This year has been… a year. While everyone seemed to have what we could collectively describe as a “shitty year,” everyone has had a very different 2020. This year, we couldn’t all meet up at festivals all over the country or the world. This year we couldn’t high five each other, chug cheap beer, and scream along to songs in a basement (or garage or sticky venue) on a Friday night. All the things that seemingly made us “us” were stripped away, leaving other facets of ourselves that we had long since forgotten or placed on an upper shelf to collect dust for some day when we would have more free time.
I’ve spoken to people who feel like they lost their hold on music and others who clung onto it for dear life like a life preserver. It’s been… a year. And while everyone has bravely faced 2020 with a different arsenal of supplies, this resulted in a variety different outcomes. That’s why, in addition to our contributors’ End of the Year Lists, we at Bad Copy have reached out to a handful of friends involved in music this year and asked them to share their top lists. Music, movies, photos, memories, new hobbies – much like 2020, nothing is off the table when it comes to these lists. Let’s find a little good in the bad, try to laugh at what we can’t control, and pray that we will be able to safely see each other soon. First round is on me. – Kendra Sheetz, Editor
2020 is a weird one. With no live music and no bands messaging me to film Punks in Vegas Sessions, I had less incentive to check out new releases (I always listen to anyone who requests a session). On top of that, I found myself retreating to “comfort food” music more often than not in an attempt to feel “okay” through all the difficulties this year brought.
I listened to “Bamboo Bones” by Against Me! when I had an appointment or experience I was overly fretting about – this includes over 200 hours of facial hair removal, which is both “wow” 🙂 and “owwww” 🙁 (I can’t believe I pay more a month for electrolysis than the president pays for taxes). “What god doesn’t give to you / You’ve got to go and get for yourself” is a pretty good mantra for psyching myself up. I slightly overplayed “Hard Times” by Paramore after a breakup that occurred at the worst possible time – the start of lockdown (Emo Night getting canceled doesn’t change the fact that I’ll always be a mopey Emo girl at heart). I spent at least a week straight with the “I Love You Always Forever” song on a loop after binging “Pen15.” I listened to “I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)” a lot because, well, it’s “I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)” – it’s a bop! Same with “Return of the Mack.”
Also, 2019 was such an incredibly strong year that I found myself going back to my favorites often – Glass Beach, Insignificant Other, Origami Angel, Charly Bliss, Radar State, Oso Oso. (Insiggy and Glass Beach even made an encore appearance on my Spotify Wrapped for this year)
But that’s not to say I didn’t listen to ANYTHING new. When I sat down to compile this year’s list I was surprised at just how many albums came out in 2020 that I already love. I was also surprised to find out that 2020 had a January and a February! I literally forgot about the “before time.” So it turned out to be harder than I thought to narrow things down to just ten, but I gave it my best effort! Let’s start things off with number one:
1. Jeff Rosenstock – NO DREAM
Jeff Rosenstock coming in with another surprise album drop to save 2020! This time around, Jeff and the gang are channeling the best of 90s Green Day and Weezer, creating the perfect earworm of an album for someone like me who came of age playing handmade 90 minute mixtapes of the aforementioned bands on school bus rides. (Remember sharing earbuds??) Jeff gets more personal on the lyrics than his previous release Post- but while many artists have chosen to stay out of politics entirely – a convenience for people whose human rights aren’t up for debate every election cycle – Jeff continues to fight the good fight with songs like the title track. I listened to this pretty much every day since it came out on the drive to work and it always got me PUMPED… to run around all day reminding customers to wear their masks. 2020!
2. Beach Bunny – Honeymoon
A short, perfect slice of power pop, like The Oneders meets Josie and the Pussycats meets, I don’t know, let’s say Cliff’s song from Bring it On. (I re-watched a lot of movies in 2020, okay!) I could listen to the whole album in the amount of time it takes me to get ready in the morning – and I usually did. Sometimes twice, because I’m still learning how to get ready. But if freaking Billie Joe Armstrong can figure out how to put eyeliner on straight I’m sure I can!
3. Dogleg – Melee
Now THIS is podracing! Dogleg came out of nowhere and their energy is just so insane. They have the earnestness of Sunny Day Real Estate combined with the rambunctiousness of PUP. It’s cathartic Emo/Punk with intense power chords and furious riffs. They released a Clerks-parody video and you know what? I don’t think any of us are even supposed to be here today (“here” being 2020) I feel so bad for bands like this that released career-making albums in 2020 but weren’t able to tour in support of it. Fingers crossed for 2021.
4. Haim – Women in Music Pt. III
Fun fact: The singer from The Hippos co-produced this and co-wrote a lot of the songs (I know, I know – Ariel Rechtshaid is better known as a producer these days, but I love ‘membering The Hippos). Haim always manages to knock out like four or five absolutely perfect songs on each of their releases. Is that enough to make it on the list? I would’ve had them on here for “Don’t Wanna” alone so I guess the answer is yes!
5. I’m Glad It’s You – Every Sun, Every Moon
Speaking of Punks in Vegas Sessions, (you read my intro, right?) I first heard of I’m Glad It’s You in 2015 when I filmed a session with them in my friend’s bedroom. I liked them then and I love them now and you will too if you’re into bands like Tigers Jaw and Hostage Calm. I dare you to try and get “Big Sound” and “Silent Ceremony” unstuck from your head – it’s actually impossible! Bonus: Every Sun, Every Moon is also paired with an essay from one of my favorite authors – Hanif Abdurraquib. It’s like this album was made just for my Emo librarian heart.
6. Teenage Halloween – Teenage Halloween
I put this on and all I want to do is be at FEST, getting to see Teenage Halloween for the first time and singing along with the chorus of “Clarity” with other fans. In my fantasy this is right after grabbing lunch from the Hot Dog Cart and drinking a Jack and Squirt (note: I don’t really want to drink that, but I do want to point out that it has to be the worth name for a drink of all time). My body aches to be back at a show. It’s gotten so bad that I’d go to a seven band bill on a Tuesday! It’s so bad that I’m ready to charge myself $10 a can for PBR! It’s so bad that I miss dropping $15 for a Gildan shirt shaped as a literal square! In the meantime, I’ll just ask Alexa to restart Teenage Halloween and turn the volume up loud (but not too loud, because I’m a very conscientious neighbor).
7. Mercy Music – Nothing in the Dark
I’ve been following Mercy Music frontman Brendan Scholz’s musical growth since we were kids. I even wrote a book about it! (I promise this isn’t a sponsored post! But just in case, don’t forget to like, comment, and subscribe!) Scholz has a tremendous knack for writing songs that are instantly catchy while retaining a gritty punk edge, and that’s displayed so perfectly here with songs like “Living With A Ghost” and “To Live.” If they come to your town next year cancel all your plans and go watch them so you can see you saw them first.
8. Oceanator – Things I Never Said
I almost put the new Postal Service album here but then I remembered that those teases turned out to be… for a Zoom meeting. If only all of 2020 could have been as good as those few hours we thought we were getting the long awaited new Postal Service album! Okay, so let’s go with my real number 8. I dream of a world where we get a wave of bands influenced by Ted Leo breaking through. Maybe Oceanator will be the start of that. Seriously, the album highlight “A Crack In The World” sounds like it could’ve been a Hearts of Oak b-side and I’m so here for it. All I want is more hooky, fuzzy Power-Pop in this word and Oceanator delivers on this powerful debut full-length.
9. Spanish Love Songs – Brave Faces Everyone
The last show I went to this year was Spanish Love Songs opening for The Wonder Years. Spanish Love songs played at 4:30 pm (classic Vegas) and I was at work, so I missed them. I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure that’s the worst thing that’s happened to anyone in 2020. It’s hard to believe when listening to Dylan Slocum’s sad-as-they’ve-ever-been lyrics that this album actually came out before we were all in lockdown! It’s like the accidental perfect music for the 2020 experience.
10. Lawrence Arms – Skeleton Coast
The Lawrence Arms put out an album, I put it on my list. It’s that simple, every time. When I get stressed or depressed I do lots of cardio. So during lockdown I would walk like ten miles a day and listen to Brendan Kelly on “The Road to Skeleton Coast” podcast and then listen to the album he was discussing that week. This got me primed to listen to the new album. Skeleton Coast, which is more of the Larry Arms you know and love. It makes me feel instantly transported to simpler times when I first discovered the punk trio in the early 2000s. And I love simpler times because of the lack of COVID. I love ‘memebring no COVID!
Carly Rae – Dedicated Side B
It didn’t feel right to put a b-side collection on my main list, but it also didn’t feel right to leave Carly Rae off my list, so here you go! When I started voice feminization therapy I was instructed to practice belly breathing by blowing bubbles, and I did it while listening to “This Love Isn’t Crazy.” That song SLAPS and helped make a menial task more whimsical.
Best live shows of 2020:
If you go more than 100 days without seeing a show, you revert to being a normie. I don’t like it, I don’t make the rules, but that’s how it is. After a six month-to-a-year, many of the Normie changes become irreversible. That’s why as a newly minted Normie the only house shows I’m going to in the future are at the House of Blues!!! Thankfully, I did get a few shows in this year:
- Joyce Manor, Oso Oso, Peach Kelli Pop at Vinyl
- AJJ at Zia Records
- The Wonder Years, Free Throw, Spanish Love Songs at Fremont Country Club
- The lady my apartment complex hired to play violin for us instead of cutting us a break on rent during lockdown
And I wouldn’t be a good librarian if I didn’t include my favorite reads of 2020 as well:
- Cruel Summer by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips
- Hood Feminism by Mikki Kendall
- Punching the Air by Ibi Zoboi
- The Vanished Birds by Simon Jimenez
- Grown by Tiffany D Jackson
- Immortal Hulk by Al Ewing and Joe Bennett
- Apsara Engine by Bishakh Kumar Som
- Homie by Danez Smith
- Dragon Hoops by Gene Luen Yang
- Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender