Best of 2013…

What a long strange year it has been dear friends.  While this year was tougher to read, watch and hear all the great books, movies and music of the year.  I did come up with a best of list that will surely knock your socks off.  Alas, here it is…

Best Films of 2013

My apologies to the millions of you that look to this blog for your yearly re-cap of what was great in music, film, tv and books.  I only saw a handful of movies this year so the list is a little abbreviated.  While it doesn’t equal the total of years past here are my favorites I did see.  Enjoy.

1)  To The Wonder- (Terence Malick)

Far and away the world’s most beautiful filmmaker.  His latest is another breathtaking display of visual virtuoso that is untouched in the other filmmaker’s of today.  What Terence Malick does with a camera should be taught in every film school forever.  And his story telling is just as amazing.  I thought ‘The Tree of Life’ was one of the most poetic films I’ve seen in my life, this is better.

2)  Before Midnight (Richard Linklater)

Richard Linklater, Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy return with the 3rd and last installment of arguably one of the greatest trilogies of the past 50 years.  The most heartbreaking and disturbing, this is a film that will resonate with every viewer that has watched the 2 of them grow these past 27 years.  This is outstanding filmmaking.

3)  Blue Jasmine- (Woody Allen)

Those of you that know me are familiar with my love for Woody Allen films.  This one takes us to San Francisco following Jasmine who is trying to pick up the pieces to her life after her swindling husband lands himself in jail.  She hooks up with her sister, Ginger and tries to put things together after her life of incredible privilege goes to hell.  As with every Woody Allen film, the actors are first-rate and this one especially showcases the talents of Cate Blanchett.  Already one of the best actresses of her time, this is her best film to date.  And further proof that there is no better writer for women than Woody Allen.

4)  The Bling Ring (Sophia Coppola)

Very few filmmakers could take the true life tale of privileged kids stealing from the wealthy and famous and turn it into a study on our obsessive society.  Loud and abrasive, the film hits on all the right levels and puts Sophia Coppola back as one of our best filmmakers around.

5)  Frances Ha (Noah Baumbach)

We’ve seen and heard the cute “coming of age New Yorker” story before but in the hands of Noah Baumbach (who is hit or miss with me) and shot and told in the Big Apple, this one bests most of them.  Greta Gerwig gets her first leading role and here’s to hoping it results in many more shots.

Best Albums of 2013

What an outstanding year 2013 has been for music dear readers.  Kanye West continues to shock and ignite us.  Lorde and Sky Ferreira show us that woman in rock and roll can do just that.  Haim is one of the better all around new artists that we’ve seen in years and experimental music is taking over the world.  Here it is, what you’ve all been waiting for all year…the best albums of 2013! Enjoy!!!

1)  The National- Trouble Will Find MeNational

The Brooklyn via Cincinnati band releases its finest record to date.  Perfectly balanced, beautifully created and easily the most listened to record of the past year.  With every growing year the band improves on every creative level.  This is the best album of 2013!

2)  Kanye West- Yeezus Kanye West

While it may be tough to ever best ‘My Dark Beautiful Twisted Nightmare’ it doesn’t mean that the latest Kanye record isn’t one for the ages.  Unabashed then the previous record and at times even more nuanced, this record wallops a punch from start to finish.  Not only one of the greatest rap/hip-hop artists of our time but one of the best musicians working in music.  Bar none.

3)  Empire Of The Sun- Ice On The Dune Empire of the Sun

Maybe besides ‘Trouble Will Find Me’, my 2nd most listened to record.  Poppy without the sweetness, dancey without the heavily techno.  A great record from start to finish.

4)  Frightened Rabbit- Pedestrian Versefrightened rabbit

The Australian natives record their finest record to date.

5)  Haim- Days Are GoneHaim

Much has been written about and discussed from the Haim sisters.  The heir to Chrissy Hynde and ‘The Pretenders’.  This is 2013 indie pop music at its finest.  And one of the genres best albums in years.

6)  Disclosure- SettleDisclosure

I was instantly blown away when I heard the British brothers known as Disclosure.  Still only in their 20’s the dance/tecno/house record will do the same to you as well.

7)  Sky Ferreira- Night Time, My TimeSky Ferreira

Sky Ferreira has been in the music biz for some years now and finally releases her debut album.  This is the indie ingenue we’ve been waiting to take the world by storm.

8)  Vampire Weekend- Modern Vampires of the CityVampire Weekend

The only thing I can say about Vampire Weekend that hasn’t been said is that with their 3rd album, they are quickly becoming one of the world’s great bands.  With this record they have proven that there isn’t a style of music from the world that they aren’t knowledgable about.  A truly smart and innovative band, and that’s something that doesn’t come about in music these days.

9)  Kurt Vile- Wakin’ on a Pretty DazeKurt Vile

One of the finest musicians working in music.  The ex-‘The World on Drugs’ frontman releases his fifth and finest record to date.

10) Darkside- PsychicDarkside

I can’t begin to put into words how amazingly beautiful this record is.  The sounds and noises that Nicolas Jaar and Dave Harrington put into my ears is beyond me.  Please find this record and listen to it over and over.

11) Foxygen- We are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & MagicFoxygen

A debut record for the ages.  20 somethings from San Francisco find the perfect balance of 60’s era pop and 2000’s era rock and roll.  Fantastic.

12) My Bloody Valentine- MBVMBV

The most surprising record of the year, not because it’s good but because it came out.  Finally!!!  26 years in the making and Kevin Shields and company have hit the highest point in their careers.

13) Blood Orange- Cupid DeluxeBlood Orange

An outstanding hip-hop/r&b album that came out late in 2013 that should be listened to by everyone.

14) Depeche Mode- The Delta Machine/ Superchunk- I Hate MusicSuperchunk depeche mode

Easily 2 of my favorite bands and most influential bands in my life both came out with records in 2013.  I hope everyone working in music takes notes that anything is possible by just sticking together and being in the band.  As good as anything they’ve each released in 15 years.

15) Lorde- Pure HeroineLorde

Have you heard of this girl yet?  The album is so good that the worst song on the album is, “Royals”.  That’s saying a lot.

16) Ryan Hemsworth- Guilt Trips/Still Awake (ep)Ryan Hemsworth

A beautifully record (both the full length and the ep) that I just can’t stop listening to.

17) Chvrches- The Bones of What You BelieveChvrches

They release a small ep late last year (and one of my favorite tracks of 2012, “The Mother We Share”).  This is their full length and it was well the worth the wait.

18) Tim Hecker- VirginsTim Hecker

While not as good as 2011’s ‘Ravedeath, 1972’, this record is just perfectly created music that I think anyone will fall in love with.

19) Daft Punk- Random Access MemoriesDaft Punk

Each and every song on the latest Daft Punk record is a single waiting to be released.  With the help of some of the best musicians working in music this is a complete record from start to finish.

20) Danny Brown- OldDanny Brown

My favorite hip-hop record not released by someone named Kanye.  Better than 2011’s XXX.  If this (along with fellow rappers/friends A$AP Rocky and Schoolboy Q) then the music will be better for it.

And 20 more…

21) Mutual Benefit- Love’s Crushing Diamond

22) Bleached- Ride Your Heart

23) The Weeknd- Kiss Land

24) Justin Timberlake- The 20/20 Experience

25) James Blake- Overgrown

26) The Julie Ruin- Run Fast

27) Autre Ne Veut- Anxiety

28) Deafheaven- Sunbather

29) Juliana Barwick- Nepenthe

30) Mazzy Star- Seasons of Your Day

31) Drake- Nothing Was the Same

32) Bill Callahan- Dream River

33) Chelsea Wolfe- Pain is Beauty 

34) M.I.A.- Matangi

35) Neko Case- The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You

36) Washed Out- Paracosm

37) Okkervil River- The Silver Gymnasium

38) Oneohtrix Point Never- R Plus Seven

39) Death Grips- Government Plates 

40) Indians- Somewhere Else

 

Most overrated album of 2013:

Arcade Fire- Reflektor

Most disappointing album of 2013:

Jay-Z- Holy Grail

Most underrated album of 2013:

Mutual Benefit- Love’s Crushing Diamond

 

A Second Opinion…(Thom’s)

1)   Chelsea Wolfe- Pain Is Beauty

2)  Kanye West- Yeezus

3)  Dropkick Murphy’s- Signed and Sealed in Blood 

4)  My Bloody Valentine- MBV

5)  Frank Turner- Tape Deck Heart

6)  Iron Chic- The Constant One

7)  Run The Jewels- Run The Jewels

8)  Arctic Monkeys- AM

9)  Johnny Marr- The Messenger

10) Kylesa- Ultraviolet

11) The Julie Ruin- Run Fast

12) Future of the Left- How to Stop Your Brain In An Accident

13) Philip H. Anselmo & The Illegals- Walk Through Exits Only

14) Sky Ferriera- Night Time, My Time

15) Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds- Push The Sky Away

 

Best Songs of 2013

Always the hardest list to make.  2013 was an outstanding year for music.  Some of the better bands currently released great records and the newcomers are getting better and better.  Here’s to hoping that 2014 is just as good and that all of these bands work on making great records.  Enjoy…

1)  Haim- The Wire

2)  The National – ‘Don’t Swallow the Cap’

3)  Daft Punk- ‘Doin’ It Right (Panda Bear)’

4)  Charli XCX- ‘You (ha ha ha)’

5)  Frightened Rabbit- ‘The Woodpile’

6)  Empire of The Sun- ‘Concert Pitch’

7)  Bleached- ‘Dead in Your Head’

8)  Kanye West- ‘New Slaves’

9)  Katy Perry- ‘Roar’

10) Ellie Goulding- ‘Anything Can Happen’

11) CHVRCHES- ‘Gun’

12) Vampire Weekend- ‘Diane Young’

13) Drake- ‘Started From the Bottom’

14) James Blake- ‘Retrograde’

15) Justin Timberlake- ‘Mirrors’

16) Sky Ferreira- ‘You’re Not the One’

17) Disclosure- ‘When a Fire Starts to Burn’

18) Thao & The Get Down Set Down- ‘We the Common’

19) Polica- ‘Chain My Name’

20) Eleanor Friedberger- ‘She’s a Mirror’

21) Jay-Z (ft Justin Timberlake)- ‘Holy Grail’

22) Lorde- ‘A World Alone’

23) M.I.A.- ‘Bad Girls’

24) Palma Violets- ‘Best of Friends’

25) Unknown Mortal Orchestra- ‘Swim and Sleep (Like a Shark)’

26) Regina Spektor- ‘You’ve Got Time’

27) Miley Cyrus- ‘Wrecking Ball’

28) Ryan Hemsworth- ‘Empty Thoughts Over a Shallow Ocean’

29) Savages- ‘She Will’

30) Foxygen- ‘No Destruction’

Best TV of 2013

I must say that I do get pickier and pickier with the tv I watch.  This year there weren’t too many but the ones that I (we) did watch were outstanding.  This is just a few…enjoy.

1)  Girls (HBO)-  

For the 2nd year in a row the Lena Dunham scripted/co-directed HBO show tops the list.  Never has a show so personified what it’s like to be young, up and coming and trying to make it the cruel, cruel world of New York City.  With the outstanding supporting cast to help out, this may be one show that continues to get better and better.

2)  Parks and Recreation (NBC)-

Not only the best comedy on network television but easily one of the best in many years.  Amy Poehler and her “troupe” find new ways each season to push the comedy envelope in many years.

3)  Mad Men (AMC)-

The staple (arguably) of the AMC oeuvre.  The past season was one of the best.  With each season the creepy display and behavior of Don Draper seems to get more and more repugnant.  Yet, we the viewer still watch and watch.  The amazing Linda Cardellini plays an integral part in this season.  One of the best shows of our time.

4)  Parenthood (NBC)-

There are times when a tv show just hits all the right buttons.  Emotionally the show resonates like no other and continues to be one of the best scripted and acted dramas on network tv.  Whether it was the addition of Ray Romano’s, ‘Hank’ or Matt Lauria’s, ‘Ryan’,

5)  Homeland (Showtime)-

What is with all the haters on this tv show this year?  With the large amount of crap on tv why is everyone so down on the 3rd season of one of the better shows on tv?  While I won’t reveal the end of the season, I will ask all of you this…did you see that coming?  I didn’t.  Cannot wait to see what they do next season.

6)  The Blacklist (NBC)-

Guilty pleasure of 2013.  Addicting.

7)  Brooklyn 99 (FOX)-

From  the creators of Parks and Recreation.  Andy Samberg and the amazing Andre Braugher star in the most original comedy of the new year.  Funnier with each episode.

8)  House of Cards (Netflix)-

The first original Netflix series was one that started the great year of 2013 in tv off with a huge bang.  Kevin Spacey is as good as he has ever been and Robin Wright as his wife is just as great.  Finally a great political drama with an original voice that isn’t afraid to push the envelope.

9)  The Office (NBC)-

The last year of one of the better American comedies (even though the British was better) finished it’s last year with such original beauty that I hope comedy series on it’s last legs watch and take note.  Even though the beginning episodes were a little far fetched and forced the ending episodes encapsulated 7 years perfectly.  Well done.

10)  The Americans (FX)-

Only reason this show is so low on the list is that we are working through it as we speak.  Fantastically acted and brilliantly told.  The amazing Keri Russell finally finds a role that best her ‘Felicity’.

Best Books of 2013

Normally I give my millions and millions of readers a list long enough to get you through the next year.  This year was a little tough to get through all the great novels and non-fiction books of the year.  Here is an abbreviated list…

1)  Morrissey- Morrissey

It’s Moz.  The greatest.  Read it.

2)  The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards-  Kristopher Jansma

I’m a sucker for the stories within stories.  While some find the changing of narrators a bit too mundane, I loved how he captures each scene, country and village in ways few of the experienced writers of our time do.  One writer to watch.

3)  Night Film- Marisha Pessl

Years in the making, Marish Pessl finally releases her follow up to ‘Special Topics in Calamity Physics’.  On a dark October night, Ashley Cordova, daughter of the reclusive filmmaker Stanislas Cordova is found dead in an abandoned warehouse in Manhattan.  Through the next 400+ pages we take a trip alongside Scott McGrath, a reporter who suspects foul play.  Brilliantly told and explicably written.  This is one book that was made to be a movie.  Hopefully a good one.

4)  All That Is- James Salter

James Salter has already written one of the most romantic books of the past 40 years in ‘A Sport and a Pastime’ and he almost outdoes himself with this breathtaking tale of love and loss in the years after WWII.  A truly spectacular read from one of the most underrated novelists of the past 50 years.

5)  Speedboat- Renata Adler

The story of a young reporter coming of age in NYC was originally released in the 70’s and found new life thanks to The New York Review of Books.  Both this and her equally good Speedboat were both released this year.  An original voice.

6)  Me & Mr. Booker- Cory Taylor

Not your typical “coming of age tales” where we find the narrator annoying and too precious for our own good.  Cory Taylor tells the tale of Martha with humility and smarts that we don’t find in many mainstream novels.  One of 2 books from the great Tin House books on this list.  Easily my favorite publishing house.

7)  Wise Men- Stuart Nadler

A decades old tale of the Wise family and in particular the patriarch, Arthur Wise.  A multigenerational story that showcases Nadler as one of the finest voices in American novels.

8)  American Savage: Insights, Slights and Fights on Faith, Sex, Love and Politics- Dan Savage

One of this country’s best voices writes another non-fiction book on what makes America great.  The chapter on where his (their) son comes out is one of the most heartfelt pieces of writing you’ll read all year.

9)  The Flamethrowers- Rachel Kushner

Reno, Nevada.  1975 and Reno (aptly named) has decided to come to NY to find herself and to explode into the budging art scene with her love of speed and motorcycles.  One of the better novels of 2013 this is a timeless tale of one woman’s search for herself in a lost, lost world.  Fearless as she is and thrilling as riding on one of her Italian motorcycles.

10)  The Novels of Richard Stark- Richard Stark 

These novels, the pseudonym of Donald E. Westlake, are his more grittier and dirtier that his namesake novels.  More thriller than mystery they tell the tale of Parker and his many schemes and cohorts.  I’m only a couple of novels in but boy am I invested.