Every year I do my annual top 10 for both gigs and albums.

At the start of the year I had been to three gigs all in one month, January.

And So I Watch You From Afar did a special gig at the Belfast Mac with a string quartet to perform their new work, Jettison behind a screen that had special effects.  Totally different to their normal gigs.

A trip to Dublin to see Slipknot rip up the 3Arena and the last gig I went to was to see The Wildhearts at the Limelight.  I had a ticket to see Supergrass at the Ulster Hall in February but couldn’t make it as I was not feeling great.

The rest of the year was all set with gigs and festivals to look forward to and then the pandemic happened.

As we went into lockdown, mass gatherings were not encouraged to help stop the spread of COVID-19.  One by one, each show I was due to go to over the course of the year was either cancelled or rescheduled for the following year.

The gigs that got cancelled were Sunstroke Festival, Iron Maiden, Nick Cave and Pearl Jam, although the Hyde Park gig did get booked in again for next year as a two day event instead of one I had to get a refund for my ticket and then had the option to buy again for 2021.  Sun Kil Moon was cancelled completely and I’m guessing not much to do with the pandemic.

That left the rest of these shows all rescheduled for 2021 or 2022 – Ash, Therapy?, Jawbox, Pixies, Clutch and Rammestein.    To be honest I am nearly expecting these all to be pulled and pushed forward again.  Therapy?’s 2021 shows has already been moved to 2022.

Since lockdown started my job switched from going to the office to working from home.  On the 19 March I left the office complete with my workstation to relocate to home working which started the next day on 20 March.

This would be a whole new experience for me from being used to having the company of your work colleagues to just sitting at the back of the house by yourself. It felt a wee bit isolating at times.  My first attempt to bring a bit of sound into the house didn’t really work for me with either Apple Music or Spotify and then suddenly I just thought the CD player is in the other room, so I moved it into my new office space and that started the process of the daily playlist.

Each day I would go through my vast CD collection.  I started the daily working from home (WFH) update on Twitter to do an online diary of what I was listening to.  Before I knew it, I decided to start writing about what I was listening to and what the albums meant to me. The blog entries started as Music life in lockdown and just before Christmas I had reached week 40 which will be the last entry on the blog.

Music had become my new outlet in the time of the pandemic, and it helped improve my own mental health.  I was listening to CDs that I hadn’t listened to in ages.  Always being on the go and in a rush, I suddenly felt life was slowing down and it was good.  It was also great browsing at your collection and getting some inspiration on what to listen to. I would often find myself digging out something that hasn’t been played in a long time.

As music was becoming something so much for me and with no gigs to go to I found myself interacting with other music fans on Twitter taking part in listening parties, polls, music challenges, voting for favourite albums, favourite songs, sharing gig tickets and even being invited to create a mixtape all creating a lot of positivity in a very negative world out there.

Over the course of the year I have enjoyed taking part in Tim Burgess (The Charlatans) listening party – #TimsTwitterListeningParty. Simple premise, Tim has a band hosting on Twitter a particular album, you listen on CD, vinyl or streaming service of your choice and follow the online chat. This has been such great fun and you get some insight into the making of the album that you might not have known before.

Music challenges are great fun and have only recently been trying to keep up to date with the ones set by @sotachetan and @Pia_Lemonade. I am all set for the next daily challenge beginning on New Years Day for the A-Z of 80s albums.

7RockLists is hosted by Connor who hails from Australia. Connor loves his music in all its different shades of punk, metal, rock, etc. He tends to do album runs and mixtapes and it is good fun to participate in. I got picked to do a mixtape which I managed to put together on Spotify. You can read about my mixtape from 2004 here. This was a really enjoyable experience and I will definitely have another crack at this if asked again.

Brits & Pieces take a nostalgic look back at the 90s music scene, the biggest bands of the decade and the future of music. They have just put together a CD of unsigned bands. I have enjoyed looking back on the 90s but maybe for the new year I should try something new. I hope to order the CD in the new year to give it support and listen to some new music.

Listen Up /// is another site I follow on Twitter and I love the challenges that are set down. It really helps you get your thinking cap on as you try and come up with some really good albums, songs or bands. I hope this trend keeps going in 2021.

Music polls are great fun too. Marks Music does these and are great craic trying to vote for your favourite albums. If you are into fierce poll battles, look no further than The Best of Irish Indie Facebook page which is devoted to all bands north and south in Ireland.

As lockdown progressed I found that lots of my playlists were based on themes and throughout the year I have being following Richard Shaw who does the weekly and often fortnightly albums list. Richard starts off with his favourite 50 albums of each year and each decade. So sometimes it will be #3albums for a single year or #7albums for a decade. Lots of CDs got played as I tried to pick my favourites. Has been difficult a few times but it has been fun to do and look back at what I have been buying over the years.

There is also the wonderfully named Music Alphabetty Preservation Society #MAPS which is hosted by Paul Bennett. Lots of interesting challenges get thrown about here which is great fun to do.

A couple of other fellow bloggers that I follow have hosted some really good sites. Blinded By The Floodlights is hosted by Matthew McLister and covers music, reviews and some indie nostalgia. Rebirth of Cool Blogger hosted by Michael Tanner is a great site too and with a lot of new bands on it. Michael also contributes to Speakeasy fanzine.

During the pandemic some music magazines felt the pressure. Kerrang went on hold while established magazines like Q folded. In the absence of some good music press the DIY ethic took over and Speakeasy Zine were established early during the year. For £1 plus postage you get a really decent fanzine made by fans for the fans.

Final mention goes to Steve Carr who hosts the blog Every Record Tells A Story. Steve had just published a book back in September called Every Record Tells A Story: A Vinyl Handbook. The book launch was done in true 2020 style on Zoom and I joined in. As yet I have not had a chance to buy this book but if you are reading Steve, that is something I intend to correct for 2021.

No end of year review is complete without my top 10 albums of the year. The following albums have been my favourites this year.

  1. Bruce Springsteen – Letter To you
  2. Bob Mould – Blue Hearts
  3. Pearl Jam – Gigaton
  4. Fontaines DC – A Hero’s Heath
  5. Mark Lanegan – Straight Songs of Sorrow
  6. Therapy? – Greatest Hits (The Abbey Road Session)
  7. And You Know Us By Trail of Dead – X: The Godless Void
  8. Fake Names – Fake Names
  9. James Dean Bradfield – Even in Exile
  10. AC/DC – Power Up

This is a wrap for 2020. It has been a strange and unusual year and here is hoping that a bright horizon is coming for 2021. Thanks to everybody who has been reading. Wishing you a very happy and safe new year.

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