Stop what you’re doing and listen to Anna B Savage, a London-based singer/songwriter poised for a meteoric rise in 2021 with her upcoming debut album, A Common Turn, coming via City Slang January 29. Her vocals are deep and intense, a full-body experience, and joins the likes of Aldous Harding and Haley Fohr in my mind. Her voice and the music surrounding it has a naturally devastating affect, I don’t even know how to articulate it. It sweeps and bows like a ship in a storm, but remains steadfast in getting to its destination. Frankly, it’s just special.
Pre-order Anna B Savage’s A Common Turn via Bandcamp HERE.
Newly announced today, Richmond’s Matthew E. White has teamed up with prolific artist Lonnie Holley for a new collaborative album, Broken Mirror, A Selfie Reflection, coming April 9 via Spacebomb & Jagjaguwar.
Holley made one of my favorite songs of the last decade with “I Woke Up In A Fucked Up America”, and White has been partially responsible for bringing tons of great musicians from the Virginia area and beyond through his Spacebomb studios and label, bringing a real funky, homegrown sound to everything he touches. It’s not a pairing I’d think of immediately, but one that makes me VERY excited to hear down the line. This first taste, “This Here Jungle…” is a high-energy, freeform funk jam with a killer bass thump and Holley commanding as a wise presence as he always does. It’s wonderful. Lots of great stuff in the hopper from the south coming up this year. I’m excited to share and continue commending the US region.
Oakland’s Brijean (aka Brijean Murphy with Doug Stuart) put out a record that I saw a lot of people I trust talk about in 2019, Walkie Talkie. I definitely enjoyed the LP but it always slipped my mind when it came down to continued listening. However, it definitely put them on my map and made me generally excited to see whatever they had next.
Well, what’s next is really good and extremely up my alley. Their upcoming record, Feelings, is out February 26 via Ghostly International. In the past, Brijean has cut her teeth performing with acts like Poolside, Toro Y Moi and U.S. Girls, all groups that understand the groove. They’d need someone that also deeply understands the groove. It’s clear Brijean is fluent in the groove. You can hear shards and shades of the aforementioned groups in the Brijean’s sound, but cast through a unique light all their own. Think beachy lounge, downtempo disco, outdoor pool backstroke house… feel good music, plainly. One comparison that instantly comes to mind is my favorite city night walk music, Mr Twin Sister’s 2014 album. Getting feelings of that mood here, only it takes place at the same beach resort I picture The Avalanches’ Since I Left You at. My musical cinematic universe is broad in scope. Everything I write is canon and incredibly, desperately nerdy.
Either way, I’m just posting album highlight and new single “Ocean” to talk about this upcoming record. It’ll help you exhale, settle into a comfortable chair, outfit, bath, whatever and let some negative feelings slide for a moment.
Feelings is out February 26 via Ghostly International. Pre-order it via Bandcamp HERE.
NY’s Kalbells made one of my favorite EPs of 2020, Mothertime, and are already on their way to put out a new LP, Max Heart, coming March 26th via NNA Tapes. I’ve had the chance to check it out and it feels like something from a post-pandemic reality. It’s an exciting, joyful and rippling alternate timeline, or perhaps one that’s coming a bit down the line. One of my favorite things about Mothertime was the texture of the sounds the group used; it’s almost as if they’re tactile. You could reach out and squeeze the synths and percussion used and glowing ooze would gush out. Maybe that’s a gross visual, and I apologize.
Even so, the sounds and melodies the group uses are truly unique and defining. You’ll find much of that vein on Max Heart. New single “Purplepink” showcases that with squelching synths, a rippin’ guitar solo and lovely shared vocal duties from Angelica Bess (also of Body Language!) and Kalmia Traver. I always gotta get some kinda comparison in here and the one that comes to mind first is Little Dragon – but they’re definitely doing more out of the box things melodically and sonically. Still nice and groovy though.
Max Heart is out via NNA Tapes on March 26. Pre-order via Bandcamp HERE.
Was recently sent this cool albumby Spanish musician Shoeg, 外皮 External Skin, an OST to a fictional RPG. This one’s for all you VGM freaks out there. There’s the regular album version of 外皮 External Skin, but Shoeg has gone one step further and extended each song to an hour’s length and paired it with dreamy 3D visuals in a YouTube playlist – you can watch the rest if you jump to YT from the video I linked above. Imagine if other records had this, I don’t know what you’d call it, feature? Shades of custom YouTube videos where people loop game soundtracks for 10 hours. Just vibe out to a variable melody for an hour. Exist in its space. Observe the crests and valleys of its sound. Create your own mythology to it.
It’s easy to get lost in any of the pieces on the record, but I’ve found myself gravitating towards the second track, “ES II: Needs Assessment”, with its great digital hammered strings and synthesized vocals. Parts of the soundfonts remind me of the “Dire Dire Docks” theme? Potentially? Could be paired with some kind of ancient forest, roots growing off ocean cliffsides, colorful birds peacefully flying overhead, and a hidden temple nestled in a thicket of especially tough vines. There’s plenty more fantasizing to be done on the full LP.
This is a total aside, but now that I’m thinking about video game music and YouTube; late last year I found a great playlist of this guy, Jammin’ Sam Miller, who’s been restoring the music from Donkey Kong Country by essentially re-performing it without the compression needed to fit it on a SNES cartridge. The result is pretty shocking, especially on some of the songs with more haunting ambiance in the later game. As someone who’s been listening to that OST for over twenty years, it’s amazing to hear the sounds of the score really pop, along with hearing defined highs and lows, for the first time. You can check it out here.
And don’t forget, this post was about Shoeg. Check out their Bandcamp here.
I’ve taken a bit of a break from posting new music but thought this new Smerz song would be the perfect thing to break my 2021 seal. Smerz made two of my favorite EPs of the 2010s, Have fun and Okey. They make a super-unique breed of bruising electronic music with ice-cold vocals, acting like a piercing stare cutting a whole in your body from across a chaotic dance floor.
The duo just announced their debut album, Believer, coming February 26 via XL Recordings. A few album cuts were released last year, but the title track just dropped and it’s a heavyweight. A rattling, bassy beat acts as the track’s exoskeleton for perhaps the duo’s most upfront vocal performance. A little past the halfway point in the track a flurry of low-toned strings pool in, somewhat replacing the dark bass that started the track in the beginning and provides a huge, cinematic soundstage for the two to build around. If you’ve ben reading this blog for a while, you know that strings are my thing. Hearing some good cello and viola arrangements around this does wonders for me.
I’ve seen Instagram stories from the band working with orchestras and dancers, piquing my interest as to what they have coming soon. I’m hoping for more booming, caustic electronics, cold vocal deliveries and dramatic string accompaniments. I didn’t have any albums coming in 2021 that I was really geeked about yet. Count me in for one now.
I forgot I had to do a Recommended Albums of December 2020 post after I had written “this is my last post for 2020” on my 2020 Retrospective. I was pretty tuned out of new music halfway through December, so only six albums featured here. They’re still good! Hope you enjoy!
The Avalanches – We Will Always Love You [Astralwerks]
Star-studded third album from the Australian sampling legends. Haven’t spent too much time with this yet, but these guys are my all-time favs so it’ll likely grow on me even more. Some great grooves on it already upon first and second passes.
Ichiko Aoba – Windswept Adan [Hermine]
Immaculately produced and arranged chamber pop and folk from Japan. Her deepest sound yet. I’ve only listened a few times but definitely diving in for more, there’s plenty of sonic material to uncover here.
Kelly Moran & Prurient – Chain Reaction At Dusk [Hospital Productions]
Split EP between two unique auteurs that spurred after performing with Oneohtrix Point Never. Gorgeous piano recordings juxtaposed with atmospheric noise suites.
Mica Levi – Ruff Dog [Self-Released]
Distorted and disorienting lo-fi pop recordings from one of the world’s smartest production and songwriting minds.
Rico Nasty – Nightmare Vacation [Sugar Trap]
Pummeling, high-energy rap with heavy emphasis on Rico’s razor-sharp bars and barn-burning production.
Suss – Promise [Northern Spy]
Floating, blissful ambient country. Full of slide guitar, drones and open air.
Like I said in my Best Albums of 2020 list, I don’t need to be the one to tell you how awful 2020 was. What we have here is my usual 100-song rundown of how my 2020 sounded. I didn’t really turn to much ultra-sad music during this time, everything looks pretty usual. I honestly gravitated more towards finding new rare grooves to make me happy, as well as building out my running playlist. I spent more time listening to music on that than most other places. You’ll also find all my listening and other media consumption stats below as well. I just like to keep track of everything. Now you can see too.
Just a quick note though – 2020 was Warm Visions’ best year yet. 7,050 total views, cracked 1,000 views in one month in December, I have posts showing up early in Google searches, someone linked the blog to an artist’s Wikipedia page, I’ve been talking with more publicists, I FINALLY completed my Best 200 Albums + Songs lists of the 2010s, I had a non-friend stranger comment a few times… it was wild. Technically by a views standpoint likely nothing will ever beat 2012 due to a Lana Del Rey Google image search SEO random thing, but I’m incredibly thankful and happy how 2020 went (in terms of blog stuff). Going to try and keep it rolling in my 11th year in operation. Wild! Thanks a bunch for reading if you’ve been coming here for a while, and welcome in if you’re new.
I’m not sure if it’s just me, but it seemed like the concept of “favorite songs” went out the window in 2020. Maybe it’s because I usually listen to albums at home and playlists on the move, so there wasn’t much time to really process my “favorites” of the year outside of an album context. I just felt like I had less ground to work with compared to normal. Despite this, I had no trouble accumulating 100 favorite songs on the year and selecting 10 of those to be the “top favorites.”
You’ll find 90 songs in alphabetical order immediately below and my Top 10 ranked songs of 2020 after that. Thought I had some nice variation on here and some artists you may have missed going through 2020. Hopefully some artists with big 2021s to come? Cheers to that. I also featured the first remix in this list in who knows how many years, probably the first since 2012. It’s just too good.
Well folks, I am not going to be the one to tell you about how “crazy this year was and how we hope you and your family are safe during these unprecedented times”. That’s Arby’s or Chase Bank’s job. My job is to recommend you music and luckily I’ve got quite a lot of it here. It’s Warm Visions’ Top 50 Albums of 2020, ranked for your pleasure.
I know a lot of people are switching away from ranking albums to make it less of a competition, but I’ve never really thought of it that way. I’m just one guy that listens to 500-something albums every year. There are no advanced metrics happening here, just records I would consistently return to while the deluge of other art passed through my consciousness. I also don’t take myself super seriously, so I don’t think you should either.
In a normal year, I’d have the luxury of seeing many of these artists live to influence my digestion of the material. I’d also be able to “road test” albums by listening on commutes or walks about town without worry. These records were primarily listened to at my desk in headphones. I mention this because once we’re allowed back in the wild, we’ll then see what albums I actually start returning to, which will likely change the list order. In fact, albums moved up and down the day this was published. It’s a snapshot, nothing permanent. Think of this list as a moment frozen in time to look back on in the future: “this was really my #24 album of 2020? What? I listen to that every day now!” Yada yada, you get the picture.
For right now though, I recommend you listen to every single album here, even the honorable mentions. You will not regret it. I think I’ve pulled together a fulfilling and special selection of records that indeed has a few usual suspects seen on all the other AOTY lists, but some other things you may have missed in the shuffle too. I sincerely hope you’re keeping it easy going into 2021. Enjoy.
ARMAND HAMMER – Shrines
ASA TONE – Temporary Music
BREAKING – Breaking
CHARLEY CROCKETT – Welcome To Hard Times
DISCOVERY ZONE – Remote Control
DOMENIQUE DUMONT – People On Sunday
DUMA – Duma
DUVAL TIMOTHY – Help
EYELINER – Drop Shadow
THE KOREATOWN ODDITY – Little Dominique’s Nosebleed