2020-12-22T11:30:28-05:00 2020-12-22T01:41:00-05:00

EARMILK's Best Albums of 2020 [Pop]

It's easy for "pop music" to sound like a dirty word. As a team that champions up and coming artists, pop can be that mainstream machine we love, and an incredible (and competitive) launchpad for up and coming artists. This year, the one thing we could count on in a year where the rug got pulled out from underneath us. In the early days of the pandemic, we got signals of industry-leading artists (Lady Gaga for one) putting projects on pause, in order to hopefully release the full project, along with a PR campaign and world tour. But as time moved along, we were all put on a level playing field, realizing that we were in this for the long haul.  And for all its usual baggage, the pop music industry shined. We got consistent performances from artists who connected with fans, and extended a helping hand, in more intimate ways than we've ever seen. In these ways, we've leaned into championing pop music as it gave us some of the best music of the year, with more depth and innovation than ever. - Steph Evans, Managing Editor

Charli XCX - How I'm Feeling Right Now

Charli's candid response to pandemic induced mania was just what this year needed, not only as an emotional outlet but also as a turning point for hyperpop to come. Her production and vocal performances are ice cold all the way through How I'm Feeling Right Now—a cutting edge voyage of groundbreaking electronic pop anthems. - Max Pasion-Gonzales

Cry Club - God I'm Such a Mess

The world got the opportunity to understand who Cry Club really are more thoroughly with the release of this debut album - Steve Likoski

Diplo - Diplo Presents Thomas Wesley Chapter 1: Snake Oil

I mean come on. It's Diplo meets country, and the album's cover is him riding a horse in a cowboy hat. If 2020 has done anything, it's given us a ton of albums that have broken out of that box or border that has previously prevented certain genres from merging. This album has a do si do with a pulsing backbeat - what more could you want? Diplo brings together popular pop and country artists to sing including masked mystery Orville Peck, Noah Cyrus, Cam, and Blanco Brown. - Rachel Hammermueller

Dua Lipa - Future Nostalgia

In a world where Hip-Hop is the number one genre and every pop act has been inspired by R&B, Dua Lipa is the hero we needed to save real Pop music. Buoyed by the incredible three-song run of, "Levitating," "Pretty Please" and "Hallucinate," Future Nostalgia is one of the years best albums... and that's without even mentioning her biggest hit to date, "Don't Stop Now." - Ashton Howard

Ego Ella May - Honey For Wounds

As if it was part of a larger plan, Honey for Wounds came to us at just the right cultural moment in 2020. The South London vocalist has a delicate, soulful vocal style that is captivating throughout, blending beautifully with the album's tasteful production. - Evan Crandell

Eilish Gilligan - Hospital

Eilish started out knowing she wanted to create a ‘piano-based’ record, or at least use the piano as a springboard for inspiration on all the tracks, and she has relatively achieved her goal. - Steve Likoski

FLETCHER- THE S(EX) TAPES

FLETCHER stepped into the deserved spotlight with the addictive single "Undrunk", but 2020's EP THE S(EX) TAPES shows off what she's great at; blunt transparent lyrics about love, sex, and heartbreak using the medium of undeniably catchy rhythms. "Bitter" with Kito is a revenge-fueling track you could rage run to, and "Feel" hits you right in the feels, if you will. FLETCHER knows how to drop an insanely good dance beat while shooting her shot at her ex at the same time. - Rachel Hammermueller

Georgia - Seeking Thrills

This album defined my 2020. Not only is the most impressive avant-garde pop since Robyn's Body Talk, it's an album that I have continuously come back to throughout the year to listen all the way through. - Steph Evans

Lennon Stella - Three. Two. One

I only knew of Lennon Stella vaguely from when she sang cute country songs with her sister in Lennon & Maisy. Next thing I know I'm listening to "Fortress" from her 2018 EP on repeat and then I'm playing through her debut solo album twice a day throughout early quarantine (April, 2020). Three. Two. One is so charged with emotion, hard truths, and absolute pop bangers. I think "Games" is on like three of my go-to playlists, and "Golf on TV" is an instant repeat kind of melody. "Kissing Other People" had a widespread appreciation, and although it's about the end of a relationship, it still evokes some sort of wild confidence within you when you hear her sing "I don't feel guilty" in the chorus. It's commendable that this young Canadian woman can move from playing a character in Nashville and suddenly taking the pop world by storm. - Rachel Hammermueller

LÉON - Apart

This is one of those albums you want to listen to in its entirety, from top to bottom, each time you play it. LÉON is a Swedish artist who broke into the North American scene with her electro-pop/dance tracks throughout multiple EPs. Her debut self-titled album was a healthy mix of pulsing pop tracks and quiet, deep-toned vocals alongside a lonely piano. Apart carries this same pattern, however, there is more of an emphasis on the honesty and softer tracks - bringing her unique vocals and intuitive lyrics to the front stage. It's a brilliantly sad album about post-breakup, with the ability for anyone to relate to it over and over again. - Rachel Hammermueller

Luna Vexa - King of Eve

Luna Vexa’s King of Eve was an incredible way to make a splash per se. The debut 10-track release gave Luna more than enough audible time to showcase what she can achieve as a lyricist, storyteller, and producer. - Steve Likoski

Maggie Miles - Am I Drowning or Am I Just Learning to Swim

This soundtracked a road trip I made from Seattle to LA. On Maggie Miles's debut album, we got to witness a young artist (she's 21) really step into her own. 

Marie Dahlstrøm - Like Sand

The long-awaited debut LP from the Danish vocalist and keyboardist Dahlstrøm does not disappoint. Smooth vibes and pristine production set the stage for Dahlstrøm's heavenly vocal style. - Evan Crandell

NYNE - Season One

After having released singles since 2016, Australian artist NYNE finally gave a solid iteration as to who she is as an artist with the release of her debut album Season One, with a lot more room to grow - Steve Likoski 

Oscar Jerome - Breathe Deep

The guitarist and vocalist Jerome finally was able to release his debut LP with fantastic results. The project is permeated with stellar musicianship and biting vocal commentary that is perfectly suited for 2020. - Evan Crandell

Rina Sawayama - SAWAYAMA [Deluxe]

Wait, can I say this twice? Also, make sure it's the deluxe edition. The "We Out Here" bonus track will stun you the first time you hear it. - Steph Evans

Sega Bodega - Salvador

Salvador is nothing short of intoxicating. Each track garners a unique emotional response, realising sensations of desire, guilt, pain and heartbreak perfectly. - Robin Fulton

Waxahatchee - Saint Cloud

Katie Crutchfield's vocals are so well developed and the instrumentation is so inviting. Saint Cloud is a tender, beautiful record that made a terrible year more bearable. - Mike Wood

 

Categories:
Album Review · Feature · Main Stage · Pop

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