• Awful Track Record

ATR's Best Songs of 2020...So Far

Updated: Oct 10


Written by Zim Ahmadi, Joseph Lu, & Kasih Azhar

Edited by Zim Ahmadi

Featured Image by Joseph Lu

EDITOR'S NOTE: Yes, it's a long list and we apologise if you're overwhelmed. As usual, this list is unranked. Songs are a bit harder to sift through. Sometimes, you get gems even less-than-excellent albums. Some of these songs exist in the weird continuum between pre-COVID and post-COVID, thus leading to tracks that turn out prophetic or just harder to put down in a time of general isolation. Either way, this makes it a more daunting and exciting prospect for the end-year-list with so many good choices at hand from Malaysia and around the world. We hope you find something on the list you enjoy! Shuffle through our Spotify playlist for some fun - you’ll get transported from things that will wreck your brain with noise to tunes you wished were around when you were making that mixtape for someone you had a crush on in your younger days. Even songs that are both at the same time. Thank you for reading!

-Zim-









Honorable Mentions Guilty Conscience - 070 Shake Easy Tiger - Flyte Rabbit Rabbit - Lisel How to Get Physical - Magdalena Bay Vertigo (ft. Lunadira) - Midnight Fusic Me in 20 Years - Moses Sumney Kyoto - Phoebe Bridgers Pure Cinema - Thao & The Get Down Stay Down Stay Where You Are - Yuna By Myself - Maya Hawke

Blame It On Baby - DaBaby Blue World - Mac Miller

Momentary Bliss - Gorillaz ft. Slowthai, Slaves

Hollywood - Car Seat Headrest

STFU - Rina Sawayama RIOT! - Haru Nemuri Ya No Vivo Por Vivir - Natalia Fourcade ft. Leonel Garcia Nonbinary - Arca

Sour Candy - Lady Gaga ft. Blackpink Circle the Drain - Soccer Mommy Dragonball Durag - Thundercat Firefly - The Steve McQueens


Between - Alextbh

GENRE: ALTERNATIVE R&B, FUTURE GARAGE, FUTURE BASS


Alextbh kicks off the list with his existential R&B banger Between. Glistening instrumentation and slick vocal performance hide the vulnerable lyricism of a hikikomori trying to find a connection in an increasingly disconnected world. With such a sparse production style, the 808 bassline hits you harder than finding out MCO has been extended again. If you need background music for your private Zooms sessions with your SO, this is it. - Joseph-




HB[A] - The Filters



GENRE: FRACTIONAL MATH // EXPERIMENTAL // INDIE ROCK


Ranging at only 1 minute, this little ditty by The Filters might be the most inventive yet eloquent attempt at rearranging the Happy Birthday song. It's still easy to sing along to, despite it being timed in odd signatures and a whole different variety of chords that still links up to a totally applicable arrangement. The other end of this song is a total meltdown, with a bass-boosted explosion and a segue way into an 8-bit crushed maelstrom that sounds nothing like the original birthday song in any sense. Listen closely enough, and you might just catch onto those few seconds where frontman Ian tells his drummer to fuck off. -Kasih-

Burning Out - OJ Law

GENRE: INDIE POP / INDIE ROCK / R&B / BALLAD


Although the working class struggle is a tale as old as time, Burning Out inadvertently became even more timeless because it prophesied the ever-increasing importance of vocations like deliverers in a time of an isolation-filled pandemic lockdown. Even without the COVID context, Burning Out is still a beautifully written ballad that captures the exhaustion of the rat race and the quiet resignation that comes with it. The song reaches a profound moment of catharsis with its guitar solo ending but the very straightforward approach to Burning Out is what makes it a classic. Sometimes we just want people to care that we’re tired, that it’s worth it to acknowledge the moments of doubt that we all feel; especially when climbing the social ladder feels pointless and never-ending. -Zim-


Tiang Seri - MonoloQue


GENRE: GENRE: GLITCH POP, IDM, AMBIENT POP


Taking on a brave new direction, MonoloQue’s Tiang Seri captures the image of a slow rot of a house about to collapse. The jittering drums, the drunken vocal delivery, the Radiohead inspired synthesizers in the background, all culminate into the haunting image of a mind sunken in denial, perhaps of unrequited love or a harrowing discovery. -Joseph-




Greener From Above - Krooktroupe



GENRE: LO-FI // FOLK // INDIE ROCK

Pulsating synths and disjointed acoustica, “Greener from Above” makes for one interesting electro-folk track. Faris's wispy vocals reverberate softly through the loose melodies- it flirts listlessly by sounding echoey for a moment and slightly distorted the next. The track emits serenity - subtly trance-like. The repetition reminiscent of the twinkly jingles of a Nintendo DS loading screen, and the bleak monotony of a pendulum swing. The song begins to swell as the orchestration builds, flutes enter the atmosphere and the sounds of water droplets and nature turn this track into a tiny little rainforest. It’s a lazy lullaby, yet meaningful all the same. -Kasih-


Purchase the Botanika EP collection here. Follow Krooktroupe on Bandcamp



Irama - Enterprise


GENRE: NEW WAVE / SYNTH-POP Irama is the Subang Jaya synth-pop outfit’s tribute to iconic multi-talented Malaysian film actor, artist and singer, P. Ramlee - specifically his legendary song Getaran Jiwa. It is Enterprise at their grooviest. In comparison to much of their previous album released in 2017, Episode Two: Fantastic Planets, the homage sees Enterprise come back down to Earth (relatively speaking) with a rhythmic & triumphant vengeance. I can’t get the chorus out of my head. This song is a PSA to open up your mind to indescribable fantasies - and to dance. -Zim-



玩玩MEH你以為? - DATO' MAW

GENRE: HIP HOP, POP RAP

Riding the momentum of Planta, the Tiger Beer drinking Boiler Room alumni DATO’ MAW returns with the 玩玩MEH你以為. And with a healthy peppering of humour and Hokkien, even Eminem would blush if he could understand the lyrics. For the best experience, listen on car speakers. The Tokyo Drift-inspired music video tells me this song was mastered in a Honda. -Joseph-

Icarus - Lurkgurl




GENRE: LO-FI // ACOUSTICA // INDIE

Icarus is an honest and tender piece of acoustica. The pain of hurting when you get too close to someone is apparent in Khadijah’s lyricism. The beauty in her music is that her songs always sound like private confessions accompanied by lilting chords. There’s not much to note composition-wise, but that's exactly where Lurkgurl’s music has its effect. The simplicity in her guitar playing and the rhyme scheme in her singing is familiar, yet powerful as it is raw. She whispers her fears and worries into listening ears, and the sadness is all-consuming. -Kasih-



Summertime - Leon Sapphire

GENRE: ALTERNATIVE R&B / R&B Sometimes in the festive heat of the summer, we all need a little sadness to keep us grounded. And in Malaysia, where the seasons are divided by monsoon or no-monsoon, the sun is out almost all-year-round. Hence when Leon Sapphire sings that “we’ve fallen for it”, he invites us to share in this quasi-eternity of subtly swelling synths and beautiful vocals. Summertime might as well be an ambient piece rather than an R&B tune since the looseness is what makes the melancholy so alluring. -Zim-

Demi Kita - Pastel Lite


GENRE: ELECTROPOP, INDIE POP, SYNTHPOP Malaysia’s dream-pop darlings Pastel Lite grace us once again with Eff Hakim’s sensual vocals and Mohd Faliq’s washed out synthesizer stabs. The song opens with snippets of someone talking over the phone. Are we hearing the remnants of a fresh breakup or enduring anxiety of being ghosted on Tinder? Regardless, the lyrics are a mantra of self-acceptance - finding love without a loved one. Nothing could be more relevant in the age of quarantine.

-Joseph-



Senjakala - Motherwit



GENRE: INDIE ROCK Motherwit’s relatively unknown status right now has made this song so easy to overlook. But Senjakala comes off as an instant indie classic to me. It combines the sentimentality of familiar 2000s Malaysian indie bands like Hujan but with a good dose of modern, dreamy productions that’s so trendy with the Mac DeMarco legacy of kids (including me) nowadays. The lyrics are reminiscent of many neoromantic subgenres of Nusantara independent music, “Oh angin bawakan pada ku cerita sebenarnya, aku mahu tahu” ("Oh Wind, bring me the truth, I want to know") is a beautiful refrain. As of now Senjakala is just one of the handful of great songs in my favourite Malaysian COVID-19 compilation, PKP Project 1 and in their latest EP “archived demos”, but it feels like a great teaser for what Motherwit is capable of when they release a full LP in the future. -Zim-



Oh My Corona - Punitha Raja



GENRE: TAMIL POP, TAMIL HIP HOP


Local songstress Punitha Raja channels every ounce of pop in Oh My Corona to end this pandemic once and for all, with jumpy syncopated rhythms and quirky instrumental breakdowns. You might not understand the lyrics (like me), but it’s not gonna stop you from humming the chorus beneath your mask while you wait in line at McDs. Also check out her hilarious music video which proves you don’t need cinema-grade equipment to make great entertainment.

-Joseph-



Kenang - Papastathopoulos



GENRE: ALTERNATIVE ROCK, POP ROCK, INDIE ROCK There is a whole battalion of Malaysian indie bands who are trying to emulate the spirit of the late 2000s indie scene. As it is with imitations, a lot fall into the nebulous quicksand of sameness. Maybe it’s too early to tell, but papastathopulous seems to have the potential to break out of that trap. Though their formula is familiar, the heart of this band, especially in the song Kenang, is the soaring, immediately distinguishable vocals that make the already mesmerizing indie rock musicianship blossom to its fullest capacity. Kenang leaves room for sing-a-longs without being cavernous or void of substance. -Zim-

Recorded, mixed, and mastered in the hidden musical haven that is Iseekmusic, Kenang is a heartfelt take on indie road trip music (think 1975’s Sex but a little more halal), with lyrical themes of longing and loss. The frontman’s one-word delivery evokes the spirit of a body tired and disheartened while the glittery guitars and a steady drumbeat urge the singer to keep moving. The single is also accompanied by an adorable 8-bit video worthy of anyone’s study playlist. papastathopulous might be a mouthful to say but these guys are on track to be a household name in the Malaysian indie community.

-Joseph-

Can’t Sleep - Alien Lipstick Fire




GENRE: GARAGE ROCK REVIVAL, INDIE ROCK, TWEE POP


True to its title, Can’t Sleep is a single that feels unsettled. The staccato guitars and straight-beat drums push the song along ad infinitum, almost as if the ghost of Bombay Bicycle Club is taunting you from a reverb-drenched dreamscape, proclaiming “the end is near but you will never see it” – comforting to some, nightmarish to others. And while it might not put your little brother to sleep, Alien Lipstick Fire has cut a single that fits snugly in your cov-eid road trip playlist. -Joseph-



tell me how u rly feel - Joyberry

GENRE: DREAM POP / POP PUNK / NEW WAVE

Joyberry might be connected more to the pop-punk scene than any of the other scenes in the Malaysian indie landscape, but their latest single Tell Me How U Rly Feel shows them refusing to be locked inside one box. There’s an uncanny valley between the cliffs of hip hop, dream-pop, New Wave, and post-punk here. Joyberry isn’t shy of creating radio-friendly pop sounds while embellishing them with interesting production choices that make them hover above the boundaries of categorisation. All of this while still maintaining that adolescent emotionality that only pop punk can maintain - with enough snarkiness and brightness to keep it exciting. -Zim-

Kayangan - Drama Band



GENRE: HARD ROCK, HEAVY METAL, POP ROCK, AOR


It was a controversial start of the year for Drama Band (hence the name) but with a single fresh off the grill, these guys are once again in the spotlight for their music. Led by the death god from Death Note, Drama Band’s aesthetic can be described as Kiss meets Ghost meets MCR, which is all evident as soon as Kayangan’s verse kicks in. And although there’s much to say about the campy lyrics and the gargantuan walls of power chords, the real appeal comes from the theatricality and performance. This is one band that should be experienced live, ideally with a mask on. -Joseph-



Celaka - Sweetass

GENRE: GARAGE ROCK / ALTERNATIVE ROCK / GRUNGE

I’m immensely thankful that Sweetass and their tongue-in-cheek aesthetic didn’t just disappear after their critically-acclaimed debut, Wa Caya Lu. Their loose attitude in writing these love letters to grunge and 90s alt rock allows them to make a track like Celaka; a raw homage to slacker rock distortion that’s also a catchy pop melody with earworm oohs and aahs. -Zim-



Takkan Habes - Yul Elias & Ashidy Ridwan



GENRE: TRAP, POP RAP, CLOUD RAP, DANCE-POP


A definite standout from the army of rappers who, even in 2020, are still trying to ride the Drake train. Yul Elias & Ashidy Ridwan come together on this 3-minute banger with some laidback yet braggadocious vibes. Some highlights of this track include an EDM buildup and a distorted vocal breakdown at the one-minute mark. And what’s cool about these guys is they can switch between hip hop and R&B, which puts them in the same fighter class as a Childish Gambino or a Post Malone. And though some references might be lost on your average TikToker, the duo sells it with some very distinctive flows. -Joseph-



Hoodie - Lunadira & Reddi Rocket

GENRE: R&B / INDIE POP I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with cheesiness. I welcome the possibility that good songs can be about cliches. Romantic declarations of love are forever going to be a recurring staple of pop (and music in general). It just gets tiring to sift through because there’s a saturation of overproduced songs that are disposable because they’re often written to be relatable to everyone (or at least a majority of the audience). So when songs like Hoodie pop up which showcases intimate chemistry with a type of songwriting that feels very specific to the artists performing, I feel more excited about the world. I believe this adorable R&B duet is a great cause for celebration. Grand gestures are blase; the best love songs are often about finding beauty in mundane things, like not returning your partner’s sweater because it smells like them and kinda fits you better, anyway.

-Zim-



Therapeutic - GUWF


GENRE: POP PUNK / PUNK / POWER POP


Gang vocals, little twinkling keys, addictive punk riffs - all of the formula that you want in a great pop punk song can be found in Therapeutic. Although GUWF, as stated in their Bandcamp profile, wants to shed their punk sound for “cool music”, you can’t deny that the band’s main sell is their infectious merging of verse-chorus-verse garage rock hooks and their moshable energy. -Zim-



Viseral - Integers


GENRE: POST-PUNK / ALT-ROCK

In singing about love during a time of global conflict and political upheaval, Viseral emanates imagery from its catchy, pummelling post-punk rhythms and its visual lyricism (The love is in between/The states and warring countries). Although its commentary might be a vague broad-stroke of the world-at-large, the spine of the song is enough to illustrate the chaos from a point-of-view of a familiar alt-rock tune. -Zim-



Jauhkan (Memori) - I Lost the Plot

GENRE: POP PUNK This sequel to their single, Consequences, one of my favourite tracks from 2017, has all the makings of a great pop punk song. Gut-busting riffs that make you wanna shout and a not-so-subtle emo declamation that borders on the bleak. It talks about the difficulty of escaping past vices (“Ku minta dijauhkan/Memori ini tidak bisa pudar”) ("I plead to be distant/This memory that will not fade"), and is delivered with all the pathos a pop punk poet should be able to serve. Let’s sprinkle these dark memories with some bright guitar riffs and voila, you have this song. -Zim-



Good Things - Zee Avi


GENRE: ACOUSTIC POP / POP FOLK Wholesome music can easily get caught in a swamp of platitudes; where cheesy quotes fitting for motivational posters are uttered without much gravitas. But Zee Avi’s specialty in songwriting is in creating these messages of hope while delivering them with poignant simplicity and grace. It’s the luscious yet minimal production and her beautiful vocals that make Good Things more than just a prosaic cliche. It’s the kind of hope we need. These trying times deserve a song of utmost sincerity and kindness and Good Things is exactly that -Zim-



Mauri - Cha.Koy


GENRE: MATH ROCK These newcomers into the Malaysian scene come packaged with some improvisational math rock with good vibes. The dissonant and oft-kilter structures never seem to provoke discomfort, in fact, it weaves around the same level of chill throughout. There’s something to be said about getting excited about the next turn they take with the arrangement and yet it never comes off as harsh or unsettling. It’s a different type of high. The guitar harmonics face-off at the end of the song are just one of the many instances of solid musicianship in Mauri. -Zim-


Count on You - Banoffee



GENRE: ELECTROPOP, GLITCH POP, SYNTHPOP, ESCAPE ROOM, ART POP, VAPOR SOUL, INDIETRONICA


Fans of SOPHIE might recognize the glitzy hyperreal production style but the Australian pixie pop star Banoffee steals the show with her VSCO girl aesthetic and bubble-gum sweet optimism. Is this perhaps the missing link between PC music and indie pop? -Joseph-


Azure - Vinyl Williams




GENRE: ART ROCK / CELESTIAL / PSYCHEDELIC


This is a fantastic track that'll make you feel like you're on a sunset drive filled with wistful longing and regret. Smooth, transcendental instrumentation that'll take you on an interesting journey. Azure is punctuated with catchy drum lines and exciting jangly guitar work that switches between effervescent psychedelic ambience and grounded indie rock. The reverb-drenched vocals give off a clandestine effect that keeps you soaring as you traverse through each section seamlessly. -Kasih-



Lockdown - Anderson .Paak

GENRE: HIP HOP / CONSCIOUS HIP HOP

Released on Juneteeth (a day commemorating the liberation of slaves in the US back in 19 June, 1865) Lockdown is a protest song that slightly differs from many others in the midst of the Black Lives Matter demonstrations against police brutality and racism. For one, it sheds light the downtime that happens during historic moments instead of the fire at the centre, reminding us that the battle is still raging, and the people will keep on rising against injustice even in times of lull. Paak’s signature sunny groove is all over this song, but it doesnt't obfuscate the message. Lockdown is Paak at his most sincere and profound. The only real complaint I have is that the Jay Rock verse in the music video isn’t in the official song available on streaming platforms. Also check out this poignant writeup on the video on NPR, comparing Dave Meyers’ work with Agnes Varda's. -Zim-



Need Your Love - Tennis

GENRE: INDIE POP, PROGRESSIVE POP, SOFT ROCK, ART POP, SHIMMER POP


From the album that shot them to the mainstream, husband-and-wife duo Tennis swings in with the progressive pop single Need Your Love. Shifting rhythms and psychedelic guitar riffs bring out the smooth silky voice of Bob Ross’ long-lost daughter. It’s like watching Destroyer pull a Sicko Mode. -Joseph-



Oleander - Moor Mother & Olof Meleander


GENRE: AFROFUTURISM // AVANT-GARDE // FREE JAZZ

Avant-garde duo, Moor Mother and Olof Meleander return with ANTHOLOGIA 01, a free-jazz, ambient record that is nothing short of immersive and hypnotising. Moor Mother's signature lo-fi chops provide sonic commentary on social injustices and sheds light on the COVID-19 pandemic while acting as short interludes that usher in experimental drum patterns and a colourful palate of afro-futurist influences. The whimsical direction and production led by Olof Meleander on "Oleander" is nothing short of trippy- haunting backing vocals amidst spoken word poetry, coupled with enough distortion and effects to set up an interesting track that'll leave echoes in your mind -Kasih-


XS - Rina Sawayama


GENRE: POP At the time I’m writing this, I’ve probably already talked about this song 5 times already. And that’s just in text form, I’m not counting the verbal barrages the people in my immediate vicinity have suffered. But truly, XS is a great pop song for a myriad of reasons. The two that stand out are the production on this track by Clarence Clarity, Chris Lyon and Kyle Shearer that seamlessly blends nu metal and Christina Aguilera pop hit aesthetic; the second is the beautiful irony that one of the most marketable Rina Sawayama songs, with its undeniable earworm quality, is a scathing critique on excess wealth and consumerism. This pop anthem of 2020 knocks on my brain door while shouting “More, more, more”. -Zim-


Roses/Lotus/Violet/Iris - Hayley Williams



GENRE: ART ROCK, CHAMBER POP, TRIP HOP, DREAM POP

My childhood celebrity crush shows us once again that she has outgrown her Paramore persona with this introspective flower-themed single. The scruffy production gives us a peek into what the world would look like if Hayley Williams cut her teeth on bedroom pop. Time for collaboration with Clairo. -Joseph-



Living like I know I’m gonna die - Genevieve Artadi


GENRE: ELECTRONIC / LOFI-POP / R&B

If you’re looking for a sultry exit number to the end of a night out in neon-lighted dive bars and soundless clubs, Genevieve Artadi’s latest single is the perfect funky, badass nihilist anthem. The dance hall creates this atmospheric feel like those in empty arenas. The dancing bassline and repetitive chanting put you in a trance. The reverberating synths and its gradual build into a steady beat is alluring. You’re hooked and probably swaying along to the rhythm. The spaciness and haunting vocals cut through your head with the production’s clarity. Here’s to the fickleness of existence.. why not have a little fun? -Kasih-

Jesus Christ 2005 God Bless America - The 1975 (feat. Phoebe Bridgers)


GENRE: INDIE FOLK

The growth of the edgy British pop-rock kids cannot be denied. Jesus Christ is a testament to how much Matt Healy’s songwriting has improved even when it’s stripped bare of all the frills and ribbons. Jesus Christ is a magnum opus to me. Taking the POV of the people he criticizes, - the blindly faithful and religious - Healy eloquently showcases the not uncommon internal conflict between age-old dogma and sexuality. Lyrics such as “I’m in love with Jesus Christ”, or “Fortunately I believe/Lucky me” resonates so powerfully, with almost no hint of snide because of the first-person perspective it takes. Jesus Christ 2005 makes irony and satire beautiful because the scariest thing about dogmas is how sincerely people believe them at the expense of their own happiness. Plus, Matt Healy’s harmonies with Phoebe Bridgers, and Bridgers vocals while she’s singing alone, are just, for a lack of a better word, divine.

-Zim-


WAKING UP DOWN - Yaeji




GENRE: HIP HOUSE, ELECTRO, AMBIENT HOUSE


Yaeji sits in this interesting spot between house and hip hop. Her vocal delivery advertises that she can probably kick your ass but only after her second nap of the day. If you like house gothic and your hip hop apathetic, this Brooklyn-born producer and her new single might be just your cup of (bubble) tea.

-Joseph-


Murder Most Foul - Bob Dylan



GENRE: FOLK / BALLAD Nobody writes Great Man history like Bob Dylan. Murder Most Foul is yet another brilliant example in a very long list of his songs of how he takes an individual or an event and uses it as a larger frame for the times. Although the track is about JFK’s assassination, the 16-minute ballad rallies together all the standout cultural products of the 60s and the complicated history of American pop culture canon to emphasize why the death of a single man mattered so much to so many people. It’s a tapestry that finds beauty in adjacent narratives that don’t shy from cutting through the romanticised mythos of ‘the good old days’. Like a parable reminding us that any death should be a resounding bell of mortality to every person in the world, one way or another. Even when he simply lists down the songs that should be played as an ode to the American national psyche (almost an In Memoriam playlist), it comes off a sincere enumeration of influences and milestones that eventually finds its latest form in the gorgeous storytelling of Murder Most Foul. All made richer and grandiose, with the minimal yet lush strings and piano passages, instilling volume in lyrics like “The place where faith, hope and charity died” or “Brothers, what brothers? What’s this about hell?”. -Zim-



Dares Soar - X & Yde

GENRE: ELECTRONIC

Dares Soar marks the one-time collaboration between Denmark electronic artists Xenia Xamanek and Ydegirl. The entire track is held together by a singular chord. Every beat folds back into itself. All the while the pluck of the 808 bass drops in intermittently, almost begging for some sort of change. X & Yde has essentially made music out of claustrophobia. -Joseph-



Knelt - Mrs. Piss




GENRE: ALT ROCK // METAL // INDUSTRIAL


Expect a screaming bassline and doom bursting through your eardrums, because this song has one hell of an explosive intro. Mrs. Piss’s distant and echoey vocals will reverberate through your skull in a hot, seductive drawl. Knelt feels like a stoner doom number that still soars with every ascending vocals that are godlike - complete and utterly commanding. The subsequent meltdown of drums erupting, guitars growling and the bass on overdrive sends a shiver down your spine. Kneel and submit to the one and only Mrs. Piss. -Kasih-



Processed by the Boys - Protomartyr


GENRE: POST-PUNK If you’re making a dystopian playlist to remind you how terrible the world is but through a colourful, artistic lens, well I guess Processed by the Boys is the perfect song for you. In fact, it’s probably a song about you. Sandwiched between jerky post-punk riffs and a lilting clarinet is the lyrical proclamation of cold modernity about taking refuge in fiction while Big Brother sells it to you with a smile. All of which makes this my favourite Protomartyr song to date. -Zim-

Like Beethoven’s famous dum dum dum DUM, the motif that will carry Processed by The Boys to its end is established in the opening notes. There is no syncopation. Barely any rhythm. Nothing you can hum to. Only the staccato stabs of the guitar and bass like “a dagger plunged from out of the shadows” that make up at least two-thirds of the entire song. The song nears its end when you hear the crash of the cymbal attempting to hold unto the main pattern as the guitars spew out a haunting tremolo. Each instrument slowly diminishes until the song somewhat ends. All this happens as frontman Joe Casey preaches his esoteric lyrics about “foreign diseases” and “a riot in the streets”. What a way to sum up the first half of a terrible year.

-Joseph-


Camel Dancefloor - Igorrr


GENRE: BREAKCORE, AVANT-GARDE METAL, ARABIC FOLK MUSIC

The internet era has seen some of the strangest genre mashups. Just think of that 80’s remix of Helena YouTube keeps recommending you. But Igorrr really takes the cake by blending metal, breakcore, and Arabic folk. Besides the comedic novelty, Camel Dancefloor is a lesson on how all genres are built out of the same ingredients – rhythm and melody. -Joseph-


Out of Sight - The Beths


GENRE: ALT ROCK / INDIE / POP PUNK

The Beths are back with another single, and it's another serving of power-pop goodness, except they sound darker. Out of Sight feels like a retreat into a more grounded and heavier world- Elizabeth’s voice sounds burdened and filled with angst as she sings about the detriments of love. It feels nostalgic, with the angry roaring of guitars and fast-paced drumming that’ll keep you constantly on your feet. It's an indie song that makes regret feel more than just a feeling - inviting you to get lost in the rage and disappointment of a relationship when it’s finally over. - Kasih-



Garden Song - Phoebe Bridgers


GENRE: INDIE FOLK


4 months later and I am still terribly in love with this song. It's as if Garden Song exists in this weird black hole in my life between pre- and post-lockdown. Its watery productions can oscillate between being a comforting blanket or a suffocating undertow - all created by a glitchy intermission that swells into ethereal guitars. And I'd never thought the sentence "I have everything I wanted" could ever sound as sad and as nightmarish as the way Phoebe Bridgers sings it. The kind of song that can make you feel nostalgic about growing old because you once dreamt that you lived your entire life already and died. Until you wake up, that is.

-Zim-



Kiss My Own Dick - David Shawty & Yungster




GENRE: EXPERIMENTAL HIP HOP, BUBBLEGUM BASS, GLITCH HOP, POP RAP, VAPOR TRAP


Seattle rappers David Shawty and Yungster Jack collaborate on this two-minute postmodern bricolage, paying homage to 100 Gecs’ brand of Myspace rap. In between the spaghettified vocals, we hear yearnings for Adderall and chicken noodle soup interwoven into a narrative about two nymphomaniacs that satirizes the hyper-sexualization and masturbatory nature of our digital culture. They also say “dick” a lot.

-Joseph-


Fanfare - Haru Nemuri





GENRE: J-POP / EXPERIMENTAL INDIE / POST HARCORE


The J-Pop princess returns with yet another explosive track, and the whole band is here. “Fanfare” is an explosive intro to her album “Lovetheism”. It is orchestrated masterfully with the fanfare of trumpets, a marching drumline, an enormous choir, and angry guitar riffs that carry the sweet shrill/bluntness of Haru’s voice. As the tambourine kicks in and the song swells like a marching band together in this beautiful cacophony of noise, you can’t help but feel transported to a whole new world. Welcome to the land of J-Pop, where pop formulation goes beyond the standard- its thematic, experimental and incredibly complex. -Kasih-

Darkness - Eminem



GENRE: HIP HOP / CONSCIOUS HIP HOP Darkness is Eminem’s best piece of storytelling since Stan. There are plenty of other tracks in which Eminem applies a twist to the narrative while dropping quotable bars, but Darkness is where he shows how much he’s mastered it. Darkness lures you into thinking that this is just another self-flagellating, masochistic Eminem track, but when you realise that he’s been taking the POV of the 2017 Las Vegas shooter all along, every line starts to click. Even after an inconsistent thread of albums in his discography, it's moments like Darkness that show the rapper knows how to make a statement when the time calls for it. This advocacy for gun control might be macabre but it’s the perspective flip and poetry that makes Darkness such a profound work of art. -Zim-


Nobody - Coucou Chloe




GENRE: EXPERIMENTAL HIP HOP, TRAP, HYPHY, DECONSTRUCTED CLUB


Standing with the likes of Kilo Kish and Shygirl, Nobody is a premonition to a trend emerging from the alternative pop scene – namely a subgenre fuelled by nothing but apathy. With its laidback delivery and sparse electronic production, if you ever wondered what Billie Eilish would sound like if her target audience was older, you wouldn’t be far off with Coucou Chloe. -Joseph-


Truchita (nunca volvere!) - AIKO EL GRUPO


GENRE: SUNSHINE POP // PUNK // NOISE

Come and ride the waves into a distant tropical storm on the other side of the world with Aiko El Grupo’s “Truchita” and it's surf glory. If sunny indie is your thing, give this summer-born rock track a chance. The powerful belting and shrieks of the vocalists will turn you over and upside down. It's a little doo-wop, with the simultaneous voices coming together as one. The song dips and dives like a dolphin coming out for air. Imagine yourself in a 90s Spanish teen sitcom- an alternate 90210. The steady rock and roll is a nostalgic touch that anyone with a bone for retromania can fall for. -Kasih-

Good News - Mac Miller


GENRE: HIP HOP / CHILL HOP It’s already been two years since his death, but the release of Mac Miller's posthumous album Circles just reopened new scars for me and healed them again almost immediately. Even if there is an ideal world where we can separate the art from the artist and the context of their life and death when it comes to music critique (a ruthlessly unnecessary exercise), Good News is still a powerful and emotionally nuanced nod to depression and insecurity, packaged within the soulful, melancholic production Mac Miller fans know and love him for. A track that is simultaneously heartbreaking and comforting. When Mac sings that he’s so tired of being tired we all sigh along with him. Rest in peace. -Zim-

Idontknow - Jamie xx


GENRE:: UK BASS, HARDCORE BREAKS, JUNGLE FUTURE GARAGE


Jamie xx’s Idontknow (along with the unreleased Idontpiano) gives us a hint at the English producers’ new direction - esoteric samples and chopped up vocals treading the line between organic and uncanny valley while also calling back to UK’s early electronic scene by evoking passages of jungle, future garage and dubstep (the non-Skrillex kind). The music video also features some very poignant choreography. -Joseph-


Worries 걱정 - Kirara




GENRE: ALTERNATIVE / ELECTRONICA


Kirara should be the new South Korean Female DJ on your watchlist because her music is a force to be reckoned with. Worries 걱정 is loud and bold. High-powered electronica and fast hip hop based samples that’ll definitely make you dance. The production sounds intentionally rugged but coupled with a fleeting keys section and hard chops, the work done is absolutely awesome. It ends on a catchy outro with synths, which plays the song out into a blissful end. -Kasih-


Overlord - Dirty Projectors




GENRE: INDIE FOLK / ART POP

The art-indie New York outfit has a lot in store this year, with 3 more EPs in the pipeline. They started this series with a bang via the stripped-down, yet irresistibly lush and cloudy EP, Windows Open, with Overlord at the center of it. The song is a very poetic critique of dictatorships and all of its whimsy; a beautiful addition to the canon of political songs that are deceptively pretty. Maia Friedman’s vocals are the heavenly centerpiece to this inherently wacky take on a fanatic despot sympathizer who sometimes sounds like he pities the powerful. In one short song, Overlord brings this dependence on power-hungry authority to its inevitable consequence - being left alone, armed only with an unheeded call for help.

-Zim-


Sweet - Porridge Radio




GENRE: INDIE ROCK, POST-PUNK, GARAGE PSYCH


Porridge Radio can be described as the lovechild of Snail Mail and Nirvana. The famous Pixies formula works well here with frontwoman Dana Margolin mumbling through the verses and screeching through the chorus. And even with a climax that will blow your face off, the ending fizzles out abruptly just to illustrate how much these four Brits don’t owe you a damn thing.

-Joseph-



Alone, Omen 3 - King Krule



GENRE: TRIP HOP / INDIE ROCK / FREE JAZZ

The King returns with the release of “Man Alive!”, and AO3 is just one of the tracks in the album that'll take you on a journey through Archy’s lamentations: his nonchalance for disappointments in his life and the state of his friendships. The production on this track is a testament to Archy’s ability in creating lush sonic soundscapes with unconventional sounds. The distortion and fuzz create this angry vacuum where nothing but rage and sadness exists. Its masterful storytelling and his brand of free jazz and trip hop that makes AO3 such an exciting, somber number. The echoey shouts and random cuts over Archy’s voice repeating, “you're not alone”, sounds frustrated and tired. King Krule’s quality in balancing floaty, esoteric instrumentation, and the way he grounds his music with the expression of the harsh reality in his lyricism. -Kasih-




Guys - The 1975



GENRE: POP ROCK Another standout from The 1975’s Notes On A Conditional Form is an earnest pop song about friendship. There are no grand statements here, just a straightforward, tearjerker of a song about genuine platonic male intimacy in a world where not enough songs are about genuine, sentimental friendships since romance and masculine swagger dominates. Matt Healy’s nostalgia for the good old days while expressing love for his bandmates is so profound that Harry Styles decided to link the video to it on the tag for ‘Watermelon Sugar’. Anyway, this one’s for the Day Ones <3 -Zim-

The Key to Life on Earth - Declan McKenna


GENRE: INDIE ROCK, INDIE POP, JANGLE POP, MODERN ROCK If you’re not hooked by the end of this song’s psychedelic intro, then Declan McKenna’s brand of indie pop might not be for you. The Hertfordshire singer somehow manages to combine the flamboyant camp of Neon Trees and the melancholy of Perfume Genius with lush colourful production and observant lyrics on British suburbia. This is your official warning, The Key to Life on Earth is an earworm.

-Joseph-



Bracer - Katie Gately

GENRE: EXPERIMENTAL ELECTRONIC / FIELD RECORDINGS / ALT-POP

Katie Gately’s Bracer is a tension-filled, theatrical feat that will leave you scratching your head in mild confusion, but with enough intrigue to keep your attention. The ominous jingle of bells and heavy instrumentation that binds the composition together plays its role as a backbone for the track. From a building guitar riff giving it this extra polyrhythmic kick as the song elevates in crescendo, you’ll probably have your jaw dropped by the time you reach its transition into an explosive distorted trance number. Its many thematic and dramatic mood shifts paints a complex musical experience. An aurally enriching project, Katie’s masterful use of samples and layers to orchestrate an impressive variety of textures and concise moments allows “Bracer” to go where you wouldn't expect. -Kasih-



Cut Me - Moses Sumney


GENRE: ALTERNATIVE R&B / NEO-SOUL


Moses Sumney continues to prove that he can extract beauty from anything. It’s the candid way in which he approaches the subject matter of self-harm which makes Cut Me a heart-wrenching, R&B tune. But the seemingly, wonderfully sporadic keys, and the trumpets as punctuation never obfuscate the severity of the issue as he sings, ” Not might be healthy for me, but seemingly I need”. The nuance of this emotion found in a gorgeously packaged soulful cut is what makes the song a complete experience. -Zim-


Ready Cheeky Pretty - CHAI


GENRE: INDIE POP, DANCE-PUNK, INDIE ROCK, J-POP


I discovered CHAI this year in a Nardwuar interview - one spirited Canadian with loads of quirk interviewing four spirited Japanese girls with loads of quirk. You can hear this energy translated in Ready Cheeky Pretty. Even with the thicc ass bass, the girls keep it light with their anime schoolgirl vocals and that hat-snare-hat combo you would find in most dance music, all coming together to make 3 ½ minutes of pure unadulterated kawaii.

-Joseph-



Nuke The Frats - Soakie



GENRE: HARDCORE PUNK / SNEER / PRIMITIVE

Well, my mind is broken. If you want no-nonsense, fast-paced hardcore punk, Soakie should absolutely be top on your list. The ganas power chords and riffs that carry vocalist Summer’s impeccably timed screeching feels like a home run. In the Nuke the Frats, the lyrics are nonchalant, aggressive, comedic, and painstakingly honest. It does a great job of painting out her apparent disgust with the general conduct of frat boys- and all the gross misogynistic connotations that come along with it. Summer’s guffaws and outbursts are a highlight in the track, in addition to a mosh segment that is worth breaking your bones over. -Kasih-



Spotlight - Jessie Ware



GENRE: POP / NU-DISCO Jessie Ware effortlessly glows with quiet sensuality in this song about longing and lust. The type of sensuality you don’t even realise is emanating throughout every part of your body until you find yourself on the dance-floor for 4 hours on end. But of course a lot of work goes into this smooth veneer - especially in the impeccable production which simultaneously feels like vintage disco & city pop while exhibiting a fresh subtle tribute to acid house. There is an inexplicable level of sophistication in this kind of pop that comes out once in a blue moon, and Jessie Ware deserves all the spotlight for it -Zim-

The Queen Rules - Gum Country



GENRE: INDIE ROCK / SURF / ALT


If you’re looking for a high-powered, “harsh twee” song to give you that special indie kick, Gum County’s “The Queen Rules” is your latest catchy and cool feminist anthem. It feels like a throwback to the icy, nonchalance of 90s women, while also keeping their mystical and charming demeanours. The zipping guitar riffs that resonate in the background is potent while Courtney’s voice takes centerstage. It's deadpan, but you can’t help but dance along to the beat. Dive into the sonic mass, and bask in the heat of the summer. -Kasih-



Cayendo - Frank Ocean




GENRE: R&B / NEO-SOUL


Frank Ocean isn’t giving up his medal for being the best writer of songs about unrequited love anytime soon. The impassioned way he sings “I still really, really love you” in this wistfully bare-bones song is magical. Cayendo holds up a big torch as one of the best love songs this year so far. -Zim-

In Birdsong - Everything Everything


GENRE: POP

British art-rock band Everything Everything is known for their eclectic production style and evocative metaphors like “a fat child in a pushchair / old enough to run”. But frontman Jonathan Higgs channels Thom Yorke in this melancholic anthem. As the song progresses, we hear textures and melodies enter the stereo field only to be washed away after a moment’s notice. The onion metaphor is appropriate here. As each layer dissipates, we find yet another layer, equally tear-inducing; this is the cry of a man who cannot go to the pub. -Joseph-



Good Bad Times - Hinds


GENRE: GARAGE-POP / ALT-ROCK / SURF

Add some colour to your playlist with some 80s Spanish garage-pop. “Good Bad Times” has the candor of a twirling disco ball and the sweet goodness of Carlotta’s vocals. The masterful layering of harmonies and soaring guitar work electrifies the track’s composition.Reminisce the good times and the bad, as the synths swirl and build up a sense of regret and freedom inside your heart. The song has this homely bedroom feel with a catchy chorus and all of its reverb and delay-riddled outros.

-Kasih-


Leaving Hell - R.A.P. Ferreira


GENRE: HIP HOP / JAZZ RAP / ABSTRACT HIP HOP / CONSCIOUS HIP HOP


2020 is the year I rediscovered my love for R.A.P. Ferreira. Formerly known as milo (as well as other pseudonyms), Ferreira shows that his verse-acrobatics have remained consistently poignant. The flip and the flow of his bars complement the mellowing, yet tightly-weaved, jazzy contributions from The Jefferson Park Boys. Like many other moments in his latest album, Purple Moonlight Pages, at times, feels like Ferreira is always improvisational and spontaneous - freestyling to catch up or to lead the skittering and slick instrumentations - all oscillating somewhere between chaos and calm. All of this is made better by RAP Ferreira’s introspective journey into the injustices of our world (“Twisted world where artists bend backward for benefactors/And victims are to be blamed as bad actors”) -Zim-


Uusi teknokratia - Oranssi Pazuzu




GENRE: BLACK METAL, AVANT-GARDE METAL, POST-METAL


In its complete runtime, Uusi teknokratia manages to dip its toes into passages of black metal, shoegaze and psychedelic rock. There’s much for your average headbanger to enjoy: the disgusting guitar tones, the complex rhythmic chugging, not to mention all that sweet sweet low end. But what makes this track so unnerving is the repetitive voices that swing in counterpoint to the main instrumentation (basically, those weird delay-ish thingy). It gives the dense textures a certain lightness, almost as if Godzilla could also fly. If Steve Reich was a metalhead, he would have loved this 10-minute behemoth.

-Joseph-


Bored Now - Gorgeous Dykes


GENRE: BOOGIE / POST-PUNK / SYNTHWAVE

If you’re into experimental synth-pop, Canadian duo Gorgeous Dykes might just be right up your alley. What makes “Bored Now” interesting is that it alternates between being poppy and post-punk. A heavy bassline tie all of the other disjointed compositions together with bursts of violins and an odd guitar riff that sounds all over the place yet works well together. Lucy and Ana’s vocals are deadpanned drawls that sound like an undead monologue devolving into screams and shrills. -Kasih-


At the Door - The Strokes


GENRE: SYNTH-POP / INDIE ROCK


Upon its release, the Strokes latest album The New Abnormal was seen by many , critics and fans alike, as a well-deserved masterpiece after a significant hiatus - a celebratory comeback. Although personally I feel like there are better albums from these New York indie icons, the track-list has some high points of emotionality and songwriting unprecedented for the group. One of which is At The Door, where the Daft Punk-esque synths take center stage in a slowly simmering pop ballad that displays both Julian Casablancas’ hypnotising falsettos at the end and some despairing words that seem to imply the group’s own journey as artists. -Zim-



Covered in Money! – JPEGMAFIA




GENRE: EXPERIMENTAL HIP HOP, GLITCH HOP, CLOUD RAP, ALTERNATIVE R&B


If there was ever a man without a plan, it’d be Cambridge Union guest star JPEGMAFIA. There’s something to be said about how his repertoire has managed to sound fresh even if it’s cut from the same cloth. Anyone with The Life on Pablo on their workout playlist should be familiar with the abstract and disjointed side of hip-hop. Peggy’s songs don’t fall far from that tree. The buttery smooth synthesizers are paired with drum loops from the Cymatics tribal pack to distract you from the ominous voice mumbling in the background; Covered in Money! is as playful as it is dark. -Joseph-



Never Alone - Easy Love



GENRE: INDIE ROCK / ALT-POP / FOLK


Justine’s sweet vocals and harmonies are an instant highlight of this song; Never Alone is a heartfelt letter to the woes of insecurity and the difficult act of building confidence. It's a sunshine-y twee tune that is a sure picker-upper on a rainy day. Easy-going, seaside guitar riffs and a repetitive chorus, Easy Love’s “Never Alone” makes for the perfect closer to the end of a nice day, and to this compilation of favorite tracks. Grab your friends and loved one, and put this record on for an evening full of slow dancing and laughter. - Kasih-


Self-Effacing - Sparks


GENRE: NEW WAVE / POP ROCK / POST-PUNK Sparks has been around since the 70s, and although their main agenda was never to break out into the world or be a household name (they inhabit this strange area between cult status and influential in the mainstream), they have been given their due accolades for constantly changing their sound. Every time they change, they consistently dish out quality stabs at the pop AND rock sounds of any era which they release music in. Being easily bored means they’ve changed a lot over the years, but still managing to churn out great, critically acclaimed albums in the 2000s and 2010s. Their lyrical wit, as evident in Self-Effacing, has not blunted an iota. Goofy vaudevillian vocal deliveries mean this sounds a lot like their old material but with its own aura of freshness. Self-Effacing manifests itself successfully as a catchy New Wave ditty about the universal emotional labor of celebrities being so successful they’re EXPECTED to be humble if they don’t want to face the guillotine (“Want to be known as someone unknown”). Quirky and musically infectious as always, Sparks show no sign of stopping. -Zim-


Witness - Lyra Pramuk




GENRE: AMBIENT, POST-MINIMALISM, CHORAL, ART POP, FLUXWORK


Part IDM, Part chamber pop. Witness sounds like the opening track to a cinematic sci-fi album (and that album just happens to be Fountain). As the lush strings melt into Lyra’s stretched out vocals, it’s hard to draw the line, at least in your first listen, what is human and what is machine. The vocal synthesizer escalates this theme with more stretched-out textures blurring the underlying rhythm. With no semblance of time, the song simultaneously becomes both fast and slow, making this song an exercise in symbiosis. A single voice is left at the end of the track, but only for a few seconds before the final silence; we may have aligned ourselves but it is too late. -Joseph-



Kerosene! - Yves Tumor (ft. Diana Gordon)


GENRE: ROCK Yves Tumor revitalises the rock genre constantly throughout their career. Although they're not shy in exploring vast electronic and alternative landscapes, Kerosene! is a prime example that even when it comes to the brass tacks of rock, Yves Tumor has got it to a tee. The fiery flamboyance, the swagger, the grandiose solos made for sexy guitar movements - they've got it all. Diana Gordon’s vocal chemistry with Yves Tumor also makes this song electrifying as well as combustible. -Zim-



The Sticks - The Cool Greenhouse

GENRE: GARAGE PSYCH, POST-PUNK, ART PUNK, SPOKEN WORD


If you ever want to relive the Sisyphean nightmare that is Lockdown 2020, The Cool Greenhouse has got you covered with The Sticks (really any of their songs will do). I can already picture this song being used in a montage of an edgy arthouse psychological thriller. The song features a slowly evolving bassline creeping along the 5 ½ minute runtime while frontman Tom Greenhouse spouts some Allen Ginsberg-inspired spoken word. If you have PTSD from all the unnecessary 1-on-1 Zoom meetings you’ve had with your colleagues, you can surely relate. Please support these guys, they’re still using a Gmail account for official band business. And even Henry Rollins of Black Flag has given these guys his seal of approval. -Joseph-



Overseas - Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit


GENRE: COUNTRY ROCK With bluesy, slow-rock guitars that sound like they’re heavily influenced by the likes of Neil Young or Mark Knopfler, Jason Isbell gives the world this impassioned song that stretches the whole range of personal and political. When singing of ghost towns (“This used to be a ghost town/But even the ghosts got out”), Overseas is a timeless manifestation of country songs revolving around freedom. But quickly enough this freedom engulfs stories of sacrifice and disenchantment (“Does your heart rest easy where you are?/And do they treat you like a star?/Or do they call you refugee/From overseas?”). All through the lens of a lovelorn singer in a (possible) long-distance relationship. A song with many faces.

-Zim-


Ten Grand Goldie - Einstürzende Neubauten




GENRE: POST-INDUSTRIAL, ART POP, EXPERIMENTAL ROCK, POST-PUNK, EBM


You may not know how to pronounce their name but Einstürzende Neubauten has been making waves even before your dad’s first restaurant went out of business. I often tell people they sound like men who listen to nothing but Marilyn Manson attempting to do a lo-fi hip hop track. Or maybe if Sarah Kane did a musical. Or Leonard Cohen but more German. That being said, this song is surprisingly accessible. You might recognize the tresillo drumbeat from Ed Sheeran’s Shape of You or John Legend’s All of Me (though you probably won’t see these guys topping Billboards 200 anytime soon) But if you’re into aggressively masculine German acts like Rammstein, Ten Grand Goldie is a good introduction to their discography. -Joseph-

Dying to Believe - The Beths


GENRE: POWER POP / INDIE ROCK The Beths have perfected the power pop formula ever since their debut album Future Me Hates Me: energetic riffs that feel like sunlight in your face, pitch perfect vocal harmonies and charmingly twee lyricism. Elizabeth Stokes constantly draws me in not just because the shaky, candid persona of her vocals fuels the type of relatable vulnerability which makes The Beths amazing; she can write about heartbreak, insecurity and awkwardness so well and in so many ways. I still find it surprising that even though Dying to Believe does not tread new territories, the writing on this is just consistently engaging. “It's not that I don't think that my point of view is valid/It's just that I can't stand the sound of my own patterns/They always look backwards/From the way that I imagine” is such a great chunk of pop poetry. -Zim-



You’re Too Precious - James Blake




GENRE: GLITCH POP, ART POP, ALTERNATIVE R&B, UK BASS


You’re Too Precious was written as a nice accompaniment to a lockdown dinner (so says the man himself). The piano riff stuck on repeat creates a sense of false security. Each iteration reinforces a sense of comfort and familiarity – the same kind you get in a living room that you decorated. But the whimpering of a digitally pitched voice foretells something more ominous. We get the impression of malnutrition, the soul of someone shrinking as the song progresses. Ultimately, You’re Too Precious ponders on the price one pays when in isolation. This “bubble” may feel good to some. But is it truly reality if is it ‘your’ reality? That is one interpretation. Or perhaps this is just how James Blakes feels when he has to make dinner conversation. -Joseph-


Just Like Kids (Miau) - Hinds


GENRE: INDIE ROCK / GARAGE ROCK

There’s a level of poetic justice in one of Hinds’ poppiest, most earworm-y singles ever. Just Like Kids is a compilation of the advice and comments (both solicited and unsolicited) that this Spanish band has gotten over the years, packaged in a fun, fuzzy box with a tight production. Well, to hell with the naysayers. Even after my initial iffy attitude towards Hinds from their debut, with Just Like Kids, they’ve shown that they can make an indie rock banger of top pop caliber while maintaining their carefree and playful musical style. -Zim-

Think About Things - Daði Freyr (Daði & Gagnamagnið)


GENRE: POP / ELECTRO POP / POP FUNK This song is a musical landmark of 2020 and the global pandemic crisis - not in the way you’re thinking though. The Icelandic artist(s) were on the right track to win the annual singing competition, Eurovision, before the event was snubbed due to Miss Corona. It’s undeniable appeal remains undying. The musicality of Dadi Freyr comes from this straightforward but magnetic bass lines, backing vocals, Dadi’s deep baritone and swelling synth samples that simultaneously corny and funky - like a slightly (more awkward) version of Chromeo. I just think it’s a brilliant pop song, and all of the warmth already contained within is made warmer by the fact that Dadi Freyr wrote the song for and about his newborn daughter. -Zim-



Montage Music - Vundabar



GENRE: ALTERNATIVE ROCK/INDIE ROCK


The title doesn't lie: Vundabar's post-punk-esque, mod-revival song is perfect for those movie sequences where a character goes through a makeover, starts studying intensely or workout to be the next Rocky. It's an anthem of change. Not only is it a profoundly simple tune, it's got some of the best lyrics I've heard this year too, like "lizard ethics" or "And I won't stand for that, but I might sit for it".

-Zim-




Sudden Death - Quelle Chris, Chris Keys

GENRE: HIP HOP Sudden Death has an addictive quality to it, in a way that elevator music subconsciously enters into your memory. Except this muzak is also a beautiful tribute to the uncertainty of life (and death), and how we should cherish every moment anyway. If the pitched up group vocals don’t already cheer you up, the consoling keys and warm bass lines will definitely do the trick. The least eventful part of their album Innocent Country 2 is its most sticky. Sudden Death is an uncomplicated message of hope. -Zim-



Gimme Gimme - NNAMDI


GENRE: HIP HOP / TRAP / POP RAP A genre-defying multi-instrumentalist, NNAMDI comes through with the hot sauce in this single off of his album BRAT. Braggadocio rap can come off pretty corny, but NNAMDI’s tongue-in-cheek approach to this song makes it refreshing and downright infectious. The vocal samples are all freaking wacky - like the “yummy, yummy” or the “ah, ah, ah” in between verses - but they all gel together to create something you can bounce and laugh along to, all at once. (Also, the album BRAT is as diverse as it gets - from math rock to emo acoustic cuts - and I think it says a lot that he’s got that big of a resume and can still own up to a great trap beat) -Zim-



Very Noise - Igorrr


GENRE: EXPERIMENTAL METAL / DRUM ‘N’ BASS Gautier Serre’s newest record, Spirituality & Distortion, is a smorgasbord of good ideas that probably don’t go well together, but are great hors d'oeuvres on their own. One of those great ideas is Very Noise - a chopped up, drum ‘n’ bass nod with a call-and-response between metal riffs and thick bass lines. It gets more and more manic as the song pummels through. Ultimately it is what happens when Gautier Serre knows how to hone in the chaos within the coherence. -Zim-



The Day the Politicians Died - The Magnetic Fields


GENRE: INDIE FOLK Simultaneously plaintive and celebratory, The Day the Politicians Died is pretty self-explanatory. It’s the perfect anthem for a decade defined by revolutions, protests and riots - where the wide net of anti-establishment vitriol is cast upon by a hippie-like, excessively optimistic, sing-a-long track - sung with beautiful derision by Claudia Ganson. (“It's all one big party now/'Cause all the politicians died”) -Zim-




yellow is the color of her eyes - Soccer Mommy


GENRE: INDIE ROCK Not only is it the most interesting out of all the songs on color theory when it comes to the arrangement - the deceptively blissful guitar melody, the synth pads in the intro that sound like a blooming string orchestra, the atmospheric guitar solo at the end -, it’s the words that Sophie Allison sings that makes yellow unforgettable. A devastating declaration of lost time, the constant anxiety of not spending enough days with your loved ones, all set within the heartbreaking context of Allison’s mum suffering from a terminal illness. The best song Soccer Mommy has ever made, period.

-Zim-


Dead Horse - Hayley Williams


GENRE: POP / DANCE POP / SYNTH POP There’s never a wrong time and place for a peppy song that belies depressing sadness. It’s even more appropriate in this day and age. Petals for Armor has many more instances that have groovy synth-pop production and instrumentation. But amidst all of the other tracks that feel nocturnal, Dead Horse is the one with the brightest vibe and an undeniably danceable kick. The fact that the song is about Hayley Williams’ depression AND the often exhausting act of constantly putting your really dark emotions into song, makes it even greater. -Zim-

Run - Joji



GENRE: POWER BALLAD / SOFT ROCK / R&B Joji has to be the most versatile artist in the 88Rising collective. He’s shown his chops with lo-fi R&B, moved in and out of hip hop and now, with cleaner, atmospheric productions, he brings you an engaging performance of an old school rock ballad. His falsettos keep the engine running, but it’s the riveting guitars that turn the topic of claustrophobic love in Run into an impeccably ominous cowboy Western theme. Joji’s constant switch-ups and experimentations within the pop format makes him one of the more interesting singers of today. -Zim-


You and You Alone - Code Orange


GENRE: ALTERNATIVE METAL / POST-HARDCORE The bitter dystopian resentment of Code Orange’s Underneath manifests itself in many different ways - from sonically industrial behemoths to straightforward aggressive totems to loneliness like You and You Alone. The steely bombast of the guitars keep on building up upon itself like an artillery salvo while tinny little bells in the background cut almost abruptly in between heavy drum fills. I think You and You Alone isn’t just about bleak solitude, but about the sudden realisation that all of your actions are now only your responsibility. Being free from the tethers of authority can be disorienting and You and You Alone captures just that. -Zim-




Working - Moor Jewelry

GENRE: POST-HARDCORE / POST-PUNK / NOISE Moor Mother and Mental Jewelry’s latest collaboration, True Opera, is not for the faint of heart. Working is actually one of the more accessible tracks in the album and already it’s terribly manic and grating. But Working works (sorry) for me because it’s reflective of the kind of mania that is fitting for a person in denial that everything is falling apart. Whose idea of fighting reality is simply to will against it by incessantly repeating all “this cheating and fucking, it’s all working”. Feel yourself slowly going insane. -Zim-

Fakboi - Ocan Siagian feat. Okin


GENRE: INDIE POP / INDIE ROCK This Indonesian TikTok viral sensation is one of my favourite examples of bands that carry on the sonic aesthetic of boy pablo (who in turn are heavily influenced by the likes of Mac DeMarco) while still managing to present their own individuality. In Ocan Siagian’s case, it’s the lack of self-seriousness paired with a catchy tune that makes Fakboi such an endearingly funny wish to be heartless. -Zim-


Lost In Yesterday - Tame Impala


GENRE: INDIE POP/ INDIE ROCK / SYNTH POP


Although I was underwhelmed by Tame Impala's latest LP, Slow Rush, I still think it had its moments of beautiful synth-pop or ambient electronics. One of those moments is Lost In Yesterday, the quintessential embodiment of a 2020 nostalgia song (seeing that it came out before the PANDEMIC) carried along by classic catchy Kevin Parker basslines.

-Zim-




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