I Want To Look Around Me Now
Kevin Conaway’s 2020 Mix Album
Listen on Spotify
Listen on MixCloud
Listen on mp3
Welcome to the 11th installment of my Annual Mix Albums!
So… 2020… am I right? I wanted to come up with something profound or at least witty to say about the year in this forward, but I’m kind of at a loss. Social and political issues alone would’ve made this a hard year to get through, but add onto that a global pandemic, and you have what is probably generally accepted as the worst year in most of our lifetimes. I don’t really want to dive deep into social commentary here, but I’ll just add that I recognize that I have been lucky this year, as far as my own personal situation goes and I feel for those that were not as lucky.
That said… let’s talk music. Here, as always, I’ve compiled music that I thought was significant in one way or another this year. These mix albums don’t tend to have a theme to them (other than the theme being music that Kevin liked), but there are certainly songs on this year’s mix that are pertinent to events in 2020. My only guidelines for my mixes are that the songs have to either be new this year, new to me this year, or have some significance tied to this year; the mix must be arranged in a way so that it feels like a cohesive album (hence the term “mix album”; and even as I transition away from physical media, I will still keep to the 80-minute constraint of the capacity of a CD. My only requests, as always, are that you give this mix at least one listen in the order I’ve arranged it and that you let me know what you thought of it. Enjoy!
01. Catherine Feeny – Mr Blue
I always start my mixes off with something rocking and upbeat. As John Cusack’s character Rob Gordan from High Fidelity instructs: “You gotta kick it off with a killer, to grab attention.” I wanted to flip the script on this mix and kick it off with something quiet and sweet. A lot of script-flipping happened this year, so why not? I don’t actually know much about Catherine Feeny other than this song. However, this song was featured in the final scene of the show Bojack Horseman, a bittersweet scene that brought an end to one of my favorite shows ever and also tears to my eyes. If you haven’t watched this show, I highly recommend that you do. I know that the fact that the it’s an animated show with the main character being an anthropomorphized horse can be a bit off-putting, but it’s an incredibly well written show and deals with mental health and relationships in a more real way than just about any other show I’ve ever seen. Plus, there are plenty of hilarious gags in there too. This song was a perfect soundtrack for that final scene.
02. The Airborne Toxic Event – Hollywood Park
Hollywood Park, the new album from The Airborne Toxic Event, was my most-listened-to album this year and easily my favorite album this year. It’s so good! It rocks, it tugs at your heart strings, it ebbs and flows, it does everything a great album should! It accompanies a memoir by lead singer Mikel Jollett, which chronicles his early childhood and escape from the Synanon cult and the traumatic events during the rest of his upbringing. I’m currently reading and enjoying the book. This song recounts childhood Mikel establishing a relationship with his father.
03. Pearl Jam – Dance of the Clairvoyants
I’ve always liked Pearl Jam, but I’ve never considered myself a big fan. I was putting together plans to see them live this year in Canada (it would’ve been my first time seeing them), but those plans, like so many others, were cancelled. Sigh… This Talking Heads-inspired song is a bit of a departure for them. I instantly latched onto it and it became one of my favorite songs from this year and one of my favorites of theirs.
04. Jackie – Unspun
Back in 2017, I took a random road trip to Niagara Falls. We listened to The Verge, the Canadian alternative station on Sirius during the entire trip. Since then, The Verge has been my main go-to station on Sirius. Earlier in the year they began playing this song. I don’t think it made a huge impact on their charts, but I loved it!
05. Chromeo – Clorox Wipe
The pandemic really inspired some creativity in many musicians. Among them, Chromeo released an EP of pandemic-inspired songs, all with catchy hooks and really entertaining lyrics (the line “Let me do the legwork and what comes in between,” particularly cracked me up). When I first heard this song, I think I immediately texted it to several friends, spreading it around like a… a… well… you know…
06. Joywave – Possession
I didn’t necessarily love the newest Joywave album, but while I was listening to it, this song in particular caught my ear. The first time I was listening to it was while working at home. I hit repeat on the song. Then did it again. Then again. And so on. The next thing I knew, my workday was over and multiple hours had passed while listening to the same song over and over again. I guess I liked it.
07. Indira & Guppy Jo – Untether
Indira and her husband/drummer Andrew used to live down the hall from me in my apartment before they moved out of state a few years back. They were fun people. I always enjoyed talking to them. We played a few shows together before they left too. I’ve always like their sound, but this song instantly became my favorite thing they’ve done.
08. Michael McFarland – More Than You Believe You Are
Michael is appearing on my Annual Mixes for a record seventh time! Michael released this song as a single back in 2019, and included it on his excellent uplifting 2020 EP, Through This Fire. He said his inspiration for the song was what he wanted to hear someone tell him. Wanting to hear that you’re more than you believe you are is a theme that resonates with me and I’m sure with many others as well. Lyrics like “Every road that brought you here, leave them in the rear view mirror,” strike a chord as good advice. He shot a video for this song back in January, which I ended up being a part of. Check out the video on YouTube.
09. Sean Benjamin – Find Your Own Way Out
I love the three-song EP that this song is a part of. Sean and I have talked at length about musical inspirations and things we would like to do. I know that Sean has wanted to achieve this sound for a long time and I’m proud of him for bringing it to fruition on this release.
10. Oldboy – Orchard Thieves
Early on during the stay-at-home order, Shawn Brewster started streaming a live morning show every weekday. During the show, he would play music from local acts, talk about whatever was on his mind, and interact with the chat room. I was working at home during this period and would always tune into his show each morning while I was working. I looked forward to it each day and heard some great bands and music that I wasn’t previously familiar with. It was one of many examples of someone taking the rough situation that we’re all in and doing something fun and creative with it. Shawn used this song from his old band as the intro music to the show. I also covered this song back in May on a live stream performance in which I was playing all covers of songs by friends of mine.
11. Dan McCoy & The Standing 8s – One Last One
Dan is a good friend and a fellow musician who I’ve played many shows with over the years. His new album, Every Crowded Street, is full of great songs like this one. And who hasn’t ever done some “self-reflection at the end of the bar?” Whenever we get back to some sense of normalcy again, you should definitely check out one of Dan’s shows! They are packed with energy and fun songs! And who doesn’t love a saxophone?!
12. July Talk – The News
July Talk is a band that was featured heavily on The Verge over the last couple years. They took some getting used to for me – I used to find the male singer’s voice to be a bit grating – but I fell in love with them after seeing them open for Metric in 2019. They played a couple new songs at that show, including this one. It got stuck in my head and I couldn’t wait for it to be recorded and released. The song appeared on their 2020 album, Pray For It. I actually thought the album was a bit of a let-down, especially when compared to their previous album, Touch. However, this song is still one of my favorites from this year. It also contains a few relevant nuggets such as, “Nothing that happens only happens to you.”
13. Twin Atlantic – Barcelona
I found this song by checking out some random songs in a Spotify playlist earlier in the year. I thought the name of the band sounded cool, so I clicked on the song. “Barcelona” ended up being one of my favorite songs over the year and the album, Power, was in my top five. This is just such a fun song!
14. Rush – Time Stand Still
I find it hard to pinpoint a single favorite band, but if I had to, it would probably be Rush. In January, Neil Peart passed away after battling brain cancer. I’ve felt sad from celebrity deaths before, but ultimately feel a bit detached because it wasn’t someone I personally knew. This was different though. This one hurt. Outside of perhaps David Gilmour, I don’t know if there is another musician that has had as big of an impact on my life as Neil has. Neil was the best to ever pick up a pair of drum sticks and his musicianship always blew my mind. Aside from that though, he was also the band’s main lyricist. I was always blown away by the quality and poetic nature of his lyrics. He was inspirational beyond music as well. Neil was an introvert, like me. He was never quite comfortable with the celebrity status that comes along with being in a huge rock band. Instead, he chose to try to stay out of the public eye as much as possible. When in public, he always carried himself with a stoic dignity. He loved his family and friends dearly. Back in 1998 he endured two devastating tragedies (the loss of his daughter and wife) within a year of each other. To cope, he set off on an aimless solitary motorcycle journey around the continent, during which he kept a journal that would eventually turn into a book. I read Ghost Rider at a point in my life when I was feeling pretty down. Reading about Neil’s physical and emotional journey and seeing him heal after going through what he went through was incredibly inspiring. “Time Stand Still” has always been one of my favorite Rush songs and is from one of my favorite albums of theirs. I’d consider the album Hold Your Fire to be their most underrated album. I was featured on the Cover To Cover Podcast with Matt Tarka earlier this year discussing this album. Lyrically, the song touches on appreciating the things around you in the present and enjoying life rather than letting it fly by while concerning yourself with the future or the past. That is a theme that has really resonated with me lately, especially this year. “I’m not looking back, but I want to look around me now. See more of the people and the places that surround me now.”
15. Biffy Clyro – Space
Biffy Clyro’s A Celebration of Endings was my second-favorite album this year. “Space” is such a beautiful song and I fell in love with it the moment I heard it. I also learned to play it and have covered it a few times during my live sets. Lyrically, I love the dual meaning of the word “space” used throughout the song. They filmed a performance of the song in studio with an orchestra as well which can be found on YouTube. The performance is absolutely beautiful and worth checking out.
16. Meg Myers – True Liars
Meg Myers released back-to-back EP’s this year. If they were combined into an album, it likely would’ve been in my top five for the year. I especially loved this song. I love the 80’s-esque drum beat, no doubt inspired from her Kate Bush cover last year.
17. O’Brother – Halogen Eye
I came across O’Brother a few years ago when they opened for The Dear Hunter. I thought they had a really good live performance. I checked out the album they were touring on and really liked it. Their new album is a little lighter than the previous one, but it’s one of those that you can really get lost in if you close your eyes and just listen to the music. It was one of my favorites this year. This song features Biffy Clyro’s Simon Neil as a guest vocalist.
18. Teramaze – Lake 401
Teramaze was a random find on a music website. I like to peruse AlbumoftheYear.org on Fridays to see what new releases came out. The artwork for I Wonder caught my eye, so I checked it out. It ended up being my third-favorite album this year.
19. Delain – The Greatest Escape
Delain’s new album, Apocalypse and Chill, is full of good heavy songs. It was released early in the year and I had it playing in my earbuds quite a bit while skiing. I love the cinematic sound that the latter part of this song shifts to, making it the perfect soundtrack for racing down a snow-covered mountain!
I enjoyed putting this mix together and I hope you’ve enjoyed listening to it and reading about the music. If you enjoyed this mix but have missed out on some of the previous ones, I have now created a MixCloud account and uploaded all of my previous mixes. They are all linked below.
Thanks again for reading and listening. Cheers!
PREVIOUS MIX ALBUMS: