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Saturday, January 1, 2011

Not a definitive list, by any means...

Best book I read in 2010: The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell

Don’t let the fact that this is a historical novel about Dutch merchants in 17th-century Japan put you off. Compulsively readable and engrossing, with an insanely powerful ending. He piles on the historical detail but never loses sight of the story's forward momentum. Mitchell wrote Cloud Atlas a few years ago and this continues his streak of greatness.

Best graphic novel: Lint (Acme Novelty Company #20) by Chris Ware

Emotionally wrenching—not what you might expect from a 65-page comic book. Chris Ware charts the course of one guy’s life by using one page to represent an episode from each passing year. Everyman Jordan Lint is born on the first page, dies on the last and undergoes a series of transformations in between that are both mundane and unique. Ware's clean but cluttered art suits the story perfectly. This is the kind of book you show to people who are scornful of comics.

Best movie: A Prophet, directed by Jacques Audiard, starring Tahar Raheem

French movie about prison inmates, and one in particular who is caught between rival gangs. Really gripping, but be warned: there is a ten-minute sequence that is probably the most effective movie violence I have ever seen. If you can get through that (it happens pretty early) the movie is a knockout. IMDB lists this as a 2009 release but I didn’t see it till 2010.

Best TV show: Oh hell, I don’t know. The premiere of The Walking Dead?

I don’t watch a lot of TV except football and Survivor. I like The Office but it’s been so-so lately. Caught the first episode of TWD more or less by chance. It was pretty good—damn good for TV—but have seen none of it since.

Best new record by previously unknown (to me) band: The Tamborines, Camera and Tremor

Blissful shoegaze power pop, plenty of distortion but also great hummable melodies. Sort of like cotton candy coated in gravel and broken glass. Thre-to-four-minute gems of perfection.

Best new record by a band already known to me: Sasquatch, III

Dumber-than-dirt biker-stoner rawk. It’s great. They like riffs. You know what riffs are? They like them. I like them too. They play them a lot. I like that. I like the way they play those riffs. Repeat. I'm listening to it right now and you should be too.

Besides all that: the singer is my evil twin.

Most disappointing record by a band known to me: The Black Angels, Phosphene Dream

What happened to these guys? They used to rock out for extended jams, playing what they called “drone ‘n’ roll.” Moody, murky, faintly paranoid, heavily fuzzed-out, gloomy trips to the edge of whatever. Suddenly they’ve morphed to a ’60s retro pop band ripping through little 3-minute ditties and generally sounding lame. There are a few good songs on Phosphere Dream but nothing to compare to their first records. Go listen to Passover and get back to me.

Best movie monsters in a really awful movie: Giant flesh-eating scorpions in Clash of the Titans

I believe I already said “giant flesh-eating scorpions” so there’s really nothing much to add.

Best comic book mini-series: The Light, by Nathan Edmondson and Brett Weldele

Five-issue miniseries about a strange epidemic in which light—electric light, from the grid, as opposed to natural sunshine or moonlight or whatever—kills whoever looks at it. It's an odd premise but fleshed out nicely with beautiful art and an understated script. There’s a lot of driving around in the dark, but the story pulls it off for the most part. The art is exquisite and a big part of the success here.

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