The Sexiest Albums of 2020

By Nam Woon Kim (he/him)

Contributor


Sexiest here speaks not so much to sex appeal but more to the base word: sex. Each album embodies sex: messy and exciting, confident and sometimes not - more interested in making you feel sexy than trying to arouse. Each artist approaches the subject in their own way, telling stories built on their perspective rather than claims of authority. Nor is the logic of the storytelling exclusive to a specific gender, sex, or sexuality. Add a generous serving of sex positivity and you’ve got some hot albums! From neo-soul to disco revival, folk to UK rap, each record is an honest exploration of all things sex that I hope resonate with you like they did with me.



Phoenix: Flames Are Dew Upon My Skin - Eartheater

Cathartic. Cinematic. Romantic.


Starting off with the artist on that explosive cover, Eartheater’s newest album is an ode to lovers, loving, and being loved. The fiery, volatile twin to Björk’s frosted over Vespertine, Phoenix... likewise gives oxygen to the highest highs and lowest lows of relationships. Accompanied by gorgeous production, the album is anchored by a delicate, yet at times overwhelming, soundscape constructed by layered vocals and acoustic instruments which voice and shape the pleasures and struggles described. When it comes to others, not much is certain: crushes can burst into life, fizzle out, or transform into something new entirely.


Eartheater’s passion directed inwards, however, illustrates a steadfast trust and clarity. Songs like How to Fight document the difficult process of growth, and on Volcano she boldly affirms a love for life itself. To further set the mood, I want to add that Phoenix... was created over a 10-week residency in northeastern Spain (what’s sexier than Europe?) and brought to life by an all-female ensemble. The result is a hauntingly beautiful poem on permanence and transience.


Could I play this at my wedding?

It’d be a crime not to have that eight-piece string ensemble you insisted on hiring play an arrangement of Airborne Ashes.


græ – Moses Sumney

Vulnerable. Immense. Tender.


Moses Sumney’s græ is a dense record that resists being put into a box – literally featuring an interlude dedicated to multiplicity, a theme echoed throughout every song, græ is about the absence of sex as much as it is about sex itself. At risk of reducing it to a ‘sexy album’ I include it here. Sure, the blend of genres used contain sexy histories conventionally speaking, but there is little ‘conventional’ in how these are used to tell the narratives here. If one was to tune out the lyrics completely you’d have a catalogue of the best of what neo-soul and other intertwining genres have to offer in the department of being pleasing to the ear and heart.


And that’s all good, but there’s so much on offer here. If narrative-heavy songs that tear at your heart are your thing, read no further and put græ on queue. In Bloom is the most upbeat song about mixed messages and unrequited love I’ve ever heard. You could read the song as either stubborn optimism or maybe just self-aware playfulness but either way, it’s a statement of a song.


Overall, græ reassures us that it’s okay to still be figuring everything out – Moses Sumney certainly is and his music is no less insightful for it.


Could I play this at my wedding?

There’s plenty of crooning ballads and slow songs to pick from, maybe skip Polly if you’re monogamous though.


What’s Your Pleasure? - Jessie Ware

Mysterious. Sensual. Fun.


With all due respect to queens of disco Kylie Minogue and Róisín Murphy who also released excellent albums last year, What’s Your Pleasure? takes the disco crown here. 2020 wasn’t particularly sexy, (although the influx of lockdown babies may disagree) but it’s albums like these that made it a sexy year for music.


This is one of those records that turn every room into a dance floor. Gentle strings introduce us to Jessie Ware’s world of pleasure on the first track, but quickly give way to her yearning for the moment alongside the album’s signature sounds. Tasteful, neon synths curate an experience that’s less pastiche, and more inspired homage.


Every album opener is a promise of what’s to come and the tracks that follow deliver and then some. The title track is a pop classic which kicks off with a bassline on a mission and an intoxicating verse & chorus. Jessie Ware never misses a step as the record turns into a vignette of iconic nights out that she’s here to guide us through with earnest sincerity, humour, and glamour.


Could I play this at my wedding?

Yes! The singles in the crowd will thank you after falling in love with each other while locking eyes across the room during the chorus to The Kill.



ALIAS – Shygirl

These. Songs. Fuck.


Technically an EP, but this list would simply be incomplete without ALIAS. Made for the club, the places you go after, and the spaces in-between, Shygirl rounds the list off with a grimy dance and hip-hop record that is unapologetically about fucking. The EP begins with the titular shy-girl performatively mm’ing and aa’ing, but drops the act immediately to go from 👉👈to 💦👅.


Her lowkey delivery makes listening to these songs sound like tuning into a secret journal she’s not-so-accidentally broadcast and invited us to add to. ALIAS's seven back-to-back anthems are packed into this EP like the intimidatingly hot crowd we must squeeze past to reach the other end of the room. For hip-hop heads it’s basically the Daytona of hooking up - a confident lineup of songs that make you feel like you can do anything. On that note, if Pusha T can make a career exclusively dedicated to bars about pushing coke, then we can have the same with music about smashing. (Let’s have both, both are good.) In a climate where black female artists continue to be scrutinised over subject matter and expressing their sexuality, Shygirl is a voice that should be amplified.


Could I play this at my wedding?

If you can’t yell: “arse up titty out, know you like it when they bounce, got the neighbours on the phone, telling me to cut it out” at your wedding what even is the point? Maybe not suitable for the walk down the aisle tho?