Essential Spins of 2020

Below is a list of my top 50 albums of 2020, followed by EPs, singles, archival releases, live albums, and further releases I dug. For each release I embedded listening links from bandcamp and included some vague descriptors to help each listener decide what might be up their alley, hopefully you can find something new to explore and enjoy. Dig in!

Top 50 Albums:

Irreversible EntanglementsWho Sent You?

Style: Free Jazz, Jazz Poetry

Vibe: Anthemic, Bombastic, Cathartic, Communal, Conscious, Earthy, Energetic, Groovy, Intense, Passionate, Angsty, Political, Powerful, Ritualistic, Spiritual, Triumphant, AfroFuturist

Musical Attributes: Acoustic, Complex, Collective Improvisation, Percussive, Poetic, Polyphonic, Polyrhythmic, Progressive, Spoken Word


“Infinite possibilities coming back around. I know we are more than circles”
Irreversible Entanglements follows up the scathing fire music of their debut with regenerative and ritualistic earth music. “Who Sent You?”, is a record that casts its gaze not only to the violent “rhythms of oppression” that need to be burnt to the ground, but to a future built from the ashes of these unjust systems. “No más, No more will they divide and conquer, divide and oppress, define our humanity”. Irreversible Entanglements are simply one of the most powerful bands in existence, building their symbiotic improvisations with fervent passion, hypnotic rhythm, and urgent truths.

Moor Mother – Circuit City

Style: Free Jazz Theater, Jazz Poetry

Vibe: cathartic, cerebral, dystopian, energetic, futuristic, bombastic, intense, noisy, passionate, poetic, political, powerful, rebellious, urban, heavy, AfroFuturist

Musical Attributes: Complex, Conceptual, Dense, Dissonant, Spoken Word, Theatric, Progressive, Polyphonic, Improvisation


Moor Mother & billy woods – Brass

Style: Experimental Hip-Hop

Vibe: Cryptic, Dark, Futuristic, Philosophical, Political

Musical Attributes: Lyrical, Beats, Sampling


Nicolás JaarCenizas

Style: Sound Sculpture, Ambient Pop, Progressive Electronic

Vibe: Introspective, Mysterious, Nocturnal, Dark, Hypnotic, Abstract, Meditative

Musical Attributes: Electro-Acoustic, Digital Production, Progressive, Studio-as-an-instrument


Yves TumorHeaven to a Tortured Mind

Style: Art Rock, Progressive Pop, Neo-Psychedelia

Vibe: Dramatic, Eclectic, Energetic, Imaginative, Love, Nocturnal, Psychedelic, Romantic, Sexual, Surreal, Woozy

Musical Attributes: Catchy, Dense, Lush, Polished, Progressive, Rhythmic


R.A.P. Ferreira – Purple Moonlight Pages

Style: Jazz Rap, Abstract Hip-Hop

Vibe: Confident, Cerebral, Conscious, Introspective, Mellow, Philosophical, Poetic, Spiritual, Uplifting

Musical Attributes: Groovy, Rhythmic, Lush, Lyrical


DeradoorianFind the Sun

Style: Psychedelic Rock

Vibe: Introspective, Existential, Spiritual, Hypnotic, Confident, Conscious, Mystical, Psychedelic

Musical Attributes: Lyrical, Motorik, Sparse, Repetitive


Spires That in the Sunset RisePsychic Oscillations

Style: Avant-Folk, Post-Minimalism, Experimental

Vibe: Hypnotic, Nature, Psychedelic, Ritualistic

Musical Attributes: Electro-Acoustic, Minimalistic, Pulse


Psychedelic electro-acoustics and earthy minimalism from long-running avant-folk group. The multi-instrumentalist duo ritualistically loop and layer a hypnotic tapestry of pre-verbal vocalizations, upright bass, flute, saxophone, synth, and autoharp, running each instrument through trippy stereo delays. Psychic Oscillations finds the band as entrancing as ever.

LomaDon’t Shy Away

Style: Art Pop, Trip-Hop, Post-Rock

Vibe: Existential, Brooding, Cathartic, Exploratory, Futuristic, Heartfelt, Introspective, Sentimental

Musical Attributes: Atmospheric, Loops, Polished, Lush, Progressive, Headphone Album, Lyrical


Asa ToneTemporary Music

Style: Organic Beat Music, Tribal Ambient, Gamelan, Post-Minimalism

Vibe: Earthy, Ethereal, Hypnotic, Soothing, Tribal, Warm,

Musical Attributes: Percussive, Polyrhythmic, Loops, Rhythmic, Electro-Acoustic, Minimalistic


Nihiloxica – Kaloli

Style: Organic Beat Music, Psychedelic Electronic,
Ugandan Drum Music

Vibe: Hypnotic, Tribal, Intense, Eerie

Musical Attributes: Percussive, Polyrhythmic Atmospheric, Complex, Dense, Dissonant, Repetitive, Electro-Acoustic


Amani + King Vision Ultra – An Unknown Infinite

Style: Experimental Hip-Hop

Vibe: Conscious, Poetic, Suspenseful, Political, Confident, Gritty, Cinematic, Spiritual

Musical Attributes: Sampling, Sparse, Atmospheric, Spoken Word


Armand Hammer – Shrines

Style: Progressive Hip-Hop, Experimental Hip-Hop

Vibe: Apocalyptic, Cerebral, Conscious, Philosophical, Rebellious, Urban

Musical Attributes: Sampling, Lyrical, Rhythmic, Progressive


Decolonize Your Mind SocietyA Courteous Invitation to an Uninhabited Anabatic Prism

Style: Psychedelic Rock, Free Rock, Tishoumaren-Influenced

Vibe: Groovy, Hypnotic, Colorful, Ritualistic, Psychedelic

Musical Attributes: Microtonal (Just Intonation), Improvisation, Instrumental, Progressive, Repetitive, Rhythmic


Yves JarvisSundry Rock Song Stock

Style: Psychedelic Bedroom Pop, Lo-Fi Singer-Songwriter

Vibe: Breezy, eclectic, ethereal, intimate, loner, mellow, peaceful, psychedelic, soft, soothing, stoned, warm

Musical Attributes: atmospheric, lo-fi, lush, melodic


dumama + kechou Buffering Juju

Style: Nomadic Future Folk, Organic Beat Music, South African Folk

Vibe: Heartfelt, Imaginative, Futuristic, Ritualistic, Spiritual, Earthy, Psychedelic

Musical Attributes: Electro-acoustic, Percussive, Polyrhythmic, Studio-as-an-Instrument, Progressive


Golden Retriever & Chuck Johnson Rain Shadow

Style: Ambient

Vibe: Soothing, Peaceful, Mellow, Meditative, Sleepy, Rainy

Musical Attributes: Atmospheric, Electro-Acoustic, Droney, Instrumental, Soft


Bass clarinet, pedal steel guitar, and synthesizer swirling together into a highly immersive and emotive combination of voices. Truly beautiful soundscapes that melt the worry away, with moments of quiet catharsis that I don’t experience very often in ambient music.


Style: Electro-Acoustic, Experimental, Noise

Instrumentation: Electric Cello w/ fx

Vibe: Eerie, Noisy, Suspenseful

Musical Attributes: Atmospheric, Electro-acoustic, Improvisation, Dynamic


Sélène Saint-Aimé – Mare Undarum

Style: Avant-Garde Jazz, Vocal Jazz, Chamber Jazz

Vibe: Ritualistic, Hypnotic, Spiritual, Elegant, Moody, Incantatory

Musical Attributes: Complex, Progressive, Thematic, Improvisation, Technical, Acoustic, Dynamic, Rhythmic

Instrumentation: Upright Bass, Vocals, Saxophone, Cello, Trumpet, Drums, Violin


Shabaka and the AncestorsWe Are Sent Here by History

Style: South African Jazz, Spiritual Jazz, Progressive Jazz

Vibe: Conscious, Intense, Ritualistic

Lyrical Themes: History, Politics, Death, Spirituality

Musical Attributes: Acoustic, Complex, Spoken Word, Technical

Mourning [A] BLKstar – The Cycle

Style: Neo Soul, Trip-Hop, Avant-Soul

Vibe: Conscious, Eclectic, Futuristic, Heartfelt, Intimate, Nocturnal, Passionate, Political, Spiritual, Uplifting, Raw, Groovy, Rhythmic

Musical Attributes: Progressive, Beats, Studio-as-an-Instrument


Helena DelandSomeone New

Style: Chamber Pop, Singer/Songwriter

Vibe: Intimate, Introspective, Melancholy, Personal

Musical Attributes: Atmospheric, Melodic, Polished, Lush


Holy SonsRaw and Disfigured

Style: Loner Folk, Psych Rock, Singer/Songwriter

Vibe: Introspective, Loner, Dark, Nocturnal, Psychedelic

Lyrical Themes: Philosophical, Existential, Death, Personal

Musical Attributes: Lush, Melodic, Lyrical


Young Jesus Welcome to Conceptual Beach

Style: Post-Rock, Art Rock

Influences: Free Jazz, Shoegaze

Vibe: Anthemic, Cathartic, Passionate, Philosophical, Poetic, Spiritual, Existential

Musical Attributes: Dynamic, Lyrical, Improvisation, Polished


Ezra FeinbergRecumbent Speech

Style: Post-Rock, Post-Minimalism, Folk

Vibe: Airy, Focused, Imaginative, Impressionistic, Nocturnal, Pastoral, Peaceful, Warm

Musical Attributes: Atmospheric, Complex, Dynamic, Instrumental, Headphone Album, Minimalistic, Odd Tim Signatures, Pulse, Progressive


Susan Alcorn Quintet – Pedernal

Style: Avant-Garde Jazz, Chamber Jazz

Vibe: Open, Abstract, Suspenseful, Warm

Musical Attributes: Collective Improvisation, Instrumental, Complex, Technical, Dynamic

Musicians: Susan Alcorn (slide guitar), Mary Halvorson (guitar), Michael Formanek (upright bass), Mark Feldmen (violin), Ryan Sawyer (drums)


Mary Halvorson’s Code Girl Artlessly Falling

Style: Avant-Garde Jazz, Jazz-Rock

Vibe: Angular, Focused, Triumphant,

Musical Attributes: Complex, Progressive, Dynamic, Improvisation, Odd Time Signatures, Polyphonic, Technical

Featuring Robert Wyatt on vocals on 3 tracks


Horse LordsThe Common Task

Style: Avant-Rock, Math Rock

Influences: Tishoumaren, Kosmische, Totalism

Vibe: Hypnotic, Political, Surreal, Triumphant

Musical Attributes: Complex, Microtonal, Polyrhythmic, Repetitive, Technical, Droney, Odd Time Signatures


The HeliocentricsTelemetric Sounds / Infinity of Now

Style: Abstract Groove, Psychedelic Jazz, Kosmische

Vibe: Exploratory, Spacey, Psychedelic, Cosmic

Musical Attributes: Groovy, Instrumental, Improvisation, Rhythmic, Odd Time Signatures


Jeff Parker & The New BreedSuite for Max Brown

Style: Organic Beat Music, Future Jazz, Instrumental Hip-Hop

Vibe: Eclectic, Groovy, Warm, Peaceful, Breezy, Mellow

Musical Attributes: Loops, Melodic, Sampling, Studio-as-an-Instrument, Beats, Jazz Guitar


Josh Johnson – Freedom Exercise

Style: Organic Beat Music, Post-Bop, Future Jazz

Vibe: Groovy, Anthemic, Sunny

Musical Attributes: Rhythmic, Studio-as-an-Instrument, Improvisation, Melodic


Chicago Underground Quartet Good Days

Style: Post-Bop, Future Jazz

Vibe: Colorful, Futuristic, Warm, Eclectic, Mellow

Musical Attributes: Improvisation, Instrumental, Melodic, Technical, Percussive, Rhythmic

Personnel: Josh Johnson (bass synth, organ, piano); Rob Mazurek (piccolo trumpet, electronics, bells, composer);
Jeff Parker (electric guitar, editing, composer); Chad Taylor (drums, kalimba, percussion, composer)


Rob Mazurek / Exploding Star Orchestra – Dimensional Stardust

Style: Avant-Garde Jazz, Experimental Big Band

Vibe: Cosmic, Energetic, Passionate

Musical Attributes: Complex, Dynamic, Progressive, Suite, Polyrhythmic


Speaker Music – Black Nationalist Sonic Weaponry

Style: Industrial Techno, Experimental Electronic

Vibe: Protest, Conceptual, Dark, Dystopian, Gritty, Heavy, Intense, Mechanical, Philosophical, Political, Powerful, Rebellious

Musical Attributes: Noisy, Dissonant, Glitchy, Percussive, Repetitive, Rhythmic, Sampling


Patrick Shriroishi – Descension

Style: Free Jazz, Noise

Vibe: Powerful, Political, Cathartic, Intense

Musical Attributes: Improvisation (Solo), Noisy

Instrumentation: Saxophone, Effects, Voice


Neptunian Maximalism – Éons

Style: Avant-Metal, Free Jazz, Drone, Heavy Psych

Vibe: Apocalyptic, Conceptual, Epic, Heavy, Psychedelic, Ritualistic, Tribal

Musical Attributes: Complex, Dense, Improvisation, Odd Time Signatures, Progressive, Droney


Sault – Untitled (Black Is) / Untitled (Rise)

Style: Progressive Funk, Neo-Soul, AfroBeat

Vibe: Conscious, Groovy, Political, Rebellious, Uplifting, Warm, Modern, Cathartic, Summer, Eclectic

Musical Attributes: Lush, Rhythmic, Group Vocals, Progressive


Marisa Anderson and Jim White – The Quickening

Style: Free Improvisation, American Primitivism, Free Folk

Vibe: Contemplative, Rootsy, Rustic, Exploratory, Loose, Pastoral, Warm

Musical Attributes: Dynamic, Free Improvisation (Duo), Instrumental


J.H. Guraj – Introspection / Migration

Style: Primitivist Guitar, Avant-Folk

Vibe: Earthy, Rootsy, Suspenseful, Loose

Musical Attributes: Acoustic, Atmospheric, Electro-Acoustic, Improvisation, Instrumental, Studio-as-an-Instrument


BotanyEnd the Summertime F(or)ever

Style: Instrumental Hip-Hop, Psychedelic Beats

Vibe: Cosmic, Dance, Earthy, Meditative, Psychedelic, Spiritual, Warm

Musical Attributes: Sampling, Electro-Acoustic, Groovy, Instrumental


Nuke Watch Countdown

Style: Organic Beat Music, Tribal Ambient, Psychedelic Folk, Progressive Electronic, Experimental

Vibe: Hallucinogenic, Mysterious, Nature, Exploratory, Ritualistic

Musical Attributes: Electro-Acoustic, Percussive, Rhythmic, Atmospheric, Loops, Beats, Polyphonic


Spencer ZahnSunday Painter

Style: ECM-Style Jazz, Ambient Jazz, Post-Rock

Vibe: Airy, Contemplative, Focused, Impressionistic, Pastoral, Peaceful

Musical Attributes: Instrumental, Lush, Thematic, Improvisation


Thanya IyerKind

Style: Art Pop, Chamber Folk

Vibe: Catchy, Eclectic, Groovy, Mellow, Soft, Soothing, Uplifting,

Musical Attributes: Lush, Atmospheric, Complex, Polished


David Lord – Forest Standards, Vol. 2

Style: Jazz Fusion, Future Jazz, Post-Rock

Vibe: Forest, Knotty, Intricate, Nature, Impressionistic, Mysterious

Musical Attributes: Improvisation, Modal

Personell: David Lord – Electric & Acoustic Guitars, Chad Taylor – Drums, Billy Mohler – Upright Bass, Jeff Parker – Electric Guitar, Sam Hake – Vibraphone

Guitarist David Lord’s sylvan impressionism is equally knotty and lush on his new LP of lydian improvisation. The rhythm section of drummer Chad Taylor and bassist Billy Mohler hold it down with naturalistic rhythms that never settle into anything too predictable, while Sam Hake’s vibraphone contributions pad out the sound like green leaves and flowers among jagged branches. The proceedings are especially thorny when Jeff Parker’s guitar gets entangled with Lord’s on 8 of the 14 cuts. Like anything recorded at Long Beach’s Big Ego studios in the past few years, the production has clarity and polish without sacrificing the liveliness of a great room sound.


Luke StewartExposure Quintet

Style: Free Jazz

Vibe: Abstract, Communal, Powerful

Musical Attributes: Acoustic, Collective Improvisation, Complex, Thematic


The Necks – Three

Style: Avant-Garde Jazz, Post-Minimalism

Vibe: Driving, Hypnotic, Suspenseful

Musical Attributes: Atmospheric, Collective Improvisation, Minimalistic, Repetitive


CMFRTR / Ghost Coast / Hidden Music – Energy Hum Vol. 1

Format: Triple Cassette

Style: Ambient, Progressive Electronic

Vibe: Cosmic, Psychedelic, Exploratory, Atmospheric, Meandering


EP’s, Mini-Albums, & Singles:

Ilyas Ahmed & Jefre Cantu-Ledesma Torch Songs

Style: Drone, Noise Pop, Ambient

Vibe: Haunting, Mellow, Nocturnal, Soothing


Lamin FofanaDarkwater / Blues

Style: Ambient, Experimental

Vibe: Philosophical, Rootsy (Blues), History, Mechanical (Darkwater)

Musical Attributes: Atmospheric, Electro-acoustic, Sampling, Field Recordings


Animal Collective – Bridge to Quiet

Style: Neo-Psychedelia, Ambient Pop

Vibe: Aquatic, Atmospheric, Exploratory, Hallucinogenic, Abstract

Musical Attributes: Improvisation, Sampling, Atmospheric


Anderson Paak – Lockdown

Style: West Coast Hip-Hop, Neo-Soul

Vibe: Conscious, Groovy, Political, Rebellious


Numün – Voyage Au Soleil

Style: Tribal Ambient, Psych-Folk, New Age

Vibe: Earthy, Meditative, Psychedelic, Cosmic

Musical Attributes: Atmospheric, Electro-Acoustic, Rhythmic


Moor Mother – Forever Industries

Style: Experimental Hip-Hop

Vibe: Confident, Existential, Futuristic, Mellow, Personal, Poetic

Musical Attributes: Sampling, Spoken Word, Lyrical, Rhythmic


Black Ends – Stay Evil

Style: Gunk Pop, Math Rock, Noise Rock, Psychedelic Grunge

Vibe: Fuzzy, Riffs, Bluesy, Grimy, Catchy, Angular, Energetic


Angel Bat Dawid – Transition East

Style: Creative Music, Avant-Garde Jazz, Organic Beat Music

Vibe: Earthy, Groovy, Cosmic, Spiritual, Warm

Musical Attributes: Improvisation, Percussive


Dengue Dengue Dengue – Fiebre

Style: Organic Beat Music, Digital Cumbia, Progressive Electronic

Vibe: Dark, Eerie, Hypnotic

Musical Attributes: Percussive, Polyrhythmic, Electro-Acoustic, Instrumental, Loops, Studio-as-an-instrument, Atmospheric, Repetitive


William Fowler Collins & Marshall Trammell – Untitleable

Style: Free Improvisation

Vibe: Cathartic, Hypnotic, Political, Noisy, Droney


Efrim Manuel Menuck – Baby It Has to Fall

Style: Experimental Singer/Songwriter, Drone

Vibe: Droney, Intimate, Murky, Political, Rebellious



New Balance – The Spirits will Shimmer while I stare at their Shadows

Style: Ambient Folk, New Age

Vibe: Meditative, Hypnotic, Soothing, Contemplative

Musical Attributes: Electro-acoustic, Atmospheric, Banjo, Synthesizer, Manipulated Vocals

While escapism is an understandable instinct in times of turmoil, The Spirits Will Shimmer encourages reflection on our current realities rather than turning a blind eye. New Balance’s Jeremy Leasure thoughtfully constructs a sonic cocoon of backwoods ambience from warped banjo improvisations and Casio synth atmospheres, foregoing the vivid lyrical imagery and lush arrangments of past releases. By offering a temporary respite from overstimulation, these meditative mood pieces carve out the space necessary to process the endless stream of information weighing on our hearts and minds. (Full Review)


Jefre-Cantu Ledesma & Julie ByrneLove’s Refrain

Style: Noise Pop, Dream Pop, Drone

Vibe: Ethereal, Hypnotic, Lush, Noisy, Sensual, Warm


Archival Releases:

Miles Davis – Double Image

Style: Abstract Groove, Ambient Jazz, Raga Jazz, Jazz Fusion

Vibe: Abstract, Exploratory, Hypnotic, Mysterious, Psychedelic, Suspenseful

Musical Attributes: Complex, Dense, Rhythmic

Don Cherry – Om Shanti Om

Style: Spiritual Jazz, Ecstatic Folk Music

Inspirations: African Folk Music, Hindustani Classical Music

Vibe: Ritualistic, Spiritual, Uplifting, Meditative

Musical Attributes: Acoustic, Chants, Improvisation, Percussive


Toho Sara – Eastern Most

Style: Free Folk, Free Improvisation

Vibe: Psychedelic, Ritualistic, Tribal

Musical Attributes: Acoustic, Atmospheric, atonal, dissonant, droney, improvisation, percussive, Electro-Acoustic

FFO: Taj Mahal Travellers


Ayalew Mesfin – Che Belew

Style: Ethio-Jazz, Soul

Vibe: Heartfelt, Passionate, Uplifting

Musical Attributes: Groovy, Melodic, Rhythmic, Raw


Various Artists – How the River Ganges Flows: Sublime Masterpieces of Indian Violin [1933-1952]

Style: Carnatic Classical Music

Vibe: Spiritual, Transcendent, Cathartic, Energetic, Rootsy

Musical Attributes: Technical, Virtuosic, Acoustic



Bushpilot – 23

Style: Post-Punk, Kosmische-Influenced

Vibe: Angsty, Motorik, Primal

Musical Attributes: Rhythmic, Repetitive, Dynamic, Driving


Live Albums:

Beverly Glenn-Copeland – Live at Le Guess Who? 2018

Style: Singer/Songwriter, Chamber Folk

Vibe: Intimate, Live, Lyrical, Passionate, Spiritual, Uplifting


Angel Bat Dawid & The Brothahood – Live

Vibe: Intense, Conscious, Fiery, Angry, Triumphant, Spiritual, Political, Raw

Musical Attributes: Improvisation, Live, Loose


Nicole Mitchell & Lisa E. Harris – EarthSeed

Style: Avant-Jazz Opera, Creative Music, Chamber Jazz

Based on the Works of Octavia Butler

Vibe: Communal, Conscious, Dramatic, Earthy, Eccentric, Spiritual

Musical Attributes: Complex, Conceptual, Dynamic, Improvisation, Live, Poetic, Polyphonic, Progressive, Storytelling, Suite, Theatric

Featuring Tomeika Reid (cello) & Ben Lamar Gay (trumpet)


Carlos Niño & Miguel Atwood-Ferguson – Chicago Waves

Style: Ambient Jazz, New Age

Vibe: Airy, Dreamy, Impressionistic, Meditative, Mellow, Peaceful

Musical Attributes: Atmospheric, Improvisation, Instrumental, Live


Abrams/Damon/Graham/Mendoza – Sometimes There Were Four

Style: Free Jazz, Free Improvisation

Vibe: Abstract, Exploratory

Musical Attributes: Collective Improvisation, Complex, Live


75 Dollar Bill – Live at King Tubby’s

Style: Psychedelic Jam Band, Tishoumaren, Experimental Rock

Vibe: Psychedelic, Hypnotic, Groovy, Exploratory

Musical Attributes: Collective Improvisation, Microtonal, Polyrhythmic, Repetitive


Further Digging:

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