Tone Glow 046: Individual Contributor Lists & Reflections, Part 1

Tone Glow writers reflect on the year and list their favorite records, songs, and whatever else of the past 12 months

Individual Contributor Lists

Each of our writers was asked to submit a list of their 10 favorite albums from this year. They also had the option to list their 10 favorite songs and to create another list of any 10 things of their choosing. Below, find reflections from our contributors alongside a song of their choosing, as well as their individual lists. Our contributors are listed in alphabetical order.

Read Part 2

Vanessa Ague

Choosing the first song I will listen to in the new year is a day-long affair for me. I meticulously scroll through my library, hunting for the one song that’ll best represent what I want my year to look like. After the ball dropped on December 31, 2019, I left a party to go watch the fireworks in Central Park and I turned on the song I had spent all day choosing. But I don’t remember what song my thumb instinctively played. I was too anxious and scared then for the memory to stick.

I started the year unhappy at work and convinced that I’d never get into a Master’s program because of two bad grades on my undergraduate transcript that came at a time where my 20-year-old life experiments went wrong. I remember those booming, bright red lights bursting into the sky as I walked to the subway; I stopped by the entrance to the park where I met someone who shattered my heart years ago and conjured his memory. But despite my downtrodden demeanor, I thought that maybe this was the year something good would happen.

Of course, 2020 didn’t work out quite how I had hoped it would. Like all of you reading, my life was upended in March: My pay was cut, the publication I steadily wrote for ceased to exist, my graduate school plans were uncertain, my social life disappeared into thin air, I was living in the epicenter of the virus. Yet somehow, and I’ll never really know how, I adapted. Zoom hangouts started to feel more normal, livestream concerts weren’t the same but they weren’t horrible, albums became the center of my existence like I was 13 again. My time at my old job naturally waned and we parted ways; I went to therapy and to school. I fell in love.

I’ve never thought of myself as resilient, so I’ll always be amazed how much hope can arise from a year full of seemingly insurmountable darkness. I never knew I had it in me.

Top 10 Albums of 2020

  1. Sarah Hennies - The Reinvention of Romance (Astral Spirits)

  2. Irreversible Entanglements - Who Sent You? (International Anthem)

  3. Oliver Coates - skins n slime (RVNG Intl)

  4. Charles Curtis - Performances & Recordings 1998​-​2018 (Saltern)

  5. Galya Bisengalieva - Aralkum (One Little Independent Records)

  6. Bill Nace - Both (Drag City)

  7. Tyshawn Sorey & Jennifer Curtis - Invisible Ritual (New Focus Recordings)

  8. Ash Fure - Something to Hunt (Sound American)

  9. Horse Lords - The Common Task (Northern Spy Recordings)

  10. John Kolodij - First Fire • At Dawn (Astral Editions)

Matthew Blackwell

My 2020, like most people’s, has been an unending procession of screens. I wake up, walk into the next room, and sit down. Then I join a meeting over Zoom, and then I teach a class over Zoom, and then I grade papers that were emailed to me, and then I email them back. For fun I switch over to Discord, where I stare at a screen, or I watch a movie (for a change of pace, from a screen projected onto a wall).

Perhaps this is why my list this year is full of albums that capture the immediacy of sound as it happens—Angel Bat Dawid’s live album and Irreversible Entanglements’ improvised jazz, Christian Mirande’s found sound, Secluded Bronte and claire rousay’s weird field recordings, Tidiane Thiam’s guitar backed by the soothing sounds of the Sahel. Reminders of the world as it exists outside a screen were a constant necessity, whether they came from live concerts in Germany, libraries in the U.S., windy fields in Britain, or small Senegalese towns.

The “out” in the “out music” that caught and maintained my attention pointed outside, an increasingly rare and valuable place. This tendency reached beyond 2020 to classic field recordings of years past as well. Those by Chris WatsonJana Winderen, and Lawrence English brought the sounds of glaciers and ice floes home, a fitting (but subconscious) accompaniment to my sudden interest in Antarctic exploration. And it strikes me now as I sit down to write this (on a screen) that the fields of ice that so intrigued me are the ultimate symbol of this rarity—a place that is barred from us now, but that is also disappearing.

Top 10 Albums of 2020

  1. Angel Bat Dawid & Tha Brothahood – LIVE (International Anthem)

  2. Aki Onda – Nam June’s Spirit Was Speaking to Me (Recital)

  3. Ras G. – Raw Fruit Vol. 5 & 6 (Fat Beats)

  4. Irreversible Entanglements – Who Sent You? (International Anthem)

  5. Secluded Bronte – Magnetic Crochet (Ffordd Allan)

  6. Christian Mirande – My Friend Went to Heaven on the Frankford El (Anathema Archive)

  7. Tidiane Thiam – Siftorde (Sahel Sounds)

  8. claire rousay – Both (Second Editions)

  9. Dewa Alit & Gamelan Salukat – Genetic (Black Truffle)

  10. Sarah Hennies – The Reinvention of Romance (Astral Spirits)

Top 10 Hobbies of 2020 (New or Ongoing)

  1. Collecting comic books; sometimes reading them

  2. Learning to play go

  3. Architectural sketching

  4. Paper marbling

  5. Learning Spanish

  6. Reading about Antarctic exploration

  7. Taking long walks and sort of looking around

  8. Starting a new video game, being intimidated by its scope

  9. Sitting very still; fretting

  10. Writing about music

Zachariah Cook

Just when things couldn’t get any worse, a kitchen accident cost me the tip of my thumb. A few weeks later, the front bumper of my car flew off when it snagged onto my ancient garage port. That one’s gonna cost a few blurbs. Lucky for me, my girlfriend, whom I met this summer, has been supportive throughout everything. It would have been nice to have had someone to hold just a couple months earlier, when I was going to bed at 9AM and waking up at 9PM, but the less I dwell on that time the better. It’s 4AM already —I have other things to dwell on.

“forever” by Charli XCX is my song of the year. It takes me right back to the time before COVID hit. I was slinging ramen and craft cocktails by night and taking the bus to campus everyday. Didn’t feel like going to lecture? No problem! My generous professors put everything online anyway. I could afford to be a little tardy. Say it had been days, or weeks since I’d seen any of my friends—certainly I’d run into someone I knew at the always-busy campus Starbucks. I also stayed in bed a lot of mornings. In retrospect, I’m not sure what wore me out so much, or why I felt the need to take so many “maintenance days.” Come March, I followed the tide and sent numerous texts, Instagram DMs and the like, checking in on friends and acquaintances. I regret if that’s the last you heard from me, but if I haven’t followed up by now… I don’t wanna say it. It’ll take something radical to rebuild my social life.

I constantly feel like I should be doing something with my time—the urge was strongest in the beginning. On one of my late night binges, I caught Buffalo ‘66, which featured the most dazzling visuals I’d ever seen, courtesy of a special reversal stock. I promptly ordered my own 35mm SLR camera. Soon I’d be dropping off a roll of film at the lab every week. Among friends, I’ve been an obnoxious cheerleader for analog. It’s my hill to die on. I’ll wave the white flag the second my pretense eclipses reality, which I’m sure it will. Even then, I’ll probably trudge on.

My album picks reflect this attitude to an extent. The Reinvention of Romance and Flood Dream are powerful in their acoustic evocations. The Storring record, made with little electronic embellishment, was a wonderful tonic to a certain kind of garish, cookie-cutter music that never seems to go away—you know the kind, pompously internet conscious, and rife with new-age and vaporwave tropes. Lenker sounds phenomenal on tape. I was floored by her effervescent mix of song and field recording, plus the glimpse we get into her tinkering process on some tracks. “Water on polyester, metal, skin”—Água viva was a standout release from tsss tapes, a label that specializes in intimacy and immersion. Something attracted me to the quaint Italian outfit early on in the pandemic, when Italy was getting hit worse than anywhere in the world. Lo and behold, Daphne X ends up performing for our second Tone Glow concert!

Top 10 Albums of 2020

  • Adrianne Lenker - songs / instrumentals (4AD)

  • Daphne X - Água viva (tsss tapes)

  • More Eaze & Claire Rousay - if I don't let myself be happy now then when? (Mondoj)

  • Glass Salt - Greetings (Whatever’s Clever)

  • Sarah Hennies - The Reinvention of Romance (Astral Spirits)

  • Eiko Ishibashi - Hyakki Yagyō (Black Truffle)

  • LEYA - Flood Dream (NNA Tapes)

  • Lyra Pramuk - Fountain (Bedroom Community)

  • Still House Plants - Fast Edit (Bison)

  • Nick Storring - My Magic Dreams Have Lost Their Spell (Orange Milk)

Top Song of 2020

  1. Charli XCX - “Forever” (Atlantic)

Mark Cutler

In many ways, it feels like a lost year. The fledgling social life I had begun to weave for myself in my first year in New York now lies in tatters. The closure of graduate admissions all over the country means I’m unlikely to start a doctoral program until at least September 2022. My partner and I spent more than half of our first year together under lockdown—and we still got COVID, and it sucked. And yet. My year-old dissertation finally inched its way through the university bureaucracy, and I got my Master’s. I spent my first wonderful year with my partner. With him, I moved to my dream neighbourhood. I’m alive.

I think my listening tendencies have changed substantially in response to working on my own music in a much more committed way. Despite being housebound for most of the year, it felt largely impossible to sit down and read or write anything meaningful. Many days, just making some kind of weird noise and throwing it out to the world felt like the only productive task I could focus on, and so it gradually went from an occasional diversion to a near-daily habit. Spending so much time in my own musical world, I feel like I’ve fallen even further out of touch with the Music Discourse—and with the bands and albums generally agreed to be Significant by a plurality of writers and critics. For the first time in my adult life, I went days (and even weeks) without checking the new reviews on, and their End-of-Year lists are now full of songs and albums I’ve never heard.

Consequently, the music that spoke to me most this year tended to be insular, and homemade, featuring mundane objects, domestic environments, iPhone recordings, and laptop synths. I don’t really have a rigorously ranked list of my top albums, but I’m very certain about my top three: claire rousay’s “i’ll give you all of my love”, Lucy Liyou’s Welfare, and Speaker Music’s Black Nationalist Sonic Weaponry. Yes, they are all very ‘personal’—to resort to a much-abused word in music writing—but they also give lie to the notion that the personal must be accessible. Instead, these albums almost feel introverted, seemingly disinterested in pandering to the tastes or expectations of an audience. They are angry, adventurous, sometimes-punishing albums, which articulate concrete experiences via spoken-word narratives, without ever inviting you to pretend you know what those experiences are like.

Along with Black Nationalist Sonic Weaponry, Moor Mother’s Circuit City and Angel Bat Dawid & Tha Brothahood’s LIVE are inextricably bound to my memories of seeing, hearing, and joining the Black Lives Matter protests which dominated this summer in New York. The latter two are the only conventionally ‘musical’ albums in my top ten, but this does not make them any easier to sit through. Instead, both women offer harrowing indictments of the callous, careless, and cruel treatment of Black bodies by white society. Though both recorded in 2019, these albums were cemented into permanent relevance by the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Alvin Cole, Breonna Taylor, Manuel Ellis, Daniel Prude, Dion Johnson, Tony McDade, George Floyd, James Scurlock, David McAtee, Carlos Carson, Sean Monterrosa, Rayshard Brooks, Jacob Blake, Deon Kay, Julian Lewis, Jonathan Price, Dijon Kizzee, Marcellis Stinnette, Walter Wallace Jr., Kevin Peterson Jr., Casey Goodson, Bennie Edwards, among countless others—and by the blithe, undisguised malevolence exercised by police and politicians all over this country, in the months which have followed. I thought, after a year like this, that the music which spoke so clearly, so prophetically to these injustices, would prove impossible to ignore. A quick glance around the internet suggests that most publications felt otherwise.

Top 10 Albums of 2020

  1. claire rousay - “I’ll give you all of my love” (Anahuac Editions)

  2. Lucy Liyou - Welfare (ijn inc.)

  3. Speaker Music - Black Nationalist Sonic Weaponry (Planet Mu)

  4. Sara Zalek & Norman W. Long - Steelworkers’ Drone (Reserve Matinee)

  5. Choi Joonyong / Jin Sangtae - Hole in My Head (Erstwhile)

  6. Moor Mother - Circuit City (Don Giovani)

  7. Taller Ciclo - Interference (Prensa Manual)

  8. Angel Bat Dawid & Tha Brothahood - LIVE (International Anthem)

  9. Graham Lambkin & Bill Nace - The Dishwashers (Open Mouth)

  10. VOSP - Pale Shelter (anathema archive)

Jesse Dorris

I’m lucky enough to live mostly in my head. By which I mean my eyes and ears; they, not my mouth, mediate my taste into something my hands can make legible if all goes to plan. There was a week in March I made a will, between swirling wipes around the doorknobs. My wishes were for friends and their children to comb through my house and take what they wanted or thought others might and direct the rest through Housing Works or charities of their choosing or the trash. I asked to be cremated and let drift into a waterfall in Prospect Park with Justin Vivian Bond’s recording of “In the End” playing; if the collapse of the city meant my body lost itself in a freezer somewhere, my loved ones playing that song at a time of their choosing would do. But the version from Dendrophile, please. The dust and soundwaves intermingling in the air felt like an ok way to wrap things up, this life of privilege and violence and building of collections. I’ve spent most of it telling people in one way or another to listen to this.

Lots of people wish to disappear. This year, some of us got a little taste of it: months kept from each other except through screens; months alone or with someone wishing you were or without someone wishing you weren’t or in mourning, which even en masse is the most alone feeling. So many people died. We killed so many Black people. We killed so many Black and Brown trans people. A lot of us went unimaginable times without seeing anyone and then all of a sudden poured into the streets in rage and sorrow over how even a pandemic wasn’t the most dangerous threat to those we loved. There was a week in June when I was surrounded in unprecedented density by queer and trans people and I knew this because I could hear them, up close and more so far away, when I felt my whiteness and queerness shift because I was finally listening to someone besides myself. There was ballroom under the piers in the rain, there was music in my friends’ car, there was the idea you could lose yourself into a movement but that didn’t mean you could forget who and what you are. The music industry worth saving moved to Bandcamp and released dozens of compilations of dozens of artists, a fucking polyphony even a stopped world couldn’t keep up with.

More or less of a year without, more or less, being touched by anyone else does things to the brain. I feel a static cling whenever anyone nears me, that longing, and I fear a shock. There was a week in the last part of summer when I went into Manhattan to interview someone for a profile. The streets were so quiet I could hear my tinnitus. The streets were so empty I could see myself up ahead, turning corners, checking signs. I thought I’d rather be at home.

Since the shutdown I’ve done my weekly radio show from my desk in my home office, which lol is a closet, which means I’ve been playing music in the same spot I write about it, a six-by-five-by-ten box I painted Decorator’s White. My taste mostly pays for it. There was a week, a week or two ago, where I sat at my desk for almost three hours, my hands crooked over the keyboard, and my eyes unfocused and my ears fogged up and I promise I was gone. I don’t know how it felt.

Losing my body has lost its romance. But where are we without all these digits and waves.

Top 10 Albums of 2020

  • Shinichi Atobe - Yes (Modern Love)

  • DJ Python - Mas Amable (Íncíenso)

  • Dreamcrusher - Panopticon (self-released)

  • KMRU - Peel (Editions Mego)

  • Nicole Mitchell & Moor Mother - Offering-Live at Le Guess Who (Don Giovanni)

  • Space Afrika - hybtwibt? (self-released)

  • Speaker Music - Black Nationalist Sonic Weaponry (Planet Mu)


  • V/A - HOA010 (HAUS of ALTR)

  • V/A - New York Dance Music IV (Towhead Recordings)

Top 10 Songs of 2020

  • Borusiade - “Lament” (Dark Entries)

  • Russell Ellington Langston Butler - “I Haven’t Been OK in a Long Time”

  • Eris Drew - “Reactiv-8” (self-released)

  • Elephant Chateau - “Dreamings” (Les Disques Bongo Joe)

  • Honey Dijon - “Not About You” (Classic)

  • Loraine James (feat. Jonnine) - “Don’t You See It” (Hyperdub)

  • Galcher Lustwerk - “Proof” (Ghostly International)

  • Claire Rousay - “It Was Always Worth It” (Longform Editions)

  • SFX (feat. Merrie Cherry) - “Power to the People & FTP” (self-released)

  • Tricky (feat. Anika) - “Lonely Dancer” (False Idols)

Top 10 compilations of the year full of amazing music which also benefit good causes other than the good causes of keeping record stores open/artists and labels paying their bills/tour prompts

Arielle Gordon

The pandemic started for me at Nowadays, a breezy warehouse in Ridgewood, Queens. Locked in a bathroom stall during Vicky Powell’s set, I heard two women conspiring between sniffs of cocaine (it could have been ketamine, in their defense) — “I heard coronavirus is a Chinese plot to invade America”, “I heard it’s just like a really bad flu.”

I haven’t been back to anything resembling a dance floor since COVID hit the club. But this year has redefined that kind of music, anyway: Kelly Lee Owens is cooking music, and Bad Boy Chiller Crew are fantastic running companions. I thought I’d be beyond burned out by music when I continued writing during lockdown—by late 2019, I started to feel a tinge of resentment towards new music, brought on by the rapacious pacing of its critical cycle. But what’s been fucking beautiful about this year is that music never stopped, even as a pre-COVID economic model largely left musicians stranded. Bandcamp FridaysQuarantine Concerts, virtual emo nites. I say all this and my most played song this year (according to Sp*tify) was “Live Forever” by Oasis. Anyways, here’s wonderwall.

Top 10 Albums of 2020

  1. Couch Slut - Take A Chance on Rock 'n' Roll (Gilead Media)

  2. Jessie Ware - What’s Your Pleasure (Interscope)

  3. Kelly Lee Owens - Inner Song (Smalltown Supersound)

  4. Black Dresses - Peaceful As Hell (Blacksquares)

  5. Knot - Knot (Exploding In Sound)

  6. Stay Inside - Viewing (No Sleep)

  7. Bad Boy Chiller Crew - All Wack No Brakes (House Anxiety)

  8. Oliver Coates - skins n slime (RVNG Intl)

  9. Melkbelly - PITH (Carpark / Wax Nine)

  10. Bartees Strange - Live Forever (Memory Music)

Top 6 Cookies I Baked in 2020

  1. sourdough chocolate chip cookies (made these for an NYC tone glow meetup and i think they were a big hit :) )

  2. peanut butter-miso cookies (always impressive)

  3. ovenly PB cookies (GF and dairy free and amaaazing but hard to turn into edibles bc no butter)

  4. matrix-themed sugar cookies (red and blue pills, served jan 1, bad omen)

  5. chewy molasses cookie (bitter)

  6. “levain style” chocolate chip cookies (too big)

Marshall Gu

I went through a lot of personal hardships this year, some pandemic-related, some pre-pandemic. Often, I went to bed wide-eyed, jaw-clenched, grief-struck, and didn’t fall asleep easily—and woke up the next day in the exact same state. Insomnia is just a manifestation of depression, albeit a new one for me. Depression is what happens when you rip a bird from the sky and put it in a cage. Depression is not the cage. Depression is missing something as infinite and vast and familiar as the sky. That is, in short, how 2020 felt to me. The sky is a metaphor, yes, but it’s also the sky. (What’s the literary device for something that means something else but also means the thing it says and at the same time literally everything at once?) 

I think of hummingbirds a lot, that some species of which have to flap their wings 80 beats a second—a second!—to literally stay still, to hover in mid-air. The takeaway for me is that it is important to keep moving, and it is just as important to remember that even as you are staying still, quite literally in lockdown, that you are still moving. It is important to think of the positives. 2020 will be the year of grief, but for me, the pandemic/lockdown did have the positive of freeing up some leisure time for me to listen more. To write more. I have listened to more ‘new’ releases (as in, new to me) in 2020 than any other year, and staying at home has helped foster that. I have written and published more poetry this year than every previous year of my existence added up. It’s weird to thank the pandemic for making these things possible, but there we are. Every day, I listen to something new, or find something new in something old, and I am reminded of why I do this seemingly useless thing of ‘writing about music,’ and it makes me want to dance about architecture. I am thankful for the opportunities that Tone Glow and Tusk Is Better Than Rumours have given me, and I look forward to 2021 and hope to write even more.

Top 10 Albums of 2020

  • Adrianne Lenker - songs (4AD)

  • Aisha Orazbayeva - Music for Violin Alone (SN Variations)

  • DJ Diaki - Balani Fou (Nyege Nyege)

  • Howie Lee - 7 Weapon Series (MLC003)

  • Natalia Lafourcade - Un Canto Por México Vol. 1 (Sony)

  • Nihiloxica - Kaloli (Crammed)

  • Nubya Garcia - Source (Concord Jazz)

  • Obongjayar - Which Way is Forward? (September Recordings)

  • Playboi Carti - Whole Lotta Red (AWGE / Interscope)

  • Tony Allen & Hugh Masekela - Rejoice (World Circuit)

Raphael Helfand

2020 was the Year of Scott Walker. This might not have been true for anyone else, or only true insofar as every year is the Year of Scott Walker, but this was the year I transformed from a garden variety Scotthead into a full-on Scott obsessive. I’d always been in awe of the big, serious albums Scott made at the end of his career, but I’d never fully understood them. How could anyone? 20-minute songs spent moaning pompously about murder and disease over tense, industrial percussion, punctuated by terrifying string stabs and Foley effects including-but-not-limited-to meat-punching (to represent the mutilation of the corpses of Mussolini and his lover) and the scraping of a heavy object on a giant, custom-made wooden block (to emulate the feeling of being a small animal trapped under a table while a thimble rolls across its surface): look good on paper, but it’s tough to find their entry points, and you can’t play them at most parties.

I started this year with the mission of pitching Bloomsbury a 33 1/3 book on Scott 4, an early gem deleted from existence shortly after its creation because it sold so poorly. It was my favorite of Scott’s albums then, but that was merely a bonus. I thought the narrative of the teen idol who chose to follow his obscure passions rather than continue as a hit machine, then was grinded to a creative pulp by his label, then disappeared, then put out three (and-a-half) experimental masterpieces before passing away in 2019, would be an easy sell.

When quarantine began, I dedicated myself to the project. I read three books on his life, countless archived reviews and interviews and even the inscrutable academic writing that tends to miss the raw power of his music entirely. I listened to his 20-hour-plus extended discography in two days and wrote a deranged, 5,000-word personal essay on the experience. I mapped out my book, which was to be a critical biography woven into an evaluation of Scott 4’s ten tracks in reverse order. I wrote an intro chapter and made a marketing plan in which I promised I’d actively promote the book through a Substack called Scottwatchers. I made the Substack but was too embarrassed to ever promote it or post on it. A month before my proposal was due, I decided to scrap it all and pitch a series of short stories based on the songs of The Drift, Scott’s 2006 magnum opus. I listened to the album until it started to poison my dreams with visions of genocide and pestilence, and long after. But I couldn’t write a word. I was afraid nothing I wrote would do the record justice, and I was probably right. I went back to my original idea, spruced it up and hit send.

I didn’t get the book deal, and what felt like the next step in my ~career~ as a music writer turned into another COVID passion project, like learning to bake a sourdough. But it doesn’t feel like a waste. Of course, I’ll recalibrate it and pitch it elsewhere. But more importantly, I can now confidently say I’m the biggest Scott Walker fan I know. The mean Spotify robot told me that streaming almost 5,000 hours of Mr. Walker’s music made my taste “wearing-Carhartt-to-work-at-an-office bad,” or something equally scorching. And I imagine if I’d shown it the Scott section of my vinyl collection, it would have really twisted the knife. I may have let a dumb algorithm steal my data and sell it to the Rothschilds, but I refuse to let it taint my love for Scott Walker. Whatever new horrors await us in 2021, I plan to face them with “SDSS1416+13B” echoing inside the bombed-out ruins of my brain.

Top 10 Albums of 2020

  • Kate NV - Room for the Moon (RVNG Intl.)

  • Duma - Duma (Nyege Nyege Tapes)

  • Special Interest - The Passion Of (Thrilling Living)

  • Bbymutha - Muthaland (Self-Released)

  • Emma Ruth Rundle & Thou - May Our Chambers Be Full (Sacred Bones)

  • Lil Uzi Vert - Eternal Atake (Generation Now / Atlantic)

  • Primpce - Goodbye Marines and Hello Dad It’s Son or Mr. Worm the Monster (Syncro Systems)

  • MIKE - Weight of the World (10K)

  • Bill Callahan - Gold Record (Drag City)

  • Dreamcrusher - Another Country (Self-Released)

Top 10 Songs of 2020

  • Bill Callahan & Bonnie Prince Billy (feat. Bill MacKay) - “Deacon Blues” (Drag City)

  • Bbymutha (feat. Zelooperz) - “Baby Mama” (self-released)

  • Kate NV - “Marafon 15” (RVNG Intl.)

  • Pop Smoke - “Got It On Me” (Victor Victor Worldwide)

  • Special Interest - “All Tomorrow’s Carry” (Thrilling Living)

  • 645AR (feat. FKA Twigs) - “Sum Bout U” (Young Stoner Life/300 Entertainment)

  • Primpce - “Extreme Demonic Possession” (Syncro Systems)

  • Duma - “Omni” (Nyege Nyege Tapes)

  • Bill Callahan - “The McKenzies “(Drag City)

  • Lafawndah - “You, at the End” (Latency)

Rebecca Jones

Over the last couple months, more and more of my friends have said things to me like, “You’re one of the few people I know who are still being super careful,” in reference to Covid-19 precautions. I think some of these comments are praise of a perceived strength or nobility, while some insinuate that I’m paranoid. The way I see it, I have the privilege of being able to stay at home and socialize distantly (I’m not an essential worker, I can get my groceries delivered, I have outdoor space where friends can come visit safely, and access to a car), so why wouldn’t I work hard to prevent harming my community? As of December 25th, one person in Los Angeles County is dying every ten minutes from the virus and we have no ICU beds. I don’t want to contribute to statistics like that.

In reflecting on the year, we can’t not acknowledge the mounting anxiety that has spread exponentially across the globe with the pandemic; I wonder how many year-end essays are going to start out with “This year was hard…” and end in “Here’s to 2021 being a better year!” How nice to believe in the power of a clock. I’m not hopeless, far from it, but we can’t rely on the mysticism of a new year and write off the work that needs to be done to affect change, the decisions we have to make to supplement the lack of government support in preventing more deaths and more trauma and more anxiety.

When I started doing psychedelics ten years ago, I developed an M.O. of “Do whatever you want as long as it doesn’t hurt you or anyone else.” My empathy deepened and I managed to assuage my tendency to hold the weight of the world by trusting that my personal decisions can directly affect my well-being and the well-being of those around me. I guess I expect a similar mentality from those closest to me, so a big theme of this year was disappointment. I’ve seen people I love be flippant in the face of hundreds of thousands of deaths that didn’t need to happen. (Do you really need to eat inside of a restaurant without a mask on with people outside of your household right now?) Of course, it’s partly the result of how government officials at various levels have been acting. But how are we so desensitized to death and suffering that we can continue on the same course as we have for the past 9 months? Why have local, state, and national government leadership been almost nonexistent in terms of consistent information, guidance, and resources that allow us to stay home safely?

I’m torn about sending this to Joshua to edit because I don’t want to come off as judgemental or harsh—I try to trust that most people are just doing what they can to survive, and I know that it’s hard to be away from loved ones for so long. Even through my disappointment, I have hope that the cracks in our social systems continue to be illuminated and we can turn our attention to improving the quality of life for everyone in the coming years. And it’s really important to note that despite the disappointment, my psychedelic-prompted M.O. still stands and I find comfort in knowing that I’m doing what I can to reduce harm in my immediate circles.

P.S. if you’re like me and feeling worn down by comments about “still being super careful” and feeling a little crazy when you see social media representations of unmasked, un-distanced socializing, remember that you can’t see the people staying at home because they’re… at home.

Jinhyung Kim

I have a tendency to come off cold to people, which I get. I feel like I’m warm and smiley a lot of the time, but it doesn’t always manifest. While rereading my Tone Glow blurbs and other music writing I did this year, I found I came off a bit cold and monotonous; I don’t think I’m good yet at communicating how I feel about a piece of music in the tone of my prose, even if how I parse things isn’t too off the mark (though I have issues with that, too). But who knows? Given how inaccurate I can be at gauging my emotional veneer, I hope that, from time to time, I conveyed my passion for life and music. 

On Christmas evening, I reconnected with someone I wasn’t sure would ever let me fully back into her life. We were on the phone from 11pm ‘til 11am; she hung up to attend a work meeting. She affirmed, at one point, that I could be pretty cold about things, but she also told me I was more considerate than when she’d known me years back. I know what she’s talking about; there were times in our relationship when I was insensitive or flat out mean, and our conversation a few nights ago went a long way toward healing the wounds we’d left each other with. 

I’ve grown both in my relationships and as a listener and writer this year—and to be honest, I don’t quite know how (or how much) COVID has had to do with it. There’s some basic stuff: since I haven’t been able to meet or go out with people as much, I’ve focused on relationships I already had and reached out online in ways I hadn’t before, which is how I came to write for Tone Glow in the first place. I’ve also listened to a lot of music that reminds me of what it’s like to hang out, to extemporize or be in a space with others; profundity, innovation, and self-expression haven’t been big hooks for me in 2020, although my music writing may have often suggested otherwise. Like everyone else, I’ve thought about how things would be different if the pandemic hadn’t hit just as much as I’ve thought about how it’s shaped my life these past nine months. But at the end of the day, what-ifs haven’t done me any good; all I want to do now is keep the ball rolling.

Top 10 Albums of 2020

  • Choi Joonyong/Jin Sangtae - Hole in My Head (Erstwhile Records)

  • Elysia Crampton Chuquimia - ORCORARA 2010 (PAN)

  • Angel Bat Dawid & Tha Brothahood - LIVE (International Anthem)

  • Julius Eastman - Macle (Flea)

  • Sarah Hennies - The Reinvention of Romance (Astral Spirits)

  • Arsenije Jovanović - The Art of Speech (For Ana) (Pentiments)

  • George Lewis - Rainbow Family (Carrier Records)

  • Bill Nace & Graham Lambkin - The Dishwashers (Open Mouth)

  • Aoi Tagami, Li Song, Xiang - Voices from Green Pines (Zoomin’ Night)

  • Tasting Menu - Mueller Tunnel (Full Spectrum Records)

Joshua Minsoo Kim

Everything I needed to say was likely said in my introduction to this feature. I will say, though, that making these lists showed me that I maybe don’t even like music as much as I think. If anything, this past year taught me that I care more about the conversations that spring from any given album, be it with artists or friends. Maybe after years of obsessively listening to music alone, I realized that the social aspect was something I did, in fact, care about. Who knows. Either way, my introduction and the lists below do a good enough job at capturing my 2020. Music kept me going, as did many other things.

Top 10 Albums of 2020

  1. Still House Plants - Fast Edit (Bison / Blank Forms Editions)

  2. FROMTHEHEART - “things happen, it’s okay!” (self-released) + various Gen Z hyperpop-related releases and events this year

  3. Adrianne Lenker - songs / instrumentals (4AD)

  4. Lucy Liyou - Welfare (ijn inc.)

  5. Christopher David - all of his CD-Rs (self-released)

  6. Rosso Polare - Lettere Animali (Klammklang)

  7. Space Afrika - hybtwibt? (self-released)

  8. Valentina Goncharova - Recordings 1987-1991, Vol. 1 (Shukai)

  9. Speaker Music - Black Nationalist Sonic Weaponry (Planet Mu)

  10. Eleanor Cully - clarity-unclarity (self-released)

Top 10 Songs of 2020

  • Prince - “Love and Sex” (Warner)

  • Charli XCX - “Forever” (Atlantic)

  • Planet 1999 - “Night” (PC Music)

  • Kelly Rowland - “COFFEE” (KTR)

  • Jottapê e Lexa - “Bate Palma” (KondZilla)

  • Kate NV - “Telefon” (RVNG Intl.)

  • Angel Bat Dawid & Tha Brothahood - “Black Family” (Don Giovanni)

  • claire rousay - “im not a bad person but​.​.​.” (AMPLIFY 2020)

  • Ulla - Untitled Side A from inside means inside me (Documenting Sound)

  • FUJI||||||||||TA - “sukima” (Hallow Ground)

10 things that brought me joy in 2020

  • All of the beautiful friends that made this year so much more lovely, including (and not in any order): friends who were new (especially Finn, Anna, and Angela), friends I’ve known for ages (Mark, Samuel, Emily, Jon, TJ, Brian, and the rest of the Lair), the entire Tone Glow family (especially Shy, Leah, Rebecca, and Julia), my actual family, and everyone else I talked with regularly who made 2020 worth sticking around for

  • Spending time with my nephew and niece, especially the times I spent dancing and freezing with them to Scratch Garden’s “The Dance Freeze Song

  • Watching the year-long ramping up in difficulty of Sudoku puzzles after watching “The Miracle Sudoku” video, which features Simon Anthony, who has a quiet but infectious enthusiasm that couples beautifully with an ability to make clear his puzzle-solving thought process

  • Playing more video games than I had in quite some time, and really enjoying Fall Guys (86 wins in Season 1, baby), Hades, Among Us, Noita, Sayonara Wild Hearts, Umurangi Generation, Umihara Kawase, and Azusa 999

  • Getting into hot sauces this year, my favorites of which were Arizona Pepper’s Chipotle Habanero Pepper Sauce, Secret Aardvark’s Habanero Hot Sauce, Heartbeat’s Red Habanero, Yellowbird’s Habanero, and TorchBearer’s Zombie Apocalypse (note: none of these are particularly hot)

  • Being reminded that keeping up with new films can be a joyous thing, which primarily happened when watching Joshua Bonnetta’s The Two Sights and Ernst Karel’s Expedition Content

  • Wearing perfume (and converting new fans), and being surprised that my go-to fragrance this year was Di Ser’s Kurokami, a feather-light floral/citrus

  • Having coworkers and students who made the entire e-learning experience less stressful and more enjoyable than it could’ve been, and being awarded a teaching fellowship wherein I can talk regularly with like-minded, progressive teachers (the money was, of course, very nice)

  • Slowly but surely getting more into tea—my favorite of which I tried being 2020 Nightlife—yet always being comfortable with just drinking boricha

  • Conducting dozens of interviews that will stick with me forever for the personalities and anecdotes and ideas that defined them and, from these experiences, learning more about myself, what I’m good at, and what I ultimately care about in life

Sunik Kim

The common thread tying my top releases of the year together is, simply put, a distinct lack of bullshit and an undying commitment to experimentation—true, riskyexperimentation, the type that draws distinct boundaries with one hand (this is the task at hand, this is the area in which I'm working) and shatters them with the other. Put another way: I look for the type, level and force of experimentation that consistently proves me wrong, against all my natural impulses: experimentation that irresistibly leads me to make grand, excited, contradictory pronouncements about What Music Should Be. More than anything, I gravitate towards music that truly has faith in the power of art itself—that understands that the best art speaks for itself (no garbled press copy required), makes clear that the art itself alwaystells a certain story about how it emerged, what place it holds in the world, the infinite, intersecting, overlapping circumstances that led to its creation, dissemination, evaluation. The best art actively engages with its own ‘story,’ using it to channel what Jean-Marie Straub called the ‘struggle between the idea and the matter’ that constitutes the form of art:

…And through this work, the struggle between the idea and the matter, and the struggle with the matter, gives rise to the form. And the rest is just filling material. …The same goes for the sculptor. He has his idea and gets a block of marble and he works the matter. He has to take into account the nervures in the marble, the cracks, all the geological layers in it. He just can’t do whatever he wants.

—Jean-Marie Straub from Pedro Costa’s Where Does Your Hidden Smile Lie?

For someone often drawn to so-called 'abstract' art, this was a particularly difficult hill to climb; I've found it tempting to retreat to a quasi-mystical belief in 'art as art,' art that simply springs from the void. I've even sometimes felt that truly thinking about the context in which a work of art is situated is tangential, maybe even boring or irrelevant. But everywhere I apply this new framework, I am only rewarded with more depth, a truly intensive expansion of what I believe art is capable of. My favorite art doesn't pursue experimentation as some kind of perverse technological or 'competitive' task—endlessly chasing what appears to be a 'new' sound—but rather painstakingly examines what is already there and acts accordingly.

The partner to my own growing emphasis on social and historical context has been the Tone Glow community, which has categorically dispelled any remaining, desperate 'faith' I had in the possibility of critique without dialogue (or its sidekick, 'art as art'). In so many different ways, this amazing group of people (writers, readers, etc.) has also made it just that much easier to get through this year and all the horrors it brought. 

I harbor no illusions about the ability of art to assist actual political struggle, and think it's simplistic to cleanly substitute the former for the latter, or to limit the latter within the boundaries of the former—an easy way to dodge the real implications of political work. But at the same time I think what the best art can truly contribute—in its own limited way—on a political front is a sharpened, heightened awareness in every sense of the word: an ability to see things clearly, situate them, root them in the countless historical currents that momentarily converged to produce them only to burst apart again. After experiencing art of this quality, the world looks, sounds, feels different; life itself vibrates with detail, weight, intensity.

I used to think that rooting a work in a particular time and place was some kind of weakness or gimmick, something that automatically precluded the possibility of it being 'timeless,' as powerful to future generations as to us today; but as I'm realizing that all art is situated in a particular time and place (obvious-sounding, but a realization maybe ‘deeper’ than it sounds, one that has changed how I make and evaluate art), regardless of whether it proudly advertises it, I’ve realized that the most powerful art, rather than the most disposable, is solidly rooted in a time and place, but in such a way that truly engages with the weight and depth of that time and place, not merely on a shallow surface level. These are half-baked and incomplete thoughts. But the work in these lists has at least helped me begin to think through these problems—which by nature offer no clean and simple solutions. And for that I'm grateful.

Top 10 Albums of 2020

  1. Playboi Carti - Whole Lotta Red (AWGE / Interscope)

  2. Choi Joonyong / Jin Sangtae - Hole In My Head (Erstwhile)

  3. Clara Iannotta - Earthing (Wergo)

  4. Charli XCX - How I’m Feeling Now (Atlantic)

  5. Lucy Liyou - Welfare (ijn)

  6. Sarah Hennies - The Reinvention of Romance (Astral Spirits)

  7. Jelly - The Wolf of Peachtree (SOSSHOUSE)

  8. Speaker Music - Black Nationalist Sonic Weaponry (Planet Mu)

  9. Okkyung Lee - Yeo-Neun (Shelter Press)

  10. Sam Ridout - Aspect Spur Disjecta (Leftovers)

Top 10 Songs of 2020

  1. Playboi Carti (feat. Future) - “Teen X” (AWGE / Interscope)

  2. Playboi Carti - “@ MEH” (AWGE / Interscope)

  3. Charli XCX - “Forever” (Atlantic)

  4. Lil Baby & 42 Dugg - “We Paid” (Quality Control)

  5. John Wall & Alex Rodgers - “Wrongfoot the Servants & Darkshop” (self-released)

  6. Chief Keef - “Late 4 Dinner (feat. Tadoe)” (RBC Records)

  7. Polo G (feat. BJ the Chicago Kid) - “Wishing for a Hero” (Columbia)

  8. Lucy Liyou - “Unnie” (ijn)

  9. Moor Mother - “Act 4 - No Wires” (Don Giovanni)

  10. Elysia Crampton Chuquimia - “Homeless (Q’ara)” (PAN)

Top 10 Films I Watched This Year

  1. Tie Xi Qu: West of the Tracks (Wang Bing, 2002)

  2. Moses und Aron (Straub-Huillet, 1975)

  3. History Lessons (Straub-Huillet, 1972)

  4. The Death of Empedocles (Straub-Huillet, 1987)

  5. Too Early Too Late (Straub-Huillet, 1981)

  6. From the Clouds to the Resistance (Straub-Huillet, 1979)

  7. The Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach (Straub-Huillet, 1968)

  8. Sicilia! (Straub-Huillet, 1999)

  9. Where Does Your Hidden Smile Lie? (Pedro Costa, 2001)

  10. Ruins Rider (Pierre-Luc Vaillancourt, 2017)

Matthew LaBarbera

What a great year for voyages! Oh ceaseless circulation, turn my peregrine engine and carry me to sights unseen, scents unsavored, to anywhere. There is for nothing which I would exchange my perfumed strolls through the leafy arcades of my closet. Likewise, my pilgrimages to the refrigerator—each time a new, frosty saint awaiting veneration—cling quick to my fondest recollections of this year. Nor ever could I banish from the very surface of my soul that harrowing quest, haggard and hollow, a winnowed wanderer, stumbling as the somnambulant, across the darkling reach, for bed. In fact, so encompassing my excursions and so keen my capacity for report, I have been approached by a verlag of some proper distinction about a series, a request for no small portion of my journeys to be committed to a number of guidebooks. Here I might make way for the untraveled initiate, so that they might travel untrammeled through the uncarved cartographies of these interior terrae incognitae. Rest assured, accounts of all of my greatest adventures will feature forthcoming in voluminous and vicarious detail.

Still, I must admit that this mode of virtual vagabondage is not of my own invention. Rather, its claimed discoverer, one Xavier de Maistre, predicted some three centuries ago the wonderful benefits of his method of travel. Sequestered to his room following a duel, he laughs off his captivity, “One might as well exile a mouse to a granary.” Economical and easy on the constitution, the vision of journeying he proposes is a vision of journeying. Like a postage stamp, stuck forever in its little corner as it travels the world, the body remains coiled on the couch, while the soul might find itself in diverse settings, plumbing profundities and breezing across pasturelands:

“From the expedition of the Argonauts to the Assembly of Notables; from the very bottom of Hell to the last fixed star beyond the Milky Way, to the limits of the universe, to the very portals of chaos—such is the vast field I wander, lengthwise and breadthwise and entirely at my leisure, since I have as much time as space at my disposal. […] Every event that has taken place between those two eras; every country, every world, and every being that has existed between those two times—they are all mine.”

In our moments of isolation and enclosure, we still might move from our cells, step down from our pillars, and pass through this world, if only like a phantom, for a little while. Our bodies might be made to sing the hardness of walls, but time and place become items of negotiation for the intrepid soul.  It is this facility, and the soul’s yen to exercise it, that we might find comfort in during this period of distorted time and extended space. Not from some wedge-shaped core of darkness, the launch ramp of some intense focusing will, my flights of fancy take off from a more common continent. I see everyone here in the departure terminal, arrayed at the gates or grazing in the concourse.

You and I, we, might find ourselves to be true traveling companions, mounting jagged peaks and slinking through crowded markets. Perhaps we’ll just sit next to each other on the plane, chatting cordially and extending only vagueries. Or never even see each other, let alone speak. Maybe, by serendipity, beneath the withering sun, on the scorched plain, at the margin of it all, you will find me and bring water to my lips.

Each of the entries on my lists constitutes for me this process of locomotion, by carriage or catapult, with others or alone, beyond my rectilinear corral, towards…something. A nearness, a quality, a knowledge, a shade, an unrecognized recognition, something. A friend of mine has taken up mail art precisely as a way to do this. Casting out bits of himself—sempervirent photography, fragments of deciduous poetry, pressed flowers clutching color and savor—into the ether and finding others in return—more photos, more poems, newspaper clippings, collages, xeroxed manifestoes, coded missives, personal currencies.  

Our challenge is to stretch, to span these gaps, within and without. We will meet others wherever we can, whether in letter, song, film, or treasure map. Each event becomes intercalated, subtly woven into our thinking and our action. Though I voyage from my room, I hope my list might index the distances I have travelled, the people I have met, the brave promontories and spiraling towers that I have scaled, the plutonic caverns that I have delved, the benthic wastes I have dragged myself across.

And for what? Why all this activity? Why spend so much time on this exercise? It is an exercise, in a quite literal way, to prevent apathy from giving way to atrophy. To keep connections alive, to appear in this world among others and with things, if only holographically. Our velocities have shifted, but not to zero; there are formations within ourselves, spreading like seeded crystal, and we might be well-served in tracing them as they shape and take shape. The danger of withdrawal is that one could become withdrawn.

I feel here at the rim of this year, a boundary that feels ever the more arbitrary, not unlike de Maistre as his seclusion wound to a close. A strange ambivalence struck him like a premonition. A thirst for sun and sky, to move past the aperture and into the clear. On the other end, a fear. One of failure, of being unfit and out of joint, of crumpling beneath the yoke of worldly matters. His final words are an instruction to himself, “Poor animal! Be on your guard.” I hope my journeys have prepared me, but more than that, more than just keeping the gyroscope spinning, Ia hope to have made something of them, something self-forged of my own dura materia. Visions of Hausmann singing in the almost-snow, a vampire burning through the night, a monument to action, the void made to look like home, flowers rare and common swimming in the valley, a new kind of creature, water rilling across the skin of leaves, sunshine as thick as golden fog, fragrant resins indistinguishable from jewels, and hard drive failures foreclosing on the whole of youth. I’m not sure what to do with it or even what to make of it, but this was my year.

Top 10 Albums of 2020

  • Ghouljaboy - El Rascal (La Vendicion)

  • Silvia Tarozzi - Mi specchio e rifletto (Unseen Worlds)

  • Minamo - Superscience (901 Editions)

  • Amani + King Vision Ultra - An Unknown Infinite (PTP)

  • Secret Boyfriend - Memory Care Unit Vol. 2 (Hot Releases)

  • Haji K. - Black Against An Orange Line (Daisart)

  • Marta Forsberg - New Love Music (Warm Winters Ltd.)

  • Lao Dan & Li Daiguo - 互念暗语 [Hu Nian An Yu] (Old Heaven Books)

  • MWW & monkey 20 - Mind Phreak (Water Works)

  • adammmmmmmmmmmm - ok im real i think (Genot Centre)

Favorite Movies Watched in 2020

  • A Touch of Zen (King Hu, 1971)

  • November (Rainer Saret, 2017)

  • Echo (Rúnar Rúnarsson, 2019)

  • La Flor (Mariano Llinás, 2018)

  • Labyrinth of Cinema (Nobuhiko Obayashi, 2019)

  • Irma Vep (Olivier Assayas, 1996)

  • Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (David Mallet, 1999)

  • Talking About Trees (Suhaib Gasmelbari, 2019)

  • Two Plains and a Fancy (Lev Kalman & Whitney Horn, 2018)

  • Cenote (Kaori Oda, 2019)

Leah B. Levinson

On February 15th, I attended a rave in downtown Los Angeles. Hosted by Eris Drew and Octo Octa’s T4T LUV NRG alongside Directory, the event was designed as an intentional space of collective care, joy, and celebration with attention directed specifically toward the safety, comfort, and accessibility of the party’s more marginalized attendees. The acid I took that night and the carefully cultivated atmosphere of the event induced a rare evening of gender euphoria for me. Having only recently begun gender-affirming hormone replacement therapy and, as such, finding myself with a whole new relation to my body both physically and socially, I hoped nights like this would become a fertile ground for self-exploration. Unfortunately, this event did not prove to be a catalyst of new beginnings.

February 15th was about a month before shelter-in-place legislation in California took effect but about a week following what we now know to be the first Covid-19-related death in the state of California. That evening stands in my mind as a monument highlighting a bygone means towards liberation. As I interrogate that narrative, however, I consider the possibility that the many bodies present were not only circulating energy and warmth, but also a virus that quickly seized our collective experience of the past year.

While no aspect of life has sat untouched by the current pandemic, certain personal and public events have punctuated its reality. For many of us, the pandemic first became real not when we personally faced physical symptoms of the virus but when we found ourselves asking startling new questions: Can I still attend that show? Is it safe to go to work? Should I ration my food? Is it safe to visit loved ones?

Based on my observation, many only began asking these questions as the institutions around us took action: events were cancelled, stay-at-home orders were put in place, and schools and workplaces were shifted online. These are the events that crafted our narrative of when the pandemic hit (“back when everything hit” often denotes some foggy, uncertain point in mid-March), but, in reality, they were often insufficient and delayed responses to the real threat that begat them, often because our institutions do not have collective wellbeing at the core of their mission.

Deforrest Brown Jr. and Ting Ding highlight as much in their essay, “Adaptive Preferences at the End of the Culture Industry”:

The ‘post-work’ future that we did lapse into is centered on viral mass death and unemployment claims outpacing the United States’ finances. … In our previous “normal,” we aspired towards unattainable goals of purchasing “security” and “stability” between work, life and leisure. We hadn’t yet as a collective society of workers acknowledged an absence of alternatives, nor our abilities to envision a life beyond our usefulness to the system of capitalism…

Throughout the duration of the pandemic it has become increasingly clear to many how sick we have always been and how untenable our system is without the historical and contemporary mass exploitation of workers.

As such, I want to interrogate the ways many of us collectively view the cautionary measures surrounding the pandemic as interruptions of our desired activities and trajectories. I want to continue asking myself how I can engage with my context and surroundings in a way that is both fulfilling and supportive, inspiring positive change towards collective wellbeing. Additionally, I want to continue to believe in art’s ability to articulate a life worth living. While the swansong raves, concerts, festivals, and events that occurred last winter may have endangered many in attendance (largely unbeknownst to their organizers and participants), they also formed a part of this necessary articulation. For many including myself, such moments of communal elation are fuel to the flame that this miserable system requires.

Without the occurrence of such public articulations, life has been something of a blur. As such, my most closely held albums from the year often punctuated the subtler life experiences the year delivered while also providing meaningful points of connection. A warmly felt melody or lyric went a long way towards such connection as did a texture, ambiance, or mood that could sonically memorialize and imprint a moment in time. The albums in my list above are ten of these such albums, many of them drawing heavily on the socially generated meaning provided by genre and form while pushing sound in new directions that sparkled through and caught my ear. Lastly, many of them offer and present necessary frontiers for collective action and political change or otherwise model evidence of the sort of life worth living. These are albums I will live with indefinitely, they are ours and mine alone.

Top 10 Albums of 2020

  • Elysia Crampton Chuquimia - ORCORARA 2010 (Pan)

  • Lomelda - Hannah (Double Double Whammy)

  • AceMoMA - A New Dawn (HAUS of ALTR)

  • MIKE - Weight of the World (10k)

  • Fire-Toolz - Rainbow Bridge (Hausu Mountain)

  • Speaker Music - Black Nationalist Sonic Weaponry (Planet Mu)

  • Keiyaa - Forever, Ya Girl (Forever Recordings)

  • Katie Dey - mydata (Run For Cover)

  • More Eaze - Mari (Orange Milk)

  • Slauson Malone - Vergangenheitsbewältigung (Crater Speak) (Grand Closing)

Top 10 Songs of 2020

  • MIKE - “weight of the word*” (prod. by dj blackpower)” (10k)

  • More Eaze - “progress in therapy (ft. claire rousay)” (Orange Milk)

  • FROMTHEHEART - “BURNING TIRES (feat. Knapsack & VALENTINE)” (self-released)

  • Still House Plants - “Shy Song” (Bison / Blank Forms Editions)

  • Charli XCX - “forever” (Atlantic)

  • Elysia Crampton Chuquimia - “Grove (feat. Embaci)” (PAN)

  • Matt Robidoux - “Sunny Rain” (self-released)

  • pedazo de carne con ojo - “Hold Me Down” (self-released)

  • Lorenzo Senni - “XBreakingEdgeX” (Warp)

  • Slauson Malone - “Smile #6 (see page 198 and 158)” (Grand Closing)

10 street intersections I walked across more than once in 2020

  • N Madison Ave. & Sacramento St. (Altadena, CA)

  • Magnolia Blvd. & N Hollywood Wy. (Burbank, CA)

  • Rowena Ave. & Hyperion Ave. (Silverlake, CA)

  • Prospect Ave. & Hillhurst Ave. (Los Feliz, CA)

  • Lake Ave. & Washington Blvd. (Pasadena, CA)

  • Clark Ave. & California St. (Burbank, CA)

  • S Ave. 57 & York Blvd. (Highland Park, CA)

  • Hillhurst Ave. & Hollywood Blvd. (Los Feliz, CA)

  • Santa Rosa Ave. & E Mendocino St. (Altadena, CA)

  • Mission St. & Meridian Ave. (South Pasadena, CA)

Jesse Locke

The most important work I’ve done in 2020 is volunteering with the Encampment Support Network, a grassroots group delivering basic humanitarian aid to people living in parks that the City of Toronto refuses to help. As COVID casualties continue to rise, it’s become clearer than ever how we need to practice mutual aid and compassion. That spirit of coming together to build something better is the guiding force between New Feeling, a cooperative of Canadian music journalists that I helped co-found for the publication of three online issues, with much more to come in 2021. Tone Glow itself has been a tireless source of excellent writing and conversations this year, and I count myself endlessly lucky to be part of this community. On a personal level, I’m proud of my writing for outlets like Pitchfork, The Ringer, Bandcamp Daily, Aquarium Drunkard, Musicworks, and Xtra Magazine, my drumming on the new album by Tough Age, and the podcast interviews I’ve done with Tracing Spaces. It’s been the most difficult year I can remember, but I’ve made it through with the support of the wonderful people in my life. As the Encampment Support Network says, we need to take care of each other.

Top 10 Albums of 2020

  • Aquakultre - Legacy (Black Buffalo)

  • Asher Gamedze - Dialectic Soul (On The Corner)

  • Backxwash - God Has Nothing To Do With This Leave Him Out Of It (Grimalkin)

  • Badge Époque Ensemble - Self Help (Telephone Explosion)

  • Cindy Lee - What’s Tonight To Eternity (W.25th/CCQSK)

  • The Microphones - Microphones In 2020 (P.W. Elverum & Sun)

  • Shabason, Krgovich & Harris - Philadelphia (Idée Fixe)

  • The Soft Pink Truth - Shall We Go On Sinning So That Grace May Increase? (Thrill Jockey)

  • Still House Plants - Fast Edit (Blank Forms/Bison)

  • U.S. Girls - Heavy Light (4AD/Royal Mountain)

Read Part 2

Thanks for reading Tone Glow this year. It meant a lot to us, really.

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