Six Albums Released This Summer Worth Your Time
2020 might be all over the place, but the music released has been particularly worthwhile.
While everything else in the entertainment industry has been in a sort of limbo since the COVID-19 crisis closed things down, including film releases, touring, and filming; the music releases have still been pretty spectacular. With new albums released from Fiona Apple, The Weeknd, and Childish Gambino earlier back in the year (which really feels like years ago at this point), the summer music season had a lot to live up to. And honestly, it somewhat delivered. While there were only a few big event album releases, most of which being surprise releases, the smaller scale music scene once again had a lot to offer, with standout projects in multiple genres. Highlighted below are six projects, released in the summer of 2020, that are definitely worth a listen, if not more. Some of these are absolutely phenomenal, some are a welcome surprise, but all are worth your time.
Run The Jewels, RTJ4
The first release from the duo of Killer Mike and El-P since 2017's Run the Jewels 3, RTJ4 serves as yet another perfect example of how strong this rap-production duo truly is. Filled with catchy beats from the duo's production and timely and powerful lyrics performed by El-P and Killer Mike, the album always feels fresh, important, and masterful - three qualities fans can always expect from Run The Jewels. At only 11 songs, the album never feels over-bearing and only takes a meager 39 minutes to get through. But even with such a short runtime, the album's messages always shine because of the fantastic sampling, beautifully written lyrics, and the chemistry between the two; among many other things. "a few words for the firing squad (radiation)" and "never look back" are two of the standout songs as the album, containing the trends that make the rest of the album, and the group itself, worth a listen.
Chicano Batman, Invisible People
While perhaps not as memorable as their 2017 album Freedom Is Free, eclectic beats and lo-fi vibes propel their fourth album in nothing but positive ways, giving the new record a chilled out aspect that serves in the four person group's favor. Tracks like "The Prophet" and "Blank Slate" strongly encapsulate the vibe and feel of the entire album, with catchy lyricism and relaxing energy a the forefront of both tunes. Sure, Freedom Is Free might be a better introduction to the sound and world of the Los Angeles based band, but Invisible People is a satisfying follow up to long-time fans and first listeners. When the vibes are this good, it's hard to find too much criticism.
Logic, No Pressure
As a long-time Logic fan, I won't hesitate to admit it: his 2019 album Confessions of a Dangerous Mind was not good. Filled with average lyrics and an odd flow, the project didn't showcase the excellent lyricism and talent that the Maryland-based rapper possesses. Thankfully, No Pressure, the artist's final project before his retirement succeeds in all the ways his previous project didn't. The album feels like his older and better projects, containing the similar catchy beats, well-done lyrics, and presence that the other projects had. This feels particularly evident in "Soul Food II" and "GP4", sequels to songs from his mixtapes and first album that honestly hold up and are worthwhile listening experiences. The album isn't amazing, but it's a comeback that serves as a good farewell from Logic to the rap scene. And for that, it's good enough.
Perfume Genius, Set My Heart On Fire Immediately
After 2017's No Shape, which contains the artist's most famous song "Slip Away", indie pop artist Perfume Genius returns with another mellow yet powerful album that highlights his talents while being a worthy addition to the synth-pop genre as a whole. The album transitions from extremely low-key songs, such as opening song "Whole Life", to lively tunes, like "On The Floor", with such effortlessness and simplicity that the every song always feels fresh and worthwhile. Scheduled to be the opener on the 2020 tour of Kevin Parker's indie band Tame Impala, it's a true shame the show won't be happening this summer, because the duo of their two sounds make for an excellent pairing.
Taylor Swift, folklore
A lot of things have happened this year that were completely unexpected, and Taylor Swift releasing an alternative and down-to-earth album was definitely one of them. While she has switched genres before in her career (most famously going from country to pop), folklore marks a transition we haven't seen before yet. And it works. With great production from The National's Aaron Dressner and Jack Antonoff, among others, tracks like "betty" and "the last great american dynasty" stand out among others, feeling particularly fresh due to how unique they play given Swift's previous discography. It's not a perfect album, but it's definitely a welcome change.
Phoebe Bridgers, Punisher
Perhaps "the album" to remember this summer, Bridgers' newest album is a sonic experience practically unlike any other. The album is filled with a combination of mellow acoustics and lively beats, heartfelt lyricism, and an earthly feeling that shines through all 11 songs makes Punisher worth remembering. The versatility of Bridgers' voice and the album's production are especially striking, as listeners are able to transition from mellow tracks like the titular "Punisher" to more energized songs later in the album like "ICU" without feeling tired in any sort of way. In "I Know The End", the album's final song, Bridgers' does a spectacular job of summarizing how her album plays as a whole. While the first two-and-a-half minutes of the song feel very light and acoustic, the final three minutes turn into a lively and crashing swan song, a perfect farewell to an album that sits so far above the rest. With Punisher, Phoebe Bridgers knows exactly what she is doing, and it makes for quite a satisfying listening experience.
While these six albums have been particularly evident in the summer rotation, there are quite a few other albums that have been pretty worthwhile contributions to the 2020 music scene. If you're looking for more albums to beef up your music library, a few other records worth seeking out include Chloe x Halle's follow-up Ungodly Hour, The 1975's iffy but somewhat effective Notes On A Conditional Form, and Toronto based rapper Clairmont The Second's newest album It's Not How It Sounds. Happy listening!