60. Athletic Mic League – Hold My Hand (Playground Legends, Vol. 1 – Album)
This is incredibly cool, hip-hop done right. A soul sample, a laidback crisp beat and a posse of mic manipulators spitting bars for 5+ minutes. It has a Jurassic 5/A Tribe Called Quest vibe and stands out like gold sifted through the current murky rap scene.
59. King Princess – Only Time Makes It Human (The Blessed Madonna Remix) (Only Time Makes It Human – Single)
The original is a good song but this remix pushes it to the next level. An absolute 80s influenced dancefloor filler, the bass line drives this and the additional keyboards and synths help sweep you up in it’s majesty. This is begging to be danced to wherever you are.
58. Charlotte Day Wilson – Mountains (Mountains – Single)
Fantastic record, the first thing I heard by her and I was knocked out by how high quality, how assured and how well structured this song is for a single so early into a career. Definitely one to watch, it’s like she has emerged as a complete artist on her first few attempts and that’s a rarity
57. Bob Dylan – Murder Most Foul (Rough And Rowdy Ways – Album)
I’ve never considered myself the biggest Dylan fan but the more I hear of his stuff the more I find myself liking. At first I was put off by the length of this (16 minutes!!) but it’s so mesmerising from the off and Dylan’s raspy storytelling half spoken/half sung voice just grabs you and you listen to every lyric, smile at different couplets, feel sadness and happiness and hope almost simultaneously and you reach the end and realise you’ve just listened to a piece of greatness.
56. Sufjan Stevens – America (The Ascension – Album)
Another long track but again it draws you in and builds as the song goes on and you forget all about time and just sink into the atmosphere it creates. This album showed the more electronic and experimental side to Sufjan Stevens and allows him to add layers of vocals and instrumentation that wash over you and immerse you in what I can only describe as an uplifting feeling. Highly recommended, one of the best albums of the year.
55. IDLES – War (Ultra Mono – Album)
One of the best bands to emerge in the last few years (and they hold a special place in my heart as they are from Bristol which is not far from where I live), this was the best track on a really strong album. As always with these guys, I always find them lyrically superb, one of the only bands where I always want to find out what is being said as opposed to just being lost in the music. Speaking of the music, it hits you with all the force of a car being driven into a brick wall at great speed, the guitars spewing a stream of noise and scrapes. Pretty apt for a song called War.
54. Gorillaz – Aries (Song Machine, Season One: Strange Timez – Album)
Gorillaz become New Order!! Damon Albarn would be a perfect fit to fill in for Bernard Sumner if ever the need arose. Peter Hook’s bass is so comforting, like sliding into a warm bath or a hug from a loved one when you need it most, as soon as you hear it on this track you are hooked (no pun intended). I think Damon Albarn is one of the greatest songwriters of the last 40 years, whatever he turns his hand to he just has the knack of creating songs that make you feel something.
53. Bad Bunny – Safaera (YHLQMDLG – Album)
Like the musical equivalent of a movie thriller, this track offers twists and turns throughout. Almost hyperactive in it’s chopping and changing of rhythms, it’s like a DJ set inside a 5 minute song. It’s another example of just how much of a risk Bad Bunny is willing to take when he could just settle on putting out generic reggaeton hit after hit.
52. James Vincent McMorrow – Gone (Gone – Single)
I have to say, I’d written this guy off as someone who had done an 80s acoustic cover (‘Higher Love’) and was destined to just have that one song occasionally dug out for a spin on BBC Radio 2. Happily, I was wrong. This is such a great pop song, awesome electro bass, Lionel Richie-esque post chorus vocal riffing, this was one of the most pleasant surprises of the year.
51. HAIM – I Know Alone (Women In Music Pt. III – Album)
Lyrically sad but musically uplifting, this has an almost dance feel to it with the processed beats and bassline. Really tight vocal harmonies as always from these ladies, they are in a class of their own and are getting better with each release. The album is so good and has been getting plenty of spins from me since it came out.
50. Don Toliver – After Party (Heaven Or Hell – Album)
Melodic hook over dark, booming bass with a couple of rapped verses thrown in for good measure = the emergence of what could be hip-hop’s next big star.
49. Megan Thee Stallion – Girls In The Hood (Good News – Album)
Beast!! This is a banger, Megan spitting some hard-ass rhymes over the Dr. Dre beat from Eazy-E’s ‘Boyz-N-The-Hood’, this showcased that this lady is the real deal and could go toe-to-toe with anybody in the current rap game.
48. 070 Shake – Guilty Conscience (Modus Vivendi – Album)
What a pop song!! This sounds like it could have come from the soundtrack to an 80s movie, playing whilst a montage flashes by of the boy remembering all the good times he had with the girl he just lost. Great vocal melody, crystal clear production, this should have been huge.
47. Megan Thee Stallion – Captain Hook (Suga – Album)
Megan picks the pace up on this track and it suits her real well. Some double time raps over deep banging bass, another example of why she is one of the most exciting artists in music today and the versatility she possesses. The breakout artist of 2020 without a doubt.
46. Future & Drake – Life Is Good (Life Is Good – Single)
A tale of two halves, this is produced by OZ who pulled a similar trick on Travis Scott’s ‘Sicko Mode’, both guys do their thing in their separate sections with Drake coming out the winner (in my opinion). The woozy atmosphere over a big booming bassline in his section sounds so good before it switches to a more conventional beat for Future’s auto tuned spitting.
45. Destroyer – Crimson Tide (Have We Met – Album)
Don’t be fooled by the name – this won’t bludgeon you over the head with blastbeats but instead lures you in with it’s sleek, slinky, 80s production, infectious keyboard riff and almost Pet Shop Boys-esque vocals over the top. The whole album is such a great listen and there a couple more tracks from it that almost made this list.
44. HAIM – The Steps (Women In Music Pt. III – Album)
Awesome first taster from their album, this is probably the catchiest song in their predominantly very catchy back catalogue. Luscious harmonies, bright, crisp production and an almost southern rock sounding lead guitar part make this a song that just deserves to be played loud whilst out driving on a beautiful summer’s day.
43. Dua Lipa – Boys Will Be Boys (Zach Witness Remix) (Club Future Nostalgia – Album)
I swear I’m not on Dua Lipa’s payroll!! (I wish I was!!). This year she just came with the quality tunes including this absolute banger taken from her very good remix album. This does what all good remixes should do and take elements of the original before making it it’s own thing.
42. Larkin Poe – Fly Away (Kindred Spirits – Album)
Holy Shit – this is how to change my opinion on a song!! I’ve never been much of a fan of the Lenny Kravitz original but these two sisters completely rip up the template and make it their own. Incredible vocals, on point harmonies and the most wonderfully dirty sounding blues slide guitar make this track soar.
41. Bree Runway – APESHIT (2000AND4EVA – Album)
Now this lady is going to be a star!! This is a banger of a track, awesome production, a real Missy Elliott (who’ll make an appearance later in the list) and Rihanna vibe, I love the in-your-face style that Bree brings and the little touches like the use of lead electric guitar creates a sound that is something a little different. 2021 should be a big year.