At the beginning of this year, I wanted to do something unique.
Instead of coming up with a series of resolutions in an effort to better myself for 2020 alone, I compiled a checklist of items I wanted to attempt over the next decade. This included everything from spending a week in a non-English speaking country to getting a local restaurant to name a menu item after me.
However, I scrapped the list by April. I instead focused on one item in particular – listen to a new album each month. Music has been my saving grace and an escape through the longer days and even shorter weekends this year. It began as a way to expand my vinyl collection, but turned into a greater appreciation.
I discovered new artists (shout out to Spotify’s recommendation algorithm) and amazing songs that not only enlightened but distracted me from the onslaught of bad news that consistently flooded social media.
My favorite song of 2020 was “Wildfires” by Sault – a British band that dabbles in soul and blues.
My favorite album released this year was RTJ4, a great addition to Run The Jewels’ discography. Killer Mike and El-P released their fourth studio album in June as tensions continued to heat up across the country with a more futuristic beat with bangers like “Ooh La La” and “JU$T,” the latter of which featured Zack de la Rocha from Rage Against the Machine.
The album was bittersweet for me. While I was able to enjoy it, the tour was canceled after I bought tickets to see the rap duo perform in July. Fingers crossed the tour isn’t canceled again, as I hope to see them live in 2021.
The pandemic gave me a chance to discover artists I had never heard of before.
I’ve played The Free Nationals self-titled LP on repeat this summer, after learning they were the main band to play for Anderson Paak on his “Malibu” album. Kevin Abstract’s “American Boyfriend” proved to be a unique blend between Frank Ocean and Tyler the Creator.
The Olympians’ self-titled album was a blend of soul instrumentals that flies by on repeat listens. It came out in 2016 and I’m surprised it hasn’t received more notoriety. Also arriving this year was the surprising culmination of Kid Cudi’s Man on the Moon trilogy.
Perhaps the best thing to happen to me this year – at least from a musical perspective – was being introduced to the podcast known as “Dissect.” I devoured every episode, as the pod’s host, Cole Cuchna, uses his degree in music composition to analyze contemporary albums.
He’s covered hit albums by Kendrick Lamar, Kanye West, Frank Ocean, Lauryn Hill, Tyler the Creator, Beyonce and Childish Gambino, breaking each album into separate seasons. From the music sampled in each song to the hidden meanings behind lyrics, the podcast has been another escape from this garbage of a year.
While I don’t have any expectations for 2021, I intend to double my efforts musically. If you, loyal reader, have made it this far in the ramblings of a late-20-something, I ask you to send me your album recommendations. They can be new releases or classics that mean the world to you. I’ve recently become obsessed with Stevie Wonder and James Brown, so any and all suggestions are welcomed.