Hey there Traveler. I told you a while ago that I was gonna talk about things I liked this year, 2020. Well...here it is. Ta-da. I figure I’ll lay out the headings for the things and then write about ‘em as I get the time, so visit back every once in a while and I’ll have new, exciting stuff to read. I know I've read a few books and watched some good movies too, but I can't seem to think of any at the moment. As I said, check in every now and then and I may have new things to say.




1000 Gecs and the Tree of Clues by 100 Gecs (and guests)

If you haven’t had the chance to listen to 100 Gecs you should definitely go listen to 100 Gecs. This’n here, Tree of Clues, is a remix of their album from last year. They’re both delightful collages of striking sounds and loving distortions of familiar musical genres and phrases.

The album cover for Code Orange's album Underneath, which depicts a human with plastic-like, translucent flesh and bones, which are refracting a cool blue light. At the top of the image is text that reads CODE ORANGE in block text that is similarly translucent. At the bottom is the album's title, UNDERNEATH.

Underneath by Code Orange

Pulsing, glitchy hardcore. They're a band I've long loved, and they had a really neat creative output in a really fuckin’ horrible year. Throughout 2020, Code Orange did active work to foster community, support anti-racist causes, and pointed me in the direction of some of my other favorites of 2020 (see entry below).

The album cover for Machine Girl's U-Void Synthesizer, which depicts the head of a strange cyborg bulldog. The artwork is deliberately made with heavy handed photoshop/collage work, which contributes to the strange appearance of the bulldog. Some of the dog's strange features include goat horns, several tattoos, three gold earrings, and an extremely menacing spiked collar with the text 'GOOD BOY' on it in the style of old handwritten manuscripts.

U-Void Synthesizer by Machine Girl

Teeth gnashing break core. To be perfectly honest Traveler, I don't know electronic music very well. I couldn't tell juke from… some other, easily distinguishable, electronic subgenre. But Machine Girl is noisy and scary and funny and a real delight for me as a loud music liker. Machine Girl was just the fusion of electronic and hardcore I needed to get me excited to explore what the wider genre has in store.

The album cover for John Prine's self-titled debut album. The cover is a photograph of Prine dressed in a blue work shirt, blued jeans, and leather boots looking at the camera while he sits on a chair fashioned from several bales of hay. His guitar is leaned against the hay bales to his right.

John Prine by John Prine

A great artist I learned of from terribly sad news. The recent pandemic (and the general indifference of US federal and state governments) resulted in his death, among the hundreds of thousands of others. Prine made incisive, funny folk/country that speaks to the beauty and ugliness of life in the US. RIP The album cover for Thotcrimes' On Your Computer, whose name is stylized as Ønyøurcømputer. The artwork is a stylized illustration of a wide-eyed, grinning being who is staring intensely at the earth while they reach their clawed hands toward it.

Ønyøurcømputer by Thotcrime

Great, manic scene/grind album. I have long loved Blood Brothers and their kin. Thotcrime deals with subjects of various seriousness in similar ways to the Blood Brothers: their songs ache, holler, and joke; and throughout, it's surprisingly danceable music.

The album cover for Bruce Springsteen's Darnkess on the Edge of Town. The cover is a photograph of Springsteen, who is centered in the frame, wearing a white tee shirt and a black leather jacket. His hands are in the jacket pockets and he is leaning against a wall in a home, looking at the camera with a lazy sort of focus.

Darkness on the Edge of Town by Bruce Springsteen

Gurgling, achingly sad (and angry) songs. I'd never listened to Bruce Springsteen before this year, and this was a really beautiful introduction to his stuff. I've got plenty of room in my heart for a sad guitar friend, Traveler.

The album cover for Phalanx's Golden Horde. The cover is a heightened, semi-realistic illustration of a battlefield. Numerous fallen warriors lay along a valley floor, which is centered in the bottom of the image. One lone warrior stands in the middle of the corpse-laden valley, looking up. In the air above them, a volley of arrows approaches, in a formation the shape of a snarling wolf.

Golden Horde by Phalanx

Golden Horde is exceptional, Traveler. Concussive, galloping battle metal. I talked to you a while back about the heavy metal excess I love. Phalanx’s three hollering vocalists are a great example of that excess leveraged to devastating effect. That’s not to say there’s no restraint here. Golden Horde runs about 15 minutes in total, and each of its tracks are concise, thoughtfully constructed, and surprisingly catchy. I spent a lot of time this year humming these tunes to myself, as silly as that may sound.

The album cover for lookfar's beyond the egdge of the world. The cover is a stylized illustration, which uses simple shapes to build an image of a wizard walking in to a dense forest. The large part of the image consists of a dense canopy of leaves, and in the bottom right corner the wizard is shown, walking into the forest with a staff in hand.

beyond the edge of the world by lookfar

I read the Earthsea books on either side of reading the first in Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. Now, I enjoyed the Wheel of Time books I read just fine, but Earthsea is much more to my taste. Each Earthsea book offers pensive stories about reaching into the dark, the power of language, and the weight and importance of mourning--all in a decidedly compact form. beyond the edge of the world was made in response to the 3rd Earthsea book. It is the foggiest, smokiest dungeon synth I’ve ever heard, and I can’t get enough of it. It does an exceptional job evoking the eons of history, language, life, loss, and death bound up in the five little Earthsea books.

The album cover for Navy Blue's Àdá Irin. The cover is a high contrast collage, which depicts at its center the album's namesake an àdá irin, which is the Yoruba term for an iron knife with a hooked end. To either side of the knife are plants and leaves, and layered behind those images is a photo of a black man, who is looking at the camera.

Àdá Irin by Navy Blue

Sage Elsesser's rap debut. Warm, minimalist hip hop production provides a backdrop for pensive lyrics about his relationship to his family, lineage, and the culture of the United States. The album cover for Black Dressees' Peaceful as Hell. The cover is a digital collage, which depicts the Windows XP default background, an idyllic hill covered in grass with a blue sky above it, and a peace sign, whose lines are made up of a photograph of flames.

Peaceful as Hell by Black Dresses

Crackling pop/rock/metal. I learned about Black Dresses through that 100 Gecs album above, and I’m so glad to have learned about all the music its two members, Devi McCallion and Ada Rook, make. Peaceful as Hell is sweet, scared, introspective, and angry. Go have a listen, Traveler.


Outer Wilds

A 2019 meditation on exploration and endings.

Hollow Knight

A 2017 meditation on exploration and endings. I think I'll start 2021 talking about these two games. Stay tuned Traveler.