Lifestyle, Music

Under-the-radar albums of the 2020s that landed on my record

Discussing your favorite musicians can go a long way. In the case of artists trying to expand their reach into larger audiences, word-of-mouth is invaluable.

Ariana Lim | Senior Graphic Artist

Whether you are recommending up-and-coming acts from a friend, digging through hyperlocal blogs via Google or striking a conversation with a local punk, word-of-mouth is the best way to discover new artists. The only problem is making the time for those recommendations.

People can only consume so much, especially when multiple albums are released every day. It’s not possible to listen to everything — unless you have too much time on your hands. 

I totally get it if you’re occupied with commitments, work and academics. Since we’re nearing the end of half the decade, it makes sense to write about retrospectives on albums that went unnoticed. I hope that you find something you like here, because I feel that all of them are worth a spin.

‘Flower of Devotion’ by Dehd

The Chicago indie-rock trio’s third studio album, “Flower of Devotion”, under New York label Fire Talk is truly special. Consisting of exciting anthems that sound both ethereal and spacious, the three members work wonders when cultivating this atmosphere. 

“Flower of Devotion” reminds me of older, indie-adjacent rock–flashes of jangle pop, new wave and post-punk sway through the album. The reverb-drenched guitars, Emily Kempf’s crooning vocals and airy percussion all create an impressionistic, slacker joy that keeps you along for the ride.

‘Song of Sage: Post Panic’ by Navy Blue

Before rapper-producer and professional skateboarder Sage Elsesser signed to Def Jam Recordings, there was “Song of Sage: Post Panic.” Released under Navy’s own imprint, Freedom Sounds, Navy showcases his talents even further on his second full-length album. 

With the intersection of grainy, glamorous soul and lyricism that paints pictures of his vulnerability and past trauma, he curates truthful testimonials that resonate after you finish the album. 

Navy’s consciousness and glistening instrumentals, along with stand-alone features from billy woods, Yasiin Bey and Maxo, make the album one of the most emotional rap projects of the decade.

‘Collider’ by All Under Heaven

The Freehold, New Jersey All Under Heaven’s debut EP, “Collider,” released on Texas-based label Sunday Drive Records is shoegaze at its dreariest. 

For the 14-minute runtime, “Collider” ruptures with urgency blistering in a dream-like daze. Though All Under Heaven’s influences wear heavy on Starflyer 59, Title Fight and Deftones, their goth-tinged sound separates them from other contemporary shoegaze bands. 

With rumbling guitars drenched in overdrive, percussion puncturing through the mix of soft vocal melodies, the band strikes on dark, moody pastiches that sound original in their own right. 

‘Twin Plagues’ by Wednesday 

Before the North Carolina-based band signed to Dead Oceans and released their critically-acclaimed “Rat Saw God,” “Twin Plagues” sees them establishing themselves as an exciting act worth listening to. 

Their country-adjacent twangy sound, intersecting with sludge-inspired elements and infectious melodies make for an exciting experience that cuts deep. Karly Hartzman’s songwriting touches on lost romance and fond memories told behind noisy guitars and blasting drums that intentionally submerge her words, making you want to dig deeper beyond the noise. 

It’s an essential indie rock album, one that I feel will age very well. 

‘Absolutely’ by Dijon

The Baltimore singer-songwriter’s debut album on Warner Record’s subprint R&R Digital, “Absolutely,” is explorative and eclectic as it is purposeful and tender. 

From the first song, “Big Mike’s,” Dijon establishes how sensual, gratifying and scrappy his style of R&B is — the indie kid’s equivalent to D’Angelo’s “Untitled (How Does It Feel).” Dijon’s stories of heartbreak and longing for true romance is resounding and told through raspy vocals that burst with personality. 

Dijon has no concern for the mixing, embracing a do-it-yourself approach with rupturing bass that peaks throughout, establishing a grappling tension that keeps you sticking around. 

“Absolutely” is remarkable, and Dijon’s whimsical and unpolished approach to the alternative R&B genre is proof that his talents are here to stay

‘SUPERNOVA’ by Ralphie Choo

The Madrid pop wunderkind’s debut album is a lot of things–mainly pure fun. After a string of singles Choo released in the past under the RusiaIDK collective, “SUPERNOVA” sees Choo coming into his own with elegant and bombastic results. 

A variety of sounds are present throughout, sporadic moments intertwined with angelic harmonies and fluttering chords is Ralphie Choo’s strength in creating bangers. 

Whether it be the rattling, buzzing digital percussion on “MÁQUINA CULONA” or the flanger-heavy acoustic guitar and auto tuned vocals on “VOYCONTODO,” Ralphie Choo is in a world of his own. 

‘Silhouette Machine’ by Flooding

The Kansas City three-piece slowcore band are treading through murky waters on their second album, “Silhouette Machine,” delivering some of the sludgiest slowcore in the genre. There’s truly nothing like it right now, as “Silhouette Machine” feels like the amalgamation of the Southern heaviness of Harvey Milk meets the cold, despondence of Codeine. 

The somber passages and melodic unease the trio captures is frightening, tense and bare all at the same time. Rose Brown’s vocals maneuver themselves throughout–either in a silently, hushed manner or screaming during the more massive portions, serendating the listener into a beautiful catharsis.

‘HNPM’ by Jim Legxacy

The London rapper-producer and singer’s debut mixtape shines brightly, making for some of the most creative, colorful pop music I have heard in a while. 

Jim Legxacy’s take on pop music is genreless – intersecting elements of midwest emo, UK hip hop and afrobeats together in a sound that is seemingly personal to him. Jim Legxacy’s stories of a crumbling romance, his musings on finding true love and reflections of his life in London are tender, singing passionately on top of his genre-bending instrumentals make for gorgeous results. 

Sampling Miley Cyrus’ “Ordinary Girl” and the ident for Nigerian music streaming service on “miley’s riddim”, the mixtape reads as autobiographical. Jim Legxacy reveals so much through the ambitious twenty-five minute runtime about himself through his bubbly, self-referential production and earnest lyricism.

Simply put — it is beautiful music made by someone who has beautiful things to say.

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