Even as 2020 kept us indoors, searching for entertainment to keep the pandemic blues at bay, it’s an understatement that the music offered that year was overwhelming.
From the Dua Lipas to Phoebe Bridgers, the output throughout 2020 was rich and incredibly fascinating, seeing some artists push out long-awaited efforts and collaborative projects from their bedrooms or isolated studios.
Like most years, it’s easy for many outstanding albums to fall under most radars, so we figured to compile some of them here — ranging from local efforts that explored meditative, serene spaces, to ones from the other side of the world that evoke joy and freedom in a year of self-imposed quarantines. Here are five brilliant albums from 2020 to catch up on while 2021’s still getting started.
1. Bongomann - pjmd
What may have seemed like a collection of odds and ends from burgeoning producer Bongomann — also the knowledgeable co-manager who runs The Analog Vault — is a rejuvenating set of tunes.
pjmd sees him exploring all things balearic and funky, with four solid house tracks that may not leave you aching for the now-absent dancefloor, but would allow for some bedroom meditations. It’s groovy, spacey and altogether serene.
All proceeds from digital sales go to fund Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2) so it’s a no-brainer purchase.
2. Hauste - patterns
It would not be overstating that Hauste are a technically talented bunch, but their music has been a solid bridge between virtuosity and melodic charm.
Although firmly rooted in math rock — the band shies away from any strict classification — patterns is striking in its immediacy. While the band’s dexterity remains on full display, the three-piece are keen to step out of indulgence to allow hooks and textures to shine.
Vocal contributions from Bobbi Brown and Bakers in Space also lend a hand to the affair, making this an easy listen for anyone who appreciates the delicacy of balancing hooks and instrumentation.
3. BAPAK., ‘Miasma Tahun Asu’
Anyone paying attention to the Indonesian hip-hop underground would be aware of BAP., who came up with the sterling and frazzled monkshood in 2018.
Meanwhile, on 2020’s Miasma Tahun Asu, BAP. flips the switch on the fuzz pedals and Orange amps, turning up the dial to 11 for his new project BAPAK.. The album is a blown-out, energetic psych-rock endeavour that sees the rapper/producer delving into chaos, sweaty riffage and electronic soundscapes.
While not an accessible listen, anyone who appreciates the grandiose and heavy styles of King Crimson, Boris, Sleep or Pink Floyd would do well to give this a try. Just remember: maximum volume yields maximum results.
4. Mary sue - grey noise
mary sue is full of mystery, but his music offers raw, fragmented glimpses into his psyche. The young Singaporean rapper and producer is on the come up, and grey noise is your ticket to a very different, and exciting, direction of local hip-hop.
Drawing from the acidic, cassette-flavoured raps of MIKE and Earl Sweatshirt, the experience of listening to mary sue’s songs on grey noise mimic the warped wow and flutter of home video tapes.
These aren’t catchy lo-fi beats to study to, as much as they are the overwhelming static that blur the fine line between memories and dreams. Headphones required.
5. DJ Sabrina the Teenage DJ - Charmed
House music begins in the bedroom, and for DJ Sabrina the Teenage DJ, it begins from the CRT TVs. Delightfully 90s, Charmed is a three-hour odyssey that plays out like a tribute to the golden years of the decade, but it’s really a continuation of modern dance music that is wholly euphoric and infectious.
There’s no industrial or serious, black-tee posturing here: DJ Sabrina knows the imminent power of shapeshifting chords and beats. She uses them to full effect on Charmed, which we can guarantee will be the shortest three hours you’ll ever have.
Whether if it’s the soundtrack to your next socially-distanced party, or the source for a Monday pick-me-up, Charmed will keep you in its pop-loving spell.