The News-Letter’s Best of 2017

Movies

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Jordan Peele of Key & Peele made his directing debut with the film Get Out.

1. Get Out

A horror movie that’s made even more horrifying because it holds a mirror up to our American reality. Because this thriller made us confront the grim truth about what it might feel like to be a black man in America, it’s our number one.

2. Lady Bird

This coming-of-age story about a teenage girl is all heart with no gimmicks. The writing is spot on and the relationships between the characters are honest and true, making for a flawless debut by writer and director Greta Gerwig.

3. Baby Driver

Even though Kevin Spacey is a creep, he honestly had a miniscule role in this movie. The action and the soundtrack alone put this film in the top three.

4. The Big Sick

Finally, a love story that navigates the joys and struggles of cultural difference — how both where we’re from and who we love can sometimes come into conflict. Kumail and Emily, we’ll always root for you.

5. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Martin McDonagh returns for his first film in five years, and he’s accompanied by Frances McDormand (of Fargo fame), Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell.

6. Okja

Korean director Bong Joon Ho calls out corporate and capitalist pigs by telling an endearing story about a girl trying to get reunited with her giant pet pig.

7. Wind River

Taylor Sheridan’s directorial debut is a sombering tale of systematic abuse and america’s negligence to understand Native American culture in modern United States that is executed in the form of a murder-mystery in Wyoming.

8. CoCo

Mexican culture is full of love, life and passion. It’s great to see different cultures being successful at the box-office.

9.Thank You for Your Service

Miles Teller gives a stellar performance in a movie that calls out the government for not doing enough to support vets returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

10. It

The title character is a murderous, nightmare-inducing clown, but what makes this movie great is the relationship between the main group of kids as they face their fears together.

 

TV

GAGE SKIDMORE/CC BY-SA 2.0
Will Arnett voices the depressed, alcholic horse BoJack Horseman.

1. BoJack Horseman

Comedy for self-hating people with incredibly bleak worldviews. If that isn’t enough, there’s a talking horse, Aaron Paul’s voice and a TON of animal puns.

2. The Handmaid’s Tale

You find Trump’s America terrifying? Well, welcome to Gilead, an even more hellish society for women to navigate.

3. Mindhunter

Never have men with porn star moustaches been so utterly terrifying. Pure David Fincher cerebral horror.

4. This Is Us

This show will make you laugh and sob into your pillow in equal measure. Also, Jack Pearson rivals Coach Taylor in the DILF category, which is saying something.

5. Westworld

Human actors acting like robots trying to act human — and Sir Anthony Hopkins.

6. Stranger Things

Will make you nostalgic for the 80’s even if you never lived through them. Perfect mix of sci-fi and horror while also being a coming-of-age story that anybody can relate to.

7. Big Little Lies

Produced by females – yay women in power! As per usual, a Skårsgard brother acting like a creep, Adam Scott as an adorable dork, and Shailene Woodley playing a young mom. Boasts the best TV soundtrack of the year.  

8. Master of None

Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang have created a masterpiece out of the millennial experience, blending empathic storytelling with snappy writing and an inventive, cinematic aesthetic. “Thanksgiving” is their finest work yet.

9. Insecure

Issa Rae and HBO, a pair made in TV heaven. For evidence, look to Twitter, which goes bonkers over this show.

10. The Deuce

David Simon returns to HBO after creating hit series The Wire and the great miniseries, Show Me A Hero. Simon goes a great length to show the unsexy side of sex on a channel known for their late night skin flicks.

 

Podcasts

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Radiolab’s More Perfect details the stories behind Supreme Court cases.

1. More Perfect by Radiolab

Yeah, damn right, we put a podcast about the Supreme Court as number one. Go get educated.

2. S-Town by the Producers of

This American Life

Poverty, injustice, loss, disillusionment, hidden gold and a whole lot of clocks — if S-Town were a book, it’d be a literary masterpiece.

3. Out of the Blocks by WYPR

Going block by block through Baltimore, Aaron Henkin and Wendel Patrick of WYPR feature the voices of the people on the street. Listen to this to get a feeling of what it’s like to leave the Hopkins Bubble. Then go do it.

4. BackStory with the American History Guys

If you can’t get off the waitlist for a class with history Professor Nathan Connolly, just listen to this podcast. Contextualizes today’s news within our ongoing history.

5. Nancy by WNYC

What is it like being an LGBTQ person today? Nancy tackles this question with humor and integrity, with topics ranging from the aftermath of the 2016 shooting at Pulse Nightclub to Albus Dumbledore’s gay identity.

6. Invisibilia by NPR

They explore some pretty deep stuff. It’s hard to explain. Go listen.

7. 2 Dope Queens

Jessica Williams a.k.a. The GOAT Daily Show correspondent (sorry Hasan) and her rad BFF Phoebe Robinson sharing hilarious stories and introducing you to their rad comedian pals.

8. Rough Translation by NPR

Here are some stories from people around the world — from yoga studios in India to prisons in Somalia.

9. Terrible, Thanks For Asking

Because wouldn’t we all feel better if we were just honest about the shit we’re going through? The real answer to “How are you?” is sometimes “Terrible, thanks for asking” and that’s okay.  

10. Bodega Boys

Desus and Mero number show on late night, ball bags. Avoid the bookings, beloved.

Our Best Albums of 2017

Rock/Indie

1. Mount Eerie, A Crow Looked at Me

Phil Elverum’s re-entry into music following the death of his wife, Geneviève Castrée. Utterly heartrending in its frank simplicity, this is an album that you can only listen to once. Do it, love it and never go back.

Songs: “Swims,” “Real Death”

2. Jay Som, Everybody Works

This album is a 10-track tour-de-force of low-fi pop meets surf rock. It sounds like low clouds on a winter day; like smoking weed and staring at the contrails of color left by the sunset.

Songs: “1 Billion Dogs,” “Baybee”

3. Dan Croll, Emerging Adulthood

Pure, unadulterated British charm. Indie-pop with hooks that are catchy as hell. I mean, McCartney gave this guy an award for songwriting.

Songs: “Bad Boy,” “Tokyo”

4. Power Trip, Nightmare Logic

When the end is upon us and the Four Horsemen ride forth with the armies of Hell behind them, this is the music that will be playing. Power violence at its most exquisite, complete with a Bosch nightmare of an album cover.

Songs: “Executioner’s Tax,” “Firing Squad”

5. Day Wave, The Days We Had

An angsty, emotionally charged debut to crank up when you feel like you can’t survive another onslaught of #feels. Also, they do a great “Ceremony” cover.

Songs: “Something Here,” “Promises”

6. Priests – Nothing Feels Natural

It was a pretty good year for the post-punk sound and DC band Priests started the year off right with Nothing Feels Natural, a sprawling insult to the White House and scumbags across the globe.

Songs: “Nothing Feels Natural,” “Suck”

7. Protomartyr – Relatives in Descent

Another great post-punk album that’ll probably go underappreciated in other year-end lists. Come for the heavy guitar work (almost hardcore in that sense) and stay for Joe Casey’s passionate vocals.

Songs: “The Chuckler,” “Male Plague”

 

Hip-Hop

1. Quelle Chris, Being You is Great, I Wish I Could Be You More Often

Rap rarely has a sense of humor. Quelle Chris infuses his personal and devilishly clever project with humor, self-awareness and humility. This album captures life into one cohesive, quirky, creative project that is an absolute joy to listen to.

Songs: “Buddies” feat. Aye Pee, “Popeye” feat. I, Ced, prod. MNDSGN

2. Rapsody, Laila’s Wisdom

This is an album that screams album of the year from every facet. Rapsody shines on this project, dropping lyrically and thematically dense verses over some of the best beats 9th Wonder has ever produced. We good over here.

Songs: “Sassy,” “Chrome (Like Ooh)”

3. Smino, blkswn

Neo-soul rap laced up with funk beats, courtesy of Monte Booker. The whole album pops and snaps like bubble wrap. Would make a great addition to your sex playlist.

Songs: “Anita,” “Edgar Allen Poe’d Up” feat. theMIND

4. Big K.R.I.T., 4eva Is A Mighty Long Time

The South hasn’t had music like this in a while. K.R.I.T. drawls and snarls over booming 808s and grimy kicks. This is a bonafide Southern project, from the dirty thick production to the smooth slang.

Songs: “Subenstein (My Sub IV),” “Mixed Messages”

5. Open Mike Eagle, Brick Body Kids Still Daydream

A eulogy to a place and a life which no longer exists. Mike paints pictures of personal sentiment that breakdown stereotypes to reveal the people beneath them. The album is sketched by a love for the Robert Taylor Homes housing project and is outlined by an understanding of its flaws, finished off by a mourning for its absence.

Songs: “Hymnal” feat. Sammus, “No Selling (Uncle Butch Pretending It Don’t Hurt)”

 

Pop

1. Lorde, Melodrama

A deeply intimate look into love and young adulthood, Melodrama shines with poetic lyrics, catchy melodies and Lorde’s distinctive, gravelly vocals which set this album apart from its mainstream pop counterparts.

Songs: “Homemade Dynamite,” “Writer in the Dark”

2. Daniel Caesar, Freudian

This is a project that feels heavenly and sounds like silk. Caesar creates R&B music that is more touching than sensual, more self-aware than braggadocious. This is an intimate, sweet, beautiful album that can be listened to for days on end.

Songs: “Get You” feat. Kali Uchis, “Neu Roses (Trangressor’s Song)”

3. SZA, Ctrl

In SZA’s long-awaited debut album, her lyrical mastery and vocal talent take center stage. Whether she’s crooning lazily or soaring into the high notes, her lyrics are raw and frank as she explores both love and heartache on this R&B project.

Songs: “Love Galore” feat. Travis Scott, “Normal Girl”

4. Kelela, Take Me Apart

Maryland’s own Kelela finally dropped her long awaited debut album since signing to Warp Records. The range of influences and sounds should keep both those who are heavy on ‘90s R&B (à la Janet) and those who enjoy the lush production of the 2010s Alternative R&B listening. It should probably replace channel ORANGE as your sex album.

Songs: “Take Me Apart,” “Frontline”

5. Kehlani, SweetSexySavage

On the other end of the Janet Jackson spectrum of pop from this year is Kehlani. SweetSexySavage features bloated production in the best way possible. She even goes over some tracks with a triplet flow.

Songs: “CRZY,” “Piece of Mind”

6. MIKE, May God Bless Your Hustle

Emotional monotone with lyrics spoken directly to God and hauntingly abstract beats. Show this to your asshole friend who thinks hip-hop doesn’t have spiritual depth.

Songs: “Hunger,” “FOREVER FIND FLIGHT”

7. Migos, Culture

MOMMA TOLD ME NOT TO SELL WORK, SEVENTEEN-FIVE, SAME COLOR T-SHIRT.

Songs: “T-Shirt,” “Slippery (feat. Gucci Mane)”

  1. Milo, Who Told You To Think??!!?!?!?!

Milo’s past albums faced the problem of feeling bloated with references but his newest cuts back on the call-backs and dials up the experimental production to call out both rap music as an institution as well as us as consumers of it; “Why’s your favorite rapper always babbling about his brand again? Like we asked him.”

Songs: “Magician (Suture),” “Call + Form (Picture)”

  1. Playboi Carti, Playboi Carti

Shoutout to Pierre Bourne, arguably the real hero of this album. A simple good time guaranteed to have you milly-rocking within seconds—in spite of your lack of rhythmic sense.

Songs: “Magnolia,” “Flex feat. Leven Kali”

  1. IDK, IWasVeryBad

Both a triumphant studio debut and the tragic biography of a talented young artist. Easily the best rapper coming out of Maryland; definitely better than Kevin Durant. The Slim Reaper hasn’t got any Chief Keef features.

Songs: “17 with a .38 (feat. Chief Keef),” “Black Sheep, White Dove”

Honorable Mentions (no particular order):

Fly Anakin, Koncept Jack$on, Tuamie, Panama Plus

Rae and Ghost meet Knxwledge but they’re all from Virginia. MC’s Koncept Jack$on and Fly Anakin flow sumptuously over Tuamie’s complex, fluctuating beats.

Songs: “Infidel Castro,” “Bulletproof Gucci Windshield”

Kendrick Lamar, DAMN.

Technically it’s near-perfect with wonderful production from 9th Wonder and the rest of the production team. It stumbles in places but when it’s on, but its highs are really high.  

Songs: “FEAR,” “ELEMENT”

4:44

The tailored words of a giant of rap. Jay-Z, silent since his flat and impersonal release Magna Carta Holy Grail, drops one of the most personal projects of his career. Backed by gorgeous No ID production, Jay-Z speaks about success, infidelity and family.

Songs: “The Story of OJ,” “Bam (feat. Damian Marley)”

Tay-K

Two words: Minecraft Trap. Unfortunately, Tay-K is probably going to prison forever due in part to subject of his breakdown single “The Race,” in which he describes being on the run from a felony. Allegedly.

Song: “The Race,” “Dat Way”

SOBxRBE

If Marshawn Lynch highlights were a music genre, it’d probably sound something like this. Old school California production with an aggressive—-and weirdly punk—twist.

Songs: “Calvin Cambridge,” “Anti”

BROCKHAMPTON – Saturation II

The second tape in a trilogy that’s shaping up to be one of the defining rap moments of 2017. BROCKHAMPTON want to be known as a boy band with the moving pieces of an art collective and Saturation II takes their full array of talents and put them on display.

Songs: “TEETH,” “TOKYO”

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