Dear reader, I had NOT realized that I skipped last year’s blog post for this. I did, however, make a playlist that I was personally very happy with. You can find it here (Apple Music only).
This year ended up being a much better one for music than I initially thought. As usual, this exercise kicked off from having to pick a single song to contribute to my office’s Best of the Year playlist which we send out to friends. The general feeling amongst us all was that there wasn’t much new music worth listening to, and there was a bit of moaning and sighing while trying to think of something.
But! When I went through my “Recently Added” album sort view one Apple Music, and looked at the various playlists I threw together over the year… a lot more happened this year than Billie Eilish: new albums from Chance the Rapper, Anderson.Paak, Beck (bleah), Shura, Leonard Cohen, Common, and Bruce Springsteen to name a handful. The worst part is that I’ve barely even sat down to listen to most of them.
Still, I found enough to make a playlist of the songs that I played repeatedly and that made me feel something. This then is my musical diary for the year. The recurring themes here are synths (yay!); melodies that veer deliciously close to other ones you’re sure you‘ve heard elsewhere, irritating like an itch that moves as you try to locate it; videogames; queer women; and nostalgia (mined from samples, covers, and posthumous releases).
Wild Hearts Never Die (feat. Linnea Olsson) — Daniel Olsen & Jonathan Eng
From the game Sayonara Wild Hearts, which was my introduction to Apple Arcade and probably my Game of the Year? Sorry, it’s a “playable pop album”, and a damn good one at that.
White Mercedes — Charli XCX
Why does this somewhat generic pop song make me so happy? It sounds like Julia Michael’s Issues, it causes word association with Raspberry Beret in my brain, it has particularly pretty deployment of auto-tune… the reverb on the pads are gorgeous… it probably can’t be explained beyond that.
Find U Again (feat. Camila Cabello) — Mark Ronson
If you told me last year that I’d put a fucking Mark Ronson song on next year’s list, I’d probably have asked for a mercy killing. But this new album is really listenable and, most importantly, doesn’t feel like a superficial photocopied vibe by an android who doesn’t understand music. Hmm, maybe it’s me. Also, I think Camila Cabello is possibly the most competent pop star and the new Rihanna.
WATERGIRL — Cashmere Cat
Tremendous fun. Demands high volume playback. It totally makes up for the naff Princess Catgirl persona that he came up with for this album.
CBU — Hans.
Can’t ever say no to the Mii channel music.
Ain’t Together — King Princess
The two artists I was most excited about this year both kinda fumbled their debut albums IMHO. Both Billie and uh… King had way better single and EP releases leading up to this year. I liked Cheap Queen the song, but like most of the album, it had a mostly harmless vibe. This one is lovely though and really complements Dream Girl just before.
Bad Ideas — Tessa Violet
Brilliant melodies throughout her whole album, and this one puts a smile on my face (hey! ho!). She’ll be huge if she keeps at it.
Qualm — goosetaf & Nokiaa
I listened to a lot of lofi hip-hop and brain.fm music this year while working. This song is undoubtedly one of the finest. I could play it on loop for hours.
Lose You to Love Me — Selena Gomez
“Set fires to my forest, and you let it burn / sang off-key in my chorus, because it wasn’t yours”: this forest–chorus rhyme was all it took to sell me.
Mover Awayer — Hobo Johnson
I first heard Hobo Johnson on Apple’s Beats 1 radio, being interviewed by Zane Lowe. He was described as more of a spoken word artist than hip-hop (true). This song is here because it contains the purest, simplest description of how love feels: “She makes my Mondays feel like Fridays, she makes my Ruby Tuesday’s taste like Benihanas.” NO ONE WROTE THIS BEFORE HIM? Bob Dylan got a Nobel Prize for Literature and I think Hobo Johnson is next.
Got No Chill — Old Man Saxon
I mentioned Old Man Saxon in a blog post last week. Watch Netflix’s Rhythm and Flow series, and get into this indie artist who deserves to blow up next year. His flow is unique, his bars are smart, and he looks like a real nice guy.
Sky Blue Skin — Jeff Buckley
Can you believe it’s been TWENTY TWO YEARS since Jeff Buckley left this world? I honestly don’t know what I’ve done with the year I have that he didn’t get. Every time another of these lost demos comes out — the vaults impossibly deep for a 31-year-old cut short before hitting his peak — I’m reminded that we just have to keep trying, making, practicing, scrapping, and working hard towards the things we love.
Quiet Daily Life — Shigeru Kishida
Rilakkuma is my spirit animal.