30) Lemuria – Recreational Hate
2018 is the year of Sudden Death and Credit Card Debt. It’s a little joke I make to my wife when we buy something we can’t afford in the moment, a little mantra I say to myself after I’ve discovered someone that I love has died. It’s not a fair or hopeful slogan, but it’s the correct one.
29) Shame – Songs of Praise
I was driving in Delaware, somewhere south of Wilmington, making small talk with two relative strangers on the way to a retreat, when I found out Jim had died. Sam called to tell me and my first reaction was silence. It was an experience I’d get to be on the other side of soon enough.
28) Cloud Nothings – Last Building Burning
Here are some facts: We became friends working in the food service department at LaSalle University the summer between my sophomore and junior year. We spent our summer in a small office, on the clock 35 hours a week, playing NES emulators, drinking whiskey and cokes out of paper cups and listening to music. I’ve never wanted to impress a friend the way I wanted to impress him. Spending time with him was stepping into a world outside my own, one populated with artistic, intelligent people who always had something clever to say, a smart joke to make. I felt hopelessly outmatched, terrified at being found out, thrilled to be there.
27) Kacey Musgraves – Golden Hour
He had wild, curly red hair and a baby face. He was an incredible athlete who smoked constantly. He was a brilliant mind with a real joy for the dumbest possible jokes. He was a wildly talented musician who seemed to never find the thing to satisfy his muses. He loved projects, love to stretch his legs with different styles and instruments. His widow compiled a website with all the recorded music of his she could find. You should listen to it. I haven’t been able to yet.
26) Booji Boys – Weekend Rocker
There are parts of Jim’s story that don’t feel like mine to tell, parts that I am not equipped to tell. People get hurt when the information isn’t correct, and I was never in a position to be that close to the truth. We were close friends for a two-year stretch, but I was never his closest friend. My last email from him is dated February 1, 2018. I was telling him about the band HOLY. They reminded me of Of Montreal. Jim was big into Of Montreal in 2007.
25) Turnstile – Time and Space
Sometime in the Spring, a mass was held for Jim. I had missed the first round of remembrances. I sat in the back and cried to myself. I nodded to a mutual friend whose eye I caught. I didn’t talk to his widow. I didn’t stick around to speak to the family or catch up with faces I recognized from college. I didn’t know how to say that I was sorry I couldn’t keep him close to me. I didn’t know how to measure my own sorrow at his passing against those who were much closer to him, who had kept him in his life while I had let our friendship die on the vine. I felt like a fraud. Who was I to mourn this death, he who could not be bothered to make the effort beyond the occasional email and coffee once every 18 months? It felt gaudy and self-serving to be there. Like I wanted to be seen taking it.
24) War on Women – Capture the Flag
This is what happens, isn’t it? You grow and you grow apart. You move to different parts of town, different towns altogether. You meet people and maybe you fall in love, or not. You try to build a life, and maybe that effort means other parts of your life fall away. How do people do it? How do people do well enough by themselves to also do well by others? Some things you take for granted. The price is sneaking out of a funeral mass in a suit that’s too small because of a shame you cannot articulate.
23) Cardi B – Invasion of Privacy
If I could say something to him now, it’d be this: You were kind to me in a very lonely time. You brought me into your circle and made me feel like I belonged, even when I was certain I did not. You were more capable and talented than you knew. You were too good for the city job you had, too good to not be more well-known, too good to bump around with me. You were a gift and I love you, even if I cannot keep you in my life.
22) Culture Abuse – Bay Dream
Meagan and I spent the bulk of 2018 preparing for the birth of our daughter. There were books to read, classes to take, schedules to maintain, diets to watch, lists to make, blogs to skim, cute clothes to buy, serious health issues to obsess over, rooms to paint, fights to have, and waiting, endless waiting, to be done. And, of course, always, money to be saved.
21) Robyn – Honey
If I had to place myself on a scale somewhere between “absentee father of an out-of-class affair in Victorian times” and “wet dream of progressive partnership,” I suppose I’d fall somewhere right of center during Meagan’s pregnancy, but not by much. I read some of the books, but not all of them. I attended the classes and took notes, but inserted myself into matters that did not warrant my opinion (Here is free advice for all you would-be dads out there: When your wife talks about what kind of pain management strategy she wants during birth, keep your thoughts to yourself). The only place I felt particularly capable in child preparation was finances. We saved like motherfuckers, mostly because I was draconian and irritating about every paycheck. There were spreadsheets, initial savings projections, more spreadsheets, updated projections. I knew where every nickel went from January through August. Lost the thread in late August. That’s when my grandmother had the stroke that would kill her. That’s when my baby was born.
20) Titus Andronicus – Productive Cough
(A brief aside: For a person already predisposed to retreating into himself and not keeping up his relationships, going through a pregnancy really allows you to lean into your indulgences. There was no event, no gathering, no social requirement I could not escape from once evoking the pregnancy the excuse. It was my golden parachute to selfishly indulge my worst character trait in the name of “being a good partner.” Even when it was legitimate, it was a little illegitimate.)
19) Alkaline Trio – Is This Thing Cursed?
I’m stalling. When I tell you my grandmother was the matriarch of my family, there’s no way you can understand what I mean. I can give you the raw numbers – 12 children, 34 grandchildren, 15 great-grandchildren, countless discarded boyfriends and girlfriends, old friends and new – but unless you’ve crowded into a tent off a dining room or danced to Journey in a wedding hall surrounded, literally, by family lined three-deep, you can’t really understand the tribal strength that the Adams family generates, can’t understand how she was at the center of it, its beating heart, for so many decades.
18) Young Jesus – The Whole Thing is Just There
This is the kind of thing that would get cut from the first draft of a short story in creative writing class, but that does not make it any less true. When I was very little and we would go to visit my grandparents in Clifton Park, New York, I used to sit on the floor next to the TV so I could face them. Their chairs, placed side-by-side to face the TV, looked like thrones to me. My grandfather, drinking in his recliner and my grandmother, knitting in her high-back chair, looked like royalty. Like the king and queen of a tiny, loud, crashing, swirling serfdom. I felt proud to show fealty.
17) Ought – Room Inside the World
And, look, you wouldn’t have to go far to find someone who’d buy that royalty shit. My grandmother was beloved everywhere she went. She made a friend of everyone, be it at the church, at my grandfather’s club, the beach she frequented most of her adult life, the pool clubs she would swim at, or any wedding she was (obviously, because how could you not) invite her to. She was a common denominator, a thing upon which all parties could agree. Even late into her life, when she needed much more help to get around that she let on, when she had to be ushered out of events because the burden of seeing person after person who wanted to talk to her weighed her down, she always had an audience. There was always someone waiting to tell her a joke, or make her mad, or gossip about something happening. She always wanted to hear it, no matter what it was, even when it exhausted her.
16) Mike Pace and the Child Actors – Smooth Sailing
Later in her life, every conversation between the two of us felt like an inside joke to me, like she and I were wise to something that everyone else wasn’t up on. I don’t know if she was that way with everyone, but this octogenarian made me feel incredibly cool.
15) Iceage – Beyondless
When I was 10 or 11, I told her that I felt guilty all the time and I didn’t know why. “It’s because you’re a good catholic,” she told me. I didn’t understand how funny she was then. I miss her humor now. She was a religious woman, but she was also a pragmatist. One of my favorite stories is about how, while sitting with a number of my unwed and, frankly, young female cousins, she said that she wanted great-grandbabies at any cost. “I don’t care how I get them,” she said, as my cousins shrank with embarrassment,” I just want to see them.” She never got to meet Evie, but she got to meet Rose, Gwen, Jack, Henry, Robin and James. She got her wish. She usually did.
14) Hurry – Every Little Thought
Her stroke was as sudden and unexpected as a stroke can be for a woman nearing 90. My parents called me, told me that people were coming to the hospital. Meagan was 9 months pregnant. She stayed behind, told me to go. I was horrified to leave, horrified at the notion of staying. I rented the first car I could, ended up paying $300 for it. I would have paid ten times as much. I drove north, thinking of nothing. Every one of her children was there, nearly all of her grandchildren, at her bedside, working in shifts to sit with her while machines kept her alive. At a certain point, her children all went away to discuss next steps. I sat next to my cousin Theresa in the waiting room, sweaty and greasy with grief, and felt such pride in my father and his siblings, so blessed to have this special thing, such love for this collection of Irish catholic drinkers and sinners, so unsure of what this meant for our family, such sorrow for their loss. I didn’t think much of my own.
13) Future – BEASTMODE2
Privacy is hard to come by in the Adams family. My father cleared people out the next morning to give me a few minutes alone with my grandmother. I told her about my daughter, about what her name was going to be (a closely-guarded secret at that point), told her that I loved her. Then I left, because I had a family of my own about to start. I don’t doubt my decision, not for a second, but I cannot think of one without the other, at least not now.
12) Foxing – Nearer my God
Her children decided to get lunch one day, and she took that moment to pass on. My dad called it her final Irish Goodbye. He says it fits her, and I know he’s right. A few days earlier, that same day all the children of the queen assembled in the makeshift court, my cousin-in-law Amy went into labor. Even at the end, Nancy was getting great grandchildren, not caring how.
11) Deafheaven – Ordinary Corrupt Human Love
I need you to know how blessed I am, how much I love my life, how much joy it brings me. My daughter, Evelyn Adams Ingerson – named after her grandmother, the first new Ingerson in nearly 30 years – was born on September 10, 2018, after an induction process that took nearly 24 hours to complete. Her arrival was like falling in love; slowly then all at once. I was in shock when I saw her for the first time. I felt complete love and completely over my head. I watched Meagan hold her seconds after her birth and felt deeply, profoundly, that we were totally fucked, but that we would figure it out. We’d created the room for a family long before Evie arrived, and I knew we’d make it. After all, we’d read (most of) the books.
10) Playboi Carti – Die Lit
We’re three months in now. Evie is starting to explore her world. She is grabbing things, babbling a ton. She smiles now, and it makes me feel like something is exploding inside of my chest every time it happens. I’m home with her on leave of absence now, living on one paycheck, letting the nest egg I obsessed over carry us through into January, letting the credit card debt pile up as it needs to. It’s important only as a means to support this tiny human who looks so confused all the time, who knows nothing except the two blobs that feed and hold her. We’re putting her into daycare in January when I go back to work, a four-month-old to fend for herself with kind strangers. Right now, the debt seems more than fair. I’d take ten times as much if it meant spending all my days with her, watching her learn and grow.
9) IDLES – Joy as an Act of Resistance
We were putting Evie to bed when my father called me, so I didn’t pick up. When he texted me, I knew something was wrong. He never texted. I wasn’t sure his phone even had the settings required to send messages. I sat in the guest room of my house while Meagan put Evie to sleep, and found out that Jared had died. He was 32 years old. My age.
8) The Dirty Nil – Master Volume
People get hurt when the information isn’t correct. A lot of people have reached out to me asking how Jared died. Ask anyone in my family how it happened, you’ll probably get a slightly different answer. The most simple and true answer is that it is a tragedy. There are things I can’t tell you here, now. Buy me a drink sometime.
7) Rainbow Kitten Surprise – How To: Friend, Love, Freefall
Some facts: Jared was my oldest, closest, and best friend. I am hard-pressed to think of a piece of my life untouched by him. He was a polymath unburdened by any traditional sense of what a boy should be. It freed him up to be something new and special. He was talented beyond belief at any art he attempted. Even (maybe especially) his madcap work with hastily pasted images via Microsoft paint were inspired. He was quick to hug, quicker to laugh. He never made anyone else the butt of his jokes, and had broad enough shoulders to carry being the butt of others. He never made anyone feel they were unwelcome or unwanted. He was married to a patient, strong and compassionate woman whose grief I cannot even begin to give shape to. He died on December 3, 2018. He left behind two loving parents, four adoring sisters, a widow, a family that saw him as second son, an uncle who saw him as a seventh brother, two cousins who saw him as a fourth brother, an untold number of fans and admirers, and me.
6) Sidekicks – Happiness Hours
Processing my grief at Jared’s death will take me the rest of my life. It will be like eating a submarine. It will happen in small, shattering bites, and the remains will move through me like metal until either I or it are finished. My first instinct was to preserve as much of his writing as I could, as much of his music as I could. He published a million little things on scattered blogs and tumblrs throughout his life. I was blessed to read most of them, lucky enough that he shared them with me so I knew where to find him. I set about preserving things he deleted, things he probably forgot about, whatever I could think to find. I could not bear the idea of these things disappearing more than they already had. There was so much of him, everywhere, and he was so brilliant, always, I could not lose any of it having already lost him. Because to die is to fade, and Jared cannot fade. Something my brother Chris told me is that we have to start putting our stores about him, with him, down on paper now, because we are going to start forgetting. I cannot take that.
5) Fucked Up – Dose Your Dreams
How’s this for a fucked-up thought: I wonder what his year-end list would have looked like. I wonder what the rest of his Orlando Boys project would have sounded like. I wonder what he would have listened to in 2019, what he would have read, what he would have watched, what he would have written. He feels so incomplete to me that it breaks my heart to think about it, like an entire planet has been wiped out in an instant (Alderaan shit, Jared would have liked it). In the back of my mind, I wonder if I’m so focused on missing these little things because focusing on missing the big thing – the boy I used to play in the words with, the teen I used to tell crushes about, the college student I used to make jokes with, the young man I used to call on the phone while working at the deli, and who would call me while he was selling green energy, the man I would talk to for hours – literally hours! – on the phone with to discuss politics and inevitable dystopian outcomes – hurts too much. I want these little things, because enough little things add up to the whole person. Because these little things were blessings, missives from a brilliant mind I could never understand, only appreciate. Broadcasts from another world.
4) Screaming Females – All at Once
My heart breaks for his widow. It breaks for his parents. For his sisters. I cannot stop thinking of them.
3) Pusha T – Daytona
I sent you a message on Slack last week, Jared. I know you’ll never read it, but a part of me hoped the green light next to your name would light up and you’d respond back. Even though there was a visit, then a wake, then food at the church, then another wake, then a mass, then the weight of your casket running up my arm (“Too big!”) and the bend of the wood beneath my feet, then another lunch at the church, then visiting your grave the next morning, then taking the train to New York to help pack up your apartment, even though I’ve written this and rewritten it, trying to explain the impossibility of this hurt, the impossibility of going on with the rest of my life without you, how selfish these feelings seem compared to what your family must be feeling, how selfish these feelings are to my wife who needs a partner and my daughter who needs a father (you used to call her “Nathanne,” remember that?); even still, right now, part of me cannot help but think this is all some mistake.
2) Hot Snakes – Jericho Sirens
I’ve never seen so many people at a viewing. People flew in from across the country for you, Jman. Kate and Ken came in from the Northwest. Sam, Brett, Pat, Nick, Joe and Michelle drove up from Philly. Hundreds – no shit, it must have been hundreds – of others from St. Rose and Rhinebeck and the Cobra Club and Long Island and parts unknown came to see you. Our only common denominator that we were your friends, that we loved you, that you gave us the chance to. You’d have to scour the earth to find a soul who’d say a sour word about you. You were everyone’s favorite. At all times, the village would raise up around you, to carry you on its shoulders. You were impossible. You were beautiful.
1) Restorations – LP5000
There’s no lesson. There’s no narrative. There are hurts, and the hope that time and community will heal them. There is the urge to retreat from others into yourself in the face of a dying world, a dying that happens slowly then all at once. There is the opposite impulse to resist that retreat, to continue to gather with the village, for everyone else if not for yourself. What I do know is that Jim, Nancy and Jared would want me to share myself with other people, even when it hurts to do so. I know they’d be thrilled at the thought of great-grandchildren, new friends, saving old writings and songs so there’s always a piece to hold on to. Even now, in the waning hours of this year of Sudden Death and Credit Card debt, when I have never felt less, there is a child upstairs waiting to see me tomorrow. She is beautiful, she is new, and she has so much to learn.