It doesn't feel right to sum up 2020 in a generic, end-of-year wrap up. Instead, let's remember 2020 honestly, with a time capsule that doesn't shy away from the harder parts of such an exhausting year. We asked some of our favorite artists to summarize their year in three acts, with a song to accompany each memory.
Act One: First Third of 2020
In late January I drove myself from LA up to San Francisco in my newly-purchased (old) 2002 Honda coupe that I loved, to play a show at the Make-Out Room. I was just over three months’ pregnant, and I was nervous about driving because I was still getting used to driving on the right side of the road. When I arrived, I went to check in at the accommodation I’d booked and realized that the reason it was only $50 a night was that it was filthy, a bit scary, and there was no parking.
The receptionist told me that if I parked in the surrounding streets I would almost definitely have my car broken into. Luckily I got away with just having my license plate bent in half. That trip was meant to be the start of a lot more solo touring, but of course it wasn’t, because of the pandemic. It still felt like a triumph though. On the way there and back I listened to a lot of Purple Mountains and Big Thief. In fact, most of the year I listened to Purple Mountains and Big Thief.
Act Two: Second Third of 2020
I had a baby in June so I guess that’s a pretty important memory. After the birth, my partner and I stayed in the hospital for a few days because Tui was quite small and they wanted to make sure she was ok. It was nice to feel like time had stopped – no work, no responsibilities, just the three of us in a room, three (albeit not very tasty) meals a day delivered, nurses and doctors popping in every hour or so to poke Tui in the foot or check how much she was peeing. We put the TV on to Turner Classic Movies and watched old westerns all day, and stared at our tiny tiny daughter, taking photos with pieces of fruit placed next to her for scale. When we got home, blissed out and terrified, I listened to Laraaji for his soothing (and sometimes amusing) qualities and life lessons.
Act Three: Last Third of 2020
Of course the election really stands out. It was such a rollercoaster, so gloomy in the beginning, so much tension all around, and despondency or disbelief. Then, on the Saturday when it was finally called, we went out to Sunset Blvd in Echo Park and there was this crazy street party happening. The sun was out and there was just so much elation – people were literally dancing in the streets, holding signs, banging pots, dancing on top of cars, and everyone wore masks. It went on for hours and blocked the streets but nobody seemed to mind, even the police were good-natured about it. We ran into friends, we sat on the curb and ate Monty’s, it was a really good day.
Act One: Flying Out
Before we knew they’d be the last for a long time, the band and I played a couple of Oslo shows in March, minutes before patient 0 ate that bat. Flying freaks me out and I was hammering coffee in departures, skimming through math rock playlists. This track’s been comforting me ever since – it makes me wish I took guitar lessons.
Act Two: Matching the Pace
“There’s flies in the kitchen / I can hear them there buzzing / and I ain’t done nothing since I woke up today.” That pretty much sums up summer for me — I spent most of my time reading on my roof, not tanning, not trying to write, just absorbing. Which is not my normal way of doing things, I’m usually thinking about writing way more than I’m doing anything to inspire it, way more than I’m actually doing it. When everything slows down it’s hard to believe it won’t ever speed up again, but it will and I tried to make an effort to match the pace of everything rather than stressing and fighting it. Not easy, though, but Prine helped.
Act Three: On Repeat
I’ve listened to this album every day since it came out, seriously, I send it to everyone I text. Matt (Maltese) showed it to me the one time this year that we hung out properly, not on Zoom, just before we walked through the rain to find him some cake. And now it reminds me of Matt and rain and cake.
Act One: Making a Visual Album with Indigenous Youth in Witset
At the beginning of the year I spent 6 weeks creating a visual album with some amazing youth in Witset, BC. We wrote songs together and collaged it all together to create a soundtrack, similar to the artistic process of creating the KIND album! And then everyone filmed scenes and we created a big music video! It was so wonderful to be there.
Act Two: Releasing KIND and the Visual Album
Act Three: Going to Music Therapy School
Act One: Driving Through Blue Ridge Mountains
Act Two: Crying in Quarantine
The first time I was able to cry during quarantine was when I found out John Prine died. I was so mad! Why did the evil monster have to take one of my biggest idols? I cried for hours as I listened to his discography and played the only video I had of him performing over and over. One of the songs I listened to most during this time was “Please Don’t Bury Me.” Even though I was feeling such a heavy sadness, I was reminded of the humor he saw in life, death and everything in between. He was always able to turn heavy topics into lighthearted friends. John Prine was a friend to us all.
Act Three: Embracing Myself
Act One: Revisiting Old Comforts
Act Two: Working on a New Record
Act Three: Questioning Rhythm and Melody
Act One: The Bedroom
Act Two: The Ocean
Act Three: Canal St, NYC
Walking down Canal St NYC and running for the subway with my best friend and laughing until our bellies hurt.
Act One: Hopeful Beginnings
The first few months of the year were characterized by a warm, boundless excitement to be alive and to do everything I was doing. I was travelling through Vietnam at the time, thus the music I listened to on bus rides, plane trips and one 36-hour train ride across the whole country formed the soundtrack to my being consumed in youthful joy and naivety. If I had to choose just one song to attach to this mind space I was in, it would be “Hearts and Bones.” The rolling, gentle beat of the song lifts and rises into its crescendo, like the way intense emotions swell and float around your mind when you are free to spend your days thinking and feeling with your entire being. Of course, it also thematically links to the spirit of adventure – after all, why don’t we drive through the night and wake up in Mexico?
The last personal element of this memory was my becoming very close to someone who I had met just before I went away. I remember us walking back from a Julia Jacklin gig together and singing this song, which we had bonded over, as we walked through parks and leafy streets. Hearing it makes me feel able, yet fragile, and grateful that life sometimes takes you by the collar and dips you into intensity, demanding that it be felt all over.
Act Two: Self
Once the whole COVID thing had started to pick up steam, there was this new phase of life where solitude, comfort and the home became the centre of all our minds. Zoom was this funny way of connecting with people and being scared to walk past people in public was the new normal. I listened to so much music during this time, I even invested in a nice pair of headphones to fuel my almost constant stream of music.
In the spirit of realizing that, during quarantined times, you need to learn to enjoy your own company, I started seeking out the Persian music my parents had listened to and found that I loved it. Having not seen my family for the longest stretch of time in my life to date, this was my way of feeling connected. This song by Googoosh was the peak of my obsession, and I even covered it in a short Instagram video as a birthday homage to my Mum. I have to give Khruangbin the credit for introducing me to these gems of pre-revolutionary music, as my obsession with their album Con Todo El Mundo led me to look up their brilliantly crafted playlists of old tunes originating from Jamaica, Kenya, Thailand and of course, Iran.
Act Three: Chaos
The last part of the year was strange. It appeared that everything had gone back to normal, but it didn’t feel that way. The unexpected ways we had all spent the first part of the year had grown beyond novelty and now showed their effects on us. My time management was definitely challenged; I felt like I had way too much going on all of a sudden and that my time was constantly being stolen. I felt inadequate and confused, and struggled to reconcile the different parts of my identity that I had become more familiar with throughout the year.
Soccer Mommy’s color theory was definitely one of the best albums of the year, and this track in particular was one I couldn’t stop playing. As a musician, I am in complete awe of its layered guitars, and Sophia’s knack for melody. I am definitely one for melodrama, and lyrics like “I want to be calm like the soft summer rain on your back” definitely spoke to my fragile self when I just wanted everything to stop moving. It’s one of those songs where you can belt out the lyrics on a happy day and have a good time, but when you put it on and have a cry, it hits.