- Nathan Yoder
DC's Favorite Songs of 2020
A preface to two of DC's three 2020 roundup entries: notice that we've titled the posts "favorite" instead of "best." It's already difficult distilling a year's worth of listening down to a handful of favorite songs and albums, and then trying to slap a "best" label on one or two pieces of music feels pretty impossible. This is mostly because music appreciation is subjective, but also, like, how do you compare a longform ambient piece to a catchy pop tune? So these EOTY choices simply reflect one music enthusiast's tastes.
That being said, here is what we've landed on: 20 songs on Tuesday and 10 albums on Wednesday. The "songs" post will present favorites as scrambled in prose (because, again, ranking is hard), but the "albums" post will be ordered in a more traditional top-ten countdown. Then on Thursday, a few of final entries that didn't quite fit into those first two columns, accompanied by some end-of-the-year editorial ramblings. Some of the music you will read about and hear has appeared on this site already, but other sounds are new, so the yet-to-be-highlighted entries might get a little more attention in these posts, while others will be hyperlinked to what's already been written.
And lastly, I (Nathan here. Hi!) decided to go with honest transparency over presenting myself as above any one artist or genre. It's not a huge deal or anything, but I'd rather be genuine with my music tastes rather than cultivating some online music snob persona. That's all.
So here are DC's 20 favorite songs of 2020, again, in random order:
To begin, I loved Eli Winter's Either I Would Become Ash. Running 22:34, it takes up an entire side of a record, so yeah, pretty epic. It's an outlier on here as the only extended guitar jam, so it's nice to lead with it.
A supremely difficult-to-categorize cut is Andrew Wasylyk's Last Sunbeams of Childhood, but it might be in my top three favorite songs of the year. Yeah, yeah, yeah, no ranking I know. It's just such a smooth jam and so pleasantly warm.
While we are talking genre-fluid music, Ana Roxanne's Venus was an amazing centerpiece on her recent release. The song's spoken word opening was very on-brand for DC's vibe, what with our water infatuation.
Now a trio of indie pop/rock songs! Haim and The Beths get a ton of airtime in my house because my partner and I love signing and dancing to their music, and The Steps and Acrid are just the best. We road-tripped to Glacier National Park this summer, and both songs were on repeat. My partner and I road-tripped I mean. Danielle Haim was not there. And Why Bonnie released a great EP this past year with a real exclamation point of a closer titled No Caves.
The remaining 14 songs can be grouped a little clumsily into electronic/dance or neoclassical piano/strings music. We're going to highlight the beat-driven entries first.
Georgia and Andras opened 2020 on such a high note! You can't help but move to Started Out and River Red, so make sure to bump them at your solo NYE party. Just one month later, Grimes closed out her excellent new album with IDORU, which was absolutely the #1 most played song in my house this past year. Also in the spring, Caribou released a trio of bangers on his comeback LP, but Never Come Back was the standout. Rival Consoles' Vibrations on a String might be the best album-opener of 2020, swirling and building upwards. And to allude to a top-three favorite a second time, Polynation revives some Digweed-era trance on Wildeburg, and we're 100% here for it.
And what would a DC post be without a bit of piano? Goldmund's Day in Day Out is mixed perfectly and melts like like butter. It's the third and final time a song in this post will be marked as a top-three favorite. John Carroll Kirby's excellent composition, Wind, opens with Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam Guèbrou-style strikes, but them peels back into a rhythmic fade. Gia Margaret's 3 Movements and Grace Fergusen's petomani are high water marks on their respective albums, but not much space will be devoted to them now, as they'll get more attention tomorrow (spoiler alert). Nils Frahm, the king of Piano Day, surprised us all with a drop this past March, and No Step on Wing is a delicately beautiful construction. And I don't know what it is about Peter Broderick's We Rejoice!, but the folksy plunks that round off the latest installment of the Piano Cloud Series are just, well, joyous!
Finally, let's carve out space for strings. I'm not sure if you've ever pumped your fist or stomped your feet to a cello piece, but give it a shot with finite distinct by Lukas Lauermann. You will not be disappointed. Lastly (but certainly not least), Niksen's The Landscape Opens Its Eye completes our top 20 - gorgeous piano and harp interplay to bring us home.
Below is a two-hour playlist of all 20 songs in order of mention, so feel free to give it a listen sometime this month. Shuffle it if you'd like! But make sure to come back for the main even tomorrow: our ten favorite albums - ranked.