As a companion to our recent midyear album list, some of our writers have put together playlists of their favorite album cuts and singles of the first six months of 2020. Here are those playlists, introduced in a similar manner to our TYF Monthly Mix feature, which we will be resuming soon.
My mid-year playlist is admittedly a little sparse this time around. I didn’t make a ton of new discoveries over the course of the past few months; many of these songs are from the usual chart-toppers or artists I’ve followed for a while. (I blame it on quarantine-induced musical regression—I’ve been listening to a lot of 2000s pop hits and AM-era Arctic Monkeys lately.) Nevertheless, I’m psyched about every one of these tracks. Highlights include The Weeknd’s dancefloor anthems, which made listeners across America pray that clubs would soon reopen; comebacks from a few of my favorite alt-rock bands (shout-out to Gorillaz, Tame Impala, Glass Animals, et al.); and some deliciously unhinged singles from The Garden, which just might be my new obsession.
One of the best things to come out of 2020 is the amount of artists putting out quality music. From Charli to Moses Sumney, seeing the way musicians have been able to innovate during the pandemic is inspiring for any creative person. This playlist catalogues everything that has been in my rotation since the year began. If the first six months indicate anything, it’s that the rest of the year will be just as good, if not better.
It really has felt like one of the few redeemable things about the past six months has been the music, even in a year where concerts have pretty much stopped worldwide for the foreseeable future. My favorite music of the first half of 2020 seems to come from all over the place, from the tranquil technical jazz of UK quartet Dinosaur, to the lost-in-time prog rock of Zopp, and the art-rock infused R&B of Moses Sumney. Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever has really perfected modern jangle-pop indie rock on their latest album, which is full of some of the best and catchiest songs they’ve ever released. And of course, the first half of the year was chock full of exemplary surprise releases from the likes of Fiona Apple, Carly Rae Jepsen, Phish, and Hum, some after long absences from the studio and others providing a strong set for fans who will be missing their favorites on the road this year. This list below is roughly in a ranked order from 1 to 50, but I am kind of getting away from strict rankings in my mid-year and year-end lists and it’s entirely likely some of the placements for these songs will be vastly different in December.
Through just the first half of 2020, two very different types of new releases have shown themselves; the innovators, and the nostalgic. With the further development of the newer genre, hyperpop, Charli XCX, 100 gecs, and even Rina Sawayama continue to bring accessible music further into the future. Other artists, like Poppy, and Run the Jewels, are doing the same for metal and hip hop. On the other side are artists like Dua Lipa, and the Strokes, who have taken a trip back toward previous decades like the ’80s in their newest records. And with their short-but-effective LP, Denzel Curry and Kenny Beats have taken the early 2000’s sample-based hip hop to the next level. Even in a time where releases are delayed and the coming months are uncertain, these artists and more have brought life into the industry, showing 2020 will still be a year to be remembered.