Archive for December, 2015

December 31, 2015


“There’s a party in my head, and no one is invited.”

For the last few years I’ve taken to making lists. I blame age along with technology’s incessant need for attention. Beginning Jan. 1, every time I hear a new record that I like, I add it to my master list. Same goes for all forms of entertainment and other things that give me pause. (Pause is vastly underrated.) This year, a number of the names on my list were female, especially in television and especially in twos. Things I would “Pin” this year, if I actually used Pinterest, included the Serial podcast, Monique Marvez (Friday nights on KFI radio), The Cobain documentaries (Montage of Heck and Soaked in Bleach), Kim Gordon’s memoir, Grace Randolph’s Beyond the Trailer on YouTube, The Militant Baker (and the entire body acceptance movement), the Coachella livestream, wood as an art medium, Wild Ophelia peanut butter cups and binaural beats.  My personal achievements this year were numerous, but my proudest Internet moments were the flame wars I started on the Edward Sharpe Facebook page (in defense of Jade Castrinos) and Sarah Silverman’s page (in defense of faith.) It seems like every year there’s one artist that dominates my life. When I fall, I fall hard. Last year it was Against Me! (Way late to the party.) The year prior, it was Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. This year it was Tame Impala.  Jim James don’t be jealous, you have my heart. Here’s what I liked in 2015, as seen partially in VCReporter. Happy New Year!


Woman in GoldWelcome to Me + The End of the Tour +Joy


Courtney BarnettSometimes I Sit and Think, Sometimes I Just Sit

There was a minute when Lorde was being hailed as the voice of her generation but I’d like to nominate Courtney Barnett for that distinction, though she’d probably giggle and craft a clever comeback on the fly. The charmingly disheveled millennial from down under (everything good seems to be coming from Australia these days) has a particular way with words. On this, her second record, she gives us a glimpse into the deep mysteries of her personal life: She’s saving money by using a cappuccino machine and prefers swimming to jogging — which sound exceptionally cool when vocalized over poppy garage melodies. Her ability to transmogrify her daily observations into profoundly catchy songs makes her one of the most brilliant and incisive musical artists to emerge this decade. And just when you think you’ve sized up all her quirk she shows you she’s just as comfortable in the deep end where the darker aspects of humanity, ecological destruction and the foils of love are handled with sublime aplomb.

Tame ImpalaCurrents
As long as he and his band keep processing those blissed-out beats, Kevin Parker’s awkward, barefoot, infinity-scarf hipsterism is forgiven.  Though Currents is not my favorite of Tame Impala’s rapidly growing catalog, it was the fresh blood I needed to satiate my lust for the band’s electro-psych expositions. Not only was Currents the launching pad for the best remix of the year, HAIM’s sultry take on “Cause I’m a Man,” but it may have produced the most NSFW video ever seen outside the rap genre with its soft teen porn for “The Less I Know the Better.” (Niki Minaj, step back.) I’d like to see Parker et al. return to the heavier, less techno leanings of their earlier work, but I’ll take whatever I can get — Tame Impala just never gets old.

My Morning JacketThe Waterfall
fans waited four long years for this baby to drop, and what a beauty she turned out to be. Crafted during frontman Jim James’ recovery from back surgery and a breakup, it’s a soaring, philosophical response to adversity with a big, fat, layered sound that’s just what the doctor ordered — for James and fans. Genre-defying almost to a fault, MMJ has mined every inch of modern music’s geography yet managed to escape the dreaded “derivative” label — that’s authenticity. With “Get the Point,” a breakup number to rival Ryan Adams’ Love is Hell period and “Compound Fracture,” one of the group’s best songs to date and my personal favorite of 2015, The Waterfall fits comfortably among MMJ’s best work.

Plus: Sleater Kinney, No Cities to Love; Alabama Shakes, Sound & Color; Father John Misty, I Love You, Honeybear;  Joanna Newsom, Divers;  Jill Scott, Woman; Erykah Badu, But You Caint Use My Phone;  Parquet Courts, Monastic Living; Watkins Family Hour, Watkins Family Hour; Circles Around the Sun, Interludes for the Dead; Crooked Eye Tommy, Butterflies & Snakes; The Pullmen, Going Dark; Seth Pettersen, Sweet Reaper.

DISAPPOINTMENT Eagles of Death Metal, Zipper Down. Obviously an unpopular opinion at this juncture, but as an EODM fan from way back, I can with a clean conscience say this band has run its course. And that’s totally OK.

TELEVISION or whatever they call it these days

Broad City (Comedy Central) The YouTube series that caught Amy Poehler’s attention was a breakout hit when it debuted this year on Comedy Central. Created by and starring Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson as, essentially, themselves — single Jewish slackers whose lives revolve around sex, weed and Bed, Bath and Beyond coupons — nothing is taboo and anything goes as the hilarious besties navigate everyday life in the Big Apple. Bong and webcam not included.

Downton Abbey (PBS) I was woefully late to this party, but bingeing on five seasons at a rate of one episode per day (thank you, Amazon Prime) in 2015 made me an obsessive fan in no time. With the series’ final season premiering Jan. 3, I sip my tea (pinky up) and raise an eyebrow in solidarity with millions of other Cult of Downton mourners. From the Countess Dowager’s brilliant one-liners and Lady Mary’s purebred snobbery to the everlasting love between Anna and Mr. Bates despite constant tribulation, there is no such thing as too much drama where this British tour de force is concerned.

Mad Men (AMC) Though producers made us suffer through excruciatingly long breaks between seasons, even separating the final season into two parts, Mad Men will always be the gold standard for character-driven, haute television drama. What would become of anti-hero Don Draper was anyone’s guess but the final scene was pure redemptive gold. (Not to mention Peggy Olson’s iconic strut through the hall of McCann Erickson.) Goosebumps.

Unreal (Lifetime) No one saw this coming: a well-written, well-acted drama on the network known for its maudlin biopics and After School Special production values? Behind the scenes of a reality dating program that mimics The Bachelor, two female producers use their wits, charm and cunning to manipulate the cast for ratings and, ultimately, industry clout. The tension exists where their threadbare morals gets tangled up with their lust for power. Shiri Appleby (Roswell, Girls) and Constance Zimmer (Entourage) are perfectly cast as the conniving, two-faced producers who occasionally question their actions, but only long enough to knock back a whiskey and lick their wounds. Unsurprisingly, it was picked up for another season.

Wayward Pines (Fox) You may not have heard, but Twin Peaks and Lost had a baby fathered by M. Night Shyamalan (he directed the pilot and co-executive produced) and it’s pretty damn good. Adapted from a sci-fi book series, Matt Dillon is FBI big-wig Ethan Burke who finds himself thrust into a picturesque but isolated town that’s under constant surveillance. Using all his signature overacting muscles (with a face like that who really cares?) Dillon as Burke makes it his mission to solve the puzzle of Wayward Pines and deliver its denizens from their beautiful prison where detractors are publicly executed and children are secretly indoctrinated into the “First Generation.” A second season is coming next year.

Plus: Better Call Saul (AMC), Maron (IFC), Narcos (Netflix), South Park (Comedy Central), True Detective (HBO), Orange is the New Black (Netflix).



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