Best of 2020 – Music

Abbreviated Comments found below, in alphabetical order by track:

2 Tales of the Working Class

Los Skagaleros – L@s Skagaler@s – 2019

One of the bands I was introduced to via Skatune Network’s video on ska bands active now that you should listen to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iU6FXwfi9WU — I love how much they embrace one of my favored styles of ska, which I affectionately call “brass punk”. Its noisy, its socially conscious and it has a bass that’ll drive you forward until there’s no more road to tred. Solid track.

Athletic Theme (from “Super Mario World”)

The Hit Points – The Hit Points – 2018

Appalachian strings are rather atypical to be used as the core instrumentation for a video game cover band, but oh boy do fiddle and banjo really make some tracks, like “Athletic Theme” shine.

Bad Guy

Billie Eilish – WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO? – 2019

Yes, I did somehow miss this track last year. Its morbidly catchy to sing, has some fun moments in it (the “duh” comes to mind), the breathy style of the lyrics works well with the pounding bass and almost too localized finger snaps to make the entire song feel like its being whispered in your ear at a club your friends told you to avoid. Also “might seduce your dad-type” is a great phrase. As is “I don’t see what she sees but maybe its cause I’m wearing your cologne.”

Barley

Birds of Chicago – Real Midnight – 2016

The opening a capella section sends shivers up my spine every time I hear it, and the entire song has just a powerful soulfulness to it. This isn’t a resistance song for me, but it is one that I can feel in my bones. I may have gotten it from the Luke Cage soundtrack, but it’ll have much longer legs in my library than its source.

Betty

Taylor Swift – folklore – 2020

My favorite Taylor Swift has always largely been the early stuff – corny and sappy and honest seeming. Betty is a return to that sort of style — a safer evolution of the girl who wrote Teardrops on My Guitar than who she became. I’m still filling in the gaps in my head where queer love songs fit and so it has earned a place.

The Big Game (Movements 1 & 2)

Sledding With Tigers – Come on and Slam – 2015

A musical accompaniament to the hit movie of my childhood and maybe yours – Space Jam – I didn’t really end up resonating with most of the album. The final track though, a narrative piece reminisicent of a guy on a chair with a guitar telling a story to a room of kids, just really..works? Its funny and heartfelt and just, it works you know?

Big Yellow Taxi

Joni Mitchell – Ladies of the Canyon – 1970

Confession time: I heard the cover of this one by Counting Crows and Vanessa Carlton as I child and I do adore it, but Mitchell’s reputation as a songwriter and performer is and was well-earned, and the song easily stuck in my songs of the year playlist as soon as I heard it.

Black Hole Sun

Scary Pockets, Maiya Sykes – Single – 2020

A cover of the original by Soundgarden, its funkier, easier to understand the lyrics, and and just more interesting in general than the very unsettling drone feeling that the original can lend itself to.

Black Tie

Grace Petrie – Queer As Folk – 2018

A UK-based artist making folk music from the viewpoint of actual queer folx? And she isn’t a TERF? AND THE MUSIC IS REALLY GOOD??? The whole album is wonderful, but Black Tie was my introduction to it and its the track I keep going back to – a reassuring letter of an older performer to their younger self that things will be all right, and that they will find a place where they can be themselves.

Bom-omb Battlefield

Video Game Jazz Orchestra – Hang on to Your Hat – 2020

Honestly just a really solid jazzy orchestration of a beloved track from Mario 64. I’m a sucker for jazz covers of video game soundtracks as I really enjoy jazz with hook and throughlines, so its an easy fit.

The Boy with the Arab Strap

Belle & Sebastian – The Boy with the Arab Strap – 1998

Despite the uhh…meaning of the phrase “Arab Strap”, the fact it was literally just taking the name of another band and other drama, I still find this track to be a really soothing few minutes; the first song by the group that I’ve latched onto outside of the soundtrack to the hit movie about trans-teen pregnancy, Juno.

Brave as a Noun

AJJ – People Who Can Eat People Are the Luckiest People in the World – 2007

It wouldn’t be a top songs of the year from me without some folk-punk making it on the list. Brave as a Noun is short but direct, and gets me in the mood for more folk-punk and how could that be wrong?

Breathe

Alexi Murdoch – Time Without Consequence – 2006

A champion of my fledgling “Just Breathe” playlist for when the world is too much, “Breathe” was featured at the end of the opening two-parter for Stargate Universe, a show that I thought was actually mostly pretty decent, but music choice of having a song called “Breathe” be the ending track to a pair of episodes largely about being in space running out of oxygen was so on the nose that I couldn’t help but to latch on.

Bummerland

AJR – Single – 2020

AJR was one of my surprise favorites a few years back, so it was great to have Bummerland blasting in my ears a few times — its an anthem of being in the pits (mostly financially) firm in the belief that it IS going to get better. I don’t think its as good as “Sober Up” or a few other tracks off of The Click, but its still good.

C.R.E.A.M

Wu-Tang Clan – Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) – 1993

Wu-Tang’s raps have such a great rhythmic feel to them bouncing off of the looped instrumentals on this piece that I can’t help but to just let it loop and try to learn a few more lines each time. I’m late to the party but its quality stuff.

Can You Keep Up

Blue Kid – Upright, Love – 2012

Blue Kid appears to be defunct which is a shame cause this first track off of their first (and perhaps final) release is a great lyrically driven jazz piece. I particularly appreciate the various inflections that the singer uses to emphasize different sections of the song, from an almost too annoying whine to a much more sultry purr.

Chemicals – Stripped

Halestorm – Vicious (Stripped) – 2020

Halestorm put out, not acoustic covers of themselves, but pared back versions, letting the vocals really shine. Its dark hard rock reduced to the interstial track in a concert while some of the band needs to swap instruments and reset –but its still really really good.

Circuits and Wires

Motion City Soundtrack – Go – 2012

As someone who still listens to the entirety of MCS’s Even If It Kills Me on a regular basis, “Circuits and Wires” was essentially just comfort food for my brain. Gimme that punk-pop.

Come out 2 Nite

Kenickie – At The Club – 1997

Bratty brit-punk-pop bands echoed in my head quite a bit this year – I read the first volume of the comic Phonogram, by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie, who would later really hit had with a music themed comic with The Wicked + The Divine, but Phonogram still had a way of getting the tracks on the pages to worm their way into my ears, helped along by Gillens public playlists for most of his writing projects [link].

Crabbuckit

Good Lovelies – Let the Rain Fall – 2011

Stripped back instrumentals with multiple vocalists harmonizing just really does it for me, specially when its as catchy as “Crabbuckit” pulls off being. “No time to get down cause I’m moving up” is a great mantra to adopt to.

Crazy

Quail – Single – 2020

A band that hasn’t actually finished their first album, Quail has a great pop-jazz feel, and while I almost included “Blue Sky” instead, “Crazy”‘s lyrics put it over the top for me — opening with “you should get some kind of company and friends that don’t include me” is just one of the most relatable ways to demonstrate a failed connection.

Daughterson

Joe Stevens – 3 Guys & 6 Strings: The Encore – 2012

An unapologetic guitar-driven ode to himself, a transman who does not hide that fact about himself. Its just great, and it does the heart good to hear people who have found their place like he is singing of here.

decide to be happy

MisterWives – SUPERBLOOM – 2020

Indie-pop is one of my favorite holes I’ve fallen in in the past few years, and MisterWives has been there for me all the while. They make tracks that are just BURSTING with the vibes and good moods that you need to survive something like the current state of the world.

Didn’t Have Time to Think

Math The Band – Math the Band the Band the Album – 2015

The band itself uses a fun mix of rock intrumentals and chiptune adjacent synths, while the track reminds me of the sort of things I wanted to hear on the radio in 2007. It isn’t going to change your world, but it might help you recast some old rotten memories of car trips in a warmer light.

Drink About You

Kate Nash – Yesterday Was Forever – 2018

Kate Nash went on a hiatus for a few years but Yesterday Was Forever was a great return, which “Drink About You” epitomizing both the irreverence and frank emotion that I loved from Made of Bricks, or “Don’t You Want to Share The Guilt”.

Eleven

yMusic – First – 2017

Just.
Holy.
Crap.

If you like instrumentals. If you want to be taken on a goddamn trip through the woods chased by a beast that you can’t quite see, listen to this track. Listen to it twice. Thrice. Breathe it in and never let it go. Contemporary “classical” music IS worth your time.

Farewell

Talisk – Beyond – 2018

Beautiful and resonant Scottish instrumental folk, “Farewell” does a wonderful job of capturing the feeling of a farewell relying solely on the timbre of the instrumentation to tell the narrative.

Feel Good Inc.

Housebound Ska Collective/Skatune Network – Single – 2020

A cover of the fantastic track by the Gorillas, this just takes that track and ratchets up everything. Its fast, its fun, it hits hard and then it leaves you wanting to pick up more ska. Just an all around top-notch cover.

Fight Gods/Mike Townsend Knows What He’s Gotta Do (Live)

The Garages – The Garages Kill the Gods/Live at Heckdang – 2020

The Garages, the band formed as part of the fan community around the game Blaseball, is my band of the year. There’s just so much heart and energy and the narrative threads tying everything together just really end up selling it for me.

“Fight Gods” is a thesis statement of a song–the game has a lot of unknowable beings that have a habit of killing players, and “Fight Gods” is the players saying enough’s enough.

“Mike Townsend Knows What He’s Gotta Do” is the third song in the Mike Townsend pentology, dealing with the subpar player on the Garages, Mike Townsend, replacement pitcher after one of the best players was incinerated by a rogue ump, resolving to sacrifice himself to bring back his predecessor. The live version is just so. damn. good.

Fight On!

CrazyGroupTrio – Single – 2020

In a year where Final Fantasy 7, the Final Fantasy with one of the best soundtracks, was rereleased, it is hardly a wonder that a cover of one of my favorite tracks, the boss theme “Fight On!” made it to my top list. Its a rocker of a piece, and will definitely drive you forward as you tackle your day.

Finally // beautiful stranger

Halsey – Manic – 2020

I don’t have much to say about this one; other than “oh, and we’re dancing in my living room, and up come my fists // and I know we’re only playing but, the truth is this //” is unexpectedly evocative.

The First Big Weekend

Arab Strap – Arab Strap – 2016

Another band I checked out due to Phonogram and Kieron Gillen, “The First Big Weekend” is one of those munbly mostly spoken word narrative songs that I end up latching onto when I just want to hear a story. I love when songs have just, incidental details that really only mattered to the singer but now are recorded in their art. (“Closer” by the Chainsmokers has some good examples of this too.)

The Fox, The Crow and the Cookie

mewithoutYou – It’s All Crazy! It’s All False! It’s All A Dream! It’s Alright – 2009

An “experimental rock” piece, TFTC&TC is essentially a fable or local legend told in the form of a piece of music; I tend to get too distracted by the violin to follow the plot each time I listen but one day; one day.

Freaking Out

Mystery Skulls – Ultra Rare Vol 1 – 2015

The only reason I know this group exists is https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YlEb3L1PIco&list=PL0fvOtjetDLFH_avalzdmSLL91rvwiE07 – a wonderful set of slowly released animated music videos for some of their pieces. “Ghost” is likely still my favorite but “Freaking Out” is solid.

Frequent Crier

Future Teens – Breakup Season – 2019

A song about a breakup, and just how sometimes, well, all you do is cry. A lot funner to jam to than that makes it sound. As someone who is single but also on HRT and therefore cry more than I used to, I get it.

Get Better

Frank Turner – Positive Songs For Negative People – 2015

“We can get better because we’re not dead yet” is one of the best things I’ve heard to tell someone stuck in a loop of “I screwed up and I will screw up.” We’re all gonna get better. We CAN get better.

Good Gone Girl

MIKA – The Boy Who Knew Too Much – 2009

Great vocalist and fun instrumentals help drive a song with completely missable lyrics to a catchy piece with a welcome place on upbeat playlists.

Harleys in Hawaii (KANDY Remix)

Katy Perry/Kandy – Single – 2019

Sometimes a song just has a good beat, you know? I don’t think it uhh, makes much sense lyrically but hey, its fun.

Heimdalsgate Like a Promethean Curse

of Montreal – Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer? – 2007

Its weird while still staying foundationally approachable — it is recognizable as a rockish piece while having synth breaks and lyrics pleading with the singers own mood disorder. Definitely one of the pieces a listener is likely to bounce off of.

Heterosexuality Is a Construct

Onsind – Dissatisfactions – 2010

A bit on the angrier side of the queer songs in the list, Onsind’s track is folkpunk (at least in my opinion, genres are uhh, wild) and is exactly what it says on the tin.

Hold On I’m Coming

Solomon Burke – Hold On – 2020 (PostMortem Collection)

Just some good quality soul music I found after I acquired an unrelated 45″ of Solomon Burke in a lot and had to know more about the man. Great great stuff.

Home / The Weatherman

Blue October – Home/This is What I Live For – 2016/2020

I listened to an unhealthy amount of Consent to Treatment and Foiled in college — dark albums for the most part, almost cruel at times, but they sang to every hormone coursing through my veins. I’ve calmed down a tad over the years though, and its hard to really get into something dripping with as much angst at Blue October’s early work.

“Home” is an almost perfect u-turn from the lyrics of those times. It’s a love letter to a simple life of a stereotypical nuclear family. It’s not the most groundbreaking of works, but in an age where most days have uncertainty or outright hate, that kind of dream has a certain comfort to it.

“The Weatherman” is closer to the angst, but softer. A relationship has fallen apart, the intimacy having gone silent. But its core is a message of hope — the weatherman says the storm is gonna clear and we’re on the edge of a blue sky. There aren’t many songs I’ve heard about a relationship that’s in a rough spot but that’s worth saving — “Escape (The Pina Colada Song)” is the only one that immediately comes to mind, but “The Weatherman” has an earnest honesty to it that that classic song of trying to cheat on your spouse lacks.

Hot Dad Summer

Ritchie Branson – Single (Camp Camp) – 2019

Ritchie Branson is a great lyricist — his 2013 “From Guardia With Love” is one of the two best Chrono Trigger rap albums out there — and he’s one of the few “nerd” rappers that I get excited to see a new drop from. “Hot Dad Summer” has such great dad energy that I couldn’t help but to pick it for my placelist.

House of the Rising Sun

The Dead South – Single – 2020

A cover of the oft covered song by the Animals shouldn’t make an impact, but these Canadians really know how to make a piece sound like it was written in a weird cabin off the road by a jug band. Its now my second favorite rendition of the piece, after the original.

Husavik (My Hometown)

Will Ferrell, My Marianne – Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga – 2020

Here me out, but this parody film about the Eurovision Song Contest is A) really good and B) actually has a soundtrack that functions as both parody and a love letter to what viewers love about the contest. I’ve only been watching Eurovision for around half a decade, but hotdamn did these tracks still hit hard at times. Husavik is likely the most musically impressive of them–fitting for the apex of the film where its from.

I Don’t Wanna Get Wise

The Who – WHO – 2020

I honestly didn’t know that The Who was still making new music. Its a piece about getting old despite trying to live wildly in their youth — a process not all of them lived through. Kind of dark to thing about but it still rocks.

I Got a Form

K-Murdock, Doug Funnie – Hero Muzik, Vol. 2 – 2016

Man this whole album is fire but “I Got a Form” stayed on the list if only for being the only piece of fan media from Chrono Trigger I’ve seen really taking advantage of the “Delightful Spekkio” theme from the game, which is among my favorites.

I Know You Know

Esperanza Spalding – Esperanza – 2008

This is the kind of jazz that if its playing in the club lets you know that this isn’t a seedy place, this is a place where the shadows pull close to hug you and your fling(s) as candles dance on the table. I really really need to listen to more of her work than a few tracks off of this album.

I Split My Ribs Open

Left at London/Open Mike Eagle – Transgender Street Legend, Vol. 1 – 2018

I got way more into Left At London this year – a trans musician who does rather introspective pop music — “I Split My Ribs Open” made the list by viture of Open Mike Eagle’s guest verses helping elevate the track above LaL’s other tracks.

I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For

Dan Avidan/Super Guitar Bros – Dan Avidan & Super Guitar Bros – 2020

A standout from an album of covers, Dan and the Bros’ take on U2’s track has all of the emotion I love in the original without actually needing to listen to U2, a prospect that feels anachronistic in 2020.

I Wish I Was Someone Better

Blood Red Shoes – Box of Secrets – 2008

Sort of a counter to pieces like “Get Better” or “The Weatherman”, “I Wish I Was Someone Better” is full on dwelling on being a bad person — or at least having screwed up. I wouldn’t recommend it as one’s favorite track, but it can be cathartic.

I’ve Been Waiting

Lil Peep/ILOVEMAKONNEN/Fall Out Boy – Single – 2019

I like ILOVEMAKONNEN and have an extensive Fall Out Boy playlist, so this track was a sure fire hit for me. I’m a huge fan of tracks with cycling vocalists — not just like, call and response but multiple singers taking turns being the lead. Likely the same reason I dug that FourFiveSeconds a few years back.

IDKW

Daisy the Great – I’m Not Getting Any Taller – 2019

More indie rock about ended relationships — this one more playful than some of the others on my list; “I don’t know why I kissed you in the first place” sung at a quick clip is a noteworthy line — and the song is real short too so it doesn’t get into too many sordid details.

Islands

The xx – xx – 2009

One of the more popular tracks from a fairly popular indie pop group, a great track for having as you just cruise through darkened streets.

Jason

BONNIE PARKER – Single – 2019

A song as much about longing as anything else, “Jason” puts you in the shoes of the singer, a presumably gay drag queen, who’s crushing real real hard on a football player named Jason. Or more accurately, he’s been with Jason but Jason hides the relationship from those around him, which obviously is hurtful to the singer. Another of those songs that, when straight, we have a ton of but the queerness of it adds value.

Jolene

Dolly Parton – Jolene – 1974

I don’t know what in popular culture came about to both reintroduce this song but also specifically to do so as a song about a woman crushing on the same gal her man is cheating on her with, but I’m here for it.

Lent

Autoheart – Punch – 2013

The inflection the singer holds to for almost all of the lines, a da-da-da da-da-da really helps keep carrying the song through its saga of a toxic relationship, keeping everything sounding inappropriately peppy in an almost auditorially addictive way.

Lola

The Raincoats – The Raincoats – 1979

Its been almost two decades since I heard the original version of “Lola” by the Kinks and to this day two things are true:

  1. I like the song
  2. I have no idea if Lola is supposed to be a very convincing drag queen or a less-than-stellar representation of a transwoman.

Main Theme (from “Chrono Trigger”)

Videri String Quartet – Bits and Bytes – 2020

There are many video game string quartets out there — in fact there are even many that are good. What Videri brings are not just competant arrangements of beloved songs played well, but those arrangements interspersed with non-game music, allowing the album to transition from known to the unknown quickly, but without losing its grip. Definitely worth a listen.

Mainstream Kid

Brandi Carlile – The Firewatcher’s Daughter – 2015

I guess if you listen to enough Sheryl Crow eventually Brandi Carlile appears in your playlists unbidden. “Mainstream Kid” is a fun track though.

Major Tom – Coming Home

Peter Schilling – The Different Story (World of Lust and Crime) – 1989

A fan song playing off of Bowie’s “Major Tom” tracks, “Coming Home” was used expertly in season two of “The Umbrella Academy” and now its a regular in my rotation. Good chaos energy.

Maker – Acoustic Version

Anjimile – Single – 2019

Queer folk music seems to be one of my themes of 2020, and “Maker” falls solidly into that bucket as well.

Manic Pixie Dream Girl

Bandshes – Beautiful World – 2015

The Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope doesn’t hit as hard as it did in 2015–fighting aginst it was something friends of mine dealt with on a regular basis in high school and college — but sometimes we (those socialized initially as “men”) could do with a reminder of how toxic that trope is and was.

My Darling Dopamine

Days N Daze – Show Me the Blueprints. – 2020

A more approachable introduction to folk-punk than AJJ’s “Brave as a Noun”, Days N Daze continually hit it out of the park for me with there blend of rough vocals, aggressive rhythm guitars and trumpet. Yes, trumpet. Underutilized on this track but its a true sign of their sound in my opinion.

My Own Worst Enemy

Get Scared – Punk Goes 90’s, Vol. 2 – 2014

The Punk Goes… series of albums tends to always be a mixed bag, but some of my favorite ‘punk’ songs have come from them, and in some cases, like in Get Scared’s cover of Lit’s classic, actually become my preferred version of the song.

Necromancin Dancin

Bear Ghost – Blasterpiece – 2016

So apparently there is this genre called Adventure Rock — its sort of like a rock version of filk, which are nerdy folk songs. This song is literally about dancing skeletons. It also does a wonderful job of having layered pieces running through that give the song more musical depth than that description would evoke.

Not the End of the World (Even as We Know It)

Faded Paper Figures – Relics – 2014

A response of sorts to REM’s classic; Faded Paper Figures seems to understand that everything is just going to keep happening. And happening. And happening.

Only Anarchists Are Pretty

World/Inferno Friendship Society – Red-Eyed Soul – 2006

A laid-back ska piece about falling in love with a frequently-demonstrating anarachist. More fun to sing to than one would expect.

The OtherSide

The Roots/Bilal Oliver, Greg Porn – Undun – 2011

Y’all, The Roots are just really good. Their rhythm section never dissapoints and their flow is always clean. I really need to listen to more of their stuff.

Own It

Central Park Cast – Central Park Season One, The Soundtrack – 2020

I have not watched a single clip of Central Park — its currently limited to only Apple TV which I don’t subscribe to, but “Own It” came up through a Discover Weekly and it hits all the right buttons for me for a song from a “musical” — multiple view points, shifting tempos and feels, layered vocals — particularly when you have different parts of the song happening on top of each other — I love picking apart stuff like that. “Own It” is simple compared to say, “Snow” from Rent but it scratches the itch.

Parasite Eve

Bring Me The Horizon – POST HUMAN: SURVIVAL HORROR

One of the heaviest pieces in my playlist–a friend of mine got really obsessed with this album when it dropped but only “Parasite Eve” really stuck to me, probably due to how often the song shifts feels in terms of both the vocals and backdrop. Actual contrast really helps music stick out.

The Party Song

blink-182 – Enema of the State – 1999

At this point in my life I just refuse to go back and listen to old blink-182 albums so that when I do stumble across them I get more/new blink-182. Its a flawless plan. (Is “The Party Song” good from a moral standpoint? Probably not. Is it fun? Probably yes.)

Perpetual Mild Illness

The Original Crooks and Nannies – Soup for My Girlfriend – 2015

“I know I’ve got lungs cause they ache a bit // I know I’m meant to be an artist cause I feel like shit // all the time.” is an anthem if I’ve ever heard one. I don’t think I know of any other songs specifically about being sick all the time so props for that as well.

Post Break-Up Sex

The Vaccines – What Did You Expect from the Vaccines?

Aww yeah, songs about unhealthily rebounding from your ex by sleeping around and how that doesn’t really fix your problems wooo.

PRDR

fox capture plan – Discovery – 2020

If the opening piano riffs to this track don’t get you raring to go than I don’t know if any music I could recommend would. fox capture plan are one of my favorite Japanese instrumental rock groups — and they should be one of yours too.

The Real Folk Blues

Mason Lieberman et al – Single – 2020

This group cover of one of the most famous songs from the life-changing soundtrack to Cowboy Bebop is a rocker of a track, integrating a myriad of elements not present in the initial — group vocals, greater variety in instrumentation, even a rap break. Its phenomnal, but mostly in that it gives me an excuse to tell people to go listen to The Seatbelts.

Relatable (peak OME)

Open Mike Eagle – Single – 2018

Open Mike Eagle peels back some of his persona to show how incredibly normal other people really are. What other kind of track is going to include lines about forgetting people’s names or trouble with a garbage disposal? Oh, and then institutional racism.

Scratch Me Up

Catbite – Catbite – 2019

If you’ve gotten this far down the list then by now you’ve realized that I listened to a lot of ska this year. This one, well, this one is about rough sex. What would you expect from a band called Catbite?

Self

Noname – Room 25 – 2018

Noname is one of the best lyricists writing rap today, likely. Her intro track, “Self” is just gold from top to bottom. “My * wrote a thesis on colonialism” is one of the lines you just…aren’t gonna forget anytime soon.

Semi-Charmed Life

Dance Gavin Dance – Songs That Saved My Life – 2018

“Semi-Charmed Life” is a classic, no doubt about it. Dance Gavin Dance’s cover is just as hard to pick out every word from, just at different points, making them great compliments to each other. The cover doesn’t do anything extraoridinary to the base track but it does have great energy.

Sexy Anarchist Boy

Cheese On Bread – The Search For Colonel Mustard – 2007

Unrequited love between a person who seems to worship organization and an anarchist whose views she doesn’t respect and who isn’t interested in her. Cheese on Bread is a weird band but I dig it.

SHEESHFRED

Alfred. – One Trick Pony – 2020

One of the newer entries onto my list — I definitely need more time to parse the words and understand them all but hot damn does it just like, wash over me and leave me feeling calm and ready.

Shotgun

Pomplamoose/dodie – Single – 2019

A love letter to riding on the open road in likely a convertable. No one’s really doing road trips this year so its nice to put this track on and just pretend for a few moments.

Simple and Clean

J-Music Ensemble – Time to Play – 2016

Kingdom Hearts 3 may have been a dissappointment this year, but this jazz cover of the opener to the original PS2 game certainly does not.

Smile

Maisie Peters – Birds of Prey: The Album – 2020

Did y’all realize that Birds of Prey came out this year? Time is a construct and we’ve voided the warranty. The whole album is full of great tracks, but “Smile” ended up on a different playlist of mine so due to sheer exposure its risen above the rest.

Speed Me Up

Wiz Khalifa/Ty Dolla $ign/Lil Yachty/Sueco the Child – Single – 2020

So I haven’t seen the Sonic the Hedgehog movie, but this promotional track is just a bop and I will take no criticism of it. (Except valid criticism of course.)

Steps

HAIM – The Steps – 2020

HAIM is just great — I don’t know how I’ve slept on them this long; I didn’t hear any of their stuff till 2018. Steps is just another solid entry in their discog.

Taco Bell

That Kid – Crush – 2020

The future is queer. This dude is gonna go places. His tracks are just stellar — I first heard him in 2018’s “Dial Tone” but “Taco Bell” proves that he can hold his own without sharing the track with other artists. Its such a both sweet and sexual song at the same time, which also being, again, hella queer.

La Terminal

Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra/Monsieur Perine – Tokyo Ska-Lorful Collage – 2019

Less a ska song than it is a pop song backed by one of the best ska ensembles in the world right now, “La Terminal” is easy listening that could get you listening to some of TSPO’s harder hitters from the album, like “HAMMERHEAD” or “Ska-lorful Collage”.

Think About Things

Daoi Freyr – Single – 2020

In a year without a pandemic, “Think About Things” would have won Eurovision. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VFZNvj-HfBU. The combo of heartfelt lyrics about being in love with someone learning how to speak your language with the almost absurd deadpan nature of the visuals in their video would and should have rocketed them to the finals and beyond. What a damn shame.

Two of a Crime

Perma – Two of a Crime – 2013

A love duet of a murderer and a woman whose just like “that’s awesome let’s have kids.” Feels like its from a stage play, but its not!

A Very Musical Meltdown

Reb Day – Single – 2018

A single by a YouTuber I believe with no other tracks on Spotify, and it was written for a year that was less chaotic but I think everyone’s having a meltdown this year so it felt particularly appropos.

Visitor

Of Monsters and Men – Single – 2020

I will always be hunting for Of Monsters and Men tracks that make me feel like their debut My Head is an Animal album did. Visitor doesn’t — but its close, and its a pretty good jam in its own right.

The Walker

Fitz and The Tantrums – More Than Just a Dream – 2013

I am a sucker for whistling in music. I don’t know why, but when your track opens up with whistling I’m a good 900% more likely to listen to the whole thing. “The Walker” is no exception but the song itself does have a great groove to it to back it up.

We’ll Be Alright

RADWIMPS – Single – 2019

RADWIMPS work on the soundtrack for Your Name is the stuff of legends, so I’ve tried to keep tabs. “We’ll Be Alright” is a wonderfully evocative track, even if like me you can’t understand spoken Japanese.

You Are The Apple

Lady Lamb – Ripely Pine – 2013

I’m not gonna lie, this is a deeply weird song. Its melanchony, deeply overdramatic and yet somehow I keep coming back to this song of how the woman is still very very into her ex.

Yours Truly, 2095

The Megas – Snakes – 2020

The Megas and their alter egos The Belmonts consistently put out solid video game rock, and the Snakes album is no exception, with “Yours Truly, 2095”, being among their more ambitious tracks, far more adventurous than their debut “Get Equipped” which stuck far closer to the text of the original tunes.

女神

Polkadot Stingray – Single – 2019

Polkadot Stingray rocks. Nuff said.