The Concordian staff chooses their favourite albums of the year
Phoebe Bridgers – Punisher
Louis Pavlakos – Music Editor
2020 has been an absolute mess of a year but thankfully our Lord and Saviour Phoebe Bridgers saved us with one of the most beautifully produced and deeply introspective albums of the year in the form of Punisher. From the sombre “Garden Song” to the explosive finale of “I Know the End,” Bridgers sings with a soft pain in her voice that echoes the brutality that this year has been. It sounds eerily apocalyptic — in tune with what’s been going on in the world. Truthfully there hasn’t been an album I’ve played more than this one. It’s peak “sad boy hours” music and I haven’t felt this way about an LP since Frank Ocean’s Blonde. Punisher is that good. Shoutout to Freddie Gibbs and The Alchemist’s Alfredo, The Weeknd’s After Hours, Mac Miller’s Circles and Moses Sumney’s Grae, though.
Eternal Champion – Ravening Iron
Hunter Walwaski – Copy Editor
My fascination with metal music has naturally driven me to the darkest bowels of the genre, trying to find the noisiest and most ear-pummeling records ever released. Yet, as 2020 has already introduced far too much of that on its own, my ears have been longing for something a little more catchy and fun. Eternal Champion’s sophomore release, Ravening Iron, is the answer to my beckoning call. The album’s cheesy epic heavy metal concoction, filled with earworm riffs, glorious mighty vocals, and brotherhood chants, is exactly what listeners need to trudge through this pitiful time. Now grab your sword, turn Eternal Champion up to 11, and make 2021 your year.
Mac Miller – Circles
Maggie Morris – Head Copy Editor
When this album was released posthumously in January, it satisfied something I never thought I’d hear again: new music by one of my favourite artists. Not only is it a well fleshed-out album despite the circumstances, but it’s hauntingly beautiful. Mac lives on through these songs and I’m so, so grateful for it.
(Honourable mention to Taylor Swift’s Folklore which also came at a time where I desperately needed new music — unfortunately for my boyfriend it coincided with the week we started our camping road trip through Gaspésie).
Mac Miller – Circles
Victor Vigas – Staff Writer
Mac Miller was always evolving his style and that’s what Circles gave listeners, an evolution. After Swimming showed fans that Mac wasn’t afraid of singing as opposed to rapping, Circles sees Mac singing throughout most of the album with his limited vocal range. For a posthumous release this is as good as it gets, Jon Brion executed the production and tracklist on this album to perfection. Even though Mac never lived to see this album reach the light of day, a lot of the lyrics on this album make you feel like he’s still here, almost as though he’s winking at us through the music. Aside from the lyrics, this album is a different sound than what I’ve come to love about Mac. It relies more on synth and instruments such as guitar, bass, xylophone and drums are all prominently audible. Apart from the quality of the album itself, as a Mac Miller fan, I can say that this is a fitting sign off to Mac’s legacy.
Yves Tumor – Heaven to a Tortured Mind
Adam Mbowe – Video Editor
I’ve loved Yves Tumor since their debut album Serpent Music, but when this album was released I developed an even greater appreciation for their work. From noise to ambiance to soul, Yves Tumor’s work tends to explore and blend a plethora of genres. Heaven to a Tortured Mind delves into the genre of rock with gentle ease yet is still reminiscent of all of Yves Tumors’ previous work. There are too many great songs to choose from but standouts on the album for me are “A Greater Love” and “Dream Palette”.
J Balvin – Colores
Alec Brideau – Sports Editor
I was already a huge J Balvin fan before the release of this album. Colores was, in my opinion, simply awesome. Each song on the album is named after a colour, and each song’s topic is based on its colour. It was simple, but original. I enjoyed every song and it felt like they all had their little “something.” The album’s videos are also really representative of the colours and their meanings. I really appreciated what J Balvin did there, and he exceeded my expectations by far with this album.
Fiona Apple – Fetch the Bolt Cutters
Abigail Candelora – Copy Editor
Fiona Apple’s Fetch the Bolt Cutters was my favourite album of the year. It felt oddly apropos, this year of all years, to get a new album from Fiona, a musician I admire for many reasons — including how much she prefers to be at home. Her songs are unrestricted and expressive and honest; I don’t think there’s a bad song on the album, and I’m definitely not the only one. This album is great company. Definitely give it a listen!
Kate Bollinger – A word becomes a sound
Lily Cowper – Production Assistant
I’ve pretty much retired from keeping tabs on the music scene but one great album that came out this year was Kate Bollinger’s A word becomes a sound. I know Bollinger through a friend at University of Virginia, where she first started playing and gained traction in the last few years. “A Couple Things” is my favourite track and I promise all the songs will make you tingle if you are an ASMR-loving freak. However good this album is, I need to be honest; I have only been listening to Corinne Bailey Rae’s “Put Your Records On” on repeat since March, to keep the mood light.
HMLTD – West of Eden
Aviva Majerczyk – Commentary Editor
West of Eden sounds like the coolest party you’ve ever been invited to. On this album, HMLTD’s glitzy gothic glam rock is in full effect, with a mix of 80s-inspired radio-friendly dance beats, as well as a couple slow-burners. The lyrics of West of Eden hold no punches either. The fist track of the album, “The West is Dead,” is a cutting critique of far-right ideology, where the band kills all these artifacts we problematically consider “western culture.” The following songs maintain that same eerie almost apocalyptic tone. Even on tracks like “Satan, Luella, and I” and “Blank Slate,” HMLTD are able to package intensely dark tones with danceable tunes. If you’re looking to have fun during this current apocalyptic hellscape, this album is definitely worth a listen!
The Weeknd – After Hours
Wesley McLean – Assistant Music Editor
Ever since Abel Tesfaye launched into pop superstardom, he’s always tried to bridge the gap between his two worlds: the melancholic and hedonistic tone of his pioneering mixtape trilogy, and the universal appeal of the pop hits that made The Weeknd a household name. After Hours is the first time he has been able to fully realize this vision, and it’s a glorious and extremely cinematic experience. The unique blend of new wave, synthpop, R&B and electronic sounds serve as the perfect score for Tesfaye as he melodically croons through tales of excess, self-loathing and loneliness. It’s an album that’s grandiose sound would fit perfectly in a sold-out stadium, but its content still lends itself to binge-listening on a lonely night at home, and it’s definitely an album that warrants several GRAMMY nominations.
(It was extremely hard to narrow it down to one album this year, so it’s essentially a four-way tie between this, Mac Miller’s Circles, Andy Shauf’s Neon Skyline and Phoebe Bridgers’ Punisher for my AOTY).
The Weeknd – After Hours
Jacob Carey – Managing Editor
I hate to piggyback on Wesley’s album of the year, but you have to give credit where credit is due. While After Hours isn’t even the best album in the Weeknd’s discography, it is certainly one of the best albums of this year. And, it’s actually gotten better with time. The amount of hits that have come out of that album is ridiculously impressive, with “Blinding Lights” being one of the most successful songs in Billboard history. The Weeknd also needs credit for remaining in character all damn year, in his signature burgundy suit and banged up face — either from a street brawl or fresh plastic surgery. Regardless, some of the tunes deriving from this album will be club singalongs for years to come, as will a large majority of The Weeknd’s constantly evolving discography.
Don Toliver – Heaven or Hell
Juliette Palin – News Editor
This album provided me with all the trap moments I needed during quarantine. Fittingly, it was released on a day we will all remember as an infamous one: March 13, 2020. With a mix of well-written raps and R&B, it has been phenomenally successful. It had roaring success, in part due to the release of the album JACKBOYS, a collaboration between a group of rappers featuring Travis Scott, his DJ, Chase B, Sheck Wes, Don Toliver, and Luxury Tax. This album features some of the same songs as Heaven or Hell. I highly recommend listening to this album in your car on full blast, specifically “Company,” “Had Enough,” featuring Quavo and Offset, and — a classic — “No Idea.” Don Toliver is one of the biggest breakout artists of 2020.
I Don’t Know How But They Found Me – Razzmatazz
Elyette Levy – Assistant Commentary Editor
IDKHow is a music duo spearheaded by two members of one of my favourite bands of all time, the now-defunct The Brobecks. I discovered them while I was in high school, and I have no shame in saying they stood by me through the entirety of my emo phase. I even spent over $50 for a CD of one of their older albums on eBay (in my defence, those albums are super rare). You can imagine my reaction when I found out about the creation of IDKHow; let’s just say I was ready to take out the black pencil eyeliner again. Razzmatazz is the band’s first studio album, a long-awaited work since their first EP came out in 2018. Adding a colourful modern indie twist to the members’ 2010s pop-punk attitude, the album blends youthfulness with nostalgia, electricity with emotivity. As a cheeky nod to their Brobecks days, they include a re-recorded version of their previously unreleased “Cluster Hug.” Beautiful chord combinations, poetic excellence, choice topics that range from politics to family; IDKHow gives us everything in this album.