Denouement 2020: Music

denouement Mar 6, 2021

Apologies for the delay. I lost my notes for this and was not motivated to write any more blog posts. But, we're back :)

If you're interested in the Best of 2020 playlist, please click here.


I Was Impressed By

Andy Stott's Discography

My favorite electronic music comes from the UK, with Burial, Jamie xx, Massive Attack, and countless others being in regular rotation. Andy Stott has been added to that list.

Now, I do have to mention that I had some of his songs in my library. But it was only in 2020, that I truly did a deep dive into Andy's discography. The man builds impressive industrial soundscapes and frequent collaborator, Alison Skidmore, infuses the tracks with some humanity. I don't know what that means, but now I have something to apply to Pitchfork with.

While Luxury Problems is one the best albums of the last decade, I would suggest starting with a more aggressive song of his:

Chris Keys & Quelle Chris - Innocent Country 2

I’m a recent-ish convert to Quelle Chris’ music. Before listening to his solo outputs, I had more exposure to the works of his wife, Jean Grae.

Sometime last year, I discovered the effortlessly catchy and strangely hypnotic, but ultimately dark Obamacare, and suffice to say…he has stayed on my radar since then. Innocent Country 2 is the second collaboration between Chris and Chris. It evokes much of the ‘human connection traits’ that some J. Cole songs have in recent memory.

The 64-minute runtime covers the mesmerizing, the mundane, and the melancholic with a warm palette of sounds and a stable of guests that generally don’t overstay their welcome. And all of that with playfulness and earnest in equal measure.

It’s really good.

Deftones - Ohms

The best nu-metal band comes through with their 9th record. It's such an accessible album. You'll find something to love whether you're a fan of the older stuff or just want to dip into metal's waters for the first time.

I do not  have much else to say.

I wanted to recommend Radiant City (it slaps hard), but this one is a better fit:

Gorillaz - Song Machine, Season One: Strange Timez

It's fair to say that Gorillaz's commercial relevance has waned over the years. Hits like Clint Eastwood and Feel Good Inc seem like they're from a different universe entirely at times. Since then, the band's output has had mixed commercial and critical success.

For their 20th anniversary, Damon Albarn recruited a star-studded cast to create an impressively consistent project. There are many arcs throughout much like a traditional season of syndicated television. And each hits you like a ten-tonne truck.

However, an unfortunate problem that Gorillaz has had since its early days, is that some of the fans are racist. This is odd, as the band's music has always been tied to Black artists from the beginning. I love that it doesn't deter them from continuing to collaborate such as in the beautiful piece below:

Khruangbin - Mordechai

Ladies, gentlemen, and non-binary folk, my wedding band came through again. That statement itself is loaded. The band doesn't do anything particularly revolutionary, but listening to their music always evokes the feeling of: "I didn't know I needed this in my life."

There is a greater focus on vocals compared to the more ambient work of yesteryear, but don't overwhelm their usual (read: terrific) instrumental work. Some songs will hit you from the get-go, and others will worm their way into your playlists over time.

Do check out the music video to the above track too!

The Avalanches - We Will Always Love You

Ever heard of plunderphonics? It's a genre where the music tracks are solely composed of samples. It sounds pretty lazy, but it is difficult to twist and morph them into something new. The Avalanches did so to great success in their first album in 2001, and then 15 years later in 2016. Fans all expected another 15 years before we saw another release...but 2020 was that weird a year.

For this album, there was more original instrumentation on top of the "hundreds and hundreds of samples." I was naturally a bit apprehensive at messing with a good formula and came out teary-eyed by the end of this sound collage.

The overarching themes of death and loss were especially poignant during a year where the pandemic ravaged everything and anything to varying degrees. It's not presented as the Debbie downer I seem to describe. It's bursting with love at the seams and places you in a dream-like lull for 71 minutes. 71 minutes that seem to stretch on endlessly. In a good way, mind.

The Bug feat. Dis Fig - In Blue

More UK electronic music! Kevin Richard Martin is a very creative person who releases albums under many different pseudonyms. Each exemplifying a certain type of sound, and a certain type of sub-culture in London. I have always been more in love with releases as "The Bug" which he calls cyber-reggae. You might have winced at reading that, but Mr. Martin has always respected the Jamaican people who pioneered dub music.

London Zoo is a seminal album in the club scene, and his collaborations with Burial and Miss Red have tided me over while I waited for his more individual efforts.

This release is different though. Instead of the usual gang of features, he tapped Berlin-based, American vocalist Dis Fig (aka Felicia Chen) for the entirety of the album's runtime. Upon some research, she originally wanted to be a jazz singer before joining up Germany's club scene. That experience has served her well here.

The brooding, oppressive claustrophobic dub sounds are punctuated by her sometimes remorseless, sometimes loving, and yet always seductive voice. It's all very trip-hoppy. It could have been a little shorter though.


I Was Disappointed By

There wasn't any overwhelming disappointment this year. By now, we're used to Eminem's mediocre output and I had no expectations for other albums in 2020.

I am disappointed in myself for not listening to some music before I locked in the Best of 2020 playlist though.


Honorable Mentions

  • Spirit World Field Guide by Aesop Rock - The person who makes me regularly drag out a dictionary to understand what he's saying created a peach of an album. I'm still parsing it.
  • Alfredo by Freddie Gibbs & The Alchemist - More masterful music by two artists at the absolute top of their game. I wasn't impressed by it, because this is just the standard I expect from them at this point.
  • Texas Sun by Khruangbin and Leon Bridges - A very short EP that contains a song that I would sing to my wife...if I ever got married.

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