THE VOICE OF ENERGY VOL. 062
It's that time of year when all the cultural critics of the world start cobbling together their lists of the best art of the previous 12 months. Not an easy task if you try to pay attention to as much of it as I do. And I've given up trying to participate in tossing my personal picks to the outlets I've written for in the past because my selections don't tend to end up in the finished listicles. I say that with no pride or frustration. I'm just listening to different stuff.
That said - what I have done for the last few years for my own record keeping is maintain a spreadsheet of my favorite music of the year. It's unranked and generally there for the benefit of those friends and colleagues who ask me what music I love. (My memory is not the best these days.) The 2021 edition of the spreadsheet is here. It is, without a doubt, incomplete as there are likely tons of records and reissues that should've made the cut that I forgot to include (again: bad memory) or haven't gotten around to listening to. If you want to comment/gripe/argue/wonder about omissions to this list, respond to this and let me know.
If forced to pick a best record, the one I would lean toward is Alina Kalancea's Impedance. This is the record I put at #1 when Pitchfork asked me to submit an ultimately useless list of my 2021 favorites. I'm still awestruck by its depth and grandeur—I imagine a DJ set of booming house and abstract electronic sounds being broadcast from a furrow situated several layers below the Earth's crust—and sorely wish Kalancea agreed to do an interview for this newsletter when I inquired.
Films are a little bit easier for me to rank for some reason. Maybe because I don't have as much skin in the critical game when it comes to cinema. Thanks to Letterboxd, I'm able to maintain an ongoing ranking of films, which I've adjusted and tweaked and shuffled along the way. Here's where it stands as of today. Again, there's a fair number of flicks that I've not gotten around to (The Power of the Dog and The Worst Person in the World, among them) because I'm merely one person not getting paid to write about movies with a limited amount of free time. I do what I can and will surely be adding to this list well into 2022.
As for TV, How To With John Wilson continues to surprise and delight me, as does the soft plush squeeze of Joe Pera Talks With You. Reservation Dogs is brutally funny and, along with the more straightforward Rutherford Falls, puts the long overdue focus on Indigenous stories and storytellers. I had a few spit takes during the most recent season of What We Do In The Shadows and was given my geeky delights by the Marvel series on Disney+. But there wasn't anything this year that could match the scope and power of The Underground Railroad. It wasn't perfect but it had a lot to say about modern America through the lens of Colson Whitehead's brilliant novel and director Barry Jenkins' steady hand.
This is going to be my final missive for 2021. I thank you all for subscribing and putting up with my erratic publication schedule. Have a couple of big things I need to write before the year is out and then I'll be putting a lot more effort in to this.
The first of the year also means that only paid subscribers will see every edition of the newsletter - and be eligible for free stuff provided by me and some wonderful artists I know. If you don't want to miss anything, become a paid subscriber today. It's only $5 a month and I'll make it worth your while.
Thanks again, friends. Be good to each other. Do no harm. Take no shirt.
RIP bell hooks, Drakeo The Ruler, Leonard "Hub" Hubbard, and Barry Harris.
Artwork for this edition is currently on display at the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo in Santiago, Chile.