NPR Music's Top 10 Albums Of January 2020 One month into 2020 and it already feels like we've got strong contenders for albums of the year.
NPR logo NPR Music's Top 10 Albums Of January

NPR Music's Top 10 Albums Of January

070 Shake's Modus Vivendi is one of the best albums of the month. Courtesy of the artist hide caption

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Courtesy of the artist

070 Shake's Modus Vivendi is one of the best albums of the month.

Courtesy of the artist

One month into 2020 and it already feels like we've got strong contenders for albums of the year. From the auspicious debut of Squirrel Flower and Little Big Town's incredible harmonies to Jeff Parker's sample-heavy jazz and Mac Miller's posthumous Circles, January offered many gifts.

Below you'll find an alphabetized list of NPR Music's top 10 albums of January 2020. Be sure to check out our top 20 songs from the month, too.

NPR Music's Top 10 Albums Of January

  • 070 Shake, 'Modus Vivendi'

    070 Shake, 'Modus Vivendi'

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    Coming out of Kanye West's shadow isn't easy. But for 070 Shake, whose moment on Ye shined brighter than arguably any other from those frantic Wyoming sessions, it's always felt destined. Shake bares the raw frills of her voice across cinematic pop-rap arrangements on her debut album, Modus Vivendi. —Mano Sundaresan

  • Bonny Light Horseman, 'Bonny Light Horseman'

    Bonny Light Horseman, 'Bonny Light Horseman'

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    A blissed-out folk supergroup featuring Hadestown's Anaïs Mitchell and Fruit Bats' Eric D. Johnson, Bonny Light Horseman updates traditional works with timelessly beautiful, swoonily rendered arrangements and smartly curated assists from Justin Vernon, Aaron Dessner, The Staves, Lisa Hannigan and other Bon Iver-adjacent agents of bittersweet grace. —Stephen Thompson

  • Ethan Gruska, 'En Garde'

    Ethan Gruska, 'En Garde'

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    A producer for the likes of Phoebe Bridgers, Ethan Gruska has a knack for wonderful, collage-style soundscapes that fuse beauty and menace. As a solo artist (he's also half of the pop-rock duo The Belle Brigade), Gruska crafts dreamily spangled pop songs with help from the likes of Bridgers, Moses Sumney and Lianne La Havas. —Stephen Thompson

  • Frances Quinlan, 'Likewise'

    Frances Quinlan, 'Likewise'

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    The Hop Along songwriter's debut solo album pairs stripped-down production with Frances Quinlan's arresting, singular voice. A powerful and impressionistic storyteller, she details the ways we try and fail to understand each other while remaining rooted in playfulness and empathy. —Marissa Lorusso

  • Hook, 'Crashed My Car'

    Hook, 'Crashed My Car'

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    Inspired by an actual car crash, Hook's latest album is an arsenal of scorched-earth daggers, the rapper's voice sucking up all the breathing room like fumes from the wreckage. Producer NEDARB hits hyphy and G-funk with blaring sirens and boulder-sized 808s, a necessarily chaotic canvas for Hook's all-caps verses. —Mano Sundaresan

  • Jeff Parker, 'Suite for Max Brown'

    Jeff Parker, 'Suite for Max Brown'

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    Jeff Parker's guitar has always formed an organic bridge between post-bop and post-rock, while hinting at much else besides. On this calmly intoxicating album, Parker builds on the abundant promise of his 2016 effort The New Breed — creating a head-nod fantasia that always feels rooted, and never forgets to breathe. —Nate Chinen, WBGO

  • Little Big Town, 'Nightfall'

    Little Big Town, 'Nightfall'

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    Vocal quartets are an underappreciated staple of country music, connecting the church to the bluegrass breakdown and the doo wop streetcorner. Little Big Town remade the whole concept for the 21st century. The group's ninth studio album is among its finest, full of poignant, pointed stories about modern life's pleasures and contradictions, made cinematic by great arrangements and that heavenly vocal blend. —Ann Powers

  • Mac Miller, 'Circles'

    Mac Miller, 'Circles'

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    This is the record that was supposed to follow Mac Miller's final album, Swimming, before his untimely death. By comparison, it's smaller, more delicate, as Miller sheds the knotty raps for scrawled melodies. Producer Jon Brion's flourishes are quiet and tasteful, serving the late auteur's vision. —Mano Sundaresan

  • Squirrel Flower, 'I Was Born Swimming'

    Squirrel Flower, 'I Was Born Swimming'

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    Ella O'Connor Williams' debut album introduces her as a skillful songwriter and guitarist with a warm, pensive voice. Visceral and vulnerable, Williams meets tenderness with clear-eyed realism. "Realize I'm not getting older, but I'm not getting younger," she sings on "Headlights." She knows how to draw the most out of exactly where she is. —Marissa Lorusso

  • String Orchestra of Brooklyn, 'afterimage'

    String Orchestra of Brooklyn, 'afterimage'

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    To move forward, you need to look back sometimes. Composer Christopher Cerrone, in his swirling and contemplative piece High Windows, riffs off a 215-year-old Paganini caprice, while Jacob Cooper channels an 18th-century vocal work for his mesmerizing, slow-motion Stabat Mater Dolorosa. —Tom Huizenga