2019 in Review
All my media recommendations from a pretty okay year.
As 2019 has come to a close, I am getting started on one of my first new year’s resolutions: writing more.
While I don't think I'm particularly good at it, I'd like to get better. At the end of every year, I like to reflect on all of the media I felt was truly great. This is normally a personal process, but it's about time to change that. Every year I hope to share a list with you that will include a combination of albums, video games, books, and television. Without further adieu, welcome to my 2019 in review:
Whitney’s first album was one of my favorite albums of 2016, and their sophomore album only furthered my love for this band. This album served up the same melancholic jams I’ve come to expect with a surprisingly cheery undertone that has me tapping my foot whenever I listen.
Favorite Song: I Used to Be Lonely
Having spent almost all of my formative years in Philly, I’ve always had a soft spot for Alex G. It is absolutely mind-blowing to see someone from my own local music scene grow into such fame and musical maturity. This album has a unique sound and is perfect for an afternoon of deep work or doing absolutely nothing.
Favorite Song: Gretel
This year I tried to make an effort to listen to more queer artists and I was lucky enough to stumble across The Japanese House. This record is about working through your own bad habits and in a way, breaking up with parts of yourself. Amber Bain identifies as a lesbian and uses she/her pronouns in her lyrics for herself and former partners. When asked about this she responded, “If people think I’m using my sexuality, then so be it. Let’s fucking use it.” Right on, Amber.
Favorite Song: Maybe You're the Reason
Clairo is another great add to "emerging queer artists of 2019". It took me a few listens to get into this album, but it's hard to hate a song that references Joni Mitchell's A Case of You. This bedroom pop is honestly the perfect backdrop for activity, and if you think it won't be your jam I really recommend a listen just to be sure.
Favorite Song: Bags
Compared to Charly Bliss' first album, this new wave sound almost makes you feel like you're listening to your aunt's favorite band from the 80s. This album deals with a lot of complex topice you don't notice on first listen; but I kind of think that's what is so brilliant about it. I loved this record in a very different way than their first record, but that doesn't mean I don't love both equally.
Favorite Song: Chatroom
PUP has always been a band deeply rooted in yelling about your feelings, and this album is no exception. It’s everything I wanted from a new album; its punchy, sarcastic, and head-bang-able. It’s a great companion for any used to be pop punk kid (or present-day pop punk adult).
Favorite Song: Kids
I found Necking by accident on a “Best of Punk” Bandcamp newsletter and I’m so thankful that I did. Necking seems to capture a certain rage that all women have probably felt in a short but impactful record. If you love punk and badass women, you will love this album.
Favorite Song: Big Mouth
Mannequin Pussy has always checked a lot of boxes for me: female-fronted punk, Philly-based, deeply vulnerable; but even beyond that this album has to be their best work yet. I don’t have much else to say other than this album is definitely worth your time, and you're going to want to sing along.
Favorite Song: Drunk II
This record hit me out of nowhere; it immediately resonated with me in the first 30 seconds of the opening track Body. It is simultaneously beautiful and introspective and quiet while rocking so, so hard. I would also recommend seeing her live if you can; it was hands-down my favorite concert all year.
Favorite Song: Don't Know How to Keep Loving You
Spotify told me BROCKHAMPTON has been my favorite artist for the last two years and I guess I just have to accept that. They are chaotic and eclectic, and while the term “boy band” doesn’t do them justice, I guess they are my favorite boy band. This album has the same energy as the SATURATION trilogy with subdued and delicate moments I haven't seen from these boys before.
Favorite Song: SUGAR
5 Video Games
5 Outer Wilds
This list couldn't be complete without Outer Wilds because there just is no other video game like it. It starts slowly and you think, “why would I want to play the same 22 minutes over and over again?”, but as you continue to "give it a try" you become more and more immersed in the mystery. The amount of wonder and delight they are able to pack into this game really blew me away. If that’s not enough, you can also roast marshmallows on a fire and assemble the cutest little band of friends in the universe.
4 Hollow Knight
Hollow Knight taught me that I have been sleeping on platform Metroidvania games for far too long. The art style is a feat in and of itself, but the exploration and imagination of the world is what kept me immersed for 40+ hours of gameplay. Some of the bosses were challenging to the point of almost throwing my Switch across the room, but once you finally beat them somehow it all feels worth it.
3 Return of the Obra Dinn
If you’ve ever wanted to be an insurance adjuster tasked with figuring out the fate of 80+ ship passengers in the year 1802, then boy is that specific (and boy do I have a game for you). This is one of the most unique puzzle games I have ever played with an equally unique art style. It is everything I wanted from a supernatural murder mystery game and more. My only wish is to forget it all and play again.
2 Borderlands 3
2019 was the year I finally got my girlfriend to play video games with me, and we loved Borderlands 3. It’s got lootin’, it’s got shootin’, and the most cringe-worthy live-streaming antagonists I’ve ever seen. I know video games are art, or whatever, but not all of them need to say something. Sometimes you just want to shoot someone with a gun that shoots hamburgers.
1 Untitled Goose Game
Okay, I played a lot of great games this year, but this mischievous goose won my whole heart. The art direction, the score, and the overall gameplay was downright delightful. My only wish is that it had been a few hours longer; I wanted to spend some more time with my new goose friend.
3 Salt Fat Acid Heat, Samin Nostrat
This year, I tried to get more serious cooking, and this book taught me pretty much everything I (now) know. It is not only a cookbook but a manual in learning to season and create that gives great insights regardless of your current cooking level. The writing is accessible and the illustrations are gorgeous, not to mention every recipe I have made has been delicious. This is a great addition to any home library.
2 Strange Piece of Paradise, Terri Jentz
In this 800-page true crime story, Terri Jentz returns to Oregon to find the man who almost murdered her 15 years ago. She is looking for justice and making a compelling case against the man she believes to have run her over with his car and attacked her with an ax. This gruesome attempt on her life took place only a few hours away from where I currently live in Portland, which made this story even more page-turning.
1 Paper Girls, Brian K. Vaughan
I read the first volume of Paper Girls back in 2017, but this year I finally caught all-the-way to the anticipated conclusion. It was more supernatural than expected, but the cast of young papergirls kept me invested with solid writing and a visually compelling art style. I would only recommend it if you like graphic novels but either way it's a great story that's worth your time.
1 Television Show
Okay, okay, OKAY, before you say anything, let me say it for you. “Naruto is not anime, it is art”. I know it's a children’s show, but Naruto is a beautiful story of friendship, perseverance, love, and loss. If you can get past the yelling (seriously, Naruto is always yelling), it is an incredibly well-written story with complex characters that is very sad but also very very good. If you can't handle the yelling its also a fantastic set of manga.
Anyways, that's all I had. Thank you for reading and see you next year 🎉
Anyways, that's all I had. Thank you for reading and see you next year 🎉