A PLAYLIST of my favourite music from 2020 can be found here on Spotify.

Sault, Untitled (Rise)

As unrelentingly brutal a year 2020 has been, it did offer some respite in music. Some spectacular albums struck a chord with me, including my pick for album of the year, Untitled (Rise) by Sault. Jarrod Lawson’s sophomore studio album, Be the Change was a close second. I also loved new jazz from Malcolm Strachan and the sweeping multi-genre work in Greg Foat’s Symphonie Pacifique.


  1. Sault, Untitled (Rise) (Forever Living Originals)
  2. Jarrod Lawson, Be the Change (Dome Records)
  3. Malcolm Strachan, About Time (Haggis Records)
  4. Yakul, Kaleidoscope EP (Yakul)
  5. Greg Foat, Symphonie Pacifique (Strut Records)
  6. Kamaal Williams, Wu Hen (Black Focus)
  7. Angela Munoz, Introspection (Linear Labs)
  8. Thundercat, It Is What It Is (Brainfeeder)
  9. Sault, Untitled (Black Is) (Forever Living Originals)
  10. RAC, Boy (Counter Records)


Nat Birchall, Mysticism of Sound (available on Bandcamp)

  1. Celestial Spheres, Nat Birchall (Nat Birchall)
  2. Manhattan Skyline, AC Soul Symphony (Z Records)
  3. Tenderly, Wipe the Needle feat. Josh Milan (Makin Moves)
  4. Streetlight, Yakul (Yakul)
  5. Thinking of You, Citrus Sun featuring Deborah Bond (Dome Records)
  6. Hey, This Must be Deep, Nikitch & Kuna Maze (Tru Thoughts)
  7. Rare Air, Mildlife (Heavenly Recordings)
  8. The Joys of Love, Steve Arrington (Stones Throw Records)
  9. Like Nobody Else, Soulista (Groove Culture)
  10. Perdoname, The Sunburst Band & Sunlightsquare (Z Records)
  11. Fall Into My Love, Francisca Thomas feat. Incognito (Splash Blue)
  12. Hold On, H.E.R. (RCA Records)
  13. The Cure, Oddisee (Outer Note Label)

New to Me (Redisovered)

Early in the year, I heard the track, “Take That to the Bank” by disco-era R&B and dance group, Shalamar. That inspired me to dig into their catalogue and I was happy to find more great songs like “The Second Time Around,” “Make that Move,” and the surprisingly good 2017 reunion single, “The Real Thing.”

The Real Thing, Shalamar (Real Thing Music, 2017)

On a more classic note, I dove into and appreciated Horace Silver’s body of work, especially in the summer when creating this evening jazz playlist.

Quarantine Music

Hit particularly hard by the pandemic’s quarantine measures, musicians and music venues found new ways to engage their audience and remain relevant. Isolation mixes, quarantine sessions, and other home-made music were shared widely this year.

I really enjoyed this virtual duet by Tom Misch and Marcos Valle on Valle’s classic tune, “Parabens.”

“Parabens” – Tom Misch & Marcos Valle

My live music highlight was the Citrus Sun livestream from Ronnie Scott’s, London UK on October 31 2020.

@francishylton instagram


The agony of 2020 was made worse by the passing of some beloved legends in music: Bill Withers, Ronald Bell of Kool & the Gang, and Toots Hibbert of Toots & The Maytals.

Bill Withers (July 4 1938 – March 30 2020)

Anticipating in 2021

We’ve learned to lower expectations in 2020 so I’m cautiously hoping next year brings a return to a new normal. I’m still anticipating a new Terrace Martin produced album from Herbie Hancock but there is no sign of when it will drop. I’m also curious to see what funk, soul, and disco classics Dave Lee gets his hands on to remix. This year’s rework of David Shire’s Manhattan Skyline was spectacular.

Though it may not be in 2021, I’m also hopeful for the return of live music performance. I missed out on two concerts planned in 2020: The Doobie Brothers 50th Anniversary Tour and Incognito.