Music of 2020

words and links and mixes

Here are five 2020 mixes made from music released this year (except when it wasn’t). People who have donated/subscribed/paid money will get a WeTransfer link with all the lossless files and track listings tomorrow. (The track listing on Mixcloud is auto-generated, but it’s pretty accurate.) My Spotify 2020 songs playlist is also up. A lot of work went into the stuff on Mixcloud and Spotify, and there is no overlap between them.

There is also a list of my favorite 2020 Bandcamp records on Buy Music Club, which didn’t demand a lot of work. (I don’t know much about the service but they seem cool and they provide an easy way to audition and buy albums.) I am in favor of the Bandcamp ecosystem, as it presents one version of the only viable model: eliminate the vultures and speak to your audience directly. Give nothing to the machine, abandon scale, and build a community.

Below are comments on albums that I loved. These lists and mixes, as a whole, do not represent a ranked group nor is any of this presented as exhaustive coverage. I think my most-listened-to album this year was Autechre’s SIGN, but I couldn’t think of anything new to say about it. I think we are all listed out, so I tried to keep it short.


Actress 88: There is no joy beyond immanence itself here, solid displacement found in the greyest beats. It’s probably just odds and sods but that maybe that’s why I love it, a pure stash of unworried performances.

Alabaster de Plume To Cy & Lee: Instrumentals Vol. 1: Carefully strained jazz wash over pop rice no words no grids no masters.

AMPLIFY 2020: If we want to say something as stupid as “album of the year,” let’s say it now. Jon Abbey, you’re actually crazy for this one. Instead of holding AMPLIFY as a live festival, which he’s done many times, Abbey made AMPLIFY a free online quarantine festival. The end results is many many hours of murder spa, kitchen spa, magical field recordings, anonymous aurochs, wild string walks, and all manner of undefined mayhem. Uplifting in a deep and true sense.

Bellows Undercurrent: Paper flow and viscous snap and humane measurements.

Bill Callahan & Bonnie “Prince” Billy Bill Communication: Callahan’s Gold was the song album I listened to the most, but his and Bonnie “Prince” Billy’s re-reading of eleven mansongs from the Seventies is sublime. (These songs are not actually collected under the title Bill Communication—yet.)

Body Meπa The Work Is Slow: Sometimes the album of the year comes out in December. Patience, people!

Bookworms: Buy all of it.

candlesnuffer Eggs from a Varnished Chest: One reason I love improvisation is that it lets me hear people think. I like hearing Dave Brown think with a tenor guitar, making the sounds that fulfill the title, which I cannot explain, which is my favorite feeling.

Caribou Suddenly: The album we listened to most often in the first half of the year.

Charles Curtis Performances & Recordings 1998-2018: Deep musicality, freed of any language limits, which echoes both Kassel Jaeger’s Meith and the SAULT records.

Circles Around the Sun Circles Around The Sun: I think they love playing together.

CS + Kreme Reel Torque 20 + Snoopy: These guys do relaxed mayhem so well.

Dirty Projectors 5EPs: These are the melodies Longstreth has been trying to write for years.

Flora Yin-Wong Holy Palm: Field recordings flipped and music left out in the field.

Inoyama Land Fuku-Ura: A lullaby that makes me sob.

James Rushford Música Callada / See the Welter: A four-color elaboration of piano monophony.

Jay Electronica A Written Testimony: I love hearing Jay and Jay talk.

Jon Gibson Songs & Melodies, 1973-1977: Gone too soon and not remembered enough.

Kassel Jaeger Meith: Sat in well-lit room, covered in spiderwebs of chocolate braids and plastic gems. If music is the sustaining of a line, the maintenance of a fully realized world, this is the most musical music of the year. I would hope someone committed to playing a manually manipulated instrument (sax, drums) would be able to hear the phenomenal attention paid here.

Marina Rosenfeld Deathstar: Ash drifting after the collision of two trucks.

Mark Fell and WIll Guthrie Infoldings: A rumbling rhino in the stove of lost bells. Kitchen spa of the year.

Martin Rude & Jakob Skøtt Duo The Discipline of Assent: Delightful quilt stitched together from a recording session done in March, right before lockdown. Plenty of flow and room sound and good shrapnel.

Neil Young Archives Vol. II: I’m not sure there’s a more consistent Neil album.

Phoebe Bridgers Punisher: This reminds me of when Car Wheels on a Gravel Road came out and I walked around, reciting the songs in lower Manhattan, wondering what Lucinda Williams would say about the corner of Broadway and Walker.

Pink Siifu & Fly Anakin FlySiifu’s: Pink Siifu has yet to make a bad record.

Pole Fading: Stefan Betke has yet to make a bad record.

René Aquarius Universe: This shit is detailed and layered and does not sound like our man wandered off to the bog while the oscillators bumped.

Róisín Murphy Róisín Machine: There’s more in disco than most imagine—this machine kills boredom.

Shackleton/Zimpel Primal Forms: Widely swung censers and closely watched machines. Someone will say minimalism someone will say non-Western I think it’s just an organ.

Soccer Mommy Color Theory: Sophia Allison works with the hook as catharsis.

The Fear Ratio They Can't Be Saved: Slow pancake beat admiration, classic 90s, cushy.

Tomotsugu Nakamura Literature: A bit like Oval chops of Windham Hill.

Toulouse Low Trax Jumping Dead Leafs: Beats turned out like chocolate cakes, just one guy practicing his high kicks on a pad sampler for a few decades.

Wire Mind Hive: Wire have yet to make a bad record.