Troher’s 2018 Entertainment roundup

Our picks for the best entertainment 2018 had to offer

Matt Troher, Editor-In-Chief

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Its been a year. The past twelve months have been chock-full of ubiquitous moments from the worlds of politics, culture, and the ever-growing interconnected society. Perhaps what we needed most this year was a distraction, a distraction from the strife both personal and shared that we have endured, from the moments that can only be described as hopeless. Fortunentally, the entertainment landscape of the past year has been anything but. An avalanche of innovations and breakthroughs in music, film, and literature have brought light to the dark. I present to you, our dedicated readers, the pieces of entertainment that have brought me exactly what I needed most this past year — hope. And I hope they will do the same to you as well.

 

Kacey Musgraves – Golden Hour

Once again, country’s outsider Kacey Musgraves makes the perfect pop-country crossover record, this time taking another step into the zeitgeist. She opened for Harry Styles, peaked at number four on the Billboard charts, garnered two Grammy nominations, and finally won over the country community by picking up ‘album of the year’ at the County Music Association’s annual awards. Slow burning and deliberate, Musgraves makes the perfect countrified pop for that time between 5:00 and 6:00 where the sun is falling down and snapping that perfect selfie for the feed is evident.

 

Janelle Monae – Dirty Computer

This year, Janelle Monae brought me respite. For every horrible terrible no-good day, there’s a song from Dirty Computer that could breathe energy back into my body through its sweeter-than-candy pop hooks or life-affirming lyrics. Monae effortlessly captures the joys, glamour, frustration, and highs associated with modern living as a young woman in the limelight. “I’m not an American nightmare, I’m the American dream” sings Monae on “Crazy, Classic, Life,” serving as the thesis statement for Moane’s glitzed-out world of sexual-fluidity, feminism, and reveling in the temporary high of youth.

 

Iceage – Beyondless

Punk isn’t dead, its alive in Denmark. For nearly fifty minutes, the group of scraggly, scrawny boys from Denmark bombards the listener with heavy drumming, washed out guitars, and their trademark signature ensemble of horns and violins. Like a burnt rose opening to the sun, “Beyondless” is the punk record for a new wave of masculinity, perfect for performing on stages covered in flowers while still dishing out head-banging tunes.

 

Sons of Kemet – Your Queen is a Reptile

On “Your Queen is a Reptile”, Sons of Kemet are making a statement. A statement that they are rejecting your monarchy, and substituting their own. The British jazz quartet named each track on the album after influential black women throughout history — Harriet Tubman, Angela Davis, and Albertina Sisulu, just to name a few. Using their dub and hip-hop influenced jazz sprinkled with traditional African drumming and polyrhythms, Sons of Kemet usher in a new monarchy that represents those often forgotten by history.

 

Original Broadway Cast Recording – The Band’s Visit

“The Band’s Visit” was the musical 2018 didn’t expect, but it was certainly the one this year needed most. Celebrating the importance of music as a catalyst to bring people together, the short musical follows an Israeli police band that accidentally ends up in the wrong village. The band interacts with the townspeople, transforming each other and themselves through open ears and thoughtful conversation. David Yazbek’s Middle Eastern-influenced jazz combined with the angelic voice of lead actress Katrina Lenk makes “The Band’s Visit” ‘the little musical that could’, picking up 10 ‘Tony’ awards and finding a place in the hearts of thousands and the musical theater canon.

 

Jeff Rosenstock – Post

Released on the very first day of the year, “Post” served as Rosenstock’s response to the year that was 2017 and the unknowingly perfect precursor to the year that was to follow. “They can make us feel afraid and try to turn it into hate. Judge us when we cry and never empathize with anyone but themselves. We’re not gonna let them win,” Rosenstock sings on the album’s closer, “Let Them Win”, which serves as a rousing anthem for those who feel disenfranchised by the current political situation of our country. Concise and enthralling, “Post” was perhaps the release I found myself returning to the most over the course of the tumultuous year that was 2018.

 

Kaveh Akbar – Calling a Wolf a Wolf

Released at the tail end of 2017 but not reaching a wider audience until the start of 2018, Iranian-American poet Kaveh Akbar’s first book is the best poetry this year had to offer. In today’s poetry landscape that’s bogged down with tweet-sized prose, Akbar finds a way to break through the noise with detailed evocative language that gets at the heart of love, addiction, and masculinity. “I’m becoming more a vessel of memories than a person, it’s a myth that love lives in the heart, it lives in the throat,” writes Akbar on the standout poem “Heritage”. Stark and Poignant, “Calling a Wolf a Wolf”, proves Akbar to be one of the most promising up-and-coming poets of the 21st century who’s work will certainly stand the test of time.

 

The End of the F***ing World (Netflix)

Ushering in the year in television was perhaps the most gripping miniseries I have seen to date. Pitch-black and oddly enduring, “The End of the F***ing World,” tells the story of self-proclaimed psychopath James and foul-mouthed nihilist Alyssa and their manic road trip across the English countryside. Filmed in a distinctly ‘Wes Anderson’ style and scored with a niche mashup of 60’s doo-wop and modern indie, the perfectly paced eight-episode series is the ideal bingeable series to occupy anyone’s Saturday night. Read the full review here.

 

Playboi Carti – Die Lit

“Die Lit” is the most the most punk rap record to date. Its punk ethos is made clear, hell just look at the album cover, an upside down stage diver suspended in time over a mohawked party-goer. This image captures the feeling of Carti’s debut record perfectly, manic energy oozing out through luxurious, glossy beats. The lyrics are trite, and Carti knows that in his world they’re merely meaningless vessels for the purpose of conveying true feeling if “lit”, with Carti beckoning his audience to feel as alive as he does.

 

Mamma Mia II

Perhaps my favorite film of the year, “Mamma Mia II” was the perfect follow up to the 2008 cult classic. Doubling down on pure ABBA goodness with a feature from 80’s pop star Cher, write Ol Parker knew exactly what he was doing. Parker didn’t come to make a ‘Best Picture’ nominee or a Palme d’Or winner, but instead, Mamma Mia II makes the audience feel what is too often forgone at today’s movie viewing experience, joy.

 

Childish Gambino – This is America

Gunshots ring out in a church, police brutality caught on camera by a group of idle teenagers, a horseman of the apocalypse rides through a scene of utter chaos. School shootings, paid vacations for murders, and a pop-culture market that exploits and appropriates black culture. Tragedy does indeed make for great art.

This is America.

When Childish Gambino dropped what might be this year’s best song, and certainly the most impactful, the internet was aflame. Combined with a music video filled to the brim with visual rhetoric commentating on and criticizing modern American life, Gambino turned heads with a song that I would hesitate to dichotomize into the genre of trap, as it exceeds all known bounds and connotations the label brings.

 

Haley Heynderickx  – I Need to Start a Garden

In a year filled to the brim with shouting matches of who’s the loudest, it sometimes took the quietest of sounds to break through the noise. Haley Heynderickx’s debut album is a hushed musing of sunflowers and coffee shops, alternating between a full band and a sparse acoustic guitar to set a tone for Heynderickx’s prose-like lyrics. The loudest moment of the record comes at the end of the track “Om Sha La La”, where Heynderickx nearly shouts the mantra “I need to start a garden!”, a lament on self-care in form of, well, gardening. This turn of phrases emphasizes Heynderickx as indie’s newest star.

 

Chance the Rapper – I Might Need Security

2018 saw the release of no official project from Chicago’s own Chance the Rapper, but it did bring upon two bundles of singles released periodically throughout the year. Short and sweet, Chance released a total of six stand-alone singles, the stand out of which being “I Might Need Security”. Profane and Political, Chance takes jab after jab at Chicago politicians through clever wordplay and infectious performances on the track. Frustrated but still resilient, Chance is as strong as ever — even in a year that’s testing him the most.