As the title suggests, this list collects our contributors’ 3 songs that got them through this hell-year, listed in the order they were received. If you haven’t already, be sure and check out Felix Rodriguez’s 10-album round-up article, ‘2020 in Music‘.
Porches – “I Miss That”
Jangly heartache sounds sweeter when Porches performs it. This song is an ode to the casual connections and patterns with others that have been so thoroughly severed by this year.
R.A.P. Ferreria – “Laundry”
R.A.P. Ferreria (formerly Milo) contemplates the Sisyphean nature of our mundane world with a deft touch and begs the immortal question, “I wonder if Chance the Rapper do his own laundry? (who cares)”.
Lupe Fiasco & Kaelin Ellis – “LF95”
This song came about from a beat maker rennaisance early in the summer and it was such a wild moment to be following in real time. The EP that resulted from this is Lupe Fiasco’s best work in a decade.
For the Heart: Bonnie Banane – “Flash” (Sexy Planet, 2020)
For the Vibe: Faithless feat. Nathan Ball – “Synthesizer” (All Blessed, 2020)
For the Feet: Heavy Baile, Leo Justi, DJ Seduty – “Vai Quebrando” (Desce Que Desce, 2020)
Matt Berninger + Jon Brion – “Learning” (Perfume Genius cover)
This song came to me as I was trying to define what it means for me to love myself. This song — in this particular interpretation — for me very uniquely describes what it’s like to only focus on yourself, completely devoid of anyone else’s impressions of you. It carries a feeling of absolute loneliness mixed with absolute freedom.
Rostam (featuring Kelly Zutrau) – “Half-Light”
2020 was the year I accepted unjustified joy as a legit and healthy defense mechanism. And Rostam’s lovely tune became the hymn of that.
Sharon Van Etten – “Every Time the Sun Comes Up”
“I washed your dishes, but I shit in your bathroom” The number one most visceral song of “couples in quarantine 2020”. Huge thanks to Sharon for keeping us couples going this summer with her raw lyrics and trouble-friendliness.
S.E. Rogie – “Recipe for Truth and Lasting Happiness”/“African Gospel”
It’s no huge surprise that the former title is bursting with joy. “Happiness is a state of mind,” Rogie reminds us. Just look at that broad smile on either album cover. Both of these songs have been wholehearted and instant reminders of beauty and euphoria this year, their appearance on shuffle propelling me into a higher echelon of consciousness. “Now count your blessings; you are alive, you are healthy!” You can hear his smile.
On “African Gospel”, note the run time, as well as the album title. Legend.
Dogs on Acid – “Flushed”
This was a big year for me in terms of revisiting two old favorites; Glocca Morra and Algernon Cadwallader. When Yankee Bluff announced a new album, I went down a rabbit hole of side projects I had failed to investigate — offshoots from both bands — namely, Spirit of the Beehive and Dogs on Acid. While I love Spirit of the Beehive more than this capsule space will allow to elaborate, Dogs on Acid just has that straight-to-the-veins punch that gets me going in a heartbeat. While not a joyful song, “Flushed” always picks me up.
DJ Soulscape – “Love is a Song” / Johnny Jewel – “Windswept”
Over the summer, I went on long walks around my neighborhood. I’ll never forget one day in particular; the day I stumbled upon the second largest Jewish cemetery in Europe only 1.3km from my doorstep, ventured to a nearby lake, and found the ‘Mies van der Rohe Haus’ (3.2km from my home!). I had left home only with the intention of grabbing a coffee and a snack, maybe going the usual route, and ended up walking for a solid 3-4 hours. Summer was just beginning, and as I circled back home, I decided to double bill “Love is a Song” with “Windswept”, a match I had come to love the previous summer via Cemetery of Splendour and a re-watch of Twin Peaks Season 3. Together they are my indication of summer: the sunny bop-along of the former (drenched in the memory of the film’s melancholy) alongside the moonlit longing of the latter; Dougie staring at a statue of a lost American Dream, certain that it is profound, unable to articulate why.
Whitney Houston – “Joy”
Tracy Chapman – “Smoke and Ashes“
Mojave 3 – “In Love with a View”
I hope there won’t be a time when I won’t feel Joy from listening to this album by Whitney. It really pulls you up. At the beginning of the pandemic we listened to this on repeat while doing the dishes. Tracy Chapman, man, this is a moving song – a lot of her songs are moving songs. But they are also about change (which are two different things). I remember driving down to San Diego from L.A. and listening to this before Laura’s family sold her childhood home and moved up north. ‘In Love with a View’ and this whole album by Mojave 3 is good anytime of the day. It’s one of those moods that vibe with whatever you’re doing. It’s also a reflection mood, I think their songwriting is so simple and profound. I’ve been putting this on whenever I can’t decide what to play and it always makes me feel good.
It was all I could do to keep up with cinema in 2020. My work-from-home cultural intake did not leave much room for new music. But I managed to hear a few things.
Negativland – “Before I Ask”
Although their entire album (The World Will Decide) is as strong as anything they’ve ever done, this track — an argument with Siri and Alexa, and the future — is a standout.
Poppy – “I Disagree”
The title track from the newest record by this ever-evolving artist. From overmanaged Internet waifu to self-actualized, fully sentient pop-metal diva. From Warholian simulation to Francis Bacon pope-scream.
Half Man Half Biscuit – “I Left My Heart in Papworth General”
A magnificent oldie that I recently rediscovered. HMHB are the only band that took The Fall as a jumping-off point, not a formula.
3 long songs that I kept by my side throughout 2020 or 3 visions/assertions/wishes for a more peaceable world:
Gilberto Gil & Jorge Ben – “Filhos de Gandhi”
Two masters courting, sparring and embracing.
Beat Happening – “Godsend”
A 9 minute love poem and ode from the great folk-punk band.
Carl Stone – “Banteay Srey”
Stone’s music is usually very busy but here he alchemises a sweet and soothing sigh.
Ryuichi Sakamoto – “Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence“
Sakamoto’s theme for the film of the same by Nagisa Oshima is overwhelming in its melodramatic progression, disorienting in its instrumental construction, and with an earworm of a motif to boot.
Taylor Swift – “I Knew You Were Trouble”
8 years later, there’s still no true heir to Red‘s unique approach to pop. A perfect biking song.
UGK, OutKast – “Int’l Players Anthem (I Choose You)“
Tears well in my eyes as soon as I hear those horns.
Listen to the full list as a spotify playlist below, but please support artists via bandcamp whenever possible!