2020: Favorite Albums of the Year

Worriers – You or Someone You Know: The record that truly accompanied me through this year. Every song could be my song of the year – and I plan on playing Grand Closing at midnight. Happy fucking new year.

Phoebe Bridgers – Punisher: Probably the best album of the year (though I haven’t given Fiona Apple’s new album enough time yet) From lyrics to production to artwork, a nearly perfect record.

Dream Wife – So When You’re Gonna…: My new discovery of the year. Rock’n’roll! Dream Wife are the kind of band that makes you look forward to the future with more excitement. If I could choose a first show to go to after this pandemic, it would be either Dream Wife or ..

Touche Amore – Lament: A great, almost positive postcore album. Touche Amore is the best hardcore band atm and I’d drive far to see them live. And Reminders is oddly life-affirming (especially if you combine it with the video.) Don’t have the physical vinyl, yet.. 

NOFX/Frank Turner – West Coast vs. Wessex: The album my wife and I listened to the most together. I can’t believe Thatcher Fucked the Kids isn’t actually by NOFX, or Eat the Meek actually by Frank Turner. 

Also amazing:

Bright Eyes – Down in the weeds, where the world once was

Algiers – There Is No Year

Laura Jane Grace – Stay Alive

I’m Glad It’s You – Every Sun, Every Moon

Porridge Radio – Every Bad

Fiona Apple – Fetch the Bolt Cutters

Bruce Springsteen – Letter to You

Run the Jewels – RTJ4

What are your faves of the year?

What’s Making Me Happy This Week?

I want to establish a weekly series on this blog called “What’s Making Me Happy This Week,” lifted from everyone’s favorite segment on the best pop culture podcast. But somehow, despite the okay week I’ve had and the sunshine outside, it seems wrong to publish a column called “something something happy” today. You know, with the Tomahawks in the south and the truck in the north.  But then again, when would it be truly appropriate to post a happy post? 

So here are my two favorite morsels of pop culture: 

* Stown, the This American Life/Serial podcast. It’s amazing, TAL storytelling at its best. But be warned, if you’re struggling with depression: Only listen to it on a good day. It’s not an abstract, whodunnit true crime story, but rather the intimate detail of a shit town and a man struggling with the world and his place in it.  

*Good news: There is a new At the Drive-In album on the horizon and the first few singles are actually good. For your sad/angry/happy/content  weekend listening pleasure, here is a Spotify playlist of the entire At the Drive-In discography. (The end of Invalid Litter Dept. always feels cathartic.)

What’s Making Me Happy This Week: Tunde Olaniran – Namesake

The massive chorus on this track by the artist from Flint, Michigan has been my happy place, my daily pick-me-up for a couple of weeks now (Thanks, NPR Music’s Austin 100!) Then I discovered the corresponding music video – amazing!

Also great this week, but more local: Queergestreift, a local LGBTI film festival. I got to see Moonlight (I had really high expectations, and the movie exceeded them all) Coming Out (the first and only gay movie from the former German Democratic Republic, an interesting and well-made portrait of 1989) and The Fits (an magic movie about black girlhood, dance, gender, and coming-of-age. Watch out for director Anna Rose Holmer and young actress Royalty Hightower)  A couple of great movies are still coming up, the festival is on at Zebra Kino Konstanz until next week.

However, I might not get to see many of them, as I’ll also attend my first barcamp, #BCBS17 here in Konstanz. I’m excited. 

What’s Making Me Happy This Week: Alex Lahey

Alex Lahey’s EP B-Grade University is the brightest indie rock soundtrack of a post-college quarter life crisis I’ve heard in quite some time. Whether it’s the “9-to-5 headache”of “Ivy league,” the romance of “Wes Anderson” and the exploration of relationships in “Let’s Go Out” and “You Don’t Think You Like People Like Me“ Lahey’s songs are consistently charming, anthemic and on point. And her music videos are hilarious! The video for “You Don’t Think You Like People Like Me” is the best sports-themed rock band video since Jimmy Eat World’s Lucky Denver Mint. “Ivy League” is a louder version of Bob Ross. “Wes Anderson” is appropriately quirky. “Let’s Go Out” (above) is the broke, kalsarikännit expansion of Courtney Barnett’s “Nobody Really Cares If You Don’t Go to The Party.”

B-Grade University is out on Dead Oceans and a full length album is in the works for 2017.  The EP unfortunately isn’t available on Spotify in Germany yet, but buying it for the price of a Biergarten pint or a fancy coffee is cooler, anyway.


What’s Making Me Happy This Week  Right Now

The moment the chorus hits on Mitski’s new single “Your Best American Girl”

It’s not that the song is particularly happy, but the chorus is such a perfect piece of indie rock, it takes my breath away every time.

For more on this song and Mitski, listen to this great interview with All Songs Considered.


What’s Making Me Happy This Week III

Spraynard live on NPR’s Bullseye with Jesse Thorn

I’m at a weird point in my life where I fall for punk bands recommended on NPR shows.

Spraynard play the kind of emotional pop punk that will forever have a special place in my heart and mind. Brilliant. Check out their great album Mable on bandcamp.   

What’s Making Me Happy This Week (II)

Inspired by my favorite pop culture podcast, NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour, I want to introduce a new recurring feature for my blog: A post about something (pop)cultural I’ve read, seen, or heard the past week that makes me happy.

This week: Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

I finally saw the new installment of the great space pew pew saga, and I really liked it. I think it’s at least as strong as the very first Star Wars. After the credits rolled and the Bad Robot did its thing, I was excited and actually immediately wanted to see the sequel – and that is a rare thing, as I usually find sequels to be unnecessary, if not downright despisable. The main reason I want another fix:  Rey, Finn, and Poe, aka the new young characters. Even without spoiling any major plot surprises, it’s clear that Rey, played by ,Daisy Ridley, is this movie’s Luke Skywalker. She is the central character, a human scavenger with a knack for droids, absent parents, and a good heart. She’s smart, talented, and strong, neither a damsel-in-distress nor an immediately impeccable warrior. Ridley’s performance is equally charming and clever, it’s wonderful to watch her act. (This makes it mind-bogglingly sexist that Rey as a character wasn’t part of a lot of merchandise)

The other two new leads are similarly clever, charming and flawed. Oscar Isaac’s-wing pilot Poe has a last man standing soldier’s swagger and is the new generation of the Resistance. John Boyega’s stormtrooper turned conscientious objector turned Black Han Solo is as great a character as Rey, and they have an almost immediate on-screen chemistry that is more battle-ready than romantic. (I hope that stays that way.) In addition to the great movie and acting performance, I’m really excited about the new stage of stardom that is possible for these three actors. The Force Awakens is the first time I saw Daisy Ridley on stage, but I’ve been rooting for Oscar Isaac’s since he played a restless folk singer in Inside Llewyn Davis, and John Boyega was amazing as crew leader and alien defeater in Attack the Block.

While all three have great potential, Boyega maybe has shown the greatest range so far. I’m sure it’ll be exciting to see what both these three actors and their characters do next.