31 / 30-21 / 20-11 / 10-1. Parker's 17-year-old daughter Ruby sings a lovely, hypnotic melody over the album's opening track, "Build a Nest." —Stefanie Fernández, Rage is a necessity. Originally titled To Be Angry, the Alabama-born, L.A.-based rapper, singer and producer Pink Siifu looks to Sun Ra, Amiri Baraka, Ras G, Death and Bad Brains — radical expressionists of Black thought and sound — to create a blasted meditation on state brutality and systemic racism. Each promises edification, but also flat-out thrilling listening. 2020 was so stuffed with urgent voices it could be hard to discern the melody from the noise. 20-11) that emerged from a year's worth of cacophony. —Cyrena Touros, Capitol Records / Motown / Wolfpack Music Group / Quality Control Music, perhaps the most pleasing concerto written yet this century. —John Morrison (WXPN), The stories Frances Quinlan tells in her songs aren't simple, and she doesn't let you in straightforwardly. Homeboy Sandman - Don't Feed The Monster 48. —Lyndsey McKenna, Reunions opens with Jason Isbell immediately asking a question: "What've I done to help?" 20-11) December 2, 2020 • Our guide to the greatest albums (Nos. hide caption, How can it be possible that we're only halfway through the year? But his manifesto on multiplicity is hardly confined to words. (Find our 100 Best Songs of 2020 list here.) NPR’s sites use cookies, similar tracking and storage technologies, and information about the device you use to access our sites (together, “cookies”) to enhance your viewing, listening and user experience, personalize content, personalize messages from NPR’s sponsors, provide social media features, and analyze NPR’s traffic. NPR - At certain moments, 2020 felt like a year that might not ever come to an end. News from NPR. The staff of NPR Music sifts through the best of 2020 to present personal lists of top 10 songs and albums. —Jacob Ganz, Years after leaving Barranquilla for Toronto, Lido Pimienta watched Steve Harvey erroneously give Miss Colombia the 2015 Miss Universe crown and witnessed the racist backlash unfold in Colombian media after Harvey corrected the mistake and awarded the title to Miss Philippines. Fresh Air Weekend: The Best TV, Music And Movies Of 2020; Remembering Jazz Legends David Bianculli shares his list of TV shows that brought us together. NPR Music's Top 14 Albums Of April Albums are still events for us, even and especially as we shelter in place. Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time [2020] Slant Magazine's 100 Best Albums of the 1980s; Slant Magazine's 100 Best Albums of the Aughts; Spin's 125 Best Albums of the Past 25 Years (1985-2009) SPIN's 300 Best Albums of the Past 30 Years (1985-2014) Stereogum's Best Album Of The '00s; The 100 Best Albums of The Complex Decade Haus of Altr, HOA11 2. Top 10 Albums Of 2020. Written before the police killing of George Floyd, it eerily mirrors that event, as well as the moving press conference Killer Mike gave afterward in Atlanta. Miss Colombia is the needle Pimienta uses to thread herself — a Black and Indigenous Wayuu woman, a mother — to the land upon which Colombia and its project of erasure was staked. We didn't vote on them. 11/12/2020 Esquire Getty Images. Prosecutors are hanging their case against Drakeo on his lyrics, which only proves how much he's killing the game. Even though her words have soundtracked the lives of pop fans for years, Victoria Monét is just now getting her due. Now that it's mostly in our rear view, can a retrospective give a shape to that swarm of weeks and months? Pimienta's second album, Miss Colombia, explores the colonized premise of belonging to a country. Scheduled for October, Fetch the Bolt Cutters instead dropped in April, enlivening countless quarantines with songs that feel lived-in, hard-won and, above all, homegrown: Dogs bark in the background, the singer bangs on a chair, doors creak, friends weave in and out. My Turn. Because times have changed." —Nate Chinen (WBGO), Listen: Spotify / Apple / Amazon / YouTube, Six years ago, three beloved African artists — Mamani Keïta, Oumou Sangaré and Mariam Doumbia — conceived of Les Amazones d'Afrique in Bamako, Mali. —Stephen Thompson, With a wink to heart-on-sleeve Romantic piano concertos by Rachmaninov, British composer-conductor Thomas Adès unleashes perhaps the most pleasing concerto written yet this century. —Sidney Madden, When I first heard Sanación, I literally stopped what I was doing and sat through each track completely transfixed. "It might sound real but it's fictional / I love that my imagination gets to you," he raps on the album closer, "Fictional." His compositions and arrangements form a sublime, metamorphic sprawl of sounds and styles, and his vocals, unbounded in their range and eloquence, trace the contours of a world of possibility. Just after its midpoint, the record turns to an organic and intimate oral history of and performance by San Basilio de Palenque's Sexteto Tabalá, one of the first Afro-Colombian artists Pimienta remembers loving when she was growing up in Barranquilla. This week we shared NPR Music's best songs and albums of 2020, lists voted on, politely argued over and presented by our staff, station partners and contributors. Waxahatchee - Saint Cloud 46. Editor, NPR Music. For those who still know her best as the leader of the pin-drop folk ensemble Florist, Hill, Flower, Fog is only a short walk away in form, animated by the same willingness to let melody and atmosphere amble slowly and trade roles at will, minus the words and guitar. He can pull off technical brilliance — entendre is his bread and butter — but his most powerful, numbing lines feel less like acrobatic displays, more like proverbs told by a grizzled OG. With Dark Matter, it's like this force that binds us together that we can't really explain. But Saint Cloud is also an album about facing your demons and Crutchfield gallops through fiercer tracks like "Hell" and "War" like a person kicking her own ass for getting swept into the slipstream instead of steering her own boat. Baritone Mark Stone sings the role of death with self-assured devilry, while mezzo-soprano Christianne Stotijn sensitively interprets his impotent victims. she told NPR in April. Charli XCX - How I'm Feeling Now 49. "Am I even Colombian when I don't share the same feelings?" But in order to grasp that designation, it helps to understand where trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire is coming from: an oral tradition that connects West African griots to antebellum work songs to freestyling MCs; a jazz lineage of endless renewal and flux; a Black avant-garde ranging from rough-hewn to operatic; a tradition of calling out injustice, in personal and sociohistorical terms. NPR’s Book Concierge. This is gonna be good.'" Illustration: Rae Pozdro for NPR This week we shared NPR Music's best songs and albums of 2020, lists voted on, politely argued over and presented by our staff, station partners and contributors. Charismatic and winning, he's the kind of guy that can sell something as silly as the chorus of his massive 2017 hit "Body Like a Back Road" with a wink. Over the elegantly chaotic, orchestral rock convulsions of "Virile," he turns traditional masculinity's paternalism back on itself: "Desperate for passing grades / the virility fades / You've got the wrong guy / You wanna slip right in / Amp up the masculine / You've got the wrong idea, son." I was right: Rolling through airy drumscapes and on sweet, finger-picked melodies, on Saint Cloud, Crutchfield's voice stretches higher, swoops lower and swaggers through some of the most potent poetry of her career to date. "Yo tengo el hilo, también la aguja para remendar lo que queda de mi," Pimienta sings with them on "Quiero Que Me Salves" ("I have the thread, the needle, too, to mend what's left of me"). Dec 2. (Oh yeah, there's also a Beyoncé visual album on the way.). Infused with electronic beats and jazz, grime and trip-hop, every song on the record fills the range of emotions I'm feeling right now. The full extent of NEGRO's rage rattles through blown-out basement punk, feedbacking noise and liberation jazz; his laid-back raps become a serrated scream, weaponized blunt-force to combat the persistent trauma of police threats and violence. 1. (In turn, they are criticized for depicting the same kind of violence that can be found in any Hollywood movie by a white director.) Now, 70 years after her death, Siti Binti Saad's taarab legacy has received a 21st century update thanks to her great-granddaughter, Siti Muharam, and Zanzibar's Dhow Countries Music Academy. With its breezy soulful sound and hopeful timbre, Innocent Country 2 is a life-affirming and optimistic look at what it feels like to be Black in America. Album of the Year 2020: Fiona Apple - Fetch the Bolt Cutters Hello everyone and welcome to Day 1 of the r/indieheads Album of the Year 2020 Write-Up Series! Related Stories. Spillage Village, Spilligion 6. —Mano Sundaresan, This time five years ago, Lil Baby didn't know how to structure a song. This week we shared NPR Music's best songs and albums of 2020, lists voted on, politely argued over and presented by our staff, station partners and contributors. Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me. Run The Jewels. You may click on “Your Choices” below to learn about and use cookie management tools to limit use of cookies when you visit NPR’s sites. Illustration: Rae Pozdro for NPR Illustration: Rae Pozdro for NPR At sure moments, 2020 felt like a yr that may not ever come to an finish. Lil Baby was arguably the biggest and best rapper of 2020, but it took him releasing a protest song in the wake of George Floyd's killing for hip-hop outsiders and mainstream outlets (including this one!) Below, in alphabetical order, you'll find more than two dozen records from 2020's first six months that are worth holding onto for the next six, and beyond. Punisher says so much about the half-said, about the life of the racing mind and the halting heart, because Bridgers did not make it alone — the community she's built at only 25, after three years of constant musical exploration, surrounds these songs like skin holding a body's organs in, organic, flexible, hardly noticed as everyone focuses on the music's central beating heart. They'll give us so much more in the months to come, no doubt, as reckoning continues to rise to the surface of their songs. Now that it's mostly in our rear view, can a retrospective give a shape to that swarm of weeks and months? Today, with ongoing protests and an indefinite pandemic, Dark Matter is the perfect soundtrack for the times. 50. The 50 Best Albums Of 2020: 50-41 / 40-31 / 30-21 / 20-11 / 10-1. —Rodney Carmichael, It's fitting that Sam Hunt's a former college quarterback. But there are also moments of vulnerability and tender beauty on RTJ4, like the epic closer, "a few words for the firing squad (radiation)," as El-P opens up about the love of his wife and living with anxiety, while Killer Mike reflects on the death of his mother and his own responsibilities as a father. Consider this praise overdue, then. He Was An Architect Little Richard and blackqueer grief. Now that it is principally in our rear view… Each of Akinmusire's albums has represented an advance while adding to the whole; on the tender spot is the most holistic statement he's made yet, which is saying something. Top 9 Albums Of 2020. An illness left her unable to sing, and what we hear on Mia Gargaret are mostly instrumental meditations, sounds of comfort, a beautiful exercise in turning limitations into strengths. Siti Of Unguja is a transfixing listen, full of deep bass, celestial strings and Muharam's virtuoso-in-the-making vocals. But the year that was to come was even harder, so hard that Gia Margaret could barely sing about it. Lido Pimienta, Fiona Apple and Sam Hunt released music that … The mix of María José Llergo's Romani roots in her vocal stylizations, the real deal flamenco guitar and the subtle but graceful electronic elements pressed all of my musical buttons in a way that I had not heard before. Victoria Monét. SOUTHSIDE is an expertly executed redemption story that only Hunt could make. —Jewly Hight, When Thundercat's It Is What It Is was released in April, it felt like the perfect soundtrack to the spooky, unsettling early days of coronavirus lockdown. A: Childish Gambino's "3.15.20" officially released on a Sunday, a week after it was premiered on his website, this caused him to lose out on two days of sales as well as losing some interest due to the delayed release. Atlantic. It's a stunning introduction to a music not quite like any other. —Lars Gotrich, Five years removed from the release of the first installment of Innocent Country, Quelle Chris and the pianist and producer Chris Keys have upped the sonic, conceptual and emotional ante of an already fruitful musical relationship. "I feel in love with the in-between," Sumney rhapsodizes during "Neither/Nor," which morphs from West African folk into sleekly polyrhythmic jazz-soul. The loping grooves, whose roots stretch back more than 100 years, pulsate with a modern-day vibrancy that will appeal to anyone with a passing interest in jazz and electronic music. 2020 was so stuffed with urgent voices it could be hard to discern the melody from the noise. In just under an hour, the mysterious trio's third album in a year's time encapsulates the Black experience through song and spoken word. It's capped off by album closer "I Love (Mimi, Moms, Kev)," which ranks among the most touching rap songs about family ever. While the themes are focused and intentional, the rhythms are universal. Chynna, "attention" … In fact, her given first name was Mtumwa, which literally means "slave" in Swahili. "Existential Dread," "Miguel's Happy Dance" and "It Is What It Is" paint a world where things are never going to go your way. Here's our guide to the greatest albums that emerged from a year of cacophony. His latest album as a bandleader, solo experimenter and multi-instrumentalist editor/tinkerer positions him as a steady center of a fluctuating family of inspired creative associates. Chris Keys's production on the album is minimal but persistently rich and ear-pleasing, consisting, primarily of drums, bass and jazz- and soul-inspired piano, with some synths and electric piano. At its core, Cain has a soulful, narratorial quality, one you might find in a noir film or in conversation with an older relative. At certain moments, 2020 felt like a year that might not ever come to an end. There's a ramshackle quality to these shaggy, deeply human songs as Apple settles scores, reassesses her past and summons her own liberation from demons both internal and external. Discovery Zone, Remote Control 7. In orchestration that is massive, beautiful and frightening, Adès's music singularly underscores the inevitability of death in deadly times. Here are 25 albums from 2020's first … 1. At certain moments, 2020 felt like a year that might not ever come to an end. Email Address * First Name . Best Music Of 2020. It's been a reliably effective formula for music that's both gut-wrenching and disarmingly comical, with terrifying scenes of unflinching violence followed by cartoonish parodies. 10. They changed how we listened to music, too: so often alone, through wires and screens and glitches and delays. Lido Pimienta, Miss Colombia 4. In her first solo album under her own name (after several records with her indie rock band, Hop Along), Quinlan sings about misrepresented archaeological artifacts, debated facts in an author's biography and dreamt-up conversations with her infant niece — and that's just in the first few songs. It worked as a whole album when our attention spans were getting longer, and Stephen Bruner's ability to laugh in the face of sadness was welcome. Today we're featuring the good stuff from the private reserves. Adès was inspired by a 15th-century frieze depicting the figure of death waltzing with representatives of each rung of society, from Pope to peasant and finally an infant. Pablo R. Ruiz, Estados Criminales 6. Courtesy of the artist Instead, you're hearing a gifted songwriter looking at the Big Picture: how where you've been affects where you are, and where you might end up. Lil Baby. A list of the top albums of the year from NPR Music. Much like guest artist MosEL's proclamation on "Black Twitter" ("Beautiful Black baby boy, the world is ours, beautiful Black baby girl all twinkling stars"), Innocent Country 2 sums up the hope and triumphant spirit of generations past, present and future. They envisioned the project as a vehicle for empowerment: a women-led artistic collective that would land, by any and every measure, as a supergroup. Radio Slave, "Stay Out All Night" 2. Contributed to NPR by: NPR | Posted on December 3, 2020, 8:30 AM. NPR'S BEST ALBUMS OF 2020 50. Site also contains reviews, ratings & more. Below you'll find lists of top 10 albums and songs from the members of NPR … It's a triumph both personal and professional. The trumpet playing is scarily assured, and the compositions open up in surprising ways; consider the tensile unfolding of "Blues (we measure the heart with a fist)." So on this edition of All Songs Considered, NPR Music's Ann Powers and I discuss the top 20 albums in our 2020 Listener Poll and reflect on a pretty good year of music, with some odd twists. Turns out, Boyd was feeling a similar discomfort months earlier while writing the album. Adès Conducts Adès dropped in February and I listened to its concerto nonstop, until the pandemic hit hard. The top shelf guests, including Kamasi Washington, Childish Gambino and funk legend Steve Arrington from Slave, are fully integrated into the mix. Is lending itself to being afraid reads, hand-picked by NPR staff trusted! Has been claimed by a corner of life, worn from multi-purpose use, yet loved... And vault rediscoveries, across all genres and all eras genres and all.! A transfixing listen, full of deep bass, celestial strings and Muharam 's virtuoso-in-the-making vocals are events... Bruner 's re-imagining of '70s jazz fusion and funk creates a loose, warm charmingly! —Rodney Carmichael, it 's a former college quarterback five years ago, Lil did... Legal on the record include an excerpt from a year that might not come! And I guess I would say just Do n't Feed the Monster 4 that binds together. Lil Baby did n't know how to structure a song 2020 here. ) explores! Here 's our guide to the grim and masterful Totentanz ( Dance of the genre can adjust cookie. 2020 • our guide to the greatest Albums ( Nos how to a! Beautiful and frightening, Adès 's Music singularly underscores the inevitability of death with devilry! 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