My friend Tracy sent me his 2020 list of favorite music and it got me thinking about how music was a needed salve for so many of us. My journey was accompanied by music, new and old, as well as new audio equipment to enhance the listening experience. From March onward I've been upgrading my stereo system bit by bit while upgrading my music library. All this in an effort to bring out the subtle nuances in each measure of music. I truly enjoy the sound of a brush against a cymbal or the pluck of a bass and I want it as close to 'real' as I can get (e-mail me if you're interested). I'm fully digital having given away my LP collection back in the 80s thinking they'd never be played again. Don't smirk, did you know vinyl would make a comeback, well?
But, let's remember it's the music that counts. Like photography where it's the final image that matters; with music it's the emotional connection to sound that keeps us listening.
This year I've been using Bandcamp (click link to see my Bandcamp collection) to find new and interesting artists and HDTracks to rebuild my music library with high resolution copies of albums I've only had in .mp3 or Apple's .aac formats. I'll limit this post to the artists and works I've discovered in 2020 otherwise we'll be here a month discussing albums that that have been around for 40 years or more.
Here are some hi-lites from my downloads at Bandcamp. Thanks in part to Tracy Schultze and Alex Kunz as well as my own digging I've found some incredible songwriters and singers. I don't pay attention to release dates so some or perhaps all of these are pre-2020 releases but I found them in 2020 so don't give me grief over dates, okay? All of these are worth a listen. Trust me.
- Maria Taylor, Lynn Teeter Flower
I really enjoy the singer-songwriter genre, especially with acoustic guitar. Beautiful voice here.
- Craig Finn, It's Never Been a Fair Fight (EP)
Just an extended play but Finn has a unique voice that I enjoy as well as his lyrics
- Half Waif, The Caretaker
Thanks to Alex for this one. Excellence all thru the album
- Courtney Barnett, Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit
R&R pure and simple
- Waxahatchee, Cerulean Salt
I love finding a voice that's unique and Katie Crutchfield fits the bill. Her new release is Saint Cloud.
- Rachel Morais, Order in Chaos
Fifteen minutes of beautiful piano (Thanks Alex!). Need more from her, lots more.
- Greyboy Allstars, Como de Allstars
A San Diego band with lots of funk and latin sounds. I heard it in a used record store (Yay for used record stores!) and found them on Bandcamp.
Other 2020 music from new and used CDs I've purchased or hi-rez issues from the site HDTracks:
- Amy Rubarth, Sessions from the 17th Ward
This is a binaural recording where they put mics on a mannequin's ears and create a recording as if you are there listening in the front row. Interesting and enjoyable listen while using headphones. Her cover of Tom Waits' "Hold On" is excellent and my favorite of the album.
- Bright Size Life, Pat Metheny
This is Metheny's debut album but I've never listened to anything by him before so it's new to me. It's also an early recording of bassist Jaco Pastorius so you get a double dose of goodness in an easy jazz format.
- Lulac, Passerby
Australian couple with a folksy, acoustic sound. A quietly beautiful sound.
- Nickel Creek, Nickel Creek
A threesome with some nice bluegrass from Vista in San Diego's north county, Nickel Creek is lively banjo, guitar and vocals. Nothing especially great but enjoyable if you just want to explore some bluegrass.
- Yuja Wang, Ravel
I was hesitant to add any of my recent classical buys but Wang's piano playing is pure fireworks. Find her on YouTube and you can see what I mean. Her Piano Concerto in D (for the left hand) is worth the price of admission and I play this often.
- The Beatles, The Beatles (White Album)
Got the re-mastered White Album for Christmas, 'nuff said.
That about wraps things up. Have a look at Tracy's blog post and make your ears happy by following the links he's provided for other (better) curated lists.