Category Archives: Best of the Year

Music to Your Ears – Best of the Year: Elite Eight and Honorable Mentions

Well, there’s already been some surprising upsets in our first bracket music challenge! Both our 1st and 2nd seeds were knocked out (some may say our voters have no heart) as Selena Gomez fell to Liam Gallagher and Carly Rae Jepsen fell to Haim. Without further adieu, here’s the elite eight:

First, we have the British invading the States again as Liam Gallagher takes on St. Vincent:

It’s all about cardio in our second match-up as Cold War Kids try to unseat the racing Killers single:

Underrated Jidenna pops up in our third face-off, where he tries to fend of the sister trio Haim:

Kesha continues strong, but faces fierce competition from similar songstress Lorde:

Now, as for those songs that didn’t make the cut – some were victims of overexposure (Feel It Still, Portugal. the Man) and some were simply a victim of my strict sixteen limits. Anyway, here’s six extra songs for your enjoyment:

Honorable Mentions:

Edge of Town – Middle Kids

Early this year, a new band emerged out of Australia with a three-song EP. This snappy garage rocker earwormed its way into my head, and positioned this band as one of the artists I’m most excited about in the coming year. Eagerly anticipating their full release, we can live inside this for now – a mix of Yeah Yeah Yeahs tremble from vocalist Alex Lahey and guitar work that feels straight out of tour mates Cold War Kids. Elton John has lauded this tune, and now so am I.

Forgiveness – Paramore

The best song off After Laughter, the crisp follow-up to their best and self-titled 2013 album, ‘Forgiveness’ is a somber look at how heartbreak affects us. Take a look at this section – ‘Cause your voice is a gun / Every word is a bullet hole / Shot a hole in the sun / If I never look up maybe I’ll never notice. I’m sure I’ve said it before, but Hayley Williams has never written anything so poignant and relatable.

Sky Musings – Wolf Alice

As tremulous as the vocals were in Sleigh Bells’ great track ‘And Saints’, singer Ellie Roswell outdoes Alexis Krauss here in the best track off Wolf Alice’s latest album. Almost whipsering, Roswell searches her way under your skin with one of the darkest yet hopeful tracks you’ll hear all year. When you’re young you think your life is over when something drastic happens, but Wolf Alice is here to remind you that there’s plenty of time left to make sure you get it right.

I’m Stuck – Noah Cyrus

Miley’s younger sister nearly stole the show this summer with this catchy love tune that popped up in commercials and trailers all over the place. I hesitate to say it’s better, because I clearly placed ‘Malibu’ in the bracket, but I have higher hopes for where Noah’s future lies. She’s already got the knack for irresistible hooks, and I gather she’ll have the chance to win us over for many songs of the summer to come.

Lay It On Me – Vance Joy

A late entry in this – literally, I heard this again yesterday and realized I knew the lyrics only after a second listen. I’m already a big fan of Vance Joy’s 2013 hit ‘Riptide’ and that song worked its way into my heart over a year. This time it was clearly much faster, and Joy’s infectious vocals are just what we need as the year wraps up. Apparently this developed from a voicemail Joy kept on his phone for some time, and this is the quaint response.

Savage – Lights

I had limited my expectations of Lights singer Valerie Poxleitner after being underwhelmed by her previous efforts. Luckily this year’s Skin&Earth is a brilliant concept album that lives in a fantasy world, something that’s definitely up my weird alley. Somehow nerdier Lights became better Lights, and the best example of that improvement is ‘Savage’. A raucous declaration of unrequited love, Lights has truly outdone herself.

Here’s a full playlist of my top thirty-five songs from 2017:

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Music to Your Ears – Best of the Year: Songs Part Two

Here we are again, with the back four face-offs between some of my favorite songs of 2017. Tuesday we brought you the top seed alongside some other notable singles, so check that out and vote if you missed it. As for now, look out below for some pop darlings, some hip hop surprises and one of the most honest songs you’ll hear all year.

Continue reading Music to Your Ears – Best of the Year: Songs Part Two

Music to Your Ears – Best of the Year: Songs Part One

So we’re trying something different this year, as I’ve mentioned the past couple of editions – I’m a big fan of brackets and tournaments, so I figured I’d pick my four favorite songs from each season of 2017 (Winter, Spring, Summer and Autumn) and pit them against each other. I’m going to give the lowdown on why I chose them and all that, of course, signifying why they’re the best sixteen songs of the year.

This is where you come in: This week and the subsequent three Tuesdays I’ll be asking you to vote for what you think is the best of the best. The first four matchups are today, below, and on Thursday I’ll reveal the other four face-offs.

Continue reading Music to Your Ears – Best of the Year: Songs Part One

Music to Your Ears – Bjork, Frank Turner and Best of Autumn

At long last we come to the end of our time in 2017. There isn’t much more arriving in stores for music lovers until the dawning hours of next year. Annually this is a struggle we must undertake, listening for the gold at the end of the rainbow. Here’s three final albums that I’ve absorbed in the past two weeks:

Bjork – Utopia

I’m sorry, I can’t deal with this. Is Bjork truly music, or is it merely beeps and boops and long yowls that make you think you’re hearing art because she once wore that swan dress to the Oscars and made everything think she was edgy and fashion forward, thus equating “artistic”? Eh, I digress – but this is more of the same, meaning it’s incomprehensible drivel unless you’ve bought into it from the very beginning, or you really like out there shit like Yoko Ono or Merzbow. Move along.

Key Tracks: None

U2 – Songs of Experience

After so many years, you would think a band like U2 might be glad to shuffle along playing many of their classics. Bands like the Rolling Stones and the Who and the Eagles continued that way and did fine, so it only makes sense to make your money that way. Bono and company aren’t content to live on the past alone, and here they add to their continually growing retinue with aplomb. Sure, there are the political ballads typical of the Irish pop group, and the opening track “Love Is All We Have Left” feels a bit pretentious. Luckily, for us, this is not the dull album foisted upon iPhone users in 2014 (Songs of Innocence). As soon as first single “You’re the Best Thing About Me” appears, the mood of the album lifts to the heavens and guitarist Edge is allowed to let loose. The rest of the rollicking album is a breath of fresh air after the decade of oblivion that had left them on the horizon. I’m glad they’re back, and this is easily their best latter-day release.

Key Tracks: You’re the Best Thing About Me / The Little Things That Give You Away / Get Out of Your Own Way

Roy Woods – Say Less

Pulling teeth trying to dig up something else to talk about (yet again, December is a desert for good new music that isn’t Christmas-related) I hit on this to see if it might work for me. Having no idea what Woods’ genre even was, it was a pleasant surprise. Subtle vocals top off soothing beats to start off “Medusa”, but that gives way to some perfectly pulsating jams. He’s a skilled songwriter, if not repetitive. I see a good future, at least, and if this is only a one-off, it’s fine stuff to chill to.

Key Tracks: Little Bit of Lovin / Monday to Monday / Glasses


One more thing…

Finally, we have my picks for the best sixteen tracks from the autumn of 2017. Like I just said, it was rough going figuring out what truly actually belonged, but at least the top four are solid. That way we’ll have sixteen fantastic entries in next week’s Best of 2017 music bracket showdown! Tune in on Tuesday, December 5th to see the first four matchups!

Twin Peaks: The Return (Episode 1)

I must confess to the fact that I’m a Twin Peaks newcomer. I haven’t seen any of the previous episodes but I’ve been recapped on the Laura Palmer murder mystery and the ensuing oddities from friends. Having said that, I’m still a devout fan of David Lynch’s oeuvre of idiosyncratic surrealism (The Elephant Man, Dune and Blue Velvet being my personal choices for his magnum opuses).

Lynch’s collaborations with Kyle MacLachlan have been a tremendously fruitful marriage of actor and director. Kyle seems to be readily incorporated into Lynch’s brand of bucolic madness. In the intervening 25 years, Agent Dale Cooper has a nefarious doppelganger: a tanned weekend warrior with a mullet and pitch-black irises. Quite the stark contrast to his well-groomed, fastidious image during his stay in Twin Peaks.

Much like his other excursions into dream logic, the dialogue is serpentine with quotable nonsequitirs such as when Dale advises a lodging employee to hire another bouncer, she cryptically replies “It’s a world of truck drivers.” Along with that, the 217-member cast includes a cornucopia of celebrity walk-ons (Ashley Judd, Jane Adams, Matthew Lillard, etc.) and loopy characters (the absentminded neighbor is my favorite).

Lynch can be oblique but he doesn’t alienate the audience with pretentiousness. Within a reconnoitered building, a man is garrisoning a “top-secret” project which is a glass box that seemingly hypnotizes the people around it. How it correlates to the overarching story is still an enigma but when the guard states that his colleague once saw something materialize inside the box, we are anxiously awaiting a phantasmagorical glimpse ourselves.

Emboldened by a slot on Showtime, the show isn’t bound by network censors and therefore, a highly charged, carnal sex scene can occur before a EVP-esque poltergeist can collide through the booth and savagely slaughter the copulating couple. It’s a genuinely scary set piece. Cooper is largely missing from the premiere episode but the plot now pivots on gravitating Cooper back to the wilderness.

The latest incarnation of Twin Peaks is an unassailable success. It proceeds to ferry us back to the land of Lynch’s gonzo imagination and terrifying quirkiness (the deputy chief gains information from messages from a log). To some, it might be a wave of nonsense or a shaggy dog story with no coherent ending. To me and those who grew up on the show, its puzzling structure is chief among its pleasures.

Rating: 4.75 out of 5

Tristan’s Most Anticipated Films of 2017

As you just saw from Cory’s top ten most anticipated films for 2017, there’s a lot of exciting stuff to look forward to. There’s also a lot to drudge through, but to compare, here’s my own list:

Honorable Mentions: Dunkirk, Star Wars: Episode VIII, A Cure for Wellness, Molly’s Game, Logan Lucky

  1. Holmes and Watson (TBD)

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Hot damn am I excited for this one – a reunion of Step Brothers stars Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly finds the charismatic comedic duo attempting the impossible: a humorous take on Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic detective Sherlock Holmes. Ferrell plays the titular detective will Reilly will be the sidekick. It seems like a natural fit for the two, and the only thing that worries me is that Etan Cohen (Tropic Thunder) has only ever directed one other feature: Get Hard. It intrigues me that Kelly Macdonald, Ralph Fiennes and Hugh Laurie have all signed on, however. Hopefully this is more Without a Clue than Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother.

  1. The Beguiled (TBD)

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This pseudo-remake of the classic 1971 western has Sofia Coppola hopping in the director’s chair in lieu of the original’s Clint Eastwood. Certainly the auteur is up to the challenge of improving upon her fellow actor-director’s attempt at political allegory, and suitably so: the plot tells of a Union soldier (Colin Farrell) who must rest up from injury at a Confederate boarding school and decides to play each of his caretakers on one another in order to escape. The girls? Elle Fanning, Nicole Kidman, and Coppola mainstay Kirsten Dunst. After some plodding plot lines from The Bling Ring and that weird Bill Murray Christmas thing, I’m beyond excited to see Coppola feast her indie teeth into something juicy.

  1. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (TBD)

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Much like Coppola, I have other directors I love enough to be in the seat just by recognition alone. This film is the next from Martin McDonagh (In Bruges, Seven Psychopaths) who has made a name for himself on stage and screen as the go-to rapscallion in charge of black comedy indies. He has his own mainstay in Sam Rockwell, who co-stars as a violent mama’s boy that tries to defend the haphazard way his police department attempted to solve the murder case of a young girl. In retaliation for their failure, the girl’s mother (Frances McDormand) puts up three scathing billboards in their town to protest the police’s efforts. The shining star police chief (Woody Harrelson) has a slightly more deft hand at handling the situation than his deputy, but suffice it to say there will be some dark political satire here, especially in light of what’s happened in America the past few years.

  1. Wonder Woman (June 2)

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Despite their best efforts, DC Films has spectacularly failed at producing great movies – living deep in the shadow of their contemporary Marvel. Each time a new blockbuster has come out, and they’ve been a tad rushed and bloated, we’ve been tricked into belieiving we’re getting something beautiful. Count me fooled a third time, as this looks like the vehicle for Gal Gadot to truly shine as Wonder Woman, especially after her unnecessary cameo in Batman v Superman. Robin Wright, Connie Nielsen and Chris Pine join Gadot in this finally realized masterpiece that actually takes a conceit that I appreciate greatly – setting the plot in World War I. By making the thing a period piece, I believe the atmosphere will help the quality greatly, like Marvel did with Captain America. The idea was more obvious there, given that character came out of war, but I still believe this will somehow right the DC superhero ship.

  1. Ferdinand (December 22)

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Blue Sky Studios knocked it out of the park two years ago when the revamped the Peanuts franchise with a soft-spoken yet touching tale that captured many of the storylines from that comic’s many years. Now the studio and director (Carlos Saldanha) are attempting to revive the children’s story of Ferdinand the Bull. The original 1938 book, by Munro Leaf, shows a pacifist bull who would rather sit in fields and appreciate the simplicity of life rather than take part in the ghoulish bullfights. I absolutely adore the Disney cartoon that came out two years after the book, so I’m wary of a feature-length cartoon ruining the good feelings that came from that original. I have faith in Saldanha after Peanuts, however, and despite being pushed back twice already, this could be my family’s Christmas viewing.

  1. Baby Driver (August 11)

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When Edgar Wright was removed from the Marvel adaptation of Ant-Man, I was very disappointed. I love his ersatz style and impulsive direction of films in the Cornetto Trilogy – Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. So it goes without saying that I have high anticipation for his next original film, which sees standout actor Ansel Elgort (The Fault in Our Stars) work as a getaway driver for several different bank robbers. The rest of the cast includes Jamie Foxx, Kevin Spacey and Jon Hamm. Oh, did I mention this is a comedy? If only Wright had convinced Ryan Gosling to star, it would have been like a comedic version of his films Drive and The Place Beyond the Pines, two of my recent favorites.

  1. Coco (November 22)

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As usual, I had to pick one of the impressive looking animated films coming out (and yes, I have Ferdinand on here too) – but Coco has been on my radar for over a decade. Long before Pixar knew their stock would begin falling because of crappy sequels, they had this original gem on their list to make. The story follows young Miguel, who lives in a family that has banned music because of a strange tragic affair that ripped his great-grandfather away from the homestead. However, Miguel is obsessed with late singer Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt) and accidentally unleashes a chain of events that coincides with the Day of the Dead celebration in town. Ghosts and hilarity ensue. Surely Lee Unkrich (Toy Story 3) and Adrian Molina will find the right balance between comedy and sentimentalism that Pixar is known for worldwide.

  1. Thor: Ragnarok (November 3)

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I haven’t really loved the Thor editions of the Marvel universe, so this may come as a surprise to our loyal followers. However, I’ve always enjoyed Chris Hemsworth’s performances in the Avengers films, and the caliber behind the cast and the idea for the plot is genius this go-around. While the events of last year’s Captain America: Civil War were unfolding, Thor and the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) were conspicuously missing. Turns out they were tracking down another piece of the device that master villain Thanos is trying to assemble – and first the pair will have to battle each other on a gladiator planet. The film, helmed by Taika Waititi (Hunt for the Wilderpeople) adapts parts of Planet Hulk and Ragnarok, and has been said to be much like a buddy cop story in the vein of Shane Black. Add in several character actors I love – Karl Urban, Tessa Thompson and Jeff Goldblum – and you have my most anticipated Marvel film ever. A lot is riding on this.

  1. Logan (March 3)

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The first of my most anticipated films to be released, this is one of the most hotly debated superhero films in recent memory. It looks like an arthouse classic, and it also might turn devoted audiences away. On top of that, it will be the supposed final time Hugh Jackman dons his claws as the X-man Wolverine. In a post-apocalyptic future, Logan finds himself traveling alongside a mysterious young girl and an Alzheimer’s-riddled Professor X (Patrick Stewart) to escape some sort of corporation that may have evolved from Mr. Sinister’s Essex Group. Boyd Holbrook, the company’s head of security, stalks him across the Mad Max style landscape.

  1. Kong: Skull Island (March 10)

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Remember when I mentioned how much I like the idea of using a vintage time period in a genre film back in Wonder Woman’s paragraph? In the follow-up to 2014’s Godzilla, the monster universe is going to expand when Vietnam veterans Tom Hiddleston and Samuel L. Jackson head to a strange primordial island at the behest of shady government official John Goodman. What they find there will change the world as we know it, because…well, it’s King Kong. The cinematography and acting talent alone is what will send me racing to cinemas a week after the equally enticing Logan.


Least Anticipated:

Life – A waste of a decent sci-fi idea (scientists develop life in space, resulting in disaster) could have gone a more Ex Machina sort of way, but is more likely going a third-act of Sunshine sort of way. Ryan Reynolds also slings petty quips and Jake Gyllenhaal mugs behind glass doors.

Split – To be honest, I’m not sure if I’m going to love this, because the premise is just evil male version of Toni Collette in The United States of Tara decides to imprison young Anya Taylor-Joy. Of course, the man with the split personality is always reliable James McAvoy, who could elevate this above obvious schlock.

War with Grandpa – A perfect waste of talent, Robert DeNiro is a grandfather beset upon by being forced to move in with his kid. That kid’s kid doesn’t like that very much, setting up…a war with Grandpa. Christopher Walken and Eugene Levy also continue to waste their – and our – time.

Podcast Jan 6 – A Dog’s Purpose, Hidden Figures and the Best of 2016

So we have a double dose of podcasting for you this fine January weekend. In addition to seeing late winter release Hidden Figures, Cory and Tristan got out to the cinemas to witness the best film of 2017 – A Dog’s Purpose.

The biggest part of this weekend’s podcasts is that they also include our top ten films of 2016, as well as our worst 10. The first podcast contains our favorite television episodes of 2016 too!

Listen here for reviews of A Dog’s Purpose and Hidden Figures, as well as the best television of 2016:

Listen here for our worst ten followed by the top ten of 2016:

Remember to comment responsibly below!

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