Birthday gift from my wife this year, this amazing synth. Hoping to start a Music section of this site in the next few months and to start posting some recordings. Haven’t made music in a long while.
Yesterday was my fortieth birthday. It's strange to write, and even stranger to contemplate. Do I feel 40? Nope. Do I look 40? People are surprised to hear my age, so I suppose not. Age is a strange thing. At this moment, I'm not sure I fully grasp what it means to me. It's trivial. It's a bit like a fact with no practical consequence.
Last year, someone I know made a playlist that included a track for every year they were alive. Seemed like as good a way to mark time as anything, so I've done it, too. I wouldn't say the songs on here are my absolute favorite from each year, nor "the best." I guess I picked what felt right for this kind of thing, and tried not to duplicate too many artist.
I'm overwhelmed with relief. In under two hours, Joe Biden will be our President and Kamala Harris will be our VP. I'm elated for both and at the prospect of four years of progress and better lives for Americans.
Best Records of the Year
- Song Machine, Season One - Gorillaz
- The Prettiest Curse - Hinds
- Amazones Power - Les Amazones d'Africa
- That's How Rumors Get Started - Margo Price
- Punisher - Phoebe Bridgers
- RTJ4 - Run The Jewels
- Untitled (Black Is) - Sault
- Folklore - Taylor Swift
- Lost in the Country - Trace Mountains
- Cha Cha Palace - Angelica Garcia
- We Will Always Love You - The Avalanches
- I Made a Place - Will Oldham
- Twice as Tall - Burna Boy
- Fetch The Bolt Cutters - Fiona Apple
- American Head - The Flaming Lips
- Mirrored Aztec - Guided By Voices
- The Loves of Your Life - Hamilton Leightauser
- Serpentine Prison - Matt Berninger
- Anime, Trauma, and Divorce - Open Mike Eagle
- Untitled (Rise) - Sault
- Color Theory - Soccer Mommy
- Optimisme - Songhoy Blues
- Cuttin' Grass, Vol. 1 - Sturgill Simpson
- Sorry You Couldn't Make It - Swamp Dogg
- The Slow Rush - Tame Impala
- Evermore - Taylor Swift
- Heavy Light - U.S. Girls
- Saint Cloud - Waxahatchee
- What We Drew - Yaeji
So 2020 was a fucked up year, wasn't it? Music felt different. When life is so fully off its axis, a perspective on art is equally as skewed. Though I knew better, I was looking for something more in the music than it could provide, as if anyone recording in 2019 could predict what life would be like in the year those songs would be released. That's unfair expectations.
Despite all that, I was surprised to look back and find so many great records given to us. My list is 29 strong, and 9 of those are what I would say are exceptionally great. Taylor Swift also managed to put out a record in that top tier list. What a weird year. Folklore was the most exciting surprise. I'm as big a fan of Swift as a 40 year old man can be; she just doesn't generally write songs for my demo, I think we can agree. But privately and intimately writing a record with Aaron Dressner was an inspired idea and it really produced. Was Folklore my favorite album of the year? Maybe!
The Gorillaz record this year was more like a collection of singles. Albarn started the year by releasing about a song a month, recorded at odd intervals with a usual eclectic mix of artists. They ended up putting out a collected record of these earlier than I think was the plan, but it all comes together so well. I'm gonna love almost anything Albarn releases, and many of his tracks this year were incredible. In the end, my love of his music really keeps this at the top for me.
It was a very uninspired year for hip hop. Run the Jewels put out another great record, on tier with their best. The intentionally private band Sault put out two solid R&B/Soul records after two even better records in 2019. I liked, but wasn't very impressed with the Childish Gambino record. Burna Boy put out a good album, but not one I'd push on to others. I guess Open Mike Eagle's Anime, Trauma, and Divorce was the second best. I highly recommend it. It's honest and direct.
I've been listening to a lot of world music in the last few years, largely African. But this year didn't seem to produce much that I'd elevate. Les Amazones d'Africa put out a record I highly recommend. And the Songhoy Blues record is wonderful. I'm hoping there were another few great ones I've missed.
And here's my playlist for the best tracks of the year: 2020 Favorite Tracks. As always, it's ordered by the date I first heard each track, to give it a bit of an autobiographical flavor, instead of just ordering by release date. And the other rule is that it includes no more than one track per artist, unless there's some rare partnership release or something.
The Gorillaz tracks "Désolé" and "Momentary Bliss" were probably my favorite tracks of the year. They each got the most listens, by far. Perfect pop tunes that few people in the world are able to produce. "Désolé" has a heartache I really vibed on. "Momentary Bliss" captures the anger we have at today's historical moment, but with a headstrong optimism I want to believe I have. But the one song which really gives me those synaptic chills almost every time I listen to it is the Hinds and CHAI combo track "United Girls Rock'n'Roll Club." It's a track by women and for women and which this guy want's to push further out into the world. More people should know this track. It's for everyone and it's amazing.
A few years ago, we started a blog for the WSJ Design team for posting about various design-related things. Among the article type is a Get To Know series and I was selected for interview number three. It was nice to share a bit about myself and my career path. If you'd like to hear me talk a little more personally about myself than I even do on my own website, well here's the interview.
First snow in a couple years.
Nine months into the pandemic, and we finally bought ourselves some painting supplies. Here's my output on the first go-round.
My Twitter feed has slowly been filling with more design and development chatter. Less politics. It's a very noticeable difference, and so very welcome. If I were to unfollow all the lawyers and reporters I followed these last four years, I bet it would even feel more like 2016, again.
Of course, I should probably just leave Twitter altogether. I know I know.