Books of 2013

Books, right? I actually read a bunch of them this year! Mostly because I am in way too many book clubs. Anyway here are a few that actually came out in 2013 that I actually read that you should check out. No rankings because, like, let’s be real, this is not comprehensive at all.
I’ve also done “Best Articles of the Year,” “Best Albums of the Year,”  “Best Movies of the Year” and “Podcasts of the Year.”

Lost Girls, by Robert Kolker

Lost Girls, by Robert Kolker

True crime at its finest and most haunting. It’s about the still-unsolved serial killings of prostitutes on Long Island. Without a criminal, or even a solved case, this book focuses on the victims themselves, and the circumstances that got them to that beach on the island. Incredibly emotionally affecting, it will stay with you.

The Cuckoo's Calling, by Robert Galbraith (JK Rowling)

The Cuckoo’s Calling, by Robert Galbraith (JK Rowling)

Look, JK Rowling can write. There are some things she can’t do, but that feeling you remember from Harry Potter, of absolutely having to find out what happens on the next page, the next paragraph, the next sentence – that’s all her. She can still do that. She also does amazing distinctive characters and rollicking mystery plots. I loved this.

Hawkeye: My Life as a Weapon, Vol 1, by Matt Fraction and David Aja

Hawkeye: My Life as a Weapon, Vol 1, by Matt Fraction and David Aja

Do you like graphic novels? Or comics? I usually don’t like ones about superheroes, which is probably why I really liked this one. It felt like it didn’t like superhero comics either, but that it liked this one guy, and his weird life, and the art is really really cool and makes the whole thing that much more fun.

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Podcasts of 2013

Because I was like man, where does all my time go these days? The answer is, there are a lot of podcasts and they keep updating them all! I am just picking five because there are lots and I listen to them in sort of piecemeal fashions.
I’ve also done “Best Articles of the Year,” “Best Albums of the Year” and “Best Movies of the Year.”

1. Welcome to Night Vale
I can’t really convince you – either you love it or you don’t love it. It took me 15 seconds into episode one to be like, “yes, yes.” And it has only improved from there, deepened, gotten weirder and stranger. It’s funny and it makes me laugh and cry and think about the world and frame quotes that I hang on my wall, but mostly it like, expands the world we live in. Makes things bigger, stranger, weirder, deeper. Gives us all more possibilities, more universes we could be living in, are living in. Best.

2. Hollywood Prospectus
Andy Greenwald is my favorite! Andy Greenwald talking about TV with his best friend from high school is pretty great! They are just the smartest and the fastest and have the most interesting cleverest meanest discussions.

3. Do You Like Prince Movies?

Alex Pappedemas probably has the sexiest radio voice of the Grantland stable, and Wesley is the…wisest? Listening to him feels like I’m actually learning, rather than just having endless fun, though its also fun too. Also, I’m pretty sure I’m learning more about how to be an adult human (married, kids, jobs) from these various guys then anywhere else right now.

4. Girls In Hoodies

Ugh, my favorite favorites talking about girl things and pop stars and mad men and celebrity and all my favorite things. How I not like it? 

5. James Bonding
Similarly, this is made for me. Let’s talk about James Bond! The good, the bad, the trivia, the nerdery. With some very funny people! Yay! Plus, elaborate excuse to watch all of the movies over again.

And because it feels weird not to mention it – it was my first podcast and the one that got me into this whole crazy thing and I’ve seen it live twice and its still really good! – Pop Culture Happy Hour. 

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Movies of 2013

1. Her

Without getting too personal or anything, I would really recommend this movie to anyone going through a tough time in love. Or who is falling in love, or thinking about love, at all. Or anyone who ever plans, at some point in the wide world of human existence, to be in love, or love someone or be loved themselves. It’s worth it.

2. Gravity

A movie that makes you feel everything that’s on screen, but not just adrenaline. Jolts and thumps, but sadness and isolation too, the terror of thing flying at your face and the terror of being alone in the universe. And so, so so gorgeous.

3. Iron Man 3
What. I like explosions, and snark, and Marvel everything (sorry!) and Tony Stark feels, and Pepper Potts, and Ben Kingsley and jokes and also, explosions. Come on.

4. Catching Fire

It took me ages to see this, and I have no idea why. It’s a great story! It has all these great actors! It’s explosions and crazy dystopia (no really, crazy, it makes no sense) but its also some, yknow, real trauma and heart felt and complicated emotions. They took all that money and expectations and made a great movie!

5. The Wolf of Wall Street
When I first saw it I thought it was just really entertaining (for three hours) but since then I’ve been thinking about it? Like, a lot? And it’s taken on a darkness, and a tragedy, that it didn’t have before. Become more complex. Also just, whoa this whole thing.

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Albums of 2013

Hey friends, it’s January 18, 2014. Whoops? Nonetheless, I made a list, and here it is. I’ve also done “Best Articles of the Year.”
Ascending order this time:

1. Haim – Days Are Gone

At one point I was listening to this album in the car, with the window down in the not that warm Texas December, a pair of reflective but subtle sunglasses on, a leather jacket and the wind whipping my mousey brown shag cut around my face. I looked at myself in the car mirror, and I look like someone who’s favorite album of the year would be this one. And you know, it is. Everything else is complicated, this is all I want to listen to.

2. Kanye West – Yeezus

It feels hard to even talk about liking this album now – so much has been said about it all year, so much dissection and forwards and back and rehashing, so much KANYE. I guess the best thing to say is that I spent as much time talking and thinking about Yeezus this year as any non-professional, probably, and yet I listen to it and still it sounds completely new and interesting and insane and wild, every time.

3. Disclosure – Settle

The songs blur together a little bit. It’s very long. Every single second I’m listening to it, I’m thinking “I made the right choice, this is exactly what I want.”

4. Pusha T – My Name is My Name

I mean, the whole thing is fantastic. But “Nosetalgia” – the song, the video, listening to it while stalking around in the winter so it would keep me from feeling the cold – was probably the most important song that happened to me all year. I’m a DOCTAH.

5. Autre Ne Veut – Anxiety

Falsetto, skittering dance beats, synth strings and layered Kate Bush vocals. An overall aesthetic that could be described as “Prince-like, but more anxious.” Some things are made for me.

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If I was going to sum up my year in 2013

Which I do need to do, since I haven’t updated this blog in nine months trololol. Anyway, it would basically be this video:

James Blake, man. You all know how I feel about this. I also love Chance the Rapper now, although that’s sort of incidental to James Blake, driving around in a convertible in the rain in black and white.

So yeah, that’s been 2013. Well, that and things like this:
Screen shot 2013-11-05 at 8.40.17 PM
Do you see this shit? And that’s like, a third of it. God I cannot wait until this movie is out and Tom Hiddleston like, goes and sits in his house for awhile, because I cannot handle this.

As the comments on the ONE video of these I watched, I swear, it was just one, even though there was this super sexy slow blink thing at the end. It was this one, which is basically, remember in Royal Tennanbaums when Owen Wilson does that interview on peyote and just keeps saying “wildcat, wildcat” at the camera til he leaves? It’s basically that, only with Tom saying “sex symbol, sex symbol.” Do you think Tom is on peyote? Anyway, as the comments say:

  • Liana James 3 weeks ago


    Reply · 281 Vote UpVote Down
  • JoyoMaus 

    JoyoMaus 3 weeks ago

    OMG. I just can’t. Tom, what are you doing?

    Reply · 133 Vote UpVote Down
    For real man. Thanks, 2013!
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Reasons to keep living

Now that we have done some looking back, let’s look forward! Gosh there are so many things to look forward to in 2013. And they are spaced in a regular way, meaning that there is always something new coming, some reason to keep going on with life. Which sounds very depressing when I put it that way, but what I think I mean is, there’s is always something coming in the near future to be wildly excited about, to pull you along to the next thing, to be a pick up when life is boring and unexciting. In a few weeks, you can say to yourself, something I’m really excited about is happening! Like:

February 7: Community comes back! Oh and THANK GOD. There are few things I have loved more deeply and purely and missed as much (some of those things are below). Yes we have no Dan Harmon, but I am choosing to be optimistic. The cast, the writers  the set up. It will go out in a blaze of glory and we will be there.

March 19: Justin Timberlake’s new album, The 20/20 Experience. I realize some people don’t like “Suit and Tie” but I do and I love Futuresex/Lovesounds and also Justified so much and so hard and I want more. JT is fine at acting and all, but other people can he what he does on movies. No one else is doing what he does in music (littler Justin is trying, but he isn’t there yet).

April 7: Mad Men is back. Shut up, grownups are talking. Mad Men.

May 17: Star Trek Into Darkness, do you know how many times I have watched this trailer? When the first teaser came out, I learned how to do caps lock on my phone because I was just SO EXCITED. I have memorized Benedict’s little speech. I loved the first Star Trek – its comfort food for me now, I’ve watched it some 8 times. I love the lens flare, I love Zachary Quinto, I love Kirk, I love the world and the new timeline continuum. AND THEN they put Benedict Cumberbatch in it in some secret way? Gah.

July 9: There is only one volume of Saga so far, and I have read it and I just, I fell in love. Right then, right there. The story, the art, the world, the people. Everything. Volume 2 comes out July 9.

Sometime in the fall: Sherlock season 3. All those words up there, in the earlier part of this post? Just marking time, taking up space, until Sherlock season three comes out. It has to be soon. Fandom is going utterly insane.

And this is just stuff that is sequels or the next part of things that already exist! I didn’t even put on Parade’s End and Inside Llewyn Davis because they are new and who knows! Think of all the great stuff that will happen in 2013, new stuff, stuff that will have its next parts sometime in the years after that and we can be really excited about that! And then, May 1, 2015 is Avengers 2.

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Best Albums of 2012

Hello! It’s early 2013 which means lots of best of lists. The master post, with lots of excuses, can be found here

This year there were three best albums – the Fiona Apple, the Frank Ocean, and the Kendrick Lamar. Pretty much every best of list I looked at had those as the top three; the only question was the order. Someone has to be number one, and the other two just fall in naturally. This says maybe more about our current “music press” than about the year in music, but also, those are three really, really good albums! They are my top three, too! I just had to pick the order, and even that wasn’t hard at all.
I only did ten albums this year. I, just, there weren’t that many albums I felt super strongly about this year, and it seemed better to have ten that I really have strong feelings about than try to rank all the others I don’t even really care about enough to have opinions on? I don’t know, sorry, guys, 2012 was a singles year for me! Anyway here they are.

10. Jens Lenkman – I Know What Love Isn’t

Jens Lenkman writes these gorgeous little pop songs, like little bubbles of sunshine that float up and pop in the most delicious ways. This is a breakup album, though, and a fairly devastating one. The tension between his natural buoyancy and how sad this stuff is doesn’t always work, but when it does it’s really wonderful. Also, I just love him.

9. Cat Power – Sun

I’ve always wanted to really like Cat Power, but she was just so…dour, and her songs were so slow and disjointed. Great lyrics and I love her voice and her singing, but, couldn’t she speed them up? Put a bit more melody and rhythm in it? Turns out, she can, and the results are fantastic. This is also my favorite album cover of the year, no question.

8. Project X soundtrack

Is this cheating? Absolutely. But track for track, I don’t know that there’s a collection of songs that has brought me more enjoyment in ages. Here they all were, in one place! If you have huge party and invite Pusha T, Kid Cudi, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Far East Movement, and Eminem its pretty much guaranteed to be great, right?

7. Sharon Van Etten – Tramp

This one kind of snuck up on me. The first few times I just heard songs and that quavery voice, guitar lines and drums, something like folk songs, something like dude-indie-rock, the kind that if it didn’t have a girl singer I wouldn’t have bothered with. But this album is…really good. There’s a depth to it, something vaguely creepy in the back, something she’s not telling us. Like St. Vincent. I like my girl singer/guitarists unnerved and fierce.

6. Hot Chip – In Our Heads

I had a moment this summer where I realized that I listen to Hot Chip more than almost any other band. Do other people do this too? Are we just not talking about it? If not, why not? Hot Chip is 80’s style bleeps and bloops and super catchy melodies and falsettos and harmonies, and also achingly perfect gorgeous songs about trying to find love in the world and about stability and about existence. I mean, the emotional payoff here is, whoa. Who doesn’t want that? Maybe it’s just me. Maybe Hot Chip is just Made For Me. In which case I will keep taking it, because it’s fantastic. This album is slightly smoother than some of the others and less dancey. It’s still perfect.

5. Grimes – Visions

Grimes seems so easy to hate, on paper. She’s like 100 pounds with those pigtails and she sings exclusively in the uppermost possible register, like someone joking about girl singers (in case you haven’t noticed, I quite like girl singers. And high voices). Every thing she does seems like its layered in so much irony and in-jokiness and art school meta that it’s hard to see where it even starts. But what if it’s…not? What if she’s just making music that sounds good? Because it does. Against all reason, in a woolly, abstract, way, this whole album is just, it’s just good. It doesn’t make sense, but it is.

4. Jessie Ware – Devotion

This album, god. I cannot stop listening to it. Smoky and sensual, and that VOICE. At first I thought Sade (of course) + The-Dream, but after the concert I figured it out – she’s Dusty Springfield + The-Dream, which is to say, everything I have ever wanted. A sweet British girl with that huge aching voice, equally capable of doing wronged and of doing devotion. Matched up with these big electronic sounds, these blips and samples and beats, that make everything sound dramatic and huge and important, like you’re floating away on a wave of her voice, like the whole world is this song right now.

3. Kendrick Lamar – good kid, m.A.A.d city

Ach, this album. There’s not much I can say because everyone else has already said everything, and much better than me. Of the top three, this one connects with me the least emotionally. I kind of wanted to hate it because everyone else liked it so much because I’m terrible. But you can’t. It’s so good. Technically, emotionally, the lyrics and the production, the story it tells, as an album and as singles. Fine, Kendrick! You’ve won.

2. Frank Ocean – channel ORANGE

Every time I listen to this album I have a new favorite song. It is stuffed – no, overstuffed – with hooks and gorgeous lines and clever little lyrics and vocal adorableness and that Earl rap. I would have happily listened a full song version of that 40 second “fertiliiizer” bit. It’s an hour long, I wanted 800 more hours. I want all the songs to be ten minute two part epics. This song is like being wrapped in something cool and creamy and sweet and smiling, and then it rips your heart out (nothing but a one-man cult) and puts it back together, grinning, just kidding, here look I made you this, too, isn’t it fun? Whatever you like, whatever feels good, whatever takes your mind tonight, the starshine always kept you warm.

1. Fiona Apple – The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than The Driver Of The Screw & Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do

Guys, it was so hard to choose between Frank and Fiona. Most of the time it’s taken me to write this has been just that, trying to figure out which is 1 and which is 2. And, finally…channel ORANGE might be sweeter, it might actually be happier and also more pleasant, but Idler Wheel is in my bones. It’s snarled and twisted into me, it’s my thoughts before I think them, it’s angry and mean and blood and it’s constantly surprising me. Right now, as I write this, I’m listening to “Valentine” and there’s a heartbeat in my headphones, under and above her vocals, that I had never noticed before, in the many, many, many times I’ve listened to this album. This thing is constructed, it’s built, it’s grown, like some sort of alien spaceship, pulsing and tendrils and bubbling underneath, looking at me. I just want to feel everything.
And yet, for all the angry mean stuff, it’s not a sad album. It’s not a downer. It’s moving forward, it’s wondering and hoping and questioning and regrets, sure, but also excitement and feeling and a cinemascope screen showing a dancing bird of paradise. It’s alive.

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Best Songs of 2012

Hello! It’s early 2013 which means lots of best of lists. The master post, with lots of excuses, can be found here

Songs! This is a list of songs I really liked this year, mostly singles or songs that I knew about individually, rather than on full albums. Albums are albums songs are songs, yknow? Or something. Anyway these are fifteen songs that I fucking loved from this year and that I thought you might want to know about. All mp3s available upon request!

1. TNGHT – “Higher Ground”

The first time I listened to this I was like, okay, and then the second time I listened to it I was like “this is incredible, those horns, that BASS” and I have not been able to stop listening to it since, it is an addiction. This thing is a MONSTER.

2. Jessie Ware – “Wildest Moments”

More Jessie Ware all the time forever. This is this year’s best example of what Steph and I call “floazy” music, those big epic songs that sound like the have entire weather patterns in their backing tracks. This one is huge and big but also emotional and sad and incredibly happy but also incredibly heartbreaking, and I just want to live in it.

3. Kid Cudi – “Pursuit of Happiness” (Steve Aoki remix)

“Pursuit of Happiness” is a pretty good song. This remix is the BEST song. When the drums break and the synths come in and he put crowd noises in the synths and it just hits right like that, you can be sitting on your couch in pajamas and part of the biggest party in the world. Play this at your next party, play this in the car as the sun is rising, play this when you want to feel happy to be in the world.

4. Usher – “Climax”

This song just…has everything I like. Shivery synths, big keening vocals, that sort of creepy sort of dancey back beat, a nice spare production that suddenly crescendoes and pours over you. It is a song made of perfect, perfect parts, topped off by Usher maybe doing the best song of his career. It has everything I like, but also everyone likes this.

5. Icona Pop – “I Love It” (Feat. Charli XCX)

Starts hard and doesn’t stop. You want to yell along every single word, while jumping up and down and also screaming out of a car window. I DON’T CARE I LOVE IT.

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Best Movies of 2012

Hello! It’s early 2013 which means lots of best of lists. The master post, with lots of excuses, can be found here

One disclaimer here first -I haven’t seen Argo. I know, I know! Iim sorry! It just, somehow slipped through my fingers and now its barely in theaters and I missed it. I’m sure it was great. I’m sure I will see it, and love it. But it’s not on this list.

It was a good year! I saw less movies than in years past, but I also saw fewer shit movies than I had in years past, so I would say this is a positive development! For me, the movies that come first on the list are the ones that were the most fun, that filled me with the most joy, pure and simple, where being at the theater was just an experience of awe and delight. This year, many of those movies were big tentpole franchisey things, those usually derided. Which, again, I think is a positive development!

1. The Avengers
Where's Tony?

Guys, I just loved this movie. I mean, we all did. It made so much money. It sparked so many tumblrs and fandom and internet insanity. Everyone loved this movie. This movie was just so … lovable. There was so much to love: multiple lovable characters. Big action set pieces. Jokes! Friendship and love, conflict and resolution (in multiple senses of the word), big personalities rubbing against each other, ruthless efficiency and wild chaos. And, yknow, Tom Hiddleston. It was a movie that had everything; it was a movie that gave you what you wanted, and then gave you more and more and more. It was fun and fundamentally  it was generous. Why be stingy with joy and pleasure? Why not pile more and more of it on top of itself until it’s 3 hours of laughter and fun and things exploding, unwieldy and threatening to collapse, at which point we’d just laugh and watch it again.

2. Skyfall

Admittedly, I am biased, because I have always loved James Bond. But Skyfall was such good Bond. Again, it was not stingy with it’s pleasures – we got Silva AND Q AND Eve, not to mention James himself, all quips and a solid face of muscle and those haunted eyes. And there was a scene in a glowing glass building, and on an abandoned island, and on boats and in planes and that killer car chase and then the final set piece (all three or four of them), and now here we are, set up for a whole new century of fantastic Bond movies, forever and ever, formulaic and expected and put together like clockwork, like a shiny car or a well-made watch, clicking smoothly into the future.

3. Cabin in the Woods

Hey kids, do you like violence? How about jokes? Surprises? Archetypes upended, meta-commentary on tropes and media references? How about apocalypses, mythology, bureaucracy, and the comic stylings of Bradley Whitford and Richard Jenkins? Also did I mention the jokes, and the sheer uproarious joy of having everything pulled out from under you exactly the way you expected it to? I won’t say any more, but this movie is best watched laughing and yelling with as many people as you can.

4. Magic Mike

A movie about Channing Tatum’s stripper days, directed by Steven Soderbergh. There was no way this could live up to its possibilities, and then it did. Funny and sad, gorgeous and also heartbreaking, with a real story as well as it’s incredible moments. Also if we were doing a “Best Two Minutes on Movie Screens of 2012,” the above wins IN A LANDSLIDE.

5. Zero Dark Thirty

I feel sort of similarly about this movie as I did about Hurt Locker – I watched it admiringly, noting how well made it was, how careful every detail was, every shot, every action, every actor, every moment. And yet. I haven’t thought about it since I saw it a few weeks ago. But it’s still a very good movie! If fairly fascistic, but that’s neither here nor there. Number 5. Let’s move on.

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End of the year

Hey! 2012 is over! It was pretty good, right? There were a lot of movies, music, television, books, articles, exciting things to see and watch and listen to. And now that the year is over, I am reading the lists of all those things and actually reading listening and watching them! So I can spend the year 2013 catching up on all the fantastic things that came out in 2012, as I am always, always behind. Which means it almost seems silly to do this now, when I will spend the entire month of January, and beyond, catching up on the good things 2012 had to offer, so really ask me in 6 months what the best things of 2012 were? Nonetheless, it’s six days into the new year, so, here we go:

Best Movies of 2012

Best Albums of 2012

Best Songs of 2012 

Best Articles of 2012 (available on my other blog, the one about good magazine articles!)

Best Books of 2012 – Um, I’m working on reading more, really I am. Right now I can tell you that Fault in Our Stars, which actually came out in 2012, is the best sad book I have ever read and also saddest best book. Also, if you like graphic novels, Unwritten and Saga are currently killing it.

Best Television of 2012 – Just watch Sherlock already.

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