The best pop albums of 2020

Every year our staff vote for their favourite books and music of the past 12 months. Here are our top 10 pop albums of the year, voted for by Readings' staff, and displayed in no particular order.

(You can find all our best picks for books and music here.)


Gold Record by Bill Callahan

Bill Callahan is a storyteller, and Gold Record demonstrates his musical yarn-spinning at its very best. In his trademark low, Johnny Cash-esque voice, Callahan transports his listeners to different realities – sometimes singing as imagined characters, other times inventing the perspective of real-life people. This is a slow-burning album filled with serene and emotionally complex songs, and is not to be missed.

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Mordechai by Khruangbin

Khruangbin means ‘aeroplane’ in Thai, and fittingly, this is a band whose sound will transport you to a totally different place and era. In this third LP, Khruangbin further develop their groovy, globetrotting style. The trio have become known for their mostly-instrumental tracks, but Mordechai features vocals on most tracks. This is a welcome addition, and brings a new layer of complexity to their sound.

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Rough & Rowdy Ways by Bob Dylan

At the age of 79, Bob Dylan has released his 39th studio album. And despite his career’s seemingly-endless longevity, he hasn’t lost steam. Rough and Rowdy Ways has the lyrical heft he is world-famous for. While the sound of this album – both in the music and vocals – is slower, gentler, and has a certain patina to it, this is classic Dylan.

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The Slow Rush by Tame Impala

The Slow Rush is the fourth studio album from Tame Impala, which is the long-term musical project of Western Australian multi-instrumentalist Kevin Parker. This record is just as contemporary, cool and creative as the previous three. Here, Parker centres the electronic – drum machines, synths and digitally distorted vocals feature heavily. This is the intersection of modern fuzz-psychedelia and throwback techno, and proves what a wonderful combination that is.

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Good Souls Better Angels by Lucinda Williams

With its dramatically swampy, guitar-heavy sound, Good Souls Better Angels will transport you directly to the backroads of the American Deep South. As always, Lucinda Williams’ songwriting is top notch – from political anthem ‘A Man Without a Soul’ to the slightly tongue-in-cheek ‘Bad News Blues’, she gracefully captures a moment in history with a powerful and gravelly drawl.

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Sunday Gospel According to ISO by Vika & Linda

When the Victorian lockdown began, sibling vocal duo Vika and Linda Bull decided to perform one gospel song each Sunday via their social media accounts. The reaction from the community was overwhelmingly positive, and so these sisters decided to turn their Sunday morning sessions into a studio album. Even without its wonderful back-story, this is such a moving record, and a wonderful contemporary interpretation of an iconic musical genre.

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Nyaaringu by Miiesha

Nyaaringu is the powerful debut album from newcomer Miiesha. Hailing from the central Queensland community of Woorabinda, Miiesha is an Anangu/Torres Strait Islander woman. This album combines elements of neo-soul, R&B and moody contemporary pop music (think FKA Twigs). And woven throughout the album are spoken word interludes that features the voice of Miiesha’s late grandmother. These tracks radiate a sense of self-exploration, hope, and joy in community.

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Punisher by Phoebe Bridgers

With her sophomore record, Phoebe Bridgers has successfully drawn together all of the best bits of anthemic indie rock, country crooning, ’00s folk and more, and has tied it off with her own stylistic bow. Bridgers’ lyrical style exists somewhere between humourous and heartbreaking, and this excellent writing pairs perfectly with her angelic vocals. This is a triumphant album, and a future classic.

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Monovision by Ray LaMontagne

Ray LaMontagne might be a contemporary artist, but his music is warmly nostalgic. Monovision is a ten-track journey to the folk rock of yesteryear – Tim Buckley and Van Morrison in particular. LaMontagne’s velvety vocals are supported by laid-back and catchy guitar lines and toe-tapping percussion. If you are a fan of the classics looking for something new, look no further.

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Whole New Mess by Angel Olsen

Where 2019’s All Mirrors saw Angel Olsen experiment with electronic sounds, and sweeping arrangements, Whole New Mess is a pared-back affair. This album was the blueprint version of All Mirrors , recorded in the aftermath of a break-up and simply features Olsen’s voice and her guitar-playing. While this is a collection of alternate and early recordings, the raw emotion sets it apart.

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Nyaaringu

Nyaaringu

Miiesha

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