Saturday, December 22, 2012

Why Fiona Apple's "The Idler Wheel..." was the Best Thing in 2012 and Other Stuff that Doesn't Suck

1. The Idler Wheel is Wiser than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More than Ropes Will Ever Do - Fiona Apple

In an age where every statement is clouded with layers upon layers of irony and meta-text, where the very notion of social media masks every action with pretense, forcing even the most bland of us into a life of performance art, the existence of Fiona Apple comforts me. In her, we have an artist who disappeared from the public eye for almost a decade and returned with a record so earnest and revealing that it forces us to remember what real emotions feel like. My Fiona Apple fandom is well-documented, so perhaps I'm exaggerating or gushing or whatever you want to call it. Still, the jittery, stripped down music presented to us on The Idler Wheel... coincides perfectly with the persona on the stage, and I can 't help but believe (maybe I need to believe) that in Apple is not only a genuine artist but a genuine person as well.

Every Single Night, Left Alone, Werewolf

2. The Master - Paul Thomas Anderson

Pretty much everything that can be said about PTA's The Master comes out in the film's first "processing" scene. As a movie that deals with Scientology through obfuscation, The Master seems almost elusive in its aim, a cult in and of itself. Yet in that first "processing" scene, we see a disheveled, alcoholic veteran in Joaquin Phoenix's Freddie Quell find something in Lancaster Dodd's (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) "Cause" that seems to speak to the inner turmoil within hi,. Freddie is erratic, prone to outbursts, and highly susceptible to suggest--the perfect candidate for a disciple--and the procession of  Dodd's "processing" technique and the repetition of simple questions ("What's your name?") into more probing questions about Quell's "past failures" leads the two into an emotional crescendo before dissipating into the lull of post-baptism. The films builds in much the same manner and washes out into the silence and emptiness of a cult's many promises.

Theatrical Trailer

Note: The next two entries actually do suck, but I want to right about them anyway. So here we go...

3. The End of the World

This didn't happen. Now Roland Emmerich's apocalypse blockbuster, 2012, is absent of its "historical context," and the world continues to confuse and baffle its inhabitants like the fickle bitch she is. I can only hope next year's apocalypse involves Sand Kittens somehow because hearing about it over and over wouldn't be so bad (and rather adorable actually).

4. Taco Bell's Dorito Tacos

If you ever found yourself wishing that tacos had the faint hint of Dortio flavoring and left your fingers a little dirtier after consumption, then Taco Bell is looking out for your best interests. Since its inception, I've eaten two Dorito Tacos--1) because of curiosity and 2) because I was near a Taco Bell, had a couple of bucks in my pocket and lack self-control. I don't remember much of either event. Much like stubbing your toe, eating a Dorito Taco is a sharp sensation that flees from you almost immediately  and all that you're left with is the fleeting memory that you once hurt and might someday hurt again.

5. Frank Ocean's Letter/Channel Orange

After listening to last year's Nostalgia, Ultra, I would have never guessed where Frank Ocean would end up. It was a great mixtape, but it hardly signified the eventual 6-Grammy Nomination, future book writing success that was about to define Ocean's 2012. And it all started with a very heartfelt post on his tumblr about how he had fallen in love with a man. Hip-Hop, and Odd Future (the hip-hop collective of which Ocean is a member) especially, is often criticized as a genre that promotes misogyny and homophobia, so I don't have to tell you that Ocean's letter was brave. But outside of it, pretending he never wrote anything prior to the release, Channel Orange is still a great record, with at least three of the year's best songs.

Bad Religion (Live on Jimmy Fallon), Pyramids, Thinking About You 

6. Home - Toni Morrison

People still write books, you know, and they aren't all Twilight and the Hunger Games. Toni Morrison is among those people, and she's still cranking out great books at that. Home is an Odyssey-esc novel about a traumatized soldier's return from the Korean War to his segregated hometown in Georgia packed into a slim but poetic 160 pages.

7. Saga - Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples

I've only just caught up with Saga, and now, all I can do is wait and wait and wait until the next issue drops. And it hurts. It hurts with more longevity than Dorito Taco hurts, but the first 6 issues have been collected into a graphic novel so that you to may join me in following BKV's new space opera. Drawing elements from Star Wars, Romeo and Juliet, Flash Gordon, and various fantasy novels (LotR and Game of Thrones included), one might assume Saga to be derivative, but Vaughan has enough tricks up his sleeves to create a new and compelling universe by borrowing from the old. Plus, Fiona Staples' art is beautifully and digitally rendered.

8. Moonrise Kingdom - Wes Anderson

The most Wes Anderson-y of Wes Anderson films. I don't really know what that means.

9. good kid, m.A.A.d city - Kendrick Lamar and R.A.P. Music - Killer Mike

I spent my teenage years in suburbia, so I heard many of my peers dismiss Hip-Hop as a genre for the brain dead. I won't attribute their dismissal to latent racism because that's too easy. Instead, I'll just simply suggest that if you believe that you might want to check these two records out. Kendrick Lamar is as adept at storytelling as Tom Waits, and Killer Mike can make a track as politically biting as an of Bob Dylan's best protest songs. Sure, hip-hop has it's bad commercial songs, but Hoobastank still makes music and we don't dismiss the entire rock genre.

10. A Bunch of Other Music

Grimes' Vision, Tame Impala's Lonerism, Chairlift's Something, Miguel's Kaleidoscope Dream, Flying Lotus' Until the Quiet Comes, and Beach House's Bloom have almost nothing in common other than being released in the same year, but I don't have time to write about all of them individually. Well, I do, but that's not the point. These albums have all been touted by various indie blogs over the course of the year, and I'll join the rest of them and say that you should listen to each of these records if you haven't.

Grimes - Genesis, Tame Impala - Feels Like We Only Go Backwards, Chairlift - I Belong in Your Arms, Miguel - The Thrill (live), FlyLo, Beach House - Myth

11. The Fault in Our Stars - John Green

something something nerdfighter something something read this book

12. Kanye West Released an Album and Nobody Cared

Every rapper declares himself the greatest. They just have to. I know a six year old that raps over Wiggles songs, and even he makes these sorts of claims. Yet when Jay-Z and Kanye West laid claim to the crown with last year's Watch the Throne, it's hard to argue they hadn't earned it. So when Ye dropped G.O.O.D. Music's Cruel Summer this year to little to no fanfare, it was a peculiar incident indeed.

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