Welcome, welcome, welcome!
I know– we still have a few weeks left regarding the roller coaster ride that’s been 2020, but I feel like I’m at a point where I can list my top 10 for the year, so I’m doing so.
I’ve done a song by song breakdown for this editorial, but if you’d like to just listen to the music, the Spotify playlist for my selections can be found below:
*PLEASE NOTE* if you’d like to listen to song number 9, Rich Jones and Montana Macks’, “Locals Only (featuring Matt Muse, Defcee, Skech185, Psalm One & Jovan Landry) you’ll have to scroll through the editorial, or, visit the Bandcamp page for their latest album, as the song is not on Spotify at the moment.
So, without further ado…
1. Dry Fantasy- Mogwai
This might be a cheat, as the album this is on doesn’t drop until early next year, but I’m going to count it, as it was released as a single this year.
Listening to this, you can’t help but imagine a flower endlessly in bloom— lots of fuchsias, lots of violets, and a quiet optimism that is much needed, going into this coming year.
If all the pretty colors in the world were to simultaneously explode, drenching the world in their brilliance, it might sound something like this.
2. Feel Life- Polica
As the pandemic was just beginning, I found a very strange kind of comfort in this song.
Spare and haunting, this isn’t what most people would call a happy piece of music, but it makes me feel a very particular sense of humility, and I’m thankful for that.
3. Romantics- Four Tet
For about ten years now, every Four Tet album has had one song that just towers above everything else. On his latest album, “Sixteen Oceans,” this song took top honors.
Like walking through a de-saturated garden, whilst gazing through a kaleidoscope, this is a surreal, albeit, effortlessly beautiful listening experience: one rewarded by multiple listens.
4. Conveyor/Boxes- Moses Sumney
I’m still processing how brilliant Moses Sumney’s latest album, “grae” is, and while almost any of the songs from it could have made this list, these take the cake, as they were the first ones I put on repeat.
As always, Sumney’s vocal performance is 100% otherworldly, and the instrumentation he has to support him here, more than rises to the occasion.
Masterful, masterful, masterful.
5. Girl of my Dreams- Rod Wave
Rod Wave is a trendsetter.
Yeah, other people have done the singing rapping thing before, but not like this kid.
Over an adventurous, sonically gorgeous instrumental not dissimilar to any number of Florida sunrises he’s likely borne witness to, Rod Wave speaks earnestly about a particularly kind of love with great truth.
I wish this was 5 minutes instead of 2 and a half, but so it goes.
6. This Link is Dead- Deftones
A couple of years ago, I recall reading an article where a music journalist said something to the effect of, “by now, Deftones and their fans understand that they do two things: beauty and brutality. Perhaps, somewhat begrudgingly, both parties realize that at this point in their career, they do the former better than the latter.”
This song is a very direct repudiation of that sentiment— pissed-off, manic, and borderline, deeply-troubling, but also, wildly successful.
There’s skill in communicating such anger and disgust while still considering rhythm and the groove, and here, the band does so with flying colors.
Bump this as catharsis, or put it on when you want to clear a room out. Either way, its an A1 statement by a band making their best music, 30 years into their career.
7. Embers- Elder
Both the title cut, and opening number for Elder’s uniformly excellent album from earlier this spring, this was one of the best things heavy offered up this year.
Spacious and exploratory, “Omens,” as an album, saw Elder indulge what I expect is a very deep and sincere appreciation of early 70s Weather Report, while maintaining their cascading, and knotty riffage.
This albums acts unofficially as an overture, offering a peek at everything that the band does well over the next five tracks.
8. Brand E- John Frusciante
Smoking for about four minutes straight, this track, by the Red Hot Chili Pepper’s guitar player, officially kicks into gear with a sample of someone saying, “give me a motherfucking breakbeat.”
I’m with it.
The music video that accompanies this is a showcase for both LA, and cats, which— I don’t know, somehow seems very fitting.
A guitar virtuoso making electronic music in the mold of 90s UK Jungle music could go wrong in so many ways, but all we have here is winning, and I couldn’t be more happy for Mr. Frusciante’s success.
9. Locals Only- Rich Jones, featuring Matt Muse, Defcee, Skech185, Psalm One & Jovan Landry
The hip-hop posse cut seems as though it’s no longer in vogue, and that’s a sad, sad thing.
A staple of Hip-Hop in the 90s, (for my money) best exemplified by the East Coast MURDERER’S ROW showcase seen below, the posse cut done right, is pure bliss.
Generally, for a posse cut to succeed, you first need a piece of production that allows for effortless verbal gymnastics, and here, we have that courtesy of producer Montana Macks.
From there, you need only two other things, a stylistically diverse, albeit focused group of very able-bodied rappers, and enough time for them to each come through and show what they’ve got.
This song has all three of those things, and it’s pure listening delight.
10. Dionne (feat. Justin Vernon)- Japanese House
So, earlier this summer, I had a couple shots of some small-batch whiskey that my cousin brought up from Kentucky, and then made a video of me frying an egg, while attempting to hit all my favorite dance moves that I learned from Master P’s stint on Dancing With the Stars.
I was dancing to this song of course, because… how can you not?
Like the love theme from a John Hughes movie, but modernized (kinda?) this is just really, really, really, well done.
And that’s it!
Would love to hear your comments and thoughts below— share selections that you think should have made the cut.