L-R: Bree Runway by Charlotte Rutherford, Sega Bodega from "Raising Hell", Cub Sport by James Caswell, Sevdaliza by Tre Koch, Sen Morimoto by Dennis Elliot, Oklou by Till Janz, Kaash Paige courtesy of Dej Jam, Samia by Jessica DiMento, Ryan Beatty by Adrian Nieto

9 seriously overlooked albums released in 2020

From Bree Runway to Sevdaliza, here's everything you should’ve listened to this year but probably didn’t.

by Frankie Dunn
|
17 December 2020, 12:30pm

L-R: Bree Runway by Charlotte Rutherford, Sega Bodega from "Raising Hell", Cub Sport by James Caswell, Sevdaliza by Tre Koch, Sen Morimoto by Dennis Elliot, Oklou by Till Janz, Kaash Paige courtesy of Dej Jam, Samia by Jessica DiMento, Ryan Beatty by Adrian Nieto

Considering, you know, everything that’s happened over the past twelve months, there has been a serious slew of new music. Just as well really -- we needed something to keep us going, didn’t we? There were the artists who, blissfully unaware of what was to come, put out albums right before the world collapsed, fated to never tour them. Artists like 070 Shake and their Modus Vivendi, J Hus with Big Conspiracy, Grimes' Miss Anthropocene, King Krule's Man Alive! and Good News by Megan Thee Stallion.

Others like Dua Lipa, Pa Salieu, Rina Sawayama, Ariana Grande, Arca and Phoebe Bridgers went ahead with existing release plans (and thank God they did!), rightly sensing that fans were relying on what they had in the works. Then there were those who wrote and recorded whole albums inspired by the quarantine they found themselves locked down in -- like Charli XCX’s well-documented how i’m feeling now, which built on crowdsourced creative ideas from both friends and fans, as well as the ultimate soundtrack to cosy fireside solitude that is both Folklore and Evermore by Taylor Swift.  

What we’re trying to say is that there were SO MANY great records out this year that you’d be forgiven for having overlooked at least some of them. Maybe as many as nine. Potentially even these ones. If so, we highly recommend you spend the holidays familiarising yourselves with the below. Whether you’re after some reliably awesome new music to stick on while you drive home for Christmas or you need something to keep you company in between solo Netflix marathons, these are for you…

Cub Sport – LIKE NIRVANA

On their fourth album, released in July, Brisbane band Cub Sport open themselves up entirely, with frontperson Tim reflecting on gender identity, love and personal evolution across 13 dreamlike pop songs. “My Dear (Can I Tell You My Greatest Fears)” will make you cry, “Drive” will make you melt and “Nirvana” will get you high and running at top speed in the direction of freedom. Given the record touches on the harmful lasting impact of religion on a queer child, it’s interesting just how spiritual the record itself feels. Tim described it as having the “gentle and powerful energy of the introvert empath who, for some reason, is drawn to the light… even though they’re scared of it sometimes and feel more at home in the shadows,” and that’s honestly exactly how it sounds. Frankie Dunn

Samia – The Baby 

Seldom do debut records arrive sounding as assured as music made by people a decade-deep in the game, but that’s what Samia did with hers, titled The Baby. She is, in the context of the album, the titular character: vulnerable, in need of attention, sore from the ways in which she’s given herself up to people who may be prone to letting her down. ‘Emotional frankness’ is a term used a lot to describe the work of singer-songwriters, particularly women who make this kind of music, but there’s a special level of opening up that Samia does in the words of these songs, backed by folksy, alt-pop instrumentals. “I only write songs about things that I'm scared of / So here, now you're deathless in art,” she sings on its lead single “Something in the Movies”: proof that even the most melancholy songs about heartbreak can have a threatening violence to them too. Douglas Greenwood

Oklou – Galore

When Paris producer Marylou Mayniel released her debut LP in September, she gently ushered us in the direction of a door leading to an ethereal wonderland. Full of synths, playful melodies, found sounds and Lou’s enchanting vocals singing of rebirth, the creation of Galore provided a sort of therapy for the artist: “A year ago, I was super sad and I needed to talk,” she told us at the time. “I needed to make this project”. This is what happens when a curious classically-trained musician discovers experimental electronic music, scores a video game project and then decides to channel their many feelings into something beautiful. FD

Bree Runway – 2000AND4EVA

After seeing the music video for 2000AND4EVA single “APESHIT”, Missy Elliott, like us, declared herself a fan of Hackney artist Bree Runway. Mere months later, the iconic rapper was featuring on Bree’s money-grabbing single “ATM”, which was swiftly followed up by this audacious debut album ft. Maliibu Miitch, Rico Nasty and Yung Baby Tate. One of the biggest sounding UK artists in the game right now? We reckon so. FD

Sega Bodega – Salvador 

On Salv’s dark, sexy and experimental debut album he jumps between phone sex with strangers, the mind fuck of being stuck in a toxic relationship, and losing a best friend to suicide. Stand-out “U Got The Fever” gets straight to the point when it comes to his feelings about an ex (“You're an unbeliever / The worst I’ve ever known / Heinous in the simplest sense and evil to the bone”), while “Calvin” heartbreakingly asks, “Will we be old or will we be young (When I see you)?/ Have you been watching the things I’ve done?”. Salvador came out on 14 February via the artist’s own label, NUXXE, making this the weirdest but most exciting Valentine’s Day present we’ve ever got. FD

Kaash Paige – Teenage Fever

From viral TikTok success (who remembers “Love Songs”?) to R&B’s hottest new thing, Texas teen Kaash has had a huge 2020. In August, she released her debut album Teenage Fever, 13 intimate tracks on which she waxes lyrical about love, lust, loneliness and all the girls who’ve danced through her wandering mind. Much like her 2019 EP Parked Car Convos, listening to this is akin to having a late night, substance-fuelled deep and meaningful chat with a good friend. If only we could all communicate this openly. FD

Sen Morimoto – Sen Morimoto

So nice he named it… after himself. Kyoto-born, Chicago-based Sen Morimoto’s second album is an expansive adventure through his wide range of influences — from hip-hop and bedroom pop to jazz and experimental electronica. The young talent has quickly established himself within the Chicago scene, and as such calls on a whole host of local talent to feature on the record. Released on his own imprint, Sooper Records, is there anything this singer, songwriter, rapper, saxophonist, producer, poet and label owner can’t do? FD

Ryan Beatty – Dreaming of David

Ryan Beatty’s discography became a 1, 2 gut-punch of queer pop perfection upon the release of his sophomore album Dreaming of David in January. The iciness of its cover art, in which the artist looks up and out of frame, as if praying to God, bled into these songs, harnessed by themes of agonising break-ups and religious allegory. There are perfectly executed anal-sex-love-story double entendres (“I believe in love when he / Confesses himself inside me” on “Dark Circles”) and painful confessions of how he’s feeling. Production-wise, it’s a masterpiece: roughed-up, lumbering, pitched vocal production (“Patchwork”) just as impressive as sparkling songs about longing for a second chance, that go from sparing to full-on drum and bass breakdowns in a breath. “Love me to death or don’t give me anything,” he insists on Casino; you get the impression that every morsel of Ryan Beatty’s being went into this. DG

Sevdaliza – Shabrang

There are no duds. Every single track on this, Sevdaliza’s second record, is incredible. It’s incredibly eclectic too -- in places pure trip-hop, others dark avant pop, but always distinctly her. The Iranian-Dutch singer, songwriter and producer calls the album -- which deals with themes of abuse, narcissism and passion -- “a deep love letter to myself” and through it she finds peace in the chaos of the modern world. Its title, Shabrang is a Persian word that means the colour of the night sky, something mirrored in the black eye she’s sporting on the project’s cover. “I definitely feel connected to Persian poetry,” she told us recently. “Every Persian poet that has ever been famous has this existentialism around their writing, and I really relate to that.” It’s audible. FD