Agnes Obel – Myopia
honestly, album of the decade
Gia Margaret – Mia Gargaret
simple and profound
Cedric Noel – Patterning
patience is richly rewarded
Michael Feuerstack‘s Top 11 for 2020
This has been the weirdest year I can remember. I know it’s not just me. There’s no way I can remember all of the media that entered my sphere in 2020, but since I’ve been afforded the opportunity, I’m going to list (in no particular order) some of the things that I fell in love with in recent months.
Pen15 (TV show)
This show has been around for a couple of seasons, but the latest season definitely straddled 2020. A lot of shows are entertaining but this one is a masterwork of comedy and drama – humour and heartbreak. I could not get enough. I was sad when it ended and I’m sure it won’t be long until I’m re-watching it, since I doubt I’ll be able to hold off until its creators provide us with more.
Field Music – Making a New World (streamed concert)
This is one of my favourite bands to see live, and I love their recorded work as well. Their latest record is a concept album about WWI and its historical, social and cultural ripples throughout the last century. Their tackling of this unlikely and unwieldy subject combines two of the facets of the bad that I love the most: their ambition and their commitment to making something both political and personal. Due to the pandemic, they did a final impeccable performance of this material shot with vintage television video equipment and faithful sound capture. The result was weirdly nostalgic of my childhood, while also managing to feel extremely intimate and contemporary. I’m not generally one to go out of my way for streaming concerts, but this genuinely felt like I was there (even though I watched it after the fact due to technical concerns with which I prefer not to bore you).
Zadie Smith – Intimations (Essays)
Smith must have worked extremely quickly to make this generous, thoughtful and beautiful rumination on this specific time. Written relatively early in the lockdown, the collection attempts to make some sense all of the complicated feelings many of us are sharing. It’s particularly inspiring because she considered it as her means of doing something effective. She managed to turn her anxiety into action, donating all of her royalties to charity (The Equal Justice Initiative and The COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund for New York). Use what you’ve got to do what you can.
The Weather Station – Ignorance (music)
I always like The Weather Station records, but this one is hitting really directly. I cannot wait to get the full release in my ears. So far there are only a few songs available from this record, but they’ve been on repeat during my walks. It’s vague and precise and nostalgic and futuristic all at once.
Jon McKiel – Bobby Joe Hope (music)
It’s not quite right to say that this is a timeless record – it’s more like it encompasses all time. McKiel wrote the music on top of loops and tracks found on old reels of a tape machine he purchased second hand. He was collaborating with a ghost stranger. I’m not sure what else to say about this record. The descriptions don’t really nail it. It just feels so good.
Tropical F*ck Storm – Braindrops (music)
I’m sneaking this one in, even though it came out in 2019. The truth is I was a late arrival to this incredible band. When “Braindrops” came out, I was still under the spell of their earlier record “A Laughing Death in Meatspace” and so I was in no rush to overwhelm myself with more. I was floored ultimately to discover that I like this one as much if not more than Meatspace. This band rocks so incredibly hard (blazing live too), but with unreserved warmth and soul and humanity. It gives me all kinds of wiggly feelings, always turning on a dime in a surprising and inviting direction.
Richard Dawson – 2020 (music)
I’m cheating here a bit too. This record came out in 2019, but come on it’s called 2020. These devastating songs are the result of an extremely inventive and imaginative combination of music and narrative. It’s like the uncomfortable result of a scrapbook of images from contemporary industrialized emotional life has been mulched up in some kind of medieval farm machinery and hung on a loose clothesline of folk storytelling.
Land of Talk – Indistinct Conversations (music)
This record is a real sleeper. I liked it right away but the deep love really creeps up on you. It captures some of their raw and beautiful intensity that I haven’t heard on record before (though I’m a fan of the other records too).
Oumou Sangare – Acoustic (music)
This is an acoustic re-interpretation of Sangaré’s 2017 album Mogoya. More or less an unplugged record. It’s otherworldly and hypnotic magic was apparently captured live in a room over just two days with no amps or overdubs.
Daniel Romano’s ridiculous string of releases (music)
I absorb stuff slowly. I love some of Dan Romano’s music so much that I’m sure he has given me enough to chew on for the next 20 years. Never slow down.
Camille Delean – Cold House Burning (music)
Maybe it’s a bit gauche to add this one to the list, since I was so heavily involved in its creation. But I love this record and I feel like it slipped through the cracks for many. This record is dark and removed, but with a heat in the middle that you want to keep travelling toward. (‘fun’ fact: Camille found herself without a home as the result of a fire immediately next door to her Montreal apartment right around the time the record was released. You can’t invent that kind of promotional material.)
Jay Crocker (JOYFULTALK)
I checked out of media almost entirely for most of 2020. I spent most of my time absorbing the sounds, smells and architectures of the natural world. During the latter half I slowly made my way back to the media table and found a few inspiring gems to persuade inspirations toward future travels both inward and out into this changing new world.
Pa Salieu – Welcome to Coventry
AMANI + King Vision Ultra – An Unknown Infinite
William Basinki – Lamentations
Star Feminine Band – s/t
Nate Wooley – Seven Storey Mountain V
film – The Good Lord Bird / Small Axe / Fargo / The Queen’s Gambit
* read more about Jay’s picks via this Son of Marketing feature
Adam Marshall (FMG social media manager)
I love pop music so Jojo, Lady Gaga, Kehlani, Beyoncé, Teyana Taylor, Little Mix, Miley Cyrus, Kylie Minogue, Carly Rae Jepsen, Ariana Grande, Victoria Monet really got me through the year.
U.S. Girls – Heavy Light / Mary Lattimore – Silver Ladders / Lido Pimienta – Miss Colombia / Anachnid – Dreamweaver / Khruangbin – Mordechai / Madeline Kenney – Sucker’s Lunch / Marisa Anderson & Jim White – The Quickening / Alabaster Deplume – To Cy & Lee: Instrumentals Vol.1 / El Michels Affair – Adult Themes / Jennah Barry – Holiday / Cedric Noel – Nothing Forever, Everything / Aidan Knight – s/t / Kim Harris – Heirloom / Dana Gavanski – Yesterday Is Gone / Empress Of – I’m Your Empress Of / Waxahatchee – Saint Cloud
2020 fave reads (not all published this year):
Sigrid Nunez – What Are You Going Through / Thomas Pynchon – Inherent Vice / Jon Krakauer – Into the Wild / Awake Emezi – The Death of Vivek Oji / Adrian Nicole Leblanc – Random Family
hello. i don’t get too fussy about new year’s and turning the figurative corner, but i do enjoy making lists and reflecting on what stories have been told and heard, what these past days amounted to. is there any meaning from all the hours i just lived? am i different now than before? how has this time changed me? do i need to answer these questions? jk. that said, i wanted to take a moment to say hello, send you a giant virtual hug for being here and reading this. i hope these past few months haven’t been too hard on your heart. i would like to acknowledge all the stress, pain, suffering that accumulated over the past ten months that felt like three years. but also acknowledge the good things, and the growth i am seeing all around me. i hope you are finding ways to feel peace, look forward and stay true. x g
Michelle Elrick (FMG bookkeeper)
This episode of On Being featuring the late Irish poet John O’Donohue in conversation with host Krista Tippet really blew my mind this year. Hearing this man’s grounded, awe-filled, inspired perspective on beauty, creativity and the landscape that formed him was my listening highlight this past year. It’s actually from several years ago, but I heard it in 2020.
Michelle Yorke (FMG shipping manager)
Fiona Apple – Fetch the Bolt Cutters
Adrianne Lenker – Songs
Helena Deland – Someone New
Rose Cousins – Bravado
Lomelda – Hannah
Rosalía – El Mal Querer (2018)
Lianne La Havas – Weird Fishes (Radiohead cover)
Tei Shi – La Linda (2019)
TV – I May Destroy You // The Great British Baking Show (my balm to soothe me throughout the year)
Movies – Portrait of a Lady on Fire
Our time in the theatre was cut so short but I feel so lucky to have experienced it (twice!) in early March before everything shut down. Almost everything else we watched from home during the pandemic were re-watches of old classics and more recent favourites. Finding comfort in familiarity, I suppose. Lots to catch up on!
Moon Hee-Kim (FMG funding manager)
One album I can say I listened to on repeat this year is P’tit Belliveau – Greatest Hits Vol. 1
Movie – Black Bear
Book – Disaster Diaries: How I learned to stop worrying and love the apocalypse by Sam Sheridan
Dolly Parton’s America / Dolly Parton’s internet presence
Lizzo’s Instagram account
Lucia Berlin short stories
Watching The Crown /hating the monarchy/using a dramatic reenactment to make judgements about real people
Lennon Stella and JP Saxe – Golf on TV
Luka Kuplowsky – Stardust
Refreshing the news
“ruining dinner by discussing reality”
The Testaments by Margaret Atwood
ClubQuaretine even tho I never got in
Mi’kmaq lobster fisherman buying Clearwater
Joshua Van Tassel
Nihiloxica – Kaloli
Laura Marling – Songs for Our Daughter
Jóhann Jóhannsson – Last and First Men
Martin Sheldrake – Entangled Life
Robert McFarland- Underland
Yoko Ogawa – The Memory Police
Tim Crabtree (Paper Beat Scissors)
Check out Tim’s playlist of his favourite 20 tracks of 2020 here
Ichiko Aoba – Windswept Adan (recommended track – Dawn in the Adan)
Richard Reed Parry – the Nest OST (recommended track – Symphony Brew)
Dog Day – Present (recommended track – Hell On Earth)
Bing & Ruth – Species (recommended track – Live Forever)
Andrew Sisk – Mr Miracle (recommended track – Vegas In My Heart)
Songs I had on repeat throughout 2020:
Makaya McCraven, Gil Scott Heron – Where Did The Night Go?
Aquakulture – Wife Tonight
Lankum – The Wild Rover
Yves Jarvis – For Props
Dent May – I Could Use A Miracle
Badge Époque Ensemble – Just Space for Light ft. Jennifer Castle
Thundercat – ‘Fair Chance feat. Ty Dolla $ign & Lil B (Floating Points remix)
Wolf Castle – Burner Phone feat. Talon the Rez Kid Wonder
King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard‘s live concert documentary Chunky Shrapnel, shot entirely on 16mm film
Thanya Iyer’s visual interpretation of their KIND album
Radio – R$ Smooth’s $mooth Groove$ radio show every Sunday on CKDU 88.1FM