Some of these overlap with my favorite albums of the year, while others represent excellent albums that still deserve attention. This would make an eclectic but enriching playlist with plenty of avenues to pursue for further listening.
- “JU$T” – Run the Jewels | RTJ4
In a year when we finally, seriously ask ourselves if it’s ok to have federal buildings named after confederate generals, RTJ reminds us just how pervasive this issue is and how many steps back we have to take to really see the entirety of the scene. The whole damn system is guilty as hell.
- “Lovely Gold” – Damaged Bug | Bug on Yonkers
Just try to sit still while this is playing. It can be problematic while operating a motor vehicle, which is too bad, because it’s perfect driving music.
- “Canopnr ’74” – Osees | Protean Threat
I love Dwyer’s inventive sounds, and this track is a prime example. The thrumming, the whirring, the claps, this track requires a whole new onomatopoeic vocabulary to even begin describing. Exactly the thing when you need to pump yourself up.
- “Strange Timez” – Gorillaz | “Song Machine, Season One: Strange Timez”
Robert Smith is a perfect match for the Gorillaz sound, his melancholy in lockstep with Damon Albarn’s. The video for this only enhances the sound.
- Time (You & I) – Khruanbgin | Mordechai
It’s a song that doesn’t end–it loops in such a way that you can just hum it to yourself and dance into infinity.
- “Intrasport” – King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard | G.
While the album features sounds from past albums with heavy nods to Flying Microtonal Banana, this track stands out as relatively unique. The closest relative would be the rave sounds concluding “Acarine,” but with a more East European flavor.
- “Gravity” – Adrian Younge, Ali Shaheed Muhammad, Roy Ayers | Roy Ayers JID002
Of all the songs on this incredible album, this is the one that lives in my head.
- “Mulatu” – Mulatu Astatke, Black Jesus Experience | “To Know Without Knowing”
This beautiful album features trademark Astatke brass and jazz rhythms with vocals in Amharic as well as English spoken word overlays.
- “Sea Monkey Daddy” – Clownvis | Squeeb
What better to distract you from the world caving in than an alien becoming father to a family of Sea Monkeys? The theme song from this story arc is a brilliant ear worm. If you haven’t been rescued yet by Clownvis to the Rescue, it’s still not too late.
- “Devils and Angels” – Rufus Wainwright | Unfollow the Rules
Another rock of stability during the turbulence of 2020, Wainwright’s daily Quarantunes kept me hopeful and feeling connected to the world. The delayed release was worth the wait, and this track captures the anguish so many of us experienced. | Courtney Dowdall