Deep Voices Best of 2020

100 songs, from me to you

Deep Voices Best of 2020 on Spotify

Deep Voices Best of 2020 on Apple Music

A few weeks ago, I wanted to listen to the ’90s hardcore band Ordination of Aaron, so I typed their name into the Spotify search bar. No artists showed up, as their music isn’t available on streaming. There was a song result, though: “The Ordination of Aaron and His Sons” by Double Gee. With a delivery that sounds like dancehall meets spoken word, Double Gee narrates how God anointed Aaron with oil. It’s a strange, 40 second song that turned out to be part of a 325 song album of 40 second songs, Double Gee’s meandering recitation of the bible. From “Joseph Has Dreams and Can Interpret Dreams” to “The Fiery Cloud” to “The Prayer Jesus Christ Taught Us,” every track is deeply compelling and totally bizarre. Double Gee has 17 monthly listeners.

Though Deep Voices has been dedicated to surfacing music from all timelines, like any big music fan, I wanted to catalog the highs of the year. So I have collected 100 of the songs I have enjoyed most. Looking at this list, I’m reminded of how much amazing music is out there, but also how much I must have missed. I have my own genre blind spots and taste preferences, and even within my various wheelhouses, there is inevitably great stuff I don’t get to hear. It’s impossible to consume all music, but that has not stopped me from trying. Let Double Gee stand in for everything that goes unheard. 

I’m calling this list a best of, but it may just be my favorites. There are 100 songs of assorted origins, many of which contain at least one element of my favorite sonic tropes: repetition, piano, crazy drums, sounds like it was recorded in a trash can, a British person talking, audio that isn’t music. Some of the songs have been featured on Deep Voices before and some have not. Some of it isn’t especially deep. Try as I might, I can’t get over my own tendencies to present an array of music, an attempt to create a microcosm of the world of sound. I’d rather fool’s errand that than a full indulgence of my own interests for the best songs of the year, which would inevitably be 50 jungle tracks of and 50 songs of depressing piano. The worldview here is at least slightly wider than that.

The only ground rule is that everything was released in 2020—no reissues or archival recordings. There are many releases I loved that are not available on streaming or that are extremely long, and for the purpose of this playlist I’ve chosen songs of a manageable length that are available on Spotify (many other favorites can be found in my Bandcamp profile). I’ve annotated all 100 songs below. They’re not presented in a ranked order, but I have obsessively sequenced them for a smooth listening experience. The only purposeful placements are the first and last songs. Gavborg’s “Did Not Make This for Jah_9,” which begins the playlist, was the first song on the first Deep Voices earlier this summer. And John Carroll Kirby’s “Walking Through a House Where a Family Has Lived,” a poorly recorded and repetitive solo piano piece which ends the playlist, hits a trifecta of my interests. In 2020, a small miracle. May you find your own herein. 

Share Deep Voices

Playlist notes:

  • Gavsborg ft. Shanique Marie, “Did Not Make This For Jah_9” Magical bubbling noises backed by a drum machine getting hammered while a woman repeatedly counts to eight

  • Holy Tongue, “Emet” Instrumental funky post-punk, an old sound made new, largely owing to the dynamic drumming of Valentina Magaletti 

  • Metal Preyers, “Peppa” Truly, excitingly weird...hyperactive xylophone-ish percussion with everything else overblown but fully rhythmic

  • Andrea, “Isabelle's String” Superb, clean, modern techno from an Italian guy

  • Kathryn Shuman, “Objects” Bouncy minimalism with wordless vocals. Sounds like how fresh laundry feels

  • Chris Korda, “Ilopo Ferese” If a king requested a harpsichord tribute from an evil genius

  • Rhodri Davies, “Triban Cilrhedyn” Tweaked out homemade harp. Feels very, very pure

  • Tara Clerkin Trio, “In the Room” An improbable mix of smoky jazz and dream pop. Should be impossible to pull off but is very much pulled off

  • Coral Club, “Peace Place” Low tempo synthesizer noodling that is white noise for people in their late 30s who used to listen to a lot of disco

  • Boof, “D to the a Train” Impeccable flute house by Maurice Fulton under a lesser known pseudonym. So catchy

  • Delphine Dora ft. Aby Vulliamy, Laura Naukkarinen, Caity Shaffer, Valérie Leclercq, “Loin” Airy French singing that devolves into a ghost song. One moment from a confusing album of experimentalism where no song is remotely similar

  • Antonina Nowacka, “Part 6” A cappella singing that sounds recorded in an empty church on a windy day. Beautiful and scary

  • Gia Margaret, “barely there” Dreamy bedroom electronics with hushed vocals

  • Elysia Crampton ft. Fanny Pankara Chuquimia, “Crest” The soundtrack to a good witch looking back on her life in a movie montage

  • Ann Margaret Hogan, “Coda” Delicate, exploratory piano with bird sounds. Almost jazzy but stays cool 

  • Philip Glass/Maki Namekawa, “Distant Figure - A Passacaglia” New solo piano from the legend as performed by one of his greatest interpreters

  • POiSON ANNA, “1 SiDE” Deconstructed shoegaze with vocals that come in after two minutes like a sneaky wave 

  • Laura Cannell ft. Stewart Lee and Kate Ellis, “BARSHAM LIGHT” Exploratory violin with spoken lyrics about light by a British man with a deep voice. Walks the line between tragic and ecstatic. What I wish folk music was

  • Mindy Meng Wang 王萌, “Forbidden City, A Cold Moon 故宫 . 冷月” Improvisations on a guzheng. Dainty at first before a perfect moment of chaos

  • Minais B, “Little Sun” Interstellar funeral song with a brief pivot into mania

  • Mara Rosenbloom, Chad Taylor, and Sean Conly, “Daydream - An Improvised Transition” Lush piano jazz with understated drums played brilliantly by Chad Taylor

  • Vibration Black Finger, “Law of the Universe” Has the traits of many different types of songs without ever coagulating into one. Only 30 seconds long but makes a heavier impression than most music

  • Serpente, “Visitação” Crazy drum techno but meticulous and expansive

  • Bergsonist, “Middle Ouest” Crazy drum techno but playful and hyper

  • Bass Thioung, “Chiibi Riibi” Senegalese pop with euphoric percussion with vocals by an exuberant cheerleader of a man

  • Double Gee, “The Last Supper” The Last Supper described in 40 seconds

  • Paradise Cinema, “It Will Be Summer Soon” Drums that sound like a hummingbird’s heart exploding. There is also something that sounds like a blunted clarinet soloing until everything breaks into ambient sound. Extremely thrilling

  • Aminu Alan Waka, “Sarkin Wakar Dutse” Lofi autotuned Nigerian hausa with the recording of a parade spliced into the middle of the song. Heavenly

  • Duwap Kaine, “She Call My Phone” Spacy rap that makes me feel less old 

  • Bladee, “RAIN3OW STAR (LOVE IS ALL)” Swedish singer/rapper goes full saccharine pop. A little annoying but irresistible because he sounds like such a sweetie

  • Dean Blunt, “SICKO freestyle” British man talks over a sample of a Bad Brains song...total Schnipper catnip

  • Papillon, “Chanson d'un condamné à mort” What people think of when you say “experimental music.” Is arguably not music. A little funny and very wild

  • Nídia, “Nunun” Chaotic drums that boldly flirt with the charms of EDM

  • Croatian Amor, “Yoyogi Park” Neat and tidy techno from a Danish guy who you can tell just from listening is suer handsome and dresses well. Makes me think of the word “elan”

  • Noémi Büchi, “Tap02” Primal drums recorded at a quiet volume matched with what sounds like someone dialing a phone and a chick hatching from its egg

  • Akai Solo, “An Ode to the Isolated” Covid rap song that I found deeply sincerely and pleasingly lo-fi

  • Model Home, “Life Don't Start Or Stop” Spectacularly blunted track. On other songs they rap, but here, after a few minutes of a zooted instrumental, they repeat the title over and over until it feels like a Toaist koan. It might be 

  • X & Yde, “Dares Soar” Crushingly excellent duet from Dutch musicians Xenia Xamanek and Yde Girl. Mixes new wave, goth, and pop. Has a saxophone, too. Where I hope the concept of indie goes

  • Stubborn ft. Mica Levi, “Mid” Hypnotic and loping post-punk with Mica Levi’s disaffected cool kid vocals. Barely longer than a minute, like they just can’t be bothered. Aspirational for nerds

  • Jocelyn Robert, “Le miroir Nepalais” Simple, sad piano song that dissolves into the sound of traffic in the rain without you noticing how you got there

  • Okkyung Lee, “Another Old Story (옛날이야기)” Unique lineup of cello, piano, harp, and bass. Spirited playing that moves quickly from tentative to chaotic. Aches to be performed live

  • Hélène Vogelsinger, “Contemplation” Like a keyboard and vocal duet between aliens and a woman they abducted. Total science fiction music. Beam me up

  • Lucy Gooch, “Rushing” Soft vocal experimentation that bleeds first into drone and then a Kate Bush-style narrative. Thoughtful music

  • Frank Ocean, “Dear April” An angel once again descends to Earth with a song

  • HAIM, “Man from the Magazine” Powerful statement against misogyny made all the more miraculous for how raw it sounds amid an album of immaculately written and recorded rock songs

  • Lomelda, “Hannah Sun” The platonic ideal of indie rock. I find it very touching when she sings to herself, “Hannah, do no harm”

  • Bill Callahan, “Breakfast” Quiet marriage tribute from America’s best living songwriter

  • Jim White and Marisa Anderson, “November” Master of skittering guitar meets master of skittering drums for a jam

  • Lemon Quartet, “Variation on a Mask” Lowkey jazz but without any aspiration to be cool and thus extremely cool

  • Molly Joyce, “Body and Being” Beach House but make it modern classical 

  • Clarissa Connelly, “Shallow Water” Short song that’s equal parts Björk and Peter Gabriel. Feels expensive

  • Smrtdeath, “Nothing Is Wrong” Emo depression anthem of the year. From acoustic paean to alt rock explosion 

  • Wicca Phase Springs Eternal, “Hardcore” My favorite emo rapper embraces his goth side and does not look back. Nor should he

  • osquinn, “fml” Heartbroken teenage minimalist autotune lament. Makes me root for Gen Z so hard

  • Shygirl, “LENG” Bugged out British rap. She raps so fast and so effortless over a beat that sounds so creepy crawly a spider must have made it

  • Konx-Om-Pax, “Rez (Skee Mask Remix)” The term “shredding” usually refers to guitars, but I’m pretty sure this guitar-less dubstep-adjacent remix shreds

  • Rune Bagge, “How Would It Be” Gorgeously full screen techno with pauses for huge sweeps of synth

  • Sugar, “New Life” Powerful club-ready Danish techno at a breakneck pace. Hard to be subtle when being this enormous but he manages details deftly

  • Anushka Chkheidze, “Halfie” Electronic music that swings through techno, ambient, and IDM within the space of a few minutes. Briefly uses mouth sounds a la Meredith Monk. There’s bells and drums that sound like bubble wrap popping. So hard to do something like this without the seams showing, but it’s so well put together you can miss all of those details and still come away thinking it’s a great song

  • Grand River, “Gold” Ambient-ish keys, but as baroque as it is Eno 

  • DJ Python, “Pia” A slow moment from an album of endlessly earnest electronic music of every genre all composed expertly. Arguably my favorite musician in the world

  • Celia Hollander, “Santa Ana Wind Burn” Itchy, pensive sonic exploration from an inventive producer with an interest in stretching the limits of modern composition

  • George Riley, “Move” Deeply groovy R&B from one of the year’s most promising newcomers. Nonplussed vocals grounded by a thick bassline and smartly accented with angular guitar 

  • JWords, “Remedy” Peppy house/techno with has hints of “beats to study/relax to” 

  • Machine Woman, “last days of the Montreal's summer you spoke softly 183” Surprisingly poppy 2-step track from a producer who is usually more focused on the darker side of electronic music. A really nice surprise

  • Prescribe Da Vibe, “Clearer Now” Flawless throwback UK garage. Undeniable

  • SL, “Who Knows” Ruminative British rap, which is arguably rap’s most perfect form

  • Nines ft. Nafe Smallz and Fundz, “Realist” More excellent ruminative British rap

  • MIKE, “coat of many colors” The kind of rap song where the beat and the rapping melt together like a drippy sculpture. The listener melts too

  • Camden Malik, “Dreams” Heavy-lidded rap with a chopped up soul sample. Hits the nostalgia button hard and I am here for it

  • Regular Citizen, “Sparkling Ultramarine” Techno that sounds like a rap beat but it’s not clear if that’s on purpose

  • Kassir ft. Shumopeleng, “Mope” Russian techno with a lot going on. Vocal samples, the amen break, laser noises, a frustrated cat, digital gurgling. A real kitchen-sink production that brims with life but never overflows

  • Only Now, “Arrow (Vengeance)” Punishing drums that pack a harsh punch and then ends abruptly. Electronic music that steals its ideas from metal

  • Violet, “Search and Find” One of, if not the best, techno tracks of the year. Feverish and dynamic. Doesn’t reinvent the wheel but upgrades it significantly, which is arguably more difficult

  • Beatrice Dillon, “Workaround Eight” Like math rock but if it was techno. Satisfying for dorks of all kinds. Passionately scientific 

  • Ypy, “Sennengo” Heavy Japanese techno with rippling drums. Aggressively gets the job done

  • VTSS and Emma DJ, “Goa Dance” Can’t listen without thinking of war. One drum noise sounds like a cap gun gone haywire, the other sounds like a bazooka. Sharply utilizes the left and right channels for a bouncy headphone experience

  • On the Ifness, “Cuvée Con Vaux” What would happen if you described world music to musicians who’d never heard of it but are fantastic at playing and do their best to recreate it for you as a gift. Don Cherry would be proud

  • upsammy, “Growing Out of the Plastic Box” IDM meets sound design techno. The last thing you’d expect reading that description is that it sounds funky, but it does

  • Villete, “Penrose Stairs” Lovely brief and meditative synthesizer piece

  • Tim Reaper, “Cityscapes” Jungle track of the year. Contains all the classic genre elements executed masterfully, particularly the cut up vocal sample, and updates the sound with jittering keys. Would basically die to hear this in a club 

  • Sewerslvt, “NTR Ending (Cardiac Arrest Due To Overdose)” Bleary drum ’n’ bass. The drums operate at warp speed while the melody saunters around sadly atop. You can feel the catharsis burning off it

  • Flora Yin-Wong, “Terra” Like a digital recreation of the sound of a violent rainstorm heard from inside a train. This track is included as a representative of the two 15-minute long collages of field recordings that close this album. They were transportative to me many times

  • Lauren Bousfield, “Foster Care Kid Running Away Again” Video game music meets Euro rave as recorded to a broken cassette deck

  • Wolfgang Tillmans, “Life Guarding” World famous photographer who dabbles passionately in techno despite not having the most original vision finds a beautifully idiosyncratic sound in this particularly heartfelt vocal track. Makes me want to both give and receive hugs when he asks, “Are you around? I feel the same way you do”

  • Westerman, “Your Hero Is Not Dead” Note-perfect guitar pop songwriting. Indebted to Arthur Russell but sounds almost like Pet Shop Boys if you boiled them down to the elements. Sublime if you let it be

  • Peel Dream Magazine, “The Furthest Nearby Place” Fuzzy instrumental rock good for floating away on a vibe

  • Alexia Avina, “Fit Into” Slow motion dream pop. A deceptively simple concept executed effortlessly

  • Zsela, “Drinking” Incantatory, vulnerable soul with bold production by modern quiet storm legend Daniel Aged

  • Ana Roxanne, “Camille” The overlap of techno and new age with ethereal vocals. Gentle and lightly haunting

  • Earthen Sea, “Sun Shadows - Original Mix” Like a dub song ripped to shreds and trying to rebuild itself one broken note at a time

  • Twilight Prince, “Emotional Strife” Spoken word about life being pain. No beat, just twinkling piano. Feels very fresh

  • Lisa Lerkenfeldt, “Gates Of Desire” Noise music presented through an ambient music filter. Anxiety-inducing or oddly relaxing, depending on your mood

  • Jeff Parker, “Fusion Swirl” The definition of “in the pocket.” A tight jam from a guitar album that melds soul, bop, and free jazz. Shows that experimental doesn’t only have to mean noisy 

  • Azu Tiwaline ft. Cinna Peyghamy, “Tight Wind” Dub techno with hand percussion that gives the track an organic feel. An underlying buzz adds a needed bit of grit. Easy to get lost in

  • K-Lone, “Bluefin” Extremely listenable electronic music with lots of bubbly percussion. Nominally techno, but could soundtrack a National Geographic film. Very warm and friendly if you need a smile

  • M. Geddes Gengras, “Lapidus” My best friend from high school becomes a synthesizer wizard

  • Akasha System, “Unseen” Joyful Portland techno from a prolific producer

  • D.K., “Going Into Trance” Techno with an affinity for bells. What your cool yoga teacher listens to after class

  • John Carroll Kirby, “Walking Through A House Where A Family Has Lived” You can listen to this instead of meditating

    Leave a comment