There's too much I loved in music this year to create a coherent, ranked list. So I'm just going to give my highlights, shouting out some of the most memorable releases that Nixie wasn't quite able to get to. First up: There's Maggie Rogers and her studio debut, Heard it in a Past Life, which feels like a dreamy electro-pop meditation on self and body. Then, there's Mannequin Pussy's showstopper with all of their punk versatility, Patience. Toy Cars' single "Julian" was one of my favorite singles for the year, and Briston Maroney's Indiana was one of my favorite EPs. Small Crush's self-titled release was also notable, along with the lush sounds of Christelle Bofale's Swim Team. Then there was the indie crooning of Julia Jacklin's Crushing and the bubblegum punk pop of Charly Bliss' Young Enough. And obviously, Lizzo had a viral, chart-topping year, with her full-length Cuz I Love You and the reviving of 2016's "Truth Hurts," and I particularly loved her work for the genre-blending and bending.
Most evocative of the year 2019 itself was the self-titled surprise release from Better Oblivion Community Center (also known as Phoebe Bridgers and Conor Oberst). It presents a dystopian, exhausted outlook on typically idyllic settings, following along on hopeful vacations and destinations, yet never finding the promised escapism.
If you're interested in a funny podcast that analyzes the role of women in movies, then listen to The Bechdel Cast. Hosted by Caitlin Durante and Jamie Loftus, the podcast has been running since 2016, so there is plenty of material to get into. Movies covered run the gamut, from older favorites like Titanic and The Shining to newer releases like Little Women and Love, Simon. Durante and Loftus are not shy in coming down on issues like under-developed women characters, overused tropes, lack of racial diversity, or problematic queer-coding. But sometimes a movie does get it right, and those are celebrated, usually with a high rating on The Bechdel Cast's "nipple scale."
KCRW's Lost Notes, a podcast covering forgotten stories in music history, is another must-listen. Produced by Jessica Hopper, the 2019 season contains eight distinct stories. The True Story of Fanny is one episode that is particularly memorable: It chronicles the tale of Fanny, a 1960's rock n' roll band of two Filipino sisters, June and Jean, who may in fact be the true "first" all-female rock band. The episode even features an interview by Dylan Tupper Rupert with the sisters as they look back on those music-making years.
TV and Film
Directed by Olivia Wilde, Booksmart is one of the standout films of 2019 - and it's Wilde's feature debut. It's a sharp and humorous portrait of teenage friendship. It's a sex-positive while smartly tackles stereotypes, as it gives a wild adventure to the two main characters, Molly and Amy. Then, there's the Netflix original, Always Be My Maybe, starring comedian Ali Wong and Randall Park. It's an easygoing rom-com that follows the complicated reunion of two childhood friends - it even features a cameo from Keanu Reeves. Us, Jordan Peele's follow-up to Get Out, is easily my favorite thriller of the year. The film is wholly original, tackling issues of America's identity and past with a terrifying and twisty plot involving murderous doppelgängers.
In 2019, the the third and final season of Easy was released to Netflix. If you haven't seen it, the show is an anthology series that follows a diverse number of characters and couples through their lives in Chicago. I binged this show more than once - it feels so grounded in modern reality and love. I was also especially excited to watch Looking for Alaska this past October on Hulu; in high school, I loved the John Green book (anything John Green, honestly). The series is nostalgic, full of mid-2000's music like Death Cab for Cutie, while giving important updates to the character and storyline of Alaska. Hulu also came out with Wu Tang Clan: An American Saga this past year, which works like a biopic and follows the formation of Wu Tang Clan - it's a gripping, dense watch.
Trick Mirror by Jia Tolentino is absolutely fantastic if you love personal essays or cultural criticism. Tolentino describes her experiences with barre classes and their inherently hyper-sexual movements, her time on a teen reality TV show, and her early days blogging with Angelfire. She also considers the effect of Internet on the self and explains how scammers like Billy McFarland (Fyre Festival) defined a generation. The essays themselves can be long reads, but where you ultimately end up is worth the time.
Other writing I found and loved this year is Darcie Wilder's sentences newsletter; it's a refreshing email subscription that never fails to give the day a little humor and absurdity. There's The Dollhouse Mag, which started as a feminist zine and show space and now creates beautiful, full-color magazine spreads showcasing the work of underrepresented artists and writers. Liz Pelly's piece, Sofar So Bad, was an exceptional expository look at the company Sofar Sounds and how they exploit the underground. Then, published in the Nashville Scene, there was artist and poet Adia Victoria's personal essay titled Morning in New Nashville, a moving interrogation of Nashville's ascent to an "It City."