Category Archives: Music News

I’m going to be a big tease with this…

…but not mentioning it has really bugged me, so I’m mentioning it. There is an album that is not mentioned on my Favorite Albums of 2020 post that, in my mind, should absolutely be there, and on the internal copy of the list, it’s there. It’s a terrific album, has been one of the best things about the last few months of this miserable year, and I cannot wait to tell you about it, but for now, its existence isn’t public knowledge (beyond what I’m telling you right now), and it may not be finished yet, so I can’t tell you what it is yet. When the time comes, you will be among the first people to know about it. Apologies for the vagueness in the meantime, but when the artist in question’s next record after this one hits the “OK, it can have listeners, if they keep quiet about it” stage, I’d like to be able to be one of those listeners, as I was with this one. I really can’t wait until I can tell y’all about it, though.

Just in case anyone is wondering: no, it is not one of mine. Still retired.

My Favorite Albums of 2020

Yep, it’s time for this shit again.

These are, of course, in no particular order. I was able to get an embed for every single album on the list the year, which was nice, and at least one easy to get to alternate option for the people who don’t like Spotify (to be fair, I’m not thrilled with them either, though I do think they learned most of their bullshit from the major labels while they each had an interest in the company, and I feel like there isn’t enough said about that) on all but two releases. (If you’re curious, everything that’s on Bandcamp here is on Spotify, though that was only the case as of December 9th, because Emma Swift gave Blonde On The Tracks a four month window where it wasn’t on the streaming services after release.)

Unfortunately, I did have to take one album off the list because the artist in question has said a bunch of “just vague enough to have a thin layer of plausible deniability to them” COVID denier-type things in recent months (and is associating with people who are known to be much, MUCH worse about this shit than she is) that I only found out about late in the process of writing this article, because there was a language barrier to the coverage about it. I can’t, in good conscience, tell y’all to listen to a record from someone like that. It really sucks, too, because the album’s fantastic, and the artist is one whose stuff I’ve loved for decades. I’m not gonna name her here, because the point of this is to not give people like her press, but if you ask me privately, I may volunteer the information. And, nope, in most cases (and at this point, I feel guilty about the ones where I can’t quit the artist in question, because there are a lot of other artists out there who could use fans instead of those people), I can’t “separate the art from the artist”.

Moving on…

I listened to a whole fuck of a lot of music this year. The working list of every album I deemed to be noteworthy this year (and I listened to at least a little of every one) is like 129 hours long, and I’m sure it’s missing plenty that I didn’t remember to put on the list. I don’t know how sustainable any of it is in this world, but right now, there is a whole fuck of a lot of music being created, even if lots of it, you’re not going to find unless you look for it, even with fancy algorithms that will let you know from time to time things like, no shit, The Dazz Band have a new single out.

A thing I’ve come to realize over the years, but one that it doesn’t seem like a lot of other people are totally on board with, is that, if there’s an artist you liked something from, and you haven’t heard anything about them in a while, if they’re alive, chances are, they’re still making music. Check in on them. They get lonely out there sometimes once they’re out of the zeitgeist (even if many of them are relieved to be out of it). When I see peoples’ lists of the music they like, there’s a lot of the obvious, massively popular choices, and there’s also a whole bunch of the new stuff that we all get told about by the usual sources, but legacy artists, especially those who aren’t on a bigger record label, tend to get lost in the shuffle if they don’t have really devoted people working on keeping their names out there, especially if those artists aren’t Internet-savvy or particularly interested in doing their own marketing. I’d say around 40% of the albums I put on this list were made by the kind of artists I’m talking about. Show them some love.

I think I’ve said enough before we start on this, and don’t wanna be like one of those recipe blogs that spends 3 pages talking about how random depressing things before they post the goddamned recipe, so here goes! Enjoy!

Devon Gilfillian
Black Hole Rainbow

The first album (and new-to-me artist) I found in 2020, way back on January 10th, in The Before Times. Throughout the year, when I needed to feel better, this ended up being my go-to. So, thanks, Devon, for making me feel better, and thanks to Aaron Lee Tasjan for hipping me to Devon and a bunch of other artists, some of which are on this list.

(non-Spotify options here)

Roger Eno & Brian Eno
Mixing Colours

This was the record I went to when I needed to feel calm. It came out the week after the shit hit the fan in the States, and not a moment too soon. Gorgeous stuff.

(non-Spotify options here)

Choir Boy
Gathering Swans
I found out about Choir Boy from John O’Leary last year, and even got to see them with him at Great Scott, back when Great scott was in what is now “the old location”, with them due to take over the old Regina Pizzeria space. Back to Choir Boy, though. They are the deeply sensitive band we wish we had in 1983. No, we did not have enough of those, thank you very much! Fans of early Tears for Fears and Jimmy Somerville’s various endeavors, y’all need to check out Choir Boy.

Clint Mansell & Clint Walsh
Berlin

I was deeply sad to read about the events that led to this album’s creation, as Clint Mansell is a good guy who I spent some time around in a past life, and I’m still very sorry for his loss. With that said, he and Clint Walsh (who I knew of mainly from The Motels before I realized that he’s worked with pretty much everybody) have done a beautiful thing by creating this album. It’s an amazing work that recontextualizes Lou Reed’s Berlin album to honor the memory of a lost loved one, without trampling the original work in the process (quite the opposite, in my view). It’s moving, and I hope it’s as comforting to Clint as it’s been to me this year.

Carcass
Despicable

…and now for something completely different. I have Carcass to thank for my marriage. This EP is what they do, so it’s of course fucking great.

King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard
K.G.

*bong noises*

Phantogram
Ceremony

Phantogram don’t reinvent the wheel, but they’ve low-key soundtracked a good chunk of my last decade. Their last album, Three, wasn’t quite as good as this one (great singles, but the rest of the album lost me a bit), but this is a solid, focused return to form for them.

(non-Spotify options here)

Fiona Apple
Fetch The Bolt Cutters

It’s a challenging listen (I took a few months off from it after the first month I had it), but it’s worth all the praise the critics have been throwing at it. I’ve said this elsewhere, but it’s also the Einstürzende Neubauten album I wish they had released this year, instead of the one they did.

(non-Spotify options here)

The Psychedelic Furs
Made of Rain

29 years off from releasing a studio album? No problem! Seriously, it somehow manages to just sound like the album after World Outside, while being completely contemporary.

The Dream Syndicate
The Universe Inside

Since reforming, The Dream Syndicate have released 3 albums, two of which, including this one, have made my list of year-end favorites. I may need to go back and listen to These Times, from last year, which is the one that didn’t. I may have just missed something about it. I already need to revisit the older stuff, as, for whatever reason, it didn’t grab me back then. Sometimes, we’re just ready for music at different times in our lives. Anyway, The Universe Inside is a journey, as you may have guessed if you noticed that the first track on the album is 20 minutes and change long. The album’s kind of the answer to the question “What would happen if we let a band that was on college radio a lot in the ’80s really, really jam?”, and I’m pleased to report that, at least doing it in 2020, it works out pretty well.

Sevdaliza
Shabrang

I’m really new to Sevdaliza. A friend (and bomb-ass DJ) in Second Life named Berkeley Yoshikawa played her “Human” in a set a few months ago, and I did a weird thing where I loved it, found out what it was, and then fell asleep and forgot about it for like a month. When I came back across the song, I listened to everything else she’s made, including this album. So, thanks, Berks! If you don’t wanna just press the “Play” button, it’s dark, moody, severe trip-hop kinda stuff. Just press the button, though.

Bruce Springsteen
Letter To You

It is a definite sign that I’ve been away from the state where I spent most of my first 40 years for over a year now, longer than I’ve ever been away in my lifetime by a considerable margin, that I’m listening to Springsteen (and not just this album), and that this album (which is not his and The E Street Band’s best by any means, but if you played it for someone who likes this sorta thing, but had somehow never heard him, I think they’d love it) made my year-end list. Call me sentimental! I’m not made of stone, y’all. It was really good to have a piece of the old country show up when it did, and it’s good to have Bruce around for however long we will. Bruce spends a good chunk of his time on this record seemingly exploring his lapsed Catholicism and thinking of departed friends, and it’s still a good time. People who were around for various periods of his career all have cut-off points, favorites, and so forth, and this album, if I had to compare it to any of the prior ones, is definitely more The Rising than Born to Run, but I’m not such a first-few-albums purist that I didn’t The Rising well enough, and again, if you wanna call me a big softy for this pick, go ahead.

(non-Spotify options here)

Annie
Dark Hearts

Hey, Annie! When did you decide to channel Floating Into The Night-era Julee Cruise? This question’s sort of answered here, in fact. That Julee Cruise thing isn’t a knock at all, by the way. Steal from the best and all that! It’s a terrific album, and it’s good to have her back around.

(It’s on the other major streaming services, but Annie doesn’t have a lnk.to or something similar for the album.)

Hum
Inlet

Band I completely slept on over 20 years ago (I even got a free copy of Downward is Heavenward in the mail when before it came out, and…nothin’…it’s definitely time to revisit and visit their back catalog…) releases monster new album out of nowhere. Film at 11. If I were to play the comparison game here, I’d go with Catherine Wheel, Jesu and some of Devin Townsend’s stuff (thinking Ocean Machine and Physicist without as many blast beats as the latter had). So, it’s really good.

Bob Mould
Blue Hearts

BOB MOULD IS BACK, AND HE’S PISSED OFF! For my money, it’s his best since Silver Age. (Wow, that’s 8 years and 4 albums ago now.) It’s a very direct album in its language about everything, and it’s very raw, but in the best possible way. If you’re reading this, chances are, you know who Bob Mould is already. If not, while I don’t know him personally, he seems like a guy that’s worth knowing.

Paris Jackson
wilted

I like this one a bunch. She’s got her own voice, but also clearly has a cool record collection. She does a bunch of world-building within her songs that establishes a core aesthetic. (She’s apparently really into horror movie gore.) The material is strong enough to overcome the choices she and her producers made here and there that I might not have made in how things were arranged and recorded (and to clarify, there aren’t a ton of these, or this wouldn’t have made the list, but there’s stuff here and there that sounds like a major label meddling, even if that wasn’t the case). It’s a really good start, and I look forward to hearing more.

(non-Spotify options here)

John Foxx & The Maths
Howl

Always good to have John Foxx keepin’ at it. He’s lived what seem to be a dozen lives creatively and professionally. In recent years, he’s been doing a lot with BengeHannah Peel  and Serafina Steer as John Foxx & The Maths, and it’s the closest he’s been in sound to his ’76-’85 output, solo and with Ultravox. Robin Simon, his erstwhile guitar player from that time period, joined The Maths on this release, and the guitar’s fantastic and Fripp-ish and I quite like this one.

Anaal Nathrakh
Endarkenment

The best heavy band on the planet right now continue to destroy us all. People who wish to have their faces melted, apply here.

Emma Swift
Blonde On The Tracks

Emma’s been a real bright spot this year in a great many ways. Patron saint of Bandcamp, co-host of one of the best streaming shows of the pandemic (Tomorrow’s show is her birthday show, too!), co-keeper of Tubby and Ringo the cats, and, of course, maker of the finest Bob Dylan cover album money can buy, a Bob Dylan cover album so good that it charted higher than Bob’s new one in Emma’s native Australia earlier this year. I first saw Emma, without knowing who she was, a little under 5 years ago at a show locally, and I was blown away by how good she was. I’m glad to see that the rest of the world’s catching up.

Robin Guthrie and Harold Budd
Another Flower

I came to this one late, and found out about it, sadly, a week after it came out, when Harold Budd passed away. It’s gorgeous. It’s Robin Guthrie and Harold Budd being Robin Guthrie and Harold Budd. If you don’t know what that means, well, you’re on the Internet reading this. You can figure it out. Or you can just press “Play”. It’s not like the old days when we’d have to spend $11 for a tape at Sam Goody and the tape might suck.

Zeal & Ardor
Wake of a Nation

This one’s difficult listening, probably the most difficult on the list, because it is a raw, direct expression of pain from racist police violence, but it’s also great, and I’m glad that Manuel Gagneux used his music to speak out in the ways that it seems like he felt he really needed to. The music, while a little different in tone and type of intensity than the first couple Zeal & Ardor records, is terrific, too.

Elizabeth Cook
Aftermath

Elizabeth Cook made a hell of a record here. Great songs, great vocals, great playing, great production, it’s smart, it’s honest, it’s tough, and it’s tender. Highly recommended. Give it a listen. I’ve made it pretty easy for you to do that.

(One non-Spotify option here, but hey, it’s something.)

U.D.O. and Das Musikkorps der Bundeswehr
We Are One

This album is kind of a lot, to put it mildly, so I ended up writing more about it than any of the others. At the core of it, it’s a concept album that’s the vision of a 68 year old white German man who doesn’t want civilization, such as it is, to end, and the Earth to die. This is, of course, the point of view of most sensible people (though obviously, there are people who want civilization, people who think civilization is whatever seemed OK before it started affecting them and want that back, and all points in between), but in this case, the 68 year old white German man in question is Udo Fucking Dirkschneider, who you may remember from Accept, or his solo band U.D.O. (featured here), and to try to reach people with his message, he recruited Das Musikkorps der Bundeswehr, the official concert band of the German Armed Forces, to help him. If you’ve ever dreamed of hearing Udo Dirkschneider and his band play metal anthems about saving the Earth with a 60 piece military orchestra and a full chorus behind them, gosh, have I got great news for you.

It’s a remarkable record, not like any other “metal band with an orchestra” record or, really, any other record. It’s, of course, ridiculously over the top, but that’s absolutely a strength in this case. The musicianship and production are outstanding, Udo’s band integrated seamlessly with the orchestra, and Udo is in great voice, to where he sounds 100% like he’s leading the chorus, rather than following it. The message in the songs (and to be clear, this is an album of entirely new music, not orchestral covers of past U.D.O. songs), while being largely sensible and from a point of view that I agree with, has alternating moments of being very corny in how earnest it is, being the words of a well-meaning 68 year old white man from Germany who doesn’t quite have the hang of social and environmental justice yet (and hey, everyone’s gotta start somewhere, but not everyone starts by making an album with a 60 piece military orchestra while they’re doing it), and, I’ll say it, I do still get nervous whenever I hear Germans talking or especially singing about unity, however well-meaning they may be, because of that thing that happened a while back. With that said, a tremendous amount of resources, effort and care were put into trying to reach people who might not otherwise be reached with a message like this, at what I’d describe as at least some professional and personal risk for Udo and his band (to say nothing of the German Armed Forces), because people who oppose these messages tend not to take kindly to it (especially not here in the States, though we are far from having a monopoly on far right-wing people). Ultimately, I do believe that everyone’s hearts were in the right place when they made We Are One, and they created an incredible, unique listening experience in the process, too.

(It’s on the other major streaming services, but U.D.O. doesn’t have a lnk.to or something similar for the album, because Udo is a busy man, y’all. He trusts you to find him.)

Venom Prison
Primeval

Well-crafted, left-wing extreme metal with a woman (Larissa Stupar’s her name) as lead singer/primary lyricist who can melt your face off with her screaming? Sure, sign me up. Sometimes, it’s that easy.

Richard Marx
LIMITLESS

This one was a late add, after a lot of thought. The question I had to ask myself was this: in 2020, does a great Richard Marx album…not “a great album that happens to be made by Richard Marx, but may or may not be what he does, usually”, but “a Richard Marx album that does a great job at what Richard Marx does”…make it onto my list of my favorite albums of the year? The fact that you’re reading this, if, in fact, you are, answers that question. I’m not a Richard Marx super-fan by any stretch of the imagination, but going all the way back to when I first saw the video for “Don’t Mean Nothing”, I have been at least a little sympathetic to the cause. He’s largely a solid citizen by most accounts, and he does the thing he does really well. If you’re reading this and wondering whether it sounds dated (because he was such a cornerstone of a particular time and place), it is absolutely a contemporary-sounding album that sounds like a Richard Marx album as well. If his voice weren’t as recognizable as it still is, you’d think it was one of the younger kids on the pop charts doing modern stuff that sounds kinda like Richard Marx. Another question I had for myself on this album (and, moreso than in previous years, every album on this list) was “Am I going to end up listening to this after 2020 ends?”, and I’m pretty sure I will. I didn’t listen to it all the way through a ton this year after release day, but I came back to “Another One Down” plenty, I thought about the fact that I was pretty sure Richard Marx made a great album this year a lot, and I’ve listened to the album in full a few more times while I’ve written this list. Some of the albums I really thought were going to make this list did not pass that test, and some of the bigger releases this year (you’ll know them by the fact that they’re not here, even though some of them are on everyone else’s lists like this) didn’t, either. The good ones, whether they’re ambient music or death metal, weird psychedelic stuff or straight-up pop, make you want to keep listening and paying attention while you do, even if you’ve got a lot of other things you want to get to. LIMITLESS is, in fact, one of the good ones.

((non-Spotify options here)

As we wrap this thing up, a thing I tend to do every year, as I’m going through the year, is to do kind of a shorter, time capsule playlist of the new songs, even if the albums they’re from didn’t make my list of albums, that stuck with me the most throughout the year. I’m really pretty happy with this year’s model, and hopefully, you enjoy it, too…

Finally, if you want to listen to all of the albums I named here in one list…in a row, or on shuffle, you can do that, too.

So, what new music did you listen to and love this year?

Been a few weeks…

Reports and Questions:

  1. The Substack experiment continues to be a successful one. If you’re signed up for email updates from this site, were enjoying them, and would like to sign up for a similar thing that generally leads to about one email per day, please let me know (and include your preferred email address), as the Substack’s private, and I need to invite you for you to sign up.
  2. If you’re wondering why I’m not just posting all of this stuff to this website, it’s because I want some privacy, both for myself and my commenters. Everyone can use some privacy sometimes, right?
  3. I’m looking into possibly taking this site private (as in “you wouldn’t be able to see anything on it without logging in”), and if I do that, I may merge the Substack list with our user list, but not before talking to both my readers here, and subscribers on Substack first. If I take things private, you should still get posts emailed to you, but you’ll need to login here to see them on the website. This is all in the very early stages, and again, within reason, I’m allowing input from the people who give a shit about any of this, so don’t worry, it won’t be abrupt.
  4. A question for this group: I’ve figured out how to do it now, but would you prefer to get these posts in their entirety in your email, or do you like just getting notification that they’ve happened, that you then have to click through to get here? To me, it seems like the full post in the email thing’s easier on everyone, but your mileage may vary, and again, I wanted to ask those of you who’d be affected by this before I just did something, in stark contrast to the behavior of most of the rest of the Internet.
  5. Listen to the new Bob Mould album. Seriously.

So, yeah, 3 months later…

…that “I’ll try to write more frequently” business looks pretty bad.

There was a sick cat (she’s doin’ better now, but it took a while), several home improvement projects, and the dog ate my homework.

I still exist, though, and my people, from what I can tell, are doin’ alright.

I should mention that I’m cheating on you right now. As an experiment, I started a Substack. I’ll be posting mostly different stuff there than I am here. It’s free, but it’s invite-only. If you’d like an invite, ask me for one via email. I cannot guarantee that I’ll agree to it, because sometimes, the wrong kinda weirdos ask me for stuff, but I’ll at least consider it.

World, especially the States, continues to be in the shitter. Some places are better than others. The one I live in is not one of those places.

Despite the looming threat of No More Comic Books and a bloodbath at one of the major companies, comic books continue to show up for now.

I’m still on fucking Facebook, but the Substack thing is part of my exit strategy. Watch Zuckerberg buy it now that I said that.

I’ve watched a bunch of movies and TV. I wanna get this post out, so I’ll get back to you on what, because I’d have to go over what I’ve gotten to.

The post just below this one has most of my favorite albums of the year in it, but as it’s not on Spotify, I’d like to take this opportunity to recommend Emma Swift’s Blonde on the Tracks again, as it’s great.

The rest, we’ll get to soon. In the meantime, how’s about leaving a comment, and letting me know how you’re doing?

May 1st, and whatnot.

Some updates:

Everyone I’ve mentioned in these pieces who has or had COVID-19 is still with us as I type this, as far as I’m aware (and I have been keeping up; the person who had the worst case out of all the people I know is still fighting like hell, but they’re starting to make some progress now). I do know people, including some of you who read this, who’ve had losses, and I’m very sorry for those losses.

In much lighter news, I’m 40% through the pile of comic books now, so there’s been some progress there. I’ve watched The Illumination of Jim WoodringStrange Brew, One Million Years B.C., Barbarella and the long-lost Music Of The Spheres (which I hadn’t seen in over 30 years, and which I thought was lost to the ages) since I wrote last, so I’ve finally got some attention span back for movies. I’ve been keeping up with Better Call Saul and Westworld, too. The former had a great season, while the latter’s had an uneven one. We’ll see how the finale plays out on Sunday.

On the video game front, my household’s played the hell out of Untitled Goose Game, and I just have to get through the timed missions to 100% it. It’s been a tonic through some pretty bleak times.

I’ll try to write a bit more frequently this month, as it’s probably kinda scary when people have long gaps in between their diatribes nowadays. I hope that you are all as well as you can be at the moment. Y’all should stay in touch too, eh?

Just a quick thing that’ll hopefully be a fun distraction…

I hope you’re all doing OK, and I’ll post in more detail soon, but in the meantime, if you’re stuck in the house, and have an iOS (iPad or iPhone, especially iPad; sorry, Android/etc. users…) device, go get yourself a free Minimoog. You’ll be glad you did, even if you’re not what you’d consider to be a musician.

Some life updates…

I am alive.

It’s been a little over a month since I did that thing I did.

I hear from far fewer people on a given day than I was hearing from before I did it, and I don’t know a lot of what’s going on in your lives. Plenty of you are keeping the faith, though, and I appreciate it. Shoot me a line, leave a comment here, or whatever. “I’m always home. I’m uncool!”

I’ve done my best, given my general state of being, to reach out, too. There’s room for improvement, but I’m very human and my sleep was a mess for weeks. I’ll continue working on it.

I’m also torn between my desire to nuke multiple accounts on really terrible websites, and my concerns about further isolating myself at a time when people need each other.

Back here on the other side of the screen, it’s tough for a middle-aged man with my interests to make local friends without either volunteering somewhere or being an alcoholic. Where volunteer work is concerned, the spirit is willing, but I’m tired and physically unreliable. I’m retired from the other thing. Alternate suggestions are welcome.

I’ve started the next round of doctors for the various things that are wrong with me. My goal (barring new catastrophes) is to figure out what can be fixed, what’s likely to get worse, and what’s going to stay about the same relatively soon. Wish me luck on all that.

I figured out, during this process, that Monday appointments are a really bad idea for me. It’s a combination of the stress of not knowing if I’ll be awake for said appointment, and wanting to get started on my week when other people do, especially since my productivity is often limited during business hours.

Little by little, I’m trying to clear the cobwebs from a year’s worth of post-concussion syndrome. At least, I hope it’s post-concussion syndrome, and some more of it will wear off, and not permanent brain damage, where life’s just gonna be like this or worse from here on out. There are good days and bad days.

I’m still experiencing some writer’s block, which has been ongoing since I pulled the plug on the motherfucker. It’s impacting this website and my other one, but I’m trying to push through it. How obvious is it that I’m straining to write this?

I’ve been a little behind on current music (I’ve got a backlog of at least Kesha, Marc Almond, and Ozzy; best wishes to Ozzy, by the way…), but Richard Marx, that beautiful bastard, put out an album that I’d describe as a best-case scenario for a Richard Marx album released in 2020. I’m going to guess that if you’re not already a fan, this isn’t for you, but who knows?

There are also new songs from Sparks (full album out May 15th)…

…and Choir Boy (full album out May 7th).

I haven’t gotten out a lot lately. Definitely feeling the urge, but there’s a time and place for it.

With that said, I highly recommend going to see Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn while it’s still in theatres, or at home when it isn’t. I think it’s the best live-action DC super-hero movie I’ve seen since Keaton was Batman (though I haven’t seen Aquaman or Green Lantern yet).

I’m pretty sure that the world’s still on fire, figuratively and literally, and getting worse by the second. There’s some good stuff too, though.

Does anyone have any questions?

“Scott, you weren’t even alive for the 1960s. What the fuck?”

Yeah, for the hell of it, I did the ’60s, too.

I enjoyed making this one more than I thought I would, given how overplayed to hell and back most of this stuff is. I still think my ’70s playlist is the best one, and will remain that way, but this felt similar to my process for the ’70s one. Around 1966, stuff got weird in a hurry, but it did so in a way that made sense, similar to how disco impacted the ’70s.

For those who might be wondering, doing the 1950s is a really distant possibility (I’m looking at it right now). I don’t know if I’m going to do the 1990s, though. I looked at the lists the other day, and found that my interest in what was on the pop charts started to really tank around 1993, then wore down to a trickle by the end of the decade. I’m also still really sick of the worst of the 1990s music, as it wasn’t that long ago that it was popular, and as I got severely overexposed at the end of the decade by working in a mall that was home to a “best of the ’80s and ’90s” radio station.

2000s to present, hell naw. I looked already, and the number of 2000s pop hits I’d want anything to do with is a third of the ’90s list (which is shorter than the ’70s list, and about the same size as the ’60s list). The 2010s list would be half of the 2000s list. I really liked 2012 in mainstream pop for some reason, but not a lot else. Despite the fact that I do keep up as best I can, there have only been 3 songs in the past 4 years that made Billboard’s year-end lists that have really resonated with me.

Anyway, enjoy, let me know what you think, and with all of these playlists, feel free to tell people about them.

02/15/20 Update:

Yes, for better or worse, I went through the entire history of the year-end charts. Individual decades are available as public playlists on my Spotify profile.

“Scott, what were the 1980s like?”

They weren’t like this, because the Hot 100 is a very different filter than MTV was, and a much, much different one than the music I got exposed to through the people I met, and on the various margins I became privy to from the moment I got cable television, but this was an interesting experiment that I, of course, couldn’t help pissing away 2 days on, and I think it produced some fun results.

This list is twice as long as the ’70s one, which sorta makes sense, because I was alive for the entirety of the decade instead of 5 1/2 years of it, and paying more attention, as a slightly more fully formed person.

I’ve given y’all 51 hours and 28 minutes’ worth of playlists this week. I’d love some feedback on how I did, if you’re feeling up to it.

“Scott, what were the 1970s like?”

No one asks me this.

Being a rabid oversharer, though, I do volunteer a lot of what I remember, which isn’t a ton, and was almost all wildly inappropriate for someone in early childhood, just by virtue of life being fucking complicated. For some reason, though, I have a pretty strong sort of sense memory of what the music was like in the last age before widespread music video. I’ve wanted to do something like this for quite some time, but the combination of insomnia, caffeine, time I should’ve used on something else and obsessive behavior hadn’t aligned until last night.

(Note: share embeds from Spotify only list the first 100 songs, roughly 48.7% of the playlist, so you’ll need to go to Spotify for the entirety of the big list.)

This is an evolving document, but to the best of my recollection, give or take some things I never wish to hear again, either because they were terrible or because the people who made them were a bit shit, this is what the 1970s sounded like to me, as they were happening. My extra brain for this was Wikipedia’s series of annual “Billboard Year-End Hot 100 singles”  from 1970-1979 (start here). Almost everything on this playlist can be found on those lists. A few non-chart songs snuck on. A notable exception was Giorgio Moroder’s “Chase” from the “Midnight Express” soundtrack, because, while it did not chart on those year-end deals, the song was absolutely everywhere in that time period. So many local television stations used it in the background of sports video packages, public affairs calendar stuff…you couldn’t get away from it. Which, of course, took a somewhat uncomfortable turn when I got cable television at a young age and wanted to see the movie that cool song was from, but that’s another story.

I will also mention that at least one song on here (David Naughton’s “Makin’ It”) is definitely a re-recorded version, and normally I wouldn’t go with those, but that song was such an important part of my 1979 (some of my earliest phone calls were to a local radio station to request it over…and over…and over again…) that it’d leave a gaping hole if it wasn’t in there, and it’s actually not a bad re-record.

You may notice that there’s really not much in the way of hard rock, heavy metal, punk or new wave on this playlist. I don’t really remember hearing it until 1980 or so. “1980, you say?”

Bonus: yes, because I’m a horrible cheater who is firmly in the “decades are 0-9” camp until I have to actually define eras of my musical life, I made a 1980-specific playlist. In my head canon, 1980 was still part of this period, but you can see that the selections I went with from memory were already very different than the ’70-’79 stuff. I would call both of these playlists part of the same era, but also sorta not.

Why stop here, though, if I’ve crossed the decade line already?

Two things happened around the end of 1980 that really created before/after markers, at least in my head. First, as I alluded to above, music videos started to be broadcast on a pretty widespread basis. My first exposure was probably Casey Kasem’s America’s Top 10 in 1980, and from there, we got cable in June of 1981, so I saw a lot of things on HBO Video Jukebox, and, eventually, MTV.

The other thing, which is pretty unpleasant, is that John Lennon was shot and killed. Hearing of a popular musician being shot and killed when I was 6 years old…well, it left a big fucking dent that I’m still grappling with almost 4 decades later. Yeah, that got dark, but it’s absolutely relevant to a conversation about my personal musical history, and really my life.

Before that happened, though, I had a good almost 6 1/2 years of musical discovery. Here’s what it sounded like. You’ve got about 17 hours to listen to. Some of it will be really familiar, some might not. I consciously put songs in vaguely chronological order, but also in “this would sound good here” order, but I’ve been testing both playlists on shuffle, and they work that way, too, oddly enough. Enjoy, and let me know what you think in the comments or otherwise.