Shifts in the social fabric uncovered new ways to share music in 2020

Physically Distanced Victory Party 11/7/20

Social norms changed drastically and quickly in 2020 as we realized our civic duty to protect the greater good. In some unexpected ways, physical distancing actually brought us closer together and pushed us to weave a new social fabric as life became a blur of homeschooling, video meetings, and livestreaming events.

In March I had a bunch of DJ gigs canceled one after another as the reality of the pandemic set in. I began to ponder alternate ways to connect with people through music from home.

First I made “Shelter in Place” Spotify playlists; one for dancing around the house


What will define this year’s music in retrospect?

History will speak volumes about this unprecedented year for many reasons. While we’ve been on lockdown, under stay-at-home and shelter-in-place orders, quarantining, practicing physical and social distancing, masking up, and washing hands, the anxiety around homeschooling and work-from-home zoom calls, combined with the desperate need and push for racial equity, all swirling against a backdrop of fake news and disinformation campaigns, amplified by social media echo chambers, have truly made 2020 a year like no other.

Here at the end of the year, the death toll continues to climb as we await vaccine rollouts, knowing that even asymptomatic folks not…


And how can we save it?

The United States’ system of checks and balances between the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government is brilliant and flawed. That there’s just one leader at the head of the executive branch who’s elected by the citizens means that person has to be the leader for all. It’s only logical then that the president should be a centrist who can speak to, and earn the respect of a broad swath of the citizenry.

Instead, over the past four years we’ve been living with a president who caters only to his base. Even in the midst of great crises, he…


Black music not only defines the American canon but in one form or another it has dominated global popular music for the past 100 years. As Black Americans migrated north to escape the Jim Crow south during the Great Migration of the early 20th century, Chicago became a beneficiary of, and a global platform for immense Black creativity. The Chicago jazz, blues, and gospel designed by those refugees of southern racial terror laid the groundwork for what would become the century’s most recognizable U.S. global export: rock‘n’roll.

Artists like Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, and Bo Diddley created…


Dynamics compression, file formats, and sound-system hardware each influence the perception of music in different ways.

Virginia Heffernan’s Wired Magazine article entitled “Streaming Music Doesn’t Flow, It Evaporates” makes some very good points about the general quality of smart speakers. She also shines a light on the loudness war in which audio engineers use signal processing to compress the dynamic range of pop music to within an inch of its life, in an effort to make it sound louder than the next track.

But Heffernan’s piece conflates dynamics compression with audio file compression. Granted, it’s confusing that they’re both called “compression,” but they have 2 very different purposes and outcomes.

Dynamics compression can create the problem…


Anyone who says there’s no good music being made these days is sadly missing out. Not only is there too much great music for one person to consume, but it’s more accessible than ever in the age of streaming. Whether your platform of choice is YouTube, Soundcloud, Spotify, or the myriad other options available, nearly any recording ever made is at your fingertips.

Halfway through the decade, I dove headfirst into the streaming revolution when I joined Spotify Premium and my music consumption has never been the same since.


The sheer amount of stellar music released over the 2010s was immense. 2019 was no exception.

From delicate ballads to dance-floor scorchers, there were incredible tunes to be had across the sonic spectrum. Here are my 19 favorites.

19: “Mr. Business” by Danista is a righteous dancehall screed against greed in a music industry perpetually looking to take advantage of young, naive artists.

18: “about her. again.” by Son Little is a deeply heartfelt and forlorn love-ballad-waltz. Its dynamic soul begins quietly and builds over the course of the track.

17: “These Days (feat. Kasien)” by Benny Mails broods from under the surface with a laid-back vibe reminiscent of the golden age of hip-hop.

16…


You can’t blame the youth for the bad music they’re exposed to.

The recent New York Times headline Why Do Kids Love Terrible Music underestimates kids’ ability to develop their own complex musical tastes.

The article argues that children latch onto tunes like “Baby Shark” because of their natural affinity for repetitive music, easy-to-understand lyrical themes, and a bit of subversion. It seems to me that this is generally true for adults too.

Music is cultural. The same way Americans tend to reinforce the bias that pink is for girls and blue is for boys, the music kids listen to is based on the musical environment around them, and parents have a…


If the visionary London-based multi-instrumentalist isn’t on your radar yet, he should be.

When I first heard Cosmo Sheldrake back in 2015, I categorized his music in my mind as esoteric indietronic. As I discovered more, I began thinking of his classical sensibilities as new-baroque. I recently had the opportunity to see him live, and now I can’t help but think of what the multi-instrumentalist musician, composer and producer is doing as some new form of folk. I’ll call it electrofolksical.

All this is to say that Sheldrake -who released his debut full-length, The Much Much How How, last year-straddles musical boundaries. …


The Nigerian-American hip-hop crooner continues down his trendsetting path.

I have to admit, my ulterior motive for writing about Jidenna’s new album, 85 to Africa, is that I also get to write about one of my favorite tunes from the last couple of years, even though it’s not on this album. “Bambi,” featured on Jidenna’s 2017 album, The Chief, set the stage for some refreshing stylistic forks in the pop music highway, that he continues to travel down today.

By looking backward toward Harry Belefonte-style calypso and other mid-century crooners for inspiration, and layering it over trap-inspired 808s and skittering sprinkler high-hats, “Bambi” offered a new direction for hip-hop…

Jake Trussell

Human advocate uncovering synergies & connecting dots. JakeTrussell.com

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