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totally top five 2k18: listening

2018 really reignited my fire for finding new music to listen to and also reinvigorated my interest in bands who I already liked who also happened to have new albums being released. It also sent Crystal and I all over the Midwest to revisit our first true love live music, which was A-M-A-Z-I-N-G.

Anyway! Again, in no particular order:


Fall Out Boy’s Mania is really, really great and one of my most listened albums (and my most listened artist according to Spotify) of 2018. I like that Fall Out Boy has never seemed afraid to just write the songs they want to write regardless of what’s expected of them and that they keep producing music that is both really enjoyable and also meaningful and moving, regardless of whether you fall into their target demographic. They also continue to grow as musicians; they put on a hell of a live show. (We went twice! I cried! There was a lot of pyro!) and I can’t wait to see what they do next. Favorites: “Stay Frosty Royal Milk Tea” (Patrick Stump sing-yelling “résistance” is… life-changing.) & “HOLD ME TIGHT OR DON’T” & “Wilson (Expensive Mistakes)” & “Church” & “Heaven’s Gate” & “Champion” (Which makes me cry more often than I should admit.) & Okay, stopping because I’m going to end up listing the entire album.


Don Broco’s Technology is another album I fell for early on in 2018 and while I tapered off on my listening, it’s one I kept coming back to again when I thought about music I had really loved last year. A solid, well-produced, well-performed alt rock/post-hardcore effort that sounds best while blared loudly in a car with the windows down. There is some really memorable guitar work on this album that gets stuck in my head and some nice synth work that plays complement better than I would have expected. They’re also the first band to get me to buy Warped Tour tickets. We ended up giving them away, but we did buy them! Also, they make real weird music videos. Favorites: “T-Shirt Song” & “Come Out to LA” & “Pretty” & “Everybody” & “¥” & Something to Drink” & “Blood in the Water”


Reggie and the Full Effect’s 41 is so, so, so good and it’s killing me that I haven’t seen James Dewees touring on it yet because the show I went to in 2009 is still one of the best and most fun I’ve ever seen. Reggie’s albums are always sort of a stylistic adventure and I think 41 is probably the most cohesive yet. It feels like an album made for adults who still have feelings and if I’ve had a favorite emotional breakdown while rolling around on the floor in front of my turntable, it would definitely be the one I had to this album. Also, like all Reggie albums, it’s also dance-y as hell. Also-also, “Your drywall skills are fucking aces / Not even elective / You smell bullshit from twenty paces/ Skills so damn effective” has got to be one of the most specifically complimentary lines I’ve ever heard in a song. Favorites: Broke Down” & “Heartbreak” & “Karate School” & “The Horrible Year” & “Maggie” & “Off Delaware”


I found Dead!’s The Golden Age of Not Even Trying very early on in 2018 through a mix of The Algorithm and also seeing a random comment on Instagram saying that if we were missing My Chemical Romance (Am I ever not?) this would be a good listen and both the album and that random Instagram commenter were right! (The Algorithm knows me. I am one with The Algorithm.) This is another solid alt rock effort with some really great, punchy guitar and K-I-L-L-E-R bass work and some really clever, lovely lyrics — I am extremely partial to “Are you always this extroverted? / I’d like to ask if I could learn it / If you’ve got knuckles to drag / Then I’ve got bones to sweep / Any port in a storm / Can you hear me?” and I think about it A LOT. Favorites: “The Golden Age of Not Even Trying” & “Jessica” & “Off White Paint” & “You’re So Cheap” & “W9” & “Any Port” & Youth Screams & Fades”


I had sort of… forgotten that Panic! at the Disco was still making music until the Spotify algorithm shoved “Don’t Threaten Me with a Good Time” at me in late 2017 and I got re-interested and also dragged Crystal into it, kicking and screaming that she still loved Ryan Ross too much to listen to the new stuff. Pray for the Wicked is sooooooooo good. And so bright and clever and dance-y and FUN. Brendon Urie’s voice is a gift. And I am so glad that I dragged Crystal into it and she impulse bought us floor seats for the first leg of the tour because, wow. W-O-W. What a damn show. The album is a great whole and also great picked out song by song and I wish I was rich enough to just follow Panic’s tour around the world for the rest of my life. Also, I don’t know how I lived without the the delivery of “dying” in the third and fourth “when you’re dying in LA” in the chorus of “Dying in LA” for 33 entire years. Favorites: “Hey Look Ma, I Made It” & “High Hopes” & “Roaring 20s” & “Dancing’s Not a Crime” & “King of the Clouds” & “Dying in LA”


Honorable Mentions

bear ghost, blasterpiece   waterparks, entertainment   phantom thread score

ohhms, the fool   royal blood, how did we get so dark?   ghost, prequelle


Previously

2K12 | 2K13 | 2K14 | 2K15 | 2K16 | 2K17

totally top five 2018: reading

I made it another year reviewing all the books I read on Goodreads! Maybe this year I’ll 1. get better at reviewing and 2. read more dang books?!

And now in no particular order!


Adam Silvera’s They Both Die at the End ripped my heart out in all the best ways. It has a simple, genius concept that’s executed clearly without lengthy dragging explanations. It drops the reader in and expects them to accept the world as-is and then makes them fall in love with rich, engaging, charming characters and get attached to them, all the while knowing exactly how the story is going to end. Despite yelling the title at myself every time I felt even a tiny little glow of hope in my ribs, I was still absolutely devastated in the end and loved every second of it.


Janet E. Cameron’s Cinnamon Toast and the End of the World is a coming-of-age story that stays with its protagonist a lot longer than most, which I found both refreshing and really satisfying. I like the way time and place shape the story and that Stephen is struggling with more than one aspect of his identity. I like that even though it reaches extremely dark places, it never feels hopeless or like it’s enjoying the character’s suffering. There’s stronger writing here than I was expecting and some places where I knew the words would stick around for a long time. Really lovely.


Grady Hendrix’s My Best Friend’s Exorcism seemed like a fun, throwback book when I bought it, but it ended up being a lot more: scary and creepy and immersive and frustrating (I hate when you’re in the head of a character that other people don’t believe! It makes me furious and it was executed SO WELL here.) and also really lovely and moving and sweet. The heart of this book is a deep, living friendship between two girls and even with a great plot and pitch-perfect pop cultural references (that never feel cheap!) that friendship is what carries the story each step of the way. There’s some really great, grotesque imagery in here and I loved the multimedia elements, but most of all I loved that it had a really satisfying ending that never lost sight of the girls at its center.


S.J. Goslee’s Whatever was super, super fun and charming and smart and funny and had tons of great, teenager-y dialogue and goofy, teenager-y shenanigans to really get absorbed in. All of the characters here are really engaging, if not particularly complicated, and the story as a whole is really what I most enjoy when reading YA, my most frequent genre of choice: teenagers who are figuring shit out, navigating rough spots, and still having a pretty good time.


K. Ancrum’s The Wicker King wins the award for Book That Made Me Yell At My Wife the Most because she hasn’t read it yet, but also won’t let me talk to her about it because she doesn’t want to be spoiled and I want, SO BADLY, to talk about it! This book is so freaking beautiful and dense and interesting and painful and god, I don’t know how to articulate it. I love the characters and the weirdness and the relationships and the imagery and the visual components and the really intense, almost brutal relationship at the center of it. This book was so unpredictable and unexpected for me. Also, it has one of the best author’s notes I’ve ever read. I feel like stumbling across this book at Wild Rumpus while being mildly intimidated by a free-roaming fluffy chicken was a tiny little moment of magic in 2018 and I am so grateful for it.


Honorable Mentions

      


Previously

2K12 | 2K13 | 2K14 | 2K15 | 2K16 | 2K17

totally top five 2018: watching

After talking about my favorite stuff all year, it’s finally time to round it all up, so here we go!

In no particular order!


Big Mouth made me laugh more than probably anything I’ve watched in a long time. I think it’s so good at being gross and funny and relatable and I stand by the assertion that like, okay, maybe kids shouldn’t watch it, but kids should definitely watch it. I can’t imagine how much less messed up I would be if I’d had something like this as a youth. But also, it’s just funny. And the voice acting is great. And I really love the stylized characters and especially the hormone monsters! Both seasons are great and it manages to never really feel mean, despite it being about the absolutely cruelest age.


One Day at a Time wins the award for show that made me feel the best about being alive in 2018. These are wonderful, realistic, relatable, gentle characters who grow and learn and change, who are brave and funny and well-developed. It’s a show about a contemporary family that doesn’t feel too real, but also never feels phony. I love these characters so so much and I am so glad it’s coming back for another season.


Hereditary got a lot of hype around its release and it made me nervous to watch because that usually just leads to disappointment, but this time it didn’t! This was a great watch with lots of rich details and brutal, but not excessive gore (I spent most of my life as a big horror movie person, so your mileage may vary there.) and a genuinely compelling narrative at its center. Everyone in this is VERY good, but Toni Collette is BEYOND good. SO much of the movie is carried on her acting that it’s kind of hard to believe that it works all the way to the credits. This is definitely a horror movie, but I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s a scary movie. There are a couple of great jump scares, but it’s really a dark story about family that still manages to pay off as horror. It’s also WEIRD AS HELL, which is something I wish we all got more of in movies.


I LOVE The Good Place so so so so so so much. It’s the only show we keep up with (Until Brooklyn Nine-Nine starts up tomorrow!) and it’s just so good and so funny and fun and charming and GOOD. Characters who grow and change and learn and develop as the world around them is constantly shifting and throwing away everything they think they know or understand. I like every character, even the bad guys, and I can’t get over Manny Jacinto’s absolutely sculpted from marble beautiful face delivering some of the fucking funniest lines I’ve ever heard on tv. He is somehow the clown and the straight man? It’s magic. The whole show is magic, really, and I am so glad I got into it this year!


I watched Castle Rock on a complete whim and ended up loving it sooooooo much. Gorgeous cinematography, like a million actors that I love, Sissy Spacek!, Bill Skarsgård’s brutal, beautiful face and his impossibly skillful and subtle emoting, André Holland’s pitch-perfect brilliance, and a wonderful, weird, fun intertwining story with unexpected twists that pan out in unexpected and continually interesting ways. I cannot wait to see more of this universe, especially with the word that they’re planning a more anthological series which will cross back with characters we already know.


Honorable Mentions

      


Previously

2K12 | 2K13 | 2K14 | 2K15 | 2K16 | 2K17

glasses raised, we all say cheers

The new year can be a hard time for people, a lot of people, myself included. There’s pressure to renew and to change and to feel suddenly refreshed, to be a blank slate because the new year has come. But even more so it’s because we live in a world steeped in diet culture, in fatphobia, in orthorexia and impossible beauty standards and so there is immense pressure to make this the year you finally become the person you are told you should be. It’s exhausting and it’s stupid and you shouldn’t do it to yourself.

You were great last year and you’re going to be great in the next.

And if there ARE things that you want to change about your life, don’t let the pressure of the new year shape your goals.

Years are arbitrary! Months are made up! Time is fake!

Change or adjust or do things on whatever time feels right to you.

I have fallen prey to the new year a lot in my life, sometimes the new month, often even just the new week. It’s always a chance for a ~FRESH START~, right? Always a new chance to erase your mistakes and start over. But in 2018 I tried to remember that each mistake makes me better and my history is too valuable to be erased. I have woken up today; I couldn’t have without yesterday. I’ll keep trying to remember that.

Regardless, I think resolutions are ultimately mostly okay, if we can divorce them from the social standards and pressures and really think about them in terms of our own ~growth.

In 2019 I’d like to read more (30 books!) and write more (every day!) and watch and listen to new things. I’d like to keep journaling and use my planner more efficiently and reach out to friends more often than I do.

But most of all, I am going to try to focus on my ~word for the year, like I did in 2018.

2018’s word was unclench, which I tried to interpret in all the ways I could: physically and mentally and socially. To calm down and relax and release. It went alright. I definitely got better at noticing how physically tense I was and eventually getting better at releasing that tension. I got pretty okay at letting go of petty grievances and I made a valiant if minuscule effort toward unleashing myself on other people when the opportunity arose. Mild successes that I will gladly celebrate.

2019’s word is fortify.

While journaling and trying to listen to myself in 2018, I realized that I have felt desperately diminished in recent years, as though my personality has faded and shriveled, starved out because we live such an isolated life here. So this year I’d like to fortify myself, to shake out the husk of my once bombastic personality and try to figure out what that person looks like here and now when I stop unintentionally reining her in.

I want to fortify my mental health with journaling and meditation and the organization tools that keep me calm. I want to fortify my relationships by reaching out more often, regardless of the response, and getting back in to sending cards and letters. And I want fortify my cultural knowledge with new media, books and tv and movies and music.

I want to strengthen and secure and encourage myself and the world around me. Including you!

I hope 2019 is kind to you. I hope you feel love and joy that makes the pains and losses worth it. I hope you find peace and comfort. I hope you always know safety. I hope you grow in ways that you like. I hope that you’re able to summon the perfect, biting “Fuck you” when faced with someone or something that deserves it. I hope you share a memorable meal with someone you like. I hope you have a really fun nostalgia spiral about something you loved with all your heart when you were young. I hope you smile more than you cry. I hope you laugh so hard your body aches. I hope you remember that you are worthy of life and love and comfort and pleasure even when the world or the mean voice in your head is telling you otherwise. I hope to see you ring in 2020, whole and happy. I love you; I like you; I believe in you. 💜

totally top three: december 2018

December was… Well. It certainly was a month that took place! And now it’s over. And the whole year too!

I love-love-loved Dumplin’ so much. I think it did the book justice even with the trims needed to make it movie-sized and I loved every single one of the cast. I spent most of the movie yelling about how much I love Millie (I LOVE MILLIE!!) and about how I was definitely a Willowdean at that age and how I wish so much I had been more of a Millie. I love all the parents in this and the secondary and tertiary characters. I love the placemaking and the goofy pageantry. And mostly I love that this is a sweet, funny, charming movie about fat girls who doesn’t lose weight and gets a happy ending! Freakin’ great.



🖤

In this year’s fit of nostalgia (last year’s was music based!) Crystal and I started re-watching Stargate: Atlantis and have been having a wonderful time reliving the early days of our friendship bonding. It’s fun to be infuriated at the same dumb plots and bad guys and to laugh at the dweeby (and dated!) jokes and also to revel in all the friendship and found family. Also, I have been shocked to find that the computer graphics hold up strangely well? So weird!



🖤

Early this month, Crystal inexplicably decided that she needed to rectify the Four Weddings and a Funeral hole in my pop culture blanket and you know what? I enjoyed it a lot! It was funny and charming and weirdly like watching something extremely strange because of both the time it was made and how extremely British it is. The eulogy scene is absolutely heartbreaking and I can’t believe I’ve read the poem without ever having seen it. Stunning.


And three to look forward to…