Monday, January 2, 2017

Picks of 2016

Regardless of this year's suckitude, I do still have my picks of the year.

Best book I read in 2016:
All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doeer was probably my favorite book this year.  I 've read some really great books this year: Lafayette In the Somewhat United States by Sarah Vowell, The Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin, Dead Wake by Erik Larson, The March by E.L. Doctorow and The Manticore by Robertson Davies. The Doerr book is definitely my favorite and I haven't even finished it yet.  Even though, I am getting a little tired of the WW II era, the book still captures me with some really fantastic writing. It tells the story of two young people, one blind French girl and an orphaned German boy. Their stories are told in parallel as their worlds are crushed around them. I am relishing every page.

Favorite new movie: 
Arrival was my favorite new movie this year.  Some other favorites were The Big Short, Deadpool, Doctor Strange, A Man Called Ove, Manchester By the Sea and Florence Foster Jenkins. These are very different films but Arrival was definitely my favorite. It reminded me of Contact or 2001: A Space Odyssey in that it was a real science fiction, unlike Star Wars which is more like an action film in space. When you watch Arrival, you get the feeling that there is something going that you don't understand. Halfway through the film you start figuring it out and by the end, your mind is blown because the story is very different than what you thought. I need to watch it again now that I know what I know.

Favorite new TV show:
I've watch some great television this year: The Exorcist, Paranoid, Glitch, The Get Down, Stranger Things, Maron, Roadies, One Mississippi, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and This Is Us. My favorite is probably The Get Down which is a Netflix show about the early days of hip hop. It is full of great music without the nonsense of a musical. It is edgy but really sweet simultaneously. One of the things I like most about the show is that the child characters are really well developed. They are not your usual one dimensional children that you usually see on television and the young actors are up for it.

Two shows really surprised me The Exorcist and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. I didn't expect anyone to make a decent show of the classic horror film The Exorcist, but it is actually a very good show. They captured the creepiness of the classic while also sustaining a story throughout the season. I am not a believer in demons and such, but still, I find this all very intriguing and good story telling. Also, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is hysterical. I don't like musicals at all, but I guess, musicals that laugh at musicals is fine. Regardless, it is very entertaining and the star, Rachel Bloom, is a joy to watch.

Favorite quote:
"When you're a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab 'em by the pussy. You can do anything," our future president. I don't really like this quote, but I think it best describes where we are as a nation ... not in a good place.

Favorite new podcast :
I've tried several new podcasts this year but most of them didn't cut it and I have unsubscribed. Among them are: Red Sox Beat Podcast, FiveThirtyEight Elections, What the Crime?, Dogsmarts and Rolling Stone Music Now.

I've found a few that I continue to listen to: Revisionist History, Radio Lab's More Perfect, the New Yorker Radio Hour, Next New England, You Must Remember This and Slate's Trumpcast. 

Trumpcast is probably my favorite. It not only keeps you up on the doings of the orange douche-nozzle, but they are funny. The best part is when they have a Trump impersonator read his tweets of the week. 

Best concert I attended: 
The best concert I went to was Brandi Carlyle at the Shelburne Museum in Shelburne, Vermont. This is my favorite local venue and she put on a great show. I didn't go to a lot of shows this year, mostly because my wife is in graduate school again and she doesn't have time. I hope to go to more in 2017.

Best album:  
I bought some great new albums this year, in MP3 format of course. I bought Ray Lamontagne's "Ouroboros," Avett Brother's "True Sadness," David Bowie's last album "Black Star," Andrew Bird's "Are You Serious," Rachel Yamagata's "Tightrope Walker," "A Monolith of Phobos" by The Claypool Lennon Delirium, "Human Performance" by the Parquet Courts and the soundtrack to "Roadies." I enjoyed all of them except for the Ray Lamontagne album, mostly because it is not what I expected from him. He usually delivers some decent bluesy pop songs but instead, he experimented and like many experiments, it failed.

It is difficult for me to pick a favorite out of all these, but since I have to pick one, I pick Andrew Bird's "Are You Serious." The lyrics are solid and the musical orchestration is phenomenal. 

Favorite new songs: 
I have 191 mp3 files of songs from 2016.

Here are some of my favorites:
"I Wish I Was Sober" by Frightened Rabbit
"Roma Fade," "The New Saint Jude" and "Capsized" by Andrew Bird
"Smithsonian," "I Wish I Was ..." and "Mama, I Don't Believe" by The Avett Brothers
"Golden Age" by Chris Staple
"No River" by Esmé Patterson
"Let Me Get There" by Hope Sandoval and the Warm Inventions
"Call Off Your Dogs" by Lake Street Dive
"Berlin Got Blurry" by the Parquet Courts
"Water" by Ra Ra Riot and Rostam
"Over" by Rachel Yamagata
"Open Your Eyes" by School of Seven Bells
"Quiet Americans" by Shearwater
"Cricket and the Genie" by The Claypool Lennon Delirium
"In Bloom" by Sturgill Simpson
"Hands of Time" by Margo Price
"Beautiful Strangers" by Kevin Morby
"Rican Beach" by Hurray for the Riff Raff
"Atomic Number" by case/lang/veirs

Since I have to pick a favorite, I pick "Smithsonian" by the Avett Brothers. I find the tune addictive and the lyrics very assuming. 

Favorite discovery of the year: 
The Library of Congress is DC is perhaps the most beautiful building in the United States. The building alone is a good enough reason to visit. But then you get to see some of the most amazing books. There is a copy of the Guttenberg Bible, an original copy of Common Sense and Walt Whitman's "Leaves of Grass." It is a really impressive place. You also get to see the remainder of Thomas Jefferson's personal library that he donated.
Best trip: 
Our trip to Arizona was definitely our best trip, to see the Cubs in Spring Training, especially since this was the team that won the World Series. The Cactus League is such a better experience than the Grapefruit League in Florida. All the games in Arizona are a short drive from each other, around Phoenix, as opposed to Florida, which is all over the state. We got a close up look at all the Cubs' rookies and actually got to meet their manager Joe Madden (see my wife below getting a ball signed). We also met some old time greats like Bill Buckner, Fergie Jenkins and Lee Smith. Lee Smith was a lot of fun. He laughed at me when I told him the Red Sox were going to the playoffs.  Jokes on him!

We also took a week long visit to Portland Maine, with our niece, mostly kayaking, walking our dog on the beach, eating out, minor league baseball and visiting friends. All other trips this year were relatively local: Boston (for Fenway), Rhode Island, Connecticut and Montreal.


Renee Krug said...

WOW!!!! About an hour ago, I decided I would choose ONE person from your list and check that person, book, music, etc out. That wasn't easy to decide since I didn't recognize most of what you listed. Anyway, I chose Andrew Bird, and he was an EXCELLENT choice. He's (they) are great!! I started out with Are You Serious and then went on to listen to Take Courage, Hole in the Ocean Floor, Night Sky, Scythian Empire (wonder if Brian has heard that one), Stand by Me, Why, Imitosis, Oh No, Fitz and Dizzyspells, Dona Nobis Pacem with Yo Yo Ma, and Danse Caribe (what a cool, literally probably, venue)! Andrew Bird is amazing...whistling and all. So - thank you. Glad I read your blog and took some time to check Bird out. So interesting to me that I would "randomly" pick him to listen to since I'm going to be picking up my violin playing this month. What an impetus to my getting back into it. He makes it look easy, but I know it's not. Thanks again, Mark. I totally enjoyed listening to all this music!

Mark Peloquin said...

I am glad you checked out Andrew Bird. He's becoming one of my favorites. Beth and I discovered him at Higher Ground about 10 years ago when we were going to see Michelle Shocked. She wasn't very good. She was being very experimental that tour, but the bright spot is that a young Andrew Bird opened for her. He was better than she was. Also glad to hear you picked up your violin. I am not very musical but I have a mandolin that try to teach myself, unsuccessfully.