There is little I love more than making lists. The only thing better than making lists is crossing things off lists, but it just may be my slightly type A tendencies that produce that endorphin high. I am sure you are all listed out and sick of reading “best of”s since it’s already three weeks into 2013 but because this is our blog – I could care less. I didn’t have a blog to spaz out and spew all of my opinions on in 2012 and I didn’t want to be that dick on facebook who couldn’t stop talking about how amazing Homeland is (but I was anyway). Before I give you my tops for the year in music, tv, books, and more (not movies because movies in Japan are expensive as hell and I haven’t seen enough to really talk about) I forgot to mention the other best part of reading best of lists — judging the taste of other people and trying to decide if you still really can respect them the next time you run into them. I hope at least a few of these choices garner your hard won cultural respect. If not – judge away – I know you want to.
Favorite TV Shows of the Year (I love TV but am only writing about my top 3 because I am wordy and I don’t want this to all be about TV).
1) Homeland – Good god – no other show has kept me on the edge of my seat and swearing at my computer screen more than this one. Claire Danes, Damian Lewis and Mandy Patinkin are all at the top of their game and I feel that no one else in television can currently match Danes and Lewis and their intense chemistry. I never know if they are going to get into a fist fight or start doing it against the wall. I had put off watching this for a bit last year because when I heard it’s concept ( a secretly bi-polar CIA analyst is convinced that a recently returned POW is a sleeper terrorist out to unleash the next awful attack on the US) I thought “meh, I can take it or leave it”. But seriously — it’s fucking brilliant. I am not going to say that every TV show is cookie cutter and easy to figure out but I will say that I feel this is the only drama on tv that employs writers I know for a fact are 100% smarter than me. They keep me continually surprised and when I think I have it all figured out, it turns me in a new direction. Damn it, that is some good television. I know many people had their panties in a knot and saying that the second season wasn’t as strong as the first and on the whole I can agree – until I watch the interrogation episode from season 2 or the last exchange between Jessica and Brody in their car, or every time I see the famous Claire Danes cry face. Much fun and hoopla has been made about Claire Danes’ amazing/terrifying cry face, but no actress does it better. Her jaw juts out, her lip quivers, her eyes water, and then her whole chin just falls apart in the most believable way. As Brem said to me earlier this week “How can someone be so beautiful but also so ugly at the same time?” I don’t know Brem – but just as I suspected when I watched her as Angela Chase — Claire Danes is the bomb.com. I am not even embarrassed that I wrote that because that is how great I think she is.
2) Girls – Ugh, I sort of hate myself for loving this show so much because mostly I feel like I could have and should have written it, but what can you do? While I find it annoying in many ways that I described in my last blog I also find myself relating to and cringing at the characters on this show. I want to simultaneously slap these girls in the face and give them a hug and tell them it will all work out. The humor is cringe-worthy in the best way and the characters are selfish, self-absorbed, mean and awful at times but have flashes of painful self awareness, humanity, kindness and a type of endearing weirdness that makes them remind you of yourself or someone you know. The best character in my opinion is the delightful Shoshanna. I think I may like her best because she is the most “character” like and less grounded in reality. Zosia Mamet gives a lot of life to her line readings and gestures and I remember nearly peeing my pants watching the episode last year where she accidentally takes crack. So terrific. Also, Hannah’s boyfriend Adam was the best casting ever — there is something about that guy that makes you both find him appealing and want to punch him in the nuts at the same time. Well played Lena Dunham. The moments that shine outside of the accurate portrayal of early 20s self loathing, deliciously awkward sex, etc are the ones where you watch and think to yourself “I’ve done that”. I remember watching Marnie and Hannah having a private dance party in their apartment to Robyn’s “Dancing On My Own” and remember doing the exact same things with my roommate Jarod a few years back (except we were dancing to Wicked and Regina Spektor — don’t hate).
3) Parks and Recreation – Amy Poehler/Leslie Knope for President! This show has gotten better with age and the back half of it’s third season and the beginning of it’s fourth season have been terrific. I think I love this show so much because it can pair any of it’s actors together in a story line and turn it into comedic gold. Amy Poehler is hilarious, warm, and delightfully goofy as Leslie Knope and Nick Offerman’s Ron “Fucking” Swanson is the best display of wood working, breakfast loving, ‘stache sporting manliness on any tv screen EVER. Those are just two of the MVPs on this show – but a testament to how good Parks and Rec is is that when I ask a fellow fan to pick their favorite character I rarely hear the same person but rather a protest that it would be impossible to make a decision. Tom Haverford, April, Andy, Ben, Jerry, Ann, Chris, and the rest are all amazing. Treat yo’ self and watch this show – I promise you won’t regret it.
Honorable Mention – Mad Men, Game of Thrones, Community, Downton Abbey, Happy Endings, Parenthood, 30 Rock, the first 5 episodes of Dexter this past season but nothing beyond that because shit fell apart.
My Favorite Music (In sweet, playlist form)
Instead of making a list of my favorite albums (I bet you are burned out on reading those) – I have decided to keep this section to a playlist of 19(ish) new songs that I played a ton this year on my ipod, in my car, or at my desk as I graded papers. The song is listed first and is followed by the artist and in some cases a brief description. Unlike the tv shows, these are in no particular order.
1) Thinkin’ Bout You/Bad Religion/Forrest Gump – Frank Ocean – Okay so these are three songs but they are three of my favorite off of Ocean’s album Channel Orange. I didn’t get a music boner for the whole album like every other critic out there but these three songs (and few others) are stellar. Ocean’s confessional lyrics are wonderful and his falsetto just makes my heart ache.
2) Werewolf – Fiona Apple – Probably the song I played the most in my car this year and sang along with. This is true not only because I fancy my voice to be in the Fiona belting range (lots of loud and low growl/singing) but also because it’s beautiful and heartbreaking and amazing. The lines “We can still support each other/All we gotta do is avoid each other/Nothing wrong when/ A song ends in a minor key.” Ugh, gut punch.
3) Oblivion – Grimes – I made me feel like I was on crack and my pulse was racing in a not scary but kind of scary way. (see – Shoshanna on crack)
4) I Love It – Icona Pop – If I had a 100 yen for every time I blasted this and shouted the words “I DON’T CARE. I LOVE IT!” into the ear of a passenger in my car this spring/summer – I’d be a rich woman. Total and pure summer abandon.
5) Swimming Pools (Drank) – Kendrick Lamarr – Just yes. Good luck not adding the word “Drank” to anything after you listen to this. As in “Get Up. Drank. Teach Class. Drank. Eat kyushoku (school lunch). Drank”
6) Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings/I’m Writing a Novel – Father John Misty – Two songs off of one of my favorite road trip albums of the year.
7) Give Out – Sharon Van Etten – I have loved Sharon since her beautiful first album and this song hits her sweet spot for haunting lyrics that make me nod my head in agreement. The lines “You’re the reason why I’ll move to the city/Or why I’ll need to leave” are so perfect I can hardly stand it.
8) You Ain’t Alone/Heartbreaker – Alabama Shakes – The lead singer’s voice is like a giant stick of butter. This music makes me feel like I am at an old bar in the middle of the summer drinking a whiskey and playing music on a quarter fed jukebox before last call. Sorry for the oddly specific description of these songs.
9) No Way Down – The Shins.
10) Adorn and Do You… – Miguel – As stated before this album makes me want to get down.
11) Losing You – Solange – I dare you to listen to this song and not want to fucking get your groove on. Solange is the cooler, hipper, more soulful sister of Beyonce and I love her as much and if not more than B.
12) Gun Shy/Sleeping Ute – Grizzly Bear – melancholy perfection
13) We Are Never Ever Gettting Back Together – Taylor Swift Into everyone’s lives must fall a little T. Swift – I’m not even embarrassed that I bought her last album but I know I will catch shit for this.
14) All of Me – Tanlines – Great summer song
15) 1991/Liquorice – Azealia Banks – This girl has the best flow for a lady rapper since Missy Elliot or the heyday of Lil’ Kim – get on board with her badness y’all.
16) Constant Conversations – Passion Pit – I didn’t love the whole album but this song is a sad little stunner and addresses the lead singer’s battles with alcohol and bi-polar diagnosis. Just trust me on this one.
17) Bad Girls – MIA – Most played song while I was on a treadmill and a baller ass video. Aww yeah.
18) If I Didn’t Know Better – Civil Wars cover by the cast of Nashville — This song is a sexy as hell and full of that feeling of wanting to lay the mack on someone who is off limits because you’re either in a relationship or they are. But still…so hottttt.
19) Let’s Go – Matt and Kim
Honorable Mentions – Live and Die – The Avett Brothers, anything with David Guetta (shhh! I like to dance everyone – get over it), Kill for Love – The Chromatics, Met Before – Chairlift, Stay Useless – The Cloud Nothings, Boyfriend – Justin Bieber (I can feel your judgement from here assholes – just stop), Scream – Usher – yes — please and thank you Usher, Let’s Have a Kiki – Scissor Sisters, Lights/Anything Can Happen – Ellie Goulding
Just a few favorites from this past year
1) The Fault in Our Stars by John Green –Terrific little book that sounds horrible when you read the summary but is full of emotion and surprise. Loved it, wept, recommended it to everyone.
2) Where’d You Go, Bernadette – by Maria Semple – Written by a former writer for Arrested Development. Does it need more endorsement than that? Hilarious.
3) Beautiful Ruins – by Jess Walter
4) The Passage/The Twelve – by Justin Cronin – The stuff of nightmares in the best way. I was afraid to sleep but it was hard to put these two down. The Twelve came out this year and is the second of a planned trilogy.
5) A Song of Fire and Ice – Books 2 thru 5 – George RR Martin. Sweet Jesus — I can’t believe how obsessed with these books I have become. It took me a few hundred pages to get into the first book last year but they only build and get better and my world would now feel incomplete without Dany, Jon Snow, Arya, Tyrion and the rest. I won’t go into any details but you should read them.
Okay, I am done now. I have a lot to say about each of the songs, shows, and books listed above and I feel like what I wrote doesn’t even scratch the surface of it. Anyway, if you were curious what my year in pop culture was like you now have a playlist, partial reading list, and a few favorite shows. Leave me comments and tell me what you were watching/listening to/reading/obsessing over. I love a great recommendation (*only if you have good taste).
Obsession of the Moment – My intense best friend and lady crush on Jennifer Lawrence. Just please read or watch any interview with her ever and you will understand why my sister and I are planning on marrying her brothers in order to be besties with her. I know it’s creepy to admit this but I think JLaw probably comes up in every conversation my sister and I have had in the past two years. In the words of the late, great Whitney Houston “It’s not right, but it’s okay”.
http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/jennifer%20lawrence — Just a small sampling of JLaw’s amazingness.
Please check back later this week when I finally post my recap for this week’s episode of Girls. Are there any other shows you think I should be recapping or throwing in my two cents about? Thanks to those who are reading, commenting, and passing this blog along to others – you guys are awesome!