Apparently, being shut up indoors all year has had quite the positive effect on the females of the music industry, since every single one of our top 10 favourite albums in 2020 have all been written and recorded by women. It’s amazing to live in a time where women are now so highly respected in the music industry, and these records are just a snippet of the female talent that is cultivating the terrain for that reverence.
1. Fetch the Bolt Cutters – Fiona Apple
2020 has been nothing if not an experiment of sorts, which makes Fiona Apple’s first album release in eight years quite the appropriate offering. Fetch the Bolt Cutters is a courageously raw album, deliberately imperfect and rarely pretty – and it’s that distinct lack of restraint that makes it so appealing. Despite the weirdness, Fiona still manages some seriously infectious choruses and we can’t help but feel like she’s re-writing the script for what music could and should be.
2. Sawayama – Rina Sawayama
No doubt one of the most exquisite vocals we’ve heard all year comes from this Japanese-British singer with her debut album Sawayama. A stunning voice is rarely enough to impress in such a competitive industry, however, Rina never uses hers as a crutch on her record. Her talents are broader, such as her ability to switch from pop to metal sentiments as easily as blinking, while still remaining accessible and certainly fit for the arenas.
3. Fake It Flowers – Beabadoobee
Another debut album that has caught our eye comes from Filipino-British newcomer Beabadoobee. Fake It Flowers was an instant hit with us at Contactmusic, with its lo-fi quality, dirty guitars and nostalgic vocals. It felt strongly in the realm of 90s shoegaze with a light-heartedness that imbued every track with charm and fun.
4. Every Bad – Porridge Radio
Their first album under the indie label Secretly Canadian, Brighton four-piece Porridge Radio presents a hypnotic and emotionally complex second (official) studio output with Every Bad. While we’re worlds away from their DIY bedroom-studio days (though these days, such a sentiment hardly means anything when it comes to quality), this is a band that remains entirely on their own planet with a new confidence that has worked wonders.
5. Women in Music Pt. III – Haim
We distinctly remember feeling a little disappointed with 2013’s debut Days Are Gone; for a trio that seemed to have this unique sisterly energy and such an independent attitude, we really expected something more than a generic two-dimensional indie-pop album. But third album Women in Music Pt. III was such a different experience. It’s a cliche to say that the Haim sisters have really come into their own with this record, but it’s the truth! Their seamless blend of moody folk with a southern rock flavour, country sensibilities and occasional reggae and R&B rhythms shows the kind of depth we knew they were capable of all along.
6. Self-Surgery – Mrs. P*ss
If you’ve always been a fan of gothic rock singer Chelsea Wolfe, then you must give her new collaborative project with Jess Gowrie, Mrs. P*ss, a try. Debut album Self-Surgery is a riotous rock release that teeters on the edge of metal, but with industrial elements and a dark ambience that is effortlessly sexy and addictive throughout. There are so many layers to Self-Surgery that you’ll hear something different every time you hear it.
7. Punisher – Phoebe Bridgers
A nominee for the Grammy’s Best New Artist award, Phoebe Bridgers has found favour with her second album Punisher. Building on her mesmeric brand of emo-folk, the album is soothingly melancholic and perhaps the most lyrically memorable album we’ve heard this year. There’s nothing cliched about this LA singer-songwriter, and yet you’ll find it virtually impossible not to relate to at least one of these striking tracks.
8. Inner Song – Kelly Lee Owens
Make sure you’re ready for an out-of-body experience before you listen to this Welsh musician’s latest album. Inner Song has that futuristic vibe that can transport you instantly to the astral plane without the need for meditative practice. Naturally, we’re exaggerating (slightly), but this really is an enchanting record marrying dreamy pop with a techno edge and vocal minimalism. Highlights include (but are certainly not limited to) an incredible cover of Radiohead’s Weird Fishes/Arpeggi as well as an outstanding collaboration with the legendary John Cale.
9. Volume I – AViVA
Aussie singer Aviva Anastasia Payne dropped her debut album Volume I in the summer, and frankly it’s everything that an electro-pop record should be; rebelling against the status quo of “ordinary” pop and never once becoming a predictable mass of over-production and tried-and-tested formulaic melody. And yet, it’s fair to say that AViVA is, as of yet, criminally underrated.
10. Song for Our Daughter – Laura Marling
An early favourite at ContactMusic, Laura Marling once again charmed us with an uplifting Joni Mitchell-esque folk collection in the shape of her seventh album Song for Our Daughter. There’s a refreshing simplicity running through the entire record, reflecting both Laura’s musical maturity and her songwriting elegance, and yet there are still so many surprising twists and turns. A very well-deserved Best Folk Album nominee for the Grammys.