AM Gold 2020 – 100 Songs from 100 Artists in 2020

Back when I was a music journalist, I used to put painstaking care into narrowing down year-end lists, agonizing over the order, wondering whether the albums I chose were destined to be long-lived or were just reflective of their moment, and how that should affect their placement in a list that was both about the music and about the year.

Now that my approach to music has shifted from critic to advocate, I feel like a lot of that effort was misplaced. Sure, it’s a little bit interesting to talk about what music will last and what won’t, but also, music isn’t something that lends itself to ranking. It isn’t objective. How you receive it is based on so many things outside of the music itself, and assigning metrics or rankings to that reflects as much about the critic as the writer.

I’ve been much happier, then, putting together these more sprawling lists, where the selection criteria is only whether the music resonated with me this year, and the sorting is strictly alphabetical, no hierarchy implied. For me, it’s nice to listen back to these songs and remember the moments and moods they conjure up.

For sure, there are themes I can pick up in the selections. Given that the aim of The A.M. is by and large creating a sense of calm and uplift, the songs are quite mellow. This year more than most, ambient and new age music has knitted itself even more firmly into the show’s fabric, along with contemporary classical and other experimental moods. There’s less straightforward singer-songwriter structures than ever, which maybe reflects a year that was also lacking in any straightforward narratives, some sort of search for sounds that were more immersive and more surprising. But there are plenty of examples on the list to counter that point, too–a year is full of different needs and different settings, after all.

It’s a fairly diverse list in terms of musical genres, but a fairly consistent one in terms of mood. In a way I tend to feel the songs that make their way onto The AM are all approaching the same point, but from different angles, all fleshing out different aspects of the same overall experience. Maybe that’s overly grand, but considering the hold music has held over me for the better part of 37 years, I think I can be forgiven for a little overstatement.

I’ll leave this off on a grander note still, with a thought that’s been nagging at me since long before the pandemic and that has only felt more true in the past few months. I think it was Alan Watts who I first heard say that life is more like a song than a story. You might rush through a story to get to the ending–as much as there’s joy in the telling of it, there’s also a sense in which the point of the story is finding out what happens. That isn’t true in a song. Rushing it doesn’t get you to the point more quickly, it misses the point entirely. The value of the song is in the unfolding of it. It’s a thing to be experienced, not understood.

I love that parallel, and I think it’s a really instructive one, too. Part of the reason I enjoy listening to music, and to this music in particular, is how easy it is to get lost in it. This has been a year packed with anxieties, but for the most part, anxieties are rooted in the past and the future. We worry about what we’ve done, and what’s going to happen, and one of the easiest ways to find a moment of calm is to return to the present, at least for a bit. Music helps me to do that, because it is something that can only be experienced in the now. It’s like a sort of training wheels for mindfulness. When I’m too scattered to bring myself into the present, I can put on headphones, put on one of these songs, and for a few minutes at least, everything else dissolves away.

Anyway, without further ado, here are 100 songs from 100 artists that made 2020 a little more tolerable:

Light Being – @10thxLetter
https://10thletter.bandcamp.com/album/primitive-shapes
One of the more uplifting moments on the Atlanta producer’s 2020 full-length, an album that distorts deep grooves through a fractured sci-fi lens.
1/100

Gravity – @AdrianYounge, @AliShaheed, Roy Ayers
https://royayers.bandcamp.com/album/roy-ayers-jid002
Consider this an endorsement of the whole Jazz is Dead series. Picking a single track from a project that excels so consistently isn’t easy, but Ayers’ warmth feels especially necessary right now.
2/100

Suite Pour L’invisible – Ana Roxanne
https://anaroxanne.bandcamp.com/album/because-of-a-flower-2
Melancholy and meditative, Ana Roxanne’s songs don’t build so much as they billow, slowly expanding like smoke filling a room. Ambient, ethereal, and utterly lovely.
3/100

Feeling Light – @theanaloggirl
https://theanaloggirl.bandcamp.com/album/awe
Like “I Feel Love” spun through a Cocteau Twins dream-pop filter, this breathy anthem blends swooning sounds and a touch of icy anxiety to capture a very 2020 sort of mood.
4/100

Neon Skyline – @andyshauf https://andyshauf.bandcamp.com/album/the-neon-skyline
The title track to Shauf’s latest is a sublime example of his meticulous pop. Polished melodies, tasteful horns, just a hint of Thin Lizzy swagger; it’s invitingly loose, without a single detail out of place.
5/100

The Sound Where My Head Was – @Badgeepoque
https://badgeepoque.bandcamp.com/album/self-help
Max Turnbull’s jazz-funk odyssey has yet to take a misstep. The textured clavinet here that sets the stage for a voyage into the mystic before the band steps in to swing into the stratosphere.
6/100

Ritual – @baechulgi
https://baechulgi.bandcamp.com/album/mobius
Chill beats for inward journeys, a gorgeous intersection of new age ambiance and lo-fi hip-hop that pulls you in deeper with every too-short listen.
7/100

Clarion – @BenLukasBoysen
https://benlukasboysen.bandcamp.com/album/mirage-2
Maybe the most transcendent musical experience of the year, Boysen’s Mirage layers organic sounds behind layers of textured processing, creating something at once otherworldly and undeniably, achingly human.
8/100

The Fool – Brigid Dawson & the Mothers Network
https://brigiddawson.bandcamp.com/
What you get when you give the most melodic moments of Thee Oh Sees more room to breathe and let them soak in spacious arrangements. The loping cadence of The Fool’s bass line is pure joy.
9/100

Stretched to Our Thoughts – @BuildingsFood_
https://buildingsandfood.bandcamp.com/album/up-down-strange-charm
What seems almost like a music-box melody on the surface keeps revealing new depths on each re-listen. A collection of electroacoustic rabbit holes, best explored with headphones cranked and eyes closed.
10/100

Yawn – @BullionNess
https://bullion.bandcamp.com/album/heaven-is-over
Joyfully inventive pop that updates the wonder and creativity of artists like XTC and Eno’s early solo work for the new millennium. Warbly and offbeat in all the best ways.
11/100

Gabor’s Path – Causa Sui (on @El_Paraiso_Rec)
https://album.link/i/1533904147
The hat-tip to jazz guitarist Gabor Szabo came as a surprise from a group known for soaring psych jams. Szabordelico is still headier than its namesake, but the melody and groove do the Gabor proud.
12/100

Ancient Future – Captures
https://capturesofficial.bandcamp.com/album/ancient-future-ep
Globally minded electronica that integrates samples of the Chinese ghuzeng into a quietly propulsive sonic palate, ebbing and flowing like the tides.
13/100

Light in Yr Eye (I Loosened Up on You) – Cedric Noel
https://cedricnoelmusic.bandcamp.com/album/nothing-forever-everything
Nothing Forever, Everything is a bear-hug of an album, where even the saddest songs come across like invitations to uplift. Noel is an incredibly welcoming performer, effortlessly drawing you in.
14/100

Plant Care – Chris Mazuera & tender spring (on @memoir_music
https://memoirlabel.bandcamp.com/album/staying-in
Staying inside is more an obligation than a choice these days, but there’s beauty to be found in indoors, too, and Plant Care is as nurturing as the title implies.
15/100

One Second to Toe the Line – Cindy Lee (on @w25threcords)
https://cindylee.bandcamp.com/album/whats-tonight-to-eternity
Romantic in the way Gloria Swanson’s final walk in Sunset Blvd is romantic. Karen Carpenter raised on the VU’s iciest moments. The ghost of an abandoned echo plate. Haunted and beautiful.
16/100

Weeping Birch – @ebaynetflix
https://dandeacon.bandcamp.com/album/mystic-familiar
Not so much a song as a bursting forth of ecstasy. Dan Deacon’s art-pop has always grasped for the sublime, but Weeping Birch (and Mystic Familiar more broadly) might be the closest he’s come to actually capturing it.
17/100

Yesterday Is Gone – @danagavanski
https://danagavanskifth.bandcamp.com/album/yesterday-is-gone
2020 needed an ode to letting go of the past, and Gavanski’s title track rings with quiet stoicism, its complex emotions buttressed by the stable, reassuring structure of a classic pop song.
18/100

Love-Lore 3 – @deerhoof
https://deerhoof.bandcamp.com/album/love-lore
In the midst of a discordant, whiplash-inducing tour of the 20th century avant-garde, Deerhoof pause for three minutes of sweetness that are more defiantly progressive than even the harshest noise around them.
19/100

It Was Me – @deradoorian
https://deradoorian.bandcamp.com/album/find-the-sun
In the spiritual journey of Find the Sun, It Was Me is when the illusion of easy answers is torn away. The roiling instrumentals and stoic vocals capture the tension of the moment, the fear and freedom of belief in nothing.
20/100

Blissful Dream Interpretation Melody – @DISCOVERYZONE3
https://discoveryzone1.bandcamp.com/album/remote-control
At once kitschy and utterly sincere, Discovery Zone thrives in contradiction. Updating psych-synth pioneer Bruce Haack for a new millennium, it’s laser-guided retro-futurism for the crystal set.
21/100

Humble in Heart – Dmitry Evgrafov (on @FatCatRecords)
https://dmitry-evgrafov.bandcamp.com/album/surrender
The modern classical composer’s most collaborative work to date, the buoyant and affecting “Humble in Heart” proves the soul-affirming value of shedding the need for complete control.
22/100

Sunshine in 1929 – @domeniquedumont
https://domeniquedumont.bandcamp.com/album/people-on-sunday
A new score for a Weimar-era silent, Dumont’s playful, nostalgic People on Sunday is an escape into utopian realms. I can’t get over how much joy the ballooning bass in this song brings me.
23/100

Order and Class – Ecotype
https://ecotype.bandcamp.com/album/field-study
Wandering synths, ethereal flutes, and lazy guitars drift by like fleeting thoughts on an autumn stroll. Order and Class is an assemblage of enticing tangents, with production spacious enough to follow every turn.
24/100

Hipps – @El_Michels
https://elmichelsaffair.bandcamp.com/album/adult-themes
Three minutes of head-bobbing triumph that provide the high point on a fictional movie soundtrack reverse engineered from a crate-digger’s dreams. Impossible not to strut while listening to this.
25/100

Flesh Or Blood – @enattendantana
https://enattendantana.bandcamp.com/album/juillet
A jangle-pop gem from the early days of 2020 that gathers speed with its teenage-riot-in-miniature guitar riff then takes flight with the aid of an unexpected trumpet line.
26/100

Section I – @erikhallmusic
https://erikhall.bandcamp.com/album/music-for-18-musicians-steve-reich
Recorded in 2019, this recreation of Reich’s Music for 18 Musicians reads like a lockdown project: transposing a collaborative performance into an act of solitary zen, crafting complexity one gorgeous line at a time.
27/100

It Is What It Is – @UhhFiver
https://youvechangedrecords.bandcamp.com/album/you-wanted-country-vol-1
Fiver’s You Wanted Country? opens with an existentialist ballad and ends with a potent dose of Western psychedelia. It’s at once a tribute and critique, reaching for what the genre could and should be, but rarely is.
28/100

One, Two and Three Eyes – Florida BC
https://floridabc.bandcamp.com/releases
Clinton St. John roots his songs in folk and blues, but the power comes from somewhere else. Somewhere old and awesome and unknowable, like the kind of old-time religion whose name you weren’t meant to speak.
29/100

Häxsabbaten – @thegarrysband
http://thegarrys.bandcamp.com
Eerie as they are, doom-wop surfers The Garrys aren’t the obvious choice to score one of the creepiest silents ever filmed. The pairing turns out inspired, a moody instant classic for misty midnights and full moons.
30/100

Living Like I Know I’m Gonna Die – @genevieveartadi
https://genevieveartadi.bandcamp.com/album/dizzy-strange-summer
A memento mori draped in slick future r&b, Artadi’s existentialist anthem casts mortality and cosmic insignificance as sources of liberation. If “the future is a guess,” we can make it our own.
31/100

I’m New Here – Gil Scott-Heron & @MakayaMcCraven
https://xlrecordings.com/buy/gilscottheron-werenewagainareimaginingbymakayamccraven
Callahan may have written the line, and the arrangement is McCraven’s, but Scott-Heron gives it gravity through hard-won experience: “No matter how far wrong you’ve gone, you can always turn around.”
32/100

Theophany – Grapefruit (on @moonglyph)
https://moonglyph.bandcamp.com/album/light-fronds
Portland’s Charlie Salas-Humara finds the sound of dawn cresting the horizon in tape loops, guitar squiggles and pulsing synth. You can almost hear the plants shaking off their morning dew.
33/100

Sansevieria – Green-House
https://green-house.bandcamp.com/album/six-songs-for-invisible-gardens
2020 was the kind of year where a little gentleness went a long way. A spiritual successor to Mort Garson’s Plantasia, Olive Ardizoni’s Green-House nurtures the soul with only the softest of gossamer soundscapes.
34/100

Valley Spiral – Gunn-Truscinski Duo (@SteveGunnMusic)
https://threelobed.bandcamp.com/album/soundkeeper
A rhyzomatic melody twists and folds in on itself like a labyrinth—the contemplative path, not the mythical maze. Truscinski paces out the steps, gently reminding that the only way out is through
35/100

Mountain Song – @HabibiTheBand
https://habibitheband.bandcamp.com/album/anywhere-but-here
Anywhere But Here is the kind of album that makes it hard to single out a highlight, but Mountain Song nicely splits the difference between Habibi’s bubble-gum pop, garage rock, and moody psychedelia tendencies.
36/100

Pattern Thinker – @HaikuSalut
https://howdoesitfeeltobeloved.bandcamp.com/album/pattern-thinker
Effervescent electronics cascade around twinkling pianos and gently glitched drums. Ten minutes of bliss, providing an energetic and soothing score to the charmingly titled silent film “4 and 20 Fit Girls.”
37/100

Precipice – @HectorPlimmer
https://stampthewax.bandcamp.com/album/isolation-therapy
In the early days of the lockdown, @stampthewax gave artists three days to write songs for a fundraiser compilation. Plimmer’s percussive Precipice beautifully captures that moment’s eerie mix of urgency and uncertainty.
38/100

Still City – @_hermitess_
https://hermitess.bandcamp.com/album/tower
The wintry woods of her debut were an obvious home for a Hermitess, but the Tower EP finds ample room for magic in the city. Synthetic sounds and urban imagery connect Crighton’s timeless folk to thoroughly modern anxieties
39/100

Air Curvatures – @BeachEnsemble
https://memoirlabel.bandcamp.com/album/end-of-the-atlas
The gentle creak of Air Curvatures’ central sample is more than a percussive flourish. It’s the sound of the song breathing, so tactile you feel it in your sinews, as satisfying as a deep stretch before sleeping.
40/100

Spirit Refinement Exploder – @inventionsmusic
https://inventions.bandcamp.com/album/continuous-portrait
With members of Eluvium and Explosions in the Sky, it’s no shock Inventions excel at atmosphere and grandeur. What’s maybe more unexpected is their consistent playfulness, and the airy uplift it adds.
41/100

Sweet Path – Janko Nilovic & the Soul Surfers (on @BROCRECORDZ)
https://brocrecordz.bandcamp.com/album/maze-of-sounds
A Russian soul combo and a master of ’70s library music make for one of 2020’s unlikeliest pairings, but Sweet Path’s laid-back groove is up there with any of Nilovic’s classics.
42/100

A Dog’s Age – @futuremyth
https://jeffreysilverstein.bandcamp.com/album/you-become-the-mountain
From the first few notes, even just from the tone of it, you can feel this is something special. A track (and an album) suffused with calm, care, and reassurance.
43/100

Our Place – @JosephShabason ft @isthisthomas
https://josephshabason.bandcamp.com/track/our-place-ft-thom-gill
More pastoral perfection. Shabason gives the song its pulse, while Gill’s guitars glisten like sunlight on the surface of a pond. Too good to just be a one-off; here’s hoping the duo have more on the way.
44/100

Part I • I’ve got that trans-dimensional feeling again – @joyfultalk
https://joyfultalk.bandcamp.com/album/a-separation-of-being
The album art depicting Jay Crocker’s novel notation tells the story better than any write-up. Synths and strings loop and whirl, building a beautiful machine one gear at a time.
45/100

In Light – @juliannabarwick ft. @iamjonsi
https://juliannabarwick.bandcamp.com/album/healing-is-a-miracle
Healing is a Miracle is a hymnal for the everyday wonders we often overlook. With “In Light,” it’s the endless promise of new dawns and new beginnings, the immence potential of Now.
46/100

Öresund – Kanaan (on @El_Paraiso_Rec)
https://elparaisorecords.com/releases/kanaan-double-sun
A relentless assault of endless, fuzz-soaked guitars and pummeling drums. The loudest thing on this list by a wide margin, ideal for when you need to drown out the world and invite in the cosmos.
47/100

The Kindness of Strangers – @karav3lo https://open.spotify.com/album/2ZEFDHctJo8RKQVfEASi7S
Distilling the spirit of a Hawaiian vacation, not through tiki kitsch (well, maybe a little), but in the contentedness that comes from being surrounded by sunlight, sand, and breaking waves without another care.
48/100

Wake-up – @kellyleeowens
https://kellyleeowens.bandcamp.com/album/inner-song
Owens ends an album of introspection with a call to action, eventually stripping it down to a two-word a cappella refrain, gentle but urgent, a whispered plea to break free from the destructive sleepwalk of modern life.
49/100

Ivory Tower – @dylankf
https://heart.bandcamp.com/album/finds-you-well
Khotin’s 2020 EP came ready-made with the gauzy texture of a cassette you’ve worn out and re-dubbed a dozen times already. Beats from a half-remembered summer, recollected through the hangovers of the intervening years.
50/100

Time (You and I) – @Khruangbin
https://khruangbin.bandcamp.com/album/mordechai
Time’s taut funk-pop and jump-rope melody shows how flexible their sound has become. In 5 years, they’ve gone from inward-facing psych to irresistible Tom Tom Club grooves, without sacrificing their singular voice.
51/100

Circles – Kibrom Birhane
https://kibrombirhaneflyingcarpetrecords.bandcamp.com/album/circles
Deep grooves from Birhane & co., a compelling fusion of Ethio- and spiritual jazz traditions. Recorded live off the floor, and you can sense the push and pull as the players feel out the sonic space.
52/100

Lately In Another Time – Loving
https://loving.bandcamp.com/album/if-i-am-only-my-thoughts-2
Loving’s 2nd LP repeats the miracle of the first, another collection of perfectly assembled folk-pop with a slight psychedelic lilt. The Clientele & Bibio are touchpoints but this is its own kind of vernal loveliness.
53/100

Aurelius Dye – Martin Rude & Jakob Skøtt Duo
https://elparaisorecords.com/releases/martin-rude-jakob-sk-tt-duo-discipline-assent
Building from a tentative shuffle to a motorik chug before dissolving in a shimmer of reverb, “Aurelius Dye” captures the strengths of the duo’s dynamics (and caps off a stellar year for @El_Paraiso_Rec).
54/100

Pine Trees – @marylattimore
https://marylattimoreharpist.bandcamp.com/album/silver-ladders
A gateway into the wilderness of Silver Ladders. Crisp needles of sound underlain by deep, almost subliminal synth (via Neal Halstead). Comforting but slightly foreboding, like a stroll at the start of a Grimm fairy tale.
55/100

For Lise – @matchessound
https://matchess.bandcamp.com/track/for-lise
Droning synths and offset strings gather an eerie momentum, like a midnight drive through unfamiliar terrain, or the slow-dawning inevitability of a bad dream. Released in @MexicanSummer‘s fabulous Looking Glass series.
56/100

July 23rd – Matthew Cardinal
https://matthewcardinal.bandcamp.com/
Each of the electronic improvisations on Cardinal’s Asterisms is tied to a time, and July 23rd carries the warmth of a midsummer daydream in its collage of synths and airy effects. Beautiful and brimming with life.
57/100

Contingencia – @mintfieldband
https://mintfield.bandcamp.com/album/sentimiento-mundial
Good and crunchy dream pop from Mexico City. Breathy vocals and sideways guitars set the mood, but it’s that absolutely relentless bassline and its motorik momentum that drags this one into the spotlight.
58/100

Few Layers for Smith – Misha Panfilov Sound Combo
https://mpsc.bandcamp.com/album/days-as-echoes
Imagine Steve Reich composing game show themes, a slow accumulation of Wurlitzer loops, ’70s jazz flute, and toe-tapping grooves into the sunniest of sunny day jams.
59/100

Sunflower – @MonsterRally
https://monsterrally.bandcamp.com/album/castaways-vol-1
Monster Rally’s strange alchemy turns kitsch into gold. Swooning strings, easy-listening, exotica, and other bargain-bin finds get fused with big, head-bobbing beats, revealing hidden depths & unknown pleasures.
60/100

Bless Me – Moses Sumney
https://mosessumney.bandcamp.com/album/gr-2
Grae’s lineup features a murderer’s row of players, producers and even literary figures, and brilliant as the music is, it feels almost superfluous next to the ecstatic highs and aching beauty of That Voice.
61/100

Sanctuary – @netrvnner
https://netrvnner.bandcamp.com/album/of-might-and-magic
Netrvnner’s first EP of 2020 set aside synthwave’s neon future for a magical fantasyland, crackling with ethereal energy rather than dystopian electricity.
(His second EP of 2020 came out today. It is also great.)
62/100

GODS DIRTY WORK – @nick_hakim
https://nickhakim.bandcamp.com/album/will-this-make-me-good
Hakim’s multi-tracked vocals have a whispered intimacy, like you’re inside his head, listening to his thoughts echo above the kind of deep psych-soul groove you hope never has to end.
63/100

All Melody – @nilsfrahm
https://nilsfrahm.bandcamp.com/album/tripping-with-nils-frahm
Frahm’s music is patient, but it’s also restless, evolving from moment to moment in captivating ways. By the time the climax arrives a dozen minutes in with its percussive synths and processed vocals, you’re already soaring.
64/100

Fish – @nojoy
https://nojoy.bandcamp.com/album/motherhood
An imaginative fusion of production-heavy genres from shoegaze to industrial that, aside from its own mastery, incidentally proves Enya has been as essential to the evolution of dream pop as anything on 4AD.
65/100

Rivers That You Cannot See – @North_Americans
https://northamericanszone.bandcamp.com/album/roped-in-2
Ambient-folk drone poetry that reveals itself like stars in the night sky. Ribbons of pedal steel shimmer and drift like northern lights; melodic pinpoints becoming more intricate the harder you stare.
66/100

Skull – @oracogan
https://oracogan.bandcamp.com/album/bells-in-the-ruins
Between the dreamlike “Sleeping” and propulsive prog-folk of “Skull,” Cogan managed to open her latest album with two of the year’s most captivating songs. Kinetic and eerie, like a ship cutting through thick west coast fog.
67/100

Do You Have ESP – @OCAheaven
https://orangecrateart.bandcamp.com/album/radial-transverse-velocity
Imagining a paradox-inducing world where Brian Wilson was raised on a steady diet of MBV, Malmo, Sweden’s Orange Crate Art sculpts dense sonic collages from lysergic ’60s sounds and waves of shoegaze distortion.
68/100

Eyeballs – @peeldreamzine
https://peeldreammagazine.bandcamp.com/album/agitprop-alterna
Agitprop Alterna and sister EP Moral Panics filled 2020 with oscillating anthems, blending pop instincts with vacuum-cleaner guitars and motorik grooves, updating Stereolab’s space-age bachelor pad for the new millennium.
69/100

Stop and Listen – @BroPeterick
https://peterbroderick1.bandcamp.com/album/blackberry
Doomsayers have more gravity, but sometimes wisdom is better served by whimsy. Broderick’s optimism and humour belie the musical and philosophical depth of a song that simply urges us to pay attention to what matters.
70/100

El Delirio – Petite Amie
https://soundcloud.com/petiteamie/el-delirio
Warbly indie-pop to warm you on a winter’s eve. Something in the easygoing guitars feels coastal, a sound steeped in sunshine and boundless horizons. A promising early release from a band that’s only three singles in.
71/100

Morning Plants – Puma & the Dolphin
https://invisible-inc.bandcamp.com/album/indoor-routine
Puma’s Nikko Names describes the album as coming from “a monotone period of my life which I have overlaid with colour” and I can’t think of a better description of the role music has played for me in 2020.
72/100

Evrlong – @rafwilcot
https://rafwilcot.bandcamp.com/album/cinnabar-bouquet
Omnivorous, experimental folk pop that brims with soul and overflows with the joy of musical creation. Refuses to abide by expectations, instead opting to follow its tangents to their fullest expression.
73/100

Flashflood – @oh__rhoda and @dillanwitherow
https://shhsecretsongs.bandcamp.com/album/snowgarden
Despite the title, “Flashflood” isn’t so much a torrential outpouring as a gentle brook, its soft stream of guitar harmonics and gentle melodic loops still somehow just as able to sweep you away.
74/100

Sudden Awareness of Now – @rivalconsoles
https://rivalconsoles.bandcamp.com/album/articulation
For all its varied textures and sonic flourishes, “Sudden Awareness” clings to its simple melodic theme like a mantra, repeating it until the very act of repetition becomes a means of seeking ecstasy.
75/100

Morning Light – @RoseCityBand
https://rosecityband.bandcamp.com/album/summerlong
The stoned-out bliss of Moon Duo is shockingly well-suited to country music. “Morning Light” is what bar bands everywhere would sound like if there were justice in the world, a two-chord stomper brimming with joy.
76/100

Never Met – Sam Prekop
https://samprekop.bandcamp.com/album/comma
“Never Met” is about as melodically straightforward as it gets but the range of sonic textures Prekop coaxes from his synths is something else. An exercise in timbre, with the confidence of a musician 25 years into his career.
77/100

Wenig Worte für ein Ende – @SANKTOTTEN
https://sankt-otten.bandcamp.com/album/lieder-f-r-geometrische-stunden
Plenty of bands draw influence from German innovators like Neu! and Kraftwerk, but Sankt Otten is one of very few to feel like their peers. Sentimental and robotic; the latest permutation of the man-machine.
78/100

Uncomfortable – @SaultGlobal https://saultglobal.bandcamp.com/album/untitled-rise
SAULT released two double-albums of fearless soul in 2020. “Uncomfortable” is one of the smoothest moments on either, but no less confrontational for it, the plainspoken delivery all the more heartbreakingly direct.
79/100

Joy – Scott Hardware
https://scotthardware.bandcamp.com/album/engel
One of the first songs I fell in love with in 2020, and one that still overwhelms with the sheer force of its emotion. Hardware trips over his own words, tumbling forward through four minutes of joyous catharsis.
80/100

Antifa Fuchsia – Secret Drum Band
https://secretdrumband.bandcamp.com/album/chuva
Based on improvisations recorded during a far-right rally and antifa counter-protest, the opener to Secret Drum Band’s latest is stoic and steadfast. Anxious synths moan underneath, but the beat goes on.
81/100

Osouji – Shabason, Krgovich & Harris (@Ideefixerecords)
https://shabasonkrgovichharris.bandcamp.com/album/philadelphia
Krgovich sings of “seeing things that have been hid, and considering them.” It’s a mission statement for an album of quiet observation & soft melody, an antidote to 2020’s information overload.
82/100

Utangátta – @SHELFNUNNY (on @HushHushRecords)
https://hushhushrecords.bandcamp.com/album/utang-tta
Named for an Icelandic term for hopeless dreams, the gentle, ambient-influenced beats of Utangátta manage a sort of musical Rorschach effect, comforting, melancholy or hopeful, depending on your view.
83/100

Marble Falls – Shmu (on @macadamtwister)
https://requiempouruntwister.bandcamp.com/album/pure-bliss
Nimble dream pop from one-man-band Sam Chown. The album borders on prog at times, but Vinyl Williams’ production gives it a softer sheen, a glimmering gem of jangling guitars and gently flanged bass.
84/100

Pray – @suunsband
https://suuns.bandcamp.com/album/fiction-ep
That SUUNS’ apocalyptic art-pop feels more of-the-moment each year is probably not a great sign. The industrial throb of “PRAY” plays like a hymn from a tomorrow we don’t want to visit, and one that’s closer than we think.
85/100

Peaceful Groove – @teendaze
https://teendaze.bandcamp.com/album/reality-refresh-3
A highlight of the four-part Reality Refresh series, “Peaceful Groove” offers easy listening escapism, a soundtrack to the imagined journeys that took the place of 2020s cancelled holidays and postponed adventures.
86/100

Please Don’t Hold Me Hostage for Who I Am, For Who I Was – @ThanyaIyerMusic
https://thanyaiyer.bandcamp.com/album/kind
Joyous, freewheeling, playful, caring—none of them quite capture the ebullience of KIND. It’s a journey of self-care and self-discovery stitched into a jazzy folk opus.
87/100

Of two – Thomas Gray & Liam Ebbs
https://analogueattic.bandcamp.com/album/recollection-of-everything-beautiful
This Sydney duo’s meticulously arranged electronics are intricate without being cluttered. “Of two” floats weightlessly with a warm nostalgia, like dust drifting in a patch of sunlight.
88/100

Olde Feelings – @TONSTARTSS
https://tonstartssbandht.bandcamp.com/track/olde-feelings
No one else sounds quite like the psychedelic riff-rock of the White bros. Cavernous reverb, eerie harmonies and monstrous guitars that play like the climax to a folk-horror flick, when the unknowable truth finally dawns.
89/100

Bliss – @TraffikIsland
https://traffikisland.bandcamp.com/album/sweat-kollectas-peanut-butter-traffik-jam
Echoing early 2000s folktronics (think Parsley Sound or Lemon Jelly) in its unselfconscious pursuit of happiness. Delivers what it promises, and what more could you ask for?
90/100

Born to Lose – @YouSGirls
https://usgirls.ffm.to/heavylight/
Blending 70s art rock & 60s girl group soul with anger, poetry, and sharp pop instincts, Remy’s latest is an inspired fusion; the stormy reggae pulse and vibraphone meltdown of “Born to Lose” its most intoxicating moment.
91/100

L’Essor Du Roraima – Vague Imaginaires
https://vagueimaginaires.bandcamp.com/album/l-le-dor
Field recordings and minimal synths blend the boundaries of the natural and the imagined. A soundtrack to misty lagoons and meditative moods, melding inner and outer states with its ambient pulse.
92/100

Something Sacred – White Poppy
https://whitepoppy.bandcamp.com/album/paradise-gardens
Lush west-coast dream pop that glows like overexposed film, laced through with ribbons of light, erasing the mundane world and reveling in its inner brilliance.
93/100

Here I Am Existing – @samirawinter
https://daydreamingwinter.bandcamp.com/album/endless-space-between-you-i
A half-time bridge midway through “Here I Am Existing” untethers itself from the jangling pop of the rest of the song, and soars through an endless sky, a moment of pure, weightless bliss.
94/100

Goat Lore – @TrinketTrance
https://theworldnextdoor.bandcamp.com/album/find-your-face-in-it
Despite being instrumental, Goat Lore and the album around it feel steeped in folklore, pastoral landscapes bristling with arcane energy, each rock and stone a potential gateway to worlds equally sinister and inviting.
95/100

High Pines – @_Yppah_
https://yppah.bandcamp.com/album/sunset-in-the-deep-end
Shading the halcyon bliss of early ’90s electronics with the darker sonic palettes of shoegaze and post-rock, Yppah’s first release for new imprint Future Archive Recordings is densely textured and richly nuanced.
96/100

1024 – @yuyuyvr
https://onloop.bandcamp.com/album/moxie-presents-vol-5
Chirping synths, swirling bass and skittering drums gradually coalesce, pulled together by gravity into an eerie groove. Sounds for wandering empty streets on moonlit nights. Can’t wait for next month’s full-length debut.
97/100

Semula – @yvesjarvis
https://yvesjarvis.bandcamp.com/album/sundry-rock-song-stock
Jarvis resists his most restless tendencies on his newest release, luxuriating in each idea instead of skipping to the next impulse. The result is songs like the gorgeous “Semula” finding equilibrium between alive and lived in.
98/100

Transatlantic – @zacharygray and Ian Urbina
https://thisiszacharygray.bandcamp.com/album/under-a-red-sky-inspired-by-the-outlaw-ocean-a-book-by-ian-urbina
Part of Ian Urbina’s Outlaw Ocean Music Project, “Transatlantic” is a midnight cruise through unknown waters, its tranquil surface hinting at the inky depths awaiting in the albums more sinister moments.
99/100

Brokenhead – @zoongideewin
https://zoongideewinmusic.bandcamp.com/album/bleached-wavves
A perfect shoegaze instrumental and a highlight of one of 2020s best debuts. Viscous waves of distortion wail above a tumble of drums and thick, churning guitars. Flawless production and mood-setting.
100/100

PS: A few more entries that weren’t available on Spotify, but that’s maybe all the more reason to celebrate them:

Past lists:

A Decade of AM Gold:
https://open.spotify.com/playlist/7H1TQJEJMWKbqq646ibQ19?si=3GDBhqkXR8esoqaJcUB06g

2019:
https://open.spotify.com/playlist/46VApFjmIAYrIq3eh0rpjh?si=hnzXr0JXQoyc1iki-EHAIw

2018:
https://theam.ca/post/181375268706/am-gold-2018

2017:
http://theam.ca/post/168553490751/am-gold-2017

2016
http://theam.ca/…/in-the-spirit-of-year-end-wrap-ups-ive-put

2015:
http://theam.ca/…/am-gold-2015-100-tracks-from-2015-because…

2014:
http://theam.ca/post/106872632836/december-29-playlist