Here’s a link to the playlist. The play buttons embedded here will play 30-second clips if you’re not logged into Spotify in your browser, which is probably the best way to listen to the tracks while reading this article.
Well, it’s the end of 2020. I’m honestly surprised that I had found so many tracks this month after my music habits this month were so outside the norm I established in the months prior, but I’m glad to be able to share this playlist with you, completely free of Christmas music.
… But I will unofficially mention Glüme’s “Santa Baby,” a real ripper of a take on that Christmas staple.
Nana Adjoa — National Song
There’s just something about “National Song” that grabs your heartstrings and refuses to let go, slowly falling down an infinite, imperceptible chasm with you.
I’d be hard-pressed to find a track that better conveys the emotion of the questions inherent in its lyrics with its instrumentation — the questions of identity, tradition, and power that must necessarily be difficult to discuss are supremely reflected by this gut-wrenching song.
At the very end of the track, the already wide bass line fills out the rest of the bottom of the space, taking on a special type of distortion and accelerating the movement of the rest of the repeating refrain completely on its own, shifting that bottom line to completely collapse the chord structure into something completely different. It’s a brilliant strategy, and it fits into the thematic motifs of the track so, so well.
Cherry Glazerr — Rabbit Hole
It is extremely cool that Cherry Glazerr is still churning out the hits, perfectly riding the wave of experimentation within the sound of the time that each track is released. If you were to listen to “Rabbit Hole” on its own, you may have a hard time connecting it to two of their other tracks which make the list of my all-time favorites: “Told You I’d Be with the Guys” and “Had Ten Dollaz.”
“Rabbit Hole” is incredibly fun, but still slightly mysterious; it has a lot of that same energy of some of Glazerr’s older tracks, just in a completely different platform. And of course, Clementine Creevy’s vocals are a standout star, completely placing the performance of each line into the best place it could possibly be placed — and, of course, much like the rest of Cherry Glazerr’s catalog, this song is catchy as heck.
HONEYMOAN — Too Much
“Too Much” is a sort of hybrid masterpiece of pop, electronic, and rock — there’s these ripping driving tones that come out of nowhere after a really fun combination of jangle, a nearly drum machine beat, and a bass which rounds everything out.
That chorus really stands out to me; it’s not overly overdriven, and it stands in massive contrast to the rest of the song, but it doesn’t feel out of place. It’s fun, and I can imagine that it’s a real shredding feeling when it’s played live.
This Is The Kit — This Is What You Did
It’s hard to explain why “This Is What You Did” makes me feel so emotional, but maybe it’s the combination of Kate Stables’s fantastic vocal take and the unique structure of the song. The combination of the banjo and lightly overdriven guitar which kicks in in the chorus play so well off of the slight rhythmic fluctuations which move around the main vocal line.
And, of course, there are few songs that aren’t improved by an ethereal saxophone solo. Maybe I’m just a sucker for this “future folk” tone, but this, like every other song I would even begin to refer to as future folks is simply hard to categorize. It’s outside the norm, but not jarring. It’s innovative, and “This Is What You Did” sticks with you for all the right reasons.
Lauren Auder — june 14th
This track from Lauren Auder is astonishingly powerful. Their vocals play a perfect partner to the resonant orchestration which draws chords in the air, creating a song that’s evocative and emotive.
The mechanical aspects of the song are all completely perfect, but there’s something about Auder’s lyrics and performance that make the entire thing extraordinarily cinematic. This track is clearly orchestrated, and built in order to move you, and it does its job incredibly well — especially with that extremely sweet and crushing piano take at the end which just puts a bow on the rest of the heart-wrenching package.
Samantha Crain — Pastime
“Pastime” is such a lovely track, with Crain’s vocals the star player in powerful track that plays on the line between acoustic and electronic. The pop-like structure has subtle twists and turns which make it immensely catchy and novel. And gosh, if that chorus isn’t extremely cool, with the rising vocal line and impressive instrumentation.
It was hard for me to pick just one track off this album, A Small Death — another one I must mention is the Choctaw-language “When We Remain,” an acoustic story of a song which is just as gripping as the rest of the tracks on the record.
Night Shop — Hello Take Me Anywhere
“Hello Take Me Anywhere” has such a cool twelve-bar groove. Justin Sullivan’s half-shouted vocals are super, driving the track just like its punchy snare hits, making it impossible not to bob your head along to the rhythm.
The chorus which kicks in in the chorus is lovely and sweet, but still fit in so well with this sort of “cruisin’ with the top down” vibe; and though the guitar solo doesn’t have any particular element that I can point to other than its fun play with that piano underlay, it just works so well with the rest of the track.
Narrow Head — Stuttering Stanley
I have a hard time pining this track down to any one particular genre; it’s kind of noise rock, it’s definitely not shoegaze, though you could see it kind of pointing in that direction, it’s not post-emo or post- anything, but you’ll know what I’m saying when you hear it.
The atmosphere of this song is slightly dark, but there’s something still incredibly honest and playful about it, especially in the backing vocals of the chorus.
PVA — Exhaust / Surroundings
This is just an extraordinarily cool track. It starts off a bit soft and quiet, then the powerful pads kick in — the atmosphere reads something like the background to a huge moment in a really cool video game. Ella Harris’s vocals, in particular, are mysterious and perfect for the dark and spooky tone that slowly builds as the song progresses. Each part rolls perfectly into the next, particularly the dueling vocals.
PVA seem to be really early in their career together as a group, and I’m excited to see what else they release together!
Jayda G — Both Of Us
“Both of Us” is a recent release, but it’s already exploding across the airwaves — what remains of the airwaves — on its merit as a dance hit. There’s so much movement behind this combination of traditional dance techniques and Jayda G’s unique vocals and production; it’s dynamic, but always danceable, even when the tempo shifts down. It’s powerful, but not distracting.
One listen and I’m sure you’ll know exactly which of your playlists you’ll want to put this track on!
Jad & The — Space Infinitum
This track is a little more House than the typical tracks that I feature in this article, but the groove here is undeniable. This song went straight onto my “electronic music to listen to while I work” playlist — it’s uptempo and motivational, it’s fun and engaging, but it can sit in the background and push your brain forward while you get stuff done.
The symphony of instrumentation is so well mixed across this album, but this track is a real stand out to me for the way that the traditional dance effects blend in and out of the soundscape; it’s put together so well, and when it’s played loud, each independent part is unique but part of a powerful whole.
It’s rare that I include a song without vocals on this playlist, but I thought that it had far too good of a groove not to share it!