2020 Listening

Ranking music is unwise – not that there was a surfeit of wisdom literature guiding me/them/us this year. 2020 was the first year in almost fifteen that I didn’t have my regular radio show to program and host mid-week (KXLU went on automation in March once the full impact of the plague was known). In a typical week, I might listen to tens of LPs as restless monitor of an archive well beyond any possible grasp, even as access and recovery of a century-plus of recordings is easier than ever.

Ironically, even without a regular event to goad me into research, I listened to music more than ever in 2020, perhaps a bit more broadly even, finding niches and contexts that both co-listening and solo absorption might allow. Since my radio show tends toward archival releases and reissues, with a decidedly international and creative/experimental bent, I can be a bit repetitive and opportunistic in where I go to source it – what remains of vinyl blogs, Bandcamp’s sprawl, podcast collectives, and what I can random-walk into by training recommendation algorithms on several streaming platforms.

This year I found myself listening to more to instrumental / library / gaussian music than typically – I often am impatient with it, and crave the human voice, especially deep song and non-English folk and art song. But perhaps because I was often ‘lying abed’ reading at home for hours at a time, sound that was parallel and ambient worked more. To its opposite, I also found more time for hip-hop and club music on walks in the hills and in the cabin, in rarer moments when the kids were siloed on headphones, distance-‘learning’.

In any case, here’s a survey of the field-and-well I went to repeatedly in the past twelve months. In a nod to the ghost of Rick Dees, a top 40 (inclusive of both new releases and ’20 reissues) based on frequency of spins and some intuitive feels, followed by a top 100 loosely grouped by the unwisest thing of all in this post-genre paradise of music: microgenres of unreliable integrity and delimitation. I’ll try to link to some playlists come free moments in January.


2020 by Feel & Frequency: A Top 40

  1. Lina_Raul Referee – s/t
  2. v/a – The Storm of Life (Death Is Not the End)
  3. Cindy Lee – What’s Tonight to Eternity
  4. This is the Kit – Off Off On
  5. Jaime Roos & Estella Magnone – Mujer de Sal Junto a un Hombre Vuelto Carbón
  6. Andre Gibson & Universal Togetherness Band – Apart: Demos 1980-1984
  7. Alabaster DePlume – To Cy & Lee
  8. Jon McKiel – Bobby Joe Hope
  9. Mary Halverson’s Code Girl – Artlessly Falling
  10. SAULT – Untitled (Black Is) / (Rise)
  11. Okkyung Lee – Yeo-Neun
  12. Cosmo Sheldrake – Wake Up Calls
  13. Aksak Maboul – Figures
  14. Caetano Veloso & Ivan Sacerdote – s/t
  15. Priscilla Ermel – Origens Da Luz
  16. Nina Simone – Fodder on My Wings
  17. Kate NV – Room for the Moon
  18. Slauson Malone – Vergangenheitsbdewältigung (Crater Speak)
  19. Shirley Collins – Heart’s Ease
  20. Beverly Glenn-Copeland – Transmissions
  21. Sylvia Tarozzi – Mi specchio e rifletto
  22. Eddie Chacon – Pleasure, Joy and Happiness
  23. Dawan Muhammed – Deep Stream
  24. Ray Larsen – Songs to fill the air
  25. Pastor T.L. Barrett and the Youth for Christ Choir – Do Not Pass Me By Vol.1
  26. Moor Mother & billy woods – Brass
  27. Thiago Nassif – Mente
  28. The Koreatown Oddity – Little Dominiques Nosebleed
  29. Microphones – Microphones in 2020
  30. Jyoti & Georgia Anne Muldrow – Mama, You Can Bet!
  31. Les Amazones d’Afrique – Amazones Power
  32. Perfume Genius — Set My Heart on Fire Immediately
  33. Lonnie Holley – National Freedom
  34. Arca – KiCk i
  35. Star Feminine Band – s/t
  36. Jeff Parker – Suite for Max Brown
  37. Minyo Crusaders & Frente Cumbiero – From Tokyo to Bogata
  38. Horse Lords – The Common Task
  39. Gabriels – Love and Hate in a Different Time (EP)
  40. Dirty Projectors – 5EPs

20 in ’20: Reissues & Archival

Andre Gibson & Universal Togetherness Band – Apart: Demos 1980-1984
Beverly Glenn-Copeland – Transmissions
Dawan Muhammed – Deep Stream
Jaime Roos & Estella Magnone – Mujer de Sal Junto a un Hombre Vuelto Carbón
Jon Hassell – Vernal Equinox
Moondog – On the Streets of New York
Mort Garson – Music from Patch Cord Productions / Unexplained / Black Mass
Nina Simone – Fodder on My Wings
Pastor T.L. Barrett and the Youth for Christ Choir – Do Not Pass Me By Vol.1
Priscilla Ermel – Origens Da Luz
Rustem Quliyev – Azerbaijani Gitara
Sharhabil Ahmed: Habibi Funk 13, The King of Sundanese Jazz
Sun Ra – Haverford College, Jan 25, 1980 (Solo Rhodes)
Svitlana Nianio & Oleksandr Yurchenko – Znayesh Yak? Rozkazhy
Théâtre Du Chêne Noir D’Avignon – Aurora
v/a – America Invertida
v/a – Excavated Shellac: An Alternate History of the World
v/a – How the River Ganges Flows: Masterpieces of Indian Violin (’33-52)
v/a – La Locura de Machuca 1975-1980
v/a – The Storm of Life (Death Is Not the End)


20 in ’20: Deep Cuts & Adventurous Listens

Anna von Hautwolf – All Thoughts Fly
Bastien Keb – The Killing of Eugene Peeps
Bohren & Der Club of Gore – Patchouli Blue
clipping. – Visions of Bodies Being Burned
DJ Dlaki – Balani Fou
DJ Chengz – St Lucian Kuduro Mixtape
Duma – Duma
Eyvind Kang – Ajaeng Ajaeng
Jennifer Walshe: A Late Anthology of Early Music
Keeley Forsyth – Debris / Photograph
Le Grand Sbam – Furvent
Liturgy – Origin of the Alimonies
MC Yallah – Mama Waliwamanyii (EP)
Pink Siifu – NEGRO / Pink Siifu’s
Nnamdi Ogbonnaya – Krazy Karl
Slauson Malone – Vergangenheitsbdewältigung (Crater Speak)
Svitlana Nianio & Oleksandr Yurchenko – Znayesh Yak? Rozkazhy
Sylvia Tarozzi – Mi specchio e rifletto
Théâtre Du Chêne Noir D’Avignon – Aurora
v/a – A Young Person’s Guide to Unseen Worlds By Visible Cloaks


15 in ’20: Library Music

Ak’chamel, The Giver of Illness – The Totemist
Andrew Wasylyk – Fugitive Light and Themes of Consolation
Cate Le Bon + Group Listening – Here It Comes Again
Cosmo Sheldrake – Wake Up Calls
Dominique Dumont – People On Sunday
Emily A. Sprague – Hill, Flower, Fog
Faten Kanaan – A Mythology of Circles
Haruomi Hosono – Hana ni Mizu
Jon Hassell – Vernal Equinox (reissue)
Luke Schneider – Altar of Harmony
Mary Lattimore – Silver Ladders
Mong Tong – Mystery
Nathan Salsburg – Landwerk
Ohneohtrix Point Never – Magic Ohneohtrix Point Never
Okkyung Lee – Yeo-Neun


15 in ’20: Beats & Club Music

Arca – KiCk i
Boldy James – Manger on McNichols
Chester Watson – A Japanese Horror Film
Gabriels – Love and Hate in a Different Time (EP)
Hope Tala – Girl Eats Sun
Khruangbin – Mordechai
Moor Mother & billy woods – Brass
Moses Sumney – grae
Open Mike Eagle – Anime, Trauma & Divorce
Quelle Chris, Chris Keys – Innocent Country 2
SAULT – Untitled (Black Is) / (Rise)
The Koreatown Oddity – Little Dominiques Nosebleed
The Weeknd – After Hours
Yaeji – WHAT WE DREW
Your Old Droog – Dump YOD: Yutnoy Edition


15 in ’20: Art Rock & Indie Auteurs

Andy Shauf – The Neon Skyline
Aksak Maboul – Figures
Bartees Strange – Live Forever
Bill Callahan – Gold Record
Cindy Lee – What’s Tonight to Eternity
Deradoorian – Find the Sun
Dirty Projectors – 5EPs
Drab City – Good Songs for Bad People
Eddie Chacon – Pleasure, Joy and Happiness
Horse Lords – The Common Task
Jon McKiel – Bobby Joe Hope
Kate NV – Room for the Moon
Microphones – Microphones in 2020
Perfume Genius — Set My Heart on Fire Immediately
This is the Kit – Off Off On


15 in ’20: Jazz & Outernational

Alabaster DePlume – To Cy & Lee
Bab L’ Bluz – Nayda!
Caetano Veloso & Ivan Sacerdote – s/t
Group RTD – The Dancing Devils of Djibouti
Jeff Parker – Suite for Max Brown
Jyoti & Georgia Anne Muldrow – Mama, You Can Bet!
Kiko Dinucci – Rastilho
Les Amazones d’Afrique – Amazones Power
Lina_Raul Referee – s/t
Mary Halverson’s Code Girl – Artlessly Falling
Minyo Crusaders & Frente Cumbiero – From Tokyo to Bogata
Ray Larsen – Songs to fill the air
Star Feminine Band – s/t
Thiago Nassif – Mente
v/a – Electro Acholi Kaboom from Northern Uganda

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