What a year it's been... Remember when Australia was on fire? Or when Parasite won basically all the Oscars? Or when Kim Jong Un was supposedly dead? Or how 'bout that time when the SoCal alt/indie scene was getting exposed and torn to shreds? No matter how you choose to remember the year, something unexpected to come out of the 365 days of devastation was music. Who knew a global pandemic, not being able to tour and see friends, family, and fans was the recipe for musical perfection! With that being said, here are some of our favorite releases to come out of 2020...
"Learn To Swim" by Sadgirl
Super dreamy and tranquil. I don’t know why this makes me reminisce cold Saturday mornings watching cartoons. Maybe it’s the claymation aesthetic that this song’s music video adopted or the synth riffs throughout which give off 60s/early 70s vibes (Lidsville/ The Partridge family kind of beat). I also love how the music goes perfectly with the lyrics - learning how to swim amidst life’s rough waters captured by the synth’s water drip, lullaby, trance-like like sound.
"The Color Red" by Four Leaf Clover
Love love LOVE the newest single by this local Monrovia band (formerly known as Athena). The vocals remind me so much of Brand New and Built to Spill... Add a little beat drop, a little bass and guitar distortion and you’re set for what could be the raddest mosh pit at a house show. Head bangin' good, this is for sure a tune I listen to while skating, cleaning, or just any time I need some exciting indie vibes rushing through my veins. I love how the track starts off a bit mellow as the verse is sung, then kicks into a sudden crescendo of instruments, then mellowing out again.
It's sure to get your blood pumpin!
"Fairgrounds" by Kevin Creel
Not to hop on the tik tok-influencer-turned-musician bandwagon, but this song is lowkey a vibe... Amidst the raging 'rona keeping us all indoors and cancelling outdoor activities, this song gives off the perfect summertime feels. This bop gives off major surf indie vibes- from the lyrics exploring short lived summer flings to the guitar melody and fireworks in the background.
"Damn Right" by Audrey Nuna
This is a badass track by a badass Korean-American woman in hip hop and I’m all for it. I came across this bop in one of my Spotify-curated playlists called “AntiPop”. It makes me incredibly happy to see a catchy song with so much great wordplay performed by a Korean American female around my age. While none of Audrey Nuna’s other releases hit as hard as "Damn Right", I think she’s up and coming and there’s a lot for me to look forward to her in her new releases. I’m not typically a fan of hip hop music but my appreciation has grown as I can see someone making this type of music who hasn’t really had that hard of an upbringing compared to other creators of this genre. It makes this music more relatable and I’m very excited to see what else she has in store in the future. I’m also just glad to have a non-Kpop Korean person in music. She’s the Chloe Kim of hip hop. Maybe that’s a stretch, but you get what I mean.
"Pancakes for Dinner" by Lizzy McAlpine
It just so happens that this was one of my most-listened to songs this year. I discovered her through TikTok as I have discovered much of my music this year, but I’m glad for it. It carries a nostalgic sense of a lost love that I resonate with, the burning desire to look for any reason at all to confess your love to another. What better than the prospect of your plane crashing before you get the chance? The lyrics speak of a longing for the simplest parts of love, the comfort you derive from a reciprocal love in a relationship. To have pancakes for dinner together is to be the same kind of weird, to love that weirdness and for it to be the foundation of your relationship. All of Lizzy’s songs have the same vibes and I love her consistency but ability to talk about different things through her songs and say it in different ways — but the vibe is the same.
"When We Disco" by JY Park and Sunmi
This is a throwback to the 2010 era when the WonderGirls and JYP were booming. Despite most of the song being in Korean, the music video and ethereal keyboard in the background transports you to a time in the past. For the singers, they’re reminiscing on a time they danced together. If you don’t understand the words, they can mean anything to you. This song is wonderful for being able to take you to any decade you want to remember. The melody is so contagious that it makes you want to disco and the choreography in the music video is simple enough to be able to follow along and enjoy as you listen to the song. This is a great song to end the year with as we remember better times when we could go to the clubs to dance. High hopes for discos coming back in the future.
Dreamland by Glass Animals
I think it was this album that got Glass Animals to #3 on my yearly roundup of top artists (according to Spotify). I’m not sure if it’s just me who thinks this but I’ve always gotten the vibe that while they have about 9 million monthly listeners on spotify, they’ve still somehow managed to stay pretty quiet. Quiet in the sense that I haven’t heard as much buzz about them as other indie/alt acts. But does one’s obscurity make them a better artists? I’m a huge fan of their previous albums but found this one to be easier to digest? It really does seem to have a track for everyone... Now that I’m writing about it, I think this may be one of my favorites because of its autobiographical nature. Every song details a moment in Bayley’s adolescent/adult experiences and the home movie audios between every song just add to the vibe. I really hate that word by the way... ~vibe~
Future Nostalgia by Dua Lipa
CURVEBALL! Remember when everyone loved to make fun of Dua for her terrible dancing? Looks like this album made up for it and helped everyone forget about the awful choreography… So many people my age love to tell others they were “born in the wrong generation”. And although I sometimes wonder what it’d be like to live in the 70s/80s/90s, I don’t think I can survive back then having experienced what I have in my 19 years of life (in the 21st century). This album is like a disco-ish, 80s pop-y, 90s dance club fever dream in the best way possible. You know how some parents will hide vegetables in their kids’ mac and cheese because they’re little brats who can’t just push through the pain of eating a measly piece of broccoli? I’m getting the same vibes from this release. People LOVE to say things like “disco sucks!” in hopes of coming off as cool and different (even though literally everyone says that) and minutes later, you'll catch them talking about Dua’s album like it’s the best thing since sliced bread. But you know what? At a time in the world where none of us are out singing and dancing along with friends and sweaty strangers in every direction, this album is perfect for solo/significant other/roomate/family dance parties.
Bonus- the “Your Woman” sample on “Love Again”… Future NOSTALGIA, who?
"When It Breaks" by Inhaler
I’m gonna be honest, I didn’t find out about these guys before they hit millions of streams per song. I found out about them through SiriusXM… there goes my cool factor. Just kidding, I don’t think anyone’s actually seen me as “cool” before. But whatever, it’s a GREAT song, no matter how many plays. I found out about this track around early December and I still can’t put into words what makes it such a good tune. Is it the way they communicate the sense of growing up and 2020’s turbulence? Or is it the emotion in Hewson’s voice that contrasts with the band’s brashness? Or is it the fact that BONO’S SON calls my face beautiful?? You’ll have to listen to understand that last one.
- Evermore by Taylor Swift
- "Right Here" by Keshi
- "Eugene" by Arlo Parks
- "Care For You" by The Marias
- "Piel Canela" by Cuco
- Nectar by Joji
- The Neon Skyline by Andy Shauf
- What Could Possibly Go Wrong by Dominic Fike
- 30% Off! by Best Frenz
Let us know what your favorite releases from this year are!