Our smooth blend of 2020 selects have notes of electronic, slowcore, hip hop and powerviolence, among other delicious genres. Perouse our list, keeping in mind these albums have been hand selected to best suit the taste of true enjoyers and listeners of music. As you read through our list, please note the DJs associated with their pick. Although they may enjoy a range of music, one may expect these albums to make an appearance on their show. Pair these albums with friends, a candlelit dinner, or scaring off fascists. We at WKDU hope you enjoy our delicately chosen selection.
Bart Jaskulski // General Manager
NO – Boris
I wanted to finally dip my feet into the genre of metal this year, and NO was such a great album to start that out with! I’ve heard little about them before this album and I regret not finding them sooner. A killer, raging album from start to finish, no track disappoints. Fave track: Anti-Gone
Inner Song – Kelly Lee Owens
This album surprised me with how it combines genres together! One track will sound like a “dreamy electro” sort of song, and the next track can go into a moody house+techno combo. The whole project is so satisfying to listen to. Fave track: Night
WHAT WE DREW – Yaeji
Yaeji went towards a more relaxing setting with this album, but it still makes way for some heavier tracks. Listened to this album a bunch during the Spring and Summer and it really set a good mood. Fave track: WHEN I GROW UP
DEEWEE Sessions, Vol. 1 – Soulwax
A side project from Soulwax, they created a roughly 30 min album with a sound that is unlike theirs. Think of Jean Michel-Jarre blended with Soulwaxes’ unique mixing and that’s what makes this album. Fave track: Movement 6
Derek Hengemihle // Station Manager
Something Nothing – Clothesline from Hell
Latest release from a Toronto DIY artist, lots of murky acoustic tracks with hints of somber prog rock influences in the likes of Pinback and Elliot Smith and Sebadoh.
The Three EP – Pulsr
Debut release from a trio based in New Haven, CT. Comprised of members and collaborators from beloved CT bands like waveform* and sundots, this is an exciting sneak peak of the swirling rock tracks to come from this powerhouse of a band.
Moral Panics – Peel Dream Magazine
An early 2020 release from NYC’s Joe Stevens. A hearty tribute to 90’s dream pop legends like Stereolab and Yo La Tengo complete with driving harmonies and tight drum tracks.
Brooklyn Fellner // PR Director
Kiss My Superbowl Ring- The Garden
I think this is the best album to come out this whole year…. Or literally any year that I have been alive. It is unapologetically angry, fun and genre switching. You can literally listen to it all the time, anywhere and scare everyone but also leave them intrigued.
A Country Western (Self Titled) – A Country Western
Slowcore has never sounded so gritty yet romantic. This nostalgic genre of choice was incorporated into the album which was created completely over quarantine by two of WKDU’s DJs (no bias here, I swear). Hit Derek and Garret up for a tape and get engulfed by the hypnotic bass tones and cryptically delightful lyrics.
Perfect Break- Squat!
This is a lovely surf album released by some lovely Jersey people. A surf album is what we needed at the end of the summer of no fun. It leaves a hopeful taste in everyone’s mouths, remembering sunny days at the beach and excitement for the future when we can roadtrip to this album on full blast.
Madeline Avarese // Program Director
Charm and Mirror – Kitty
Ok so not a full album but EP, but I definitely danced to this in my room while getting ready 🙂
Perception is/as/of Deception – ADULT.
The first song I heard off of this album was Why Always Why through one of our new DJ’s songs during her on air test. After listening to the rest of the album much later it is definitely the electronic pick-me-up I needed with Second Nature and Controlled By being my second and third favorite songs off of this album.
This is my Beloved – Mort Garson (single)
I found this song through someone who I liked and honestly it is the cutest little romance song for 2020. Hints of video game-like sounds add a nice touch!
Cameron Vickens // Development Director
Alfredo – Freddie Gibbs & The Alchemist
“God made sell crack so I’d have something to rap about.” Freddie Gibbs is the gram that finds himself in the pocket of Alan The Chemist’s instrumentals on Alfredo. This album is the fusion of elite lyricism and perfectly warm, cohesive, and tightly stitched beats. Alfredo is a crystal clear lens into the backstory of Freddie Kane and is the unintentional blueprint to the sound of the hip hop revivalist movement.
F*** The World – Brent Faiyaz
F*** The World provides a small peek into the world of Brent Faiyaz characterized by excess, luxury, and Earthly pleasures over a landscape of smooth, sultry instrumentals. “…Some of the qualities that make up the people that relate to my music is like an empathetic narcissism or attention to detail and over-indulgent personality when it comes to sex and drugs. And if you get it, you get it because you live it.”
SAD (She Already Decided) – Smino
SAD hearkens back to a time when mixtapes were comprised of rappers spitting over contemporary, popular instrumentals with originals sprinkled throughout the project. Smino gives new life to beats from the early 2000s and 2020 with standout originals and remixes from Groove and Phoelix. This project feels like Shasta Tiki Punch washing down a bag of Red Hot Riplets. It feels like a freshly oiled scalp. Pass the most(k)accioli.
Ioana Racu // New Member Coordinator , PSA Director
SAWAYAMA – Rina Sawatama
One of the best pop albums of 2020. Every time I was sad, I would listen to this album and I would instantly feel better. XS is the first song I am going to play at a party post-corona
Nightmare Vacation- Rico Nasty
I have been really into hyperpop this year and Rico Nasty dropped one of the most creative albums of the year.
Charli XCX- how i’m feeling now
Another hyper pop album that talked about quarantine and it was released at the perfect time. Charli XCX has the perfect combo of extremely energetic instrumental and meaningful relatable lyrics.
Dominick Baglivo // Music Director
Kiss My Super Bowl Ring – The Garden
On their fourth studio album, The Garden absolutely excel at what they have always done best—getting weird as fuck. Following up 2018’s Mirror Might Steal Your Charm, which saw the duo of Wyatt and Fletcher Shears adopt jester aesthetics, the two have now enlisted the help of what can only be described as green goblins. Whether you credit the green goblins or natural artistic progression for this is up to your discretion, but there is no doubt The Garden have never embodied their own artistic vision of “vada vada” as well as they do on Kiss My Super Bowl Ring.
From The Garden’s website, “Vada Vada is a term that represents total freedom of expression without boundaries or guidelines of any sort.” If we are discussing the boundaries of Kiss My Super Bowl Ring, let’s be very clear—there are none. The album starts out rather tame for the duo with lead single, “Clench to Stay Awake”, which—save for a mildly chaotic midsection—describes feelings of helplessness and subsequent struggles to cope over light instrumentation. From there, Kiss My Super Bowl Ring quickly transforms into the most impressive musical clusterfuck you might ever hear, in which The Garden seemingly knows nothing and everything at once.
Synth-heavy, bass-heavy, loaded with screams, Kiss My Super Bowl Ring thrives off of chaos and unpredictability, shifting from one extreme to another at a moment’s notice. Perhaps the biggest surprise, and a shining example of the duo’s unpredictability, is the extent to which they have incorporated more aspects of electronic music to their already eclectic sound. Littered throughout the track list, most notably “Sneaky Devil” and “Please, Fuck Off”, you can find instances where the song evolves into or simply is based around breakbeats and drum ‘n’ bass. The duo’s willingness to experiment has always been their calling card, and they appear to have mastered it on Kiss My Super Bowl Ring by injecting electronic music into their musical backbone of fiery and chaotic punk.
N O D R E A M – Jeff Rosenstock
Jeff Rosenstock’s fourth solo studio album, N O D R E A M, continues his streak of creating chant-worthy pop punk hits. Subtlety is largely out the window as Rosenstock comes crashing in and never lets off the gas, creating short and punchy tracks that directly address issues he has always stood for throughout his lengthy career.
Looking back through Jeff Rosenstock’s catalog – whether that’s with The Arrogant Sons of Bitches, Bomb the Music Industry, his prior solo efforts, or any number of his side projects and collaborations – you will almost always find lyrics that are shrouded in uncertainty and anxiety. Rosenstock has never hesitated to offer political takes in his music either, as they are inevitably linked to the feelings of existential dread he is constantly dwelling on. On N O D R E A M, these feelings of uncertainty and confusion feel more pressing than ever, both in his lyrics and the context in which they were released.
In 2016, we got WORRY., the aptly-titled record addressing the corporatization of society, our growing dependence on technology, increasing levels of gentrification, police brutality, and more…all the while having been released just a month prior Donald Trump’s election as president. Talk about things to be anxious about. January 1st, 2018 saw Rosenstock surprise release POST-, ringing in the new year with an album that directly addressed the fallout of said election and the subsequent hopelessness it evoked in much of America.
Four years removed from WORRY., it would be hard to argue that N O D R E A M — based off title alone – paints a brighter picture. While certainly packaged beautifully with catchy hooks, infectious energy, and colorful instrumentals, the core of N O D R E A M consists of an overwhelming sense of helplessness and frustration.
The title track features Jeff shouting the words, “The only framework capitalism can thrive in is dystopia,” which ultimately functions as an overarching theme for the album. In Rosenstock’s eyes, and in the eyes of many, the current structures that exist have failed to protect us and have failed to provide for us. Systemic inequality, abuse of power, and widespread injustice are constantly occurring around all of us, and we have continually failed to make progress against these issues. And while Rosenstock’s gripes against structural issues (capitalism) are plenty, the kicker of N O D R E A M, and what makes it so relatable is his ability to reflect on his own apathy. Getting out of bed is a struggle of its own, but how do you muster up the energy to fight back against a system designed to discourage you from doing so? Rosenstock does not seem to have the answers, and maybe no one does. But if you feel similarly to Rosenstock, the revolution will be worth the fight.
Heaven to a Tortured Mind – Yves Tumor
Yves Tumor’s fourth studio album, Heaven to a Tortured Mind, is an ambitious genre-bending record that only further solidifies them as one of the more innovative artists of recent years. The follow up to 2018’s Safe in the Hands of Love sees them adopt a more lavish and elegant aesthetic as they build upon sounds of traditional pop with the fusion of psychedelic soul and glam rock. Throughout Heaven to a Tortured Mind, Yves weaves through hazy, soulful, and extravagant instrumentals—delivering impassioned vocal performances that detail stories of love and desire.
Pain Olympics – Crack Cloud
Pain Olympics is the debut album from Vancouver-based, DIY collective Crack Cloud. Most of the members met each other through recovery programs amidst Canada’s rising opioid crisis — something they have openly embraced and incorporated into the ethos of their work.
“Based On True Shit” is a reoccurring phrase that you’ll find in each of their recent music videos and on the artwork for the album’s singles. The more you listen to their music, the more you hear the message they’re conveying on Pain Olympics, the more that indicator almost feels unnecessary. It doesn’t need to be said, you can simply feel it and hear it at every turn.
Pain Olympics has a chaotic nature to it that feels like a calculated representation of what can only be described as troubling times, brought to you by those who have battled some of the worst of them. Crack Cloud loses a smidge of their intensity and is significantly less jarring on their debut LP when compared to their previous work, but they trade this for a more refined and purposeful sound.
Pinning down genre identifiers to this can get a bit murky and feels rather redundant — post-punk, art punk, experimental rock, whatever. Across 8 tracks, Pain Olympics manages to sound jarring and abrasive, raucous and chaotic, bouncy and danceable, dark and depressing, beautiful and uplifting — covering so much ground in less than 30 minutes and often incorporating a trifecta of these descriptors in any given track.
This album is about pain, addiction, the failures and abuse of those with power and so much more — it is about all the fucked up and very real shit that often feels out of control. There’s no question. But at the heart of Pain Olympics is the search for acceptance and inner peace. And it is very much a reflection of many of the members’ experiences in recovery programs, both as former addicts and as current frontline workers amidst an overlooked crisis.
And if we are to learn anything from their teachings, it is the importance of collective togetherness and supporting one another through our struggles. In the darkest of times, show compassion and show empathy.
Kirby Bell / Alumni Liaison, Philly Haps Director
In This House – Lewsberg
Okay let’s get this out of the way – yes, this band sounds A LOT like the Velvets. You could even say they are derivative AF and you would not be wrong. However, unlike a lot of the VU’s acolytes, Lewsberg (Rotterdam, Netherlands) actually channel that vibe (think the VU’s post-Cale work) to the point where you forget about comparisons and just groove along. While never scaling the heights of the VU (few, if any, bands do) you will find yourself listening to this album only to arrive at the end and saying “Dang, it’s over already?” RIYL: VU/Lou Reed, Cate Le Bon, Television
Brain Drugs – Brain Drugs
Hailing from Melbourne, Australia, the duo of Pete Warden (drums, percussion) and Michael Beach (guitar, keyboards) have made an all instrumental album that is cerebral, trance inducing, and (at times) mysterious. RIYL: Terry Riley, Eno, Kraftwerk
A Golden Brain – Kraus
A one man band from New Zealand, Kraus, makes psychedelic electronic music for the 21st century. A Golden Brain is an all instrumental album that meshes analog synths, tape loops, drum machines with standard rock instrumentation (guitar, bass, drums) to produce music that is ambient (with a tinge of rock), but that also rewards deeper listening. Like peeling away the layers of an artichoke to get to heart, A Golden Brain, reveals more with each listen. RIYL: Eno, Pierre Henry, Suzanne Ciani
Amy Carson // New Member Coordinator, Librarian
What’s Tonight to Eternity – Cindy Lee
This album feels like it was made for me. Somehow perfectly blending the sounds of 60’s girl groups, harsh guitar noise and feedback, and John Carpenter-esque synths, the end result is an album that is haunting, beautiful, ominous, and deeply sincere all at once. It makes me feel like I am dancing alone in the dark, smoky bar of a run-down 60’s desert motel at 10 pm, blissfully unaware that I am about to be murdered in the next 20 minutes, and I mean that as the highest of compliments.
Island – Owen Pallett
Owen Pallett is one of my favorite musicians of all time. Even though their hands have seemingly been in every indie project with strings over the past 20 years, Island was dropped after a 6 year hiatus from recording solo work. The songs balance the lush, orchestral string arrangements Pallett is known for with intimate songwriting and delicate, fingerpicked guitar The whole album feels like a retrospective of their past work, spanning back to the Final Fantasy days and up to their more modern scoring work, and they even bringing back the character of Lewis from 2010’s Heartland. And while it’s definitely an album you just have to sit down and listen though in one shot, Fire Mare (version) is by far my favorite individual song released this past year.
Various Artists – Louis Wayne Moody High
Numero Group compilations are always a treat, often focusing on capturing specific feelings rather than just a time or place. A compilation of songs recorded by high school garage bands from the 60s and early 70s, the songs are all catchy and full of amateur charm. However, instead of the poppy dance tracks the niche is known for, the songs on Moody High all have an underlying theme of sadness, loneliness, and heartbreak that can only be expressed with such earnestness when you’re a teenager. Haunting, genuine, and danceable (in that sort of sad, swaying way), it really is a testament to the wisdom of youth.
David Juro // Production Engineer
Live Forever – Bartees Strange
This debut album is the manifesto of a proud Black artist in an overwhelmingly white indie scene, bucking simple genre descriptions and pulling no punches. Bartees experiments with styles ranging from indie to hardcore to hip-hop to house as means for expressing his unique voice and often gritty production style, hooking listeners from start to finish.
Songs – Adrianne Lenker
Even though it’s musically bare and stripped back, featuring only Lenker’s voice, acoustic guitar and minimal shaker percussion, this album is hypnotic. It’s lyrics are introspective, personal, and sometimes surreal, while the guitars are constantly weaving a melodic tapestry. All this paints a haunting, lonely, and intoxicating picture.
Long Haired Locusts – Godcaster
Godcaster committed their frenetic and dynamic musical chemistry to tape with this exciting debut record. Their brand of funky psych rock, showing off commanding vocal performances, propulsive rhythms, and gorgeous harmonic textures, makes me REALLY miss the carefree fun of packed house shows.
Moveys – Slow Pulp
I was waiting for this debut LP from Slow Pulp for a while, and it was a great addition to their shoegazey indie rock catalogue.