Year in Review: 25 Artists That Pushed Artistic Boundaries in 2020
2020 seemed like a never ending downward spiral. It was unprecedented, alarming, and fast-past, it left us isolated in a time when a it's easier than ever to connect with others. One thing we commonly see in music is that music in an era generally reflects the issues from that era and society. If that's true then it's no worder why this year has been full of some of the most creative songs and artist narratives yet.
Atleast in a year as chaotic as 2020, there were a few constants. Everyones is different but for us the music being released is what grounded us. Here are some of the albums that guided us through this maze of a year.
Featuring Phoebe Bridgers, Fever 333, Brent Faiyaz, Lil Keed, Ghostemane, Gleemer, Code Orange, Year of the Knife, Joji and other creatives whose boundless artistry inspired us in a dim year.
In no particular order here are 25 of our favorite albums picked by the Discover Vinyl staff and friends.
Gleemer // Down Through Label: Other People Records Release Date: 5/8/2020
Lush and full yet soft-spoken, Down Through is a hazy dose of escapism. Blending elements from shoegaze, post-rock, to even hardcore. There is an atmosphere Gleemer creates that doesn’t leave when you're done listening.
Code Orange // Underneath
Label: Roadrunner Records
Release Date: 3/13/2020
Reprogrammed for the end. Underneath shatters all prior expectations and creates a new reality through their music and multi-medium artistry. progressive, aggressive, and sophisticate, there are multiple layers to dissect as you delve into Code Orange’s world.
Loathe // I Let It In and It Took Everything
Label: SharpTone Records
Release Date: 2/7/20
I Let It In and It Took Everything... the title in itself has beauty behind it. Offering a dizzying surreal journey through one's own personal hell, Loathe transcends the mundane of an over saturated industry with their own mind numbing breed of hardcore.
Phoebe Bridgers // Punisher
Label: Dead Oceans
Release Date: 6/18/20
A Vibe. Somewhere between Indie, Folk, Emo, and Otherworldly, Punisher is a blissful track by track journey into the darker depths of emotions. Haunted by loss, mortality, and the realization of how little control over life we actually have. There is a reason why recently Phoebe Bridgers has captivated listeners. A perfectly unique blend of story telling and melodies driven by real pain, real tears. When theres too many emotions to process, turn on Punisher and let music process those thoughts and feelings for you.
Nothing, Nowhere. // One Takes Vol. 1
Release Date: 7/10/20
Sometimes the best albums are compilations of rarities, b-sides, and live takes. Nothing, Nowhere’s “One Takes Vol. 1” is no exception. Originally debuted via YouTube as part of the greater One Takes series, each track is a live version given studio treatment. One Takes Vol. 1 serves as a deep well to satisfy your N,N. cravings.
Ghostemane // Anti-Icon
Label: Blackmage Records
Release Date: 10/21/20
Highly anticipated, highly disruptive. Anti-Icon was the next chapter in the evolution of Ghostemane. If N/O/I/S/E introduced the world to Dr. Nihil, Anti-Icon brought us into Nihil’s world. It’s unsettling, intriguing, and addictive. Manufactured fear and pain that‘s dosed through the tracks, the record evokes almost primal emotions and responses.
The Acacia Strain // Slow Decay
Label: Rise Records
Release Date: 7/24/20
Slow Decay is a beast of an album by a band currently at the forefront of modern metal. The Acacia Strain have been pushing boundaries musically for a while now but also building a cult like following through tireless touring, inventive merch drops and steady drops of albums. Slow Decay is the output of that effort, like the 10,000 hours concept but Metal.
Higher Power // 27 Miles Underwater
Label: Roadrunner Records
Release Date: 1/24/20
Have you ever wondered how people can love hardcore music? The easiest way to relate is through the energy, one thing hardcore isn’t is lazy. Higher Power are bursting with energy and 27 Miles Underwater is one of the craziest, energetic, positive, groove heavy hardcore records of the year.
Brent Faiyaz // Fuck The World
Label: Lost KiDs
Release Date: 2/7/20
Elusive RnB for the lost kids. Fuck The World is a gem from start to finish. An inteligent blend of soulful thoughts spilled onto bass heavy lo-fi beats. Faiyaz hits different than nearly every other hip hop release out there right now. Spawned from a kid raised in the 90’s the sound is both ahead of it’s time based on the current music coming out but also an homage to the past. He’s truly in his own lane.
Joji // Nectar
Release Date: 9/25/20
Pop has never been our domain, but that’s only Joji’s label based on his popularity. However his musical influences, references, collaborations, artistic expressions throughout the album are far from mainstream. A true tastemaker, Nectar is an exploration of sounds. There’s something sonically pleasing about each beat selected and vocal layering, it’s full-bodied and comforting.
Be Well // The Weight and The Cost
Release Date: 8/21/20
Sometimes we look to the past to dictate the future. Be Well has survived through hard times and their fight is voiced on “The Weight and The Cost“. A traditional hardcore record with melodic undertones, the record is a motivator for when you find yourself on empty.
Modern Color // From The Leaves of Your Garden
Label: Other People Records
Release Date: 7/10/20
Hear me out, Avant-Garde Shoegaze Punk. I know, it sounds crazy but that’s exactly what Modern Color’s From The Leaves of Your Garden is. It’s all over the place and somehow ties together perfectly. It’s messy but in a intentional way. After hearing this record we won’t miss the next opportunity to catch Modern Color live if the world ever returns to any form of normal.
Nothing // The Great Dismal
Label: Relapse Records
Release Date: 10/30/20
The Great Dismal rewrote all expectations I had for Nothing and the great post-rock community. Its one of the few albums I think has just as much appeal out of it’s own genre than within. Spin this record and give it all your attention. It’s warning us of the end that we all seem to be ignoring contrasted over a warm fuzz soundscape.
Invent, Animate // Greyview
Label: Tragic Hero Records
Release Date: 3/13/20
Technical and melodic post-hardcore. Greyview is a thought heavy album in the same vein as Silent Planet, Hail The Sun, Erra, and other mind melting math-core esque artists. Greyview is heavy and fast, a mix of angelic clean vocals and screams that pull the sky down, this release is a great escape.
Fever 333 // Wrong Generation
Label: 333 Wreckords Crew
Release Date: 10/23/20
The soundtrack to the revolution. Arguably the most relevant record on this list, covering social and politic issues of a country divided. Fever 333 are the voice of this generation and are building masses under the flag of their music to get the message across.
Thouxanbanfauni // Clairvoyance
Label: TTB / Create Music Group
Release Date: 7/21/20
Laced with music that has been wildly influential, often impressive as a voice of the underground. Fauni has built a massive cult like audience over the years and with his unique strain of experimental hip-hop has been able to break into both mainstream and underground audiences. Clairvoyance is a choice cut of the sound he’s made his own.
Year of the Knife // Internal Incarceration
Label: Pure Noise Records
Release Date: 8/7/20
The voice inside your head eating you away. The binding ties of addition and abuse. Being caged in with no way out. This is all the domain of straight edge hardcore band Year of the Knife. While other bands and most people hide behind substances numbing their internal pain, YOTK lets that pain be the guide. Resulting in a blistering hardcore punk record where all your inner demons are center stage. Sometimes the only way is through, and when that’s the case use Internal Incarceration as your map.
Lucki // Almost There
Release Date: 5/29/20
Confessions from the journey to more. Almost There has Lucki coasting along as he paints past losses, Successes, and future expectations for himself. A blurred mix of rap, hip-hop, and rock elements, Lucki’s flow is effortless. Sleepwalking to success, Almost There brings you along as Lucki goes through his own personal trials and tribulations.
Mac Miller // Circles
Label: Warner Records
Release Date: 1/17/20
The companion album to Mac's magnum opus of a record "Swimming". As a whole his concept of "Swimming in Circles" is brought together. A feeling that we are all facing right now, it's only fitting that this album haunts us. We miss you mac.
Lil Keed // Trapped on Cleveland 3
Label: 300 Entertainment
Release Date: 8/7/20
The voice of Atlanta, we were put onto Lil Keed a while back and have been addicted since. Releasing both Trapped on Cleveland at the height of civil unrest in the US and then the deluxe version shortly after, Keed has went from a name that only the streets new to having a spot on everyone's best of lists.
Point North // Brand New Vision
Label: Hopeless Records
Release Date: 8/21/20
To us this was the undisputed best Pop Punk release of the year. Staying on brand with their cyber(pop) punk aesthetic, Brand New Visions finds Point North pushing their boundaries bringing in enhanced production skills, which in turn enhance each track to the next level.
Poppy // I Disagree
Label: Sumerian Records
Release Date: 1/10/2020
One of the most interesting, and truly one of a kind releases of the year. Poppy is her own genre. She's proof that metal can be candy coated without losing any of the edge. Things that looks are only as deep as the surface. For fans of anyone from Grimes to Bring Me The Horizon.
Movements // No Good Left to Give
Release Date: 9/18/2020
Modern emo. This isn't your older brother's midwest emo anymore. No Good Left to Give is a release from a band that was forced to grow, which essentially is what we are all forced to do. These growing pains are captured in No Good Left to Give in this an emotionally charged and coming of age alternative record.
Bring Me The Horizon // Post Human: Survival Horror
Release Date: 10/30/2020
One foot in the past one foot in the future. Bring Me The Horizons' "Post Human: Survival Horror" is part one of four in BMTH's new label of Post Human. Equal parts genre bending, cinematic, and twisted horror novel. The record puts you in the shoes of well, what we are all in right now. A global pandemic that is offering what looks like no hope in a demented world that grows stranger by the day.
Vein // Old Data in a New Machine, Vol. 1
Label: Closed Casket Activities
Release Date: 7/28/20
Error.. File too large.. Cannot Render.. "Old Data in a New Machine, Vol. 1" is far from a remix album. Songs from their highly acclaimed and wave making Errorzone have been torn apart, thrown into the machine and given new life. With original rough cut demos from years back, to industrial underlife remixes this release deserves to be treated as it's own stand alone album.