In 2016, which everyone claimed was a terrible year, I started a personal music recap for the year as a way to find something good to talk about. I kept it up because 2017 was an absolutely amazing year for music and then just kept going with it. 2016 was nothing compared to this year though. To be honest I had a pretty good 2016, but like most people, I didn’t have a great 2020. I’m usually a pretty positive person and try to look for good things when bad shit happens, but this time around there wasn’t a lot of good. Barely any actually. The bad far outweighed it. Where I found my hopefulness though is that someday it will get better. If I made it through high school and my emo years, I knew I’d be able to get through this emo year. Thankfully, even in the absence of live music and the career path I started for myself in 2016, artists still released albums. Some albums were delayed, but eventually got released. Some albums were even unplanned such as Taylor Swift’s folklore and evermore. Music discovery was one thing that wasn’t cancelled this year and for that I am grateful. So here you go, my top music faves from 2020:
“Heat Waves”, Dreamland -Glass Animals
I usually only pick a song, album, or artist to focus on for each of these, but this one was tough to distinguish. In 2020, there are no rules though. Glass animals released their latest album Dreamland back in August but a month earlier dropped the song “Heat Waves”. I fell absolutely in love with song immediately. I knew a few days after I first listened to it that it was the song of the year for me. I couldn’t stop listening to it for weeks even after the album was released. It was my most played on Spotify as well. The album was also my favorite of the year. It featured other great bangers like “Tangerine” and “Your Love (Déjà Vu)” and several other great ones as well. The album was an ode to childhood in the 90’s, but still captured the smooth yet trippy, groove style of indie music that Glass Animals is so well known for. I feel like it’s highly underrated and most definitely my favorite album of 2020.
Women in Music Part III -HAIM
Before Dreamland was released, if you asked me, I would have told you that Women in Music Part III or WIMPIII for short was going to be my favorite album of the year. I knew earlier on from the single releases in the spring that the Haim sisters were about to release a hit of an album. I’m not the only one that took notice either. The album was recently nominated for album of the year by the Grammys and their song “The Steps” was nominated for Best Rock Performance, a category dominated by women this year. I bought the album in July and was able to secure a signed album poster! I still have yet to hang it up, but I have plans to make it happen soon. Much like Dreamland, this album is top to bottom filled with great songs. My favorite is “Don’t Wanna”, but that’s followed by “I’ve Been Down”, “Gasoline”, “I Know Alone”, and “The Steps”. I could honestly go on with the songs too. Like I said, top to bottom, it’s fire. HAIM’s third full-length is really something special and my other top fave from this past year.
Daft Punk has been around since the 90’s. I’ve known about them since the Random Access Memories era, but I didn’t quite realize that I knew them way longer than that until I watched the Coachella Documentary this past spring. There was such a focus on Daft Punk’s iconic 2006 set that I began really going through their discography. I wrote a blog post about them and how even without a physical Coachella this year, Coachella still helped me discover some new artists. They were one of my top artists of the year. I even bought Discovery on vinyl back in April. The song “One More Time” was in my top 5 most played songs of the year and I’m now one of those people who want them to headline Coachella. I’m definitely late to the game on this robotic electronic duo, but it’s better late than never.
Notes on a Conditional Form -The 1975
The 1975 dropped their latest album in the spring with plenty of track releases in the lead up to the full album that began in 2019. It was an album I highly anticipated during the spring lockdown. In fact during those weeks, I was living for new music Fridays. I claimed back in my blog post review of the album that it might be one of their best works yet. However, I’m not sure if anything will able to top their debut self-titled, but I definitely believe Notes On A Conditional Form is one of the best of the year. I spent weeks listening to the full album. I love “If You’re Too Shy (Let Me Know)” and “Jesus Christ 2005 God Bless America” which features Phoebe Bridgers, who had a big year herself. “People”, “Frail State of Mind”, “Me & You Together Song”, and “Tonight (I Wish I Was Your Boy)” are all great too. This album came at the perfect time and I’m incredibly grateful for it and all the new music that helped me through this crazy year.
“POWER” -Kanye West
“POWER” by Kanye West is not a new song. It actually came out 10 years ago. I never even knew it back then. It first came into my life with the Power Rangers reboot movie in 2017. Then last year during Sunday Service at Coachella it also popped back in. Then yet again this past spring in the Coachella Doc it also made an appearance. It was this time though that I finally got hooked. It was another staple song of my spring time work out playlist and even a go-to I would listen to at other random moments. The intro and subsequent background music for the song which was taken from the song “Afromerica” by Continent Number 6 is just so damn catchy too. It was another better late than never situation, but it worked out fine. There were plenty of songs that got me through the spring but this one is definitely a stand out.
“New Daze” -Bay Ledges
In the summer Bay Ledges released a 6 song EP titled New Daze. The EP included a song of the same name that I really connected with. It’s my favorite new song of theirs since I heard “Safe” in 2018. The song exemplifies their chill indie vibe sound, but has that same uplifting feel that “Safe” also contains. The lyrics themselves do too. It gives such a hopeful perspective for this trash year and I really love the song for that reason as well.
“Giants” -Dermot Kennedy
Dermot Kennedy was huge for me in 2019. His show was actually the last concert I was able to attend before the music industry shut down on March 12th. After such a big year with his first album in October, I wouldn’t have expected any new releases in 2020, but in June he dropped the new track “Giants”. It’s another powerful upbeat track similar to “Power Over Me” and “Outnumbered”. He recently released a “Complete Edition” version of his debut album which contains “Giants” among other collabs, a cover, another new song, and alternate versions of old songs. “Giants” was just the new track I needed for my summer work out playlist to even further my love for Dermot Kennedy. I even enjoyed the Sam Feldt remix of the track and got a double dose of the track by including that version in my fall work out playlist. It’s quite a banger and one of my favorites of the year.
“Bodies” -The Knocks ft. MUNA
Obviously the spring and summer were filled with plenty of new tunes and discoveries of old for me this year, but I found this gem by The Knocks featuring MUNA in the fall. The song was recommended to me by Spotify after my playlist finished one night and I thought it was great. After I added the song, I couldn’t get enough of it when it played during my nightly work outs. “Bodies” was released in the summer, but it didn’t come into my life until early November. For almost the last two months, I’ve been obsessed with this song. It’s a late comer to this list of my favorites for 2020, but it deserves to be here. It’s a keeper.
“Believer” -LUDVIC, Mathoma
Spring was such a time of music discovery for me thanks to the Coachella Documentary and my weekends of “Couchella”. In that time I also discovered the song “Believer” by LUDVIC and Mathoma thanks to checking out my friends’ Spotify playlists. I love being a creep on Spotify but it’s truly a great way to discover new music and find out what your friends are listening to. Although this jam wasn’t directly because of Coachella, it came to me around that time and joined my spring playlist in the midst of some great tunes. This was one song I couldn’t get enough of though. I would frequently replay it or listen to it when I wasn’t working out thus earning this trop house style track a spot on this list of my faves from 2020.
Golden Hour -Kygo
After seeing Kygo perform at Coachella in 2018, I became a huge fan. I’ve always been partial towards the trop house style of electronic music, but that 2018 performance really set in my affinity for the Norwegian DJ. Golden Hour was another album I was anticipating in the spring with new track releases every few weeks. Kygo’s third album dropped at the end of May and I already had some favorites from the new record. “Freedom”, “Lose Somebody”, and “Higher Love” caught on quick for me. I also love “Like It Is”, “I’ll Wait”, and “How Would I Know.”
Kygo decided to do a virtual live stream festival from his home in Norway to promote the new album and support LiveNation’s Crew Nation Fund among several other relief funds. As we know, streaming shows became a thing this year. I think they’re trash. They will never compare with going to a concert or festival, but in the mean time, they’re something to watch. I watched two streams in the spring and this was one of them. The thing that kept me around was the beauty of Norway. Kygo’s set was shot partially with a drone that exhibited the entire landscape of his community. People were out on the lake watching his set from boats. It was so cool. Who would have thought this music which usually sets the vibe at in the desert of southern California so perfectly would create an insane vibe in a different setting like Bergen, Norway. It was great and it gave me another chance to hear this solid new record.
The New Abnormal -The Strokes (the first Strokes album since 2013, full of indie rock goodness)
girl in red (the indie version of Hayley “Lesbian Jesus” Kiyoko)
“Good” -TWIN XL (indie pop summer jam)
“Palm Springs” -Luna Shadows (pure Palm Springs vibe and I bet you can’t get it out of your head)
“Anywhere” -Dillon Francis ft. Will Heard (Thanks to a re-watch of his 2019 Coachella set it became a spring fave of mine)
I typically end these posts filled with excitement knowing I’ll be anticipating the Coachella lineup to drop within days, but this time around that excitement for my favorite festival is non-existant. Instead, I’ll be looking for another postponement to the Indio festival that was only a month away before corona dragged it and the rest of live music down. The good thing is that there’s finally a light on at the end of this tunnel. The vaccines are probably the hottest records to drop this year with a few more slated for early 2021. We’re all hoping that these creations will help get us back to the things (concerts and festivals) and people we love the most at some point next year. So I’m definitely urging you to give them a chance, because the faster you do the faster we can move forward away from this crazy upside down world we’ve been living in since March.
Besides hopefully a fresh start for the live music and events industry, 2021 should be filled with some highly anticipated new music. In May 2019, Adele hinted at a new record that was to come out in 2020. I’m not sure if this year put a damper on production, but it has yet to be released. A brief stint on SNL in October gave us some hope for new music but Adele quickly squashed those hopes in her opening monologue and shifted gears towards 2021. So as the saying goes, “rumor has it” that we’ll have some new Adele music next year after over 5 years since 25.
Lorde has also hinted at the release of new music. It will be 4 years ago in June that Lorde released her Grammy nominated sophomore album Melodrama. So this third full-length will be a highly anticipated record in 2021.
As I mentioned girl in red in my honorable mentions, her debut album should be dropping next year as well. The first single from it, “Rue”, was released in late August and I’m sure there will be more songs coming in anticipation of the release. After the big year girl in red had, thanks in large part to Tik Tok, I’m sure this debut will help grow her fan base even more.
Lana Del Rey, who just never stops making music, has an album due out for 2021 as well with Chemtrails over the Country Club. We should be seeing new music from Bleachers, St. Vincent, Spoon, Weezer, and Greta Van Fleet in the new year too.
Although it has been over 3 years now that my favorite band, Foster the People, released an album, they released an EP called In the Darkest of Nights, Let the Birds Sing on December 11th. They’ve dropped plenty of new music since their last record Sacred Hearts Club (2017) too. Hopefully touring returns at some point next year and I’ll have the chance to see Mark and the boys again soon. I miss them. I actually said the same thing at the end of last year too, but now I miss them even more.
It’s also been awhile since LCD Soundsystem has put out music so I hope to hear from them next year as well as Florence & The Machine whose last album came out in 2018. As for the next few months though, instead of going to Mexico and anticipating Coachella, I’ll be trying to ski as much as I can and keep my eyes and ears peeled for a return to the work I love so much. If all goes well, the new roaring 20’s might be in full swing by the fall. Stay tuned for that.
Although music was partially shut out this year, at least we have the technology to release, find, and hear new songs, EPs, and albums. I’m not going to try to tell you that music saved this year like it did in 2016. This year could never be saved and that’s okay. The good news is that we made it so here’s to shutting the door on a wild, lameass year and opening the next door for a better one. Onward and upwards!