TPM Top 40 Songs of 2020


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40. Silent Skies – “Oceans”

This Silent Skies debut is full of wondrous songs, but I’ve really come to love the sense of space and distance, and the subtle electronic touches communicate the deep well of emotions.  It’s one of those songs that will make you stop whatever you are doing to consider what is being said. 

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39. Leafblade

– “A Promise in the Sleep”

This song struck me as odd the first time I heard it, but since then I’ve really come to appreciate it. This track uses Silent Night, and basically makes a dark, evocative prog rock song out of it. I’ve always noticed how difficult adapting a carol is for other bands, but this one is done very well.

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38. Votum – “Lamb of Cyber God”

Votum came back in a big way in 2020, and this song led the way for me. I love the insane chorus and the heavy electronic metal style.

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37. Jim Rider – “Equals”

I found myself listening to this song and EP from electronic artist Jim Rider quite often in 2020. This song specifically has such a flow and progression that it’s easy to get lost within it. This one is as smooth as butter.

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36. Mariana Semkina – “Invisible”

Mariana’s solo debut was darker and more poetic than Iamthemorning. I especially noticed this song, being highly abstract, with dark rhythms and loops that seem to raise the hairs on your neck with their proximity and eerie quality.  It is different and chilling.

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35. MagickBrotherMysticSister

– “Instructions for Judgement Visions”

MagickBrotherMysticSister was part of a Triple Feature this year, but I kept listening to it, and probably should have written a full review. The album is a pleasure in the Canterbury style of progressive rock and psychedelia. This song captures that well with quirky darkness, poking flute, bass grooves, and a spooky keyboard-soaked ending.  

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34. Grey Daze – “Soul Song”

While other songs on this album hit harder or were catchier, this song represents the entire Grey Daze project for me. This is an emotional tune, one that I return to often, and to see Chester’s son involved makes it that much more potent.

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33. Hyco – “The Path”

I found myself listening to this song quite a bit last year. This album is eclectic overall, and I think “The Path” is one of the reasons for this. With an addictive chorus, fantastic use of trumpet, and transitions galore, this is a masterful song.

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32. Caligula’s Horse – “Autumn”

Caligula’s Horse albums unfortunately tend to start out strong for me, but then I lose interest a few weeks or months later. One song on the last CH album, however, really stuck with me, and that is “Autumn”.  It is delicate, catchy, and acoustic, for the most part.  Jim builds the memorable chorus more and more until the band unleashes itself at the very end. It is one of the band’s best songs on any record.

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31. Inner Odyssey – “Overhanging”

While other tracks on this album had more of the electronic overtones and catchier choruses I loved, this opener from the Inner Odyssey debut simply has a sublime progressive rock arc that I admire. I love the autotune effect, but the keys and guitars near the end really make it work for me.

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30. Dark Tranquility

– “In Truth Divided”

This album closer (on the original tracklist) from Dark Tranquility really caught my ear. I love the delicate nature of it, a far cry from the rest of the album. I love this tender song and the soothing vocals.

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29. My Arrival – “Full Dark No Stars”

This song had a funny effect on me. While the album overall is definitely solid, this shorter ballad is what I found myself singing over and over to myself. I simply love how expressive and almost desperate it sounds.

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28. Novena – “Prison Walls”

This mighty epic from Novena is difficult to hear, but also undeniably brilliant. While I admire the heavy grooves it offers, it is Gareth’s spoken word in the middle that blows my mind. In fact, it is more of a passionate tirade or searing feral outburst than just spoken word. While the song ends with Ross singing with all his heart, the huge ending wouldn’t feel as palpable without the darkness in the middle.

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27. Marc Atkinson – “Safe and Sound”

Marc had a great year, but I think this catchy tune is what really stood out for me. Yes, it is a simple song, but that is exactly why I love it. The heart and soul of its writer can be felt above all else, and the chorus has stayed with me.

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26. Ms Amy Birks – “Say Something”

Wow, this song left a lasting effect on me. This song quivers fervently about the rape of a young woman, and the robbery of her precious self.  It stands out against victim blaming, statutory manipulation, and the general way we men have treated women for all of history.  It is one of those songs that will give great pause to whatever you are doing, and it will immerse you in heartache and regret.  It is truly a tender and necessary track.

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25. Agnes Obel – “Island of Doom”

While the rest of Agnes’ recent album is truly amazing, this single and the signature vocal style in the chorus create such a mood that it makes me want to go listen to the whole album straightway. Eerie and offbeat, this is such a fantastic song.

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24. Hollingshead – “The Valley”

This album and song came thundering into my eardrums in December. With multiple transitions from haunting to explosive, this song has an enormous motor of bass and quirky keys running under its hood. It thrills me every time I hear it.

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23. Rashida Prime

– “Worthless Redemption”

This is an example of a track that will never get old for me. It constructs a dense, glassy atmosphere that is so rich and so wondrous that it sweeps me away to another world.  The speed and precision in its electronic looping are so addictive. 

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22. Ulver – “Russian Doll”

While other songs on the album are more complex and radical, this is the song that I listened to the most. That is partially because my kids love it so much, too, but I have found that I simply don’t tire of its riveting beat and mysterious lyrics.

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21. Sojourner – “The Event Horizon”

This closer is truly grand, feeling expressive and momentous.  The last few minutes are especially good, with roaring guitar rhythms, dark keys, and perfect harsh vocals.  This song ends the album in a way that makes you want to start it all over again.

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20. Katatonia – “Lacquer”

I’ve struggled with Katatonia through the years. They can been incredibly average at times, but also mesmerizing. “Lacquer” as a single split the fan base, but I found myself loving the evocative, warm tones and the perfect vocals. I listened to this one many, many times last year.

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19. Fates Warning

– “The Longest Shadow of the Day”

These legends know how to craft an epic that is more than just pomp. With personal darkness and shadows many, Fates Warning plays with us a bit, transitioning from darkness to light multiple times, always feeling emotional and ponderous, though.  This song balances subtlety with power, and this paradox is felt even in its climax.

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18. Aleah – “Inverted Enlightenment”

This is a masterful song from Aleah, may she rest in peace. Besides having intense lyrics, it is a bit of a slow burn, but opens up in the second half with violin, catchy vocal lines, and such an amazing climax.  What a desperately sad, yet amazing song!

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17. Michael Whalen

– “The Pure and the Calm”

The title of this track says it all. Whalen’s latest electronic album is soothing and celestial with hints of darkness, and this track captures all of that. It has a hint of Vangelis in its sound, but soon transitions to a dreamy mist of feelings and peace.

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16. Lucid Planet – “Entrancement”

Lucid Planet’s sophomore album is about as adventurous and eclectic as possible. Yet, this song continues to stand out for me. This rhythmic, pulsating atmospheric song feels ritualistic, haunted, and tribal in nature with baritone mutterings and beautiful vocals layered over everything.  The winding flutes and unsettling aura are absolute winners.  

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15. Nightwish – “Ad Astra”

While some fans weren’t pleased, I really enjoyed the second disc from Nightwish’s latest. This second disc is an album all to itself, being cinematic and orchestral rather than metallic. But it has such an uplifting, inspiring message to it, and the music is thundering and gorgeous. This closer brings the majesty of this album to a peak with poetic spoken word that is incredibly thought-provoking.

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14. Lonely Robot – “Crystalline

(Orchestral Version)”

This entry is a bit of a puzzlement for me. I love the original version of this song, but the orchestral version felt more authentic to me. In fact, it felt to me like something John would want to explore more in the future. And it isn’t just the music, but the combination of the orchestrations with John’s ponderous, methodical vocals that just makes it work so well.

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13. The Carbon Files

– “The Quietest Dark”

This song arose as a surprise favorite for me. It has quite a progressive ambient style to it, and the last two minutes are especially beautiful. It gets the chance to start the beat rather early compared to other tracks on the album, and it transitions between beats and melodies serenely and soothingly.

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12. Thomas Bergersen

– “We Are Legends”

This song is about as mighty and epic as they come. This 13-minute track combines orchestra, folk melodies, and searing rock guitar from Claudio Pietronik of Ancient Bards.  This song—this song is a stunning, jaw-dropping display of genius, atmosphere, and emotion.  The opening notes actually remind me of a song from the Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion soundtrack, but it soon moves into strings and a crescendo with mighty effect.  Oh, the drama, the lofty riffs, the musing neo-classical elements, and the winding pipes; all of this comes together into a deeply moving piece of cinematic cunning. 

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11. Oceans of Slumber – “Pray for Fire”

This might be one of Oceans of Slumber’s best songs yet. It starts out with fantastic acoustic guitar, and slowly builds with Cammie’s voice into a rolling fury of metal and passion.  The second half has a cinematic and atmospheric portion where Cammie sounds evocative and almost unsettling.  In fact, her prayer for fire feels both confident and powerful on one hand, while unnerving and terrifying from a different perspective.

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10. Damnation Angels

– “Remnants of a Dying Star”

This is probably the “proggiest” song the band has done yet, but they did it in such a hypnotic fashion.  It has two distinct sections separated by an extended sequence of whirling electronic musings and keyboard orchestrations.  I absolutely love it and the contrast between light and darkness that is buried within it.

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9. Susanne Sundfør – “When the Lord”

At the beginning of 2020, Susanne released a short score for the documentary “Self Portrait”. Without getting too much into that, this song has some of the most transcendent, human melodies and lyrics of the year. It offers hope in the midst of uncertainty, pain, and worry, and the melody feels like the annunciation of Love.

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8. Pain of Salvation – “Panther”

I’ve always loved Daniel’s rap-singing style, and I didn’t think I would get to hear it come back with such passion and vascularity. This title track was completely unexpected, showcasing a more electronic, industrial style that I instantly loved. With insane catchiness and utter coolness, this song is a masterwork in my mind.

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7. Major Parkinson – “Jonah”

Another favorite with my kids, this colorful song was a stand-alone single from Major Parkinson in 2020. However, strangely for a single (for me), this one really stayed by my side, and I kept hearing the incredible chorus in my very dreams. This song has such pace and calculated execution that it always feels like a mystery, but a familiar one.

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6. Light Field Reverie

– “Ghost Bird”

Some songs just need time. I originally had the amazing, more metallic title track from Light Field Reverie’s debut on this list, but I ended up going with “Ghost Bird”. Why? Well, this album doesn’t play all of its hand at the same time. With evocative lyrics, ethereal imagery, and a fantastically otherworldly ambient portion in the middle, this song has literally swooned me into loving it.

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5. Delain – “Burning Bridges”

At the beginning of 2020, I wondered if this song would have the legs I thought it might. It was released in 2019 as a single, and I listened to it with abandon. Yet, even with how much I adore the whole album, I just cannot forget the immense chorus, soaring keys, and keen instrumentation. Charlotte’s voice is pushed almost to its limits as she hits incredibly high notes multiple times. I will love this song forever.

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4. IO Earth – “The Rain”

This is the first time I’ve ever had to do this. “The Rain” by IO Earth is not available anywhere online, period. You can hear a snippet of it at the very end of this teaser. That’s the best I can do. However, I couldn’t just remove it from this list because it is truly one of the best songs of 2020, and quite easily. At 18 minutes in length, this is such a beautiful, powerful song on multiple levels.  Firstly, the music, rhythms, and especially acoustic guitars are all perfect, and the mix really brings them out, making them feel larger than life.  But there is more to this song.  Near the end, we hear various voices expressing what makes them happy and what makes them sad.  The song leans heavily into hope and the human dream; and, as these voices fade, Rosanna’s vocals come back to us one last time for this record.  She sounds emotional and pensive, and I think this portion is her best performance that I’ve heard.  Finally, the song ends with two minutes of pouring rain that eventually become sunshine, singing birds, and rebirth.  Strapping on my headphones, this song is a desperately sensitive experience, and I hope you will experience it by buying the album.

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3. Pendragon – “Eternal Light”

This album is chock full of amazing moments, but I think it is the guitar work on this riveting track that is my favorite of them all. I like the lyrics and the chorus, but when the instrumental starts in the middle, this song turns into something truly special.

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2. Draconian – “The Sethian”

This was almost my favorite song of the year. This track has all the brutal force from Anders’ amazing harsh vox, but Heike matches his ferocity with one of the biggest vocal moments I’ve ever heard from her. This song is equal parts metal and poetry, and its energy never fades. P.S. If I could cheat and include the preceding song “Burial Fields”, too, I would. That song swallows my heart and mind whole with such immense sadness and beauty that I can’t help but cry each time.

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**1. Lunatic Soul – “The Fountain”**

In 2020, one song truly captured the greatest reaction from me. Without fail, the tender, hopeful ending to Lunatic Soul’s newest masterpiece has taken a piece of me with it as it closes. With a message of love and confidence, marred of course by distance and dimension, this song holds so much emotion in the palm of its hand. And as the keys filter in near the middle, it creates such an exquisite haze of foggy memory, yet clarity in purpose. This is definitely my favorite song of the year.

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