The Best of 2020: Songs and Videos

by Steven Spoerl

2020 has been a difficult year. There’s no way around the fact that the past 365 days have constituted one of the bleakest runs of days in any of our lifetimes. From the violent white supremacy of America’s police making headlines to a global pandemic that’s left hundreds of thousands dead around the world to an incalculably incompetent showing from government officials around the country, there’s been no shortage of reasons to despair. Fortunately, music’s offered something of a reprieve. For some it became an outlet to vent, for some it become a means of coping, and for others it became a reason for hope. 

I haven’t written anything on Heartbreaking Bravery in 2020 but I did take over, officially, as the music editor over at local outlet Tone Madison, which has kept me busy. I’ve also been working as a photographer with a local studio and doing independent contract work for a tech umbrella, while continuing to seek freelance opportunities. In the midst of all of that, I wanted to make sure I did something with this place, which has remained a critical part of my life, even in its public absence. Towards the start of 2020, I got the idea to reassemble how I wanted to feature new music. After kicking around a lot of ideas, I settled on something specific: creating and curating a hyper-personalized radio program for the new music I wanted to highlight. 

While that idea never came to total fruition, I realized there was a way I could subvert this idea into something useful while staying close to that initial concept. Over the past 12 months, I have been assembling (and intentionally sequencing) a playlist of the songs and music videos that, in previous years of Heartbreaking Bravery’s existence, would’ve warranted standalone features. Additionally, I started compiling an ancillary playlist of the honorable mentions, which has no reason or rhyme beyond the unifying principle of the songs and videos contained in that mix being worth watching/hearing. The Best of 2020 playlist features 309 songs and videos, while the playlist containing the honorable mentions contains 1,711. In total, 2020. 

I may take the following week or two to assemble a more traditional list of the albums, songs, and videos that impacted me the most over 2020 but, for now, I’m happy with this: a reflection of a year’s worth of work and a time capsule for the worthwhile art that helped navigate and contextualize an immensely difficult year. I don’t know what 2021 will hold and I continue to grapple with the direction of this publication and the question of whether or not it should be laid to rest. I may never have an answer but I do know that these songs and videos deserved notice, appreciation, and praise. I hope anyone that clicks into these finds something new to celebrate. 


(Content warning: a few of the videos contained in this mix involve flashing lights) 

Could not be included: The Chives – The Chives Buy Guns, Cheerbleederz – Better Than Nothing, Phillip Jon Taylor – Rotary Phone, Mister Goblin – Punk Band, Amos Pitsch – Oak Hill Blues, DAMP – Binsy, Steve Hartlett – big mac feat. big mac, Gladie – The Good That Won’t Come (Rilo Kiley), Lost Boy ? – Trying To Feel Good, Lost Boy ? – Another Shoe, Yakima – It Helped, Geronimo! – Where’s My Dini? (Ovlov), and Ben Grigg – Randy Describes Mondays.

A QUICK HIT: 2020 (Honorable Mentions)

Could not be included: The Ricos – True, Valley Latini – Blue Moon, Guided By Voices – Haircut Sphinx, Paul Collins Beat – Another World, Dog Park – Irma, Molly Parden – Kitchen Table, Dear Nora – Hold It Down, Lost Boy ? – Sunkist, Pure Decay, Wild Flower, Groundhog’s Day, Pop Songs for Dummies, Daniel Tanghal – Heavenly Trash, Purge, Oregon Trail, Nick Norton – Fuzzy Loner, Closing Eyes – You Can Have Everything, Art of the Uncarved Block – Washed Out Blue, Brooks Hudgins – Lost In Conversation, MEH – What’s It To You Anyway?, Decay the Llama – On the Creation of..., Yot Club – Ceremony, Flowers – Erik, Coffin Apartment – Hyperphagic Blues, Flõstate – Home Ground, Yakima – Thanks, The Great Dictators – Play Dead Together, As In – Not A Doctor, Not Today, Katie Alice Greer – 5, Thurston Moore – Instant Transcendent Conjecture, Strawberry Moon, Mac McCaughan – Sports Channel 8: The Theme Song, Sad13 – Paint’s Peeling (Rilo Kiley), Backxwash – Stigmata, First Responder – Coney Island, The Chains – Shadow on the Hill, Daydream – Dissolve Into Their Likeness, Conscious Raising, The Immaculates – New York Is Mine For The Holiday, NNAMDÏ & Post Animal – Full Fangs, Annie DiRusso – 20, Lisa Prank – alone again at the pumpkin patch, Greta Morgan – When the Sun Comes Up, Jason Isbell – Maybe It’s Time (Demo), Anika Pyle – S A D, Ben Varian – Wouldn’t It Be Nice, and Freaking – I’m Not Opposed to Sand.