2020: Favorite Albums of the Year

Worriers – You or Someone You Know: The record that truly accompanied me through this year. Every song could be my song of the year – and I plan on playing Grand Closing at midnight. Happy fucking new year.

Phoebe Bridgers – Punisher: Probably the best album of the year (though I haven’t given Fiona Apple’s new album enough time yet) From lyrics to production to artwork, a nearly perfect record.

Dream Wife – So When You’re Gonna…: My new discovery of the year. Rock’n’roll! Dream Wife are the kind of band that makes you look forward to the future with more excitement. If I could choose a first show to go to after this pandemic, it would be either Dream Wife or ..

Touche Amore – Lament: A great, almost positive postcore album. Touche Amore is the best hardcore band atm and I’d drive far to see them live. And Reminders is oddly life-affirming (especially if you combine it with the video.) Don’t have the physical vinyl, yet.. 

NOFX/Frank Turner – West Coast vs. Wessex: The album my wife and I listened to the most together. I can’t believe Thatcher Fucked the Kids isn’t actually by NOFX, or Eat the Meek actually by Frank Turner. 

Also amazing:

Bright Eyes – Down in the weeds, where the world once was

Algiers – There Is No Year

Laura Jane Grace – Stay Alive

I’m Glad It’s You – Every Sun, Every Moon

Porridge Radio – Every Bad

Fiona Apple – Fetch the Bolt Cutters

Bruce Springsteen – Letter to You

Run the Jewels – RTJ4

What are your faves of the year?

2020: Favorite Songs of the Year

Terrible, horrible, no good, very bad 2020 did have a lot of great songs as a soundtrack. Here are my top 10 favorite songs of the year: 

I Know the End by Phoebe Bridgers: In the year of Phoebe Bridgers, the closing track of her terrific album Punisher is also my favorite track of the year, and in my top 5 all-time closing album tracks. That crescendo at the end gets me every time, and I’ve caught myself wanting to primal-scream along often (including while at work.) 

Scram by Jeff Rosenstock: This year had a lot of frustrating moments, and the breakdown in Scram is a perfect antidote (unfortunately not a vaccine.) 

End of the World by Worriers: Basically every song on You or Someone You Know could be on this list, but End of the World is my favorite if you put a gun to my head. Or is it Big Feelings? Grand Closing? Definitely my favorite record of the year.

This Year by The Mountain Goats: “I will make it through this year if it kills me.”

Was Willst Du by Muff Potter: The surprising single by my all time favorite German band that was released while 2020 still seemed salvageable. A surprise album by Muff Potter would be a great start to 2021. Just saying. The singer Thorsten Nagelschmidt also wrote Arbeit, one of my favorite books of the year.

Ohh La La by Run the Jewels feat.Greg Nice & DJ Premier: Equal parts party and soundtrack-to-a-drug-dealer-getting-shot. Once the pandemic is over, I will open a case of champagne with all my friends to this. 

Normalization Blues by AJJ: The first song I’ve added to my running song of the year Spotify playlist. It’s the perfect acoustic punk song about the enraging normalization of facist discourse.

Thirteen by Bedouine, Waxahatchee, Hurray for the Riff Raff: This cover of the Big Star hit is the beautiful summer song of the year. Also melts the frustration away without being sugary-sweet.

Myths by I’m Glad It’s You: “And there’s a hallelujah/ And I’m learning how to sing/It’s a growing chorus/ bleeding into everything” I’ve lost count of how often I immediately hit repeat just to sing along with this chorus. 

Born Confused by Porridge Radio: I discovered Porridge Radio on Deutschlandfunk Kultur while driving home my mother-in-law’s car after our move ages ago last February. Is it confusing to happily sing “Thank you for leaving me/Thank you for making me happy” with your wife and “I’m bored to death/ Let’s argue” with a good friend? Yes. Guess I’m born confused.

Honorable mentions: 

Dream Wife – So When You Gonna…

John K. Samson – Fantasy Baseball At the End of the World

Laura Jane Grace – Old Friend (Stay Alive)

Tocotronic – Digital ist besser

Alanis Morrisette – Smiling

Fontaines D.C. – A Hero’s Death

Mavi Phoenix – Fck It Up

..and every other song on my “2020: Normalization Blues” Spotify Playlist.

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas

It’s not a hot take to say that 2020 was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year. Globally, nationally, regionally, for many personally. There are some slivers of hope – the vaccines, the US election – but also some signs that things won’t simply improve in 2021 – current transmissions rates in Europe, current discourse in Germany – but I pray that 2021 will be better.

I also hope that you’ll have yourself a merry little Christmas, if you celebrate it, and a couple of moments to recharge and gather strength in any case.

And the right soundtrack for the 2020 Christmas season comes from Phoebe Bridgers (who else could it be):

Frank Turner and Jon Snodgrass: The Fleas

So here we are
finally on our knees
waiting for the world to shake us off
like a bad case of the fleas

With “The Fleas”, Frank Turner & Jon Snodgrass released a new song for the apocalypse. The song is from “Buddies II: Still Buddies”, a lovely, conversational record made by friends. It’s out now on Xtra Mile, and I think the vinyl is already sold out. Guess we’re all looking for friends who can soundtrack our apocalypse.

When Everything’s Made to Be Broken

Last week, on election day, Phoebe Bridgers promised to cover Iris by the Goo Goo Dolls if Trump lost. He lost (even if he doesn’t agree yet and Trumpists are busy smashing into the guardrails of democracy) and Phoebe Bridgers made good on her promise. She recorded the cover together with Maggie Rogers, and the song is available today only on bandcamp, and proceeds go to Stacy Abrams’ voting-rights and advocacy organization Fair Fight.

In other words, the songs ticks all the boxes of this blog’s wishlist.

Listen and pay-as-you-want on bandcamp.

September by Lydia Loveless

Lydia Loveless released a tremendous new record, Daughter, last Friday. It’s sad, twangy, rootsy and near perfect. Her voice is the beautiful match to her songwriting. There are many great songs on the album, including the singles Love is Not Enough, Wringer, and the album closer Don’t Bother Mountain. The stand-out track for me is September, a piano ballad about her childhood and teenage years. Loveless commented to Stereogum: “It allowed me to let go of a lot of pain, finally recording it, as it is a fairly old song I’ve never felt comfortable releasing.”

That feeling is palpable in the song. It’s the kind of song about being stuck in the wrong place with a right person, longing to leave the hellish place, and in that way made me think of the best moments of Bruce Springsteen, Tracy Chapman and Bright Eyes.

The addition of Laura Jane Grace’s voice in the chorus add extra depth and makes it perfect.

Daugther is out on Lydia Loveless’ own Honey, You’re Gonna Be Late label. Get it on Bandcamp.

1000 Serpentinen Angst

I highly recommend the debut novel by Olivia Wenzel.

“Etwas, das damit einhergeht, eine neue, gesunde Angst in dein Leben zu lassen – eine Angst, tief, wärmer und zerreißender als jede Angst um dich selbst, dein Leben, deine identitären Beffindlichkeiten es je sein könnten: eine Angst, gebunden an eine Liebe, so stark wie alles, was du bisher kanntest, mal 1000.”

“Something that goes hand in hand with a new, healthy fear in your life – a fear that is deep, warmer and more tearing than any fear of yourself, your life, your identity sensitivities could ever be: a fear bound to a love, as strong as anything you knew before, times 1000.”

1000 Serpentinen Angst is the great first novel by Olivia Wenzel. While browsing a bookshop recently, a friend recommended the book to me, especially referring to the book’s treatment of racism experiences of a Black person in Germany. And the novel is about that – in part. It’s also about (Black) life, (Black) joy, (Black) insecurities and (Black) fear in Germany. I was most impressed by the passages on the main character’s struggle with anxiety and the impact the disorder had on her normal life, her friendships and love. I recognized some of it, but the experience of being a Black queer woman in Germany adds extra layers of fear and complexity to the illness. 

The story is told through constant dialogues between the main protagonist and a constantly shifting counterpart. The narrative form is fantastic, slightly experimental and really successful in transporting these complexities, more so than an omniscient narrator or inner monologues could. This narration of the protagonists life and her complex relationships, particularly to her loving yet racist grandmother and her ill and mostly absent mother, creates a tremendous pull. Fantastic.