“Suga” by Megan Thee Stallion
Hot girl quarantine lives on: Megan Thee Stallion has proven to be the perfect upgrade to our moody social isolation playlists. Her 2020 album “Suga” refines the fearless energy of her earlier music into a polished, infectious set of instant hits. Rap along to relentless anthems like “B.I.T.C.H.” and “Captain Hook,” or sit back and enjoy the effortless energy of “Savage” and “Hit My Phone.” Dripping with swagger and self-love, “Suga” is sure to get you off the couch and onto the (TikTok) dance floor.
— Joy C. Ashford
We reviewed “Suga” and gave it 4.5 stars.
“Future Nostalgia” by Dua Lipa
Dua Lipa broke the internet — or at least appeared to — with the early 2020 release of her second studio album, “Future Nostalgia.” Each of the album’s 11 songs is a bop, tied together by eclectic, danceable basslines and infectious lyrics. “Pretty Please,” “Hallucinate,” “Love Again,” and “Break My Heart” are highlights, showing off Dua Lipa’s self-assured, sultry vocals. It’s almost cruel that an album primed to underscore making out with a stranger on the dancefloor was delivered to us in isolation. In the age of social distancing, dancing to “Don’t Start Now” in our bedrooms will have to suffice.
— Allison J. Scharmann
We reviewed “Future Nostalgia” and called it a “genuine joy.”
“808s & Heartbreak” by Kanye West
When rapper Kanye West channeled the heartbreak of his mother’s tragic death and the dissolution of his engagement into a knotty, lugubrious, minimalist yet heavily Auto-Tuned album that offered very little in the way of actual rap, his critics and contemporaries feasted. Twelve years later, endless thinkpieces posit “808s and Heartbreak” as a genre-shaping masterpiece that paved the way for the entirety of emo-tinged modern hip-hop. If you haven’t listened to the album in full recently, isolation is the perfect time to queue it up. Over sparse, thumping beats, a plaintive West has never sounded so alone.
— Amelia F. Roth-Dishy
When we ranked Kanye West’s albums, we put “808s & Heartbreak” at number two.
“Heard It In A Past Life” by Maggie Rogers
When you’re cooped up at home, sitting and thinking, isolation and loneliness seem inevitable. Maggie Rogers’ debut album “Heard It In A Past Life” may not be the newest release, but her otherworldly voice and stirring lyrics have proven perfect for relieving the claustrophobia of quarantine. “Alaska” brings forth hope, a deep appreciation for the sublimity of nature, and reflection in isolation. Energy courses through the album, from the pulses and mesmerizing background vocals of “Give A Little,” to the undeniable pull and earth-moving power of Roger’s voice in “Say It.” The hopeful soul and unadulterated anguish of this album is bound, in this time of confined movement, to help one feel “Back In [Their] Body.”
— Hannah T. Chew
We reviewed “Heard It In A Past Life” and gave it 5 stars.
“Wish You Were Here” by Pink Floyd
If any album can transport you somewhere else, it’s Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here.” It is an album of epic proportions, ranging from soft guitar ballads like the titular “Wish You Were Here” to the industrial rock classic “Welcome to the Machine.” Every song on the five-track album is a standout, and from the opening track, “Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Pts. 1-5),” Pink Floyd invites you to lose yourself in glittering psychedelia. “Wish You Were Here” — which is no doubt a thought in all our minds — is sweet and soft and no doubt one of Floyd’s most famous songs. The album showcases Pink Floyd’s incredible musicality, and for the uninitiated, there’s never been a better time to start a deep dive into its discography.
— Sofia Andrade
“Tommy Genesis” by Tommy Genesis
Tommy Genesis’ eponymous album is one to be played on repeat, letting the rhythm wash over you again and again. It’s easy to do so, given the way the album is designed: One song blends right into another. You can, of course, play them in isolation — “100 Bad,” “I’m Yours,” “Miami,” and “Rainbow” are particularly iconic. If you get bored of the album, venture further into her Spotify catalogue to discover a mishmash of singles that showcase her simultaneous vulnerability and hard outer shell. Truly a contender for Yardfest 2021.
— Cassandra Luca
“Queen” by Nicki Minaj
One thing I love about Nicki Minaj is her intellect as a rapper. All of her rap verses are filled with metaphors, double entendres, and word play, forcing those who listen to her to think critically. If you want a taste of the “Queen of Rap,” spend some time listening to her last album, “Queen.” Start with “Barbie Dreams” for some old-school quintessential rap with a mix sampled from The Notorious B.I.G.'s “Just Playing (Dreams).” As you listen through the album, pay close attention to “Hard White” and “Chun Swae,” some prime examples of her unmatched delivery and flow as a rapper.
— Chibuike K. Uwakwe
We reviewed “Queen” and called it “its own war of attrition.”
“Lemonade” by Beyoncé
Where were you when Beyoncé dropped “Lemonade” in 2016? If you have taste, you were frantically refreshing HBO On Demand, desperate to watch the visual album accompanying what would come to be known as a defining album not just of 2016, but of the 21st century. The years have been kind to Beyoncé’s sixth studio album — who else could convince us all to get trial subscriptions to Tidal? — even if the Grammys were not. Relive the moment it dropped the first time. Bask in the badassery that is Beyoncé, Serena Williams, Amandla Stenberg, Zendaya, and more incredible women in so many visual, musical, and poetic odes to Black womanhood. You won’t regret it.
— Allison J. Scharmann
We named “Lemonade” our top album of 2016.
“Dirty Computer” by Janelle Monae
Perfect for some much needed escapism, Janelle Monae’s Afro-futurist concept album “Dirty Computer” transports you into a “Black Mirror”-esque future in which humans, now known as “computers,” are forced to conform to the standards of an evil governing body. Songs like “Crazy, Classic, Life” and “Django Jane” are rife with pro-Black and pro-femme political commentary and show off Monae’s impeccable rap flow. “Make Me Feel,” a collaboration by Monae and the late Prince, is a sultry and danceable track with a funky guitar part reminiscent of Prince’s own style. The story of “Dirty Computer” is made complete by the album’s accompanying “emotion picture.” The 48 minute narrative film featuring Monae and actress Tessa Thompson is made up of music videos for each track on the album sewn together. Watch it here.
— Annie Harrigan
We reviewed “Dirty Computer” and gave it 4.5 stars.
“Pure Heroine” by Lorde
Are you draping “your wrists over the steering wheel”? Or are you “riding bikes like little kids”? Whatever you’ve done to remain “Still Sane” in quarantine, Lorde’s debut album “Pure Heroine” is an apt companion. Released when the New Zealand singer-songwriter was just 16 years old, “Pure Heroine” was the original manifesto for Gen-Z adolescent ambivalence and suburban monotony, just in time for the eldest pre-millenium babies to drive aimlessly while listening to it. Revisit the ultimate underscore for your high school boredom, your summer sadness, your adolescent yearning. Take a drive, or a bike ride, around your hometown or your new haunt. Let the music guide you.
— Allison J. Scharmann
We wrote a five-year retrospective on “Pure Heroine” where we wrote that the album “broke through 2013’s dystopian escapism.”