By Emily Duff and Emma Furrier
1. Best Album
Emily: IDLES - ‘Ultra Mono’
WHY - I have loved this band for years and so a new album is always gonna excite me. The thing I love most about IDLES is not just their heavy beats I wanna mosh to but the fact that their lyrics actually say something and discuss politics and social issues that I wish more artists would mention.
Emma: Phoebe Bridgers - ‘Punisher’
WHY - Phoebe Bridgers has been an artist to watch ever since her first release in 2015. As if I couldn’t love her anymore, her sophomore album, ‘Punisher’ came out this June and took the world by storm. Phoebe is praised for her witty and poignant lyrics, as well as her ability to capture the world from a unique point of view, in the most mundane yet magical way. Her voice provides the soothing comfort we all need now more than ever, and songs like ‘Savior Complex’, ‘ICU’, ‘Punisher’, and ‘I Know the End’ are the ultimate comforts for this miserable year.
2. Best Single
Emily: King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard - ‘Straws in the Wind’
WHY - It’s just a super funky track. I love King Gizz but while some of their tracks can get quite heavy this track is one that I can easily (and have done many times) listen to on repeat.
Emma: The Strokes - ‘The Adults are Talking’
WHY - The Strokes made their ultimate (and much anticipated) comeback this year with the release of their sixth studio album, ‘The New Abnormal’. This was the fourth single off the album, but the first track that truly captivated me. It’s full of glittery guitar riffs and just the right amount of funk from this indie unit. In a year full of media frenzy and doom-scrolling, this single was the ultimate jam while still presenting an inquisitive social commentary about the world. It says just enough without being overbearing.
3. Best Vocals
Emily: Sam Smith - ‘Love Goes’
WHY - Despite not being a huge pop fan, I’ve always loved Sam Smith. Their voice is something that beautifully encapsulates emotions and I love it especially in this almost dancey track.
Emma: Thunder Jackson - ‘Caroline’
WHY - Full of mesmerizing falsetto, this dreamy ballad showcases the power of Thunder Jackson’s gorgeous vocals. He is a voice to be heard, and his self-titled debut album is an indie pop masterpiece. His voice has many layers and is incredibly captivating.
4. Best Foreign Language
Emily: Kali Uchis - ‘Sin Miedo’
WHY - Kali Uchis is another singer with a killer voice. Having collaborated with names like Tyler, the Creator and releasing her debut album that rivals all other debut albums in 2018, Kali has been going back to her Colombian roots in her recent tracks and I’m here for it.
Emma: Christine and the Queens - ‘People, I’ve Been Sad’
WHY - Known for singing in and out of both English and French, Christine and the Queens’s French choruses in this track are absolutely beautiful and make me want to re-learn all the French I have forgotten over the years. This is the lead single off her EP released earlier this year, and left me comforted by the fact that we are all going through the same things and feel the same integral human emotions, no matter where we are in the world.
5. Best in Rap/Hip-Hop
Emily: Dizzee Rascle - ‘E3 AF’
WHY - As cheesy as Dizzee can be, his tracks always liven up a dance floor and I think that this album was a well-deserved break from all the depressing tracks coming out of 2020.
Emma : Easy Life and Arlo Parks - ‘Sangria’
WHY - I’ll be the first to admit that this is not my favorite genre. However, I’m absolutely in love with R&B up-and-comer Arlo Parks and when she teamed up with Easy Life, I was excited to see what they’d create together. The result is a laid back, genre-fluid track that oozes cool with a relaxed groove and clever rhymes.
6. Best in Pop
Emily: Glass Animals - ‘Hot Sugar’
WHY - I’ve only gotten into Glass Animals this year and I wish I’d found them sooner. While I’ve been listening to their 2016 album, ‘How To Be a Human Being’, 'Hot Sugar' is my favourite track from their new album, ‘Dreamland’, because of its funky/sci-fi beats and catchy vocals.
Emma: Marina- ‘Man’s World’ (Single)
WHY - I will forever love anything and everything that Marina (formerly Marina & the Diamonds) does, so I am biased in that sense, but this single she released after a brief hiatus had me buzzing. In true Marina fashion, her lyricism shines as she uses social commentary on the world we live in to narrate this track. She doesn’t want to live in a man’s world anywhere… look around, blast this tune, and ponder what it would be like if women took control. Pop music has never been so meaningful.
7. Best in Indie
Emily: Circa Waves - ‘Sad Happy’
WHY - Upbeat and funky to start with tracks like ‘Jacqueline’ the album also has sad and melancholic tracks like ‘Birthday Cake’ that brings a huge range of emotions and dynamics to the album.
Emma: Peach Pit - ‘You and Your Friends’
WHY - Peach Pit’s sophomore album is one of my favorite releases of the year and contains some of my most played songs. Known for their laid back swagger and breezy guitar, this album proves that the band know what they’re good at, but aren’t afraid of venturing outside of the box every once in a while. With quirky lyrics that make you crack a smile, accompanied by a woozy sound, Peach Pit will draw in you upon the first note.
8. Best in Rock
Emily: Fontaines DC - ‘A Heros’ Death’
WHY - I was lucky enough to see Fontaines DC pre-lockdown this year and their atmosphere was amazing. While this album is an amazing album for its use of rock in a modern context, similar to IDLES, it also holds fond memories of live music for me.
Emma: The Killers - ‘Imploding the Mirage’
WHY - They can do no wrong. This being The Killer’s sixth studio album, they have still not worn out their trademark sound, but amplified it to greater heights with the help of some very talented friends, including Lindsey Buckingham. This album gives us a hopeful glimpse at a brighter future, proving itself as the perfect quarantine companion.
9. Best in Electronic
Emily: Tame Impala - ‘Borderline’
WHY - From the 2020 album, ‘The Slow Rush’, this track is my favourite because it feels like it encapsulates the year because I heard it so much but unlike most years when you’re forced to listen to the same song in every pub and shopping centre, this repetition was my own doing because of its laid back vibes.
Emma: Tame Impala - ‘The Slow Rush’
WHY - This album was a slow grower on me, but it definitely lives up to its hype. I agree with everything Emily said, with ‘Borderline’ definitely being the standout track, but there are other moments in this album as well that serve some softer moments of both introspection and nostalgia. Kevin Parker continues to prove that one thing Tame Impala is really good at is making you dance when you really feel like crying.
10. Best in Dance
Emily: The Garden - ‘Please, F**k Off’
WHY - The Garden are an underacknowldged band bringing rage against the machine angst vibes. ‘Please, F**k Off’ comes from their 2020 album, ‘Kiss My Super Bowl Ring’ which I have actively blasted when in a bad mood.
Emma: Dua Lipa - ‘Club Future Nostalgia’
WHY - There is no denying that this was the year of Dua Lipa. It was impossible to turn on the radio on go online without hearing her raspy vocals and seeing her glittering Studio 54 meets Zenon costumes. I did not think much when she first released this remixed version of her bestselling album ‘Future Nostalgia’. With help from The Blessed Madonna and superstar collabs with Madonna, Gwen Stefani and Missy Elliot, just to name a few, some of the songs are unrecognizable, yet still catchy. After watching her Studio 2054 show, I was so impressed by the integeractic club atmosphere she created and saw the charm of her remixed tracks.
11. Best Up-and-Comer
Emily: Plastic Glass - ‘Let Me Know’
WHY - Local to my hometown of Newcastle, I’ve been a huge fan of Plastic Glass for years and it seems 2020 has brought them the attention they deserve. Their track ‘Let Me Know’ has a fun beat that you can’t help but dance along to.
Emma: Briston Maroney - ‘The Garden’
WHY - I have loved Briston Maroney ever since he released his 2018 EP, but this year I have enjoyed watching him gain more and more traction. So far in 2020, he has re-released his hit single ‘Freaking Out on the Interstate’ and put out 5 new singles as well. ‘The Garden’ is one of my absolute favorites, as it is full of heavier guitar and percussion than we are used to hearing on his tracks, and sees him branching out into a bigger sound. I am so excited to see where his journey goes, and even more excited for him to finally release a debut album.
12. Best Classic
Emily: The Strokes - ‘The New Abnormal’
WHY - With classics like, ‘Last Nite’ and ‘Reptilia’, it seems it should be hard for this band to keep releasing great music but ‘The New Abnormal’ pays perfect homage to their passed released with tracks like, ‘The Adults Are Talking’ and ‘Why Are Sundays So Depressing’.
Emma: Fleet Foxes - ‘Shore’
WHY - Fleet Foxes have proved themselves to be a classic folk band, with each release pulling you into their own world. I was happy to see that this album (their 4th studio album) stayed true to their folk sound, full of glorious harmonies, while also venturing off into some new territories. Shore is a gorgeous folk-rock album that brings your focus to the simpler things in life and gives you a moment of blissful peace and reflection.
13. Best Artwork
Emily: King Krule - ‘Man Alive’
WHY - An abstract red man on a cool blue background that is not only aesthetically pleasing but encapsulated King Krule’s experimental music.
Emma: Misterwives - ‘Superbloom’
WHY - This album tells a story from start to finish, chronicling heartbreak and reformation. The cover art and promotional photographs for the album are beautiful and eye-catching, revealing bright pinks and oranges, fields of flowers, and in the midst of the natural beauty, stands a tall rectangular mirror. Shot by music photographer Matty Vogel, the artwork accompanying this album reflects the lead singer Mandy Lee’s journey of healing, self discovery and rebirth. The photos were shot in the same poppy fields that Mandy traveled to with her sisters during one of her lowest moments. The significance of this artwork is just as beautiful as it is aesthetically pleasing.
14. Best Live Stream
Emily: Spilt Milk
WHY - Streaming every week during the March lockdown, these lads were fully dedicated to staying engaged with their audience. With a cinema student in their family, their streams were also fun to watch with different segments along with the band showing off a mix of originals and cover tracks.
Emma: Mt. Joy
WHY - Mt. Joy’s sophomore album ‘Rearrange Us’ came out earlier this year and was promptly followed by many Instagram live streams by the band, along with special guests. Stuck at home, I frequently viewed Mt. Joy’s Instagram concerts, which provided a great distraction, words of encouragement, and beautiful music. One of my favorites was their livestream “Mt. Joy and Friends” which donated 100% of proceeds to Musicares and Philabundance. Special guests included Rainbow Kitten Surprise, The Lumineers, Noah Kahan, Houndmouth and Caamp. It was a beautiful night for such a great cause.
15. Best Music Video
Emily: The Snuts - ‘Elephant’
WHY - Already an amazing song that I’ve also had on repeat this year, their video complemented it perfectly with a ‘70s style (my favourite) TV set staging and awkward cuts to a freaky looking multicoloured elephant bull machine that create an almost psychedelic comedy to the video.
Emma: Declan McKenna - 'The Key to Life on Earth’
WHY - What’s better than one Declan McKenna? Two Declan McKennas! In this fun video for his hit single (and one of my favorites of the year), Declan enlisted actor Alex Lawther as his lookalike to join him throughout the video. It showcases life’s mundanity and lack of individuality in a creative way.
16. Best Collaboration
Emily: Childish Gambino - ‘12.38 ft. 21 Savage, Ink & Kadhja Bonet’
WHY - As a huge fan of Childish Gambino this track was exciting because it felt like a step back to his older ‘“Awaken, My Love!”’ music and with the addition of other talented musicians it couldn't go wrong.
Emma: Hayley Williams & Boygenius - ‘Roses/Lotus/Violet/Iris’
WHY - Paramore’s Hayley Williams’ enlisted the gorgeous harmonies of Boygenius (the trio of Phoebe Bridgers, Julien Baker, and Lucy Dacus) for this track in her solo album. It is a beautiful track that feels like a warm hug.
17. Best Rock N Roll Reports Interview
WHY - This is one I know Ed was really excited about and I think his passion for the band can be read in the interview which is something I love about features like that with a small blog as opposed to big magazines. Getting a glimpse into their lives outside of music such as when Thersea states, “I love to cook and actually I just watched ‘The Queen’s Gambit’ on Netflix so now I wanna learn chess”.
Emma: Michelle Treacy
WHY - This was a cool interview because Michelle is a really interesting artist and has had quite the lead up to her career! She has worked so hard, and uses her platform to promote positivity, individuality and inspires others not to give up on their dreams. I enjoyed getting an inside glimpse on her newest single.
18. Honorable Mentions
Emily: The Hunna - ‘I’d Rather Die Than Let You In’, CamelPhat - ‘Be Someone’, Easy Life - ‘Nightmares’, Run the Jewels - ‘Ooh La La’, The Front Bottoms - ‘Everyone Blooms’.
Emma: Nothing but Thieves - ‘Moral Panic’, Soccer Mommy - ‘Color Theory’, Samia - ‘The Baby’, Haim - ‘Women in Music Pt. III’, The Districts - ‘You Know I’m Not Going Anywhere’.
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