2020 in music

It goes without saying that 2020 is a special year in a number of ways. I want to look back at what 2020 meant for me in terms of music. As a side effect of staying home almost all year, I have also listened to more music than previous years. In fact, I listened to music roughly twice as much in 2020 compared to 2019, although it still can’t match my high school levels. Below is a bar plot of my number of last.fm scrobbles since 2010.


On a less positive note, 2020 is also the year Google Play Music stopped. I’m very sad about this, as it had both great streaming features and allowed you to listen to your own uploaded music seamlessly. YouTube music is not a good replacement, so I switched to Spotify. This still leaves a lot to be desired, since I can’t add my own music to the Spotify library and listening to any music that’s not in the Spotify library is a hassle. On the plus side, Spotify does have a larger collection of music than Google Play Music did.

In the rest of this post I want to look back on the music I discovered during 2020. There has been a lot of great music that came out this year, but also a lot of music that was released before 2020 that I only discovered this year. This is not a complete list, but rather a list of the albums that had the most impact on me in no particular order. This list was compiled by looking at all the albums I listened much more than in all other years combined. I have listened to some of these albums before 2020, but I didn’t really get into them before. Let us start with the albums that were actually released this year.

Music from 2020

Fiona Apple - Fetch the Bolt Cutters (2020)

Genre: Art Pop
This is definitely the album of the year for me. I can’t quite put my finger on why, but this album just sounds amazing. I think it’s the overall sound of the album that really draws me in, and it doesn’t become boring even after dozens of listens.

Gezan - KLUE (2020)

Genre: Noise Rock
Definitely one of the weirder albums of this year. At times intense, at times hypnotic and at other times very calm. The album transitions between different moods very smoothly and results a coherent interesting piece of music.

King Krule - Man Alive! (2020)

Genre: Post-Punk
Calm, melancholic and noisy. The texture and sound of this album is great, and just gets better every time you listen to it.

Jeff Rosenstock - NO DREAM (2020)

Genre: Pop Punk
Very energetic, although the latter half of the album is very melancholic. The lyrics are also very witty, and the noisy guitar riffs are nice, but in the end I think I like it because it’s just a really catchy record.

Klô Pelgag - Notre-Dame-des-Sept-Douleurs (2020)

Genre: Art/Baroque Pop
Probably the first French-language pop I have to come to enjoy, and probably the second best album that came out this year as far as I’m concerned. The instrumentals on this record are perfect, and the melody is incredibly catchy.

Pottery - Welcome to Bobby’s Motel (2020)

Genre: Dance Punk
This record sounds a lot like Talking Heads’ Remain in the Light, and this is not a bad thing.

The Microphones - Microphones in 2020 (2020)

Genre: Indie Folk
The “music video” of this album is a 45 minute video showing photographs, and I was glued to my screen every second of it. The sound is repetitive, and it draws you in; hypnotizes you. On top of that, it is almost as packed with emotion as A Crow Looked At Me.

Other music I discovered in 2020

Tom Waits - Rain Dogs (1985)

Genre: Singer/Songwriter, Experimental Rock
I’m surprised I only discovered Tom Waits this year. Waits’ deep smoky voice and bluesy songs are wonderful. It’s hard to pin this record down to a single genre, yet the sound is completely coherent.

Duster - Duster (2019)

Genre: Slowcore
Slow, noisy and hypnotic. This album will calmly you put you into a trance, but never leave you bored.

Hella - Hold Your Horse Is (2002)

Genre: Math Rock
Very complex and technical instrumental math rock. Often I lose interest in purely instrumental albums after a couple listens, but this album definitely stays interesting even after many listens.

Milton Nascimento & Lô Borges - Clube da Esquina (1972)

Genre: Música Popular Brasileira
This is my first exposure to Brazillian music. After discovering this album I tried a number of other albums in the same genre, but nothing comes close to this.

Have a Nice Life - Deathconsciousness (2008)

Genre: Post-Punk
I have been aware of this album for a long time, since I used to browse /mu/ in high school, but I only really got into it this year. The album is very intense, and I simply love the lo-fi sound of the record.

Shellac - At Action Park (1994)

Genre: Post-Hardcore, Math Rock
Beautiful, noisy sound. Reminds me a lot of Number Girl, but with a much stronger beat. It’s hard not to bop my head to this.

IDLES - Joy as an Act of Resistance. (2018)

Genre: Post-Punk
Incredibly energetic punk. It takes a very wholesome spin on the traditional anarchistic lyrics of punk rock. IDLES also released an album in 2020, and while it’s certainly good, it didn’t leave nearly as much as an impression on me as this album.

Purple Mountains - Purple Mountains (2019)

Genre: Alt-Country
Country rock meets existential dread.

Acid Bath - When the Kite String Pops (1994)

Genre: Sludge Metal
Like Melvins’ or Boris’ Sludge Metal records, but much more raw and dark. I love it.

Black Flag - My War (1984)

Genre: Hardcore Punk
The lyrics are a bit angsty, but the dark, raw, noisy sound more than makes up for that.

clipping. - There Existed an Addiction to Blood (2019)

Genre: Industrial Hip-Hop, Horrorcore
This is probably the biggest surprise for me this year. I didn’t expect to like this at all, but I really do. For some reason I find it difficult to like hip-hop, especially rap. Perhaps the noisy sound of this album is what attracts me to it.

Built to Spill - Perfect From Now On (1997)

Genre: Indie Rock
A lo-fi indie pop, but still definitely sounds like the 90s, and definitely holds up against some of the best albums of that decade.

Current 93 - Thunder Perfect Mind (1992)

Genre: Neofolk
A sombre, melancholic, acoustic album. At first I didn’t like this album, but a few months after listening to this album for a few times several songs got stuck into my head. I then listened to the album again and found that I suddenly really enjoyed it.

Comus - First Utterance (1971)

Genre: Progressive Folk, Freak Folk
Grim, psychedelic and intense. The album draws you in, despite its dark and disturbing content.

공중도둑 (Mid-Air Thief) - 공중도덕 (Gongjoong Doduk) (2015)

Genre: Psychedelic Folk
Psychedelic, yet calm and relaxing. Probably my first exposure to Korean music (other than k-pop), and I definitely want to hear more of this.

Recent posts

GMRES: or how to do fast linear algebra

24 minute read

Linear least-squares system pop up everywhere, and there are many fast way to solve them. We’ll be looking at one such way: GMRES.

Blind Deconvolution #2: Image Priors

15 minute read

In order to automatically sharpen images, we need to first understand how a computer can judge how ‘natural’ an image looks.