2020 was a terrible year, but a lot of good music was released. This in NO WAY redeems it, but at least it has made being stuck at home slightly more bearable.
Seriously though, 2020 was fucking terrible.
I remember 2001, 9/11. That shit sucked. The US’s reaction to it sucked. I didn’t work far from Dearborn Michigan and a lot of my Arab American friends were tormented. 20 years later we’re still involved in military operations launched then. The Bush years somehow kept getting worse. I remember writing my “best of” list and 2002 and I thought that year was awful(I forgot this post existed but I’ve been getting hits from Google from people mistyping “fuck 2020”). How cute. 🙃
I lost my fiancé in 2005, the following years were unspeakably awful. I was there, watched it all happen, and I never really recovered from the trauma. 2019 I had a stroke, lost my professional standing, etc.
I’m not complaining to complain. 2020 honestly has been the worst. I mean, the pandemic alone sucks. So much death and suffering.
There was violence. There were protests. And Trump made everything worse.
I lost my father and two uncles. None were directly related to COVID but two were tangentially related. I mean, that’s heavy shit I can’t really wrap my head around. I haven’t seen many other people in nine months. There’s social etiquette that I am going to have to relearn from being trapped in my house the whole time.
Dude. It’s bad. Really bad. At least Trump is exiting the White House. I guess. 🤷♂️
It’s hard to be optimistic about shit.
My favorite albums
I made a Spotify playlist that’s a bit more expansive, but I want to highlight my favorite releases alone. SO MUCH good music came out this year, there is no way I could cover everything!
Music is the one thing I’ve to help me hold things together, and for all it’s horribleness, 2020 didn’t fail to deliver.
Feminazgul, “No Dawn for Men”
I found this via Twitter somehow, and it kind of blows my mind. It’s heavy and brutal with all the right fantasy references and anti-patriarchy motifs. I love it. I also learned Meredith Yayanos is involved and I REALLY love her other works, so that’s also a nice bonus.
Thomas Köner, “Motus”
Thomas Köner has been releasing some of the best ambient records of all time, so he isn’t new by a stretch. This record is more glitchy and noisy. It still creates a rich atmosphere but it is harsher. It never veers towards noise music but it is unsettling at times.
Needless to say, I highly recommend it! 🤘 Especially if you like really rich sound design.
NGHTCRWLR, “Let The Children Scream”
My first exposer to Kris Esfandiari was via King Woman which is one of my favorite albums from the last decade. I think she has more side projects than Al Jorgensen, but they are all tip top, nearly perfect. This side project is super gritty and fills my itch for something industrial in flavor.
Makeup And Vanity Set, “Music System”
Makeup and Vanity Set releases a lot of music, all of which is good, but occasionally he releases something that really appeals to my tastes. This is one of those cases. It is mostly classically oriented analog synth work that is done tastefully and evokes a lot of mood.
Hekla’s music is mostly performed on a theremin with her delicate vocal work woven into it. It’s magical. It’s mysterious. It evokes longing. It is rich haunting atmospheres that stays with you long after the music has stopped.
Roly Porter, “Kistvaen”
Roly Porter’s catalog is filled with some of the best and richest sound design you’ll ever hear. “Kistvaen” keeps this tradition alive and well.
“Kistvaen” “takes its name from a type of granite tomb found predominantly in Dartmoor, southwestern England“. I mean, it’s sound design for tombs and burials. It’s breathtaking and appropriate.
Nyx Nótt, “Aux pieds de la nuit”
This album has a lot going on. It is noir jazz with soundscapes, and ethereal vocals. This is a side project of Arab Strap’s Aidan Moffat. It’s mysterious and otherworldly, and a lot of time can be spent lost in these records. Well, at least I’VE lost a lot of time here. 🤣
It is already challenging for me to shout additional praises on Lustmord. I practically worship the ground this guy walks on. You simply will never hear deeper, stronger and more solid ambience than his.
With TRINITY, he tackles nuclear war. The maestro of deep atmospheres tackles the heaviest of subjects… and he does it with skill and expertise. I can’t recommend an album more highly.
Pulled By Magnets, “Rose Golden Doorways”
This s another album of doom jazz that is very similar to Nyx Nott’s, but it has a harder edge. I really can’t say one is darker than the other, this one also being put together by members of heavier bands. It also was apparently recorded mostly live. So good!
Liturgy, “Origin of the Alimonies”
What an epic masterpiece. I’m exhausted after listening to “Origin of the Alimonies”. This album mixes so many styles an influences, it is just mind spinning. But it is all so cohesive and deliberate. It’s a beautiful and heavy album that exudes power through it’s whole playtime. I don’t like picking favorites but this album makes it tough.
clipping., “Visions of Bodies Being Burned”
It makes sense for clipping. to release one of the most intense albums of 2020. It’s hard for me to talk about his album with any coherence. It’s powerful and it resonates, more so BECAUSE of how shitty 2020 has been. These guys are amazing. Don’t ever stop.
There are a lot of ’80s revival bands. Hell, with synthwave, et al, there are whole genres dedicated to the bit. Of all the ones I’ve heard, this is not only the best but the most authentic. Look, I grew up in the ’80s. I love a lot of ’80s themed music, from hip hop, new wave, AND SO ON.
This takes me right back to the ’80s, listening to edgy music on tapes and records. But in all it’s nuance emulating the time period, Riki manages to craft really memorable and modern songs. This album is amazing and I expect to be playing it for years.
ZOMBI’s “2020” is the most appropriately named album of all time, and has been my consistent go-to soundtrack for this year since it dropped in June. As the year grows long, this is even more true. Every day I feel like I’m in a Romero zombie movie and it is just a matter of time before the brainless and maskless hordes overrun everything and kill me. This album is what it sounds like as I run away.
Algiers, “There is No Year”
Look. My list isn’t meant to be a count down to my favorite, but I didn’t leave Algiers “There is No Year” as last on accident. This album is as good as it is important. It’s also amazing that this came out in January, before things got really bad.
It isn’t like social upheaval came to a head in 2020. It isn’t even like the reactions to George Floyd’s murder were extraordinary in aand of themselves. But somehow the unrest in 2020 was poetic, and this album soundtracked it all for me, as I sat in my immunocompromised cave and watched the world stand up to injustice(thanks, everyone).
A somewhat more complete playlist for 2020
I could never possibly list everything, but I tried to put some of all of it in a playlist. Enjoy!
The most impactful thing in 2020
There has been no shortage of memorable and impactful things that have happened in 2020. While this isn’t related to music in any way, I think this video is something ultimately everyone needs to watch. All of it.