A year has never gone by quicker than 2020, but simultaneously it’s been one of the longest, worst years ever.
However, it has been a year of bountiful music releases, a year for innovation in the industry and one to be remembered – and to be experienced later, when we finally see tours of 2020 albums in action.
The below are 20 of my favourite releases this year, 20 albums that really stood out to me this year, with a little bit of objectivity, and a hell of a lot of subjectivity.
Without further adieu, in no particular order: 2020’s Top 20 albums
Today in journalism the world has chosen not to do, but is needed by the people: has the revelation of the Pfizer, Moderna and Oxford COVID-19 vaccine trials being a success benefitted UK indie-rock band The Vaccines?
So, in the interests of transparency, and also convenience, I used soundcharts.com to compile some of this data and figures.
Am I convinced that this is entirely accurate and to be relied on? The jury is still out, I’m one day into a free trial with this software.
A key date to remember in all of this is Monday 9th November, the findings were published by Pfizer and set us all into a frenzy of hope, knowing that our endless cycle of COVID hell may be coming to an end.
In the last 28 days, compared to the previous 28 day period, radio play dropped by 3% in the UK but jumped by 33% in the United States.
November 9th placed 3rd out of 28 in terms of radio play.
Spotify followers grew by 0.7% in this same 28 day period
YouTube views jumped in most territories, including an 11.1% rise in the UK on the previous 28 day period.
Instagram followers in the United States grew by 10.6% but dropped in the UK by 1.2% on the previous 28 day period
More data could be pulled from TikTok, but I’d need a paid account, so somethings have to remain a mystery.
Have the COVID-19 vaccines benefitted The Vaccines?
There definitely seems to be some major growth, but in terms of streams and airplay, it isn’t enough to clearly say the Pfizer vaccines brought The Vaccines new fans on Spotify. Though it seems it definitely did on YouTube and Insta for some, so sure, I’m going to say on record that the Pfizer vaccine will not only protect The Vaccines from COVID-19, but it brought them a spike in online activity. Cheers to that!
Welcome to what is the first post in a (hopeful) series focusing on a collective obsession in a world in which we’re more separated than ever. Month one, we’re diving into us falling in love with journalists.
Don’t pretend you can’t relate to this, this is a no-judgment, fully in love with journalists zone. You’ve been glued to American news stations for the best part of a week now. Through all waking hours, you’ve been watching these journalists tally up votes, speculate on what’s going to happen, and in special cases, absolute eviscerate President Trump and some of their guests.
Maybe two days in you start to look at them in a new light. Are they a little attractive? Or is it just lockdown 2.0 setting in and I’ve not seen a man who’s outside of my bubble, who isn’t shopping at ASDA, in who knows how long now? Was it the decisive point they just made, shutting down opposition and claiming things are looking good for Joe Biden?
Before you know it, you’re on Twitter reading everyone else’s thirst tweets about Jake Tapper, watching ‘fancams’ of him and watching him condemn President Trump’s speech full of amazing falsehoods – swoon.
We’re collectively going through this together. We know what follows a ‘Key Race Alert’ and us Brits are now sleep deprived from nights upon nights of waking up at bizarre hours of the night to tune in, and then getting up for work to do it all over again.
Many of us have fell back into our old comforts during this pandemic, what is needed more than an TV show from 2003 that comes in the form of a warm hug whilst we shut ourselves off from the horror of the world for a few minutes?
For me, Bleach was that solace. The anime that aired in 2005, based on a manga of the same name, which featured teenager Ichigo Kurosaki’s life change forever after a fateful encounter with Shinigami (Soul Reaper) Rukia Kuchiki one night. The rest is, well, definitely not history, but it’s 366 episodes, 70+ volumes of manga, multiple games, 4 animated movies, one live action movie, spin off CDs, novels and manga, and a final anime series returning in 2021.
At age 13 the shinigami were the coolest thing to me. They each have a magical sword (zanpakutou) with an individual personality, form and powers, only they can access through years, in some cases, decades, of training. Their primary job is ensuring the souls of departed humans make their way to the after life, the Soul Society, by performing a ‘konso’ on them. Lest they become food for devious creatures known as hollows, or become separated from their human form so long that they fall into an emotional black hole and emerge as a hollow themselves.
They sound like the perfect heroes right?
Turns out Soul Society isn’t what it’s cracked up to be, and they’ve turned these guardians of justice into their foot soldiers for…capitalism in the afterlife? Like what the fuck? How is the after life benefiting from your labour? We say we’ll work until we’re dead with retirement ages going back, but never fear, you’ll work until you die AGAIN, unless you’re lucky enough to evolve into a hollow and roam the white sands of Hueco Mundo for all eternity.
You see, after a konso is performed on your wandering soul, you end up in Rukongai. That is, unless you end up in hell.
So the afterlife, do you go through those pearly gates and find yourself dining on the finest of foods with Marilyn Monroe, your third great grandpa and Julius Caesar?
No, you find yourself in abject poverty with none of the indulges of modern life, separated from your friends and family and very unlikely to ever find them again. And in a sick, Hunger Games-like move, the higher the district number, the worse the conditions. There are 320 districts surrounding the Seireitei, the hub of shinigami, number 1-80 and split by their relative location to the Seireitei (North, South, etc).
Conditions are said to plummet after district 50, with no records of anyone in a district beyond 59 wearing sandals in the last 550 years. They’re poor, poor. District 78 is where Rukia and Hisana ended up after dying as children, and lived in such poverty, Hisana ended up abandoning Rukia as she couldn’t keep the two of them alive, a burden she carried until her death*.
*second death I guess
Is Hisana to blame? No way. It’s not like the money isn’t there. By some happenstance, Hisana ends up married to Byakuya Kuchiki, head of the Kuchiki House, one of the four Great Noble Houses.
Oh and he owns a scarf worth 10 mansions. Just a casual scarf he wears into battle. Does he sell this after hearing his wife’s tale of poverty? No, he keeps it but ends up adopting Rukia eventually, and doing nothing for poor people ever again. Good going Byakuya, you rich dickhead.
That’s skipping over that whole part where he was keen on executing Rukia for her crimes, which she didn’t really commit anyway. Dick.
So going onto nobility. They all seem to suck, apart from Yoruichi and Yushiro Shihoin, and I guess Rukia since she was adopted into it, coming from absolute poverty and being forced to steal to survive.
To highlight on the hereditary power these people hold for no real reason other than birthright, here’s an excerpt from the Bleach wiki:
The Noble Houses of Soul Society have an unclear role in the culture, social and governmental aspects of that dimensions existence. The Four Noble Families (四大貴族, Yondai Kizoku; lit. “Four Great Noble Families”) carry the most weight and appear to have some influence over the governmental institutions (i.e. Central 46 Chambers) and even institutions outside of the government (i.e. Shin’ō Academy). The military (i.e. Gotei 13, Kidō Corps & Onmitsukidō) have no authority to act against a noble family without evidence that their actions are treasonous to Soul Society.
Yeah, so they get an extremely unfair benefit. And they also have a bad history, look at the Can’t Fear Your Own World novels for the Tokinada family being a hot mess, and the Kuchiki family has had it’s darkness in its past.
Plus it seems that they’re not even loyal to their own, with the Shiba Clan being downgraded from a high noble status after the deaths of Vice Captain and 3rd Seat of Squad 13, Kaien and Miyako Shiba, and the disappearance of Squad 10 Captain, Isshin Shiba.
As you’ll see from this, many positions in the Gotei 13 are occupied by those of noble descent – Shihoin, Kuchiki, Ise, Kyouraku, Fon, Omaeda are just a few houses of nobility that have been heavily represented.
Did the Soul Society help the mourning and scarred Shiba clan? No, they considered them outcasts and really didn’t bother too hard to ever find Isshin, who was living in Karakura Town with a Quincy wife, looking exactly the same as he did when he disappeared. It’s no wonder the remaining Shiba hate the Seireitei and nobility, but it’s important to note they remain close with those who share their experience of being wrong by the Soul Society’s judgements, namely, Yoruichi Shihoin and Kisuke Urahara.
The Soul Society fuck up a lot. They get things wrong A LOT and it comes back to bite them in the ass constantly. Look at literally every single anime filler arc, the final manga arc and how Central 46 treated the Visoreds, Yoruichi, Kisuke and Tessai Tsukabishi over 100 years ago.
Central 46, where do we begin? It’s the House of Lords. They also seem to be mainly middle aged men from good, sandal wearing backgrounds. At least until after the Quincy invasion and one young woman manages to gain a lot of influence to push the Soul Society forward.
Central 46 live and work in the same, small section of the Seireitei, but make decisions despite never experiencing outside life themselves, they literally have no idea whats going on. They’re so distant that NOBODY noticed they were dead for a long time after Aizen killed them during the Ryoka invasion.
Even when they’re in power, they’re often incompetent, exiling Urahara and Tessai and ordering the KILLING of SEVEN Captains and Vice-Captains (the visoreds) without even attempting to help them? Their own fear of what they can’t control themselves is so apparent in their actions, and also in their lack of true pardon for Urahara and Tessai, despite it being open knowledge that they were fully wrong.
Yoruichi is the one good noble once more, who defected against them without hesitation to save lives. Stan Yoruichi tbh, she gave up everything because these dudes are inept.
I mean, Aizen was there THE WHOLE TIME. and NONE of them questioned how Tosen was the only person from 9th squad to survive? Genuine idiots. They also dispelled any testimony from Urahara and Tessai about Aizen without looking into it properly. Not very good due process tbh.
Their power is not as absolute as they’d like, just look at the amount of Captains, Vice-Captains and Seated Officers which openly rebelled and campaigned to save Rukia after their* order to execute her for minor crimes was passed.
However not only their judgement, but Head Captain Yamamoto’s influence and power must be question. He was unable to bring himself to question Central 46 and their unjust orders against Rukia, technically a noble herself, I mean, in CFYOW novels, we see a noble get away with murdering another noble, but this noble is quickly sentenced to death for saving the lives of a family by transferring shinigami powers? Seems unlegit but ok.
He didn’t even realise that pretty much half of the captains were rebelling against him in different ways about this, including his two apprentices and practically his sons. He didn’t think ‘maybe I’m wrong’, instead he decided to fight them and threaten to kill them?
Sounds like a sane leader to me!
One that remained in power for thousands of years and no one questioned it! Soul Society is in better hands with Kyouraku in charge, as from the spin off materials, it seems he is unafraid of making progress and creating a more equal Soul Society, as well as brokering relationships with surviving Quincies and Arrancar! You know who else did this? Kisuke Urahara!
Yamamoto often used Urahara’s abilities, where’s his compensation? My man better be on a freelance rate and he better have set that shit sky high. He’s saved the people that couldn’t have given a shit about him more times than we can count. Too good for them, should have gone over to the Arrancar and spent his days in Las Noches.
Back to the above, why am I referring to these communities as survivors I hear you ask? Oh, just the Soul Society, at the behest of Yamamoto and Central 46, treated the Quincies and Hollow as mortal enemies for so long that they committed mass genocide more than once.
Oh, and before we bring this to a close, let’s just remembered that this series kicks off with a bunch of teenagers with brand new powers, and a cat, breaking in and absolutely decimating them.
Definitely my protectors of the universe. Should have left it all to the Espada.
What a weird and terrible year its been so far eh?
Each year we’ve said the next one just simply CAN’T be as bad as the last one! Things just couldn’t get worse, right? It all had to get better at some point and when better than the start of a new decade? The revival of the roaring, or rawring, twenties! Everyone was going to pretend that they read The Great Gatsby and drink and be merry for 10 years straight.
Instead, we exist in a time where the only people who experienced the Olympics are Mario, Sonic, and friends, a world leader suggested injecting bleach and now everyone you know has a Zoom account, including myself. Though I can’t work out how to cancel my Premium version so I’ve poured God knows how much into their shareholder’s dividends.
History will remember the Olympics won by Dr. Eggman
There was that time where everyone downloaded Houseparty only to delete it a few days later when they realised that the knock off version of Cards Against Humanity wasn’t very fun and also it had a huge data breach or something – I can’t remember, each month since March has either felt like four years or a few minutes.
That tweet that said about missing precedented times has really stuck with me, oh how we took monotony for granted! Yeah, the daily slog gets boring but at least you can get a cold pint at the end of the week and maybe go to a gig, or be within 2 metres of someone you fancy rather than chatting on Tinder knowing that by the time you’re back in the real world you will have less than 0 intention to ever meet up. Gonna go see the girlies for a night out first, sorry boys!
Wouldn’t it be lovely to live a regular day without waiting to see the death figures pop up on Twitter? What a twisted marker of what time in the day it is- akin to seeing those faces light up in the sky during The Hunger Games? Writing that has made me reflect all over again about what fresh dystopian era we’re living in. Batshit.
But anyway, 340 words in and onto what I intended to babble about here (I actually get paid to write things and this is what I do, look, editors, this is the high-quality content you could have!), how are we doing now?
‘How are you?’ is a loaded question at the best of times.
95% of the time we’ll just say that we’re fine and move on. It’s introductory, no one really cares about how you are when you’re walking into a meeting, they want to chat shit, get out and back to the aforementioned precedented times. Nowadays if I’m asked how I am, I have no idea how to respond.
‘Well, feeling a bit down with this whole ‘global pandemic shebang’!’
‘I haven’t left the house in months apart from to aimlessly walk around a forest and disassociate for a little bit’
‘Unsure if I’m feeling blue or if it’s all the 5G in the air.’
It’s weird because let’s be honest, who the fuck is good right now? How can we feel good and ‘normal’ and precedented? I don’t know how to fucking feel when we’re living in a remake of Outbreak, only with less Dustin Hoffman.
To sum up a few of the feelings:
Tired, all the time. Even though I have not exerted myself in any shape or form in a long time.
Unfocused. Sort of hard to concentrate when every few minutes you’re reminded that most of the world is at a standstill and we don’t know when we’ll get back to it.
Anxious. Who isn’t anxious now? ‘You might not know you have this disease but you might pass it onto your loved ones and kill them. But also please go out, please go about life as normal and wash your hands whilst singing Happy Birthday!‘
Lonely. Hard to not feel lonely when you can’t see any of your mates for months on end, right?
On the flip side, there have been some good times creeping in too:
I watched a couple hundred episodes of Bleach, an anime from 2005 that I was obsessed with in my early teens. I’m now playing a Bleach mobile game daily, have read a few hundred manga chapters, and one of the spin-off novels. So safe to say that I’m regressing quickly.
I played guitar for two weeks, enjoyed it, paid for a year’s of guitar lessons, and never touched it again.
Oh an Animal Crossing. No explanation needed apart from a link to K.K Bubblegum (maybe I should learn this on guitar….)
Some amazing music has come out this year, Dua Lipa’s ‘Physical’ really has changed the trajectory of my life.
I started watching Bleach when I was younger than the main character. Now I’m 10 years older than Ichigo. I don’t like time.
So there’s some light in the dark etc, etc, or rather there’s some anime and virtual animals to console in whilst the world falls apart.
What a shitshow eh? We’ll get through it, all that positivity. But nothing wrong for taking a moment to reflect on the dumpster fire of 2020.
And on a final note, Black Trans Lives Matter and we have no place for antisemitism in our society.