Tim F says Goodbye to All That, or at least to 2020

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In which I write a few words about some of my favourite songs during 2020.

Solitary Dancer
“Will U Meet Me?”

Mid-nineties jungle’s language of accelerated and chopped breakbeats felt and continues to feel so unprecedented, so outside the ordinary vocabulary of modern popular music, that electronic artists have now spent several decades pondering exactly how it ought to be re-enlivened, and mostly shied away. This has started to change in the last few years, producing a raft of both straightforwardly revivalist tunes and also curios like “Will U Meet Me?”, which does not feel like it could have easily survived in the mid-nineties or perhaps at any time much prior to now. In fact, from the winsome title on downwards (or inwards), “Will U Meet Me?” could as readily be an Air France tune, toying with a brand of emotionalism as impossible seeming as it is manipulative. If there is a “proper” jungle precedent for it, it might be Omni Trio’s 1994 classic “Thru the Vibe’, with its stirring synth string bed, plangent plucked harp chord vamps and ridiculously intricate programmed beat like Edwards Scissorhands performing keyhole surgery on your left ventricle.

Being released some twenty-six years later, “Will U Meet Me?” doesn’t march quite so confidently into the future, but the tune makes up for this with its capacity for emotional estrangement, its shuddering synth chords and climbing arpeggios simultaneously evoking nostalgia and unease, its disconnected vocal samples (“will you meet me?” “I think I’ve fallen”, “as long as the sun shines, I think I’ll stay… I know I’ll stay”) tracing only the barest outline of a possible story, and finally its beat, a wondrous living contraption of papery, live-sounding drums that twists and snaps with the force and sinuous menace of a writhing snake, like Roni Size’s “Share the Fall” crossed with drill and bass, and possessing that very human quality of seeming always on the verge of tripping over itself, of falling behind as it gets lost in its own intricacies. Eventually the beat and the arpeggios fall away, leaving only those resonant synth chords, over which the unknown female speaker asks, “someday, can we fly away?”, before the beat kicks back in with a furious intensity, and all melody temporarily disappears, as if to make a point about the fragility of dreams of escape, about the inevitability of hard knocks.

Brent Faiyaz
“Dead Man Walking”

When the Weeknd first appeared peddling moody, doom-laden R&B beloved of Pitchfork and so on, we used to joke about all the rapturous reviews talking about his music being like observing a party through a haze of smoke. Now, the Weeknd is a big pop star, and everyone just jokes about his post-plastic surgery face (cue jokes about “I Can’t Feel My Face” being more literal than we realised), all of which is another way of saying “lol, I’m old”.

Music critic Frank Kogan has a “rule of the game” he calls the Boney Joan Rule, which states that “any reason I give for liking a performer will also be a reason I give for disliking some other performer. E.g., I love Liz Mitchell’s clear, empty tones (Liz Mitchell being the lead singer of Boney M). I can’t stand Joan Baez’s clear, empty tones.”

I could almost suspect that “Dead Man Walking” exists to rebuke me somehow, because every time I try to write about it, I worry that I sound like I’m describing the early work of the Weekend. Brent even starts by singing, “drop the roof and let the smoke clear”, though in fairness he’s talking about his car; still, the smoke (evoked here by shimmering strings over which achingly spare pizzicato plucks trace out the bones of a melody) never really clears, so the analogy remains standing.

But Brent has a better and stronger melodic sense than the song’s crouching dark vibes would suggest, his preternaturally smooth vocals bending and folding over themselves in layers of harmony that create both distance and intimacy, and it’s never really clear which way Brent wants to jump anyway. He asks, “would you tell the world my secrets, if I let you close?”, this time over a slow, heavy drum beat that doesn’t appear until halfway through the song, making clear that the depressive Phil Collins vibes that hang over “Dead Man Walking” are no accident (drums that tell a story were something of a trend in 2020 R&B; see also Usher’s marvellous “Bad Habits”).

Later in his explication of the Boney Joan Rule, Frank explains, “I’m not trying to say that there are no real reasons, or that the reasons we give are bogus, or that no reason is better than any other, or that to try and search them out is a waste of time. In fact, I believe just the opposite, and I’m baffled that people don’t delve more deeply into their own reasons, don’t ask themselves why they pull one reason out of their hat in Situation A only to abandon it in Situation B. When we give reasons we’re basically winging it, but this isn’t because we’re clueless but because we know too much to rigidly apply the same principles to what are many varied and rich circumstances.”

And maybe part of the answer here is that a portion of me liked the Weeknd a bit more than I let on all along, but another part is that I just buy more completely the pathos that Brent is selling, wrapped as it is in a false sense of equanimity as light as air, skating effortlessly over its own chasm of emptiness. “You can do what you wanna / live how you wanna / spend what you wanna / be who you wanna be” he promises some unnamed hook-up, but he doesn’t mean it, and I’m well past the point where I’d trust the guy in any event; but knowing he knows we know he’s full of shit makes me like him more.

Jorja Smith
“Rose Rouge”

In this case, I’m in love with the concept fully as much as the resulting product. In 2000, French producer St. Germain releases the delightful jazz-house track “Rose Rouge”, liberally sampling a live version of Marlena Shaw’s gorgeous soul tune “Woman of the Ghetto” (also the basis of the wordless chorus of Blue Boy’s “Remember Me”), though mostly just a few disconnected instructions from Marlena’s acapella intro: “I want you to get together… Put your hands together one time.” The tune becomes something of a recurrent, recombinant virus, popping up again and again in a variety of dance music contexts, most notably for me as a stripped back “edit” beloved of Luciano circa 2007, just as the brief reign of minimal techno was sinking into an ocean of deep house. In 2020, jazz label Blue Note, flushed with the unexpected recent creative and commercial accomplishments of a new generation of jazz performers, releases a compilation of new tracks including this, a cover by R&B singer Jorja Smith of St Germain’s house track, in something of a snake-eating-its-own-tail feat of circular reasoning. At the outset, Jorja sighs ecstatically over a gorgeous rush of improvised piano runs and bass noodling, before a moment of absolute silence; then Jorja, right up close in your ear, murmuring, “I want you to get together…”

And we’re off, off on a lecture of what it means to be fucking with jazz in 2020 (being: it means seeing jazz’s displacement as genre on the forefront of modern music not as an error but as a challenge; it means fucking with everything else simultaneously, using jazz as a skeleton key to unlock the door to any world you want), but more importantly off on a trip in which each new sound added to the mix feels like a revelation. By the time the horns arrive to deliver the track’s central hook (only three minutes in, but it feels like a commendable feat of restraint to wait that long), this sense of layering, of momentum, has become almost unbearably sensuous, like a million feathers running up and down the back of your neck.

Katie Pruitt

Thunder doesn’t only happen when it’s raining; sometimes you can force it to materialise through sheer will. This happens twice on “Expectations”, the first time with a guitar solo that emerges like scalding lava from the song’s soft-rock lilt, Buckingham-esque certainly, but also reminding me of Wilson-Piper and Koppes’ twin-attack on The Church’s best pop songs (including “Under the Milky Way”, a song whose calibrated emotion this song vaguely recalls). The second time, it is Katie’s voice which rises majestically towards the sky, a full-throated wail borne aloft by the song’s own climaxing intensity, like a ship riding up the back of a massive wave. These tricks are deployed liberally across Katie’s debut album of the same name, though the Fleetwood Mac vibes of “Expectations” feel anomalous compared to the balance of the album’s solid country grounding. Anomalous but also perfect, priming the listener from the opening chords for the expectation, felt more than articulated, that an emotional gut-punch will be delivered with exacting restraint. Katie’s own “So there you go again…” is delivered as an illusion-puncturing conversation with a girlfriend impatient with her self-indulgent wallowing: “Some days I can’t get out of my own head / ‘You could start by getting out of bed,’ she said, ‘one day you know that we’ll both be dead, so why don’t we do some living?’” Then later, “Some days I don’t know who to trust / in the rain my spirit starts to rust / She said, ‘you’re being way to generous / with all the fucks you’re giving’”.

Katie’s songs inevitably are described as “confessional”, and they are, but this invites us to unpack what we mean precisely by that word. In Katie’s case, it’s the sense that her lyrics are like a transparent substance, offering no distortion of, or distance from, their truth-content. Not simplistic or even “plain-spoken” – if anything, I am frequently struck by their understated and seemingly-unassuming artfulness, as if Katie just happens to think in rhyming couplets – but committed to an idea that the specific can always readily invoke the universal, that “her” life experience (and certainly these songs encourage you to assume absolute coincidence between Katie and her performative character) is always also yours, so long as words can be found that forge the link between them (as Ani DiFranco, who used to write songs with a similar quality, once put it, “I build each one of my songs out of glass / so you can see me inside them, I suppose / or you could just leave the image of me in the background, I guess / and watch your own reflection superimpose”). When Katie’s songs veer into wordless vocal crescendos, as they often do, I get the sense that she’s deliberately tracing that bond, encouraging the listener to locate the point where her fears and uncertainties merge indistinguishably with theirs.

Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” became a big hit again in 2020, as a new generation discovered its seemingly endless capacity for application to new emotional terrain, and there’s a certain irony to the fact that a song whose specific autobiographical content is so well-known also possesses this quality of plasticity. But this is what Katie’s songs also are like, the private anthems of a young, articulate, confused and determined woman that are happy to also be our anthems, if only we let them.

Philip D Kick & Om Unit
“The Riviera”

“Philip D Kick” is one of those jokey monikers that I always suspect has left its bearer no remaining creative energy with which to make good, interesting music, but not so in this case. “The Riveria” is drum and bass (not jungle, unlike “Will U Meet Me?”) par excellence, finding at this eleventh-hour new accents, new tones, new states of being within one of dance’s more formally confined sub-genres. So, perversely, let me say that “The Riviera” is more readily understood as a continuation of a different tradition, the boldly bright-dark, murderously civilised dubstep of Silkie and Quest circa 2008-2009, uniting surface level lightness and soulfulness with a rhythmic attack so relentless, so unnaturally energetic, that it captures a sort of dark voodoo energy hiding within the most unthreateningly civilised of facades (hence the title, I guess). Technically, I suspect this is achieved by building the song out of hi-hats and claps, barely any kicks at all, and stabbing snares only on the eight and then sixth half-beats: the resulting beat should lurch like a Frankenstein’s monster, but instead it somehow glides along, albeit with a punchy energy, buoyed by its harmonising melodies of sub-red bass explosions (almost beats in themselves) and spiralling Stevie Wonder keyboard runs. Viscerally, it doesn’t really matter how “The Riviera” works its magic, other than that I wish I regularly stumbled across more tunes like it.


Why “Chaka” as a title? Perhaps as one of Algiers’ swingiest, grooviest monsters (but this is relative: Algiers have always only ever swung or grooved in the service of some more obscure goal) the song felt like it ought to be devoted to one of R&B’s great vocalists, but I’m uncertain how Ms Khan would feel about her name being used for such a dark, disturbing tribute to unfaithful, self-absorbed and manipulative lovers (“you can’t hide away and move onto the next boy, forget about it… you gotta get your undead hand onto everything in sight… The consequence will reach you past the grave”). Still, the music here is great enough that it would be an honour to share a name with it: beginning from only a simple bass-pulse, it builds into what might best be described as an R&B-industrial hybrid, all clamouring drums and drama-laced strings and a myriad of effects and even a vocal call-back to En Vogue, not to mention a skronky free jazz saxophone solo, because this is Algiers and that’s the kind of thing they do in-between referencing scholars of the new left. “Chaka” does not share the pretensions of past efforts like “Can the Sub-Bass Speak?” (“with difficulty” was the implied answer), but it has something better: a sense of restrained urgency that implies that even its loudest moments are just a forewarning of what is yet to come.

Megan Thee Fox
“Savage (Remix)” (ft. Beyonce)

I’m not certain whether it means anything in particular that two of Megan’s three big cultural moments of 2020 came in collaboration with other female artists, but there’s certainly a sense of continuity to Megan’s role in both “Savage (Remix)” and “WAP”, her voice deeper and more impacting than its counterpart, solidly anchoring the song in fleet-footed muscularity. Cardi B and Beyonce are very different, of course, and one of the qualities that marks out “Savage (Remix)” is how relaxed it sounds, which Beyonce’s intermittent harmonising and Greek chorus interjections only serve to underscore: something about Megan announcing that she’s “classy, bougie, ratchet” and Beyonce judiciously allowing this with a high-pitched “okay” near cracks me up every time. Beyonce herself sounds much less relaxed than Megan, but it’s hard not to love the way she throws everything at the wall here, from whispery raps to melisma to what probably counts in her book as righteous anger; an exploding factory of 2020 references (“Hips Tiktok when I dance / On that Demon Time, she might start an OnlyFans”), she’s the sound of ambition constantly hunting for new things to conquer. Megan always sounds like she’s conquered everything already; put the two together and you get a song that’s both a mood and moody.

Yano et Agatsuma

I have no idea how I stumbled across Yano et Agatsuma’s album Asteroid and Butterfly; the project, “of course”, is a collaboration between Japanese musicians Akiko Yano and Hiromitsu Agatsuma, and it’s one of few 2020 albums my love for which I struggle to explain. On “Otemoyan” the attraction is a bit more straightforward to capture, the slow throb of the groove latching onto and gently restraining the fractured, glittering patterns Hiromitsu extracts from his shamisen, around which Akiko’s vocals, now Japanese, now English, flutter and swoop like so many birds, details emerging from the thickets of sound (“your name sounds so beautiful / and your mind is incredible”) before disappearing again. Bass throbs and slightly forlorn woodwinds flicker through the mix, everything gelling without ever really coalescing, as if the arrangement was structured as a round harmony in a pattern not readily deciphered (I think it’s mostly in 7/8 time, but I’m still not entirely certain). The sound of Hiromitsu’s shamisen transforms as readily and unnervingly as do Akiko’s vocals, now sweet, now spiky; fitting for a song that could as easily be a love song as a warning of impending doom.

Lido Pimienta
“Nada” (ft. Li Saumet)

Matt picked up a “religious ceremony” vibe from “Nada”, which makes sense: the way the song builds from a simple (albeit intricate) percussion and flute backing, Lido’s voice chanting a melody that doesn’t so much change as thicken, growing tentacles and tendrils of detail that bind to and across one another. Is she now multi-tracking her vocals? How many horns and woodwind instruments has she added? How did she make drums skitter like they’re shivering? How does Li Saumet’s guest verse fit in so seamlessly, like she’s Lido’s own alter-ego? Then, having reached a pinnacle of sorts, “Nada” climbs down the other side, gently calming itself and bidding the spirits it has invoked to return to the places from whence they came.

My neat (too neat) explanation for Lido’s album Miss Columbia is that it’s a superior, Spanish-language version of Bjork’s Volta, fusing horns and tribal beats with the best modern production that ingenuity can devise. But Lido is more strongly invested in the music of her people than Bjork at that time could be bothered with, and her second album can sometimes resemble a series a delightful problems to be unpicked: is this combination of roots and future the right one? If not, how about this? It is mostly entrancing, in particular for its first half, but “Nada” feels like the tune where every stray impulse comes together with unexpected grace; exquisite in its detail, but clear-eyed in its vision.

Earth Trax
“I’m Not Afraid (Baltra Remix)”

In 2020, broader trends within house and techno finally resolved into full-blown enthusiasm for ravey breakbeat loops (after decades of cold-shouldering), and I in turn felt a strong desire to re-connect with house and techno again, after several years of fair-weather friending; so, for my side of the equation at least, it was like hooking up with someone you last seriously dated in the mid-00s and finding out both that the sex is still good and also that both people have learnt (or re-learnt) a few tricks in the interim. I could list and write about many, many tracks that made this such a fun rendezvous in 2020, but Baltra’s remix of “I’m Not Afraid” felt most appropriate, perhaps because it is also one of the most shamelessly obvious examples of many recent trends.

While my ears were often drawn to the prettier, more abstract breakbeat epics of 2020 (see for example Tom Jarmey’s “New Worlds” or Tristan Arp’s “Reflex”), “I’m Not Afraid” is defiantly unpretentious, glaring balefully from a dancefloor in an abandoned cellar from a black and white music video clip from the early nineties. Simple breakbeat patterns whip across your face, while an underlying four to the floor kickdrum drives home the groove, synth patterns pulsate menacingly and strings sigh with ominous portentousness. It’s a tune equally in love with its own architecture (the specific degraded papery timbre of its detuned breakbeats, and the miasmic quality of its strobing, cut-up vocal samples) and its compulsiveness catchiness. In this regard, I’m reminded of Liquid’s “Sweet Harmony”, Awesome 3’s “Don’t Go (Kicks Like A Mule Mix) and Felix’s “Don’t You Want Me”, but perhaps most of all The Prodigy’s “No Good (Start the Dance)” – another tune that felt like a very deliberate, careful love letter to the sheer rush of having no cares or deliberation at all.

“Your Love”

Azana slips easily between Zulu and English and back, but I don’t, so her message on “Your Love” was obscure to me until I realised it’s a hymn to an unborn child, in which context the declaration “your love is blind” begins to seem less like an accusation and more like a celebration. Needless to say, the wordless, gently rising coo of “rapapa, rapapa” in the chorus leaves no doubt that the vibes here are nothing but astonished euphoria, the musical equivalent of the sun stealing across and a landscape at dawn. Every element of “Your Love” feeds into this sense of soft exhilaration, of hairs gradually standing on end, from the gentle South African house groove (care of Sun-El Musician and friends) to Azana’s gentle-as-a-caress-on-the-back-of-your-neck vocals, to the gorgeous synth arpeggio that flutters through that wordless chorus like little flashes of the floods of joy that Azana is too overwhelmed to easily find words to give voice to and far too accomplished to let loose entirely. No song gave me more joy in 2020.

Taylor Swift
“Cowboy Like Me”

“And the tennis court was covered up with some tent-like thing,” the singer announces over a spare piano intro, almost before any other instruments can think to join in. The audacity of it all: of that starting “And”, dropping you straight into a story whose beginnings you’ll just have to puzzle out as you go along, and whose ending remain shrouded in uncertainty; of the phrase “tent-like thing”, a marquee of course, but somehow so much more evocative, so much more appropriate to a character who moves into and through social worlds with only her own ingenuity as a guide to their exclusive, interior languages and logics. Later, she’ll sing of a lover who hangs “from my lips like the gardens of Babylon”, and this allusion, too, is right, a phrase the character she inhabits perhaps has no use for other than to repurpose.

When I started thinking about my songs of the 2020, the Taylor Swift choice was obviously “August” from Folklore, a song so perfect and so in love with its own skill (most notably, two perfect bridges) that it just begged to be eulogised. But that was before Swift released her second album of 2020 containing not one but several songs the equal of “August”. “Cowboy Like Me” only contains one great bridge (though check its immediate predecessor and close rival “Ivy” for some more ridiculous two-bridge action), but otherwise it’s a songwriting masterclass. If you’ve read a review of Evermore, you might already be aware that the song is about two scammers of lonely older rich people who unexpectedly fall in love with each other, but, with Swift, focusing on subject matter (autobiographical or otherwise) is typically an effective way to miss the point: the stories she tells are vehicles, devices enabling an exploration for how detail can hang together, can build and transform and evoke through addition and subtraction. Witness, here, the first fake-out chorus: “You’re a cowboy like me, never wanted love, just a fancy car” she insists, only to deflate into a sigh, “Now I’m waiting by the phone, like I’m sitting in an airport bar.” Her character’s sitting in purgatory, of course, for the first time entirely dependent on the decisions and timing of others; but, as with the marquee on the tennis court, these details are evoked all the more vividly for not being spelled out with precision (never before has Swift sounded so consciously aware of the importance of knowing the amount of detail to wield and when to wield it; on Evermore’s “Long Story Short”, she even turns her own penchant for purple prose into the song’s central joke).

The real chorus, arriving later: “You’re a cowboy like me / Perched in the dark / Telling all the rich folks anything they wanna hear / Like, ‘it could be love’, / I could be the way forward only if they pay for it”; then “You’re a bandit like me / Eyes full of stars / Hustlin’ for the good life / Never thought I’d meet you here / It could be love / We could be the way forward / And I know I’ll pay for it”. This, here, is archetypal Swift, a changing-same wherein an animating lyrical frame is transmuted into its opposite, from strength to weakness, from calculation to dizziness, from self-centeredness to self-abnegation. There’s much more to the execution, of course: the soft country glaze she and co-writer Aaron Dessner cast over the entire affair; the delicacy of the way she sings “they wanna hear” with a slight upward lilt so as to catch both the pathetic desire of her character’s marks and her own pathetic hollowness in pretending to give them what they want; the way her voice softens down almost to nothing on “it could be love” to evoke both the smallness of a lie and the vulnerability of a truth, the first time capturing her own fecklessness and the second time capturing her uncertainty over the spectral prospect of the real thing arriving; the gorgeous, gratuitous guitar solo that arrives in the middle of the song, then disappears, only to re-emerge at the song’s conclusion as the singer sighs, “I’m never going to love again…” Does this declaration spell happiness ever after, or a lifetime of emptiness and betrayal? For the songwriter, the success lies in not answering that question: as her character has known all along, but she herself has been learning for the longest time, “forever is the sweetest con.”

The 1975
“Me and You Together Song”

As with Swift, the appeal of Matt Healy’s songwriting is in part the sense that he is gradually assembling (secretly, but right there in front of the whole world) a universe of interconnected characters and stories bound together less by some overarching narrative than a desire to see, to understand more about the workings of the world and the people within it. “Growing a brain in public”, you might say, and then scoff – why romanticise an artist’s lack of emotional maturity just because it allows room for growth? Yet I am humble enough to identify with that “room for growth” sufficiently for both writers tend to affect me quite a bit.

Unlike Swift, whose songs tend to remain determinedly fixed behind the eyes of a central character (herself or otherwise) at least for the duration of the song, Healy’s songs are frequently and promiscuously dialogic, little plays of exchanges between characters which rarely make sense unless and until you sit down and work out exactly where the quotation marks go. The chorus to “If You’re Too Shy (Let Me Know)” (“maybe I would like you better if you took off your clothes / I’m not playing with you baby - I think that you should give it a go”) sounds pervy and chauvinistic until you realise it is sung from the perspective of a woman who has tricked Healy into stripping naked during an internet video chat. This focus on the perversity of perspective, and desire to see things from the viewpoint of the other, becomes a fixation taken to extreme levels on the 1975’s 2020 album Notes on a Conditional Form. On “Jesus Christ 2005 God Bless America”, a stripped-back duet with Phoebe Bridgers, Healy sings of his love for a boy he knows, while Bridgers sings of her love for the girl next door, a deliberate inversion intended to underscore how much we are held back by our inability to be fully transparent and authentic with others.

“Me and You Together Song” – alongside the above songs and also the similarly excellent “The Birthday Party” – is almost incomprehensible without the liberal use of quotation marks. Over a charmingly 1990-esque baggy UK pop guitar bounce (and the 1975 seem to grow ever more confident and thoughtful in their thoughtful selection of the exact right musical armoury for a particular emotional attack, from UK garage to ambience to country-folk), Healy recounts a series of conversational misfires with the secret love of his life:

"Can I take you for a drink?"
She said, "Oh God, I'll have to think
Because we're mates it doesn't feel right?"
And I said, "It's cool", and "I was messing",
But it's true
Yeah it's you, you're the one that makes me feel right

Later, this exchange, almost weighed down by its own dramatic irony:

"I'm sorry that I'm kinda queer
It's not as weird as it appears
It's just my body doesn't stop me"
"Oh, it's okay, lots of people think I'm gay,
But we're friends, so it's cool, why would it not be?"

These scenes, in which the characters are unable to properly express themselves, are contrasted, here, with moments of absolute transparency:

I had a dream where we had kids
You would cook, I'd do the nappies
We went to Winter Wonderland
And it was shit but we were happy

“It was shit but we were happy” is just about the most romantic notion Healy’s universe can offer: a form of romance that “sees through” the publicly mandated performance of romance premised on a social compact to treasure certain fictions, but takes no joy in that, and instead nevertheless chooses (if “choice” is the right verb) to offer devotion to, and gratitude for, the simple joy offered by the presence and persistence of another (or to and for others: the subject of the album’s closer “Guys”). Understanding that your world is a mediated construct costs nothing; finding a way to be genuine in an ingenuine world demands everything.

Even these circumlocutions can be boiled down further to the song’s central refrain and message, “I’ve been in love with her for ages”, which finally becomes, simply, “I’ve been in love with you for ages”. Nothing more need be said. But then, maybe all that extraneous detail, maybe all this extraneous detail, is just the elaborate way that we trick ourselves into ever telling that truth at all, and a means of holding other people’s attention long enough for them to hear it.

The rest:

Roy Kinsey, “Kitchen, Barber, Beauty Shop”
Inigo Vontier, “Bo Ni Ke (Nicola Cruz Remix)”
Lyra Pramuk, “Tendril”
Usher, “Bad Habits”
Kelly Lee Owens, “On”
I Break Horses, “Baby You Have Travelled for Miles Without Love in Your Eyes”
Jenevieve, “Baby Powder”
Wande Coal, “Again”
Alps 2 & Harry No, “Madness at Toni’s Chip Shop in Wishaw”
Soccer Mommy, “Circle the Drain”
DaBaby, “Rockstar” (ft. Roddy Ricch)
Mthunzi & Sun-El Musician, “Insimbi”
Black Foxxes, “Badlands”
70 SHIINE & Nacho, “Domino”
Lord of the Isles, “Inheritance” (ft. Ellen Renton)
Theo Parrish, “Knew Better, Do Better”
Rylo Rodriguez, “Yesterday”
Tom Jarmey, “New Worlds”
Justine Sky, “Million Days”
Fireboy DML, “Tattoo”
Jessie Ware, “Spotlight”
Cody Currie & Kettama, “Harajuku Hammer”
Channel Tres, “Weedman”
Austra, “Mountain Baby (Octo Octa’s Contemplation Mix)”
Roisin Murphy, “Murphy’s Law”
Tristan Arp, “Reflex”
Tiana Major9, “Same Space?”
Omah Lay, “Bad Influence”
Jayda G, “Both Of Us”
Cardi B & Megan Thee Stallion, “WAP (Forbid Remix)”
Ari Lennox, “Bussit”
Disclosure, “Ecstasy”
Prince Kaybee, Shimza, Black Motion & Ami Faku, “Uwrongo”
Bella Boo, “She’s Back! (Off the Meds Remix)”
Roddy Ricch, “The Box”
Jayla Darden, “Demonstration”
Man Power, “Acid God” (ft. Amy Dogulas)
Popp Hunna, “Aderall (Corvette Corvette)”
Jamila Woods “SULA (Paperback)”
Tweet, “Never Felt This Way”
Scarpa, “E-Funk”
Jazmine Sullivan, “Lost One”
Erika de Casier, “No Butterflies, No Nothing”
Pepe, “You Must Not Be Me”
Lonnie Holley, “I’m A Suspect (Galcher Lustwerk Remix)”
Lil Mosey, “Blueberry Faygo”
Parris, “Yurei”
Krust, “Constructive Ambiguity”
Mehdi Bahmad, “Rogue a Levres (Olof Dreijer Remix)”
keiyaA, “Hvnli”
Reece Madisa & Zuma, “JazziDisciples (Zlele)” (ft. Mr JazziQ & Busta 929)
Terrace Martin & Denzel Curry, “Pigfeet”, (ft. Kamasi Washington, G Perico & Daylyt)
Two Shell, “Heart Piece”
JASSS, “Turbo Ole”
Kehlani, “Hate the Club”
Sada Baby “Whole Lotta Choppas (Remix)” (ft. Nicki Minaj)
Kareem Ali, “Night Echoes”
RAMZi, “chonki”
Beyonce, “Black Parade”
Koffee, “Lockdown”
Keleketla! & Coldcut, “Shepherd Song” (ft. Tony Allen, Nono Nkoane, Thabang Tabane, Gally Ngoveni, Sibusile Xaba, Afla Sackey and Antibalas)

Tim F, Friday, 8 January 2021 04:57 (two weeks ago) link

hell yes

mellon collie and the infinite bradness (BradNelson), Friday, 8 January 2021 05:14 (two weeks ago) link

Is it just me or is Megan the stallion a charisma free zone?

candyman, Friday, 8 January 2021 09:05 (two weeks ago) link

really enjoying digging through these, especially the dance tracks which are generally pretty far off my radar throughout the year

ufo, Friday, 8 January 2021 10:34 (two weeks ago) link

Oh Tim! You are spoiling us!

Li'l Brexit (Tracer Hand), Friday, 8 January 2021 10:43 (two weeks ago) link

Is it just me or is Megan the stallion a charisma free zone?

― candyman, 8. januar 2021 09:05 (two hours ago)

I tend to agree. There's no one there.

human and working on getting beer (longneck), Friday, 8 January 2021 11:13 (two weeks ago) link

Really? I prefer Savage to WAP by far. MTS is great

Specific Ocean Blue (dog latin), Friday, 8 January 2021 12:59 (two weeks ago) link

yeah i don’t get that at all. y’all heard “girls in the hood”?

boz conspiracy by toby hus (voodoo chili), Friday, 8 January 2021 13:26 (two weeks ago) link

the taylor and 1975 blurbs are perfect, gonna read through the rest today

mellon collie and the infinite bradness (BradNelson), Friday, 8 January 2021 14:00 (two weeks ago) link

Makes me strangely happy to see one of Frank Kogan's rules referenced.

clemenza, Friday, 8 January 2021 14:15 (two weeks ago) link

Quite a few I need to listen to for the first time. Love the "Dead Man Walking" write-up, Tim, which aligns with some of my own self-questioning about its mood as well as the Amaarae album, where she delivers the line "I love to party" like a psych ward patient in a horror movie. "lol old" is definitely part of it for me, though maybe more in the sense of ~events~ catching me up to the younger generation's mood? like it was a good year to have mixed feelings about parties

I had no idea "Your Love" was about an "unborn child" !

rob, Friday, 8 January 2021 14:47 (two weeks ago) link

"Chaka" was apparently my fourth-most-played song this year (third-most for 2020 songs). I never tire of it.

stylish but illegal (Simon H.), Friday, 8 January 2021 15:57 (two weeks ago) link

Thank you for this Tim, I know my tastes in dance music diverges from yours but there's definitely an intersection, and I always appreciate your writing.

-Love that Solitary Dancer EP (which was new to me), lush as can be.

-That Philip D Kick & Om Unit EP is great too, I think maybe I had heard it but I'm appreciating it more now. The bass on that track is very Photek-esque, and I wish I had put Clouds on a recent mix, it would have fit perfectly.

change display name (Jordan), Friday, 8 January 2021 17:32 (two weeks ago) link

2020 just got good. Thank you.

Jeff W, Friday, 8 January 2021 20:25 (two weeks ago) link

Love it. And especially the Lido write-up because I love that album, I think you unpack it well.

a fabulous gift, thank you!

dean bad (map), Friday, 8 January 2021 21:06 (two weeks ago) link

'rose rouge' is phenomenal

dean bad (map), Friday, 8 January 2021 21:08 (two weeks ago) link

I don’t get Megan Thee Stallion either. Nothing about her style makes me feel like she has something unique going on.

✖✖✖ (Moka), Friday, 8 January 2021 21:09 (two weeks ago) link

A great read as always. Super to see someone repping for Om Unit. That whole EP is great but I prefer Funk 160 to The Riviera

the article don, Saturday, 9 January 2021 12:42 (two weeks ago) link

I discovered "Expectations" last month, Tim. Glad we heard the Mac connection.

idk if megan is unique but she’s a rapper’s rapper who’s internalized her city’s style. i guess the unique thing is that houston style with her brash, sex positive presentation

boz conspiracy by toby hus (voodoo chili), Saturday, 9 January 2021 19:47 (two weeks ago) link

she’s thee fox, that’s for sure

Love to see Roy Kinsey get a mention!

Soundslike, Sunday, 10 January 2021 00:10 (two weeks ago) link

I apologise if this comes of as creepy Tim but I've made a playlist. Only a few in your long list that weren't on there :)


Li'l Brexit (Tracer Hand), Monday, 11 January 2021 22:44 (two weeks ago) link

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