- Deb Rooney gets lively to inspiring and progressive LA ska-punk outfit The Interruptors!
- Writer and web expert Chris Wong brings a well-tuned ear to his choices for 2020’s top albums – all 17 of them. There are familiar names – new and old – plus an intriguing sample of lesser known artists worth knowing.
- THE READER’S CHOICE 2020 PLAYLIST: On YouTube and Spotify. The playlist samples a selection of the songs mentioned in this year’s 10-part series.
Part 4 of Readers’ Choice 2020 offers a genre-jumping set of music from ska-punk to Portuguese fado, slow jazz, comforting Americana, spoken word and a lot more.
Stay tuned and enjoy,
09 January 2021
- Take Back the Power: The Interrupters
About Deb: Deb Rooney is a gleefully retired illustrator who continues to poke fun at the woes of the world through her drawings and cartoons.
I don’t know if it’s a byproduct of getting older or a side effect of the pandemic blues but in 2020, the music that resonated with me the most was slow and quiet, aching and soothing, and beautiful. That’s the motif that connects my top 3 albums of the year.
First there’s Hannah by Lomelda, which is the artist name for LA-based and Texas-raised Hannah Read. I’m thoroughly beguiled by her singing and songwriting on the album, not just because it reminds me of music by Adrianne Lenker from Big Thief, one of my 2019 faves. Lomelda’s lo-fi folk and indie rock aesthetic wins me over with its entirely unadorned and raw essence. Her earlier albums also have a similar endearing quality.
Then there’s Here Be Dragons, by New York-based and Tel Aviv-born tenor saxophonist Oded Tzur. It’s on ECM, and I’ve long admired the Munich-based label for its diverse creativity and high production values. But I’ve never heard jazz like this, which moves so slowly that it’s barely moving at times, and that’s precisely why I keep returning it. Every exquisite detail of Tzur’s sublime musicality, influenced by Indian ragas, is laid bare for the listener. That’s a brave and spellbinding approach.
Finally, Lina_Raül Refree by Lina (Lina Rodrigues) and Raül Refree (Raül Fernández), caught my attention in a surprising way and never let go. When you think of Portuguese fado music, Amália Rodrigues immediately comes to mind. Amália was the ultimate fadista because of her virtuoso singing that embodied melancholy. Almost all of the songs on Lina_Raül Refree were associated with Amália, and Lina sings them beautifully. Here’s the twist: instead of the traditional 12-string guitar accompaniment, Raül Refree plays contemporary keyboards, and instead of being a failed fusion experiment, it works brilliantly.
I don’t especially like the outdated term “honourable mention”, but lacking a better way to say it, here are my honourable mentions for 2020 from a range of genres:
- Meaningful alternative singer/songwriter rock/folk: Phoebe Bridgers – Punisher; Fleet Foxes – Shore.
- Affecting songwriting/singing/acoustic guitar playing/found sounds from isolation: Adrianne Lenker – Song and Instrumentals.
- Soulful breakup music: Lianne La Havas – Lianne La Havas.
- Cancon/intelligent pop: Donovan Woods – Without People; Helena Deland – Someone New.
- Comforting Americana: Bill Callahan – Gold Record; Courtney Marie Andrews – Old Flowers; the Jayhawks – Xoxo; Gillian Welch – Boots No. 2: The Lost Songs, Vols. 1-3.
- Timeless (mostly) acoustic Malian music: Oumou Sangare – Acoustic; Afel Bocoum – Lindé.
- Pulsating 21st century jazz meets spoken word artistry: Gil-Scott Heron and Makaya McCraven – We’re New Again – a Reimagining by Makaya McCraven.
- More vital 21st century jazz: Jeff Parker – Suite for Max Brown.
- Ambient and transporting harp with a shoegaze subtext: Mary Lattimore (produced by Slowdive’s Neil Halstead) – Silver Ladders.
About Chris: Chris Wong is nearing completion of a book about jazz musicians in Vancouver. He still spends far too much time making Spotify playlists for music nerds, including one that takes a much deeper dive into 2020 and another that only has Brazilian tunes with Rhodes electric piano. You can find him in Spotify as “Wongski”.