FWIW, while 2020 did a hell of a job demolishing good things and promoting bad ones, my love of patterns and numbers is unabated. These are the Top Ten Triangular Numbers of 2020 if you ask me:
FWIW, while 2020 did a hell of a job demolishing good things and promoting bad ones, my love of patterns and numbers is unabated. These are the Top Ten Triangular Numbers of 2020 if you ask me:
Philippe Auclair (Louis Philippe) reflects on the year
This truly has been the strangest of years for me, a year which started in uncertainty and ended with my adopted country’s final act of severance of its links with the European Union, something which has been a source of deep, in fact life-changing sorrow for me and so many of the people I call my friends here in London and elsewhere in England. I daren’t say more on the subject.
But then, sorrow and grief have been all-present throughout these twelve awful months. I said goodbye to far too many people who were dear to me. My beautiful friend Ken Brake finally succumbed to the cancer which had plagued him for several years, long before his time. I still find it very difficult to use the past time to talk about the musical accomplice of nearly three decades, the man with whom I shared more jokes and cups of Darjeeling tea than I did with anyone else during this time.
We made so much music together in his immaculate studio in Primrose Hill—just the two of us, or with Alasdair, Lupe and The Clientele, or Louise Le May, or Mari Persen, or Jonathan Coe, or, especially, our beloved friend Stuart Moxham. A small consolation is that Ken lived long enough to see the release of the album the three of us recorded over a period of years, The Devil Laughs, which, at times, I’d feared would never see the light of day—or not soon enough. Thank goodness—and thanks to John Henderson of tinyGLOBAL—The Devil Laughs was released in June, immediately earning the kind of critical acclaim that Ken so richly deserved to be associated with. Small mercies. Very small mercies.
So The Devil Laughs has to be on top of this list. Sadness tinged with hope and joy—that was 2020 to me, as to so many others. The joy came from music, first and foremost. Without it…
But there was joy too.
In music, to start with. It was a time of discovery and re-discovery.
The discovery of Igor Levit, for example, thanks to his astonishing interpretation—all eleven hours of it—of Erik Satie’s Vexations, which was streamed live on YouTube and was one of the most transcendent musical performances I’ve ever witnessed. A single page of music, which must be played 840 times in succession, was transformed into a genuine voyage of exploration, tender, angry, hypnotic, magical.
Christophe Chassol, a composer and instrumentist who inhabits a universe in which classical music, minimalism, retro-futurism and sunshine pop coexist in (beautiful) harmony, gave us his Message of Xmas (on Bertrand Burgalat’s label Tricatel), a musical UFO of the kind I wish visited our sorry planet more often.
I know absolutely nothing about another Frenchman, another Christophe too, called MOTTRON, whom I came across thanks to the recommendation of Chris Evans, the presenter of “The Curve Ball,” a show which plays the kind of music you won’t hear anywhere else, but which, in a better world, should be our lives’ sonic landscape. It is totally original. It also completely disappeared under the radar, and I get the feeling Mottron himself doesn’t mind it that much. Give it a chance. It’s on Bandcamp. “Indecent,” the third track on his debut album, Giants, is breathtaking.
I had no idea that Petter Herbertsson of Testbild! had another parallel project, Sternpost, or that he’d released Statues Asleep on the Kalligramofon label. This is Petter at his most cinematic and melodic best, with vocal textures which are unmistakably his and his alone. He has a way with harmony which is also entirely personal—now how many musicians can you say that of?
The song I listened to more often than any other in 2020 was Lô Borges’s composition “O Trem Azul,” as sung by Milton Nascimento on their Clube de Esquina double album, a record that will soon be fifty years old, and is yet unsurpassed. It is the song that the Pale Fountains, Everything But the Girl, Aztec Camera, Prefab Sprout, every Sarah band (and myself) have been trying to “find” throughout, the absolute matrix of perfect pop. Paddy did. It’s only taken me something like twenty years to realise this.
I’ve still got four spots to fill. I’ll put the lid back on the record player, then, and go to the bookshelves, where four Japanese authors are waiting for me, all of whom I discovered in this shit year. All of them are women. One of the many wonderful things about late 20th-century and 21st-century Japanese literature (and manga) is that so much of it is— recognisibly—the work of women. I wish so much more in this fucked-up world were the work of women. There’s Natsuo Kiriko, whose brutal Out shook me to the core (Grotesque and The Goddess Chronicle popped in the post this morning). Sayaka Murata’s Earthlings is another genuine shocker. There’s Yoko Tawada’s dreamlike, strangely tender, dystopic novel The Lost Children of Tokyo. And, more than anything else, there is Yoko Ogawa, whose The Professor and the Housekeeper I would place alongside Tanizaki’s Makioka Sisters and Naguib Mahfouz’s Cairo Trilogy at the top of my literary pantheon. Its last chapter (and so much beforehand) moved me to tears.
This is the pain that does us good, as Léo Ferré put it. How we needed it in 2020.
James McNew (Yo La Tengo, Dump)
What’s That? 2020
Noise in refrigerator: evaporator fan
Noise in kitchen: steam-angle radiator valve
Noise in hallway: can now identify every person in building by sound of their footsteps
Noise in car: alternator/ serpentine belt
Noise in toilet: fill valve
Noise from outside #4: fireworks (all summer, every night)
Noise from outside #3: maskless rich drunk asshole neighbors partying and blasting music in their well-appointed backyards at 2am (May–September)
Noise from outside #2: sirens (March–June: ambulances; June–December: cops)
Noise from outside #1: one minute of applause/noisemaking at 7pm daily, in appreciation of essential workers; said appreciation ended promptly June 1. More than one person within earshot has (= shouldn’t have) a trombone.
Stephen McRobbie (Pastels, Geographic, Monorail)
1. One of the best best things about 2020 for me was starting to see Glasgow in a slightly different way, one in which the river is the essential part. In May I started cycling to work on a daily basis along the Clyde, rediscovering landmarks that I had loved and forgotten and new ones too. It was a time of dramatic change and sometimes cycling slowly home or stopping off to examine something was the best way to find some perspective on what was going on and to feel hopeful that in the end there would be a way through.
2. Music was incredible in 2020. Not us so much us, in fact we didn’t play together at all. At the start of the year I thought I had three strong ideas for new songs. At the end of the year I had what I still felt were three strong ideas for new songs. So it was more a year of archive things. It was really nice to finally release two songs from a 1997 John Peel Session – “Advice To The Graduate” and “Ship To Shore” on a 7”. “Advice To The Graduate” is of course a David Berman song – thought about him often.
3. Music was incredible in 2020. Really fell for the Cindy album, Free Advice. It just had real confidence about playing softly and being there but not fighting for your attention or anything. And it opened up a scene of other groups via a mix cd… Present Electric, Reds, Pinks & Purples, Hectorine. It felt new but also existed in the spaces between Galaxie 500, Yo La Tengo, Movietone and various Flying Nun groups. There are always spaces, you can always make something new.
4. So many other great records came out. Amazingly Plone came back with Puzzlewood for Ghost Box, and by now more or less working from home, I’d lots of time to write about it for Monorail. It was a really fabulous return, so unexpected, I was often smiling their tunes as I cycled along.
5. The Jarv Is record was amazing too – he somehow managed to make it of the times but above or at least to the side of them too. I interviewed him on the day it came out. He said that when he was researching stories for This Day In History on his Sunday Service he realised that most news stories at any time are bad news and this had given him a bit of perspective on things. His group just now is dynamite.
6. As if that wasn’t enough he ran his Domestic Disco on Saturday nights for a large part of the year. These were magical (Jarvis is a great dj) and ok, maybe a little drunken at certain points. Along with Tim Burgess’s Tim’s Twitter Listening Parties and various BBC6 shows especially Gideon Coe, something similar to going out to shows was always there. We always felt we were part of a great community.
7. Great songs belatedly dropped out of the seeming nowhere. That Dump single, “Feelings 1 & 2” is so special. I got a preview of a new Johnny record (all Joe Meek songs) performed with a super lightness of touch and sheer pop joy by Norman Blake and Euros Childs. People are going to love this record.
8. I was working on various archival projects I thought I could close out but didn’t – Strawberry Switchblade, Pastels, a Glasgow music comp. I did manage to make a fanzine called Yesterday Was Another Day, Glasgow 1979-82 to coincide with the reissue of The Bluebells Sisters album. It was a collaboration with the group and my friend, Musho Fernandez, who is a great graphic designer. Felt a real sense of pride about how it turned out.
9. The more I think about it the more I realise that music more or less got me through 2020. It seemed deeper than ever with so much music – Jon Brooks, Robert Lippok, Andrew Wasylyk, Tenniscoats, Bridget St John, Stereolab, Broadcast, Movietone, Brian Eno. In the kitchen Katrina and I listened to lots of mix cds, probably the most played being one that Gerard made for the Monorail Film Club night we used to have at the Glasgow Film Theatre.
10. Steve McQueen’s Small Axe series was important and righteous. It was beautifully made too. Janet Kay’s “Silly Games” from the Lovers Rock episode became an absolute obsession. There are so many Janet Kay Top Of The Pops appearances on Youtube (a couple even with the great Dennis Bovell who wrote and produced it). Still not enough, song of the year, music of the year. Fight on.
Janice Headley (KEXP, Meow Mix, Copacetic zine, chickfactor)
Like many of us, I’m sure, I needed a mental break from the horrors of 2020, and books have always served as a trusty escape hatch. So, here’s a random sampling of ten that I happened to read last year. Just to be clear, this isn’t a list of “Best Books of 2020” or even my personal “Top Ten.” As you’ll see below, several of them didn’t even come out this year, and one of them I didn’t even really like! Just ten random books. Here ya go.
• When No One is Watching by Alyssa Cole (2020, Harper Collins)
Described in the press release as “Rear Window meets Get Out” — and I legit thought “this is so Hitchcock-ian” while reading it — When No One is Watching is the gripping tale of a fictional Brooklyn neighborhood on the brink of gentrification… but there seems to be something even more insidious at play. I found this book breathtaking, and I consumed it in less than two days. And during a year of relentless (and disheartening) racial unrest, this book was even more powerful and unsettling.
• Earthlings by Sayaka Murata (2020, Grove Press)
I loved Murata’s 2016 novel Convenience Store Woman, so I was excited to get my hands on her latest. That said, WHOA, this was nothing like that charming tale of a small store clerk; Earthlings has abuse, violence, incest, cannibalism, and more, all crammed into less than 300 pages. This was another one of those books that was just exhilaratingly engrossing, and the ending was such a smart surprise. I can’t say I “recommend it,” per se, but I’ll just say, it sure as heck was a page-turner.
• Wow, No Thank You. by Samantha Irby (2020, Vintage)
Discovering comedic essayist Samantha Irby was one of the very few bright spots of 2020. I somehow stumbled across her 2017 collection titled We Are Never Meeting in Real Life, and felt an instant kinship. I then went on to inhale everything she’s ever written. Like me, she recently moved from a big city (for her, Chicago; for me, Seattle) to sleepy Southwest Michigan. And, like me, she loves Sassy magazine, receiving mail, and being indoors. I feel like she and I need to be friends, but I am also slightly afraid of her.
• Solutions and Other Problems by Allie Brosh (2020, Gallery Books)
I bought Brosh’s 2016 book Hyperbole and a Half at the airport ages ago — I mean, just the fact that I wrote “airport” tells you it wasn’t in 2020 — and proceeded to annoy my fellow passengers because it was literally laugh-out-loud funny. But shortly after the book’s release, she mysteriously disappeared. There were Reddit threads of readers wondering if she was okay. The concern slowly died down as fans seemed to assume and accept that she had chosen the unpublished life after all. But, in 2020, she returned with her first new book in seven years! I’ll admit, I didn’t “LOL” as much as I did with her first one, but maybe that’s ‘cause 2020 just wasn’t a real “LOL” type year. But I liked it a lot.
• My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix (2016, Quirk Books)
This year’s season of the podcast Conviction sent me down a “Satanic Panic” wormhole. I wanted to read, listen, and learn everything I could about this weird ‘80s phenomenon, even culminating in an article for my day job (gratuitous self link here). I scrolled past this book on the library app while doing research, and the funny VHS-style book cover inspired me to check it out. It’s a fictional story of two best friends, one of whom seems to have been possessed by an evil spirit. It’s somehow both funny and creepy. Hendrix has also written a story about a haunted IKEA titled Horrorstör that I have definitely added to my “must read” list.
• The Witches Are Coming by Lindy West (2019, Hachette)
I’ve been a fan of West’s since back in the days when she wrote for Seattle’s alt-weekly The Stranger. It’s been rad to see her writing get such national attention, and she even has a TV show on Hulu titled Shrill. (The aforementioned Irby is a staff writer.) The Witches Are Coming is a much-appreciated attack of “Tr*mp’s America” (sorry, I can’t even type it without throwing up in my mouth a little). She somehow released a new book toward the end of 2020 titled Shit, Actually that I’m currently reading.
• A Very Punchable Face by Colin Jost (2020, Crown Publishing Group)
I don’t know why I like Saturday Night Live. It’s not even that funny most of the time. But, it’s something that’s been in my life since I was a kid. I still remember my best friend and I sharing Jack Handey’s Deep Thoughts on the playground during recess, or going to see Wayne’s World at the dollar theatre. So, I’ve read a lot of cast member memoirs, and this one was pretty entertaining. (I still enjoy Tina Fey’s Bossypants the most.)
• Over the Top: A Raw Journey to Self-Love by Jonathan Van Ness (2019, HarperCollins)
The release of season 5 of Netflix’s Queer Eye was an all-too brief spark of sunshine during the dark summer of quarantine. I checked out Ness’s auto-bio audiobook to fill the void and found myself appreciating the grooming expert even more. He shares how he overcame childhood sexual abuse and drug addiction — stuff he can’t really address during the hour-long episodes, which are mostly focused on the nominees. (Do they still call them “heroes”? I can’t remember if that’s a throwback to the original series.)
• Let’s Go (So We Can Get Back): A Memoir of Recording and Discording with Wilco, Etc. by Jeff Tweedy (2018, Dutton)
This book came out a couple of years ago, but, as I’m not really a fan of Wilco, I never bothered with it. But then, in April, a podcast I listen to (Rivals: Music’s Greatest Feuds) did an episode detailing the conflict between Jeff Tweedy and Jay Farrar during their Uncle Tupelo days, and I was so intrigued I wanted to learn more. What I learned is, Tweedy is a very funny writer. (Either that, or he has a good ghostwriter/editor.)
• Remain in Love: Talking Heads, Tom Tom Club, Tina by Chris Frantz (2020, St. Martin’s Press)
I’ll be honest, this isn’t a very good book. Frantz isn’t the most engaging writer, and many of the chapters just blur into each other. (“We played a concert and got an encore. We ate fish for dinner. Some random lady was good-looking.”) But the David Byrne barbs are both relentless and hilarious, and you can tell from his writing how much he still really loves Tina, which is so sweet after 40+ years of marriage.
Rob Pursey (Catenary Wires, European Sun, Heavenly, Tender Trap)
I’ve been running an online poetry-reading event during 2020. Basically, I choose a collection, everyone gathers on a zoom call, and then we take it in turns to read out loud. Sometime the poetry is canonical and old, sometimes it’s contemporary (and on most of those occasions the real-life poet has joined us on the zoom call). It works better than I can have expected. Hearing 30 people’s voices, taking it in turns to read, is very moving and a good antidote to loneliness and isolation.
So my top ten readings were
PARADISE REGAINED by John Milton. An old, blind man finds himself on the losing side of the English Civil War and tries to come to terms with the restoration of the hated monarchy by re-telling the story of Christ in the wilderness.
DIVISION STREET by Helen Mort. Legacies of the Miners’ Strike, passionately re-imagined by someone too young to have been there.
SONGS OF INNOCENCE AND EXPERIENCE by William Blake. Apocalyptic poems for children.
RECKLESS PAPER BIRDS by John McCullough. The excitement and fear of living in London when you are young and gay.
BRIGGFLATTS by Basil Bunting. On a par with ‘The Wasteland’, but less celebrated because rooted in the landscape and dialect of the North-East.
ISN’T FOREVER by Amy Key. Funny, fragile, sometimes self-lacerating poems by a really great new writer.
SONNETS by William Shakespeare. He couldn’t put his plays on because of a pandemic, so wrote lots of these instead. Lucky us.
HAPPINESS by Jack Underwood. Beautiful, funny, very self-aware poems on straight male identity and anxieties.
VENUS AND ADONIS by William Shakespeare. Him again. A little epic, where his medieval roots are audible.
SMOOTHIE by Claudine Toutoungi. Another really great new poet; spiky, witty, dramatic and energetic.
Music That Got Me Through the Year
Minnie Riperton, Come to My Garden
Destroyer, Have We Met (the live show I saw in February was *amazing* except the annoying girl screaming gross borderline harassment the whole time)
Joe Pernice, Richard and Manilow covers record, but mostly his live sets on Instagram
Shopping, live — the last show I saw in early March before the world went pear-shaped
Brazilian music (especially Jobim and Veloso)
Various Artists, Strum and Thrum
Bridget St John, Vashti Bunyan, Sandy Denny, Rodriguez
The Clientele, Oh everything. Musical anti-anxiety remedy and life-affirming soul boost. More please!
Yo La Tengo’s very sad but very necessary Hanukkah show. Please music gods, don’t make them go through that again. Shoutout to Amy Rigby (my friend Shawn called her “a female Jonathan Richman, but funnier”) and Ira’s sweet mom, slaying us.
All the best to everyone in 2021. Keep fighting evil.
Erin Moran (a.k.a. A Girl Called Eddy)
Best things about 2020:
* The Dodo on Instagram. Heartwarming stories about our animal buddies. Kept me sane(ish).
* New sink/faucet/counter action in my apartment. Cheap and cheerful but what a difference in my “quality of life”
* Finally getting my new record out. Yay.
* Being alive. All the rest is gravy.
John Jervis (WIAIWYA)
Ten obsessions during lockdown
Broken Greek by Pete Paphides – lovely, just lovely, but you all know this, right?… you no doubt all have it already, and have been similarly enjoying it (both physically, and as an audiobook) throughout lockdown, listening to the accompanying playlist, thinking about your own childhood, remembering your own teen music obsessions… also, not bragging, but the last gig I went to was the book launch (Chrissie Hynde! David Arnold! Mike Batt! – basically, a better lineup than Live Aid) and the last non-partner hug I had was from Pete!
Jackie Mittoo – working from home has meant listening to more music during the day, and after a few weeks of trying different playlists to see what was easiest to work with (I went through a lot of Dungeon Synth, ’60s soundtracks, and ambient tracks), I settled on instrumental reggae, ska, rocksteady and dub, which in turn has led to a minor obsession with Jackie Mittoo records… solid gold…
Spun Out of Control – a cassette label that went vinyl during 2020 – broadly they release creepy electronic not-soundtracks to nonexistent horror films that have become the actual soundtrack to a LOT of walks through empty West London streets this year… treat yourself to the Sleepers by Hattie Cooke:
Double Deckers – “The chocolate bar is structured in two layers; a lightly whipped nougat layer, with a lower layer of cereal “crispies,” these are then coated in milk chocolate”… need I say more?
Disaster films – this year I’ve been watching a LOT of worlds ending, buildings collapsing, planes crashing, volcanoes erupting, diseases spreading, boats sinking and SHARKS… the Poseidon Adventure is the best one
Singing Streets app – I tend to walk the same streets for my daily exercise, it’s just easier not having to think… the Singing Streets app was launched at the start of September, and I found out, among other things, that Bryan Ferry’s Studio (where Prince recorded!), the house where Freddie wrote BoRap and the caff off the front of Common People were all on my daily route… I branched out to walks from where Dan Treacy went to school to where Syd Barrett lived (via the Troubadour, David Gilmour’s old flat, the Nashville Rooms and the Beggars Banquet shop) and from the studio where Buzzcocks recorded “What Do I Get?” and “Orgasm Addict” on 9 Sept 1977 to the place Bolan died one week later.
Discogs – Finally catching up with adding all my records to Discogs, realising how much utter rubbish I have, having a clear out, and using the money from any sales to treat myself to deluxe versions of Saint Etienne albums, and…
Paul Collins – I Don’t Fit In, the Paul Collins autobiography was announced over the summer, copies came with a 7-inch but postage from the states was crippling… a discogs sale for exactly the value of the book, record and postage, came in and I bought the book, all in a couple of minutes… I listened to a LOT of the Nerves this year too…
Joy Division – I’ve always dismissed them as a not-as-good OMD, with a good song I’m a bit bored of (you know the one) and a great song that keeps getting better (Atmosphere), but a combination of the Stephen Morris book (excellent, really funny, tragic) and the Transmissions podcast narrated by Maxine Peake has led to a reappraisal, and finally listening to a pair of 40-year-old albums… turns out they’re pretty good (not as good as OMD though)…
Very early pre-orders – ordering records, forgetting about them, and getting them in the post months later is great… in 2020 new ones from Taylor Swift and Kelly Lee Owens arrived as a surprise, as well as the reissue of Sisters by the Bluebells, and Forever by the Spice Girls… I’ve just checked, and there is still a Pye Corner Audio box set, the new Insides LP and another from Taylor Swift in the pipeline… roll on 2021
Nikki McClure (artist)
10 people I want to hug as tight as I can and I’m not much of a hugger
1. Lois Maffeo and I will eat tamales with her
2. My sisters who are quite far away
3. Oscar Soule, my college botany teacher who just dropped off raspberry jam
4. Amber Bell because she would then pass it on for me to everyone in Portland
5. My Mailman Craig who I repeated his name all day to remember it.
6. Marena at the Farmers Market who sells me bread every week and I put it in my basket that her Father made
7. Tina Herschelman and hopefully she is wearing cashmere
8. Aaron Tuller at Buyolympia because he’s not a hugger either
9. My Mother because she’s my Mother
10. Doctors and Nurses and Teachers and Grocers and Delivery Drivers. I think I heard another van pull up at my neighbor’s. I will hug my neighbor too and we will dance in the street.
Ten records I’ve been listening to obsessively this year, in descending order of repeats:
Huerco S.: For Those of You Who Have Never (And Also Those Who Have) (2016) [hundreds]
Gas: Rausch (2018)
Roisín Murphy: “Murphy’s Law” (2020)
Radio Dept: Passive Aggressive: Singles 2002–2010 (2011)
Toumani Diabaté: The Mandé Variations (2008)
Chris and Cosey: Trance (1982)
Slowdive: Souvlaki (1993)
[at least twenty]
The Durutti Column: Another Setting (1983)
[at least ten]
Sun Ra: Strange Strings (1967)
6 Women I’d Like to Personally Thank (I Was Trying for 10, but I Am Nearing Deadline)
I’d like to thank you for your cowboy boots and for always being full-on ready to rock. Scrawl Forever!
Thank you for coming up with my favorite drumbeat. Interested listeners may refer to “Midnight A Go Go” by Beat Happening to hear it.
The best drummers in the world have an idiosyncratic system of timing. Is it in their head, their hands or their feet? Wherever it stems from, Sara Lund’s drumming in Unwound not only withstood the art-damaged time signatures of Justin Trosper and Vern Rumsey—she elevated it. 100% fucking genius musician.
Since we’re on the subject of drummers, has any performance more radically changed my views on and understanding of performance than Stella playing a snare drum with hands holding stiletto pumps? Her voluminous influence on visual and graphic art is well known, but she also resides in my life as a continual handmaiden to my blown mind.
In 1984, I lived in Portland, Oregon, and walked across downtown to Satyricon once a week for a poetry night organized by Walt Curtis (who was inspiration for the older protagonist of Gus Van Sant’s Mala Noche.) It was more or less an open mic in which self-serious poets from Reed College would recite their verse and aging gay men would yell at them. (“You are an abortion!” was a favorite taunt I heard there.) One consistent feature of this weekly event was the pre-intermission arrival to the stage of a late-middle-aged woman named Kathleen, who would sing (a capella) the 1961 hit “Norman” and then return to her seat next to her ever-changing (yet gentlemanly) elderly date. Each of the 7 or 8 times I heard her sing it, it was so pure. And never once was it not entirely cheered on and welcomed by the otherwise vicious crowd. She is unforgettable to me and I wish I’d had the good fortune to get to know her.
A friend had a copy of Wiglet in his apartment and I picked it up to scan the contents, thinking it was a music zine. In it, there was a cartoon about having a job where you had to drive around all over the place and knock on people’s doors. But the panels ended before the actual job was named. So I wrote a letter to the zine address in Columbus, Ohio, and asked if the job had been delivering flowers or pizzas. I received a note in return that said, “I was a process server.” That brief letter of reply (in 1985?) brought Gilmore Tamny into my life and from then on she has been a total heroine to me. Who else can make a shitty job into a thrilling zine cliff-hanger? Who else can convince me to go on a 1-show tour, in order to drive to Columbus, OH and play at an All Girl All Star Hoedown? (With Scrawl! See above!) And who has combined metal chops and chutzpah in bands the Yips, Weather Weapon and in her side gig as a spokesmodel for the Mystery? And who follows their idle thoughts of, “Hmmm…maybe it would be interesting to become an expert in art theft and forgery?” into REALITY??? Musician, artist, novelist, poet, promoter and Bostonian Gilmore Tamny, that’s who. All hail.
Thank you, brilliant women.
Daniel Handler (a.k.a. Lemony Snicket)
Books of Poetry I found especially useful this year:
Gwendolyn Brooks – Blacks
Anslem Hollo – Sojourner Microcosms
Robert Fernandez – Scarecrow
Samuel Amadon – Listener
Louis MacNeice – Autumn Journal
Caroline Bird – The Hat Stand Union
Ada Limon – The Carrying
Atsuro Riley – Romey’s Order
Elizabeth Bishop – Questions of Travel
whoever wrote Gilgamesh – Gilgamesh
Rachel Blumberg and Jeffrey Underhill (artists, musicians)
Top ten favorite foods we made in 2020 that gave us some slivers of happiness.
1. enchilada lasagna
2. cullen skink
3. bacalao gommes
4. vegetable shepherds pie
6. grilled scallops
7. pan con tomate with garden tomatoes
8. sourdough discard biscuits with fig jam
9. eggplant parmesan
10. gingerbread pancakes
Gilmore Tamny (Weather Weapon)
10 Things That Happened, I Noticed, Were Important to Me, or Were Merely Novel
This list does not include my shock, horror, and despair of the wider world. Take that as writ.
1. passed a dear friend on the street without recognizing her due to masks and fogged-up glasses
2. drew chinchilla plotting to destroy a Chihuly
3. thought New England spring 2020 tulip game absolutely outstanding
4. discovered the way I express love to my petfriend is to continually fret about their wellbeing and contentment, and the way I experience work anxiety is a tiny tasered sensation everytime I hear that arriving email bingbong
6. started a taut psychological thriller
7. took a class on Sea Monsters
8. thought about hypocrisy all the time—mine, yours, the world
9. FOOD: a) tried to bring iceberg lettuce back into my life b) bought a croissant crust frozen pizza, made a big deal about it, thought about doing a Zoom roundtable where we try/discuss en masse, but it still lays in my freezer withering c) discovered there is no room at the adjective inn for Snickerdoodle-flavored popcorn
10. had a fling with nonfiction: The Great Beanie Baby Bubble: The Amazing Story of How America Lost Its Mind Over a Plush Toy—and the Eccentric Genius Behind It, My Friend Anna, and Children of Ash and Elm. All highly recommend (not necessarily pub this year BTW).
Oed Ronne (The Ocean Blue)
Top Ten Episodes of The Rockford Files
1. The Farnsworth Stratagem
2. Quickie Nirvana
3. In Pursuit of Carol Thorne
4. The Girl in the Bay City Boys Club
5. The Mayor’s Committee from Deer Lick Falls
6. The Oracle Wore a Cashmere Suit
7. The Becker Connection
8. Requiem for a Funny Box
9. Dwarf in a Helium Hat
10. If the French Heel is Back, Can the Nehru Jacket Be Far Behind?
Chickfactor editor in chief Gail O’Hara
Top Ten Things I Miss About Portland
1. Eating! Especially at Back to Eden Café (RIP), Harlow, Kati Thai, Luc Lac, Maruti, the Sudra, Supernova, Cedo’s, Eb & Bean, Tarai Thai, Modern Times, including delicious big bowls at Bye & Bye and Sweet Hereafter, the best falafel and hummus and pickled veggies in the entire world at Cedo’s, the vegan pizza at Red Sauce, Pizza Jerk and Virtuous Pie, the hummus at Aviv, the breakfast, reubens and burgers from Off the Griddle, oh so many things! I’ve probably already lost a stone by being gone (not really). I wish I could order takeout of everything and have it delivered. Vegan heaven. Comfort food capital of the world.
2. Playing indoor futbol with my team The Crusty Punks. They are the best! After 9 months of not playing, I feel sad and less powerful.
3. Chanting my head off at Portland Thorns games (also so sad that I won’t be seeing Crystal Dunn play a bunch of home games; also sad that Tobin Heath is technically no longer a Thorn; I will miss seeing Christine Sinclair and Lindsey Horan play a ton) I am starting a covert Rose City Riveters supporters group in my current home town if anyone wants to join. #BAONPDX
4. Screaming like a banshee and jumping up and down and swinging my scarf at Portland Timbers games; I never truly understood the meaning of sports until I became a fan of this team in 2011. My love for them; their love for the fans; the love affair between the Timbers Army and the players, so pure, so magical. The Magic Is Real. #RCTID
5. Karaoke!! Especially at Voicebox with like 8 of my friends. My standards: “99 Red Balloons,” “Buffalo Stance,” and I miss the group scream-along to any B-52s tune.
6. Beulahland: my footie-watching local, where I wasn’t crazy about the food but I dug the atmosphere, the people, the vending machine and the left-wing history. (sings) “Where everybody knows your name…”
7. Toffee Club! It was such a fun place to watch women’s futbol, like the Thorns and the USWNT, plus the cider selection and the people were so great. We all used to DJ there a few years ago. I guess I miss living in SCUSA (Soccer City USA): ya think?
8. Walking in parks with friends! Especially in Laurelhurst and Mt Tabor, the general overwhelming blossoming fertile bucolic pastoral beauty of the Pacific NW, the elephants and seals at the zoo, and the Japanese Garden and International Rose Test Garden. So much beauty.
9. Venues! There were three venues that I treasured the most: Doug Fir, which is ideal in terms of size, sightlines, coziness, sound, and everything. It’s underground and looks like a softly furnished log cabin. Mississippi Studios, which is just a wonderful space in every way, though I never was able to set up shows at either sadly. And of course Bunk Bar, which is the greatest in terms of working with them on events, they feed the bands fancy tater tots and big sandwiches, they pay artists properly and are easy to work with. The shows we did set up there were epic.
10. Record stores! Bookshops! Powell’s. Old movie theaters! Dive bars. Bridges and rivers.
11. My friends! Their dogs! Their yards. Their support and company and conversation. Still can’t quite accept that I’m not going back. (I know I’ll fall in love with my new home but I feel like life is in limbo so…)
Jen Sbragia (The Softies, All Girl Summer Fun Band, chickfactor designer)
1. Feeding and viewing hummingbirds on my porch
2. Walking through deep puddles in old rainboots that I have mended with goo I bought from the internet
3. Listening to podcasts about crimes and/or terrifying stories and then podcasts about self-help and mindfulness whilst cooking.
5. Avoiding sugar long enough that a consuming a small chunk of dark chocolate feels like snorting a line of something
6. Fashion Plates and colored pencils
7. Potatoes in all forms
8. Snuggling with calm children
9. Not putting on jeans for almost a year and also witnessing the death of the skinny jeans trend and being like, “cool… bye”
10. Porch dates
What I did in 2020
Switched off the news.
Followed Peter Terzian on Instagram as he shared and contemplated photographs of himself. One a year up until the present. (He’s a very handsome 52.)
Wiggled around in the kitchen while listening to Jarvis Cocker’s Saturday-night Domestic Disco DJ sets in the spring.
Caught up with The World At War. All 26 episodes and 47 years after it was made.
Cheered on Sander Bos and Esther Perbandt in the first series of Making The Cut. Mittel-European fashion designers really do trump American ones.
Went to Germany, embraced lido culture, and took up cycling.
Missed drinking through the night with strangers at Milano’s on New York’s East Houston Street.
Bought lots of records from Monorail in Glasgow and Discreet (a.k.a. ‘New Sounds of Swedish Underground’) in Gothenburg.
Listened to Mikey Kirkpatrick’s daily live flute improvisations on Wild Lakes Radio.
Wandered through forests looking for deer and pondering the past and the future.
Watched lots of ski jumping and took up sledding.
Sent Christmas cards for the first time in three decades.
Dawn Sutter Madell (Agoraphone)
I found it hard to concentrate on much besides music, but here is a top 10 list of things that distracted me from 2020
1. ancestry deep dives
2. schitt’s creek (which I had never watched)
3. true crime (podcasts, doc-series)
4. gardening for myself
5. gardening for others
6. freaks and geeks re-watch
8. Cassi Namoda art
9. His Dark Materials (the show)
13 Highlights in a Low-Life Year
1 Gonsalves Portuguese Seasoning (an indispensable part of our pantry)
2 Open E Tuning (courtesy of Johnny Marr’s “Headmaster Ritual” guitar tutorial on YouTube. Now I use it on everything, just like the Portuguese seasoning)
3 Arch Cape, Oregon
4 Kamala Harris
5 John was Trying to Contact Aliens doc. on Netflix
6 Anarchist Jurisdictions (There were no delays getting our Holiday packages either to or from Portland—go figure.)
7 Michael Galinsky’s photo archives
8 KMUN Coast Community Radio, Astoria, Oregon (especially the rockin’ Backbeat program, and the ship report)
9 Strum & Thrum: The American Jangle Underground 1983–1987 compilation (Captured Tracks)
10 City of Dreams: a tasty unfiltered/citrusy pale ale from Ft. George Brewery in Astoria, OR.
11 Takeout Cocktails: an idea whose time has come, and hopefully outlasts the pandemic.
12 O & H Bakery’s Almond Kringle: Maybe the sweetest thing to ever come out of Racine, WI
13 Cawston Press’s Rhubarb soda (hard to pick a favorite flavor—their Elderflower Lemonade is also right up there.)
Evelyn Hurley (Cotton Candy)
Top 10 walks & bike rides I made in 2020
#10- The walk from my house to Central Square, Cambridge. A utilitarian walk usually made to complete chores.
#9- The walk from my house to Whole Foods on Beacon St., Somerville. The sidewalks are usually really crowded, and there seems to be a lot of pedestrians who don’t know how to socially distance and also share the sidewalk, and the intersection at Inman Square is kind of annoying. But other than that, it gets me where I need to go pretty quickly.
#8- The bike ride from my house to my office. Thankfully there wasn’t as much traffic as usual, and it’s not a relaxing or easy bike ride, but it was nice to be back in the office even if it was only for one day a week.
#7- The walk from my office to the library stacks. I used to think it was ordinary, now I find it exhilarating!
#6- The walk from my office to Trader Joe’s and the Trillium beer garden. I always come back to work with delicious goodies in my bags!
#5- The walk along the beach in South Boston with my friend Viktoria and her adorable dog.
#4- The walk up Buffalo or Seneca Street in Ithaca, NY. It’s a brutal hike up this street, but you get your entire workout ring closed and it’s a thrill to successfully achieve the hike!
#3- The walk from my house to the Cambridge Brewing Company, two blocks away.
#2- The bike ride from the Provincetown Ferry to Race Point Beach, Cape Cod. I only did it once this summer, but it was hard and totally rewarding.
#1- The daily walk I took from my house over the Longfellow Bridge and back. I’d head out after WFH was done, or I’d finished making dinner, this jaunt was my daily dose of sanity. I’d listen to books on tape, podcasts like “Rock and Roll Film Club,” new music, Folklore” from TS was in heavy rotation, or I’d talk to friends on the phone. I have far too many pictures of the sunsets, which were often technicolor and always gave me hope.
Hope 2021 is good for everyone and we are all healthy and safe.
records dusty cannot live without:
the smiths, the smiths
neil young, after the goldrush
my bloody valentine, loveless
red house painters, II
augustus pablo, meets rockers uptown
stars of the lid, the tired sounds of
spacemen 3, losing touch with your mind
the wu-tang clan, the w
depeche mode, black celebration
cocteau twins with harold budd, the moon and the melodies
records ellen cannot live without:
del, “motorbike annie/gypsy girl” (7″ single)
I’m completely besotted with “motorbike annie.” I searched for a copy of this single that wouldn’t break my bank for more than a decade before finally, joyously finding one a few years back.
bee gees, odessa
every bee gees album through the ’70s is essential for me, but this one has so many special songs.
the hollies, dear eloise/king midas in reverse
I’m particularly keen on the title tracks and “would you believe?” on this album.
françoise hardy, la question
it’s hard to choose between this one and ma jeunesse fout le camp, but la question is so hauntingly beautiful.
gilberto gil, self-titled (1968)
this album is a wild journey. there’s not a bad moment on it.
beach boys, love you
while not as transcendent as other beach boys releases, I adore this one. it makes me laugh, it makes me cry.
abba, super trouper
the title track is fantastic, but even talking about “the winner takes it all” can bring me to tears. it’s such a heartbreaker.
eux autres, hell is eux eutres
I love the exuberance of this record. I was working with nick when it came out and timidly asked him to ask his sister if she would join an all-female bee gees cover band with me (she fortunately agreed).
small faces, self-titled (1967)
my ultimate thrift-store fantasy is to find a sealed original mono copy of this favorite small faces record in the bins. a lady can dream…
and any and all of dusty’s records, of course.
chickfactor and enchanté records (our label) just wanted to say thank you to everyone who rallied to help us clear out our storage space recently…
craig austin powell
connie lovatt, mandy lovatt, margaret lovatt
the o’hara family
I also want to thank all the folks who placed chickfactor orders — the funds allowed me to ship 8 boxes of them to my current place of “business” so we still have some back issues in stock.
& especially thanks to my amazing mom who let me store the massive back catalog in her garage all these years. she did a great job fulfilling chickfactor orders!
how to be a good houseguest when you are on tour by liz clayton
without a doubt, touring is an unnatural way of life. it’s taxing, tiring, and makes you smell bad. most days are spent playing “hurry up and wait.” for bands that can afford buses or hotels, some small solace can be found at the end of the day in places where you’re only accountable to yourselves. but for the rest of you, finding a space on someone’s floor might be the best you can hope for. what follows are some tips on how to make the free crash-pad experience pleasant for your host/hostess as well as for you and your bandmates. some of these ideas are common sense, but for some reason, many of them do not occur to people. (this originally ran in chickfactor 15, 2002, as part of our chickfactor etiquette special section)
following these guidelines should make your band highly desirable as potential houseguests. while some people may be starstruck enough that they’re simply delighted just to have had you cross their threshold, most people over the age of 23 have learned that a little tidying-up and gratitude goes a long way in making them feel good about loaning you their floor space. happy trails, and thanks for smoking on the porch and not throwing the butts into my garden.
who was liz clayton’s best houseguest? “I have to say the coctails or archer prewitt band have been the best—they wash all the dishes, they fold up the futon, they leave presents and thank-you notes, they take me for sushi. and they’ve been treating me this nicely from the first visit in 1994,” she told us in 2002.
1. grass widow, internal logic
2. jim ruiz set, mount curve avenue
3. tender trap, ten songs about girls
4. lightships, electric cable
5. frankie rose, interstellar
6. sharon van etten, tramp
7. saint etienne, words and music
8. corin tucker band, kill my blues
9. veronica falls, veronica falls (technically 2011)
10. lambchop, mr. m
11. beachwood sparks, the tarnished gold
12. the hangover lounge box set, various artists
13. amor de días, the house at sea (technically 2013)
14. yo la tengo, fade (technically 2013)
15. samara lubelski, wavelength
16. black tambourine, onetwothreefour (ramones covers!)
17. songs of the year: grass widow, “disappearing industries” 7”
18. grass widow, “milo minute” 7-inch and video
19. withered hand, “heart heart”
20. dump, “nyc tonight”
1. four tet, jupiters 12″
2. robert hood, motor: nighttime world 3
3. liechtenstein, fast forward LP
4. lightships, fear and doubt 10″
5. linden, bleached highlights
6. moodymann, why do u feel 12″
7. saint etienne, words and music
8. sea pinks, freak waves
9. various artists, time to go: the southern psychedelic moment: 1981–98 LP
10. young guv & the scuzz, a love too strong EP
1. chain and the gang “in cool blood” (k records). ian svenonius has now been in three of the greatest rockandroll bands of all time. go figure.
2. the precise moment during “mission bells” when linton and gary olson’s twin trumpet attack kicked in and shattered the mirrorball. (chickfactor 20th anniversary, bush hall, london)
3. ben rivers “slow action”. dreamy, hypnotic and disturbing film installation only bettered by the scotch egg and gallery-brewed real ale I enjoyed in the café afterwards. (hepworth gallery, wakefield)
4. the imposter (dir. bart layton). a documentary that thinks it’s a thriller.
5. dan greene “knife thrower”. illustrations from the mind-blowing alternative universe of the butterflies of love / mountain movers man, on card, wood and whatever else came to hand. (intercambio gallery, new haven)
6. bill fay, life is people (dead oceans). spiritual music.
7. amour (dir. michael haneke). one day he’s going to stop making these crowd pleasing feel-good flicks and turn his hand to something serious.
8. jeremy deller “joy in people”. marvelous, life-affirming art about stuff that matters. (hayward gallery, london)
9. leonard cohen live. three hours of laughing len in concert. at a castle in copenhagen. beat that. (rosenborg castle, copenhagen)
10. porgy & bess. I hear the songs of georgie gershwin. possibly transposed to apartheid-era soweto. (cape town opera, ENO)
1. watching black tambourine and small factory at chickfactor NY, brooklyn, ny.
2. playing many happy hours with michael hurley and the croakers at the laurelthirst, portland, oregon.
3. playing with the the cascadia ensemble (me, tara jane o’neil, tender forever, dragging an ox through water, lisa schonberg) at the keep portland weird festival, paris and metz, france.
4. playing with tim rutili (califone) to live film at midnight at huichica music festival, sonoma, california.
5. watching beachwood sparks, old light, and sea of bees at huichica music festival, sonoma, california.
6. playing with tara jane o’neil and mirah at the keep portland weird festival, paris and metz, france.
7. playing with michael hurley and the croakers at my going away party, type foundry studios, portland, oregon.
8. playing with the secret drum band, all over oregon and california.
9. watching sad horse in a very wonderfully crowded valentines, portland, oregon.
10. watching alela diane at the woods stage with friends at dusk at the all around amazing pickathon music festival, pendarvais farm, oregon.
1. rin kagamine
5. len kagamine
6. SF-A2 miki
7. piko utatane
9. aoki lapis
3. big stupid supermarkets
4. non-recycled loo roll
5. bottled water
6. long-distance food
7. plastic bags
8. big stupid cars
9. waterfront property
1. savannah, georgia.
2. st. augustine, florida.
3. kingston, new york.
4. saugerties, new york.
5. new bedford, massachusetts.
6. woonsocket, rhode island.
7. rochester, new hampshire.
8. tarpon springs, florida.
9. arcata, california.
10. port orford, oregon.
1. christopher fowler, invisible ink: how 100 great authors disappeared
2. eddie johnson, tales from the two puddings: stratford, east london’s olympic city, in the 1960s
3. kathy battista, renegotiating the body: feminist art in 1970s london
4. daniel poyner (ed.), autonomy: the cover designs of anarchy, 1961-1970
5. metrozones (ed.), faith is the place: the urban cultures of global prayers
6. jason eskenazi, by the glow of the jukebox: the americans list
7. born in flames
8. karren ablaze!, the city is ablaze! the story of a post-punk popzine, 1984–1994
9. maria fusco and richard birkett (eds.), cosey complex
10. hito steyerl, the wretched of the screen
1. woodshadows floated silently by through the morning peace from the stairhead seaward where he gazed.
2. on his wise shoulders through the checkerwork of leaves the sun flung spangles, dancing coins.
3. listen: a fourworded wavespeech: seesoo, hrss, rsseeiss, ooos.
4. those homely recipes are often the best: strawberries for the teeth: nettles and rainwater: oatmeal they say steeped in buttermilk.
5. pineapple rock, lemon platt, butter scotch.
6. hot herringpies, green mugs of sack, honeysauces, sugar of roses, marchpane, gooseberried pigeons, ringocandies.
7. miss douce halfstood to see her skin askance in the barmirror gildedlettered where hock and claret glasses shimmered and in their midst a shell.
8. lady sylvester elmshade, mrs barbara lovebirch, mrs poll ash, mrs holly hazeleyes, miss daphne bays, miss dorothy canebrake, mrs clyde twelvetrees, mrs rowan greene, mrs helen vinegadding, miss virginia creeper, miss gladys beech, miss olive garth, miss blanche maple, mrs maud mahogany, miss myra myrtle, miss priscilla elderflower, miss bee honeysuckle, miss grace poplar, miss o mimosa san, miss rachel cedarfrond, the misses lilian and viola lilac, miss timidity aspenall, mrs kitty dewey-mosse, miss may hawthorne, mrs gloriana palme, mrs liana forrest, mrs arabella blackwood and mrs norma holyoake of oakholme regis graced the ceremony by their presence.
9. nevertheless, without going into the minutiae of the business, the eloquent fact remained that the sea was there in all its glory and in the natural course of things somebody or other had to sail on it and fly in the face of providence though it merely went to show how people usually contrived to load that sort of onus on to the other fellow like the hell idea and the lottery and insurance which were run on identically the same lines so that for that very reason if no other lifeboat sunday was a highly laudable institution to which the public at large, no matter where living inland or seaside, as the case might be, having it brought home to them like that should extend its gratitude also to the harbourmasters and coastguard service who had to man the rigging and push off and out amid the elements whatever the season when duty called ireland expects that every man and so on and sometimes had a terrible time of it in the wintertime not forgetting the irish lights, kish and others, liable to capsize at any moment, rounding which he once with his daughter had experienced some remarkably choppy, not to say stormy, weather.
10. furthermore, silly milly, she dreamed of having had an unspoken unremembered conversation with a horse whose name had been joseph to whom (which) she had offered a tumblerful of lemonade which it (he) had appeared to have accepted (cf. hearthdreaming cat).
joe brooker (the pines): top ten attractive modernist writers
(all to be pictured at their peak, c. eg mid-20s: no alluring oldsters here)
+ one hollywood wild card: anita loos (pictured above), ‘the soubrette of satire’ (photoplay), more stunning than any of them.
stephin merritt: movies I liked in 2012
calvin johnson’s (k records) 2012 favorites in no particular order
gilmore tamny’s (the yips, wiglet) 2012 list
james mcnew (dump + yo la tengo)’s list
brian nelson’s (black tambourine) top ten
jennifer o’connor’s top 13 things of 2012 in no particular order
joe brooker (the pines): one line each from top ten go-betweens songs
rachel blumberg & jeffrey honeybunch’s top ten tantalizing tastes we treasured
michael grace jr’s (the secret history/my favorite) top events/things/phenomena
joe brooker (the pines): one line each from ten stephin merritt songs: only one per LP
janice headley’s (cf, kexp, fantagraphics) top ten comics of 2012 (in no real particular order)
rachel blumberg’s top ten places in providence so far for eating & drinking
robert mctaggart: top ten cities
if this has done anything it’s served to make me want to go to the far east, the west coast of the US and everywhere else. I am aware that I have neglected entire continents. that is something I promise to put right in the near future. and I only left out paris because it seemed too obvious.
mark robinson’s top ten list
yoshi the aislers set’s top ten list
rachel blumberg: top ten hot sauces of 2012
lisa the mad scene: 10 things I enjoyed the most in 2012 (in no particular order)
top ten artists gail would like to see reactivated in 2013