2020 Hindsight: The Best Singles of the Year So Far

Discover Editor Will Ainsley rounds up the best singles of 2020 so far.

Tewali Sukali // Nihiloxica

Nihiloxica sound like no other band. I’ve never seen them live but any glance on YouTube will show you what a tantalising prospect they are. The percussionists all have these steely gazes,  it’s half thousand-yard stare, half baleful seethe; magnificent stuff. 

Nihiloxica meld acoustic percussion and synthesizers into monolithic, jet-fuelled jackhammer patterns. ‘Tewali Sukali’, the first single from their eagerly-anticipated debut record Kakoli, uses polyrhythms to achieve a stark elegance. What initially sounds simple, some percussion and the occasional queasy wave of keyboard drone, is slowly refocused into something modulated and nuanced. 

‘Tewali Sukali’ is full of abrupt stops and starts. It comprises three subtly different arrangements individually bookended by an icy, processed drum machine loop. The song climaxes in a clattering melange with a magnificent, lolloping cadence. Although exultant and riotous, the thing feels tightly-wound. ‘Tewali Sukali’ is proof that Nihiloxica’s music is only chaotic by rigorous and emphatic design. 

Somewhere Else // Sink Ya Teeth

I’ve been trying to think of a neat way to parse all the songs I’ve picked. I suppose what’s clear is that they all share a similarly energetic and propulsive rhythm. There’s a sense of unrelenting groove. Nowhere is this quality more apparent than in Sink Ya Teeth’s ‘Somewhere Else’. A central, acid-y bassline, some synthesized strings, and a simple drum machine pattern all lock into an agitated, sparse disco arrangement that doesn’t abate until the song stops. 

The duo have irresistible vocal melodies and deft basslines that wind around your brain. On the surface, Sink Ya Teeth bear some resemblance to groups like Liquid Liquid and ESG but I think the Norwich-based group are perhaps even more skeletal and icy. Their lyrics have a sense of introspection and displacement. A line like “I’ve been waiting for your love” might have been delivered in a purposeful, determined manner by a lesser group but Maria Uzor intones it like she’s both lamenting something and accusing someone. Apocalyptic dance music never sounded so good. 

Hannity Comes Home // David Cronenberg’s Wife 

God bless the ‘Berg. Sometimes I think I heap too much praise on them but then sometimes I wonder, in weaker moments, whether The Strokes might deserve a reappraisal. ‘Hannity Comes Home’ sounds like a freight train coming in hard from the Trans-Siberian railway. It was the first song released off their fourth album The Ship (Necrologies) and, as a good single should, sets the tone for the whole record. 

The lyrics are abstruse. It’s classic Tom Mayne character study stuff about former Soviet Union countries and a criminal underbelly. As the song builds and the questions in the lyrics multiply, you experience some of the paranoia that Hannity himself experiences. ‘Hannity Comes Home’ crescendos in a Dionysian rush of crashing drums, pummelling bass, and squalling viola. It’s thrilling to hear David Cronenberg’s Wife experiment with a heavier sound and something I’d love to hear more of in the future. ‘Hannity Comes Home’ is a gimlet-eyed glance towards, or perhaps from, something dark, menacing, and thrilling. 

Nozzle // Container 

‘Nozzle’ by Container is a vigorous exploration of pH1 acid house. It’s a direct and brutal assault on your ear drum. ‘Nozzle’ feels physical, like the squeak of a jackboot on rubber flooring or a particularly spirited brain zap. It does not muck about. 

The whole album it was taken from, Scramblers, was recorded and mixed in one day; the music conveys that propulsive, frantic atmosphere. 

The basslines on ‘Nozzle’ seem squeezed, packed in together to save time and cash. The beats are unrelenting and impassive, delivered in one massive chunk of skittering hi-hats, a broken-sounding snare, and a chewy kick. 

‘Nozzle’ reminds me of what Mark Hanna says about stocks in The Wolf of Wall Street, about “very acidic above-the-shoulders mustard shit”. It’s simply exactly what machine music should sound like. 

Ten Grand Goldie // Einstürzende Neubauten

Einstürzende Neubauten’s new song ‘Ten Grand Goldie’ opens with a calibration. It’s the sound of a weird tape loop, so recognisably Neubauten, and it calibrates and catapults you, the listener, into their universe. Neubauten, slinky, sexy, semi-incomprehensible, slightly grotesque in a compelling way, are one of these groups that never seem to fit in anywhere. Their music is more fun than people give them credit for but more beautiful, too. By the way, have you seen that video on YouTube of Blixa Bargeld making risotto? Essential viewing. 

It’s amazing how Neubauten effortlessly conjure up the sounds of industry. The offbeat metallic percussion sounds like someone going ape with a sledgehammer in a workshop and the whole arrangement relates the pump and squeeze of a pair of giant, cooling bellows. Great stuff. There are all sorts of stops and starts, like the completely incongruous, bafflingly standalone, rootin’-tootin’ organ cadence or that gorgeous trombone phrase, that allow for the arrangements to evolve and advance.

‘Ten Grand Goldie’ is probably the best single released so far this year. It’s both vigorous and uncompromising — just what we all need. 

Words by Will Ainsley

This article was originally published as part of The Indiependent’s May 2020 charity magazine, which is still on sale and is raising money for the British Lung Foundation. Find out more here.

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