Written by Simon Geraghty
So we’ve finally arrived at the end of one of the longest and shortest year’s in living memory (bar the occasional person who lived through WW1 and the Spanish Flu! That followed).
As part of the relaunch of our redesigned website we decided to refocus on music! (We need all the re-ups we can get in 2020!) We’ve all listened to a lot of music, especially those of us fortunate enough to be able to work from home since March.
At times it has felt like being on a space station, ‘sitting in a tin can, far above the world, Planet Earth is blue and there’s nothing I can do’…
Here are ten of the tracks from both home and abroad that kept us going and sound tracked our working hours through the great pandemic of 2020:
- First up, and top of the pile, is SAULT’s ‘Bow’, a song that also features this year’s Mercury Prize winning Michael Kiwanuka. (Kiwanuka was among the several concerts I had tickets for in 2020 that never materialised for obvious reasons!) But back to SAULT – their album ‘’Untiled (Black Is) released in the summer – was a response to the events surrounding the death of George Floyd and the BLM protests that followed. This sample driven disco funk slice is everything I love about the band. A song of fraternal solidarity, we got rights! The more poignant titular track is also well worth a listen. Bow:
- Up next is Lianne La Havas beautiful rendition of ‘Weird Fishes’. I’m a sucker for a brilliant reimagining of a classic song, this is her soulful version of a song from Radiohead’s ‘In Rainbows’ album. The song sits on her beautiful soulful self-titled third album. La Havas is described as an alternative folk and soul English singer and songwriter. The Finlay Quaye-tinged ‘Read My Mind’ on the same album is also well worth a listen. Weird Fishes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LdbHO_KhCig
- Dan Deacon’s ‘Become a mountain’ is from his fifth album ‘Mystic Familiar’. According to Pitchfork “Deacon’s perspective on change and evolution comes from a daily meditation routine and the use of Brian Eno’s Oblique Strategies cards”, of which we are big fans ourselves. This tune with its zen, sage advice begins with his voice and ever intensifying piano chords, becoming gradually layered with further instruments and loops. “All of time is right here, is right now” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GtBmZYqZZjU
- Fiona Apple’s ‘Fetch the bolt cutters’, from the album of the same name, reminds me in places of early Laurie Anderson and Tune-Yards. I was late to this album in 2020 but as Apple cries ‘Fetch the bolt cutters I’ve been here too long’, it sums this year for many of us. The song closes with dogs yelping, and my two home office companions (two rescue lurchers) go towards the sonos looking for the new dogs in the house, I generally have to skip this part, much like the baying hounds that feature at the end of ‘Good Morning Good Morning’ by the Beatles! Fetch the Bolt Cutters: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=emXYPRlVBas
- Silverback’s ‘Dunkirk’ is art pop, post punk and the band hails from Dublin! ‘And you wanted to go, somewhere?’ Think jangling guitars, and a more accessible, less frenetic version of Girl Band. I came across this band on an album called ‘A litany of failures, vol. III’ hopefully they don’t prove to be! ‘Fad’ is their debut album and the track ‘Pink Tide’ is well worth a (virtual) spin as well! Dunkirk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=trMhSw5xcp4
- Godcaster’s ‘Don’t make Stevie Wonder’ is here for two reasons, firstly, I wanted to type that brilliant play on words and, secondly, despite a late arrival of this album in 2020 ‘Long Haired Locusts’ catchy absurdist garage tinged rock from Philadelphia will hopefully come and play in the Grand Social at some point in 2021, Moderna vaccine permitting! Don’t make Stevie Wonder: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J7LZ99B3PQ0
- Speaking of the Grand Social, Aoife Nessa Francis’ album launch for ‘Land of No Junction’ took place back in February 2020, another planet. Hard to believe standing in a crowded room would become completely alien to us all this year. ‘Libra’ captures her haunting vocals and shoe gaze tinged delivery, this song is also chosen not least for the fact that I am a Libran! Libra: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-NpfWfr4-S0
- RSAG, who we first saw play live in driving-two-day-drizzle on Valentia Island, the most westerly point on the Iveragh Peninsula in the south-west of Kerry. Jeremy Hickey (also known as Rarely Seen Above Ground/ RSAG) is a multi-instrumentalist and producer from Kilkenny. A previous version of ‘Leave a light on’ was released in 2016, but a tweaked version appears on his 2020 album ‘Chroma’. This percussion driving punk funk, think LCD Soundsystem or the DFA label’s sound, with a touch of Joy Division and early Talking Heads, ‘Leave a light on’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u_q3u46w1A4
- Another act we saw earlier in 2020 Algiers in Whelan’s, in February. Here’s hoping that some of these spaces and places survive the pandemic and multiple lockdowns. Selfishly, if nothing else, I’ve saved a fortune on concert tickets in 2020! The title track from their third album of the same name ‘There is no year’ displays Franklin James Fisscher’s gospel tinged vocals, the bands industrial dance pop and art punk. They are a live act that is not to be missed! Also, worth a listen from the same album is ‘We can’t be found’. There is no year: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A4edQAKmAvE
- Last but not least, is Denise Chaila’s ‘Duel Citizenship’ which brings to mind the sound of early Lauryn Hill. This song is technically from a single in 2019 and wasn’t released with her debut album ‘GO Bravely’ in 2020. But hey my list, my rules! The Limerick native delivers amazing poetry, lyrical dexterity and a fresh lens on what the face of 21st century Ireland looks and sounds like. In it she paints a picture where she ‘can show you the spirit of Lucan, Limerick and Lusaka!’ ‘Anseo’ from ‘GO Bravely’ is another great intro to the incredibly talented artist. Chaila played Other Voices this year and is destined to do great things in 2021! So ‘where are you from, originally?’ Duel Citizenship: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gU0KGcNbOKk
As an aside Khruangbin’s ‘Mordechai’ and SAULT’s Untitled (Black Is) would be my albums of the year! Here’s the above as a Spotify playlist with some bonus sundries by these and other acts related to the article above: