Can’t believe the length of this goddamn year. They’ve been going so quickly, late-30s & early-40s; alternately devastating, okay, sometimes pretty good. But all very fast.
Last week, on a rambling stoned-zone call with my spirit human Brad, I said I felt like Rocky toward the end of one of those long fights; beat to shit, but still standing. Absence of hope, maybe, but still bumping around dumbly in the twelfth round, trying to go forward.
The Women’s March happened in this calendar year!? Mal was there with some of her best friends. The two of us were only newly into knowing one another. She wore a sweatshirt which said COME AS YOU ARE, but didn’t know the Nirvana reference. My older sister was there with her three daughters. They posted pics from their DC hotel room painting signs. My sister’s: Mother of Three NASTY Women.
Brad and I were on the couch in Durham most of the day on January 21st. Just a couple dudes. Stella, Brad’s wife, was in Mexico working. Maybe we walked around downtown for a brief minute, grabbed a coffee? Otherwise, I don’t think we moved. The TV was steady on 24-hour news, our hands wrapped around Twitter & Instagram. It feels like forever ago, but also like the true start of the year. One of my favorite days.
I wrote down little things and thoughts in my journal many times throughout the day as the march went on, as marches in other cities went on, other countries, the posts from people in Antarctica! Everywhere! I wrote about weird old battles, unaware of and unprepared for new ones around the corner. I wrote about big plans with dumb confidence. And then, for 12-straight months, it’s been off-tilt, fucked-up insanity.
In January, I truly thought I could protest all the time, make a thousand phone calls, attend every rally, vote in the tiniest of elections. My favorite sentence from that journal entry read: Trump feels small. Here on New Year’s Eve, I gotta say the dude feels bigger than Jesus.
Yes, this year had the deepest pits, but also very high peaks. Here’s my Best Shit List for 2017, those great medicines and moments that carried me. The greatest thing about year-end lists is that we’re only going for favorites, all the good stuff.
Malory Marlatte Voith is my favorite thing of 2017.
Kendrick Lamar, DAMN and Staples Center + Bridgestone Arena shows My favorite album of the year, and two of my very favorite live shows, too. Had a few million-thousand-trillion moments with tunes from this playing in my car, in my headphones, in my head, from some dude’s belt-strap speaker at the peak of a Runyon Canyon hike, and in the kitchen at Brownlee when Mal said yes. I read an interview where Kendrick said the beat to “Humble” sounded like his generation. I don’t think I’m part of his generation based on the calendar, but I’m an honorary member through marriage, yeah?
The eclipse on the driveway with Rye.
Lincoln in the Bardo, George Saunders Favorite new novel this year. The way this thing moves is haunting, the magic is so subtle. A perfect novel.
Rostam, Half-Light Me & Mal’s Hawaii record. Listened to it 40+ times over there. Rostam sounds like no one else, singular and outside the box, and I love this thing so much. “Bike Dream” has one of my all-time favorite choruses ever ever. *sponsored post*
Band Aid Loved this movie. Did you see it? Seems like most people didn’t see it. Everything here was spot on (except for the very last song which coulda sent this one into all-time territory had it been a jam).
Breakfasts in Hawaii during elopement. One was in a hut/garage on the beach with SPAM and eggs. Another was high end, a gift from friends, beautiful and delicious and we were all smiles all morning long.
The National, Sleep Well Beast Another A+, goddammit. Best memories of this one are on vacation in awful Orlando. A pretty low-brow, mixed-family theme-park vacation with Mal & Rye and Cole & Aidan. On our last night, we played video & carnival games in the arcade and ate crummy bar-food at the fake pub attached to our shitty time-share. I made a little iMovie keepsake of the trip, and soundtracked it with “The Day I Die”.
Universal Harvester, John Darnielle Incredibly good horror-ish story with my favorite jacket art of this year. I am truly in awe of JD, who is building an impeccable second career with his novels.
Hiss Golden Messenger, Hallelujah Anyhow and some live shows at the Bowery Ballroom Duh. I worship this band. They’re the best band. I always seem to be in NYC in December for shows, and this year it was Hiss at the Bowery, a celebratory two-night stand with no support, a sick beefed-up lineup with horns, extra keys and singers. Johnny Beach was there in the back corner, but Jomo wouldn’t come down, says no more Bowery Ballroom for him. That room likely cannot die, too perfect, but it’s definitely end-of-an-era type shit, a changing of the guard, a bummer of a battle in the AEG vs LN portfolio wars. *sponsored post*
Maggie Rogers live at Omeara, London and Mosa Wild, “Smoke” Had one of my favorite nights of the year in London (during a sorta fucked and not-easy trip to Europe with Mal). It was Maggie’s UK debut at Omeara with Mosa Wild opening. Maggie had a real moment that night, she came out all genuine smiles to everyone knowing the words. I had chased MW over the pond trying to represent them with my co-worker Andrew based on their song “Smoke” and a few demos. Had a great hang with the band that night. They went with another agency, and we were told the decision had to do with all manner of dumb shit. Haven’t seen a second song come yet, but this first one is a damn fine tune.
Phoebe Bridgers Stranger in the Alps 1000% good! A headphone record for me.
Master of None, Season 2 Again this year I love the lack of cynicism in this show, and the wild changes in location, character, and style between episodes.”Thanksgiving” episode is absolutely the best shit.
Sza Control Don’t know shit about Sza, really. But sorta know everything because of this confessional masterpiece. Mal quoted Sza in her vows!
Cometbus #54, In China With Green Day?!! by Aaron Cometbus This issue, from 2011, covers a tour in Asia with Green Day, decades removed from the early van tours Aaron roadied; stadiums instead of all-ages halls. This issue was a solid companion piece to seeing Jawbreaker reunite, and to watching friends, acquaintances, and also strangers talk online about seeing Jawbreaker reunite.
Judah Friedlander America Is the Greatest Country in the United States Super duper funny, best deadpan stand-up.
Early morning breakfast with Rye at Brownlee is my favorite divorced-dad activity. I burn 10 slices of bacon to a crisp. Waffles and a banana for Rye, plus his half of the slices. For me it’s yogurt and fruit, along with my five. I take a long time making this very simple stuff, and play loud music while Rye plays video games. He’s constantly muttering to himself about his character, or his enemies. I ask him to pause Zelda, wash his hands, and come eat when it’s ready. He slowly eats, takes him forever. I finish my yogurt quickly and sneak outside, hide in the carport, and smoke. It was a bad year for self-care. I’m always worrying about my character, and my enemies.
Gardening with Cole at Brownlee this Spring and Summer, my first dipping of-the-toe into plant life, no research, no plan, just clearing years and years of weeds and popping flowers and greenery randomly around the yard. I think we managed to keep 23-25% of the stuff alive. This year we might get a basic gardening in Tennessee book.
Get Out. The best movie. Perfect, I think.
Brockhampton, Saturation II Anonymous Festival Booker told me Brockhampton would be to his 2018 event what PUP was in 2017; something fresh as fuck and able to fill the field in the early-afternoon with energy like a headliner. I hadn’t heard of them, but hung up and followed his recommendation, pressed play on this album and repeated it over & over for the next several weeks. I had big headphone thoughts on an early-morning walk in New Orleans for cigarettes and coffee the morning my friend Coombs got married.
Sylvan Esso, What Now My holiday record. Had loved a few tunes here and there this year, but it became a full album for me over the holidays. Part of that is because Rye’s responded to it. He hardly ever gets into much beyond the bleep-bloop soundtracks of video games, and this one pushes some of those same buttons. “Sound” is such a badass album opener, and I listened to that track as a stand-alone like 20 times this week.
Shorty & Dexter moving in.
Joey Purp, iiiDrops As an album, I’m a little lonely with this one. I listened to it mostly alone, though the “Girls” single was shared heavily with anyone/everyone. I don’t understand why this isn’t showing up more places. The record feels like a complete thought.
The Mountain Goats, “Shelved” have so many records and songs, and I’ve told Darnielle that he’s becoming a singles guy . If one song from any new album is in the setlist longterm, that record will live forever because the shows will forever point people back to it. I dunno if it will, but I want this song “Shelved” from Goths to be one of those songs. *sponsored post*
The Blue Bourbon Orchestra and Seguaro, Carson Mell Favorite off-the-radar discovery this year. I was passed the impossible-to-find The Blue Bourbon Orchestra and told I must read it, and that mind-blower of a book led me to seek out Carson’s DIY-reissue of Seguaro, which is also a damn fine read.
Fleabag, Season One Binged this six-episode quickie while sick in a hotel room in Seattle last week when I was supposed to be seeing extra Pedro the Lion reunion shows. LOVED it. It’s gnarly.
Kevin Morby, City Music One-Two punch for Morby, back-to-back bitchin’ albums a year apart. One of my favorite attitudes and vibes out there. All KM’s records are moody, but this one is MOODY. *sponsored post*
Inlet boat & dock hang outside of Gulf Shores during Hangout Festival with the Colvins and Mumford & Sons.
Big Theif, Capacity Feels sorta like listening to Mazzy Star in the Bloomington dorm in 1994.
Perfume Genius, “Slip Away” Rips.
Rex Orange County, “Loving Is Easy” A little ditty, and a good one.
Sleaford Mods, English Tapas This is a great album. I bet all of them are, huh?
Meet Me in the Bathroom, Lizzy Goodman Favorite new non-fiction. Love an oral history! I wasn’t around the deep NYC fabric stuff from this book except very tangentially now and again, but being in the Bowery for two nights this year, climbing those steps to the tiny-ass dressing room, looking at the chipped paint and bare-bones busted furniture up there, you could feel a bit of the residue of it. Everyone loved this book, right?
Dams of the West “Tell the Truth” video My favorite video, and I don’t like or watch videos almost ever. I’m also just gonna put this here: On the way home from a grinding tour, CT deadass booked a few driveway Dams shows on his own via social media and didn’t tell me about it. I was impressed. *sponsored post*
Chris Stapleton, Broken Halos The last two years had country records on my favorite list, and I thought that would multiply, but this is really the only great country track I listened to a lot this year.
DJ Khaled, “I’m the One” with Beiber, Chance, etc The most pretty-pop I can go, but I do go with this one.
Ryan Adams, “Shiver and Shake” rules, and “Do You Still Love Me?” eventually won me over. Brad told me when he first heard DYSLM, he thought it was maybe written for the sake of the light show only! I still haven’t seen Ryan Adams live, which sucks.
The Crown, Season 2 I know I’m being manipulated. Don’t care. Was thinking I’d miss Winston so much after Season 1 that Season 2 couldn’t stand up, but I was wrong. But, I will say I thought JFK and Jackie were weak. I was like “Get out of there Americans!” anytime they were on the screen. Episode 5, “Marionettes”, was so fucking good. The Queen’s televised Christmas greeting had both Mal and I crying like little babies. After we watched, we brought up the real thing on YouTube. The dramatized speech for The Crown is far more shocking and progressive that what was really said, but perhaps it had to be written that way to give the same sense of edge one would have felt watching that on TV in Britain in 1957?
Arlie, “Big Fat Mouth” and “Didya Think” This Nashville band is graduating college in a few months, and then I really do think it’s on motherfuckers! These songs are two from a ton I’ve heard in various demo stages. There’s a great record coming, I’m certain of it. Saw them at a house party toward the end of the year, and it was very much like Bloomington college house-party vibes, but like post-Vampire Weekend or whatever. God bless college. Also big points for these guys being much closer to my kid’s age than mine. *sponsored post*
The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead Favorite not-2017 fiction. 2016 celebrated the fuck out of this, and it’s every bit as good as the hype.
Frank Ocean one-off singles are great!
The War on Drugs, “Strangest Thing” Darren Jesse on the drums!
Shame, “Gold Hole” This tune has me eager to see what their full-length has for 2018, and I’m excited to see these guys live.
H is for Hawk, Helen MacDonald. Favorite older non-fiction I read this year. A most calming read! Haven’t felt that with a book in a long time.
Harry Styles, “Sign of the Times” Scratched my Brandon Flowers itch far better than the new Killers songs
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, The Tourist My favorite thing about this record is his cussing. The biz was/is so unforgiving of this guy. Since the big debut, he’s made at least 2.25 other great records. Literally zero humans mentioned this one to me. I’m still down!
Lana Del Rey, “Love” This is the first song on her record, and by song two I’m so bummed on her lyrics I cannot go on, and so it’s a single entry instead of an album entry. If I did listen on, though, I’d go forward to the chorus only of “Lust for Life”.
Blank Range, Marooned with the Treasure This record was made in a few days, raw and almost fully live. Love it so much, listened on repeat for months & months & months in the first part of the year. These dudes are GRINDING, opening for everyone/anyone. Try to make it out early and see them. *sponsored post*
Gang of Youths, “Fear and Trembling” For whatever reason, I’m suspect of my own returns to this song. It’s definitely far too heart-on-sleeve, and moshing is mentioned in lyrics, and after the opening track I’ve never been able to finish the actual album or connect with anything else on it. But I played this tune a shitload.
Watching the Petty Doc with Mal a few days after he died. She’d never seen it. I’d seen it a few times, but obviously a very different story now. But one of the best stories. We cried, a bunch. Crying on the couch with Mal was most definitely one of my favorite things this year.