You can be honest – you look forward to this all year.
“Josh writes two, maybe three blog posts a year,” you say, “but I’ll be darned if each and every one of them isn’t the highlight of that whole month.”
Well you’re in luck, because it’s February and that means it’s time to talk about some of my fave crap this year.
To Pimp a Butterfly – Kendrick Lamar
Remember last year when I said my favorite genre is this hyper-specific kind of electronic dream pop that only FKA Twigs did in 2014? Well, in 2015, Made in Heights, Son Lux, FKA Twigs and Purity Ring all dropped new stuff and it was all great. (Links take you to my fave singles from each)
But never mind all that. My fave album this year was easily Kendrick’s super angry, super passionate, super jazzy rap masterpiece. It made me legit cry a bit in my cubicle by the end, and that’s pretty much the one sure-fire way to lock in my vote. Gotta say my favorite track is The Blacker the Berry, though. So raw.
Wolf in White Van – John Darnielle
Listen, I know this came out in 2014 but you can deal with it, okay? I got to it this year and I’m still thinking about it and I think that means it’s pretty good. Besides, I’m a little behind and always will be. Ugh, stop looking at me like that.
Besides, this book’s good. Considering it’s written by a master songwriter it’s almost too easy to call it lyrical, but it is. It does a lot of things I usually hate and it pulls them all off with aplomb. It’s a short read and if you know the dude’s music at all you know it’s a total downer, but it’s a fantastic fusion of form, content, and strange sad humanity.
If you do read it, I feel like you’ll a) be mad at me for recommending it and b) want to talk about it.
So, y’know, all according to plan!
Steven Universe – Cartoon Network
This is maybe the only thing on this list that isn’t a downer in any way. In fact, I’d go so far as to say there is nothing more wholesome, life-affirming, and joyous as this wonderful piece of television. It’s also super feminist and super woke overall.
I also just got shivers rewatching one of my favorite moments from season one. I’d share it, but it’s a spoiler that only has meaning if you watch the whole show, which you should do anyway. (If you have, you know I’m talking about “Stronger Than You”)
Jessica Jones – Netflix/Marvel
No hesitation, not for a moment – easily the best thing this year, and it was a good year. Sure it’s a superhero show, but it’s also a gritty film noir that confronts abuse, survival, and the heavy weight of power. She’s a hero who has to conquer herself before she can start saving the world, and that’s far more compelling than any Superman.
Like most art I love, it’s emotionally draining to the point of being straight-up devastating. It’s worth the effort in every way and it’s a great watch, but this won’t put you in a good mood. Who needs that though? That’s not what art is for anyway.
And don’t let the superheroes and the Marvel universe confuse you – this is fine art. It exists in the same world as Ant-Man, Iron Man, and Thor, but it’s its own beautiful and challenging piece.
Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen – Capcom
Boy oh boy if you were mad about the book being a year old you’ll be FURIOUS about this. It came out in 2013! The thing is I’m working on a PS3 and an old PC, so I’m not really up-to-date. I also tend to wait for great deals before buying anything because I’m a completionist and I’m still working through my intimidating Steam library.
So I haven’t played like anything from this year. If I had to pick, I might say Not A Hero for the gameplay, but whatevs. I bet I’ll love Undertale when I get to it and I’m pretty sure Witcher 3 and Fallout 4 will both blow me away when I get to them.
Not a lot of people seemed to dig Dragon’s Dogma, but I spent a lot of time with it. I still spend time thinking about it. To be fair, the gameplay is fun, but it’s a bit sloppy. The characters are flat, the story is simplistic, and there’s a lot of backtracking and some grinding.
But I loved it. I loved the sense of adventure when you check to make sure you have enough food to go on a long journey, I loved jumping off an ally’s shield to cut the goat-head off a chimera, and I loved [SPOILER] the way it took a classic dragon hunt story and turned it into an apotheosis and a meditation on the RPG genre. [/SPOILER]
Mad Max: Fury Road – George Miller
Like you had to ask. I wrote an article about this for work. My desk plant is named for Charlize Theron’s character, Imperator Furiosa. When it was nominated for Best Picture, I was so proud you’d think I produced it.
The movie is absolutely insane. It’s 100% itself and it makes no apologies about that, so it won’t be for everyone. It’s a perfect example of a complete fantasy world built for the screen and a great action flick to boot. It’s also beautiful in a way that a post-apocalyptic rock and roll car chase should never be.
Oh, and oddly feminist to boot. It’s so weird that sometimes I wonder if I dreamed it.
This was a great year for movies though. If George Miller hadn’t specifically made Mad Max just for me, I might have had some hard decisions to make. Here’s my top ten from least to most fave: It Follows, Star Wars VIII: The Force Awakens, The Danish Girl, Straight Outta Compton, The Revenant, Dope, Inside Out, Ex Machina, and Room.
I saw almost everything, and there’s a lot of really great stuff that just doesn’t make the cut for me personally. Perhaps controversially, I will say I liked Furious 7 better than Hateful Eight and I thought Spotlight was about as good as Terminator Genisys. I haven’t seen Carol yet and I’m sure there’s others I missed, but I feel pretty good about this list.
What did I miss? Are my faves totally wrong and your faves the only right faves? Let me know in the comments!