Welcome to 2021! There is so much exciting music to discover and explore in 2021, but to conclude 2020 I look back at my top 10 songs of 2020 and some other reviews I couldn’t resist!
10 Songs on Repeat:
1. Peppers and Onions by Tierra Whack (2020)- With the back-to-back bangers Whack has released, I am really hoping that this means we are getting a new record soon. Peppers and Onions is a sincere abstract trap banger paired with one of the most inventive beats I have heard in a while.
2. Closure by Avenade (2020)- Probably my favourite internet-based underground project, Avenade really blew me away last year with his debut record Its a Whimsical Afterlife. And with his second record on the horizon, I am glad to hear that he is sticky with his fusion of shoegaze, noise rock and traces of emo on his best single yet, Closure.
3. Is This Real Life, Jesus Christ by Black Wing (2020)- Another emotional, synth-driven musing on the more challenging aspects of life from underground legend Dan Barret, it’s an exciting change on this track to hear the musician’s vocals so clearly, making the existential tone of this track even more impactful.
4. Pizza Alley by Aesop Rock (2020)-Strange, lyrically sharp and delivered with technical brilliance, the multi-faceted Pizza Alley is the Portland rapper at his best.
5. UWM by BADBADNOTGOOD (2012)- This Canadian nu-jazz outfit are one of my favourite new discoveries in recent memory. Their sophomore record BBNG2 is an incredibly exhilarating project, with hard-hitting bangers such as UWM making it one of my favourite all-time jazz releases thanks to its sheer ambition.
6. Wave Goodbye by Ty Segall Band (2012)- This track is just good old fashioned garage rock excellence. Fuzzy and noisy guitars complete with some punk-inspired vocals, Ty Segall and his one-time band really know how to create rock bangers.
7. Children of the Grave by Black Sabbath (1971)- Repetitive, hypnotic, gloomy and driving, this certified classic from the British doom-metal legends is a classic for a reason.
8. Demon Cleaner by Kyuss (1994)- Continuing on with my stoner themed music for the week, Kyuss were the pre-cursor to alternative rock icons Queens of the Stone Age, but are also notable in their own right, mostly thanks to their accessible form of doom metal demonstrated on Demon Cleaner.
9. Road To Nowhere by Talking Heads (1985)- It’s hard to not love Talking Heads. They are one of those bands whose music just oozes with personality and fun, so if you wanna start somewhere, start with this beautiful, bitter-sweet packed with all the factors that made David Bryne and co. one of the best bands ever.
10. Cocaine by FIDLAR (2013)- Another stoner rock banger for the week, the message behind this song is one I do not endorse, but when the riff goes that hard, how can I not listen to it on repeat?
Last week I said it would be my last week of reviews. I lied. Here are a few more.
No Moon by Black Wing- 8.7/10:
Desolate, noisy, dark and foreboding, No Moon is a classic Dan Barret offering, but this time with a slightly optimistic approach. The synth-heavy elements of Black Wing have never sounded better than they do on this record, with the strong Darkwave aesthetics of this LP helping carry some of the weighty themes. And despite being an almost entirely key-board/drum-machine driven affair, the instrumentals are surprisingly diverse, ranging from angelic rapture to harsh assaults of noise. Lyrically, I also think this is entirely possible one of Dan’s most honest works. The same themes of depression, loneliness and general doom and gloom are still present; however, a large amount of it is projected through a perspective of hindsight. Dan can still demonstrate these themes with emotional sharpness, yet he no longer seems to be totally defeated by the weight of melancholy. No Moon feels like an acceptance of these drearier aspects of humanity and a demonstration of the will to go on despite the misery. No Moon is really another great piece of music by one of underground experimental music’s best voices, and I think we should all count ourselves lucky that Barret has decided to share his gifts with us over the years.
Best track- Ominous 80s
Sin Miedo (del Amor y Otros Demonios) ∞ by Kali Uchis- 8.3/10:
Darker, more sensual and (to my ears at least) a slight improvement on her exhilarating debut, Uchis shows us on Sin Miedo (del Amor y Otros Demonios) ∞ is one of those albums that language barriers should be no issue if the music being delivered is simply well executed. After a disappointing and rushed EP, I was a tad afraid that Uchis wouldn’t be able to live up to the success of her superb debut Isolation. But thankfully, Sin Meido is packed with the smooth alternative RnB that made her previous record so much and brought plenty of new elements to the table. First and foremost, the production and instrumentals of this record are smooth. Each track, whether it’s a delicate guitar piece or an 808 heavy latin pop banger, glide past with such effortlessness and ease. Uchis’s singing voice also seems to have improved, sounding as sensual as ever. I will say I wasn’t a big fan of some of the guest features, which sometimes felt out of place, but they mostly work. A brave record for Uchis, but her ability as a songwriter and musician help Sin Miedo rise to impressive heights in my eyes, establishing the Colombian-American as one of the most original voices in contemporary pop.
Best track: de nadie
Little Dominique’s Nosebleed by The Koreatown Oddity- 8.8/10:
All I can say about The Koreatown Oddity’s latest LP is that it is one of the most unique hip-hop records of the year. Inflected with flavours of classic jazz-rap as well as a generous serving of the abstract, Little Dominiques Nosebleed is an oddball project that oozes personality and manages to effectively juggle weighty themes both personal and socio-political. The album is conceptually based upon a series of car accidents rapper Dominique Purdy experienced in his childhood and the resulting trauma that led on from it. All this is delivered with extreme wit and precision by Purdy over some outstanding production. It really is one of those records any underground fan should get into. Everything from the humorous, precise rapping to the abstract, jazzy production is on point. My only real criticisms are that this record doesn’t really do anything innovative in West Coast Jazz rap, leaning heavily on the likes of Kendrick Lamar, though this is a minor drawback. The album just works so well and is solid proof that 2020 was the year that underground hip-hop really did outshine the mainstream.
Best track: Attention Challenge
This Week’s Feature- My Top 10 Songs of the Year:
I find it incredibly difficult to pick out my favourite songs of any given year, let alone rank them. So here is my best attempt at top 10.
1. On the Floor by Perfume Genius- Blissful, catchy and emotional, On the Floor is easily my favourite song this year, largely thanks to the excellent performances both vocally by Mike Hadreas and the incredible instrumental.
2. A Hero’s Death by Fontaines D.C- rumbling, chaotic and filled with existential dread, A Hero’s Death manages to marry a post-punk instrumental with lyrics of motivation and good-advice, making it one of the year’s strangest yet most appropriate songs.
3. Right Round the Clock by Sorry- Even if the album its off isn’t fantastic, the confident banger that is Right Round the Clock serves as one of this year’s highlights for me thanks to some cleverly egotistical lyrics and a smooth-as-butter instrumental.
4. Say the Name by clipping.- So menacing is this song that it could put even the most staunch of Halloween critics in a spooky mood. The experimental hip-hop trio appear to be on one of the best unbeaten runs in rap music right now, and Say the Name is one of their best-ever efforts.
5. Street Pulse Beat by Special Interest- This rebellious dance-punk banger really captures the sense of political unrest that encapsulated 2020. Its fiery, has excellent lead vocals and contains one of my favourite instrumentals of the year. It is quite simply a must-listen.
6. Good News by Mac Miller- The first track to be released in the wake of Miller’s untimely death, Good News is a delicate and heart-breaking number from the rapper. Hearing Miller’s mindset not long before his death may be hard for some, but it makes for some truly beautiful music.
7. Diamond by Empty Country- This indie rock/Americana hybrid simple quenches the thirst I have for nostalgic indie music in the best possible way. Enough said.
8. Shameika by Fiona Apple- Picking a definite highlight from Apple’s Fetch the Bolt Cutters is difficult, but for me, it would have to be the narratively superb Shameika, a wild piano-pop piece about Apple’s childhood days and coming to terms with who she is.
9. After Hours by The Weeknd- Sultry, drawn-out and dripping with a subtle menace, After Hours is the Canadian pop sensation’s best song yet.
10. Sweet by Porridge Radio- A song about depression and how it impacts one’s relationship with themselves and those around them, Sweet is a post-punk belter with a helpful dosage of grunge rock aesthetic and an excellent example of why Porridge Radio are one of the best bands in the UK right now.