Best Films of 2021

The Oscars are tonight so here are my favorite films of 2021. No blurbs here because I am tired. Lots of good movies though.

I still haven’t seen: Red Rocket; The Souvenir pt. II; Flee; About Endlessness; Nightmare Alley; Memoria; House of Gucci

25. CODA

24. Encanto

23. The Mitchells vs. the Machines

22. tick…tick…Boom!

21. Shiva Baby

20. Dune

19. The French Dispatch

18. The Lost Daughter

17. The Last Duel

16. The Card Counter

15. The Tragedy of Macbeth

14. The Green Knight

13. Spencer

12. The Matrix: Resurrections

11. Titane

10. Annette (dir. Leos Carax)

9. In the Heights (dir. Jon Chu)

8. C’mon C’mon (dir. Mike Mills)

7. Licorice Pizza (dir. Paul Thomas Anderson)

6. No Sudden Move (dir. Steven Soderberg)

5. Drive My Car (dir. Ryusuke Hamaguchi)

4. The Worst Person in the World (dir. Joachim Trier)

3. The Power of the Dog (dir. Jane Campion)

2. West Side Story (dir. Steven Spielberg)

  1. Pig (Michael Sarnoski)

Best Albums of 2021

10. Manchester Orchestra “The Million Masks of God”

Check out: “Obstacle” for how sweet and melodic they can be, one of the most beautiful songs they’ve created.

9. Jeff Rosenstock “SKA Dream”

Song to check out: “SKA DREAM”, for a song that criticizes the violent world we live in while featuring rock music with horns — truly a ska dream.

8. Turnstile “GLOW ON”

Song to check out: “Mystery”, this song perhaps best represents what you’re getting on “GLOW ON”, which is melodic hardcore that’s allowed to take twists and turns down different interesting paths.

7. Low “Hey What”

Song to check out: “Days Like These” was one of my favorite songs of the year, but also check out “Don’t Walk Away”, a beautiful and haunting track featuring that same uneasy static fuzz in the background

6. Tyler, the Creator “Call Me If You Get Lost”

Song to check out: “Lumberjack” for Tyler going hard or “Sweet / I Thought You Wanted to Dance” for a 9 minute catchy and sweet slow jam.

5. serpentwithfeet “Deacon”

Song to check out: “Fellowship” is my second favorite song of the year, but also listen to “Malik” for R&B love.

4. Laura Mvula “Pink Noise”

Song to check out: “Church Girl” which like so much of the album is an epic callback to early 90s pop.

3. Olivia Rodrigo “SOUR”

Song to check out: “drivers license” was the best song of the year, but “good 4 u” also rules with its more aggressive we broke up and now I’m sad tribute to Paramore.

2. Snail Mail “Valentine”

Song to check out: There are so many songs I could recommend here but I’ll go with an underrated favorite “c. Et Al.” It’s a sorrowful acoustic dirge where Lindsey Jordan is barely able to get out the words from the resentfulness that hangs in her voice.

  1. Porter Robinson “Nurture”

Song to check out: I chose “Look at the Sky” as one of my favorites from this year, so I’ll also recommend “Mother” which is blossoming with so much sweetness that it overcomes all corniness. Here Robinson’s mother comes to him and reassures him that though it will be difficult she will be there for him. Year 2 of our pandemic-ed world has compounded exhaustion. Porter Robinson has been some dark places and “Nurture” is here to do just that for the listener. It spends time in those places, acknowledging all the difficulties, but offers words of synth-pop comfort that continually hit me right in my soul.

Honorable mentions: Boldy James & Real Bad Man “Real Bad Boldy”; Irreversible Entanglements “Open the Gates”; Indigo de Souza “Any Shape You Take”; Big Jade “Pressure”; boylife “gelato”; Big Ghost LTD & Conway the Machine “If it Bleeds it Can Be Killed”; Katy Kirby “Cool Dry Place”

Best TV Shows of 2021

Some TV shows I wasn’t able to complete that could have made this list: Station Eleven; Pen15; The Other Two; Black Lady Sketch Show; AP Bio

10. The Next Thing You Eat (S1, Hulu)

A food show that seemed to quietly come and go especially compared to David Chang’s other work. I think it may be his best show yet, asking important questions about our future, sustainability, and current processes of bringing food to the table.

9. Sex Education (S3, Netflix)

Sex Education continues to find moments of sweetness within its edgy and grossly comedic storylines.

8. Never Have I Ever (s2, Netflix)

Season two expanded on a charming first season of navigating love, loss, and parents in life as a teenager.

7. Rutherford Falls (s1, Peacock)

Sierra Teller Ornelas and Michael Schur’s comedy about a town coming to reckon with its past atrocities against a fictional Indigenous people may not hit every beat, but it created a world full of likable characters who need to learn from their past. It forced reckoning where needed, while also walking gracefully and showcasing characters (and writers) who have essentially never been on television before.

6. Reservation Dogs (s1, Hulu)

Anything can happen in Reservation Dogs. It’s at times a quirky hangout comedy and at other times a dark drama. There are fantasy elements alongside satire. It’s reminiscent of Atlanta in the way it follows its leads in their hometown (in this case rural Oklahoma). This was a groundbreaking year for Natives in television and Reservation Dogs is as thrilling as they come.

5. I Think You Should Leave (s2, Netflix)

Tim Robinson’s second season of his sketch comedy hit continued to deliver the funniest premises on television. His characters are always oblivious to something and unwilling to yield when confronted making for hilarity and the best Twitter memes out there.

4. Mare of Easttown (s1, HBO)

I haven’t been as excited to discuss a show on a weekly basis as I was with Mare in a long time. The water cooler talk (now mostly done on social media) is a fun part of television that’s dwindled in our age of too much content. But trying to figure out the murderer and other side mysteries (as well as reacting to surprising deaths) had me theorizing with others like I haven’t in a long time.

3. Starstruck (s1, HBO)

This show is essentially the best bits of Notting Hill put into 6 half hour episodes of tv. And that’s great! Jessie has a one night stand with Tom, but doesn’t realize that it’s the famous Tom Kapoor. From there they form an on again off again relationship that spans an entire year. Rose Matafeo might be the funniest person alive and her chemistry with Nikesh Patel is off the charts. This is the best romantic comedy of some time and I highly recommend you watch it.

2. Succession (s3, HBO)

Succession continues to deliver biting insults and depictions of American excess and greed. The family still hasn’t found a successor to their media conglomerate and it’s almost killed them in what is an often infuriating tale of what wanting more does to your soul. It’s also so very entertaining.

  1. The White Lotus (s1, HBO)

Mike White’s dark comedy about tourists coming to Hawaii hammered home what it’s like to exist past all of our reckonings in 2020 and beyond. The privileged come in, sometimes with care and sometimes with callous. Sometimes they have good intentions. Sometimes they’ve voted correctly. Sometimes they’re kind. But when it comes down to it, they choose their privileged state of living and walk away feeling enlightened having learned a valuable lesson from the locals while everyone else continues to suffer. Have a great 2022 everyone!

Best Songs of 2021

10. ”You Forever” by Self Esteem

Pure bliss pop out of the UK, come on chant along with me.

Best moment of the song: 2:54, when the music quiets a bit and you feel like you’re in the midst of an audience, shouting the words out in unison.

9. “Look at the Sky” by Porter Robinson

Throughout the darkest moments of the year Robinson’s music was a bastion of hope. This song best portrays the feeling of latching onto the glimpse that there’s something better to come.

Best moment of the song: 2:37, a guest vocalist comes in to quietly deliver the lines from the chorus: “look at the sky, I’m still here / I’ll be alive next year / I can make something good”.

8. ”Quirk” by Really From

Really From picked up the mantle of 90s second wave emo bands, offering sweeping guitars and the occasional horn section over angsty but quietly expressed feelings. Here, they examine what parents pass on to their children: “quirks”, pains, and all.

Best moment of the song: 2:18, the song quiets with a simple electric strum then builds with a trumpet before both vocalists (who are siblings) overlap and the vocalist’s voice cracks and rapid horn playing takes over.

7. ”For Sale: Ford Pinto” by Rosie Tucker

Rosie Tucker uses the uglier realities and experiences of our world (Ford Pintos, licking your fingers of Dorito dust) to explain a relationship that is falling apart.

Best moment of the song: 1:48, Tucker ends the song by repeating “you tell me to…” before finishing her sentence with “to breathe likes it’s easy, like it’s something I’ve been doing for years” — a perfectly wry descriptor for the struggle of daily living.

6. ”Rubberband” by Show Me the Body

Pulsing and noisy; “Rubberband” shocks your body into gearing up for the fight that Show Me the Body is prepping you for. Their thesis is that it’s “no longer enough to survive”, this song will make you want to rise up.

Best moment of the song: 2:20, the music slows and over an ominous bass line Julian Cashwan Pratt half-growls “who’s supposed to live who’s supposed to die” before the guitars begin chugging once again.

5. ”Be Sweet” by Japanese Breakfast

Michelle Zauner opted to keep this song to herself rather than passing it along to other pop artists. The result is the catchiest pop song of the year.

Best moment of the song: 2:24, when she repeats saying “believe” and extends the second one out to “belieeeeeve”.

4. ”Kill Me” by Indigo de Souza

The closer to an excellent album, “Kill Me” offers what is perhaps the best look at Indigo de Souza’s range. She can craft earworms and somber ditties, as well as ratching up heavy and screeching emotions to express her point of view. “Kill Me” provides all of this.

Best moment of the song: 3:16, another example of a song slowing down and then building up to layered versions of de Souza screaming out “tell them I wasn’t having much fun”.

3. ”Days Like These” by Low

We’re certainly living in “Days Like These” and Low take a sort of meta view on this, singing about how we talk about these times we live in. The song works because its beautifully sung melodies are obliterated by blown out instrumentation that nears on a discomfortable listening experience. Doesn’t that represent the year though?

Best moment of the song: 1:18, the melody is bombarded by blow out your speakers static.

2. “Fellowship” by serpentwithfeet

The past two years have really put into focus the things that are truly important. Losing normalcy for so long is so wearying and strips away the facades that are false foundations. So what then are we left with? serpentwithfeet ends an album mostly made up of love songs with an ode to friendships that cut to my core. Keep your friends close, you never know when a reality altering pandemic may upend your world. Those who care for you are so important.

Best moment of the song: 0:53, “Maybe it’s the blessing of my thirties / I’m spending less time worrying and more time recounting the love.”

  1. “Driver’s License” by Olivia Rodrigo

This was my favorite song of the year from the first time I heard it on an impulse listen from a list of newly released songs on Apple Music. It’s an instant entry into the canon of teenage heartbreak, wallowing in such specificity that it brings you back to the moments in your own life where you felt desperately broken. I think it’s bad (maybe even dangerous) to live your life obsessed with what you liked when you were young, but this song is so good that it transcends all of that.

Best moment of the song: 2:18, “because you said forever now I drive alone past your street.” This is one of the best dealing with heartache lines in music history.