Discover some new tunes with Optimist Best of 2020 Playlist

Ashwin Prabhakar, Staff Writer


Charli XCX – how i’m feeling now

Absurdist forms of internet pop music, often labeled “Hyperpop” or “Bubblegum Bass” took a step toward the mainstream in 2020 as more and more people found themselves perusing the internet for hours on end. An icon of this ever-evolving pop scene, Charli XCX released how i’m feeling now in May to much acclaim. The album was put together entirely during the initial phases of quarantine. Accordingly, Charli is successfully able to blend the feelings of loneliness, longing, and chaos that come with isolation into an enthralling 37-minute listening experience. 

Rina Sawayama – SAWAYAMA

On her debut album, Rina Sawayama sounds like a veteran as she perfects the eclectic sound that made her stand out following the release of her EP RINA in 2017. Sawayama pushes the boundaries of pop music, blending it with rock, r&b, and even metal. Her vocal performances on the album are passionate and powerful while she discusses topics ranging from hyperconsumerism to her personal identity. 

Denzel Curry x Kenny Beats – UNLOCKED

Florida rapper Denzel Curry and producer Kenny Beats team up on UNLOCKED and the result is a thrilling, vibrant album. Kenny sets the tone with his trippy, sample-heavy, boom-bap beats. 

Matching the energy of the instrumentals, Denzel delivers boastful, aggressive bars with a plethora of witty one-liners mixed in. Though only 17 minutes long, the album is perfect for the ever-growing population of people with limited attention spans, and it certainly packs a punch.

Circles – Mac Miller

On Circles, producer Jon Brion makes the most of what Mac Miller left behind following the artist’s untimely death in 2018. It is the perfect posthumous album, and sounds like a genuine send-off for Mac, rather than an incomplete cash-grab. Through the album, the listener is given a window into the beautifully troubled mind of Mac as he delivers introspective lyrics over luscious, soulful production.

King Krule – Man Alive!

Archy Marshall’s third full-length release as King Krule, Man Alive!, is just as hard-hitting as his previous works, but more concise. It is evident that the album was meticulously crafted, with its eerie, layered instrumentation beneath Marshall’s signature baritone vocals. Man Alive!, though released in pre-pandemic times, still perfectly captures the despondency 2020 brought at times along with the inklings of optimism that come with times of distress.

Punisher- Phoebe Bridgers

Phoebe Bridgers, a promising voice carrying on the tradition of folk-acoustic singer-songwriter music, released her second album, Punisher, in June. Though the album has received high-praise from countless music publications, it still lives up to the hype. Bridgers’s simple, yet emotional lyrics are breathtaking, ranging from soothing to unsettling. Her voice floats over flowing indie-folk production to create vivid images and to develop nuanced narratives.

RTJ4 – Run the Jewels

In early June, as Black Lives Matter protested against grotesque systems of oppression, Killer Mike and El-P felt there was no better time to drop their fourth album. On RTJ4, they serve as voices of reason in a time of disarray, strongly criticizing these very systems. The instrumentals are fast-paced and assertive, adding to the sense of urgency the duo creates with their fiery delivery. In years to come, RTJ4 will be seen as an essential album that successfully captures the elevated feelings of political unrest ever-present in 2020.

Yves Tumour – Heaven to a Tortured Mind

Heaven to a Tortured Mind, is a listening experience like no other. Yves Tumour creates a surreal experience that is engaging from start to finish. The psychedelic atmosphere they create is nightmarish, yet sensual. In accordance with the album’s title, Tumour’s lyrics paint them reaching the highest highs and the lowest lows of the human-psyche. The album is all over the place, and it’s brilliant.