Culture Fix’s Best Albums of 2020

As always we try to bring you an eclectic batch of albums that we have found ourselves continually revisiting throughout the year. Due to the variety and our love for all the releases on this list, we’ve ordered them chronologically.

January opened with the return of a British pop icon, Louise Redknapp, who delivered her long-awaited fourth album Heavy Love featuring the sultry Stretch and tropical dancepop delight Lead Me On, amongst other slick pop treats. A week later we were blessed with the Pet Shop Boys third collaboration with producer Stuart Price, Hotspot, an intelligently crafted batch of electropop delights including Years & Years collaboration Dreamland and the dancefloor-friendly Madonna-esque I Don’t Wanna. With Tennant and Lowe’s ear for poignancy, wit and stunning pop hook, the album did not disappoint.

French disco legend Cerrone returned with his latest nu-disco collection DNA, featuring the prescient The Impact, a track which brought legendary primatologist Jane Goodall to the dancefloor. February also saw the introduction to swoon-worthy Italian actor and musician Michele Morrone who shot to worldwide fame as the lead in polish erotic-drama 365 Days (pure filth, by the way). His album Dark Room provided gritty rock vocals, sexually-charged lyricism, and lashings on star power. The Italian lothario was followed by Aussie pop favourite Sam Sparro and his Boombox Eternal album, a melodic love letter to Jam & Lewis and Nile Rodgers with gems such as Everything and Love Like That highlighting just how missed the pop star has been in his eight year absence from studio albums.

With the arrival of the UK’s first lockdown in March, saving graces and calm were found in the month’s musical releases. Mandy Moore’s return Silver Landings was a sheer delight, a musical hug packed to the rafters with gentle guitar and piano pop numbers such as When I Wasn’t Watching and Fifteen.

Whilst Mandy escorted us to the fireplace with a nice cup of peppermint tea, British pop favourite Dua Lipa slapped it out of our hands and told us to get our arses on the dancefloor with her new album Future Nostalgia. Immaculate disco-inspired anthems delving into europop, dancepop, and synth anthems including Don’t Start Now, Physical, and Hallucinate became the lynchpins of our isolation discos.

Eurovision people’s champions and Norwegian pop icons, Keiino, dropped their debut album OKTA. Powerhouse europop anthems including their ESC hit Spirit in the Sky were joined by new classics including Black Leather and Electric Fields collaboration Would I Lie. Australian pop talent Josef Salvat delivered his long-awaited sophomore album modern anxiety – a meditative pop release centred on capturing the overwhelming sensation of anxiety spiralled by smartphones, the internet and the social media age that we live in. Delving away from the contemplative sophisti-pop of Josef, Carly Rae Jepsen delivered her sugary companion release to 2019 album Dedicated, dubbed Dedicated Side B. The Canadian songstress delivered twelve pop concoctions from the buoyant romantic This Love Isn’t Crazy to the experimental woozy pop of Now I Don’t Hate California After All. May was certainly a month when the gays got everything they wanted, thanks to release of Lady Gaga’s sci-fi pop opus Chromatica. A staggering body of pop majesty, the LP delivered a a euphoric futuristic world where soaring club beats are worshipped and Gaga is our guide through a sweaty, neon-soaked musical paradise in tracks like Stupid Love, Sine from Above, and Rain On Me.

June saw Swedish alt-pop-rockers The Sounds make a triumphant return after seven years with their album The Things We Do For Love, with an attitude filled-title track and plethora of Scandi-new wave delights. Jessie Ware also delivered a career-best album What’s Your Pleasure? Twelve unskippable tracks that encompass countless aspects from the world of classic disco and soul music showcased from the sultry title track What’s Your Pleasure and Ooh la La to the soaring synth-kissed highs of Save A Kiss

Country hunk Sam Hunt finally delivered his long-awaited sophomore LP Southside – arriving six years after his game-changing debut. Featuring singles dating back to 2017, the collection also included new radio-friendly country hits Hard to Forget and Braking Up Was Easy in the 90s.

Country icons The Chicks returned with a new name and their first new album in fourteen years, Gaslighter. An angry yet undeniably peppy title track, was joined by the soulful Sleep at Night and contemporary country classic Texas Man. Another icon, Alanis Morissette returned in 2020 with LP Such Pretty Forks in the Road featuring her unmistakable vocals and contemporary raw, unforgettable classics Smiling, Reasons I Drink and Nemesis.

Whilst not an album, Orville Peck’s latest body of work, his Show Pony EP arrived in August, lead by an all-star collaboration with Shania Twain. The masked country crooner also shared his incarnation of Reba’s Fancy and new tracks including Summertime and No Glory in the West. The month also featuring fashion and musical icon Daphne Guinness’s third studio album Revelations – an ode to the eurodisco and glamorous new wave pop as showcased in the rip-roaring Deviant Disco, majestic Heaven, and dancefloor delight Permission to Dance. Australian songstress Kiesza also returned with her latest album Crave, another release that commanded us to the dancefloor. The Michael Jackson inspired title track, euphoric synths of All the Feelings, and contemplative pop gem When Boys Cry asserted it as one of the year’s best.

Synthpop legends Erasure also made a triumphant return with their unashamedly pop album, The Neon, with belters including Hi-NRG anthems Hey Now (Think I Got a Feeling) and Nerves of Steel. Whilst Andy Bell and Vince Clarke were reminding us classic eighties synthpoppers still had it, Tom Aspaul showed that their was plenty of exciting new blood in the dancepop world with his eagerly-anticipated Black Country Disco album. Shimmering with its buoyant pop delights such as W.M., Tender, and 01902, Tom gave us this distinctly West Midlands slice of disco – ten joyous pop tunes, spanning a euphoric 28 minutes. Fellow queer talent Bright Light Bright Light also delivered a love-letter to dance music and the queer community on his album Fun City – which assembled rising talents and legends alike for a collaborative feast. With Andy Bell, Sam Sparro, Justin Vivian Bond, and Jake Shears being just some of the talents joining the Welsh pop talent, this was a breezy poolside disco delight.

The pop boys were continued to be represented in full force by American talent Max, whose second album Colour Vision delivered slick danceable gems that dip into the world of funk, synthpop, and dancepop. The Chromeo assisted Checklist soared, whilst K-Pop blend Blueberry Eyes was cutting edge international pop. A British pop legend returned with her self-titled album Melanie C delivering something which fans had been craving for some time: Melanie C on the dancefloor. Mel’s distinctive northern vocals paired with a plethora of cutting edge producing talents resulted in some of the Spice Girl’s best tracks like Blame It On, Who I Am, and In and Out of Love. A different type of dance affair was presented in Róisín Murphy’s avant-garde electronic disco-affair Róisín Machine. Lit by the glitterball, Róisín’s charisma is infectious on this well-oiled selection of dance tracks which showcase influences from seventies Italo-disco to early-noughties house music.

Moody Norwegian pop courtesy of Annie and producer Stefan Storm and their album Dark Hearts guided us into October. Dark synth-filled masterpieces that feel evocative of Johnny Jewel’s Italians Do It Better production-house suit Annie’s sultry, mesmerising vocal palette as captured on the likes of The Streets Where I Belong and American Cars. Country starlet Cam also delivered the goods with another long-awaited release, her sophomore major label album The Otherside. Collaborating with eclectic talent such as  Jack Antonoff and the late Avicii, Cam delivered soulful modern country classics such as Diane (think of a modern Jolene) and the infectious loved-up delights of Classic.

Dreams came true when Kylie Minogue produced her most out-and-out disco record, err… Disco. Whilst the Australian pop icon had always flirted with various subgenres of the disco world – this felt like an ode to unabashed seventies space disco. With a 100% success rate and not one skippable track in sight, Kylie showcased her full breath of talents throughout. Highlights include nu-disco space siren song Say Something, the joyous Where Does the DJ Go?, and the flat-out masterpiece Dance Floor Darling quickly asserting this as Kylie’s best album since Aphrodite. A fellow gay icon also dropped a stellar collection of tracks on the same day as Ms Minogue, Dame Shirley Bassey’s I Owe It All To You – her musical gift to the fans and supposed final studio album arrived. Featuring some of the iconic Welsh diva’s favourite tracks, the collection showed that the eighty-three year old’s heartfelt vocals could still pack a punch – listen to tracks such as I Was Here, Who Wants to Live Forever? and the title track if you need convincing.

As we slide into December and the usually packed Q4 season, there are few spatterings of high quality musical releases. Paris Jackson’s stripped back, haunting debut album caught us off guard with richly atmospheric tracks like lead single Let Down. Miley Cyrus achieved a career best with the magnificent Plastic Hearts – a collection of new wave pop inspired belters assembling some icons of the subgenre: Joan Jett, Billy Idol, and Stevie Nicks. Contemporary pop favourite Dua Lipa kept the set current, whilst Miley brings bucketloads of energy and punk spirit to the LP on tracks including Prisoner, Night Crawling, and Bad Karma. Meanwhile British pop icons Steps near close the musical year with their freshly dropped What the Future Holds album. Delivering vocal delights, soaring harmonies, and inescapably catchy pop hooks on contemporary Steps anthems To the Beat of My Heart, Something In Your Eyes, Heartbreak in the City, and To the One, the group’s sixth album was sheer perfection.

Shawn Mendes slipped in as we approach the last few weeks before Christmas with his LP Wonder – the twenty-two year old’s most assured collection yet. Immaculate production and the personal slant in the singer’s writing made tracks including Wonder, Teach Me How to Love, and Call My Friends some of the singer’s most listenable yet. With a the debut collection from UK Drag Royalty The Frock Destroyers and a new self-constructed release from The Beatles icon Paul McCartney, there could be a couple of late additions to this release.

Indie pop talents also got the chance to shine in 2020 and provided some moments of much needed joy to a year that needed it most. Gregory Dillon’s EP Sad Magic, a gorgeous slice of pop music that delved from euphoric bliss to the beautifully poignant and melancholic on tracks such as lovely., Screenshots and Plastic Ferrari. Delight also came through Vardaan Arora’s Heartbreak on the Dancefloor EP, Lostchild’s Imperfect EP, Zach Benson’s delightful hopeless, romantic, and Mathew V’s Two Faced album. We have a full feature on the way delving into the best queer and independent pop on the year, so stay tuned for that.

See our full run down below. What are your album highlights? Let us know.