40 from 2020

BBC 6 Music has just had a day where all the DJs played their favourite tracks of the first half of 2020. I listened to quite a lot and loved it. And, as ever, discovered a few new tunes I really liked. There is so much music out there, even in lockdown, that you can never keep up. Best just to cherish what you do hear, rather than worrying about what you don’t.

So, in the spirit of 6 Music’s Recommends day, I thought I’d offer you 40 of the tunes I’ve liked this year. The tip of the iceberg – same as it ever was. Most of them I’ve picked up from listening to 6 Music. Whenever I hear anything I like, I try to stick it on a Heard on 6 Music playlist that I keep on Spotify. You quickly forget otherwise. There are other sources: Rough Trade does a good podcast called Rough Trade Edits which has some great recommendations, for example. And there have been one or two things that I’ve been alerted to on Instagram – Maisie Peters being one such.

We’ve all had our different reactions to lockdown. I found myself at first listening to a lot of the classic artists – the Beatles, Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen especially. I guess I was just seeking reassurance from the very best, the roots. I also made a jazzy playlist, which now runs to over a hundred tunes, which mixes some of the jazz greats like John Coltrane and Miles Davis with artists who have fused jazz, soul, funk, rap, electronica, you name it, over the years. I called it All That Jazz, even though a lot of it isn’t jazz. It’s in the same spirit. I listen to this more than anything now. Not only is the music brilliant, but I find I can keep writing while I listen to it – it has a groove. The perfect combination!

But as we’ve continued in this state of limbo, I’ve found my way back to new music. And I never gave up on it completely. 6 Music is my guide more than anything else. All the DJs – to single out any one of them would be invidious. They are all brilliant. And, between them, they cover the waterfront. So, in a new burst of enthusiasm, I’ve compiled this playlist of some of the tunes I’ve loved this year. There are one or two from 2019, I think, but I first heard them this year. There’s a Spotify playlist to accompany it, if you have access to that. Sorry if not. I’m sure all the tunes will be on YouTube and other platforms.

40 FROM 2020

The List by Maisie Peters – Circle the Drain by Soccer Mommy – Dear Sweet Rosie by Freya Beer – Texas Sun by Khruangbin and Leon Bridges – Space Samba by the Orielles – Shift by Lilly Palmer – What Moves by LA Priest – Melt! by Kelly Lee Owens – Cherry Baby by Bess Atwell – Hallelujah by HAIM – Daily Routine by Disq – Dip by Tina – Sunrise over the Flood by Eli Winter – You’ve got my Number by Margaret Glaspy – Too Young by Phoenix – Conditions (Petit Fantome remix) by Rozi Plain – Give it up 2 Me by Ojerime – Slow Drive by Moon Panda – Face Down in Ecstasy by Number – One Rizla by AJ Lambert (cover of the Shame song) – Question it All by Lucy Rose – An Afternoon of Endless Drift by Awkward Corners (good lockdown title, that) – Switch by Biig Piig – Light Turn Green by MXXWLL and others – Paper Thin by Lianne la Havas – Felt by Cloth – I Used to Dream in Color by Eve Owen – Stranger Than Fiction by Moses Boyd – Paper Cup by Real Estate – Home by Caribou – Everybody Hurts by Alice Boman (not the REM song) – Boulevard by Isobel Campbell – A Hero’s Death by Fontaines DC – Black Dog by Arlo Parks – Lizard Street by Oscar Jerome – Scarecrow by Wilma Archer – Pace by Nubya Garcia – Five and Dime by Hazel English – Yeah I Know by The 1975 – School by Four Tet.

There’s no dominant theme to the selections. A fair number of singer-songwriters, quite a lot of electronica, a bit of indie guitar (but less than usual), some jazzy soul and a few jazz numbers too. If I had to choose a favourite, it might just be Boulevard by Isobel Campbell. This was a Rough Trade recommendation and comes from an album called There Is No Other. Isobel used to be in the Scottish band Belle & Sebastian. She has also collaborated on a few albums with Mark Lanegan, as well as making her own albums. She has a beautiful voice and Boulevard is her at her most wistful, conjuring up hazy memories of Paris, even though the song may just be about those down on their luck. The lyrics are elliptical.

Best album of the year so far? I’ve not heard anything that has really blown me away, but I do like the new one from The 1975. It’s had mixed reviews, some critics saying it is over-ambitious. That’s what I like about it! Not everything hits the mark, but it is like a journey through pop from about… 1975. I’ve included one of the more electronic songs Yeah I Know on the playlist. Still six months to go before the year’s Best Of. The strangest year in our lifetimes for sure – who knows what the next half will bring.

Anyway, if you have access to Spotify and fancy checking the playlist out, it’s here.

My Heard on 6 Music and All That Jazz playlists are publicly available too if you want to have a listen.

About John S

I'm blogging about the things I love: music, sport, culture, London, with some photos to illustrate aspects of our wonderful city. I’ve written a novel called “The Decision”, a futuristic political thriller, and first of a trilogy. I’m also the author of a book on music since the 1970s called “ I Was There - A Musical Journey” and a volume of poetry about youth, “Growin’ Up - Snapshots/ Fragments”. All available on Amazon and Kindle.
This entry was posted in Music - concerts, lists, reflections and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to 40 from 2020

  1. Shane Lincoln says:

    John, struggling to find the playlist on Spotify. You have competition with ‘all that jazz’ best to all

    Shane Lincoln ARB RIBA FRSA

    M +44(0)7766 117 909 E Shane.Lincoln@gmail.com


  2. dc says:

    just downloaded all that jazz – a mere 10 hours 41 minutes worth of noodling! Obviously you are a brutal editor. Nice to see the Lianne La Havas pick , I’d missed that she had the new album out. Will look forward to delving in to that one and no doubt there are some other undiscovered pleasures- thanks for the sifting. I shall explore when I next have an afternoon of endless drift- great title as you say.

  3. Dood says:

    Thanks for that, John – and it’s no surprise that about 80% of your playlist is unfamiliar! But I’ve spent some time this morning working through it, and I’ve found a lot there of real interest.

    Because we’ll never quite see eye to eye on the whole singer-songwriter thang, especially at the folky/country end, I was less attracted to those than some of the other genres that you explored – hence bits of jazz, soul, funk and pop, along with the electronic stuff that you mentioned.

    So across the list, highlights for me included The 1975, Awkward Corners, Kelly Lee Owens, Caribou, Four Tet, Lianne La Havas (her voice as wonderful as ever), Ojerime, Lilly Palmer, Number, Arlo Parks, Oscar Jerome and Real Estate.

    And you’re right – the Isobel Campbell song is pretty magical. She has such an amazing voice, and the accompaniment is just perfectly pitched.

  4. Dood says:

    Oh – and just back to old skool for a second. You’ll already know that Dylan’s ‘Rough and Rowdy Ways’ is getting raves, including a five-star review from Petridis in yesterday’s Guardian. I must explore – it sounds pretty extraordinary.

  5. fgrtommo says:

    I love 6 Music! I love Black Dog by Arlo Parks! Thanks for the list.

  6. dc says:

    Obviously this was written before the Taylor Swift masterpiece.
    I just read that she has now been at number 1 in the US album charts for more weeks than any other woman.
    Looking at the numbers below, I can imagine her topping the Elvis number in due course….but the Beatles total is huge, She’s 31 and incredibly talented so it could happen.

    Here’s a roundup of every act with at least 30 weeks at No. 1, since the Billboard 200 chart began publishing on a regular weekly basis on March 24, 1956: The Beatles (132 weeks), Elvis Presley (67), Garth Brooks (52), Michael Jackson (51), Taylor Swift (47), Whitney Houston (46), The Kingston Trio (46), Elton John (39), Fleetwood Mac (38), The Rolling Stones (38), Harry Belafonte (37), The Monkees (37), Prince (35), Adele (34), Eminem (34), Eagles (30) and Mariah Carey (30).

    • John S says:

      “Folklore” is my album of the year so far. Such a good set of songs and perfect for the times. Closest challenger is “Inner Song” by Kelly Lee Owens. Her re-working of Radiohead’s “Arpeggi/Weird Fishes” really is something else.

  7. dc says:

    That’s good to hear as it’s the only brand new album I’ve listened to from start to finish in 2020 (sad I know).
    Lockdown sent me scurrying to all sorts of old stuff – often familiar but half-forgotten albums- and to well-known albums that I’d never got round to but really should have listened to before,
    Taylor is an amazing song-writer, just a really high standard all the way through Folklore and I agree it fits the times really well. Some of it reminds me of the Alvvays dream pop genre- wonder what happened to them?

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