Well….. that was definitely a year wasn’t it? I said several times throughout 2020 that “one day we will tell stories about this time. I look forward to doing that, and not being in this time anymore.” As of this writing, we’re still in a global pandemic, and I really hope that things look much different when I write my 2021 in Review post in a year. There were periods of 2020 where I found myself taking moments to just breathe every hour or so in a given day to basically hold a panic attack at bay.
And on top of the pandemic, there was the political climate, racial injustice throughout the country, and so many people on social media being in their own media and info bubbles that it feels like I literally live in a different world than people just a couple blocks over from me. I don’t really know where we go from here, and I know none of this is just going to “get better” regardless of who’s in the White House or how many vaccines we have, but I really hope over this next year that decency, science, and facts can make a big comeback.
So that was the dark part, which is the obvious place to start given the shitshow year that it was. However, there were good things too.
- I spent more time with Corinne and the girls than I ever imagined, and while some of that was frustrating and exhausting, seeing my girls become each other’s best friend was such a joy, and likely the thing I will reminisce most about this year. And related, I really hope this time allows me to never take for granted ALL the things I have (gym, bars, museums, amusement parks, music gigs, so. many. things.) in non pandemic times.
- One of my goals last year was auditioning for some shows and hopefully getting cast. Well I did that and did get cast, although the show didn’t get to happen because…. well scroll up. But here’s hoping that’s just the start of more performing in the coming years!
- Did the Halloween band thing again, and it went even better this year, which made me feel all kinds of warm feelings about my neighbors in general, which led to a couple more responsibly distanced outside activities with the neighborhood later in the year. Looking forward to lots more of that kind of stuff when things hopefully get back to normal at some point.
- It was also fun during this year to reconnect regularly with friends who live far away. I feel closer to several old friends than I have in years thanks to virtual meetups. I also started a weekly virtual “family legacy” night with my parents where I get them to tell stories from all kinds of times from their lives which has been a lot of fun.
I know I’ll look back at this time with an odd fondness because of those things above, so while we’re still in the midst of it, I’m trying to focus on those, so that I’m not just a ball of anxiety, frustration, and depression. Like I said, can’t wait to be telling stories about this time and not be in this time anymore.
To be honest, in 2021, I don’t know if I really have goals to list, because the whole concept of having goals kind of got shot this past year. I’d like everything to just be a little better. Seems like that’s a feasible goal.
So on the bright side of 2020, I’ll turn my focus to my favorites from the year. Crazy that this is the 16th time I’ve done this, and my list of previous years is getting super long:
I’ll start with Music, and I’ve got a couple new categories of stuff this year, so read on (I know you’re so excited).
Top 5 Albums
- Jack Garratt – Love, Death, and Dancing
This is one of my favorite albums in years, and it blows me away a little more every time I listen to it. Garratt is such a crazy combination of electronica, rock, soul, and even some folk-y elements too, and he doesn’t seem to care if it all perfectly fits. He also seems to write and perform with no fear that he will ever run out of hooks. Return them to the One, which was my theme song of the year, is a master class in restraint. The song has probably 6 incredible hooks, and he doesn’t dwell on any of them, he just gives you a taste and then takes it away. It exploded my entire mind (that’s an Avery expression). This album is gonna stick with me for a long time.
2. Sylvan Esso – Free Love
In a similar sense of “living free of fear that you’ll ever run out of hooks”, Sylvan Esso was a close second to Jack Garratt this year. They very similarly perform and write with such restraint, it is fascinating and amazing to me. Ferris Wheel was one of Avery’s favorite songs of the year, and probably one of mine too, but I really love this whole album. Sylvan Esso seems to get better and better with every album.
3. Biffy Clyro – A Celebration of Endings
I’ve known about Biffy Clyro for so long, as I basically looked into every Scottish rock band I could find when I discovered Frightened Rabbit, but I never really got into them until the past couple years. And oddly enough, Avery was the one who actually learned that this album was coming out when she was clicking around on Apple music and found their first single Instant History. I’m really hoping that the stars align when bands can start touring again so that this could potentially be Avery’s first rock show if they tour anywhere near us (and have an all ages show).
4. The Naked and Famous – Recover
I got this album right at the same time I got the Jack Garratt album, and this got a little overshadowed. But it stuck with me and continued to grow on me. Front to back it is comforting, challenging, and catchy as hell. The Naked and Famous are so consistently solid, and you can pretty much set your watch that every other year they are going to release a solid album.
5a. Phoebe Bridgers – Punisher
I had to make two #5 slots this year, as I really couldn’t decide between these last two albums, and really wanted both of them on here. I had heard Phoebe’s last album Stranger in the Alps, and beyond just loving that she named the album that (backstory here), I generally dug her sound. Punisher definitely takes it to a whole new level, although it’s so shoe gazey and melancholy that coming out in the middle of a pandemic did it no favors. Nevertheless though, I love this album, especially Chinese Satellite although it destroys me.
5b. Jónsi – Shiver
Seeing as I just wrote up my decade in review recently, which had Jónsi’s last album Go in the number one slot, I was ecstatic to see this album come out. Right in the midst of stay at home orders in the Spring, he released the first single from this album called Exhale, an intensely gentle and simple song in which the chorus is “It’s just the way it is, it isn’t your fault, just let it go.” In the hands of anyone else, that would seem so dumb and simple, yet coming from Jónsi, especially in that moment of my life, it was like drinking water in the desert. The second single, Swill, came out a little later and was definitely my favorite track off the album. Unfortunately, the album itself never really exceeded those first two singles for me, but I still love it, and it will hold a special place in my heart from the crazy year it came out in.
Ólafur Arnalds – some kind of peace, Doves – The Universal Want, Big Data – 3.0, HAIM – Women in Music Pt. III, Bob Dylan – Rough and Rowdy Ways, Run the Jewels – RTJ4, The 1975 – Notes On a Conditional Form, Fiona Apple – Fetch the Bolt Cutters, The Weeknd – After Hours, Låpsley – These Elements – EP
didn’t have time to give them a fair shake
Fleet Foxes – Shore, Rufus Wainwright – Unfollow the Rules
Theme Song of the Year
Me: Return Them to the One – Jack Garratt
Corinne: Blinding Lights – The Weeknd
Avery: I Choose – Alessia Cara (The Willoughbys Soundtrack)
Margot: Shine Your Way – Owl City & Yuna (The Croods Original Soundtrack)
Top Albums I Should Have Been into Earlier
Mike Doughty – Haughty Melodic
Ry X – Unfurl
Tried to keep a running list of movies I saw for the first time in 2020 that I really liked, although I’m certain I missed some. But here’s a handful of movies I saw for the first time and enjoyed:
The Vast of Night
A Ghost Story
The Invisible Man
Worst Movie of the Year
Believe it or not, my winner this year in this category didn’t even come up as a result of How Did This Get Made.
Terminator: Dark Fate
I was genuinely excited to see this movie finally, as really any foray into the Terminator universe is fun for me. But man, this movie is just hot garbage, and it’s trying so hard to pay lip service and harken back to previous Terminator movies that it’s neither satisfying fans, nor introducing anything interesting or new. Just terrible.
Favorite TV Shows
Added this new category this year, since I watch a decent number of TV shows and thought it would be fun to throw on. But instead of just throwing out a list, I have to give a special shout out to:
I loved the ad campaign this show was based on and showed it to so many people. So when I saw Apple + was making a show out of it, I thought “eh, what the heck, I’m sure it’ll be fun enough.” I can’t express enough how delightful this show is. It’s so upbeat, and yet incredibly clever, and still kind of adult (in that it doesn’t shy away from sex and swearing). And coming out this past year could not have been better, as it was just the uplifting show I think all of us needed. Not to mention that I’ve been loving and following the Premiere League more and more, so that general English football-ness of the whole show is also wonderfully entertaining.
I’ll Be Gone in the Dark
What We Do in the Shadows
Also added this category this year, because I have a voracious appetite for podcasts, and I couldn’t believe it’s taken me this long to create a Podcast section in my year in review. This year’s favorite podcast was a complete runaway, much in the same way Ted Lasso was for TV Shows:
Bonanas for Bonanza
This might have been my favorite media thing in general in all of 2020. Every time a new episode came out, I was giddy. It’s very funny people talking about a different episode of the show Bonanza each time. I don’t care about the show at all, I don’t watch the episodes and yet this podcast is just fantastic. I’m not certain the general comedic style of it is for everyone, but man, it knocked it out of the park for me this past year. I really hope it keeps going (after all there are 431 episodes of Bonanza total, so it would be fun to see just how long they can take this thing).
The 2020 MCAM Mix
1: Looking at the World from the Bottom of a Well – Mike Doughty
Saw Mike Doughty live at the Pyramid Scheme probably a month before everything shut down with the pandemic, and although I thought I knew him well enough, I realized I needed a deeper dive into his stuff. This song in particular will remind me of the start of the pandemic (although not in a bad way, as weird as that sounds).
2: Tiny Indoor Fireworks – Biffy Clyro
Biffy Clyro has become Avery and my band, and this was our favorite track off the new album.
3: Ferris Wheel – Sylvan Esso
The groove and the tightness of this song is just irresistible. Avery also had the lyrics memorized faster than I did.
4: Swill – Jónsi
This song is fascinating, chaotic, and yet calming and beautiful all at the same time.
5: My Love Was Like the Rain – Låpsley
I am such a sucker for lounge-y pretty electronica, and I had heard this song pretty early in the year and just loved it.
6: Return them to the One – Jack Garratt
My theme song for the year. The restraint that Garratt shows in this song blows my mind, and the song in general has a spiritual depth that breaks and inspires me.
7: Jesus Christ 2005 God Bless America – The 1975
Such a stunning song about being gay and Christian. Beautiful and heartbreaking.
8: Foreign Tides – Ry X
I’m such a sucker for Ry X’s sound, and this might be his most poppy track. Just delightful.
9: Skeleton Boy – Neon Trees
One of Avery’s favorite tracks from the year (she even created a dance for it). I totally missed this album by Neon Trees, but it is just as catchy and delightful as ever.
10: JU$T – Run the Jewels
Look at all these slave masters posing on your dollar.
11: Running Up that Hill – Meg Myers
I love the original song by Kate Bush, and I love Meg Myers. This cover is perfect.
12: Blinding Lights – The Weeknd
Avery will still instantly do the tik tok dance to this song when it comes on, and I usually join her.
13: stay – pronoun
I don’t even remember how I heard of pronoun, but this song is amazing, and really the whole album (i’ll show you stronger) is great.
14: Figure Eight – Trophy Eyes
The sax solo towards the end of this song is magnificent and makes me very excited to write some rock songs with sax solos.
15: Chinese Satellite – Phoebe Bridgers
This song destroys me, but I relate to the desperation of it so much. “I want to believe. Instead I look at the sky and I feel nothing. You know I hate to be alone.”
16: Better – Jack Garratt
This song encompasses that feeling of “I’m just gonna get a drink, and maybe all this other shit will work itself out.” Could there be a more relatable feeling in 2020?
17: For Her – Fiona Apple
Phenomenal, fascinating, intricate, wild tune with a tremendous amount of meaning (https://www.vulture.com/2020/04/fiona-apple-fetch-the-bolt-cutters-songs.html).
18: Coming Back to Me – The Naked and Famous
The beautiful bittersweetness of this song stuns me every time.
19: When I Get to Heaven – John Prine
After Prine passed away in 2020, I went through all his stuff, and realized I had never listened through The Tree of Forgiveness, which only came out 2 years previous, and it’s fantastic. This felt like the most appropriate song to end the 2020 mix on, and I hope John is up there smoking his 9 mile long cigarette.
So yeah, that was a year alright. Seems like 2021 can only go up in terms of the world. but who knows what it will bring in terms of media. Here’s hoping for better things all around, and that I can actually see a lot of you in person again. You are all getting a vicious Morgan hug when that can happen again.