WILDEST PATTERNS OF 2020
10. MONOSCOPIC - CALI GOLD
When listening to CALI GOLD, it doesn’t take long to recognize that MONOSCOPIC is a master archivist. The producer pulls out the juiciest samples from every shelf and every aisle, each looping nugget of funk and R&B comes thick, doused in syrupy saturation and compressed for maximum impact. The entire album is a dusty, warm voyage across ‘70s and ‘80s nostalgia - polished and beefed up for contemporary ears - that keeps you grooving while overwhelming your senses.
9. TOPS - I Feel Alive
There’s no denying TOPS’ incredible songwriting prowess. The band has been making smooth, funk-lite dream pop hits for years - a sound often anchored by thoughtful, love-worn introspection. Their latest album, I Feel Alive, even further crystalizes this reputation. It’s both gentle and danceable, from groovy pop flourishes to smoky ballads, the album flips through a small range of energies across its runtime. But the overall vibe of stripped-down vulnerability stays strong throughout. I Feel Alive gives you a breezy catharsis amidst its rich guitar leads, synth interweaves and Jane Penny’s feathered, charismatic vocal delivery - the result is one of the most impactful easy-listening experiences of the year.
8. Cape Coral - Karma Cleaning
Cape Coral’s Karma Cleaning is future funk that moves. It’s the perfect fusion of disco and funk, where the structural dynamic and sample curation of each track are prioritized just slightly above dance floor hypnosis. From top to bottom, Karma Cleaning delivers banger after banger after banger, hitting with satisfying impact and keeping you engaged. There’s such a high level of repeated listening here, it comes at you so effortless and inviting. Honestly, I’m almost afraid to look at how many times I streamed it this year.
7. wavestyle96 - SUNSET SOUND
wavestyle96 really put their samples through the ringer. Acidic warbling, tape hiss swish, misty reverb layers and big, pumping drums pummel every funk jam and satin R&B ballad the producer conjures. Their 2020 offering, SUNSET SOUND, exemplifies such aesthetic goodness - at every turn, your ears are dominated by a wildly textural good time. Flipping from vaporwave to future funk and back again, the album has a diversity of tempos and energies that compliment each other so naturally, like a stellar mixtape that’s been thoroughly tested for maximum satisfaction. This tape just happens to be melted, crushed and doused in oil - the kind of cassette treatment that adds nostalgic mystique to a playlist of absolute bangers.
6. Lucky Talisman x MECHA PILOT - Hopeless Romantic
Jubilation is the heart of Lucky Talisman and MECHA PILOT’s Hopeless Romantic, a celebratory collab that pulses out into the cosmos and brings your hips along with it. It’s a dazzling flight of disco/city pop samples and four-on-the-floor thickness - a rocket that shines brighter with every mile it travels. The sparkling, feel-good vibes on offer are amplified by world-class production quality, an aesthetic that shines down clarity and contact, making sure you feel every beat and every glimmer. It all draws you deeper and deeper into a giant, hypnotic vortex. It’s a vortex filled up by translucent rainbow dance floors, where time and space cease and all that’s left is groove.
5. COMPAQDREAMS - ONLINE
Taking a distinctly gated reverb approach to the vhs pop toolkit, COMPAQDREAMS makes all of their beats feel both in-your-face and misty at the same time. With their 2020 offering, ONLINE, the producer offers up a fun interplay of dynamics that keep your ears spinning, all while dropping big funk samples down around you. The omnipresent ‘verb and tape hiss flood each track with lo-fi intensity, causing every sample and every kick drum to hit even stronger. It may be short, but ONLINE makes up for it with powerful execution. So powerful, in fact, that you won’t mind smashing that repeat button and letting it burrow into your brain over and over again.
4. Hotel Pools - Still
After listening to either of Hotel Pools previous albums, it’s hard to imagine you could ever hear better chillsynth in your life. But then the producer goes and releases another album - an album so majestically lush and emotional in its vibe, that you start to understand: making music this good so consistently means you truly have no limitations. Still pours a constant glittery flow of deep kick hits and splashing snare, wide synth pads and calm horizon leads, everything thoroughly washed out into a twilit sphere. That’s the wonderful path of this album: a relaxed, romantic stroll through aquamarine star fields and glowing patterns in the sky, a place where you can hold your partner close, feel the cool summer night breeze across your face. There’s such a centered, inviting energy that vibrates off of Still, invoking your warmest memories and asking you to just slow down, that you heal yourself just by listening to it.
3. Pure X - Pure X
If you’re looking to be completely destroyed by emotional and existential truths but want them delivered in gorgeously laid back, fuzz-worn jams, look no further than Pure X’s latest self-titled album. It plays out like a winding, dusty road trip - a kind of spirit quest where you feel the weight of the world bear down, regret for old love and hope for new, scrambling for meaning and self-acceptance as you lay your hand out the car window and the wind slides through your fingers. Now, encase that vibe inside a warm, lived-in palette of spacious guitar leads, soft drums, subtly intricate bass and delicate vocal melodies - it’s a trip you don’t want to miss out on.
2. channel select - NEW AIR
You can’t help but fall in love with the thundering vaporwave beats of channel select. They drop like a ton of bricks, squashing your ear drums until they burst into a million pieces. NEW AIR is the producer’s latest showcase, blasting that glorious squash even further. channel select applies these sledgehammer drums to diced and screwed R&B and funk samples, creating a wild, aggressive push and pull that bounces around your brain and sends it into a spin. Wrap it all in saturated tape hiss and compression and you’ve got a stunning, addictive dose of lo-fi beat tape goodness.
1. oDDling - Infinity
Right from go, oDDling’s Infinity is a blast of fresh air - a feeling that isn’t easy to accomplish within the muted recline of chillsynth. But the producer clearly has emotional resonance on the brain - to add power and dynamic within the chill realm - so Infinity sticks with you and keeps asking you to come back for repeated listens. Bellowing with extremely lush synth pads, the album feels so full and saturated, operating within a giant cosmic carwash. These thick pads provide the foundation for gated drums and distant tea-light leads, bringing in the hallmarks of synthwave, but amplifying them to new heights.