Oscars 2017 Winners & Predictions

It’s Oscars night! I have a running tradition with a friend of exchanging our picks for every category, including who we think WILL win and, of course, who really SHOULD.

It’s Oscars night! And I have a running tradition with a friend of exchanging our picks for every category, including who we think WILL win and, of course, who really SHOULD win. Enjoy:

Best Picture 

  • Arrival
  • Fences
  • Hacksaw Ridge
  • Hell or High Water
  • Hidden Figures
  • La La Land
  • Lion
  • Manchester by the Sea
  • Moonlight

Will Win: La La Land. For one, everybody has seen it, which goes a long way towards taking this award. Plus, everybody loves it, which is not to say it’s everyone’s favorite movie, but the way the voting is set up, if La La Land is at least everyone’s second choice while drama buffs spilt between Moonlight and Manchester, then it should coast. It has the momentum and nominations to be the safe the bet.

Should Win: Moonlight. It’s the most important movie of the year, while still being as cinematically and stylistically bold and inventive as La La Land, just in subtler ways that have gone unsung in the comparison. I also want to just mention Manchester by the Sea here because it broke me.

Directing

  • Denis Villeneuve, “Arrival”
  • Mel Gibson, “Hacksaw Ridge”
  • Damien Chazelle, “La La Land”
  • Barry Jenkins, “Moonlight”
  • Kenneth Lonergan, “Manchester by the Sea”

Will Win: Chazelle. To his credit, he did manage to paste together tons of seemingly at odds tone and genre elements, pull off some audacious set pieces and make it all feel cohesive enough to score a blockbuster Hollywood musical.

Should Win: Jenkins, for so many reasons. He pulled off having three actors play his protagonist, coaxed out some incredible child acting performances, shot the most beautiful movie of the year, made the genius choice to set it to classical music and made an art film that never got preachy, pretentious or boring.

Actor in a Leading Role

  • Casey Affleck, “Manchester by the Sea”
  • Andrew Garfield, “Hacksaw Ridge”
  • Ryan Gosling, “La La Land”
  • Viggo Mortensen, “Captain Fantastic”
  • Denzel Washington, “Fences”

Will Win: Affleck. It’s more than the performance of the year, it’s in the running for performance of the decade. It’s so subtle and complex, building so many emotional layers over the course of the movie that when there actually are moments of raw, unsuppressed emotion towards the end it feels so honest and authentic and heartbreaking.

Should Win: Affleck, but if the sexual harassment allegations against him turn off voters — and that is a conversation we should be having – I think Denzel would stand to benefit. He’d be second choice. Fences was an acting clinic.

Actor in a Supporting Role

  • Mahershala Ali, “Moonlight”
  • Jeff Bridges, “Hell or High Water”
  • Lucas Hedges, “Manchester by the Sea”
  • Dev Patel, “Lion”
  • Michael Shannon, “Nocturnal Animals”

Will Win: Ali, although I have a sneaking suspicion Dev Patel could steal this one. Lion has seemed to really win over a lot of hearts.

Should Win: Nothing would make me happier (or make me feel more validated as a longtime fan) than to see Michael Shannon accept an Oscar, but I have to go with Ali. I just love that character so much. His sympathetic, father figure drug dealer was such a subversive, moving and important lesson on the kind of empathy movies can inspire.

Actress in a Leading Role:

  •  “Lion,” by Luke Davies
  •  “Arrival,” by Eric Heisserer
  •  “Moonlight,” by Barry Jenkins
  •  “Hidden Figures,” by Theodore Melfi and Allison Schroeder
  •  “Fences,” by August Wilson

Will Win: Jenkins is going to get screwed tonight, but hopefully he will somewhat get his due here.

Should Win: Jenkins.

Original screenplay

  •  “Manchester by the Sea,” by Kenneth Lonergan
  •  “Hell or High Water,” by Taylor Sheridan
  •  “La La Land,” by Damien Chazelle
  •  “20th Century Women,” Mike Mills
  •  “The Lobster,” by Efthymis Filippou and Yorgos Lanthimos

Will Win: La La Land, which is a shame. Writing is not the strength of that movie.

Should Win: Lonergan, but should out to Mike Mills. 20th Century Women is awesome.

Cinematography

  • Bradford Young, “Arrival”
  • Linus Sandgren,“La La Land”
  • Greig Fraser, “Lion”
  • James Laxton, “Moonlight”
  • Rodrigo Prieto, “Silence”

Will Win: La La Land. And it sure is pretty. Some of those tracking shot set pieces will make it hard to complain.

Should Win: Moonlight. Because it’s fucking gorgeous.

Documentary feature

  • “Fire at Sea”
  • “I am Not Your Negro”
  • “Life, Animated”
  • “OJ: Made in America”
  • “13th”

Will Win: OJ: Made in America. It certainly gets some help from the long running time and event tv-like feel of its release.

Should Win: OJ. I’ve never seen anything like it. Coming on the heels of the FX series it should have felt like retread. Instead it felt like one of the most eye opening and unique dissections of race in the US I’ve ever seen or read. And that’s saying something in a year where truly unforgettable documentaries about race refreshingly filled up the nominations. So much love for 13th and I am Not Your Negro, also.

Original score

  • Justin Hurwitz, “La La Land”
  • Mica Levi, “Jackie”
  • Nicholas Britell, “Moonlight”
  • Volker Bertelmann and Dustin O’Halloran, “Lion”
  • Thomas Newman, “Passengers”

Will Win: Hurwitz. The music from the big musical will triumph.

Should Win: Mica Levi. That score was hypnotic and I think more essential to the tone and execution of the movie than even La La Land. But I may still be high on her score for Under the Skin.

*I either have not seen enough of the movies for or do not have a strong enough opinion about the following categories for a Will Win/Should Win section. These are just my (sometimes arbitrary) predictions in bold. 

Documentary short:

  • “Extremis”
  • “4.1 miles”
  • “Joe’s Violins”
  • “Watani: My Homeland”
  • “The White Helmets”

Foreign language film:

  • “Toni Erdmann,” Germany
  • “The Salesman,” Iran
  • “A Man Called Ove,” Sweden
  • “Tanna,” Australia
  • “Land of Mine,” Denmark

Sound editing

  • Sylvain Bellemare, “Arrival”
  • Wylie Stateman and Renée Tondelli, “Deepwater Horizon”
  • Robert Mackenzie and Andy Wright, “Hacksaw Ridge”
  • Ai-Ling Lee and Mildred Iatrou Morgan, “La La Land”
  • Alan Robert Murray and Bub Asman, “Sully”

Sound mixing

  • Bernard Gariépy Strobl and Claude La Haye, “Arrival”
  • Kevin O’Connell, Andy Wright, Robert Mackenzie and Peter Grace, “Hacksaw Ridge”
  • Andy Nelson, Ai-Ling Lee and Steve A. Morrow, “La La Land”
  • David Parker, Christopher Scarabosio and Stuart Wilson, “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”
  • Greg P. Russell, Gary Summers, Jeffrey J. Haboush and Mac Ruth, “13 Hours”

Original song

  •  “City of Stars” (“La La Land”)
  • “How Far I’ll Go” (“Moana”)
  • “Audition (The Fools Who Dream)” (“La La Land”)
  • “The Empty Chair” (“Jim: The James Foley Story”)
  • “Can’t Stop the Feeling!” (“Trolls”)

Production design

  • Patrice Vermette, Paul Hotte, “Arrival”
  • Stuart Craig, Anna Pinnock, “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”
  • Jess Gonchor, Nancy Haigh, “Hail, Caesar!”
  • David Wasco, Sandy Reynolds-Wasco, “La La Land”
  • Guy Hendrix Dyas, Gene Serdena, “Passengers”

Visual effects:

  • Craig Hammack, Jason Snell, Jason Billington and Burt Dalton, “Deepwater Horizon”
  • Stephane Ceretti, Richard Bluff, Vincent Cirelli and Paul Corbould, “Doctor Strange”
  • Robert Legato, Adam Valdez, Andrew R. Jones and Dan Lemmon, “The Jungle Book”
  • Steve Emerson, Oliver Jones, Brian McLean and Brad Schiff, “Kubo and the Two Strings”
  • John Knoll, Mohen Leo, Hal Hickel and Neil Corbould, “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”

Makeup and hairstyling

  • Eva von Bahr and Love Larson, “A Man Called Ove”
  • Joel Harlow and Richard Alonzo, “Star Trek Beyond”
  • Alessandro Bertolazzi, Giorgio Gregorini and Christopher Nelson, “Suicide Squad”

Costume design

  • Mary Zophres, “La La Land”
  • Madeline Fontaine, “Jackie”
  • Consolata Boyle, “Florence Foster Jenkins”
  • Colleen Atwood, “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”
  • Joanna Johnston, “Allied”

Film editing

  • Joe Walker, “Arrival”
  • John Gilbert, “Hacksaw Ridge”
  • Jake Roberts, “Hell or High Water”
  • Tom Cross, “La La Land”
  • Nat Sanders and Joi McMillon, “Moonlight”

Live-action short

  • “Ennemis intérieurs,” Selim Azzazi
  • “La femme et le TGV,” Timo von Gunten
  • “Silent Nights,” Aske Bang, Kim Magnusson
  • “Sing,” Kristof Deák, Anna Udvardy
  • “Timecode,” Juanjo Gimenez

Animated short film

  • “Blind Vaysha”
  • “Borrowed Time”
  • “Pear Cider and Cigarettes”
  • “Pearl”
  • “Piper”

Animated feature film

  • “Kubo and the Two Strings”
  • “Moana”
  • “My Life as a Zucchini”
  • “The Red Turtle”
  • “Zootopia”

Jacob Bicycle – “Half the Way from Shore” EP Review

Goldfine’s vocals are the secret ingredient setting these songs apart. His smooth and soulful croon is versatile enough to carry both an upbeat rock anthem and a soft ballad while never losing his wholly original fragility.

I met Jake Goldfine during my junior year in college at Syracuse. We were neighbors and spent many a PBR-fueled night jamming together in the weary hours after a party, he on his guitar and me on my keyboard. Towards the end of my college career we formalized the partnership under the very regrettable name “Palm Full” (thought we argued about it often, we could never agree on another name to make the much needed change) and debuted a few of our original songs that I contend still hold up.

However, after graduation I moved on to New York City and refocused my creative energy into my writing. Jake, though, moved to Los Angeles where he continued to hone his songwriting and musicianship.

He has come a long damn way.

This month Goldfine released Half the Way from Shore, a three-song EP with guitarist David Mosca under the name Maxwell Edison (the EP is hosted on SoundCloud under Goldfine’s alias Jacob Bicycle). When the two of us had recorded a few of our songs in college, we struggled to translate our living room rock set into a polished recording, but LA-based producer Mike Oliviero has clearly helped Goldfine fine tune his production skills. These songs come to life with all the intricacies,  instrumental Easter eggs, and sonic consistency of a thoroughly thought out, professional record.

But Half the Way from Shore is mostly a testament to Goldfine’s strengthening songwriting and sharp pop sensibility. An east coast lifer adrift in Los Angeles at the time of the EP’s recording, the songs appropriately play like melancholy, New York City songer-songwriter fare trapped inside California pop-rock shimmer. His soulful ballads of heartbreak and love-beyond-grasp often slip into pop punk breakdowns and harmony-filled interludes.

The EP begins with “Heart’s Web,” a ready-for-radio (perhaps even too polished?) anthem about the inherent risks of falling in love. The pretty pop track track is slickly constructed over an Alt-J-reminiscent indie R&B beat. The second track, “Poets,” shows off Goldfine’s tender lyrics -“the words allude me like a million flies circling ’round a light” – and becomes a cleverly self-aware reflection on the cliche repetitiveness of guitar-strapped singers and their lovesick ballads. That the song drifts into a wordless, sweepingly melodic chorus seems to suggest that some sparks are too joyous and profound to be captured in a simple, lyrical verse.

Both songs show promise, but “From When I Took a Walk,” the third and final track, is the real gem of the EP. The song perfectly marries the songwriting prowess evident in “Poets” with Goldfine’s penchant for go-for-broke hooks (“Heart’s Web”). It is also the best showcase for Goldfine’s vocals, the secret ingredient setting the EP apart. His smooth and soulful croon is versatile enough to carry both an upbeat rock song and a soft ballad while never losing his wholly original fragility – part Death Cab with a slight reggae overtones.

It can be hard to be objective about a friend’s work, but it is easy to admit that I thoroughly enjoyed these songs and was drawn to listen to them over and over again. They work perfectly as sweetly digestable pop, but also capture an artist who may not yet have fully crystallized the complex sound he wants to put into the world, but is well on his way (and leaps and bounds ahead of where he was back when we played together).

Best Live Shows 2016

Another great year of live music filled with trusty favorites, pleasant surprises and not one, but two, dream-come-true reunions.

1. Low Cut Connie/Dirty Fences – April 9 – Bowery Ballroom

I bookended my year with two shows from those Philly-throwbacks Low Cut Connie. I’ve been following them for awhile, but their show at the Bowery Ballroom in April — sorry, the video is from a December show I saw. I couldn’t find any from April — was special.

Frontman Adam Weiner with his piano Shondra always brings an unmatched level of honky tonk energy (standing on his piano bench and beckoning the crowd to “get weird”), whether the show be in a tiny bar off I-95 in Wilmington or in a larger theater like the Bowery. But that Saturday was one of those nights where a magic current seems to be running through the crowd putting everyone on the same dance-ready page. It helped that they had the perfect opener: an ambiguously-aged punk group called Dirty Fences that I had never heard of prior to this show. Both bands’ carefree antics gave the show the feel of a house party, despite the prestige of the Bowery.

A few days later, when I needed another musician’s input for a story about HB2 in North Carolina, I got on the phone with Weiner and talked politics and Bruce Springsteen for a half hour.  He was a true mensch.

2. Wolf Parade – April 17 – Bowery Ballroom

In middle school  (at the onset of my obsession with indie, alternative, whatever you want to call it) I fell in love with a song from Canada’s Wolf Parade called “Shine a Light.” It’s still one of my favorite songs and I can remember listening to it via headphones on the bus every morning and imagining how powerful the fuck-9-to-5-life anthem would be live … if I only had a way to drive to a show. Then they broke up and I lamented that I would never get the chance.

This year Wolf Parade reunited and I was lucky enough be at their first show back together at Bowery Ballroom – the first of a week-long, sold out residency. Seeing Dan Boeckner and Spencer Krug (who each went on to found quite a few criminally underrated solo projects, including Handsome Furs and Sunset Rubdown) on the same stage, in my favorite venue, tearing through their decade-old setlist with more than a few nerves (they admitted as much) was magical. Nothing about the night, including “Shine a Light,” was a letdown. I saw them a few weeks later at a free show in McCarren Park as part of Northside Music Festival, but compared to an intimate return show, among nothing but giddy super fans, it was just not the same.

3. Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band – September 9 – Citizens Bank Park

September was my 12th Springsteen show. The Boss was my first concert, back in 2002, and it sparked a permanent lust for live music. On this night, my girlfriend was being “baptized”(as my Dad puts it) into the church that is a Springsteen show and his fans. Her favorite song of his? The Born in the U.S.A. deep cut “I’m Goin’ Down” (Vampire Weekend had previously covered it). Despite the rarity of the song making the set list, I wasn’t surprised when a half hour into the show, Bruce picked up his guitar and roared into her choice track, spontaneously queued by a sign request from a fan in the pit. That is the magic of a Springsteen show, with the improvised set lists, powerful E Street Band musicianship and contagious passion. Every show feels curated just for you and leaves you wanting for nothing.

My Dad’s favorite song? “Racing in the Street.” Mine? “New York City Serenade” (these days, anyway) or “Promised Land.” All three of those were played too.

66 years old (now 67). 4 hours 3 minutes. A hot, humid night in Philly. Still nothing like it.

4. Arcade Fire/Run the Jewels/Sia/LCD Soundsystem – July 22-24 – Panorama Music Festival

I’m a big believer in the idea that the venue, or, more accurately, the environment, makes the show. Context is key and the right vibe can elevate a show or make an otherwise reliable band feel like a disappointment. That is why multiple sets at the inaugural Panorama Music Festival are getting the collective nod here.

Five years ago now I went to the first ever Firefly Music Festival in Dover, Delaware. I was a volunteer (I couldn’t afford to pay to be there) and the festival cleared just about 40,000 people in the “woodlands” of my home state. I’ve been back all but one year since and in that time the fest has ballooned to near 100,000. It is still always fun, but that year it felt like an under-the-radar secret (as under the radar as 40,000 people can be anyway).

Nothing was too crowded, it was always possible to get relatively close to even a headliner just 15 minutes before the start of the set and it was not yet trendy enough to attract the more party-concerned crowd with no actual interest in the music — If that sounds too pretentious, well, tough, it’s true. Last year you would have needed a flare gun to find a friend in the crowd even 100 yards from the stage.

Panorama this past summer reminded me of that first Firefly. It was as under the radar and intimate as a NYC Kendrick Lamar/LCD/Arcade Fire-headlining event could possibly be, largely overshadowed by the popular and well established Gov Ball weeks earlier at the same Randall’s Island location. It was littered with fascinating art installations and themed tents that topped anything I’d seen at other events, featured some authentically delicious NYC food (shout out to the Roberta’s Pizza booth) and maneuvering it all was relatively painless despite some seriously sweltering heat.

I showed up late on Friday night with Arcade Fire being my one and only true priority. Without any new material to back them up, my longtime favorite band delivered a routinely sharp and joyous headlining set, even marching into the crowd afterwards to cover the late-great David Bowie with New Orleans’ Preservation Hall  Jazz Band at one of the art installations.

After skipping Saturday with other plans (when you are there on a press pass you don’t have to feel guilty about it), I returned for one of the best triple-headers of live music I’ve ever seen, beginning with Run the Jewels.

The festival came just weeks after Bernie Sanders’ defeat in the Democratic Presidential primary race and Killer Mike, one half of RTJ, was a vocal and active surrogate for Sanders’ campaign. Many of the NYC fans at the show clearly sympathized with Mike’s ideology. There was a palpable energy in the air for the already-charismatic duo to harness.

“This feels like a political rally,” said my girlfriend.

It did.

“…but like the the best political rally ever,” she added.

Yup. Easily the best hip hop show I’d ever seen.

I expected RTJ to be great, but I was blindsided by the next act I saw. I had planned to use Sia‘s set to rest, eat, come down from a high and gear up for LCD Soundsystem’s impending dance party, but when I saw what appeared to be indie comedian Tig Notaro on stage using some glass ball to reflect light out at the audience, I was intrigued enough to chase after my girlfriend and check it out for myself.

I had been duped. While the video screens showed Tig sitting stoically in a chair shining a light on the crowd, the person on the stage doing it for real was just a dancer body double. I wasn’t upset. I was thrilled. As the set progressed, Sia repeated the routine with a myriad of celebrities — everyone from Kristen Wiig to Ben fucking Mendelsohn — who had recorded various performance art pieces projected on the screens with pristine cinematic lighting, but reenacted by anonymous dancers on stage. All the while, Sia stood motionless on a small platform behind the dancers belting from beneath her signature black and white wig.

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It is no understatement to say that the show altered my conception of what a live show could be. Gone was any pretense of the rock & roll-style frontman I had grown up expecting from a live music act. And while I have seen many bands shy away from the spotlight while playing and hide in ornate light shows (ahem, Beach House), I had never seen an artist, let alone a pop artist, take such a backseat to that kind of curated performance art experience at their own show.  It gave me a newfound appreciation for Sia’s artistry, incredible vocal chops and uniquely off kilter pop songs. It also introduced me to the genius Maddie Ziegler, who was an unexpected treat to see in person.

Then came the reunited LCD Soundsystem, a band I never thought I would see live after getting into them well after their infamously premature retirement. It was a surreal to be at a James Murphy dance party, even if I would have preferred a smaller, indoor club to festival grounds, and LCD managed to just about meet my high expectations. The highlight? My girlfriend and I breaking out into hysterical laughter in the middle of the bands’ 12 minute version of “Yeah.” Every time we thought the excessive jam was over, Murphy would come roaring back with a fresh round of “yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeahs” leaving our fairly faded minds in giddy disbelief. It was so, so dumb and so, so good.

5. Twin Peaks – December 9 – Webster Hall

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I already waxed poetic about the joys of a Twin Peaks show in my Favorite Albums post, so I won’t repeat myself here. Suffice to say, if you have a chance to see these guys live, go. On this occasion I got caught in the middle of the biggest mosh pit I’ve ever been a part of. I generally hate those things and avoid them like the plague, but for whatever reason on this night I indulged. It was a wild show. I ruined a pair of brown leather boots, lost my friends and unwittingly spilled a full IPA on a poor, unsuspecting girl.

Honorable Mentions:

Chrvches was the highlight of my Firefly 2016 experience (one of many); The Dig continues to be one of the most reliable Brooklyn bands around and their set at Baby’s All Right in the Spring was a blast. I’m stoked for the new album and a new show next month; Slow Club, one of my favorites, redeemed a so-so new album with a stunning acoustic set at the never-disappointing (Le) Poisson Rouge (speaking of great venues/environments); Beach House was beautiful at the equally beautiful King’s Theater and I remained conscious this time, unlike a previous try at Webster Hall; Angel Olsen kicked ass at Webster Hall and ended in time for us to catch the end of the Georgia-Mizzou game.

Belated Favorite Albums 2016

I didn’t listen to all the music in 2016. No one did. This is not a definitive list of anything, but these are some damn good albums…

 

Lemonade – BEYONCE

I don’t think any album, since maybe Yeezus, checked this many boxes and left such a seismic cultural impact. The album was a blockbuster hitthe rollout (Bey’s second straight out of nowhere release) was genius and the accompanying visual album stunning. It was a concept album stuffed with social commentary you could dance to and seamlessly spanned seemingly every genre of music. It sparked controversy and acclaim, topped charts and the news cycle, yet if you disappear into it start to finish (especially the video), Lemonade still feels miraculously intimate and personal.

Just a couple years ago I would have balked at the idea of me topping a favorite albums of the year list with a pop album, but I like to think I’ve grown a bit less pretentious. Then again, Pitchfork named Lemonade the 3rd best album of the year, so maybe I’m still full of shit.

Blackstar – DAVID BOWIE

You already know David Bowie is the man. You already know why this album is so achingly poignant. For those that have not listened, for my money it would hold up as a masterpiece without the tragic context of his death.

My Woman – ANGEL OLSEN

I really loved Angel Olsen’s last album and this one only further cements the North Carolina-based songwriter as one of my absolute favorite artists. Here Olsen’s reliably edgy songwriting gets funneled through a more intricately produced sound that is big and brash, echoing the Americana of 50’s era rock & roll while still sounding fresh. What a beautiful vehicle for an unapologetically pissed off songwriter.

Seeing her live was one of the best shows of the year for me, partly because it wrapped just in time for my SEC lady friend and I to catch the thrilling end to the Georgia-Missouri football game in the Village Tavern across the street — an early bright spot in the Dawgs’ subsequently disappointing season (Side note: Olsen was born in Missouri .. awkward). We happened upon an exceedingly friendly, but awfully drunk, UGA alum who only found himself in the bar that night because he was forced to evacuate his apartment that night thanks to that pesky Manhattan dumpster bomb situation. He “didn’t give a fuck” about the bomb and just wanted to get in his bed.

I Had A Dream That You Were Mine – HAMILTON LEITHAUSER + ROSTAM 

I was aware of Rostam’s career with Vampire Weekend before this album. I had never heard of LeithauserThe pairing is a match made in musical heaven. A little bit Edward Sharpe, a little bit Shakey Graves, a little bit Vampire Weekend (of course). Few albums in 2016 provided more songs I enjoy queuing up outside of the context of the album and just rocking out to.

Fool – FRANKIE COSMOS

Greta Kline, daughter of Kevin and better known as Frankie Cosmos, is only 22 years old. 22. She makes me feel fucking terrible about myself. Next Thing is already the DIY pop rock queen’s second wonderful album. And “I watch David Blaine, find myself believing in anything, in many thing” is my lyric of the year. I have to see her live again. The first time is a bit … hazy.

Pyschopomp – JAPANESE BREAKFAST

I came across Japanese Breakfast because they were opening for Mitski at a show I had tickets for at Music Hall of Williamsburg. I quickly became more excited to see them than the headliner, to the continued disgust of a girl named Stephanie. To me, this album had similar confessional, heartbroken themes to the more acclaimed Mitski, but on top of a more sonic, anthem-y sound that I just dug more. I mean, “Everybody Wants to Love You” is just a perfect song.

Down in Heaven – TWIN PEAKS

There are certainly bands I like more, but none has made me a more loyal ticket buyer over the past year and a half than Twin Peaks. I’ve seen them 4 times in that timespan. Their shows are endlessly fun, playfully rowdy, and so communal — almost every member of the band sings and their fans have a cult-like adoration for the young Chicagoans. Their albums do an admirable job of channeling that good time, all while merging some of my favorite sounds and influences: pop punk, Velvet Underground’s lazy cool, 60’s psychedelia. They also have the coolest merch in the game.

Teens of Denial – CAR SEAT HEADREST

A late addition to the list, I checked in on Teens of Denial just three weeks ago, inspired by end of the year roundups and a friend’s praise, only to discover I had starred (Spotify for life!) “Fill in the Blank” months before. I should have gone deeper earlier. Will Toledo’s songs are angsty, melodic and masterfully constructed to build up and crash again with a beautiful intensity. Give me another month and this will likely have been my true favorite album of 2016.

Blonde – FRANK OCEAN

Blonde‘s first song, Nikes, is a shot across the music world’s bough. For fans that waited, often impatiently, for years for the new release, they are at first greeted with a jarringly high pitched rendering of the R&B/rapper’s croon. When Ocean’s true voice finally drops, the verse of the year comes with it, taking aim at fans, critics and society alike, all set to a hypnotic drone of a beat. It’s brilliant Then comes the rest of the album. Also, brilliant.

Puberty 2 – MITSKI

Mitski perplexes me. I was late to the party and caught up fast before seeing her early this year at Music Hall of Williamsburg. I prefer, Bury Me at Makeout Creek, to the new album and while I really love much of the music, I admit I’m not as high on her as more than a few people in my life who swear by her with a sort of voice-of-our-generation fervor. But I find myself coming back to Puberty 2 again and again, fragments or lines from the album stuck in my head.

Mitski is great, in part, because of the uniqueness of her voice in the very-white alt music scene and the perspective she brings, one that for obvious penis-shaped reasons is sometimes foreign to me. All I can say is I get more out of this album with each listen and I’ve spent much of the year arguing with my girlfriend not about if it is great, but how great. She is usually right.

Honorable Mentions (In Order of Favoriteness, Kinda …Maybe?)

Marina – EDDI FRONT 

Coloring Book – CHANCE THE RAPPER

When You Walk a Long Distance You Get Tired – MOTHERS

We got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your service – A TRIBE CALLED QUEST

Hella Personal Film FestivalOPEN MIKE EAGLE, PAUL WHITE

Love & Hate – MICHAEL KIWANUKA

Dancing with Bad Grammar: The Directors Cut – L.A. SALAMI

Album – THE SUN DAYS

4 Your Eyez Only – J. COLE

Three – PHANTOGRAM

Bad Boys Club – THE KING KHAN & BBQ SHOW

Views – DRAKE

Anti – RIHANNA

A Moon Shaped Pool – RADIOHEAD

The Life of Pablo – KANYE WEST

Changes – CHARLES BRADLEY

Emotions and Math – MARGARET GLASPY