These past six months have been a long year. It seemed like around every turn, some new disaster or piece of bad news was waiting for us. But at the same time, musicians were doing what they do best and continued to put out groundbreaking, forward-thinking, bar-setting projects that gave us a moment of solace in between. As we enter the first day of July in 2020, we’re taking a chance to look back at the projects that have released so far this year that have made us take a step back and think, “Wow.”
Plenty of albums are still to come later this year: Porter Robinson, Tchami, Wuki, Dimension, Disclosure, and more. So this list does not represent albums that are guaranteed to be on our final end-of-the-year list. That being said, these are still in rotation in our playlists now.
in no particular order
Apashe – Renaissance
Following an incredible series of singles including “Distance” and “Uebok,” the latter being one of the most fun tracks I’ve heard ever, the album presents a cohesive and complete vision that is unparalleled. Utilizing a stellar cast of featured artists from Slumberjack to Tech N9ne, Wifisfuneral, Wasiu, & Russian hip hop artist Instasamka, as well as a Prague-based 69-piece orchestra that played Renaissance in its entirety to bring the composition to the next level, Apashe proves he’s one of the most forward-thinking producers of our time.
Infected Mushroom – More than Just a Name
With over a dozen albums under their belt since 1999, no one would fault Infected Mushroom for a miss here or there. And yet, their consistency time and again is one of their strongest assets, continuing to hone in on their core sound while still putting out new and exciting material. More than Just a Name is among their longest when comparing total time to number of tracks, measuring in at just under an hour with 8 tracks and it never, ever gets boring. Within tracks, and between tracks, Infected Mushroom keep things fresh all the way through.
Koven – Butterfly Effect
And it’s harder to think of a more brilliant beginning to an album than “Worlds Collide,” where Katie’s voice shines brilliantly. With a subtle orchestral intro, the tension builds slowly and powerfully until that heavy bassline comes in and the vocals go even higher. By the time the drop finally hits, you should have goosebumps over the entirety of your body and the vibes only continue further once it finally kicks into high gear.
Metrik – Ex Machina
The album is shorter than either of his first two albums, and also contains less features, opting only for Grafix and ShockOne on two of the album’s best tracks, which ends up feeling like this is the quintissential Metrik. Apart from the minute-long interlude “Ascension,” there’s no fluff. There’s no filler. This is Metrik at his most authentic and real.
Two Fingers – Fight! Fight! Fight!
Enlisting Ivy Lab, G Jones, and Little Snake on the project, their influences are clearly heard throughout the pounding drums and acid-tinged synths and chord progressions. Beyond just the songwriting, the album is mastered beautifully, opening up so much space in the mix to ensure that each and every sound is given a chance to shine and absolutely slap. Of course, this type of production isn’t anything new to Two Fingers, either.
Steve Aoki – Neon Future IV
Neon Future IV contains a who’s who of featured artists, including Icona Pop, Desiigner, Torey Lanez, Zooey Deschanel, Monsta X, Backstreet Boys, Mike Shinoda, will.i.am, Matthew Koma, Alan Walker, Travis Barker, Sting, Felix Jaehn, and more. And, despite being 27 tracks and just over an hour and a half long, incredibly, it never feels like it’s dragging or getting stale. Every single song brings something new to the table, whether it’s a brighter, more pop/singer songwriter feel or something with a heavy electro house vibe.
Lane 8 – Brightest Lights
Lane 8 is a master of his craft, and it’s no surprise that his third album is a continuation of the mastery he’s shown in the first two. His longest album yet, both in tracklist and length, with some incredible collaborators, and it’s a beautiful journey from start to finish.
JOYRYDE – BRAVE
JOYRYDE puts his blood, sweat, and tears into every single production on the album. His immaculate sound design and fierce attention to detail put BRAVE on a pedestal, but his passion and personal experience bring it back down to Earth and make it feel real.
Baauer – PLANET’S MAD
The highly anticipated release is a deep exploratory journey, fueled by worldly sounds and rhythms that ring true to the Baauer project at its core. With its unruly and unpredictable nature, PLANET’S MAD, keeps us guessing at every turn and seeking for meaning beneath all the madness.
Medasin – RIPPLS
Compared to his 9-track, 22-minute debut album, this new 14-track, 34-minute album is objectively more ambitious. Simply filling up more air time and keeping listeners engaged is always a challenge, but Medasin succeeds with well placed collaborations from Duckwrth, Naomi Wild, Cautious Clay, Jean Carter, and Khai. They’re spaced out 1-2 tracks apart, allowing some breathing room in the instrumental space before recapturing your attention with some well-written lyrics.
We also have to give an honorable mention to one of the strongest dance albums of the year, Lady Gaga’s Chromatica. Each track off Chromatica is bursting with nonstop dance energy, laced with the mad talented minds of Bloodpop, Skrillex, Axwell, Madeon, Tchami, Burns, (and with writing credits from) Boys Noize, Sebastian Ingrosso and many more. The features are on point as well — Ariana Grande, BLACKPINK, and Elton John.