Closing the door on the year 2020, it's tempting to bolt it shut. But music, as always, was there to provide us as listeners some welcome relief. Our very own Joel Mills recounts the story of the year in her latest blog – from the spread of Covid-19 to Black Lives Matter and beyond – from a UK music perspective. But what of this year's soundtrack? Well here's what it sounded like to us and why.
The Songs That Got Us Through 2020
Joel: My first pick is Sault with 'Wildfires'. Sometime in the summer this song came on the radio and it stopped me in its tracks. Haunting, hopeful, and defiant it seemed to embody a calm reflective but fighting spirit in the turbulence of Black Lives Matter protests and Covid-19. My second is 'Texas Sun' - a beautiful, soulful, on the road song from a rather sparkling collaboration between Leon Bridges and Khruangbin. It was the next best thing to actually being in Texas this year.
Cathy: There are two tracks that I have returned to during dark times for their beauty and the peace and serenity they help me achieve. One came out at the start of lockdown, and is the Isolation Choir’s 'Inside I’ll Sing'. The other is Arvo Pärt’s 'Spiegel im Spiegel'. I returned to them recently as I contemplated London heading into 'Tier 3' restricitons and the sudden uncertainty around Christmas. These tracks help me breathe again.
Katie: It's Hak Baker's 'Venezuela Riddim' for me. This song appears in the playlist for my online yoga class and catches my ear each time - something about how simple it appears to be but with enough to hook me with his inflections and melody. The lyrics show a glimpse of a different time: ‘These are the best days of our life / What a celebratory time’.
Grace: West London singer-songwriter, Westerman's ‘Blue Comanche’ has become a soundtrack for me. It was released earlier this year and to me is reminiscent of the transitional late summer to autumn time of year, before moving into the darker days of winter. It's a beautiful track which manifests a sense of sadness but also profound optimism.
Stephen: When I think of 2020 in song I think it’s always going to be ‘Bittersweet’ by Lianne La Havas. Lyrically, it’s a breakup song that, to me, sounds as if it could just as well have been written about being stuck in a Covid-shaped rut. I remember the last gig I went to this year, in person, was Bonnie Light Horseman at The Roundhouse in London in February and it was mesmerising. Lianne La Havas’s fabulous live stream show, staged shortly after the first UK lockdown, came from the very same venue and, watching that show from home, I was struck by how much changed in just a few months. In terms of newer artists, but along that same guitar-based soul line, I’ve been so impressed by Sans Soucis. If you’re new to her music I recommend making a start with ‘Unfinished’ as an equally fitting way to conclude the year – she is among many talents that emerged this year despsite the circumstances and make me optimisitc about the future. In this song she even offers a memorable line about Christmas!
Leah: Alabaster dePlume’s ‘Visit Croatia’ drifted into my consciousness this summer as I was up one morning at very first light, brewing coffee and quietly contemplating the day ahead ... alas, not vising anywhere, anytime soon, but soothed and transported somewhere dreamlike by this track. Meanwhile, Wuhan’s Shii created the rather brilliant ‘Seeing Flowers’ in response to our Distant Dialogues cloud residency with Worldwide FM and Merrie Records – love her sound and hope she continues to win new fans in the UK.
- Read Joel Mills' exploration of the year 2020 for UK music
- Read our latest Music Team Spotlight with recommendations and music news