2020 is a hell of a time to be doing anything, including releasing music, and it’s safe to say that most of the albums that have been released this year are landing in a world very different from the one in which they were created (except, of course, for Charli XCX’s made-in-quarantine “how i’m feeling now”). The changed world has led many artists to delay planned album releases, but it hasn’t stopped many others — and, in an unusual case, apparently inspired Donald Glover to finally release a long-in-the-works album, albeit in a very strange and under-the-radar manner (more on that below).
For most of the people who would read this article, music isn’t just something to put on in the background — it’s literally a soundtrack to our lives, something that immediately evokes a person or place or time, often the first occasion we heard it. So for better or worse, for many people the songs and albums below will recall this time, whether it’s “After Hours” dropping at the end of that awful week in March when coronavirus truly took hold in North America; whether it’s Gambino’s album arriving unexpectedly a few days later, when we wondered what could possibly come next; or whether it’s Tame Impala’s “Slow Rush,” which dropped on Valentine’s Day but feels like a postcard from a different universe. Here’s to hoping there will be better memories to associate with the great music that’s to come in the next six months.