Category: reviews Page 1 of 2

just finished The Sisters Brothers, a book I liked so much the first time that I not only intended to reread it, I actually did! Just in time for the movie to be gone from theaters, lol/sob. but what a great book, I enjoyed it as much as I remembered. 📚

finished The Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead. Another gripping & masterfully written story from an author I like a lot, though for me, imagining the railroad as a literal underground construction didn’t add as much to the story as I’d expected.

just finished Godless. set in the Old West, it’s an intense, gripping 7-episode miniseries with a fantastic cast of characters (and a lot of guns). recommended.

finished reading God Save Texas, by Lawrence Wright. I enjoyed the mix of history, personal anecdotes, and political analysis. some of the stories cast recent events – in Texas & the US more broadly – in an interesting, some-of-this-ain’t-all-that-new light. 📚

finished Functional Thinking by Neal Ford for yesterday’s @atxcompbookclub. I found juggling examples in several different languages to be more work than it was worth, but as an intro, background, & argument in favor of functional programming, it nailed it. 📚

heard the first episode of this new podcast, Everything Is Alive, via 99% Invisible. “an unscripted interview show in which all the subjects are inanimate objects”, funny & clever.

finished reading: The Song of Achilles, by Madeline Miller. I really enjoyed this modern telling of The Iliad story, which I knew broadly but have never read. This is so well written, evocative, with superb characterization. highly recommended. 📚

book review: Under the Lights & in the Dark, by Gwendolyn Oxenham. I thought I’d like it, but I loved it. I recommend this compelling, inspiring (but not pollyannaish) collection of stories not just to soccer fans, or women’s soccer fans, but to anyone. fantastic. 📚

Next was a title that’s been on my list since the 2011 Tournament of Books, where it got to the semis. This opening round review is a good one.

book review: Next, by James Hynes: really enjoyed this. I think I would have even if I weren’t so familiar with much of the setting (a bright, hot day in downtown & south Austin), but that was a bonus for sure. (and what a final act!) 📚

“And I’m not in favor of the “nice sandwich” approach to criticism. Fuck the nice sandwich. Fuck the false balance of “impartial” journalism. I just didn’t like it and it didn’t move me.”

holy cats, a barnburner of a judgment indeed. GOD I love the ToB.

we decided to watch all the Best Picture nominees before the Oscars tomorrow, & with the The Post last night, we did it! (MoviePass ftw.) no award predictions but my favorites were Get Out, Shape of Water, & Lady Bird.

book review: The Book of Joan, by Lidia Yuknavitch. a literary sci-fi apocalypse story with interesting ideas and moving scenes, undercut for me by some suspension-of-disbelief breaking aspects & a few gory moments 📚

this is hilarious, down to the sponsors: a limited series (with short episodes) Onion parody of true-crime podcasts like S-Town: A Very Fatal Murder. (just two episodes there but they’re all published on iTunes, et al)

movie review: King Arthur: Legend of the Sword – we were so excited when we first saw this trailer, then so disappointed to see the critics’ reviews. finally watched it tonight, and it was a lot of fun! (weird to see Littlefinger as a good guy, though) 🎬

Best of My 2017 Music

Time again for my annual best-of music review! Each year, I pick my ten favorite new albums of the year, where “new” means new to me, not necessarily released in 2017. Any albums I bought in the calendar year are eligible for the list, regardless of when they were released.

Here are my 2017 selections, in alphabetical order by artist (I pick the top 10, but I don’t order them further than that). A playlist of all these albums is on Spotify.

Charly Bliss, GuppyGuppy, Charly Bliss – I don’t recall where I first heard of this fun, energetic little pop-punk band. The vocals and the songs themselves remind me a little of early Cardigans, which is a good thing. The AV Club agrees, calling this album “ebullient, addictive, and an instant classic”.

Lucy Dacus, No BurdenNo Burden, Lucy Dacus – What a voice, and a set of just excellent songs to showcase it. Troublemaker Doppelgänger is one of my favorites of the year, right up there with the very best songs in my library. I saw her and her band indoors at Stubb’s, it was a great show. (concert pic)

Diet Cig, Swear I'm Good at ThisSwear I’m Good at This, Diet Cig – I’ve been waiting for the first full-length from this dynamic duo since I put their EP and single on last year’s list, and it didn’t disappoint. Neither did their opening set in Nov. ’16 or their SXSW show at Waterloo. Don’t miss a chance to see Diet Cig live. (concert pic)

EMA, Exile in the Outer RingExile in the Outer Ring, EMA – Another brand-new artist for me, and a powerful one. A look over the song titles will tell you this isn’t light party music: “I Wanna Destroy”, “Blood and Chalk”, “Aryan Nation”, the list goes on. It’s good, hard, somewhat genre-defying music.

Hop Along, Painted ShutPainted Shut, Hop Along – Another new band, with a solid album of clever, well-crafted indie songs. It took a listen or two for the singer’s voice to grow on me; now it’s my favorite part of their sound.

Juana Molina, HaloHalo, Juana Molina – I’ve been a fan of hers for years (her last album was a best-of in 2013), and this is another good addition to her catalog. Experimental, melodic, and lighthearted, it’s also good music to have on in the background while reading or coding.

Run the Jewels, Run the Jewels 3Run the Jewels 3, Run the Jewels – The first RTJ album I’ve really gotten into (thanks to Sound Opinions, I think), and it’s just fantastic. Their set at the ACL Music Festival was good, even though we didn’t know all the songs from numbers 1 and 2.

S, Cool ChoicesCool Choices, S – I discovered this year that a singer from the now-defunct Carissa’s Wierd has been making solo music under the short (and difficult to search for) name “S”. Quiet, poignant, lovely songs. She performed the entirety of this album live in her hometown of Seattle as a farewell to this project, but unfortunately our trip there missed it by like two weeks.

Speedy Ortiz, Foil DeerFoil Deer, Speedy Ortiz – Speedy Ortiz’s clever, literate lyrics and inventive noise pop have been a favorite for a while (their last album was a best-of in 2014). I’d seen them on Waterloo’s SXSW stage then, but was glad to have the chance to see a full show this year. (concert pic)

Waxahatchee, Out in the StormOut in the Storm, Waxahatchee – Their previous album, Ivy Tripp (see the track from that one below), was good, but their latest is a big step forward. A little uneven, but with a standout like “Silver”, and a memorably great show at Mohawk, this was an easy choice for this year’s best-of. (concert pic)

That’s it for my ten favorite “new” albums of 2017.

And then there are all the rest of the albums. To complete my annual time capsule, I also make a playlist of favorite single tracks from all of the year’s albums that didn’t make the best-album cut, ordered not alphabetically, but in the best mixtape order I can manage. This “Best of the Rest”, minus the Lola Tried song and the Grateful Dead live tracks (from bootlegs I dug up for shows that we saw live), is also a playlist on Spotify.

  1. Wiseblood – Zola Jesus, Okovi
  2. Not A Problem – S, im not as good at it as you
  3. Never Start – Middle Kids, Middle Kids
  4. In My Feelings – Lana Del Rey, Lust for Life
  5. Favorite Transgressions – Sleigh Bells, Kid Kruschev
  6. The Space Program – A Tribe Called Quest, We got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your service
  7. Let Me Out – Gorillaz, Humanz
  8. Should I Stay Or Should I Go – The Clash, Combat Rock
  9. Wide Awake – Deep Sea Diver, SECRETS
  10. Dangerous Days – Zola Jesus, Taiga
  11. Hello Sadness – Los Campesinos!, Hello Sadness
  12. Stranger To My Happiness – Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings, Give The People What They Want
  13. Simulation – Tkay Maidza, Tkay
  14. San Marcos – Lola Tried, Popsicle Queen
  15. Summer of Love – Waxahatchee, Ivy Tripp
  16. Rubin & Cherise – Grateful Dead, 1991-06-09 – Buckeye Lake Music Center
  17. New Speedway Boogie – Grateful Dead, 1992-06-28 – Deer Creek Music Center
  18. Althea – Grateful Dead, 1994-07-29 – Buckeye Lake Music Center

– saw band live this year
– link to concert pic

Enjoy!

Past years’ bests: 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016

if you already have a Roku, Apple TV, internet TV, whatever, this is ancient news. but: this Roku LEGIT improved our lives, 35(+?)%

summer of Miyazaki #15 (& last): The Tale of the Princess Kaguya (2013) – Ghibli, not by Miyazaki, but such a beautiful film. a favorite

summer of Miyazaki #14: The Wind Rises (2013) – another we hadn’t seen. good, if slow. without knowing the history, somewhat over our heads

summer of Miyazaki #13: From Up On Poppy Hill (2011) – we hadn’t seen this one before; it was interesting. a well-done romantic melodrama

summer of Miyazaki #12: Secret World of Arrietty (2010) – book adaptation, like Howl’s; good story & characters in another interesting world

summer of Miyazaki #11: Ponyo (2008) – Little Mermaid adaptation some fun moments, but it’s too simple, even juvenile, to be a favorite

summer of Miyazaki #10: Howl’s Moving Castle (2004) – one of our favorites, with all the great characters, magic, & themes you’d want

summer of Miyazaki #9: The Cat Returns (2002) – a stretch since he didn’t write or direct, but a favorite years ago; still really cute & fun

summer of Miyazaki #8: Princess Mononoke (1997) – a classic, but sprawling storylines & an ambiguous ending made it not my favorite tbh

summer of Miyazaki #7: Spirited Away (2001) – masterpiece of mood, character, & action [watched Fri.; out of order w/Mononoke but it’s next]

summer of Miyazaki #6: Porco Rosso (1992) – wasn’t sure if we’d seen this before; we hadn’t. it’s great: funny, charming, & exciting

summer of Miyazaki #5: Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989) – the very 1st Miyazaki movie we ever saw, & still a favorite. Phil Hartman as Jiji!

summer of Miyazaki #4: My Neighbor Totoro (1988) – just imagine if you’d never seen this & watched it the first time with no spoilers

summer of Miyazaki #3: Castle in the Sky (1986) – heart-achingly, heart-breakingly pure, beautiful, and fantastic.

summer of Miyazaki #2: Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984) – I’m sure we’ve seen this but barely remembered it – amazing & fantastic

started a summer of Miyazaki last night with his first feature, 1979’s Castle of Cagliostro. we hadn’t seen it before; really enjoyed it

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