Maxed Out - Songs 2020
Updated: Dec 13, 2020
No preamble this year's collection. We know what we know.
Terms & Conditions: Since about 2010, I've tried to match the number of songs to the year's last two digits. It's been an arbitrary limit. This winter I haven't bothered culling.
I'm a complete amateur when it comes to consuming and comprehending music, so this set is utterly haphazard and proudly uncool. To make a little sense out of the scramble, I've loosely corralled songs into genres.
As usual, all songs were released or reissued this year (Exceptions: 1, 16, 17).
01 - Blood For You by Spider Bags. In 2019, the best band in America reissued its debut record (originally released in 2007), so I'm breaking my only rule right off the bat. But A Celebration of Hunger proved to be my 2020 soundtrack. Like an Uncle Tupelo or great Stones record, it'll get you through most anything.
02 - St Marie Under Canon by Cornershop. Cornershop hasn't forgotten that (most) people like to dance.
03 - Palaces of Montezuma by Nick Cave. This version ain't better than the original Grinderman tune, but quietly singing a love song accompanied by only one instrument is still brave, even if you're Nick Cave.
04 - Guess Again by Jeff Tweedy. Speaking of love tunes, Tweedy ain't ashamed to throw a little sap into a song.
05 - Happy & Bleeding by PJ Harvey. I love demos. They strip away all the unnecessary mixing and whatnot. Bare. Bones. Really pleased to hear PJ Harvey's demo versions of her early work.
06 - There's a Break in the Rain by Tom Petty. 2020 was a bounty of rare demos/outtakes. The massive trove in Wildflowers & All the Rest featured some real gems. Wish he wasn't dead.
07 - Harlem River Blues by Steve Earle. Speaking of death, Steve Earle covering one of his son's songs for a tribute record is pretty crushing in a year full of gut-punches.
08- Under Pressure by Karen O & Willie Nelson. Unexpected team-up of two of my all-time favorite singers. This is fantastic.
09 - Teenage Wasteland by Thelonious Monster. Bob Forest describes his rise and fall and rise in this gem. I'm glad he's still alive.
10 - Little Pieces by Bob Mould. Mould just keeps delivering records that sound like mature Husker Du.
11 - Grounds by IDLES. Arty punks keep on giving. I honestly thought this song had synthesizers. Nope. Just guitars + pedals + cleverness.
12 - Making Time by CIVIC. Great cover. CIVIC is just one of a sea of great Melbourne bands. I'm not sure why the current post-punk and garage renaissance down there isn't getting the hype Seattle or DC got. The bands are better.
13 - Goodbye Year by X. It's 2020 and nothing has been lost in their sound.
14 - My Decision by The Lovely Eggs. Pure UK noisepop. Why didn't anybody tell me?
15 - This Perfect Day by Tropical Fuck Storm + Amyl & the Sniffers. Again, Australian bands are just better right now. (Cover of the Saints.)
16 - Dimed Out by Titus Andronicus. Last year's Bob Mould-produced record made me rethink and revisit this annoyingly named band. Some of their output is altogether too indie for my taste (I don't want to hear your lyrics, friend), but this one works really well.
17 - Cop Out by Trampoline Team. Another 2019 release, but this record was a major, major part of my 2020 intake. Maybe the best punk band in the US right now.
18 - All Along the Uxbridge Road by Chubby and the Gang. A pub anthem that kinda sounds like an unearthed Jam + Damned collaboration.
19 - Broken Glass by the Spits. Sludgey Ramones. This band hasn't changed at all, thankfully.
20 - Chem Farmer / Nite Expo by Osees. Normal years are filled with shows that I wish you were at. Minus pandemic, I might be at the Parkside right now (10:15 on a Saturday night). This lament is not a complaint. Missing a year of bouncing in dive bars is no sacrifice. It's almost nothing. I only mention it 'cause this "live" performance in the desert near Joshua Tree was about as close as I got to live music since March, 2020. Also, Osees are a band best enjoyed live.
21 - Don't Blame Me by Thelonious Monk. Recorded in Palo Alto in '68, this set sounds timeless. It's got hints of stride piano (my favorite version of jazz) and bebop and, I guess, bits of everything thereafter.
22 - Running by Gil Scott-Heron + Makaya McCraven. McCraven has got to be one of the best jazz drummers in the world right now. Seek him out. This reimagining of a classic is pretty dang timely.
23 - M.O.N.K. by Aquiles Navarro & Tcherer Holmes. Navarro is a fantastic trumpeter from Panama. Seek him out (solid in Irreversible Entanglements). I guess he plays piano, too?
24 - Good Humor Jingle by RZA. Nothing says 2020 like the ice cream company realizing their historic jingle has racist roots, so they ask RZA to create a new one for their ice cream truck empire. And it's a masterpiece.
Here & Now
25 - I Need You to (Breonna Taylor) by Tobe Nwigwe. The punkest song of the year. Straight & to the point.
26 - God Knows by Dizzee Rascal. This is such a quintessential Rascal song.
God knows that I got a good heart
But I do not go for the disrespect
God knows that I been through the blood and the sweat
You bet I'm a nervous wreck
God knows if I say that I come for a check
Then a check is what I expect
God knows I'm a pain in the neck
God knows, better watch your step
27 - Morphine by Quakers (Bob Banner). I miss the sloppy deliveries of Old Dirty Bastard and Kool Kieth. No autotune here. Credit to an office pal for alerting me to this record. Great set.
28 - Walking in the Snow by Run the Jewels. The best musical moment of 2020 was the "live" performance of this song: at roughly the 20:30+ mark, Killer Mike does what he does. It's glorious.
29 - Tea for the Tillerman by Yusuf/Cat Stevens. This version might be better than the original.