Hello, oh hey there, hi, hello, greetings to you, my friend.
Have you awakened from your food coma already, ready to face 2021 in a few days? No? Still sleeping? Ah well. I will write this message for when you have awoken. It will be like 2020 never happened, it was all just a long dream. Except people will still be wearing masks, and you too must wear one. And you can’t see anyone you care about. But hey! Never has lipstick staining and breathing into various fabrics and materials covering your face, only to inhale your own frantic and socially isolated breath been as en vogue as now.
Before I delve into the songs and attempt to begin the paradoxical endeavor of finding words for emotive musical experiences, which are often created by musicians precisely because words do not suffice for expressing the full spectrum of human emotions, art credit must be given where art credit is due: this painting is by Russian painter Andrey Remnev, one of my most favorite (visual) artist discoveries of 2020. You can find more of his artwork here: https://en.remnev.ru/
1. “Easy Lovers” by Pierre Piccioni.
Anyone that knows me well knows that a flute playing with deliciously dreamy I-prefer-to-wear-my-rose-colored-glasses-today-Henry-Mancini-esque strings makes my heart cheer up when I’m down. This is probably the type of music I would put on to cope with the death of a loved one, which I find rather creepy of myself when I think about it long enough. Is it a masking of reality as it is? No. Because there comes the saxophone, delivering the most lush, warm melody I have heard all year in instrumental music. And that warmth is very real to me. Who said that the prettiest and dreamiest pictures and sounds are unreal? They are moments which come closest to what humans may experience as perfection, but we have all had a “perfectly beautiful” moment like that (and if you haven’t, I am confident you will one day).
2. “Ave Maria” by Joyce.
I am not religious, but I find prayer interesting, and when it is wrapped in a beautiful melody such as this one, a part of me is inspired by the power of religion in the sense of how much exquisite art and music has emerged through religious themes. This whole Christmas thing is like… kind of a religious thing right? Or was that Fusion Festival? Please do enlighten me (and pray for me).
3. “It’s So Easy” by Louis Cole.
Okay, enough dreaming. As Louis Cole sings and plays drums to the demons of procrastination, he awakens the desire in me to get excited about visions and goals again to the point of it being “hard to sit still”. An ode to the beautiful flow arising from sincere motivation to get something done. I want to get things done when I listen to this song. And I like the overall coolness combined with subtle melancholy when he sings “but it’s easy for you”. As if he actually sees something tragic when looking at an unmotivated, sluggish person. As if it’s unfortunate, because we could be doing so much more.
4. “Permanently Shattered” by Salami Rose Joe Louis.
Oh, Salami. What a ridiculous name you have, and what a voice that sounds nothing like what salamis taste like. This is the only song that moved me to tears this year. I can’t really write too much because I think it just needs to be heard. I do want to point out that she produces all of her own music and all the instruments/sounds are fully created by her.
5. “Lansing” by Vinyl Williams.
I don’t have much to say about this song, except that it’s super catchy and that it’s great music for taking a shower.
6. “(You Caught Me) Smilin’ ” by Sly & the Family Stone
I don’t know how to describe this funk beauty except that it’s incredibly silly and sweet and I imagine someone smiling timidly from the corner of a room when I listen to this.
7. “Come Running to Me” by Herbie Hancock.
This is one of the most complex and simultaneously heartfelt/beautiful compositions I have ever heard. It’s from 1977 and one of the earliest examples of how much coolness can be created with the use of a vocoder. I always liked Herbie, but I discovered this composition only in 2020 and my mind was absolutely blown. The bass, the switches, the epic keys solo, the unpredictability. And yet all of it so incredibly smooth. Stunning composition.
8. “A Colorful Dream” by David Bendeth.
Ah yes. It’s corny time. It’s cheesiness-factor-turned-up-to-the-max-time. But those harmonies. Those beautiful backing vocals. I listened to this song over and over again because the melody combined with the backing vocals in the verses tugged at my heart strings and made me want to put a ring on David Bendeth just for being so cloyingly romantic in the best of ways.
9. “Marina” by Os Cariocas.
It was truly difficult to pick out a single song from Os Cariocas, because I discovered so many beauties of theirs this year. An incredible vocal band from Brazil that will appeal to any who love jazz chords and vocal acapella bands, as well as the beautiful Portuguese language. The moment this song was recorded has been captured on Youtube, if you prefer to see these sweet Brazilian gentlemen sing harmonies of the gods. If you enjoyed this one, you may want to check out their “Pure Bossa Nova” album from 2005, or “Estamos Ai” from 2013.
10. “Street Dreams” by Kamaal Williams.
I really don’t have words for this. It’s incredibly beautiful to me, and I feel like no words can describe what it does to me emotionally. But music speaks for itself.
Hey, you made it to the end! If you actually got this far, you are a very special human being and I thank you for reading my strange and but heartfelt thoughts about music. I hope you find something you like on this playlist, and that you have a really nice New Year’s Eve! Hoping all this nonsense is over soon. Stay strong and let music guide your sorrow, joy and thoughts as we navigate through this bizarre existence. xxx
p.s. I love you too Louise.