Best CDs of 2020 According to an Old Guy Who Bought 5

Five new CDs I bought in 2020.

Per tradition, my annual personal tiny album chart.

It’s that time again! The annual entry where I look back at the previous year as one of six people nationwide who still prefers compact discs to digital. I don’t splurge too much because it’s increasingly tougher for new music to catch my ear as I grow older and more finicky, and as my favorite acts of yesteryear die, stop recording, or turn toward musical directions that take them beyond my zones of interest. That usually means missing out on what the majority loves, thus further dragging me down the long plummet into total irrelevance. Story of my life.

Even in 2020, though, I tried my best to keep abreast of the latest in album-sized tune collections and found a handful of artists and labels releasing new distractions and rays of hope amid the pandemic. It took until September before I finally spent a dime on new music, but the feeling was one of relief that at least one aspect of life had found a way to proceed as normal, or a close approximation under duress.

The following list, then, comprises all the CDs that I acquired last year that were 2020 releases. None were bad, but we’re not into 5-way ties here on MCC, so somebody has to give. Curiously, the longest one clocks in at 42 minutes; the shortest barely saunters past the half-hour mark. I’ve never been one to complain about getting the most bang for my buck out of every CD, so I can deal with it. Part of me is pretty okay with bloated 70-minute albums being a thing of the past if it means we’re hearing more finesse than filler.

On with the countdown!

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Old Guy With a PS3, Year 6: There’s No Pandemic in Skyrim

Skyrim Claudia Christian!

Yep, that’s me in the dragon plate armor I forged myself, hanging out with my favorite blacksmith, voiced by Claudia Christian.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover, at the beginning of 2016:

As a kid, I frequented video arcades regularly. As a parent, my son and I spent a good decade playing games together on his various systems. When he graduated and moved away to college, he took all his systems with him, leaving me with only my old Nintendo that won’t play cartridges unless you keep the Game Genie firmly inserted, and an Atari Plug-‘n’-Play Controller I got for Christmas a few years ago that interested me for about two weeks. On Black Friday 2014, I decided I wanted back in the 21st century gaming mode and picked up a used PS3.

Naturally I started off a generation behind the rest of the civilized world, but I didn’t care. After fifteen months without, holding a controller felt abnormal and rusty for the first few weeks. Once I got used to it again and figured out how to disable the “Digital Clear Motion Plus” feature on my TV, I could shake the dust off my trigger fingers, choose the games I wanted to play, sprint or meander through them at whatever pace I saw fit, and try some different universes beyond Final Fantasy and our other longtime mainstays…

…and it’s been a minor MCC annual tradition ever since. In an average year I would play three times per week, maybe two hours per session, and get through four to six games. Except for that time I spent thirteen months on Borderlands 2. Or that other time when when I spent nine months of 2019 on Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel. Perhaps my definition of “average year” is stretching a bit.

And then there was 2020. Without conventions, family gatherings, friendly outings, work-related events, holidays, out-of-state vacations, or restaurants I could enjoy without terror or paranoia, I had a lot more time on my hands for hobbies. Especially this hobby, as it turned out.

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A Peek Inside Peacock

Peacock!

We named it after the old NBC mascot, but instead of a bird we thought a cooler image would be…this glow stick?

Our family prides itself on not being early adopters of new technology or services. We prefer to let upstart projects and products get up and running, figure out their processes, work out their bugs, set a price point that’s worth the venture, and build up a reputation, preferably a favorable one. Then we might give them the time of day. Maybe. Sometimes.

Streaming services are subject to the same vetting procedure. We ignored Netflix until the advent of the Google Chromecast (later renamed “Googlecast”) dramatically improved our streaming capabilities. Also motivating us: we reached the point in our newfound Doctor Who fandom at which the only episodes we hadn’t yet watched up to that point were in their clutches. For years we likewise lived well without Hulu despite a few temptations, until an outrageous Black Friday sale in December 2018 (99¢/month for 12 months!) lured me into their den.

The internet’s Baby Yoda obsession notwithstanding, we have yet to pull the trigger on Disney+. Star Trek in and of itself is not enough to justify CBS All Access. I refuse to pay a monthly price for shopping privileges and am therefore one of six people nationwide who doesn’t have Amazon Prime. Every single detail I’ve heard about Quibi implies it’s my exact anti-matter opposite. And as for YouTube Red…is that still a thing? Not for us, it isn’t.

The next contestant up in these highly competitive lockdown-era streaming wars is Peacock, a product of the NBC-Universal-Viacom multinational conglomerate. In a world where “cord-cutting” has been the trend because everyone thought that would be cheaper, Peacock is my favorite kind of service: bundled.

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Reaching Out Through the Zoom Lens

Zoom Jazz Hands!

As you’d expect, our most requested pose. Special thanks to my sister-in-law for the screen shot.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: for the duration of the interim normal, all other human bodies are to be treated as walking land mines, held at a remove, and if one approaches you, go hide and let them detonate in someone else’s face instead.

In these extreme circumstances we’ve sometimes found ourselves doing things far outside the old, complacent, pre-fatality routines. Letting our hair grow into shaggy 1970s grotesquerie. Taking early morning walks around our neighborhood. Calling elderly relatives before they call us first. Posting on Facebook.

Our latest deviation from the norm: hopping on a communication technology bandwagon.

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Twitter Minus Twitter

This Tweet.

What was he thinking about? I’ll never know.

Twitter isn’t for everyone, but the designers have created a number of tools that allow users to shape their experience, curate their input streams, intertwine narratives, choose overall reading tone, defend themselves against the forces of evil, hide from polite disagreements, and, in my case, remove irritants. The tools aren’t perfect, but I appreciate their usefulness when it comes to surgically removing unnecessary ugliness and repetitive stresses that damage my calm. For me, internet moderation is a form of self-care.

Sometimes the results amuse me more than I’d intended.

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The Costs of Record-Breaking Journalism

CVS stuff!

When your most prominent product makes your business “essential” and no one’s bullying you into refusing to sell non-essentials.

I’m generally happy to pay for journalism. I believe a free and fully functional press is a critical component to the structural integrity and ethics of any given country, state, and city. Local journalists in particular can cover topics too far below the radar of the numerous nationwide organizations out there. As a staunch anti-partisan who thinks extremely little of our feud-fueled political system, I don’t need to agree with every journalist’s tribal allegiance as long as I can discern either some capital-N News or some genuinely informed insights in their offerings. It helps that I tend to skim past the Opinions section and refuse to read the letters from readers unless they’re from someone I recognize, which so far this century has happened once (congrats to one of my wife’s cousins for that feat).

I’m old-fashioned enough to have a subscription to our local daily paper, the Indianapolis Star. A traditional seven-day subscription seemed a bit much, so I have a scaled-back subscription that requires one of their few remaining physical carriers to deliver a print-edition paper to our mailbox only on Sundays and Thursdays. Over the years the Thursday paper has turned slimline and provides me five minutes of preoccupation at most, but the Sunday paper remains their heftiest, with expanded content such as longform investigative pieces, restaurant news/reviews, faith-related essays, the starving remnants of the once-useful classifieds, retailer advertising inserts, grocery coupons, and four pages of Sunday comic strips in color. Longtime MCC readers can guess which section gets sorted to the top of my reading pile.

The Star shocked me three times this past weekend. Under the terms of the interim normal, two of those shocks were sorrowful but explainable. The third is debatable.

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Video Scorecard #22: Oscar Quest 2020 Animated Extra Credit

Klaus!

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night nor facing off against Disney and DreamWorks films for an Academy Award…

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: the recurring feature that’s more like a newsletter in which I’ve jotted down capsule-sized notes about Stuff I Recently Watched at home. As usual I’ve been preoccupied with my annual bout of Oscar-mania to the consternation of MCC readers who show up here for any other reasons.(I promise we have a road trip miniseries coming soon, with some light travel, history, and a tribute to one astronaut. Honest!

Before tonight’s big Academy Awards ceremony on ABC, there’s one last category in which I managed to catch all the entrants thanks to the wonder of today’s sometimes generous streaming services. Thus we present in brief the three nominees for Best Animated Feature that I didn’t see in theaters:

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Old Guy with a PS3: Year 5 Results

Borderlands Handsome Jack!

One day I’ll have to murder Handsome Jack after he turns into an intergalactic madman, but in our shared past he’s just tipped me $22 for saving his life. What a guy.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover, at the beginning of 2016:

As a kid, I frequented video arcades regularly. As a parent, my son and I spent a good decade playing games together on his various systems. When he graduated and moved away to college, he took all his systems with him, leaving me with only my old Nintendo that won’t play cartridges unless you keep the Game Genie firmly inserted, and an Atari Plug-‘n’-Play Controller I got for Christmas a few years ago that interested me for about two weeks. On Black Friday 2014, I decided I wanted back in the 21st century gaming mode and picked up a used PS3.

Naturally I started off a generation behind the rest of the civilized world, but I didn’t care. After fifteen months without, holding a controller felt abnormal and rusty for the first few weeks. Once I got used to it again and figured out how to disable the “Digital Clear Motion Plus” feature on my TV, I could shake the dust off my trigger fingers, choose the games I wanted to play, sprint or meander through them at whatever pace I saw fit, and try some different universes beyond Final Fantasy and our other longtime mainstays. The following is a rundown of my first year’s worth of solo PS3 adventures…

…and it’s been a minor MCC annual tradition ever since. Last year’s entry covered a banner year in which I made time during my limited gaming sessions (three times a week at most, 90-120 minutes/sesh) to plow through five different games, winning four of them and infuriated at the other one. In 2019, I managed…um, not many. Very, very not-many. But I have excuses!

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Best CDs of 2019 According to an Old Guy Who Bought 4

2019 compact discs!

Biggest trends of 2019 in album covers in my outlier dimension: no names, no faces, and lots of black.

It’s that time again! The annual entry where I look back at the previous year as one of six people nationwide who still prefers compact discs to digital. I don’t splurge too much because it’s increasingly tougher for new music to catch my ear as I grow older and more finicky, and as my favorite acts of yesteryear die, stop recording, or turn toward musical directions that take them beyond my zones of interest. That usually means missing out on what the majority loves, thus further dragging me down the long plummet into total irrelevance.

I’m also not among the trendier listeners collecting vinyl…yet. One of my most underrated achievements in 2019 was acquiring my first new record player in over twenty years. I haven’t rushed out to stock up on new LPs yet because, honestly, I have a large stack of oldies and accumulated oddities I’d rather go through first before I go overboard. We’ll see where the future takes me. For now, it’s CDs all the way.

Well…not counting the two cassettes I bought this year. Talk about unexpected. Alas, both are disqualified from inclusion here because neither was a 2019 release.

The following list, then, comprises all the CDs — and only the CDs — that I acquired last year that were 2019 releases. None were bad, but we’re not into 4-way ties here on MCC, so somebody has to give. On with the countdown:

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Our Dark Summertime Binge: “Chopped” Season One

Chopped season 1!

Aphrodisiac or poison? YOU make the call!

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: with weeks to go till vacation and no pressing obligations, my wife Anne and I have been bingeing a few different shows together, while I’ve done some additional grim watching on the side. Certainly not through careful planning on our part, each of the shows has had their own depressing and/or tragic aspects. Veronica Mars season 4 had its mad-bomber mystery and its upsetting finale. Season 2 of Hulu’s Light as a Feather made teen horror out of a slumber party game. The Netflix documelodrama The Last Czars reminded us Russian history is grimmer than many of our TV stories, and trying to cheer your audience up with cult orgies doesn’t help.

This summer we’ve even managed to find oppression and despondency in the things we’ve loved and watched for years. We expected nothing less from Veronica Mars. It paled before the dark side of Chopped.

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