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CHIRP Radio writesCHIRP Radio’s Top Albums of 2020

CHIRP Radio Best of 2020

Throughout December, CHIRP Radio presents its volunteers’ top albums of 2020.

As we get ready to turn another page, it’s time to present CHIRP Radio’s collective list of the Top Ten albums of the year. Of the 300+ records mentioned by our volunteers in their individual lists, these are the ones cited the most often.

In the summer of 2020, an enigmatic UK entity released one set of songs in June and then another in September, during the latest historic period in America’s struggle for equality. The powerful style and messages of these two releases resonated with many of our volunteers the rest of the year; Almost every reviewer who cited one of the albums on their year-end list mentioned the other one with equal praise. All things considered, it just doesn’t make sense to think of them as separate items.

Therefore, for the first time in the history of CHIRP Radio list-crafting, the same artist claims the #1 and #2 albums of the year, topping a list of new and veteran musicians who helped the rest of us keep it together during these savage times.

CHIRP Radio thanks all of the musicians, labels and venues who keep on making their art, because that’s what artists do. And a special Thank You to our listeners who never stopped supporting us through this year. It’s an honor and a joy to be part of your community.

Here’s to better days for all of us. See you in 2021.


#1 and #2 UNTITLED (Black Is) | UNTITLED (Rise) by SAULT (Forever Living Originals)

BUY: Reckless / Amazon














This mystery group has done it again. After releasing their first two albums in 2019, the UK based collective gave us their third [UNTITLED (Black Is)] and fourth [UNTITLED (Rise)] records in 2020, just three months apart. They continue to carefully craft music that brings funk, Afrobeat, soul, disco, and house together alongside their poignant, political, and poetic lyrics. These albums go beyond protest music - they are records that bring the complexities of the Black experience to the forefront. 2020 showed us that Sault is incredibly focused and here to make music that resists as well as celebrates. –Allison Parssi


#3 Flower of Devotion by Dehd (Fire Talk)

BUY: Reckless / Amazon

Dehd Flower of DevotionSometimes you just need a really good indie rock record. This local offering was packed with strong, varied songs ranging from dream pop to twang to garage rock. Satisfying in all ways, Flowers of Devotion is a great, engaging listen from beginning to end. –Shawn Campbell











#4 Fetch the Bolt Cutters by Fiona Apple (Epic)

BUY: Reckless / Amazon

Fiona Apple Fetch the Bolt CuttersThere seems to be an unwritten rule that Fetch the Bolt Cutters must have a high-ranking spot on every year-end list and mine is no exception. What else can I say about this album that hasn’t already been said? Over the course of her nearly 25-year career, Fiona Apple has continued to innovate and perfect her sound and songwriting prowess. –Eric Wiersema










#5 RTJ4 by Run the Jewels (Jewel Runners/BMG)

BUY: Reckless / Amazon

Run the Jewels RTJ4Undeniable maximalism. Part 4. It's just so much of everything all at once. Like the sonic equivalent of a big-budget superhero movie. There's CGI, there's explosions, the set pieces are insane, the bass rattles you to the core, and the actors stopped having something to prove years ago. They're just here to be the best at what they do. --Dan O.










#6 Róisín Machine by Róisín Murphy (Skint)

BUY: Reckless / Amazon

Róisín Murphy Róisín MachineIn this year of isolation and social distancing, one of the things I miss the most is live music and dancing. This album exorcised COVID from my soul, and mentally transported me to the dance floor. Róisín Murphy is phenomenal, and fully owns her disco persona on this record. –Sarah Spencer









#7 SAWAYAMA by Rina Sawayama (Dirty Hit)

BUY: Reckless / Amazon

Rina Sawayama SAWAYAMAI was prepared for at least one banger pop record in 2020, but I was not prepared for Rina Sawayama. The British-Japanese artist's debut satisfies so many sonic cravings at once, it feels simplistic to call this a pop record -- thought that is what it is, unapologetically. Whether calling back to the '90s popstar heyday, early Aughts Hot Topic jams, or late Aughts/early Teens dance music, the ever-changing language of pop is distilled into a unique and eclectic blend behind Sawayama's compelling vocals.

The best pop invites the listener to see the world through the artist's eyes, rather than reinforcing the exclusivities that typically exist in this particular musical domain (and throughout life and music, really). Rina uses her lyrics to share her life and her worldview, and the result is sincere without being saccharine. Is this poptimism? --Jenny West







#8 Honeymoon by Beach Bunny (Mom + Pop)

BUY: Reckless / Amazon

Beach Bunny HoneymoonChicago's own Lili Trifilio is still heartbroken, packing a gigantic voice, and possesses melodic genius. --Matt Garman











#9 Inlet by Hum (Earth Analog)

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Hum InletInlet appeared unexpectedly and satisfied a craving I didn’t know I had. I always enjoyed Hum’s '90s output, but never really gave much thought to what a reunion album would mean to me. It hit the spot. –Matt Barr











#10 (tie) Rough and Rowdy Ways by Bob Dylan (Columbia)

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Bob Dylan Rough and Rowdy WaysMuch as Dylan’s 2001 album Love & Theft was a salve in the wake of 9/11 (the album came out on that tragic day), this album is just right for 2020. Part of it is because like its 2001 predecessor, this is an album where Dylan hits on a mix of blues, folk, and standards, with a relaxed presence, showing off his sense of humor in spots, and on the powerful “A Murder Most Foul”, an epic sweep that confirms that his artistic powers can still reach the highest heights. This is enduring, classic music, full of feeling, ideas, and empathy. –Mike Bennett









#10 (tie) Saint Cloud by Waxahatchee (Merge)

BUY: Reckless / Amazon

Waxahatchee Saint CloudIt’s fitting that Katie Crutchfield records under a place name. By nailing down the regional, the specific, she gets to the heart of the universal. A quietly powerful album that gets stronger with every listen. --Al Gabor











#10 (tie) Dance Without Me by DRAMA (Ghostly International)

BUY: Reckless / Amazon

DRAMA Dance Without MeIf you haven’t listened to Chicago band DRAMA yet, do yourself a favor and put this record on immediately. It’s the kind of record that will surprise you with its catchy hooks and sultry mood. It’s a doing dishes in your undies dance party album; sure to brighten your mood. Vocalist Via Rosa blends R&B, and dance pop with her soulful, seductive voice. Overall, the album is filled with great club tracks about relationships and heart break.

Track “Forever & A Day” became my anthem of 2020 with a pulsating dance beat, catchy, fresh vocals and the feeling that maybe everything is going to be alright?? I can’t wait to be in a crowd of sweaty people dancing to this record and singing at the top of my lungs, mask-less. --Danielle Sines







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Categorized: Best Albums of the Year

Topics: best of 2020

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