April 2021: Listening Diary

Listening was continuous as spring came on, but also random, a-thematic, full of drift. I was often in novels, at times finishing a couple a week, and music was cross-cutting in and out of focus in the background. The epic listen was the new Floating Points and Pharoah Sanders collaboration, which I initially approached with skepticism, but warmed to on repeat listens, and will probably find among the benchmarks for the year, come winter. Depending on my pitch of mind, some things occasionally sounded perfect at night, like Marseille-based Italian composer Alessandro Bosetti’s recent release Didone, and then made me peevish in the day. One thing that constantly worked in reading environments was the hauntological assemblage of Mirry, eponymously titled, which has a great back-story, recounted in the Guardian back in December.

The new Sourdure LP, De Mòrt Viva, dropped in the beginning of the month, and it’s excellent. That, and the recent release from the Swiss ensemble Meril Wubslin, sent me on a Francophone jag for a couple weeks, that included equal doses of French pop and leftfield, and I discovered new (for me) sweet-tooth singers and indie outfits like Jonathan Personne, Klô Pelgag, Sarah Maison and, perhaps my favorite, Gisèle Pape among them. I finished the month with several spins through the new five-year Bongo Joe label retrospective, which is rangy and deep, and of course full of the quirky and outlying French.

Things that made me feel calm and at home in April: mid-80s Wyatt, the new release by young Catalan phenom Rita Payés, and a couple singles from Arooj Aftab, whose Vulture Prince LP should be here any minute. Finally, a couple days ago, a friend also encouraged me to focus in on Los Angeles pianist Jamael Dean, and that seems like a great prompt into early May, a month I’m optimistic about.


Best Listens (new releases & reissues)

CREATIVE / AUTEURS

Floating Points + Pharoah Sanders + London Symphony Orchestra – Promises (2021)

Alessandro Bosetti – Didone (2021)

Pavel Milyakov & Bendik Giske – s/t (2021)

Lonnie Holley & Matthew E White – Broken Mirror: A Selfie Reflection (2021)

Angel Bat Dawid – Harkening Etudes (2021)

Caterina Barbieri – Fantas Variations (2021)

Philip Glass + Tana Quartet – String Quartet #4 “Buzcak” (2021)

Jamael Dean – Ished Tree / Infant Eyes (w/ Sharada Shashidar) (2020)


OUTERNATIONAL

Sourdure – De mòrt viva (2021)

Gisèle Pape – Caillou (2021)

Meril Wubslin – Alors quoi (2021)

Arooj Aftab – Last Night / Mohabbat (2021)

Alfred Kpebesaaane & Brittany Anjou – Nong Voru / Fake Love (2021)

TEKE::TEKE – Yoru Ni (2021)

Florence Adooni – Mam Pe’ela Su’ure (2021)

Sarah Maison – Soleils (2021)


REISSUES

V/A – Futur Antérieur: Bongo Joe’s 5 Years Anniversary (2016-2020)

Joanna Brouk – Healing Music / Hearing Music (1980, 2016, 2021)

Luli Licinha E O Bando – Flor Lilás (1972, 2021)

José Mauro – A Viagem das Horas (1976, 2021)


AMBIENT / LIBRARY

Mirry – s/t (2021)

The Vernon Spring – A Plane Over Woods (2021)

Marcus Hamblett & Katherine Tinker – The Warren (for piano) (2021)

Howie Lee – Birdy Island (2021)

M. Sage + the Spinnaker Ensemble – The Wind of Things (2021)

Sage, Mary, Shiroishi, Jusell – Fuubutsushi (2020)


STRUMMERS / SONGBIRDS

Rita Payés + Elisabeth Roma – COMO LA PIEL (2021)

Chad VanGaalen – World’s Most Stressed Out Gardner (2021)

Tex Crick – Live in… New York City (2021)

Renée Reed – s/t (2021)

Laure Briard – Eu Voo (2021)

Marinero – Hella Love (2021)

Jonathan Personne – Disparitions (2020)

Klô Pelgag – Notre-Dame-des-Sept-Douleurs (2020)

Marie-Pierre Arthur – Des feux pour voir (2020)

Julien Gasc – L’appel de la forêt (2020)


LEFTFIELD / ODD ENDS

skogar – Paradise City Jams (2021)

Five from the Archive (frequent spins, rediscoveries)

Robert Wyatt – Old Rottenhat (1986)

Boris Grebenshikov + Robert Wyatt – Stella Maris (2015)

Carwyn Ellis & Rio 18 – Joia! (2019)

Otim Alpha – Gulu City Anthems (2017)

Ngozi Family – Day of Judgement (1976, 2014)

April 2021: Viewing Diary

Film (recent releases)

Women Make Film (Episodes 1-7) – Mark Cousins

Small Axe: Mangrove – Steve McQueen

Small Axe: Red White and Blue – Steve McQueen

Small Axe: Alex Wheatle – Steve McQueen

Small Axe: Education – Steve McQueen

About Endlessness – Roy Andersson

Malmkrog – Cristi Puiu

Crashing Waves – Lucy Kerr

Dear Comrades! – Andrei Konchalovsky

The Father – Florian Zeller

White Tiger – Ramin Bahrani

Judas and the Black Messiah – Shaka King

Let Them All Talk – Steven Soderbergh

Mank – David Fincher

Shiva Baby – Emma Seligman

A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon – Burton / Becher / Phelan

Biggest Little Farm – John Chester

Over the Moon – Audrey Wells / Glen Keane


Film (archival)

Cane River – Horace Jenkins, 1982

Citizen Kane – Orson Welles, 1941


Serial TV

P-Valley (2020, USA)

The Investigation (2021, Denmark)

The Last Dance (2020, USA)

The Falcon & the Winter Soldier (2021, USA)

March 2021: Listening Diary

The tranquil and contemplative companion music that Mustapha Skandrani and Meitei provided me last month found cousins in March in recent releases by Shida Shahadi (Lake of Fire, 2020) and the monthly collaborative releases by the duo of Laura Cannell and Kate Ellis (January | February | March Sounds, 2021). A reissue / rediscovery of the beautiful 2013 release of The Box Tree by Skúli Sverrisson and Óskar Guðjónsson dug a well that I went back to often over the course of the month.

In terms of more voice-based releases, the new collaboration by Andrew Bird and Jimbo Mathus, These 13 (obscure nod to Faulkner with that title), is the best thing I’ve heard Bird do in years. Effortlessly listenable from beginning to end, parsimonious live recordings with largely violin, guitar, and mandolin – Appalachian folk and raw country, with judicious strings for a nudge of drama here and there. Nothing wrong with it.

Outside domestic turf, a rerelease of Luiz Bonfá’s Reverso do Verso hit right for the roll-out of spring weather, as did the reissue of the Buda Musique collection of Taraab classics Zanzibara Vol. 10. I just found the November release of Tehran TV actress Liraz Charhi‘s new LP – a winning clutch of Israeli-Persian (!) pop with reverent nods to golden-era Googoosh and Ramesh. And speaking of golden eras, MPB auteur José Mauro also seems to be having a new day, with Far Out spinning out new editions of his excellent albums Obnoxius and A Viagem das Horas (the latter earning a full release in late April).

Among leftfield and oddbird finds, recent drops on Bandcamp and Spotify of the 80s recordings of Swiss project Die Welttraumforscher (particularly Die Rückkehr der echten Menschheit (1981-1990)) had me frequently pricking up my ears. As did lumpy/unkempt but consistently inspired releases by Teeth Agency and Fievel is Glauque. Also worth earmarking two French discoveries: the Occitan-language singing field recordist Sourdure (recently with a profile on BC), and a double EP issue of miniatures from Gabriel Gauthier under the name Nevers, Minor Plot Twist and Clueless. Background is cloudy, but foreground is nice. Here we go.


Best Listens (new releases & reissues)

AMBIENT / LIBRARY

Laura Cannell & Kate Ellis – January Sounds / February Sounds / March Sounds (2021)

Lionmilk – I Hope You Are Well (2021)

Shida Shahadi – Lake on Fire (Oct 2020)

Anna Homler & Elizabeth Falconer / Hey String – blue thirty-seven (Nov 2020)

Holland Andrews – Wordless (2021)


OUTERNATIONAL (NEW)

Sourdure – De mòrt viva (2021)

Nevers – Minor Plot Twist / Clueless (2021)

Senyawa – Alkisah (2021)

Liraz – Zan (Nov 2020)

Kutiman – Wachaga (July 2020)


OUTERNATIONAL (REISSUES)

V/a – Zanzibara Vol. 10 (First Modern: Taraab Vibes from Mombasa & Tanga 1970-1990)

Luiz Bonfa – Reverso do Verso

José Mauro – A Viagem das Horas / Obnoxius

Stella Chiweshe – Ambuya!

The Beaters – Harari


JAZZ (REISSUES/REDISCOVERIES)

Skúli Sverrisson & Óskar Guðjónsson – The Box Tree (2021, 2013)

New Muse 4tet – Blue Lotus (2021)

The Modern Jazz Quartet – Continental Escapades (2021, ???)

Hamiet Bluiett – Bearer of the Holy Flame (2021, 1994)


GUITAR AUTEURS

Nathan Salsburg – Landwerk No 2 (Dec 2020)

Mason Lindahl – Kissing Rosy in the Rain (2021)

Pino Palladino & Blake Mills – Notes with Attachments (2021)


STRUMMERS / SONGBIRDS

Jimbo Mathus & Andrew Bird – These 13 (2021)

James Yorkston & the Second-Hand Orchestra – The Wide, Wide River (2021)


LEFTFIELD / ODD ENDS

Die Welttraumforscher – Die Rückkehr der echten Menschheit (1981-1990)

Fievel Is Glauque – God’s Trashmen Sent to Right the Mess (2021)

Teeth Agency – You Don’t Have to Live in Pain (2021)

Kitchen Cynics – Beads Upon an Abacus (Dec 2020)

V/a – Heisei No Oto: Japanese Left-field Pop from the CD Age (1989-1996)

Five from the Archive (frequent spins, rediscoveries)

Meilyr Jones – 2013 (2016, Wales)

Sourdure – L’Espròva (2018, France – Occitan)

Jose Carlos Schwarz – Boca Ke Papia; Udjus Ke Odjas (Guinea-Bissau, 2017)

V/a – Par les damné.e.es de la terre (Des voix des luttes 1969-1988) (France)

DIEUF-DIEUL de Thiès – Aw Sa Yone Vol 2 (Senegal, 2015)

March 2021: Viewing Diary

Film (recent releases)

Can’t Get You Out of My Head (pts 4-6) – Adam Curtis

Notturno – Gianfranco Rosi

Dear Comrades! – Andrei Konchalovsky

Dead Pigs / Birds of Prey – Cathy Yan double feature (2018 / 2020)

A Month of Single Frames – Lynne Sachs & Barbara Hammer

Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets – Bill & Turner Ross

My Octopus Teacher – Pippa Ehrlich & James Reed

Boys State – Amanda McBaine & Jesse Moss

One Night in Miami – Regina King

The Trial of the Chicago 7 – Aaron Sorkin

The Mole Agent – Maite Alberdi

Crip Camp – James Lebrecht & Nicole Newnham

Nomad: In the Steps of Bruce Chatwin – Werner Herzog

Billie Eilish: The World’s a Little Blurry – RJ Cutler

I Care a Lot – J Blakeson


Film (archival)

Percival – Eric Rohmer, 1978

Double feature: Vertigo / The Green Fog – Hitchcock (1958) / Guy Maddin (2017)

Double feature: Wanda / Badlands – Barbara Loden (1970) / Terrence Malick (1973)

Outer Space – Peter Tscherkassky, 1999

Citizen Kane – Orson Welles, 1941

Bicycle Thieves – Vittorio De Sica, 1948

Sometimes Always Never – Carl Hunter, 2018

L’Atlante – Jean Vigo, 1934

Nationtime – William Greaves, 1972


Serial TV

The Investigation (Efterforskningen) (2021, Denmark)

Borgen (Season 1, 2010, Denmark)

Lupin (2021, France)

Ted Lasso (2020, USA)

Little America (2020, USA)

The Last Dance (2020, USA)

February 2021: Viewing Diary

Film (recent releases)

Can’t Get You Out of My Head (pts 1-3) – Adam Curtis

Beginning – Dea Kulumbegashvili

Nationtime – William Greaves

Nomadland – Chloe Zhao

Saint Maud – Rose Glass

Minari – Lee Isaac Chung

Another Round – Thomas Vinterberg

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom – George C Wolfe

Soul – Pete Docter

Promising Young Woman – Emerald Fennell

Kajillionaire – Miranda July


Film (archival)

L’Atlante – Vigo, 1934

The Last Picture Show – Bogdanovich, 1970

8 12 – Fellini, 1963

Kiki’s Delivery Service – Miyazaki, 1989

V/day double feature: Bright Star (Campion, 2009), Moonstruck (Jewison, 1987)


Serial TV

Ethos (2020, Turkey)

Trapped (2017, Iceland)

Borgen (2010, Denmark)

Pretend It’s a City (2020, NYC)

February 2021: Listening Diary

A random stumble onto a new Japanese issue of Istikhbars and Improvisations on Bandcamp introduced me to the Algerian pianist Mustapha Skandrani, and I’ve been hooked since, revisiting a couple collections for much of the month. Modal improvisations based on Arabo-Andalusian vocal music, as meditative and soulful as Tsegué-Maryam Guèbrou’s singular playing, or in another register, the birdsong-derivations of Moondog. Along with Meitei’s Kofu, which I became aware of during the winter holidays, my most frequent listens of the winter months. Kofu is the third in a trilogy of what the producer calls “lost Japanese moods” – loops, cut-ups, ’78 samples seamlessly overlain with an attention and melancholy as ghosty as The Caretaker’s best work.

Some weekend afternoon track-trading with an old friend, Peter Gizzi, turned up a recording of duets (Rhodes, violin – a rare and perfect match) by Cage at his most melody-turned, and I found myself building readerly side-saddle playlists of the above and other meditative over/tonal rich work from Patricia Brennan, Erlend Apneseth, Tarawangsawelas, Lumen Drones, Meara O’Reilly and others. The end of the month finally brought the release (much anticipated for me) of Wau Wau Collectif’s Yaral Sa Doom, and all its open, borderless, blue-sky optimism.

Rich opening of the year. If civilization and sociality is at a pause, the musical imagination continues in force. No end to the sounds that come.


Best Listens (new releases & reissues)

Wau Wau Collectif – Yaral Sa Doom

Mustapha Skandrani – Istikhbars and Improvisations

Nermin Niazi – Disco Se Aagay

4Mars – Super Somali Sounds from the Gulf of Tadjoura

Patricia Brennan – Maquishti

Nahawa Doumbia: Kanawa

v/a – Somewhere Between: Mutant Pop, Electronic Minimalism & Shadow Sounds of Japan 1980​-​1988

Lon Moshe & Southern Freedom Arkestra – Love Is Where the Spirit Lies

Tassos Chalkias – Divine Reeds

Altin Gün – Yol

Apifera – Overstand

New Discoveries (recent releases)

Meitei – Kofū (2020)

Erlend Apneseth – Fragmentarium (2020)

CS + Kreme – Snoopy (2020)

Rob Mazurek & Exploding Star Orchestra – Dimensional Stardust (2020)

Evritiki Zygia – Ormenion (2020)

Kooshin – Layla (2020)

v/a – If I Had a Pair of Wings: Jamaican Doo-Wop, Vol 3 (2020)

María José Llergo – Sanación (2020)

SiP – Leos Naturals (2020)

Dezron Douglas & Brandee Younger – Force Majeure (2020)

Rita Payés & Elisabeth Roma – Imagina (2019)

Meara O’Reilly – Hockets for Two Voices (2019)

Lumen Drones – Umbra (2019)

Tarawangsawelas – Wanci (2017)

Five from the Archive (frequent spins, rediscoveries)

Simón Díaz – Tonadas (Venezuela, 1974)

Mustapha Skandrani – Les virtuoses (piano) (Algeria, 1993)

Shirley & Dolly Collins – Anthems in Eden (UK, 1969)

John Cage – Melodies & Harmonies (2010, Lang, Fender Rhodes & Gahl, violin)

Choir of the Pius X School, Purchase, NY – Missa pro defunctis (The Requiem Mass), Solesmes edition (1930)

2020 Listening

Ranking music is unwise – not that there was a surfeit of wisdom literature guiding me/them/us this year. 2020 was the first year in almost fifteen that I didn’t have my regular radio show to program and host mid-week (KXLU went on automation in March once the full impact of the plague was known). In a typical week, I might listen to tens of LPs as restless monitor of an archive well beyond any possible grasp, even as access and recovery of a century-plus of recordings is easier than ever.

Ironically, even without a regular event to goad me into research, I listened to music more than ever in 2020, perhaps a bit more broadly even, finding niches and contexts that both co-listening and solo absorption might allow. Since my radio show tends toward archival releases and reissues, with a decidedly international and creative/experimental bent, I can be a bit repetitive and opportunistic in where I go to source it – what remains of vinyl blogs, Bandcamp’s sprawl, podcast collectives, and what I can random-walk into by training recommendation algorithms on several streaming platforms.

This year I found myself listening to more to instrumental / library / gaussian music than typically – I often am impatient with it, and crave the human voice, especially deep song and non-English folk and art song. But perhaps because I was often ‘lying abed’ reading at home for hours at a time, sound that was parallel and ambient worked more. To its opposite, I also found more time for hip-hop and club music on walks in the hills and in the cabin, in rarer moments when the kids were siloed on headphones, distance-‘learning’.

In any case, here’s a survey of the field-and-well I went to repeatedly in the past twelve months. In a nod to the ghost of Rick Dees, a top 40 (inclusive of both new releases and ’20 reissues) based on frequency of spins and some intuitive feels, followed by a top 100 loosely grouped by the unwisest thing of all in this post-genre paradise of music: microgenres of unreliable integrity and delimitation. I’ll try to link to some playlists come free moments in January.


2020 by Feel & Frequency: A Top 40

  1. Lina_Raul Referee – s/t
  2. v/a – The Storm of Life (Death Is Not the End)
  3. Cindy Lee – What’s Tonight to Eternity
  4. This is the Kit – Off Off On
  5. Jaime Roos & Estella Magnone – Mujer de Sal Junto a un Hombre Vuelto Carbón
  6. Andre Gibson & Universal Togetherness Band – Apart: Demos 1980-1984
  7. Alabaster DePlume – To Cy & Lee
  8. Jon McKiel – Bobby Joe Hope
  9. Mary Halverson’s Code Girl – Artlessly Falling
  10. SAULT – Untitled (Black Is) / (Rise)
  11. Okkyung Lee – Yeo-Neun
  12. Cosmo Sheldrake – Wake Up Calls
  13. Aksak Maboul – Figures
  14. Caetano Veloso & Ivan Sacerdote – s/t
  15. Priscilla Ermel – Origens Da Luz
  16. Nina Simone – Fodder on My Wings
  17. Kate NV – Room for the Moon
  18. Slauson Malone – Vergangenheitsbdewältigung (Crater Speak)
  19. Shirley Collins – Heart’s Ease
  20. Beverly Glenn-Copeland – Transmissions
  21. Sylvia Tarozzi – Mi specchio e rifletto
  22. Eddie Chacon – Pleasure, Joy and Happiness
  23. Dawan Muhammed – Deep Stream
  24. Ray Larsen – Songs to fill the air
  25. Pastor T.L. Barrett and the Youth for Christ Choir – Do Not Pass Me By Vol.1
  26. Moor Mother & billy woods – Brass
  27. Thiago Nassif – Mente
  28. The Koreatown Oddity – Little Dominiques Nosebleed
  29. Microphones – Microphones in 2020
  30. Jyoti & Georgia Anne Muldrow – Mama, You Can Bet!
  31. Les Amazones d’Afrique – Amazones Power
  32. Perfume Genius — Set My Heart on Fire Immediately
  33. Lonnie Holley – National Freedom
  34. Arca – KiCk i
  35. Star Feminine Band – s/t
  36. Jeff Parker – Suite for Max Brown
  37. Minyo Crusaders & Frente Cumbiero – From Tokyo to Bogata
  38. Horse Lords – The Common Task
  39. Gabriels – Love and Hate in a Different Time (EP)
  40. Dirty Projectors – 5EPs

20 in ’20: Reissues & Archival

Andre Gibson & Universal Togetherness Band – Apart: Demos 1980-1984
Beverly Glenn-Copeland – Transmissions
Dawan Muhammed – Deep Stream
Jaime Roos & Estella Magnone – Mujer de Sal Junto a un Hombre Vuelto Carbón
Jon Hassell – Vernal Equinox
Moondog – On the Streets of New York
Mort Garson – Music from Patch Cord Productions / Unexplained / Black Mass
Nina Simone – Fodder on My Wings
Pastor T.L. Barrett and the Youth for Christ Choir – Do Not Pass Me By Vol.1
Priscilla Ermel – Origens Da Luz
Rustem Quliyev – Azerbaijani Gitara
Sharhabil Ahmed: Habibi Funk 13, The King of Sundanese Jazz
Sun Ra – Haverford College, Jan 25, 1980 (Solo Rhodes)
Svitlana Nianio & Oleksandr Yurchenko – Znayesh Yak? Rozkazhy
Théâtre Du Chêne Noir D’Avignon – Aurora
v/a – America Invertida
v/a – Excavated Shellac: An Alternate History of the World
v/a – How the River Ganges Flows: Masterpieces of Indian Violin (’33-52)
v/a – La Locura de Machuca 1975-1980
v/a – The Storm of Life (Death Is Not the End)


20 in ’20: Deep Cuts & Adventurous Listens

Anna von Hautwolf – All Thoughts Fly
Bastien Keb – The Killing of Eugene Peeps
Bohren & Der Club of Gore – Patchouli Blue
clipping. – Visions of Bodies Being Burned
DJ Dlaki – Balani Fou
DJ Chengz – St Lucian Kuduro Mixtape
Duma – Duma
Eyvind Kang – Ajaeng Ajaeng
Jennifer Walshe: A Late Anthology of Early Music
Keeley Forsyth – Debris / Photograph
Le Grand Sbam – Furvent
Liturgy – Origin of the Alimonies
MC Yallah – Mama Waliwamanyii (EP)
Pink Siifu – NEGRO / Pink Siifu’s
Nnamdi Ogbonnaya – Krazy Karl
Slauson Malone – Vergangenheitsbdewältigung (Crater Speak)
Svitlana Nianio & Oleksandr Yurchenko – Znayesh Yak? Rozkazhy
Sylvia Tarozzi – Mi specchio e rifletto
Théâtre Du Chêne Noir D’Avignon – Aurora
v/a – A Young Person’s Guide to Unseen Worlds By Visible Cloaks


15 in ’20: Library Music

Ak’chamel, The Giver of Illness – The Totemist
Andrew Wasylyk – Fugitive Light and Themes of Consolation
Cate Le Bon + Group Listening – Here It Comes Again
Cosmo Sheldrake – Wake Up Calls
Dominique Dumont – People On Sunday
Emily A. Sprague – Hill, Flower, Fog
Faten Kanaan – A Mythology of Circles
Haruomi Hosono – Hana ni Mizu
Jon Hassell – Vernal Equinox (reissue)
Luke Schneider – Altar of Harmony
Mary Lattimore – Silver Ladders
Mong Tong – Mystery
Nathan Salsburg – Landwerk
Ohneohtrix Point Never – Magic Ohneohtrix Point Never
Okkyung Lee – Yeo-Neun


15 in ’20: Beats & Club Music

Arca – KiCk i
Boldy James – Manger on McNichols
Chester Watson – A Japanese Horror Film
Gabriels – Love and Hate in a Different Time (EP)
Hope Tala – Girl Eats Sun
Khruangbin – Mordechai
Moor Mother & billy woods – Brass
Moses Sumney – grae
Open Mike Eagle – Anime, Trauma & Divorce
Quelle Chris, Chris Keys – Innocent Country 2
SAULT – Untitled (Black Is) / (Rise)
The Koreatown Oddity – Little Dominiques Nosebleed
The Weeknd – After Hours
Yaeji – WHAT WE DREW
Your Old Droog – Dump YOD: Yutnoy Edition


15 in ’20: Art Rock & Indie Auteurs

Andy Shauf – The Neon Skyline
Aksak Maboul – Figures
Bartees Strange – Live Forever
Bill Callahan – Gold Record
Cindy Lee – What’s Tonight to Eternity
Deradoorian – Find the Sun
Dirty Projectors – 5EPs
Drab City – Good Songs for Bad People
Eddie Chacon – Pleasure, Joy and Happiness
Horse Lords – The Common Task
Jon McKiel – Bobby Joe Hope
Kate NV – Room for the Moon
Microphones – Microphones in 2020
Perfume Genius — Set My Heart on Fire Immediately
This is the Kit – Off Off On


15 in ’20: Jazz & Outernational

Alabaster DePlume – To Cy & Lee
Bab L’ Bluz – Nayda!
Caetano Veloso & Ivan Sacerdote – s/t
Group RTD – The Dancing Devils of Djibouti
Jeff Parker – Suite for Max Brown
Jyoti & Georgia Anne Muldrow – Mama, You Can Bet!
Kiko Dinucci – Rastilho
Les Amazones d’Afrique – Amazones Power
Lina_Raul Referee – s/t
Mary Halverson’s Code Girl – Artlessly Falling
Minyo Crusaders & Frente Cumbiero – From Tokyo to Bogata
Ray Larsen – Songs to fill the air
Star Feminine Band – s/t
Thiago Nassif – Mente
v/a – Electro Acholi Kaboom from Northern Uganda

2020 Viewing

In February, I was sweetly-made in an Alamo Drafthouse recliner, watching Kelly Reichardt’s First Cow in the theater, loving it every bit as much as I expected to. Nothing in 2020 would surpass it.

Four weeks later all local theaters were shuttered, and ten months later, it’s still hard to guess when the window will open in 2021, and what will survive. But across the year, between streaming services, virtual cinemas, a great catalog year from Criterion and Mubi, and mail-order discs, there was plenty to see.

And there was so much more that I was unable to catch – given limited-runs, force-scarcity ticketing and deferred releases. Wanting and waiting to see Nomadland, Minari, About Endlessness, Saint Maud, Fire Will Come, among others. So still plenty to take in, impatience or no. What follows is the best of what came to me, film and series, via (mostly) the smaller screens in 2020.


Film

  1. First Cow – Kelly Reichardt
  2. Small Axe: Lovers Rock – Steve McQueen
  3. Bait – Mark Jenkin
  4. Vitalina Varela – Pedro Costa
  5. Beanpole – Kantemir Balagov
  6. Dick Johnson is Dead – Kirsten Johnson
  7. Wolfwalkers – Tomm Moore, Ross Stewart
  8. I Was at Home but… – Angela Schanelec
  9. The Forty Year Old Version – Radha Blank
  10. Sound of Metal – Darius Marder
  11. Sorry We Missed You – Ken Loach
  12. Collective – Alexander Nanau
  13. Time – Garrett Bradley
  14. I’m No Longer Here – Fernando Frías
  15. The Wolf House – Joaquin Cociña, Cristóbal León
  16. The Vast of Night – Andrew Patterson
  17. Deerskin – Quentin Dupieux
  18. Bacurau – Kleber Mendonça Filho, Juliano Dornelles
  19. Possessor – Brandon Cronenberg
  20. Relic – Natalie Erika James

12 more films I enjoyed:

City Hall, Color Out of Space, David Byrne’s American Utopia, Driveways, Family Romance LLC, His House, I’m Thinking of Ending Things, Never Rarely Sometimes Always, Palm Springs, The Nest, The Personal Life of David Copperfield, Young Ahmed


Television

1-10 (unranked)

Babylon Berlin (Season 3)
Better Things
Ethos (Bir Başkadır)
Giri / Haji
I May Destroy You
My Brilliant Friend (Season 2)
Ramy (Season 2)
The Good Lord Bird
The Queen’s Gambit
What We Do in the Shadows (Season 2)

(Honorable mention: Tuca & Bertie. 2019 series, but just caught up!)

11-20 (unranked)

Curb Your Enthisiasm (Season 10)
Last Week w/ John Oliver
Lovecraft Country
Mrs. America
Never Have I Ever
Normal People
Pen15 (Season 2)
Sex Education
The Mandalorian
The Valhalla Murders

(Gratuitous mention: Dark (Season 3). Ponderous and exhausting, but glad to have finished.)