Wednesday, December 02, 2020

2020 Music: I Barely Paid Attention

 Damn, it was a weird year. While last year I was working in a record store for half of it, and keeping note of everything I heard the whole way through, this year I was not doing that. I would listen to things on Bandcamp or Youtube maybe once if I was vaguely interested, and then immediately move on to forgetting all about it if it didn’t make an impression. Most music existed only inside the context of my bedroom, and that's not even a euphemism for fucking. Even more than usual, it was a very lonely, unsocial, unphysical year. I did go to a few shows before the COVID pandemic took over the world but very few. (They were almost all played by friends. Shout-out to Metalux, Daniel Higgs, Liz Durette, Max Eilbacher & Duncan Moore. You were all great.) The larger social context for music feels obliterated, and so does time itself, and maybe even the very idea of moods. So this would be a particularly unadventurous list. Most things I like I ended up buying on Bandcamp and you can see them in my collection there. I wrote all this down, thought it wasn't good enough to be a post, and just e-mailed it to friends. But then I was reminded that this was a tough year for musicians and their publicity machines and that maybe making this public could help. I'll include Bandcamp links as well when they're available. I'm also posting this before the last "Bandcamp Friday" of the year, the day, like a monthly holiday among the incredibly online weird music music fan, where Bandcamp waives their portion of the take to give more their money to artists, who in turn often dedicate their profits to charitable causes.

Here's what I would consider "the best," split into two brief lists, but unranked:

Luis Pestana - Rosa Pano
Nick Storring - My Magic Dreams Have Lost Their Spell
Silvia Tarozzi - Mi specchio e rifletto
Soft Pink Truth - Shall We Go On Sinning So That The Grace May Increase?
ML Buch- Skinned
Microphones In 2020
Eartheater - Phoenix: Flames Are Dew Upon My Skin

These are all mellow, pretty, emotional, even if some of them are sort of abstract or whatever or might get called "experimental" while others are more straightforward. The ML Buch is a pop record in its use of MIDI instruments, autotune vocals but the space it occupies feels similar. Maybe that's the record of the year, for the particular place it occupies, where emotions are present but they're all through this digital filter that just creates aching loneliness? There's a song on there called "I'm a girl you can hold IRL." It's also something I felt might be bad at first. Microphones In 2020 with the accompanying Youtube video of Phil just looking through old photos is very cool and affecting.

Kate NV - Room For The Moon
Charli XCX - How I’m Feeling Now
US Girls - Heavy Light
Ohmme - Fantasize Your Ghost
Locate S,1 - Stay Away From Music
Lily Konigsberg - It’s Just Like All The Clouds
Magik Markers - 2020
Dustin Laurenzi - Behold

These are the more upbeat side of pop music, or guitar-based rock music, e.g. stuff you might not have fucked with. The Laurenzi record is jazz versions of Moondog songs but still very summery.

That’s it, I basically just had these two moods. Other jazz and folk stuff sort of slots into the first group, like Sally Anne Morgan’s Thread, or Christian Ronn & Aram Shelton’s Multiring. There's also Michele Mercure's Pictures Of Echoes, which is an archival release that's very strong. Honestly, there's probably more in this zone I liked and thought was good but was also able to treat like ambient music and therefore forget about. Check out the stuff in my Bandcamp collection that has the telltale Astral Spirits design if you know it to recognize it; they put out a lot of improv stuff that's sort of tough for me to deal with so what I end up getting is usually on the more listenable side of the spectrum. Another notable jazz thing I downloaded but didn’t purchase through Bandcamp would be the new Nels Cline Singers. Closest thing to another good pop record would be Profligate - Too Numb To Know.

Paid very little attention to rap, a few things I listened to once and liked but immediately forgot about though. (Boldy James/Sterling Toles and something Passion Of The Weiss wrote about/put out) That Armand Hammer record Shrines has a song that kicks off with the lyric “I’ve got ideals and dreams that don’t work in practice/I’ve got a time machine and it don’t go backwards” I thought about a lot. Could quote that for a bio on an online profile. I regret not seeing them play a show with Moor Mother pre-quar when I was broke as hell. But we're all regretting the shows we didn't go to, right? And yearning for there to be more we can go to in the future? I don't know, I guess even the level of enthusiasm for new music in evidence in this post makes me an outlier among people my age and older. Still, music remains the primary way in which I have met people and made friends throughout my life, I can't imagine giving up on it. Music itself remains an edifying miracle of life on Earth, even in a truly alienating and dispiriting time.

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