It’s the most wonderful time of the year, the moment just before we flip the calendar page when we can take stock and separate the good from the bad and the ugly. Here’s what I would keep from my media consumption this year , what I suspect I’ll reread, relisten to, and rewatch in the years to come.
As is typical, most of these things are recent releases, but a few oldies snuck it. Tell me what I should fill the gaps with in the comments; and if you need more content from me, see my best of lists from 2018, 2017, and 2016.
As has now become my custom, this is my year in culture in review post. I’m posting it super early because I know I won’t get to read or watch stuff in the next month as I become a holiday wraith. (If you’re curious, I also wrote lists in 2017 and 2016.)
Below are things I listened to, read, or watched this year. Most were released in the last year to two years, though a few are oldies that I only just discovered. I tried to err on the side of more obscure selections, though a few popular choices slipped through. I make no pretense that this list represents the year’s “best” entertainment; it’s merely the culture I enjoyed the most in 2018.
“Movement,” Hozier: it takes a few views to hear anything given the, um, visuals, but once you’re able to listen, the song itself is soulful, deeply felt, and dead sexy. Here’s to the full album next year!
“Space Cowboy,” Kacey Musgraves: the title is a pun and it’s the perfect song for Dean and Vivy from Free Fall. But seriously, the entire album is gorgeous, grown up, and an absolute delight.
John Field, Complete Nocturnes, Elizabeth Joy Roe: I’m still years from being able to play nocturnes, but when I get there, I’ll start with Field. And maybe in a decade or two I’ll be able to pretend to play this well. It’s a lovely collection, made more special in that you don’t know it the way you do Chopin.
“Redbone,” Childish Gambino: so I found “This is America” to be a bit glib (I know), but when it was everywhere, I dug into Gambino’s backlist and fell hard for “Redbone.” That Donald Glover has it going on.
“Pristine,” Snail Mail: I almost, almost saw Snail Mail live this summer, and if I had, I would have properly been able to brag I knew about them first. I’ll have to settle for this instead: I love Lindsey Jordan’s voice and lyrics and I bet you will too.
So I’ve been teaching myself to play the piano. I took a few years of sullen lessons in childhood, but I was more interested in singing and not terribly gifted at either. I absorbed a handful of musical terms and little else. In college, I moved onto other passions and music lost out in the battle with literature and politics. Then three years ago my parents gifted me a piano, and I realized the baby grand could exist merely so I might dust it once in a while or I could learn to play it.
As with most things, the initial period of learning went wonderfully. If you go from knowing nothing to having mastered one skill, you’ve doubled your knowledge. Hooray! Playing the piano–if one were generous enough to label those efforts “playing”–was gratifying and almost meditative.
But as my (meager) skill improved, I had to face the simple truth: unlike Gershwin, I got no rhythm. Absolutely none. Where my internal ticker should be there is a void.
In the vein of this post from last year, here’s a list of things I really liked in 2017.
Natasha, Pierre, & the Great Comet of 1812, Broadway Soundtrack: while this show was on Broadway in 2016 and has since closed, I became obsessed with the soundtrack in 2017. Denee Benton’s voice is extraordinary and vulnerable, and the rest is a delightful mash up. Look for Russian themes in my upcoming work. /waggles eyebrows/
DAMN., Kendrick Lamar: timely, brilliant, and on constant rotation in my car.
I was in my kitchen this morning drinking tea and listening to Christmas music. Bing Crosby’s recording of “Silver Bells” came on, and I started singing along. In between the city sidewalks and the ting-a-ling, something struck me as odd, as not like the rest of the songs on the mix.
What the hell? But I couldn’t place it.
Next came “Jingle Bells” and “Winter Wonderland,” and suddenly it hit me: “Silver Bells” is about “Christmastime in the city,” and that setting stands in contrast to the bulk of other Christmas music.
I began flipping through my playlists and reading–really reading–the lyrics, and I posted on Twitter to ask if there were other Christmas songs about cities. It quickly become obvious that the validity of my thesis rested on how I defined Christmas music and the city. So I’ll explain my methods, codify my list, and explain why I think this might matter below.
Poor 2016, so maligned, so deeply sad. A prelude to tragedy, perhaps. But–in an utterly selfish way–it was a decent reading/listening/viewing year for me. I don’t write proper reviews on the blog. It feels a bit weird. I have strong opinions, and I often share these on social media and in real life, but if I’m not willing to be critical, then it feels wrong to write formal squee! reviews. So this isn’t that, it’s just a list of things I really liked.
Some of these are late 2015 releases that I didn’t consume until 2016, but most are from this year. I tried to stick with things that were, in my opinion, under-buzzed; things that, in other words, you may not have heard of. A few big books/movies/etc. slipped in anyhow. Cheers, and tell me yours (or link!) in the comments!
There are times–entire weeks of my life actually–when I forget that I have books releasing next year. Two of them. And then I remember and minor panic attacks ensue.
What if no one reads my book? What if no one likes my book? How am I going to get people to read and like my book?
The book in question is the one formerly known as The Easy Part, now known as Special Interests. It will appear in an ebook store near you on April 4, 2014. And while the back cover copy, excerpts, etc. are forthcoming, this morning, in a fit of panic, I created a playlist for the book. Because that’s how you sell books: with an enticing playlist.
Regardless, if you use Spotify and want to listen to the most-played tracks from when I was writing the first draft a year ago, you can check it out here.
In the meantime, I’ll be over here having a panic attack.
… or gone from the Internet, at least for a little while.
I’m teaching several classes that start this week and trying to finish writing my dissertation and the second book in my contemporary series for Carina, in addition to maintaining some semblance of a personal life and sanity. Thus my leisurely summer schedule (and the blogging that accompanied it) has come to an end.
I’m still working on a massive post — which will probably turn into a short series — about how we do read and how we should read. Expect that thesis to run by the end of September. I will also continue to post fine romance recommendations, though perhaps not every Friday. In other words, I’ll still be here, just less frequently.
In the meantime, check out the highlights of my blog here, please consider reading/reviewing my novel if you haven’t, and enjoy a song that I’ve been grooving on lately.
When I want to work, when I really need to get things done and words on the page, I put on the soundtrack to the Charlie Brown Christmas special. At the sound of the big fat opening chords of “Christmastime is Here,” the words flow out of my fingers like water from a sponge.
It’s Pavlovian; akin to carefully cultivated muscle memory in an athlete. Now, my faith that it will work plays more than a little into its success. Like Dumbo with his feather, I clutch my Vince Guaraldi trusting that he’ll get me through when nothing else is.
If this seems illogical to you, well, you’d be right. It’s the result of too many years of writing papers like a maniac in late November and early December with Christmas music in the background. It’s also evidence of my feast or famine writing style, where for months at a time the work won’t come, until the flood gates open and a first draft appears.
I’m writing these days. A lot. Fiction and academic essays. So this week’s blog will be short, but a few more of the songs that get me working when everything else fails are below the fold.
It’s been a weird and wonderful couple of days and I may very soon have some exciting news, which I’m going to hint at vaguely and passive aggressively. Don’t you you hate that? Aren’t I coy and annoying?