While it’s impossible to sum up this strange, surreal, depressing-but-also-inspiring year so far, one constant has been a steady stream of great music. Amidst the pandemic and potentially the largest movement in U.S. history, new songs and albums have continued dropping every week, providing a source of comfort and new art to look forward to as other cultural wells (movies and TV, especially) are running dry.
Here’s a playlist of my favorite 2020 songs so far, in no particular order. You’ll recognize many of ‘em, since they’ve been featured in past issues. (Yes, 6 of the 74 songs are from HAIM, I couldn’t resist.)
For this week’s blurbs, I wanted to focus on a few standout tracks from artists I haven’t covered yet.
“On My Own,” a fuzzy dance-pop stunner from Shamir. Since his 2014 single “On The Regular,” Shamir has never stopped surprising and delighting, emerging with a unique style of house music and then evolving his sound in unexpected ways. This is his best song yet, a stadium-ready anthem for a summer without stadiums.
“Wildfires,” a hypnotic, timely groove from SAULT. This mysterious UK collective has made waves with their latest album, “a robust collection of funk, soul, meditative spoken-word and protest chants meant to score the full spectrum of Blackness,” as Marcus J. Moore writes for NPR. “Wildfires” focuses on police brutality, pairing poignant lyrics with powerfully subtle vocals, a hypnotic beat, and an addicting bassline.
“Fit N Full,” a soaring indie anthem from Samia. With her eccentric stage presence, unique voice and genre-hopping style, Samia has built a following in the NYC music scene. “Fit N Full” gives her sound an added polish, building to a cathartic dream-pop chorus.
“The Wall & I,” synthy ‘80s-inspired goodness from Nation of Language. This Brooklyn band wears their influences on their sleeve, and this track perfects their shimmering New Order-inspired sound, with driving staccato synths.
“Isn’t It So Convenient,” a pulsating vibe from Mk.gee. Frank Ocean introduced me (and many others) to Mk.gee through his Blonded playlist, featuring the producer’s lo-fi 2018 track “You.” Mk.gee’s 2020 album features more whirring beats and soulful vocals, in line with the rising wave of artists finding new directions to take with fragments of Ocean’s sound.
“Guilty Conscience,” booming synth-pop from 070 Shake. You know 070 Shake’s memorable voice from her scene-stealing work across Kanye’s 2018 production output, belting the choruses on “Ghost Town” and Pusha T’s “Santeria.” On her best solo tracks, she uses her voice in a similar vein, echoing them as if they’re already bouncing off the arena walls.
And here’s a fun one from Edgar Wright (director of Baby Driver, Scott Pilgrim, and more) who has an ear for emerging artists — particularly those making spazzy-punk-rock.
In case you missed it…
Noname released “Song 33,” a brilliant 70-second response to a strange and misguided track from J. Cole. Vulture’s Chris Murphy breaks down the lyrics here. She’ll be on Desus and Mero tonight and I’m excited to watch. (Also consider supporting her book club, “an online/irl community dedicated to uplifting POC voices,” on Patreon.)
Future Islands have returned with a huge new single.
If you love live music, take 15 seconds to fill out the form at SaveOurStages.com asking your reps to support local venues through the RESTART Act.Without federal support, 90% of members will have to close their doors. Congress is voting THIS MONTH, so we need your help. Visit SaveOurStages.com to ask your legislators to support/co-sponsor the RESTART Act to ensure the survival of indie venues