10. Jessie Ware – Spotlight: One of the most surprising tracks of the year was hearing the first single from Jessie Ware’s What’s Your Pleasure? album. As Ware sings the intro, suddenly the beat comes in and moves the song in an unexpected disco direction. A revitalized Jessie Ware was a joy to listen to in 2020.
9. The Fiery Furnaces – Down at the So and So on Somewhere: The Fiery Furnaces have always been a bit hit and miss but their first song after being gone for 10+ years was all hit. Simple keyboards and beats that hit in all the right places. At times it sounds like an accomplished 12 year old put it together which made it all the more charming. “Don’t you remember we were happy there?” We do!
8. Gia Margaret – body: A late comer after hearing it on the excellent Cillian Murphy BBC6 Radio show. Set over the sound of twinkling white lights, this beguiling track uses a speech from philosopher Alan Watts that is beamed in from a different era. It is beautiful, sad, and inspiring all at once. Regardless of what Watt says, I feel the feelings.
7. Justin Bieber (Feat. Quavo) – Intentions: One of my favourite beats of the year, hearing Bieber sing – “picture perfect you don’t need no filter” is a lyric tailor made for the social media age. The top 5 single is a winner with its laidback groove and positive vibes. Not to mention the Raptors shoutout.
6. Bad Child – HI DEF: Randomly found this one while listening to the Adult Alternative Channel on Stingray music. One of the few rock songs on this year end list, it’s a great one to jump around to as the girls in the video do. After this 2020 BS is over, looking forward to once again being “…wasted with my friends”.
5. Fontaines D.C. – I Don’t Belong: Besides Bieber, this is the only other returning artist from 2019. The first guitar lick sounds like it was airlifted from a Lil Peep track while Grian Chattan sounds tired but also manages to expand his vocal delivery. “I don’t belong to anyone, I don’t want to belong” is surely an anthem for those locked in their bedrooms after a rough break-up… or breakdown.
4. The Blaze (Feat. Octavian) – Somewhere: There’s a few tracks that come out of nowhere and just stay as a favourite all year for no discernable reason. This year it’s The Blaze which rides a groove that builds then comes back down to earth. This is for the dark corners of the club, where the people move “quick like Ferrari” when the lights come up again.
3. Z Berg – Into the Night: The track appears on the 2020 solo debut from Elizabeth Anne Berg that feels like stepping into a fantasy world. The cinematic song sounds like a fairy tale showing both the light and dark as she sings, “as life got too heavy, so I got too light” before she disappears from sight and back into the night.
2. Keeley Forsyth – Start Again: The second song released by the actress turned musician is the oldest track here having appeared in January 2020. The minimal arrangements are not much more than a beat a few synth stabs but are nonetheless haunting, like a disturbing dream as she searches “over and over and over and over”. Leave the lights on.
1. Fiona Apple – Shameika: Fiona Apple’s 2020 album Fetch the Bolt Cutters received ecstatic reviews upon release in June. The basis of this standout track is a childhood acquaintance that tells Apple that “she has potential”. The clattering beat and piano form the backing track that all comes to a stop as Apple delivers the “potential” line before the drums and piano bang back in to drive the point home. To hear the positive message delivered by a teenager from about 30 years ago is disarming in this era where people spend hours fighting online. It’s an amazing track on an excellent album that is hard to get out of your head once it’s in there.