2A’s favorite albums of 2020


2A’s favorite albums of 2020

By Kyle Luikart + the 2A Team

2A’s favorite albums of 2020

The beginning of the year had me slipping out of the office between meetings, spending what should have been my lunch money on tunes from our neighbor, Everyday Music. Digging through crates of musty cardboard sleeves and jewel cases was a wonderful way to come up for air after being submerged in the world of cloud data platforms and AI/ML. But round about March everything changed, and I no longer found myself next to the record store between meetings. And my commute was axed, so things like FM radio, and podcasts silently slipped out of rotation. My listening habits changed, and I began looking forward to old-music Mondays and new-music Fridays, unintentionally leaning into music recommended to me by algorithms at a time when human interaction had taken a most extreme decline.

Creating marketing materials for machine learning puts an optimistic glow on what technology can do for us, but there’s a lot that goes into how an individual connects with music—time, place, receptiveness, emotion—that’s harder to train into a machine learning model. Just like when your favorite DJ plays a new song on the radio, a good friend suggests an artist they love, or you uncover a gem in a bin after sinking countless hours sifting, discovering new music can bring a tiny thrill of connection.

We hope you connect with some of 2A’s human-selected favorites of 2020.

Adrianne Lenker – Songs (folk/indie) – “Recorded in a tiny Western Massachusetts cabin, Lenker’s songs capture the solitude of 2020 without making it the primary subject. Dreamy finger-picking, gripping vocals, and poetic lyrics make the Big Thief front-woman’s solo album a must listen.” – Mike Lahoda

Bad Bunny – YHLQMDLG (Latin trap/reggaeton) – “Not necessarily what we did this year since the pandemic kept us in and far from concerts, however this album fueled my running in 2020 with its Latin beats and overstimulating electronic arrangements.” – Renato Agrella

Becky and the Birds – Trasslig (R&B/pop) – “Becky and the Birds track “Paris” transports me to a lighter, sexier place, which I needed a lot this year. And those magical, fairly-like vibes carry over to other tracks, building an album that is both moody and uplifting.” – Abby Breckenridge

Chromatics – Faded now (electronic/indie) – “There are so few new albums that I dove into this year, but Chromatics Faded Now is the album that stood out the most to me and made its way into my rotation of regular music pretty easily. Chromatics is such a distinct sound—club bass beats, heavy synth, echoing vocals—and this album follows that legacy. It did really make me miss shows and cocktail bars where this music bleeds seamlessly into the background. Here’s hopin’ for new places to listen to this in 2021.” – Clinton Bowman

Khruangbin – Mordechai (psychedelic/funk) — “This trippy album has been our hypnotic soundtrack for the last several months. It’s been a welcome space to spend time in.” – Daniel Schmeichler

Left at London – Transgender Street Legend, Vol. 2 (alternative/indie) – “Since 2020 had meant staying local, I’ve been listening to KEXP all day long and came across Left at London’s Transgender Street Legend, Vol. 2, which I’ve kept on repeat.” – Annie Unruh

LOOK MUM NO COMPUTER – These Songs are Obsolete (electronic/rock) – “A one-man band and DIY superstar, Sam Battle does some outlandish circuit bending work and skirts using traditional software based production tools to create unique and deftly performed synth rock.” – Kyle Luikart

Neil Cicierega – Mouth Dreams (mash up/electronic) – “Internet titan Neil Cicierega strikes again with his latest ‘Mouth’ mashup album. This fourth installment features remixing and reworking everything from classical orchestra pieces to pop music to commercial jingles to create bizarre, idiosyncratic, and comedic songs. Dreams of a baby wishing it could be a train, a super psycho demanding not to touch his bed, bells ringing on the moon, and rocking Ewoks form a surreal tapestry of sound that had me laughing and baffled in equal measure.” – Thad Allen

Run the Jewels – RTJ4 (hip hop/electronic) – “Killer Mike and El-P released ‘RTJ4’ two days early in response to the protests against police brutality after the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery. This year has been hard, and this album beautifully captures this very raw moment we’re all living.” – Erin McCaul

Taylor Swift – Folklore (indie folk/alternative) – “Like many, I underestimated Taylor Swift. She released not one but two new albums during a global pandemic. “Folklore” is layered and sharp, and it is the album I find myself asking Alexa to play again and again. Taylor’s voice as a true storyteller, musician and songwriter only gets better.” – Laurie Krisman

Yves Tumor – Heaven to a Tortured Mind (electronic/pop) – “Yves Tumor creates funky experimental pop that feels like a romantic fusion of Prince and David Bowie. When I want to escape from 2020 on a psychedelic audio spaceship, I put on this album.” – Nick Dwyer

2A's albums of 2019


2A’s favorite albums of 2019

By Kyle Luikart + the 2A Team

2A's albums of 2019

At 2A we’re used to hearing about how disruptive technological innovation can be good for business and sometimes down-right necessary. It’s interesting to look back 20 years and remember how the early days of MP3s and file sharing began to “destroy the music industry”. Platforms like Napster meant leaked albums spread like wildfire and bands like Metallica (or more so, their record labels) were losing out on millions of dollars. As a result, the RIAA waged all-out war on consumers under the guise of protecting artists, which alienated fans. 

It was a digital transformation that none of the involved businesses wanted to take place and fought hard to prevent. However, two decades after a couple of college kids had a questionable use case for peer-to-peer software, we have a revolutionized, stable industry that flourishes in ways previously unimagined. Services like Apple Music, Spotify, and Amazon Music allow their end users to explore and consume music on a scale like nothing before. The walls have fallen on both sides too; artists enjoy significantly reduced barriers to reaching a global audience. And even more, this revolution has rippled throughout all things media (see Netflix, Hulu, and Disney Plus), and even influenced software platform models, à la software as a service.

It begs the question – when it comes to technology, when do we switch from worrying about what will be lost and start exploring what can be gained? This is one of many concepts in digital transformation we tackle when we develop marketing strategy for our enterprise tech clients. While you ponder the future of disruptive tech in entertainment, why not queue up some of the albums the 2A team found on heavy rotations this year, ‘coz hey—after all that’s changed, people are still making music.

  • Nilüfer Yanya – Miss Universe (Indie rock/soul) “On her debut album, Nilüfer Yanya creates jazz-infused, scrappy pop that bounces back and forth between soulful slow-burners and hooky, guitar-driven jams. I saw her live this year and she rocked.” – Nick Dwyer
  • Sault – 5 (Funk/neo soul) “Propulsive, mysterious and a little rough, Sault’s 2019 album caught me by surprise and I can’t stop listening.” – Abby Breckenridge
  • Ezra Furman – Twelve Nudes (Rock/art pop) “This album is a queer and trans refuge to hide inside when overwhelmed by the world and the constant weight of the news. It’s got a punk edge that is much more visceral and raw than his previous works.” – Annie Unruh
  • The Strumbellas – Rattlesnake (Indie rock/alt country) “Their second album really shows how they’ve grown with their families and as a group. Plus, they’re Canadian.” – Don Selkirk
  • Blanco Brown – Honeysuckle & Lightning Bugs (Country/hip hop) “Blanco Brown’s debut album sits comfortably at the cross roads of hip hop and country music, exploring the soul that underpins both genres with heartwarming charm. Plus, my kid LOVES The Git Up!” – Drue Stewart
  • Carly Rae Jepsen – Dedicated (Synth-pop/dance) “A bright and danceable album, with a lovelorn tinge of melancholy infused among the polished synthpop tracks.” – Thad Allen
  • Octo Octa – Resonant Body (House/breakbeat)“Octo Octa’s work dances around iconic rave textures, vocals samples, and drum loops to create a hazy 90s warehouse party vibe that hits the spot anytime of the day. It’s 3am somewhere!” – Kyle Luikart
  • Maggie Rogers – Heard it in a Past Life (Pop/folk pop) “There’s something entrancing about Maggie’s voice that makes all the millennial girls close their eyes and sway their arms in the air.” – Rachel Sacks
  • Kate Tempest – The Book of Traps and Lessons (Spoken word/hip hop) “Kate’s lyrical talents and emotionally charged delivery call out the realities of racism, self-destructive habits, social media, climate change and Brexit-era complications while resolving on a theme of love and the necessity of connection.” – Melanie Hodgman
  • Rhye – Spirit (R&B/downtempo) “I saw them open for Leon Bridges at The Hollywood Bowl July 5th this year. They use all sorts of string instruments to generate def beats.” – Julie Lowy
  • Burna Boy – African Giant (Reggae/dancehall) “My buddy Dre Skull did a song with Burna Boy on this beautiful and generous album.” – Daniel Schmeichler
2A’s favorite albums of 2018


2A’s favorite albums of 2018

By Kyle Luikart + the 2A Team

2A’s favorite albums of 2018

The 2A team is made up of lovers of music. On Monday mornings we chat about what concert we hit over the weekend and on Friday afternoons we jam out to the 2A Spotify playlist curated by DJ Evan. In a world where albums may be a thing of the past, 2Aers appreciate the storytelling power of a thoughtful, musical selection.

There’s obvious storytelling in lyrics, but the texture and melodies of songs paint a landscape of sound beyond something words can articulate. And the album adds yet another level. A good album may start with an intro to set the tone, or explode abruptly with a powerful, catchy track. It may start slow and rise, or have interludes that intertwine songs. And chances are, somebody put a lot of thought into the sequence and selection of songs to tell a better, more complete story.

Many say the early 21st century is seeing the death of albums as we know them—that the world of streaming apps and shortened attention spans has changed the way we enjoy music. But 2Aers still revel in the storytelling power of the album. Here are our favorites from 2018!

  • Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats – Tearing at the Seams (Blues rock/Folk rock) “Nathaniel Rateliff has done what few bands can achieve, deliver a sophomore album just as good or better than the first. The formula hasn’t changed: write good songs with real, tangible emotions that you can tap your foot to.” – Gary Bacon

  • Mitski – Be the Cowboy (Indie pop/Indie electronic) “Mitski’s eerie vocals and dark tones make it a great album to come back to and get something new every time you listen.” – Annie Unruh

  • Abhi the Nomad – Marbled (R&B/Hip Hop) “On the debut, full-length album Marbled, Abhi the Nomad easily navigates from bangers to cuts to jams.” – Evan Aeschlimann

  • Glorietta – Glorietta (Folk rock/Indie rock) “Glorietta is the result of a nine-day jam session between folk/indie musician friends in an AirBnB in rural New Mexico. Loose and relaxed, the album ranges from ragged rockers to beautiful, whisper-quiet ballads.” – Nick Dwyer

  • George Clanton – Slide (Electronic/Vaporwave) “Slide is a hauntingly poppy vaporwave trip. Clanton builds lush, nostalgia-rich synthesized atmospheres and ties them to the ground with lazy head-bobbing break beats.” – Kyle Luikart

  • Charles Bradley – Black Velvet (Soul/Funk) “A crooner from a bygone era, Charles Bradley’s mix of funk and soul will leave you grateful to have heard his amazing talent for putting the trials and triumphs of life into song, then leave you wishing for more.” – Melanie Hodgman

  • Beach House – 7 (Dream pop/Indie rock) “Seventh album from one of my absolute favorite bands. A synth-heavy wall of sound that begs to envelop you completely in dreamy, warm goodness.” – Clinton Bowman

  • Joji – BALLADS1 (R&B/Electronic) “BALLADS1 is a great album for a rainy commute home with its melancholic tunes and lo-fi beats. Favorite song is Slow Dancing in the Dark.” – Radhika Patel

  • Gorillaz – The Now Now (Pop/Funk) “The British digital cartoon band—now joined by Ace from The Powerpuff Girls—returns for a mellow yet upbeat jam session featuring their distinctive collage of genres.” – Thad Allen

  • Popcaan – Forever (Dancehall/Hip Hop) “A dancehall record for the masses, full of humble swagger and charisma. Plus, my buddy produced it!” – Daniel Schmeichler

  • Greta Van Fleet – Anthem of the Peaceful Army (Hard rock/Blues rock) “Saw them perform live this year and hands down one of the best shows I have ever seen. Very Zeppelin sound.” – Don Selkirk

  • Hana Vu – How Many Times Have You Driven By (Indie rock/Indie pop) “There are moments on this album that really make me feel like my personal experience is important, and I want to walk through the city with a little attitude.” – Abby Breckenridge

  • Sugarland – Bigger (Country/Pop) “This album is a mental cup of coffee. It’s uplifting and energizing with a hearty dose of fun songs, but maintains depth with thoughtfully written ballads.” – Drue Stewart