Written by Sina Watson
Welp, its July and we’ve officially “survived” half of 2020. I know I can personally attest that the last few months have taken a toll on my mental health. I went from listening to 70 hours of music a week to periods when I couldn’t bring myself to listen to anything at all. Although it has been a sad year for live shows, events, and festivals, it most certainly has been an incredible year for music. My love for music has certainly been tested during the pandemic but these brilliant albums by my favorite artists are a reminder that beauty lives and can grow even in the darkest of times. While we may not have been able to hear these albums live, I encourage everyone to take some time to relax and throw on their favorite one right now.
Brightest Lights – Lane 8
January 10, 2020
Can you believe it has been almost 6 months since Lane 8 released his latest album Brightest Lights? Late last year, Lane 8 announced his 3rd album Brightest Lights, as a response to all of the negative energy we experience everyday. This album was created as a reminder of all the beauty and positivity in the world, and “to celebrate the ups and downs of life and to try and see the world in a positive light.” After teasing a few tracks from the album at the end of 2019, I was eager to hear the full album in the new year. It is still hard for me to choose my favorite track on this album, because each one unlocks a part of my soul in a unique way. Looking back now, his social posts have aged quite well, and Brightest Lights, continues to remind me that there is beauty in this world and to remain positive even when it seems so hard.
Desert Trash – Mija
February 26, 2020
Mija is one of the most diverse and versatile artists on Earth, with live performances from house to drum and bass. Most artists can’t compete with her library and song selection. Mija’s debut album Desert Trash is unapologetically Mija and showcases her incredible artistic talents as she explores sounds outside her typical electronic style. Her decision to step outside her comfort zone, using this album as the catalysts has made me love Mija even more. According to a press release “I (Mija) wrote this album with the intention of stripping down all the excess and focusing on what truly matters to me; self-expression, realness, and the story.” Its clear the blood, sweat and tears she has put into the album.
Suddenly – Caribou
February 28, 2020
I’m honestly not even sure how many times I’ve listened to Suddenly at this point. If it doesn’t end up at the end of my Spotify Year in Review in December then there is something wrong with their algorithm. The album came out on the last day of February and was met with heavy competition from new albums and releases from Tycho and Disclosure. Once again its hard to choose a favorite track on this album. Each song uniquely articulates a feeling or mood I’ve never been able to express myself. Perhaps my favorite part of this album is how versatile the song selection is. In fact, Caribou’s essential mix was what sold me on the songs and its versatility. During quaranstreams, I’ve heard artists I never expected to sample a Caribou track to the point that I had to whip out my Shazam just to confirm I wasn’t just hearing things.
Ecstasy EP – Disclosure
February 28, 2020
I know this is only an EP with Disclosure’s full length album set to drop in the second half of the year, but honestly the EP was so good and its Disclosure so I’m including it anyways. Their 5-track Ecstasy EP explores the duo’s interests in African influences, as well as early 70’s disco, none of which will appear on their new album. This EP is completely separate from their forthcoming album Energy, but it has been nice to rinse on my airpods until August. Good luck trying to mix any of these tracks into your set though as the bpm and keys are hard to match with even the most diverse library.
The Universal Groove – Lubelski
March 13, 2020
I have been saying this all year, but 2020 is THE YEAR OF LUBELSKI. The Universal Groove is this Desert Hearts alum’s first full length album and he’s brought along his Percomaniac family for the ride. According to Lubelski’s,
“The Universal Groove, to me, is about love. The beat is indifferent to you so we have to care about each other. We all come together under this roof of rhythms to lift each other up and find an escape from the mundanity of daily life. This album culminates in love and all its shades and colors, whether it’s about falling in love, having love for each other, or showing self love. We are all unified by the universal groove of house music.”
This proves to be especially true this year where escaping the mundane of our homes through music is all that we have. Each track is unique and can stand alone itself, but they come together for an incredible journey showcasing Lubelski‘s talent for analog and synthesizer manipulation and story-telling. Each time I listen to the album I discover a new favorite, but “Somebody Like You,” “What I Would Do to Teleport to You,” and “Network 4 Network,” remain my top 3.
Sixteen Oceans – Four Tet
March 18, 2020
For over two decades, Four Tet has been delivering unmistakably gorgeous sounds; sampling acoustic instruments from folk and jazz recordings. His newest album, Sixteen Oceans, which is comprised of 16 songs, 5 of which are more like interludes, has gotten me through the ever so frustrating task of job searching. It has just enough vocals to keep me interested while the high-energy and soothing instrumentals keep me focused. Once again, I am pressed to find a favorite track on the album, although I know I’ve had “Baby” on repeat for at least a few days, maybe by accident but maybe not. Sixteen Oceans, has become a regular in my album rotation and each time I discover a new favorite track, it is almost as if listening to it for the first time.
Oddyssey – Amtrac
April 3, 2020
Oddyssey marks Amtrac’s first album in 9 years and it was absolutely worth the wait. The album pays homage to his path as an artist as each of the 14 tracks escorts us through a cinematic and emotional journey that I believe many of us can relate to. Amtracs’s use of moody and melodic sounds fuse together an indie like feeling cloaked in electronic soundscapes. For me its reminiscent of my younger self prior to discovering electronic music and as a sucker for lyrics Odydyssey hits both nostalgia and home for me. With contrasting tracks such as “Accountable” and “Stratego” its hard to choose a standout favorite. “Radical” has gathered over 2 million listens on Spotify and has been played out by artists such as Nora en Pure, The Chainsmokers, and Hardwell, while “Teenage Love” was recently remixed by Touch Sensitive.
Brave – Joyrde
April 3, 2020
It has been a long time coming for bass house producer Joyrde’s Brave album. After suffering from a spinal injury in 2018, the UK producer has literally put his blood, sweat, and tears into every track. His attention to detail and sound design is evident as the listener goes deeper down the album. The 18-track LP is a true masterpiece and showcases Joyryde’s talents as he blends grime, hip hop, UK bass, trap, and house together for an enjoyable journey. The album features fan favorites such as “SELECTA 19” and “I’M GONE” while introducing us to new favorites “DAMN,” “FAIL ME,” and “ON FIRE.” As a long time Joyrde fan that’s watched him open up festivals for 20 people, to selling out shows in LA, Joyryde is here to brave the climb into the bass house hall of fame. Since we’re not supposed to be leaving our houses for the rest of 2020, I guess I’ll use all my free time to learn how to shuffle to Joyryde.
Duality –Duke Dumont
April 17, 2020
Duke Dumont is one of the first DJs to get me into house music so I was super excited for his debut album. I absolutely love his vibe and I swear if i ever get married “I Got U,” will be apart of the wedding in some shape or form. Maybe a montage. The album itself has some high energy and club ready vocal tracks that Duke is known for, while exploring a deeper and darker side of his sound. After uplifting love like hits “The Giver” and “Need U100%” there are some questionable song selections on the album, but with soulful and thought provoking tracks like “Therapy,” “Love Song, and “Don’t Let Me Go,” it is an alright album. Ironically his hit “Ocean Drive,” has finally found a home inside the album, sandwiched between two of my least favorite tracks.
Chromatica – Lady Gaga
May 29, 2020
Its not uncommon in today’s music scene for pop artists to capitalize on the growing electronic music scene. Utilizing top EDM producers Axwell, Tchami, Madeon, and Skrillex, Chromatica combines everything EDM listeners love with the feel good lyrics of pop music. With only one listen through the album I felt like I was on planet Chromatica and had the majority of the lyrics imprinted in my brain. I found myself singing “Rain on Me” in the shower and screaming “I want your stupid love,” to my now scared roommates cats when they wouldn’t let me pet them. Perhaps what I love most about Chromatica is Gaga’s ability to remain true to herself, her message, and her voice with empowering lyrics set to 90’s dance music making for the perfect album to dance in your room to. My only question is: Since Earth sucks, Can we come live on Chromatica too Gaga?
Well that’s a wrap on the first half of 2020! There’s plenty of new albums to look forward to for the rest including Odesza and Golden Feature’s new collaboration project Bronson album set to release August 7, 2020 and Disclosure’s next album. Until then, Please don’t stop the music, it is the only thing that can save 2020 at this point.