Death Will Bring Change(?)

Also: an incomplete rundown of my favorite music of 2020 so far.

Death Will Bring Change(?)

After writing this past Tuesday’s installment, I’d planned on kicking off today’s with an addendum on pathways towards music writing that aren’t corporately financed. There were a few reasons why I didn’t address that from the start, including the fact that it would’ve appeared a little too self-serving to kick off an independent, subscription-based newsletter by concluding its first entry with “And that, my friends, is why the only way forward for music writing relies on independent and subscription-based platforms.”

And it seems like frequent cosmic colleague Matthew Perpetua, whose Fluxblog I’ve been keeping up with since I was in high school, was reading my mind—as he sent me this message on Tuesday night (and remember, you can always reach out with questions or comments to

“I know I'm saying this to a person who has just decided to start his own independent media operation but like, the focus on corporate media being the only apparently relevant form of music writing is kinda obscene! At different points in time there were thriving cultures of independent music media - zines, college radio, blogs, Tumblr, etc - but a particular cohort's insistence that the only even slightly valid writing or cultural curation had to be paid for by the Conde Nasts and Bustle Media Groups of the world only made it worse when those companies made it quite clear how little they cared about any of this. So really it shouldn't all be put on the corporations and VC-backed startups and private equity vampires when there's a pretty clear argument that a cohort of strictly careerist writers had as little investment in the culture as any of those entities.”

There’s issues raised here that I plan on digging into in the future, but for now I do want to emphasize that, when it comes to writing about music, it increasingly seems like independently operated publications are the easiest way for aspiring writers to get their work out into the world. Obviously, Matthew’s Fluxblog (which bills itself as “the first MP3 blog” and has been going since 2002) is itself from one of a few eras in which independently run music writing platforms proliferated; Stereogum is another, and it seems almost providential that they’ve decided to go independent again (and with an extremely successful fundraising campaign to boot) right when we are quite possibly nearing the total collapse of corporately owned media.

There are an increasing number of independent music media outlets that Matthew’s collected a list of here in very convenient fashion, the existence of which prove that are other ways to write about music that don’t involve moving to New York City and working your way through a food chain that will eventually eat you alive. Of course, there’s no guarantee that launching your own platform will be lucrative in any way measurable to a yearly salary with benefits. (Granted, when it comes to music writing, those are getting harder to come by these days.) But writing about music has also been an extracurricular hobby for some the same way it’s been a full-blooded career for others, and there’s nothing wrong with either situation as long as there’s passion behind the writing.

Some of My Favorite Music of 2020

I said I’d do this at some point, so I might as well as long as we’re still hovering over the midpoint of this typically wretched year. Avoided highlighting some of the more obvious things that I’ve enjoyed (Dogleg, Fiona Apple, Bob Dylan, Tame Impala, Bad Bunny, Jay Electronica, the 1975, Waxahatchee, Phoebe Bridgers, Soccer Mommy, HAIM) partially because you’ve read enough about them already (from me or others), and partially because I have nothing to add to those conversations. Resisting participation in the echo chamber—what a concept!


Anyway, there’s a Spotify playlist right below this paragraph with all the songs if you want to listen along without clicking on 36(?) YouTubes and also have a Spotify account. (Most publications would put this playlist at the bottom so you scroll to the end; I’m not a piece of shit, so I’m putting it at the top. I assume you plan to read this because you’re the one who’s subscribing. Simple math, or something.) Also, just so no one bothers me about this: I didn’t like the Dua Lipa album. Maybe I will some day. Sorry.


Georgia, “I Can’t Wait”

The second Georgia album was overlooked this year, I think—probably because it does one thing (Hot Chip-y electro-pop) extremely well, and that one thing is done so flatly and with such mediocrity by so many other artists that it’s hard to take the Pepsi Challenge with stuff like this. But it’s good! This song in particular is great, love that wild pitched-up vocal thing that kind of counts as a chorus.

Mac Miller, “Blue World”

Very lovely and understated song. I’ve never had the connection to Mac Miller’s music the way others had (I thought this album was mostly fine and also—excuse the posthumous trope—gesturing towards some sort of artistic breakthough that feels unrealized now), but his death feels so fucking sad to me the same way that death just feels fucking sad. The day before mine and my wife’s wedding was the day that he died, before we headed to the area where we were doing the whole wedding thing she played me a song she’d written right after I’d found out that Mac Miller died and the culmination of all the feelings messed me up real bad bro. Then we saw 6ix9ine with a ten-person crew in front of the Union Ave. Starbucks and laughed so hard. (Avril Lavigne voice) Life’s like this.

Selena Gomez, “Cut You Off”

She’s getting closer to making something that sounds like it has personality. Still not 100% there yet, though. But about 1/3 of this album is solid, my favorite song changes all the time but this is the one I gravitate towards the most.

Eris Drew, “Transcendental Access Point”

A new classic, my favorite rave track in years. Reminds me of “Little Fluffy Clouds,” reclaims DMT heroically from Gaspar Nøe’s disgusting, ignorant hands. I’ll be listening to this one for the rest of my life.

Jhené Aiko, “Tryna Smoke”

Pure bliss from R&B’s chillwave stoner. If she ever makes an album that’s under an hour long and has more songs like this, that would be extremely nice.

Bonny Light Horseman, “The Roving”

The best song on what is easily one of the best albums of the year in any genre, the whole thing feels like a pure revelation.

Code Orange, “Sulfur Surrounding”

The purity of intent these guys have is just so interesting and engaging to me. Also, this song sounds like Black Sails-era AFI. Nothing wrong with that.

Nicolas Godin, “What Makes Me Think About You”

Moon Safari vibes from one of the men behind Moon Safari. More things should sound like Air. In terms of vocoder pop, this is better than the entirety of Random Access Memories except the Panda Bear song (yes, I’m doing this again).

Chubby and the Gang, “Pariah Radio”

This whole album sounds like this and it’s very sick.

Grimes, “Delete Forever”

This album kind of sucks, but I love this even though it’s the most boring thing on it.

G Herbo, “PTSD” [ft. Juice WRLD, Chance the Rapper, and Lil Uzi Vert]

Sad for a few reasons. I miss Juice WRLD.

Halsey, “Ashley”

Ryan Dombal of Pitchfork once called Halsey “woke Evanescence,” and I guess that means I stan woke Evanescence.

Nathaniel Rateliff, “Rush On”

Just a really powerful vocal take, sometimes that’s all you need. (Wasn’t too into anything else on this album, unfortunately.)

Loathe, “Is It Really You?”

My most-sent-to-friends “Do you like this as much as I do?” song of this year. These guys rule, just totally intense and beautiful stuff. In general really just want a lot of loud and aggressive shit lately. I WONDER WHY!!!!!!

Squarepusher, “Oberlove”

The “Pomp and Circumstance” of IDM. Somewhere, Plaid are trying to figure out how to score someone’s future Zoom commencement speech.

…And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead, “Into the Godless Void”

Satan bless these guys—they’re more than 20 years into their career and still making music videos that look like someone took mushrooms before booting up Microsoft Encarta. (No disrespect to mushrooms.) At least one song per album rips, and this one does.

Porches, “Hair”

Anecdotally, people seem to really hate this guy’s music, or at least it provokes strong reactions. I remain fascinated! This is a really weird and sad wisp of a song, I’m drawn to the vulnerability of it.

Pet Shop Boys, “You are the one”

Two legends doing what they do best, gotta give it up.

Ozzy Osbourne, “It’s a Raid” [ft. Post Malone]

Fun stuff. Don’t @ me.

Caribou, “Magpie”

Lukewarm on this album as a whole, feels too miniature for me but maybe that’s the point. (Had the same problem with Our Love.) This is pretty though and stuck with me, kind of like one of the smaller tracks on Up in Flames.

Westerman, “The Line”

Sometimes I’ll just listen to this one for 20 minutes straight. I can’t wait to see what this guy keeps doing with his music.

Against All Logic, “Penny”

Been more into Nico Jaar’s weirder stuff he’s been on under his own name lately, that wavelength just seems more appealing to me. Was a bit ok on this latest AAL album for that reason but this is really nice.

Kevin Krauter, “Surprise”

Great record, comes off simple but a lot more things texturally going on than it seems. This song would’ve been huge in 2011 (a compliment).

Squirrel Flower, “Headlights”

This one hits you and then it’s gone, and it leaves a deep bruise. Can’t help but compare this to something off of Sharon Van Etten’s Epic. Excited to see where she goes from here.

Okay Kaya, “Insert Generic Name”

Okay Kaya seems like a real one and I gotta respect it.

Brooke Bentham, “All My Friends Are Drunk”

Every song on this album is like a different type of indie rock (notice I didn’t stop at “indie”—there’s a difference, especially these days), and that’s a compliment. Another one where I have a different favorite every so often but this is the one I love right now.

King Krule, “Cellular”

This album obviously wasn’t the classic The Ooz was, but he’s still interesting and doing his thing. Side note: I never want to see another “return of the saxophone” article again.

Westside Gunn, “George Bondo” [ft. Conway the Machine and Benny the Butcher]

The Griselda train is still roaring, let’s see how far it goes. In the meantime they’re making exciting music, especially Westside Gunn, who I remember Tom Breihan describing as having the type of good rapping voice that is typically a bad rapping voice. (Tom, if you’re reading this and I got that wrong, I’m sorry.) His (Gunn’s, not Tom’s) feature on the Royce da 5’9” album was good too.

Ratboys, “My Hands Grow”

Lotta stuff that sounds like 2004 to me these days, this is one of them. Expect a newsletter on that phenomenon at some point.

The Weeknd, “Hardest to Love”

This bozo. He’s got cooler friends now, but Max Martin (who previously turned out this Luomo-esque banger for him) remains his strongest collaborator. Sounds like something off of Homogenic, which is an opinion I am sure someone will have me murdered for.

Roger and Brian Eno, “Blonde”

Roger and Brian Eno? In this economy?

Perfume Genius, “On the Floor”

Every time, he just gets better. A true treat throughout the last decade to watch Michael Hadreas continually grow as an artist. One of North America’s best singer-songwriters at this point, no question.

Charli XCX, “forever”

The second verse of this song kills me. It probably would whether or not it made me think about the pandemic. Charli was mostly a huge miss and I’m sticking to that opinion, but this album as a whole is way better.

Hum, “In the Den”

It me.

Jeff Rosenstock, “Scram!”

This is the anthem, etc.

Christian Lee Hutson, “Northsiders”

This might actually be my favorite song of the year, even though it came out last year. Impossible not to listen to this without bringing tears to your eyes, or at least without thinking about being young and time passing and the things that are lost while all of that is happening.

Nana Grizol, “South Somewhere Else”

Another great song about being young and learning things, only angry instead of sad.

Country Westerns, “Two Characters in Search of a Country Song”

The best Magnetic Fields cover off of the best Magnetic Fields album since Arcade Fire did “Born on a Train.” Speaking of…

The Magnetic Fields, “The Day the Politicians Died”

Wouldn’t it be nice?

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Jamie Larson