Thomas Johnson’s Top 50 Albums of 2020

The Year in Music: 2020


Thomas Johnson

Honorable Mentions:
The Price of Tea in China — Boldy James & The Alchemist
It Is What It Is — Thundercat
A Hero’s Death — Fontaines D.C.
The Baby — Samia
Starting Over — Chris Stapleton
American Head — The Flaming Lips
The Slow Rush — Tame Impala
Man on the Moon III: The Chosen — Kid Cudi
The Angel You Don’t Know — Amaarae
Limbo — Aminé


50. West of Eden — HMLTD
49. Innocent Country 2 — Quelle Chris & Chris Keys
48. Burden of Proof — Benny the Butcher
47. NO DREAM — Jeff Rosenstock
46. The Ascension — Sufjan Stevens
45. We Will Always Love You — The Avalanches
44. Miss Anthropocene — Grimes
43. The New Abnormal — The Strokes
42. Ungodly Hour — Chloe x Halle
41. Song Machine, Season One — Strange Timez — Gorillaz
40. From a King to a GOD — Conway the Machine
39. God Has Nothing To Do With This Leave Him Out Of It — Backxwash
38. Color Theory — Soccer Mommy
37. 2017 – 2019 — Against All Logic
36. Inner Song — Kelly Lee Owens
35. Rough and Rowdy Ways — Bob Dylan
34. Ohms — Deftones
33. Un Canto por México — Natalia Lafourcade
32. Purple Moonlight Pages — R.A.P. Ferreira
31. Miss Colombia — Lido Pimienta
30. Descendants of Cain — KA
29. Manger on McNicholas — Boldy James & Sterling Toles
28. After Hours — The Weeknd
27. Little Dominiques Nosebleed — The Koreatown Oddity
26. UNLOCKED — Denzel Curry & Kenny Beats
25. Lianne La Havas — Lianne La Havas
24. Last Year Was Weird, Vol. 2 — Tkay Maidza
23. songs — Adrianne Lenke
22. Women in Music Pt. III — HAIM
21. folklore / evermore — Taylor Swift
20. how i’m feeling now — Charli XCX
19. Heaven to a Tortured Mind — Yves Tumor
18. Shore — Fleet Foxes
17. Untitled (Black is) / (rise) — SAULT
16. Shabrang — Sevdaliza

15. Song for Our Daughter — Laura Marling

With the unique concept of singing to one’s non-existent daughter about the experience as a woman in society, Marling combines sincere lyrics with elaborate instrumentals that put the lyrics in the spotlight.

14. Microphones in 2020 — The Microphones

The unique presentation of the album as a massive 44 minute song both works in its favor and works against it. The stories Phil Elverum tells benefit from each song flowing into the next, yet each listen requires a dedicated effort as the listener is unable to pick specific songs to play.

13. Future Nostalgia — Dua Lipa

Dua Lipa creates her best project to date, rising to the top of the 80’s pop and disco trend. The album provides the story of an entire relationship with intoxicating dance grooves that never lull.

12. Visions of Bodies Being Burned — clipping.

With some of the best experimental hip hop of the year, clipping. explores a range of minimalist to thunderous instrumentals. However, the lyrics and their stories steal the show, creating an enticingly creepy demonstration of horrorcore.

11. græ — Moses Sumney

Græ is impossible to categorize. Despite its melding of genres like soul, jazz, R&B, and rock, Sumney immerses you in a cinematic world where nothing feels out of place.

10. Windswept Adan — Ichiko Aoba

This album creates an incredible atmosphere unlike any other. Over its simple, yet elegant instrumentation, Aoba provides deep expression through powerful vocals that transcend the language barrier.

9. Set My Heart on Fire Immediately — Perfume Genius

The title says it all, this album is Mike Hadreas as an open book, expressing his vulnerability through lyrics of incredible emotional depth. The instrumentation ranges from ambient to explosive, yet Hadreas remains powerful and intricate in his performance.

8. RTJ4 — RTJ

The duo that never fails to deliver one of the best albums of the year with every project gave us another masterpiece. With this album, Killer Mike and El-P provide a political commentary unrivaled in its lyrics and wordplay.

7. Miles — Blu & Exile

In this massive hour and a half album, Blu provides conscious raps over some of the best jazz rap beats by Exile. Despite its length, the record is never a laborious listen, with Blu’s thoughtful and nuanced bars always holding your attention.

6. Circles — Mac Miller

The transformation in style that Mac Miller began with Swimming reaches fruition on Circles. Unfortunately, his passing meant he was never able to hear his greatest album come to completion.

5. SAWAYAMA — Rina Sawayama

In the best debut album of the year, Rina Sawayama isn’t afraid to experiment with the boundaries of pop music. She masterfully fuses pop with other genres like metal as a reflection of the fusion of cultures in her life.


4. What’s Your Pleasure? — Jessie Ware

In a year where the 80’s made a massive resurgence in music, What’s Your Pleasure? excels where many who attempted the trend faltered: reinventing the music through an exciting and intricate collection of songs, instead of merely reproducing it.


3. Fetch the Bolt Cutters — Fiona Apple

This album introduced me to Fiona Apple and her carefree and idiosyncratic self-expression. Every listen reveals something new about the rich instrumentation and the passionate lyrics.


2. Alfredo — Freddie Gibbs & The Alchemist

Freddie Gibbs doesn’t miss. His extraordinary lyrics and delivery over masterfully crafted beats by The Alchemist place him as one of the best contemporary rappers. This better win a Grammy.


1. Punisher — Phoebe Bridgers

The songwriting, instrumentation, and singing are all immaculate. Phoebe Bridgers presents a range of folk, pop, and indie rock songs that all have the same understated depth and beauty to them. Its barebones presentation allows the poetic songwriting to stand out and make it impossible not to find your own connection with each song.