Best of 2016
After getting a new job this year and finally saying goodbye to my freelance life, it didn’t take long to realize that my relationship to music had also changed. Since I’m not writing about music almost exclusively anymore, I don’t have the same kind of impetus—or the time, frankly—to wade through a million promos or spend all day listening to the same record over and over just to figure out if I like it or not. That being said, music continues play an important part in my life daily and I credit it with helping save my sanity during this flaming shit show of a year. While I tend to lean on my arsenal of comfort records during times of duress (thank you, Disintegration), there were plenty of new records (and books and movies) that also made me feel things (happy, inspired, comforted, not totally insane) this year.
TOP 20 RECORDS OF 2016
1 – Cass McCombs - Mangy Love
2 – Matmos - Ultimate Care II
3 – David Bowie - Blackstar
4 – Neko Case, K.D. Lang, Laura Veirs - Case/Lang/Veirs
5 – Beyoncé - Lemonade
6 – Jenny Hval - Blood Bitch
7 – Lush - Blind Spot ep
8 – Steve Gunn - Eyes on the Lines
9 – Mr. Fingers - Outer Acid EP
10 – Julianna Barwick - Will
11 – Cobalt - Slow Forever
12 – serpentwithfeet - blisters ep
13 – Car Seat Headrest - Teens of Denial
14 – Chance the Rapper - Coloring Book
15 – Kevin Morby - Singing Saw
16 – Huerco S. - For Those of You Who Have Never (And Also Those Who Have)
17 – Katie Gately - Color
18 – Parquet Courts - Human Performance
19 – Nicolas Jaar - Sirens
20 – William Tyler - Modern Country
THE 12 MOST PLAYED SONGS DURING MY 2016 MORNING BUS COMMUTE.
1 – “Opposite House” - Cass McCombs
2 – “Conditions Wild” - Steve Gunn
3 – “Human Performance: - Parquet Courts
4 – “All Night” - Chance the Rapper
5 – “I Can’t Give Everything Away” - David Bowie
6 – “Female Vampire” - Jenny Hval
7 – “Hungry” - White Lung
8 – “Song for Judee” - Case/Lang/Veirs
9 – “Out of Control” - Lush
10 – “Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales” - Car Seat Headrest
11 - “Normal American Kids” – Wilco
12 – “Joanne” – Lady Gaga (I hated this album, but this song is so sweet)
TOP 10 LIVE SHOWS OF 2016
I was lucky to see a ton of amazing stuff this year, but nothing can match the pure surrealness of watching the reunited Guns & Roses from the very front of the stage at a stadium in Houston. Something I never thought would happen in my lifetime, but I’m so happy it did.
1 – Guns & Roses / Houston, NRG Stadium
2 – The Anniversary / Bowery Ballroom
3 – The Cure / Madison Square Garden
4 – Stevie Nicks / Madison Square Garden
5 – Lush / Music Hall of Williamsburg
6 – Basilica Soundscape / Hudson, NY
7 – Julie Ruin / Irving Plaza
8 – AC/DC / Madison Square Garden
9 – Serepentwithfeet / The Mission
10 – New Order / Radio City Music Hall
TOP 10 FAVORITE MOVIES OF 2016
I still mostly watch horror movies, the Great British Baking Show, old episodes of Murder, She Wrote, and weird documentaries to relax, but here are the movies that seemed to crack open my brain the most over the past year. (And no, I still haven’t seen Moonlight or almost any of the other big awards movies of this year, which I realize is incredibly lame.)
1 – Christine (Not sure why Rebecca Hall isn’t being given ALL the awards for this)
2 – The Wailing
3 – The Witch
4 – Don’t Breathe
5 – The Wave
6 – Spa Night
7 – Under the Shadow
8 – Everybody Wants Some
9 – Kate Plays Christine
10 – Uncle Howard
TOP 13 BOOKS I READ IN 2016 (THAT WERE ACTUALLY PUBLISHED IN 2016)
1 – Odes (Poetry) - Sharon Olds
2 – Our Young Man (Fiction) - Edmund White
3 – The Anatomical Venus: Wax, God, Death & the Ecstatic (Nonfiction) - Joanna Ebenstein
4 – Am I Alone Here? (Nonfiction) - Peter Orner
5 – Pond (Fiction) - Claire-Louise Bennett
6 – The Mothers (fiction) - Brit Bennett
7 – So Much Synth (Poetry) - Brenda Shaughnessy
8 – What Belongs to You (Fiction) - Garth Greenwell
9 – Imagine Me Gone (Fiction) - Adam Haslett
10 – Garden Time (Poetry) - W.S. Merwin
11 - Music is… (Children) - Brandon Stosuy
12 -George Washington (Poetry) - Adam Fitzgerald
13 - Boy Erased: A Memoir of Identity, Faith, and Family - Garrard Conley
MY 11 FAVORITE INTERVIEWS OF 2016
One of the many great things about working at The Creative Independent is that it gives me the freedom to interview all different types of creative people and I don’t have to beg a magazine to let me do it. This also means that I get to do two or three interviews a week now, which is one of my favorite things in the world to be doing. I talked to a LOT of people in 2016, but these were the 10 interviews that felt the most impactful, either because I couldn’t stop thinking about them afterwards or because they made me laugh so hard or simply because I loved the person so much.
1 – Stevie Nicks (always and forever, my favorite interview subject)
2 – Sandra Bernhard
3 – Miki Berenyi and Emma Anderson (Lush)
4 – Dev Hynes
5 – Leiomy Maldonado
6 – Alex Ross Perry
7 – Julien Baker
8 – Kelley Deal
9 – Shirley Manson (always and forever, my second-favorite interview subject)
10 – Cindy Wilson
11 -- Rodney Bingenheimer
TOP 10 THINGS THAT GAVE ME LIFE IN 2016
1 – Going to work alongside Brandon Stosuy at The Creative Independent. Life changer, game changer. I get to work in a beautiful office space among some of the most genuinely kind and creative folks I’ve ever met. Plus, I spend most of my time talking to artists, writers, musicians, dancers, actors, and various creators whose work I admire. It’s a literal dream job.
2 – Having my mom and sister come visit for a week and convincing my mom to get dressed up for Halloween and go to a crazy party with us at MoMA PS.1.
3 – I didn’t even know what/were the Azores islands where until I went to the Tremor Festival (they are a group of islands in the mid-Atlantic, btw. An autonomous region of Portugal), but it turned out to be one of the best travel experiences of my life. Not only did I get to see a lot of beautiful landscapes and hear beautiful music, but I also got to share a million laughs with Julianna Barwick.
4 – For the second time I flew to Oslo, Norway (one of my favorite cities in the world) for the By:Larm Festival. It was cold and wintery and perfect.
5 – My “Poetry & Photography” class continues to be the gift that keeps on giving. Not only do I love the people so much, but teaching the class always inspires me to write new poems and reminds me why I spent such a big chunk of my life writing them, studying them, and thinking about them.
6 – Always a high point of the year, this year’s Basilica was maybe the most fun yet. Not only did Josh and I get to stay in a bed and breakfast that totally felt like a haunted house (or the set of Clue), but our DJ set at the Half Moon was probably the best one we’ve ever done.
7 – After having our minds blown going to Houston to see Guns & Roses, we spent a few days in Austin doing absolutely nothing other than floating in a pool, eating excellent food, and seeing old friends.
8 – I went to the premiere of American Psycho on Broadway with Bret Ellis, an old friend and someone who has shown me incredible kindness over the years. Sadly, the show didn’t end up having a very long run, but the premiere party was one of the funniest things I did all year.
9 – Josh and I celebrated six years together this year, which is a beautiful and remarkable thing.
10 - After over a decade of slinging drinks in some capacity somewhere in New York City, I finally stepped away behind the bar this year. And though I’d never count out the possibility of doing it again at some point (who knows what the future ever holds, right?) it felt really good to say goodbye to all that and never make another Old Fashioned or needlessly complicated martini (hopefully) ever again.
It seems impossible to add anything new to the growing chorus of voices talking about what a miserably fucked-up year 2016 was. In a lot of ways my life changed for the better, but the election of he-who-shall-not-be-named and the seemingly endless barrage of deaths this year made it nearly impossible to see any silver linings anywhere. Still, as I sit and type this, I am reminded of how profoundly lucky I am. I have a great friends, a supportive family, a loving partner, a cute apartment, five billion ceramic cats and a garden, plus a job that allows me to think and talk about art and creativity for a living. It’s the kind of life I almost wouldn’t have dared imagine for myself when I was a kid, so my goal as we cruise into the scary black hole of 2017 is not to take anything for granted. Wishing everyone love and light.