Thursday, February 16, 2012

Media Review 2011: Top Motion Pictures.

While my book-reading didn't have much of a spiritual component this year, my movie-watching sure did. I don't know if this was intentional on the parts of the filmmakers or if I just imported a lot of my faith into the theatre with me, but many of this year's film's spoke to me in a deeply spiritual way. That said, while I had a deep admiration for many of 2011's offerings, I only loved three of them to the degree where I couldn't stop thinking about them for days afterward. The fourth and fifth slots of this year's top five could well have been filled by many of the movies that wound up as "Honorable Mentions." Which, by the way, are:

The Adventures of TinTin
Captain America: The First Avenger
The Ides of March
Midnight in Paris
Mission: Impossible -- Ghost Protocol
Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
X-Men: First Class

5) The Artist AND Hugo [Both of these movies are so steeped in nostalgia that I watched them with a big, dumb grin on my face. I have a feeling that Hugo will wind up standing the test of time better than The Artist, but either of them is worth the throwback factor. Oh, and both of these films broke the unbreakable rule: if a film has a cutaway of a dog putting its paw over its eyes in shame, then that film is a giant hunk of not-worth-it. Way to buck the system, movies!]
4) Super 8 [The first coming-of-age film I've seen that takes place roughly during the time period when I came of age. I'm officially old enough that my nostalgia is also becoming the nation's nostalgia. I was so very, very on board with this movie the whole time I was watching it. Just completely top-notch.]
3) Source Code [Basically, this film hit all my buttons. You know when you're scratching your dog's tummy and you find that spot where they kick their leg, wag their tail, rub their back against the carpet, and loll out their tongue at the same time? That's me watching this movie.]
2) Cave of Forgotten Dreams [A documentary on prehistoric cave paintings. Sounds scintillating, right? It actually is! Werner Herzog never makes a boring film, and he uses the conceit of these paintings to ask all sorts of questions about humanity, artistry, spirituality, and where all these things come from. Plan lots of time afterward for contemplation and/or discussion.]
1) The Tree of Life [It will have to be a strong, strong contender to knock this one from the top spot when I compile my "Best of the Decade" list in 2020. I cannot adequately describe how I feel this movie, so I'll quote film critic Walter Chaw instead: "...It's true in a way that has nothing to do with what happens in it and everything to do with what happens in me while I watch it." Exactly.]

A Separation
War Horse
The Mill and the Cross

The Help
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Albert Nobbs

Cars 2 [Man, was this thing disappointing. I doubt Pixar had any real creative reason to dip back into the Cars well, and it showed in a film that tried to preach that same worn-out message of "Be yourself" and wound up adding the parenthetical, "Even if you're a pretentious jerk with no cultural sensitivity." The upside is that it led to a great post-film conversation with my kids about how we all need to grow and learn and put aside our more coarse impulses.]

Transformers: Dark of the Moon [I can trash this all I want and I still won't be able to top the masterful review from (again) Walter Chaw. Go read it (warning: swears).]

Tomorrow: nothing! The media review is over!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Media Review 2011: Top Television.

I'm oh-so-gradually starting to recognize that television may have more to offer me than I've allowed in the past. This year I started watching two new sitcoms, both of which have some critical acclaim and both of which made my top five. A definite step up, since I didn't even bother with this part of the media review last year.

5) Phineas & Ferb [I marvel at how this Disney cartoon manages to be so consistently fresh and funny. I wish I was one-tenth this inventive.]
4) 30 Rock [Part of me hopes this is the last season, because this show is treading water and losing steam. Still, when the rapport is on between Jack and Liz, it is on. Alec Baldwin may be a failure as a human being, but darn it all if he's super-great on this show.]
3) Modern Family [I'm new to this show, so I don't know yet if it will hold up (it seems like the dynamics haven't changed or developed much since I started watching), and it still hews pretty closely to a lot of sitcom conventions, but on the whole it tends to deliver at least a couple of good laughs every episode. And the character of Phil Dunphy is pretty genius.]
2) The Daily Show/The Colbert Report [I'm really looking forward to the 2012 election with these guys.]
1) Community [GOOD GRAVY BOATS IN HEAVEN THIS SHOW IS AMAZING! Completely blew my mind the first time I watched this. Finally, at long last, I found a show to fill that big Arrested Development-shaped hole in my heart, and then NBC goes and "benches" it. If you weren't watching it already, do yourself a favor and find it whenever NBC puts it back on the air.]

Phineas & Ferb: Across the Second Dimension [A made-for-TV movie that my kids forced me to watch when they earned it as a reward--and I wound up loving it. It actually made me look forward to the inevitable theatrical Phineas & Ferb movie (coming in 2013).]

The Cosby Show [I actually watched this as a kid, but now that I'm a parent of five, it is funny on a completely new level. I always identified with Theo back in the day (and harbored a secret crush on the much-older Denise), but now I'm all about Cliff and how he relates to his kids while treating Claire with true love and respect. You've set a high bar, Mr. Cosby. A high bar indeed.]

Whitney [I wish I could use Are You There, Chelsea?, but since that debuted in January of this year, it's off the table until next time. I could only stomach about the first 10 minutes of Whitney's completely humor-free pilot before I turned it off, disgusted that it's staying on the schedule while Community languishes on "the bench."]

Tomorrow: the media review concludes with my favorite category--top motion pictures!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Media Review 2011: Top Music.

Where the good books of 2011 were generally a thin group, the good music is bursting with multiple candidates for the top spots. I could easily fill out a top 20 if such a thing were wanted. But the rules for this game are a top five, and so it goes...

Destroyed, Moby
Holy Ghost!, Holy Ghost!
Hurry Up, We're Dreaming, M83
Join Us, They Might Be Giants
The King Is Dead, The Decemberists
The Long Surrender, Over the Rhine
Metals, Feist
Nothing Is Wrong, Dawes
Safari Disco Club, Yelle
TRON: Legacy Reconfigured, Daft Punk & others
Zonoscope, Cut Copy

5) Biophilia, Bjork [Bjork's last couple of albums have felt like a hodge-podge of song ideas; this one is practically a full-blown symphony, well-thought-out and arranged, allowing each track to be distinctive while still building on the whole. This one's a triumph of artistry, but you have to be down with Bjork in the first place to enjoy it.]
4) Wasting Light, Foo Fighters [Don't give me any of that Black Keys nonsense--this is still the best straight-ahead rock-and-roll band on the planet. Only one subpar track, which I simply unchecked in my iTunes so I never have to listen to it.]
3) Tamer Animals, Other Lives [Their arrangements almost seem counter-intuitive, but man do they make it work. Another album that appears to be carefully thought-through, which makes it all the more impressive. Makes for great listening while you're reading The Sisters Brothers, by the way.]
2) Build a Rocket Boys!, Elbow [The missing comma in that album title aside, this was the most musically satisfying album of 2011, starting strong and only getting stronger as it goes. "I'll miss your stupid face," indeed.]
1) The Harrow & The Harvest, Gillian Welch [Emotionally enriching and sonically devastating, the sparse arrangements, careful songwriting, and heartbreaking performances on this one demand attention. I can't do anything else when this album is on--it forces me to listen to it. God's honest truth: the first time I heard this, I was at work and I just sat there, stared at my computer, and wept for 45 minutes. Oh, and "Hard Times" was my theme song for the year.]

21, Adele
Barton Hollow, The Civil Wars
Bon Iver, Bon Iver

It's a Corporate World, Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.

Drive, Tycho

Loveless, My Bloody Valentine (1991) [How did I never get around to listening to this album until 20 years after its release? How?! (Oh, and I don't wish to alarm anyone, but The Joshua Tree turns 25 in 2012.)]

Showroom of Compassion, Cake [I know the slacker ethic is kind of Cake's thing, but if they aren't going to put any effort into their albums, then why would I bother to listen to them?]

Tomorrow: I chime in with a category I didn't even bother with last year--top television programs. Things are getting better on the small screen!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Media Review 2011: Top Books.

Well, it's been a long time coming, but I just had so many films I wanted to see and books I wanted to read before I finished up my annual media review. There are still some out there (especially in the book world), but I can delay no longer. So with that, here's my list of:


Let's start with the printed word. Not a whole lot to say about the books of 2011, other than very few of them really moved me in a memorable way. I read a lot of supposedly humorous stuff this year, and I'd just about give up entirely on humor as a viable genre of book were it not for Tina Fey and John Hodgman. Also, an astonishing low number of Jesus books passed in front of my eyeballs this year, which was not intentional. Just not a whole lot tickled my fancy. Anyway, here goes.

All Is Grace, Brennan Manning
Believing Is Seeing (Observations on the Mysteries of Photography), Errol Morris
Bossypants, Tina Fey
The Four Holy Gospels, Makoto Fujimura [You owe it to yourself to at least check this link out and watch the video about its creation. Stunningly gorgeous]
Life Itself: A Memoir, Roger Ebert
One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voskamp
That Is All, John Hodgman

5) Wonderstruck, Brian Selznick [The follow-up half-art/half-prose book from the author of The Invention of Hugo Cabret (which a certain ten-time Oscar-nominated film was based on). This one builds on his storytelling style, but instead of combining stark, detailed chiaroscuro drawings and writing to tell one story, Selznick tells two (eventually) intersecting stories, one with pictures and the other with words. Captivating and creative.]
4) Unfamiliar Fishes, Sarah Vowell [I had no idea the history of Hawaii could be this interesting, especially when told by perennially white-skinned and nasal cityfolk like Vowell. I will forever be indebted to her for writing this sentence: "For Americans, Acts 16:9 is the high-fructose corn syrup of Bible verses--an all-purpose ingredient we'll stir into everything from the ink on the Marshall Plan to canisters of Agent Orange."]
3) Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived, Rob Bell [I really don't like Bell's writing style, nor his whole "ain't-I-a-stinker?" approach to marketing himself, but kudos to him for getting the nation talking about this very important topic. Also, this book holds a special place in my heart, because I was reading it when I found out Osama Bin Laden had been assassinated.]
2) The Sisters Brothers, Patrick DeWitt [Imagine if the Coen Brothers wrote an original Western novel with a slight sci-fi twist. Now stop imagining, because it exists! It just was written by Patrick DeWitt instead of the Coens.]
1) A History of the World in 100 Objects, Neil MacGregor [This guy is the director of the British Museum in London. He took 100 different objects from the museum and used them to draw the line of human history from our beginnings to now. This one never stops being fascinating, covering parts of history I've never even heard of before. It's a little daunting, but I had no problem finishing it before it was due at the library. Oh, and the pictures are nifty, too.]

Write More Good, The Fake AP Stylebook
Newspaper Blackout, Austin Kleon

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1892), Sir Arthur Conan Doyle [I'd read at the Holmes series several times in my life, but this was the first year I read one of the books from cover to cover. Thoroughly engaging material, even though it's been copied and re-copied by just about every mystery author since.]

Zombie Mommy, M.T. Anderson [Mediocre things don't generally wind up in the "worst" category for me--it's usually media that is hugely popular for a reason that eludes me (see Transformers: Dark of the Moon) or media from an author whose work I admire but who has begun to tread the water of mediocrity. This is a case of the latter. M.T. Anderson's Pals in Peril! series is a magnificent invention of supreme cleverness and insightful hilarity, but this latest entry is neither clever nor even very funny. It's just aggressively boring, and that makes it the worst.]

Tomorrow: Top Music!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Space Available: Post-Mortem.

So, the year 2011 has come and gone, and my experiment with writing a complete novel on Twitter--a book called Space Available, FYI--is now finished. Here's what I learned:

The level of difficulty was way harder than I anticipated.
I had no idea how hard it would be to tell a rich, layered story in 140-character bursts. I think I went into this whole experiment a little naively, because I've told stories before--lots of them--so I just assumed it would be a matter of adapting my storytelling process to the Twitter format.

What I wasn't counting on was the complete interruption of the flow of thinking that comes from having to mind your character count and click "Tweet" every few words. I found it to be much more disruptive than I'd originally figured on. Twitter works very well as a medium for sharing interesting links, or for expressing an opinion in a succinct way (this is why so many comedians have latched on to it--Twitter is the perfect one-liner delivery system).

But hashtag-free thoughts that run the length of more than a few tweets get bogged down easily in the type-count-tweet/type-count-tweet mechanism that is Twitter. In retrospect, I wish I'd made it more of a performance-art kind of thing, Cloverfield-style, like I was live-tweeting the story as opposed to writing my novel down on Twitter. Maybe that would've been just as difficult, but it would have fit the medium better.

I am an enthusiastic dreamer... until life gets in the way.
I started this project like I start all my projects: with a zest and passion for it, knowing that I am going to knock it out of the park. This is mostly the anticipation part, leading up to it. I announced it last December and was ready to hit the ground with my engines revving.

I started out with a darn fine first sentence, and that was all I wrote on day one. Then I had a good burst for a couple of weeks until my daughter was born, and then I took a couple of days off, and then I started back, and then I had other writing projects due, and then I was finding it difficult to work on the book, and then I got a corporate job, and then my family was the victim of a home invasion, and then I got let go from that corporate job, and then...

You see what I'm saying. The writing process was so difficult that any old excuse for not writing would do, and 2011 provided me with plenty of them--most of them not so fun.

Feedback helps.
I found a surprising amount of desire to push through the difficulties of writing anytime someone gave me feedback on it. Even something as simple as a mention at a social function that they were "enjoying" the story was enough to make me think, "Okay, time to do some more work on it."

And I do have to say, there is an unmitigated champion in this regard, and his name is Andrew Joyce, and I knew I could count on a tweet or two in my direction from @authorandrew, almost every time complimentary. There were many times where I felt like I was writing just to this guy. Seriously: a champ.

I do some of my best writing late at night.
There were many, many occasions where I'd think, "Oh, yes! I know exactly what to do next! I will go do that right now!" or, failing that, I would just have an urge to work on the book, and then I would look and see that it was midnight, or past midnight, or 5:00 in the morning.

But then I would realize that, of the 157 people following me, many of them who do so (or at least those who tell me they enjoy reading it) are doing it on their phone. If I send out a tweet, their phone buzzes to let them know it's there. And I don't want to disrupt any sort of sleeping that they might be doing, and so I, being a fairly nice person, would hold off on cranking out my awesome idea for a decent hour of the day.

And then I would forget to do it.

Cliffhangers are crazy-fun.
That said, one really fun development I did not anticipate was the rhythm of my writing output lending itself to an almost serialized feel to the story. I wound up feeling like a day of writing shouldn't be finished until I'd built to some sort of cliffhanger that I could pay off next time.

This was where I started finding the real pleasure in telling this particular story, and I really started to sympathize with the writers for the television show "LOST," because ending a story beat with a cliffhanger is really fun (and kind of easy), but paying it off later on is hard. That show loved it's cliffhanger-y endings ("We gotta go back, Kate! We gotta go back!" remains an all-time favorite television moment for me), and for the most part managed to address those cliffhangers later on (though they never wound up putting together that stupid army in season two).

It's okay to succeed only halfway.
This is the biggest lesson I learned, and it was also the hardest one. With about four or five months left in the year, I started to realize that, unless I really kicked on the afterburners, I was not going to finish strong. And that's when the whole project began to feel like a giant weight on my shoulders. I was already battling depression (it's a thing I deal with), and the added stress of feeling like a massive failure was almost debilitating.

Fortunately, with about six weeks left in the year, I had a good chat with Jeff Gerke, the publisher at Marcher Lord Press about the state of the book and where it could be. I also had a good chat with my wife, who helped me to realize something that I have a hard time owning up to:

Admitting my limitations is not the same thing as admitting defeat.

And one other thing:

Admitting defeat is okay, too.

And when it came to Space Available, I felt defeated. I had gone into it with such high hopes, and it wasn't turning out at all like I'd thought it would. It was way too short, it was scattershot, it was far afield thematically from what I'd set out to do, and it generally felt like a big, giant misfire.

But I was learning to be okay with that. These things happen (even the usually smart Apple released the Mac Cube). I was willing to admit that Space Available had, in a lot of ways, become a misfire, but that was okay. And even if it wasn't where I'd originally wanted it to be, I could give it the ending it deserved, bring some closure, and even leave the door open for a sequel, should the desire arise (though not written through Twitter). In the end, my novel turned into a novella that will be published as an e-book, and I learned a good lesson about biting off more than I could chew and that sometimes cutting bait was preferable to fishing when you're in over your head (and perhaps I could've learned more lessons about mixing metaphors).

All in all, I've come away from the experience a wiser writer and a better person, and that's really all I could hope for. We'll see what the future holds.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Space Available: The Press Deluge Continues.

This time it's an interview with Where The Map Ends, the totally awesome and ultra-rad website that specializes in Christian speculative fiction (should we abbreviate that "Xspecfic"?), and which happens to be run by my friend and the publisher of Marcher Lord Press, Jeff Gerke, and which also happens to be featured in the current run-on sentence you just happen to be reading.

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Space Available: The Press Deluge Begins.

So I get an "at" tweet from this cat @authorandrew from a website called Into The Book asking for an interview. I check the site and it is super-cool and so I look him up and we make the interview happen. You can read it here.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Space Available: Paralysis And Promises.

Boy, I was not counting on this. I mean, I thought I'd have a little difficulty to push through, but I was certainly not prepared for the mental struggle I'd be going through right about now.

Writing your first draft in front of people is very, very hard.

And, to be honest, it's keeping me away. I sit down to read my Twitter feed and have now visually tuned out that big white box at the top that says "What's happening?" above it. It's just too painful to look at, the constant reminder that I need to write something for Space Available but am just unsure about what to write. I've navigated the story to a point where I know something major's going to happen; I just don't know exactly how it's going to happen.

Ordinarily I could just write whatever I want and see if it works, and if so, great; if not, no harm done. But now I'm transmitting this thing as it happens, writing without a net. Which is part of the exhilaration of it--if I uncork a good one-liner (which, there've been a couple), I get the satisfaction of immediate feedback on it (usually from one or two close friends).

But I'm so terrified I'm going to screw the thing up that it keeps me from writing it. And that's starting to happen more often. I've now had at least three, maybe four entire weeks where I didn't write at all, partially motivated by work and other things, but very often just out of sheer paralysis. A hope that tomorrow I'll know beyond a shadow of a doubt what I'm supposed to write, as if there is a "correct" thing to put in that white box.

Am I starting to feel overwhelmed by the challenge? Yeah, a little. But I'm also overwhelmed by my story at the moment. I know where I'm going (at least I have that much figured out), but I have little to no idea how to get there, and I'm afraid that I'm going to take it down a path that will block me from my original intent. So that makes me overthink it, and that leads to the aforementioned paralysis, which leads to the full week of not-writing.

So! From here on out, I make this solemn vow to you, the dear reader of Space Available: I will not tweet every day, but I will tweet every week. There will not be a week go by until the end of 2011 that I have not written a portion of this book. It's the only way to break me out of this funk--to commit to writing on it regardless, and then to make that commitment public.

Oh, and I also hope to write more blog updates. That's important, too.

See you on Mondays!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Media Review 2010: Top Motion Pictures.

[The media review rolls on into its final installment as I break down my favorite films of the year.]

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
Green Zone
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1
How to Train Your Dragon
The King's Speech
The Social Network
The Town

5) Inception [Yes to the ideas. Yes to the characters. Yes to the imaginative visuals. Overwhelming yes to the masterful way Christopher Nolan worked in exposition without killing the momentum. Super-duper yes to the ambiguous ending. No, no, no to the bland directorial style and the James-Bond-villain-via-Hoth climactic battle setting. You fold up Paris for practice but when it comes time for the real thing, you just shoot a bunch of guns? Yawn.]
4) Exit Through the Gift Shop [While Inception is very good at provoking thought about the plot of Inception, this documentary is good at provoking thought about larger questions, like where should one draw the line between art and commerce, and how do free market principles play into that, and how awesome, exactly, is street artist Banksy? The first must-see documentary in a long time.]
3) Scott Pilgrim vs. the World [Not only is it outrageously funny, inventive, and smart--it is also far more perceptive about love in the real world than your average romantic comedy. Odd that a movie this off-the-wall has so much to say about the realities of relationships.]
2) True Grit [Pretty much perfect, and would've been my number one were it not for...]
1) Toy Story 3 [Based on the trailer, I was certain this was going to be Pixar's first grand misstep, a cynical cash-grab that just regurgitated the first two. So imagine my surprise when it turned out not only to be a wholly original story, but the story that the first two installments led up to. It's like they had this in mind all along. Storytelling at its best.]

127 Hours
Four Lions
Inside Job
Rabbit Hole

Black Swan
The Kids Are All Right
The Fighter
Blue Valentine

The Ghost Writer
Shutter Island
Winter's Bone

The General (1926) [I introduced my kids to the big three silent comedians on New Year's Eve, and we had a wonderful year experiencing some of these still-hilarious classic films. My favorite of all of them has to be this one, featuring Buster Keaton, a runaway train, and some of the most clever, seat-of-your-pants comic gags I've ever seen. The man really was a genius, and I can tell because his films still get belly laughs today, even from my children.]

Clash of the Titans [Not nearly Transformers-level awful, but still loveably terrible, especially in its dartboard approach to mythology, Jamba-Juice-blender approach to editing, and who-cares approach to accents. Add in the casting of current interchangeable, mix-and-match lunkhead Sam Worthington as the lead, and it's just bland enough to be boring where it should be exciting.]

Monday, February 7, 2011

Media Review 2010: Top Music.

[So much good music this year! I couldn't narrow it down to only five, so I cheated and made two top five lists: one for American bands, one for bands from places other than the United States.]

Broken Bells, Broken Bells
A Chorus of Storytellers, The Album Leaf
I Learned the Hard Way, Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings
Love and Its Opposite, Tracey Thorn
Magic Chairs, Efterklang

5) Leave Your Sleep, Natalie Merchant [Miss Merchant wanted to teach her daughter a few poems, so, she did what any loving parent would do--she set them to music, then recorded them so the rest of us can enjoy. It's like brand-new Americana.]
4) Beautiful Things, Gungor [At first, I was unimpressed. It felt like a checklist of tracks from all of Michael Gungor's favorite bands (here's the Muse song! and now here's the Regina Spektor song! and now here's the Switchfoot song! Sufjan, anyone? etc.), but the more I listened to it, the more it grew on me. Really good worship songwriting, and hardly a Jesus-is-my-girlfriend number on it.]
3) My Room in the Trees, The Innocence Mission [They coasted a bit with their last album (2007's We Walked in Song), so I set the bar a little lower than usual when I heard this one--and then had to raise it right back up, and they still cleared it. They have their thing, but they do what they do so unbelievably well that it never gets old. Fun fact: "God Is Love," the third song on this album, is the unofficial theme song of my newly born baby daughter.]
2) Provenance, Maya Beiser [There are very, very many musicians who are technically proficient on their instruments but who always sound like they're playing a bunch of notes by the rulebook. Maya Beiser is a cellist who uses her instrument for Art, who speaks through it, who lives through it, who breathes through it. Oh, and she covers Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir." What's not to like?]
1) Interpol, Interpol and High Violet, The National [I wound up getting these albums days apart from each other, and as a result, began listening to them back-to-back, so much so that they became a sort of double album. Now they are inseparable in my mind. And as far as I'm concerned, their drummers contribute most of the awesomeness.]

5) Miike Snow, Miike Snow [The Official Adam Palmer Album of the Summer of 2010. Creative electronic music that goes far beyond the standard and mixes in some artistic flair. Perfect for barbecues, cleaning the house, or for bumping in your car, with the windows down, as you drive to go view the mushroom cloud that wipes us all out. Yes, it's that epic.]
4) Black Swan, Athlete [Not to be confused with the Darren Aronofsky film of the same name, this is Britpop at its finest. Break out the cigarette lighter and rest your arms well, because you're going to want to raise it up for every single song. An entire album's worth of anthems.]
3) Go, Jonsi [Exactly the sound you would expect from a pop album by the lead singer of Sigur Ros and produced by Nico Muhly.]
2) ...And They Escaped the Weight of Darkness, Olafur Arnalds [Breathtakingly beautiful minimalistic orchestration, again from Iceland. Holds a special place in my heart because, while I already had it at my #2 spot, it was playing while my daughter was born a few weeks ago. Great music to have your kid be born to.]
1) Sigh No More, Mumford & Sons [The nexus of great music, insightful lyrics, and at a time in my life when I needed both. Unless something crazy happens, this will be on my decade-best list in 2019.]

The Fountain Soundtrack (2006), Clint Mansell [I'm already a huge fan of the movie, but I never realized the degree to which Clint Mansell's score adds to the overall experience. This is some fantastic writing music.]
Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space (1997), Spiritualized [This is the same year that Radiohead released OK Computer and The Verve released Urban Hymns, and this album just may be better than both of them. Layer upon layer upon layer of musical genius that speaks to the futility of trying to numb pain through drug use, though it does have some unfortunate swearing.]

Plastic Beach, Gorillaz [What a letdown, especially after the pleasant time I had with their previous album. Sounds like, instead of writing actual songs with something to say, they invited a bunch of celebrity rappers into the studio to smoke weed and spout the first things that come to mind. Total harvest? One decent song ("Stylo," if you must know).]