The Strokes lineup

The Strokes returned in 2020 with "The New Abnormal," one of Limelight's picks for the best albums of the year.

While the biggest Hollywood blockbusters getting delayed one after another, quality music releases haven't stopped. As the semester reaches a close, Limelight has compiled 10 of the best music releases of the year so far.

The Strokes - "The New Abnormal"

After The Strokes' last few albums failed to live up to fans' and critics' high expectations and a nearly seven-year span since their last full-length album, it wasn't clear if the band would ever revisit the recording studio. "The New Abnormal" breaks that streak by showing a true evolution and maturity in sound and substance for The Strokes. It's also the first truly collaborative effort from the band, with influences from each members' side-projects seeping into this release; tightly written rock songs have evolved into more developed and contemplative tracks.

“The Adults are Talking” is an excellent opener with danceable post-punk, updating a familiar sound from their debut "Is This It." Lead single "At the Door" has shockingly stark, synth-based instrumentals paired with dire, nihilist lyrics that swirl into a blissful but heavy-hearted end. Closer "Ode the Mets" is both a love letter and a farewell to The Strokes' past, closing the door on recreating nostalgia from their earlier releases while reorienting them for the future. "The New Abnormal" is one of the best in Stroke's discography, with catchy songs that we haven't been able to get out of our heads since its release. 

Dua Lipa - "Future Nostalgia"

Dua Lipa gave us a massive surprise with the release of her sophomore album “Future Nostalgia” on March 27.

A retro-flavored pop album on par with timeless classics, “Future Nostalgia” is a one-of-a-kind work that draws influences from '70s disco, '80s synth-pop and '90s R&B, putting a newfangled spin on throwback-inspired sounds and putting Dua Lipa on the map as an innovator who isn’t afraid to bend the rules of pop-stardom.

Denzel Curry & Kenny Beats - "UNLOCKED"

The eight-song project puts the best of artists directly into the spotlight. Denzel Curry maintains his manic temperament while delivering some clean, hard bars. Kenny Beats places some MF DOOM-esque sounds on the table, and Denzel eats them right up. 

This was the first collaborative project between the two artists, but it’s clear their chemistry brought out the best of both parties. Curry proves to be an elite artist with every release.

Gorillaz - "Song Machine"

The British hip-hop and rock band Gorillaz has recently released the first three songs in its 2020 album “Song Machine." This album has been different from the others released over the band’s 22-year career in that the songs are being released one at a time, as opposed to releasing the entire album at once.

The songs released so far are "Momentary Bliss," "Désolé" and "Aries." Gorillaz has continued its tradition of featuring other artists on its albums by working with slowthai, Fatoumata Diawara and Peter Hook & Georgia for these songs. The band’s unique style of genre-mixing shines through in “Song Machine” in classic Gorillaz-fashion, making it a contender for the top album of 2020.

Tame Impala - "The Slow Rush"

“The Slow Rush” finds Tame Impala at a defining moment in Kevin Parker's artistic timeline, following up on the crossover appeal of his 2015 album "Currents." While not an artistic evolution of the likes seen between Tame Impala’s previous releases, “The Slow Rush” operates in a groovy and psychedelic-pop space in the band’s most easy-listening form. 

Mac Miller - "Circles"

With this final release, Mac Miller's career has finally come full circle. As he became a larger entity in hip-hop, his own artistic flare began to develop. As Miller grew, he began to write about topics many artists would struggle to put to paper. In today’s music lens, it’s clear he always possessed a strong share of versatility.

Throughout his career, Miller blossomed in terms of lyricism, but his singing voice wasn’t fully established until this final turn of his career. Miller always displayed his dynamic talent through personal introspection in his music, and “Circles” was the perfect way to close out his legacy.

Poppy - “I Disagree”

Somewhat fresh off her run as YouTube’s eeriest bubblegum-pop performance artist, Poppy made the strange and polarizing transition from electro-pop to heavy metal in late 2018.

“I Disagree,” released January 10, is Poppy’s “breakup” album, where she comments on breaking free from an abusive partnership and her previous saccharine image. Powerful, striking and bold in every sense, “I Disagree” is a cathartic, carefully crafted masterpiece that’s just as ingenious as it is confusing.

La Roux - “Supervision”

Known worldwide for their 2009 hit “Bulletproof,” La Roux’s latest album “Supervision” was released Feb. 7.

Formerly a duo, the English synth project is flown solo by singer Elly Jackson on “Supervision” as she breaks free from her rigid creative process and lets herself loose on this short and fun LP. A groovy, upbeat easy-listener with reggae and funk influences, La Roux emerges from the shadows with grace and promise on “Supervision.”

Chika - "Industry Games"

Chika’s “Industry Games” is undoubtedly one of the best mixtapes of the year. The seven-track project solidifies the artist as the “best of the new school” as she challenges the quality of music in the industry and addresses her sexuality as well as her rise to stardom. 

The 23-year-old artist gained popularity on Instagram when several of her videos went viral, and now, she has over a million followers. Her unapologetic lyrics and raw sound have grabbed the attention of iconic artists like Jay-Z and have placed her as one of the most anticipated artists of the year.

BTS - "Map of the Soul: 7"

“Map of the Soul: 7” is a journey through Korean group BTS’ history and their rise to stardom. The albums feels like a nostalgic homecoming. The diverse tracklist and personal touches from each of the members makes this album something special and makes the listener feel connected individually to the group.

Once again, BTS proves that music truly knows no language. Self-exploration, hardships and love are themes that transcend cultures. The group continues to prove that emotions speak louder than words, uniting listeners from across the globe, which is truly something special. 

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