10 Om Unit – “A Groove”
They call Submerged an EP but make no mistake — it’s a full, robust electronica experience, with busy, frenetic beats, spectral textures and most importantly a stoned vibe that’s infectious and hypnotic. Right away track two “A Groove” blends quick, punchy drums with psychedelic melodies and synth frills in a way that hones the British DJ’s style and marries it to some urgent club IDM.
9 Cornershop – “Slingshot”
Most of England is a Garden is Britpop 101, but it’s the fullness, the tranquility and the effortlessness of these songs that pushes things into sublimity. “Slingshot” is classic suspect #1, which at five and a quarter minutes shimmies along like drops of water off your swim trunks in summer. Also, that ample recorder adds an odd freshness in instrumentation.
8 Jamie 3:26 – “The Lesson – Doc Brucio’s Original Mix”
One appealing thing about Jamie 3:26 Presents a Taste of Chicago is its obstinate refusal to settle into one genre — opener “Venus & Mars – Jamie 3:26 Edit” gallivants as jazz whose drums are barely noticeable as electronic, only to funnel into the house-influenced, hip-hop-minded “The Lesson – Doc Brucio’s Original Mix,” a nine-minute rant session of scat and seriously funky bass. Mixcloud has Doc Brucio as from Chicago and a “dj/producer affiliated with soultrack records…”
7 Gordon Lightfoot – “Just a Little Bit”
I think I owe the cosmos a rain dance or a Bodhisattva vow, or something along those lines, because I enjoyed this new Gordon Lightfoot album way more than would be sensible. But the purposefulness, the diligent guitar picking and the genuineness of the lyrics are utterly unmistakable out of the Canadian songwriter, as on “Just a Little Bit” which makes melody and beauty out of the tedious everyday grind in life.
6 Dan Deacon – “Arp II: Float away”
Hardly surprisingly, this new Dan Deacon album is ripping and busting with musical ideas and skillful, professional IDM execution, as on “Arp II: Float away,” a defiant, tribal expedition of computer-y electronica inverted from the norm. What was precociously sort of unexpected was how appropriate this music was for Winter on its February release date — even though this stuff is all done through programming, it’s still got heart and feeling, and perhaps most importantly, some steadfast breadth.
5 Navy Blue – “With Sage”
Wow, nothing is as it seems anymore: Navy Blue sounds so rugged and underprivileged on so much of this LP. As it turns out, anyway, the rapper based in New York is originally from Los Angeles and has established burgeoning professional careers in skateboarding as well as in modeling. He’s also produced countless joints and put out countless EP’s, with Ada Irin, a refreshingly sample-heavy and unpretentious masterpiece, his first full-length.
4 Grimes – “IDORU”
“IDORU,” an alternate abbreviation of the phrase “I adore you,” is the sprawling, astonishing closeur on Grimes’ latest opus. Now, I come from the Halfaxa camp somewhat, a little bit, Grimes’ menacing, expressionist and sometimes horrifying debut full of abrasive screeches and apocalyptic lyrics, so by comparison to that, all her work seems relatively poppy. And indeed, this tune does conjeal around a pretty conventional chord progression that you could find in a Sarah McLachlan song, but the eclectic instrumentation pushes it over the hump, with a cheap, car alarm-sounding organ juxtaposed juicily against subtle, echo-y drums, and the subject matter which positions this as a bona fide love song, something we’ve arguably never heard from Grimes.
3 Childish Gambino – “24.19”
Honest to God: I took SO long to listen to this Childish Gambino record because I was just SO sick of looking at his smirking grill and his hairless, bare chest. I felt like I was seeing a continual Calvin Klein ad. Much to my shock this LP was every bit worth my time and then some, blending hip-hop, trap and R&B perhaps better than any other project I’ve heard and then huddling around some stupefyingly competent soul songwriting, a la “24.19.”
2 Green Day – “I Was a Teenage Teenager”
Should it MATTER if Billie Joe Armstrong actually just wrote all these songs since the issue of Revolution Radio (I find the idea almost completely implausible) or if he’s been stockpiling tunes like this since the Insomniac days? I suppose not, but the little kid in me, or the teenage teenager who would have loved this straight-ahead, purposeful songwriting for the exact same reason I love it today, still can’t help but wonder. But I saw Billie Joe ranting on some video documentary about how ornery the critics were of Warning and in general it is true of this band: they have a lot of haters, like the people trying to tear down “Oh Love” right away when that was a perfectly sturdy and emotionally vacillating piece of rock song craft in itself. So if he takes a slightly beguiling approach to managing his songs and uncovering clusters of them, maybe we should let it slide.
1 keiyaA – “Hvnli”
I’d just listened to the Witch Prophet album and figured obviously that’s the benchmark of smooth 2020 soul… so much was it to my surprise when Forever, Ya Girl swaddled onto my skin like some shea butter lotion, cloaking me in this indescribable chill and treating me to some vocals with almost the pipes of Whitney Houston. In general, these songs are brief, understandable and adamantly original, with “Hvnli” to me almost arbitrarily standing forth as the centerpiece for the direct, tenacious lyricism and the woozy but still clear synth presence, like a smoother update on Anderson .Paak.