Welcome back to my blog for yet another year, and thank you for continuing to drop by :). For my first post of the year, I traditionally like to look back at the releases I loved from the year before and share them with all of you. I've put together a playlist of my favourites that I truly hope you will love as much as I do.

Welcome back to my blog for yet another year, and thank you for continuing to drop by :). For my first post of the year, I traditionally like to look back at the releases I loved from the year before and share them with all of you. I've put together a playlist of my favourites that I truly hope you will love as much as I do.

I guess the best thing I can say about 2020 is: at least the music was good! Nobody escaped the unparalleled hardship that descended last year, but I think to survive, we've all had to find small things that bring sanity and happiness into our lives, wherever we can. For me that's often, first and foremost, music.

I've stated before that the basic mission of this blog is uncovering unusual pop, but another way I could put it is that I like to find beautiful pop. My idea of beauty might be a little more off-kilter than some, but I really love the sensory pleasure of rich, resonant textures and pleasing layers of sound. The pop part to me is a certain... liveliness. I always find this combination – beauty plus liveliness – so uplifting. I think the songs I've chosen for my 2020 playlist really represent that feeling, whether they are steeped in 80s-style synths or in the traditional music of Tanzania.

Below, you'll find a list of my top 30 albums of the year, with the first 10 albums being my top 10 picks. I chose a nice rounded (and not overwhelming) number for once, and though there were many wonderful releases I discovered, I tried to stick to things I've really gotten to know and love over the year. Following that is a list of my top 5 EPs and singles of the year. Keep scrolling to find the Spotify playlist featuring one song from each of these 35 releases (minus the unavailable ones) and its tracklist. You can also click the playlist pic at the top of the post to open the playlist on Spotify, or try the link below it for more listening options (with some limitations – details after the tracklist).

The list has 30 brilliant albums, a continued testimony to the creativity and talent that is out there, often undersung. It was a year of some amazing comebacks, including superb, long-awaited returns from two of my most cherished artists, Isobel Campbell and A Girl Called Eddy. But I have to give my album of the year to another noteworthy comeback: Annie's breathtaking Dark Hearts.

The latest album from Norway's Annie is her first full-length release in eleven years, but somehow feels like something we've been waiting for even longer. It's her finest work since her debut, 2004's seminal Anniemal, and seems like a spiritual successor to it. It feels like the promise of her uniquely beautiful 2004 single, the ethereal-but-upbeat Heartbeat, made into a full album. Dark Hearts often captures that same feeling of delicate melancholy combined with authentic optimism. It's pop that is affecting and comforting, and though it strays into newly dark territory for Annie, it's never too painfully heavy. Annie draws on influences of the past in a canny and personal way, but her sense of nostalgia is never cheesy or regretful; instead it's touching and evocative. This is a mature, fully-realised pop album from someone who earnestly honours moments from her youth, who has experienced the complexities of life, yet has never lost touch with the feelings from more innocent days.


These are in no particular order except that the first 10 are my top 10 albums (also unordered). Click the album name for a Bandcamp or other link to purchase.

  1. Annie - Dark HeartsNorwegian flag
  2. Maude Audet - Tu ne mourras pasCanadian flag
  3. Isobel Campbell - There Is No OtherScottish flag
  4. Les Hay Babies - Boîte aux lettresCanadian flag
  5. Nina - SynthianUK flag
  6. Dana Gavanski - Yesterday Is GoneCanadian flag
  7. Liraz - ZanIsraeli flagIranian flag
  8. The Galaxy Electric - Tomorrow Was Better YesterdayUSA flag
  9. A Girl Called Eddy - Been AroundUK flag
  10. Juniore - Un, Deux, TroisFrench flag
  11. Winter - Endless Space (Between You & I)USA flagBrazilian flag
  12. Sven Wunder - Eastern FlowersSwedish flag
  13. Witch Prophet - DNA ActivationCanadian flag
  14. Michelle Blades - Nombrar las cosasPanama flagFrench flag
  15. The Green Child - Shimmering BassetAustralian flag
  16. La Preyra - OR | OSFrench flag
  17. Jonathan Personne - DisparitionsCanadian flag
  18. Nicole Atkins - Italian IceUSA flag
  19. Habibi - Anywhere But HereUSA flag
  20. Julien Gasc - L'Appel de la forêtFrench flag
  21. Soleá Morente - Lo que te faltaSpanish flag
  22. Jonathan Bree - After the Curtains CloseNew Zealand flag
  23. Star Feminine Band - Star Feminine BandBenin flag
  24. The Yearning - Only When I'm DancingUK flag
  25. Angela Muñoz - IntrospectionUSA flag
  26. Slowgold - AskaSwedish flag
  27. Siti Muharam - Siti of Unguja (Romance Revolution on Zanzibar)Tanzanian flag
  28. Jon Brooks - Applied Music: Land & SeaUK flag
  29. White Poppy - Paradise GardensCanadian flag
  30. Khruangbin - MordechaiUSA flag

EPs & Singles

To qualify for this list, a release needed to have more than one song. I've added a lot of my favourite single-song releases to the bonus list at the bottom of this post.

  1. Lake Ruth - Crying Everyone Else's TearsUSA flag
  2. Gaye Su Akyol - Yort Savul: İSYAN MANİFESTOSU! Turkish flag
  3. Khruangbin & Leon Bridges - Texas SunUSA flag
  4. Garden Gate - PostcardUSA flag
  5. Glüme - Come Softly To MeUSA flag

And now, onto the playlist! There are many truly extraordinary songs here – I'd be surprised if you don't find some instant favourites :).


  1. Annie - The Streets Where I Belong
  2. Glüme - Come Softly To Me
  3. Nina - Automatic Call
  4. Liraz - Mastam
  5. Gaye Su Akyol - İsyan Manifestosu
  6. Sven Wunder - Lotus
  7. Les Hay Babies - Jacqueline
  8. Juniore - La vérité nue
  9. Jonathan Personne - Terre des hommes
  10. A Girl Called Eddy - Someone's Gonna Break Your Heart
  11. Khruangbin & Leon Bridges - Texas Sun
  12. Habibi - Stronghold
  13. Nicole Atkins - Forever
  14. The Green Child - Low Desk : High Shelf
  15. Dana Gavanski - Good Instead of Bad
  16. Maude Audet - Les gelées de novembre
  17. Slowgold - Aska
  18. Angela Muñoz - Can I Get Your Name
  19. The Yearning - Come To Me
  20. Julien Gasc - Maracabela
  21. Soleá Morente - Tutti Frutti
  22. Star Feminine Band - Rew Be Me
  23. Siti Muharam - Nyuki
  24. Khruangbin - Pelota
  25. Witch Prophet - Elsabet
  26. Jonathan Bree (feat. Crystal Choi) - 69
  27. Garden Gate - Thames
  28. Lake Ruth - Sad Song
  29. White Poppy - Memories
  30. The Galaxy Electric - Time Slipping
  31. Winter - Wherever You Are
  32. Isobel Campbell - Just for Today
  33. Michelle Blades - Globitos

Note that two of my top albums, from Jon Brooks and La Preyra, are not on Spotify, so are not in the playlist. My song picks for them are Geomere and Pastorel, respectively. I've also made an 8tracks playlist that does contain these songs, but blocks the beautiful Dana Gavanski song (and you may need to use a VPN to access 8tracks, depending where you are). Some further streaming options, if you don't like Spotify or 8tracks, can be found here (Deezer, Tidal, Youtube), but note they are missing more songs, and I had to substitute some on the Youtube version. Yep, this is the confusing and frustrating world of trying to post playlists using legal services!

Bonus listening

As I've done in previous years, I've made a supplementary playlist of things that didn't make it onto my top lists. I like to make these outtake playlists because it helps with my indecision as I'm choosing my top releases, and because I discover a lot of great stuff I think is worth hearing. I also like to dip back into these playlists later to be reminded of things I heard during the year that I may otherwise forget about.

'2020: further explorations' comprises songs from my next favourite releases (sometimes painfully, barely cut from the top list!), songs I loved from albums that weren't overall favourites, singles that have no B-sides, and various other tracks that caught my ear. Many songs here are from excellent releases I just didn't get a chance to give enough time to.

This playlist is long – 97 tracks and over 6 hours of listening! – but it's different in intent to the 'best of' playlist. I hope you'll listen to that one, which is carefully curated, in full and in order. The 'further explorations' list is more something to dip in and out of, to get a sense of what else 2020 in music had to offer. Though I've tried to give it a certain flow to make for pleasant, continuous listening if you choose to play it through, you could also just hit shuffle to randomly discover a song or artist.

Finally, I want to thank those who led me to some of this amazing music: Rhid, SteveJ, Musicophilia (thanks for both the recommendations and your generous BLM initiative), Guuz, chickfactor, Calle, Brady, and Rockfort.

Happy listening, and I hope this music brings you some comfort and emotional sustenance in these times. Please let me know in the comments what music from last year lit your fire, especially anything that escaped my attention. And I always love to hear if you've discovered a new favourite from my selections!

Comments (2)

  • mordi  
    HEY! What a great list - and I hear the beauty in all of them. I went through all of them and had a bit of a listen to each - I am definitely going to listen further to Nina (I love some synth - and to know that Ricky Wilde and Richard X have both been involved just makes me more interested), Maude Audet sounds right up my street (demande-moi is sounds amazing), I was surprised how much I enjoyed Johnathan Personne and it's great to see Glume on your list - I have a lot of time for italians do it better (did you get after dark 3?)

    I have loved Annie ever since The Greatest Hit but I am really struggling with Dark Hearts - obvs The streets where I belong is one of the best songs of the year ...but the rest of the album I just cant get into. I find it really dull- I don't think i've managed to listen to it all the way through even once. I feel like I'm missing something - everyone else seems to love it. I'll give it another try- I'll turn it up and promise I won't slip any of the tracks!

    Glad you are doing ok - what would we have done without music the past year?!!!!
    • Christine  
      Read on twitter: spikedcandy
      Hey Mordi! Lovely to hear from you as always, and thank you for such a thoughtful comment. I thought you would love Nina - I was actually going to message you to recommend her! I forgot that After Dark 3 came out, I'll have to check it out. By the way, every digital album on Italians Do It Better's site is only $1 to buy!

      Funny we have such opposite reactions to Dark Hearts - different strokes, huh? I hope that it does grow on you. I found it really affecting somehow. It was hard to pick a fave of the year out of all these amazing releases but there was just a quality to it that got to me that little bit extra :).

      Yep, so thankful for music and I'm really glad you're OK, too. :)

Add Comment

* = Required field. Email address will not be displayed and is never shared.
BBCode format allowed.

Comments are subject to moderation before being displayed.