2020 was a strange year. I hardly wrote or travelled, but I did spend a lot of time on YouTube and stumbled across some relatively unknown musical talent (at least in the US). One artist led to others showing up in my recommendations until I had listened to them all. Below are the top thirteen in ascending order of rating.
Faun: While I would never say any of their songs are among my favorites, there is a certain fairy-elf atmosphere to the sounds that would make them great movie background music. The video for Walpurgisnacht makes this clear. The language is German.
Gealdyr: Borrowing from Nordic and Celtic culture, Gealdyr sings mostly repetitive simple songs about nature, life, and death. It makes good background music. I like Kauna and Deyr Fe. The language is old Norse.
Sabine Hossenfelder: Theoretical physicist and professional pessimist of the direction science by day, Sabine has put together some decent lyrics and simple beats. The videos are clearly homemade, but the sound to my untrained ear is as good as anything else. I especially like When They Ask Us, This Is How I Pray, Theories Of Everything, and Ivory Tower. The language is (usually) English.
Isla Vista: This group sings of God and his love in a style reminiscent of Sam Smith or Marvin Gaye. Captured is a good example of this. The language is English.
Beabadoobee: Soft, sweet, quiet, cute, and pensive, Beabadoobee sings of ordinary things and extraordinary love. I like Coffee the most. Also good are Dance With Me, 1999, Ceilings, Everest, Art Class, and The Way I Spoke. The language is English.
Erutan: Erutan sings songs inspired by fairy tales and stuff. Tarts and The Willow Maid are good. The language is English.
The Hu: No, they aren’t The Who, but they are at least as good. Blending Mongolian throat singing with modern rock, they sing of the glory days of the Mongolian Empire. Yuve Yuve Yu, Wolf Totem, and Shoog Shoog are good songs. The language is (usually) Mongolian (of course).
Ella Roberts: Ella sings traditional folk songs from Ireland and Scotland. Her version of The Bonnie Banks Of Loch Lomond is amazing. The language is Scottish English.
Kati Ran: Her other songs don’t touch me much, but Suurin is a full-blast power song that can make anybody feel capable of anything – and I thought that even before I saw the translated lyrics. The end sounds like someone running for their lives. The video is awesome too. I never get tired of it. The language is Finnish.
Blackbriar: An excellent example of female-led metal, I really like I’d Rather Burn and Beautiful Delirium. Arms of The Ocean, Until Eternity, and Ready To Kill are okay too. The band is Dutch, but the language is English.
Rachel Rose Mitchell: Singing along to what can only be described as symphonic rock, Rachel sings songs powerful, sad, or sometimes a bit creepy. I really like Alice, which somehow makes me think of a character who has defeated every enemy in every battle and yet still lost things most people will never understand. I also really like Thorns, Something You Don’t Know, Carnival, The Ticketman, Lantern In The Night, Wither, River Run Red, Farewell Song, Glow In The Dark, The Hollow, Everything You Want, and Collateral. Just listen to the entire playlist. The language is English.
Oonagh: German pop sensation Oonagh is best known for her catchy songs inspired by Lord of The Rings, such as Orome, Eldamar, Silmaril, Numenor, Tolo Nan, Arien, Ainulindale, Yalume, and Gaa. The verses are in German, but the choruses are often in Tolkien Elvish. Even the videos are works of art and Oonagh’s bubbly personality and natural good looks put the frosting on the cake. She also sings many other good songs, such as Eine Neue Zeit and Zauberwald, and has even collaborated with Celtic Woman to create the fairy magic that is Tir Na Nog. The woman is the best thing to come out of Germany since Albert Einstein and puts even The Beatles to shame – and yet she’s still second on this list…
Eivor Palsdottr: Sometimes creepy, sometimes lovely, sometimes nostalgic, her music sometimes reminding me of Paul Simon, Ringo Star, or a James Bond intro, Eivor’s voice is always beautiful. Common themes include the ocean and lost love. My favorite songs include Surrender, Into The Mist, Rain, Far Away, True Love, Undo Your Mind, Green Garden, Let It Come, and I know. Most of her work has English and Faeroese versions. One song in which I think I actually prefer the Faeroese is Mjorkaflokar – not that there is an English version. Why isn’t she more popular?
What a great year!
My name is Dan. I am an author, artist, explorer, and contemplator of subjects large and small.