My friend Dan publishes a list of his top 100 songs of the year and it often inspires me to do something similar. Last year, I ranked my favorite songs of the decade, but this year, I just have 2020 to look back on. Pretty good year for music, I thought. Dan always includes a lot of music I haven’t heard, and artists I’ve not heard of.
Me, I’m a simpler man. You’ve probably heard of most of these artists. Most of the songs I found on my Release Radar and put them onto seasonal lists – winter, spring, etc. But they’re the songs I liked from the year.
There’s one artist that’s not on this list because I heard about the record outside of the Release Radar and while I ended up loving that album so much, I didn’t think to put the songs on my Summer list. And there’s another artist that’s not on here because…I’m not sure why? I loved her record, I even bought it on a Bandcamp Friday. I guess I didn’t get into any one song that deeply. Those albums are linked at the end of the post.
Anyway, here’s the songs in order that I put them on my 2020 song lists, from January to December 2020. And here’s the list on Spotify. Some of these songs I listened to a lot. Some, hardly at all. But I must’ve put them on the list for a reason, right? 😄
Primed and Ready by Wire – After so long, how do they still make saying nothing (or is it something?) sound so fucking cool?
Don’t Believe by The Psychedelic Furs – After so long, how do they come out with a song that sounds so much like themselves?
Blue Moon Rising by Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – Probably the most surprising song of the year. I tend to assume Oasis-adjacent rock, was not expecting a determined beat, a compelling bass synth melody, and nuanced vocals.
Life Is a Game of Changing by DMA’s – Made for euphoric pogoing in a field with thousands of other people. 2020, you were so cruel.
Grey as a Ghost by Say Hi – Except for the vocals, this sounds like it could be a lost OMD b-side. Perfect and classic.
Luxe by Holy Fuck with Alexis Taylor – I thought the vocals were Dan Whitford. Would love to see a “making-of” video for this song, or an episode of Song Exploder. So simple, so kickass.
People, I’ve been sad by Christine and the Queens – Friend Dan had both the Holy Fuck song and this one on his list. I take that as proof they are both excellent representatives of 2020.
Cars In Space by Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – A good little indie guitar pop tune.
Old Records by Cardioid – Catchy refrains are catchy.
Be Afraid by Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit – Sounds like a long-lost Soul Asylum track. High praise to both artists.
masiziyekelele (14.11.16) by Bongeziwe Mabandla – No idea where I heard this, if it was on Release Radar or what, but I love the guitar & voice.
Sad Kid in a Black Hoodie by Lil Phag/Elijah Daniel – Same. My youngest asked if she could sign this onstage when he came through Florida just before lockdown. Thanks for having them onstage. It’s a joyous video.
The Motor by The Wants – Cinematic chase scene. Great driving song.
Drive by Cub Sport – I love dreamy tunes.
Illusion Of Time by Daniel Avery + Alessandro Cortini – I’m also a sucker for arpeggiated synths and mood pieces.
Get to Know You by Tomo Nakayama – A good old “let’s get together” dance-up-on-ya song, released in a year that no one was dancin’ up on anyone.
Aries by Gorillaz featuring Peter Hook and Georgia – Genie, I want to hear a New Order/Erasure collab with Damon on vocals. :poof: Wish granted.
Lighthouse Spaceship by The Lickerish Quartet – “Hm, this sounds a lot like Jellyfish.” *googles* “Oh. Well then.”
The Glow by DMA’s – I like an anthem. Sue me.
Olympik (Spike Stent Edit) by EOB – Feels more like Discotheque-era U2 than Radiohead (EOB = Ed O’Brien), but I ain’t mad about it.
Me & You Together Song by The 1975 – The 1975 doing an upbeat The 1975 song like The 1975 does, and I love it.
Chase the Light by Matt Wertz – I love his music anyway, but this is a great positive pop thumper that we needed in 2020.
Cara de Espejo (Home Session) by Juana Molina – Kinda weird. Which is why I like it.
Circles by Dashboard Confessional – Funny thing about these lists, like the above song, I put songs on when they hit me a certain way, and I don’t know that they quite connect like that again, but they stay on the list, so here we are. 😄
Inchyra Blue by Richard Edwards – I arrived so late to Margot and the Nuclear So & Sos that I missed them completely. But I’ve discovered Richard now and that makes up for it. The songs he writes are so fraught with longing and ache.
Good Place to Hide (At the Time) by Partner – Once it gets going, it feels like a lost Rush track. (I like Rush, that’s a good thing.)
One More Song (Lazywax Remix) by Classix featuring Roosevelt – As Ric Ocask once said, “Summer Summer Summer.”
Sign by Roosevelt – Where did this guy come from? Seems like he’s new. I like his simple, synthy, poppy summery stuff.
Pink Lightning by Richard Edwards – We know what we’re getting here, and we revel in it.
I Should’ve Known by Owen – That’s how you open a song, kids.
Accountable by Amtrac – Simple goes a long way, sometimes.
Taken by MUNA – Good pop songs are enough.
Come & Go by Juice WRLD and Marshmello – I’m so fucking sad that Juice WRLD is gone. 😢 The guitar lead-in to the chorus of this song is great, and completely caught me by surprise the first time I heard it.
Going Going by Bartees Strange – Feels like an ethereal waltz on the roof of a skyscraper.
Let’s All Pray For This World by UNKLE & Perry Farrell – I feel like I’ve heard this as bumper music on a thousand trailers. Maybe it just feels that cinematic.
Wrong Train by The Psychedelic Furs – If Rodney Dangerfield were a Psych Furs song in 2020. (Who’s Rodney Dangerfield?)
A.M. 180 by PUP – Made for singalongs in dive bars.
Keep Me A Space by Glasvegas – A return to form, when your form is booming drums, washed-out fuzz guitars, and a Scotsman pouring his heart out.
Laugh Track by Ben Hopkins – For a guy who’s tired of being tired, he sounds full of energy and simultaneously exhausted.
Thirteen by Bedouine, Waxahatchee, & Hurray For The Riff Raff – We love a good Big Star cover. Good thing this is a good Big Star cover.
Stunned One by Fruit Bats – Sounds like it could be Big Star, ‘cept for the voice. (But only because you can’t be Alex or Chris, but that’s ok.)
Moonlight by Future Islands – A steady groove, a familiar voice.
August 2020 by Julia Nunes – She’s moved away from her ukelele covers into atmospheric pop and it suits her very well.
Avalanche by Aimee Mann – Perfect song for winter. But not that kind of avalanche.
Moment In The Sun by Sunflower Bean – Try not to bop.
Help Me by Low Cut Connie – When all this is over and they’re touring again, I’m going to see that show.
September by Lydia Loveless with Laura Jane Grace – Laura’s voice adds an extra touch of pathos.
betty (Live from the ACMAs) by Taylor Swift – After hearing this version, this song was stuck in my head for the rest of the year. Something about her voice towards the end has me looking forward to her albums when she’s in her 60s.
The New OK by Drive-By Truckers – That last verse. Oof.
Dropping Bombs On The Whitehouse by The Style Council – This was an extended version that was released in 2020 but hello political statement. Great jazz tune, too.
Wake Me When It’s Over by Longwave – live version of a song from 2003, it just hit me in the right spot. Kinda shoegaze-y, sorta Chameleons-ish. Very nice.
Boomer by Bartees Strange – Feels like Bloc Party a bit in the bass and pre-chorus which is a big plus for me, always.
The Mirror by Metz – Bashing it out. Gettin’ skronky.
Bi Fren by Omar Apollo – Unrequited love sounds the same across genres.
anything by Adrianne Lenker – Feels like fall, and wanting to sit around and talk with people about anything. Despite what the chorus says. 😄
Contingencia by Mint Field – Thumping bass + indie guitars = my sweet spot
Aterrizar by Mint Field – As chilled out as the previous song was urgent. Good range.
Smile a Little Smile for Me by Yo La Tengo – Appropriately sad.
My Body Is A Glasshouse (A Thousand Stones Ago) by Glasvegas – Crushing, as is their wont.
Strangers by Roosevelt – Clearly this guy’s music connects with some part of me. 😄 I think it’s the part that wants to dance.
Farewell by UNKLE x Amtrac – Sometimes you just wanna chill out, man.
Ghost by Stephen Kellogg – Translucent transcendent.
Celadon & Gold by Maggie Rogers – It’s old, but it’s new to me. Great talent.
The album that isn’t on this list but turned out to be a favorite for the year? Inlet by Hum. Favorite track on that one is Cloud City. Everything I love about Hum. So glad they’re making new music.
Album I bought but didn’t have any songs here? Punisher by Phoebe Bridgers. 🤷♂️
Favorite video of the year that the song didn’t make it on here? how will i rest in peace if i’m buried by a highway? by KennyHoopla.
I think that’s it for 2020. What were your favorites from the year?