Ground Control’s Year in Review 2018

Ground Control’s Year in Review 2018

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Monday, 31 December 2018
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What a year it’s been, and especially for music. The bounty has been so good that, even though we’re giving you our top 20 choices for music this year, our list could have easily extended into the top 30. But we don’t have the stamina for that. Also, these albums are all winners and even though they’re in order, this could have easily been different depending on our mood. Regardless, these are our recommendations for best music (and some movies and TV shows) of the year. You won’t find a list better than this one.

Music

1. Superchunk – What a Time to be Alive

I don’t know why but I never got into Superchunk and even though I thought their selftitled was decent, the band never really resonated with me. That’s until I heard What a Time to be Alive. These songs are poppy, simple, fun and catchy as hell and they get better with every listen.

2. Swingin’ Utters – Peace and Love

The Utters never fail to disappoint. With every release you know a certain quality standard is going to be met. The only question is, will it be an outstanding album? Peace and Love most certainly is and it’s another astounding entry in the already impressive Swingin’ Utters catalog.

3. Neko Case – Hell-On

Few artists take lyrical risks like Neko Case does, and for good reason, because few artists can pull it off. Hell-On is full of the haunting, beautifully-off, and charming songs, with great lines like “Sometimes where there’s smoke, there’s just a smoke machine, honey.”

4. Jeff Rosenstock – POST.

Rosenstock is unstoppable, and no one represents the current state of good pop-punk quite like him. His songs all wear their hearts on their sleeves and are indecipherable in their composition. And it’s free to boot? Come on! USA is the song of the year.

5. The Breeders – All Nerve

It’s taken 2018 for me to recognize why the Breeders are so beloved. I had no excuse ignoring Last Splash. It came out while I was in high school and rocks as good now as it probably back then. All Nerve definitely sounds like a Breeders albums, with its unpredictably cool riffs and heavenly harmonies. It’s also a complex album that goes from bloom to gloom in an instant and keeps your attention throughout.

6. Kurt Vile – Bottle It In

There’s one thing you can depend on with Kurt Vile and that’s that Kurt Vile is going to sound like Kurt Vile. Bottle it In is a continuation of a style that’s unlike anything else in music right now: distant, psychedelic, playful, and at times soothing. This is as organic as he’s ever sounded. What a weird trip.

7. Lemuria – Recreational Hate

I was afraid for Lemuria. Afraid that they would never get that old magic back. After Get Better their approach to music has been to fit every chord and note ever into every song, which was annoying to say the least. On Recreational Hate, the band have toned it down a notch and just focused on writing good catchy pop songs. Lo and behold, it works!

8. Speedy Ortiz – Twerp Verse

Then there’s Speedy Ortiz whose music I can’t make heads or tails from. The melodies sound discordant and it’s impossible to predict where these songs will go. Pair that with lead singer Sadie’s great vocals and lyrics and Twerp Verse sounds like a forgotten indie rock classic straight out of the Matador and Merge catalog of the 90s.

9. Fucked Up – Dose Your Dreams

There’s just so much going on on Dose Your Dreams. Gone are the days when Fucked Up released 7 inches of straightforward hardcore punk. Instead Dose Your Dreams takes its time and breathes for 80 minutes, exploring different ideas whether we like it or not, until finally bringing it all back home. Dose your Dreams might be the first fun Fucked Up album.

10. Dog Party – Hit & Run

Dog Party is not messing around. They’re powered by pop punk, they carry drums and a guitar, they’re here to rock and that’s exactly what they’re gonna do. Hit & Run is catchy, it rocks, it’s funny, it’s sentimental, and it takes no prisoners. It’s also over before you know it. Like hearing the Ramones for the first time, these songs might sound quick and silly at first, but after repeated listens you won’t be able to get them out of your head.

Best of the rest (in no particular order):

Screaming Females – All at Once

Joyce Manor – A Million Dollars to Kill Me

Former Member – Old Youth

Hot Snakes – Jericho Sirens

Red Hare – Little Acts of Destruction

Ty Segall – Freedom’s Goblin

Bat Fangs – Selftitled

Jon Spencer – Sings the Hits

Bad Sports – Constant Stimulation

The Hold Your Horses award:

The Interrupters – Fight the Good Fight

I gave the Interrupters a chance based solely on hype, and even though there are strong moments in Fight the Good Fight, the album just sounds painfully derivative and short on ideas. Cut a minute off each track and this would have been a much better album.

Best of last year

Smith Street Band – More Scared of You Than You Are of Me

Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile – Lotta Sea Lice

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard – Murder of the Universe

Taiwan Housing Project – Veblen Death Mask

Movies

Death of Stalin

Death of Stalin has the fact that I’m in love with Soviet history going for it. I love seeing these  figures brought to live in a story that’s as tragic as it is hilarious. That’s a hard combo, but Death of Stalin pull it off beautifully. It’s the movie I can’t stop thinking about this year.

Thoroughbreds

Something is clearly off about Thoroughbreds but you can’t quite figure it out for the entirety of the movie. There is serious chemistry between these two protagonists, and that’s because they’re both evil, but motivated by different things. Comedies probably don’t come as dry or dark as this one.

Sorry to Bother You

Sorry to Bother you is a lot of things. It’s a comedy, a romp, a social commentary, a sci fi movie, and a thriller. What’s not to love in that combo? Added to that a wonderful cast that’s devoid of pointless cameos and you’ve sold me. Sorry to Bother you is so sharp and witty that it transcends race and class and that’s a great thing.

Juliet, Naked

I’ve read the book so I might be biased, but Juliet Naked is what I wish rom coms were more like. Its characters make choices that pay off but the whole scenario remains grounded. Fairy tale endings might be what’s expected but not what’s smart or realistic. Juliet Naked knows this and takes the chance to wonderful results.

A Quiet Place

As far as “big dumb blockbuster movies” go, A Quiet Place is the only one that did it for me this year. I saw this movie alone in the theatres, in a recliner seat, with cheesecake and chewy sprees at my disposal. Trying not to make any noise of course. A Quiet Place had a good plot, good acting, good characters, and a good ending. It’s great rooting for the underdog.

Border

Shocking for all the right reasons, meaning it’s shocking for all the “wrong” reasons, Border aligns all its pieces early on and plays a game that goes on for longer than its audience might be comfortable with. It’s highly disturbing at parts but also hopeful and sweet. Don’t let that poster scare you.

TV Shows

Venture Bros

Venture Bros episodes seem to trickle out every few years. That’s because they focus on quality rather than quantity. This is a lesson most TV shows haven’t learnt. This latest season manages to both explore their world and look inward while still having a lot of heart. After all these years, The Venture Bros can still delight and surprise and prove once again they’re the best show on TV.

Kidding

What’s surprising about Kidding is how it manages to be dead funny and dead serious at the same time. The characters are damaged and troubled but still highly functional, and come across as people we can sympathize with and relate to. Add to that some incredible cinematography and you have a show that both looks and feels great.

Joe Pera Talks With You

As strange, as it’s dry, soothing, and completely out of place in the Adult Swim roster. Joe Pera Talks With You is best in its self-contained episodes, when Pera is, well, just talking to you about rocks, waterfalls, and sleeping. His monotonous voice complimenting the beautifully shot landscape is hypnotic and satisfying. You’ll love it and not know why.

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