Pop Culture Goals for 2015

Yesterday I gave an update on how my 2014 pop culture goals turned out (I did okay). This year I don’t have a lot and know that if things go according to plan by the end of the year I will be going to graduate school in another country making things pretty busy and difficult to keep up with any sort of goal.

I do think that it is important to hear voices from diverse people and to do so one has to intentionally choose to seek out those voices. The first of my goals has to do with seeking this out.

-Watch 6 films directed by African, South American, or non-Korean/Japanese/Chinese Asian directors

The next goal is a personal one, to satisfy my cinephile heart and to be able to put myself in to any conversation regarding classic Japanese cinema. There are certain directors that I have not seen any movies from at all and this is something I want to change, so my goal is to:

-Watch a film each from these 6 directors: Robert Bresson, Yasujiro Ozu, Jean-Luc Godard, Andrei Tarkovsky, John Cassavetes, and Howard Hawks.

My final goal doesn’t really have anything to do with pop culture at all–it’s sort of a real-life resolution. My skills tend to lean toward the white-collar, sure my hands have felt hard work, my brow has broke a sweat, but my hands are not skilled. Name a movie and I can tell you the plot and who starred in it; teach me how to fix something and five minutes later I will stand there helpless. My grandfather is a master gardener, landscaper, and woodworker; my father an amateur mechanic. Me? Well, I write these blogs for no one to read. And this isn’t from lack of trying, my father taught me over and over; I went to my grandpa’s shop to design various things out of wood, but I never retained any of it.

This year I figured I should work toward trying to fix this. I am content in my manhood, it has nothing to do with this, rather it’s the practicality of it all. It’s that moment when you enter the mechanic’s shop and he asks you what’s wrong with the car and in one moment (this moment where you are thankful you have a beard to not look like a total wuss) all you can think is that’s your job! I don’t want to become a master mechanic–I don’t even like cars, but how much easier would it be for me to throw out words like carburetor or piston and be able to describe and fix things!

-Learn something about how cars work

Those are my goals for now.

I’ve still got three best of lists I plan on releasing within the next week or so, make sure you stay tuned.

 

2014 Pop Culture Goals in Review

Last year I wrote some goals for myself in pop culture–it’s my tradition to give myself resolutions to take seriously that aren’t really serious so I don’t have to feel guilty about myself when I inevitably fail them. You can read the full thing from last year here.

Here at the end of the year are the goals and how well I did with each. Tomorrow I will release a new set of goals for me to attempt only to drag myself here once again and admit with shame that I failed next year.

Last year’s goals:

-Start and engage in more conversations about movies on Letterboxd with friends or internet pals.

While I didn’t engage in a ton of conversations I definitely increased my Letterboxd usage and think it’s the greatest way of keeping track of what you’ve seen and what your friends and critics have seen.

-Watch 10 films from my Letterboxd watchlist

I don’t think I met this goal, let’s look at how many old movies I watched that I wanted to: American Graffiti, Airplane!, Bull Durham, Paths of Glory, The Hidden Fortress, Taxi Driver, The Maltese Falcon, The Usual Suspects, The Ice Storm. By my count that’s nine, which by my count is not equal to ten. It was close, but a pop culture failure.

-Put out at least a podcast a month

Well The Rankings Podcast went on an unofficial hiatus, but expect something soon…

-Start a new podcast (this is one for which I already have an idea brewing)

I actually did start a new podcast (Play Your Part) which wasn’t what I had in mind previously and is really just a way for me to make shows about whatever I want to (pop culture discussions, world culture, and random facts). It’s just a fun little project for me, but you can check it out if anything interests you.

-Read more mystery novels, because I always loved those as a kid.

I wasn’t as on top of this as I wanted to be, but I did read a couple of good novels. I read le Carre’s thriller The Spy Who Came in From the Cold which was excellent, as well as the ever popular Gone Girl. I’m also reading Anthony Bourdain’s Bone in the Throat showcasing his love for food and mob stories.

-Don’t watch sequels/prequels/franchise films at the theater.

Let’s look at the list of films I’ve seen this year in theaters I saw: Guardians of the Galaxy, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, 22 Jump Street, The Lego Movie, and The Muppets Most Wanted. That is three sequels all of which were very good and the two others are movies that are all but guaranteed to become sequels. I also saw four movies that were sequels from the comfort of my own home. Franchise films are overboard, but some are pretty good.

-Be intentional about creating things (writing, cooking, podcasting, etc…).

I started doing pretty consistent Weekly Thoughts about things, cooked stuff, and did plenty of podcasting. I think I was pretty set this year.

-Read a graphic novel (suggestions are welcome for what to read)

I read Persepolis which was a fascinating look into Iran and religion and revolution and counter culture. It was a great read, albeit not entirely convincing enough for me to get addicted to the medium.

Top 15 Podcasts of 2014

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This is the year that podcasts took off, well in their own corner of the internet sort of way. This is my fourth year ranking my favorites and I have listened to more than any other year of my life which is why it gets a top 15 instead of a 10.

Again I don’t necessarily recommend all of these for each person, so proceed with discretion.

15. The Grantland NFL Podcast

You will only like it if you are into football, but hey that’s most of this country right? Great show with really in-depth takes on the NFL season.

Check out the latest ep here

14. Filmspotting

I’ve been listening to this show for probably six years and even on its third different cohost it is a must listen for film fans. I usually listen after I’ve seen the movie they are reviewing, so I’m not always consistent, but every time I do it’s such an enjoyable experience.

Check out episode 500: Top 5 Films of the Filmspotting Era

13. Improv4Humans

It’s better when Matt Besser isn’t ranting about his opinions, but in between when Besser and other improvisers come together to create scenarios they are able to make some of the funniest and creative material on the spot.

Check out Funky Kong

12. Hollywood Prospectus

Andy and Chris probably have my favorite podcast relationship out there, having known each other for years and years. Their pop culture show for Grantland continues to be at a high level every week.

Check out the end of the year episode

11. This American Life

This year they continued to make some of the best and most interesting stories out there. If you’ve never checked out this show it’s about time to do so.

Check out Is This Working?

10. Rob Has a Podcast

Rob Cesternino continues to get bigger and bigger every year in his coverage of teleivsion, especially reality TV. He has now turned it into a well oiled machine bringing in great guests, many of which he has a repertoire with, having now past 1,000 episodes of RHAP.

Check out Rob with Tyson Apostal

9. Hang Up and Listen

The best sports podcast out there featuring talk that goes beyond the your typical sports journalism, focusing on social issues and advanced statistics. This year they stepped up their game further featuring mini episodes about the NCAA Basketball tournament andthe World Cup.

Check out the latest episode

8. Who Charted?

Howard and Kulap countdown the top of the charts each week, but really this show has little to do with pop culture. It’s all about engaging the guest and using Kremer’s personality to its greatest potential. This deserves to be on here merely for the game “Jaws is Better” in which Howard asks a guest what their favorite movie is and then argues with them as to why Jaws is better–the only way to win, say the name of the game.

Check out the Matt Gourley episode

7. The Gist with Mike Pesca

The new daily podcast from Mike Pesca, a former NPR reporter and member of Slate’s Hang Up and Listen (see above), is great for its coverage of today’s topics, but also because Pesca is a master podcast personality. Taking a fairly central perspective on a lot of today’s issues he also is very funny and open to ideas from all his guests. Pesca is a breath of fresh air in podcast journalism.

Check out the latest episode

6. The Cracked Podcast

The surprisingly eye-opening podcast from the people of Cracked.com is focused on scientific, social, and pop cultural matters all from the perspective of funny dudes who read a lot on the internet. I would take some of what they say with a grain of salt (they had an episode about obesity some of which I looked up to confirm what they said and couldn’t find anything) but they would probably to tell you to do the same thing.

Check out Decisions Your Brain Makes Behind Your Back

5. Start Up

A new show that is only 10 episodes in hosted by former This American Life and Planet Money producer Alex Blumberg who created the show in order to chronicle him trying to start up his own podcast company. Not only is it a unique look at the inner world of business, but it is a strikingly transparent view of Blumberg’s mind as he deals with various pressures and his own neuroses.

Check out How to Name Your Company

4. Radiolab

Radiolab is a storytelling show that focuses on science-based subjects, not only making fascinating stories, but some of the most thought provoking material out there. Their editing techniques are always incredible and this year they continued their brilliance.

Check out Outside Westgate

3. Comedy Bang Bang

Scott Aukerman’s sort-of parody of an interview show reached its 300th episode this year. For those who don’t know it guests come on (some real, some characters played by comedians) and Scott does his best straight man asking ridiculous questions in order to get the most out of his guests. What results is probably the most consistently funny thing out there.

Check out 2014 Holiday Spectacular

2. U Talkin’ U2 to Me?

Was my favorite for a majority of the year, until the number one came around. U Talkin’ U2 to Me? is the Scott Aukerman (Comedy Bang Bang) and Adam Scott (Parks and Recreation) hosted podcast in which they are supposed to talk about everything U2. While they do get around to a lot of U2 discussion the podcast is an exercise in the most laid back silly form of improv, with both hosts riffing on just about everything and teasing one another in this semi-hostile manner. Let’s not forget all the shows within shows, because these too are a highlight of the show.

Check out Staind Glass

1. Serial

The podcast that escalated podcasts and made a few more people realize that podcasts are wonderful (but ultimately ask any non-NPR type person if they have heard of Serial and the answer will be no). Aside from this, Serial was a great piece of true crime storytelling with host Sarah Koenig obsessing over a 15 year old case and allowing us to obsess alongside here for 12 weeks. Her way of investigating draws you in as a listener, the story and interviews were fascinating, and the theme music may have been the best part. Was the end satisfying? Well being that it is a non-fictional story I don’t think it ever could have been–at least the way that would have felt the most satisfying–but it didn’t feel out of touch with the rest of the show and really the story isn’t over.

Check out The Alibi

Honorable Mentions: The Sylvester Stallone Podcast, 99% Invisible, The Dissolve Podcast, The Liturgists, Pop Culture Happy Hour, The Jeff Rubin Jeff Rubin Show, Criminal, How Did This Get Made?, The Andy Daly Pilot Project, Planet Money

Three started late in the year that may have had a chance if they had been released earlier: Rembert Explains, OMFG!, With Special Guest Lauren Lapkus

Top 10 Essays of 2014

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About halfway through this year I decided I wanted to try to read more online essays, keeping track of those that I read and putting them together as a best of collection at the end of the year. This is the result of that and you can probably see where I tend to lean when it comes to the in-depth online browsing. There are some long reads, some investigative journalism, think pieces about popular culture, as well as where pop culture crosses over with racism, sexism, etc… We are probably at the peak era of good writing about current events being available for free all over the internet and so I really enjoyed putting this one together.

10. “The Bill Cosby Issue: Processing the Fall of an Icon” by Wesley Morris and Rembert Browne

Here Rembert and Morris write about how the news of the allegations against Cosby affect them, particularly as black Americans who grew up appreciating and inspired by his image and the work that he made.

It doesn’t make sense, and then when it begins to make sense, you don’t want it to make sense. Because it tramples so much of what you thought you knew. And not just what you thought you knew about Bill Cosby, but what you thought to be undeniably true about good people. It rattles your beliefs about the identifiable qualities of a good man, a good father, a good husband, a good black American archetype.

9. “The Future of Iced Coffee” by Alexis C. Madrigal

On the outset it’s a profile of Blue Bottle coffee and their attempt to grow their product throughout the country. The article transcends this and becomes about those small minimal products we come to adore and what happens to them as they begin to grow in influence and popularity. Is it possible to keep that which made you unique while growing to a size where uniqueness is frowned upon?

All of which returns us to the question we began with: Can Freeman turn Blue Bottle into Starbucks without … turning it into Starbucks?

“Could we be the first 20-store chain, or 50- or 100-store chain that doesn’t suck?” Freeman asked rhetorically, in an interview with TheNew York Times in January. The question can be applied to his new product, too: Can Blue Bottle be the first company to make 20,000 or 50,000 or 100,000 cartons of iced coffee that doesn’t suck?

8. “The Death of Adulthood in American Culture” by AO Scott

Scott explores the evolution of culture, particularly the way that adulthood has been and is portrayed. While it seems that our culture is now obsessed with youth fiction and stories, Scott notes that previously “adult” stories were mostly about a certain type of middle-aged white man. He plays with this tension, lamenting the loss of stories for adults, while celebrating the new voices that this loss has allowed to enter.

I do feel the loss of something here, but bemoaning the general immaturity of contemporary culture would be as obtuse as declaring it the coolest thing ever. A crisis of authority is not for the faint of heart. It can be scary and weird and ambiguous. But it can be a lot of fun, too. The best and most authentic cultural products of our time manage to be all of those things. They imagine a world where no one is in charge and no one necessarily knows what’s going on, where identities are in perpetual flux. Mothers and fathers act like teenagers; little children are wise beyond their years. Girls light out for the territory and boys cloister themselves in secret gardens. We have more stories, pictures and arguments than we know what to do with, and each one of them presses on our attention with a claim of uniqueness, a demand to be recognized as special. The world is our playground, without a dad or a mom in sight.

I’m all for it. Now get off my lawn.

7. “We’re Losing All Our Strong Female Characters to Trinity Syndrome” by Tasha Robinson

I’m a sucker for a theory in pop culture especially one that helps to define varying social issues in surrounding culture. Here Robinson creates what she calls “Trinity Syndrome”–a seemingly empowered and “strong” character that when it actually comes time for her to do something needs to be rescued by a male character. Robinson points out that these seemingly progressive characters are just as regressive as former ones.

“Strong Female Character” is just as often used derisively as descriptively, because it’s such a simplistic, low bar to vault, and it’s more a marketing term than a meaningful goal. But just as it remains frustratingly uncommon for films to pass the simple, low-bar Bechdel Test, it’s still rare to see films in the mainstream action/horror/science-fiction/fantasy realm introduce women with any kind of meaningful strength, or women who go past a few simple stereotypes.

6. “The Full Boyle: Guys Who Don’t Hear ‘No’ Just Aren’t Funny Anymore” by Genevieve Valentine

This one ranks here because Valentine brought to my attention something I hadn’t really thought of before. She addresses a disturbingly familiar character trope in which loser guys pressure women into dating them. In movies we chuckle at characters’ attempts to pick up girls and cheer when they get them–we can all relate to feeling insecure. In real life though women feel pressured all the time and we throw out words like stalker and creep. Has pop culture leaked into real life? It’s hard to say, but Valentine makes some interesting points.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine has steadily and disappointingly played it for laughs that Boyle refuses to listen when Rosa says no, when it reads closer to straight-up harassment. This is no slow-burn demurral. Part of the joke, in fact, is her badass exterior, as if it means she should be up for the challenge. Her attempts to shut him down include: “That’s nice, and I like you as a person, but I’m just not that into you romantically,” and, “You’re starting to make this weird. I’m not into you that way and I have a boyfriend,” which would, to most people, read loud and clear. But Boyle’s been painted as one of those hopeless-romantic TV sad sacks who has a long pine ahead of him, fixated on Rosa long past the point where it was funny.

5. “The Dadliest Decade” by Willie Osterweil

A hilarious and insightful look at what caused the rise of the dad film in the 90s and what exactly it meant that these were being made.

The nineties have sometimes been framed as an assault on family values, what with the Culture Wars and the president’s penis’s interchangeability with a cigar and all, but it was the nineties that saw the dad ascendant in popular culture. By 1990, even the youngest baby boomer was twenty-six, and most of them were solidly in their thirties and forties. They were losing their grip on cool. And they were having kids. It was only natural that they’d want to dramatize the experience.

4. “A Warrior’s Moral Dilemma” by David Wood

An interesting article that touches on the effects of war beyond PTSD–something often ignored in our celebration of soldiers and war. Wood explores the “moral dilemma” in which soldiers go in and out of real life where the things they’ve done are actually seen as immoral, but must be accepted in war. A must read and necessary response to the horrors of war.

It is what experts are coming to identify as a moral injury: the pain that results from damage to a person’s moral foundation. In contrast to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, which springs from fear, moral injury is a violation of what each of us considers right or wrong. The diagnosis of PTSD has been defined and officially endorsed since 1980 by the mental health community, and those suffering from it have earned broad public sympathy and understanding. Moral injury is not officially recognized by the Defense Department. But it is moral injury, not PTSD, that is increasingly acknowledged as the signature wound of this generation of veterans: a bruise on the soul, akin to grief or sorrow, with lasting impact on the individuals and on their families.

3. “How Hip-Hop Failed Black America” by Questlove

Questlove explores black culture and the influences and failures it has had over the years in this multi-part series. Someone who has been so influential and is a connoisseur of this, he offers interesting critiques and thoughts about the evolution of culture.

Black culture, which has a long tradition of struggling against (and at the same time, working in close collaboration with) the dominant white culture, has rounded the corner of the 21st century with what looks in one sense like an unequivocal victory. Young America now embraces hip-hop as the signal pop-music genre of its time. So why does that victory feel strange: not exactly hollow, but a little haunted?

2. “The End of Food” by Lizzie Widdicombe

An eye-opening look into Soylent, a food-like substance that breaks food down into its most basic and substantive nutrients, a cheaper and perhaps sustainable way of providing for our bodies. Widdicombe looks at its history and asks questions about the ways we eat and whether losing these to something like Soylent would be a better way to feed the population or something that would isolate us further, lessening the need for face to face interaction in the name of progress.

Living on Soylent has its benefits, though. As Rhinehart puts it, you “cruise” through the day. If you’re in a groove at your computer, and feel a hunger pang, you don’t have to stop for lunch. Your energy levels stay consistent: “There’s no afternoon crash, no post-burrito coma.” Afternoons can be just as productive as mornings.

But that is Soylent’s downside, too. You begin to realize how much of your day revolves around food. Meals provide punctuation to our lives: we’re constantly recovering from them, anticipating them, riding the emotional ups and downs of a good or a bad sandwich. With a bottle of Soylent on your desk, time stretches before you, featureless and a little sad. On Saturday, I woke up and sipped a glass of Soylent. What to do? Breakfast wasn’t an issue. Neither was lunch. I had work to do, but I didn’t want to do it, so I went out for coffee. On the way there, I passed my neighborhood bagel place, where I saw someone ordering my usual breakfast: a bagel with butter. I watched with envy. I wasn’t hungry, and I knew that I was better off than the bagel eater: the Soylent was cheaper, and it had provided me with fewer empty calories and much better nutrition. Buttered bagels aren’t even that great; I shouldn’t be eating them. But Soylent makes you realize how many daily indulgences we allow ourselves in the name of sustenance.

1. “How Youtube and Internet Journalism Destroyed Tom Cruise, Our Last Real Movie Star” by Amy Nicholson

This is number one for the way it widened my perspective on a certain event. Sure it may seem a sort of shallow thing, but ask anybody about Tom Cruise and you get a sort of eye roll, that guy is crazy sort of look. Nicholson points out that the things that lead to Cruise attaining this image were not actually based in fact–he went crazy, he fell into a cult, etc…–but were firmly based in the rise of the internet and the way it empowered and emboldened gossip bloggers. She then delves into how the internet shapes our opinions on people with its quick reactions and rapid news cycle.

A weird thing happens when people watch a viral video. In catching up with a cultural touchstone, the clip everyone’s talking about at the water cooler, we assume we’re on top of the whole story. After all, we’ve seen what everyone else has seen. Whatever gets edited out isn’t part of the conversation.

Tom Cruise and Oprah talked on TV for 43 minutes. “Tom Cruise Kills Oprah” was 15 seconds. Even the longer YouTube clips of Cruise on Oprah’s couch clock in at only four minutes. Yet it was the latter two that were shared, discussed and remembered.

With all context gone, we’re judging soundbites of Cruise on a screen. We forget he was experiencing a live, long and loud interaction — a literal stage performance before a raucous crowd.

Top 75 Songs of 2014 Part III (20-1)

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This is it, the top 20 songs of the year! Apologies to Hospitality and to d’angelo both of whom made albums I didn’t listen to until the last week or so which I find really excellent. You can see here that most of my tastes lean toward hip-hop and punk tinged indie rock, so prepare to see a lot of that. I don’t really have any wide reflections on the musical year, I’ll let the list speak for itself. Enjoy!

Check out parts One and Two

(Note: Not every song is for every person, there may be some songs that you consider innapropriate; I do not recommend everything that I like for everyone. Proceed with your own discretion.)

20. Chance the Rapper “Wonderful Everyday”

Chance only released a couple of songs this year, but this is the one that fully captured my attention–a fairly straightforward cover of the theme song from Arthur. Featuring no rapping at all, its greatness comes from the way that it builds upon itself slowly with its near a cappella musical stylings.

19. J Cole “Be Free”

J Cole released this song in the response to the Michael Brown tragedy and the aftermath of what happened in Ferguson. Another rapper that chooses to sing instead of rap and it creates a raw and emotional tone, filled with lament that cannot be expressed through lyrics alone.

18. Ex Hex “Don’t Wanna Lose”

A pretty straight forward rock song with a female fronted punk/garage vibe that keeps moving infectiously. It’s the perfect album opener.

17. FKA Twigs “Pendulum”

Dark and broody, Twigs’ slowed down artsy pop is catchy in its own unique way, this song takes a while building before it gets to the payoff but when it does every second of the previous tension was worth it.

16. Tune-Yards “Time of Dark”

Merrill Garbus shows off her lung capacity here proving that she not only excels at being eclectic, but that she also has big pipes.

15. FKA Twigs “Kicks”

The album closer proved to be my favorite, she truly excels at building up the atmosphere of a song while quietly inserting her voice into it breaking through in its own quiet way.

14. The Hotelier “An Introduction to the Album” (explicit)

An album opener whose title does not live up to its pop-punk epic-ness. A song that was truly built to be sung along to live every poetic word shouted out. Lyrically the song is unique by using the last word of each verse to start the next one. This song encapsulates all the emotion, passion, and angst that comes with pop-punk and emo and is truly great.

13. Wild Beasts “Wanderlust”

Indie rock and electronic at its finest, another song that rides on atmosphere with its dark and almost creepy feel.

12. Jungle “Busy Earnin'”

Pure joy; an EDM take on old funk jams, Jungle may not nail it every time, but here they certainly do.

11. Isaiah Rashad w/Jay Rock and Schoolboy Q “Shot You Down” (explicit)

The 7 minute version absolutely crushes it with all three rappers crushing their verses. The chorus isn’t as good as the rapping but after each rapper is done it doesn’t matter.

10. Taylor Swift “Blank Space”

I talked about this before, but it really is the best song to be released this year. The T-Swift album as a whole is overrated, but this song is pure sugar.

9. Joyce Manor “Falling in Love Again”

This song would have been my high school jam, number one on my mixtapes for the girl I had a crush on, there’s no doubt about it.

8. Vince Staples “Blue Suede” (explicit)

Staples’ combines one of the best beats of the year with a song about violence that is also a sort of ode to the classic rock ‘n roll tune–it works on every level.

7. Makthaverskan “Antabus” (explicit)

A fast, driving punk song in which the Swedish punks tell off whoever this song was intended for with a forceful use of F-bombs.

6. Rick Ross w/Kanye West and Big Sean “Sanctified” (explicit)

Using a Gospel song for not so holy means, these three confess what their true desires are, but ultimately Kanye is transcendent in his own Kanye way.

5. Iceage “The Lord’s Favorite”

A sort of hardcore song done in a slack-jawed alt-country manner. The song probably deserves to be blasted in a dusty bar, but works just as well coming through your laptop speakers.

4. Run the Jewels “Blockbuster Night Part 1” (explicit)

I don’t know if there was another song out there that got me more hyped when listening to it. Killer Mike and el-p absolutely devastate the listener here. The song is only 2:32 which is too short, but honestly I don’t think I could handle another verse–it would slay me.

3. Makthaverskan “Asleep”

The band has two main influences: 80’s pop and punk rock; here they show off that 80’s influence going heavy on the synths.

2. The War on Drugs “Red Eyes”

“Red Eyes” is that song you listen to after the party is over. It’s catchy enough, but laid back and calming to the point that it’s like the wind coming on a hot summer day.

1. Cloud Nothings “I’m Not Part of Me”

This was my favorite song at the halfway point and it has stuck at the top ever since. At its core it’s an ‘I’m over this’ track, from the opening verse “it’s over now”, Dylan Baldi expresses that he has moved on in the most wonderful way. It’s an empowering song, but to say this gets away from what makes it so great, which is that it is a wonderful rock song.

Top 5 TV Shows of 2014

Alright people only three best of lists left to make before the best of the year 2014 coverage is wrapped up.

In years past I’ve never done a best of TV, because I figured I always watched the same shows and so it would be just the same shows over and over. This year however, there was enough new great television (that I saw) to spark a list out of me. This is filled with great seasons of old shows as well as brand new ones.

5. Parks and Recreation

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This show is in the running for my favorite of all time and season six–the penultimate–was filled with great moments, probably its best since the start of season four. It ended with one of the most unique twists in sitcom history making the wait until the finale even more unbearable.

4. True Detective

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The internet’s favorite show this year certainly lived up to the hype with its spectacular performances by McConaughey and Harrelson, its pessimistic philosophy, intriguing mysteries, and amazing camera work by director Fukunaga. I didn’t watch it live which probably made certain moments less epic than if they were experienced with commentary from the Twittershpere, but I do think it made me like the end more than general consensus–which I really liked.

3. Survivor: Cagayan

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Certainly a personal bias (I’m a superfan of the show), but anytime a franchise can put up perhaps its best season 28 seasons into the show you have to give credit where credit is due. Featuring some of the most memorable characters and moments from episode to episode, Cagayan was some of the best TV all year.

2. The Americans

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This is the show that I desperately beg each person to watch (though I think I have failed in every effort), The Americans improved from an excellent first season, raising the suspense, stakes, and character dynamics in this show that simultaneously deals in international spy affairs and personal familial dynamics with equal tension. The sheer fact that a central tension of this season was the daughter rebelling against the parents by going to church is a brilliant move by the shows creators and excites for what’s to come.

1. Fargo

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I checked out this show after it had received all of its hype, but figured it may have been everyone overreacting to the fact that it didn’t totally do injustice to the original. What Fargo ended up being was a companion to the film that actually competes with it. This show has great characters, explores themes like justice and evil, and makes some of the best editing choices out of anything I saw all year.

Honorable Mentions: Veep, Review, Sherlock, Community, Silicon Valley

Top 75 Songs of 2014 Part II (50-21)

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Part II of the top 75 songs of 2014 countdown. Apologies that there are no links to listen to each song or descriptions of certain ones, I had finished making the whole thing and then WordPress crashed without saving any of my work.

Check out Part I

(Note: Not every song is for every person, there may be some songs that you consider innapropriate; I do not recommend everything that I like for everyone. Proceed with your own discretion.)

50. U2 “Iris (Hold Me Close)”

49. Rustie w/ Danny Brown “Attack” (explicit)

48. Run the Jewels w/ Gangsta Boo “Love Again” (explicit)

47. Jenny Lewis “Head Underwater”

46. FKA Twigs “Two Weeks” (explicit)

45. YG w/Kendrick Lamar “Really Be (Smokin’ N Drinkin’)” (explicit)

44. The Hotelier “Your Deep Rest”

43. Sun Kil Moon “Carissa”

42. Run the Jewels “Lie Cheat Steal” (explicit)

41. Jenny Lewis “She’s Not Me”

40. Parquet Courts “Black and White”

39. Young Thug and Bloody Jay “4 Eva Bloody” (explicit)

38. Ariana Grande w/Iggy Azaela “Problem”

37. U2 “Every Breaking Wave”

36. Hundred Waters “Murmurs”

35. The War on Drugs “Lost in the Dream”

34. Makthaverskan “No Mercy”

33. Nico & Vinz “Am I Wrong?”

32. The Hotelier “Dendron”

31. Twin Shadow “To the Top”

30. Parquet Courts “Instant Disassembly”

29. Banks “Brain”

28. Run the Jewels “Jeopardy” (explicit)

27. Jessie Ware “Say You Love Me”

26. clipping. “Work Work” (explicit)

25. Vince Staples “Hands Up” (explicit)

24. Jenny Lewis “The Voyager”

23. YG w/Schoolboy Q and Jay Rock “I Just Wanna Party” (explicit)

22. White Lung “Snake Jaw”

21. Speedy Ortiz “American Horror”

Top 75 Songs of 2014 (75-51)

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This is the first of a three part countdown of the best songs of the year.

(Note: Not every song is for every person, there may be some songs that you consider innapropriate; I do not recommend everything that I like for everyone. Proceed with your own discretion.)

75. Lupe Fiasco “Deliver”

Lupe’s track about the pizza man not being willing to deliver to the ghetto is a great track for our current climate, it does lose points for all the mentioning it does of various pizza places.

74. Lost in the Trees “Rites”

73. Sohn “Artifice”

72. Norma Jean Martine “No Gold”

https://soundcloud.com/norma-jean-martine/no-gold

A great indie pop song, a singer that likely deserves more attention.

71. Mac DeMarco “Salad Days”

70. Jenny Lewis “Slippery Slopes”

69. Schoolboy Q “Collard Greens”

The best track from Q’s album, which I liked not loved, it’s got Kendrick who elevates just about anything he is on.

68. The Notwist “Kong”

67. Cloud Nothings “Psychic Trauma”

66. Sharon Van Etten “Taking Chances”

65. A Sunny Day in Glasgow “In Love With Useless (The Timeless Geometry in the Tradition of Passing”

Heard this band described as a bunch of school band nerds coming together to make music with a punk-tinge. That fits this sorta catchy sort of chaotic orchestral track.

64. Howler “Don’t Wanna”

Howler makes great beach rock/punk for slackers everywhere. This song assures the listener that they have the autonomy to do whatever they want, the greatest line being a battle between “you don’t have to listen to The Smith’s if you don’t want to” and “you don’t even have to date girls if you don’t want to”.

63. Sia “Chandelier”

62. Manchester Orchestra “The Ocean” (from “Hope”)

From the acoustic version of their album “Cope” which was released a few months later, the song is changed completely into a piano led ballad relying on Hull’s voice entirely–which is really the best part of the band.

61. The War on Drugs “Burning”

60. White Lung “Drown With the Monster”

59. Cymbals Eat Guitars “Child Bride”

58. Sharon Van Etten “I Love You But I’m Lost”

Van Etten’s album is filled with love long lost songs and this one expresses her feelings completely as she mourns her own failures in love.

57. Lykke Li “Sleeping Alone”

56. The War on Drugs “Eyes to the Wind”

55. Iceage “Forever”

54. Manchester Orchestra “Girl Harbor”

53. Cloud Nothings “Now Hear In”

52. Joyce Manor “Christmas Card”

51. Parkay Quartz “Uncast Shadow of a Southern Myth”

The side project of Parquet Courts (who you will see on plenty of upcoming lists) that features most of the original band. This song could actually fit perfectly on a Courts record, as a slow stripped down song that slowly builds.

Top 10 Pop Hits of 2014

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Tis the season people! No, not Christmas, for end of the year lists! Yes, the most wonderful time of the year has finally arrived and I am kicking it off as I always do, with the top 10 best pop hits of the year! This year I am planning on releasing 13 best of type lists for you, so you can look forward to that.

A quick note about eligibility, in order to qualify on this list a song had to make it into the top 10 of the Billboard charts at any point during the year. This means that a song could have been released the year prior, but as long as it was in the top 10 this year, it counts. One other note: if a song meets all of the qualifications above, but was on one of my best of lists from last year, it will not make the list.

(Note: Not every song is for every person, there may be some songs that you consider innapropriate; I do not recommend everything that I like for everyone. Proceed with your own discretion.)

Here it is, enjoy!

10. Charli XCX “Boom Clap”

I think Charli XCX will always be someone who is fun to listen to, but I’m not sure she will ever transcend pop or turn into a pop star. She seems to be stuck in between and this songs paints that picture perfectly.

9. Clean Bandit “Rather Be”

Well this group seemed to come out of nowhere and sometimes nowhere can come up with a pretty good song. It’s pleasant, it’s not filled with too much star power or personality which can be a breath of fresh air on the radio.

8. Taylor Swift “Shake it Off”

I’ve been up and down on it all year. At first I wasn’t sure about it, then I got pretty into it, but after the release of another single my head wonders why I ever though this song was good at all? It’s still pretty good though, which is why it lands here.

7. Jessie J w/Ariana Grande and Nicki Minaj “Bang Bang”

This is a great song that somehow manages to pull off this sort of 90s female power vibe while fitting in Nicki Minaj and showcasing the young talent of pop today. Jessie J and Grande are both great singers and when given a good song they can really make a gem of it. Same goes with Minaj who is also extremely talented in the right context.

6. SIA “Chandelier”

What starts off as a track that was clearly meant for Rihanna quickly turns into one of the year’s best choruses and perhaps makes SIA a viable threat in the female pop star category. SIA has all the talent and this song proved that she could make a hit on her own merit.

5. Problem – Ariana Grande

Oh Ariana you could have had the number one spot. You were so close! Your voice kills it. This song is an upbeat anthem that doesn’t rely on Calvin Harris to make it something. But you made two mistakes. One, Iggy Azalea. I realize that at first this might seem silly–she was probably THE pop star for most of the year (until Taylor showed up) and I actually liked the verse the first 15 times I heard it, but it already feels outdated. The second is that chorus, how much more anticlimactic can you be? A whispering Big Sean is not the direction you should have taken this song. I’m sure the kids at high school dances will find clever ways to incorporate your miscue into having a good time, but this was even worse than the end to the Lego Movie.

4. Nico and Vinz “Am I Wrong?”

I have the feeling that these types of one-hit wonder indie pop groups will continue to pop up with random singles that become huge only to rarely be heard from again (“Somebody I Used to Know”, “Pumped Up Kicks”). Their songs range from being just good enough you don’t change the radio when it comes on to being good enough that you seek it out and listen to it despite its constant presence on the radio. This one leans toward the latter.

3. Lorde “Team”

A song I actually liked before it became a hit and one that was released last year, but did not peak until this year. Lorde is probably the most independent minded of all the big pop stars today and I might like “Team” better than her biggest hit, “Royals”. How could you not with a line like “I’m kind of over getting told to throw my hands up in the air”. She has the star power of a cynic, a dirge that graced the tops of the charts despite its glorious apathy and it certainly touched my emotionless heart.

2. Taylor Swift “Blank Space”

The latest song to reach number one solidified itself the moment I watched the music video–a fun and self aware bit with Taylor torturing a lover and later welcoming a new one. Not sure if it has reached the heights of the best Taylor has ever done, but it is close.

1. Beyonce “Drunk In Love”

This song edges the line of being a cheat but does technically qualify under the (strict) guidelines I have set for myself. Released late last year in the middle of all the best of lists, “Drunk In Love” never had a chance to actually make any of these lists. While the song did eventually rise into the top 10, it wasn’t a mainstay and never reached the top spot. Regardless of how many times I actually heard the song on the radio, it was by far my favorite single to reach the top 10 this year. It’s a sort of sequel to Jay and Bey’s “Crazy in Love”, but one that takes on a far more sexual bent, featuring a far more aggressive and modern Beyonce. It’s like a 2014 rendition of Song of Songs, a perhaps too revealing look into the intimacy that a married couple can have. It’s so good.