Elevated Near-Normalcy: Reflections on 2020 & the Top 500 Tracks of the Year
Say what you will about 2020, it made the smallest in-person interactions feel goddamn momentous. I take COVID protocols pretty seriously, because my job puts me in daily contact with the sick and the old, but I couldn’t spend every day from March onward sealed in my apartment. I got out a little, before winter set in. Occasionally, I went outside and got within six feet of some friends. We were always so excited to see each other! It felt so important.
Maybe it was at a protest or a rally, where we’re already used to recognizing one another in masks. Could have been at one of Coolidge’s many outdoor screenings. Perhaps a socially-distanced backyard barbecue, a swim at the local pond, or a walk around one of Massachusetts’ myriad orchards and reservations. Maybe I just ran into you on the sidewalk. These moments of near-normalcy were elevated in 2020 from the background hum of our busy lives to events worth remembering, and I’d like to thank every person who spent some time with me this year, for a few minutes or an afternoon.
Somehow, among all these lovely moments, the world continued to turn. Remember when the Australian outback was on fire, the President was being impeached, and America was drone-killing Iranian generals? Yeah, that was all this year. There were the protests surrounding George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. The dying gasps of Trumpism as a mainstream political force and its ascendance as something closer to a religious cult. The pandemic and the economic crash. We’re only just beginning to get a picture of what’s happening in Ethiopia. The news never stops! It can be a bit much. Give yourself permission to tune it out when you need to.
The rest of the time, we have the simulacra. Streaming gigs and fests, Zoom hangouts, group texts. Alternatives that feel fulfilling, but by and large are not. I took four online classes this year. All on occult and esoteric subjects, because fuck marketable skills, am I right? There was plenty of good TV for a spooky kid like me. BBC’s Dracula, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, The Haunting of Bly Manor, Evil, What We Do In The Shadows… Some okay non-horror shows too: Shrill, Animaniacs, The Good Lord Bird… I didn’t see as many new movies with the cinemas shuttered, but I liked The Colour Out Of Space and Palm Springs.
In terms of new records, there were a ton. Just check my top 500 tracks below! If you’re into local (and if you read the Hassle I know you are), it includes New England artists like Doug Tuttle, Container, Pilgrims of Yearning, Dame, Evicshen, Dropdead, House of Harm, Banshee, Witches With Dicks, Infera Bruo, Biproduct, and Ricardo Donoso. If you hear something you like, send them some money. Buy some merch. Support local artists! And speaking of local artists, shout outs to Battery March, Sadist, and PCP and the Knives for putting on some of the best live performances I saw this year before it all went sideways.
Don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m morbidly curious to learn what fresh hell 2021 will heap upon us. I hope we’ll all be able to see each other in person more frequently. Until then, I wish you a joyous solstice and a happy new year!