WSUM Exec Staff’s Favorite Albums of 2020

Here is what we have been listening to! Although 2020 was a challenging year, we got some great music to spin.


Ayden Schultz, Web Director

  1. Protomartyr – Ultimate Success Today
  2. Sprain – As Lost Through Collison
  3. The Microphones – Microphones in 2020
  4. Yves Tumor – Heaven to a Tortured Mind
  5. Them Airs – Union Suit XL
  6. Fontaines D.C. – A Hero’s Death
  7. Sewerslvt – Draining Love Story
  8. Anna von Hausswolff – All Thoughts Fly
  9. Machine Girl – U Void Synthesizer
  10. The Garden – Kiss my Superbowl Ring

To me it felt like the first half of this year was just waiting for the new Protomartyr album to come out. After the first single dropped in mid-March and its release date in April was announced, I couldn’t have been more excited. However, things did not go according to plan as we all know, and the album was delayed until July. I spent long summer days trapped in my room seething with anticipation for this album to release. When it did come out, I formed an opinion about it and wrote it down here.


Sean Horvath, Station Manager

  1. Fiona Apple – Fetch the Bolt Cutters 
  2. Quelle Chris & Chris Keys – Innocent Country 2
  3. King Krule – Man Alive!
  4. Laura Marling – Song For Our Daughter
  5. (Liv).e – Couldn’t Wait to Tell You
  6. Anna von Hausswolff – All Thoughts Fly
  7. R.A.P Ferreira – purple moonlight pages
  8. Angel Olsen – Whole New Mess
  9. Mamalarky – Mamalarky
  10. Sewerslvt – Draining Love Story 

Honorable mentions: Watermelon Collie – Big Blue, Jordana – Something to Say.

I agree with Pitchfork, this album is really, really good! I was lucky enough to hear Fetch the Bolt Cutters before reading any of the reviews, so hopefully I wasn’t influenced too much by them. With that said; wow, just wow. I never thought I would describe an album as sounding equally like Nina Simone and Tom Waits. This album is definitely not for everyone, and I say that in the most positive way possible. It’s going to come at you seeming raw, unfinished and at times a bit overly forward. It will attack you with its lyrics and pummel you with it’s percussion. Sometimes it will seem uncomfortably quiet, and other times it will be distractingly cacophonous. The drums and vocals are mixed so loud that they seem to sandwich all the other instruments between layers of shouting and clanging. But keep listening, and soon enough you’ll understand what makes this album so special. Everything about it is uniquely honest. This album is an unfiltered, un-censored view into the mind of Fiona Apple, and by proxy, the mind of a woman working to make sense of the world around her. It was perfectly fitting then, that this album was released into a world working to make sense of itself in the midst of a global pandemic and radical social change. No other album feels like 2020 to me quite like Fetch the Bolt Cutters does. It’s like looking in a mirror. You can like it or hate it, but at least you know what you’re seeing is real.


Jessica Gregory, News Director

  1. Beach Bunny – Honeymoon
  2. Fiona Apple – Fetch the Bolt Cutters
  3. Taylor Swift – Folklore
  4. Flo Milli – Ho, why is you here?
  5. Dua Lipa – Future Nostalgia
  6. King Princess – Cheap Queen
  7. Soccer Mommy – color theory
  8. Beebadobee – Fake It Flowers
  9. Glass Animals – Dreamland
  10. The Chicks – Gaslighter

Honeymoon is an indie pop album that seats listeners on a rollercoaster ride of emotions. Beach Bunny’s lead singer, Lili Trifilio, has a voice that pushes me into nostalgic overload. Throughout Honeymoon, I am reminded of the preciousness, fragility and intensity of emotions when experiencing life’s slow and rapid changes. The album begins by exploring uncertainties in a relationship that seems like it has a great chance of falling through. Trifilio consistently addresses the insecurities she has within herself and how it seeps into her relationships. In the song “Rearview,” Trifilio sings “was I even good enough for you? There is always someone I’m trying to live up to.” Honeymoon describes how quickly emotions and relationships can change with its seamless transitions from one song to the next. You hardly realize when a song changes to the next. Before you know it, you’re almost through the album and have reached “Dreamboy” where Trifilio warns her lover to treat her well, because she’s fallen hard. Closing with “Cloud 9,” Trifilio happily and punchily relays confidence in her relationship that at first began with a grim outlook. I really enjoy the album with its beautiful instrumentals and captivating storyline, but I really am a sucker for Lili Trifilio’s voice. In February 2020, I saw Beach Bunny live in Madison where they performed all of my favorite songs from the album. As one of the last bands I saw before the pandemic took hold on our lives, Beach Bunny’s Honeymoon will always be an album I hold closely.


D Allen, Talk Director

  1. Reason – New Beginnings
  2. Amine – Limbo
  3. Big Sean – Detroit 2 
  4. Lucky Daye – Painted (Deluxe Edition)
  5. Jaden Smith – CTV3: Cool Tape Vol. 3
  6. Symba – Don’t Run From R.A.P.
  7. Jack Harlow – Sweet Action
  8. Joey Fatts  – G Way
  9. Justice Der – Favorites 4
  10. Pop Smoke – Shoot For The Stars Aim For The Moon

Honorable mention: Sleepy Hallow – Sleepy Hallow Presents: Sleepy for President

New Beginnings by Reason is the Los Angeles based rapper’s second album on the Top Dawg Entertainment record label. Being on TDE means many things for Reason, but it most notably means that he has a lot to live up to if he is trying to keep up with his peers that include: Kendrick Lamar, Schoolboy Q, SZA, Isaiah Rashad and Jay Rock. Luckily for Reason, he is slowly advancing in his music career and setting himself up to fit very nicely into the TDE lineup. New Beginnings was a great studio album that featured the artist giving listeners a plethora of moods that range from hype, party songs to slow, sentimental songs in which Reason reveals aspects of his personal relationships, rise to fame and battle with balancing the street life with his professional career. Reason had no problem including his TDE peers on New Beginnings seeing that there are features from Schoolboy Q, Ab-Soul and Isaiah Rashad. However, it was clear that Reason was not resting on these features to gain notoriety for his album because there is a passion in every song that can only stem from a young artist willing to do whatever it takes to make it in the music industry. Since its release, this album has been in constant rotation in my personal music library as it seems that I can not get enough of the tales of LA that hit home and the sweet melodies that soothe the mind, body, and soul. To say the least, with this last album, Reason has established himself as a force to be reckoned with in the rap game. 


Sebastian Khattabi, Traffic Director

1. Childish Gambino – 3.15.20

2. Freddie Gibbs – Alfredo

3. Run the Jewels – RTJ4

4. Mac Miller – Circles

5. Thundercat – It is What it Is

6. Dent May – Late Checkout

7. Tame Impala – The Slow Rush

8. Bad Bunny – YHLQMDLG

9. Spillage Village – Spilligion

10. The Weeknd – After Hours

Honorable mention: Kaytranada – Bubba (This album was technically released in late December 2019, but it definitely was my personal album of Summer 2020)

3.15.20 refers to the date Childish Gambino (aka Donald Glover) released his mixtape also referred to his “white album.” This album was definitely the anthem of 2020. Following the commercial success that was Awaken, My Love!, Childish Gambino had a pretty high bar to overcome. In that album, he was able to recreate the soulful funky rhythm from the 1970’s. It was as if we were put in a time machine and sent back. However, with 3.15.20, it’s as if this time machine took us many years in the future. (This metaphor is the cheesiest thing ever…but it works in getting my message across). This album was much more experimental in the electronic beats. Right at the beginning of quarantine, I needed something weird and unsettling to match the mood. The lyricism in some of these songs are incredible as well. In “12.28” it documents a magic mushroom trip. “42.26” is just “Feels Like Summer” but it still documents how the world is getting hotter. And songs like “19.10” where the chorus says it all “To be beautiful is to be hunted.” I hate to make the comparison to Kanye, however I think that this was Childish Gambino’s Yeezus. There were rumors that this  might be his last album, and I certainly don’t hope so. 

One song that I 100% recommend 12.38. 21 Savage’s verse in this song is spot on! And the beat is weird!


Maximilian Huth, Program Director

1. Glass Animals – Dreamland

2. Lastlings – First Contact

3. LANKS – SPIRITS PT.1

4. Run the Jewels – RTJ4

5. OTR – Lost at Midnight

6. Mothica – Blue Hour

7. BAYNK – A STUDY IN MOVEMENT

8.  Laurel – Petrol Bloom (EP)

9. Slow Magic – it’s the end of the world, but it’s ok

10. pluko – COLOR BLIND

Encapsulating the theme of personal growth, nostalgia and introspection, Dreamland found a special place in my music library as the most played album of 2020. The third album in the Glass Animals’ discography keeps some of the experimental rhythms and beats from Zaba, but leans further into pop with tracks like Tangerine and Hot Sugar. The album hits its most intense point with tracks like “Tokyo Drifting,” featuring Denzel Curry as he grips the spotlight of the track and doesn’t let go, only to settle back down with “Melon and the Coconut,” bringing in a distorted Dave Beyley to a slow paced minimal instrument track. Ramping up the energy, “It’s All So Incredibly Loud” feels like the shift from 2nd to 3rd gear, accelerating the listener into the final stretch of the album, similar to merging onto an empty highway in a sports car. The home movie segments blend together perfectly, drifting into “Domestic Bliss,” an almost haunting but somber track about serious themes and wanting to escape them. Drums slam into action in the latter half of the track, upping the stakes as we near what I consider the strongest track: “Heat Waves.” What initially feels like a track about thinking of someone else turns into a self reflection of not being able to win every battle you fight. Sometimes you have to know that you can’t be everything people want you to be, or everything you push yourself toward. Maybe it’s because I’m personally experiencing a lot of change, with what felt like a monkey wrench of a year throwing off everything I expected my junior year of university, but the final chorus of “Helium,” specifically at 1:36, has me restarting the album to experience it all over again.


Chy Klitzke, Traffic Director

1. Rina Sawayama – Sawayama

2. Bring Me The Horizon- Post Human: Survival Horror

3. Enter Shikari- Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible

4. Dreamcatcher- Dystopia: The Tree of Language

5. Beach Bunny- Honeymoon

6. Dance Gavin Dance- Afterburner

7. Charli XCX- How I’m Feeling Now

8. Slaves- To Better Days

9. Touche Amore- Lament

10. Bilmuri- Eggy Pocket

Honorable mentions: Carly Rae Jepsen- Dedicated Side B, Code Orange- Underneath.

In a year where I almost exclusively listened to angry, metal-core of the 2000’s/2010’s, regressing back to my early-high school music taste to cope with this terrible year, I surprised myself by falling completely head-over heels for Rina Sawayama’s debut full-length, Sawayama. Although I had previously been a fan of a couple of tracks off of her first project, an E.P. called Rina, I was not prepared for the rollercoaster Sawayama would put me through. Sometimes pop, sometimes nu-metal, this album knew all the right buttons to push to keep me guessing. Not only is it musically engaging, but the range of topics each song covers also packs a punch, using catchy pop music to discreetly and sometimes satirically critique issues such as capitalism, patriarchal norms and the global response to climate change. Although on paper it sounds all over the place, the juxtaposition between consecutive songs, as well as the juxtaposition between the lyrical and musical content on each track, work in its favor to deliver a one-of-a-kind album that has a little something for everyone!


Daniel Palmeter, Assistant Tech

  1. 1 800 PAIN – BEST HOUSE ON A BAD BLOCK
  2. Animal Collective – Bridge to Quiet
  3. Osees – Protean Threat
  4. Dan Deacon – Mystic Familiar 
  5. clipping. – Visions of Bodies Being Burned
  6. Roscoe – Things In The Sky
  7. Rocky Hollow – 333 Willow St.
  8. TOBACCO – Hot Wet & Sassy
  9. Watermelon Collie – Big Blue
  10. Damaged Bug – Bug on Yonkers

Honorable mention: Pitches and Notes – From Embers (too short to be an album—but it’s Madison’s own women’s a cappella group!)

BEST HOUSE ON A BAD BLOCK GOES HARDER THAN ANY OTHER ALBUM I KNOW.  IT KICKS OFF WITH “DESTROYUSALL,” WHICH HAS SOME OF THE DIRTIEST, NASTIEST, AND LOUDEST PRODUCTION I’VE EVER HEARD. IT MAKES ME WANT TO ROLL AROUND IN A SEWER. THE ALBUM THEN CONTINUES INTO “HURT,” WHICH IS THE REAL BANGER. IT BEGINS WITH A SAMPLE OF SOMEONE CLEARLY IN PAIN YELLING “HELLO, PAIN!” AND THEN A DEEP, GRAVELLY VOICE COMES IN, PROCLAIMING “I’M PISSED OFF AND I WANNA START SWINGIN’.” TO GET THE FULL EXPERIENCE I RECOMMEND WATCHING THE MUSIC VIDEO SO YOU CAN SEE THE MAN WHO IS PISSED OFF AND WANTS TO START SWINGIN’. TO QUOTE A YOUTUBE COMMENT, HE LOOKS LIKE “THE ITALIAN VERSION OF THE PERSONIFICATION OF AGGRAVATED ASSAULT.” I DON’T KNOW WHO HE IS OR WHY HE’S PISSED OFF, BUT I HOPE TO NEVER ENCOUNTER HIM OUT OF FEAR OF HIS RAGE. THE REST OF THE ALBUM CONTINUES IN A SIMILAR FASHION AND DOESN’T HOLD BACK UNTIL IT’S FINISHED.

THE VOCALS ON THIS ALBUM ALTERNATE BETWEEN PITCHED SHIFTED UP, SASSY MOCKS, THE AFOREMENTIONED GRAVELLY VOICE AND MANLY YOWLS. I WOULD DESCRIBE ALL THREE AS ABRASIVE AND INSULTING TO THE LISTENER. THOUGH THE OVERALL VIBE OF THIS ALBUM IS ELECTRONIC AND INSPIRED BY HIP HOP, THERE ARE ELEMENTS OF OTHER GENRES SUCH AS METAL IN THE END OF “HURT” OR GRINDCORE IN THE BEGINNING OF “LURK.” AND WHEN THEY BORROW FROM OTHER GENRES, THEY TAKE ONLY THE MOST DISGUSTING ELEMENTS, OF COURSE.

THE OTHER TRACK THAT STANDS OUT ON THIS ALBUM IS “LURK”, WHICH SATIRIZES MODERN EXPERIENCES WITH SOCIAL MEDIA. IT DETAILS A FIRST PERSON ACCOUNT OF GETTING ACCESS TO A GIRL’S “FINSTA” AND SUBSEQUENTLY PERUSING ALL HER POSTS TO GET FAR MORE PERSONAL INFORMATION THAN SHE WOULD BE COMFORTABLE SHARING IN REAL LIFE. THIS INCLUDES THE RECENT DEATH OF HER DOG, THE SIZE OF HER ASS AND HOW MUCH SHE HATES HER DAD. THOUGH SATIRICAL, IT PAINTS A RELATIVELY ACCURATE PICTURE OF THE WAY SOCIAL MEDIA IS USED TODAY.

THE LAST THING I WANT TO MENTION ABOUT THIS ALBUM IS THAT IT’S LOADED WITH COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT. MULTIPLE TIMES IN THE ALBUM THE BAND SAMPLES THE POKÉBALL SOUND EFFECT, AND THERE’S NO WAY THEY GOT THAT LEGALLY CLEARED. THEY ALSO USE A MAN WEARING A HELLO KITTY MASK, MODIFIED TO LOOK ANGRY AND CRYING, AS THE MASCOT IN THEIR MUSIC VIDEOS AND ON THE ALBUM COVER. I’M NO EXPERT ON COPYRIGHT LAWS, BUT I DON’T THINK THAT’S LEGAL EITHER.

SO IF YOU’RE FEELING IRATE, THIS IS THE ALBUM FOR YOU.


Will Mandel, Production Director

1. Freddie Gibbs & The Alchemist – Alfredo

2. 1 800 PAIN – BEST HOUSE ON A BAD BLOCK

3. Aaron Cartier – Aaron Cartier Best Dog

4. Flo Milli – Ho, why is you here?

5. Mac Miller – Circles

6. Channel Tres – i can’t go outside

7. Knxwledge – Meek, Vol. 6

8. 100 gecs – 100 gecs and The Tree of Clues

9. food house – food house

10. Phoebe Bridgers – Punisher

Honorable mentions: Yung Lean – Starz, Thundercat – It Is What It Is, Vulfpeck – The Joy Of Music, The Job Of Real Estate.

Here are two text messages I received last week:

Shelby Len, 10:37 p.m.: Would u believe me if I told u this is my first time listening to alfredo

Shelby Len, 10:42 p.m.: Holy shit. 

Sounds about right to me. Alfredo, Freddie Gibbs’s latest (Grammy-nominated!) album and second full-length collaboration with California-born producer The Alchemist, is 35 minutes of pure showmanship. The Alchemist delivers on his reputation, providing lush instrumentals that are thorough enough to keep the sound interesting while subtle enough to give Gibbs the space he needs to do what he does best: rap. The 38-year old artist shows no signs of aging; if “God Is Perfect” doesn’t showcase the best flows of the year, I don’t know what does. Gibbs shows impressive flexibility across the record, whether he’s laying down line after line in perfect rhythm on “Baby $hit” or trading more mellow verses with Tyler, The Creator on “Something To Rap About.” Yet no matter what he’s doing on this album, it’s an incredible performance. The Gary, IN representative has been showing off for years, and Alfredo is no exception. If we all had the lung capacity of Freddie Gibbs, cigarettes would be twice as long. This combination of versatility and excellence makes this the standout rap album of the year. Granted, Gibbs has the advantage of some genre titans (okay, maybe just Kendrick) forgoing a 2020 album, but don’t let that fool you; he’s shown time and time again that he can hang with the greatest, and Alfredo serves to solidify that status. But why take it from me? He’s said it himself: “Best rapper alive.


Morgan Dooley, Creative Director

1. Phoebe Bridgers – Punisher

2. Flo Milli – ho, why is you here ?

3. Charli XCX – How I’m Feeling Now

4. The Garden – Kiss My Super Bowl Ring

5. Rico Nasty – Nightmare Vacation

6. Yung Lean – Starz

7. Orion Sun – Hold Space For Me

8. Soccer Mommy – Color Theory

9. Slow Pulp – Moveys

10. Eyedress – Let’s Skip To The Wedding

Honorable mentions: Amine – Limbo, Bladee – 333, Porridge Radio – Every Bad, Chiiild – Synthetic Soul, King Krule – Man Alive!

Phoebe Bridgers’ sophomore album Punisher rounds out her already impressive discography with a project that is packed start to finish with intense, palpable emotion. Bridgers’ lyricism in Punisher is unmatched. Each line feels equally as raw and thoughtful as the last—something that I feel is rare to come across in music today. I find something new to value and appreciate every time I go back to listen to this album. The emotion that courses through the veins of Punisher has not been lost on the masses, either. Punisher marks a monumental point in Bridgers’ musical career, as the album gained almost immediate praise and popularity that is more than well-deserved. Phoebe Bridgers continues to exceed my expectations with every new release: she wrote my top album of 2020 and I would not be surprised if she was already working on my top album of 2021. 


Izzi Bavis, Music Director 

1. Charli XCX – How I’m Feeling Now

2. Thundercat – It Is What It Is

3. Phoebe Bridgers – Punisher

4. Disq – Collector

5. Jeff Tweedy – Love is the King

6. Fiona Apple – Fetch the Bolt Cutters

7. Okay Kaya – Watch This Liquid Pour Itself

8. Rico Nasty – Nightmare Vacation

9. Dorian Electra – My Agenda

10. Slow Pulp – Moveys

Honorable mentions: Worthitpurchase – Dizzy Age, Open Mike Eagle – Anime, Trauma and Divorce, Jungle Pussy – JP4, Sufjan Stevens – The Ascension, Steve Arrington – Down to the Lowest Terms: The Soul Sessions, Diet Cig –  Do You Wonder About Me?, Ratboys – Printer’s Devil, Isobel Campbell – There Is No Other, Twin Peaks – Side A, Yves Tumor – Heaven To a Tortured Mind, Karaoke – Blood, Piss, Religion, Pain.

Charli XCX graced us with How I’m Feeling Now in May of this year. Created entirely during quarantine, this album allowed me an escape from reality for 37 minutes. Charli XCX pushes the boundaries of modern day pop and creates catchy tracks with clashing instrumentations. What I love most about this album is how glamorous it is. I’m trying to fixate on one track that is glamorous, but the truth is that each song is. Everything fits together so well to form an album that can turn any living room to a dance floor and any sidewalk into a runway. My favorite song at the moment is “party 4 u.” The track describes how Charli XCX threw a party for a special someone, full of pink balloons, champagne and dancing. With the pandemic inserting itself into every aspect of life, large social gatherings are impossible and thus I can’t live out the story Charli XCX sings. One day I’ll be able to throw a party for a special someone, I’ll buy pink balloons, champagne, a disco ball and fancy invitations. Until then, I’ll just spin How I’m Feeling Now and go on a walk.  


Shelby Len, Admin Spec

1. Sewerslvt – Draining Love Story

2. King Krule – Man Alive!

3. A.G. Cook – 7G

4. The Garden – Kiss My Superbowl Ring

5. Omar S – You Want

6. Raveena – Moonstone EP

7. 100 gecs – 100 gecs and the Tree of Clues

8. Eartheater – Phoenix: Flames Are Dew Upon My Skin

9. Zaphyre – Lifeforce

10. Adrianne Lenker – songs

Honorable mentions: Fiona Apple – Fetch the Boltcutters, DJ Sabrina the Teenage DJ – Charmed

If you know me or have listened to my show Anti Rave Rave Club, you’ve probably heard me rant about this album before. A shining example of the reverb heavy, cold sounding EDM sub genre known as “atmospheric drum and bass,” Sewerslvt’s Draining Love Story had me hooked from when I first heard of it on the homepage of rateyourmusic.com. One thing of note: this is a concept album, and the concept in question is something of desolation and void, just as the album’s title implies. Each song is structured pretty similarly, given the relatively strict formal constraints of the genre itself: a shimmery introduction full of building synth suspensions plunge you into a deluge of lightning-speed breakbeats, sometimes there’s some vocal samples scattered throughout (my favorite being the almost campy dialogue in “Ecifircas”). Despite the seemingly formulaic nature of the album, it keeps you captivated. If you wanna hear more about how much I enjoy this album, see what I wrote about it in March here!


Kalina Larsen, Traffic Director 

1.Beach Bunny- Honeymoon

2. Dua Lipa – Future Nostalgia

3. Joji – Nectar

4. Glass Animals – Dreamland

5. Soccer Mommy – color theory

6. Mata – 100 dni do matury 

7. The Strokes – The New Abnormal

8. Charlie XCX – how i’m feeling now

9. 100 gecs – 100 gecs and the Tree of Clues

10. Beebadobee – Fake It Flowers

Honeymoon by Beach Bunny was my favorite album of 2020 and the soundtrack to my pre-covid world. It came out February of this year and instantly became a go to listen in my Spotify cue on long nights at College library. It was the music I played day and night for one sweet month before I was sent home and the pandemic swallowed our lives. I listened to the album so much that Beach Bunny was my number one artist on Spotify Wrapped and I was in the top 1% of their listeners! From the perfect sad song “Racetrack” to the upbeat melodies of Cuffing Season and Cloud9, this album truly has it all. A quintessential “sad girl” album for my teenage mood swings. The lyrics are wistful and sentimental, leaving you longing for the feeling captured by the reminiscent melodies of punk rock.