Best Of


One of the benefits of having limited resources is that I’m much more careful with that $10-15 when I approach the box office. I know there were bad films this year, like every year, but I didn’t see any of them. To some extent, that makes these lists that much harder to write. Because 2011 seemed to be an uncharacteristically great year for cinema–my numbers two and three could have been at the top in almost any other year, this list is both a labor of love and an actual labor. As I’ve written, or struggled to write, about certain films, I’ve shuffled things around, dropped them off my list, gone back and reviewed when films were easy to access–though having them streaming on Netflix doesn’t always make them accessible (nudge, nudge). So, without further ado, here are the films that resonated most strongly with me in 2011 (though I saw three of them in 2012). (more…)

I’ve already blown a couple hundred words on what a good year for music it has been. I had composed a little rant about how, despite the high quality to be found across wide-ranging genres, there really wasn’t a clear high-water mark, and then Stephen Hyden went and wrote a longer, better piece about that very phenomenon in the AV Club. So that sort of boned this introductory paragraph about how difficult it was to crown a number one without a cultural swing (whether generic or broader) to join or rally against. Enjoy this really great top 10 even if it is devoid of material which made Zeus quake or stirred fears of revolution in the late Kim Jong-Il. (more…)

Here we go, the top 20. These are the first ten albums of 20 records that got the most spins, raised my heart beat most often, or calmed me down enough to actually sleep once in a while. (more…)

I didn’t realize how good music was in 2011 until I started making my year-end lists. Though I had trouble deciding just what would make the awards podium, the wealth of remarkable material is, well, remarkable. You’ll probably notice, when it’s all said and done, there are a number of high profile omissions, that says more about the quality of music this year than what may have been “lacking” in those releases–also, I didn’t want to have 30 or 40 honorable mentions in addition to a top 20. Without further ado, let’s open the flood gates with a list of EPs, splits, and LPs that were great but didn’t quite fit in my top 20. In other words, I really enjoyed these and got tired of trying to assign numbers, but felt these in need of a spotlight. (Don’t read anything into the order, it’s all alphabetical, folks.) (more…)

We’re solidly in a second stand-up comedy boom. Back in the ’80s thousands of comics rolled up the sleeves of their blazers and ushered in a wave of observational humor–almost exclusively told in front of bare, brick walls. Now, in the second decade of this new millennium, the new boom doesn’t acknowledge fashion or facades as much as it’s reliant on the ever so “democratic” internet, specifically the wide world of podcasting–and let’s not forget about Twitter, y’all.
Observational anecdotes are still the bread and butter of the industry, but the alternative wave in the ’90s, the confessional and/or ever-evolving nature of podcasts, and the bite-sized nuggets on Twitter leave us with something a bit more complex than well-written airline cracks. My top ten, alone, is wildly diverse while still adhering, primarily, to observational formats.
Without any weight in “the biz,” and without exerting a whole heck of a lot of energy, I heard something in the neighborhood of 50 comedy records this year. Almost every album had at least a good chunk, but about 20 albums really shined as not only hilarious sets, but as valuable cultural artifacts. Seriously, this year was so good I had to slide “Weird Al” Yankovic’s solid Alpocalypse down to the honorable mention section (spoiler alert!). (more…)

We’re already over halfway through 2011. I wanted to highlight a few fine records I’ve gotten into so far. I wrote up a list of my favorite Iowa City releases for Little Village Magazine already, so I won’t be rehashing that, I’ll just single out some stellar releases and unnecessarily pigeon-hole and qualify them cause, why not?

Liturgy
Aesthetica
Thrill Jockey

From about ages 13 through 16, give or take a year or two, metal and hard rock ruled my radio. Discovering Radiohead around 16, marked the beginning of a pretty precipitous decline in head-banging and a more regular move toward “the standing still.” After a violent shunning of all things stupid, loud, and crude–my dismissive stance on metal and hard rock–for the early part of college, I allowed myself to enjoy the louder things in life. I have, since my junior year of college, found a few records that really up the decibel level and also appeal to my “more refined” tastes. (more…)

We’re already over halfway through 2011. I wanted to highlight a few fine records I’ve gotten into so far. I wrote up a list of my favorite Iowa City releases for Little Village Magazine already, so I won’t be rehashing that, I’ll just single out some stellar releases and unnecessarily pigeon-hole and qualify them cause, why not?

Mike Birbiglia
Sleepwalk With Me (Live)
Comedy Central Records

This is a no-brainer. I haven’t heard many comedy albums in 2011 (not for lack of material, but for lack of finances), but I have a hard time imagining a comedy recording that I’ve yet to hear from 2011 with as much heart and laughs as deep as Mike Birbiglia‘s latest release.
Sleepwalk With Me is not a stand-up record though. Birbiglia has been touring with this one man show for a few years (compiled the stories into a book as well) and finally committed it to record for posterity. (more…)

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