Catching Up To 2014

Hey, Happy Belated New Year everybody! I mean, not that the new year was belated, I’m pretty sure it came at the usual time, I just mean this is my first blog post of the year and it’s coming a little later than I planned and this isn’t in any way funny or amusing, is it? Fair enough. Can’t win ’em all.

So, 2014, eh? What a trip. So, just curious, are you guys saying “twenty-fourteen,” or did you decide to go with “two-thousand fourteen?” Two thousand just sounds so futuristic, yeah? But what a mouthful! I think twenty-fourteen sounds better, personally. Also, what do you call this decade? The tens? The teens? Both options sound fairly horrible. Thoughts?

2013 was pretty alright, all things considered. Here are a few of my favorite things from 2013: (And yes, in this scenario I am your nun-governess and you’re a bunch of Austrian kids wearing curtains)

There was some cool music this year. Not at much great stuff as there was last year, but still. The brand new English band Savages released the brilliant and incendiary Silence Yourself, which is about the freshest meanest post-punk album to come out in a long while. Think Joy Division at their punkest meets Siouxsie Sioux meets… I don’t know, someone awesome. Tremendous record, highly recommended.

Also out in 2013, Death Grips released their fourth album (of the past three years!), their first post-Epic. Government Plates kinda got a knocking from the fans and critics, one which I think is quite undeserved. Yes, there are a few weak tracks, and perhaps they are showing signs of fatigue – maybe take a year off, guys? – but the standout tracks really really work. The caustic opener is probably the best thing they’ve ever recorded, and there’s a fine sprinkling of great music here. Uneven, yes, but excellent nonetheless.

Lots of great film last year. Steve McQueen broke improbably into the mainstream with 12 Years a Slave, a film of tremendous – almost unbearable – power. It doesn’t have quite the pure incandescence of Hunger, but it’s a staggering achievement all the same, full of beautiful camera work and raw, to-the-bone acting. The narrative unfurls expertly, and McQueen never lets the scope or expanse of the project overwhelm the intimacy of the characters.

And speaking of scope, Richard Linklater continued his three decade romance with Before Midnight, a film of such lived-in intimacy that it almost hurts. By the time the film comes to the final extended argument scene we are so closely connected to Jesse and Celine that every barb and resentment and insult feels as painful to us as to them. A magnificent achievement and a worthy continuation of one of the best and most interesting series ever committed to film.

Books. Ah books. To be honest, I didn’t read all that many new books this year. I’m going to try and correct that in 2014. I’m also hoping to read a lot more independently published books. E-books, anyone? Anyway. Last year, the real stand out for me was Joyce Carol Oates’ The Accursed. It was such a huge book to get through I was honestly a little worn out by it by the time I got to writing my review earlier this year. Upon further reflection, the book seems better and better. There’s a lot there, and it takes a while to get it all processed. The more I think about it, the more impressive I find it. Equally impressive is that Oates’ is still so readily able to deliver such a masterpiece this late in her career. It doesn’t top her early triumphs, but it certainly adds a significant piece to what is shaping up to be one of the largest and most consistently excellent bodies of work which any writer can boast.

As for the rest of the books I read in 2013, I’ll be getting to that in the next couple days (fingers crossed!) and sharing some end-of-year micro-reviews for all the stuff I missed. Expect to see that soon.

And, of course, I can’t neglect to mention that I published a book myself this year. The Cannibal’s Prayer, in case you missed it, came out last Autumn to the resounding acclaim of a single one-star review posted within two hours of it’s release. Because of course that’s plenty of time to read a book of that length and complexity. Not that I’m bitter or anything! Ha ha! Ha ha!

Go ahead, read it for yourself. Tell me what you thought of it. Hate it? Love it? Ambivalent about it? Tell me, tell your friends, tell people you meet on the street, I don’t care!

Alright, I guess that about wraps it up. Happy 2014, everybody! Be seeing you.

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