As you have seen from the beginning of the blog, I’m big into creative things, especially music and film. So I’d like to take this time to make mention of my favorites in both those areas so far this year. This list will help me to create my final list as the year comes to a close, just as I did for 2011. So, without further ado, the mid-year best of lists:
Mid-Year Top Albums
1. John Mayer- Born and Raised: It’s a departure for Mayer, without a doubt, but it is a beautiful one, as he showcases just how good a musician he really is. Listen carefully, though, and you can hear elements of all his previous albums, even if the folk/Americana is the clear heaviest influence here.
2. Motion City Soundtrack- Go: I’ll admit, the first few listens, I wasn’t sure. It was clearly MCS, but also clear that they were willing to take some risks this time around. The more I hear it, the more I realize that it stands up with Even If It Kills Me, at least in my mind, as one of the band’s best to date.
3. Barcelona- Not Quite Yours: Wow, I did not see this coming at all. The atmospheric rock of the band’s first effort (the lovely Absolutes) is nearly gone, and in it’s place is a rhythmic, spacey rock, that comes across as immediately more accessible, while still maintaining the band’s individuality.
4. David Crowder*Band- Give Us Rest or (A Mass Requiem in C [The Happiest of All Keys]): Definitely wins the title for longest album name of the year, and probably the longest studio album, too. It’s massive in scope, which makes it hard to really delve into in one sitting. But as a swan song for the DC*B, I couldn’t be happier.
5. Sent By Ravens– Mean What You Say: A step up for these guys from SC in a lot of ways, especially in that this album feels more cohesive than Our Graceful Words which sounded–as many freshman albums do–like a group of songs thrown together. Here there is clearly a thematic element running throughout, something which I really appreciate.
6. The Early November- In Currents: Everything about this could have been terrible. A band coming back together after a long hiatus to record an album certainly doesn’t always end well. But in this case, TEN has managed to work magic.
7. Starfield- The Kingdom: Even without a label, these guys no how to bring it. The album is certainly lo-fi, but allows the band to really flesh out its sound in new ways. Really a refreshing turn from these guys.
8. Jukebox the Ghost- Safe Travels: Been following this band since I first saw them in DC, and they’ve stayed very consistent. Less driving, rhythmic piano here, but still solid pop/rock song writing with a flair for the odd and interesting.
9. mewithoutYou- Ten Stories: Now this is more like it. I got to admit, I wasn’t a huge fan of the band’s last album, but Stories returns them, at least in part, to the sound that worked so well on Catch for Us the Foxes and Brother, Sister, while still retaining elements of the rootsier rock the band seems to be gravitating towards of late.
10. The Rocket Summer- Life Will Write the Words: Admittedly more mature than Bryce’s last few albums, while still maintaining the charm of his first album, which I still enjoy to this day.
11. The Spill Canvas- Gestalt: I’ll be honest, I lost track of these guys after One Fell Swoop, but this new one should get them back on my radar. Could stand up as the band’s best effort to date.
Those are albums I’ve had time to process so far this year. Not a lot. Lots still to come, such as:
House of Heroes- Cold Hard Want
The Classic Crime- Phoenix
Yellowcard- Southern Air
Anchor & Braille- The Quiet Life
Circa Survive- Violent Waves
Paper Route- The Peace of Wild Things
Muse- The 2nd Law
Also new albums (possibly) from Jars of Clay, Relient K, Paramore, Chris Tomlin, and The Almost
Mid-Year Top Films
1. Moonrise Kingdom: I’m afraid this isn’t going to hold long, as wonderful as the movie was. It is pure Wes Anderson in every way, and probably his most completely film in a long time. It has the right amount of heart and quirk and humor to keep us engaged from the beginning.
2. The Avengers: Action and humor keep this film together, as it has proven to be greater than most of the films leading up to it. Still, it will be hard for it to hold as the best comic book movie of the year for me.
3. The Hunger Games: Sure, I have a bit of a crush on Jennifer Lawrence, but aside from that, the film is really well done. The camera work is shaky and in your face, but it fits the film so well, you start to get used to it after a while. Delivers on the hype, for sure.
4. Brave: Pixar, why are you so good at what you do? I know this film has gotten some flack for being a cookie-cutter fairy tale, but in the end, I think that Pixar has scored once again with this one.
5. The Amazing Spider-Man: Yes, I know there was a lot of crap floating around about how unnecessary this film is. But I say since we got it, we should give it a fair shake. Done and done. Easily better than Spider-Man 3 and Spider-Man, I’d say it would put up a good fight up against Spider-Man 2 as well. Garfield and Stone are excellent, and Webb certainly nailed the direction.
6. Jeff, Who Lives at Home: The Duplass Brothers, who supposedly are at the head of the so-called ‘mumblecore’ film movement, are having a big year, with this movie being the forgotten of the group, with Safety Not Guaranteed and Your Sister’s Sister taking in most of the acclaim. But I enjoyed this film quite a bit.
7. The Five-Year Engagement: Hey, look, it’s Jason Segal again, this time in a different role from Jeff. I know this movie hasn’t gotten the attention of previous films of its kind, but I thought it was funny, often intelligently so, and had enough heart to keep you involved, even if you knew the ending from the beginning.
8. Safe House: Another action thriller starring Denzel Washington and…oh, hey Ryan Reynolds. Still having trouble deciding what your deal is, huh? Well, I actually found this movie entertaining. No way it stays this high through the end of the year, but worth noting here.
9. Dark Shadows: The problem here is that I’m not sure that Tim Burton and Johnny Depp really figured out what film they wanted to make. I found it entertaining and often funny, but the film began with this Sleepy Hollow-inspired opening, and then became something else. Still worth mentioning here, even if it is liable to get bumped soon.
10. Prometheus: I was that disappointed in this film. I wasn’t really terrified. I wasn’t really given any answers, save for a few sly nods to Alien. And yes, I know it’s not technically a prequel to that film, but then the marketing people did a terrible job with this film. It was fine. I just can’t see myself owning it or watching it again.
11. The Raven: I did not hate this film, but I felt it was disjointed. What I really would like to see is a Poe biopic. Or possibly a thriller about a guy who’s obsessed with Poe and takes his murderous ideas from the master himself. Trying to weave both together just didn’t work.
12. Men in Black 3: Certainly better than MIB2, but that would not have taken much. I think this film signals that the door should be closed on any further MIB films, as Tommy Lee Jones clearly doesn’t care to be a part of the series anymore, and Will Smith just doesn’t have the appeal in this role he once did.
Other films on the way or that I’ve yet to see: The Grey, Act of Valor, Wanderlust, Being Flynn, The Cabin in the Woods, The Pirates! Band of Misfits, Bernie, Safety Not Guaranteed, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, Seeking A Friend for the End of the World, To Rome With Love, People Like Us, Ted, The Dark Knight Rises, Ruby Sparks, Total Recall, The Bourne Legacy, The Campaign, The Watch, ParaNorman, Cosmopolis, Gangster Squad, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, End of Watch (if only for Anna Kendrick), Looper, Cloud Atlas, Trouble with the Curve, Frankenweenie, Taken 2, Argo, Gambit, The Master, Wreck-It Ralph, Skyfall, Anna Karenina, The Silver Linings Playbook, Hyde Park on Hudson, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Les Miserables, Zero Dark Thirty, Django Unchained, The Great Gatsby
Yeah, so there are a lot more films coming, so this list will change, probably as soon as July 20 with The Dark Knight Rises. Excited to see what the rest of the year has in store for music and films!