Wow wee this year was not fun. However, the music was great. Also, weird times can make for good memories and emotional moments in which we attach ourselves more thoroughly to the art that helps us forget and persevere. I am not high. Anyhow, here is to the good music from a bad year!
Behind the List
Each month (for over a decade) I have made a mixtape of new songs I discovered during that month and even used to burn cds for friends. At the end of the year, I like to list my top according to play count, culture & personal significance, and my gut (well, ears).
Since I started this list and my monthly mixtapes, the music I track primarily tends to be what I was doing in college radio and I’m still interested in. This will mostly be comprised of songs in the indie, alternative and electronica genres.
My primary decision when it comes to putting one song on top of another is usually emotional based. How and why was I so attached to that song versus another one? However, there are also excel sheets. I sort songs by how many times I’ve played them over the course of the last year and weigh that versus the day I discovered it and how many times I’ve skipped the song.
I narrow down my list to about 100 then start deleting ones that I’m just not feeling. Once I get close to 50 I start organizing them in order of weighted play count and emotional importance. The last step is really just “massaging the playlist“ so it has a nice flow.
Lets get to it shall we? Scroll through the blog, pop on to my Spotify or listen to the podcasts. most important, I would love your feedback!
51) Local Natives – Megaton Mile (Weval Remix)
I like to start these lists off with a fun one so let’s kick it off with this doozy of a remix! If you are familir with Beardo the Deceiver, this is their intro song.
50) Khruangbin – Time (You and I)
So a coworker already gave me shit about having Khruangbin at this spot in the list. So here is the deal, Until I get into the top 25 it is all just how I feel in the moment.
Anyhow, I discovered this song in heavy rotation over at Sirius XMU satellite radio only to discover this band was from Houston (even friends with my fiance). How did they slip through my radar??
49) Little Dragon – Hold On
Discovered Little Dragon who opened for TV on the Radio at Stubbs in 2009(?) and been a fan ever since.
48) Fiona Apple – Heavy Balloon
Fiona Apple stormed back with an incredible album. This song is a tour de force for sure!
47) Soccer Mommy – circle the drain
Another XMU discovery that would probably have been higher in my list had I listened to it more on Spotify (as I use my stats to partially rank songs). No worries though, Soccer Mommy made a lot of top ten lists so far this year.
46) Thao & The Get Down – Temple
Whereas hearing the last song more might have boosted it in my rankings, hearing this one too much might have dropped it. That being said, Temple is certainly worthy of making every alt/indie list for 2020.
45) Nané – Blue Velvet
Well this number (45) sucks worse than 2020 but thankfully my friends in Nané wont be offended. It is weird ranking and critiquing art – especially from a friend. However, every time this song came on my shuffle, it had me double checking my phone to see who it is. Get hip to Nané asap and definitely see them live.
44) Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – Cars in Space
My third favorite Aussies (behind Rob & Sharna) with a very fun pop-rock tune.
43) Porridge Radio – Sweet
Just a sweet rock song worthy of turning it up loud.
42) Gidge – New Light
I love this heady glacial electronica from Swedish duo Gidge. Wonderful music to put on and get shit done to.
41) Strokes – At The Door
Too long and weird for the radio but perfect for my list. This is my favorite from their Grammy nominated (finally) album The New Abnormal.
40) Tennis – How To Forgive
Talk about regrets! I had tickets to Tennis @ Stubbs and all my friends were there but I decided to stay home instead. Turns out, that would have been my last show before lock down.
39) SAULT – Wildfires
Sultry and very poignant tune from British music collective SAULT.
38) beabadoobee – Worth It
2020 was the year beadadoobee was set to skyrocket as she was named a must see artist for SXSW and was opening for The 1975’s tour. However the pandemic slowed things down and she actually came to appreciate the calm before the storm. She’s a gem and big things are coming for her!
37) sir Was – This Is My Bonus
I have heard sir Was so many times in the background but finally begin taking notice with this song (and a slew of others).
36) Hamilton Leithauser – Isabella
He’s from New York but sounds so Marfa. The former Walkmen singer is back with another solid album and this is one of my favorites.
35) Mobley – Nobody’s Favourite
Those who have seen Mobley live get it. This year he broke into alternative radio big time with Nobody’s Favourite.
34) HAIM – The Steps
Fun live shows but they have been hit and miss for me until this year with their album Women In Music Pt. III
33) KennyHoopla – how will i rest in peace if i’m buried by a highway
This one came out of nowhere (really from being played during my show on 101X). Fucking love how fun this is.
32) Kairon; IRSE! – An Bat None
Good headphone track reminiscent of The Joy Formidable’s harder stuff.
31) Run The Jewels – JU$T
FUCKING FUCK YES with this song and this entire album. This (again poignant) banger features Pharrell and Zack de la Rocha.
30) Animal Collective – Bridge to Quiet
Quirky, long and weird sums up this one from Animal Collective.
29) Car Seat Headrest – Can’t Cool Me Down
Heard this one a lot on satellite radio and across the indie blog sphere. Like many of the songs on this list, its got a part in the middle or end that I really dug.
28) Caroline Rose – I Took A Ride
A darker one from singer songwriter Caroline Rose.
27) Holy Fuck ft. Angus Andrew – Deleters
Holy Fuck are a lot of funky fun and so is this tune!
26) The Unlikely Candidates – Novocaine
These dudes rule and this rock banger topped 101X’s top 25 songs of 2020. I also got to hang with them digitally for a special interview and performance.
25) Protomartyr – Processed By The Boys
Sludge? Is that the word I am looking for to describe this? No, not sure but maybe you can help.
24) Cut Copy – Love Is All We Share
Been a fan of Cut Copy for a while and the trippy ending to this song is why it stuck with me.
23) Phantogram – Pedestal
This track was my first 101X staff pick of 2020. Ah January, when things were shitty but still better.
22) Gidge – Quasar
Though they are Swedish their music always makes me imagine I am wearing viking armor climbing a mountain in Iceland.
21) James Blake – Before
Such a small bloke with such a commanding voice (and a damn good musicians/producer).
20) The Avalanches – Wherever You Go
Important feeling and fun tune that takes you on a journey. The song also features Jamie xx, Neneh Cherry and CLYPSO
19) Tame Impala – Breathe Deeper
A lot of good ones on The Slow Rush but this is my favorite. I recall first hearing this spacey song and by the end I was dancing around the living room in my PJs to it.
18) Perfume Genius – Describe
Talk about an album full of great songs! Perfume Genius has been around for a minute but Set My Heart On Fire Immediately catapulted them to new heights.
17) Georgia – Feel It
Turn this one up loud. You are welcome.
16) EOB – Brasil
Radiohead’s Ed O’Brien dropped a solo album, Earth, earlier this year and it is chock full of long, weird songs. Shangri-La and Olympik seem to be the fan faves but this is mine. Give it a few minutes… it picks up and will hook you as well.
15) Bright Eyes – Persona Non Grata
Bright Eyes returns with a single that sounds like it has been sung in an Irish Pub for decades.
14) Purity Ring – stardew
My top artist of 2015 returns after a hiatus with an album full of eclectic electronic dreamscape jams (what else would you expect).
13) Doves – Carousels
Speaking of returns after a long hiatus – The Doves are back! The beloved English post rock band surprised us fans with a trickle of new songs earlier in the year.
12) Cults – Spit You Out
Some songs just really nab me in the second half. The change in arrangement did it for me (you will know what I am talking about, I think). Cults should be in the running for album of the year by the way.
11) U.S. Girls – 4 American Dollars
This one is really fun while being really real.
Okay, here we go! The top ten… the best… my favorite songs of 2020.
10) Run The Jewels – a few words for the firing squad
The final track from RTJ4 is the one that resonated with me the most. Listen – and I mean listen – to it. Also, love the Yankee & The Brave ending.
09) Washed Out – Too Late
While shooting their music video in Italy the band got locked down due to the COVID spike. Well, they pivoted and invited fans to send clips from their vacations past and we go this gem of a music video.
08) Purity Ring – i like the devil
The one show I immediately bought tickets to see was Purity Ring at ACL Live. Welp, obviously that didn’t happen. Still, I enjoyed listening to the album WOMB and imagining what the cool stage set up and light show would have looked like. Side note: for some reason this was my most played song of the year. I must have been in a mood one day and played it on loop.
07) Sufjan Stevens – America
Fuck yes Sufjan. I discovered this one while traveling home from Arkansas 4th of July Weekend (it was on the XMU Download 15) and fell in love right away.
06) STRFKR – Dear Stranger
This is the epitome of me liking a song a lot becuase of the second half. Both parts are good though.
05) The Districts – Cheap Regrets
Just a good, old school nineties sounding rock song.
04) Hamilton Leithauser – Here The Come
Love this dude so much and I have been lucky to see him live a few time (and say hello briefly at ACL Fest like a real fan boy). Give this a listen and by the next time you play it you’ll find yourself singing it out loud. I WAS A FOOL! I WAS BLIND!
03) Yves Tumor – Gospel For A New Century
Another one you will be singing out loud, I kept hearing this song on the radio but never took the time to Shazam it. Finally, in August, I did and added it to my MixTape and have been jamming to Yves Tumor ever since.
02) The Avalanches ft. Blood Orange – We Will Always Love You
I keep using the word poignant. Well, with everything happening this year so many songs feel poignant. This one included. The samples you are hearing, btw, come from Smokey Robinson’s “I’ll Take You Anyway You Come and Hammond Song‘s “We Will Always Love You”.
01) Perfume Genius – On The Floor
I really batted this one around with different positions on this list. However, it kept floating back up to the top and with good reason. Though other songs on this list are directly about what is happening in our country right now this one is just a heart break and love song. A light but heartfelt and meaningful pop song that really does just distract, if only for five minutes, from the harness outside.