As we wrap up 2016, here’s a quick look back to my favorite albums, movies and events of this tumultuous year.
There were few great albums released in 2016 in my opinion despite what my other MMP compadres may say. There was a ton of bland millennial fare with abstract album covers coupled with airy bleeps and sounds that are becoming more and more indistinguishable and it’s rare to hear distinctive sounds or concept albums with exception to Bowie’s eerie stellar-end of “Black Star” or Nick Cave’s masterpiece “Skeleton Tree” that have made my list below.
Some of the more expected top albums that are on other media sites you probably won’t find here – and some you will. My tastes in music are broad as I tend to gravitate towards mood, tone, consistency or if there is a concept that is followed completely through from cover design to song titles and what is the replay factor beyond the rules of radio. There is no order or ranking to this list or the preceding lists.
Black Star :: David Bowie
Haunting and beautiful. Before Bowie blasted off into interstellar space for internity, he left us with “Black Star” and his best album that was well received by critics and listeners who experienced it after his passing. If there were a text book on how to go out with grace from this world – Bowie lived it and proved it with this album. Godspeed Ziggy.
A Moon Shaped Pool :: Radiohead
Getting past the track “Burn The Witch” was tough as it was incredibly infectious with its use of layered strings in cadence against Thom Yorke’s iconic voice. Radiohead proves again they are here to stay and keep releasing solid entries.
The Ghosts of Highway 20 :: Lucinda Williams
Lucinda can sing an entire book and I would never tire of her voice. The Louisiana native poor her heart into this concept album of life along I-20 and it speaks truth. From “Dust” to the “Ghosts of Highway 20” she swoons and slings the grit against drawling guitars down like the law of the highway. Keep on truckin’ Lucinda.
I’m Not The Devil :: Cody Jinks
There are several Cody’s staking their claim in county music this year. Cody Jink’s “I’m Not The Devil” album proved to be the winner for me. Jink’s voice and subject matter are pure country and the title track here is something I think we can all listen and relate to — redemption. The entire album is right out of a smokey, wood-paneled bar back in the heyday of outlaw country and it wears like a pair of old worn boots – worn to perfection.
Between The Moon and The Midwest :: Austin Lucas
Switching labels was a good thing for Lucas even though I am still a fan of his earlier work as I attended a few of his gigs when he was touring with Glossary. Lucas’ mixing of complicated lyrics with his vocal range and his slaying of an acoustic guitar makes anyone a believer in him and his work when you see him live. “Between the Moon and The Midwest” catapults Lucas to recognition that he truly deserves — and he is among the ravings of Sturgill Simpson’s release this year of “A Sailors Guide to Earth.” Midwest is a character concept album that is also shared with the talented Lydia Loveless. Take a listen and be sure to visit his earlier work. Keep raising your fist Austin.
Skeleton Tree :: Nick Cave
Deejay Hooker, this site’s maestro for music on our podcast and a highly more qualified reviewer of music than myself, introduced me to this album. I’ve listened to Nick Cave off and on over the years all the way back to Red Right Hand that was used in The X Files. Knowing the tragic events that led Nick to create this album and listening to the first minute of the arrangement – I was immediately sold. Like Bowie’s album – this one is just as haunting.
This was a dismal year at the movies. If a film didn’t have a Marvel logo attached to it – the odds were high that it’d be gone from the theater in a week or two – looking at you DC. Also, this year brought out vile responses to the reboot or whatever it was to Ghostbusters: Answer the Call. Everyone is unfortunately fair game in any media for public reaction and response but the level that the film and its actors received was taken beyond anything I have seen, eclipsing The Phantom Menace. I don’t support or review reboots nor do I support vitriolic responses for likes, retweets or whatever, regardless of any spectrum. My only exception to the reboot rule is Carpenter’s “The Thing” and I will admit I watched Zombie’s “Halloween” films out of curiosity. My very final thought on this chapter in Ghostbusters history is the studio and director should have made it a direct sequel to pass the torch – problem solved.
Just like music, my tastes in movies range from the absurd, obscure to the abstract to popular fair based on my other reviews on this site. I have selected my favorites here based on cinematography, score, and acting. I rarely base my tastes on a single actor like most tentpole summer flicks still try to sell us on like Tom Cruise’s upcoming reboot of The Mummy — Chuck Norris, 80s Arnold, Sigourney Weaver are the exceptions.
With that said, here are my top films for 2016.
Hell and High Water
2016’s western and gritty one at that, Hell or High Water proves again with Texas as a backdrop that this genre is still alive with the writing chops of Sicario’s Taylor Sheridan and direction of David McKenzie. This was a good move for Chris Pine as it allows him to avoid the pitfalls of being pegged solely as the captain of a certain starship. Jeff Bridges also hits it out of the park as the never relenting Texas Ranger.
Doctor Strange was the one of the few surprises of film for me in 2016. I knew little about the character but the trailer intrigued me along with production news up to its release. The surprise for me was Tilda Swinton’s portrayal of The Ancient One. The fabricated backlash over her casting was insane in my opinion as it was a creative choice and she was the best actress for the role. The effects in Strange actually added to the story instead of being eye candy or a distraction like most flicks in this genre. This is M.C. Escher’s work come to life and I can’t wait to see how this plays into the larger Marvel universe.
10 Cloverfield Lane
10 Cloverfield Lane kept me guessing as I didn’t search for or read a single spoiler about it. I wasn’t a fan of the first Cloverfield outing as the shaky cam gimmick overpowered that film. But, 10 Cloverfield Lane builds upon the first film’s universe. The characters are solid as John Goodman’s psychotic portrayal as a paranoid man builds just like Kathy Bate’s character in “Misery.” And the WTF ending is where the Cloverfield world fully opens up and I can’t wait to see where it goes next.
You can find my review on it here. Thank you Gareth for resurrecting Vader and the Empire.
The Last Man on the Moon
I’m a huge fan of our past and current race back to space. Captain Gene Cernan’s journey from humble beginnings to famed astronaut who was the last astronaut on the moon is uplifting and inspiring. I caught the premiere of this film with Cernan and the Director in attendance who did a Q & A afterwards and I wish every audience could experience that with this documentary. Also, if you liked Hans Zimmer’s soundtrack to Interstellar, the soundtrack to this film composed by Lorne Balfe is just as good and compliments well into any space playlist. Space is the one thing that united America and I believe it can do it again when we focus our eyes as a nation fully back to the stars.
Worst Moments of 2016
Apple, like Vampires, Shouldn’t Glitter!
Apple’s slow decline into the abysmal lowest common denominator follower of trends with the latest release of iOS: sparkles, emojis and the cringe worthy Pokemon iWatch keynote as seen below. Remember glitter banners in MySpace? Jettisoned into digital oblivion faster than Ellen Ripley can kick a xenomorph into an airlock. Yes, we now as a society communicate with confetti, sparkles, fireworks and memes. Idiocracy is now reality.
I am an Apple fanboy and have been since the days of the pizza box series but since Steve Jobs left us, the company has been way behind the times on the wow factor that we use to get – well at least in presentation terms where his personality commanded attention. Everything that the company has done as of late seems “safe” and they have left behind a market of creatives for Microsoft to quickly snatch up. Microsoft has developed a new line of Surface Desktop Pros and tablets that I am personally finding to be innovative and not gimmicky. The jury hasn’t fully ruled yet. Make us believe again Apple.
The Death Stars
Losing the greats this year as Pop Friction mentioned on December’s podcast have eclipsed the entire year. From Bowie, Glenn Fry to Haggard, John Glenn and now George Michael – the greats are slipping away from us and now Carrie Fisher is in the ICU and hopefully recovering well. What is more frightening to think about is we are being left with reality TV and YouTube stars.
The latest season of SouthPark and the mob of ‘member berries they created to represent our society on how we base everything now on how we remember everything then hit the target. As mundane as the season was in parts, there was genius behind it. We can’t let go. As our beloved stars, idols pass away and franchises change (or not) we always “‘member” the way things were and refuse to move ahead sometimes and let new discoveries take form — unless they are a complete rehash.
Here’s to a better year in 2017.
Adios. Nerd Herder.