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Matthew Viriyapah's Top Eight of 2020

Nick Shoulders

Matthew Viriyapah breaks down his top ten favorite bits of music of 2020:

I tried my best to come up with a complete ranking top ten list, but I was really having trouble. Because despite everything, this year has been full of new music. 

And a lot of my favorite things weren't strictly official releases for this year. Like a lot of people, I watched a lot of great recorded performances on YouTube and it didn't feel right to just pick songs.

Still, I would stop and start and add and remove things, just going in circles till I read an article from Bandcamp titled "We’re Not Ranking Our Year-End List Anymore. Here’s What We’re Doing Instead." In it is this line:

"For years I’ve argued that what you’re really trying to do with any Best of the Year list is to tell a story..."
So in a completely arbitrary order, here's the music that tells the story of my 2020.

1. Billy Strings - Circles

I had already known about Billy Strings but when this video came out was when I really started digging into his backlog and finding all these great live concert recordings (look him up on Internet Archive. You won't regret it.) Those were great to listen to and performances of even the same songs had a different energy to them every time. It was also coincidentally when I started to spend some more time playing the guitar. 

This song was already an earworm, but Billy and the other musicians put on a great performance that I never get sick of watching.


2. Husbands - Try Not To Worry

This is a song from Husbands' Wayne John which was a collection of demos and B-sides. They had talked to me about how they decided to pull together the songs that ended up on their earlier release, but if I was in the room I would have made a very strong case for this song.

The reason why I love this song so much might also include it being released while the pandemic was in its early days. People were rushing to get toilet paper and bottled water and if I could have piped the song into grocery stores I would have.


3. Kat Lock - my dog

Truly a song that encompasses the tragedy and comedy of man and our relationship with man's best friend. Shakespeare could have done no better.

This song gave me the biggest case of the giggles.


4. PUP - Live At The Electric Ballroom

This band was one of last acts I saw live and one of the last interviews I had before pandemic times. So if you were also in dire need of a live punk environment while at home, this album was perfect when it was available for purchase as it was a Bandcamp limited release. Their latest EP is fantastic as well.

But be warned. A solo mosh pit is a dangerous thing.


5. In the blue shirt - in my own way

This is by one of my favorite Japanese artists. In the blue shirt is an electronic producer from Kyoto who has this style of intense sampling and building melodies out of  those tiny bits of vocals. The layers and patterns that make up this song and characterize his entire style are so fun. And it somehow always ends up surprising you with it's peaks and valleys.


6. Jacob Collier - Sleeping On My Dream

This song is so great. Sometimes Jacob's harmonies and his application of what is clearly is a great depth of music knowledge can be overwhelming but this song is so dynamic while still feeling very poppy. He also does a great breakdown of the entire song here, which you should also watch. Jacob is one of those people I could listen explain things for hours despite most of it going over my head.


7. Nick Shoulders - Bound and Determined

Nick Shoulders takes his style of singing to sing about things that hit close to today's times. Oftentimes, modern music that draws from an older era of American culture doesn't offer a modern lens. Nick does that in a song that says a lot and meant a lot when I first heard it. He also wrote an essaythat is neccesary reading after you hear this song.


8. Michelle - Sunrise

Vibes. And on some days, you just need a song like that.


Matthew Viriyapah is KOSU's production assistant and host of the music podcast Songwriters & Tour Riders.
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