Like most of you, I'm happy to have 2020 behind me. Not that flipping the calendar to 1/1 somehow means that we aren't continuing to feel the effects of a tough year. And yet, even a realist like myself can admit that there is something hopeful about a fresh start in 2021.
Before putting 2020 to bed, however, it is time for the annual music reckoning. A small confession is in order: This year's list was nearly overtaken by the extraordinary amount of television I watched in the past nine months. I could have filled an entire playlist with various tv-inspired songs (soundtracks, theme songs, various covers and throwbacks). You'll be happy to hear that good sense won out in the end... mostly.
No need to tarry, here it is. Of the music that I listened to, these nearly eighty minutes worth of songs are perhaps what I enjoyed the most. I hope you enjoy them too...
Sold (intro) - Jim and Sam // So back in 2019 - when we were still able to see live music - Alison and I almost by accident saw these two in Nashville. They were on a year-long "experiment" of playing a different show each and every day. This is obviously a pre-pandemic project and, luckily for them, they wrapped it up before we all went into quarantine.
Sold - Jim and Sam // This song just happens to be from Day 365 of their touring.
One Day (feat. Bibi Bourelly & Jean Deaux) - TOKiMONSTA // Not to draw too many connections with pandemic life, but Jennifer Lee (TOKiMONSTA) nearly died a couple years ago. She recovered and continues to produce some great music. Here's hoping for a collective 'recovery' for us all!
On Our Way to Fall (feat. Madison Cunningham) - Chris Thile // So Chris Thile was part of Nickel Creek (those were good years) and more recently Punch Brothers. Here he is writing music for the TV series Little Voice - which may be the only tv show that I didn't watch last year.
How to Be Human - Chelsea Cutler // I am supposed to be doing some research and writing on what it means to be human. Recently, I've been re-thinking original sin and total depravity. So you know, happy thoughts.
R U 4 Me? - Middle Kids // Continuing in the theological anthropology vein, more than a few theologians think that humans are those creatures for whom God answers this question in the affirmative.
Papillion - Hvmmingbird // Somehow I missed this song from a couple years back. Which is a shame because one of the band members is in a massive 'best ofs' annual music exchange that I'm part of. I'm sure there is no way for any of my music services to alert me when artists I like release new songs.
Breathe Deep - Sleeping at Last // It's hard not to listen to this against the backdrop of an illness which - among other things - makes it difficult for people to breathe. I'm a fan of anything that reminds us of the preciousness of life, and encourages us to "put up a fight."
Cruel Summer - Kari Kimmel // Speaking of putting up a fight, of the TV shows watched at Casa de Chino, somehow Cobra Kai rated highly. Very predictable. Lots of cheese. Heavy lean into 80's nostalgia. What's not to like? This cover of Bananarama's iconic song presses all the right buttons.
Dionne (feat. Justin Vernon) - The Japanese House // This won't be the only appearance by Mr. Vernon on the list, but I appreciate that he is willing to lend his skills to many a musician in this unusual year.
Tick Tock - Joji // I have a young friend (surely more than one) who really likes Tik Tok. I think of him whenever I hear this song.
Stay Overnight - Anna Marr // This song seems to capture my 2020 low-key vibe pretty well.
Garden Song - Pheobe Bridgers // Lots to love about this song... in fact, the whole album is a standout.
Maestranza - Fleet Foxes // I went to a Fleet Foxes show a couple years ago. It was the whitest event I've ever been to. I saw one other minority there and we gave each other a knowing nod.
exile (feat. Bon Iver) - Taylor Swift // Well, what's to say about Ms. Swift's efforts this year? I'm not the biggest fan, but respect should be given where it is due.
coney isalnd (feat. The National) - Taylor Swift // I say I'm not the biggest fan, but I did watch an entire documentary on the making of "Folklore." One of the things that becomes clear in it is Aaron Dessner's role in helping to craft these songs.
Be Afraid - Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit // I have a friend who, among other things, is a musician. He was telling me that Jason Isbell is one of his favorite songwriters. I can see why he likes him.
We Will Always Love You (feat. Blood Orange) - The Avalanches // I read somewhere that this album was an exploration of the human experience of faith, God, mortality and the like.
Runaway - Sylvan Esso // Am I the only one that thinks Sylvan Esso is the modern equivalent of easy listening?
Tourism (feat. Fenne Lily) - Henry Jamison // I only heard Henry Jamison for the first time last year. He's very much in my sad-bastard wheelhouse, so I blame all of you for not informing me sooner about his music.
L to the OG (feat. Kendall Roy) - Nicholas Britell // My brother-in-law, Bob Davidson, and I watch a lot of television together. Even when we aren't in the same room, we are often working though a show together at the same time. My favorite that he turned me onto this year was Succession. It is pretty dark and brooding, so when one of the main characters breaks into rap, awkwardness abounds. In retrospect, causing that uncomfortable feeling is something that the series does really well throughout.
Victory - The Avett Brothers // I'm not sure "victory" is what any of us are feeling coming out of 2020, unless surviving the year is its own kind of win.
Don't You Worry - Oh Wonder // It seems that lots of musicians were making music at "home" this year. In general, I'm a fan of the sort of things that have come out of some quarantine time. In any case, a little less worry is probably not a bad thing heading into the new year.