The soundtrack to 2020

Artists aim to make their mark on the new year with these highly anticipated albums

By Lyndsie Kiebert
Reader Staff

The new year is sure to bring plenty of new tunes to love. Here are some picks from an insatiable consumer of music who came of age to the pop sounds of the 2010s.

Halsey: Manic (Jan. 10)

When Halsey dropped “Nightmare” — a single off her upcoming release Manic — it became clear that she was not messing around. The rising pop star is gaining such status with an unlikely sound, one full of angst and anger. Halsey is a powerful woman, she’s pissed and she writes one hell of a song. “Nightmare,” alongside a handful of other singles from Manic, put Halsey’s signature frankness on full display: “I’ve got nothing to smile for / I’ve waited a while for a moment to say / I don’t owe you a goddamn thing.”

Kesha: High Road (Jan. 31)

As Kesha addresses in “My Own Dance,” a single off the upcoming album High Road, society likes to categorize women with labels like “party girl” and “the tragedy.” Well, Kesha is here to tell us all that she isn’t adhering to labels anymore — she’s “f*cking everything,” meaning, every type of woman. It’s the perfect response to her rollercoaster career from drunken and glittery “TiK ToK” princess to tragic victim. High Road is Kesha getting back to those party girl roots, but with the maturity that comes with going to hell and back.

Tame Impala: The Slow Rush (Feb. 14)

It’s been a hot minute since Tame Impala graced the world with fresh and funky indie goodness. Currents, released in 2015, brought us “The Less I Know The Better,” far and away the artist’s most popular song and an alternative radio staple. The Slow Rush, dropping on Valentine’s Day, already has several singles on the market for sampling: “Borderline,” “Posthumous Forgiveness” and the delightfully keyboard-heavy “It Might Be Time.”

The 1975: Notes on a Conditional Form (Feb. 21)

Genre-bending British rockers The 1975 are back in 2020 with their fourth full-length release. “Frail State of Mind,” one of the new album’s singles, has a distinctly lo-fi background, but Matt Healy’s expressive and heavily accented vocals rule the track. The 1975 appears to be straying from the bubbly pop overtones of previous work and opting for a punkier identity. The 1975 is so punk, in fact, that on the new album is a self-titled track featuring spoken-word lyrics from teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg urging listeners to take action. How much more anti-establishment can you get?

Unconfirmed but intriguing…

Billboard affiliate Stereogum published a list of the top 100 most anticipated albums of 2020 with the preface that “not everyone [on the list] is guaranteed to release an album next year, but nothing here is a complete shot in the dark, either. We have our reasons.” Here’s to hoping Stereogum has some legit inside sources, because its top 100 list included rapper Kendrick Lamar, whose last album earned him a Pulitzer; French rockers Phoenix; indie veterans Fleet Foxes; and three of this writer’s favorite alternative female artists: Phoebe Bridgers, Julien Baker and Soccer Mommy.

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