With Great Warmth or Glow of Feeling

ph: Diego Hómez

Like many people, I awoke on November 9th of 2016 to find that my worldview had shifted in a real and tangible way. Though I’d gone to bed the previous night feeling a vague sense of bemusement, it wasn’t until morning that the gravity of the situation had truly set in: what was essentially a throwaway punchline just a few months prior had actually come to pass. Reality TV show huckster, noted sexual abuser, indisputable bigot and Actual Man-Baby Donald Trump had been elected into office. The result of a long, drawn-out, increasingly surreal election season represented more than the sobering realization that life doesn’t always adjust to my own ideals and principles. This felt like something fundamentally darker. The triumph of a cartoon supervillain, the masses having abandoned all sense of reason in favor of hate mongering and the most toxic brand of celebrity worship. To call it “disheartening” would be an understatement. It all but shattered my belief in the inevitability of progressivism, and came close to convincing a lifelong non-believer that we were entering the proverbial endtimes.

That kind of existential whiplash is at the heart of “End of Days”, the second single by Argentine-American indie pop band Fervors, off of their upcoming EP Ortúzar. Released on the anniversary of the election, the song is a shimmery, upbeat post-punk number dripping with apocalyptic dread and seething anger; however, much like an entire generation galvanized into political activism, there’s an undercurrent of resilient resolve running through it. Over cascading sheets of arpeggiated guitar, vocalist Evy Duskey describes a dark figure reminiscent of a beast from Revelations (“he spoke in seven tongues”), then exclaims “oh my God, is it really happening?”, and finally concludes “let the horsemen ride / I’m alive, I’m alive, I’m alive”, all set to an irresistible beat that alternates seamlessly between time signatures. It’s a song that shakes with the uncertainty and anxiety of our current climate while also reaffirming our agency within structures that can feel insurmountable. It does this while also managing to be a colorful, energetic and richly melodic piece of music. A narcotic wisp of danceable despair.

Fervors was born out of a chance encounter between singer Duskey and guitarist Chris Lim, two American expats who’d relocated to the chaotic bustle of Buenos Aires and somehow found themselves sharing a taxi. Coming to the realization that they shared influences and musical sensitivities, a songwriting partnership was born, rooted in the mutual experience of the ‘other’: strangers in a strange land. Very soon the band picked up more members, started writing songs, started playing shows, underwent some lineup changes, and finally landed on the alchemical combination of individuals that are about to release their debut EP.  Three Argentines and two Americans.

I’ve seen Fervors live more times in the last year than just about any other band. Part of the reason is because of my friendship with them — everybody in the band is a legitimately lovely, kind, generous person, and Evy and I even co-write a weekly column about live music in Buenos Aires. But I don’t go to their shows out of a sense of social obligation. The fact is that attending a Fervors gig is witnessing a group of musicians take the energy in the room — even when it’s a bit awkward and stilted, like when they are sandwiched between two ska bands and playing to an audience that is not their own — and skillfully transforming that energy into something grand, cinematic, and profoundly emotional. It goes beyond the tropes of the “dream-pop” subgenre; the distance between playing a song that is merely pretty and ethereal because it has nice chords and employs a lot of reverb, and crafting a moment that manages to land like a genuine gut-punch, leaving the audience reeling in its wake. In the times that I’ve seen them, Fervors have proven their mastery at operating within that heightened emotional space, delivering songs that are filled with nuance and striking detail. Their first single, “No Other”, is a prime example of that; a harrowingly vulnerable love song that is as devastating as it is hummable, with Evy’s voice — at once vivid and ghostly, grounded and otherworldly– serving as the emotional anchor among a sea of guitars and keyboard flourishes. It is a song that, for a debut single, feels unusually grand and ambitious and fully-realized.

While “No Other” is a love song, “End of Days” defies easy categorization. It’s not exactly what one would call a political song, at least not in the traditional sense. After the election, I noticed many people talk about how living in a political dystopia would put some fire back into our culture; the logic being that the piss-and-vinegar that had been dormant in the Obama years would return to the arts. This idea as presented will typically frame “good political music” as an inevitable consequence of “bad political times”. What’s most infuriating about it is the suggestion that this is a good or worthwhile trade-off: sure, the rights of the marginalized continue being trampled on, families will be ripped apart and lives would literally be destroyed, but at least Eddie Vedder might write a good song again. This is a very old-guard approach to music in highly charged political climates, vestiges of a Vietnam-era approach to protest song.

While this kind of thinking is spurious at best, “End of Days” might actually be an example of what political pop music might look like in the Trump era: more personal one, more concerned with figuring out its own emotions than righting some great wrong. Purists might scoff at that, but in the face of the encroaching darkness and the horrific absurdity of it all, turning inward and questioning our place in all of it seems as valid a reaction as any. It might even be empowering; instead of getting caught up in the surging waves of nihilism, we can doff the chains of our collective ennui and malaise and be here now. We’re still here, and this is all still happening. We’re still breathing at the end of days.

Follow Fervors on Facebook and Spotify

2017 Golden Jorge Awards

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the second-annual GOLDEN JORGE AWARDS, an ignorant and desultory look back at the year’s highs and lows in the world of entertainment and… other stuff. Much like last year, there is much to discuss.

2017 was weird. Somehow the world managed to go even more batshit crazy, men have experienced a year-long reckoning regarding the true extent of our grossness, and we now live under a renewed fear of nuclear disaster. Oh, and we’ve had a lot of good music and movies.

TOP 20 FILMS OF THE YEAR:
01. It
02. Sicilian Ghost Story
03. The Shape of Water
04. Brawl in Cell Block 99
05. Logan
06. Thelma
07. The Disaster Artist
08. Get Out
09. The Villainess
10. Let the Corpses Tan
11. Les gardiennes
12. Lady Bird
13. The Florida Project
14. Lowlife
15. Ingrid Goes West
16. Gerald’s Game
17. Star Wars: The Last Jedi
18. How to Talk to Girls at Parties
19. Wind River
20. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, MO

MOST DISTURBING FACT ABOUT MY TOP 20 FILMS LIST THAT WE COULD PROBABLY UNPACK BUT LET’S NOT:
That my top 2 films of the year are centered around horrible things happening to young children

BEST FILM THAT WAS TECHNICALLY RELEASED IN 2016 BUT CAME OUT IN MOST TERRITORIES IN 2017 AND MANAGED TO BE A SUPER INTERESTING EXPLORATION OF THE THEMES OF ABUSE & MENTAL ILLNESS WHILE ALSO DELIVERING VISCERAL PULPY THRILLS AND I’D PROBABLY PUT AROUND #11 OR #12 OF MY LIST IF IT HAD TECHNICALLY COME OUT IN 2017:
Split

TOP 2 EMPTIEST, MOST THEMATICALLY BARREN FILMS OF 2017 THAT SAID NOTHING AND MEANT NOTHING YET EVERYONE LOVED FOR SOME REASON:
Dunkirk
Thor: Ragnarok

MOST DEPRESSING VISUAL EFFECT OF 2017, BOTH IN ITS ACTUAL EXECUTION AND, IN A LARGER SENSE, WHAT IT REPRESENTS IN TERMS OF PROFIT-DRIVEN STUDIO MEDDLING PRIORITIZING TONAL HOMOGENEITY OVER ARTISTIC EXPRESSION:
Henry Cavill’s weird upper lip in Justice League

TOP 20 ALBUMS OF 2017:
01. Fabian Almazan – Alcanza
02. Kendrick Lamar – DAMN.
03. Natalia Lafourcade – Musas
04. Linda May Han Oh – Walk Against Wind
05. Perfume Genius – No Shape
06. Kamasi Washington – Harmony of Difference
07. Charly Bliss- Guppy
08. Quantum Trio – Duality
09. Japanese Breakfast – Soft Sounds from Another Planet
10. Björk – Utopia
11. St. Vincent – MASSEDUCTION
12. Julien Baker – Turn Out the Lights
13. Beck – Colors
14. George Colligan – More Powerful
15. Amor Elefante – Oriente
16. Protomartyr – Relatives in Descent
17. Waxahatchee – Out in the Storm
18. Emily And – Sunshine, Doubt, and the Water Spout
19. Logic – Everybody
20. Bill Frisell and Thomas Morgan – Small Town

BEST POP SINGLE OF THE YEAR:
Selena Gomez – “Bad Liar”

MOST DISAPPOINTING HEEL TURN OF THE YEAR:
Taylor Swift

MOST ANNOYING MUSICIAN WHOSE MUSIC I SERIOUSLY LOVE BUT I WISH WOULD JUST SHUT UP ALREADY… OF THE YEAR:
Morrissey

MOST ANNOYING MUSICIAN WHOSE MUSIC IS BAD AND I ALSO WISH WOULD JUST SHUT UP ALREADY… OF THE YEAR:
Father John Misty

FIRST ANNUAL “DEAR GOD THEY’RE STILL AROUND? WHY ARE THEY STILL AROUND?” AWARD FOR IRRELEVANT ROCKERS MAKING BORING ROCK MUSIC OF 2017:
Foo Fighters

TOP FIVE FAVORITE SEASONS OF TELEVISION OF THE YEAR:
1. Better Call Saul season 3
2. Lady Dynamite season 2
3. Bojack Horseman season 4
4. I dunno, Twin Peaks probably? I didn’t watch it
5. I didn’t watch a lot of television this year

MOST THOROUGHLY DEBUNKED BELIEF OF THE YEAR:
That when faced with mounting evidence of a real cultural problem regarding socialized and normalized abusive behaviors and a climate of harassment and inherently problematic power dynamics, men are able to turn inwards and examine our own histories and attitudes with honesty and humility instead of lashing out defensively like petulant pissbabies

MOST DISHEARTENING FACT OF 2017:
The most powerful man in the world is still a literal supervillain

FAVORITE LIGHTWEIGHT CULTURAL DEBATE OF THE YEAR:
Elsagate. Look it up, it’s real weird.

LEAST FAVORITE LIGHTWEIGHT CULTURAL DEBATE OF THE YEAR:
Fidget spinners. Are they good? Are they bad? What ARE they? What do they DO? Who gives a shit?!

FAVORITE WEIRD MEME OF THE YEAR:
Steamed Hams

BEST MONTH OF THE YEAR:
December for suuuuuure

FAVORITE SONGS OF THE YEAR:
Oh God there were so many! Here’s a playlist!

Congratulations to all the winners.
To everyone else, there’s always next year.

As for me: on a personal + professional level, 2017 was pretty incredible, especially when compared to the year-long garbage fire of 2016. I made a lot of friends, traveled a good amount, and embarked on a number of stupid, stupid adventures. 2018 is going to be a year of increased output, taking more chances, taking better care of this stupid aging body of mine, and worrying less. Let’s do this.

 

The New Rancid Song is Really Not Very Good at All (And Actually Made Me Kind of Sad)

The New Rancid Song is Really Not Very Good at All (And Actually Made Me Kind of Sad)

A few thoughts on the new Rancid music video (embedded at the bottom of this post):

– It is 2017, I am 30 years old, and I am writing about a new Rancid music video. I’m not sure if teenage-Jorge would be delighted or terrified by this.

– (also, if Teen-Jorge were to catch a glimpse of 2017-Jorge and 2017-Tim Armstrong, he’d rightfully conclude “the future is made of bad beards”)

– Every Rancid music video was already some variation of “punk dudes standing around playing instruments and looking punk”, but it also usually featured a bit of something to spice up the performance shots: artificial black-and-white film wear & tear, shots of band members walking through gritty neighborhood streets, Lars Frederiksen leaning menacingly on some wall, cameos by Kelly Osbourne and members of Good Charlotte. This one though? This one is straight-up just four dudes standing around playing instruments that aren’t plugged in, shot on a $500 DSLR.

– The fact that they finally gave in and added subtitles for Tim’s unintelligible vocals gave me a hearty lol.

– I haven’t listened to a new Rancid album in many years, so bear with me if this is old news, but this is really… bad. Really, really bad. The number one thing that ever made these guys worth listening to– their gift for huge, cathartic, absurdly catchy and melodic Joe Strummer/stadium-chant “gang-vocal” choruses, which they churned out consistently from 1993 up to 2003-ish — is just completely gone. Nothing. This is a nothing song. It sounds like someone put an old Dropkick Murphys track through an industrial flattener.

– There’s a great moment in Pearl Jam’s Single Video Theory where guitarist Mike McCready expresses some anxiety about one day running dry of that “creative spark”. Given the trajectory of Pearl Jam’s recent career, I’m inclined to believe he was on to something. Maybe that musical alchemy really is a finite thing, and when you play with the same dudes for 20 years you eventually run out of ways to make it new and interesting and good. When I think of my favorite long-running acts that are still making music I consider vital and exciting, I tend to think of solo acts. Maybe bands just shouldn’t play together for that long. After a while you’re not just beating a dead horse, you’re dragging its fetid, bloated carcass uphill, and making everyone around you smell it.

30.

I turned 30 last month.

I remember when I turned 15, someone told me “you’re at the exact midpoint of your youth”. That stuck with me, somehow, and I’ve thought about it a few times in the last few years as I approached this birthday. I also thought about the Blur song “End of the Century”, and the whole “never trust someone over 30” punk ethos thing. They both seem kind of silly now. Perspective or cognitive reframing as self-preservation? I’m not sure. Probably a bit from column A and a whole buttload from column B.

Though as I get older, these birthdays seem increasingly like arbitrary yardsticks, I do feel like there’s a certain solemnity in crossing over from one decade to the next. All the usual questions are dredged up– are you where you want to be? (not exactly, but, things are good!), are you ready to settle down? (settle down from WHAT), do you want to start a family? (uhmm). But truthfully, more than any anxiety about aging, what I am somewhat shocked by is just how fast everything seems to be going by. Having lived the last ten years, I can say with some certainty that ten years isn’t actually that long, and applying that line of thinking to whatever time I have left starts to feel a bit disquieting. But it’s fine. Things are fine. I’m feeling good about what’s to come. Things are happening.

The main thing that I’m thankful for after all these years is the sheer quality of people I’ve somehow managed to accumulate as friends, and lucked into having as family. They were the ones who made the ensuing celebrations special, and the ones who carried me through 2016, probably the single hardest year of my life (I’ll detail the reasons at some point). I consider it a point of pride. These are some good folks.

I keep saying this, but I’ve got dozens of half-finished blog posts lining my Drafts folder, and I want to get back to writing more frequently on this site. I intend to do that. In the meantime, if you want to read my terrible dumb words on a weekly basis, I’m still rambling about songs over at Trunkworthy, and I’ve also started collaborating with my friend Evy over at The Bubble, an Argentine news and culture site; together we run The Setlist, a weekly round-up of the best live music in Buenos Aires. We’ve also been given the go-ahead to expand the column in fun and exciting ways, featuring video content and writing profiles on bands and independent labels and such. I also write the occasional film or TV piece for various sites, but those are the two go-to venues to catch my writing every week.

Finally, considering I’ve been kind of obsessive with the whole Spotify playlist thing, I’ve put one together consisting of 30 songs that have had some kind of special significance for me throughout the last 30 years. A kind of audio collage of people, memories and situations. As much as the extent of their personal relevance is not evident to anyone but myself, it’s also a really good list of songs [likely the only time you’ll hear a Björk song segue into an Offspring song and then into Roberta Flack], so I’m sharing it with you all.

Thanks for everything.

A Quick Braindump on the State of Superhero Movies

I remember sitting on the steps outside the Capri movie theater in Barranquilla Colombia at the age of five, bawling my eyes out because the screening of Batman Returns that I was so excited for had completely sold out. My Grandpa sat along with me. When most adults would’ve tried to talk me out of my despondency, growing increasingly exasperated as they explained how it was silly to cry because there was going to be a screening just a few minutes later, my Grandpa understood the extent of the heartbreak. He knew what it meant, and that it was important for me to feel it at that moment. When we finally made it into the theater (thanks to a friendly theater manager who witnessed the sad scene), the feeling was rapturous. The movie itself was almost secondary to the sheer act of being there, of bearing witness to this superhero with whom I felt a profound personal connection. In my five-year-old mind, it was a bit like going to church.

This marked the start of an intersection of interests that would remain with me throughout the rest of my childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. My interest in Batman bloomed into a full-blown fascination for everything related to comic books, and my interest in superhero movies became a lifelong devotion to the art of film. Even all these years after I stopped reading comic books, comic book movies have thus become an integral part of my movie fandom, taking up about as much of my attention as Award-season prestige juggernauts and brainy arthouse festival fare. It feels weird to compare those categories, but I’ve gotten good at meeting movies on their own terms, and recognizing that I don’t seek the same things from each film genre, same as how I don’t seek the same thing from different music genres; they each a different each, although ultimately I seek an emotional response from anything I watch.

I realized that I don’t really write about this aspect of my movie fandom very often. Mostly that’s because I feel like I have very little to say about the topic that hasn’t been covered to death on all manner of Internet “geek” blogs. But I have had a lot of folks ask me about where I stand on the Marvel vs. DC thing, so I’m going to try to lay it all out as plainly as possible.

Through the years I’ve seen various iterations of the comic book movie; from soulless pablum designed solely for cross-marketing opportunities to genuinely affecting stories featuring characters who happen to be wearing tights. With over a dozen movies in its roster since 2008, and having established by far the most successful cinematic “shared universe” since John Hughes, Marvel Studios is the current reigning champ of the comic book movie. And what they do, they do well; they know the characters inside and out, they know what their audience wants, and they know how to meet the nerds halfway in terms of creative concessions and not surrendering completely to comic-book silliness. The serialized shared-universe approach can come in detriment to an overall sense of catharsis and thematic exploration, but Marvel doesn’t seem to be particularly interested in those things; it wants to replicate the feel of a comic book — which are serialized and steeped in continuity by definition — on the big screen. It can be messy, and it can make the whole endeavor feel ultimately senseless (especially when each movie seems so goddamn concerned with setting up the next one– I see you, Age of Ultron), but it seems to be completely in line with their stated goal and the template they are working with. It may not be to everyone’s liking, and some cinema purists may scoff at what they’re attempting to do. These movies do lack depth, they are often very messy structure-wise, and they do often devolve into iconography porn. But what they do, they do well.

My main source of frustration with Marvel movies has to do with the uniformly boring aesthetic choices in their films. Through bad color grading and prosaic cinematography choices, most of everything looks TV-flat, boxy and dull. The fact that they hire so many TV directors has a lot to do with this, as they direct in service of the writing; it’s a “cinematic universe” that’s sorely lacking in any sort of truly cinematic visual. And this works directly against their attempt to create big-screen versions of comic books; comics are a visual medium, often an incredibly exciting and creative visual medium, and shooting these stories with all the panache and visual excitement of a Party of Five dinner scene feels like an enormous missed opportunity.

On the other hand, there’s DC, everybody’s favorite punching bag. I was always much more of a DC fan than a Marvel fan when I was an avid comic book reader. My early connection to Batman led to Superman which led to other members of the Justice League. I even got way hooked on VHS copies of that Flash TV show from the 90s.

Look how fast I’m going.

For many years, they completely dominated the comic-book movie genre. Nolan’s Batman series, for all its unevenness, set the benchmark for what a comic book movie could be– visceral, thrilling and “smart”. But their latest forays haven’t exactly endeared them to the public. And I must admit that they are a punching bag for good reason: they have made some truly horrendous choices in their movies so far. I think DC’s main fault has been their inconsistency and general flakiness in sticking to their convictions; the universe, as initially announced, was to be the flipside to Marvel’s genericness. Auteur films made by visionary filmmakers who would apply their own ideas to the franchises they were to helm. And, love him or hate him, Zack Snyder’s two DC entries were exactly that: 100% his vision. And what a vision it is! Contrasted with Marvel’s aversion to any kind of directorial flair, Snyder’s DC entries are an embarrassment of riches from a filmmaking standpoint. His painterly style really captured the highly operatic, gods-and-legends feel of the characters on the screen. Batman V Superman, in particular, is an absolutely gorgeous movie to look at, with a huge amount of powerful moments that resonate on a visual level. But it is also an impenetrable mess; it features unclear character motivations, a wonky dramatic structure that feels haphazardly slapped together, and some truly baffling writing. More than anything else in the “comic book movie” genre, it feels like an enormous missed opportunity. This film could’ve been great.

As everybody knows by now, audience and critical reactions were not kind; most alarmingly, the film fell short of financial expectations, causing DC/Warners to radically re-think their approach. David Ayer’s Suicide Squad was botched in a big bad way during post-production, by hastily scrambling together some re-shoots that amped up the quips and “fun” tone of the film. Most catastrophically, WB hired a trailer house to help edit the final film– again, an agency that makes movie trailers— resulting in one of the most comically unwatchable films in modern memory. I get the feeling that if Warners would’ve given Ayer enough time to flesh out the story and write a better script, and actually stuck to their guns with the tone and ideas they were going for before the tepid reaction to Batman V Superman soured things, this could’ve been a good movie. It could’ve been so good.

And yet. The worst thing about these movies– both Marvel and DC– isn’t subpar visuals or story problems. The worst thing about these movies is that they barely register on an emotional level. None of these movies feel like the gut-punch I want to feel when I see a great film. Some of the shots in Batman V Superman come close to true cinematic beauty, but they ultimately ring hollow. Meanwhile, Fox’s underdog Logan– a movie I had absolutely no interest in watching, about a character I never really cared about, by a studio whose comic book offerings oscillate between complete garbage and sheer mediocrity– is one of the most profoundly affecting pieces of cinema I’ve seen all year. It eschews the “superhero movie” tropes to instead tell a small story about refugees, legacy, and the indignities of old age. It’s not without its problems (again, there’s a serious lack of visual panache) but it is a gorgeous story that resonates profoundly. Particularly near the end. It was the first superhero film in a long, long time that reminded me of the profound power of the medium.

Can DC or Marvel come close to that? I don’t know. I doubt very much that Marvel wants to change anything, considering how wildly successful their formula has proven to be. Snyder’s Justice League might be what breaks their losing streak– the film is already looking like it’ll surpass its predecessor financially, at least– but will a filmmaker like Snyder be able to find a compromise between operatic visuals and effective, engaging storytelling? This has been a constant problem with him. The rest of the DC slate is starting to feel very Marvel-y; the reshuffling of their slate has resulted in the hiring of Matt Reeves– the most boring blockbuster director working today– for the solo Batman movie, and Joss Whedon for a Batgirl film. But this is all starting to feel a bit stale. A bit formulaic. A bit like a weightless nothing. Empty calories.

I love these characters. I want these films to be good. I want the filmmakers to care about making good movies. And I want them to show me something real. Admist the talking raccoons and flying Gods and superpowered aliens, I want to find a little nugget of beauty that reminds me that our own nonsense, fragile, non-superpowered existence means something. I want to feel like that little kid felt when he was finally let into the movie theater after crying outside with his grandpa.  Is that too much to ask of a superhero movie? I don’t think it’s too much to ask of a piece of art to move me, to show me something real, regardless of the very obvious artifice it operates with. I think it says something about the kind of mediocrity we’ve been acclimatized to that this is some kind of controversial stance. Logan, in its own imperfect way, is a reminder that it can be done. I hope the right people learn the right lessons from it.

2016 Golden Jorge Awards

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the annual Jorge Farah Awards (colloquially referred to as the Golden Jorges). An ill-informed and insulated look back at the year’s highs and lows. Here are this year’s winners!

TOP TEN FAVORITE MOVIES OF THE YEAR:
1. Arrival
2. Nocturnal Animals
3. Hidden Figures
4. Hail, Caesar!
5. The Conjuring 2
6. Karaoke Crazies
7. The Neon Demon
8. The People Garden
9. The Witch
10. The Nice Guys

MOST VISCERAL AND GUTWRENCHING MOVIEWATCHING EXPERIENCE OF THE YEAR (OF A MOVIE THAT CAME OUT JUST BEFORE 2016):
The Demons

MOST FRUSTRATING SUPERHERO MOVIE THAT LOOKED AMAZING AND I WANTED VERY BADLY TO LOVE BUT WAS BOTCHED IN A SPECTACULAR FASHION OF THE YEAR:
Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice

MOST SURPRISINGLY DELIGHTFUL LIVE-ACTION ADAPTATION OF A BELOVED ANIMATION CLASSIC OF THE YEAR:
The Jungle Book

TOP TEN FAVORITE ALBUMS OF THE YEAR:
1. Nels Cline – Lovers
2. Mitski – Puberty 2
3. Vijay Iyer and Leo Wadada Smith – A Cosmic Rhythm with Each Stroke
4. Rihanna – ANTI
5. Violenta Josefina – El Ejercito del Aire
6. Bon Iver – 22, A Million
7. Julianna Barwick – Will
8. Lisa Hannigan – At Swim
9. Tegan and Sara – Love You to Death
10. Camp Cope – Camp Cope

BEST LIVE ALBUM OF THE YEAR:
Kate Bush – Before the Dawn

MOST INITIALLY IMPRESSIVE BUT EVENTUALLY UNDERWHELMING ALBUM OF THE YEAR:
Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool
(RUNNER-UP: Kanye West – The Life of Pablo)

FAVORITE ALBUM TO BE RELEASED ON NEW YEAR’S EVE IN A CONSCIOUS EFFORT TO FUCK UP MY OFFICIAL TOP TEN LIST BUT IS TOO GOOD NOT TO MENTION OF THE YEAR:
Sean Eldon – You Didn’t

MOST OBSESSIVELY LISTENED-TO POP ALBUM FROM BEFORE 2016 THAT SERVED AS A SORT-OF HEALING BALM FOR THIS STUPID GARBAGE YEAR:
Carly Rae Jepsen – Emotion

TOP FIVE FAVORITE SEASONS OF TELEVISION OF THE YEAR:
1. Better Call Saul season 2
2. Veep season 5
3. Lady Dynamite season 1
4. Mr. Robot season 2
5. Bojack Horseman season 3

FAVORITE SEASON OF TELEVISION THAT PURPORTED TO BE A VERY DEEP AND INSIGHTFUL SOCIAL CRITIQUE BUT AMOUNTED TO LITTLE MORE THAN THOSE “YOUNG PEOPLE WITH FACES BURIED IN THER PHONES” MEMES YOUR OBLIVIOUS AUNT SHARES ON FACEBOOK, AND YET STILL MANAGED TO DELIVER ONE EPISODE OF TRANSCENDENTAL BEAUTY (SAN JUNIPERO):
Black Mirror, season 3.

MOST FEVERISHLY REWATCHED SHOW FROM BEFORE 2016 TO REMIND ME OF WHAT IT FEELS LIKE TO BE ALIVE:
The Sopranos

MOST THOROUGHLY DEBUNKED BELIEF OF THE YEAR:
That humans are generally good and kind and capable of empathy

FAVORITE MONTH OF THE YEAR:
April.
(RUNNER-UP: December, which was pretty alright)

FAVORITE LIGHTWEIGHT CULTURAL DEBATE OF THE YEAR:
Does Ken Bone’s Vaguely Creepy Reddit Comment History Make Him a Fundamentally Bad Dude?

LEAST FAVORITE LIGHTWEIGHT CULTURAL DEBATE OF THE YEAR:
Does Bob Dylan Deserve the Nobel Prize for Literature? (he does, but it’s weird)

FAVORITE FAILED BLOG RELAUNCH OF THE YEAR:
This one!

FAVORITE ELVIS COSTELLO BLOG OF THE YEAR:
The one I write with Kevin Davis. Every week on Trunkworthy!

MOST DEVASTATING CELEBRITY DEATH OF THE YEAR:
Alan Rickman. (Prince and Bowie and the rest were sad, but Rickman wrecked me)

SADDEST CELEBRITY DEATH THAT IS INFURIATINGLY ABSENT FROM MOST YEAR-END ROUNDUPS:
Merle Haggard

FAVORITE CELEBRITY OF THE YEAR:
Amy Adams, fifth year running

LEAST-FAVORITE INTERNET REACTION TO SOMETHING:
The hoopla surrounding the Ghostbusters reboot

MOST ANNOYING INTERNET PRESENCE OF THE YEAR:
Scott Adams
(RUNNER-UP: Milo Yiannopoulos)

MOST STUNNING DISPLAY OF MY OWN INCOMPETENCE OF THE YEAR:
The time I tried to make eggs benedict

FAVORITE VIRAL CHALLENGE OF THE YEAR:
The “Keep Your Chin Up and Try to Maintain a Sunny Disposition Even Though the World is Literally Crumbling Into a Hellish Funeral Pyre All Around You” Challenge
(RUNNER-UP: The Mannequin Challenge)

BONUS! A Spotify playlist of my 40 favorite songs of 2016 (that can be found on Spotify, anyway):

Congratulations to all the winners! 2016, you were a year-long garbage fire. I’m happy to see you go. 2017, you don’t have much to live up to. Do your worst.

Clearing the Docket

There’s this book called The Life Changing Method of Tidying Up, written by Japanese professional organizer Marie Kondo. You might have seen lines from it repurposed as cutesy Instagram or Pinterest memes, or, if you’re like me, you might have heard it mentioned on a podcast. It is all about the freedom brought about by decluttering your life, which begins in a practical sense with objects (clothes, books, knicknacks) but can also apply more broadly to any aspect of your life.

What it all boils down to is the idea of joy, and questioning yourself in a truly open and honest way about whether the things you’re holding on to are a net positive in your life. The most famous portion of the book is the one about how, when one is clearing out one’s closet, one is supposed to touch each garment and ask oneself whether this bad holiday sweater or this old Ramones t-shirt a source of joy; if the answer is “no” or even hesitation, it should be thrown out or donated. It’s a bit… cutthroat, but it is also remarkably freeing. It’s good to have a straightforward way of determining what should stay and what should go, and it affords you the opportunity to rebuild and reorganize.

The fact is we don’t often hang on to the objects themselves, but the feelings and memories associated with them. This is more or less the impulse that makes people into the kind of hoarders you watch in trashy reality shows to feel like you’re more in control of your own life. What you’re really doing is piling up skeletons in an increasingly unwieldy closet. Your life becomes a mausoleum.

Earlier this year I applied Marie Kondo’s approach to another hugely important aspect of my life: my digital music library. At the start of the year I experienced a computer crash, which afforded me the opportunity to rebuild my collection and get rid of a lot of stuff that’s doing nothing but gather cobwebs in some dusty forgotten folder on an external hard drive. I went through the whole list, artist-by-artist, album-by-album, asking myself whether each item brought me joy, putting the ones that do into iTunes. After a few hours I found I’d easily deleted a couple thousand songs. It wasn’t even a painstaking process; I found that if you’re really honest with yourself, it’s simple. Even enjoyable.

By the end of the process, I had gotten rid of:

  •  About a dozen EPs of terrible indie bands who contacted me on Twitter asking for reviews.
  • Approximately 40 live Pearl Jam albums, containing nearly identical versions of the same songs.
  • Along those lines: one and a half Eddie Vedder solo albums.
  • Half of Grouper’s The Man Who Died in His Boat. The bad half.
  • The six or seven Red Hot Chilli Peppers songs I was still holding on to for some goddamn reason.
  • Everything from the year 2005 that contains a glockenspiel.
  • Most everything that I downloaded because it was on the Metacritic top albums list of 2008.
  • Roughly half of The Roots’s discography.
  • Entire albums by Pennywise and Millencollin that I was only keeping out of nostalgia but are actually REALLY BAD.
  • That online-only Smashing Pumpkins album. In fact, a whole bunch of random Smashing Pumpkins stuff.
  • Most of the avant-garde stuff that purports to be real cool and cerebral but actually sounds like a person mumbling semi-rhythmically while someone takes a hacksaw to a washing machine.
  • So like, those early Animal Collective albums.
  • EVERYTHING BY THROBBING GRISTLE.
  • The Neil Young Greatest Hits album I’ve been trying to make myself like for about 5 years now. It’s just not going to happen.
  • Most of the Odd Future stuff that seemed really great in 2012. (not Frank Ocean though. I like Frank Ocean a lot.)
  • A bunch of Pavement outtakes that just sound like a bunch of stoned 20 year olds fucking around in a studio.
  • Five spoken-word albums by Jello Biafra.
  • A lot of disposable Japanese hardcore except for G.I.S.M’s “Endless Blockades for the Pussyfooter”.
  • Everything produced by Danger Mouse.
  • Everything labeled “Extended Mix”.
  • Everything by U2 that isn’t Achtung Baby or “In a Little While”.
  • All the Ramones demos that sound almost exactly the same as the final album tracks.
  • Most of my friends’ demos. Does this mean yours too? I will never tell you. (Probably.)
  • Most of my own demos, including several half-baked attempts at covering Outkast’s “Hey Ya”.

Feels pretty good.

As for my physical music collection, it’s sitting pretty in my shelf. I’ve got a lot of old albums sitting around that I’m happy to use as a form of decoration. Maybe I should try the Marie Kondo thing on those, but seeing as how I don’t interact with my physical music library nearly as much as I do my digital library, it seems like a non-issue.

Shit. Am I making excuses for my hoarding? It might be time for a purge.