Thursday, December 31, 2020

Songs for Cineastes: 2020 Edition

Click here for the 2019 edition.

Other than a Wye Oak concert preview for The Stranger, which didn't run due to pandemic-related cancellation, I stopped writing about music in 2020. Then again, that depends on how you define such things. I still write about film and some of those films revolve around music and musicians. In 2020 alone, I reviewed Gordon Lightfoot: If You Could Read My Mind, The Point! (twice), Kansas City, Times Square, 16 Bars, Betty Davis: They Say I'm Different, Go Go Mania aka Pop Gear, Harry Chapin: When in Doubt, Do Something, The Soul of the Midnight Special, and nine-disc Time/Life set The Best of Cher. So, technically speaking, I didn't stop writing about music, though not one of those films centered on new music. I hate to pitch, but I did send exactly one music pitch...
and never received a response, so that's it for me for the time being.

As ever, there are a number of records that probably would've appeared on this list if I'd known about them or taken the time to listen during the calendar year, like...the Avalanches' We Will Always Love You. If you see something missing that you think I'd enjoy, feel free to let me know in the comments. It's never too late to get caught up.  

Top 10 
1. Gil Scott-Heron & Makaya McCraven - We're New Again: A Reimagining by Makaya McCraven (XL Recordings) 
2. Tie: Sault - Untitled (Black Is) and Rise (Forever Living Originals) 
3. Aoife Nessa Frances - Land of No Junction (Ba Da Bing!) 
4. Delphine Dora - L'inattingible (Three:Four Records) 
5. Cindy Lee - What's Tonight to Eternity (Maple Death) 
6. Mary Halvorson's Code Girl - Artlessly Falling (Firehouse 12 Records)
7. Taylor Swift - folklore (Republic)
8. X - Alphabetland (Fat Possum)
9. Fiona Apple - Fetch the Bolt Cutters (Epic) 
10. Annie - Dark Hearts (Annie Melody) 

11. The Heliocentrics - Telemetric Sounds (Madlib Invazion) 
12. Run the Jewels - RTJ4 (Jewel Runners) 
13. FACS - Void Moments (Trouble in Mind) 
14. Alyssandra Nighswonger - Nighswonger Sings Nilsson 
(Montebre Records) 
15. Kelly Lee Owens - Inner Song (Smalltown Supersound) 
16. Open Mike Eagle - Anime, Trauma and Divorce (Auto Reverse) 
17. Bob Dylan - Rough and Rowdy Ways (Columbia) 
18. Molly Joyce - Breaking and Entering (New Amsterdam) 
19. Stephen Malkmus - Traditional Techniques (Matador) 
20. Shopping - All or Nothing (Fat Cat) 

21. Ambrose Akinmusire - on the tender spot of every calloused moment (Blue Note) 
22. Jim White and Marisa Anderson - The Quickening (Thrill Jockey) 
23. Shirley Collins - Heart's Ease (Domino) 
24. Songhoy Blues - Optimisme (Fat Possum) 
25. Brigid Dawson and the Mothers Network - Ballet of Apes 
(Castle Face)
26. Oh Sees - Protean Threat (Castle Face) 
27. The Necks - Three (Northern Spy) 
28. Khruangbin - Mordechai (Dead Oceans) 
29. Horse Lords - The Common Task (Northern Spy) 
30. Anna von Hausswolff - All Thoughts Fly (Southern Lord) 

31. Jessie Ware - What's Your Pleasure? (Universal) 
32. Margo Price - That's How Rumors Get Started (Loma Vista)
33. Idles - Ultra Mono (Partisan) 
34. Fontaines D.C. - A Hero's Death (Partisan) 
35. Tricky - Fall to Pieces (False Idols) 
36. U.S. Girls - Heavy Light (4AD) 
37. Deerhoof - Love-Lore (Joyful Noise)
38. Caribou - Suddenly (City Slang) 
39. Elvis Perkins - Creation Myths (MIR-Petaluma Records)
40. Mary Lattimore - Silver Ladders (Ghostly International)

Songs & Singles
1. Sault - "Free" (Forever Living Originals)
2. Caribou - "Home" (City Slang)
3. Songhoy Blues - "Happy" (Fat Possum)
4. Gorillaz - "Désolé" ft. Fatoumata Diawara (Parlophone-Warner)
5. Run the Jewels - "Ooh La La" ft. Greg Nice and DJ Premier 
(Jewel Runners)

Reissues & Compilations 
1. Pylon - Box (New West Records)
2. Bobbie Gentry - The Delta Swete (UMC) [UK]

Note: Shortest list ever, but the depth and quality of both releases makes up for it.  

Endnote: Like many reviewers, I enjoy ranking the things--or the kinds of things--that I write about, but the placements above are somewhat arbitrary. I start compiling my music list the minute I hear something that catches my ear. Then it's a matter of adding, subtracting, and shifting things around, but I would rank some of these records differently now than I would have just a few months ago. 

Photo credits: Makaya McCraven (Whitten Sabbatini) and Ambrose Akinmusire (Joe Kohen) images from The New York Times and Aoife Nessa Frances and Delphine Dora images from Discogs. 

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