By: Charlie Boone
So much incredible music has come out in the past three years, so here are 5 of my favorite albums from 2020-2023, from any genre, in chronological order.
LEYA – ‘Flood Dream’ (2020)
LEYA is an experimental music duo from Brooklyn, New York consisting of harpist Marilu Donovan and vocalist/violinist Adam Markiewicz. Their 2020 album, ‘Flood Dream’ is a haunting and hypnotizing experience combining Donovan’s low-tuned and dissonant harp with Markiewicz’s ghostly operatic vocals for a final product that is as beautiful as it is petrifying. There’s a very distinct eerie quality that feels cinematic but in a very unorthodox way, like it’s the score to a VHS tape that kills you if you press play.
Favorite track: “INTP”
ZelooperZ – ‘Valley of Life’ (2020)
Throughout his time making music in the exciting and ever-evolving Detroit rap scene, ZelooperZ has paved his way as a creative talent, melding elements from both underground and mainstream hip-hop, as well as jazz and club music. He’s an incredibly consistent artist with multiple albums out this decade that could all be on this list, but 2020’s ‘Valley of Life’ stands out to me as a particularly fleshed-out and replayable experience.
ZelooperZ plays with various styles of rap, melding them together with a constant personality and distinctive production style. “Fooseball” features a jazzy lo-fi beat with a unique and infectious groove, while “What2du” (featuring an incredible verse from New York neo-soul artist Fousheé) has what is probably my favorite beat on the album, with eerie synth stabs and sparse yet bouncy percussion reminiscent of Soulja Boy and Tisakorean.
Favorite track: “Just Me”
Brand of Sacrifice – ‘Lifeblood’ (2021)
In the early 2010s, deathcore was at its peak, creatively and commercially. Bands like Suicide Silence and Whitechapel were establishing their footing as the current top dogs of extreme metal, while bands like Winds of Plague and Disfiguring the Goddess were experimenting with technicality and orchestral elements to further expand the sound.
Over a decade later, the deathcore scene seems to me like it’s going in two different directions, one focused on the revival of what made the old scene so great, and the other focused on modernizing and polishing the sound to make it fresh.
In my opinion, the 2000s revival scene is much more interesting with a rawer, more aggressive edge, but the biggest exception to that is Brand of Sacrifice. Their 2021 record ‘Lifeblood’ is pretty much the perfect embodiment of mixing mind-bending brutality with fantastic modern production, and the closest thing to the logical conclusion of what the 2000s deathcore bands were experimenting with.
Favorite track: “Lifeblood”
Ghais Guevara – There Will Be No Super-Slave (2022)
Philadelphia rapper Ghais Guevara has been making waves in the underground recently with incredible, entirely self-produced rap records that are, in my opinion, some of the best and most groundbreaking hip-hop projects I’ve heard in recent memory, combining the aggressive and energetic sounds of East Coast drill and Jersey club with a calmer, more introspective style both over masterfully selected soul and pop samples. ‘There Will Be No Super-Slave’ is definitely Ghais’s current best work and a great showcase of his massive amount of talent.
Still, it’s clear that this isn’t the furthest he wants to go with his sound, and given the way he’s been talking about his upcoming record, I am very much looking forward to what he comes up with next.
Favorite track: “Face/Off”
Danger Mouse & Black Thought – ‘Cheat Codes’ (2022)
The Roots’ Black Thought teams up with super-producer Danger Mouse to craft a jazzy hip-hop soundscape full of dusty drum breaks, fantastic sample work, and countless double entendres. The album’s old-school boom-bap style doesn’t necessarily lend itself to innovation, but with the addition of features like the late MF DOOM and New York staple from Griselda Records, Conway the Machine, ‘Cheat Codes’ is genuinely a perfectly constructed hip-hop album that feels like a portal into a dusty crate of old vinyl records with one of the greatest MCs of all time spitting at the top of his game.
Favorite track: “Aquamarine” (feat. Michael Kiwanuka)