Pop Culture 2017

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Top 4 Albums:

4 – LCD Soundsystem: American Dream

They may not sound at all like the LCD Soundsystem who composed ‘New York I Love You’, but they’re exactly the LCD Soundsystem that 2017 needs: righteously angry, incredibly observant, and fantastically self-aware. It’s hard to recommend standout tracks, as this record comes as a complete experience, but ‘tonite’ is a good entry point.

3 – Arcade Fire: Everything Now

Who’s going to turn down new Arcade Fire? The answer is no one. Much like American Dream, Everything Now tackles the anguish of modern life head-on, treating the whole thing like some cruel joke that you aren’t really supposed to laugh at. Standouts include the furious ‘Creature Comfort’, and the sombre, groovy ‘Electric Blue’.

2 – Ryan Adams: Prisoner

Prisoner hits you square in the heart like Adams’ music always does, but he’s found a beautiful musical balance between the folksy Springsteen-esque sound of Heartbreaker, and the Smiths-like shimmering guitar chords of his 2014 self-titled album, making this one of the more unique entries in his catalogue. Highlights include the arena-packing ‘Do You Still Love Me?’, and the heart-wrenching ‘Shiver and Shake’.

1 – Julien Baker: Turn Out the Lights

Anyone can write a sad song, but Baker has a way of making those sad songs comforting, of making you feel understood and cared for. Turn Out the Lights, her sophomore album (and first record signed with Matador) doubles down on her efforts to be one of the most inspiring and important voices of our generation, and tracks like ‘Sour Breath’ and ‘Hurt Less’ are the perfect evidence that she’s already there. What else is there to say?

Top 4 Films:

4 – Logan (Dir. James Mangold)

What a stunning way to say goodbye to Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine. Brutal, tense, and strangely beautiful in a lot of ways, Logan provided a genuine antithesis of everything we expect from a superhero movie, and it’s all the better for it. I’m still speechless in a lot of ways.

3 – Dunkirk (Dir. Christopher Nolan)

Blimey. This film hits the ground running, and it doesn’t let you lean back in your seat until the job is done. Christopher Nolan’s shortest film is by far his best, never letting up, never giving you a moment to relax, but still packed with the kind of storytelling twists that we’ve come to expect from his work. Stellar cast, wonderfully put together, there’s not a single shot out of place in this film.

2 – Blade Runner 2049 (Dir. Denis Villeneuve)

You’re definitely allowed to argue that, at almost three hours long, this could have done with a little more time in the cutting room before it was released. I would, however, have to strongly disagree; I loved every single second of this masterpiece of filmmaking, from the astounding cast, to the immaculately realised universe they inhabit, to some of the most astonishing pieces of cinematography I’ve ever witnessed. I can’t believe how pleased I am with this.

HONORABLE MENTIONS:
I feel like I should mention Darren Aronofsky’s Mother!, because I honestly can’t decide if it’s my most loved or most hated film of 2017. But definitely watch it, and decide for yourself. I’d also like to mention Your Name, an astonishing Japanese animated movie by Makoto Shinkai; technically it was released in 2016, but its North American Blu-Ray release was this year. You will cry, and you will be enamoured by every single drawing in this movie.

1 – Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (Dir. James Gunn)

This is number one based almost entirely on the metric of ‘how much this film made me cry’, because I cried a lot. James Gunn struck a perfect chord with the first Guardians movie, and that chord resonates through the infinitely better sequel. These characters are as fully formed as I’ve ever seen film characters be, with fantastic growth arcs that lead to some of the strongest emotional payoffs I’ve ever seen. I never though the phrase ‘I’m Mary Poppins, y’all!’ would bring a tear to my eye, but it did even as I was typing it out, so you’ve earned this one, Gunn. Good job.
Top 4 TV/Netflix:

4 – Stranger Things 2

What is there even left to say about this one? You get everything that was great about the first one, you get new characters and spooky happenings to get things going, and on top of that you somehow turn Steve Harrington into the show’s most lovable character? Sign me up for seven more years of exactly this, please.

3 – Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later

I have no idea how or why these spin offs of

a cult comedy from around 15 years ago keep getting made, but they’re not slowing down the weirdness at all, and they got Chris Pine and Adam Scott involved, so I’m not mad. Favourite line: ‘Hey, remember I said I needed to talk to you about something?’ ‘Yeah, that was back in episode 2!’

2 – Doctor Who Season 10

I’ll be the first to admit that the quality of Doctor Who slips and slides all over the places, and even here there were a couple of dud episodes, but oh my, they got it so, so right this year. Peter Capaldi’s final year as the Doctor has some of the strongest plot arcs and most astonishing standalone episodes the show has ever seen, and the inclusion of Pearl Mackie as the companion Bill is the single greatest choice the revival of the show has ever made. This is the show I’ve been wanting to watch for years.

HONORABLE MENTION:

Back home in the UK, we recently brought back a TV Series called Robot Wars. I don’t think this needs further explanation.

1 – Bojack Horseman season 4

This is the single greatest show I have ever seen. I thought I knew that after the end of season 3, but after season 4 I knew it even better. A slight shift in the usually dour tone has done wonders for a show that didn’t even need it; it’s not just ‘Bojack is a sad, sad horse’ anymore, it’s ‘Bojack is a sad, sad horse who is trying so hard to be better’. It’s not happy, mind you, but for the first time, there’s a very real possibility that Bojack might actually be able to be happy. I know for sure that I can’t wait to find out if he gets to be or not.

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