Tone Glow 046: Individual Contributor Lists & Reflections, Part 2

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 1

Alex Mayle

We’ve all had a shit 2020 and mine has been no different. Objectively speaking, I’ve had a pretty good year, especially compared to others I know, but emotionally this year has taken a toll on me. I’ve always dealt with unpleasant thoughts and this year has forced me to confront them and come to the realization that I’m incredibly unhappy in almost every aspect of my life. The one part of my year that hasn’t been shit has been writing about and listening to music, which I imagine is a very common experience for most of us. Tone Glow is the first time I’m writing anything that isn’t just for myself and that’s a huge step for me. I love everyone in the Tone Glow family and everyone reading this, and I hope all of us have a better 2021.

Top 10 Albums of 2020

  1. Jürg Frey - l'air, l'instant - deux pianos (Elsewhere)

  2. Clarice Jensen - The Experience of Repetition as Death (130701)

  3. Roland Kayn - A Pan-Air Music (Reiger-records-reeks)

  4. Okuden - Every Dog Has Its Day but It Doesn't Matter Because Fat Cat Is Getting Fatter (ESP-Disk)

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

  6. Graindelavoix - Tenebrae (Glossa Platinum)

  7. MIKE - Weight of the World (10K)

  8. Clara de Asis & Mara Winter - Repetition of the Same Dream (Another Timbre)

  9. Lila Tirando a Violeta - Limerencia (NAAFI)

  10. Max de Wardener - Music for Detuned Pianos (Village Green Recordings)

10 Undernoticed Releases From This Year

  • Black Holes Are Cannibals - Black Holes Are Cannibals (Infinity Mirror Records)

  • Karkhana - Bitter Balls (Annihaya Records)

  • Ulrich Krieger - The Yggdrasil-Soli (Winds Measure Recordings)

  • Tyshawn Sorey - Unfiltered (self-released)

  • Cristián Alvear & d'incise - Bow Down Thine Ear, I Bring You Glad Tidings (mappa)

  • El Plvybxy - Sinteticlub (MAJÍA)

  • Mount Shrine - Shortwave Ruins (Cryo Chamber)

  • Bobby Previte / Jamie Saft / Nels Cline - Music From The Early 21st Century (RareNoiseRecords)

  • Cadu Tenório - Waifu (Brava)

  • Whole Food Kids - Fuck It, We Vibe (Dead Hound Records)

Samuel McLemore

I’ve always been deeply hesitant to put the personal into any of my writing but this is the designated place for that sort of thing I suppose, and what a shit year, huh? My mom died at the end of 2019. Since then I’ve spent most of my time in a numb haze, trying to grieve and not grieve at the same time, paralyzed into inaction by the belief that there just isn’t a point to any of it. I did my best to stay apart from all the people and places I loved, convinced my presence would only sully their inherent goodness. I didn’t fight for or against anything I cared about because I knew that anything I did, that everything I did in fact, would always make things worse. My mental health dipped lower than it ever has before and my personal life suffered in a hundred different ways. It was a bad time, is basically what I’m trying to say here.

Music was a help—“palliative care”—as the healthcare industry classifies it. When Joshua asked me to write for Tone Glow I didn’t realize it would be one of my major sources of social contact in the next year, a tether to the world outside my room. But I’m grateful, both to him (love you man) for giving me a chance to write and grow, and to others for giving space to my  half-coherent ramblings on music. Thank you all, it has meant quite a lot to me during a very bad year.

Top 10 Albums of 2020

  1. Liz Durette - Delight (Feeding Tube Records)

  2. Dewa Alit & Gamelan Salukat - Genetic (Black Truffle)

  3. FUJI​|​|​|​|​|​|​|​|​|​|​TA - iki (Hallow Ground)

  4. Rosso Polare - Lettere Animali (Klammklang)

  5. Claire Rousay - im not a bad person but… (Amplify 2020)

  6. Susan Alcorn Quintet - Pedernal (Relative Pitch Records)

  7. Lemon Quartet - Crestless (Last Resort)

  8. Ippei Matsui & Aki Tsuyuko - Natsu No Zenbu (All Night Flight)

  9. Ursula Paludan Monberg, Arcangelo, Jonathan Cohen - The Early Horn (Hyperion)

  10. Otomo Yoshihide - Small Stone (Takuroku)

Top 10 Films Seen in 2020

  1. Monsieur Verdoux (Charlie Chaplin, 1947)

  • Dersu Uzala (Akira Kurosawa, 1975)

  • Great Day In The Morning (Jacques Tourneur, 1954)

  • The Masque Of The Red Death (Roger Corman, 1964)

  • Money Movers (Bruce Beresford, 1978)

  • The Night Of Counting The Years (Shadi Abdel Salam, 1969)

  • Odd Couple (Lau Kar Wing, 1979)

  • The Prodigal Son (Sammo Hung, 1981)

  • Taoism Drunkard (Yuen Woo-ping, 1984)

  • The Wicker Man (Robin Hardy, 1973)

Ryo Miyauchi

I’ve been constantly shot down this year to the point I’m more amazed at how the IRL side of my life can show me endless ways in which it can get far worse. There seems to be no bottom as I keep falling, but I also don’t want to really get into that right now! Because the URL side—the music searching, the writing and the internet friends made along the way—has been really fantastic, and it’s helped me going forward no matter what’s been happening whenever I’m logged off.

On the writing side, I’d like to think I accomplished a fair amount this year. For one, I interviewed Phew for Tone Glow! The last interview I conducted was when I was an undergrad four years ago, and so yeah, let’s make my return to the Professional Journalism Experience by interviewing a legend in music—and my first-ever interview done in Japanese at that.

I also launched a Substack this year covering Japanese music called This Side of Japan, which has been the most rewarding thing for me this year. For the last part of my year-end feature, I assembled a Friends List compiling lists of top 10 Japanese songs from online friends. I don’t think I could have done that feature about a year ago. I had some friends on Twitter who I chatted about Japanese music with, but starting the Substack made me want to not only meet more people interested in music from Japan but also collaborate with them. After a year of working on the newsletter, I feel like I’m part of a solid community that I only hope to get more familiar with. I did not see any of this in the realm of reality a few years back when I just started writing about Japanese music on my Medium blog.

Thanks to my life being consumed by my newsletter, Japanese music made up about 80% of my listening this year, which is probably reflected very well in my list. The scene was very exciting to follow, and the more I shared my excitement about the music, the more it gave back with friends and opportunities. On that front, I don’t think 2020 could’ve been any better.

Top 10 Albums of 2020

  1. 4s4ki - Hyper Angry Cat (SAD15mg)

  2. Kaede - Stardust in Blue (T-Palette)

  3. Kaede - Ima No Watashi Wa Kawari Tsuzukete Ano Koro No Watashi De Irareteru (T-Palette)

  4. Tricot - Makkuro (Cutting Edge/8902)

  5. Iri - Sparkle (JVCKENWOOD Victor)

  6. Envy - The Fallen Crimson (Temporary Residence)

  7. Yonige - Kenzen Na Shakai (Warner Music Japan)

  8. SAKA-SAMA - Kimi Ga Ichiban Kakkoiijyan (Trash-Up!!)

  9. RYUTist - Falsetto (Penguin Discs)

  10. Reol - Kinjitou (CONNECTONE)

Top 10 Songs of 2020

  1. 4s4ki & Masayoshi Iimori - “I Love Me” (SAD15mg)

  2. Carry Loose - “Ningen” (T-Palette)

  3. Iri - “Sparkle” (Victor)

  4. Valknee, Haruka Kojima, Namichie, ASOBOiSM, Marukido, Akko Gorilla - “Zoom” (self-released)

  5. Tofubeats - “Club” (Warner Music Japan)

  6. Caeca - “POP-LA” (T-Palette)

  7. RYUTist - “Alive” (Penguin Discs)

  8. Lyrical School - “OK!” (JVCKENWOOD Victor)

  9. EMPiRE - “ORDiNARY” (Avex Trax)

  10. Kitri - “Akari” (Nippon Columbia)

5 Favorite Japanese TV drama series of 2020

1. Re-Mo Love: Futsu No Koi Wa Judou
2. Kono Koi Atatamemasuka
3. Gyoretsu No Megami: Ramen Saiyuki
4. Koi Wa Tsuzukuyo Dokomademo
5. Eizouken Ni Wa Te Wo Dasuna!


A second chance doesn’t mean you’re in the clear. In many ways, it is the more difficult thing. Because a second chance means that you have to try harder. You must rise to the challenge without the blind optimism of ignorance.

―Ling Ma, Severance

Top 10 Albums of 2020

  • Against All Logic - 2017 - 2019 (Other People)

  • Aquiles Navarro & Tcheser Holmes - Heritage of the Invisible II (International Anthem)

  • Asha Sheshadri - No Longer a Soundtrack (anòmia)

  • Crazy Doberman - illusory expansion (Astral Spirits)

  • David Nance - Staunch Honey (Trouble in Mind)

  • Francesca Heart - Ianassa Alga Miraggio (Ingrown Records)

  • Irreversible Entanglements - Who Sent You? (International Anthem / Don Giovanni)

  • Maral - Push (self-released)

  • Soakie - Soakie (La Vida Es Un Mus Discos)

  • Tino Contreras - La Noche de los Dioses (Brownswood)

Jordan Reyes

If you’ve got baggage, quarantine makes it heavier. For me, this crystallized as a period of abject morbidity in September and October, though, as with most “episodes,” I felt it slouching towards me like that rough beast in Bethlehem for months prior. It finally bit when an ex-psychiatrist prescribed an anti-seizure medication to curb ubiquitous stress and anxiety, which ended up with me in the arms of full-on depression, perhaps the worst of my life. The entirety of my thoughts rested upon death. I wanted an answer, and searched high and low to find one - the problem is I needed it to jive with science. For every promising lead, I found a darkness - attempts to part fearful people with their money, bad science, etc.

Zen Buddhism helped. Fundamentally Buddhism and Zen don’t ask for faith—they say “try it out, believe in the results.” That was a sound starting place, and though Zen doesn’t placate with heaven or immortality, it suggests that the universe is one organism, at least that’s how I make sense of it. Life, death—both are necessary components. Impermanence is a necessity, and a truth you can witness in everything. I spoke with a lot of friends about spirituality, Zen, and the failings in Western conceptions of death—unsurprisingly, many had been going through similar things, and even found similar relief.

My bandmates in ONO were all very supportive, as were folks like Claire Rousay, Sarah Davachi, Robert Stokowy, and more. In a weird way, though I couldn’t see people physically, the distance and boundaries forced vulnerability. Quarantine has made me more compassionate, and also the recipient of more compassion, too.

Travis in ONO has been aware of my stress for years. His advice has been “Jordan, take thirty minutes every day, and do nothing.” Travis takes baths—even on tour, he’ll take a bath every night. Some schools of Zen meditation suggest basically the same thing. Shikantaza meditation literally tells you to do nothing. “Just sit.” When I told Travis about the experience, I could hear his smirk over the phone “mmhmm, what have I been telling you?”

Zen has now become an important part of my artistry, my ethos, and my routine. Every day I say what’s called a “metta prayer,” expressing universal loving kindness—I recite these words: “May I be well, happy, and peaceful. May no harm come to me. May no problems come to me. May no difficulties come to me. May I always meet with success. May I also have patience, courage, understanding, and determination to meet and overcome the inevitable difficulties, problems, and failures in life,” but I don’t stop there. I swap out “I” for my wife, then my family, then my friends, then indifferent folks, then “enemies,” and eventually “all living beings.” As cheesy as it is, I can’t help feeling like it’s rewiring my brain to legitimately feel kindness towards, well, everyone! I try and go through it every night as I fall asleep, and before I begin meditation.

I’m no guru—I know no secrets—I don’t know if Zen philosophy or practice is an objective method or ontological reality to deal with an overwhelming darkness, but it works for me. There are days I still feel over-encumbered by sadness and negativity, and when I do, I try and focus on what works. I read Buddha ancestors like Dogen, Ryokan, or koans from the Gateless Gate, mostly thinking it doesn’t make any damn sense. But then I feel a buoyancy, a lightness, and a connection with other living things. I can’t say it erases the darkness, but it makes me brave enough to continue stumbling through it.

Top 10 Albums of 2020

  • Billy Woods & Moor Mother - BRASS (Backwoodz Studioz)

  • Paysage D’Hiver - Im Wald (Kunsthall Produktionen)

  • Boldy James & The Alchemist - The Price of Tea in China (ALC)

  • Sarah Davachi - Cantus, Descant (Late Music)

  • Drew McDowall - Agalma (Dais)

  • KeiyaA - Forever, Ya Girl (Forever Recordings)

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

  • Lamp of Murmuur - Heir of Ecliptical Romanticism (Death Kvlt Productions)

  • Star Feminine Band - Star Feminine Band (Born Bad)

  • Nonlocal Forecast - Holographic Universe(s?)! (Hausu Mountain)

9 Best Books (and Comic Books) I Read in 2020

  • Samuel R Delany - Through The Valley Of The Nest Of Spiders

  • Tom King - Mr. Miracle

  • Henepola Gunaratana - Mindfulness In Plain English

  • Osamu Tezuka - Phoenix

  • N.K. Jemisin - The City We Became

  • Colson Whitehead - The Nickel Boys

  • Sawako Nakayasu - Some Girls Walk Into The Country They Are From

  • Ursula K. Le Guin - The Dispossessed (Also her translation of Tao Te Ching)

  • Walter M. Miller, Jr. - A Canticle For Leibowitz

Gil Sansón

Very busy year personally, so quarantine never meant boredom, but surely the high level of much of the music released this year shows how important it is to remain creative in trying times. Two major events for me were the Audiosfera exhibition in the Reina Sofía museum in Madrid, curated by Francisco López, and the AMPLIFY online festival. New ideas concerning how to present sound art to people during quarantine were evident in 2020 and will likely point the way forward in new and exciting ways. Optimism, for me at least, is essential in this day and age.

Top 10 Albums of 2020

  • Jürg Frey (perf. by Dante Boon and Reinier van Houdt) - l'air, l'instant - deux pianos (Elsewhere)

  • Sebastián Bauza-Bueno - De tu lágrima sobre el papel y otras esperanzas (self-released)

  • Bunita Marcus - Lecture for Jo Kondo (99CHANTS)

  • Bruno Duplant (perf. by Fréderic Tentelier) - Nocturnes (3 Études) (Inexhaustible Editions)

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

  • A.F. Jones - A Jurist For Nothing (Gertrude Tapes)

  • Napalm Death - Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism (Century Media)

  • Moniek Darge - Quarantine Butterfly (AMPLIFY 2020)

  • Maths Balance Volumes - A Year Closer (Penultimate Press)

  • Charles Curtis - Performances & Recordings 1998-2018 (Saltern)

Eli Schoop

Losing Tiny Mix Tapes at the end of 2019, I didn't think I would be able to seamlessly transition into a writing collective that A) has a bunch of TMT refugees back together, and B) introduced to so many cool and intelligent individuals, who have expanded my worldview, taste, and enjoyment of what it means to be a writer among writers. For how fucked up this year was, I'm honestly lucky to say that I grew and had fun, and that seemed to be very rare for most people. In terms of music, it was a good year, cause every year is a good year for music, but the circumstances really didn't let us rave about it as much as we wanted or could have. Above all, I have my health, my happiness, and my friends and family. That's good enough. Also weight of the world by MIKE was album of the year by far.

Top 10 Albums of 2020

  1. MIKE - Weight of the World (10k)

  2. Machine Girl - MG Demo Disc (self-released)

  3. Zaphyre - Lifeforce (Syncope)

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

  5. Elysia Crampton Chuquimia - ORCORARA 2010 (PAN)

  6. Gulch - Impenetrable Cerebral Fortress (CLOSED CASKET ACTIVITIES)

  7. Carl Stone - Stolen Car (Unseen Worlds)

  8. Anna Hogberg Attack - Lena (Omlott)

  9. Klein - Frozen (self-released)

  10. Hudson Mohawke - Poom Gems (self-released)

Top 10 Songs of 2020

  1. Yungster Jack (feat. David Shawty) - “Pressure” (Nitemare)

  2. Charli XCX - “Forever” (Atlantic)

  3. Valee - “Rice” (self-released)

  4. Yves Tumor - “Gospel For a New Century” (Warp)

  5. Since99 & BasedNas - “Immaculate” (99 Entertainment)

  6. Shittyboyz x TRL - “Turnt Shit” (The Hiphop Lab)

  7. Lil Uzi Vert - “Pop” (Generation Now/Atlantic)

  8. BFB Da Packman (feat. Sada Baby) - “Free Joe Exotic” (Lunch Crew)

  9. YN Jay x Miles Bridges - “1st Quarter” (self-released)

  10. Tisakorean (feat. Father) - “Rocky Road” (Ultra Music)

Top 10 Melee Matches of 2020

  1. DONTTESTME vs Ginger @ Rona Rumble EC #3  (a skilled roy can beat any falco)

  2. Zain vs Hungrybox @ Genesis 7

  3. n0ne vs IBDW @ Get On My Line

  4. n0ne vs Ginger @ Rona Rumble MW #5

  5. Zain vs Axe @ LACS3

  6. Hax vs Hungrybox @ Genesis 7

  7. S2J vs Zain @ LACS3

  8. Llod vs Rishi @ LACS3 Qualifier

  9. Zain vs Axe @ Summit 9

  10. Mang0 vs Leffen @ Summit 9

Shy Thompson

On the bottom of a shelf next to my bed sits a cute little reflective rainbow-colored box. It once held gifts for me for a Christmas long passed, but I’ve repurposed it into storage for every greeting card I’ve ever been sent. I’ve been keeping them ever since I was a teenager. I didn’t feel particularly sentimental about them at the time, but it felt wrong to throw them away; if someone took the time to think of me, I couldn’t possibly drop a physical commemoration of that moment into the trash—and so I kept them. The box, itself a memorialization of someone’s kindness, seemed like a suitable vessel to store these capital-H Hallmarks of affection. Most of the cards are from my godmother; she absolutely loves to send me greeting cards. She’ll send them for holidays, birthdays, and sometimes just because. She always took the time to write in a message encouraging me to keep doing my best, put me at ease about something that has been worrying me, or just remind me that she loves me.

These cards have grown to be important to me for two reasons. The first, of course, is that they have been a constant reminder that someone has been supporting me for nearly my entire life. I am not a person that is secure in how other people think about me, but I have always known that I could ask my godmother for anything, and that is due in no small part to these constant messages of encouragement. The second reason this box of cards is sacred is that it reminds me of what I’ve been through. For every hardship, there’s a short greeting that encouraged me that I can overcome it and a note of congratulation for seeing it through to the other side. This box practically tells my life story. Sometimes reading through these cards remind me of things I’ve long forgotten, and I’m shocked by my own resilience.

This year, I’ve been writing more than I ever have in the past. I feel that I’ve grown into a voice that I’m comfortable with, and I’m generally happy with everything I’ve written. I am insistent on writing in a deeply personal, autobiographical style that can sometimes be emotionally taxing, but I find to be really rewarding. Joshua, the editor of this newsletter and my good friend, encouraged me to stick with this approach and I’m glad he did. Reading through what I’ve written in Tone Glow and elsewhere takes me back to a moment in time—a unique challenge I faced, a feeling of excitement, lament, and everything else in between—and reminds me how I navigated it. I’ve been leaving greeting cards for myself this entire time.

Earlier in the year, when I won a grant for critics of color in which I submitted nothing but Tone Glow pieces as writing samples, I got a message in my inbox from fellow TG writer and mean girl Mariana Timony personally congratulating me and telling me that she appreciates my (in her words) empathetic and compassionate writing. This gesture absolutely meant the world to me. I’m not even sure I’d still be writing if not for this. I had just sent her a pitch for Bandcamp, and she encouraged me to keep sending them. I was scared enough to send the first one, so I really needed to hear that. I was doubting if I deserved that grant or if there was even a place for the kind of stuff I do, and it meant a lot for someone to tell me as much, completely of her own volition. Now I’ve written a bunch of things for Bandcamp, with more on the way. I hope she reads this, because wow. I’m way too embarrassed to say this in a more direct way, but sincerely: thank you.

In a lot of ways, this has probably been one of the most important years of my life—maybe even one of the best. That makes me feel a bit guilty to say, because this year has been absolutely the worst for a lot of people that I know. It’s not been without hardship, obviously, but I’ve gotten a good start on pulling myself together after a nearly decade-long depressive slump. I’ve reconnected with old friends and made new ones that I feel could stick around for a lifetime. I’ve learned a lot about myself; I feel like I finally know a little bit about who I am. Losing my therapist at the start of the year sucked, but I feel less terrified to get back on the search for a new one. I’m not fully happy yet, but for the first time ever I feel like I might get there. I look forward to how it feels reading through the cards in that rainbow-colored box once that happens.

Remember to congratulate yourself, even on the small victories. Stay safe. See you next year.

Top 10 Albums of 2020

  • Christopher David - CD-Rs (self-released)

  • Prince - Sign o’ the Times: Super Deluxe Edition (Warner)

  • Thelonius Monkees - EX-PO ’97 In memoriam the moondays (Monkee Tambourine)

  • Steve & Teresa - Catching a Wave (Aloha Got Soul)

  • Philip Corner - Through Mysterious Barricades with George Maciunas (Recital)

  • Pacific Sounds - Aloha ‘Aina series (self-released)

  • Li Weisi’s three releases (self-released)

  • FPBJPC - Jubilee (Recital)

  • Various Artists - YIN YUE: An Amateur Compilation (Zoomin’ Night)

  • Julius Eastman - Macle (FLEA)

10 things that made me feel something

  • Part Time UFO, the best game I played this year.

  • Hibike! Euphonium, a series about putting your all into making something happen if you really want it.

  • The discography of Sonny Chillingworth, a legend of the slack key guitar and, above all, a warm and kind person whose passion you can really feel in his music. Probably one of my all-time favorites now.

  • moon, a game that was finally localized 23 years after it was released in Japan on the PS1. I watched let’s plays of this game when I was a teenager and have followed dead-end fan efforts to translate it for years. Still can’t believe it’s real.

  • Tim Rogers of Action Button, who reviews video games in an excessively long-form style and makes his own personal experience and anecdotes an inextricable part of his criticism. Sound familiar?

  • VA-11 HALL-A, a game I played when quarantine started. I played it in kind of a weird way, only playing one in-game day per calendar day. It gave me a lot of thoughts about how I think about playing games, which I will hopefully write about sometime.

  • VTubers, in general, for being very abundant and comfortable content to enjoy when I was feeling bad and anxious.

  • Leading a Double Life” by “Blue” Gene Tyranny, a song I listened to a lot after his passing late this year. It’s just a great song. God damn.

  • My cat Tuba, who will invariably be one of my favorite things in the world forever and ever.

  • And, of course, my lovely friends. There are too many to name, but I’m gonna send this to all of you anyway. I love you. 💜

Mariana Timony

I’m not doing a regular top ten albums list because I already did one for my day job at Bandcamp, which you can read here. Instead, I’ve split this list into five records that were the most meaningful to me in 2020 plus five non-musical things that were also meaningful to me in this year of suspended animation.

It seems selfish and tone-deaf to admit that 2020 wasn’t a terrible year for me, but it wasn’t. Music was good and work was good, and my dumb lifestyle of just existing places rather than really living anywhere worked out well when I needed to run away from everything. So it makes sense that my favorite records reflected a year spent mostly in waystations.

Mary Lattimore’s beautiful and wordless Silver Ladders is my favorite record of the year, less an album than a sacred space in which to curl up for a while. Svitlana Nianio & Oleksandr Yurchenko’s magical Znayesh Yak? Rozkazhy is also sort of like that—a record unmoored from time and space, but in a way that feels more sweet and dreamlike than alien and scary. Sufjan Stevens’ self-loathing turn into meanie pop on The Ascension spoke to me quite a bit, and I liked that most people didn’t like it as I’ve always been of the opinion that if too many people like a thing, there’s obviously something wrong with it. So please, everyone, continue not to like it. Then I was glad to hear Throwing Muses and Mo Dotti make killer guitar band records in a year that could’ve finished off guitar bands, but didn’t.

On the non-musical side of things, I root myself in the physical world through my daily practice of Pilates, which is neither cool nor punk but whatever. I like it and I did a fuckton of it this year. My defining experience of 2020 is the four months I spent hiding from COVID in West Virginia, although the mountains sometimes seem like a strange dream now because the truth is that I spend maybe 80% of my days feeling lost no matter where I am—which isn’t something I want to talk to anybody about, but the witchy lady at Scorched Earth Tarot always understands. But West Virginia is where I started my newsletter, Weird Girls Post. Aside from being a lot of fun because I get to write about whatever I want, writing it has been a lesson in learning to express emotional vulnerability without shriveling up and dying of shame. Still, when the blues got too blue, there was always another Bandcamp Friday to look forward to. Seeing the music community come together to support each other so whole-heartedly and unselfishly when nobody else would on the first Friday of every month has been a dream come true and a source of joy for me, personally. I just want to help music and musicians, and I hope to continue doing so in 2021 and also for the rest of my life. Okay, that’s all!

5 Records & 5 Things of 2020

  1. Mary Lattimore - Silver Ladders (Ghostly International)

  2. Sufjan Stevens - The Ascension (Asthmatic Kitty)

  3. Svitlana Nianio & Oleksandr Yurchenko -  Znayesh Yak? Rozkazhy (Night School / Skire)

  4. Throwing Muses - Sun Racket

  5. Mo Dotti - Blurring EP

  6. Pilates

  7. West Virginia

  8. Scorched Earth Tarot

  9. Weird Girls Post

  10. Bandcamp Fridays

Oskari Tuure

Despite this being the year when everyone has been spending record amounts of time alone at home, my music consumption has absolutely plummeted compared to the previous ones. Going over my stats, it seems that I listened to half as many new releases in 2020 compared to 2019. For the entire year I didn't really feel like doing any music discovery. I was barely able to keep up with new releases from artists I already follow, and mostly just listened to old favorites and revisited comfort picks from the past. Maybe I just had too much on my plate this year? Maybe I subconsciously needed to resort to a minimum-effort mode of listening to conserve mental energy? Or maybe one of my worst teenage fears is coming true: I'm getting old and complacent, and will spend the rest of my life listening to the same albums over and over?

  • The Avalanches - We Will Always Love You (Astralwerks)

  • Envy - The Fallen Crimson (Temporary Residence Ltd.)

  • Ging Nang BOYZ - ねえみんな大好きだよ (Nee minna daisuki da yo) (初恋妄℃学園)

  • Green-House - Six Songs for Invisible Gardens (Leaving)

  • Ichiko Aoba - アダンの風 (Adan no kaze) (Hermine)

  • Karina - 2 (Gems)

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

  • Macaroom - kodomono odoriko (Kiishi Bros. Entertainment)

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

  • Seiko Oomori - Kintsugi (Avex Trax)

Evan Welsh

On December 23rd I woke up and cried. 5 years sober is barely any time at all, but I felt every day that morning. Perhaps youth skewed my perception of the time between now and then. On the subway to work, I listened to “What We Loved Was Not Enough” by Silver Mt. Zion a few times—I discussed my attachment to this particular track for Mariana’s newsletter in April—and let a few more tears go. Most days I am curious about how I’ve managed to come this far. The answer is most certainly that I am, in my estimation, the luckiest person in the world. A title that has taken me the last few years to value all that it means. And when I woke up on the 23rd, I was overwhelmed with appreciation and pride, more so for my own understanding than for the accomplishment of longevity itself. I did not write Lear—I am not sure who would want to write what has already been written—but I did at the least accomplish this. Being here.

That said, what I struggled with most this year was time—another instance of immense luck and privilege. My odd conception of the previous 5 years was certainly emblematic of how I have been mentally reconstructing my experiences of the last 366 days.

On Monday, the April sites of refrigerated trailers and gravediggers adorning hazmat suits seemed like something I saw years ago. On Tuesday, the exuberance of crisscrossing around downtown Manhattan in January to attend as many Winter Jazzfest performances as I could possibly manage felt as recent as any other experience of sitting around and not going anywhere. This expansion and contraction have proven tiring for me but I know it is and has been the same for everyone and for most, much more difficult.

The obvious is that music and art have been critical for me this year, as I am sure they’ve been for most or all of the folks writing the reflections written for this music Substack. Songs, albums, and poems, new and old, have helped me cope and confront the atrocities and obstacles that have risen to the top of collective social conscience and experience this year—I think many would agree that so much that has happened this year is not necessarily new. I’ve been privileged to write small pieces and poems about many of those pieces of art for Tone Glow, a community that to this day, I find myself curious as to how I’ve come this far with. We’ll call that luck as well.

Although “What We Loved” will always be a song I associate with collapse and recovery, “Whip-Poor-Will” might be the one that affects me the most when I think about my sobriety, my being here, and perseverance in general. I think it may be the song that best captures my feelings toward 2020. It’s an elegy of struggle and persistence that I can hear being sung by everyone as well as a plea for remembrance. I cannot really put into words how grateful I feel to be able to write and sing.

“Sing it sister one more time.
Once for everybody who got left behind.”

Top 10 Albums of 2020

  1. Pink Siifu - NEGRO (Independent)

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

  3. Andrew Weathers Ensemble - The Thousand Birds in the Earth, The Thousand Birds in the Sky (Full Spectrum)

  4. Cindy Lee - What’s Tonight To Eternity (Superior Viaduct)

  5. R.A.P. Ferreira - Purple Moonlight Pages (Ruby Yacht)

  6. Cocanha - Puput (Pagans)

  7. Fiona Apple - Fetch The Both Cutters (Epic)

  8. MIKE - The Weight of the World (Independent)

  9. Still House Plants - Fast Edit (Bison)

  10. Lucy Liyou - Welfare (Ijn Inc.)

Top 10 Songs of 2020

  1. Cindy Lee - “Heavy Metal” (Super Viaduct)

  2. Andrew Weathers Ensemble - “An Unkindness of Ravens” (Full Spectrum)

  3. Perfume Genius - “On The Floor” (Matador)

  4. NNAMDI - “Wasted” (Sooper)

  5. MIKE - “weight of the word*” (Independent)

  6. Sufjan Stevens - “The Ascension” (Asthmatic Kitty)

  7. JJJJJerome Ellis - “Psalm 42, mvmt. 2: “Like as the stag”” (Independent)

  8. osquinn (feat. blackwinterwells) - “Oblivion” (Independent)

  9. Carl Stone - “Figli” (Unseen Worlds)

  10. R.A.P. Ferreira - “GREENS” (Ruby Yacht)

Top 10 First-Time Reads of 2020

  • Jack Whitten - Notes from the Woodshed

  • Phillipe Petit - On The High Wire

  • Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz - The Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States

  • Fernanda Melchor - Hurricane Season

  • Henry Dumas - Knees of a Natural Man

  • Mikhail Bulgakov - Master and Margarita

  • Clarice Lispector - Near to the Wild Heart

  • Yaa Gyasi - Homegoing

  • Assata Shakur - An Autobiography

  • Robert A. Caro - The Power Broker

Jonathan Williger

I am a record nerd and obsessive home listener, but the surest way to provoke the kind of spiritual release that I chase is when music is being performed in front of me. This year’s near-complete erasure of that experience left an emptiness that felt overwhelming even on the best of days. I’m grateful for the few times I was able to see music this year, and wanted to celebrate those moments. They weren’t all “good,” but they were memorable in their own ways. There are a few pre-pandemic sets here, but mostly these were brief respites from the void. A few of them I had to work hard to make happen myself—such is the nature of addiction, I guess. 

  • On one of the peak days of the BLM protests here in DC, a huge throng of people followed a flat-bed truck housing a Go-Go band down 16th St. to what would soon be designated Black Lives Matter Plaza. It was the first live music I had seen since March, and the mass of people dancing felt ecstatic, even in the face of tragedy.

  • W00dy/Max Eilbacher @ Rhizome DC: Max Eilbacher drove down from Baltimore to perform new material in quad in the backyard in mic-October. Prickly electronic textures came from every direction. W00dy also performed mostly new material in an “Abolish the Police” shirt, their baffling d’n’b breaks quickly mutating into new forms.

  • Weed Tree/Ancestral Duo @ Rock Creek Park Horse Arena: These two improv units played as the sun set on a surprisingly cool day in July in a grassy area of Rock Creek Park. Ancestral Duo played for nearly 2 hours, alternating between various percussion instruments before settling on sax and bass. This was fully unofficial and thrown in the middle of a national park, but no one seemed to mind.

  • Folk Alliance International @ New Orleans Downtown Marriott - This was a multi-day conference in January, but the showcases at night, which began at 10:30pm and lasted until around 4am, were spread throughout multiple rooms on 4 floors of the Marriott in downtown NOLA. Highlights included a Swedish fiddler performing on a hand-made violin with resonant strings under the fretboard, and Dirk Powell & Leyla McCalla jamming on traditional cajun tunes. Lowlights were pretty much everything else, but as an immersive experience it was potent.

  • Clear Channel @ Marx Cafe - This was my first show of 2020, on January 3. It was packed, and it felt right to start the new year watching some friends play their hearts out. They eventually released the set as a live album on a Bandcamp Friday later in the year.

  • Luke Stewart/Mark Cisneros/Ceci Behgam @ Rhizome - This was a fully improvised set, Luke on bass, Mark on guitar, and Ceci tap dancing on a block of wood. The backyard of Rhizome was lit up with small candles, and it was election night. The mood was somber, but it felt good to be among friends, six feet apart, bundled up. I don’t think I talked to anyone.

  • Irreversible Entanglements @ Rhizome - This was my last concert before lockdown. The inside of Rhizome is basically a small house, and seeing this expansive group fill the room with sound was overwhelming. They kept the energy up the entire hour-long set, never stopping. I left feeling full, not knowing it would be the end for awhile.

Jibril Yassin

This year was shit for so many reasons and for so many people. I ended up moving across the country halfway during the year (moving in a pandemic… don’t do it!) and found myself spending more time digging into creature comforts and older sounds to cope with all the instability that comes from spending far too much time in far too many small spaces. I’m really excited for the spring and the renewal it brings; new beginnings that sprout from concrete and the promise of (incremental) changes that come with it. I’m mostly excited for karaoke bars to (hopefully) reopen so I can hear someone try this song and not feel cynicism and second-hand embarrassment, just thrills.

Top 10 Albums of 2020

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

  • Jay Electronica - A Written Testimony (Roc Nation)

  • Rico Nasty - Nightmare Vacation (Atlantic)

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

  • The 1975 - Notes on a Conditional Form (Dirty Hit/Interscope)

  • Grimes - Miss Anthropocene (4AD)

  • Jessie Ware - What’s Your Pleasure? (PMR / Friends Keep Secrets / Interscope)

  • Taylor Swift - folklore (Republic)

  • Bartees Strange - Live Forever (Memory Music)

  • Freddie Gibbs & The Alchemist - Alfredo (ESGN / ALC / Empire)

Top 10 Songs of 2020

  • Tame Impala - “Borderline” (Fiction / Interscope)

  • RMR - “Rascal” (CMNTY Culture / Warner)

  • Westside Gunn (feat. Conway the Machine, Benny the Butcher & Armani Caesar) - “98 Sabres” (Shady)

  • Brent Faiyaz - “Fuck the World” (Summer in London) (Lost Kids)

  • A.G. Cook - “Silver” (PC Music)

  • Shygirl - “BAWDY” (Because Music)

  • Pop Smoke (feat. Rowdy Rebel) - “Make It Rain” (Victor Victor Worldwide / Republic)

  • Taylor Swift - “cardigan” (Republic)

  • The Strokes - “The Adults Are Talking” (RCA)

  • 21 Savage x Metro Boomin -”Runnin’” (Epic)

Maxie Younger

The year was like a waking dream where everything and nothing happened in the same moment. Time caught up with me in quick bursts, a stone skipping on the surface of the water, swallowing days and weeks in its shallow arcs; at once it was March, May, July, September, November. I underwent a lot of quiet growth. I wrote more, spent more time creating, and dug out the pieces of myself that I had buried in my day job. I put myself back together, slowly; I set boundaries and made sure they were respected. I laughed, cried, doomscrolled. I felt love: gave it and received it. At the end of it all, I don’t have many regrets. And, happily enough, I encountered a lot of beautiful, meaningful art along the way.

Top 10 Albums of 2020

  • Actress – Karma & Desire (Ninja Tune)

  • col. warren – ecco cemetary (self-released)

  • DJ Sabrina The Teenage DJ – Charmed (Spells On The Telly)

  • drop – electric recordings (horten)

  • Jay Glass Dubs – Soma (Berceuse Heroique)

  • Material Girl – Tangram (No Agreements)

  • Mica Levi – Ruff Dog (self-released)

  • Model Home – One Year (Disciples)

  • Naked Flames – All Singing / All Dancing (No Agreements)

  • SSN_Technologian – DISINTEGRATION (SSN Technologies)

Top 10 Songs of 2020

  • A.k.Adrix – “Positividades” (Príncipe Discos)

  • draag me – “Steady Turn the Cog” (self-released)

  • FRI3NDZONE – “Streetview” (Curiosity Shop)

  • Karolinski – “it hurts” (

  • MIMIDEATH – “Renegade” (Melon Computer)

  • Nondi_ – “Eu Bounce” (HRR)

  • Princess Giant – “Every Time.mp3” (self-released)

  • Shinichi Atobe – “Yes” (DDS)

  • Space Afrika – “dairyday4” (self-released)

  • Tierra Whack – “Peppers and Onions” (Interscope Records)

10 memories from 2020 I will keep

  1. I dance to Patrice Rushen – “Let the Music Take Me” alone in my bedroom.

  2. I spend all day in a dressing gown listening to Kym Sims – Too Blind to See It and taking a choose-your-own-adventure book very seriously.

  3. I break my right long toe to Shinichi Atobe – “Yes.”

  4. I read an article about the last intact ice shelf in Canada collapsing while cuddling my partner as they play Crash Bandicoot 3; I feel very small.

  5. I drink too much on Valentine’s Day and cry into the toilet. It is a good cry. I watch the Simpsons.

  6. I stay up until 3 AM recording music; I fall asleep hunched over on the floor.

  7. I enter my deserted office building a few days after the start of lockdown. I take home my keyboard, mouse, and a carton of eggs from the break room fridge.

  8. I devote over 300 hours of my life to building a passable Animal Crossing: New Horizons town.

  9. I eat Gumby’s pepperoni rolls with my partner as we watch Cardcaptor Sakura.

  10. I kiss my partner. My partner kisses me.

Nick Zanca

It turned out that hindsight really was 2020. It was a year of inevitable truths in a state of constant unfolding; of thinned-out blind spots and suppressed inner screams; a confrontation of the corporeal. Apart from our collective great upending, personally these months marked the conscious conclusion of what I have outgrown, and with it, the birth of fruitfulcareful collaboration. Although the applause we’re accustomed to was traded in for dead air and digital praise, creative camaraderie still showed its face when we least expected it––when the initial stasis started to subside, suddenly everything was memory-montageimprovisation, a return to duration. The end of the tunnel can hardly be measured––privilege is paraded, saturation remains rife, so much still is left to unlearn and burn––but there is no doubt that the lessons in impermanence and the community consequently cultivated that this year have wrought are miracles of recalibrating properties. On those grounds alone, this year will not have been wasted.

“Art does two things that are opposite,” Jacob Wick states on record to Claire Rousay, portable recorder in hand, at the end of the one of the manifold records of hers from this year that I have listed here. “One is that it allows people to be intimate with each other. The other thing is that it allows people to think themselves to be more intelligent and special than others.” A mic drop if there ever was one, but for the sake of reflection, let’s forgo the latter completely: in a year where closeness was a constant craving, these ten records allow the listener to lean in, linger, bear witness to bared souls. Their timing will remain impeccable.

Top 10 Albums of 2020

  1. Still House Plants - Fast Edit (Bison)

  2. Lucy Liyou - Welfare (ijn)

  3. MIKE - Weight Of The World (10K)

  4. Claire Rousay - Both (Second Editions)

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

  6. KeiyaA - Forever, Ya Girl (Forever Recordings)

  7. Sarah Hennies (perf. by Bearthoven / Bent Duo) - Spectral Malsconcities (New World)

  8. Dewa Alit & Gamelan Salukat - Genetic (Black Truffle)

  9. Carl Stone - Stolen Car (Unseen Worlds)

  10. Wendy Eisenberg - Dehiscence (self-released)

Top 10 First Reads Of 2020

  1. Nicholson Baker - Human Smoke: The Beginnings of World War II, the End of Civilization

  2. James Baldwin - Another Country

  3. Theresa Hak Kyung Cha - Dictee

  4. Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz - An Indigenous People’s History Of The United States

  5. Frantz Fanon - Black Skin, White Masks

  6. William Gaddis - The Recognitions

  7. Fred Moten - In The Break: The Aesthetics Of The Black Radical Tradition

  8. Claudia Rankine - Just Us: An American Conversation

  9. W.G. Sebald - Austerlitz

  10. David Wojnarowicz - Weight Of The Earth: The Tape Journals Of David Wojnarowicz

Read Part 1

Thanks for reading Tone Glow this year. There’s not much else to say but that.

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