So, How Was Your Year is a series in which our favorite entertainers answer our questionnaire about the music, culture and memorable moments that shaped their year. We’ll be rolling these pieces out throughout December.
Thurston Moore was recording his latest studio album, By the Fire, in London when the coronavirus forced everyone into lockdown. Luckily, he and his band — which includes My Bloody Valentine’s Deb Googe and Sonic Youth’s Steve Shelley, among others — were able to finish the record in time, and the album came out this past fall. Listening to the free-running jams of a song like “Cantaloupe” and the noisy, experimental detours of the 17-minute “Locomotives” now, though, you’d never guess the band cut it on a deadline. Moore is eager to play the songs live, and see how much more experimental he can get with them, when restrictions allow.
During his downtime this year, the former Sonic Youth singer and guitarist enjoyed music by Arthur Russell and Nico, watching the NONONONO Cat on YouTube, making popcorn, and hoping for the best for the United States in its political and racial struggles. Here’s how Moore says 2020 measured up for him, as well as his hopes for next year.
The album I listened to the most in 2020 was:
Iowa Dream by the late, great Arthur Russell. Arthur composed music from so many points in the spectrum – disco, folk, contemporary classical – and only released a few sides during his lifetime (he died from AIDS in 1992, at the too-young age of 40). To our good fortune, he had recorded a wealth of unreleased material and Iowa Dream is his foray into full on Seventies pop-rock beauty with his good friend Ernie Brooks from the Modern Lovers playing bass. This music shines in an understated, almost Zen pop manner and it will make your day shine as well.
My favorite TV show to stream during quarantine was:
By a long shot, filmmaker Steve McQueen’s Small Axe series which deals with McQueen’s personalized view of the black experience in Britain. The first episode was titled “Mangrove” about the legendary Mangrove café activist coalition to resist police oppression and violence in Notting Hill. The acting, the cinematography, the script – everything engaged and in tune to telling not only an important, but spellbinding, tale of truth to power.
The song that will define “2020” for me is:
Johnniqua Charles’ “Lose Yo Job” rap that pretty much, through all the crazy remixes it’s gone through, defines the enlightened consciousness of youth culture dealing with the state-sponsored empowerment of police violence and racist furor in the USA. Luckily, the song was prescient and visionary and hotter than hell.
I’d define my current state of mind as:
Supremely Zen with activist concern. Knowing that no matter how hard we are hit by forces beyond our immediate control, such as the coronavirus, we can look out for each other with communication, education, and shared resource. And when we are hit by forces that are well in our control, such as the greed initiative of oppression towards the historically disenfranchised of our world, we can organize and resist like a storm of love.
The viral video I kept coming back to in quarantine was:
The “NONONONO Cat” — an oldie but goodie as the kitty, (Russian Siberian legend Маркиз) says it all with perfect meow inflection touching the emotional center of debate. “No” is the word of the year. Just Say No To Family Values was the title of a poem by the poet John Giorno, who passed away this year. And if the renewed interest in No Wave music and art as exemplified by Weasel Walter’s No Wave FB group reiterates the fact that No Wave is the greatest musical movement no one ever heard, then let be kNOwn: the NONONONO Cat lives on.
The old-favorite album I returned to for comfort this year was:
The Marble Index by Nico — still one of the most soulful, astounding expositions of life as art.
The old-favorite movie I returned to for comfort this year was:
Lucas with a teenage Winona Ryder saving the world from bully boy inanity. Winona will always rule.
A new hobby I picked up in quarantine was:
Making popcorn to perfection.
The most interesting thing I learned to cook during quarantine was:
Toasted banana babka bread with thin strips of cinnamon and chocolate enlaced.
The best book I read in quarantine was:
Gay Guerrilla: Julius Eastman and His Music, edited by Renée Levine Packer and Mary Jane Leach, where a collection of voices chime in to bring history and homage to one of the most interesting and wild musical figures in the downtown NYC experimental music scene of the 1970s into the 1990s.
Something positive that happened to me that nobody noticed was:
I discontinued eating eclairs and mille-feuilles every day – only once in while, like when in gastro-heaven France, but only then!
The biggest hero of 2020 was:
The Squad — Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan. They were the voices of progress energizing a voting base to overthrow the capitalist creeps.
A word or phrase I never want to hear again is:
Politicians beginning social media messages with “Let’s be clear” – I’d prefer they’d focus more on “Let’s be queer.”
The thing I’m least looking forward to in 2021 is:
Not being able to tour so I’m hoping successful inoculations against the coronavirus happen soon and happen quick and are free for everyone. It’s time to hit the road!
The thing I’m most looking forward to doing when the pandemic is over is:
Other than getting back in the van, is being able to head into the welcoming comfort of my local pub (I live in London) and to have no anxiety coming between me, my mates, and a pint of Guinness. Oi!
My biggest hope for 2021 is:
Is that dignity returns to leadership in the USA. It’s the least everyone deserves.