Sometimes I get asked by music magazines and websites to contribute to ‘best of’ lists and I always have to decline. It’s nothing personal about the format, it’s just that the majority of what I watch, read or listen to each year is rarely new or from that year. I’m usually ploughing deeper into some specific furrow of my own, delving back into stuff I might have missed or that might fill out an existing collection or interest, serving my tendency to fixate on an artist or writer for a time until I feel I have a grip on their work. It makes me feel that fixating on “new in X year”, I’d be consciously ignoring all the “not from this year” stuff that I’ve really been enjoying in favour of a false new-new-new.
So, with that in mind, I just thought I’d list ‘stuff’ that I found interesting or entertaining in 2020 regardless of when or where it came from. I’m doing so while listening to My Cat Is An Alien who – with their release of The World That IS And IS NOT – remain consistently excellent.
Urusei Yatsura have released a load of quality Bandcamp material in 2020 including a much required second compilation of their b-sides and rarities:
Lee Ranaldo and Raül Refree’s Names Of North End Women was a delight from start to finish:
Dais Records provided a couple of highlights in their excellent remastering of Coil’s Musick To Play In The Dark Vol. 1. It’s great to see a reissue where the polishing applied allowed me to hear more than I ever had before in a record I’ve been obsessively listening to for two decades. Drew McDowell’s Agalma managed to always tug at my ear and keep me listening deeply. The three-disc The Doctrine Of Maybeness release by Aural Rage (aka Danny Hyde) is still keeping me exploring.
My finest record store score of the year was acquiring Volume I and II of Vinyl On Demand’s Viva Negativa! tributes to The New Blockaders. That provoked quite a bit of renewed listening: VLZ Produkt’s Live At The Rammel Club, Opal Tapes’ Live At Cafe Oto, 4iB Records’ TNB+K2 release and so forth. Vittore Baroni also kindly sent me the Enrico Piva Anticlima box-set, a real labour of love and stunning tribute to a deceased friend. Meanwhile I drank deep of Étant Donnés – including the film work of Marc Hurtado – culminating in the Marc Hurtado/Pascal Comelade Larme Secrete album:
Anything else great? Yep! Lingua Ignota, Jagath, the Jimi Hendrix Live In Maui compilation, the BBC Radiophonic Workshop CD box-set, Dead Neanderthals album Polaris, The Stooges Live At Goose Lake and the box-set You Think You’re Bad Man?, I was really surprised by the Cathedra Time Was Away compilation, Alcest’s Spiritual Instinct, Trunk Records’ Christmas mix CD (I buy these every year – they’re consistently great), Rico Nasty’s new album Nightmare Vacation is awesome, the song ‘Trollz’ by Nicki Minaj (who I think is the finest hip hop artist of the past decade bar none – https://www.popmatters.com/nicki-minaj-greatest-rapper-decade-2645966150.html) and Megan The Stallion/Cardi B’s turn on ‘WAP’ was great too.
TV-wise, I keep watching the works of Nigel Kneale (I’m looking forward to watching Beasts, which I received at Christmas), a fixation which started when I found the whole of The Stone Tape on YouTube:
Penda’s Fen shows its age but was also intriguing, as was the reissue of the 1989 TV production of The Woman In Black. Lockdown led to strange fixations: watching ALL the Halloween movies, ALL the Nightmare On Elm Street films (which hold up really well), every episode of Family Guy, all of Tarantino’s movies…I don’t have particularly sophisticated taste it must be said.
Book-wise, the only thing I particularly miss about living in London was the underground and buses (on which I spent a couple hours at least each day without fail) was a perfect environment for uninterrupted reading. Being home, I find it hard to not get distracted by book work, my actual job, by life in general. I’ve been delighted by Timeless Editions’ new book The Universe Is A Haunted House: Coil Through Their Art And Archives:
I spent quite a bit of time on music reading: Reed’s Assimilate, Hegarty’s Noise/Music, Micro Bionic and Unofficial Release by Thomas Bey William Bailey, Fight Your Own War about power electronics, John Lydon’s I Could Be Wrong I Could Be Right…And my fiction reading remained centred around Adam L.G. Nevill’s excellent horror work. I’m still enjoying PanzerWrecks volumes on World War 2 panzers as well.