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totally top five: 2020

You ever spend at least five or six minutes a day staring into the middle distance and trying to process that we’re all living through like, three to five global catastrophes simultaneously? And then get up and put your clothes on and go to work anyway? Oh yeah of course you have that’s what 2020 was all about.

I know that, functionally and realistically, absolutely nothing is going to change between December 31, 2020 and January 1, 2021, but holy shit am I be glad to close the door on this shitshow of a year regardless.

My attention span went to hell this year, amongst other attributes, and I pretty much ceased watching or reading anything after about… August? I did continue to listen to new music as without it I die, but everything else was just a barren field of nothingness. My Goodreads year-end roundup felt particularly pointed this year, but what can you do, right?

ANYWAY, here’s my top five for the year. Just the one list, categories be damned.

Orville Peck was my most listened-to artist this year. Crystal gave me Pony at the start of the year when she did her annual comb-through of all the year-end lists; I was hooked from the jump and I stand by everything I said about it in January. Peck’s voice is so easy to listen to even though it’s deeply emotional and there’s something really magical about his arrangements. I’ve loved everything he’s done this year as well — the cover of “Smalltown Boy” is one of my favorite pieces of music from 2020 and “No Glory in the West” just absolutely kicked my ass across the prairie — and I also have to blame and thank him for really opening me up to country music this year. I had, obviously, moved away from my youthful “everything but country” attitude to music, but the algorithm responded to my listening habits and offered up a ton of new music I wouldn’t have necessarily been interested in before because it was country or country adjacent including some new legit favorites like Colter Wall and Evil and Sunny War.

Sarah Henstra’s We Contain Multitudes is still really the only piece of media I consumed this year that really fucked me up emotionally in exactly the way I like to be fucked up emotionally. My Goodreads review is still right on and what I said in May here still stands as well. This is just a really lovely story with characters it’s easy to care about and get invested in with complex life experiences that complicate how they relate to one another. I’ve bought, I think, almost ten copies of this book for other people since I finished reading it and if that’s not a ringing recommendation, I don’t know what possibly could be.

I joked earlier this year that since Crystal had decided to attempt to claim her Canadian citizenship, I was going to try to get into The Tragically Hip so that I could be adequately prepared for whatever it meant to live with a Canadian, but it turns out that they’re great and I was just missing out all these years. (Not that I necessarily assumed they weren’t good but like, you know… Canadians, right?) I would start listing the favorites I’ve accumulated here, but there are just too many to be honest. I do have a favorites playlist but it is incomplete, so tread with that in mind. Truly, RIP Gord Downie, and thanks for the boss tunes.

Letterkenny ended up being one of the only media experiences we had this year and I still stand by every word I said about it in March. Just thinking about it can make me laugh and we’ve held off on watching the new episodes specifically because we want to have something to look forward to. Crystal and I had a long conversation the other day that meandered over a bunch of media and it ultimately came down to the idea that not enough weird shit is getting made. Everything is a remake or re-adaptation or a sequel and I know we’ve all been screaming about that for more than a decade at this point, but it’s nice to watch something like Letterkenny that is weird and funny and has a big heart too.

As previously discusses at length (kinda), I watch hockey now! Again! Regularly for the first time since I was a youth. This was an exceptionally weird season in which to get invested in sports of any kind and by the end of it I had attached myself to thirteen teams (seven “primaries and six “auxiliaries” because I certainly cannot do anything normally) and several of those teams went to the playoffs, some of them deep, and one of them all the way to the Cup final! Which was rad, but also sucked because they lost, though it was tempered by my enthusiasm for the finals being between teams from non-traditional hockey markets! Anyway, I think cishet men should be banned from talking about sports where other people can see it, but otherwise I’ve been having a spectacular time and can’t wait for the new season even though having it happen under the current conditions of the world also terrifies me. The grueling mechanism of capitalism, etc etc.

      

Happy New Year! Here’s to high hopes and low expectations for 2021! I hope this year treats you kinder than the last and I hope you’re kinder to yourself than you ever have been before. I love you! Be safe!

tunesday: november 2020

a square image of warped yellow clouds that reads november 2020

listen on spotify

tunesday: october 2020

a square image of black and gray clouds that reads october 2020

listen on spotify

totally top three: august 2020

It’s September! 2020! Already! Jesus! Hi! This is your reminder to please donate to mutual aid funds if you’re able! Wash your hands! Wear a mask! Stay safe! Stay sane! I love you! A lot!


I’ve been on a country kick lately — unfortunately I am now truly midwestern, rip the cool version of me — that started because I listened to Bonnie Raitt’s entire discography and then the Old 97s — one of the only contemporary country artists I listened to when I was still cool — dropped an album in my lap! And it’s great. This is really classic country storytelling and it feels very alt-Texas. I’m partial to “This House Got Ghosts,” “I Like You Better,” “Belmont Hotel,” “Our Year,” “Bottle Rocket Baby,” and “Why Don’t We Ever Say We’re Sorry,” which, you know, is most of the album, so they must be doing something right.


One of my personal projects this year has been to try to get into poetry because I’ve never read beyond what I absolutely had to when I was in college/grad school and that seems unfair to a whole bunch of writers! It has been… a largely fruitless endeavor because my brain just isn’t designed for it honestly, but I ordered Kimmy Walters’ new collection The Faraway [review!] and ended up loving a bunch of the poems in it, including “zeitgeist wants me in its mouth” and ten others I took pictures of to reread at whim.


Tomasz Jedrowski’s Swimming in the Dark [review!] was lovely and achy and richly written. It was really nice to drop into a time and place I haven’t encountered often before and see it rendered in a complex and interesting way whiles spending time with a narrator that I cared deeply about.


And three to look forward to…

unpregnant   rituals of mine, hype nostalgia   the boys in the band

totally top three: july 2020

It’s August! 2020! Holy fucking shit! Hi! This is your reminder to please donate to mutual aid funds if you’re able! Wash your hands! Wear a mask! Stay safe! Stay sane! I love you! A lot!


The only thing I had the energy to watch this month is a Fox TV show about baseball that was canceled in 2016. Well, I also watched a lot of hockey when it came back and a couple of baseball games, but stuff with an emotional arc? Plot? Don’t know ’em, couldn’t handle them if I did. Anyway, we did watch most of Pitch and genuinely loved it and the only reason we haven’t finished it is because we’re trying to ~savor what we have. I can’t believe this wasn’t a huge hit, every moment of it is pretty great and everyone is beautiful and also baseball? What’s not to like?


My two most listened playlists in July were Aspen Aspen‘s Black Country Matters and Jeremy Andrew Hunter (aka Ska Tune Network)’s LGBTQ SKA BANDS because they both rip and have introduced me to a bunch of artists I wouldn’t have probably otherwise found. One of the best things about Spotify aside from The Algorithm is that if I have an errant thought about a playlist I want to hear, there is already one waiting for me. These two are some of the best I’ve heard this year. (Yes, ska is good, actually. Shut it.)


The Old Guard was really fun! I liked all the characters and the universe it built and I thought the action was all pretty fun and the setup for a sequel was solid. I’d definitely watch another two hours of Charlize Theron and KiKi Layne kicking absolute ass with an occasional detour where two incredibly beautiful men say deeply loving and romantic things to each other if it was available to me.


And three to look forward to…

syed m. masood, more than just a pretty face   kiesza, crave   open 24 hours