The Best Albums of January 2016

Because why save all the list-making for the halfway point and end of the year? Also a gang of cool records came out this month. Maybe I’ll make it a habit of putting one of these up every month. Or maybe just in months where it’s the end of the month and I had to write about like six million awards shows and also it’s cold and every famous person is dying and hey, here’s some good records that came out this month, in order of exactly how good they are as of today.

1. Tortoise – The Catastrophist (It’s always rewarding when a particular favorite makes a record that’s great and surprising)
2. Anderson.Paak – Malibu (I mean, it’s winter, and everything seems to be pretty terrible, and this thing is sunshine all over. Plus it’s always fun to be a part of something that goes from nowhere to everywhere as fast as Anderson.Paak has)
3. Savages – Adore Life (I mean, it’s pretty much sunshine nowhere, in contrast to the Anderson.Paak record, but also sometimes it’s like that.)
4. The I Don’t Cares – Wild Stab (I know, and I’m as surprised as you are, but it turns out the origins of this album are “Paul Westerberg let Juliana Hatfield pick from a bunch of songs he already had demos for” and frankly, Juliana Hatfield is a better editor of Paul Westerberg than Paul Westerberg is, so, true to form, Paul Westerberg’s best work in years is the one that not only did nobody see coming, but that nobody could’ve expected would’ve been this good.)
5. Stalley – Saving Yusuf (Rock-solid consistency has pretty much become Stalley’s thing, and even his mixtapes have a lot going for them as a result)

Oscars So What

An editorial warning: this is not a particularly well-organized or conclusive piece of writing. I said everything I have to say conclusively about the Academy Awards last year (see the hyperlink below), and here I’m mostly just wreslting with the question of just how seriously the whole thing should be taken. I don’t know, genuinely, but thought I’d put my thoughts on it up anyway. If you feel like having an argument about it, that’s cool! I’m willing to argue, but I have no idea what my definitive position is on any of this. Partly this is because I’ve always thought the Oscars were dumb and out of touch, partly because I think awards shows in general are one of our great cultural exercises in huge, ornate silliness (and none moreso than the Academy Awards), but also because there is some socio-historical import there. I can’t even stop re-litigating it in this introduction. The upshot of it all is: this is neither particularly funny nor particularly stance-taking, and if that’s not your thing, I’ll be back next week with something else.

So the Academy Award nominations happened again and, just like last year, they accurately reflect the taste of the very old, very white voting body. This year the numbers have been bandied about and it turns out that the academy is older and whiter than even the pessimists among us had imagined.

Most of what I had to say last year (where I wrote about this clusterfuck instead of actually writing about the awards) is still true. In case you don’t want to click there, I’ll run it down briefly here. The Oscars are a naked marketing platform: the film-release cycle is built around it, and an Oscar win often precedes the wide release of a film, as a way of getting people’s attention about it. Or at least to boost later download/home entertainment sales down the road. On the other hand, their place, culturally, serves as something of a de facto list of “things we cared about then,” which means that the nomination/winning process does carry some weight. It is simultaneously completely impossible to take seriously and also necessary to take seriously.

That’s still, mostly, what I have to say, but this year I want to add that I don’t have any idea what the solution is, here. The problem is one of enculturation: yes, more actors of color should have been nominated. Yes, the films that did get nominated were dumb and out of touch. Ever thus. The solution, then, is to take them less seriously. There’s no way to create a separate awards-granting body that is also equal until the stature of those granted by the Academy of the Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is lessened, at least culturally.

The good news is that’s already happening. The film industry are less able to create a monolithic idea of what is “serious” or “praiseworthy”. It’s happening slower than it would in, say, the book or record industries, where the dissemination of interest and perception of economic value fractured so quickly and so violently that they didn’t have time to prepare, but it’s happening. As long as movie theatres are governed by their inability to show infinite films on infinite screens, it’s always going to be somewhat resistant to the same fracturing1. The Academy Awards, then, were one of the ways people could govern their way through the “serious” stuff, so that they knew which films to spend their entertainment dollar (or their bandwidth, or their torrent-seeding patience, or whatever). Even beyond assuming a nomination was a mark of quality (something that, in general, fewer people do consciously or directly than, I think, was presumed, but I don’t have any numbers on either the presumption or the actual incidence of it happening), there’s still the fact that hearing the film’s name over and over again has a way of creating primacy in the mind, and people (generally) assume that something that has become familiar is better, or more worth attention, than something that hasn’t2. This is where the Academy Awards do the most damage – by getting a bunch of things into the conversations that aren’t a bunch of other things, and creating that familiarity and not other familiarities.

1 that is to say, the music industry lost radio because people had other ways to seek out exactly what they wanted exactly when they wanted it, which is why, after fifteen or so years of free-fall, they’re trying to patch the holes in the boat by going after Spotify, signing deals with Soundcloud, or trying to convince YouTube to paywall the stuff they still somehow own that someone might want. The book industry is in much better shape because it never really was governed by the blockbuster model, so its distributed set of economic tidepools never really took the same kind of heavy damage from things like file-sharing. Film is, obviously and necessarily, a different animal altogether.
2 this is, in its most simple form, precisely how advertising works – Geico isn’t trying to say anything about car insurance geckos, they’re trying to get you to remember their geckos, ergo their brand name, which would create familiarity in the first place, thus making you more likely to think of Geico as the place you should call to save 15% or more on your car insurance.  

And, to be clear, I don’t think there’s a sinister conspiracy afoot here. That’s the other other problem. The nominating body doesn’t even think of Michael B. Jordan (a phenomenal actor who managed to carry the seventh installment of a forty-year-old film series and also should be nominated for many things for a lot of his work, bar, of course, Fantastic Four), and nominated Sylvester Stallone, a guy who briefly stopped being a walking punchline long enough to bring something like life into a character he created half a lifetime ago. While the latter is impressive, certainly (I definitely didn’t think he had it in him), it’s also more appealing to the aging-white-dude members of the Academy – it’s a comeback story (which do well historically with said body), it’s a mentor-type role effectively played (ditto), and it’s a guy, more importantly, who they’re already familiar with (there’s that familiarity popping up from the other side of the thing). Meanwhile, nobody said that Michael B. Jordan, necessarily, didn’t deserve it, because the nominations are a positive-only process – there is no “no” vote, only a “yes” vote, so MBJ didn’t get enough “yes” votes. This process, in less-prominent and less-obvious, but still-probably ways, continues on down the line until the thing that seems reasonable to the voters (who are largely-homogenous demographic) does not to the people who see the end result3 and are much more likely, having not been a part of the selection process in the first place (which process is already fairly shrouded and may or may not include any amount of direct communication w/r/t who is nominating what), to notice a seemingly-ineluctable (given that it not only keeps happening, but that no process or procedural changes seem to be in the works to keep it from happening again) pattern in the results.

3 further complicating this is the fact that the members of the Academy are film-indsutry professionals of some variety, and thus also have a different set of factors affecting their voting, i.e. these are people whose work they have, in various ways and at various times, had some srot of contact with, which creates another kind of (unintnetional) bias. It’s why you tend to think your friends’band is better than, say, the other local opener on the bill, which obviously consists of morons who don’t know anything and should just get off the stage. But, again, I have no real control environnment here, so I wouldn’t be able to speak to the hard data in terms of how much this ends up making a difference.

Last summer, the Hugo Awards happened. The nomination process was hijacked (or gamed, or however you choose to call what happened) by a bunch of people who were block-voting for the authors that they found socially acceptable4 (even while much of the remainder of the nominating body found many – although not all – socially repugnant, to say the least). The day was saved for the Hugos by two things: one was the much-used ability to vote “No Award”5, which ended up winning the most, to the delight of the people who were repulsed by the initial nominating-bloc in the first place. One of the further things decided upon was a change in the way nominations are decided, to block exactly that kind of slate-formation, which will most likely go into effect (the hedge and delay both being due to the vagaries of the governance of the Hugos), in 2017. All of which is to say that it’s 100% possible for an awards-granting body to listen to their constituency and make changes, albeit much easier for an open-to-the-public (anyone attending Worldcon is a member of the World Science Fiction Society, which grants them a nominating ballot and a voting ballot) organization than a shadowy bunch of secret old dudes.

4 specifically, if you weren’t around for the whole thing, they were nominating people who represented some bygone era when there wasn’t all this “social justice” on the part of all these non-whtie dudes who didn’t write space opera. If this is the first you’re hearing about it, congratulations, and for more information you can google “sad puppies” or “rabid puppies” or just the 2015 hugo awards and figure out pretty quickly what was going on there. The point is the things they wanted were pretty distinctly ugly.
5 if you didn’t need FN4, you probably also don’t need this one, but essentially “No Award” is treated like an entry itself: if there are five entries in the field, you rank six objects, such that if Book E and Book C are great, but Books A, B and D are beneath consideration, you would vote 1) Book E, 2) Book C, 3) No Award, 4) Book A 5) Book B and 6) Book D.

But, and this is where all this is going, I don’t think it’s impossible. If the current process is unable to produce a set of awards that the people who your event has been tailored to market the films to – that is to say, if a substantial subset of the public itself is saying “these results are bad and we do not condone them”, which is the case here – then what is the benefit in not, at the very least, examining that process and what it is or isn’t doing. And if you all get together and decide that, no, there is absolutely no change that could be made and that somehow this would’ve all happened no matter what because of your air-tight process, then I guess that’s that and your awards show is still crap.

Really, the idea that this has now happened two years in a row seems to me that the Academy isn’t looking at anything, and isn’t really willing to change it to begin with (whatsoever the process may be). This seems like a dumb way to do business. at the very least. but I’m not in the Academy in any way, so it seems to me the easier thing is this: to say the Academy Awards are a dumb thing that is not worth taking seriously. If they want to get everybody together in pretty dresses and have an awards show, who can stop them? But that doesn’t mean it has to mean anything.

And, y’know, some of these films probably do deserve attention, and I’m sure it’ll be nice for these people to get their awards or whatever. I’m happy for them if that’s the case. But It should mean less that it came from a homogenous group of very old people who are going to go away and not be any kind of concern sooner than the people who are currently upset by the way this has all gone down, who skew younger, and who are also paying to see the movies that are the livelihood of what you’re doing. We can’t vote no award, but we can stop seeing your dumb movies (which, actually, is happening anyway – it’s the blockbusters that are leading to record-setting box office numbers, not the fucking Danish Girl).

That’s thin soup, though. The real problem isn’t the Academy Awards, the Academy Awards are just the instrument of expression of a far more endemic set of attitudes and motivations, and laying the blame on the (admittedly prominent) public-facing result of a general attitude. I guess the essence of the whole thing is that it’s satisfying to get mad at, but it’s also not the whole job.

Or, in other words, the Academy Awards have always sucked, and will always reflect the dumbest aspects of whatever is going on in film-related culture, and that isn’t new (remember when Crash won best picture? That was the exact same impulse at work with a slightly-different end result. At least none of the movies that got nominated are as bad as Crash. Except The Danish Girl. Ugh), and it won’t change. And so we don’t really have to do anything. They’ll burn themselves out, and we’ll be left with a once-prominent event that turns, as it does every year, into something far closer resembling a fashion show than an artistic awards program. That’s its best possibly aspirational state, I guess.

Best Songs of the Second Half of 2015

Here, as ever, are the fifty best songs released in the six-month period that ended 2015. The “second half” of the year, as it were. If you click on these words, you will find yourself downloading a folder with all of these songs in it, and won’t that be nice? That will be so nice.

All Dogs – That Kind of Girl
All Dogs started out great. Their split tape with Slouch was great, their 7” was great. The song “Georgia” (which wasn’t on this album) is great. And Kicking Every Day is a fantastic record full of great songs, the greatest of which (and All Dogs’ greatest song to date) is “That Kind of Girl”, which also grants the album its title. There is no shortage of bands doing the power-pop/gargae-pop thing, but almost none of them have the emotional intensity or songwriting ability of All Dogs.

Arca – Mutant
I am not sure how my musical detection skills/recommendation squad failed me so hard, but even after Yeezus, and a long way after Vulnicura1, I finally got around to listening to Arca, to discover that what I thought would be fairly-standard producer-y music (like that made by one of the other “production consultants” on Yeezus, Hudson Mohawke) was actually weird-as-hell, lumpy, abstract music that was also bracingly loud and super exhilarating. I have slept on Arca for too long, but you don’t have to!

1 and even longer after FKA Twigs EP2, which I decidedly did not love.

Erykah Badu – Hello
Erykah Badu is just the best, that’s all. “Hello” sees Andre 3000 overcoming his apparent fear of microphones, and the result is just the best. It’s the best.

Battles – Summer Simmer
Battles finally got around to admitting that they’re better off without a vocalist. Gloss Drop was alright, but not as good as Mirrored, partly because they filled the hole left by their departing vocalist with a revolving-door cast of microphone-holders2. On La Di Da Di they gave up and made the sparse instrumental album they should be making3. “Summer Simmer” finds Ian Williams’ guitar dancing around John Stanier’s busy, rock-solid, funky beat and really, that’s what should be happening basically the whole time. Great job, guys.

2 some of whom were, admittedly, fine – Gloss Drop isn’t a bad record, it’s just not great.
3 John Stanier has been in a couple of bands – Helmet and Tomahawk – where they would’ve been better without a singer. I realize the blasphemy of saying that Mike Patton shouldn’t be singing doesn’t actually win me any points here, but my feelings about Mike Patton are probably the subject for another discussion.

Big KRIT – 86
Man, I don’t know. I am not a dude that listens to songs about cars ordinarily. In fact, I find cars as a lyrical subject to be pretty boring. But KRIT is really into this song, and also really into shouting the year of his birth, and that makes this a pretty satisfying song to drive around to.

Heather Woods Broderick – Wyoming
Heather Broderick’s career moves pretty slowly. She left Horse Feathers to be a sidewoman in some other bands (Efterklang, Sharon Van Etten’s band, some other Portland folk people), and has made two records since, six years apart. Glider is the better of the two, and I suppose if it took six years to improve this much, then that’s how long it took. “Wyoming” is something like the best possible version of folk music – kind of weird, dense, but not unfamiliar.

Busdriver – Surrounded by Millionaires (f Daveed Diggs)
I think Thumbs is my favorite Busdriver release to date, and had a bunch of candidates for this list (make sure you dig up “World to Run” as a follow up to this song), but “Surrounded by Millionaires” edged out the competition for its Daveed Diggs feature. A song about the socioeconomic realities of blackness in 2015 (call it “Alright” for the art-weirdoes), it finds “Hamilton’s own” Diggs more in True Neutral Crew slogan-slinger mode than clipping. horrorcore weirdo mode, and manages to pull away from the beat enough that every time he lands it’s pretty bracing.

Caspian – Dust & Disquiet
I mean, I suppose I’m especially suscepitble to fake-Mono in a year when there isn’t a proper Mono album (at least not a whole one, see below), but of all the fake-Mono out there, nobody is doing it better than Caspian, and Dust and Disquiet is an awfully good Caspian record.

Cavanaugh – Typecast (f POS, Hemlock Ernst, and Busdriver)
Open Mike Eagle remains one of the best hip-hop minds currently running. I saw him and Serengeti play a show together last year, and thought that even though they didn’t spend any time on stage together, that it was a pretty inspired pairing. They went on, late-ish last year to make this record as Cavanaugh, and it’s low-key one of the best pairings in hip-hop. It’s natural that my favorite moment features the indomitable POS (from Doomtree), and continues Busdriver’s banner year of doing shit that’s amazing. I was also unaware of this Hemlock Ernst fellow until this year, but I’m pretty into him.

Common Ave – The Oracle
Probably Cleveland’s best rap act, “The Oracle” comes unattached to an album or mixtape, which is infuriating, because it’s so damn good it makes me want an hour of it.

Martin Courtney – Airport Bar
So the guy from Real Estate made a solo record that is basically indistinguishable from a Real Estate record. I mean, I love Real Estate, so I’m pretty happy to have it. But it does make one wonder: what, exactly, is going on here? Did the band not want to tour behind it? Did Martin Courtney want something with his name on it? Anyway, it’s real good. “Airport Bar” is a real great not-Real Estate song.

Ian William Craig – Habit Worn and Wandering
Ian William Craig seems like someone who’s been around for a long time, but this is only his second record (the first was in 2014). I suppose it takes some time to train as an opera singer, then turn around and decide to make experimental music. Built mostly around his (incredible) voice in various guises, Cradle for the Wanting is an incredible, soothing listen, an album that washes over you and takes over your attention while it’s playing. “Habit Worn and Wandering” is an incredibly immersive take on a really incredible way to make music.

Dave Rawlings Machine – Short-Haired Woman Blues
I mean, Dave Rawlings is a pretty consistent dude. Nashville Obsolete is another DRM record, and it’s full of the things you’d expect – that guitar, mostly, but also Gillian Welch singing the harmonies, and a bunch of sturdy songs that sound a lot older than they are. It’s also shot through with a sense of fun you don’t find a lot in intentionally old-timey “Americana” types, which helps a it go down a lot easier. It’s hard not to laugh a little bit at “Short-Haired Woman Blues,” although it remains unclear how seriously it’s meant.

Deafheaven – Luna
So the only real problem with Sunbather, Deafheaven’s record of a couple of years ago, was that for all their divisive “Hipster Metal” positioning in the heavy metal press, it was actually pretty straightforward: there were the shoegaze elements that kept it from being stultifying, certainly, but it was still blast beats and shrieked vocals4 and all that. New Bermuda added the stuff that people were supposed to have been hearing the first time around back in: the new-wave-type sounds, the post-rock constructions, and a general sense of release and catharsis that really would’ve probably helped Sunbather. Most of that stuff is very much at the forefront of “Luna”, which makes it as good as any of a musical representation of what could continue to be a surprisingly durable5

4 it is probably worth noting, also, that it quickly became obvious that there was a lot of disdain directed at Deafheaven for the attractiveness of their lead singer, who also wears driving gloves (your guess is as good as mine) and has a lot of Peter-Murphy-esque stage movements in his repertoire. He is, admittedly, also my least favorite part of the band, although less because of his appearance and more because his singing makes me throat hurt. And the driving gloves.
5 this is also the year that similarly-derided Liturgy released the disappointing, baffling, not-the-good-kind-of-weird The Ark Work, which sort of shows that writing a manifesto doesn’t actually signify that you’ve got a bunch of ideas.

Dee-1 – Get it On (f Don Trip)
I think there are some things in this life that it’s possible to overthink, y’know? Sometimes a banger is just a banger.

Destruction Unit – Chemical Reaction/Chemical Delight
If I were a reckoning man, which I kind of am, I would reckon that the dudes in Destruction Unit would reject both the terms “psychedelic” and also “hardcore,” but, I mean, Negative Feedback Resistor is a pretty great psychedelic hardcore record. “Chemical Reaction/Chemical Delight,” the welded-together centerpiece of the record, is a really impressive slab of loud rock music of any description that whips itself into a really impressive frenzy.

Dreamcrusher – Trapdoor (f Secret Boyfriend)
So Dreamcrusher is a noise artist who recently relocated to Brooklyn6, who is doing really interesting things with texture and rhythm, making pretty accessible noise music without falling into make dance music. It’s a really fascinating needle to watch get threaded, and I’m hopeful he can keep doing it for awhile (Hackers All of Them Hackers is the first Dreamcrusher music I’ve heard, since I am not in Brooklyn, where most of his previous material was available). The inclusion of Secret Boyfriend (who I have not heard nearly enough from recently) is inspired, and creates one hell of a crushing piece of music.

6 one of, at last count, six hundred thousand other noise artists who recently relocated to Brooklyn.

Freddie Gibbs – Fuckin’ Up the Count
Freddie Gibbs makes excellent music that is often lost in his seemingly-constant label struggles. He’s been signed to, and then un-signed to (in just about every way possible) a bunch of labels, and his records somehow continue to come out. He’s a phenomenal rapper, and Shadow of a Doubt is a phenomenal release. “Fuckin’ Up the Count” is a braggy song about money, which is a hard thing to breathe new life into, but by making it seem super-claustrophobic and airless, even while he’s rapping about his ability to have a bunch of money, Gibbs figures out a way to make that seem interesting, and even vital.

The Gotobeds – New York’s Alright (If You Like Sex and Phones)
There are probably not any deep insights to be had about The Gotobeds. It’s all pretty much right there in this speed-rush of a song. It’s Fear-referencing title and it’s lurching, false-start beginning make it clear that this is music to have a real good time to. Probably a drunken one.

Have Gun, Will Travel – True Believers
Science From an Easy Chair is a concept album about Ernest Shackleton. That isn’t standard country-music7 faire by a long chalk, but HGWT wins it over (as they usually do) on the strength and agility of Matt Burke’s songs, which are really something. Like most great concept albums, it also mostly works if you ignore that it’s a concept album. “True Believers”, the single, is a great song, even though it’s probably about a goddamned boat, is what I’m saying here.

7 I know, I know, but I’ve talked at length about my misuse of “country,” and I’m pretty sure you’re not allowed to still huff at me about it. Because I said so, that’s why.

HEALTH – Stonefist
Nobody seemed to love the HEALTH record this year. To be fair, it was a long buildup for a record that was way more conventional than Get Color, which was kind of a letdown. But when it was done being a letdown, it did a pretty good job of making it apparent that HEALTH was a band that could do conventional pretty well, albeit a definition of “conventional” that includes a rhythm track composed mainly of crushingly loud synthesizer blats.

Helen – Ryder
I mean, Liz Harris made a shoegaze record. There was no way it wasn’t going to end up here.

Kowloon Walled City – Your Best Years
There were four or five songs that could’ve made the list from this record. Black Sabbath’s Bill Ward set out that band’s impulse when he said “Most people live on a permanent down, but just aren’t aware of it. We’re trying to express it for people.” On Grievances, Kowloon Walled City seem to have taken that as their own mission statement, making a huge, cathartic record out of the draining nature of daily existence, and the willingness to convince yourself that it’s comfortable, or preferable even. It’s bleak material, and it’s a bleak album. But coming out the other side with something actually excised is the sort of reward that only happens but very rarely. “Your Best Years” is probably the bleakest of them, in fact, concerning itself as it does with the cyclical nature of lying to yourself, sounding for all the world like a band trying to escape from something. It completes a pretty amazing metamorphosis for KWC, who started out a pretty good conventional heavy metal band and have been making feints at this kind of breakthrough for a while. Probably this is the song of the year? Probably.

Heather Leigh – All That Heaven Allows
Heather Leigh made a couple of records last year, singing and playing a lap-steel guitar like her vendetta is against the guitar itself. Raised in a shitty post-mining area (the bad part of West Virginia), she has relocated to a shitty post-mining area (Glasgow) and continues to put out hugely cathartic almost-noise records. “All That Heaven Allows” is the best-available showcase of her approach, featuring a great deal of nonstandard-guitar playing, and singing that is much more like a wail than a melody as such. If the blues sounded like this, I would like the blues a lot more than I do.

Lizzo – Ain’t I
I am, apparently, a huge ol’ sucker for rappers from Minneapolis. I mean, not that you have to be a sucker to enjoy Lizzo. How could you not? She’s having a good time, I’m having a good time, we’re all having a good time. Praise be to Lizzo.

Low – Landslide
Ones and Sixes was Low’s best album since Drums and Guns, which tells me that maybe they just need an “and” in their title these days. “Landslide” is the kind of slow-burning high-tension song they used to write a lot more of8. It’s good to hear them in that mode again.

8 it owes no small debt to the all-time great “Don’t Understand” from way back on Secret Name

Mark McGuire – The Naacals
I am often happily surprised by Mark McGuire records. He clearly puts a whole lot of himself into making them, and Beyond Belief might be the best one yet. Eschewing the usual experimental musician traps of insularity and solipsism, Beyond Belief is a wide-open record, full of free-flowing positivity. It sounds immaculate, and the inclusion of more vocals than usual (the biggest surprise) also makes it seem even more personal yet. The best song on the album, however, is “The Naacals,” which is kind of the most “classic” Mark McGuire (for whatever value of “Classic” you think might apply here) sounding of them. He’s really great at what he does.

Merzbow & Maurizio Bianchi – Lo Frequency
As always, Merzbow made a bunch of records this year. Uncommonly, three of them9 were well above even Merzbow’s usual average. Amalgamelody is less great than the other two (there are also a handful of other Merzbow and Merzbow-affiliated records beyond those three, none of which is actually bad), but a solid entry in Maurizio Bianchi’s often-difficult body of work10. It’s hard to call a work by either musician accessible, but this is a pretty dynamically-straightforward, highly-composed-sounding effort. As such it doesn’t reach the inward-driving heights that Merzbow’s work can, but it also doesn’t lose the plot as completely as other Merzbow records can. “Lo Frequency” almost rocks, and definitely travels the furthest of the pieces in the collection out of the pure cerebral.

9 Merzxiu, a collaboration with Merzbow, and the second Cuts record with Balazs Pandi, Thurston Moore and Mats Gustafsson are the other two.
10 it also comes some years into a highly productive period which, typical of Bianchi, came after he announced that he was done making music forever.
milo – Zen Scientist (f Myka 9)
So Hellfyre Club, the label/collective that held a bunch of the rappers on this very list, fell apart – a tour fell through in some way, and then milo tweeted that Hellfyre was dead and he had a new crew. This comes, of course, as no surprise as the rap-collective boom that had categorized a few years ago (the Odd Future/Black Hippy/A$AP Mob/Pro Era uh…era) has mostly seen same collectives dissolve. It’s, I suppose, a shame, as it seems somewhat acrimonious on milo’s part. It may, however, be related to (or at least alongside) milo having a hugely busy and productive year making a ton of really great songs, one of which is this tense, talky11 piece off so the flies don’t come. More poet or spoken-word dude than rappity rapper, “Zen Scientist” features fellow talky-dude Myka 9 (although Myka 9 is very much a rappity rapper), who is sort of the spiritual godfather of a bunch of the former-Hellfyre Club dudes in the first place, and manages the rare feat of having a feature and not sounding out of place on a milo song.

11 there aren’t really milo songs that aren’t tense and talky, but this one is, too.

Mint Mile – Modern Day
Whatever it is that Tim Midyett (and Andy Cohen, although Mint Mile is primarily the former) are doing, I’ll be there with it. Mint Mile is a more restrained, quieter thing than Bottomless Pit, and suits itself well to Tim Midyett’s pretty-fantastic way with a melody. The whole thing, and “Modern Day” in particular, feels smaller and less formal, which also suits Midyett’s voice and scaled-down, less-epic guitar playing.

Mono – Death in Reverse
Kind of an advance single, also part of a split release with Ocean, “Death in Reverse” is classic-type Mono – lots of quickly-played single notes, a huge crescendo, some seriously epic rocking. It is, in short, fucking fantastic.

My Disco – Careless
The last decade or so have seen My Disco’s sound open up (sort of) from the single-note, repetitious, dead-space explorations of their early work to being something like more traditional rock music. And by “something like” I mean they’re still pretty sparse, still pretty repetitious, and still don’t use a lot of notes, but their songs, which now include regular parts, are now also much more dynamic. It’s still a fairly subtle sort of shift, and “Careless” mainly relies on barely-remitting tension to get its point across. It’s just that Severe in general, and “Careless” in particular, seem like there might be a possibility that they could let some light in, and not suffocate under their own immobility. In related news, it’s really hard to sell other people on My Disco, who are a legitimately great band whose music seemingly requires only the most negative of modal adjectives.

Obnox – If You Wanna Know the Truth
Another hyperproductive year for Obnox meant, as it always does, a handful of truly great songs, the best of which is the catchy, expertly-executed “If You Wanna Know the Truth.” There’s so little good garage rock made in an average year that you have to sort of wonder what’s going on when you hear an example of it that’s as good as this. Maybe those other people are just terrible people. Maybe they just aren’t Bim Thomas.

Tunde Olaniran – 24KT
Tunde Olaniran remains one of the best under-heralded R&B weirdoes, combining huge whacks of Detroit’s musical history into a ball and, on Transgressor, wrapping it up in identity politics and then writing these super-kickass songs.

Oneohtrix Point Never – Mutant Standard
Despite being my official second-favorite record of the year, there was almost no song from Garden of Delete that made the list. Difficult to separate as a set of pieces, and even from its own complicated, difficult-to-take-in elements (chunks of the backstory wound up scattered all over the internet). “Mutant Standard” ended up here because 1) it’s really good and 2) it’s kind of the album itself in miniature – the segments roughly correspond to the parts of the album, and there’s even kind of a chance at picking up on at least a little bit of the story (which is fairly vague in the first place, but concerns an alien following a fictional band called Kaoss Edge and sort of goes on from there, but is actually about obsession and adolescence), if you squint. I mean, squint with your ears. You know. That sort of thing.

PC Worship – Done
It’s not something I would ask be done, but we could call PC Worship post-post-rock. If post-rock aimed to use the instrumentation/band structure of rock music to create non-rock elements, making something of an alloy of rock and more improvisatory (or more compositional, depending) musics, then PC Worship are taking the experimental tools developed in the last twenty or so years12 of Post-Rock-ing to create something that’s more like rock music fractured through an experimental lens, then re-assembled on the other side. Basement Hysteria is billed as an EP, although it’s LP length, and is a tense, taut slice of composition that presents a loud, unyielding front to the listener. “Done” is a tightly-wound assemblage of textures and sounds that can’t help but offer relaxation by dint of ending, the world reasserting itself after its nine minutes of inward-driving exploration.

12 taking as moment zero Simon Reynolds coining the term in a review of the Bark Psychosis album Hex

Petite Noir – Best
Of all of the children of Saint Heron, Petite Noir has, surprisingly, become the most creatively fruitful of the whole set. King of Anxiety was a weird, sleek statement of purpose that was followed only a few months later with La Vie Est Belle / Life is Beautiful, a much bigger, more expansive melange of musical styles held together by a surprisingly cohesive songwriting vision and the truly incredible voice of Yannick Ilunga, an always-controlled, highly agile instrument that provides constancy through his balance of weird post-punk textures and big, heavily-populated arrangements. What could very easily become a sonic mess comes out the other side a really satisfying piece of art-pop (he has mentioned calling it “noirwave”, which seems fine, excpet it has part of his nom de musique in it, so I refuse to do it on principle). “Best” especially whirls around its exuberant chorus in a way that makes it one of the oddest songs to inspire impromptu car-singing.

Pleasure Leftists – Protection
There’s a lot of revivalism of early post punk out in the air – a lot of proto-goth aping, and, specifically, a lot of people who are clearly really into Siouxsie and the Banshees. None of those bands have Haley Morris, an elemental force of a singer who sings with such force and abandon that it carries the band, who are a fine and capable bunch of late-era-hardcore refugees, over the shoulders of their peers and into a higher stratum entirely.

Protomartyr – Why Does it Shake
Protomartyr are a rock band that plays very loudly and sounds not unlike, say, The Fall or Pere Ubu. I would like to devote this space to instead addressing the structural ambiguity of the song’s chorus: is “the body, the body” the answer to “why does it shake?” or is it explanatory of the thing that’s shaking? I mean, full points for the image, which is very effective either way, but inquiring minds want to know.

Savages – The Answer
Savages’ debut record is a fantastic chunk of time-displaced post-punk. “The Answer” is the lead single for their next record, due out later this year, and (along with “TIWYG”) points toward a heavier, more visceral sound for the band, which can only work out in their favor – their live shows are extremely highly regarded, and it would do them a service to put out a record that reflects that. “The Answer” is, at the very least, an example of their musical power.

She Spread Sorrow – Red Rumspringa
Power Electronics continues to be around, and very visible. And most of it continues to be pretty boring – make an awful noise, do some screaming, repeat. There are always going to be people practicing the form that mean something but for the most part you can assume that if they’re willing to be called “power electronics,” they’re probably getting more out of it than you are13. It makes She Spread Sorrow all the more a valuable commodity for not only doing it right, but for doing it right in a way that adds something to the soup. It’s probably not fair to call it nonaggressive, but it’s certainly interested in expressing things somewhat more complex than, say, Damien Dubrovnik14 or whatever.

13 this is, and I’m hardly the first, or even the thousandth, to point out, something of a problem with subgenres that deal primarily in volume and aggression – it’s easy to be very loud, and it develops its own codified approach that is fairly easy to work within fairly quickly, and the inspiration tends to be more “I can do this so you should look at me” than “I have something to say and will say it.” Power electronics, in short, is no more subject to this tendency than, say, death metal or hardcore or grindcore or really anything else that ends in -core.  
14 this is one of those moments where I remember that many of my readers are not really into this stuff, and have to say: I understand that you do not share my feeling of being let down by most of the recent set of power electronics wagglers, and also that Damien Dubrovnik is far from the worst, they’re just the band that comes to mind when I think of “power electronics acts that She Spread Sorrow clearly isn’t.”

Justin Small – In The Can
The Do Make Say Think Guy released a bunch of songs in the back half of the year, which he collected as Summer and Fall15. The songs tend to be experiments in tone and genre, and each is pretty distinct. The best of them is “In the Can,” which seems like a film reference, given how much of his work ends up as scores, or sounds like scores even when it isn’t actually. It could also be a reference to Can, the band, which the song doesn’t not resemble.

15 which actually came out in the winter. Goddammit.

Vince Staples – Lift Me Up
Vince Staples has assembled one of the most impressive bodies of work I can think of in the past couple of years, assisted by basically all of the other best people currently working in west coast hip-hop. Summertime 06 got no shortage of time in the sun (it’s really a phenomenal record, in a class of its own), and while “Lift Me Up” wasn’t ever a single – it’s not really a club song, you wouldn’t necessarily know where to put it on a radio – it’s probably still the best, most distilled version of what it is he’s doing on the record.

Sunn O))) does so much work outside of their regular studio albums that it’s hard to remember that this is the first proper, Sunn O)))-only (non-collaborative, non-demo) record in a bunch of years. And, y’know, the collaborations and experiments are mostly pretty good, and Stephen O’Malley and Greg Anderson have made a gang of cool records in the intervening few years, but there’s just nothing like the two of them, doing the Sunn O))) thing straight-up, and it’s so good to have another one.

Underachievers – Shine All Gold
It is something of an ONAT tradition that I listen to a huge amount of Underachievers’ records – seriously, I listen to them all the time – and then have to write about their music every six months and can basically only say “oh they’re good and you should like them because they’re good.” I don’t know why this stymies me so. It’s terrible.

Casey Veggies – New Faces
Come to find there were a ton of people in Odd Future who were pretty cool, right? Earl made a beyond-fantastic record, Frank Ocean has the whole world waiting for him to make another one. Syd tha Kyd’s The Internet continues to win people over. Casey Veggies is by no means particularly obscure, but I think he’s definitely in the same league, which means he should probably be getting a little more attention. But you don’t have to take my word for it.

WIKI – Hate is Earned
Lil Me was pretty good, but does not include this Black-Milk-produced bit of genius, which is to it’s detriment, because the only negative thing I could even possibly think to say about “Hate is Earned” is that, at less than 2 minutes long, it’s not nearly long enough.

Wilco – You Satellite
Man, I love Star Wars. I love that Wilco called their album Star Wars. I love that it came out of nowhere and sounded like the band fucking around. I’m basically just happy to have another good Wilco record. Although they never turned the corner into “all the way bad,” I’m hopeful that this fucking-around version of Wilco is the one we’ve got now, because it’s more satisfying than they’ve been in a long time.

WOKE – The Lavishments of Light Looking (f George Clinton)
Flying Lotus talks like there’s going to be some more from WOKE, a project whose other members are Thundercat and Ishamael Butler and Tendai Maraire from Shabazz Palaces, which is pretty cool if it’s true. The leadoff track combines all of the cool stuff about its collaborators into a smooth-as-hell sort of funk feel that is also not quite like anything else around.

Young Thug – No Games
2015 was, basically, the year that you had to come to terms with Young Thug. He’s probably a genius, and he certainly wins the award for “guy who has never appeared on these lists but almost has a bunch of times.” He did a bunch of cool stuff this year, and yet here I sit, telling you that the Young Thug song I spent the most time with was not any of the cool shit, and was instead this dumb sing-along. But it’s a really great dumb sing along. Like of all the dumb sing alongs this year, this one is probably the best of them. It’s possible that whatever Young Thug is doing, it doesn’t really align with what I’m looking for. But it’s also possible that he should just make a bunch more songs like “No Games”.

HM: Peter Buck made another solo record this year, and its high point, the Jeff-Tweeyd-assisted “World Spins Around You” almost made it, but didn’t quite. Blood Orange’s “Sandra’s Smile” continued a year of sad, memorial-type songs from Dev Hynes’ keyboard, and makes me excited for the Blood Orange record coming out later in the year. Curren$y’s “Boulders” was a pretty good song about selling a bunch of drugs, much like a bunch of other pretty good songs about selling drugs that Curren$y has made already, and wasn’t quite above-the-cut enough to make the list proper, Steve Hauschildt’s Where All is Fled is a tremendous record, much more in the Emeralds vein than Mark McGuire’s output, and “Vicinities” is the standout track from it. Migos continued to be Migos, and “What a Feeling” was the highlight from this year. Nocando had what sounds like a pretty awful year, with the Hellfyre Club stuff that seemed like a whole lot of drama, and an alluded-to breakup/divorce/whatever, but it fuelled some really good material from him, and “Last Man Standing” sounds a lot more earned than it might’ve in previous years. Maryn Jones’ year of being super-awesome extended to the last Saintseneca record and its big-hearted “River”. The  Telescopes made another weird-ass psychelic record in Hidden Fields, and you should check out “In Every Sense”. Jay Rock revisited his early classic in “Money Trees Deuce” and, while not quite escaping the law of diminishing returns, made a pretty worthwhile sequel anyway.

David Bowie

Generally I save the eulogy treatment for people that I have something personal to say – someone whose work has affected me personally and profoundly. David Bowie is not really one of those people. I was going to skip writing about his death as a result – what do I have to add to the general clamour and expressions of grief/sadness/whatever? Besides, I didn’t even get around to writing about Terry Pratchett until later, and that was a stealth piece about genre fiction, and he meant a whole lot more to me personally. But it sort of nagged at me.

Here’s why: there was sort of a part of a piece that was going to go up when I dig out of the Awards Season/Year End1 about hype and expectation and not merely Missing the Point, but beginning to suspect that The Point was no longer the point, and that the endless talking around The Point had become the point and obviously this is not a fully-fledged idea but it was partially centered around Blackstar2.

1 best songs of the second half of 2015, now thrice-delayed, coming later in the week real, honest and true, guys! Everybody just stay alive for forty-eight goddamned hours!

2 and the LCD Soundsystem reunion, which material may actually stay alive and come up here in another form in the future. Probably. I mean, it’s still something that I feel like I have something to say about, I’m just not going to say it here.

David Bowie’s death, you see, comes at the end of several years of uncharitable consideration on my part toward his work. It was an uncharitability that I generally think of myself as being past, and it was a poor consideration.

I never connected, particularly, with David Bowie’s music. I like some of it (the Berlin records he made with Eno, Let’s Dance, parts of his glam-rock years, although I think he could’ve made one fewer of those records and consolidated his best efforts a little better), and there isn’t much of it that I can’t at least tolerate somewhat. But he didn’t belong to me in any real way – by the time I heard him he was already canonized, already somebody I should like. And while for some bands3 there’s enough there that I can get over it, there wasn’t really any way in for me. So, while I could enjoy it, I mostly opted not to spend time with it.

3 Led Zeppelin is probably the best example. I like Pink Floyd more, but Pink Floyd has their early material, which is already sort of a contrarian approach to the band to begin with.

Over time this option yielded frustration that new David Bowie albums (the peak was 2013’s The Next Day) were greeted rapturously and with the kind of fanfare that usually only comes when something has been hyped well past its ability4. It yielded a lazy sort of judgment, that David Bowie was basically no better than his collaborators, and that his real talent was as a guy who knew how to popularize nonstandard-rock musical movements.

4 I am not, a couple of days after his death, going to make a hard pronouncement on the proper level of rated-ness for David Bowie’s output. I’ll leave that to the people to whom he did mean something, and I confess here in this footnote that I really don’t have much of a handle on it and move on.

The love of David Bowie and rockism, basically, existed in the same space in my mind5, with Bowie as a Madonna-esque figure who would swoop in, find someone to work with, adapt their own style to it and have the resulting record feted by the people that fete such things as a triumphant instant classic etc. etc.

5 this is not helped by David Bowie’s body of worshippers consisting of a great many people who are also responsible for rockism* becoming a problem in the first place.
* you know, I really keep thinking I’m going to be allowed to be done typing that word, and then I come up with further use for it. I’m starting to think I’m an addict or something. But it’s necessary here to establish what’s going on.

The problem with this thinking is that it leaves out the David Bowie part. In the last couple of days has come a deluge of people who served as something of a reminder that it’s probably a folly to reduce someone to their press opinion. What David Bowie offered for a lot of people – not the rockists, or the people who were mindlessly parroting the “David Bowie is a the most blah or blah” rhetoric, but the people who connected, deeply, with his work – was a portrait of a guy who had come to complete terms with his shifting sense of self and identity. David Bowie inspired followers more than fans. Closeted kids, weirdoes who didn’t want to be any specific brand of weirdo, people that knew what it meant to get up every day and go about the business of trying to be someone else, or having to be someone else, or at least needing to act as such.

If David Bowie became famous for his (justifiably) renowned sense of publicity and hunger for attention6, then that made it all the more vindicating to the people that connected with that very aspect of his work, or at least its byproduct. Essentially, by saying that I was opposed to his work because of an aspect of his fanbase (the awful rockist party-line folks who drop off at Let’s Dance, which is easily one of his five best records), was unfairly maligning the aspect of his fanbase that were set free by his work’s existence.

6 this is the other component to my general dismissal of David Bowie – his imagistic bullshit is something that I find annoying enough that I can’t get around to actually hear the music a lot of the time.

So thanks, David Bowie. Thanks for being Jamie Stewart’s7 first concert (on the Glass Spider tour, no less. It’s a miracle he continued to listen to music at all). Thanks for making one of Michael Gira’s favorite records. Thanks for producing some great Iggy Pop records (the first ones I heard). Thanks for covering “Roadrunner” (which was the first time I heard it). Thanks for working with Brian Eno (which was the way I first heard him) Thanks, indirectly, for Jarvis Cocker, for Trent Reznor, for Robert Smith, for a million people who saw you or heard you or heard about you and went on to make transformative, vivid art as a result. You were always weird as hell, you always did exactly whatever you wanted, and you always seemed pretty satisfied with your own reasons for doing so. There’s literally nothing else somebody can ask.

7 whose work’s discomfort at having no option but to be himself every single day is, to put a probably-too-fine and deeply personal point on it, holds an exactly congruent space in my late adolescense to the kid in 1977 that got deeply into David Bowie.

And, y’know, thanks for the song “Heroes”. I’m not hard-hearted enough to even pretend that isn’t a good enough reason to be sad that you’re dead.

The 73rd Annual Golden Globes

So right on the heels of the People’s Choice Awards arrive the Golden Globes, in which we consider far fewer television shows (yay!), and also far different movies. It’s also a largish awards show in terms of categories, but also in terms of actual existence – people tend to legitimately care about the Golden Globes in a way they don’t, necessarily, about the People’s Choice Awards.

Anyway, you guys know all that. The Golden Globes are one of the handful of “real” awards shows that people could be convinced mean anything, and that means this is the first major awards event of the year. So here we are to discuss how it should go down.

Here we go.

Best Miniseries or Television Film
I do wonder, really, if there’s going to come a point where “short-season anthology show” or something like that becomes its own category, because here we are again in the position of seeing the miniseries category covered by annually-released anthology-format shows. Wolf Hall was mostly dreary, and saved by a couple of good performances. American Crime doesn’t really even have the good performances. Flesh and Bone is much better than I thought it would be1. American Horror Story: Hotel is still American Horror Story. Fargo is revelatory in its genius.


1 I am not a man who thinks to himself “boy I wish there were more televisual entertainments about ballet”

Best Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or Television Film
So Downton Abbey is coming to an end, right? That’s kind of sad that Joanne Froggat shouldn’t win the Golden Globe this year. Poor Joanne Froggat. Maura Tierney is a pretty good actress, but The Affair was leaden and hard to get through. Regina King is very enjoyable in American Crime, but Judith Light is better in Transparent. And Uzo Aduba was better still.


Best Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or Television Film
Alan Cumming is still fine on The Good Wife, but really he’s not better than fine. Tobias Menzies2 is super-dull on Outlander, just like everything else on Outlander, so good for him I guess? Ben Mendelsohn was good on Bloodlines, but as much as I wanted Bloodlines to be better than it was, it never really got there. Damian Lewis is hands-down the reason to watch Wolf Hall, and up until the end of the year he would’ve been the winner here. But Christian Slater is so good in Mr. Robot. I keep having to say that, and it keeps being true, but that doesnt’ get any less weird.


2 whose last name sounds like “menses” which is absolutely not funny at all, because I am a grownup who would not laugh at anyone’s last name ever. Jokes about “menses” are never funny, period.

Best Actress in a Miniseries or Television Film
This is the first year (I think) since it started that only one actress from American Horror Story has been nominated here. Usually awards shows go nuts for that kind of thing. In any event, Lady Gaga is not the winner here. And, as good as Flesh and Bone is, I don’t really see anything special in Sarah Hay’s admittedly-adequate performance. Felicity Huffman is excellent in American Crime3, but not quite good enough. Kirsten Dunst is very good in Fargo, but all of Fargo is very good. Queen Latifah is very good in  Bessie, and very little else about Bessie is any good at all. That seems to make Queen Latifah’s performance more impressive.


3 she is often at her best when the material is operatic, which is a weird thing to think, because she’s generally not an overstated sort of actor.

Best Actor in a Miniseries or Television Film
Mark Rylance is very much not the best part of Wolf Hall, and is, in fact, the reason why Wolf Hall isn’t better, so I’m not entirely sure why he’s nominated in the first place (did somebody lose a bet or something?). Oscar Isaac was as reliably good in Show Me a Hero as he is in everything else, but not especially so. I love Luther, and I love Idris Elba as the titular Luther that I’m sad when he continues to do things that aren’t be Luther, but that’s also not really an acting feat. David Oyelowo was the best part of the pretty-bad Nightingale, and that’s impressive, but it wasn’t really enough. Patrick Wilson was very, very good in Fargo. Also it must be noted for history’s sake that this category came down to “the guy from Red Tails,” “the guy from Sucker Punch,” “the guy from Watchmen,” “the guy from Buffalo Soldiers” and, uh…Mark Rylance. It’s a real confluence of veterans of “highly-meant but lowly-regarded” films.


Best Actress in a Television Series – Musical or Comedy
Look, I liked Scream Queens just fine. And I wanted to like more of Jamie Lee Curtis’ performance therein, I really did. I like Jamie Lee Curtis. One of the only movies I’ve seen more than Halloween is A Fish Called Wanda. But she really didn’t do anything in Scream Queens. Julia Louis-Dreyfuss, as brilliant as she is, falls victim to the “you can’t get new awards for doing the old stuff” rule that I made up and continue to be the only one enforcing. Gina Rodriguez is pretty good on Jane the Virgin, but not so good thatI notice her above, say, the writing. I really like Grace and Frankie, and really like Lily Tomlin in Grace and Frankie, but I was awfully taken by Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, and really very impressed by Rachel Bloom/


Best Actor in a Television Series – Musical or Comedy
How the fuck did Rob Lowe get in there? That’s got to be a mistake. Holy smokes. Gael Garcia Bernal is fine in Mozart in the Jungle. As good as Master of None is, playing Dev isn’t exactly what you’d call a stretch for Aziz Ansari. Patrick Stewart continues to make the case for Patrick Stewart doing only comedies in his old age (Seriously. He’s so good at it.), and that’s pretty cool. But Jeffrey Tambor is so good. As good as you’ve heard and then some.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Jeffrey Tambor, Transparent

Best Actress in a Television Series – Drama
I just can’t spend any more words on how freakishly, unbelievably dull I find Outlander to be. I literally have no idea what people are responding to here. Like none. It is clearly not Caitriona Balfe’s glassy, dead-fish performance. Robin Wright is not good enough to salvage bad material on House of Cards. Viola Davis is as good as she needs to be on How to Get Away With Murder, but is still basically just doing her job. Eva Green is not traditionally good, per se, in Penny Dreadful, and in prior years has been clearly having the most fun. But really, Taraji P. Henson has given us all a gift4, and we should all be thankful.


4 fairly certain I also said this in the PCA’s writeup of earlier in the week. I apologize for the reptition.

Best Actor in a Television Series – Drama
I feel like there really should be an award for “reliably lead-ish, but unspectacular” anchor performances. It’s what Viola Davis would be up for in a perfect world, and it’s also what you’d give to, say, Liev Schreiber for Ray Donovan. But this is not that award, so sorry Liev. Wagner Moura is clearly knowledgeable about the person he’s playing, but that doesn’t really make for a good acting job, so much as a competent, workmanlike one. Rami Malek is good in Mr Robot, but probably not why people are watching. Jon Hamm and Bob Odenkirk are both playing guys who managed to get where they were by changing their name, identity, and relationship to their own personal history to get there, and both men have successfully figured out how to find new facets and aspects of their characters along the way. Since Jon Hamm just brough Don Draper in for a landing, we’ll give it to him.


Best Series – Musical or Comedy
Ah, Veep. Its only real crime is in being too consistently good. I mean, it’s so very good, but at this point, of course it is. Orange is the New Black has managed to find a number of surprising ways to tell its story, but the third season had some trouble holding together. Mozard in the Jungle doesn’t really belong here, and makes me think the Golden Globes people are being bribed by Amazon or something. I like Casual a whole great deal, and I look forward to its continued existence. I also think that Transparent is a big, important, grand idea of a thing that is executed very well and is helpful for the world. But this is the comedy category, and frankly, the show on this list that made me laugh the most was Silicon\ Valley.


Best Series – Drama
Well, at least this one’s easy. Outlander is still a snooze. Game of Thrones is still an overblown mess of spinning wheels and manufactured outrage. Narcos is competently handled, but not the kind of thing you spend a lot of time with. Empire is one great performance away from not even being awards-worthy. Mr Robot is so damn good.


Best Foreign Language Film
I have no idea! Punt!

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Well, the rightful loser is certainly Ugly American Ignorance, and its effect on the consumption of foreign films. You’d think that since I enjoy reading so much more than I enjoy watching movies that I’d be all over this shit, but you’d be wrong I guess? Man, I’m the worst.

Best Animated Feature Film
Inside Out is an emotional triumph of the animated form, becoming literally clinically useful in the understanding of juvenile emotional states, and presented in such a way as to appeal to just about everybody. Anomalisa is a weird movie about heartbroken puppets. Unfortunately for Inside Out, I ride for Charlie Kauffman like almost no other screenwriter.


Best Original Song
I really hate this category.”One Kind of Love” is bog-standard late-period Brian Wilson, which is to say that it’s kind of dull and not really worth anyone’s time. “Simple Song #3” certainly lives up to its Elliott-Smith-esque naming convention, and also isn’t very good. “Love Me Like You Do” is as good as Ellie Goulding songs get, I guess (it’s also as good as Tove Lo songs get, for the most part), but that’s kind of damning with faint praise. “See You Again” was clearly an emotionally-important part of a film that carries the emotional weight of the death of affable Paul Walker, but, really, again, it’s still not actually a good song. “Writing’s on the Wall” is a particularly bad Bond song (this is saying something), but it turns out that a couple of weeks ago we found out that Spectre had a much better title song, so I’m giving it to that.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Radiohead, “Spectre”

Best Original Score
Well, it’s kind of a big deal that Ennio Morricone scored The Hateful Eight, but it’s also….not great? Morricone’s scores are definitely a big deal sort of thing, but he’s also pretty much doing what he’s always done, and while that’s pretty cool, it’s also only news because he’s a million years old and doesn’t really do scores anymore. It’s not a particularly good one. Alexandre Desplat doesn’t have the advantage of coming out of semi-retirement or being a million years old, and he’s still pretty much doing what he always does with The Danish Girl. Daniel Pemberton wrote a movie-score-by-numbers for Steve Jobs, and it does its job, but doesn’t do anything of its own. Carter Burwell’s score for Carol is a thing to behold, it’s really great, and it only doesn’t deserve the win because of how good Ryuichi Sakamoto and Alva Noto’s score for The Revenant is.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Ryuichi Sakamoto and Alva Noto, The Revenant

Best Screenplay
Quentin Tarantino, as screenwriter, is a hard thing to quantify. His scripts are, generally, not so good when applied to other directors, because his writing and directing processes are pretty clearly tied together, and that makes it pretty hard to evaluate. All of which is to say: probably not deserving of the Golden Globe. Tom McCarthy made magic fifteen years ago with The Station Agent, and hasn’t really gotten there again since, but co-writing with Josh Singer, a storied Law & Order vet, probably wasn’t the way to to go, at least in terms of award-winning-ness (Spotlight is otherwise fine). Charles Randolph and Adam McKay do a good job of expressing the outrage of The Big Short, but it doesn’t have more than the one note. Emma Donoghue adapted her own Room, which means it has the exact same problem as the book: the tone and effectiveness of the first half is phenomenal, and then it all sort of drifts away when (Spoiler Alert) they get out of the room. Aaron Sorking low-key wrote a goddamn play, and it was the most effective use of the cast and plot available, which is what you’re asking out of a screenplay. And I don’t even like Steve Jobs.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Aaron Sorkin, Steve Jobs

Best Director
I must confess that when I think of “impressive solutions to directing challenges” I tend to lean more toward movies that manage to create humanity within difficult environs, rather than “tiny talky piece where two good actors are talking to each other”. That is to say: Carol is good, but I don’t think the direction is particularly impressive, no matter how much I like Todd Haynes. Same goes for Spotlight5, really. The Revenant and The Martian both did great jobs of incorporating the environment of the story into the people part of the story (it’s much more important in The Martian and The Revenant than it is in Carol or Spotlight), but Mad Max: Fury Road really had the best direction of just about anything all year.


5 there’s also the further problem of subject matter. Spotlight carries a lot of weight because it’s reasonably-well-executed and impossible to not be empathic toward, which makes it hard to say “well, your Catholic child abuse drama had a script that was kind of on-the-nose and workmanlike directing”, even though that’s 100% the case.

Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture
Man, this category is the snooze-inducingest category of them all. It’s also, so far, the easiest in which to pick a winner. Jane Fonda does what Jane Fonda does in Youth. Helen Mirren and Kate Winslet are in their usual prestige-piece/biopic modes6, which is good and effective, but not exactly new. Jennifer Jason Leigh is at least bringing something interesting to Hateful Eight, but Alicia Vikander’s performance in Ex Machina literally made her career. So it’s that one. The career-making one.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Alicia Vikander, Ex-Machina

6 that is to say the modes they’re in in prestige pieces/biopics, not that either of them doesn’t have other modes – I actually quite like both of them when they’re doing things that aren’t prestige pieces/biopics.

Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture
OH GOD IT’S MORE MARK RYLANCE WHY IS THIS HAPPENING. Mark Rylance is becoming the J. Cole of acting awards. Go away Mark Rylance. Michael Shannon is predictably intense in 99 Homes. Paul Dano is predictably Paul Dano (although, admittedly, a pretty good version of Paul Dano) in Love & Mercy. Sylvester Stallone deserves 100% credit for not sleeping through yet another performance as Rocky Balboa, and delivering one of the best and most nuanced versions of that character. But Idris Elba was better in Beasts of No Nation.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Idris Elba, Beasts of No Nation

Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy
I feel like Joy is the officially the tipping point for the David O. Russell/Jennifer Lawrence collaboration machine, because I don’t think there’s even a way to like it in the first place, let alone give her a bunch of awards. Maggie Smith is fine in The Lady in the Van, but I genuinely have nothing else to say about it. Lily Tomlin is a national treasure, and one of the greatest comedic performers of this or any other time, but her performance in Grandma is not her best. No, this one comes, once again, to Trainwreck vs. Spy, and I believe I have made my feelings known on the matter.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Melissa McCarthy, Spy

Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy
Wait, is Infinitely Polar Bear actually a comedy? That seems…I mean, I guess it is? It certainly isn’t a musical. Anyway, I like Mark Ruffalo a lot, but this just isn’t the way to win a Golden Globe. Christian Bale continues to be a very good actor. Steve Carrell continues to be a surprisingly good actor. The Big Short continues to be a fine piece of work. In many other years I would be lavishing more praise upon it, even. For whatever reason it’s getting totally shut out this year. That reason is not Al Pacino in Danny Collins, and would probably not have been Al Pacino at any point in the last, say, thirty years. It is, however, Matt Damon in The Martian.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Matt Damon, The Martian

Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama
Both of the dramatic acting categories here are full of competent, well-executed performances by good actors. There’s not really anyone in this category who flat-out shouldn’t be here, necessarily. There’s just not a whole lot going on here that sets my toes a-tappin. I guess Brie Larson single-handedly enlivens the last half of Room, so it goes to her.


Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama
I am very much deeply not at all into The Revenant, for a whole bunch of reasons. So Leo’s out. Trumbo’s problems were not the cast, certainly, but I still don’t think Bryan Cranston was necessarily bringing that much to the table. Will Smith put on an accent and forgot to turn in the rest of his performance (TELL THE TRUTH) in Concussion. Michael Fassbender and Eddie Redmayne both brought a great deal of skill to portrayals of real-life poeple. Eddie Redmayne did a very good job, but Michael Fassbender found a way to do so with someone who was much more public, and much more familiar. That’s much more impressive.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs

Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy
OK So! Joy wasn’t very good. The Martian and The Big Short were very good. But really. Trainwreck and Spy again. And Trainwreck still didn’t stick its landing, while Spy did.


Best Motion Picture – Drama
Actually, Mad Max: Fury Road and The Martian in the Best Motion Picture categories makes it an obvious banner year for science fiction on the big screen. And while The Martian wasn’t the clear winner of its category, Mad Max: Fury Road, surrounded predominantly by prestige films (and the also very good Room), is the standout here.


And that does it for the Golden Globes! Tune in early next week for the best songs of the second half of the year, which post was delayed by two (particularly long) awards shows happening in one week, which requires a lot of legwork. The things I do for you people.

The 42nd People’s Choice Awards

Ah, the start of the year. Full of new horizons and resolutions and all sorts of fascinating new things, and also the kick-off of the year-reviewing clot of awards that happen right away, including the People’s Choice Awards! Every year they happen, with some selection of the people having exercised (possibly) some of their voting potential, and now we have a whole thing where we hand them a glass “flame” that is, more often than not, alarmingly vaginal.

And we hand one to everygoddamnbody. The People’s Choice Awards are nonsensically baroque, with more categories than can be reasonably expected to care about, and amorphous, splintering permutations within each. So join us for the first, and unquestionably longest, awards writeup of the year1.

1 NB: the Golden Globes are also this weekend, so that’ll be up later this week, and I still haven’t told you lost lambs about the best songs of the second half of 2015, so that’ll be up shortly after. IT IS A STRESSFUL TIME.

Onward to the rightful winners!

The Seriously Popular! Award
OK. It’s a long-established convention of “Wild Card”-type awards2 are generally sponsored. It’s existentially hilarious that this, the fakest award of a fake awards show, is also sponsored by the website for a fake newspaper, each of which is presenting itself as a real, earnest endeavor3.That said, most of these peopel appear to primarily be models. It’s a shame they couldn’t just say “popular models” and be done with it, a solution that would not only make this less of a sham, but would also eliminate 50%4 of the punctuation in the award name, which drives me up a wall. Anyway, I have to google to know the difference between Bella Thorne and Maddie Ziegler, Ruby Rose was an overhyped bit of fluff on Oranges: the New Black, and Kylie Jenner is proof that as much as people want to claim to hate the Jennerdashians, they’re still going to keep them in the public eye anyway. Cara Delevingne seems like a genuine weirdo, in some of the more interesting (if not endearing necessarily) ways, so she gets the award.


2 usually presented as some sort of “new faces” award, so that the award-granting body can acknowledge that there is a person, whom they did not nominate for other awards, that needs to be recognized here, or whom they did nominate for other awards that they couldn’t win and needed the person to show up anyway.
3 I mean, the website itself is, in fact, a website. So that makes it the most genuine expression here.
4 the dot in “.com” would still be there, the exclamation point wouldn’t need to be.

Favorite YouTube Star
So, I am an Old Person, and never do I feel more like an Old Person than when confronted with the cultural force that is YouTube stars. I do not know about these things! I find the willingness of (lots of) other people, most of whom are younger than me, to watch and/or listen to these people to be something of a source of confusion! In any event, I like Grace Helbig outside of her YouTube stuff, so I’m going to go with her and move on.


Favorite Video Game
So, the reason for weird-ass “periods of eligibility” that end, conspicuously, right before the holiday season is that the holiday season is going to be a sales boost enough for the things that came out then, and they won’t need the hit of the award5. What this means in this case is that there’s no Fallout 4. Of course, there’s also no Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, which makes this nothing but a hideous state of affairs. It is, at the very least, funny that Batman: Arkham Knight made it onto to the list, because it shows that the nominated body for the People’s Choice Awards are definitively not PC gamers. Anyhow.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Super Smash Brothers

5 I don’t know what kind of bump the People’s Choice Awards give a video game, precisely, but I assume it’s “some”, and also this applies more-or-less across all the early-in-the-year awards shows, all of which conveniently ignore the couple of months leading up to them to pick it up next year.

Favorite Mobile Game
Well, none of these games came out last year, so I guess in this case we’re awarding the “most-played” or whatever game of the year. Two of them are endless runners, one of which is a merchandising tie-in, so it’s not going to be Despicable Me: Minion Rush. Fruit Ninja is a game that I cannot understand why people spend more than, say, ninety seconds with at a time. Candy Crush Saga is the thirstiest thing I’ve ever put on (and then subsequently angrily deleted from) my phone. Plants vs. Zombies is ok, but it’s no Temple Run.


Favorite Social Media Star
If the YouTube category made me feel old, this one makes me feel like I’ve forgotten to put the onion on my belt.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Nash Grier, I guess?

Favorite Social Media Celebrity
Right.So. I am, as many of you know, not actually particularly involved with social media, and even less so when it comes to famous people. But I do know that Britney recently started managing her own instagram, and the result is every bit as “30something mother with no real hobbies” as anyone else’s, and that makes that the best of these, edging out Beyonce’s Instagram account, the former frontrunner for reasons.


Favorite Music Icon
Ah, a category that makes me feel young. Thank the lord. Obviously it’s not Madonna. It’s never Madonna. It’s also not for Prince, for reasons that are tricky to explain, and that I’m probably not going into here6. It’s also not Steven Tyler, who hasn’t made a record worth hearing in my lifetime (also for most of the decade preceding my lifetime). So Stevie or Sir Paul? Truly, this is my favorite question of the whole awards ceremony. I’m going with Stevie, though.


6 my relationship with Prince’s work is a wildly-vacillating thrill ride of a thing, complicated by his draconian stance on public use of his music, and his uh…problems…with domestic violence. .

Favorite Song
Boy oh boy. Years ago, when I first started writing about The Weeknd in this space, my prediction was not that he would grow into the lone beacon of tolerability in an execrable field of People’s Choice Awards, but here we are. “Bad Blood” is the worst song on 1989 to begin with, and Kendrick’s presence on it is hopefully some sort of exorcism of his awful ideas, because it sure is depressing. “See You Again” really does seem to rely heavily on having seen Furious 7, which I haven’t. Ellie Goulding’s song sounds like most other Ellie Goulding songs. Justin Bieber’s song barely has any identity in the first place. So here we are, back at The Weeknd. Man. What a world.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: The Weeknd, “I Can’t Feel My Face”

Favorite Album
If Abel was the savior of the last category, he’s the only real considerable option in this one. Meghan Trainor’s second record called Title7 isn’t as good as the first one. Drake has figured out what it is he does, and has settled down to the business of churning it out over and over again. Whatever band Fall Out Boy may have been ten years ago, they aren’t that anymore, and are now as aggressively terrible as they were made out to be the first time around. Imagine Dragons are somehow even worse.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: The Weeknd, Beauty Behind the Madness

7 that is to say, both of her records have the same title, and that title is Title. I find this to be kind of annoying.

Favorite R&B Artist
The surprising continued durability of the career of Ciara is really something to behold. Here she is, still being nominated for awards. What a world. Such a world, in fact, that I’m 100% positive that I’ve made that very observation before. Anyway. Let’s also just throw out Ne-Yo right now. It ain’t him either. Janet Jackson came back this year, and forced me to confront my complete inability to grasp the whole Janet Jackson thing – I don’t get it, and I don’t really know why I don’t get it, but it very deeply is not my thing8. And that brings us straight back to The Weeknd.


8 see also: D’Angelo, Al Jarreau, Hall & Oates

Favorite Hip-Hop Artist
I mean, discarding the obvious not-that-guy candidates (Wiz Khalifa, Big Sean), and leaving aside Nicki Minaj (for no reason other than she’s the #3 finisher in this one), the Drake vs. Kendrick question is really the hip-hop question of 2015. It’s not really a dichotomy – I’m sure they share a bunch of fans – but their approaches (as outlined in this excellent piece by Jeff Weiss) are something like opposites. Anyway, I’m pretty clearly on team Kendrick here.


Favorite Pop Artist
I’m pretty sure I will literally do a dance when I get to write about a pop music category of an awards show and Ed Sheeran isn’t in it. Like a literal dance. A Morris dance. Or something equally ceremonial. It’ll be great, is what I’m saying. I still have trouble remembering whether any given song is Demi Lovato or Selena Gomez, which puts them right out of contention on the grounds that if I can’t tell who you are, you can’t be the best. Kelly Clarkson is legitimately one of my all-time favorite pop stars. Taylor Swift is one of my right now current favorite pop stars.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Eh, Taylor Swift in this case. Kelly hasn’t actually done anything worth hearing in years, so she’s a little past the sell-by date for something like this.

Favorite Country Group
I might also dance when this category improve, but probably something more restrained. Like a Riverdance instead of a Morris dance. It comes down, like it always does, to the Zac Brown Band and Lady Antebellum. Again.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: The Zac Brown Band. Again.

Favorite Female Country Artist
True story: Reba McEntire’s Husbandager is Kelly Clarkson’s Husbandager’s father. Which is to say that this is going to be one unhappy post-PCA househould, because this one ain’t Reba. Nor is it perennial not-its Carrie Underwood or Miranda Lambert. I’m not opposed to Cassadee Pope, but I’m also an aforestated Kacey Musgraves fan, so that’ll have to be that.


Favorite Male Country Artist
Seriously. I’m going to start begging for some sort of break in the sameness here.
THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Literally anyone who isn’t one of these five gentlemen who can run up and take it. Seriously. Anybody. Ne-Yo. Anybody.

Favorite Breakout Artist
Fetty Wap is certainly someone to keep… eye on9. Halsey, Shawn Mendes and Tori Kelly are not. The Weeknd has been for some time.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Fetty Wap. I mean, I’m not sure what beyond “Trap Queen” we can expect out of him, but isn’t “Trap Queen” enough?

9 *rimshot*10
10 #sorrynotsorry11
11 #actuallykindofsorrythatwasmean12
12 see because Fetty Wap only has one eye13
13 I mean really it’s barely even a joke. There’s no reason to be proud of it. Or even to have written it at all.

Favorite Group
This category is my actual nightmare. Oh god.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Fetty Wap still. He’s not a group, but he can just stay on stage and do the driving dance thing he does in the “Trap Queen” video and keep any of these people off the stage. Oh god.

Favorite Female Artist
See above w/r/t Selena/Demi. See a whole bunch I’ve written previously w/r/t Madonna. I’ve not had a lot of reason to state my opinion of Lana Del Rey, but it’s this: I’d rather listen to a record made by Lester Del Rey14. The music section of the PCA’s is turning out to require very few actual judgment calls.


14 if I have stated my opinion of Lana Del Rey, I feel like it was also in the form of that joke. Ah, well.

Favorite Male Artist
Call it a late Christmas present, but I’m not going through all of these people again. Except this: fuck Ed Sheeran. That was for me.


Favorite New TV Drama
So many new tv dramas! So many of them are turgid, overwritten nonsense (TON). As a result, we can simply eliminate Blood & Oil, Quantico, Rosewood and The Player. We can also discard less overwrought, but still pretty bad, attempts in the form of Wicked City, Code Black and Blindspot. Limitless and Minority Report are better than tv shows based on movies would need to be while not actually being good. Streaming television gets its own category (about which more should be said later), so I can’t complain about the non-inclusion of Jessica Jones down here (just wait!). Luckily, I do like Supergirl.


Favorite New TV Comedy
This category isn’t nearly as bad as the drama category15. Truth be Told, Life in Pieces and Dr. Ken aren’t terribly worth note, although they’re not exactly unwatchable. Grandfathered and The Grinder aren’t much better, although they’re more high-profile, and benefit from generally-better casts. Crazy-Ex Girlfriend is goddamned delightful, even despite its high concept. Scream Queens was mostly a mess16, but featured one of the finest comedic performances of the year by Glen Powell. I have to say, however, that The Muppets did more for me than any of the rest of these, even if that puts me in a pretty extreme minority. This is why I’m here to tell you people these things.


15 I think I’ve always been pretty open about preferring funny television to serious television to begin with.
16 Murphy/Falchuck tv shows are basically their own genre at this point.

Favorite Animated TV Show
On the one hand, I can’t believe it’s Bob’s Burgers again. On the other hand, the day there’s an animated show better than Bob’s Burgers will be a day when there’s either an animated show so good it defies logic, or a very sad day when something terrible has happened to Bob’s Burgers.


Favorite Actress in a New TV Show
Priyanka Chopra and The Great MGH are the only people in this category not nominated for Scream Queens. Which is something, I guess. Too bad each of them is in a show that’s just terminally dull. So which Scream Queens lady is it? I’m inclined to say Emma Roberts, but she didn’t actually do that much. I’m less inclined to say Jamie Lee Curtis, who was clearly enjoying herself, but also didn’t have much to do. I wasn’t prepared to be at all inclined to say Lea Michele, but sometimes these things are surprising.


Favorite Actor in a New TV Series
The primacy that the PCA’s give to new shows is kind of annoying (in that it creates a need to write about something like six thousand categories when two would do), and also not really a second thing now that I think about it. It’s just annoying. Stop doing it. Thank you. Compounding this insult is the fact that Glen Powell, clearly the best part of Scream Queens, isn’t even nominated. Give me a break.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Glen Powell, obviously

Favorite Streaming Series
Ah, see, here’s where the most violence is done to rightful award-winners. There’s nothing wrong with Transparent or Orange is the New Black. There’s not a terrible amount wrong with The Mindy Project. There’s something dreadfully wrong with House of Cards at this point, but I suppose that happens as a serious enters its dotage. There is really, actually nothing wrong with The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, which I love with an undimmed fire, second only to the actual rightful winner (and once again it’s a write-in candidate. Step it up PCA nominators), Jessica Jones.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Jessica Jones. But The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt should get, like, a runner-up trophy or something. Because it really is fantastic.

Favorite Late Night Talk Show Host
Stephen Colbert is the outright funniest, Conan has the best show. James Corden has the best bandleader, Jimmy Fallon does the best YouTube videos, Jimmy Kimmel is probably the best actual host. So let’s go with that one, I guess?

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Jimmy Kimmel, I guess?

Favorite Daytime TV Hosting Team
If it’s hard for me to pick a late night host, it’s even harder for me to pick a daytime tv host. But I kind of like Michael Strahan? I liked him on Blackish anyway.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Live With Kelly and Michael

Favorite Daytime TV Host
I mean, in this case we have Dr. Oz and Dr. Phil, who both give harmeful medical advice, Rachael Ray, who gives highly-branded and often highly-suspect cooking advice, Steve Harvey, who thoughts on almost anything are pretty suspect, and Ellen Degeneres who, if kind of dull, is at least not actively hurting the world. So. There you have it.


Favorite TV Competition Show
America’s Got Talent seems, every year, like it will finally wear out its freak show existence, and every year it not only happens, but people seem to give a shit about any round but the first. What a world. Dancing With the Stars remains a sideshow act. The Voice is less convoluted, but is still more interesting for one of its judges inseminating another than for anything that actually happens on the show. American Ninja Warrior is surprisingly entertaining. Masterchef itself is now full of the pre-branded, heavily-”typed” contestants that eventually make ever reality show dull15, but Masterchef Junior remains a delight, so I guess it goes to the entire Masterchef umbrella.


15 you know the ones. The ones that go on and on about their “thing”. They usually come pre-loaded with a catchphrase, they’re usually wearing at least one dumb, obvious accent piece. Not every competition reality show has them all the time, but all of the bad ones do. And they’re nearly every contestant on the non-competition-type reality shows.

Favorite Sci-Fi/Fantasy TV Actress
I am unable to properly judge Caitriona Balfe’s performance on Outlander because I can’t make it more than two minutes into an episode without falling asleep instantly. I am unable to properly judge Lady Gaga’s performance on American Horror Story because it’s completely insane. I’m more than able to judge Emilia Clarke’s performance on Game of Thrones (it’s fine). Ginnifer Goodwin is less fine, but still perfectly adequate. I quite liked Jennifer Morrison these last couple of years on Once Upon a Time. Unfortunately for her, however, the PCA’s prove themselves to not be consistent, and David Tennant is nominated in the next category. So this one is split between Krysten Ritter and Rachael Taylor16

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Krysten Ritter and kind of Rachael Taylor

16 I think Rachael Taylor actually is a better actress or whatever, but the show is Krysten Ritter’s, and she really is great.

Favorite Sci-Fi/Fantasy TV Actor
Ian Somerhalder, Jensen Ackles, Misha Collins and Sam Heughan have, across their three shows (The Vampire Diaries, Supernatural and Outlander, respectively) the same basic job: be handsome (and occasionally funny) and lead-actor-y. It’s boring. David Tennant, on the other hand, had to be a very specific kind of evil person, across a huge range of emotional colors, and, as a bonus, was also goddamned terrifying at it. So really, this was not a contest.


Favorite Cable TV Sci-Fi/Fantasy Show
Game of Thrones turned into a lurid controversy machine with no real hope of remembering how to tell a story while pretending it was something else. Outlander is so boring I can hardly stand it. Teen Wolf has long since squandered whatever charm it might have had (I never got it, but a lot of people whose opinions I respect did). The Walking Dead has settled into itself, although the last season made a lot of people angry (I never liked it, and only ever watch a little bit of it every year to keep up with it for things like this). American Horror Story remains a lurid would-be controversy machine with no real hope of telling a story, and that’s exactly what it set out to do. See why intentions are important?

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: American Horror Story

Favorite Network TV Sci-Fi/Fantasty Show
I can’t believe this Beauty and the Beast reboot is still on. I can’t believe it. Supernatural is still around, and still consistent. Arrow sure seemed to impress some people, I guess. The Vampire Diaries is better than it ought to be, certainly. Once Upon a Time is alright, I guess.


Favorite TV Crime Drama Actress
It’s the genrification that does it, really. On the one hand, it means that, say, Pauley Perette isn’t competing with Melissa Benoist (who should’ve been nominated back there in the fantasy/sci-fi business, even though she shouldn’t have won), on the other hand, it meanst here’s too many damn categories. Anyway, Elementary remains, somehow, a pretty good show, so it’s Lucy Liu here and we’re moving on.


Favorite TV Crime Drama Actor
You know what makes me feel old? That it’s been twelve years since Jim Caviezel played Jesus. Twelve years! I guess time marches inexorably forward. Which means that eventually none of these people, or their performances, will be remembered, which means I don’t have to figure out which one of them is the “best.” Thankfully.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: The eventual heat death of the universe

Favorite TV Crime Drama
I hear Person of Interest is interesting. I’ve never seen it borne out, but people do like it. Castle is pretty obviously coasting on the presence of Nathan Fillion. Criminal Minds and NCIS have enough old people on board to keep them buoyant, officially. I don’t like Bones, but it’s the best of these here.


Favorite Premium Cable TV Actress
So, like, the genre stuff I don’t mind. It’s the HBO/Streaming/Cable/Network divisons that I’m annoyed with, at least among actors. I get why you’d separate them out as series – an HBO drama isn’t doing (and doesn’t have to do) the same thing that a network drama is doing. But the acting job is still the acting job, and can pretty much be compared across platforms. None of these, I realize, would be as much of an issue were I not the person writing about every single damn last one of these categories.


Favorite Premium Cable TV Actor
I mean, lots of people do this stuff, I guess, so I’m certainly not the only one at all. It just seems unreasonable that there are so many categories. I mean, the thing runs on CBS, the one station that still gets ratings, you wouldn’t think they’d be so thirsty for all this. I guess that is, however, why there’s so much nomination from outside their corporate purview? I dunno. I just think that some of thise subdivision is completely unnecessary.


Favorite Premium Cable TV Show
And they don’t even get them all! For example: Silicon Valley is not in this category. That seems bad and wrong. I understand that the real need here is to try to include as many people as possible so you can fill the seats with recognizable people from all sorts of disciplines, but really it just seems like one of those things wher eeveryone that participates gets a damn ribbon. Or, as it were, a disturbingly-vaginal glass piece.


Favorite Cable TV Actress
Hilary Duff is presumably17nominated here for Younger, which also has Miriam Shor, which is super weird when the only other thing you’ve seen MIriam Shor in is Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Anyway, it’s not Hilary Duff. Ahsley Benson, Lucy Hale and Shay Mitchell are all here for Pretty Little Liars, which, coupled with the similar triple-up on Scream Queens awhile back makes me think the nominators don’t actually watch very much television. Anyway, Rizolli & Isles never really did it for me, but I like Sasha Alexander.


17 the website doesn’t tell us, and so I’m left to sort-of assume? That is also a gripe.

Favorite Cable TV Actor
Also no differentiation is made between guest actors, supporting actors and leading actors! It’s all higgledy-piggledy! How do you judge what Kevin Hart did against what Christian Slater did? Actually, that one’s easy. Mr. Robot is super-great.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Christian Slater (somewhat unbelievably)

Favorite Cable TV Drama
Good lord. This category is as bad as the “music group” one six dozen categories ago. Uh…I guess Rizzoli and Isles is done or whatever, right? And I, as stated, like Sasha Alexander, who certainly plays either Rizzoli or Isles.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Rizzoli & Isles. Google tells me that Sasha Alexander plays Isles. So. There you have it.

Favorite Cable TV Comedy
It comes to a point, really, where there are simply more nominees than there are things to say about them. This is one of those categories. I don’t have a funny or instructive way to say that “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is not only the best of this lot, but the only one that’s actually any good in the first place.” So I’ll just say that.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia

Favorite Dramatic TV Actress
AND THEN, when we’re finally through the morass of nominees in genre- and format-bound categories, we find ourselves with the pretension that no other type of tv is the one true tv. I’m saying this isn’t “network” dramatic tv actress. That’s what I’m saying. Anyway. Ellen Pompeo is pretty far out of her league here. So, for that matter, Sara Ramirez. So that about does it for the inexplicably-still-extant Grey’s Anatomy. Kerry Washington is playing the Procedural Lead Role, a role that I have very little love for, even when it isn’t a crime procedural specifically. Viola Davis is doing something a little different, but not different enough to win. Taraji P. Henson, however, is doing the world a service. A damn service.


Favorite Dramatic TV Actor
Every year I find out that there are so many shows I assumed had withered and died that are still here and producing episodes! For example: did you know that not only is Chicago Fire not only still running, but that as recently as right now one of its actors (Taylor Kinney, specifically) was nominated for a People’s Choice Award! What a world. My “nope it’s not somebody from Grey’s Anatomy” judgment still holds true, which eliminates Jesse Williams and Justin Chambers. I’m not super into Terrence Howard, and I’m certainly not going to start now. On the other hand, if Kerry Washington shouldn’t win for Scandal, there’s no goddamn way Scott Foley is somehow eligible. This is a real problem.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: A blank television screen? This blog entry? I dunno. Just hand a piece of vaginaglass to somebody already.

Favorite Network TV Drama
OK, I really am curious about who is nominated Gotham in this category. If it was you, you know how to find me. Holy smokes. Anyway, The Limping Somehow-Not-Corpse of Grey’s Anatomy was at least hugely popular at one point, so that makes more sense. How to Get Away With Murder is fine. Scandal is better, if also a little more standard. Empire is great.


Favorite Comedic TV Actress
So here’s something surprisng that happened in the previous calendar year: I have had a complete 180 degree turnaround on New Girl. At this time even last year I was hostile towards it, and then I ended up watching some more of it, it clicked, and now I love it to bits and little pieces. That sentence is 100% true. Which is a good thing because that means Zooey Deschanel earns this award, and otherwise I would be real, real stuck, because I like most of these other actresses, but they are on tv shows that I cannot stand.


Favorite Comedic TV Actor
Same deal as the actresses, except that I never had to come around on Andy Samberg because he never left my heart.


Favorite Network TV Comedy
I mean, I know I just went through the whole business about New Girl and how now I love it and think it’s great, but it still isn’t my favorite network tv comedy, and this is now a bad category. It’s worlds better than 2 Broke Girls and The Big Bang Theory. It’s considerably better, also, than Mike & Molly and The Shell of Modern Family. It’s not as good as Brooklyn Nine Nine, which is still my favorite show on television, but given its most-improved status, I’ll let it take home the vagina statuette.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: New Girl (but secretly Brooklyn Nine Nine)

Favorite TV Show
Given all the shows they nominated in the other categories, this is where we land up? Two cable hyperviolence soap operas, one terrible sitcom, one past-its-prime primetime soap opera, and The Voice? Come on, people. C’est ridicule.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Nearly any other tv show that has been nominated in nearly any category! Except 2 Broke Girls. and Pretty Little LIars. And Outlander. And probably some other ones also. Ugh. You know what? This award should just also go to Brooklyn Nine Nine. It’s my favorite tv show anyway.

Favorite Thriller Movie
We are finally out of the tv categories! This is such a good turn of events that I’m inclined to be charitable to almost anything! And then, of course, we run smack into this fucking mess. Two – two – of these movies I know primarily from having episodes of the bad-movie podcast The Flophouse devoted to them (that said, I’ll sort of ride for Unfriended for at least doing something interesting). Taken 3 and Insidious 3 are both sequels of sequels. Poltergeist is an execrable remake. I guess it’s time to call in another write-in candidate.


Favorite Family Movie
Home was not as terrible as I thought it would be! It still also wasn’t as good as Inside Out!


Favorite Dramatic Movie Actress
Blake Lively failed to convince me of the horror of having to look like Blake Lively for all of eternity. Kate Winslet failed to convince me that she was any kind of tyrannical authoritarian. Dakota Johnson failed to convince me that she was a nymphette willing entering into a deeply fucked-up sex contract with a total weirdo. Jennifer Lopez almost managed to convince me that the psycho dude she was bangin’ was a scary murderer. Rachel McAdams was convincing as a person who believes that priests molesting people is wrong.


Favorite Dramatic Movie Actor
What happened to Will Smith? TELL THE TRUTH. He seems to be incapable of making a good movie. He’s also the only person in this goddamn category not nominated for his smirk. George Clooney and Johnny Depp are eliminated for only managing to do whatever it is they always do. Channing Tatum remains pretty good at this whole general Magic Mike thing, but I don’t think that’s really award-worthy. Luckily Matt Damon was awfully good in The Martian.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Matt Damon, The Martian

Favorite Dramatic Movie
What the actual fuck is Fifty Shades of Grey, a movie that basically no one at all ever liked, doing here? WHO IS DOING THIS? Ahem. It certainly does make The Age of Adeline look better by comparison. Although, really, almost anything would. The Longest Ride got its attention for its star’s pedigree and its Nicholas Sparks origin, neither of which makes for anything like a compelling movie in and of themselves. So Straight Outta Compton or The Martian? I’m gonna go with the make-em-up.


Favorite Comedic Movie Actress
Ah, Pitch Perfect 2. Let’s just eliminate everyone that was in Pitch Perfect 2 straightaway, shall we? That’s much better. Let’s also throw Sofia Vergara out of there, because honestly. What we’re left with is Melissa McCarthy in Spy vs. Amy Schumer in Trainwreck. and this is, like the hip-hop category, something of a test of character. I’m in the Spy camp.


Favorite Comedic Movie Actor
Ugh. Robert DeNiro is still a person I am, by dint of my choice to do these things, forced to confront the work of. And there was an above-average amount of it this year! And also it makes me profoundly depressed! I’m also sort of starting to feel that way about Jack Black, who apparently borrowed Will Smith’s script-reading abilities and focused them toward “comedy.” Kevin Hart is a funny guy, certainly, but really, he’s no Will Ferrell.


Favorite Comedic Movie
I talked about my feelings w/r/t Spy vs. Trainwreck a couple of entries ago, and adding The Duff, Ted 2 and the aforediscarded Pitch Perfect 2 doesn’t change them.


Favorite Animated Movie Voice
Well, as with her singing, I also pretty much never know when Selena Gomez is talking, so that’s that right out. Ditto Sandra Bullock. Andy Samberg and Amy Poehler are two of the funniest people in the world, but actually I have a different criterion here. One of the things I liked about Home was that Rihanna wasn’t doing a “cartoon” voice. It was much easier to listen to, and I think it deserves approbation.


Favorite Action Movie Actress
I am not with the general consensus that we need to keep finding reasons to like the Fast & Furious movies. It is, therefore, not actually Michelle Rodriguez. It is also not, for completely different bad-franchise-related reasons, not Shailene Woodley. Emily Blunt is great, but Sicario isn’t. Scarlett Johansson is doing her best, bless her heart. Charlize Theron in Mad Max is great.


Favorite Action Movie Actor
Chris Pratt now. Chris Pratt forever.


Favorite Action Movie
Oooooookay. It’s not a -gent movie, it’s not a maze runner movie. Those are bad movies, not good movies. It’s also not Furious 7. It’s very sad that Paul Walker died. That does not make these better movies. It just doesn’t. Avengers: Age of Ultron was too long, too overstuffed and too mythology-obsessed. Jurassic World was essentially just blatant fanservice with very little value beyond that. But, y’know, that’s all I really wanted it to be in the first place.


Favorite Movie Actress
Anne Hathaway made the worst movie of her career this year, so naturally she’s nominated here. These people are awful. Sandra Bullock didn’t do quite so badly, she just made a standard-issue bad movie. Meryl Streep also made a pretty gosh-awful movie last year (RIcky and the Flash), but also an ok one, so she did alright in the balance. Scarlett Johansson did alright in an ok movie. Melissa McCarthy made a great movie.


Favorite Movie Actor
I still have all the same question I did before about Johnny Depp, and the same one question (TELL THE TRUTH!) about Will Smith. So they obviously aren’t winners here. In fact, I think I’ve also covered Channing Tatum. So the only thing left to do is say that Robert Downey Jr. has really only had the one role for the last bunch of years and give it to Chris Pratt.


Favorite Movie
I mean, it’s probably not actually Jurassic World, but why let the truth get in the way of being done writing about this godforsaken awards show?


And that’s it! See you later in the week for one of the other super-long awards shows, The Golden Globes!