MMM Staff Picks: Mike Floeck’s Top Ten Favorite Albums of 2020
#10. Megan Thee Stallion – ‘Good News’
Comically on-the-nose, the title of Megan’s debut major-label LP announces its intentions and backs them up with raucous, unadulterated fun. Across 17 tracks, Megan leaps over some of the most energetic beats she’s encountered and expresses her intense joie de vivre purely in how strong she comes on. This record encapsulates events in the year she became an icon, and it will forever be ferociously associated with a Black woman’s triumph.
#9. Rina Sawayama — ‘SAWAYAMA’
British-Japanese pop chameleon Rina Sawayama launched the year’s most ambitious debut album and heralded the arrival of Y2K nostalgia. Predictably and brilliantly B-A-N-A-N-A-S, SAWAYAMA melds together genres like a blind blacksmith, intensely focused on the feel of the result and largely oblivious to how the finished product looks to passerby. Mid-aughts bubblegum is fed, thrashing and bleeding, through a carnivorous heavy metal filter that spits out a product so unlike anything else, it’s impossible not to appreciate the process.
#8. Dua Lipa — ‘Future Nostalgia‘
Dancey maximalism proved a healthy respite from the isolated woes of the year; luckily, Dua Lipa aimed her glitter gun straight for the roller rink with her sophomore album. Each song is single-worthy but an undeniable flow guides a track list that’s upbeat and often genuinely thrilling — no easy feat for a pop record reliant on efficiency. Brilliant samples, simmering vocals, and timely lyrics pack a triple punch that was too fun for me to pass up.
#7. Lianne La Havas — ‘Lianne La Havas‘
Five years on from her gripping debut, Lianne La Havas is finally set free on her second album: a self-titled, eclectic collection of explorations that showcase her supreme style and inept sensibilities. Her vibrato pours out like molasses, trickling over her own delicate guitar picking, and sweetening the skeletons of all these songs, making them sound lived-in and homy. And there’s a Radiohead cover?!
#6. Tame Impala — ‘The Slow Rush‘
Kevin Parker’s perfectionism seemed to have him cornered for a while, until all was revealed and it became clear, once again, that even Kevin Parker goes through real-life sh*t (like getting married, and now expecting a baby!). The album he burdened himself with for the five years since Currents is resoundingly patient, accepting the banality of the passing of time not only in its lyrical themes but also in the solvent energy of its instrumentals. At times, it feels like falling through a wormhole.
#5. Lady Gaga — ‘Chromatica‘
Never one to back down from a challenge, Gaga’s anticipated return-to-form dropped in the middle of a figurative sh*tstorm — at the height of the first wave of racial injustice protests this year, and two months into the first U.S. lockdowns, the Lady released an emphatically vivacious celebration of pain and the hard work that goes into overcoming it. “Rain On Me” provided a magnetic escape from the reality of 2020 as it spread the message: “I’d rather be dry // But at least I’m alive.”
#4. Phoebe Bridgers — ‘Punisher‘
Sadness holds court when Phoebe Bridgers writes. Her straightforward musings have a tendency to linger long after they’ve stopped playing, like an uncomfortable memory. Her sophomore record takes its name for jargon that musicians use to refer to overly-aggressive fans, and it casts the listener in the mind of an obsessive who views themselves that way sometimes. Chord progressions are simple but musicianship is deceptively intricate, and each listen rewards with new layers and textures.
#3. Roisin Murphy — ‘Roisin Machine‘
Experimental electronic musician and dance icon Roisin Murphy pushed herself harder than ever to capture her essence on vinyl. The result is a slick and sexy LP that luxuriates in delirious self-obsession. Its ten tracks cast Murphy as a determined lover and an unforgiving enemy, plotting and scheming on the dance floor. It took years to compile but the album is a glistening accomplishment, evidence of a seasoned pro making hard-working music sound easy.
#2. U.S. Girls — ‘Heavy Light‘
Meg Remy is a glass-half-full nihilist. Her lyrics on Heavy Light seethe with apathy for consumer culture and capitalism, but they also instill (some) hope that one day, we’ll all wake up and find contentment in just being happy…even if she doesn’t really believe that. The seventh album from Remy’s project U.S. Girls was recorded live and courses with difficult arrangements and stellar backing vocals. I’m depressed and impressed.
#1. Jessie Ware — ‘What’s Your Pleasure?‘
One artist perfected the disco resurgence in 2020, and that’s British mainstay diva Jessie Ware. What’s Your Pleasure? treats the genre with extreme reverence and pays sincere homage to the greats. Every arrangement, every pulsating synth and throbbing beat, is a calculated hallmark to the glory days of the dance floor, arriving just when I needed the dance floor most.