By John-Paul Shiver for Pulp Lab
Literally, everyone is trying to get past this shit year. Alive. I mentioned previously on a top albums’ list that ranking music seems a bit lower on the priority docket for 2020. My attention stayed directly focused on family, close friends/associates and searching for that good toilet paper. In the end (ha, non-intentional), these lists do achieve a purpose. They line up bits and pieces that lead to a chronicle of sorts. To me, indie artists meant more this year; They missed out on a steady paycheck. Unlike Taylor Swift or Kanye, their shows disappeared and no major record label came to their rescue.
Due to a lack of touring, the music this year came in overflowing, beyond what I’ve ever seen in one year. Pre-Covid, it did seem to be a banner year, but with social justice uprising in the mainstream the music just got better. Without sports, America could no longer look away from itself. While the rest of the world watched, whispering to themselves, what are you gonna do now America?
Joy, as always, resides in song. Music is a superpower.
There are four albums that seemed to be in conversation with one another this year.
Jeff Parker’s Suite For Max Brown, Georgia Anne Muldrow’s Mama You Can Bet! Jyoti,
Andy Shauf’s The Neon Skyline and Roisin Murphy’s Roisin Machine.
While the first two are Jazz adjacent records, both Parker and Muldrow synthesize and expound on all the different shades/genres Black music incorporates-soul, R&B, blues, funk, astral-jazz, fusion, hip-hop, experimental beat-tape composition-into modernity for a new listener. Both records are completely different but speak a similar dialect, a shared short-hand. Parker and Muldrow updated and excavated the truth, and we are thankful. Both records demand revisits. Like old De La Soul or Public Enemy albums, you find something new every time you check in on them.
So what do a freaky-folk AOR 70’s conversational AM gold type record and a dubby disco revelation of an album have in common? I found both Shauf’s reckoning with the past, dealing with getting over an ex amongst friends in the wee old hours over a cold can right personable storytelling. In line with the confessional thunking narrative expressed underneath some of the most well produced modern disco tracks this side of OG Chic. Roisin Murphy is a multiverse unto her own. With constant transparency being unsure if in fact she’s ever been in love.
For her Disco is not a costume change to escape in, it’s her broad dinner table and she’s locked you in for a sweaty night that turns into day buffet. That dubby 4/4 is her canvas and she’s painting. Both albums are revelatory; The human spirit going through a thing.
So, this is a list of singles that reclaimed the spirit, not really of the mainstream type.
Those lists are everywhere. These are the lost gems found under the hype, on the ocean floor. Despite it all, and my goodness it was wretched, 2020 was a redeeming year for music.
Janet Kay–Silly Games
Larry Rose Band-Who Conned The Lady
Jyoti, Georgia Anne Muldrow–Fabus Foo Geemix
Qur’an Shaheed–Not Today
Xyla–Cold(feat Oso Feo)
Maxwell Udoh–I Like It(Don’t Stop)
Dougie Stu–Joyride(feat Jeff Parker)
Neutrals–In The Future
Thijsenterprise–Skeer is Meer
Andy Shauf–Things I Do
Osees–If I Had an Experiment
Yaeji–Waking Up Down
Yves Tumor–Gospel For A New Century
Dry Cleaning–Scratchcard Lanyard
And Other Things–Numb Enough
Salami Rose Joe Louis–Peculiar Machine–Georgia Anne Muldrow Remix
Andrew Ashong, Kaidi Tatham–Eye Mo K
Tame Impala–Breathe Deeper
Qur’an Shaheed–Press Off
Roy Ayers-Reaching The Highest Pleasure
Theo Parrish–Hennyweed Buckdance
Lianne La Havas–Seven Times (Live)
Force Majeure–Toilet Paper Romance
Once & Future Band–Deleted Scenes