2020-12-22T11:30:38-05:00 2020-12-22T16:16:06-05:00

EARMILK's Best Albums of 2020 [Indie + Alternative]

There is a lot that happened this year that may yet need a few more years to fully process, but the one thing that it did not fall short on is its dedication to the full-length album. These artists didn't just deliver anywhere between single and double-digit tracks, slapped together into one somewhat cohesive album and release it into the aether, hoping for some easy returns. They wrote stories, created entire landscapes we've never seen before (or simply forgot where to look for them) and turned blurry, ineffable thoughts into piano ballads, folk tunes, or just a few searing lines in a mind-bending chorus. They did more than just release a body of work— they gave us something to hold on to; to help put into words what we couldn't bring ourselves to utter, and to finally give us a safe space where we may face our fears, and be ready to face another day. - Valeria Dulava, Indie Editor

Arran Sym - 1000 Micrograms of Love

Arran Sym is an artist, producer, and multi-instrumentalist who depicts what love sounds like through music, creating an ethereal experience in this latest project that's truly mesmerizing. - Magi Camaj, Contributing Writer

Chance Emerson - The Raspberry Men

From the energetic acoustic guitar strums that open "How Can I" to the rich floating harmonies in "Incredible" Chance Emerson tells a story about who he is and where he is headed. - Rene Cobar, Contributing Writer

Daddy's Beemer - Denmark

Full Disclosure: I knew these musicians prior to this project. Not sure if that discredits me here now, but if it does, I'll still stand by Denmark being the best indie rock album I heard all year. Mental health malaise told through sunburnt, pop-adjacent anthems, yes, more please. -Nathan Whittle-Olivieri, Contributing Writer

Digawolf - High Arctic

High Arctic was a great way for Canadian Indigenous rock n’ roll icon, Digawolf, to still show the world of music what he has to offer - incorporating a mix of bilingual (English & Tłı̨chǫ Yatıì) lyrics and stories that leave a lot to be imagined visually. - Steve Likoski, Contributing Writer

Febueder - Tomalin Has Etched In

Febueder's debut album is a creative disarray of dreamy strings, punching percussion and soaring vocals. - Madeleine Sirois, Contributing Writer

Feng Suave - Warping Youth

Dutch-based duo Feng Suave delivered their sophomore EP this year. The project takes us on a beautiful journey through adolescence and the highs and lows of transitioning to adulthood. - Sunil Shenoy, Contributing Writer

Fiona Apple - Fetch the Bolt Cutters

Fresh, immersive, cohesive album. No skips, so much energy in her vocals and really redefined her as an artist beyond her already iconic catalog of music, for me at least - Nathan Whittle-Olivieri, Contributing Writer

Fiona Apple's legacy as a legend of indie music was by no means hanging on Fetch the Bolt Cutters, but she delivered as if it was. There's not much to say here that hasn't already been said, but it's one of the rawest, decadent, and simply marvelous albums I've ever heard. - Max Pasion-Gonzales, Contributing Writer

Frances Quinlan - Likewise

Already known for having one of indie's most recognizable voices, Hop Along frontwoman Frances Quinlan made her introduction as a solo artist this year. From the screaming "Went to LA" outro to the electronic, warbling synths on "Now That I'm Back," Likewise is an exploration of Quinlan's autonomy, the ruminations of someone who's just looked inwards for the first time. - Madeline Quach, Contributing Writer

HAIM - Women in Music Part III

After two full-length albums worth of in your face, magnificent, capital letter alt-rock music, HAIM came back with Women In Music Part III and proved (once again) that their music doesn't need to adhere to any mainstream radio format. The way they seamlessly tackle new genres, moods, and ideas on this project phenomenal, rendering an absolute blast of a listening experience - Max Pasion-Gonzales, Contributing Writer

Hannah Georgas - All That Emotion

Aaron Dessner has been a busy man this year. Other than famously lending a hand to Taylor Swift's albums, he also helped Canadian Hannah Georgas complete her fourth studio album, All That Emotion. And the title doesn't lie. A diverse production of electronic folk stirs the pot into which Georgas pours her feelings, thoughts, and general observations. There is fragility and vulnerability here, but also immense strength and courage. A perfect album to get lost in—and come out of feeling utterly alive. - Valeria Dulava, Indie Editor

Hayley Williams - Petals For Armor

Bringing a new flavor to the indie-rock status quo, Williams delivers what is her first-ever solo project that dives into her far-reaching artistry never heard before. If you know and love the Paramore frontwoman, do not take any premonitions into listening to Petals for Armor, because you will be presently surprised. - Gregory Castel, Staff Writer

Jean Dawson - Pixel Bath

LA-based artist Jean Dawson creates music that displays innovation and spiritual awakening. Functioning in a post-genre realm, his record Pixel Bath comes to life in enchanted and riveting ways. - Sean Kayden, Contributing Writer

Pixel Bath masterfully blends genres such as hip hop, punk, indie rock, and pop, creating an intoxicating and innovative record that is timeless in quality. - Jacob Saltzberg, Contributing Writer

Lianne La Havas - Lianne La Havas

This gorgeous self-titled LP was a breakthrough for La Havas, whose emotive vocals command the listener's attention at every moment. Highlights include "Bittersweet" and "Paper Thin." - Evan Crandell, Contributing Writer

Liza Anne - Bad Vacation

Liza Anne’s brand new album was all about out-growing bad habits, the strange fluid window between emotional abuse and learning to love yourself and others again. Solid release. Not a lot else to say. - Steve Likoski, Contributing Writer

Margo Price - That's How Rumors Get Started

My fav Americana album of 2020. Following her on social media is a refreshing confidence booster, often forcing one to look inward like "why didn't I stand up for that right away?" or "why didn't I think of saying that?" Margo Price has pretty much removed herself from the country music community and continually (daily) speaks out against inequality in the music industry. She doesn't let executives or big names scare her, if they're in the wrong, she calls them out all over Twitter or whatever platform she can. So it's no surprise this fire and passion glows brightly within her music. This album is at times complicated instrumentally and lyrically, and it's best consumed after a slow burn, whatever form that might take for you. Price rocks out, she bellows, and she croons softly when she wants. Her husband battled and recovered from COVID-19 this year, she has a baby and young son to care for, and she released an album. She's killing it. - Rachel Hammermueller, Contributing Writer

Mildlife - Automatic

The Australian psych jazz group offered Automatic an all-around impressive and downright groovy album. Jazzy yet danceable, Mildlife found the perfect rhythm on their own. - Max Rosenfield, Contributing Writer

Moses Boyd - Dark Matter

I wasn't familiar with Boyd until his album had been out for a month, and when I did finally listen to it, I was stunned. If you're not a fan of jazz, but are a fan of contemporary R&B or hip-hop, this is your entry point. - Steph Evans. Managing Editor

Oliver Tree - Let Me Down

Enigmatic, outlandish, and eccentric, the 27-year-old Oliver Tree's debut record Ugly Is Beautiful was full of absurd, tongue-in-cheek personality but delivered through undeniably catchy electro-pop punk. "Let Me Down" is this angsty yet playful anthem for what was a turbulent summer. - David Sikorski

Phoebe Bridgers - Punisher

Punisher was released early, just as the pandemic took hold. In what was a surprise drop for her fans, Bridgers delivered yet another heart wrenching, yet beautifully melodic album. Standout singles included the infectious "Kyoto" and the melancholy "ICU". - Mike Wood, Contributing Writer

Samia - The Baby

Samia’s The Baby pilots through the complexities of early adulthood with elegiac writing and a fresh indie-rock sound. - Sean Kayden, Contributing Writer

Soccer Mommy - color theory

In this three-part album, separated by colors, Soccer Mommy (aka Sophie Alison) perfectly captures the sound and themes of anger, sickness, and depression through her vague, yet vivid lyrics and angelic voice. - Sienna Estrada, Contributing Writer

Sorry - 925

925 has the "screw it" and "whatever" attitude towards modernity, mundanity, and societal expectations. Sorry isn't afraid to call out the world on its flaws, which is exactly the type of energy we need right now. - Sienna Estrada, Contributing Writer

The carefree approach to their miring, lovesick, and at times bleak lyricism is perfectly balanced by the affable catchiness of each track on this project. - Robin Fulton, Contributing Writer 

Surnames - These Days

Suited for relaxing afternoons or romantic evenings alike, Surnames unveils in its debut record a tranquil indie-rock sound that leaves you in a state of pensive bliss. Check out the lingering joy that "Can't Take It With You" produces within you. - Rene Cobar, Contributing Writer

Taylor Swift - folklore

It was the surprise of the year, that is until she released the sister album, evermore, only five months later. But folklore still stands as a magnificent work of art on its own, putting Swift's acclaimed songwriting skills to the test with even more complex stories, stark but comforting imagery, and a sound so departed from her stadium anthems, it seems to be the sound she should've been making all along. - Valeria Dulava, Indie Editor

Tempesst - Must Be a Dream

With Must Be a Dream, Tempesst provided a refreshing and unique take on psychedelic rock this year. - Sunil Shenoy, Writer

The Killers - Imploding The Mirage

There have been many surprises this year, and while The Killers' sixth studio album's release may not have been one, what was inside absolutely was. After what seems like a long time of them trying to figure out their sound, they finally landed on Imploding The Mirage, an album that mixes in nostalgia for their initial karaoke staples and sculpts it into something more mature and refined. One listen to "Caution" or "Fire In Bone" and I knew what that feeling must have been like in the studio—the one where they finally felt like the pieces have landed in place, and they were once again making music that they not only loved, but actually loved them back.  - Valeria Dulava, Indie Editor

The Strokes - The New Abnormal

Proving they were current enough to keep up with the chaotic landscape of 2020, The New Abnormal was a huge moment for The Strokes, who elevated themselves from catchy indie nostalgia bate to modern alt-rock heavyweights. Julian Casablancas and company sound as crispy clean and compelling as ever here, elegantly transforming their well known 2000's pop-rock to a bright new context. - Max Pasion-Gonzales, Contributing Writer

Yumi Zouma - Truth or Consequences

New Zealand art-pop outfit Yumi Zouma’s third LP Truth Or Consequences is brimming with warm productions and a sonic vibrancy that feeds the soul. The album is nestled in the realm of dreamy synth-pop and leans on the complexities of romantic relationships, the disenchantment with modern love, and being out of touch with one's self. - Sean Kayden, Contributing Writer

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Alternative · Feature · Indie · Lists · Main Stage

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