While this blog is traditionally dragged out of disrepair each December for some sort of assessment of the year in music, the countdown has been a little truncated of late given other commitments. However, with the need for head space, distractions and communal experiences in these difficult times, it seems the right occasion to try and do a proper Top 30 with the accompanying write-ups.
The artwork will no longer take you to a certain streaming site, as I think we’re all well aware of how much they actually contribute to most of the artists appearing in this list. Instead, Bandcamp links will be provided where available and independent record shop purchase options will also be included. If you like the sound of something here but it’s new to you – and you can afford it – why not support those wonderful folk at the end of a trying year?
Most of my music writing these days goes into the vinyl review column on Clash Magazine’s website, also called Just Played. I should, once again, publicly acknowledge Robin Murray’s support with that venture. It had always amazed me that there wasn’t one somewhere else and, with his help, it became clear that the easiest solution was to do it myself. I have been delighted with the response and it continues to gather momentum. You can find the most recent edition here.
It has been another excellent year for music, although I’m generally inclined to think that such a description applies to almost all years providing you keep your ears open. It would seem that the impact of life on pause, through lockdown and lockdown-lite, was to refocus many people’s minds on their record collections. Some pulled everything off the shelves and started listening again, others made mail order a mission. My thoroughly pleasant social media circles have been awash with recommendations and observations over these months, which has been like a fuzzy, nostalgia-drenched theme park dedicated to what Twitter used to be like.
With that spirit rekindled, I’m going to give a full countdown a go for the first time in a while. Feel free to subscribe to get each update as it goes live or follow @justplayed for, quite possibly too many, notifications. As ever, comments are welcome and I hope you find something in here to embellish your music experiences of 2020.
While my list unfurls, you can also browse some very fine lists from the aforementioned indie troopers who have kept us in cardboard-wrapped vinyl this year: