Purple Sneakers’ Best Albums of 2020
Yesterday, we recounted our favourite songs of the year, and now we look to our favourite albums, EPs and projects!
To say 2020 has been a wild ride is one hell of an understatement. You don’t need me to run you through the “unprecedented” times again, but it is worth remarking just how much life has and hasn’t changed in just twelve months. We started the year with an environmental catastrophe before the world was hit by a global pandemic, thrusting us into isolation and an economic and health crisis. We saw civil uprisings, elections, more environmental destruction, and we had to figure out the very basics of life again in the time of social distancing. We were more connected, but also disconnected, than ever, and while some industries are back to full strength, others have been forgotten completely.
In amongst everything else happening though, we’ve had some sensational music. 2020 has not only changed the way we connect with artists and their work, but also the way they create in the first place. Some relished in the challenges lockdown presented while others flipped the script completely, coming into their own more than ever before. We’ve seen career-defining releases, releases about life, love and loss, breakout names completely defy expectations, and living legends return to our ears when we needed them most. We’ve had necessary political statements, electrifying comebacks, exceptional collaborations and artists demonstrate their untouchable artistic visions.
The Purple Sneakers team recounted our favourite songs and favourite albums of 2020 so far back in May, and with the year finally winding down, we put our heads together again for a final recap of the year that was. Check out our favourite songs of 2020 here, and below for our favourite albums of the year, as well as the Spotify playlist! Here’s to a bigger, brighter and better year in 2021!
Emma Jones, Purple Sneakers Editor and the Purple Sneakers team
Penelope Two-Five – Alkali
HAIM – Women In Music Pt. III
Skin on Skin – Get Some Understanding!
Kwame – Please, Get Home Safe
Kylie Minogue – Disco
Each of these records soundtracked a particular part of the year and its many ups and downs. Penelope Two-Five‘s debut is still as impactful as it was when I first listened, while Skin on Skin‘s Get Some Understanding! delivered some relentless energy to help me escape. Kwame absolutely floored me with his unrivalled artistic vision on Please, Get Home Safe, while Haim delivered their opus in WIMPIII, but it was Kylie Minogue‘s glorious Disco which takes out the top spot for me. Every single song is so much fun to listen to, the sheer joy she sings with connects again and again, and in a year when connection was so hard to find for so many, having an icon right there with us even just for a moment provided fleeting but important moments of disco bliss.
Onefour – Against All Odds
hearteyes – ROCK ALBUM
Gauci – Gauci
Felivand – Nerve
Triple One – Panic Force
Australia’s most in your face project went to new heights in 2020 with the release of their debut album Panic Force. Following the project closely over the past couple of years, it was inevitable their blockbuster breakthrough would come on their own terms and that’s exactly what Panic Force is. It’s a project full of twists and turns, intimate tales to comedic bars that covers a vast range of sonic territory, all while staying fundamentally Triple One.
ANDRAS – Joyful
ZEN IN SPACE – Earth Tones
SPECIAL TOUCH – Garden of Life
THOMAS GRAY & LIAM EBBS – Recollection of Everything Beautiful
SETWUN – Our World
‘Our World’ is a total dedication to soulful rhythms and infectious vocals, all encased in a healing seven-track EP from Sydney-based artist Setwun. Known for his ability to draw from soul and jazz influences, this EP is a polished piece of art, exploring and venturing beyond the usual boundaries of meditative dance music.
India Jordan – For You
Sully – Swandive
DJ SWISHA – Nothing But Net
Mr Ho, Mogwaa – Eu li EP
DJ Life – Hypersonic EP (Dansu Discs)
The confusing musical landscape of 2020 has seen the emergence and continued dominance of upbeat progressive soundscapes that seem to evoke (or encourage) a sense of optimism about the future of dance music. Melbourne artist DJ Life has been at the forefront of this movement with a prolific hot streak of releases, most notably his most recent EP on Manchester-based label Dansu Discs. Pumping 90’s-esque tech house and trance, coupled with outstanding breaksy reworks from Adam Pits and Ciel, sees the rising producer surge forward with his upwards trajectory.
Porridge Radio – Every Bad
Fiona Apple – Fetch the Bolt Cutters
Disq – Collector
The Strokes – The New Abnormal
Dehd – Flower of Devotion
Flower of Devotion is a record filled to the brim with the anxieties and urgency of modern life. In part due to its release barely a year after their second album Water, Dehd’s Emily Kempt is compelled to write songs that don’t just feel youthful, but are truly free. Tracks like ‘Desire’ and ‘Month’ pair layered vocals with lyrics about lonely ennui; they’re contradictory, but isn’t that the point?
Pearl Jam – Gigaton
Nas – King’s Disease
Jessie Ware – What’s Your Pleasure
Conway The Machine – From King To A God
Malena Zavala – La Yarara
I’ve been a big fan of Malena Zavala ever since I came across her mesmerising single, ‘Should I Try,’ at the backend of 2018. Possessing a sultry voice and a knack for crafting delightfully catchy tunes with a worldly vibe, the Argentinian-born, London-based singer-songwriter has been quietly carving out a name for herself across Europe. After the 2018 release of her debut album, Aliso, a dreamy pop experiment, Zavala returned this year with La Yarara. Taking inspiration from her Latin heritage, the album demonstrates growth in her songwriting, with Zavala singing in both English and Spanish. Highlights include the Spanish pop of ‘En La Noche,’ the dreamy ‘Memories Gone’ and emotional struggle of ‘Leaving Home.’ She might not be a household name just yet, but Malena Zavala is one to watch out for in 2021.
Sunlight – Spacey Jane
Modus Vivendi – 070 Shake
Ball Park Music – Ball Park Music
Folklore – Taylor Swift
Dreamland – Glass Animals
The opening track to the Glass Animals’ quarantine album is a psychedelic prologue to Dave Bayley’s dreamscape, a gorgeous aural cocktail of floating euphoria and bittersweet nostalgia as Bayley previews the record’s introspective themes. It’s the perfect dive into his autobiographical rabbit hole.
The Slow Rush – Tame Impala
14 Steps To A Better You – Lime Cordiale
Shelf Life – Northeast Party House
The Glow – DMA’s
Lonely Diamond – Ocean Alley
Ocean Alley venture into new territory with their third album Lonely Diamond, pushing the boundaries as they explore a new soundscape of Tarantino-esque Western blues, without of course forgetting their classic psychedelic-rock sound. The second song on the album ‘Tombstone’ is dripping in funk-rock energy with strong lyricism that explores a world gone mad, drawing parallels to the current state of the globe. Reflecting on the collective hopelessness felt by many this year, frontman Baden Donegal nostalgically notes, “Cover your eyes, now the sky is burning”. The combination of wobbled synths, organ, and psych-rock guitar inject a layer of groove into the track that frame the vocals beautifully to create a truly spectacular tune. ‘Tombstone’ perfectly captures 2020 in all its chaos with the music encouraging you to chill-out and watch while the world burns around you.