We did it. We made it. The calendar may read December 31st, 2020, but it’s felt like March for the last nine months. Now, when you come last in a long line of End of the Year Lists, is there really anything that hasn’t already been said about how shocking, shitty, reality altering, and UNPRECEDENTED (*eyeroll*) 2020 has been to endure? Probably not. But here is my 2020. The first section includes my musical choices and recent discoveries. The second part is my year in review. Should you not want to read about my year, that’s why there’s the first part. Should you not like the first part either, I dunno, get fucked I guess.
TOP ALBUMS OF THE YEAR
(In chronological order)
- Beach Bunny – Honeymoon (Mom + Pop Records)
- PEARS – S/T (Fat Wreck Chords)
- Dua Lipa – Future Nostaglia (Warner Records)
- Lady Gaga – Chromatica (Streamline and Interscope Records)
- Pity Party – Concrete (Self-Released)
- The Grandfather of Squash – S/T (Self-Released)
- Attic Salt – Get Wise (Self-Released)
And while the rest of the list is merely ranked by date of release, there is a clear front runner album for the year for me. My #1 this year was actually on my 2019 list too (since I knew it would be THAT good) and it did not disappoint. My #1 will always go to Kesha. She released High Road via RCA and Kemosabe Records (BOOOO!) on January 31st and I have listened to at least one song from that album every day since. Much like her prior 2017 release, Rainbow, this fourteen track album got me through this year. It also inspired two epic Zoom hang outs with my best friend Corinne (more on that below).
If you want to watch me talk more about these albums, check out this episode of Questions the Answers!
HONORABLE MENTION/I FOUND OUT ABOUT THESE VIA SOMEONE ELSE’S AOTY LIST
- Laura Jane Grace – Stay Alive (Polyvinyl Record Co.) – Like with so much music this year, I mentally haven’t really been able to give this my full attention. But she wrote a song called “The Swimming Pool Song” that embodies everything single thought I could never say about why I love exploring abandoned and forgotten properties and I listened to it all Fall long as I did so.
- Black Pumas – S/T (ATO Records) – It came out in 2019. It was released on vinyl this year. I found out about it by watching my friend Curtis’ IG story days ago and, my god, are they fabulous! I wish I had this all year.
- Pinkshift – I discovered this band while editing Devon Kay’s End of the Year List and then realized that our contributor Will posted about them back in August (which I would have had to review since I’m the sole editor of the site). So that’s how my year has gone *sigh*
- Mertles Acres – “This Fires Burnin'” – The pals in MA released a new single in early December and it’s one of the things that got me excited for music again. Hopefully, I’ll safely see you all in 2021!
MY WEIRD PHASES OF QUARANTINE
Phase 1 – A daily panic and fear so deep that it could not be cured by normal TV. There was only one show wild enough to get my mind off of the complete shit show that was the America and get my mind on the complete shit show that was the world of exotic animals and that, of course, was Tiger King. I binged those seven episodes so hard, my body hurt for a week from lack of motion. I did a second round of binging when the eighth episode aired months later. Also, I got ‘free’ money from the government. I rather liked this part of quarantine.
Phase 2 – I shifted my sights from one poorly tattooed being to another. I started by watching Pete Davidson’s comedy special on Netlfix. Then I moved on to sketches on SNL, which are mostly just him talking about himself on Weekend Update. Then I learned about his friendship with John Mulaney. Then I dove into his relationship drama. My brain turned into an US Weekly which only featured one person. I couldn’t get enough… until I watched The King of Staten Island the day it was released. I was over it. NEXT!
Phase 3 – An obvious shift here… I wanted to learn more about Machine Gun Kelly. I knew that he was planning to release a Pop-Punk album later in the year and wanted to be prepared. I learned a little about him and started listening to his music. But MGK didn’t do it for me like Pete did. Then I found out about the MGK-Eminem feud. I was listening to “Rap Devil” and “Killshot” constantly for weeks. I know almost every word to both. But what started as a phase about MGK backfired. NEXT!
Phase 4 – Guess who’s back? Back again. In my deep dive into the Shady-Kelly feud, I realized that Eminem didn’t stop putting out music after I listened to 2002’s The Eminem Show religiously in high school. He’s been making (relatively) decent music since. And while there are some definite red flag lyrics on these albums (weren’t their always?), I became obsessed with Eminem’s style and ability to rap lyrics at supersonic speed. I also watched 8 Mile for the first time around Thanksgiving, which brings me to the next and final phase.
Phase 5 – Everything about the year was so off, but there was one thing that could make it right – The Holidays (lol at this thought). I started my cheery holiday planning on the first day of November. I had two Thanksgivings, spent tons of time planning the perfect presents, decorated my apartment with a tree and lights, listened to Christmas music although I wasn’t feeling it. And, of course, nothing turned out perfect. Instead, it turned out 2020, which is the best that we could hope for this year.
At least SNL recently released this strangely all-inclusive and perfectly timed skit which addresses most of my 2020 phases, just for this list:
A WALK THROUGH MY 2020 – A PESSIMIST’S ATTEMPT AT OPTIMISM AKA SPIT SHINING SHIT
It started out normal enough. I did a little traveling, went to a few shows (including Chicago’s favorite weekender Ian’s Party), I colored my hair something other than blonde for the first time in a decade due to a botched salon bleach job, I hung out with friends, and took basically everything for granted and complained about too much.
And then early March came rolling around. I remember walking through the Field Museum with my partner who was just getting over a cold. Every time he coughed, I thought it was HILARIOUS to joke loudly about how I was so glad he was getting over COVID (how much we’ve all learned in a year, eh?). I remember the week that it started getting serious, I was doing WHATEVER I could to try to get my two managers to let me work from home, partially because I was concerned for my health and that of my mother’s who I (used to) see regularly, but also because I wanted to wear slippers while returning emails and taking calls. And what unfolded next still feels like a dream.
I remember that my job of working for people who live in condos was deemed “essential,” a term that would mean SO MUCH if someone you loved told you that. But what it meant regarding the America job force is that your company is willing to risk your life to save theirs. They wrapped it up in a nice shiny bow, the same way they screamed that all medical workers are “heroes” over and over until they were blue in their unmasked faces. I remember driving through the streets of Chicago and getting to my destinations in record time because I was the only car on the street for blocks. I remember a majority of my friends losing their service industry jobs and thinking that our choices are either go to work and possibly get infected with a virus no one knows how to treat OR lose your income but hopefully stay safe. This became the American life. As the death toll skyrocketed across the ocean, I watched online from my job as Italians sang in unison from their balconies, an attempt to comfort each other as they were trapped inside their homes, a “lockdown” (scary word!) mandated by the government. Would that happen here? Why was no one doing anything?
By the time my job decided to let us all work from home, I no longer cared about the slippers. I was scared for my life. First, we were told that Coronavirus only affected the old and the sick. Then the list grew to include people with underlying conditions. Then babies started getting sick. Then a cat became ill. Then 30-year olds started to show symptoms. It came from a bat. It was made in a lab in China. It’s a nuclear weapon. It’s like the flu. It’s no big deal. We shouldn’t wear masks unless we’re sick. No wait, now we should all wear masks to stay safe. The term “social distancing” was introduced and then drilled into our lexicon. The toilet paper was gone from stores, as was the hand sanitizer (although bars of soap still remained which I found puzzling). We were so vastly unprepared for this as a species and with our current brand of flavor of the minute media fueling our collective ADHD, watching the news became panic attack inducing. So, I stopped. I stopped everything. I pulled the plug on everyone and everything I couldn’t handle. I whittled my life down to five people (three friends, one partner, one mother), my job, Bad Copy, and tried to stay as aloof as possible as the President of the Country threw public hissy fits on Twitter. This is where my personal 2020 list begins.
Running a music website is hard. Getting people to contribute to the website is harder. Running a music website and getting people to contribute during a pandemic where people are worried about where their next paycheck will be coming from and if they can pay rent or eat is nearly impossible. Everyone seemed to be in a creative rut this year. Our photographers had no shows to shoot. Our writers had no drive to come home after a day of protesting the murder of George Floyd and give their take an a recently released album full of white dudes. And I don’t blame any of them.
It’s also safe to say my mental state had been better. But the site must go on. So, I wrote. I wrote news articles. I finished old show reviews. I may have written a review. Who knows? David and I spent countless hours talking about new ideas we’d unveil down the line. And as the months passed, the contributors started to contribute again. We picked up Andy Pohl’s amazing podcast, Question the Answers, along with Jason Schreurs’ Scream Therapy, which is helping bring mental health issues to light. New contributors wrote their first pieces. We got by. And even though I bitched and moaned while going through it, this year I contributed 411 articles to this damn website!
This one wrecked me this year. Coronavirus ultimately forced me to do a long overdue cleaning of my mental friends list. I cut off contact with basically all people I deemed as acquaintances along with every single one of those ‘friends’ who always say you should hang out but never seem to invite you anywhere even though you see them out all the time anyway. I also made it a point to remove people who consistently found the bad in everything. We all know those “It’s too hot. It’s too cold. This show sucks. The music is too loud. I want to go home. Now I’m bored” kind of individuals. They’re emotionally draining so, they gone!
Unfortunately, I also spent most of the year grappling with the fact that many people in this music scene are not as empathetic as I thought they were and that I don’t want to keep people like that in my close inner circle. I spent the year neurotically tracking a few quarantine circles via Instagram. People who were claiming to be SO BORED in lockdown were actually parading all over their state. They would go on an unmasked vacation with ten people (to kind of comply with CDC guidelines?) but then I would see that one of those ten people in another IG photo post-trip with twenty people and then two days later with family they don’t live with. THEN I would see a brand-new post about how much they hate lockdown and miss people outside of their quarantine bubble… which was 62 people wide.
I was floored that anyone would be so careless (or so dense to not understand how easily searchable this was on social media by anyone with too much time on their hands, i.e. – everyone) and I was scared for them all of the time. I started discovering that a large majority of my anxiety stems from how I view my relationships with others. When I meet you, I decide that we’re instantly friends and I will do whatever I can to help you. I care about you and what you say and what you think and what you do and I’m here for you. But, for years, that has been wearing me down, as most people don’t give two shits in return. So, this year I cut those people out; I signed off social media or unfollowed certain individuals and only talked to people about music related endeavors and my life suddenly seemed less stressful. How I will apply this post-pandemic is still something out of my grasp. But it helps to know.
I did spend time tending to the relationships that I kept close this year. The lockdown left me with tons of time to do all the things that I always griped that I never had time to do. Through weekly phone calls and Zoom chats and emails and texting, I kept up with my friends. My BFF, Corinne, and I may have missed out on going to Vegas for Kesha’s High Road tour (we were doing to dress like Elvis and Priscilla Presley, goddammit!), but that did not stop us from dressing up anyway and listening to a super amazing playlist we made while on Zoom together singing and slamming drinks. Or on Easter when we decided to live the lyric “I’m all fucked up in my Sunday best” and Zoom hang/drink in fancy Easter dresses and fabulous giant hats. It was little things like this that helped me pull the good from the tragically bad.
I am also proud to have co-navigated this year in a successful long-distance relationship. We both are now so good at cross-country drives, we should consider becoming truckers. And lastly but most importantly, I never once hashtagged a photo #loveinthetimeofcoronavirus. Thank god.
Towards the end of this year, I started reaching out to people I truly missed outside of my core 5. There are so many people I’ve crossed paths with that I have never had time to get to know and wanted to spend more time with. The moment it’s safe, I want to spend my time really leaning into becoming more than passing ships at shows with some of you. I’m apparently one of those annoying people (according to the internet) who spent lockdown reassessing and reorienting their life and priorities. Sorry, not sorry.
LET’S GET PHYSICAL (HEALTH)
Did I almost die during quarantine? Not yet. But I did get chronic Urticaria (hives from extreme stressors, look it up. It SUCKED) for six straight months. I haven’t had a drink in seven months. I cut it out to try and temper the hives and then I just kept it going. I also started working out from home five times a week. I have visible muscles in my arms and thighs now, like WHAT?!?! Who would have guessed that not poisoning yourself and beating your organs to shit on a regular basis would help with physical and mental health?! I hope I can keep this up when the world hits the PLAY button on our lives again. I hope I am strong enough to go to shows and not feel like I need a can in hand to fit in with the crowd. It’s a great reason to never have to drink Malort again.
GOODBYE MUSIC, HELLO MOLD
Unlike the rest of the world, I was actually happy to take a break from music. Now, before you go screaming about how unsympathetic that sounds because bands and businesses are losing their lifeblood, let me explain. I normally cover two to five shows a week, every week, on top of posting on the website daily. There are photos to edit, reviews to write, other contributor’s posts to edit and schedule, and of course my favorite thing – when bands write you over and over asking when you’re going to post coverage of XYZ show because they need a new Facebook profile pic. I’ve been doing this for the better part of a decade. I am tired and I savored the break. I also learned relatively quickly that I don’t like IG live or streaming shows. So, I was left without much of a hobby. What could possibly give me the rush and energy of a Punk show while keeping me safe during a pandemic? Enter: abandoned buildings (literally).
In July, I had to cancel a trip due to the pandemic but still had a week of time off work. So, I decided to revisit an old interest. Within a few minutes on Google, I had put together a list of places in the Chicagoland area that were vacant and started exploring them and taking photos. I quickly replaced bands with bandos (short for abandoned building) and found myself going out on adventures at least once a week. I’ve shot churches, power plants, a grounded airplane, rural homes, factories, stadiums, literally half of Gary, Indiana, and don’t plan on stopping any time soon. I upgraded most of my photography equipment. I slowly indoctrinated myself into the urbex scene; yes, there’s a scene and it’s just like Punk. No one shares locations with you unless they trust you. So, it’s the old “Ask a Punk” rule, but for moldy asbestos filled structures.
Through this I found myself becoming braver, stronger, honing my photography (and fence jumping) skills. Plus, I’ve made some great friends who have NOTHING to do with Punk music and have showed me how pigeonholed so much of my life and thoughts have become. It’s taught me to look at my city with completely different eyes and my love of Chicago has only grown. Now this is going to sound trite as hell so forgive me, but there’s a big, amazing world out there filled with adventures and so many of us are missing out by staying focused on what’s comfortable. When this is over, I plan to travel my ass off, not just to music festivals like I have been, but to all the places I haven’t visited yet. I want to drive around America, visit the National Parks, really see the country… yes, even those Southern states who vote Trump and refuse to believe in science. I want to absorb different cultures across the world and see what a sweaty, music-filled basement/garage/airplane hangar is like in another country. And maybe, just maybe, attempt a little light B&E for some amazing shots along the way.
If you’ve stayed with me this long, you’re a damn rockstar. Thank you so much for reading and thank you for supporting Bad Copy this year. Thanks to the eighteen bands and seven other contributors who submitted End of the Years Lists. I will see you all in 2021 in some capacity and one day, we will all be together again. Happy New Year, everyone. Always remember: BLACK LIVES MATTER. Damn the man, save the empire. And lastly, “I am never going to financially recover from this.”