- Sheryl Crow (8/31) (Ravinia)
- Sting (8/28) (Ravinia)
- Yoke Lore (4/2)
Category Archives: Annual Lists
Duff at the Movies 2022
- Matrix 4 (1/5)
- Everything Everywhere All At Once (5/29)
- Top Gun: Maverick (6/5)(7/20)
- Bullet Train (8/7)
- Nope (8/8)
Duff at the Movies 2021
- Belfast (11/26)
- Dune (10/31)
- French Dispatch (10/26)
- No Time to Die (10/9)
- Shang-Chi and the Legend of the 10 Rings (9/26)
- Blue Bayou ( (9/21)
- The Card Counter (9/12)
- Black Widow (2nd x)(8/2)
- Black Widow (7/23)
- Fast 9 (6/29)
Duff Does Live Music 2021
- John Legend (Ravinia) (9/6)
Favorite Tunes of 2020
Finally! The post you’ve all been waiting for. Obvi.
My Favorite Albums:
- Perfume Genius “Set My Heart on Fire Immediately” (May) Oh my, this album. Falsetto swoony dramatics can be hit or miss for me, but I absolutely loved this. Favorite songs: “Jason,” “Nothing at All,” and “Some Dream.”
- William Prince “Reliever” (February) This deep voice of calmness was so soothing. I guess this is labeled as country. If you like Eddie Vedder’s solo stuff, you might like this. Favorite songs: “Always Have What We Had” (with the best line “I can miss you from anywhere” SWOON) and “That’s All I’ll Ever Become.”
- Ethan Gruska “En Garde” (February) don’t know what made me pick this one up (maybe the collab with Phoebe Bridgers?), but it stuck in my head. It’s certainly got a bit of an Elliott Smith vibe which turns out to be the kind of sound I was seeking all year long. Perfect for a melancholy “OMG it’s the end of the world” year like 2020, am I right? Favorite songs: “On the Outside,” “Enough for Now” (w/ PB), “Teenage Drug” one of my favorite songs of the year for sure.
- Phoebe Bridgers “Punisher” (July) Speaking of Elliott Smith vibes… I wrote ‘Yup, yup, yup” next to pretty much every song on this album. I know this was Taylor Swift’s year to many people (and I do like both those albums enough to have them on my top 10) but I will maintain that this album and the HAIM release (below) are JUST AS GOOD, if not… better? Heh. Don’t come at me, Swiftees, I’m allowed to have a different opinion than you! Favorite songs: “Moon Song”, “Graceland Too”, “Kyoto”… And all the rest of them. Ha.
- HAIM “Women In Music Pt III” (July) Do I own or know anything about parts 1 and 2, if those indeed exist? Nope, I don’t, but this album just really dug its way in to my eardrums. There’s all kinds of musical nods happening in the backgrounds, it’s so upbeat and fun in a LOT of ways. There are several songs with just a great! beat! on this album. What fun. Favorite songs: “Los Angeles,” “The Steps”, “I Know Alone”, “Up from a Dream” “Don’t Wanna”, “All That Ever Mattered”, “Now I’m In It.”
- The Weeknd “After Hours” (April) Cringe. Some of his lyrics are so misogynistic, I don’t think I’d love my teenage daughter getting obsessed with his music. Those are probably all the songs I like the best HAHAHAHA OMG life is frustrating. I just… always love every album he puts out and then one day I find myself analyzing the lyrics I’m singing along to and get annoyed. Oh well. Such is life. Sometimes great songs have shitty messages. Music is complicated like that. Favorite songs: “Hardest to Love”, “Heartless”, “In Your Eyes”.
- Kesha “High Road” (February) I had never bought a Kesha / Ke$ha album before but this one was totally worth it. TOTALLY. A wild mix of upbeat rock and pop, melancholy country, it’s up, it’s down, it’s all over the place. Favorite songs: “Cowboy Blues” (“Did I fuck my whole life up?”), “High Road,” “Birthday Suit” (so ridic), and “Resentment” (w/ Brian Wilson and Sturgill Simpson, of all people).
- Waxahatchee “Saint Cloud” (April) Pretty sure Busy Phillips’ instagram stories put this on my radar as I’ve never really been a Waxahatchee fan in the past. This album has what is definitely a contender for song of the year: “Fire”. I take it for granted / If I could love you unconditionally / I could iron out the edges of the darkest sky / For some of us it ain’t enough / It ain’t enough. Cannot stop listening to it, singing it, humming it, getting lost in its chorus. It’s 2020’s Maggie Roger’s “Alaska.” Other favorites: “Lilacs” (so Dylanesque) and “Hell.”
- Taylor Swift “Folklore” (July) OK are the “Cardigan” commercials not cracking everyone else up at this point? I mean, it seems insane months (and another album) later to suddenly see them a million times every Hulu show I watch. Heh. Favorite songs: “Exile” (feat Bon Iver) duh, “Seven,” “This Is Me Trying,” “Invisible String”, and “Mad Woman.”
- Taylor Swift “Evermore” (December) Seriously, if this album was just the song “Ivy” in every single position, I would love it just as much. SONG OF THE YEAR, people, song of the whole damn year. Oh, goddamn, my pain fits in the palm of your freezing hand. But, sure, there are others I liked. I guess. Favorite songs: “Willow,” “Champagne Problems,” “No Body, No Crime” (feat HAIM), “Dorothea,” and “Coney Island (feat The National).
- Little Big Town “Nightfall” (February) In keeping the favorite list to 10, Waxahatchee knocked this one off. But there are a ton of songs on this album that really *really* stuck with me. Favorite songs: “Questions” and “The Daughters” might be the best back to back on an album all year.
- BLACKSTARKIDS “Whatever, Man” (November) Oh wow, I dig this one. But.. I got it in November and then didn’t really start listening to it until 2021. Heh. I am always up for trying albums recommended by Hanif Abdurraqibb because his writing about music just sucks me in! But a lot of times it turns out I don’t hear what he heard in it. This one, however, is aces. Favorite song: “Camp Whatever” Haven’t felt alive in a while, but I’m not dead.
Best 1-2 Punch of the Year:
“WAP” Cardi B. & Megan Thee Stallion to be followed immediately by “Watermelon Sugar” Harry Styles. I know, what are we-teenagers? Just take my word for it.
Favorite Songs Not From Aforementioned Albums:
- “Conversations in the Dark” John Legend – just all kinds of big swoony love for this tribute to CT.
- “No Time for Love Like Now” Michael Stipe – definitely my favorite song of those early Pandemic days. Ah, those early Pandemic days.
- “Hard to Forget” Sam Hunt – yes, I love his cheesy sappy fratboy albums. But never all the way through. This song though…
- “Another Beginning” Joshua Radin – can he even write a bad song?
- “Kings & Queens” Ava Max – just put this baby on repeat.
- “One More Second” and “Take Me Out of Town” Matt Berninger – I was bummed to not really enjoy this album overall but loved these two.
- “Ridiin’ Solo” Jason DeRulo – I think this may have come out some other year but 2020 is the year I could not stop singing it, like, basically, ever. It’s all about the beat, baby.
- “Wasted Youth” Diana Gordon – oooooo love this draggy slow swirl.
- “Almost Home” Moby (feat Damien Jurado – OMG so Bon Iver.
- “I’m the One” DJ Khaled (feat. Justin Bieber et al) – Good grief, I like a song with Justin Beiber on it? Just bury me in shame.
- “Spiral” Pinegrove – Another Busy Phillips insta earworm. “Drink water, good morning…”
- “Video Games” and “Goodbye to All That” Sufjan Stevens – another album I found myself disappointedly uninterested in. Sigh. I love so much of Sufjan’s stuff, but somehow I never found a way in with this one.
- “Cavalry” Mashrou’ Leila – an album recommended by YA author Abdi Nazemian, thoroughly enjoyed it and this song was the real standout for me.
- “Beige” and “Goodpain” Yoke Lore – their Goodpain EP was a highlight.
- “Gone Gone/Thank You” Tyler, the Creator – probably came out in 2019 but I bought the album in January, one of my “everyone had this on last year’s list” purchases, I think.
- “Pictures” Asgeir – I buy a lot of singles when I hear them in a movie, on a TV show, or on a commercial. Presumably that’s how I found this one.
- “Lost Here” Fauntella Crow – probably same.
Favorite Covers: (in that rare year where I bought very few!):
- “Explain It to Me” Squirrel Flower – Liz Phair cover, that frankly sounds very close to the original. Heh.
- “I’m on Fire” Staves – all slowed down and glorious.
- “Put Your Records On” Ritt Momney – omg the name of this band. Smacks forehead.
What’d I miss? What song or album could YOU not stop listening to in 2020? I’d love to know…
Duff at the Movies 2019
- Knives Out (12/28)
- Them That Leave (8/18)
- BookSmart (7/26)
- BookSmart (5/24)
- If Beale Street Could Talk (2/24)
- Can You Ever Forgive Me? (1/27)
- The Favourite (1/13)
- Mary Poppins Returns (1/6)
Music I Bought in 2018…
So my $$$ spent on music has greatly decreased both due to lack of time (either to listen OR to even have heard about new tunes) AND lack of $$. But here is a quick review of the albums I bought in 2018 and whether they were worth it or not!
January: no tunes purchased.
February: no tunes purchased.
- Black Panther (soundtrack) – I adore Kendrick Lamar. His last two albums (ESPECIALLY “Damn”) have just rocked my socks off. But I bought this, forgot to listen, started, forgot, started, forgot. I’m not sure I ever even listened to this all-the-way through. March tends to be a NUTS month at school though so I probably just kept not finding any time to listen. Bygones.
- Tinashe “Joyride” – OK. didn’t love it.
- Kylie Minogue “Golden” – LOVE love love love. One of my favorites of the year.
- Cardi B “Invasion of Privacy” – It’s OK. Most of the songs sound exactly the same to me! /ducks/
May: No tunes purchased.
June: No tunes purchased.
- Maluma “FAME” – Yes, I started buying Spanish-language rap and R&B a few years ago due to my primarily Hispanic students and some of their recommendations. No, I don’t speak it even close to well enough–I either look up translations of the lyrics OR I just enjoy it for the sounds and don’t worry about its most likely inappropriate lyrics (it is AMAZING what students will recommend to you sometimes without considering their audience). This is, to my very-inexperienced-with-it ears, definitely in the “reggaeton” tradition, like Nikki Jam, another student-inspired purchase of mine.
- Meg Myers “Take Me to the Disco” – Love love love love. Definitely one of my favorite purchases of the year.
August: No tunes purchased.
- Troye Sivan “Bloom” – It’s OK. But I had too much built-up anticipation because I looooove his first album so much. This falls short for me.
- ARM & TEPR “Psaumes” – this is an older release that I just got turned on to. I have in the past bought a lot of French rap/R&B but I’ve fallen off recently. It’s OK–I think a certain song or two convinced me to buy it but then I didn’t love the album as a whole.
- Also bought two singles from Odessa “I will be there” (love) and “Hummed low” (OK), and “Black Beatles” from Mayrie, which I like.
- Cat Power “Wanderer” – I like it. It’s very mellow. The Rihanna cover is what grabbed me. But I’ve been more into previous albums of hers.
- Matt Nathanson “Sings His Sad Heart” – SO good! Best album of his, in my view. He’s awesome in concert, has such SUCH good stage banter, and his albums before this have never lived up to his live performances for me–they’ve always been a little cheesy. A little white frat boy “college-ing it out” (a term I use a lot and frankly think it’s self explanatory so maybe you understand it and maybe you don’t). Anyway, I love this album.
November: No tunes purchased.
December: I spend the most $$ on tunes in December every year, where I start rabidly buying things I see on best of lists!
- Boygenius EP – It’s SO good, I can’t stop listening to it.
- Kacey Musgraves “Golden Hour” – I like it but it’s a little light. There’s one song I just can’t stand to listen to. There’s two I love. But I don’t really think it earned the hype for me.
- Janelle Monae “Dirty Computer” – this is basically a Prince album to me. So I like it. But it doesn’t necessarily make me feel like seeking out all her stuff.
- Mitski “Be the Cowboy” – definitely like a few songs from it. Haven’t listened to it enough yet though. My bad.
- Rosalia “El Mal Querer” – I love this. So operatic and drama mama. Her videos are all Queen of Wands sass, vim and vigor. LOVE. Even though I don’t understand the lyrics. 😉
- NoName “Room 25” – bought based on best of lists. Hasn’t really pulled me in. But need to give it a few more tries.
- Lucy Dacus “Historian” – it’s good but I like the Boygenius (which she’s part of) a LOT more.
- and I bought a single of Brandi Carlile’s song “Mother” which is stunning. She’s an artist I really only buy singles by though, her full albums never grab me.
Duff at the Movies 2018
So….I forgot to ever make this list. Trying to recreate it from memories, texting people I know I went to the movies with, we’ll see what I can come up with… I know I saw very, very few movies last year.
- Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri (2/9) — very powerful whilst watching. But one of those movies you can find a lot of holes and things in afterward. Great performances though.
- A Wrinkle in Time (3/25) — didn’t really like. 🙁 Thought it was v. weak compared to the book.
- Sorry to Bother You — good, traumatizing, shock and awe in the best way.
- Blindspotting — good, upsetting, the truth of white privilege.
- Puzzle — I really enjoyed this. A quirky somewhat insular story, it was fascinating thinking about the different way people’s minds work. Also: I want his apartment!! (8/8)
- BlacKKKlansman — OMG SO GOOD SO GOOD SO GOOD. Best film of 2018, no doubt. (8/10)
- Crazy Rich Asians — fun enough. silly.
- Colette (10/7) — really amazing performance by Keira Knightley, I want ALL the clothes in this film.
That might be it, but I’ll update this if any of my feelers pay off.
ETA: Puzzle! I forgot Puzzle, but I randomly saw it while scrolling back through my Instagram feed. That is definitely a movie worth seeing!
ETA: Found my stub from Three Billboards this weekend! I wonder if there are other stubs hanging out somewhere that I’ll find again later in the year, ha.
Books you should go read, now.
Hello, 2019. Let’s talk about 2018 some more. I have done a terrible job of keeping this blog up to date–in fact, this year I completely failed to keep up any of my lists (books, movies, concerts). Fortunately with books, it’s not a complete disaster as I do keep my Goodreads pretty much 100% up to date at all times. So, if you want to see my ever evolving list as it evolves, follow me there.
In 2018, I read 110 books, which is fairly normal for me. I generally read around 100 and am bitterly disappointed if I read less. This school year has started off strong, as I’ve instituted a goal where in the morning on the way there I read my current YA or middle grades book and in the afternoon on the way home I read my current adult book. It’s really kept things going, and it’s easier to notice when I clearly don’t like a book because I keep not reading on that leg of the journey! 😉
Just roughly looking over the list, I read 33 books by minority authors, 36 books that were clearly sci fi/fantasy, 4 teaching books, 6 nonfiction (not counting the teaching books, which would make it 10 which is…kinda high actually! ha!), and about 18 of my 110 were graphic novels.
Here are my top 10 reads from 2018: (not in any particular order, just numbered for the sake of numbering)
- Cravings 2: Hungry for More by Chrissy Teigen (cookbook). I absolutely love this cookbook, I love the way she writes, her enthusiasm and bubbly personality come right off the page. I’ve made 8 things out of it so far and they’ve all been fabulous!
- If You Lived Here, You’d Be Home Already, by Cordell Strug. Yup, my dad’s book is in my top 10. Apparently I read a draft of this many years ago, but I didn’t remember that much of it. If you like Confederacy of Dunces, or Straight Man, I’d suggest you check this out. It’s a comedy of errors and quite enjoyable.
- Electric Arches, by Eve Ewing (poetry). A Chicago poet who also published this year a non-fiction text on southside Chicago schools, these poems tell the story of her childhood and her growing up and her growing understanding. If I was raising black girls, I would make them read this. But as a whitey white, there were so many moments in here that also resonated deeply with my childhood. Here’s how I started my GoodReads review: This book is so good I kept right on reading it at a bus stop in 20 degrees without mittens while the chill wind snapped the pages back against my numb fingers.
- The Obelisk Gate (Broken Earth book 2), by N.K. Jemisin. The middle book of a trilogy–all of which are amazing and all of which won the Hugo in their year of publication!!–this was the one I loved best of the three. So, so, so good. Best sci fi/fantasy series out there right now. Read it!!!
- Muse of Nightmares (Strange the Dreamer book 2), by Laini Taylor. Another series (a duology, thankfully) I feel like I was waiting for this book forever and when it finally arrived, I just swallowed it up. The magic and the imagery in this series is just unmatchable–so evocative, and sensual, and scary, and intense.
- Spinning Silver, by Naomi Novik. This book has a slow start, it’s got multiple first-person perspectives, it jumps wildly from mind to mind, country to country. And it’s so damn powerful and good. Who has power, who matters, why, who do we love, why, what makes a person worth something, what doesn’t. Deep ideas, deep down in this fairytale word. I was breathless at the end.
- Endling #1: The Last, by Katherine Applegate. Not at all the next book I expected from the author of The One and Only Ivan, this is high fantasy at a middle grade readability level. Fascinating world building, great character development. I can’t wait to see where this series goes!
- The Girl Who Drank the Moon, by Kelly Barnhill. Like Spinning Silver, this dips deep down into fairytale foundations to tell a story so true and real, it’ll break your heart. It had been in my classroom library for a while before Gabriel and Natalie told me READ IT! and wow was I missing out!
- Monstress Volume 2, by Marjorie M. Liu and Sana Takeda (graphic novel). Second book of what has been three so far but will be going on for quite a while, I expect. Another sci fi/fantasy world full of different factions fighting for control–I actually had to reread the first book a couple of times to keep track of who was on which side of things. The art in these books is amazing, the mysteries are intriguing, the monster is bewildering and terrifying. They’re super, super cool.
- The Cruel Prince, by Holly Black. I read this at lightning speed, it’s SO GOOD. Gave it to a student, and honestly we have been counting down the days until book 2 comes out (this month!!). It’s SO right on with the stings and tangles of growing up, of finding yourself, of being left out, of being let in. Oh, it’s just…bitter and beautiful and so very good.
What were your favorites this year? Leave me a comment or send me an email, because if I haven’t read it yet, I probably want to! 🙂
p.s. I saw The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas on a lot of 2018 lists–just thought I’d point out that I do love that book, but I read it in 2017.
ETA: (edited to add) WOW, I am so forgetful that I didn’t realize that a lot of what I said here, I already said in my very most previous post on Dec 14th. DOH. I recommend most of the same books and tell you the same story about the bus. Welcome to past-middle-aged me, you can probably expect a lot of that kind of repetition. HA.
Duff at the Movies 2017
Repeat from 2016 disaster: Um, what? I never created this list back in January? And I haven’t realized that until now (August?) Ughhhh….. Off to attempt to recreate… Might be missing something…
- American Assassin (9/23)
- Atomic Blonde (8/8)
- A Ghost Story (7/x)
- The Big Sick (7/18)
- Baby Driver (7/17)
- Wonder Woman (6/11)
- Fate of the Furious (or as I call it “Fast 8”) (4/16)
- Get Out (2/25)