GirlReaction Goes to the Movies: Favorites 2011

You know when you mention a movie you saw recently and the person you’re talking to says “Oh you saw it in the theater? Really? I haven’t been to a movie in the theater since…” ? Yeah, that happens to me a lot. My dad is a huge movie buff, we’ve been going to them as a family my whole life, I’m never going to stop going to them, and people need to STOP COMMENTING ON IT. 🙂 Heh.

I saw 35 movies [in the theater] in 2011 which is exactly my average over the past 12 years, which means it’s not as many as I wanted to see, but still a fair amount considering what the last year of life has entailed time-commitment wise.

I’ve been thinking about it and thinking about and it turns out my very favorite movie in 2011 was The Guard. I know I said in that review it was probably top 5 or 2 but yeah. I was wrong.

Here’s the list of my favorites with links to Snip reviews and very brief commentary. [Although be warned, a bunch of them got reviewed in the same Snip post so they’re quite succinct. Heh.]

1. The Guard – black humor, yet heartfelt.
2. Tree of Life – throw out that 30-minute visual creation OH HAI dinosaurs in the middle and this would have been #1. The family stuff was super compelling.
3. Red State – Kevin Smith’s masterpiece.
4. The King’s Speech – technically a 2010 movie for many people I’m sure. Quite lovely.
5. Beginners – the previews were so twee, I was leery of it. It was so sweet and really touching.
6. Midnight in Paris – really a movie about the joy of movies and art and connections. quite good.
7. Take Shelter – paranoia. discomfort. anxiety. but good movie making. [email me if you need the password for that review. it’s the same pword that was formerly used to leave comments on Snip.]
8. Haunters – one of the most original movies you could ever possibly see. Spooky but sometimes sooooo funny.
9. True Grit – another one others saw in 2010. Really great. Gritty in the best possible way.
10. Somewhere – a slow (SLOW) but lovely exploration of how celebrity steals away one’s real life.

Unfortunately movies can be a little harder to choose than books and I also saw some real doozies in 2011. The WORST movies I saw were Hanna (the dialogue was horrible, the plot had so many holes), The Green Hornet in 3D (overdone, dumb–heh, sounds like I didn’t quite dislike it as much in my original review as in my memory. I guess it got worse with time!), Bridesmaids (I HATE THAT MOVIE. I’m SO SICK of people talking about how it’s finally the movie that shows how girls are. NO IT IS NOT) and The Company Men a ridiculous movie that misread its possible audience in such a huge way.

Biggest tearjerker: Buck

Most nostalgia creating: Super 8

Cleverest dialogue: Young Adult

Most ridiculous scenario: Cowboys & Aliens

Best house lived in by main character: The Mechanic

Made me feel most voyeuristic and icky: Blue Valentine

Felt most like 89 movies I’d seen before: The Fighter

Made me super mad: Black Swan

Movie I really liked that no one else in the world saw: Somewhere

Possibly the best EVER use of 3D with some of the world’s most annoying voiceovers: Cave of Forgotten Dreams

Best action movie: Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol

Best song sung by lead actor: Martha Marcy May Marlene

Also best introduction of a new actor: Martha Marcy May Marlene

And that’s it for 2011. I have my first two flicks of 2012 lined up for today and tomorrow (VERY LATE for me, last year I saw 7 movies in the first 7 days of January) and I can’t wait to see them!

GirlReaction Reads: Favorites of 2011

I read 113 books in 2011 which is higher than my 85-book average for the past 6 years (see more stats here) but pretty much par for the course. Also I don’t usually include textbooks and articles on my reading lists but this year I did include all the children’s and YA fiction I read for a class I took this fall because, after all, it was fiction! 🙂 It wasn’t a class that counted toward my degree, just an elective I had been wanting to take. Only crazy people take an extra class during student teaching though; I can’t say I really recommend it!

I read more non-fiction than usual (a lot of memoirs!) but no short stories at all. What? (I did start 2012 off with some though!)

It’s always hard to pin these things down, but…

My top six very favorite books read during 2011 were (not in any order) “Wonderstruck” by Brian Selznick, Love Is the Higher Law, by David Levithan, “State of Wonder” by Ann Patchett, “36 Arguments for the Existence of God”, by Rebecca Newberger Goldstein (that’s fiction, despite its non-fiction-like sounding title), “Mother’s Milk” by Edward St. Aubyn and “Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter” by Tom Franklin.

I also really really loved two of the last books I read in December: “A Discovery of Witches” by Deborah Harkness (not at all Twilight for adults, as I keep seeing it called–the quirks of the publishing industry’s advertising could really drive one to madness, couldn’t they?) and “Falling Together” by Marisa de los Santos.

I do read a ton of both adult and YA fantasy/sci fi, as you might know heh, and my favorites in 2011 were “Divergent” by Veronica Roth, “The Name of the Wind” by Patrick Rothfuss, “Aftertime” by Sophie Littlefield, “Across the Universe” by Beth Revis and “Hunger” by Jackie Morse Kessler.

Other YA, but not fantasy, or not really, books I loved were “Ninth Ward” by Jewell Parker Rhodes, and both “Okay for Now” and “The Wednesday Wars” by Gary D. Schmidt. And I particularly loved a novel in verse “Inside Out & Back Again” by Thanhha Lai.

I enjoyed Rosanne Cash and Keith Richards‘ memoirs, I loved both the fiction and non-fiction I read by David H. Hackworth, widely known as one of America’s most decorated soldiers (now deceased), I would recommend absolutely any and everything (romance and memoir) written by my good friend Rachael Herron and if you want to revisit my favorite fantasy books of all time as I did this year I recommend The Tornor Chronicles by Elizabeth A. Lynn (book 1 is “Watchtower”) and The Prydain Chronicles by Lloyd Alexander (book 1 is “The Book of Three”).

I read a LOT of stuff I loved this year, a lot of stuff that was good and fun and only a very few things I wish I hadn’t wasted time on and most of those wouldn’t wind up appearing on the read list anyway! 🙂 I grew out of that whole “I HAVE to finish every book I start!” baloney in my late 30s. There just isn’t time for bad books. And there are SO many good ones out there!!

Duff’s Favorite Tunes 2008

This is pretty redundant at this point, not only because it’s nearly the end of March, but considering I did monthly reviews of pretty much everything I bought in 2008, as well as occasionally posting thoughts on individual albums. (I may have skipped things like “CDs bought in foreign countries” and such.) But this makes those “give me some music ideas” emails less annoying.

(with links to Snip commentary. sometimes.)

Favorite Albums:

Matt Costa “Unfamiliar Faces”
Quirky and unexpected. Fave songs: “Mr. Pitiful” and “Miss Magnolia”

Bon Iver “For Emma, Forever Ago” Swoon. I know all the cool kids had this album in 2007. I ain’t that cool, yo. Love the album, love him in concert (see Favorite Gigs category down at the bottom). Love love love. Fave song: Re: Stacks

Jesse Malin “Glitter in the Gutter” Rockin’. Can’t even pick a fave song, just love the entire thing.

Fleet Foxes Listening to FF is like sitting in a field of daisies in 1973 while people around you kiss and weave each other bracelets. May be a bit ‘twee for some. (But it’s so pretty!) Fave Songs: “White Winter Hymnal” “He Doesn’t Know Why” “Your Protector” “Oliver James”

Earlimart “Hymn & Her” With every album they just get better and better. Pretty and intimate. Fave songs: “Time for Yourself” “For the Birds” “Town Where You Belong”

My Morning Jacket “Evil Urges” I lovelovelove this album. But I did NOT like “Z”. At all. If you peruse le Internet, you may find that everyone who liked this album was not much of an MMJ fan before, and those who were, were greatly disappointed. Ah well. Fave song: “I’m amazed”

Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin “Pershing” I didn’t even listen to this album until months after I bought it. Which is just so wrong ‘cuz it’s so good. Fave song: “Heers”

Carla Bruni “Comme si de rien n’etait” Her french albums just take my breath away. Why do I even pretend to try to learn this language? I’ll never sound like this when I speak. Fave song: “Tu Es Ma Came”

The Submarines “Honeysuckle Weeks” Has the same intimate boy/girl vibe of Earlimart but more poppy, more upbeat. It just grew on me more and more as the year went by. Fave songs: “Swimming Pool” “You, Me and the Bourgeoisie”

Keane “Perfect Symmetry” This one totally took me by surprise. Fave songs: “Better than This” “Time to Go” “The Lovers Are Losing”

Runners Up

Favorite 2008 Artist Not Mentioned Anywhere Above:

Joseph Arthur who put out FOUR EPs (“Crazy Rain” “Could We Survive” “Vagabond Skies” and “Foreign Girls”) as well as joining with the Lonely Astronauts for a full album (“Temporary Peple”). Which puts him at ridiculous output levels, along the lines of Ryan Adams and Joe Purdy. I really loved all the EPs; the full album is good, just not quite at their level. Fave songs: “Slow Me Down” “Lovely Cost” “Radio Euphoria”

Guilty Pleasure: Shwayze

Violent-Femme reminiscent: Wave Pictures “Instant Coffee Baby”

Dance, dance, dance: Cut Copy “In Ghost Colours”; Dan le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip “Angles”

Favorite Singles: (not on any of the aforementioned albums)

Favorite Covers:

  • “Folsom Prison Blues” Everlast (Johnny Cash) This is just so many times awesome. The whistly horse sound? Yeesss.
  • “Forever Young” Audra Mae & Forest Rangers (Rod Stewart) Featured on Sons of Anarchy.
  • “Tiger Mountain Peasant Song” First Aid Kit (Fleet Foxes) Even prettier than the original. Super spooky.
  • “I Should Have Known Better” She & Him (Beatles) You really can’t go wrong with a Beatles cover. Myself, I would go with “Run for Your Life”.

Favorite Gigs:
So I sorta went to 70 shows in 2008. I’d totally say that next time I wonder how I’m wasting all my time away, you could just yell “Concerts!” except I seem to have SERIOUSLY turned this trend around in 2009 (three months in and I’ve only been to two shows. What?!?). Anywho… 10 of those 70 were openers, so it was really only 60 shows. And 6 were at Monolith, 5 at Lollapalooza and 13(!) at Pitchfork, so you know, that’s really like seeing 24 sets at three shows so… Anyway, my favorites were:

  • Bon Iver Who I saw three times but my favorite was the second time which was at Lakeshore Theater, which is literally around the corner from home. and has seats. yay for both, says the old lady.
  • Crowded House Mostly because they sing my favorite song of all time and I’ve only been waiting to see these guys live practically my entire adult life. And yes, I know it’s not the FULL original lineup.
  • Matt Nathanson More for his humorous banter than for the tunes.
  • Earlimart. So so pretty.
  • Avett Brothers. These guys could fill up the world with their sound.
  • Band of Horses. A truly magical moment at Monolith.
  • Great Lake Swimmers. FINAFUCKINGLY.
  • Mumford and Sons. So unexpected.

GirlReaction Reads: Favorites of 2008

So I only read 79 books in 2008 which is definitely on the low end for me. Then I checked the numbers and found that I have read fewer books each year since 2004. What’s up with that? 2004 = 114, 2005 = 96, 2006 =87, 2007 = 85 and now 2008 = 79. This is NOT a trend I want to see continuing…but since I’ve already read more than 20 books in 2009 so far…I *think* it may be under control.
As with other lists, this is not necessarily books published in 2008, it’s books I read in 2008, regardless of when published.
My Favorite Ten Books of 2008 Were:
(in chronological order of my reading, with links to my Snip reviews)

Runners-Up Were:

Breaking things down in the manner of Ex Libris, of the 79 books I read:

  • 10 were short-story collections, either by one author or by various authors. Part of that was by design (Dad and I read short stories every other month for our 2008 challenge). And part because Elizabeth Crane got me all excited about short stories a couple years ago and I read them much more now than I did in the past.
  • Eight were non-fiction, but since five of those were BStarG nonfiction…well, that’s more a TV thing than a “me reading non-fiction” thing. So it’s more like three were non-fiction.
  • And two were poetry. But I don’t always put the poetry on the list, particularly if it’s a re-read, so that may not be totally accurate.
  • Not counting the BStarG non-fiction, there were eight authors I read more than one book by: five with two reads (Nick Hornby, David Malouf, Dick Francis, Rita Mae Brown, Lee Child); one with three (Paul Park), and two tied for most repeats with six reads, those authors being Harlan Coben and Patricia Briggs. Coben writes the Myron Bolitar mysteries, which I do enjoy, although I find I enjoy them less as the series has gone on (see the last one I read). Patricia Briggs writes truly fantastic sci fi and fantasy, some set in that indefinable middle ages/medieval seeming world so typical of fantasy (try this or this), and some (the Mercy Thompson books) set in the modern day. Everything I’ve read by her I have loved and I would recommend all of it.

You can read reviews of other books I read in 2008 not discussed here if you search for their names on Snip or you can just click on “reading” in the categories list to read any/all comments I’ve taken the time to post. I’m always happy to talk books so feel free to email me (link in right column) if you want more details on one or another or if you want to recommend something you think I’d like!
Now back to the book I started today…

Duff’s Favorite Movies 2008

Why no I don’t find it odd at all to be doing my best-ofs in March, three months later. But thanks for asking.

And it’s probably worth mentioning once again that this represents WHAT I SAW in 2008. Not what was released in 2008.

So I saw 40 movies in the theater in 2008 (only counting the first viewing, per my usual) which would be pretty good…except for the fact that 15 of those were seen in 10 days in October at the Chicago Film Festival. So the rest of the year I saw only 25 films which averages out to two a month. Kinda lame. I don’t blame the lack of good movies however (come on); it’s really my preference for lying on the floor doing nothing that gets in the way. Bygones.

The Best Movies I Saw in 2008 Were:
(linked to my Snip reviews)
1. Iron Man. WIthout a fucking doubt. This SHOULD have won awards.
2. Milk. So well done.
3. Let the Right One In. Spooky!
4. Zach and Miri Make a Porno. Hilarious. Yet sweet.
5. Wanted. AWESOME. With a few plot holes. Bygones.
6. Hunger. So sad.
7. The Dark Knight. It wasn’t as good as IronMan. But it was good.
8. Tropic Thunder. Fucking pure hilarity.
9. Atonement. Gorgeous. Just as good as the book.
10. Leatherheads. Beautifully filmed. And I really do not care for Renee Z., yet she was unable to ruin it for me.

Other Movies I Really Liked, Include:
Redbelt. True, I may be the only person who saw it.
Cloverfield. COME ON PEOPLE. Monsters are good.
The Fall. So pretty.
The Duchess. So sad.
Sparrow. Quirky.
Burn After Reading. Look at the layer beneath.

Movies I Thought Were Overrated, Include:
Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist. Too pretentious. Too teenage.
Sex and the City. Too long, too superficial.
Two Lovers. We saw this at the aforementioned festival. It pretty much sucked. Now it’s out in theaters and getting RAVE reviews. SRSLY PEOPLE IT SUCKED.
Miss Pettigrew Lives for the Day. So wrong. Read the book instead.
There Will Be Blood. Great performance by DDL. But I don’t ever need to see it again. EVER.
Vantage Point. Too much of a mess. The more time you spend thinking about it, the more the filmmakers fucked this one up halfway through.

Movies I Thought Were Underrated:
Quantum of Solace. Yes, he needed to take his shirt off more. Yes, it’s a lot like Bourne. AND THAT’S A GOOD THING.
Be Kind, Rewind. Fun. and Sweet.
Wanted. Too many Jolie haters need to get over themselves.

The Worst Movies I Saw in 2008 Were:
Made of Honor. Too fucking horribly bad.
Two Lovers. See “Overrated” above.
North Starr. Too amateur.

Random Factoid
I actually saw TWO animated flicks in 2008 (Wall-E and Bolt!). And sort of enjoyed them. A little. I believe that’s unprecedented.

Duff’s Favorite Movies 2007

I went to 57 movies in the theater in 2007 (full list here). (Technically more if you count the ones I went to twice, which I don’t.) I’d say that’s higher than recent years but certainly not my BEST year.
The BEST movies I saw in 2007 were:
1. Grindhouse
2. Juno
3. A Mighty Heart
4. No Country for Old Men
5. American Gangster
6. Control
7. Blackout
8. In the Valley of Elah
9. The Bourne Ultimatum
10. Gone Baby Gone
If I were to add to that list, the movies I ENJOYED the most in 2007, I’d have to add:

  • Music & Lyrics
  • Hot Fuzz
  • Sweeney Todd
  • JUMP!

If I were to add a foreign films category, I’d have to add:
  • The Lives of Others
  • Pan’s Labyrinth
  • La Vie en Rose

I saw a bunch of bio pics this year, some done traditionally (“La Vie en Rose” – Edith Piaf; “Control” – Ian Curtis) as well as less traditional ones (“The Last King of Scotland” – Idi Amin [not REALLY a bio pic but feels like one]; “I’m Not There” – Bob Dylan). I saw 7 not-likely-to-see-these-elsewhere flicks at the Chicago Film Festival and some ’70s flicks on the big screen thanks to the Chicago Humanities Festival.
I saw great performances in movies that I didn’t love (George Clooney in “Michael Clayton”; Claire Danes in “Evening”; my boyfriend Joaquin Phoenix in “We Own the Night”; Will Smith in “I Am Legend”) and great performances in movies I thought were good but just didn’t beat out others on the lists above (Philip Seymour Hoffman in “Charlie Wilson’s War”; Casey Affleck in “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford” [as well as in aforementioned “Gone Baby Gone”; Casey Affleck was really a standout performer for me this year!]; Viggo Mortenson in “Eastern Promises”). I saw sweet movies that weren’t great but were still enjoyable (“Dan in Real Life”; “Catch and Release”; “Stardust”). I went to sequels (“28 Weeks Later”; “Pirates 3”; “Oceans 13”). I really liked a couple documentaries ([the aforementioned] JUMP! and Helvetica) and it was good to see Alien-like sci fi return to the theaters (“Sunshine”) as well as Westerns, dang I’ve missed those (“3:10 to Yuma”; aforementioned “Assassination of…”).
I did NOT like some movies that were highly praised by others:
  • Margot at the Wedding (worst movie of the year)
  • The Lookout
  • Knocked Up
  • The Walker (second worst of the year)

And thought some were OK, but didn’t live up to the hype:
  • Waitress
  • Once
  • Transformers

There are reviews up on Snip, you can search by name or sort by “watchin”.
And 2008 has started off quite nicely with “Atonement” being a movie that would have been very high on my 2007 list had I seen it before the end of the year.

GirlReaction Reads: Favorites of 2007

I read 85 books (full list here) in 2007, that’s probably about average for me, sometimes closer to 100, rarely below 50. Books may or may not have come out this year, it’s that I read them this year that counts.
My Favorite Six Books of 2007 were:

  • “Winter’s Bone” by Daniel Woodrell (fiction)
  • “Love Is a Mix Tape” by Rob Sheffield (memoir/music)
  • “The Used World” by Haven Kimmel (fiction)
  • “Why the Devil Chose New England for His Work” by Jason Brown (short stories)
  • “Remainder” by Tom McCarthy (fiction)
  • “Freddy and Fredericka” by Mark Helprin (fiction / really, really funny)

(Very very close) Runners Up Were:

  • “Run” by Ann Patchett
  • “Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith” by Jon Krakauer (wow, could NOT put it down. he’s a great researcher/writer)
  • “Simplify” by Todd Goldberg
  • “The Uncommon Reader” by Alan Bennett (sooo funny)
  • “The Yiddish Policemen’s Union” by Michael Chabon

Favorite New (to me) Discoveries:

  • Scarlett Thomas (“The End of Mr. Y” – philosophical fiction)
  • Margo Lanagan (“Black Juice” and “Red Spikes” – thanks Marrije!! – fantasy short stories)
  • Tana French (“In the Woods” – best mystery I read this year!!)
  • Chris Cleave (“Incendiary” – fiction)

I Read a Bunch of Good Books by Authors I Already Loved:
The aforementioned books from Haven Kimmel (and “She Got Up Off the Couch…” too), Ann Patchett (and “Taft” too) and Michael Chabon (and “Gentlemen of the Road” too). As well as:

  • “The Rain Before It Falls” by Jonathan Coe
  • “Day” by A.L.Kennedy
  • “Death of a Writer” by Michael Collins
  • “The Quarry” by Damon Galgut (won the Booker for his previous book “The Good Doctor”)
  • “Killing Pablo” by Mark Bowden (can he write a bad book?)
  • “12 Edmondstone Street” by David Malouf
  • “Black Cat” by Martyn Bedford
  • “An Invisible Sign of My Own” by Aimee Bender
  • “Ludmilla’s Broken English” by DBC Pierre (another former Booker winner)

I read some more “Looks like Chick Lit but Isn’t (It’s Better!)” (Leah Stewart, Marisa de los Santos, Nina Solomon). I continued to work on Proust (three down, three to go?). I read mysteries from Jake Arnott, Lee Child, Dick Francis, and Harlan Coben. I read bits of different sci fi/fantasy series (James Morrow, a true god of writing; Terry Goodkind’s Chainfire & Sword of Truth series; George R.R. Martin). I read books about vampires and werewolves and the like (Tanya Huff, Patricia Briggs, Stephenie Meyers, Amber Benson & Christopher Golden among others) and that’s not even counting all the Buffy Season 8 comics!
It was a good year.

Duff’s Favorite Music in 2007

There’s nothing more fun in December than perusing the master list of year-end music lists gathered up by Large-Hearted Boy (he posts a list of the updates each day). And two of my favorite posts in that list are this one (a cheat sheet for indie bloggers) and this one (where he predicts what publications will choose based on their previous picks).

Favorite Albums of 06 Not Bought by Lame-O Me until 07
Ghostface Killah “Fishscale” So damn good.
James Hunter “People Gonna Talk” You’d never believe it was this voice coming out of that body.

Favorite Overall Artists this Year:
Matt Nathanson, who I listened to obsessively for several months after Mariko sent me his (old?) Live album (“At the Point”) and then his new album (“Car Crash“) came out. Witty and sarcastic and lots of fun.

Josh Ritter, whose 06 album (“The Animal Years”) I didn’t get until January and he then put out an 07 album (“The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter“) as well. He’s all over the place style and influence wise, but I NEVER feel the need to hit “forward” when he shows up on the pod.

Ben Harper, whose new album (“Lifeline“) and two live shows were pretty much the highlight of my (late) summer. Like Ritter, he is a man of many musical styles and many musical skills. Listen to “Say You Will” to shake your booty and “Lifeline” to cry yourself to sleep when you wind up going home alone again.

And Griffin House, a ridiculously young (ridiculously hot) dude with a million albums out who sings my current favorite song “The Guy That Says Goodbye to You is Out of His Mind“. He’s got some twang to him but he’s more “songwriter/ storyteller/ folkster” than he is country.

My Favorite Albums of 2007 (other than those by the boys mentioned above)
Note I said “Favorite”. I’m not going to argue the ‘best’ question especially since there are albums that I thought were pretty damn excellent but hey, turned out I didn’t listen to them very much, so they just didn’t wind up being a Favorite. And I don’t listen to ANY techno (or stuff that’s electronic enough that I myself would call it techno and you technoheads would be like Dude! That XX album is NOT Techno!) so that eliminates a LOT of albums I was curious about on other people’s lists. (No wonder I hadn’t heard of them.) Then there’s the issue that the sad solitudinous-sounding (there’s a new word for ya!) albums are always going to rank higher with me than the happy ones… I am who I am.

1. The National “Boxer”
From the first minute I listened to this, I knew it had #1 locked up. The lead’s deep, deep (hypnotic) voice. (Deep like Ian Curtis deep.) The thick thumping rhythms. Really intriguing (and unforgettable) lyrics. I am lame and had never heard them before this year! (I KNOW!) I could lie on the couch/ in my bed/ on the floor with the lights low listening to this for hours on end. They sounded just as wonderful live.
Favorite songs: “Green Gloves” “Slow Show”

2. Band of Horses “Cease to Begin”
Less poppy than the Shins. More quirky than Rogue Wave. Really haunting. Almost to the point of spookiness at times. Cannot get enough.
Favorite songs: “No One’s Gonna Love You” “Detlef Schrempf”

3. Eddie Vedder “Into the Wild”
I don’t know how this happened but whenever ANY of these songs came up on “random” or “shuffle”, I immediately had to stop whatever I was doing and listen to the entire album, start to finish, a few times. Sound Opinions did a hilarious breakdown of some of the lyrics…and I agree…but that doesn’t stop me from just loving the sounds and the mood and the feelings. I really think I can feel Alaska in my mind when I’m listening to this.
Favorite songs: “No Ceiling” “Society”

4. Travis “The Boy With No Name”
So damn good. Love their lyrics, their melodies, their sweetness. Maybe next time they won’t wait so long to put out a new album. And LOVEDLOVEDLOVED them live. One of my favorite live shows EVER, let alone this year.
Favorite songs: “Battleships” “Sailing Away” (that one’s an iTunes bonus track) “My Eyes”

5. Earlimart “Mentor Tormentor”
Subtle sounds for the melancholy melodramatic moper inside me. (Not that it’s either melancholy or melodramatic music, but it works for me. during those times. you know. THOSE TIMES. Of the melancholy. And the melodrama. Do you not know me at all?) Love the boy/girl vocals and the quiet intensity. Why don’t more people know about this band? Why don’t more people LOVE this band?
Favorite songs: “Answers and Questions” (especially the chorus!) “The Little Things”

6. Mr. Hudson & the Library “A Tale of Two Cities”
A gift from MicheleG, this one really snuck up on me. Loved “On the Street Where You Live” immediately, thought the rest was fun…and then found myself queuing it up again and again and again…
Favorite songs: “On the Street Where You Live” “Cover Girl”

7. Midlake “The Trials of Van Occupanther”
The most ’70s sounding disk of the year. Lots of layered vocals. They were spellbinding live. Spellfuckingbinding I tell you. Not really a fan of their old stuff but this album gets me every time.
Favorite songs: “Head Home” “Van Occupanther”

8. Great Lake Swimmers “Ongiara”
Really lovely. Like everything they do. Thick, layered, beautiful. I keep missing their Chicago shows but I swear I will see them before I croak. High hopes that 2008 will be the year!
Favorite songs: “Changing Colours” “There Is a Light”

Runners Up (or “all the albums that tied for 9th and 10th and I could not be bothered to choose between them”):

Rogue Wave “Asleep at Heaven’s Gate”
Like BoH, they are less poppy than the Shins, but not as folk as BoH. Their sound is like…ringing a bell deep down into a well. Very distinctive lead vocals.

Shane Nicholson “Faith & Science”
Following in the Finns’ footsteps, lovely voice, lyrics, etc.. And he’s easy on the eyes, so there’s that.

The Alternate Routes “Good and Reckless and True”
The perfect soundtrack for a roadtrip.

The Magic Numbers “Those the Brokes”
Poppy bubbly fun. I’m a fan of everything they do. Great harmonies.

The Bees (US) “High Society”
Another album of FUN.

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club “Baby 81”
Probably the rockingest stuff I listened to this year. Really fell for them live.

Sara Bareilles “Little Voice”
Got this album very very cheap from iTunes, what a bargain. Rachael Yamagata-esque if you need a comparison.

Okkervil River “The Stage Names”
They always seem a bit rougher ’round the edges to me than their peers.

Meiko (self-titled)
Byron recommended a single and I found myself listening to this album a lot. Lovely.

Athlete “Beyond the Neighborhood”
Have been a fan for several years now. Just a matter of time until these guys blow up (US-wise, I’m sure they’re huge in the UK already). Really intimate, excellent live show.

Youth Group “Casino Twilight Dogs”
Aussie rockers. Loved them live.

Favorite Singles of 2007 (that weren’t on albums mentioned above):

  • “Let’s Get Out of This Country” Camera Obscura
  • “I Think I Love You” The Guggenheim Grotto
  • “Please Don’t Pass Me By” Jack Harlan
  • “When I Wake” The Changes
  • “Waterfall” Griffin House
  • “I Remember” Chris Brokaw
  • “Lord Give Me a Sign” DMX (old but I listened to it a lot)
  • “Entering Bootytown” (from Music & Lyrics)
  • “Eyes” Rogue Wave
  • “The Inauguration” Bun B
  • “Life Is Beautiful” Vega4 (sounds like Snow Patrol)
  • “Intervention” Arcade Fire
  • “Communist Love Song” Soltero
  • Don’t You Think It’s Time” Bob Evans
  • “Walk Over Me” Dirtie Blonde
  • “Been There All the Time” Dinosaur Jr (love the plaintive, pleading vocals)
  • “Diamond Ring” Joseph Arthur (Love this song. Love him. Is he single? I’ll be his diamond ring)
  • “Something Violet” Bishop Allen
  • “Find Love (Let Go)” Kyle Andrews
  • “It Never Rains in Southern California” Albert Hammond (old but I listened to it a lot after the VM finale)
  • “Chicago Promenade” Jason Isbell
  • “1 2 3 4” Feist (it’s all over but it’s THAT GOOD)
  • “Take Me to the Riot” Stars
  • “RE: Your Brain” Jonathan Coulton (blame the Nipper! I do!)
  • “Our Life Is Not a Movie or Maybe” Okkervil River
  • “The Underdog” Spoon
  • “Scar That Never Heals” Jeremy Fisher
  • “Saving Grace” (theme) Everlast
  • “Black Like Me” Spoon
  • “Our Friends Appear Like the Dawn” Bodies of Water
  • “Beloved” Minnie Driver (surprising!)
  • “Sinkin’ Low” Joe Purdy
  • “The Way I Am” Ingrid Michaelson
  • “See These Bones” Nada Surf (over and over!)
  • “George W Told the Nation” Tom Paxton
  • “Heart of the City (Ain’t No Love” Jay Z (old but it’s all over the American Gangster trailers)
  • “To Build a Home” The Cinematic Orchestra (sounds like Antony & the Johnsons)
  • “Do You Feel Me” Anthony Hamilton (more American Gangster love)
  • “Bastard of Midnight” The Damnwells
  • “Secret Passed Along” Twin Atlas
  • “No Blue Sky” The Thorns (old, but soooo good)

Things I am obsessively listening to in December and would be in my Top 10 except I just got them a week or so ago:
Bat for Lashes “Fur and Gold” Really lovely. Quirky and hypnotic.
Sea Wolf “Leaves in the River” Sometimes fast & happy, sometimes sad & slow. Just lke me!

Favorite Covers (I got) in 2007 (they may not have come out this year)

  • “Forever Young” Youth Group (Rod Stewart?)
  • “The Heart of the Matter” India.Arie (Henley/Eagles)
  • “You’re the One that I Want” Beck (grease sdtrk)
  • “Romeo & Juliet” Matt Nathanson (??) (Have you ever heard the Indigo Girls do this live? it’s awesome)
  • “Build Me Up, Buttercup” Rhymefest & ODB (old )
  • “Waiting for a Superman” Brooke (The Flaming Lips) (via Everybody Cares)
  • “I Will Follow” Waz (U2) (via Fuel/Friends)
  • “Goin’ to Acapulco” Jim James & Calexico (Dylan)
  • “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” Antony & the Johnsons (Dylan)
  • “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere” Glen Hansard & Market Irglova (Dylan)
  • “Streets of Philadelphia” David Gray (Springsteen, right?)
  • “On the Street Where You Live” Mr. Hudson & the Library (My Fair Lady)
  • “Only Love Can Break Your Heart” Saint Etienne (Neil Young) (Everlast also does a great cover of this!)
  • “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” Greg Laswell (the sad, slow, depressing version. I’m not kiddin’.)
  • “Papa Don’t Preach” Picturehouse (Madonna)
  • “Raining in Baltimore” Brandi Carlile (Counting Crows) (via Fuel/Friends)
  • “I’m on Fire” Bat for Lashes (Springsteen?)

Liked But Didn’t Love or Just Didn’t Wind Up Listening to That Much:
There were LOTS of good albums put out this year by artists I have loved in the past…and many of them I do indeed think are GOOD albums, they just weren’t my favorites. It’s the luck of the draw as well, as you have to be a better album earlier in the year to maintain your place in the favorites than you do at the end, don’t you?

Arcade Fire “Neon Bible” (love some singles, don’t love the whole thing); Crowded House “Time on Earth” (love their old stuff, this is good, just not great.); Shins “Wincing the Night Away” (good but just never listened to it that often); Fall Out Boy “Infinity on High” (fun but I didn’t listen to it much after the first month); White Stripes “Icky Thump” (their albums always take awhile to grow on me, I’ll probably listen to it obsessively next spring sometime); Ryan Adams “Easy Tiger” (as good as his old stuff. but I’m kinda ‘over’ him you know? he used to be in my top 10 EVERY YEAR and I would rush to buy him the first day of release. now I have a more laidback attitude about when I get to his stuff, how much I focus on it, etc.); Kanye West “Graduation” (good but not as good as the previous. not as joyful); The Thrills “Teenager” (like it but not a departure from their previous stuff); Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings “100 Days, 100 Nights” (I lovelovelove their previous album. This one just doesn’t measure up to that one, to my ear.).

Other Albums I Liked a Lot This Year:
January: The Long Blondes “Someone to Drive You Home”, Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly. “The Chronicles of a Bohemian Teenager”

February: Music & Lyrics soundtrack (I can listen to this thing over and over!), The Essex Green “Cannibal Sea”

March: The Fratellis “Costello Music”, Ted Leo & The Pharmacists “Living with the Living”

April: Kyle Andrews “Amos in Ohio”, Liam Frost & the Slowdown Family “Show Me How the Spectres Dance”

May: Elvis Perkins “Ash Wednesday”

June: Candy Butchers “Hang On Mike”, Jenny Owens Youngs “Batten the Hatches”

July: Stars “In Our Bedroom After the War”, Jason Isbell “Sirens of the Ditch”, The Changes “Today Is Tonight”, Josh Rouse “Country Mouse, City House”

August: (Lots and lots of rap en francais. Email me if you want specifics), Rhymefest “Blue Collar”, Aesop Rock “None Shall Pass”

September: Hard-Fi “Once Upon a Time in the West”, Jeremy Fisher “Goodbye Blue Monday”, Fionn Regan “The End of History”

October: Joshua James “The Sun Is Always Brighter”, Joe Purdy “Take My Blanket and Go”

November: David Gray live covers album “A Thousand Miles Behind”, Great Northern “Trading Twilight for Daylight”

December: Augie March “Moo, You Bloody Choir”, Brother Ali “The Undisputed Truth”, Jay-Z “American Gangster”, The Foxboro Hot Tubs (Green Day secret project?) “Stop Drop and Roll”

My Favorite Live Gigs This Year:
1. Gomez. Amazing show. But they’re low on everyone’s 07 radar since they didn’t put out an album this year.
2. Travis. So much fucking fun in concert.
3. The National. Just as beautiful as the album.
4. Polyphonic Spree x2. highest energy show you’ll ever see.
5. Ben Harper x2. He’s amazing.
6. Griffin House. He’s hot.
7. The Decemberists. So polished.
8. Midlake. Bewitching.

GirlReaction Reads: Favorites of 2006

[originally posted on Snip]
[Limiting myself MOSTLY to books published and read this year, as opposed to all the books I read this year.]
The best NON fiction books I read this year were “Guests of the Ayatollah” by Mark Bowden and “The Year of Magical Thinking” by Joan Didion.
The best novels I read were “Black Swan Green” by David Mitchell, “Sharp Objects” by Gillian Flynn and “Towing Jehovah” by James Morrow [that one was not pub this year].
The best short stories I read were “In Persuasian Nation” by George Saunders and “When the Messenger Is Hot” by Elizabeth Crane (not from this year either).
The best poetry was “Strong Is Your Hold” by Galway Kinnell.
You can view the entire list of what I read here and reviews of most items are up on Snip (search by author or select category “readin”).

Duff’s Favorite Movies 2006

[originally posted at Snip]
By far, the best film I saw this year was “The Departed”. For drama, I also highly recommend “Inside Man” “The Queen” and I personally loved “Marie Antoinette”. For a smaller film “Come Early Morning” was very well done. For comedy “Scoop” and “Clerks 2” were both quite funny, in their own ways. “Casino Royale” was the Best Bond, perhaps ever. And “The Prestige” was a good movie about just how horrifically awful human beings can be. So you’d have to keep that in mind, should you choose to see it. There were other movies I liked also.
I’m pretty good at not going to movies I can tell I’m not going to like, in my old age. I’d have to say “Last Kiss” (yuck) and “Match Point” (“Scoop” is so much better!) were my least favorite movies in the theater this year and “The DaVinci Code” was about how I expected: not good, but not as bad as I had heard. Average. Middling.
For Keanu lovers like myself, there wasn’t a damn thing wrong with “The Lakehouse.” You can see the whole list of what I saw here or you can view Snip by category “watchin”; although I oddly forgot to write up a LOT of the concerts I saw, I pretty consistently reported back on movies.
And I’ve already seen my first movie of 2007 although I haven’t written it up yet. Soon! 🙂