Another year, another reason to lose yourself in music instead of the news or social media, or the news on social media. Perhaps it was the pervasive effect of the internet on my life, and some profound desire to push away from it when I had the chance, that shaped my preferences this year. This is a list filled with folkiness, jazz and orchestral expanse. Now more than ever, we should hastily embrace the chance to slow down and breathe and think. I did so, or at least tried to, with these records. You should too.
1. War On Drugs — A Deeper Understanding (Atlantic)
2016 was a year to forget … but also to remember. We lost at least a dozen of the most important artists we will ever hear. As much as the music business is still adjusting to the new frontier, great music seems to pour out of every corner of the world, no longer hostage to major labels, walled garden distribution, and a handful of gatekeepers. This list, my 20th, is filled with as many truly incredible records as ever. They cross every thematic genre I can think of, and pay tribute to everything that has come before. I don’t buy that the “album” is dead. Great artists still make albums, that is why they are great. Try to listen to them that way, playlists can be great, but they only tell part of the story.
Great TV is inflicting pain on the movie business. Not just because the most creative writers and directors are expanding their ambitions to the small screen, but also because many of the theaters where you see high-brow films have disappeared. But the Golden Age of TV has also made it possible to see these small films from the comfort of your couch, not long after their theatrical release or occasionally at the same time. This list is filled with a bunch of heavy seeming stories, fitting given the events of the past year, but in this relative gloom, there is so much beauty. Art always helps bury sorrow, even if the art is sorrowful.
1.La La Land– Dir. Damien Chazelle (Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling)