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Music & clubs

2020 in Berlin music: Best albums, trends and venues

Music Editor Damien Cummings looks back on those who continued to shine in the darkest of years.

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Music Editor Damien Cummings looks back on the albums, venues and trends that defined our year. Photo: Rene Blixer

In a year where everything has changed, live music has suffered in tandem. But Berlin’s vibrant scene is among its most admirable communities, and when society is forced to shelter at home, it can be music we rely on for comfort. The force of artistry and creativity has continued to permeate, and in that spirit, it’s time to celebrate those that continued to shine even in the darkest of years.

Best breakout

Bad Hammer

Soft rock? Shadow pop? Dream wave? Whatever. Bad Hammer is as much a part of Neukölln as jazz is Kantstraße, and you can thank the people at Shameless/Limitless, Sameheads, Loophole and Tennis for that. Bad Hammer are brilliant. They’re as Berlin as bad Wi-Fi and Butterkekse, and somehow that makes them perfect.

Best party

Cocktail d’Amore XXL

A good obituary ought to celebrate the vibrancy of a life lived, not a moment lost. For the last 10 years, Discodromo hosted the finest gay party in a city not short of options. Flesh slickened with sweat and beats, bombarding without relent. Yes, Griessmühle is closed but Revier Südost will reopen, and when it does, I will be there on the first weekend of every month. Saturday to Monday. Ohne Pause.

Best Album

Dream_E – Dreams on 22

A sublime slab of Glaswegian scuzz. Dream_E splashes tender globs of Basic Channel that mirror the silver linings in ashen Scottish skies. A deeply personal record that only Sandy could have threaded together without indulging in kitsch, Dreams on 22 flutters effortlessly between the Southside downtempo that inspired it and the Hermannstraße hustle that brought it to life.

Best venue


As beguiling as it was beautiful, Griessmühle always gave the impression that it was thrown together with nothing more than 2×4 and duct tape. The reality was a venue with one of Berlin’s finest sound systems, meticulously designed to enthral, entrance and, above all, emancipate. Nightclubs are not only nests of unbound hedonism, but also vital cultural institutions. You will be sorely missed.

Best Label


Underground, under-appreciated and undoubtedly adored. You have D. Tiffany and Special Guest DJ to thank for doubling-down on ethics and ingenuity during a year when the indispensable throb of rave culture was in dire straits.

Biggest Miss

West Germany

A throwback to the days when anything and everything was on the cards. Provocative, precarious and proud, the Kotti spot West Germany was wide open to each and every artist. Avant-garde to the end, West Germany was a “PostPunkRockIndieHiphopElectronic” space that never plastered over the cracks in our city. It was run-down, fucked-up and brimming with candid creativity capable of ensnarling even the most straight-laced suits into those renegade rhythms that drew us there.

Best kept secret

Pace Yourself

One year in, this Scottish-run label has turned out some of the most fantastic and diverse material you’re ever likely to see from a Berlin newcomer. Records from the wildly talented YS and Dream_E are deftly teasing away the knots that have entangled so much of the Berlin scene. With more to come from Dugong and YS in 2021, pay close note to the path less travelled and savour the moment as you marvel at the destination.