Artsfols 2020 Best Folk and Acoustic Sessions
Posted on December 31, 2020
Wow. Musical videos and streaming exploded this past year with live performance out as an option for the time being. We had a lot of material to look at, and four reviewers rated folk and acoustic performance videos for the release of this, our eighth annual list. Thank you Nancy, Anna and Andrea for your contributions.
The point of the exercise is to produce a playlist of 40 of the best recent videos of folk and acoustic performances to be experienced like a concert, whether that’s on a desktop computer with a good set of headphones, or on a big screen TV with a high fidelity sound system, or on a smartphone with earbuds.
This year I previewed many hundreds of videos and came up with 200+ candidate videos, all of which I considered quality works with potential for the final list. I culled this candidate list to 60 or 70 selections, which the reviewers then “scored”. As you might guess, this is a highly subjective exercise. More than once this year, a song marked ‘exclude’ by one reviewer was the favourite of someone else.
When I began this exercise eight years ago, I would look for a spine chilling, virtuoso performance, or an emotional, gut twisting lyric, something that would draw me into the performance. This process doesn’t work in the same way for every person, so the end result is somewhat subjective and resolves around my personal taste to a great extent. But this year, with four reviewers who all love this kind of music, I feel we achieved a bit more balance.
As usual, we have videos from performers that have only a few hundred views to star performers eschewing the usual layers of production to indulge their creative muse more fully. Acoustic performance is only for the brave; the acoustic performer relies on their instrumental chops, or the raw strength of the music or lyric they have written. There’s no hiding behind layers of production wizardry and a distracting visual. I’m not knocking that; I like the Weeknd’s Blinding Lights as much as the next person, but I prefer acoustic music, and I want to see the performer in action in order to connect with the music.
I don’t follow pop music very closely, so Taylor Swift has never been on my radar before, but her video performance of Exile was a unanimous choice at number 1. At the other end of the scale in current popularity, but not in quality, Jasper Schalks sits at number 6 with 478 views presently. I so hope that view count increases because his is a great song and worthy of much more attention.
You may notice that there is an extra video in the top 40 list. The first video you’ll view is an acoustic rendition of the massive hit ‘If the world was ending’ with the songwriter JP Saxe and Julia Michaels. We chose to feature the excellent cover rendition by ‘The Hound and the Fox’ in the list proper, with some debate about that decision. After this first entry, you’re into the top 40 list, proper.
Here are the top 40 folk and acoustic performance videos for the year 2020:
Show me the top 10 only! :
Here is an audiostream of many of the selections on spotify, for those with that service.
Finally, here are the 217 candidates that made the first cut, all of them worthy performances. This is the extended list. (Click on the ‘youtube’ icon to see all 217.)
If you have a roku, or a youtube app running on any device, you can find all these lists by searching on ‘Artsfols 2020’. Or see all my lists by searching on ‘Artsfols’.
If you have YouTube Premium, here is a link to an extended playlist of 100 selections for audio streaming on the Youtube audio player. You can also download this list to your smartphone for replay off the web.
Finally, if you do discover an artist whose work you enjoy, look to purchase their albums on ‘bandcamp’. Most of your money will go to the artist, unlike Spotify, which pays only tiny royalties. Or use ‘itunes’ for your purchases; I’m told that artists receive a reasonable return on their sales there.