It goes without saying that 2020 has been a difficult year for the music industry.
With no live music scene to speak of for the majority of the year, the pressure was on for artists to come up with the goods and keep fans sated via their recorded output.
As always, there have been a fair few clangers released throughout the year - but for the most part it's been a pretty stellar year for albums.
Below, we've chosen what we wholeheartedly believe are the ten best of 2020.
10 Rina Sawayama - 'Sawayama'
On paper, Rina Sawayama's debut album might seem like a bit of a novelty affair. How on earth, you might ask, could elements of pop, nu-mental, r'n'b and arena rock worth within the same tracklist? Well, 'Sawayama' is evidence that it does – and sometimes, as heard on 'STFU', even on the same song. The ambition and diversity contained within this album (let's call it a pop album, for argument's sake) is gobsmacking in parts. And most importantly, there are some really good songs here, too. We can't wait to see what the Japanese-British artist does next.
9 Nadine Shah – 'Kitchen Sink'
We'll admit that Nadine Shah was not on our radar before this year. Then we heard her song 'Club Cougar' on BBC 6 Music one day, and a lightbulb switch went off in our minds. Thankfully, the English musician's fourth studio album came good on that superb song's promise: this is a seriously swaggering collection of songs, using indie-rock as a frame to hang experimental folk, unconventional jazz rhythms and peculiar pop melodies off – and all underpinned by her commanding, earthy voice.
8 Rufus Wainwright – 'Unfollow the Rules'
We'll hold our hands up and admit that we're die-hard fans of Rufus Wainwright. That said, even we struggled with some of his projects in recent years – including a collection of Shakespearean sonnets and a recording of his first opera. So it was both a relief and a delight to hear that he was back doing what (we reckon) he does best; this gorgeous collection of raffish indie-pop songs brought us a lot of comfort and happiness in 2020.
7 The Weeknd – 'After Hours'
'Blinding Lights' may have been one of the biggest songs of the year, but don't dismiss the rest of Abel Tesfaye's fourth album because of it. The Canadian musician constructed a late-night world of sleazy synth-led r'n'b songs that became increasingly easier to get lost in as the year progressed. It's hard to think of anyone else doing this distinct brand of pop music anywhere near as well.
6 Fleet Foxes – 'Shore'
It arrived with little to no fanfare, but that suited Fleet Foxes' fourth album to a tee. This is an album that grows and grows with every listen, songs and melodies covertly burying themselves in your brain until one day, you realise that you've fallen for them hook, line and sinker. With this beaut of an album, Robin Pecknold and his bandmates took their time to craft an old-fashioned collection of indie-folk songs, and it paid off in abundance.
5 Haim – 'Women in Music Pt. III'
Like us, you might have dismissed Haim as proponents of a smattering of great singles here and there, but a band lacking a killer full-length collection. That all changed with 'Women in Music Pt. III', undoubtedly the Haim sisters' best and most consistent album to date. It was an album that also got deeply personal in parts, but that sense of vulnerability only added to its magic. With a tracklist that railed, rocked, fizzed and wailed, it simply worked from start to finish.
4 Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – 'Sideways to New Italy'
If you like your indie music served with a side of jangle-pop, there was no finer album than 'Sideways to New Italy' released this year. Melbourne band Rolling Blackouts C.F. are unapologetically indebted to indie greats like The Go-Betweens, but on this album they carved out their own distinct niche with dreamy numbers like 'Falling Thunder' and the insistent bop of 'Cars in Space'. Glorious stuff.
3 Phoebe Bridgers – 'Punisher'
Over the past year, Phoebe Bridgers has gone from an intriguing proposition to a full-blown star – and it's all thanks to this album. While its brilliant predecessor 'Stranger in the Alps' set the tone for the LA native's career, 'Punisher' cemented her as a serious force to be reckoned with in the indie-folk-rock realm. Tracks as different 'Kyoto' and 'Garden Song' on the same album somehow worked beautifully, attesting to Bridgers' ever-growing dexterity as a songwriter.
2 Margaret Glaspy – 'Devotion'
We first fell head over heels for Margaret Glaspy's music when we hear the title track of her 2017 debut 'Emotions & Math'. The New York-based musician with the knockout voice is a hidden gem that has been all-too-often overlooked – and that goes for her second album 'Devotion', too. This time, Glaspy occasionally stepped away from the quirky indie and folk of her debut, incorporating an electronic patter on songs like 'You've Got My Number' and 'Young Love'. It's an album about the ups and downs of being in love, and it's outstanding.
1 Dua Lipa – 'Future Nostalgia'
It's been a long time since we've heard a pop album packed with as many bangers as 'Future Nostalgia'. Years, even. 2020 has been a weird year for pop music in general; some of the supposedly 'big' albums like Lady Gaga turned out to be damp squibs, while others are simply forgettable. There's no chance of Dua Lipa's second record sinking into obscurity anytime soon, though. Borrowing from classic disco and pop on songs like 'Break My Heart, 'Don't Start Now', 'Levitating' and 'Hallucinate', the title summed it up perfectly: an progressive pop album that nodded to the past, but pushed things forward in the same breath. In short, it puts us in a good mood every time we listen to it – and that's no mean feat, given the year that's been in it.