2020: A Playlist

08 January 2021, Category: year in review


I’m going to be featured in an upcoming anthology from Fevers of the Mind. The editor, David L O’Nan, asked for suggestions for a playlist of the music of 2020 whilst he was compiling it. So although last year is receding fast1 , here are some songs that I enjoyed.

1. The Mountain Goats- Amy Aka Spent Gladiator 1

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7sNakKm3Pr0

I mean, does it need further explanation? I got into this band in a big way this year and would find myself singing this chorus at inopportune times.

2. Low- Spanish Translation

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x0TJrlemmVQ

Double Negative was one of my favourite albums of 2018, but I find myself returning more often to this heartbreakingly beautiful song from their previous album Ones and Sixes. Just stunning and emotional in ways I can’t explain.

3. The Flaming Lips- Flowers of Neptune 6

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kxUXT6nEYFY

Another favourite band. Their album American Head was released in 2020, and is melancholy and triumphant at the same time. The band are relentless experimenters but with this album they remember the emotion. The chorus explodes with grief and worry while sounding like nothing else.

4. Warmth- Hivern

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AIGNjWwFJOQ

I listened to a lot of ambient and drone this year, possibly as a calming response to the chaos of everything. Warmth are one of the more minimal acts, but the gentleness of this really helps to soothe. It’s a barely there fuzz, a glow and shimmer.

5. Lowering- Perpetual Storm

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fw9hgP6QJmc

Unlike Warmth, which provides comfort and solace, this song is bleak. It’s a slow build of a collapse, a world falling apart through the noise. When the static crashes in it feels haunting and full of despair.

6. Rafael Anton Irisarri -Decay Waves

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B6Au5Tzgr6k

The looping slow notes of this rising out of the noise feel like an iceberg looming out of the mist. Another song concerned with collapse, this is overwhelming and huge, a soundscape to realise how small you are.

7. Los Campesinos!- By Your Hand

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ku_ZMPJ5M0

The last band I saw live before things went wrong. In many ways it feels appropriate, as Los Campesinos are concerned with anxiety and sadness, but the music is celebratory despite it all. At the rather excellent gig, I belted this out at the top of my voice.

8. Anna Meredith- Paramour

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yjmZLaymJU8

While we are mourning the loss of live music, lets pour one out for Anna Meredith who I saw in February and was incredible. This is sometimes electronic, sometimes classical and sometimes heavy, all within the same song.

9. Four Tet- School

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kBzMopCiK8o

Just a great tune that saw me through the spring of lockdown. Those crispy beats are beautiful. This song feels wistful and strange.

10. Phoebe Bridgers- Kyoto

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tw0zYd0eIlk

What’s more appropriate for lockdown than dreaming you are halfway around the world? A gift from my girlfriend, I must have listened to this album and this song specifically dozens of times throughout 2020. I love her voice and the power that chorus has.

11. Aldous Harding- The Barrel

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QyZeJr5ppm8&list=PL9ndKqVXOpEh1CgGwIj16tcVrlwE96iSu

“Looks like a date is set/ Show the ferret to the egg” Nope, no idea either. This was one of two albums I bought just before lockdown in March so I listened to it a lot. Harding’s voice is unique and the song is very strange, hovering on the edge of understanding but never quite getting there.

12. Holly Herndon- Eternal

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r4sROgbaeOs

This was the second CD I bought just before lockdown. The album combines a choir with SPAWN, an AI trained on their voices. The result is unlike anything else I’ve heard. The screams and beats throughout this song are incredible and otherworldly.

13. David Bowie - Heroes

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YLp2cW7ICCU

The German version ‘Helden’ featured in JoJo Rabbit and made me weep. But I’m featuring it for another reason. The day Joe Biden was elected, it seemed like things weren’t so bad. Like the bad guys had been defeated. Of course the world doesn’t work like that. But it felt good for a day.

  1. This past week has felt like a month. 



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