Yes, itâ€™s really too late for this. Youâ€™ve already forgotten 2010. I had to look at my notes. One year among many that will only blur up more the further we get from it. The windshield of our travels is smeared enough with the debris of the just-happened that we can barely stay on the road, much less manage a glance at the what-recently-was, but here goes.
1 - Film: I only vividly remember seeing two movies in theatres in 2010: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and True Grit, and I would say they are tied for second. They both kick at their genres and legacies with the full of their boots and Harry Potter gets better with each re-watching (I have a 9-year-old so it gets re-watched) but Iâ€™d say they both get a little lost in their own â€œmovienessâ€ and drop me out of them. I might just not like movies all that much anymore. Well, this is off to a rousing start!
2 - Music: I liked records more than I liked movies in 2010. The one record I keep coming back to over and again is Titus Andronicusâ€™ The Monitor; it pants like a teenage runaway fleeing a convenience store manager and yet is as smart as that one moment during a grad studentâ€™s drunken tirade where greater truths are opened up to you. Here are the four others I found fully and find continually satisfying, without question:
Deerhunter, Halcyon Digest
Joanna Newsom, Have One on Me
Owen Pallett, Heartland
Tindersticks, Falling Down a Mountain
(Ed. to add)Matthew Dear, Black City (I listened to this one so much that I forgot it actually came out this year.)
The ones that caught me for a significent spell and then released me:
Peter Case, WIG!
Drive-By Truckers, The Big To-Do
The Soft Pack, The Soft Pack
Janelle MonÃ¡e, The Arch-Android
Sufjan Stevens, All Delighted People EP
The Black Keys, Brothers
Willian Brittelle, Television Landscape
The only two boxed sets that mattered were the encyclopedic Alan Lomax in Haiti and the Neu! Vinyl Box. Both document a lost corner of the world, one you find resonating everywhere when you listen to a lot of it. Perhaps my favorite casual listening experience of 2010 were the four volumes of the Atlas Sound (side band of Deerhunter's Brandon Cox) Bedroom Databank series, downloaded free from his blog and resident as a perfect sonic fallback solution on my phone. My favorite label of the year was New Amsterdam, perveyors of new classical/pop crossover genius that wedged in nicely with my main 2010 resolution: be smarter. Everything they put out is good.
Everything else washed through me like rain. I appreciate Kanye West's outsized personality so much more than I do his music. It is absurd to consider anything but Cee-Loâ€™s â€œFuck Youâ€ as the single that defined 2010 and as the only song from 2010 we are likely to hear again in 2020.
3 - Print: I liked books more than I liked music in 2010. The best goddamn book of 2010 is without a shiver of hesitation Wells Towerâ€™s Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned. These short stories walk the blighted terrain of failed mortgages and failed-er relationships in a way that opens up these tropes of contemporary lit like a new coffee shop in your neighborhood. I saw David Sedaris read from his new book this year and even he took time out from self-promotion to pimp Wells Tower, even selling it alongside his own book at the signing table. Thatâ€™s how good this book is. Nothing else came close.
OK, some did come close:
Sam Lipsyte, The Ask
Nick Flynn, The Ticking is the Bomb
Gary Shtenygart, Super Sad True Love Story
Tao Lin, Richard Yates
The one book that stuck with me more than any other, though was Josh Alan Friedmanâ€™s Black Cracker, an autobiographical novel about his time as the only white student in the last segregated elementary school on Long Island in 1962. There were parts of this book I had trouble rectifying, like how an elderly black woman strung him up with a rope for venturing into the tar-paper shack shantytown in the woods and the affair between the sweet, fine-ass school teacher and one of Friedmanâ€™s elementary school friends, but the truth of this book is not hampered by some possibly dubious facts. It deals with race issues from a ground view in a manner similar to Jonathan Lethemâ€™s Fortress of Solitude without that bookâ€™s social hand-wringing.
I only read one of the many monster tomes that arrived this year, Josh Cohenâ€™s Witz which was one part fabulous and two parts frustrating with a side of eye-rolling enough already, but it was still a complicated triumph. I left similar celebrated doorstops by Jonathan Franzen, Rick Moody, and Adam Levin to hardier souls than myself. I look forward to not finishing the unfinished last gasp of David Foster Wallace, The Pale King, should it arrive and cause my mailbox to buckle.
If you need an I-gotta-be-me boost, I recommend a roll through THEE PSYCHICK BIBLE: Thee Apocryphal Scriptures ov Genesis Breyer P-Orridge and Thee Third Mind ov Thee Temple ov Psychick Youth penned in funny spellings by Throbbing Gristle/Psychic TV founder Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, Jason Louv, and Carl Abrahamsson. Itâ€™s an exhausting collection of their cultish boradsides from, through, and after the Industrial music movement, kook media theories and talk of â€œmagickâ€ abound, but for as far-out at P-Orridge has always been, s/he has an almost singular knack among weirdo types to find a way for mass inclusion in his/her worldview. Plus it looks right devious on your bookshelf.
The music book of the year goes to Joe Bonomo's Highway to Hell and collection of previously published rock criticism (I know, only I read more than one if any) is Blues & Chaos: The Music Writing of Robert Palmer.
4 - Live: I got to see Philip Glass perform at a small theatre right by my office, meet him for a minute and then watch him the next day during a master class most humbly explain to students what it is he does really and how well anyone can do it. Otherwise, my transformative live performances were largely found in fits and spurts among backwoods bars in south Louisiana, about which I am writing a book.
5 - TV: No one since Larry David has done something as smart or as deconstructed or as painful with the sitcom format as has Louis CK on his program Louie. If you pushed all the episodes together into one clogged room, I probably watched a solid monthâ€™s worth of Hoarders, and goddamn if the tired ass zombification-of-everything trend in 2010 contributed The Walking Dead, a captivating series that somehow found one new and interesting thing to say about zombies: that they were once human.
6 â€“ Food: The locovore/boutique food thing is wearing on me. I like the food, I like the farmerâ€™s market, I like pretentious hipster farmers who conjure heirloom tomatoes on their roofs, I like the horrible, chi-hi bourgeoisie deal with it all, but when it became dogmatic and nakedly self-righteous, it started to lose me. I like the whole Twitter food truck thing and hate it for the same reasons.
7 - Other: The Rumpus made me think about books and things bigger than books than anything else in 2010. Founder Stephen Elliot's daily emails are like suprising sage advice from that bad news cousin that actually got his shitr together.
Alex V. Cook listens to everything and writes about most of it. His latest book, the snappily titled Louisiana Saturday Night: Looking for a Good Time in South Louisiana's Juke Joints, Honky-Tonks, and Dance Halls is an odyssey from the backwoods bars and small-town dives to the swampside dance halls and converted clapboard barns of a Louisiana Saturday Night. Don't leave Heathrow without it. His first book Darkness Racket and Twang is available from SideCartel. The full effect can be had at alex v cook.com