44 thoughts on “2019 year-end lists

  1. I’ve been thinking about this–although I think most of what would appear would be newspaper or a magazine articles. Looking forward to seeing lists from you and Don.

  2. Man, I cannot even remember last week, so I will have problems thinking of stuffs that happen during the year. But I will say Ryan Tannehill’s tackle could be the best tackle of the year.

    1. I’m guessing that’s the first thing that came to mind, rather than the best or even more most memorable play in the NFL. Who was the QB that got stiff armed on an INT? The Tannehill play made me think of that.

      If I had to choose one NFL play so far, the first that comes to mind is Russ’s throw to the Lockett in the corner of the end zone.

  3. Stereogum’s 50 best albums of the year.

    #1 is Lana Del Rey. I haven’t heard it, but I’m really not a fan. I didn’t listen to as many non-metal albums in their entirety as I usually do — and nothing of what I listened to is on this list. I’m pretty out of it!

    Here’s Stereogum’s 10 best metal albums of the year. The list is fine — I didn’t hear most of it because the metal I favor (progressive metal, power metal, and symphonic metal) tends not to be what the critics love most (extreme metal, death metal, and blackgaze). Still, it’s a good list. Nothing here overlaps my top ten. Which I will bless you with later.

    I don’t read Stereogum regularly, but I might begin to. The comments on that metal list are positive and encouraging, not at all what I’m used to in the metal blogs I read. Which can be funny but discouraging.

  4. I don’t read the Ringer as often as I’d like — I’ve just got too much content to keep up with anymore. When I stop in, though, I always find a lot to read. One of my favorites — and it almost doesn’t matter what the topic is — is something the same writers invented (or so it seems to me) at Grantland. There’s a single topic, and a whole bunch of Ringer staffers weigh in with a few paragraphs in response.

    This isn’t quite that; it’s more of a collaborative list. Still had echoes of that vibe I enjoy. The Ringer’s 41 Favorite Sports Moments of 2019:

    1. Looked through the list and I think I only heard of like 5 or 6 of those artist. And even then I wasn’t sure if I heard of them or maybe I just think I heard of them. For example, is Solange Beyonce’s sister? I am definitely an old person.

  5. I’m posting a link to an article from 2012. I just read it now, so I’m counting it. Rosen, an NYU professor, calls it an article of the decade, in relation to problems with press coverage on politics. I think you can make a decent case for that. I’ll explain some reasons after the link.

    A key assumption for covering politics–particularly the two major parties–is that both sides are relatively equal in terms of acting in good faith, caring about the serving the public, respecting political institutions and processes. The authors of the article claim this is no longer the case in 2012, and I’m almost certain that Ornstein would say it’s gotten worse. If the assumption is no longer true, then method of covering the parties would fail to serve the public.

    One of the biggest challenges the country faces is the breakdown of the Republican party–that they’re put obtaining power far above respecting our system of government and serving the public. Our government cannot function if one of the parties behaves this way, and such a party poses an existential threat to that system of government.

  6. The Secrets of Lyndon Johnson’s Archives by Robert Caro was probably the most enjoyable think I read in 2019. If it helps, I had zero interest in Lyndon Johnson, and while the piece motivated me to read Caro’s epic biography of LBJ, it’s mostly because of Caro’s method more than LBJ himself. That method, of researching a subject as well, as Caro’s interest in the intricacies of wielding power, is the subject of the article above. I think the article would appeal to fans of movies like All the President’s Men and JFK.

  7. Favorite book: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Spy by John le Carre

    Favorite graphic novel: Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth by Apostolos Doxiadis and Christos Papadimitriou; art by Alecos Papadatos and Annie Di Donna. This is about Bertrand Russell, specifically his quest for truth.

  8. A couple of Metacritic year-end lists. A reminder that these are based on aggregated reviewers’ scores.

    Best-reviewed albums: this is a more interesting list than the other non-metal lists I’ve seen.

    Worst-reviewed films: this one of those annoying slide-show lists so I wouldn’t blame anyone for not clicking through. I’m surprised I did. But I did like this sentence from the #3 (aggregate metascore: 17) write-up. “What happens when you combine the star power of John Travolta and the writing and directing chops of Limp Bizkit frontman Fred Durst? Why, the third-worst film of 2019, of course.”

    Oh, this is good too: “The next time you see a discussion about how 2019 was an amazing year for cinema, keep this in mind: There were 24 films scoring even lower than Cats.”

  9. Podcasts

    One of the more enlightening podcasts that I heard was a Why is This Happening episodes featuring a discussion between Chris Hayes and Dave Roberts.

    I also recently read a blog post from Renee DiResta, “a 2019 Mozilla Fellow in Media, Misinformation, and Trust,” which covers similar terrain from the conversations above. Here’s one of the key ideas, from the DiResta post:

    Beyond matters strictly within the realm of material reality, fully determined by the laws of physics and for which consensus opinion is irrelevant — a tornado is destructive regardless of whether the community believes in it or not — reality has always been, to an extent, a matter of social consensus.

    Also, this from Dave Roberts:

    In Western culture, particularly American culture, we sort of adopted from science, our view of what epistemology is, i.e. you gather evidence, and you sift through it, and you reason from evidence to conclusions. But as you say, from your anecdote about the world being round, the vast, vast, vast bulk of what we say we know, we know based on trust, we know based on someone told us, and we believe them. So really, when it about knowledge and how to know things, it’s much less about the sort of individual process of inquiry or gathering evidence or sifting through it, and much more about, who do we trust, and how do we maintain that trust, and how is that trust vouchsafed, and what happens when that trust crumbles?

    1. #14: Elvenking—Reader of the Runes—Divination
      (power metal)

      Elvenking is one of the most consistently solid power metal bands. If you like it with a little bit of Viking folk, this is a good one.

    2. #13: The Hu—The Gereg
      (folk metal)

      Mongolian heavy metal with Mongolian throat-singing, played on traditional Mongolian instruments! And it’s no gimmick—this is great music, and metal as heck even without guitars or basses.

    3. #12: Ivory Tower—Stronger
      (progressive metal)

      It sounds mostly like power metal, mostly because the vocals remind you of Hansi Kürsch from Blind Guardian. Peel the exterior back a little and you get some great, proggy grooves more like Vanden Plas and Dream Theater, but not as good as either (as evidenced by both bands’ appearances higher on this list). Still, some nice work by a band I never heard of until a month ago.

    4. #11: Children of Bodom—Hexed
      (melodic death metal / technical death metal)

      The last album by this band as we know it—CoB announced a split a few months ago. This is exactly what you expect from this band I love: lots and lots of shredding, melodic solos, killer keyboards, and suuuuuper clean production. A CoB album is like audio Skittles. Sweet and shiny.

    5. #10: Disillusion — The Liberation
      (progressive metal)

      There’s a good chance this would be higher on the list if I’d discovered it earlier, or if a couple of bands I love didn’t put out new material this year. I’m looking forward to hearing more of their older stuff as I explore. This is some serious feel-good music.

    6. #9: Evergrey—The Atlantic
      (power metal)

      I really like this band. No year can be all bad if Evergrey releases an album, and Evergrey released this one in January, so heck yeah. One of the few power metal bands whose slow songs (like this one) I like.

    7. #8: Tool—Fear Inoculum
      (progressive metal)

      I do not know what the haters (who seem to be fans of the band’s earlier work, almost exclusively) are talking about. This new album is terrific, an immersive soundtrack for the weird dreams you have when you fall asleep after eating something poisonous enough to make you ill but not to make you die. My second-favorite album of theirs, after 10,000 Days.

    8. #7: Fallujah—Undying Light
      (technical death metal)

      Wow. Critics and fans were merciless with this album, and I get it. Fallujah’s last two albums were brilliant, best-of-decade kinds of work, and this is not that. It’s still very good, though, and an album I put on last year when I just wanted some escapism. The band went through changes and I’m hoping we’ll see this in a few years as the transition record between equally great periods.

    9. #6: Soilwork—Verkligheten
      (melodic death metal)

      Catchy, melodic, passively aggressive, and a teeny tiny bit poppy.

    10. #5: Devin Townsend—Empath
      (progressive metal)

      Holy moly what a ride this album is. The first several spins are a challenge, but what emerges is a huge meditation on something cosmic (I’m still not sure what). The production is amazing, and the songwriting intense with little flashes of humor and great swathes of drama and intensity.

    11. #4: Vanden Plas—The Ghost Xperiment: Awakening
      (progressive metal)

      This is such a good album—Vanden Plas’s best since 2002’s Beyond Daylight. I’m very fond of this band, but I haven’t found its last few albums to be very memorable. Can’t wait to hear the second part of this double album, scheduled for release this year.

    12. #3: Soen—Lotus
      (progressive metal)

      A major highlight of the year was discovering this band, whose sound is very much like Katatonia’s and Opeth’s. Contemplative, wistful, dreamy, heavy, and dark, this album makes solitude feel good.

    13. #2: Opeth—In Cauda Venenum (English version)
      (progressive metal)

      Opeth keeps getting better. Some would say it keeps getting less metal but this is a silly stance. Contemplative, spooky, and freaking beautiful. One of only two really great albums I heard from 2019.

  10. My Fifteen Favorite Non-Metal Albums of 2019

    #15: Weezer — Weezer (Black Album)
    (power pop)

    Not super creative but fun and singable. Good driving music.

    1. #14: Beck—Hyperspace
      (spacey synthpop)

      Beck combines dreamy synthpop with spacerock and comes up with this mellow loveliness.

    2. #13: KMFDM—Paradise

      Just when you thought the list only includes old bands, I hit you with a reeeeally old band. A groovy, angry record with small flashes of positivity, as in this song.

    3. #12: Hootie and the Blowfish—Imperfect Circle
      (pop rock)

      Slide a few tracks into your party playlist at your next BBQ and people will groove to it. It sounds familiar and comfy while being new and a little different. There’s nothing awesome here but it all feels great. Like all their albums.

      If you want something really different for them, skip to the last track, “Change.” It’s all introspective and wistful and sad. Maybe don’t add this one to the party playlist.

    4. #11: The Lumineers—III
      (folk rock / Americana)

      Not as catchy as the first album, but pretty and slightly sad. Took a few spins for this to grow on me.

    5. #10: Collective Soul — Blood

      You can just skip this if you never cared for Collective Soul, and I totally get it. I like them, though, and if you do too, you may find a few great things on this album. “Observation of Thoughts” sounds most like the old Collective Soul, but there’s a lot of good stuff to uncover with repeated listens.

    6. #9: Black Mountain—Destroyer
      (psychedelic rock)

      Black Mountain never disappoints! This isn’t as heavy as I like them, but it’s got some heavy moments. Overall a listener-friendly record, the kind you can introduce to your friends who say there hasn’t been any good music since the mid-Seventies.

      This isn’t my favorite track on the album, but this is a great video.

    7. #8: Bastille—Doom Days
      (pop rock)

      There is nothing here nearly as good as “Pompeii,” which is a freaking great song. Yet this album feels like a close cousin. It feels as intimate and almost as confessional, and it’s almost endlessly relistenable.

    8. #7: Lee McKinney—Infinite Mind

      The lead guitarist of Born of Osiris put out this excellent solo album sounding nothing like his band, except for a few glorious well-chosen moments of distorted chunkiness. He says it’s not metal and I guess I agree, but if fusion is a combination of rock and jazz, I remind myself that metal is rock so the fusion tag mostly works.

      I also love that this album is 28 minutes and 38 seconds long. Short albums are such a pleasure nowadays.

    9. #6: Blink-182—Nine
      (pop punk)

      It took a few spins, but this did latch onto me. A thoughtful record that made me wonder what my thirty- and forty-year-old former students listen to nowadays.

      “Cut my teeth on the Safety Dance; my attention span never stood a chance…” is one of the best song lyrics of the year.

    10. #5: The Avett Brothers—Closer Than Together
      (folk rock, Americana)

      The Avett Brothers are pissed, and they’re here to tell you about it. This album’s preachiness works against it, but because they’re so lyrically creative, it still mostly works. A passionate, poetic record.

    11. #4: Bruce Cockburn—Crowing Ignites
      (folk / rock)

      My favorite musician of all time released his 26th studio album (his second all-instrumental), and in all likelihood this will be my favorite album of 2019 ten years from now because it’s the one I’ll most surely still be listening to.

      He is such a great guitar player.

    12. #3: Biffy Clyro—Balance, Not Symmetry
      (punky alt-rock)

      One of only two 2019 non-metal albums I loved on first listen.

    13. #2: Sleater-Kinney—The Center Won’t Hold
      (punky alt-rock)

      If you give this album a listen, stick it out at least until just past the 2:14 mark on track 1. This is the moment where the album becomes what it is.

      This is the other non-metal album I loved on first listen. It’s buzzy, bitter, noisy, melodic, and engaging.

      Also this video is cool.

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