Ethos' 2020 Favourites (Vol. 1)
How have you been? It’s a cool and refreshing morning here and I am feeling a delicious sense of peace.
This December, we thought it might be fun to bring back a mini-series we did last year. Everyone here at Ethos will be reflecting and recommending something we found enjoyable this year. The range is eclectic, from a smoothie recipe to a new favourite album, but they share one commonality: pleasure is important and we need to take pleasurable things seriously.
Consider this our small gift to you—I hope they will surprise and comfort you.
Live Music: Joni Mitchell in London (1974)
If you're driving into town with a dark cloud above you, dial in the number who's bound to love you
I spent many quiet afternoons alone this year listening to Joni’s 1974 live in London concert and I truly think Joni’s performance perfectly captures what Walter Pater said about how all art constantly aspires to the condition of music. Sometimes I am afraid to listen to Joni in public because I can feel so moved and overwhelmed that I might just start crying on the train.
When Joni sings in All I Want: I want to talk to you, I want to shampoo you I want to renew you again and again / Applause, applause, Life is our cause / When I think of your kisses, my mind see-saws / I feel so held by her voice and, isn’t it a beautiful sentiment? That we are all here to nourish each other, to renew and be renewed. To give and receive good kisses. To constantly see and move through the world with new eyes.
It feels like a fever dream that we get to share the same time and space with a legendary artist like Joni but yet here we are. It is our collective good luck that we get to luxuriate in her art.
Culture: Fleabag and Punisher
This year was a sad year, and between waves of sadness, I fell in love with two Phoebes.
The first was Phoebe Waller-Bridge, creator and star of the dark comedy series Fleabag. I binged this two-season series with my sister in Melbourne back in February, which feels like a vastly different time already. I’ve never cackled and wept so much during a show until I watched this. Fleabag stumbles through life using sex and dry wit to mask her feelings of loss and unbearable loneliness.
But more saliently, Phoebe Waller-Bridge shows us the pains (and sometimes triumphs) of being a transgressive woman whom nobody seems to get. She breaks the fourth wall constantly, one of the show’s biggest strengths—the viewer is always teetering between spectator and intimate confidante. Season 2 is a riot; (spoiler alert) here’s a clip of the scene that ruined me, narrated by Andrew Scott who plays the *hot* priest.
Either way, we're not alone
I'll find a new place to be from
A haunted house with a picket fence
To float around and ghost my friends
No, I'm not afraid to disappear
The billboard said "The End Is Near"
I turned around, there was nothing there
Yeah, I guess the end is here
The second is Phoebe Bridgers, who released her new album Punisher this year. Spotify has exposed me as one of her top 0.5% listeners. In an interview with Nylon, which did a great piece on the catharsis of sad music, Phoebe says, “Sad songs make me feel better because I’d rather feel something than nothing.” In a year of loneliness, Phoebe’s music has pulled me in and out of my own head, coaxing me to sit with my own feelings. Punisher closes with “I Know the End”, a folk ballad about a break up and post-tour blues that unexpectedly turns into an apocalyptic screamo almost-anthem.
It feels as if all the doom and gloom of the year has been released through a long, cathartic scream. The end is here but somehow we’re still here. I hope you find release this year. If anything, you can cry to this.
Food: Frozen Blueberries
As a self-proclaimed smoothie connoisseur, much of 2020 was spent experimenting with different fruits and flavours in an effort to find the perfect concoction. Bananas? Persimmon? Spinach? If it’s something that fits into a blender, I’ve probably tried to make a smoothie out of it at some point. This year, I came across perhaps the greatest discovery of my life, frozen blueberries! Regular blueberries are a hit or miss - will you bite into a morsel of painfully sour mush, or will it be explosively sweet instead? Frozen blueberries, however, taste good every. single. time. What’s even better is that frozen blueberries are typically plucked right after they are harvested at peak ripeness, preserving all of the vitamins and antioxidants and other good stuff. Over the past few months in the sweltering Singapore heat, I have found them to be the perfect snack. Cool and refreshing, each time I eat frozen blueberries I feel like I’m devouring a scoop of sorbet. Now, I’m going to share with you the single best smoothie recipe that I have been perfecting for the past year:
🍌 1 banana (sliced and frozen, I usually put them in the freezer the night before)
🍇 1/2 cup frozen blueberries
🥛 1/4 cup milk (I love oat, almond or hazelnut milk!)
Blend it all together and go WILD with the toppings! My favourite toppings include almonds, oats, peanut butter, and of course, more frozen blueberries. 🥤
Game: Final Fantasy XIV
This was the year of Among Us, Jackbox Party games and Zoom parties with friends. Out of all these, getting to explore an mmorpg together with my best friends was—is—unashamedly one of my favourite things that happened this year. I'll save you from gushing over video games and just say: at the heart of it, having something that allowed us to come together every other night when we were free, just to chat and to ask how's life going? That was a big help this year. I can't imagine I'd have enjoyed this game so much if it wasn't for the friendship.
Music: The New Abnormal by The Strokes
Over the past year I have come to know a new friend who has given me a sense of familiarity and warmth, of homeliness and safety. Whenever I call on them, they gently embrace me and give me a sense of peace that no one else can (at least within the confines of this year).
It’s the sixth full-length album by The Strokes, aptly titled The New Abnormal, as if they predicted that several thousand miles away, a lil boi would be going through a nationwide quarantine.
The Strokes return with a rather dynamic and upbeat (for the most part) album after 2013’s divisive effort, Comedown Machine. The opening track features Julian Casablancas’ whispery vocals, and an interesting drum beat. Guitarists Nick and Albert also feature prominently, and the sound of dueling guitars creeps into my mind whenever “The Adults Are Talking” comes on in my car.
“Selfless” is a very introspective and deeply intimate number. Julian sounds like he is singing right into my ear and the main riff gives off a Radiohead vibe. I love this track a lot as it really comforts me when I think back on past heartbreaks.
“Brooklyn Bridge to Chorus” is a catchy bop that seems to be about some kind of social degenerate who lives in his head. There is a certain urgency to the song, as if he wants to feel alive amongst friends again. “At The Door” is my most played song of 2020 according to Spotify.
I could do a track by track review if I had the time, but I’ll just let you guys discover this album for yourselves!
(From December 5, 2020)