We know 2020 is well passed its middle, but who’s counting? In this odd year that has challenged us in so many ways, we managed to keep giving you great tracks regardless of the genre, and always trying to focus on very new artists and musicians. Still, we missed a few that we wanted to write about – as expected – leading to this beautiful collection of tracks released in the first 6 months of 2020, that we think are deserving of special attention. Yes, you may call this a best-of-list. Because when it comes to best-of lists they are all about what or which songs moved us the most. And these ones moved us throughout the year. And will continue to. We are sure of that.
Don’t expect your already favorite songs to be on this list though. Expect, however, to be surprised with great songs you never heard before that you might include in your favorites list.
Michael Clark – Talking to Nobody
Starting things on with a very well-build song by a very new artist, this is Talking to Nobody by Michael Clark. Alternative rock at its best (of course with influences from Americana to Dream Pop), this is a track build on the road, that captures a pacy feeling on a melancholic line. Works great as a go-to gain some feeling and will, and because it is so easy to listen to, also feels like a soundtrack to a regular day. It takes away the bad on being isolated, or restrained, or mad, and makes all feelings naturally calm. Just like a proper conversation with ourselves that went well. Self-growth if we may. And showcases why we go to music for well-being. Beautiful song that merges classic sonorities with modern ones too.
Pootie Beats – Supernova
Bass Guitar, Drum Kit, Synthesizer, Samples, and Piano. That’s how Pootie Beats present themselves. Soon you hit the play button on Supernova (their latest single featuring the very well known Zhao), you will feel the same we did. Those 80s like spacial elements really draw the listener into the song on the very first hook, and, in our opinion, to never really getting out of it. Depeche Mode like vocals, disco meets slow cadence elements, and a lot of melodic glitters, including the gorgeous vocal chorus. Supernova is part of Pootie Beats’ EP entitled Science Mission 1, released about 2 months ago. We highly recommend it.
KTG – Matches
KTG is an indie-pop newcomer – Katie Gallagher. Indie-pop newcomer KTG – aka Katie Gallagher. With an album released last year, she returns with the vibrant and very modern Matches. A song that starts really strong with a sort of pre-chorus and a very pacy feel. The kind of song structure capable of making an impact on 2020 radios. Matches feature a distinct drum in the back, and is sung in a way mixed between singing and pacy talking, and supported by a contagious bass guitar and synths that are so well connected. Clearly a pop song but taking influences from folk and rock, it is in the distinct blend and the overwhelming power that KTG is making a stand for herself. Looking for your new favorite Summer pop track? Right here:
SENATOR – Makingmoves
Dream Pop has turned into one of the main modern new genres. With a lot of bands doing it, the hard part is to find those gems with that little extra thing we can’t quite explain. Senator is a dream-pop duo (Josh Pinkston and Garry Watson) who love bands like Real Estate and TOPS. That tranquilizing sonority we can find in those bands, we can certainly find it in SENATOR tracks. Also producing vibes like Daft Punk (at least vocally), Makingmoves – their first single – is a great Summer-ish track that mixes guitars with soft drums and a LOT of melodies. The variations are great, the guitar solos juicy, and everything tastes like a long-flavored iced candy.
Hannah Georgas – Dreams
Of a clear beauty, Hanna Georgas latest single Dreams is a part-sweet-part-melancholic sound that lives from the hauntingly beautiful vocals of Hanna. But not only. The drum elements mixed with the deep but slow bass lines and the guitar give everything a hypnotizing feeling. Hannah’s sonority in this reminds us of a Daughter song in the way it penetrates into our soul and makes us feel one with the track. As the vocals grow throughout the song there is also a sense of positive lightning, forgiveness, and clarity. And when a track makes us so much good, it is always impossible to ignore it. A beautiful song for your days (and gentle nights).
Dreams is part of a four-track EP entitled Just a Phase. The EP features 3 other sensible indie-pop anthems.
Rum Buffalo feat. Kathika – Screama Preacha
Garage-rock is not dead. We know that we are not consistently writing about it, but that does not mean we don’t love it. Especially when sounds fresh but still powerful. Just like Rum Buffalo’s masterpiece with Screama Preacha. Steady from the start, we dig the guitars, the sax, the drums, the whole, and every single thing in their sonority. Sounding classic but with a modern twist, but more rock than bands like Kings of Leon or Black Keys. And filled with twists, like the one at 2.50. Surfing on the top of their instrumental vibe, Kathika rock-raps with such a power we can’t really understand what hits us at first. As also does at around the fourth minute the horn player Harrison Cole. What a track! A personal favorite (José) over here!
Jacknife Lee feat. Earl St. Clair and Beth Ditto – I’m Getting Tired
Released 3 months ago, I’m Getting Tired has not received the attention it deserves. This Jacknife Lee (producer of acts like REM, Bloc Party, Bat For Laches, etc.) track is oddly powerful and sounds like nothing we have heard before. Jazz lines, a very aggressive (almost jungle-like) set of drums, vocals in abundance, and a clear indie rock vibe that never ends. It’s almost like until half of its length we can feel a very exciting beginning of the track and all of a sudden we are happily submersed into the whole vibe. Featuring giants like Earl St. Clair and Beth Ditto, the vocal participations are intertwingled so perfectly that everything sounds like a very strong crew. And might be just that. Vibes for ages, that’s what Jacknife Lee is bringing to everyone’s table. I’m Getting Tired is also part of a full album released at the end of June that features other acts like Aloe Blacc or Petit Noir. The track’s video is also a must-see with a very strong political message about the world we are living in.
James Chatburn – In My House
Not a newcomer to the scene, the latest track by Berlin-based James Chaturn is an RnB stunner like few released these days. The Australian soul singer and producer with already two EPs in the bag released already 4 tracks this year, and In My House was the third one (and our favorite from the pack). Very addictive, mainly due to the very catchy chorus and chilled vibes on the vocals, but also the distinct bass lines all over it. The way it gently varies gives the listener a super smooth experience. One that can – and should – be repeated several times. The jazz meets soul vibe makes of it one song impossible to dislike. It just gets us in the zone. every. single. time.
Kae Tempest – ‘People’s Faces’
Kate Tempest’s latest track ‘People Faces’ is THE eye-opener everyone of us needs, especially during these times we are all going through. Equality is needed more than ever, as well as toleration, good in general, is scarce, and every time we are surprised as humans we tend to fail to each other: “There is so much peace to be found in people’s faces” as Kae Tempest says. They, probably more than most of us, have felt in the skin. And still peace, positiveness, and good persists. Kae Tempest is for us a symbol for the wanted humanity. And ‘Peoples Faces’ just like the previous Holy Elixir and Unholy Elixir, is a song that should be heard and felt by all. Thank you, Kae.
Ava Scott – Cherries
Ava Scott wrote Cherries as a metaphor for being with someone in her sophomore year of high school. The first thing we notice on it are the unusual and raw vocals. Sounding something sort-of Amy Winehouse while getting more close to new indie-pop. The vocals are accompanied by a soft acoustic guitar, and the song builds up almost like a rap. The soft and clever variations that start with the first drum riff are expected but very good, and it’s that sense of expecting it but still sounding great that got us the most. Cherries is simply put a gorgeous indie-pop song that does not try to do the same as most, and takes its time, and its zone. And we love that.
Seraphina Simone – Cherry <8
British-American Seraphina Simone has the right attitude we need to get the strengths to get through the less cadenced days. Exciting and contagious, Cherry <8 – her first-ever single – is a pop sugary song that does not try to deliver the same common punch lines. Heavily supported by her outstanding vocals, Cherry <8 evolves in an almost unnoticeable way. The thingy in the name gives it away has a song about a troubled or tangled heart. It is mainly about the obstacles of growing in this world turned strange where we are never satisfied. Daughter of the musician behind the very well known Terence Trend D’Arby project, it sure seems like music runs in her veins. With many more upcoming songs, she is already one to look for on our radars.
SLR – Us
Us is SLR third single (and the second in 2020). Featuring Rita Onofre the song showcases a turnaround or the representation of the opposing principles not only in our lives but also in terms of sonority. 80’s inspired, with both danceable and introspective vibe, the track talks about indecision and assertion, revolt and peace, and the goods and bads of ending a relationship. Vocally impressive, Us lives not only of the big falsettos in it but also from the very electronic-infused progression. Huge drops and hooks that make it not only a song to play in almost any modern radio, and also a track to dance along that leaves space for though. And does it all always focusing on self-love.
New Rivals – Would You Mind
Serving as the introduction to a new band, Would You Mind is the first song of a lot of songs released in 2020 by New Rivals. With two singles plus a debut album released in 6 months, this highly productive almost teenage group makes caramelized pop songs that fit somewhere between some of the most listened bands across the younger pop generations and a super healthy indie-rock vibe. The guitar riffs always bring home some familiarity we can’t quite explain, but the fact that the song easily turns into a viral one inside our song can explain easily why we like it so much even though it is outside our comfort zone. For that reason, all the merit to these boys. This might grow like Incubus.
Momma – Double Dare
“Two of Me’s songs are about coming to terms with the side of you within yourself that is maybe capable of darker things.” So states Allegra Weingarten about the sophomore album of the four-piece Los Angeles indie-rock band Momma she leads with songwriting partner Etta Friedman. At least thematically, then, Two of Me is pretty pitch-perfect to be released this year because who among us hasn’t trafficked in darker thoughts in 2020? Brooding and moody, Momma mixes influences of great 90s-era melodic grunge with the hushed vocals and unflinching storytelling of Elliot Smith. Double Dare is a wildly catchy, standout track from what is a remarkably cohesive and consistent record–one that easily belongs on early ‘best of the year’ lists.
K’Bana Blaq -Everyday People
A multi-talented artist, musician, and creative from Newport News, VA, K’Bana Blaq’s Everyday People stands out as a peaceful, graceful song of empowerment in this time when beauty and strength are sorely needed in equal measure. Off of Blaq’s solo record Death to Mindless Music, Everyday People is a mesmerizing track. Over-top a stripped-down solo piano line and a deft, accompanying bass, Blaq lushly layers and loops his voice — wordless harmonizing — while crooning lines like, “What makes the world go around, sometimes will go unnoticed / Well now after the limelight / We are the resistance.” Like the rest of the record, the song is an interesting blend of classic soul influence with a modern R&B vibe. The production feels intimate like Blaq is singing only to you. And, for the entire delightful 3:28, the track just…simmers.
Raw Poetic & Damu the Fudgemunk – Head On
Time for one of Adam’s favorites. And, dammit, this song straight-up bounces! DC-based emcee Raw Poetic rides out and raps tight over his friend and collaborator Damu the Fudgemunk’s classic — I mean, *classic* — old-school hip-hop beat and expert production. The beat never lets up (no bridge here) and Poetic keeps pace all along, unspooling fast-paced rhymes to further the propulsive, almost unconsciously forward-moving feel of the track. Even as it references resilience in the face of challenge, Head On feels joyful and free from start-to-finish. The classic hip-hound sound runs throughout the rest of the duo’s record Moment of Change. They originally intended to drop the project later in the year but moved up the release in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Poetic has shared, “Every song was written this year. I think it speaks to this very moment. From the passing of Kobe to the coronavirus quarantine, we’ve been left with a lot to reflect on … and make a change. Hence the title.”
Ailbhe Reddy – Time Difference
The last song of this beautiful bunch is Ailbhe Reddy’s latest track Time Difference. A song that naturally transmits a positive vibe. Much of that positiveness is transmitted by the upbeat construction in the track. With a very very sweet sound that entices us to move our feet while singing along, this is one very hard to pass along, but very welcoming to get back to multiple times. “I keep an eye on the time difference, anything to close the distance, the distance between us” – is among the most beautiful chorus we heard all year. Ailbhe Reddy is about to release her debut album, with Personal History coming out in October. We feel ready for more sweet indie-ballads like this :).