Graeme’s Top 10 of 2020

Though it’s been a rubbish year for live performance (and perhaps because of it), it’s been a bumper year for recorded music. Our editor in chief Graeme runs down his top 10 favourite tracks of this bizarre year.

By Graeme Smith

Feature photo – Siv Jakobsen

It’s been a funny old year. Art is struggling across the board because of the COVID pandemic and forced closure of venues, yet we at York Calling have had more music sent to us than ever before. I assume artists, stuck indoors are focussing on recording or bringing forward future releases but I have no evidence of this. Anyway, it’s good news for us because we’ve had no shortage of tracks to share with you and there have been some amazing gems out there in the under the radar music scene.

My playlist starts with Norwegian singer songwriter Siv Jakobsen. Her track A Feeling Felt or a Feeling Made is one that I found I couldn’t stay away from for long and it was a natural inclusion. I look forward to seeing her play in Leeds in February (if things are open then!)

Following Siv is the incredible poetry and inventiveness of L.A. Salami. His track The Talis-Man On The Age of Glass is brilliant on its own, but its provocative video exists as its own piece of art too.

Like Siv, Atta Boy‘s Lucky is a track I kept returning to throughout the year. It’s a simple story but so beautifully told it’s easy to get lost in.

I’ve made no secret of my love of contemporary Japanese music and FEM is my favourite export this year. Light is such a delicate and atmospheric track that always puts a smile on my face.

Blanco is probably my favourite voice in rap right now and Memphis was his standout track of the year for me. The unexpected pop culture references, Spanish guitar and free-flowing verses are simply a masterpiece.

Duckwrth is an artist that’s had an amazing 2020 and the collaboration he pulled together for his track Find A Way is game changing. I described the track at the time as redefining the R&B genre and I stand by that.

In terms of pop artists, Canada’s Lu Kala takes the crown for me this year. Her sound is right in the zeitgeist right now and her track Want You is criminally overlooked by commercial radio. It’s a stunner and Lu is such a great performer.

On International Women’s Day this year, Luxembourg’s C’est Karma released her ode to women, Girls and it’s not only beautiful but one of the most unique and earworm pieces of music I’ve ever heard. Another no brainer for this list.

I think Psyclo is my favourite discovery on the year. The Chinese experimental artist sounds like no-one I’ve ever heard before and I’m hooked. My first introduction to her music, Friend, remains my favourite of hers.

Finally, I would be remiss to complete my list without including a local act. What a year The Howl And The Hum have had! The best part of including their ‘sad banger’ Until I Found A Rose in this list is that I’m not doing it because they’re local. It’s genuinely one of my top ten favourite songs of the year.

But wait there’s more! I’ll be honest, I thought I had my top 10 locked down in September but then I was sent Anna B. Savage‘s Corncrakes and I was floored by it. It gave me goosebumps on first listen and does so with every relisten, so I couldn’t exclude it. So my top 10 includes 11 tracks. Strange, I know, but feels about right for 2020.