I always go way too hard in on tracks and albums of the year (spreadsheet, workshopping the playlist, evenings put aside for comparative listening and all that), so I have A Lot of raw material to be working with. I’ll drop my top 20 albums and top 50 odd tracks. I am busy as usual on a hefty K-pop tracks of the year, hopefully that’ll be done sometime soon (it won’t lol).
Apologies to the stuff that just falls off into the just-outside-the-top-20 tier: Richard Dawson’s 2020 (s/o @FMTownsParty), Peggie’s All My Heroes Are Cornballs, 1000 gecs, FlyLo’s Flamagra (s/o @Marcy), Christian Scott Atunde Adjuah’s Ancestral Recall, Jessica Pratt’s Quiet Signs
 Ana Roxanne - ~~~
A quiet, soft, meditative and noisy record about femininity and being intersex. For if you need more of that Grouper fix.
 Carly Rae Jespen - Dedicated
It’s not EMOTION, but whatever. I believe every word she sings.
 Freddie Gibbs & Madlib - Bandana
Yeah, I think it’s better than Piñata. Just incredibly proficient and classy and smug about how good it is.
 Damon Zucconi - Untitled Substance
Weird rediscovered abstract techno record with some of the most piercing, hyper-electronic, post-glitch sound design. I want to be able to make noises like these. ‘A.P.I’ goes off in the club, ‘Interlude (A)’ is a Ryoji Ikeda-style ambiance that has been completely addictive to listen to.
 Helado Negro - This Is How You Smile
My record of the summer. I went on holiday to some bleached out Spanish rocks in the mid-Atlantic and had lots of feelings about race and ethnicity and belonging to this record.
 Ayankoko - Kia Sao ກ້ຽວສາວ
I read a lot of Tiny Mix Tapes and like, yes, pretty often the writing is crawling out from deep out within the critics’ backsides. But occasionally they turn up records that are strange, unlike anything I’ve heard before, and really do transform how I think music can work in some small way. S/o to the Jaeho Hwang record for being a brutal, earthy counterpart to this, that just falls off the list for being too hard to listen to regularly. I have a feeling it’ll grow on me to take its rightful place much higher on the list in time.
 Anthony Naples - Fog FM
Dust-covered dubby house that is perfectly pitched and cool in a way that could feel insipid, but stays just on the right side of the line. Warm and enveloping and the accompaniment to many hours of writing.
 Tyler, the Creator - IGOR
Gay raps that slap. I have a very vivid memory of flying into SFO, halfway through my first proper visit to the US and having an extremely homosexual time, blasting ‘Igor’s Theme’ as I landed and walked into a California heatwave.
 Efdemin - New Atlantis
Efdemin’s last record, Decay, is one of my all time favourite techno records, so this had a tough act to follow. It’s a really marked development, moving from the analogue take on minimal techno to something a little more noxious, drone-heavy and exploratory. The title track is one of the most disgustingly brilliant bits of dance music I’ve heard in years.
 Nilüfer Yanya - Miss Universe
I’ve flippantly said that it deserves the Grizzly Bear memorial award for best Grizzly Bear record that’s much better because it’s not made my Grizzly Bear. But also it’s willing to get much bloodier and more incisive and punkier and it’s all the better for it.
 Caroline Polachek - Pang
HUGE DANNY. It’s weird when there’s an AG Cook-produced Charli XCX record out to be talking about this as the new era electronic pop record that really matters, but (no disrespect to Charli lol) Caroline Polachek has an uncommon talent writing melodies that no one else could conceive of in pop let alone perform. It’s a blend of archness, balance and high drama, alongside pop catchiness and a healthy dose of straight-up awkwardness. She sings like pretty much no-one else I can think of.
 Floating Points - Crush
The record I needed to hide in through a politically nerve-wracking winter. Fidgety in a way that felt like an auditory stim toy. It’s kinda still Dance Music For Cool Dads and I don’t care lol.
 Jenny Hval - The Practice of Love
New Wave through 90s synth-pop as a the vehicle for a collectivist reimagining of love and compassion. She’s clearly one of the best and most singular artists of the decade.
[7.5] Big Thief - Two Hands
Special entry since I usually stick to one record per artist. It’s just, really good.
 Loraine James - For You And I
This album got me loving my city again. The knowledge that a plurality of the country hates you really does affect you, so having an album that evoked the best bits of being in the contradictory, confounding mess I’m stuck in was really fucking crucial. It made me want to go back outside and dance.
 Holly Herndon - Proto
I wrote this twitter thread about the Pitchfork coinage of ‘conceptronica’ for this kind of conceptually burdened dance music. tl;dr the idea that this music is alienating is the most bizarre take. I love how concerned Proto is with the capacity of new technology, both in production and in thematic content, but it’s also lush and textured and enveloping in a way that it feels absurd to call distant and overthought or whatever. A stunning live show that leaned first and foremost on incredible live vocal performance
 fka Twigs - Magdalene
Ever so often I listen to this and think it’s slightly A-level drama? Like, a bit obvious? I dunno there seems to be a small backlash to treating this as a really insightful record, and I can kinda see why. Whatever, it’s still just a joyous thing to listen to, and she’s an incredible singer, and more often than not what she’s conveying lands, and when it does it’s fucking devastating.
 Caterina Barbieri - Ecstatic Composition
[‘graphic design is my passion’ meme, but it says sound design] It’s not complex, and it sounds fucking magical. That’s about it.
 Weyes Blood - Titanic Rising
I sold this to my mom as Carole King with a Jupiter 8. The best exercise in rock songwriting I’ve heard in a long ass time.
 Barker - Utility
Barker produced my favourite short release of last year, which included my favourite track. This doesn’t have any single standout to quite that level, but it’s instead one of the most brilliantly inventive and melodic dance records I’ve ever heard. So easy to get lost in for ages at a time.
 Big Thief - UFOF
Best single year for a band in as long as I can remember, one of the great guitar band albums of the decade.
Starting with a quick run from 50-22 (I help put together a list that asks for a top 20 and needed a track in reserve lol)
 Sunmi - Noir
I usually write a long thing wrapping up the year in K-pop, and this is the track that, while not the absolute best track, set the tone for the whole year. Given the context that she’s probably the highest-profile female solo artist in Korea, give the video a watch.
 Freddie Gibbs & Madlib - Palmolive
We got the best version of four of the best hip-hop artists out there. I know people have picked others off the record but this is too impressive to ignore
 Lee Gamble - BMW Shuanghaun X5
One of the most uncanny and strange and magical bits of sound design I’ve ever heard.
 Helado Negro - Fantasma Vaga
This track is a frisson machine. Somewhere between lo-fi hip-hop and about three different national heritages of folk music which is already special, but the delivery and the subdued tone are kind of magical. The last chorus is face-meltingly gorgeous.
 BewhY - Gottasadae
What is Black Skinhead was uhh. Not chaotic? Focused? Even more sonically adventurous? Had a better rap performance? And even more ego?
 Ayankoko - Downsides
Downsides is a new-age hypnotic bass music opus. Smashing together the sound palettes of Laotian traditional music, fake classical strings, hard-edged dance floor reinterpretations of trap and grime and IDM and glitch, bending time signatures and structures into unrecognisable and bewildering patterns. (s/o to Trytones off the same record which I almost picked for its sheer chaos)
 Caterina Barbieri - Fantas
It could be any single track on this record, and it was almost the tightly wound ‘Spine of Desire’ that comes after it, but ‘Fantas’ takes it for its subtlety and care as it opens up from spacey ambience, through trancey synth workout, into a breakdown and back to the most ecstatic heights. The record is titled Ecstatic Composition for a reason, and it takes after OPN’s R Plus Seven in finding a devotional quality in the inhumanity and plasticity of synth music.
 Jay Som - Superbike
s/o to Sparks by Beach House, which this track reminds me of in parts. It’s a graceful and melancholic indie pop track that turns into a latter day shoegaze anthem.
 Nilüfer Yanya - Angels
On these kinds of albums I think I have a habit of going for the tracks that show artists off at their most adventurous, expansive and daring. ‘Angels’ has a chord sequence so hypnotic and winding that I have sat down to transcribe it and still barely grasp how and why it works. It’s thrashy, desperate and strident.
 Caroline Polachek - Door
The opening vocal phrase is one of the best cold opens to a pop track I know of. Because of the hyper accurate and taut sound that comes out of the vocal performance and production, these looping, baroque swings and dives around her full vocal register feel at different moments plaintive, imperiously graceful or unsettling and uneathly. The whole record works because of how her voice trades between sublime, alien, and devastatingly human. ‘Door’ is just the best and most wondrously realised version of it. s/o to album closer ‘Parachute’ which this almost was.
 Big Thief - Contact
There are at least two perfect tracks on UFOF, but choosing between this and the title track is like picking my favourite thigh bone - frankly absurd, and they don’t really work without one another. ‘Contact’ edges it for its absurd dynamism and the screams, which I didn’t figure out were screams until I binged the live vids. See the Primavera version linked.
 Holly Herndon - Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt
I’m not the person who needs to be convinced of the expressive capacities of generative or algorithmic art. But this is just kinda astounding in how deliberate and composed it sounds. It has themes, that return and develop and recapitulate, all while being intricate and complex and uncontrollable.
 Pop Smoke - Welcome To The Party
Give more New York MCs drill beats. On my first night in NYC in September, I walked through Bed-Stuy to get tacos and overheard an old dude wander across the street and greet a friend hanging out outside a bodega by screaming “welcome to the party” at him. s/o to the drill and grime tracks this is keeping out for its sheer brilliance: the best bits from the AJ Tracey and Dave albums, Vossi Bop, Novelist’s Banger Riddim, RV’s Crep Shop
 Weyes Blood - Wild Time
The emotional heart of one of the best records of the year. It’s a minor masterpiece and I really, really hope that it doesn’t get lost among the flashier tunes and singles. It’s only at 8 because everything above this is hopelessly coloured by personal attachments. If I wasn’t a pop romantic/self-absorbed wanker, this would be number 2.
 Skrillex + Hikaru Utada - Face My Fears
NO THIS IS NOT IRONIC I REALLY FUCKING LOVE KINGDOM HEARTS AND IT MADE ME CRY OK
 Barker - Hedonic Treadmill
There are certain Barker tracks that put me in a headspace that few other musicians can get me into.
 LOFT - That Hyde Trakk
Trans rave for the ages. She’s producing under the name Aya now, and if her album comes out next year, she’s odds on top 3 albums of the new year for me. Strange, messy, and swapping out the alien and glossy hyperpop for straight-up rave and techno tearouts. The most fun live show I went to all year too.
 Efdemin - Oh, Lovely Appearance of Death
The opening to a techno record that imagines a kind of fatalistic and damaged utopia inspired by the writing of Francis Bacon is an ambient soundscape and a stunning performance of a 1768 Charles Wesley hymn that drips with a distinctly American kind of tragedy. I have no idea how it came together, but it’s achingly beautiful. Whenever I go back to the Kentucky Route Zero soundtrack I imagine this as its logical conclusion, and when I hear this, my mind falls back into the dark fantasy of KR0.
 Carly Rae Jepsen - Julien
Yeah the album wasn’t as good as EMOTION but Good Fucking Lord when she’s on form the stuff she puts out is absurdly good.
 NCT 127 - Superhuman
The best pop track of the year is an NCT single and it’s even more absurdly obviously this time than last. Nothing has given me quite so much unadultered joy as Superhuman. The objective of this single was to break them (a mid-tier and fairly experimental K-pop group) in the US, and it roundly flopped. Who fucking cares, the track in equal measures nuclear electro house, irrepressibly groovy French touch, and dizzying RnB lushness.
 Big Thief - Not
This is a track of the decade candidate. I am obsessed with it, and I’m glad other people are too. s/o to Lofty who tweets me every month complaining about how this is all they’re listening to and they blame me for showing it to them.
Hope people find something they click with - happy Xmas and new year y’all x