With this crazy year coming to a close, the ALTANGELES team looked back at 2020’s releases and all of the great music that was made this year. Here are a handful of our favorite albums of 2020!
Small Forward – Small Forward
by Donna Borges
Small Forward’s self-titled debut album was the bright and dreamy record we needed in the middle of the chaos of this year. Released in May, right in the middle of our first quarantine, Small Forward provided the perfect sonic escape from the uncertainty of the future, with each track containing its own kind of soothing, dream-like feeling paired with nostalgic lyricism. “Imagine So” and “Bloodhounds” were on repeat for me, and some of my other favorites included “Bound” and “Sadie.”
Punisher – Phoebe Bridgers
by Emma Hogarth
It’s no secret that Los Angeles native Phoebe Bridgers is one of the driving forces of the indie-folk music scene since the release of her debut album Stranger In The Alps. Feelings of true happiness and repose have been few and far between this year but with the release of her sophomore album Punisher in June, I was finally able to capture the small pockets of tranquility that I’ve been searching for, making this my favorite album of 2020. Phoebe’s soft yet impactful voice fills the versatile songs with a powerful and beautiful punch, with lyrics filled with nuance that tackle themes such as inner and outer connections and conflicting emotions within oneself. Wonderful storytelling. “Graceland Too”‘s (my person favorite song on the album) harmonies are so incredible, “Kyoto” is damn catchy, and “I Know The End”‘s ending instrumental with its trumpets is genuinely one of the best endings of an album I have ever heard, perfectly completing its 40-minute runtime. I’d like to personally thank Phoebe for blessing us with such a solid edition to her discography this year and I cannot wait to see what the future has in store for her.
Two of Me – Momma
by Aleah Antonio
Two of Me by Momma feels both daring and broken-in, similar to feeling at home in something haunted. Inspired by their hometown and spiritual epiphanies that “may or may not” have involved shrooms, as quoted in their Rolling Stone feature, Two of Me is a concept album that explores the dark side of one’s mind and what happens when it comes out to play. The four-piece band, fronted by BFFs Etta Friedman and Allegra Weingarten, reignites the brooding grunge sound that was buried in the 90s. Not only is Two of Me one of 2020’s strongest projects, but Momma is a band on the rise that listeners must keep an eye out for.
Kiss My Superbowl Ring – The Garden
by Donna Borges
As a long-time fan of the Garden, I was counting down the days until the release of Kiss My Superbowl Ring in March–and I was not disappointed. The album has the same punk attitude and chaotic energy of other Garden albums, but something about this album felt more mature and true to the band. The lyricism in this album reflects the struggles and reflections of the Shears twins—with tracks like “AMPM Truck” and “The King of Cutting Corners” seemingly reflecting on personal habits and experiences. In addition to those tracks, some more of my personal favorites on the album are “A Fool’s Expedition,” “Kiss My Superbowl Ring,” and “Sneaky Devil”–although each track on the album is incredible. Hopefully I’ll find myself at a Garden show in 2021 so I can hear Kiss My Superbowl Ring live.
Thee Azmatics – Thee Azmatics
by Cazmir Nishi
Thee Azmatics’ self-titled EP has so much going for it. It is their best produced release to date, credit to local producer Jeff Bowler of Bowler Audio. This EP is also the best batch of songs these Hacienda Heights natives have put together. “Police 911” is an instant punk classic that speaks out against police brutality. It also includes a face-melting solo that is fueled with rage. “Loose Button” has all the angst of a Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers-era New York City punk song, with a SoCal twist. “Alejandra” is a sweet love song with a beautiful, soft melody. “All Tied Up” and “Poser Pop” are great sing-alongs. Every song has a vibrancy and depth to it that make this release a standout one of the year. While the band has announced an indefinite hiatus, fans do hope that these songs can be heard at another live show sometime down the line.
Lullaby for You – Greer
by Gillian Johnson
When I started going to shows, Greer was one of the first bands I fell in love with. At that time, the only place to hear most of their songs was live in person, but that didn’t stop my friends and me from knowing all of the lyrics. I think it would be an understatement to say that I was excited when they were finally released. Time passed, and those friendships came to an end, but I always find myself coming back to enjoy the music and relive the happier memories I still have attached to these songs. The meaning behind each song grew along with me through all of our time spent together, and that is what makes Lullaby For You my album of the year.
Comets & Roses – Your Favorite Color
by Riley Hilbert
From the opening lick of Comets & Roses by Your Favorite Color, you know you are in for a ride. The dynamics of this album speak for themselves, with each verse creating a new world for the listener. I have to say, I chose this for my album of the year because I believe it is so versatile for the listener. From “Humans” to “Turn Me On” somewhere in the middle, then finishing off with “This Time We Have,” each song has a life of its own. Whether you want to dance, relax, or listen to something to cheer you up, this album will undoubtedly do the trick. I saw Your Favorite Color at Blivet Bash, and can safely say that they are one of those bands that are even better live.
The Prettiest Curse – Hinds
by Holly Alvarado
The Spanish female rock quartet Hinds, based in Madrid, has plunged into a new world on their third record and latest project, The Prettiest Curse. This release finds Hind expanding their palette into one that accesses the qualities of pop and dreamy synths, all while embracing their Spanish roots with acoustic-driven melodies and Spanish ballads that appear for the first time in Hinds’ discography. Far different from their two previous garage-rock releases I Don’t Run and Leave Me Alone, the ladies manage to squeeze in a new era of Hinds altogether in a thirty-minute, ten-track album. Enhancing euphoric dream-pop that reminisces the best moments of The Strokes and Ty Segall, all while intensifying their own rawness for verberated rock. Needless to say, Hinds is THE creme of the crop for girl-groups—musically and creatively. From one Latina musician to another, The Prettiest Curse empowered me to feel a sense of unity, creativity, and an endless appreciation for females across the globe who form something entirely so badass.
Under The Spell of Joy – Death Valley Girls
by Armieta Nabati
Death Valley Girls’ 2020 LP Under the Spell of Joy is more than an album: it’s a riveting sonic experience. Ritualistic, chanty, and witchy, Bonnie Bloomgarden’s voice makes the listener feel as though they are being romanced by a sorceress. The lyrics read like an instruction manual on how to ascend to the astral plane. My favorite tracks, “Bliss Out” and “Dream Cleaver,” feel like fever dreams in the best way possible; the entire album is sonically reminiscent of Stevie Nicks and Bikini Kill, with elements of psychedelia and electronica. A testament to the mastery of their craft, Under the Spell is a delightfully haunting piece of work that stays with the listener long after the first play.
Pipe Dream – Your Angel
by Dylan Robinson
Snuck in right at the end of 2019, Los Angeles artist and friend of the Danger Collective crew Your Angel released her debut LP, Pipe Dream. Swirling around ideas of dreamy, ceiling-gazing instrumentals with hauntingly ascendant vocal arrangements, Your Angel channels an ethereal presence on this album to wash you in the undertow. Lumping this record right into the cut-off zone for 2020 releases appears to be a rookie move on my part, but I feel the transcendent qualities Your Angel spun into this record are exactly why it’s more vital in this year than the prior it launched within. “Backbone” resides as my favorite track with the enchanting apparition Your Angel embodies somehow emerging from the cascade of synth and a drowning, heavy bass tone. Synth chords drive this record to the ends of the earth in a soul-searching manner as crags of crashing snares meet it to bask in an iridescent aura. From the gleaming album art, to the introspective instrumentation eeking out the vivacious vocal layering on a track like “Always,” musing on about Pipe Dream becomes about as second-nature as its hypnotic melodies elicit.
The Fifth Dandelion – Paul Molloy
by Malena Saadeh
Out as of August 21st, 2020, Paul Molly’s first full length solo release, The Fifth Dandelion, resurrects the presence of a sixties seafarer that surely would dock ship in one of Peter Max’s psychedelic daydreams. Spanking backbeats that pick up the playful hand of Harry Nilsson scattered all throughout the work get complimented with a sort of Emmit Rhodes swing that when met with modern day touches of King Gizzard-esque experimentation, turn into something really special. This album transports listeners to a universe where Morrison Hotel overlaps Early Donovan — it’s a melting pot bubbling over with the best pieces of music’s golden era twisted together with a modern touch. Molloy goes boldly on his way spouting out sea shanties and playful ragtime classics held between the hands of a sound crafted around late sixties sunshine. All in all, The Fifth Dandelion was a breath of fresh air in music this year and some much needed warmth in uncertain times.
Slow Rush – Tame Impala
by Carley Kershaw
I may be a little biased because this is the last show I saw in person, but my favorite album of the year was Slow Rush by Tame Impala. The disco-inspired dance beats and synths allow you to groove the whole way through. 70s and 80s influence in music is really big this year, and he kind of nails it on the head while also incorporating psychedelic elements. Kevin Parker is always doing something new or different, and I love how complex the production is. I think that this is a listening experience and based in creating a feeling more than telling a story. Normally I prefer records with different personal stories, but I like that I can dance to this album or just listen, not think, and get lost in its colorful sound.
Cool Tape Vol. 3 – Jaden
by Aaron Rodriguez
Cool Tape Vol. 3, or CTV3, by Jaden is my album of 2020. This album is a smooth jump into R&B mixed with alternative rock and pop flavors, which is a notable difference from his much more Hip-Hop based projects he released before. Tracks like “Circa 2015,” “Cabin Fever,” and “Deep End” are youthful takes on sounds adopted by artists such as The Weeknd or Drake, with added alternative pop instrumentation that really stand this project out from the others released this year. Jaden outdid himself with CTV3, and it will be an inspiration for artists to watch and learn from for years to come.
Invisible People – Chicano Batman
by Leo Blumenfield
For Chicano Batman’s fourth record, they decided to try something new and different. The product was Invisible People, a fuzzy cascade of emotional music. “This is the best music we’ve ever made,” lead singer Bardo Martinez says in an interview with KROQ. Something about this record just feels so different and new. The production of the record is much more in your face and smooth than their previous releases, yet also somehow gritty and soulful. The instruments melt together, yet every instrument can be heard perfectly and each instrument feels as though it is cutting through the music to the listener’s ears.
Ohms – Deftones
by Jackson Munger
Legendary alt-metal, shoegaze outfit Deftones has dropped what is arguably their most ambitious album yet, improving on the sounds of their past few records. Chino’s lyrics are quite a reflection on our modern day social climate, while heavy guitar riffs are blended with more atmospheric and dream pop-esque soundscapes. This record feels like one cohesive effort while diving into many different directions in terms of sonic elements and styles and also offering some of their best songwriting since their classic outing White Pony from 2000. The boys are back.
The Freelancers Blues – Dougie Poole
by Malena Saadeh
Searching for up-to-par Cosmic American Music in our unfortunately modern time is about as hopeless as trying to find the phone someone dropped in the sea of people in the main room of the Observatory (the scummy SoCal equivalent of “finding a needle in a haystack”). Lucky for us, Brooklyn’s own Dougie Poole dropped a much needed synth country LP to bless our ears this June and I’ve stayed rockin’ to it ever since. This was the first 2020 release I picked up on vinyl because as soon as I gave it the once-over, I knew it held just the right amount of ambivalence to stay relevant for seasons to come. Poole pens tracks like our Grievous Angel Parsons would have if he had found himself in 2020 and this album in particular is without a doubt Dougie’s own Gilded Palace of Sin. “Buddist For a Couple Days” and “Vaping on the Job” parallel the sarcastic half smirk and snicker we hear in The Flying Burrito Brothers “My Uncle,” while “These Drugs Aren’t Working” and “Los Angeles” feel like sitting on the other side of a confessional. In 9 tracks Dougie memorializes the times we’ve come to sit in as of late with the titan of capitalism allowing us all to find a little truth in the struggles of this freelancer, for they are our own struggles as well. It’s everyman while still feeling wise and it’s raw while still swinging. Easily the most unique thing I’ve heard in a while with a completely human intent which gives my po-dunk freelancer self a bit of hope for what music’s future could be.