Gen-Z music critic informs us “olds” about the best music we missed in ’20
Editor’s note: This last semester, our intern Allison Harris wrote a lot of excellent stories you probably enjoyed, including some of our cover stories. Their work outside of The Pitch has been mostly focused on covering the best of new music from across the spectrum.
When we worked together in the office, this lead to a lot of Allison, age 20, dunking on us for being old and not knowing about the cool new shit on the internet. They aren’t wrong: so someone who is not yet old enough to drink, we are in fact mummies, made of dust and boring opinions.
As an internship graduation gift, we’ve asked Allison to put together a list of the best music that we should have explored in 2020 if we were Zoomers who still had the time and the passion to seek out the new hipness. Here are their top 10 albums of the year, in case you want to cosplay as being “in the know” for your kids or whatever.
While 2020 as a whole was a bit of a nightmare, it was a strong year for music. We’ve seen debut albums, remix albums, and throwback albums. A lot of amazing music came from established artists in 2020, but some of the most memorable projects of the year came from younger artists showing off their talent for the first time. Many young artists in 2020 took risks in crafting the strange, beautiful, and unexpected music that soundtracked the year’s chaos.
The albums on this list aren’t here because they haven’t necessarily gotten their accolades this year, but because they are different enough to make an unfamiliar listener scoff, particularly if they’re of an older generation. “What is a Lil Uzi Vert?” you might ask, upon reading this list. “What is a gec, and why are there 100 of them?” Don’t you worry, all will be explained. It’s 2021 now, and it’s time to get out of your comfort zone! You might have more fun than you think.
10. Yaeji What We Drew
Queens-born Korean American electronic artist Yaeji creates a world of her own on her first full-length release, What We Drew. With breathy and light vocals in both English and Korean, the mixtape is quietly personal and sweet. Entirely self-produced, Yaeji shows off a wide range of influences, including house and hip-hop music. “WAKING UP DOWN” is a chilled-out play-by-play of the artist’s daily routine, and a standout track on the project.
9. Tennis Swimmer
One of the most memorable albums throughout quarantine and beyond has been musical duo Tennis’ album Swimmer. Released in February 2020, pre-coronavirus chaos in the United States, the album became a hauntingly beautiful backdrop for an unusual spring and summer. Blending the sounds of the 60s and 70s with modern pop, Tennis achieves a uniquely fresh project, with just a hint of kitsch. “Need Your Love” is a bright and joyful ode to letting go of toxic lovers, with a swinging and groovy hook.
8. Tkay Maidza Last Year Was Weird, Pt. 2
Australian rapper Tkay Maidza covers an awful lot of ground in the 26 minutes of Last Year Was Weird, Pt. 2, only the second release of a planned trilogy. With no song over four minutes, Maidza traverses the influences of grime, drill, and house music, expertly delivering rhymes with an adorable accent. “Grasshopper” is one of the more avant-garde tracks of the bunch, a dark and driving trap beat under Maidza’s complaints of “A new day, another person feeling jealousy/ That shit’s gettin’ straight old.” The song opens with Maidza cackling gleefully, à la Nicki Minaj, letting you know she’s about to go in.
7. Flo Milli Ho, why is you here ?
2019 and 2020 have been groundbreaking years for women in rap. With her debut album, Ho, why is you here ?, 20 year old Alabama rapper Flo Milli has inducted herself into an elite roster of women dominating the genre. After the viral success of the instant classic “Beef Flomix,” the inspiration for Twitter fancams everywhere, Flo Milli delivered one catchy single after another. Ho, why is you here ? is filled with bouncy, contagious hooks and expertly delivered flows. In just one year since her debut as an artist, Flo Milli has created a project that shows off exactly who she is as an artist, and what she can grow into. “May I,” which interpolates Snoop Dogg’s 1994 “Gin and Juice,” is pure fun, and so is its music video.
6. Shygirl ALIAS
UK rapper Shygirl’s EP ALIAS is not for the faint of heart. The 19-minute project is teeming with sexuality and grinding club beats. If this is the music Shygirl can create in a year with no clubbing, post-vaccine music from the artist is going to spare no vulgarity. SLIME, a remix of which appeared on the Cyberpunk 2077 soundtrack, describes a woman more than comfortable with her own sexuality over an ominous sounding trap beat. ALIAS may be brief, but it packs a powerful punch.
5. 100 gecs 1000 gecs and The Tree of Clues
When 100 gecs burst onto the scene in the summer of 2019 with their debut, 1000 gecs, no one knew exactly what to make of it. A post-emo, ska-tinged, P.C. Music-influenced electronic pop album seemed unlikely to be embraced by the general public. Instead, Dylan Brady and Laura Les of 100 gecs became icons of the underground. Just one year after their debut, they created a wide-spanning remix album, breathing life into the format, with features from multiple artists that influenced their work, like A.G. Cook, Fall Out Boy, and Black Dresses. 1000 gecs and the Tree of Clues proves that not only can you get people to embrace something completely bizarre, you can also continue to push the bounds of weirdness after that.
4. Rina Sawayama SAWAYAMA
UK pop princess Rina Sawayama’s self-titled debut album is a glorious collection of early 2000s sound. The album’s expansive and personal lyricism that tackles Sawayama’s experiences as a Japanese woman in the UK, and takes on the symptoms of capitalism and consumerism in society. There’s also some good, old-fashioned, incredible pop songs. “XS,” the second song on the album, shines by evoking the emo-rock and bubblegum pop of the early aughts. Sawayama positively sparkles in the music video, giving choreography and camp for days.
3. Charli XCX how i’m feeling now
Few artists were able to capture the feelings of quarantine as well as Charli XCX, who wrote and produced her how i’m feeling now project entirely isolated in her own home with her boyfriend. The pop project has tastes of Eurodance music, aggressive electronic production, and some of the most sweet and earnest songwriting of her career. The strongest of the bunch is
“visions,” a hopeful song about one day being reunited with the real world, which kicks into overdrive and becomes a spinning trance anthem shortly past the 2 minute 30 second mark. It’s a hell of an album closer.
2. Lil Uzi Vert Eternal Atake
One of the most excellently weird rappers currently on the scene, Philadelphia rapper Lil Uzi Vert did not disappoint with his long-awaited Eternal Atake. While it took time for this project to finally come to fruition, it was clearly worth the wait. One of its best tracks,“Futsal Shuffle 2020” is a reminder of a rare joyful moment in the year, when the song’s accompanying dance challenge went viral for being nearly impossible to recreate. You can feel the internet’s influence throughout Eternal Atake, with goofy lyrics perfect for tweeting and meme-creating. The project is nothing short of a blast to listen to.
1. Yves Tumor Heaven to a Tortured Mind
Yves Tumor’s junior album Heaven to a Tortured Mind presents some of the most sonically beautiful and strange music of the entire year. The enigmatic artist blends modern pop influences with psychedelic rock in a truly gorgeous project that pushes the bounds of music. “Gospel For A New Century” and “Kerosene” could both easily be touted as the best songs of the year. Blending the maximalist and the minimalist throughout the project, Yves Tumor creates something truly magical.