TABLE OF CONTENTS

PRINT December 2020

music

Sasha Geffen

Sasha Geffen is the author of Glitter Up the Dark: How Pop Music Broke the Binary (University of Texas Press, 2020). Their writing also appears in Rolling Stone, The Nation, Pitchfork, NPR, and Elsewhere. They live in Colorado.

Dreamcrusher performing at Omni Commons, Oakland, CA, December 20, 2019. Photo: Myron Fung.

1
BACKXWASH, GOD HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THIS LEAVE HIM OUT OF IT
(Grimalkin)

Montreal-based rapper and producer Ashanti Mutinta distills power from horror. Her latest LP, with its raw final-girl vocals and buzz-saw instrumentals, pins a laser focus on the stressors of living vulnerably in a world that’s hostile to its margins, dredging up fear while offering catharsis.

2
DREAMCRUSHER, ANOTHER COUNTRY (self-released)

A single album-length track from the New York experimentalist, Another Country drifts hypnogogically from one wistful melody to another. Rendered via distorted guitar, yowling feedback, corroded samples, and drowned, throttled vocals, it’s a nightmare that bends into a benevolent omen, a vision of pain and, just beyond it, release.

3
ANJIMILE, GIVER TAKER (Father/Daughter)

On his debut album, Boston-based folk songwriter Anjimile posits that celebration and mourning go hand in hand. His songs grieve for friends, family, and former selves while delighting in the fact of being alive, in being able to grieve at all, in blooming past the fallow.

4
ONO, RED SUMMER (American Dreams)

The latest from the legendary Chicago industrial ensemble burns like smoke in the lungs, sharp and intoxicating. Red Summer foments and then dissolves lurching grooves, dusting them with fragmentary lyrical narratives of historical anti-Black violence, like the 1919 season of white-supremacist terror from which the record takes its name.

5
YVES TUMOR, HEAVEN TO A TORTURED MIND (Warp)

No one plays with negative space quite like Yves Tumor. Songs like “Kerosene!” and “Gospel for a New Century” wear holes in their progressions, casting bright pop elements into tumult, letting jagged metallic edges scrape against each other until they start throwing sparks.

6
LUST$ICKPUPPY, “GOATMEAL” (self-released)

Produced by Pittsburgh duo Machine Girl, “Goatmeal” chews up everything in its path, a frantic, buzzing avant-rap single that steams with frustration and anxiety while staying a deliciously catchy course.

7
NNAMDÏ, BRAT (Sooper)

In 2020, Chicago singer and multi-instrumentalist Nnamdi Ogbonnaya reduced his name to a mononym and put out his best work yet. Brat is a gleaming, mutable document of vivid uncertainty, an album about striving toward purpose while questioning it at every turn.

8
JESSIE WARE, “WHAT’S YOUR PLEASURE?” (PMR/Friends Keep Secrets/Interscope)

On her latest outing, the UK singer worships at the temple of Donna Summer. An immaculate offering of breathy, sensual disco, “What’s Your Pleasure?” deserves to ripple through bodies congregated in person at a brick-and-mortar club; by glimpsing past utopias, it beckons those of the future.

9
BLACK DRESSES, PEACEFUL AS HELL (Blacksquares)

The prolific Canadian duo steep their corrosive power pop in a genuine sweetness. In between fits of rage about the futility of it all, Black Dresses muse on the power of real bonds forged among castaways who give each other a reason to live.

10
MHYSA, NEVAEH (Hyperdub)

That’s heaven backward. Throughout her second LP, MHYSA investigates the gospel promise of the perfect life to come. A sparse and stirring patchwork that plays with emptiness as much as it hints at abundance, NEVAEH keeps its gaze trained on the unknowable future and its potential sanctuary.

11
WILLIAM BASINSKI, LAMENTATIONS

But wait, there’s more––

In the #11 series, Artforum invites contributors to add one more thing to their 2020 Top 10 list. Here, Sasha Geffen highlights William Basinski's album Lamentations calling it a “fitting end to 2020.”