The Joup 2014 Year-End Blow-Out Spectacular: Tommy’s Picks

So we’ve reached the end of another year, and we’re all a little older, a little wiser, and starting to go a little gray…at least I am. Looking back, it seems like a whole lot of terrible shit went down this year, and it most certainly did. Ebola is wreaking havoc in Africa and rearing its ugly mug stateside, we keep losing airplanes, there are naked pictures of everyone everywhere, the Cold War is beginning anew, and race relations seem to be in the same state that they were 50 years ago. It’s all a mess. And it’s enough to make you want to turn in and just escape the world. And to a degree, that’s what we do, and that’s what we’re all about. So, horrible introductions aside, I still consumed a lot of pop culture this year, and as to whether it served as some sort of escape or not doesn’t really matter. I still listened to it. I still watched it. I still read it. These are the things I liked the most…

Top 5 Albums:

15perturbator1. Perturbator – Dangerous Days

I feel like I’ve written about this album a hundred times now (I have!), but damn it, I keep coming back to this record like an addict seeking out a fix. It has been a permanent fixture in all of my stereos, all of my playlists, all of headphones, and I never seem to get tired of it. And how could I? Dangerous Days sounds like the freak offspring of every single sci-fi, horror, and action movie soundtrack of the 1980’s, like it was pieced together by a mad scientist bent on world domination through synth score worship. It is the soundtrack to a movie too insanely awesome to ever really exist, the kind of over the top scenario that runs through the mind of demented 10-year old as he plays with his action figures. It’s the most fun I’ve had in years.

Listen to “Dangerous Days” and “Hard Wired.”

20thou2. Thou – Heathen

Heathen is an album of bass heavy doom that brings the walls crashing down to the floor in smoking and burning rubble. Heathen is scorched earth, nihilistic sludge, a harbinger of destruction and noise. Needless to say, I got really into this album. Hailing from Baton Rouge, there is an almost swampiness to the heavy metal these boys craft so well. There is a dankness and humidity to the whole affair that really gives the sludge and organic quality that sticks to walls and ears alike. Bang the drums. Make the guitars screech and scream. Make the bass shake out the demons. Make the vocals an unintelligible death knell. This is music for your dark, black soul.

Listen to “Free Will” and “Immorality Dictates.”

16runthejewels3. Run the Jewels – RTJ2

Last year’s hip-hop collaboration between Atlanta’s Killer Mike and Brooklyn’s El-P was just about as awesome a pairing as one could get. Run the Jewels was everything a fun and excellent rap mixtape was supposed to be and then some. It bounced. It prowled. It thumped. In all the best ways. 2014 saw the sophomore release from the duo, and it was an absolute revelation, a hip-hop record that took all the fun, and innovation, and forward thinking from its predecessor and multiplied it by a thousand. RTJ2 is one of the best rap albums I’ve ever had the pleasure of listening to, and even unearthed Rage Against the Machine’s Zack de la Rocha for a track. It was nice to hear from that guy again.

Listen to “Close Your Eyes (and Count to Fuck)” and “Early.”

9haveanicelife4. Have A Nice Life – The Unnatural World

Mining paranoia and doom obsession, a kind of death worship, and molding it sonically through the tropes of post punk, post rock, metal, industrial noise, and shoegaze is what the continuing sound of Connecticut duo Have A Nice Life is all about. Darkness covers every crack. No light breaks in. The Unnatural World feels like some kind of neo-gothic statement, a standing tribute to the crumbling, archaic architecture that hides the grotesque, the monsters in the shadows, the endless sea of black. And despite all these cold themes and haunting cacophonies, the album still manages to rock. I can’t think of a time in my life when I wouldn’t have liked this record.

Listen to “Defenestration Song” and “Guggenheim Wax Museum.”

2amendunes5. Amen Dunes – Love

Amen Dunes’ latest opus, Love, is not a country album. It is not a folk album. It’s not even really a rock album. And yet, it manages to sound like some long lost piece of Americana recorded by weary American travelers in the mountains and valleys and plains of this country decades ago, years ago, days ago. The album sweeps and sprawls thanks to the production from Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s Dave Bryant and Efrim Menuck, and the contributions from collaborators Colin Stetson and Iceage’s Elias Bender Ronnenfelt give the record a weight that’s been somewhat absent from the band’s earlier output. This is the most ambitious album that Amen Dunes has attempted, from the title, to the themes, to the overall scope. And it succeeds. I want to drive across the country and listen to Love on repeat.

Listen to “Lonely Richard” and “Love.”

Top 5 Movies:

undertheskinposter1. Under the Skin

I am hard pressed to think of another film that hit me in the way that Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin did. Nor can I really think of another movie that stayed with me for days the way that Under the Skin did. Hell, I watched this movie months ago, and I’m still rolling it over in my mind. I think Lars Von Trier’s Antichrist may be the only other film that worked its way into the inner sanctums of my psyche the way that Glazer’s film did. Even though they’re nothing alike. Under the Skin at times uses a cinema verite aesthetic while following Scarlett Johansson’s alien through the streets of Glasgow as she picks up unsuspecting male victims as portrayed by non-actors. There is a realness to these scenes that is then traded in for bleak and beautiful, otherworldly (metaphorical?) imagery as Johansson consumes her prey. The best kind of sci-fi movies are the ones that use their premises to comment on the human condition. What is the nature of apathy? Of empathy? Of sexuality? Under the Skin manages to address all of these questions but provides no answers, and that ambiguity makes a piece of art to admire and contemplate for hours on end.

guardiansofgalaxy2. Guardians of the Galaxy

Marvel continues to one up itself with every release, and Guardians keeps that streak alive with possibly one of the best and most fun space adventure movies I’ve ever seen. James Gunn outdoes himself here by infusing the Marvel universe with some humor and an awesome 70’s soundtrack. I love that Marvel was able to score a huge hit using characters outside of the normal comic book canon, characters that the bulk of our movie-going, non-comic-reading populace had never heard of. It really speaks to the quality of the movie that it was able to work as well as it did. And the cast just kills it on every level. And there’s a talking a raccoon. And honestly, who is not going to like a talking raccoon?

grandbudapesthotel3. The Grand Budapest Hotel

Wes Anderson is one of those remarkable filmmakers who consistently makes wonderful and engaging movies in a style distinctly his own. He is an auteur, and he has a perfect track record with me so far, ever since I saw Rushmore for the first time. The director’s latest film finds his penchants for quirky humor, meticulously designed set pieces, and fantastical storytelling in full form, but with an added shade of darkness as yet unseen in any of his previous work. His usual cast of actors all turn in great performances, and Ralph Fiennes, the latest to join the circle, is absolutely magnificent in his role as Gustave, so much so, that I want him to be a permanent fixture in Anderson’s future pictures. Even if you’re not a Wes Anderson devotee, The Grand Budapest Hotel is a wonderfully shot and acted film, and you really should make it a point to see it.

grandpiano4. Grand Piano

I wrote about Eugenio Mira’s Grand Piano earlier this year (here), and there’s really nothing more I can add, except that months later, I’m still totally into this movie. When I was student in film school (a long, long time ago), suspense movies and thrillers, specifically those by Alfred Hitchcock or Brian DePalma, were often cited and discussed as examples of how to frame scenes, or move the camera, or tell a cohesive story and build tension using pictures and images…and all of that still holds true. Mira is obviously a fan of these filmmakers and uses the tools provided in their works to craft a stellar piece of cinema all his own, even if it is forever indebted to his predecessors.

legomovie5. The LEGO Movie

Everything is awesome! I resisted this movie at first, as I’m sure a lot of people did, thinking it was just another corporate cash-in on a popular toy product…and yeah, it probably is that, but it’s just put together so damn well, and it’s so fun and funny, that it doesn’t matter. The movie is just fun. And it’s funny in a way that’s not playing it specifically for children or pandering to adults. All of the voice actors are fantastic, even the little bit players who pop up for one-liners here and there (Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill as Superman and Green Lantern for instance), and it’s hard not to like Chris Pratt’s Emmet, which makes Pratt two for two this year.

Spaceship!

Favorite Book:

themartianThe Martian by Andy Weir

I would love to have a long list of books to recommend, but the simple fact is that I just do not get to read as much as I used to, or that I would like to. That being said, I did get to read the amazing first novel from Andy Weir, and it’s a wonder. The Martian is the story of an astronaut accidentally stranded on the red planet during a NASA mission gone awry and the subsequent attempt to bring him home. The science in the story is real. The characters feel real. And our protagonist, Mark Watney, is a fun companion. There’s been a lot of hype around this book as Ridley Scott is making it into a movie. I really hope that all of the book’s humor, and its themes of optimism for humanity transfer to the screen.

Favorite Comic Series (that debuted this year):

spreadSpread by Justin Jordan and Kyle Strahm

It seems like every year I make an attempt to cut down on the number of comic book series that I read, and every year, due to a seemingly unending stream of quality books out there, I fail miserably. Add to that the amazing weekly comic column from our own Shawn Baker, and the numerous books and series he has pointed me to, and I may as well just accept that I’m in this for the long haul. Out of all the fantastic and amazing books I’ve been clued onto this year, my favorite is probably the veritable gore explosion of Justin Jordan’s and Kyle Strahm’s Spread on Image Comics. The story follows lone wanderer No, as he travels with a baby girl through a frozen, barren post-apocalyptic world, all but completely devoured by some ancient, shape-shifting, consuming entity known as the Spread. It’s basically The Thing played out with a Mad Max kind of hero on a planetary level. It’s awesome, and four issues in, I’m completely hooked.

So there you have it. I sure do like stuff, and I’m sure the other writers here at Joup do too. Give me your lists boys and girls. Clue me on to something new and wonderful.

For even longer lists by Tommy, go here and here.

 

Thomas H Williams

Thomas H Williams

From a bunker somewhere in Central Texas, Thomas H. Williams spends most of his time with his wife, his two sons, and his increasingly neurotic dog. He listens to a lot of music, drinks a lot of excellent beers, and gets out from time to time. For even more shenanigans, visit heavenisanincubator.blogspot.com.

3 Responses to The Joup 2014 Year-End Blow-Out Spectacular: Tommy’s Picks
  1. […] that I did read it’s clear I didn’t get to them all – reading fellow Joupitter To... joup.co/thee-comic-column-114-favorite-comics-2014
  2. Shawn C Baker

    Shawn C Baker Reply

    Fantastic year end list Tommy. I need to get on Spread IMMEDIATELY. I know Justin Jordan from Luther Strode but totally missed this one. Thanks for the recommendation my friend!

  3. […] Now go read Tommy’s list! […]... joup.co/shawns-favorite-ten-albums-2014

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