Each year, we collect “top ten”lists from Burst & Bloom artists, friends, and family. This year, we asked them to write a little bit about one or more things that they loved this year. The idea is simply to inspire you to discover something that you might like. Art isn’t a competition, but here are some things you might dig.
Guy Capecelatro III
Top Ten Albums (ordered randomly):
Jason Molina Eight Gates It feels surreal and dream-like to get another album from one of my favorite songwriters who died seven years ago. A quieter, mostly stripped-down affair but amazingly strong and heart-felt songs and well recorded in a studio as opposed to a few of the other more demo-like offerings that have popped up. So glad to get to bask in these unearthed gems.
Phoebe Bridgers Punisher Bridgers’ songs are fully realized and emotionally wrought. She’s an amazing collaborator, producer and now has her own record imprint. The mix of literate, nuanced writing and her amazingly compelling voice really bring the songs home. There truly is hope hope for the future.
Hello Emerson How to Cook Everything This band was a new discovery for me and a fun ride with their lovely and varied instrumentation and arrangements. It feels like they really enjoyed the making this album. Looking forward to more such.
Andy Shauf The Neon Skyline Shauf seems to make my list every time he releases an album and, after the fantastic Foxwarren album last year, this is a great return to form. Amazing concept album where all the songs cumulatively create a whole story and the fun, 70’s-style production is really nice. And Shauf performs all the instrumentation himself.
Pinegrove Marigold In January, Pinegrove came out of a strange hiatus to release this terrific collection of songs. To my ears, Evan Stephens Hall is one of the most interesting writers in music and the band seems to work together so easily and collaboratively.
Courtney Marie Andrews Old Flowers This album explores the dissolution and aftermath of a long-term relationship. Lovely, understated production and a crack team of Matthew Davidson of Twain fame and Big Thief drummer James Krivchenia. It’s a plaintive, dreamy journey and a great late-night listen.
Will Johnson El Capitan For this newest album by Will Johnson he kept things pretty low-key with spare arrangements from Thor Harris, Lindsey Verrill and Britton Beisenherz. The songs are fairly lo-fi, recorded to tape with hiss and clicks but the intimacy of the sessions and the power of the songs are really effecting.
Tricky Fall to Pieces The last few Tricky releases have been strong returns to form and this might be the most cohesive and solid of the bunch. He’s got some amazing singers on board, paired with his own gravelly, in your head deliveries.
Fenne Lily Breach It took a couple years for the follow up to Fenne Lily’s debut but it’s well worth it. Some of the songs here have a more “pop” approach but she brings her voice along in such a commanding way and there’s a nice range throughout the album.
Avians Alight Old/ New/ All For You Jenna Conrad came to my attention playing on three of Damien Jurado’s albums and, along with Eric Fischer, was a part of his amazing live band. She put out an album of her own material ten years ago without much fanfare but her voice and the songs really worked for me. Mysteriously, this album popped up this year and is tremendous.
Other Notable Releases (ordered randomly):
Alice Boman Dream On, Jill Andrews Thirties, JFDR New Dreams Trace Mountains Lost in the Country, Christian Lee Hutson Beginners, Information Zittle Muy, Merce Lemon Ride Every Day, Nadia Reid Out of My Province, Information Zittle Muy, Owen Avalanche, Field Report Break Light Red Tide, Lomelda Hannah, Caitlin Pasko Greenhouse, Told Slant Point the Flashlight and Walk
Top 10 Movies (ordered randomly):
I’m Thinking of Ending Things, Lazy Susan, Crip Camp, First Cow, Rewind, Why Don’t You Just Die, Kajillionaire, The Painter and the Thief, Babyteeth, Relic
Top 10 TV Shows (ordered randomly):
Kidding, Killing Eve, Briarpatch, I Know This Much is True, Euphoria, His Dark Materials, The Alienist, We Hunt Together, The Vow, Queen’s Gambit
Chris Cote (Almanac Mountain)
The best song I heard all year was “Fortune” by Laura Marling. The song itself, with its fingerstyle folk guitar accompaniment, has a simple, timeless beauty, but whoever did the string arrangement wrings every possible drop of gorgeousness out of the music. It takes my breath away every time I hear it. Marling’s voice dials back the emotion, leaving room for all those lush violin harmonics to take on the bulk of that responsibility. It feels like the sweetest pain.
The Art of Heather Friedli
Heather’s paintings have gotten me through 2020. Her gorgeous landscapes look like stained glass paintings to me. She also hosts livestreams of JAZZADANCEAPAINTATHONs from her studio, acts of pure bliss in which she dances while she paints and connects with her audience online during her creative process. Heather is a dear friend and I’ve been following her career since 2001, and to see how she’s grown and blossomed in this time as an artist is truly inspiring to me. She’s a mother and also an adventurer, taking regular treks out into the wild to reconnect with nature… she once even hiked the Appalachian Trail using only tools and supplies she had handmade herself. Her work is stunning, her energy is so positive, and she is truly unstoppable, a genuine combination of raw talent, guts, and determination. I root for Heather every day.
PS: She sells her paintings online, and also has 2021 calendars of her work available now!
Dylan Metrano (Tiger Saw)
In the year 2020, a year that we’ll remember as a time when it all came to a halt; when it all seemed to be falling apart at the seams, I derived a lot of comfort from Nick Cave. I’ve been digging into his vast catalog, and found that there is much to uncover. But also his Red Hand Files arrives in my email inbox once or twice a week. People from all over the world write to Cave, and ask him all kinds of questions, from the mundane to the poignant. His answers are always well-thought, sincere, and often funny. It’s sort of an advice column from another dimension. Cave takes every question seriously, and really respects his listeners / readers. I find this discourse inspiring and truly touching. it’s always a tiny dose of what I need to hear.
Looking for more Nick Cave? He has a 24-hour-a-day YouTube channel, Bad Seed TeeVee, with lots of videos and live footage. And this year, he released two double CD’s, Ghosteen and the live Idiot Prayer.
My top ten albums of 2020:
- Fiona Apple “Fetch the Bolt Cutters”
- Perfume Genius “Set My Heart on Fire Immediately”
- Waxahatchee “Saint Cloud”
- Prince “Sign ‘O’ the Times” Super Deluxe
- Mary Lattimore “Silver Ladders”
- Khruangbin and Leon Bridges “Texas Sun” EP
- Frances Quinlan “Likewise”
- Kevin Morby “Sundowner”
- Willie Nelson “First Rose of Spring”
- Elvis Costello “Hey Clockface”
Eric Ott (Eastern Sleds)
The B-Side: Elsa Dorfman’s Portrait Photography (Netflix)
I had no idea about this amazing woman’s photography. She was a Polaroid photographer in Cambridge, MA. This documentary documents her beginnings up until 2015 or so. Interesting friends like Allen Ginsberg, etc. Elsa had such a positive vibe. Really well done doc.
Waxahatchee Saint Cloud (Merge Records)
I guess the running theme here is trying to feel better in this complex overcast world. This LP just takes me to a warm place. Fantastic songs, tones and production.
Richard Hamilton (He designed the Beatles White album)
I have been researching and playing around with photomontage, still and animated. There are no rules really.
Show: Mrs. America (Hulu). In a one season series you can educate yourself on the women’s movement of the 1970’s and finally learn what it means to be an original feminist. For those of us aware of Gloria Steinem but not much else this is the education we missed in the history books. The ERA (Equal Rights Amendment) you say? Sure, sounds like something that should have happened along with the Civil Rights movement, but did it? You may never have heard of Phyllis Schlafly (played by Cate Blanchett) but once you watch this show you will never forget her, not to mention be haunted by the ghosts of the religious homemaker Republican women she indoctrinated (and whom likely elected Trump…). While we still struggle with a woman’s place in American politics today this series brings to light how much women before us have fought for our basic rights and how far we’ve come since the 70’s even if it never feels like nearly far enough.