CMU Approved CMU Playlists

On The CMU Stereo 2020

By | Published on Thursday 17 December 2020

Dua Lipa

It’s possible that 2020 has not made it into your top five years of all time. I don’t want to put words into your mouth, I’m just guessing. But despite everything, there has been plenty of great new music released this year.

With 2021 now nearly here, we’ve put together this year’s On The CMU Stereo playlist, featuring 40 of our favourite tracks of the last twelve months. It’s been really tough whittling it down this year, with last minute changes being made right up to the middle of writing of this sentence. But we’ve done it. We’ve selected 40 tracks released in 2020 that we’ve loved.

Listen to the full playlist on Spotify below and read on to find out more about our selections. And click here for information about some other CMU playlists for you to check out.


The first ten, all of which were released at the beginning of 2020, back when the year was new and the possibilities seemed endless. Sure, there was talk of some virus thing happening over in China, but as if that was going to cause us any problems. As if!

We kick off with Keeley Forsyth, whose debut album ‘Debris’ was one of the early delights of the year. In fact, many of our albums of the year are represented here, with Dua Lipa, Rina Sawayama, Nnamdi, Nadine Shah, Katie Gately, Yves Tumor and Princess Nokia all featured.

The fact that all those artists are already on the playlist before we’ve really got started is testament to just how good 2020 has been in terms of music releases.

Here’s the full winter tracklist:

Keeley Forsyth – Start Again
Rina Sawayama – Comme Des Garçons (Like The Boys)
Nnamdi – Flowers To My Demons
Wuh Oh – How Do You Do It?
Dua Lipa – Physical
Nadine Shah – Ladies For Babies (Goats For Love)
Katie Gately – Tower
Yves Tumor – Gospel For A New Century
Noga Erez – Views
Princess Nokia – I Like Him


OK, we’re into 2020 proper now with this review of the music year, as we revisit our favourite tracks from the spring, which includes not one but two lockdown albums.

Charli XCX’s ‘How I’m Feeling Now’ was, of course, the big lockdown music project. Giving herself a six week deadline – after which, it felt at the time, this whole pandemic thing might be done and dusted – she created a brand new album from scratch in isolation, involving fans in the whole process.

It was interesting just as a means to see the mechanics of an artist at work, but six weeks after it was first announced a great album also emerged, taking the record’s title completely on board and laying her emotions out for all to see, as well as her creative process.

The other lockdown album represented in our playlist is Daniel Avery’s ‘Love + Light’, which was surprise-released in June. An album of two distinct halves, Avery has spoken about its creation being therapeutic. That process can be felt in the flow of the record, beginning with energetic techno tracks, before giving way to a calmer sound, feeling like the album coming to terms with and accepting its situation. The track we’ve selected, ‘Infinite Future’, comes from that second half.

Elsewhere on the playlist, tracks from yet more of 2020’s best albums are in effect. This year saw Fiona Apple and Ghostpoet both deliver career bests – ‘Fetch The Bolt Cutters’ and ‘I Grow Tired But I Dare Not Fall Asleep’ respectively – that both capture moments outside the pandemic.

Meanwhile, Jhené Aiko, Denai Moore, Nils Bech, Kate NV and Sault all turned in amazing LPs this year, that need to be explored in full. The one artist on this list who didn’t put out an album this year, Moonchild Sannelly, is the artist we’re looking forward to hearing more from the most in 2021.

Here’s the full spring tracklist:

Jhené Aiko – BS (feat HER)
Charli XCX – Forever
Fiona Apple – Under The Table
Ghostpoet – I Grow Tired But I Dare Not Fall Asleep
Denai Moore – Motherless Child
Nils Bech – Foolish Heart (2019)
Kate NV – Plans
Sault – Stop Them
Moonchild Sanelly – Bashiri
Daniel Avery – Infinite Future


Hey, it’s summer playlist time, everybody. Although I’m not sure part three of our best of 2020 playlist is exactly what you’d call summery. It’s been a weird year though, hasn’t it? We’ve established that already. This wasn’t like other years. Remember summer, though? Eat Out To Help Out, superspreading, all of that. What fun.

Tracks 21 through 30 of the playlist kick off with the short and sweet opener from Illuminati Hotties’ short and sweet ‘Free IH’ album which is notable (aside from being great) for its reference to podcasts. Maybe we should have done an end-of-year podcast playlist instead of a music one.

After all, you weren’t a real music streaming service in 2020 if you didn’t have a big podcast section that you were pushing hard. Especially Spotify, which managed to scrape together several hundred million dollars to throw at podcasts and podcast companies. Sorry, I went of on a tangent there – that Illuminati Hotties album really is very good.

You also can’t talk about 2020 without talking about Taylor Swift, which is not the only reason she has a track on this playlist. Her first surprise album of the year, ‘Folklore’, was surprising for a number of reasons. It appeared out of nowhere, plus it was in large part a collaboration with The National’s Aaron Dessner, and it diverged completely from the pop track she’d been on for the last few years.

Also, it was really great. It’s too early to say if the prompt follow-up, ‘Evermore’, is as good, but ‘Folklore’ has been on heavy rotation in these parts this year.

An artist we sadly lost a year ago, Juice Wrld, is also represented. It can be difficult listening to his music, because so much of it foreshadows his death. Also, his posthumous album ‘Legends Never Die’ was fairly patchy – mainly when it came to the latterly cobbled together collaborations. But there is plenty on there to show his brilliance as an artist.

Elsewhere, there’s a good range of genres and approaches from Billie Eilish, Jarvis Cocker’s Jarv Is, Raven Bush, Ela Minus, I Like Trains, Vritra, and the ever brilliant Deftones.

Here’s the full summer playlist:

Illuminati Hotties – Will I Get Cancelled If I Write A Song Called, “If You Were A Man You’d Be So Cancelled”
Juice Wrld – Conversations
Jarv Is – House Music All Night Long
Raven Bush – Moonglades
Taylor Swift – The 1
I Like Trains – A Steady Hand
Billie Eilish – My Future
Ela Minus – Megapunk
Vritra – What’s That
Deftones – Ohms


So here it is, the end. The conclusion. The climax. The last act. The finish line. The finale. The grand finale, if you like. A grand, magnificent and rousing finale. Yep, it’s the final part of our favourite songs of 2020 playlist. Ten more great tracks from a less than great year.

We kick of this autumn selection with a track from Clipping, whose new album ‘Visions Of Bodies Being Burned’ sees them once again pushing the boundaries of hip hop and continues with the horror movie influences of previous record ‘There Existed An Addiction To Blood’.

That’s followed by Kelly Lee Owens, who followed up her brilliant debut album this year with another great collection of music distinctly her own. Coming three years after that debut, and after a personal struggle that left her thinking that she may stop making music altogether, the power of overcoming that is apparent throughout.

Asian Dub Foundation also made a welcome return this year with ‘Access Denied’ – their first album for five years, with music as angry and on point as ever. The track we’ve chosen, ‘Comin Over Here’, samples a Stewart Lee stand up routine that pre-dates the Brexit referendum, but remains as relevant as ever as we approach the point where we might finally find out what Brexit even is.

Sorry to remind you of that whole thing. Let’s move on to the closing track of the playlist, which comes from Gary, Indiana – a new band with just three singles out in the world currently. The latest, ‘Nike Of Samocrace’, as well as appearing here, was the last to feature in the CMU Approved column this year. Of it, we said the track “rounds off the year by coiling up like a spring, ready to launch the band and anyone who’d care to come with them into 2021”. What more appropriate way to finish?

Here’s what’s on the autumn playlist:

Clipping – Say The Name
Kelly Lee Owens – Re-Wild
Galya Bisengalieva – Aralkum
Big Sean – Deep Reverence (feat Nipsey Hussle)
Everything Everything – Big Climb
Flohio – Unveiled
Asian Dub Foundation – Comin Over Here (feat Stewart Lee)
Juice Webster – Let The Dog Out
Masego – Mystery Lady (feat Don Toliver)
Gary, Indiana – Nike Of Samothrace

And now, once again, here’s the full playlist on Spotify:

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