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01.05.21 Music I like from 202007.14.18 A List of Words from Songs I Love
03.24.17 3/6/912.18.16 A Blushful 2016

Music I like from 2020

Where genres are wrong, blame RYM. Where right, thank you. Very loose ranking. Mostly off the top of my head; I'm sure I missed a lot of great ones.
55The Weeknd
After Hours

Alt R&B / Pop
54The Avalanches
We Will Always Love You

Neo-Psychedelia / Electronic
Don't Shy Away

Ambient Pop / Indie Rock
52Keaton Henson

Sad Folk / Singer-Songwriter

In a lot of ways, Monument is a disappointment. Keaton’s gone from not making music to… making music again. ‘Epilogue’—one of the best pieces of performance released in my lifetime—feels, because of what it *appeared* to mark (that is, *the end*), like a bit of a wasted effort. Then again, part of what Keaton’s musical project has always been is about the necessity of writing—the compulsion to write. And if writing for Keaton necessitates publication, well, who am I to question it? The music itself is fantastic.
51Ruston Kelly
Shape and Destroy

Alt Country / Singer-Songwriter
50Phoebe Bridgers

Singer-Songwriter / Indie-Folk
49Phoebe Bridgers and Rob Moose
Copycat Killer

Singer-Songwriter / Chamber Pop

Rob Moose’s excellent string arrangements and Phoebe’s (rerecorded?) vocals are so disjunctive so often that when they do come together—like on the chorus of ‘Punisher’—I find a considerable more amount of beauty than I do (or did) on Punisher itself. Elsewhere, it’s like the two are dancing at different speeds, to different frequencies, and that’s not an image I mind.
New Dreams

Ambient Pop
Dream On

Ambient Pop

The Dream On versions of what previously appeared on JFDR’s fantastic New Dreams soften (round out, dumb down) the originals in perhaps uninteresting ways. There’s less going on, in other words. Subtle electronics are replaced with (more) strings, pianos, acoustic guitars. (That or less of all…) The songs, though, in being stripped down, attain a less ethereal, more earthly quality that I find appealing. Regardless of which project you listen to, you’ll find delicate songwriting, a powerful voice, and gorgeous sounds therein.
No Fun

Pop Rock
Mortal Glitch

Industrial Hip Hop

I don’t remember what drove me to NAH in the first place—he was probably on one of ya’ll’s lists some years back—but tuning in has started to feel a bit like compulsion. Works for me: inconsistent, but never boring, Kuhn (Kuun?) is at his best when he’s throwing together screams and percussive freakouts, and when he leaves vocal duties to people like Cities Aviv and ZekeUltra, who, in turns, help prevent NAH’s brand of industrial hip hop from sounding too derivative of Death Grips (AGED), and, alternately, provide necessary contrast to his louder moments. Ironically, one of the easier, more addictive releases this year.
44Denzel Curry and Kenny Beats

Hip Hop

The sheer flippancy of Unlocked secures it a top spot. Lamest rap tape this year? RTJ4 would like a word, but, yeah, maybe. One of the funnest, though? Absolutely.
43Emily Keener
I Do Not Have to Be Good

42Horse Lords
The Common Task

Math Rock (?)

Ben wrote a great review of this that you should read; there’s also a very good write-up by YetAnotherBrick of their previous album. I prefer that album, but this one’s also fun.
41Taylor Swift

Pop / Indie-Folk
40Taylor Swift

Pop / Indie-Folk

Swift fans being madly redirected to Sputnikmusic (of all places) from the bottom of not one, but two Metacritic aggregates this year is… extremely funny. Even funnier in this context is JOTW’s 2.9. Evermore is, though, in spite of shit fans and well-articulated reviews to the contrary, one of the year’s best releases. Better than folklore, I’m willing to argue, and, interestingly, better than much of the actual indie-folk released this year. Evermore being, I think, a pop release dressed in flannel. Stripped of most expectations, folklore and evermore are Swift’s most consistent, most cohesive (“album-like”) releases since Speak Now. Two hours of very good, very listenable music. Some of the year’s sweetest, most beautiful moments.
I Was Someone Else

Emo Pop

No explanation wanted or needed.

Art Pop / Alt R&B

Even despite NNAMDI’s math rock associations, I think the overall mathiness of this album is (for better or worse) overstated. I realise it’s there (‘Perfect in My Mind’), and given these associations (Monobody, most obviously) it’s a not-unfair expectation; for the most part, though, the “math-rap” image feels to me more like an aesthetic gimmick than a meaningful way to sell or describe BRAT. I don’t have a better alternative: BRAT is, in reality, all over the place. NNAMDI would benefit from finding a more focussed, fluent manner in which to direct his (obvious) talents. That doesn’t necessarily mean being less scatter-brained; there’s a definite charm in that. [...]

[...] BRAT is, though, best at its brattiest (no shit, huh?). On ‘Gimme Gimme’, for example, a fairly straightforward alt R&B / hip hop tune that channels the best of post-BTI Childish Gambino and fucks it up with some downright annoying vocal pitchshifts and yelps. And I mean this in the best, most endearing way; because BRAT is best when NNAMDI’s having fun. When there’s nothing to prove. When the album occupies the same space as its artwork.
The Baby

Singer-Songwriter / Bedroom Pop
35Infinity Knives
Dear, Sudan

Alt R&B / Hip Hop / Ambient

How much better this is than In the Mouth of Sadness (also good) is impressive given there was only a year between them (if that; I’m still not entirely sure *when* this was [officially] released, last year or before). Whereas that album felt… loose—there’s a(n amateurish) rap or two chucked in there to tether the thing; the tape is otherwise full of beautifully minimal arrangements—Dear, Sudan feels fleshed out and full of character. Fleshed out, largely, in an emotional sense—there’s still a minimalism here characteristic of Ravelomanana’s sound—but in one that makes a lot of difference: the backend of ‘Hatred for Muzak Pt 2’, for instance, which applies a strange, meme-y filter to what sound like an emotional pleading and crying, is fucking harrowing. The song itself is a gorgeous undercurrent of something like sadness. So, too, is the album, a droning, hip-hoppy experiment in sadness and sorrow.
Wicked City


Georgia Ellery is extremely talented. (Have you seen her perform with Black Country, New Road?) The way she sets up opener ‘Robert’ with her menacing monotone manages to be both extremely chilling and scream, at the same time, “INDIE DARLING”. The way she sets up, with this, a totally disconnected verse from Injury Reserve’s Groggs (RIP) is equally impressive. The way Taylor Skye, in turn, distorts and contorts Groggs’ verse, trails it with (or morphs it into) the tail-end of a horror trailer, before stitching it back (mouth to anus, centipede style) to Ellery’s hook (of sorts): incredible. The song, like the EP itself, makes little sense—has little by way of a modus operandi, jumps from one sound to the next; the rest of the EP is much prettier—and does so with little strain, and with impressive coherence. That, of course, is its magic.
33The Microphones
Microphones in 2020

Singer-Songwriter / Eerie Folk
32Mary Lattimore
Silver Ladders

Ambient Harp Music

Silver Ladders’ title track sounds to me a lot like Pedro the Lion’s ‘Bad Things to Such Good People’. It’s descending arpeggios resemble—not with uncanniness, but a niggling, *“where is this from?”*—Bazan’s vocal melodies. It is, of course, a coincidence: listening to the rest of Silver Ladders, it becomes clear that what is actually reminiscent of Bazan is the falling twinkle characteristic of much of Lattimore’s playing (the melody in question is an incredibly simple one). It’s probably what endears me most to Lattimore, as someone who finds it difficult to just *listen* to (instrumental) music, devoid of discernible (look-up-able) lyrics and vocal patterns to chew on. Her harp melodies sound to me very human and vocalistic: there’s a subject there that I can listen to—imagine—floating around space, drifting into daydream.
31Ariana Grande

The Good Sweat

Indie Rock / Emo
29Playboi Carti
Whole Lotta Red

Hip Hop

Not familiar enough to really comment, but this strikes me as pretty amazing so far.
28Childish Gambino

Hip Hop / R&B / Pop
27Slauson Malone
Vergangenheitsbewältigung (Crater Speak)

Neo-Soul / Sound Collage / Hip Hop
Slauson Malone’s Crater Speak EP—a follow-up or appendage to his 2019 LP—is, for lack of a better word, dense. Less, though, in terms of sonic richness, or productive layering, than, like, paratextual references…? Opener ‘Simile #7’, for instance, (dubbed in full: ‘Simile #7 (see page 127 and Ttrabul [Trouble?] 2’) redirects—by means of these obvious references—the reader to the previous album’s ‘Ttrabul 2’, as well as to page 127 of ‘Crater Speak’, a magazine published by the artist with Midway Contemporary, a Minnesotan not-for-profit. (‘Ttrabul 2’ itself (re)directs the listener to page 42 of the same.) A good amount of reading, then—reading and listening—may be required to fully “get” Crater Speak, EP and album. [...]
26Slauson Malone
Vergangenheitsbewältigung (Crater Speak)

[...] Getting it, though, feels in many ways secondary to the listening experience: most immediate is the way Slauson’s able to contort really simple, almost improvisational instrumental and melodic phrases into some really boppy songs. ‘Smile #6’, my favourite, after a minute or two of vaguely soulful dawdling turns into what I love about Frank Ocean: that is, his post-Blonde willingness to amble around loose instrumentals. (Is this music?) At the same time, however, even at its most superficial (pretentious?), Slauson’s allusions feel very well thought out and deliberate. They start to feel less for the listener and more for Slauson himself, a sort of bookmarking process. If the listener feels the need to follow along with such a process process, the artist’s implicit(?) connections (made, in very obvious ways, explicit), well, why the hell not? There’s a lot of clever shit going on, after all, and the album slaps at the very least.
25James Blake

Alt R&B

What to say? It’s good. Read Potsy’s (also good) blurb.

23Moor Mother and Billy Woods

Hip Hop

I might write about this if no one smarter gets to it first. (Literally any of you, I’m begging.) I’m done, though, trying to understand billy woods as if he were some kind of poet-philosopher. I know, in reality, that he’s a rapper; that that means (or, rather, can mean) a lot; and that woods and Moor Mother (can and do) make a lot of things mean lots.
The Great Dismal

Shoegaze / Dream Pop / Alt Rock

I shouldn’t say too much about Nothing; I’ve only really heard The Great Dismal. A shame, though, that this, of all albums, didn’t make the staff list. Too new, perhaps, or the result of a collective forgetting (optically, from memory, I excluded it from my own ballot, thought its chances too slim; in retrospect, I mighta helped doom it). Anyway, The Great Dismal doesn’t “overwhelm” me with (its) beauty in the same way it did Jesper in his fantastic review. Rather, I hear opener ‘A Fabricated Life’ and I’m done; I’m hypnotised into a sort of despondency that nothing, not even the rest of the album, is able to snap me out of. That’s some magic, though. Despite its richness—its density—the atmosphere Nothing create is so immediately (negatively) captivating. I shouldn’t say too much, but Nothing are pretty fantastic.
21Moses Sumney

Neo-Soul / Pop

Another album that should probably have made the staff list. Chalk it up to COVID, exhaustion, the sheer amount of energy it takes not only to listen to, but feel like you’ve understood an album of this size (a double album, a “concept” one). All of which are bad excuses: grae is a much bigger project than 2017’s Aromanticism (much, much bigger than Sumney’s Make Out In My Car EP, of which I am most familiar); its sonic ambitions and variance, however, make it engaging in spite (and not at all because) of the bigness of its themes, its narrative concerns. These are (obviously) important—but grae shouldn’t be intimidating: what is constitutive of this broader mission are songs that are interesting and engaging in their own right. This is still Moses Sumney.
20Mac Miller

Neo-Soul / Hip Hop
19Ichiko Aoba
Windswept Adan

Singer-Songwriter / Folk
18The Innocence Mission
See You Tomorrow

Indie Dream Folk
17100 Gecs
1000 Gecs and the Tree of Clues

Bubblegum Bass

Remix albums feel like the best avenue for 100 gecs. Not to undermine how good the original 1000 gecs was—this literally wouldn’t exist without that—but something about the duo’s music feels inherently polyvocal, and so necessarily collaborative. That might be testament to the multitudes Laura Les and Dylan Brady contain between them. Still, the chopped and fucked nature of Tree of Clues feels like an improvement in almost every way to me. It’s one of the best gecs experiences I’ve had, second only to the DJ bass-boosting 'Stupid Horse' to hype up a Wicca Phase crowd in Melbourne.
16Barely Civil
I'll Figure This Out

Pop Punk / Emo

Shoutout Spotify for suggesting this, and Mars for reviewing it. The worst thing about this kind of pop-punk/emo is, usually, things feel a little too well-paced and put together; everything, especially the vocals, tend to fall way too comfortably into place—in a very peculiar, often off-putting way. Barely Civil get a lot right in spite of this; songwriting- (and usually production-) wise, the band are, like others in the genre, very shiny. Owing to some incredibly thoughtful production, however, they retain a certain roughness that ensures the poignancy and emotional pointedness of frontman Conor Erickson’s lyrics and vocal performances are not washed away, but underscored by equal-parts loud, despondent, thoughtful and deliberate instrumentals.
15Pay for Pain
Pay for Pain

Midwest Emo / Cowboy Gothic

Miss old Tigers Jaw? Try this, maybe.
14Yung Lean

Cloud Rap

I never know what, really, is happening on Starz. All I know is it’s extremely emotional: like a late night after a big day, in which you can’t sleep, in which you need to, in which you don’t want to, in which everything is a flurry of feelings, good and bad, and feeling is good and bad, but always—always—better than not.

You should know Lean by now.
13Tony Velour

Hip Hop / Bubblegum Bass

What people hear in JPEGMAFIA I think I hear in Tony Velour—in 3M, at least, which sounds to me something like unbridled creativity. Unbridled in the sense that, despite its songs being incredibly straightforward and to-the-point—as much, or most “hyperpop” is—they (and the album they’re on) sound positively unfussy. This is, I’m sure, by design: in no way is 3M not an exercise in efficiency. Paradoxically, though, there’s an anything-goes energy that permeates it, and is what makes listening to it so exciting. Chalk it down to fatigue (the energetic kind), but this album did overwhelm me on first listen: I was convinced, almost immediately, that it was one of the year’s best; I’m yet to be convinced otherwise.
12Cindy Lee
What's Tonight to Eternity

Hypnagogic Pop / Dream Pop
11Hayley Williams
Petals for Armor

10Hayley Williams
Petals For Armor: Self Serenades

Singer-Songwriter / Pop

I’ve heard some disappointment about this version of ‘Why We Ever’; I think it’s beautiful, and I think I might prefer it to the original (the bridge and outro are particularly gorgeous here). I’m a simple man, though: I hear acoustic covers of perfectly good pop songs, I question why I listen to music in the first place, and why I’m willing to fall for anything with really basic acoustic structures, onto which I can thrust the “singer-songwriter” label.
9Charli XCX
How I'm Feeling Now

8 Darcy Baylis
Days After Breaking


It’s only a matter of time before Darcy Baylis blows up. ‘Now, More Than Ever’ merges, effortlessly, Baylis’s love of trance and emo music with considerable success. Between this and U4K, it’s a (sub)genre I really hope takes off—or which I become less ignorant of (recs please). Here’s to 2021.
7Sugar High
Love Addict

Dream Pop / Cloud Rap (?)
Visions of Bodies Being Burned

Hip Hop
Double Live

Hip Hop / Baby's First Musique Concrete

Clipping. (serially) murdered 2020: Visions, the unexpected follow-up to Addiction, improved on the group’s horrorcore formula in a lot of meaningful ways; the rerelease of ‘Knees on the Ground’ (alongside the new ‘Chapter 319’) made, mid-year, way too much sense; and ‘Puppy for Hanukkah’ is, let’s be real, Daveed at his best. Double Live, however, in collaboration with Christopher Fleeger, may be clipping.’s most well-realised work to date. Documenting, in part, a post-Splendor tour, ‘Double Live’ includes a number of the group’s performance(s) from a number of strange locations: mics are pointed everywhere—everywhere—but the stage. As picked up on on ‘Hi, Chris’, “They’re recording weird sounds from the metal rattling or something… They’ve been mic’ing buildings… They’ve been mic’ing windows...”. [...]
Double Live

[...] Another group (caught on one of these microphones) refers to Daveed as a “bullshit ass rapper”, talk about wanting to kill him, threaten to go on stage and fart on thetable (“because he sucks and he deserves it”): So. Good. Elsewhere, Daveed talks about ‘Air ‘Em Out’ getting scarier the further south the trio travel. ‘Get Up (Motel)’ is three minutes of snoring; ‘Get Up (Rookery)’ is four minutes of animals gurgling, farting, and being animals; ‘Water’ is, I’m not sure (I’m reminded, though, of the last few minutes of The VVitch). It’s impossible not to bop along when a song *is* recognisable; the omniscience though, or omnipresence, of the recordings are what make what they capture so engaging. At times funny, at others terrifying, in a year lacking in live music, Double Live is exactly too much of what you need.
3Adrianne Lenker

Instrumental Folk / Ambient
2Adrianne Lenker

1Doves (USA)

Emo Rap / Trance

ULTRACLUB4K is right in all contexts: alone, at home; at the back of the club; in your girlfriend’s car (before, for the hundredth time, she asks you, please, [Blush], to turn it off, I have a headache, and you capitulate—because you’re scared: of being alone, of clubs, of loud music, of people…). In your headphones (then), or your own car; “[this is] fucking hype music”, on your drive to work. (Maybe during work; your employer doesn’t know. And if she did, well?: “This is the sound of depression. This is the sound of your voice underwater… [Y]ou’re listening to ULTRACLUB4K.”)

U4K is, beyond this, difficult to describe. A strange, messy blend of emo-trap, trance, and the occassional hardstyle drop. Not an easy sell. Suspending all cynicism, though, a necessary one.—Undoubtedly, one of the year’s best.
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