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02.18.21 Soulsborne Boss Tier List02.18.21 FE: Three Houses Tier List
01.19.21 Ate Roadkill: Shat Blood01.17.21 Pots 2020 Part 2: 50-1
01.01.21 Pots 2020 Part 1: 101-51 12.22.20 THE REAL SPUTNIK THIRST GAMES 2020: THE
11.24.20 Part II: Definitive Mood Lounge Sexy V11.18.20 Part I: Definitive Mood Lounge Sexy Vi
10.02.20 Pots 2020 Q407.06.20 Pots 2020 Q3
05.02.20 Pots 2020 Q204.26.20 Pots 2020 Q1
12.20.19 Pots 2019

Pots 2020 Part 2: 50-1

I took a lot into consideration for my top 100 this year. Of course, the primary factor was enjoyment, but I also took into account ratings, how often I actually listened to something, how much I had to say about it, and whether or not it was receiving much attention in other peoples lists. There was a lot of great material this year, and certain artists like Bambara, Neptunian Maximalism, Roisin Murphy, and The Microphones simply didn't make the cut because I felt they had already been commendably highlighted by some of the sites biggest taste-makers and best wordsmiths. I got carried away with blurbs so I have to split this into two parts. HNY
Couldn't Wait to Tell You...

#50: ‘Couldn’t Wait to Tell You’ is a Hypnagogic deconstruction of Neo-Soul. This raw, dissected take on the genre feels a bit fractured, - lacking the focus to ever settle for long on one musical idea, sometimes even abruptly abandoning them – but this effect feels intentional, perhaps even crucial to the albums narrative style. Liv.e’s vocals and poetry have a distinct “stream-of-consciousness” feel to them, making ‘Couldn’t Wait to Tell You’ come across as an organic, spontaneous exercise in story telling. “It’s never been a secret that I love myself”, Liv.e reveals in an introductory rumination that prompts her to begin to tell her story. As the track suddenly cuts off a series of vignettes begin to chronicle her thoughts and feelings from a dream-like haze of reflection.
Rec: Lessons From My Mistakes… but I Lost Your Number
63dumama and kechou
buffering juju

#49: Self described as “nomadic future folk music” dumama and kechou draw influence from a diverse palette of South African genres from traditional Folk to modern Jazz and Electronic styles. The result is an unforgettable spiritual and cultural journey through sound. These sonic incantations are elevated in intensity and tension by dumama’s mastership of improvisation and presence, acting as a narrative force to command and manipulate the swirling cyclical instrumentals. If you are interested in the vast world of African music styles, ‘buffering juju’ is not one to miss.
Rec: wessi walking mama

#48: Aside from the odd digressions into styles such as Future Bass, Alt R&B, and Breaks, and Hypnagogic Pop, ‘Bloom’ is quite a brash exercise in FlyLo emulation. It follows in ‘Cosmogramma’s footsteps in its maddening spontaneity and bombastic abandon. As often as it is jarring and provocative it is spacey and reflective. It’s not as seamless as FlyLo’s works, but the big draw here is that it continues the aesthetic of that era of FlyLo that many consider to be his most defining. For anyone who misses FlyLo’s pre-UTQC work, ‘Bloom’ will scratch an itch that few other imitators can reach, but the more I listen to ‘Bloom’, the more SKYGAZE’s unique Hypnagogic Pop/Alt R&B experiments - in which he provides his own vocals - stand out from the bunch. I hope to hear him expand on this direction more in the future as I fear the FlyLo emulation has the potential to lose its novelty quickly.
Rec: No better place to hide myself
61SheBeKeke, Werkha

#47: ‘Ephemera’ is a collaboration between UK based singer/writer Shebekeke, producer Werkha, and vocalist/cellist Abel Selaocoe to adapt a collection of Shebekeke’s poetry about femininity and the female experience. The instrumentals are often minimal and restrained, offering a backdrop for Shebekeke’s words rather than a catalyst, but thanks to her beautiful voice and affecting content ‘Ephemera’ is all the better for it. The subtle balance of traditional percussion and instrumentation, soulful keys, rhythmic bass walks, and sparse electronic ambience offers the perfect foundation for Shebekeke’s poetry.
Rec: Curse of the I

#46: Nothing could describe Coubo’s ‘Homeworld’ as well as its own album artwork. The Young Russian producer specializes in calming downtempo Instrumental Hip-Hop beats that transport you to a sonic retreat from reality in a cozy exotic jungle lounge. ‘Homeworld’ is far too blunted for much studying, but you can bet your sweet ass it’s an album you’ll be doing some extreme relaxing to.
Rec: Leaves
59Moor Mother and Billy Woods

#45: I always like Billy Woods’ output, but sometimes I often feel that he struggles to balance the dark experimental elements of his music with enough of a substantial rhythmic driving force to support an entire album without becoming monotonous. Because of this, sometimes I admire his material more than I actually enjoy it. Without reprieve from the bleak nihilism of his more abstract work his albums can become abrasive and monotonous over time, even suffocating. ‘Brass’ is the first Billy Woods project since 2013’s ‘Dour Candy’ that manages to balance this. Every time the doom-ballad misery borders on tedium there is a moment of gratification not far away. Big head bobbin’ beats like ‘Maroons’, ‘Rapunzal’, ‘Chimney’, ‘Rock Cried’, and ‘Tiberius’ discharge the tension created by the seething despondence surrounding them in a truly rewarding and meaningful way. Moments of clarity shine through and give ‘Brass’ an elusive, fleeting sense of comfort that isn’t often present in
58Moor Mother and Billy Woods

[cont.] Billy Woods work and, when emphasized by Moor Mother’s mesmerizing presence, this makes for a particularly compelling addition to either parties discography.
Rec: Tiberius
57Lex Amor
Government Tropicana

#44: UK rapper Lex Amor’s debut LP ‘Government Tropicana’ was one of my most promising new discoveries this year. From the inspired beats/production to the juxtaposition between Amor’s gravely monotone rapping and drifting ethereal singing, every aspect of the release just adds up. It has the brooding cynical essence of UK Hip Hop and Bass and the sentimental heart and spirit of Neo-Soul and Alt R&B. Lex Amor is overflowing with potential; this isn’t a release any fans of Hip-Hop want to miss.
Rec: Plant Your Feet
56Black Wing
No Moon

#43: Dan Barrett has a penchant for catching lightning in a bottle with debut LP’s. ‘Deathconsciousness’, ‘Giles Corey’, and ‘…Is Doomed’ are quintessential Barrett albums and each of them marks the birth of a new moniker. Unfortunately, when he revisits these monikers for subsequent releases, there is a trend of diminishing returns. The sheer drop in quality between each new Have a Nice Life and Giles Corey album has been disconcerting enough that when I heard there would be a second Black Wing LP I was very cautious with my optimism. The release of single ‘Bollywood Apologetics’ alleviated some of that worry, but I was still right to be wary. ‘No Moon’ does have the concentrated magic of ‘…Is Doomed’, but only in doses. The latter album was a near perfect: sonically and conceptually cohesive, visceral, to the point, and full of huge gratifying peaks. ‘No Moon’ is nearly twenty minutes longer than ‘…Is Doomed’ and struggles in several of these departments. Track quality is
55Black Wing
No Moon

[cont.] all over the board, there is a considerable amount of filler and questionable choices, sometimes it’s meandering and anticlimactic, and it’s too damn long. But these flaws also make it more human, possibly even more visceral and emotionally affecting than before. ‘No Moon’ is no quintessential Dan Barrett project debut, but it is by far his most successful follow-up. The odd eyebrow raising choice and idiosyncrasy might hold it back from being a perfect sophomore release, but they also show deep vulnerability. ‘No Moon’ is a heart wrenchingly personal album, and the more Dan wears his heart on his sleeve, the more we sympathize with him, and the more powerfully his music resonates.
Rec: Is This Real Life, Jesus Christ
54Son Lux
Tomorrows II

#42: There’s been something missing with Son Lux in recent years. A little bit of the magic was lost when Ryan Lott turned the project into a full band. They reached soaring new heights, but the problem is that the most grandiose moments of Son Lux haven’t necessarily always been their best. ‘At War With Walls and Mazes’ was special because of its subtlety. We Are Rising and Lanterns began introducing much bigger, brighter, cinematic moments and over-the-top orchestral spectacles, but the best moments on those albums were still tastefully subdued highlights like ‘Easy’ and ‘Flickers’ rather than the bombastic, dramatic arrangements of ‘Let Go’ or ‘Lost It To Trying’. ‘Bones’ and ‘Brighter Wounds’ were technically impressive records with amazing production and masterful performances, but they both often either leaned into this showy side of Son Lux a little too much, or, – especially in the latters case – they went too orchestral and interludey, resulting in some boring throwaway
53Son Lux
Tomorrows I

[cont.] material. With ‘Tomorrows I’ and ‘II’, Lott seems to have exhausted this trajectory and returned to a more minimal, introverted approach, although not without a share of those overly simplistic disposable interludes. If the meat of both discs were combined and all the filler was dropped I feel that ‘Tomorrows’ could have stood up to Son Lux’s early work, but unfortunately it’s broken up and spread across two strong, but imperfect releases. Still, the shift in direction is a welcome, promising return that should put Son Lux back on people’s radars for now.
Rec: Plans We Made
52((( O )))
((( 2 )))

#41: Filipino producer June Marieezy’s aggressively difficult to google side-project (((O))) releases a sophomore collection of “moondrops” for your listening pleasure. For those not in the know: (((O))) is Marieezy’s ambitious new alias in which she plans to record and release one new song (or “moondrop” as she calls them) on every full moon for the next 12 years. (((2))) is the second compilation of these “moondrops”, continuing the the trend of ethereal moonlit Alt R&B offerings. Often times Marieezy is strongest when she features other artists, such as multi-instrumentalist French Kiwi Juice who appears on three of the twelve songs. Without someone to help refine her ideas her songwriting sometimes feels like it still has some maturing to do, but this is forgivable given her young career and promising future.
Rec: Less Than Three
51Four Tet

#40: Aside from the unnecessarily long intro track, I mostly have the complete opposite criticisms of ‘Parallel’ that I do of ‘Sixteen Oceans’. Parallel 1 might arguably overstay it’s welcome and overextend the albums duration, but it sets a tone that is successfully carried through and delivered upon from front to back. Ambient interlude material is spaced out and balanced properly, even if it’s still a tad unnecessary and doesn’t exactly help with the bloating. The album isn’t front or back-loaded and the flow doesn’t suffer from questionable sequencing. The trade-off for this more balanced Four Tet album is a comparative lack of highs. Nothing on Parallel is as strong as ‘School’, ‘Baby’, ‘Teenage Birdsong’, ‘Romantics’, ‘Love Salad’, or ‘Insect Near Piha Beach’ (although Parallels ‘2’ and ‘4’ come close), but at the same time, nothing is as bitterly disappointing as the back half of ‘Sixteen Oceans’ because the ambient material is worked into the sequencing in a drastically
50Four Tet

[cont.] less awkward fashion. I can’t say for certain whether or not these calmer moments on ‘Parallel’ are actually superior to the ones on ‘Sixteen Oceans’, but the flow of the album makes them feel more effective at the very least. ‘Parallel’ has neither the highs, nor the lows of ‘Sixteen Oceans’ overall, and although it is disappointing to hear two more Four Tet albums that don’t live up to his full potential, the good still outweighs the bad and makes for a pretty damn enjoyable listen.
Rec: Parallel 4
49Four Tet
Sixteen Oceans

#39: Between the promising singles that landed on this and 2019’s ‘Anna Painting’ EP, ‘Sixteen Oceans’ was shaping up to be Four Tet’s magnum opus. Unfortunately, ‘Anna Painting’, ‘Lahaina Noon’, and non-album singles from 2019 such as ‘Dreamer’ and ‘Only Human’ didn’t make the cut. Instead, the back half of ‘Sixteen Oceans’ was loaded up with poorly placed ambience and filler that halts the momentum of the album in its tracks. After the best 6 track run of Four Tet’s career from ‘School’ to ‘Insect Near Piha Beach’ (ignoring the stupid shitty wingding-ass harpsichord interlude) the album just entirely runs out of steam. Given the high energy, super-climactic nature of these early tracks, this transition feels particularly jarring and quite honestly makes for my biggest disappointment of 2020. ‘Something In the Sadness’ makes a futile last-ditch effort to get the ball rolling again, but it just doesn’t live up to the hype of the first half and awkwardly fizzles out into the
48Four Tet
Sixteen Oceans

[cont.] lifeless 15 minute lull that closes ‘Sixteen Oceans’ for good. It’s a shame because out of context a lot of these ambient works are really quite beautiful. If some of them had been properly utilized to release tension and create space between the earlier tracks, ‘Sixteen Oceans’ could have been perfect. Instead they are treated as an after-thought, carelessly tacked on with about as much consideration and zeal as ‘A Moon Shaped Pool’. ‘Sixteen Oceans’ had all the ingredients to be Four Tet’s next ‘Pink’, but it just wasn’t put together quite right.
Rec: Teenage Birdsong
47Asa Tone
Temporary Music

#38: ‘Temporary Music’ is the deconstructed and rearranged culmination of 10 days worth of recording sessions between Melati Malay (Young Magic), Tristan Arp, and Kaazi in Malay’s home of Indonesia. The recordings themselves – which are a mix of traditional Indonesian instrumentation and various analog electronics – were then post-produced to create this beautiful Tribal Ambient/Minimal Synth work. The percussive nature of ‘Temporary Music’ gives it a uniquely engaging quality for such a meditative release, and the welcome addition of Malay’s gorgeous vocals – even manipulated into this sparse, atmospheric capacity – give it a warm personal touch. Paired with gratifying climaxes like ‘No One Hold Their Tongue’, and ‘Vanda Tricolor’, ‘Temporary Music’ is easily one of the most substantial and innovative New Age adjacent works this year.
Rec: Vanda Tricolor
46Oneohtrix Point Never
Magic Oneohtrix Point Never

#37: I almost didn’t even bother with this. ‘Garden of Delete’ was just too much wank for me and ‘Age Of’ started to embrace some unsavory Glitch Pop gimmicks and trends that simply left a bad taste in my mouth. Eventually curiosity got the better of me, however, and I gave ‘Magic Oneohtrix’ a spin. It still adopts some of the same bubblegum gimmicks from ‘Age Of’ but the integration is so much more tasteful and fluid this time around. It’s impressive how Lopatin takes such a diverse palette of stylistic queues on ‘Magic Oneohtrix’ and paints such a cohesive portrait with them. Often Sound Collage material sounds fractured, but here the diverse wells of influence are strung together seamlessly, even when the album is surfing through channels and adjusting signals. This feels like a masterful amalgamation of everything Lopatin has experimented with in the last decade, a style that could, in time, truly distinguish him from his peers for the first time.
Rec: Long Road Home

#36: Sotomayor is a Afro Latin inspired sibling duo that fuses Digital Cumbia, Dancehall, Afro Beat, Electro Pop, and other influences into heavily percussive, rhythmically focused, and dance floor oriented Electronic music. Latin Electronic has been on the rise lately with its diverse set of stylistic influences ranging from a vast diaspora of eclectic folk sub genres to a broad range of modern Electronic styles. Compared to other instances of Latin Electronic that have made this list so far, ‘Origenes’ leans a bit more heavily into Pop territory, making it an accessible crowd-pleaser as well as one of the most eccentric Pop adjacent albums of the year.
Rec: Sin Control
44Arms and Sleepers
Corpus Dei

#35: ‘Corupus Dei’ was a blindside release. I’ve always casually enjoyed Arms and Sleepers - he is at least a peg up from many of his modern Downtempo infused Instrumental Hip-Hop peers – but he’s never met the standard of elevation they seem to expect from themselves. You can hear how badly the duo strives to push boundaries across their discog, but they never seem able to fully break through. With ‘Corpus Dei’ Arms and Sleepers simply pull the curtain back on their artistry, rather than once again trying to push through. This is the most reflective, introverted work I’ve heard from the pair, fully matured, refined, and comfortable in their own skin. It feels more insightful and complete than any of their other work to date, like for the first time they are telling a story rather than offering a collection of songs. Through all the vulnerability in the reveal, all the meticulous attention to mood and narrative, and the tuning of their strengths and passions, Arms and Sleepers
43Arms and Sleepers
Corpus Dei

[cont.] actually feel like they have, for once, broken through.
Rec: Is This Stuff True
New York To Philly

#34: A compilation of golden era cuts from Juggaknots affiliates Adagio!! If you aren’t familiar with east coast Hip-Hop group Juggaknots, you suck, and it means you also probably don’t know Adagio!. This is an essential collection of underground golden era rarities for any real 90’s Hip-Hop head.
Rec: My Girl
41Beatrice Dillon

#33: This is likely too sophisticated for you. Welcome to the wonderful world of Electroacoustic, the current vanguard of innovation in music. You might not like it, you might not get it, but you can’t stop it.
Rec: Clouds Strum
Spiritual Sleaze

#32: ‘Spiritual Sleaze’ is like a deconstructed Flyling Lotus album combined with Taylor Mcferrin’s Neo-Soul heavy take on Downtempo. It has a lot of the same ingredients as the former, but where FlyLo wastes no time concocting and experimenting, Rejoicer spends his analyzing these disparate elements. ‘Spiritual Sleeze’ is a slow, patient work that explores each of its roots conscientiously and completely before moving on to the next, much like the subtle perfectionism heard on McFerrin’s ‘Early Riser’. Perhaps Rejoicer is missing the jarring, spasmodic build and release of tension that is common in FlyLo’s work, but it also makes for a much more relaxing, thoughtful release with enough space and intention to allow the listener to truly digest and appreciate the immense amount of talent on display.
Rec: Lemons
39Busta Rhymes
Extinction Level Event 2: The Wrath of God

#31: Most leftfield hit of the year award goes to ‘Extinction Level Event 2’. You wouldn’t know it from the corny theatric opening minutes to the album that introduce the apocalyptic concept before handing the mic off to Busta’s hype man for the album, Chris Rock (wtf). But before long, the obligatory narrative set up calms into a glorious homage to “The World Is Yours” by Nas, the part of the introduction that really foreshadows what’s to come. For better or worse, ‘Extinction Level Event 2’ recaps the entire last 30 years of Hip-Hop in one cohesive, conceptually realized package. Sometimes this means revisiting the questionable era of gravely bling-bling r&b rap, other times it means paying tribute to the almighty era of 90’s east coast hardcore rap, and sometimes it means emulating modern backpack rap or fuccboi blahp, but no matter what Busta somehow manages to make it cohesive and intriguing. ‘Extinction Level Event 2’ has absolutely no business being as good as it is, but
38Busta Rhymes
Extinction Level Event 2: The Wrath of God

[cont.] against all odds it somehow manages to be one of the biggest, most delightfully reverential, and emotionally compelling Hip-Hop releases of the year.
Rec: Look Over Your Shoulder (feat. Kendrick Lamar)

#30: It’s odd to see something like the British/South African mega super project Keleketla! garner so much positive attention on sputnik. Afrobeat isn’t exactly in the sites general wheelhouse. But despite the site’s generally irredeemable music taste, users broke the mold by voting Electronic producer duo Coldcut and a cohort of iconic artists from Tony Allen to Antibalas, to Yugen Blakrok into the user charts and made daddy Pots proud this year. SIKE!! You guys fucking suck! A couple of closing thoughts: 1) If the whole world listened to more Afrobeat it would be a much happier place 2) Crystallise is the future of Hip-Hop that I want to see 3) RIP Tony Allen, a real legend.
Rec: Crystallise
36The Bug, Dis Fig
In Blue

#29: I remember describing ‘In Blue’ to a friend as Andy Stott meets Burial at the bottom of a k-hole. I stand by it. ‘In Blue’ is the darkest, heaviest, and scariest electronic album of the year. It is absolutely fucking brutal. Dis Figs haunting vocals do wonders in elevating The Bug’s bleak, brooding beats, adding another emotional dimension to the mix. The static and dust drenched atmospherics and muted percussion beat the same grimy UK allies and streets as Burial does, while the dense walls of distortion, jarring sound palette, and ethereal vocals evoke Stott’s finest. ‘In Blue’ is the best The Bug has had to offer in years, a nightmarishly dense, viscous sludge of Dark Ambient, UK Bass, and Dub Techno to brood about during these strange times.
Rec: Blood
35Infinity Knives x Brian Ennals
Rhino XXL

#28: Infinity Kives and Brian Ennals are two of the most exciting names to come up in outsider Hip-Hop in the last few years. Many of the highlights on Infinity Knives two previous LP’s have been the Brian Ennals features. Although the rest of these two abstract records were admirable, the few Hip-Hop bangers made me want more. As if reading my mind, Infinity Knives dropped an entire LP of tracks with Ennals, and the results don’t disappoint. This is the weirdest Hip-Hop album you will hear this year (aside from maybe Serengeti’s ‘With Greg From Deerhoof’ with Greg from Deerhoof), a genre defying, abstract wonder showcasing every aspect of Infinity Knives talents. The only challenge here is a polarization of tone; some tracks are brooding, abrasive, and visceral, while others go deep on an upbeat, humorous energy, even while the lyrical content remains deeply sociopolitical on either end of the spectrum. Forgiving a little silliness, these polarities are executed with nearly
34Infinity Knives x Brian Ennals
Rhino XXL

[cont.] equal impact, but as a whole the disparity in tone is sometimes disorienting. Regardless, ‘Rhino XXL’ holds together better and better the more you familiarize yourself with its quirks and gimmicks and twists and turns.
“I could swallow a galaxy and shit out a star” – Brian Ennals.
Rec: The Willower
33Catz 'n Dogz

#27: ‘Moments’ is an uncharacteristically subtle record for Catz ‘n Dogz. Usually known for full on Tech/Deep House bangers, ‘Moments’ trades in intensity for serenity in a year where everyone needs it. This is a perfect Sunday album, and considering all the anxiety and claustrophobia of quarantine life this year, actually ~relaxing~ at home been an unusually fleeting state of mind. Even with its cathartic pace and low-key chill-out energy, ‘Moments’ is full of emotional depth and value. Tracks like ‘Meditate’, ‘Moment’, ‘Sleep’, and ‘Tomorrow’ are sentimental beauties, longing for normalcy and a return to simpler days, while ‘Memories’, ‘Time’, and ‘It’s OK’ are more traditional tropical Microhouse reprieves (though not without their own heartfelt charms). ‘Moments’ is your own personal Covid-19 confidant and emotional therapy companion, an album that uplifts as it reminds you: “it’s okay to be sad,” bro.
Rec: It’s Ok
32Claude VonStroke
Freaks and Beaks

#26: ‘Freaks & Beaks’ is a fucking trip. It feels being forcefully inserted into Claude VonStroke’s twisted persona mid candy flip on his birthday. The entire album flows like a sweaty drug fueled episode at a rave and you’re the fucking DJ. It’s not often I hear an album that transports me into someone else’s mind so well, especially not when they’re thwacked out of their tree narrating their own psychedelic friendship party. Thoughts and interactions float in and out of your mind like clouds, but the music keeps on pulsing, driving your high through the night in strobe-lit slow-mo. Sometimes shit gets weird, maybe even a little freaky, but the molasses always smooth back out to gravy while you ride the fluorescent waves.
Rec: Flubblebuddy
31DJ Python
Mas amable

#25: ‘Mas Amable’ is an understated gem. The overall atmosphere is very singular, a seamless New-Agey ambience that slowly evolves and mutates track by track making the entire album feel like one long song. The driving force here is the percussion, a mix of Latin Electronic, Reggaeton, and House beats repurposed for a spacey, ethereal drift. The very gradual evolution might make ‘Mas Amable’ feel repetitive or unsubstantial on a cursory glance, but this is an album that very much needs to be digested as a whole. To make sense of it, you need to go into this record with the mindset of it being like a chillout DJ Mix. Letting the delicate atmospheres and mesmerizing percussion gracefully dissolve into one another reveals a beautiful and uniquely mystifying sense of harmony to the mix, an enigmatic quality and curious allure that reminds me of Boards of Canada in a way.
Rec: Descanse
30Jessie Ware
What's Your Pleasure?

#24: Despite asshole user Bloc ruining the title track forever with his fantasy measuring cup infomercial alt lyric “Made to measure, what’s your pleasure,” Jessie Ware still provides by far the best of several notable Nu-Disco channeling mainstream pop albums this year. Where Roisin offered a cohesive record that worked well as a whole, it lacked gratifying climaxes and the frequent big payoffs found here. Where Dua Lipa offered a poppy bounce, she desperately lacked any sense of identity or personality and presented her catchy albeit vapid and painfully superficial product with the charisma of a peanut. Ware takes the positives of both of these albums and reconciles their flaws, offering a cohesive record bursting at the seams with huge bangers and bops, orgasmic highs, clear vision, and oozing with personality. Icon status of the year undoubtedly and undeniably goes to Jessie Ware.
Rec: Title Track
29Jon Kennedy

#23: Not to be misled by the Liquid Funk fucking omega-banger of an opener, ‘Mmxx’ is a masterclass in late 90’s and 00’s era Trip-Hop and Downtempo. Most of the record is well covered territory, but in a time when the genres have lost a substantial amount of their relevance, uniqueness, and charm, hearing such an authentic and fantastically produced throw-back to the highly distinguished aforementioned era is riveting and cathartic. ‘Mmxx’ is an incredibly inspired quintessential 2010’s project for fans of classic Trip-Hop, Downtempo, and Instrumental Hip-Hop alike.
Rec: Back from the Beyond
28King Krule
Man Alive!

#22: ‘Man Alive!’ is a reconciliation of King Krule’s Trip-Hop influences on
‘6 Feet Beneath the Moon’ and the experimental Art Rock/Neo Pych/Post-Punk influences of ‘The Ooz’. After the grungy, dissonant run of ‘Supermarché’ through ‘Comet Face’, those yearning for Krule to revisit the spacey atmospherics of ‘6 Feet…’ will find a lot to love. For those that preferred ‘The Ooz’, however, there might be some disappointment over the rather prompt remission into downer dilated subtlety. The relative low-energy of the back half feels a bit anti-climactic at first, but upon repeated listens this somewhat feels like an apt choice. Quintessential Krule is brooding, depressive, smothering, and bleak, and ‘Man Alive!’ harnesses that essence of just being a big fucking piece of shit better than ever before.
Rec: Stoned Again

#21: Has an album title ever been so apt? ‘ENERGY’ is everything we’ve been missing and yearning for in the destitute social landscape of 2020. It’s a carefree, high octane, heart pumping Deep House/UK Garage thriller, relentlessly optimistic and irreverently hedonistic. If anything this year will make you miss going out, it’s this, but the good news is ‘ENERGY’ brings the party to your doorstep. Even alone, it’s impossible to close your eyes and bop along to 40-story fuckawatt bangers like ‘My High’, ‘Who Knew?”, ‘Watch Your Step’, and ‘Ce n’est pas”, without being transported to your own little tropical dancefloor paradise.
Rec: Ce n’est pas
26Clap! Clap!
Liquid Portraits

#20: Clap! Clap! is a great example of the elevated levels of creativity and talent that can be seen in Italian producers currently. Not unlike previous work, ‘Liquid Portraits’ takes an exotic palette of tribal influences and incorporates them into an aesthetically focused collage of UK Bass, Footwork, and Dub. The percussion is as impressive and bombastic as ever before, but ‘Liquid Portraits’ feels sharper than previous releases, aggressively refusing to allow its parts to blur together in homogeneity, constantly demanding your attention by beating you over the head with bottomless bass and dripping toms. Clap! Clap! rarely relents, and on the odd occasion when he does it’s for impossibly gratifying highlights like ‘Quietude’ or ‘Moving On’, an absolutely irresistible groove featuring one of the most beautiful vocal performances of the year from guest artist Martha Da’ro. Overall ‘Liquid Portraits’ is more of the same from Clap! Clap!, but it feels like it’s done with renewed
25Clap! Clap!
Liquid Portraits

[cont.] vigor and endless stamina, making it easily his most substantial work to date.
Rec: Quietude
24Patrick Holland
Reality Picture

#19: Much of what I said of Holland’s 2020 EP ‘Simstim’ in Part 1 of this list can be said of ‘Reality Picture’ as well. The major difference here is that ‘Reality Picture’ gets the LP treatment, allowing Holland to flesh things out between tracks and create a more comprehensive vision. ‘Reality Picture’ is a soothing, fluid, and perfectly succinct release that shows the ex-Project Pablo producer at his absolute finest. It’s an introverted and charismatic release that raises the stakes and proves that Holland has what it takes to become an unmistakable name in the Electronic game in years to come.
Rec: Dialed
23Swamp Harbour
Swamp Harbour

#18: The UK Hip-Hop AOTY unsurprisingly goes to the latest Blah Records collaboration Swamp Harbour (Stinkin Slumrok, Bisk, Sam Zircon). Lee Scott’s Blah Records has been a goldmine for the last half-decade or so, offering all the most exciting current names in UK Hip-Hop. Blah Records functions best as a modern UK Wu-Tang Clan, the many solo albums from associated artists always wet the palette, but the best stuff is the big feature heavy team-ups and super group incarnations like Cult/Children of the Damned, Cult Mountain, or Hock Tu Down. Swamp Harbour is no exception to the rule, flexing features from Jack Danz, Trellion, Lee Scott, and King Grubb on some of the most delirious Blah Records production to date. There is a certain Cypress Hill vibe to Swamp Harbour, if Cypress Hill was drugged and dragged through a viscous swamp before being tied up and stuffed in the boot of your whip.
Rec: Pelican Beach
22Ela Minus
acts of rebellion

#17: Yet another promising Italian producer, I discovered Ela Minus through her feature on Populous’ 2017 track ‘Azul Oro’. Her debut LP ‘Acts of Rebellion’ is a bit of a slow-burner, but time has allowed it to bloom, meeting and exceeding my expectations. There is an irreplicable personality to her music that isn’t often so refined so early in an artist’s discography. This feels like an established, professional artist at the height of their career. The entire album is perfectly streamlined, aesthetically focused, and sold with such palpable confidence you can’t help but buy it. The infectious poppy synth work and distinct nocturnal vocals elevate the straight foreword Tech/Micro House rhythms and progressions and give ‘Acts of Rebellion’ an unmistakably quirky essence that plant her somewhere on a spectrum between The Knife/Fever Ray and Kelly Lee Owens.
Rec: Dominique

#16: ALYSS fucks. TBH I’m still reeling over the fact that I spent four years listening to her before realizing she was white. Between her solo material, features, and collabs with Mono/Poly, ALYSS has established a very distinct, powerful sound and personality in her music and voice. The tribal embellishments, metallic Dancehall percussion, and belted, soulful boisterous voice paired with Wonky synths, abyssal baselines, Garage beats, and ferocious swagger hearken to a kind of cross-cultural, nocturnal, Brighton ally Afro Futurism. I shouldn’t have assumed too much based off of how ALYSS sounds, but here are the facts; white people just don’t have this much damn soul.
A View of U

#15: Phewph. Outside of Sepalcure, Machinedrum ha had a bit of an inconsistent career. There has been ups and downs and plenty of questionable musical digressions and experiments. ‘A View of U’ feels like Machinedrum finally growing comfortable with all the territory he has traversed and tying it all together. The album reconciles Liquid Funk, UK Bass, Wonky, and Future Bass all into one galaxy sized introspective. It can be a bit chaotic, but part of the charm is the way these pulse-hammering styles resist and create friction before being explosively released into the albums melodic highs. It might not a perfect overview if you take issue with any particular era of Machinedrum’s career - he even retreads the cavity inducing pink noise of 2016’s ‘Human Energy’ on tracks like ‘Inner Eye’ – but there is enough stylistic diversity and focus on conceptual cohesion at hand to pull it all together and make it work anyway. At the end of the day, ‘A View of U’ is the fully idealized
A View of U

[cont.] banger of an album I’ve been waiting for from Machinedrum for nearly a decade.
Rec: The Relic
18o k h o
Alprazolam [3]

$14: UK Hip-Hop might be at the top of the dog-pile when it comes to emcees right now, but Italy is leading the pack when it comes to alluring production. ‘Alprazolam [3]’ is a peak illustration of the talent Italy has to offer right now, showcasing a diverse cast of guest rappers from across Europe and North America while seamlessly complimenting their disparate styles, drifting on cruise control in the galaxies most blunted lo-fi UFO joyride. With its short 27 minute runtime (about a third of which is dedicated to instrumental versions of the feature tracks), ‘Alprazolam [3]’ manages to tease your pleasure centers just enough to make you compulsively restart the album the moment it finishes.
Rec: Cruisn’ With the Lights Off
17Empress Of
I'm Your Empress Of

#13: Empress Of’s Blood Orange feat and debut LP ‘Me’ skyrocketed her to the top of the list of promising new pop artists this decade, but something went wrong with her follow up LP ‘Us’. Her distinguished voice couldn’t carry the mediocre instrumentals the way they heightened the progressive production of ‘Me’, making it one of the biggest Pop disappointments in recent memory. The dip in quality was so substantial, in fact, that I pushed Empress Of into the back of my mind to fade into obscurity. The twinkle of hope that Empress Of would fulfill the promise of her potential eventually took over and allowed me to give her latest LP ‘I’m Your Empress Of’ another shot, and I was absolutely floored. This is the Empress Of that hinted at iconic status with ‘Me’ in her final form, embracing every aspect of herself and showcasing the flaws, vulnerabilities, and experiences that make her unique. “Give me another chance,” Lorely asks, and I’m glad I did. Inspiring stuff.
Rec: Void
New Dreams

#12: My interest in Icelandic singer-songwriter JFDR was piqued by her GOD TIER features on Lapalux’s ‘Ruinism,’ prompting me to check out her debut LP ‘Brazil’. At the time she was an interesting Ambient Pop prospect, but she didn’t quite blow my mind or anything. ‘New Dreams,’ however, seems to channel everything that made her Lapalux collabs on ‘Ruinism,’ and latter on ‘Amnioverse,’ so special. The album is heavily atmospheric, reliant mostly on subtle electronic glitches and quirks and JFDR’s stunning vocals to propel the subtle instrumentals into more esoteric territory. It’s a miserably melancholy record, a mood album that will certainly ruin your fucking day if listened to in the wrong circumstances. But much like with the Lapalux albums she features on, the strength here lies in its unparalleled emotional depths that saturate every aspect of its being. This is no cookie-cutter strum-along singer/songwriter play-date like ‘Punisher,’ or ‘Folklore,’ relying on
New Dreams

[cont.] on hyper-generalized lyrical relatability to shoulder the burden of dragging along the corpse-like workaday indie-starch instrumentals or to mitigate the crippling inertia of middling/pedestrian vocal performances. Every sound, note, and inflection has depth and meaning, even the empty spaces containing emotional weight and purpose. ‘New Dreams’ has all the intimate charm of a Singer/Songwriter Indie Folk record, but transcends the sonic limitations of a tired and well-trodden genre without sacrificing any of it’s quietude or poise. This is the new standard.
Rec: Think Too Fast

#11: From yet another next level Italian producer, ‘W’ (for ‘Women’) is a global powerhouse of feminine musical imagery and Populous’s first major musical statement of his queer identity. Boasting an international catalogue of guest features (including the likes of artists such as Sotomayor and MYSS KETA from earlier in this list), ‘W’ pays tribute not only to Populous’s friends and idols, but also to sexual liberation, gender beyond stereotypes, and musical expression free of imposing industry masculinity. The powerful, ambitious, and empowering undertaking is quintessential Populous, an exemplary sample of his production prowess elevated by its far-reaching influence and solidarity of pride. ‘W’ is the LGBTQ+ anthem of the year, a liberating Electronic mosaic that levels its political impetus at the dance floor with love and enthusiasm.
Rec: Flores No Mar
13Godfather Don
Beats, Bangers and Biscuits...

#10: The Hip-Hop AOTY has arrived! ‘Beats, Bangers & Biscuits at 535 E 55th st’ is a long awaited collection of 90’s rarities, demos, and instrumentals masterfully assembled into a functional LP. ‘Beats, Bangers…’ epitomizes everything I love about golden era east coast Hip-Hop: the irreverent street-hardened attitude, the blunted boom-bap production, the infectiously styling jazz samples. There is something generally off-putting about compilations, drawing pieces from across time and space easily results in a disjointed throw-away product that often times comes off as a money-grab. ‘Beats, Bangers…’ transcends these common flaws and maintains an impressive aesthetic coherence and flow from front to back making it feel like a proper LP. It also benefits from a lack of the common skits and filler that often plagues Hip-Hop; there isn’t a throwaway track to be found. Clocking in at just over an hour and twenty minutes, ‘Beats, Bangers…’ seems bloated on a glance but every cut is
12Godfather Don
Beats, Bangers and Biscuits...

[cont.] so intentionally curated and positioned that it never feels overlong, often tempting an immediate replay as soon as it ends. There is not doubt that if this was released in the 90’s in some capacity it would go down as a golden era classic. For any old-school heads this is THE quintessential Hip-Hop record of 2020.
Rec: Ill Funk Freaker
11Long Arm
Silent Opera

#9: There’s always been a cinematic quality to Long Arm’s music. His albums have progressively gotten more dynamic over the years, culminating in his best work to date. ‘Silent Opera’ transcends the expectations of a modern Downtempo record with its defiantly progressive songwriting and narrative polish. Noir vocal samples drift in and out of orchestral overtures and build steam for soaring crests and transient gullies. It does harken to its title, feeling operatic in quality, vividly pulling curtains on its movements in a hushed auditorium. The most beautiful part of ‘Silent Opera’ is how you can close your eyes and watch it, rather than just listen. Whether it manifests in a living painting, or the shuffle of intricate set pieces across a spotlit hardwood stage, the pictorial quality of the album gives it life that transcends the sensory limitations of its format. It’s a beautiful work of music, but it’s also a wonderful, riveting audio-visual caper.
Rec: Sprouts of the...
10Leifur James
Angel in Disguise

#8: ‘Angel In Disguise’ takes the progressive Nu Jazz fomula of Leifur James’s debut ‘A Louder Silence’ and filters it through the lens of UK Garage. The electronic elements are vastly more prevalent now, keys and percussion are broken up and scattered across the delirious arid soundscapes. The progressive elements are still prevalent, the mesmerizing expanses sometimes turning volatile or overwhelming, souring your trip. The desertous psychedelia of earlier Nicolas Jaar and Darkside haunts the scorched earth that ‘Angel In Disguise’ beats down upon, opening up into cavernous piano refrains that stretch for miles into the star fraught sky. James crafts a kaleidoscopic pilgrimage through apocalyptic wastelands, a desperate but beautiful excursion that clings to the flesh like dew.
Rec: Title Track
Dropsonde [Reissue]

#7: Capping off the original Ambient/Nu Jazz release with nearly an hour of unreleased material, ‘Dropsonde [Reissue]’ is the definitive way to experience the album. The “new” material compliments and reinforces ‘Dropsonde,’ extending, reprising, and reworking the original material and introducing new supportive tissue to the fold. All of the previously unreleased songs feel true to the original material, essential bits of a lofty director’s cut finally seeing the light of day. These tracks stand up and sometimes even exceed the quality of any of the best moments of the original album, offering a deeper look at an already laudable work, pushing beyond its previous confinements, and elevating it to new quintessential heights.
Rec: In the Shape of a Flute
8A.A.L. (Against All Logic)

#6: An excellent counterpoint to Nicoas Jaar’s gradual decent into horse tranquilizer music, A.A.L. compiles several years worth of cursory material that mirrors the more traditionally paced oddball House variant of his early EP’s. Lack of relentless inertia aside, these tracks are still anything but traditional House bangers, implementing a charming dose of unconventional production techniques and fearless beat fuckery more characteristic of Deconstructed Club, Industrial Techno, and IDM. Every step of the way Jaar’s unique personality prevails, veering near irredeemable chaos away from the edge of madness whenever it drifts too close and smoothing out the needles and knives with his signature, unmistakable ear for unorthodox beauty. ‘2017 – 2019’ is a triumphant reminder of what propelled Jaar into the spotlight earlier in the decade, and a well needed break from / contrast to his alienating, unforgiving, and demanding recent Nicolar Jaar work.
Rec: If Loving You Is Wrong
7Kruder and Dorfmeister

#5: The most unexpected and triumphant return of the year, ‘1995’ was seemingly dropped out of nowhere after over a decade of silence. The complete lack of anticipation for this album set expectations to “non-existent”, making the bewilderingly high quality of ‘1995’ all the more shocking and intoxicating. Although ‘1995’ is actually the debut K+D LP that never was, dating back to the titular year, every moment sounds fresh and polished. The opener ‘Johnson’ is everything there is to love about Chill-out music, borrowing classic haunting atmospheres reminiscent of BoC paired with unexpected sampling and trudging percussion. What follows is more in line with K+’D’s traditional work, offering a seamless catalogue of Bossa Nova, Lounge, and Nu Jazz influenced Downtempo beats. This inexplicably fresh time capsule of pure joy yearns for the glory days of Chill-Out, so let it transport you back to ‘1995’.
Rec: Johnson

#4: A/T/O/S has been offering some of the freshest modern Trip-Hop on the market since their 2014 debut. Their follow-up took the minimal, infectious beats with bottomless bass and glorious Alt-R&B vocal performances from the debut and made it even darker, more resentful. This compromised some of the melodicism and made for a solid, but somewhat disappointing follow-up. ‘Waterman’ reconciles this switch-up, bringing back the unforgettable hooks and infinite depth of the debut and marrying it with the unease and apprehension of ‘Outboxed’. ‘Waterman’ is an anxious brood, harkening back to the ink black viscous bog of ‘Mezzanine’, forgoing the glimmers of hope in ‘Teardrop’ or ‘Exchange’. It’s bleak and smothering, but confident and determined all the same. ‘Waterman’ paints a cynical perspective, eroding the illusions of hope and exposing bitter truths, unrelenting in its desire to be heard and to seep uninvited into the darkest spaces of the uncorrupted mind.
Rec: Listen
5Nicolas Jaar

#3: Continuing the tradition of ~making shit real slow~, Jaar's newest release is approximately -400 BPM. At this point the facade of house that Sirens just barely still clung to is entirely decomposed, leaving behind a mostly skeletal ambient/electroacoustic album with few - albeit immensely gratifying - instances of a pulse. Since his seminal album Space Is Only Noise, Jaar's work has gotten substantially more intimidating to digest. Fortunately, the chore of sitting through this glacial decay has remarkable - if fleeting - payoff (‘Faith Made of Silk’, wow), and the relative decongestion makes this a much more immediate experience than Sirens. This is it. This is as slow as you can go.
Rec: Faith Made of Silk

#2: There is something indescribable about the beauty of ‘Galore’. It’s not without its flaws: sometimes it runs out of breath, meanders, gives up even. Sometimes it’s anti-climactic, something like a great big defeated sigh. There is a lot of humanity and vulnerability in these qualities. In a particularly inspired moment Oklou can release every bottled up emotion at once, an overpouring so intense and passionate it devastates. In another she can retreat from her feelings, letting her distant bubbles of thought drift off and gently burst into nothingness as if they were never there. The nothing-ness of ‘Galore’ is part of what makes the moments of lucidity that much more powerful. A moment of clarity on a retreat into nature energizes and inspires the outspoken portion of the album, but the bitter irony is in the fleetingness of this emotional emancipation. The tone of reinvigorated optimism that follows the great release escalates, plateaus, and eventually begins to degrade

[cont.] into contentedness, apathy, defeat, and finally back to the detached reflection and introversion from which it spawned. Much like how ‘Galore’ begins, it ends: with a distanced nothingness and a whim to retreat.
Rec: Unearth Me
End the Summertime F(or)ever

#1: What can I Say about ‘End the Summertime…”? It’s beyond me. The plundered vocal snippets that filter through Botany’s impossibly vibrant beat-work narrate the themes best: “Off by yourself in a quiet place, picture the earth as seen from space, it’ll be so groovy, it’ll be so great, at the end of summer and the United States”. ‘End the Summertime…’ is an anthem for the death of complacency many Americans have been feeling in light of recent political upheaval, doomsaying environmentalism, and a particularly tumultuous 2020. It’s an apocalyptic mix of Plunderphonics, Instrumental Hip-Hop, Neo-Psych, Wonky, and Glitch that transcends our frame of reference. It’s a fever dream of The End, cosmic in perspective, detailing our very own little heat death, free from the tunnel vision of time as we perceive it. There is something so epic and massive about ‘End the Summertime…’ that affirms it’s ambitious scope; as the beats clatter along, rise, fall, and crumble, it really feels
End the Summertime F(or)ever

[cont.] like an overview of cosmic collapse. There is so much force and gravity to each song it feels like a physical impact. The wax and wane of samples and effects, and the signal chasing static of coherence dilate the experience and sweep you along through a current of time and space, a simulated ego-death that illuminates everything in an apathetic light of ironically cheerful futility. This is our apocalypse, and fuck is it trippy.
Rec: E.O.T.S.
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