We'd like to pretend 2021 wasn't so bad, but we've gotta be realistic. Let's wrap up this year just like last year – honestly, with a time capsule that doesn't shy away from the harder parts of 2021. We asked some of our favorite artists to summarize their year in three acts, with a song to accompany each memory.
Act One: Infatuation
I had just met someone that I was completely infatuated by and he introduced me to this band. I became obsessed with this song. Listening to it today, it reminds me of a feeling of complete euphoria, at a time of great isolation and loneliness. It was last winter’s 7:30 pm curfew, all non essential businesses were closed, days were short and the air was dry and freezing. It’s funny hearing the lyrics now, because they were foreshadowing what the future had yet to bring upon me.
“Looking through the looking glass / all that seems won’t ever last / slipping through my fingertips / like sand”
I can’t listen to this song at this present moment because it fills me with grief, but I know one day I will be able to remember these memories with acceptance and appreciation, because it’s a great song.
Act Two: Numb
The title speaks for itself. The song brings me back to a time of great pain. I just wanted to numb my emotions. It felt like I fell asleep for 2 months and was only functioning on some sort of autopilot zombie mode. I’m glad I have my music to turn to, because as hard as it is to find the strength to take care of myself in times like these, I’m not going to let anything destroy everything I’ve worked towards. I like how this song is so honest and vulnerable, and how it goes into a sort of blizzard trance psychosis moment towards the end. This was playing on repeat in my living room for a few weeks while I passed the time making little bead bracelets and quilting, trying to stay mindful but mostly failing miserably.
Act Three: Grief
I have been very interested in Soccer Mommy in the past couple of months. I love her alternative pop, shoegazy sound. Her writing is breathtakingly touching and gets me right in my core.
“Cause I may not feel it now, covered up the wounds with my long sleeves. But I know it’s waiting there, swimming through my bloodstream”
I’ve been struggling with some old wounds, trying to learn how to process my grief and grow out of my fears. Some days are good and some days I find it hard to see any light or hope. For me this song encapsulates the exasperation of always feeling like your demons are there, just waiting to say hello. It has a more uplifting sound to it, so it does boost my mood despite the heavy subject matter. I’ve been learning how to play it on the guitar and it’s been a great way to stay in the present moment.
Act One: Letting Go of Control
The start of 2021 was a unique time in my life. I was living in rural Vermont with Ryan, my partner and collaborator, and working at a bookstore. I’d come home from work to find Ryan having completely reconfigured a song of mine into a brilliant new form, spending the evenings dreaming up an exciting new way for me to relate to my music; I let go of control for the first time. Ryan was able to spend his alone time in our apartment writing his own parts to my songs, changing them and, as a result, opening my heart to the notion that I can create space for my songs to be altered for the better by the insight of others. “For organ and brass” is a piece that I listen to in a multifaceted way: it reflects time passing, it is durational and unafraid of lingering. This piece takes my mind out of its orbits and allows me to sink into the moment. With all of the precarity and unrest of early 2021, I found myself leaning on Arkbro’s music regularly as a way to self-soothe.
Act Two: Thriving
This summer was simply one of the best summers of my life. I found myself living in a big home full of friends in Hudson, NY, swimming in rivers and rock-pools every day, cooking up lots of delicious food, meeting amazing people, seeing live shows, going dancing, and just thriving in a totally self-committed way. “Law Konty“ is such a sexy vibe of a song, I feel that it sufficiently sums up the overarching experience of mid-2021 for me.
Act Three: Healing
This fall and winter have been deeply healing seasons. After being so busy with pure fun this summer, I have found space for rest and rejuvenation with the shorter days. The darkness has felt newly cathartic; I used to find anxiety arise as the days got shorter but now that I associate winter with recording and crafting, going for bundled hikes and cooking hearty meals, I feel gratitude for the darkness that fills me with a sense of certainty. I feel certain that I can move through changes with grace in a way that I haven’t before. “Ever New“ is a song of grace. I feel surrounded by magic each time I listen to it.
Act One: Anxiety and Vulnerability
Act Two: Ambience and Video Games
Act Three: Resonating
Act One: Eric
I finished recording my album with my friend Eric Littmann at the beginning of March, after working on it intermittently for over a year. Eric passed away just a few months later, in June. Since losing Eric, I’ve held on tightly to the memories of those last few months with him. When I think of winter at the beginning of this year, I think of the evenings in his apartment, sun setting, working on this record. One night, after talking about Angel Olsen, he showed me this song he made a few years ago, a rework of the Angel Olsen song “Those Were The Days” that repeats the line “Do you remember the way it used to be?” over and over again for 8 1/2 minutes. That night, I listened to it on repeat on my drive home. Now, I listen to it and it makes me cry, but it makes me think of him, which is also a kind of happiness.
Act Two: Summer in Love
In August, my girlfriend Ashley and I went on a week and half long camping trip, starting in the Badlands in South Dakota, stopping at Custer State Park, and ending in Yellowstone. We started seeing each other shortly before the pandemic hit, so this was our first real trip as a couple, and our longest time out of Chicago in a year and a half. It was an absolutely magical time. We hiked, we cooked delicious meals, we slept in our sweet tent every night, we saw incredible wildlife, and we did a whole lot of driving. This was one of the songs I remember playing often, because driving down long empty roads makes me want to listen to country music, and spending time with the love of my life makes me want to listen to beautiful love songs. When I hear this song now, I think of those drives through Wyoming and Montana, and I think of the sun setting over a big mountain, and I think of my loves face across a picnic table, surrounded by trees, drinking coffee, ready for a day of adventure.
Act Three: Home and Everyone In It
While it is easy for me to focus on the loss and the anxiety of this year, I’m left mostly with an overwhelming feeling of gratitude, particularly for the abundance of love I have in my life. This year I became close with so many new friends, and after moving into a spacious apartment with Ashley, we were able to host many sweet gatherings of friends in our new space. As I cycle back through the special moments of this year, the images that stand out are my friends, huddled around my coffee table in the living room, drinking wine, smiling at each other, music playing in the background. As we all retreat back inside in the midst of a new and overwhelming covid surge, I’m remembering these warm nights so fondly, and I think of this song, which was in heavy rotation on my various “party playlists” throughout the year. It makes me think of being close to people, dancing, and feeling sexy, all things I think we could use a lot more of.
Act One: Long Drives
Act Two: Setting Up My Space
This whole Alex Turner project has meant a lot to me over the years. I rewatched Submarine around the time that I moved into a new home with some really great people in Atwater. I set up my room listening to this project and just had it playing on repeat while I put all my things in place. I hadn’t set up my space exactly how I’ve always envisioned it to be until that day. I think it’s because I knew I’d stay there for a while.
Act Three: Out of My Body
I spent my third act of the year in London. When I arrived I spent the two days in isolation before I had back to back sessions. Because of jet lag I didn’t sleep at night and I had my Uncle’s flat to myself so I spent a lot of that time feeling really out of body. One night at like 4 am I made myself a grilled cheese and played this song maybe 8 times in a row just pacing about the flat. I found scissors and cut my hair really poorly so I have to get that fixed in the new year. It felt like an oddly perfect start to my chapter there.