The 2016 Goodreads Awards

As this, the first month of 2017, draws to a close, so it is time to take one last look back, this time at books. Specifically the books that the folks at the list and opinion aggregation site Goodreads chose as the best ones. Goodreads is like a Yelp for books 1, only somehow more annoying. But, y’know, they put up a list of what people have chosen to be the best, which I find more instructive merely than best-sellers lists.

The problem with best-sellers lists is that they don’t necessarily reflect an honesty of opinion, but rather the mere spending of money. It, thus, tends to weight every purchase equally, which means books purchased for airplanes 2 or books purchased as gifts, or whatever. A vote of what the best book that someone read all year, on the other hand, does at least require that someone who is thinking about such things, even for a second, is the person doing the choosing.

The other advantage to talking about Goodreads is that there is a kind 3 of nigh-expertise. Certainly all of the users aren’t, necessarily, expert readers, but there is still a self-selection that means that instead of tracking one of the pitifully tiny book purchases made by a person over the course of the year, we’re getting the opinion of people who, at least taken as a unit, tend to read more, and consider more (if only for the few moments of voting). Thus is a more measured sort of list made.

Anyway, both lists have their points of interest, but I’m only doing this one this year. So there.


Liane Moriarty – Truly Madly Guilty

WHAT IT IS: A thriller about a terrible party, and the terrible things that these terrible people do at this terrible party. Salacious! Prurient! Juicy! Extraordinarily heavy-handed foreshadowing! Much scandal!

WHAT IT SAYS ABOUT US: Well, it says, at least on its face, that people are interested in the kind of twisty Australian suspense novel that Liane Moriarty writes. It also says, given that it’s here at the top of this list, where it was chosen for its putative quality, that people have some seriously fucked-up, sex-negative, retrograde opinions about what is and is not “scandalous,” and those people should be ashamed of themselves. Good lord.

Mystery & Thriller

Stephen King – End of Watch

WHAT IT IS: The end of a trilogy of Stephen King novels about a detective. It’s also King’s 55th novel (no, really). It has nothing to do with the David Ayer movie of a few years ago. It would probably make a pretty good movie with Michael Pena in it, though.

WHAT IT SAYS ABOUT US: That Stephen King’s name is super-recognizable, and that people like detective stories. Especially in the mystery category, I suppose, although at least this one doesn’t have any “twists” that are so fucking stupid they make you want to travel to Australia and demand answers, like the last one did.

Historical Fiction

Colson Whitehead – The Underground Railroad

WHAT IT IS: Easily Whitehead’s best book, it literalizes the underground railroad (i.e. folks get on a train that is, in fact, under the ground) while also not-at-all fantasizing-up the tale of human slavery in the American South. It’s also a cracking good story, with like, plot motion and stuff 4, which is just great. It won the National Book Award for fiction.

WHAT IT SAYS ABOUT US: That while there are a bunch of serious book people who would never cop to reading fantasy, if you dress it up in the guise of historical fiction 5, it’s fine.


John Tiffany, Jack Thorne, J.K. Rowling – Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

WHAT IT IS: the book adaptation of a play based on the world of Harry Potter (that’s why there’s three authors here). It’s another Harry Potter story, this one about time-turners, the sins of parents, and the inescapability of the past.

WHAT IT SAYS ABOUT US: One of the reasons that I’m supportive of things like the historical fiction category being used to smuggle in some of the better examples of the fiction of other genres is because the actual fantasy categories here tend to be dominated by this sort of titanic ongoing-series type of thing. Which, y’know, is fine, but also completely inevitable. Anyway, it says that people love Harry Potter, they really, really do.


Colleen Hoover – It Ends With Us

WHAT IT IS: Another Colleen Hoover novel. There are few things in this world that are more-or-less unanimous, but Colleen Hoover is one of them among romance fiction fans 6This one has the added quirk of dealing with domestic abuse, and the difficulty of making healthy decisions.

WHAT IT SAYS ABOUT US: I mean to say, without taking anything away from Ms. Hoover or her considerable achievements here, that she is a superstar of the genre, but this book is stratospherically popular for including (even in an intelligent, thoughtful way) the evergreen “Right Guy/Wrong Guy” dichotomy, and also for, y’know, being a fairly lurid romance novel. People do love the steamy stuff. And also having to choose.

Science Fiction

Pierce Brown – Morning Star

WHAT IT IS: The conclusion to Brown’s hugely successful Red Rising trilogy. Morning Star is a Star Wars-inflected 7 piece of space opera. A lot of fun, breezy, clearly well-regarded.

WHAT IT SAYS ABOUT US: That readers of sf can be united, be we the people that want to think about science, or people that want to think about how weird things are always going to be as they change, or about how the lasers go pew pew pew, by a well-constructed piece of adventuresome space opera.


Joe Hill – The Fireman

WHAT IT IS: Joe Hill’s fourth novel, and his fourth success – popularly and artistically. This one has some looser plotting, and spends a little more of its time getting to know the people involved. It’s about a plague, and it starts off global and narrows, over the course of its plot, down to the extremely local. It’s excellently rendered, but it really reminds me of something. And, I mean, I want to tell you whose work The Fireman most resembles, but the book pretty pointedly opens with a dedication to an agent who didn’t reveal his birth real last name for a decade, so it seems unsporting to say anything. It’s awfully good, though.

WHAT IT SAYS ABOUT US: At this point I think it’s fair to say that Mr. Hill has very much made his own name in the genre, and has his own fans that anticipate his books (I’m definitely one of them, but, y’know, I like that other guy I’m not mentioning also), and he is quietly turning into one of the most consistent producers of excellent scary books going. So I guess that’s what it is, even if maybe it started out as something else.


Amy Schumer – The Girl With the Lower Back Tattoo

WHAT IT IS: It’s Amy Schumer’s book.

WHAT IT SAYS ABOUT US: That we, collectively, as book-readers in society and otherwise, apparently cannot get enough of talking about Amy Schumer. Moving on.


Lin-Manuel Miranda, Jeremy McCarter – Hamilton: The Revolution

WHAT IT IS: A book about Hamilton, the musical that you probably know all the songs from even though you’ll probably never ever be able to get tickets to it.

WHAT IT SAYS ABOUT US: It says that Hamilton is such an enormous cultural phenomenon that we will read books about what it was like to be in the room where it happened, like, three years after it actually came to be. And we will love them and rate them highly on Goodreads.

Memoir & Autobiography

Paul Kalanithi – When Breath Becomes Air

WHAT IT IS: A neurosurgeon got cancer and died. He occupied his time spent otherwise dying of cancer by writing a book, whose marketing materials hinge almost entirely on “he used to be the doctor, and now he’s the patient!”, a dramatic story twist that hasn’t appeared anywhere else except for the countless movies, literally a half-dozen high profile memoirs, once a season on every single medical procedural,  and at least three episodes of Scrubs.

WHAT IT SAYS ABOUT US: Well, it’s here because people love when people die while they’re writing books 8. It is, for whatever, reason, a huge marketing hook. Also people love grief pornography because it allows them to performatively talk about how deep they feel about stuff and how very grateful they are for their lives without, y’know, actually having to engage in anything. Big business, grief pornography. Big business.

History & Biography

William Shatner (with David Fisher) – Leonard: My Fifty-Year Friendship with a Remarkable Man

WHAT IT IS: A recounting of the frenemieship between the Captain and Science Officer of the USS Enterprise, Leonard is pretty biographical, and isn’t much about Shatner at all, except where Shatner must, by context, insert his own stuff in there so you understand what’s going on. Theirs is one of the more interesting partnerships 9, and Shatner has an impressive memory, and an equally-impressive ability to tell their story without doing what we all probably assumed Shatner would do (i.e. what he did every week on the bridge of the Enterprise: override the protocols, take control, and yell and Walter Koenig).

WHAT IT SAYS ABOUT US: I mean, I think it was widely-read because there could have been an alternate version of the book that was about the tasty, tasty feuds that popped up periodically between the two men, but I think it lingers in the memory and good graces because it’s an effective, moving piece of writing about two guys who lived life in very close proximity to one another, working in the property that pretty much catalyzed berserk fandom, and, as a result, is awfully moving.

Science & Technology

Frans De Wall – Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?

WHAT IT IS: A popular science treatise on the different forms of cognition, and an interesting argument for thinking of “intelligence” not as somethign arranged on a linear spectrum, but rather as something in a sort of cloud, with various and sundry elements taking the forefront dependent on the species’ needs in their world. All, of course, saddled with an unnecessarily bomb-throwing title

WHY IT’S HERE: It is a genuinely fascinating and engrossing book, and, really, that’s quite a title. Like a lot of science books that get particularly popular, it really feeds directly into people’s love of saying “everything you think you know is wrong,” which propels the sort of revisionism that almost always wins in these categories, regardless of the quality of the book itself. At least in this case, the book is quite good.

Food & Cookbooks

Chrissy Teigen – Cravings

WHAT IT IS:.It’s a book of recipes that Chrissy Teigen put together in a book. So, like, a tiny portion of Chrissy Teigen’s – known famous person and television-appearer-onner – Instagram. It’s probably interspersed with pictures of Chrissy Teigen, so you’d also get another chunk of her Instagram along as a bonus.

WHY IT’S HERE: Because famous people cookbooks are, for whatever reason, something that people are nuts over, and, in this case, it’s likely that enough of the recipes work enough of the time that people think “oh that’s actually a good cookbook.”

Graphic Novels & Comics

Sarah Anderson – Adulthood is a Myth

WHAT IT IS: A repackaging of Sarah Anderson’s extremely popular webcomic, which became extremely popular, like many extremely popular webcomics, by pandering directly to its audience with subject matter like “how awesome is not doing stuff?” and “how much does it suck to do stuff?” and “sometimes when I try to do stuff, I can’t!” ad. inf. 10All with drawings that are cutesy without being cute, and stylized without having an actual style. It feels like a marketing experiment, is what I’m saying here.

WHY IT’S HERE: Because this kind of pandering is always, always rewarded in the “webcomics that get shared on facebook and/or tumblr all the time” demographic.


Amanda Lovelace – The Princess Saves Herself in This One

WHAT IT IS: A book of poetry about fairy-tale stuff. Sassy fairy-tale stuff. But also, like, feelings and whatnot. I don’t know guys, I really am not a poetry person.

WHAT IT SAYS ABOUT US: Poetry is a weirdly diffuse thing, and so the only real thing you can hope for is to write poetry that is good enough, with an easy-to-grab hook, and hope people remember it.

Debut Goodreads Author

Alwyn Hamilton – Rebel of the Sands

WHAT IT IS: I very nearly skipped this category, as I know neither the book nor the author, but I decided instead of just staying mum, I will say this: the synopsis available on Goodreads for this book is the most obnoxious thing I have read in a long time.

WHAT IT SAYS ABOUT US: It says that either we as a group are not bothered by super-annoying-sounding synopses, or that the book is much better than it sounds. Or, alternately, that this is all some kind of elaborate prank.

Young Adult Fiction

Ruta Sepetys – Salt to the Sea

WHAT IT IS: A piece of historical fiction about “the deadliest maritime disaster in history,” and also an examination of some under-examined effects that World War II had on the world in general, down to and including lost art.

WHAT IT SAYS ABOUT US: Well, historical fiction is big business, as are stories of people triumphing (in whatever ways) over Nazis. This has the added bonus appeal of being about a piece of history that is both unquestionably important and also little-remembered, which is sort of the cousin to the same sort of thirst for revisionism that also dominated in the science category above.

Young Adult Fantasy & Science Fiction

Sarah J. Maas – Court of Mist and Fury

WHAT IT IS: It’s a fine piece of magical high fantasy – lots of talk of destiny and the importance of making choices, and etc. Really, there’s nothing wrong with it except this: the villain rules something called “The Night Court,” which really makes it inevitable that he is pictured as Harry Anderson, which does some minor damage to the gravitas of the whole thing. Luckily, it’s a YA book, and kids have no idea who Harry Anderson is.

WHAT IT SAYS ABOUT US: That there’s always going to be room in the YA-market for stories about chosen ones and magic and stuff.

Middle Grade & Childrens

Rick Riordan – The Hidden Oracle

WHAT IT IS: This series is a sequel to the series that was a sequel to the series that brought the world Percy Jackson. This time it’s about Apollo, who is sent to Earth to live as a mortal because Zeus gets ticked off at him.

WHY IT’S HERE: Because Rick Riordan is as popular as he is consistent, and will probably occupy a space in this category for a long time to come (NB: he has already occupied a space in this category for a long time).

Picture Books

Mo Willems – The Thank You Book

WHAT IT IS: The twenty-fifth book in the Elephant & Piggie series. This one is about the importance of thanking people. All of the people. It is also by Mo Willems, and not by Mo Williams, the beleaguered, currently-contractually-nebulous NBA guard.

WHY IT’S HERE: Because twenty-four books in the Elephant & Piggie series were not enough, and also because children are simply not thanking enough people.

And there it is! All of the categories. Tune in next year, when probably there will be Rick Riordan again! And I will probably be just as happy that it’s him!

  1.  in a couple of senses, but primarily in the sense that everything ends up rated 3.5 stars, that if the people being reviewed are involved it’s probably completely absurd. 
  2.  I do wonder, actually, if the lifting of the ban on using e-readers during takeoff and landing on airplanes has had any kind of effect on airline book sales. This is the sort of thing I wonder about. 
  3.  I mean, a vague, not-really kind, but a kind nonetheless. 
  4.  generally my issue heretofore with Whitehead’s work is that it tends not to go much of anywhere, despite being glacially beautiful. 
  5.  Although NB with historical fiction in general the elements of it that lean toward “Fantasy” are pretty heavy, albeit “getting away with it” because there’s a veneer of “but I’m learning something about it.”  I will also state here that I don’t necessarily think there’s anything wrong with it – romance fiction, another highly-maligned genre that doesn’t deserve to be (my own interest in it notwithstanding – see below) – is also closely-bound with historical fiction, and the more mainstream examples tend to appear on lists exactly like this in exactly this space. All of which is to say that if there needs to be a historical fiction category to Trojan Horse the fantastic in here, then I suppose that’s how it is, although there’s also a perfectly good fantasy category in the Goodreads awards. 
  6.  a belief that I held informally prior to this – based basically on the fact that 1) I don’t know a lot about romance as a genre, and I know about her and 2) I have known a fair number of people who “don’t read romance….except Colleen Hoover”. This seems to be as confirmed as it can be by the fact that It Ends With Us has a 4.5 star rating through over 59,000 ratings, which is a lot. 
  7.  by frequent admission of Mr. Brown himself 
  8.  see: Larsson, Steig; Kafka, Franz; Austen, Jane; Bulgakov, Mikhail; and Frank, Anne 
  9.  they worked together very closely for a long time, and that always creates an interesting relationship, but also Leonard Nimoy had his own sort of personal battles with the nature of his fame, and, for a long time, with the role that brought it. 
  10.  I am coming down a little hard on Ms. Anderson here, which is unfair: there’s nothing particularly wrong with her webcomic in and of itself, and she certainly deserves her success, but there is an aspect to it that I find deeply frustrating, and the Graphic Novels & Comics part of this list is probably the part I have the most actually invested in, so here we are. A book of these comics is fine, just frustrating, and not the best comic book of the year by any means. 

The 2017 People’s Choice Awards

The People’s Choice Awards! Every year they happen, every year they have entirely too many categories, and every year I try to make sense of the whole general sort of mess for the benefit of the Train-reading public. This year is, of course, no different, with the added wrinkle that Joel McHale takes another step to being a darkest-timeline Seacrest by actually hosting the things.

So, y’know, milestones and all that. There are like fifteen thousand categories in this goddamned show, so let’s not waste any further time and let’s dive in!

Favorite Comedic Collaboration

This is pretty transparently an opportunity for CBS to give an award to their late-night host, James Corden, for generally being pretty CBSish and all that. They really worked hard to make Carpool Karaoke a thing that happened. I don’t begrudge James Corden his success, certainly, but I do begrudge his force-marketing, and also that it’s basically just Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee With Singing and More Stunt Casting. Nevertheless, the category was invented just for the thing, so who am I to stand in the way of the anointed one?

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Sigh. James Corden’s Carpool Karaoke with Adele

Favorite YouTube Star

Earlier in the year, PewDiePie made a dumb thing happen when he promised to delete his YouTube account when he got to a certain threshold of followers, got there, and deleted an un-watched alternate account. I guess that qualifies as a “joke,” but it certainly marks the first time in my life I’ve cared at all about what a “YouTube Star” was doing, because I am an old person.


Favorite Social Media Star

Last year I tried really hard, and ended up giving this to Nash Grier who, wouldn’t you know, is nominated here again this year. So, in the interest of not trying to figure out how to evaluate this category, congratulations Nash Grier!


Favorite Social Media Celebrity

While I suppose having a “best excuse for surreptitiously looking at boobs” category is an admirable goal. I’m opposed to the idea of it being reward though, which is why it goes to Stephen Amell.


Favorite Song

The People’s Choice Awards pretty much always makes this category into a terrible shame of a thing, a thing that makes you want to reconsider if you do, in fact, like music in the first place. Plus it has Drake in it, like, every year. This year, depressingly, he is also a part of the winning collaboration. 2016 was a terrible year, everybody.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Rihanna, “Work” (f Drake)

Favorite Album

I suppose by a lucky coincidence, this one is pretty unarguable. Thanks, Beyonce!

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Beyonce, Lemonade

Favorite R&B Artist

The Grammys will be an interesting time to talk about Frank Ocean, and what it means for the one of the most important figures in the last 12 months of R&B to not be present 1. The People’s Choice Awards, which mean pretty much nothing to pretty much anyone, are a much less interesting time to point out that 2016 was a real watershed year for great R&B records, and, like, one of them (two if you count Rihanna, which I’m on the fence about) is here. Truly, the People are presented a dearth from which to Choose.


Favorite Hip-Hop Artist

Well, throwing out G-Eazy (because he’s terrible) and DJ Khaled (because seriously people) we’re left with an ok category. Wiz Khalifa is outclassed, but that’s ok. Nominating Kanye is probably an attempt to get him to show up (which is unlikely to work I think)  2. That’s fine, because it probably should just go to Kendrick anyway.


Favorite Pop Artist

I could probably come up with a lot to say about Britney Spears and her Perpetual Comeback Machine. I mean, I’m not going to say it here because this awards show has sixty categories and, frankly, I don’t have the space to, but it remains something by which I am fascinated. In this case specifically it makes me wonder what the People’s Choice Awards 3 are getting out of helping to prop up this pop music charity case. Anyway, it’s Adele, of these folks, but then this category seems to make it a point to make Adele the only and obvious choice.


Favorite Country Group

Years ago, when I first started writing about awards shows, I included all of the country music awards shows, because there was this new crop of pop-country artists, some terrible, some ok, and it was fun to catalog their jockeying for position. Now, here, in the future where we live, the wearying, grinding repetition of the same seven people alternating out in categories such as this one (and two whole awards shows per year) has made that seem like a simpler, happier time, when it was possible to see Florida Georgia Line’s name and simply roll my eyes, not spontaneously vomit all over everything that happened to be in front of me.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Anyone who doesn’t have to think about this category at all is the winner.

Favorite Female Country Artist

See above, but also: say what you will about the People’s Choice Awards, they still ride for Reba. That’s pretty impressive, if, y’know, completely baffling.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: I mean, I don’t ride for Reba. So I’ll say Kelsey Ballerini.

Favorite Male Country Artist

Oh dear jesus there isn’t even a Reba in this category for texture. IT’S JUST THESE FIVE PEOPLE AGAIN.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Uhhh… Sam Hunt? Fine. Sam Hunt.

Favorite Breakout Artist

“Breakout” here being a weasel word so they don’t have to use the often-inaccurate “new”. I kind of like it, as uses of weasel words go. There’s no real way to quibble with it, except to point out that DNCE is composed of at least two people who have already “broken out” and that Niall Horan and Zayn are both literal former members of the well-and-truly-broken-out One Direction, which means the only two people for whom even the weasel distinction works are the Chainsmokers and Alessia Cara. Luckily two people is twice as many as we need for there to be one rightful winner, and double lucky because the Chainsmokers are awful. Although the last time I typed their name I accidentally typed “Chainsmoklers”, which is fun to say, which thereby brings the amount of entertainment they have provided me – albeit extremely tangentially – up to a positive amount. 


Favorite Group

I’m not saying that maybe the People’s Choice Awards should narrow it down to, like, three music categories and not bother with the rest of these, which are tedious and repetitive, but I am saying that it would free up a lot of their television time 4. It’s not like this field of candidates would be losing anything, y’know?

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: The eventual dissolution of this category, although also (as the dissolution thing seems unlikely) possibly Coldplay

Favorite Female Singer

I’ll tell you this about 2016: it sure did make categories like this one easier.


Favorite Male Singer

2016 in general didn’t help here, but it wasn’t hard anyway. So there’s that.


Favorite New TV Drama

CBS is, obviously, a television network, so obviously the new television categories explode in terms of number of things nominated. This is sort of what I mean when I talk about how the People’s Choice Awards exist transparently to prop up their corporate interests 5 – there are programs from other networks on there, sure, but that’s to maintain whatever precarious balance is necessary to keep the awards themselves juuuuust on the right side of “not entirely a shill”. Anyway, my vote goes to dumb, lovable, totally rad Timeless, because it’s totally rad.


Favorite New TV Comedy

Not quite as many of these! Technically speaking, my favorite new TV comedy is Atlanta, but this appears to be limited to network comedies. Luckily, only slightly less good than Atlanta is The Good Place 6. So that’s no problem, then.


Favorite Animated TV Show

What am I going to do when Bob’s Burgers is no longer in these to be nominated? I’m going to be sad, that’s what I’m going to do.


Favorite Actress in a New TV Series

Forking Kristen Bell, motherforkers!

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Actually Abigail Spencer, but she’s not nominated, so Kristen Bell.

Favorite Actor in a New TV Series

I actually don’t mind separating out new tv series from the longer-running ones. Most tv shows don’t get more than one season, for starters, and even among those that do, most of them do their best work at first. Furthermore, the whole thing is slanted toward the veteran, due to familiarity bias. So it’s nice to see them get their own categories, really. I mean, this is all kind of a moot point in this category, given that everybody in it has been in more than one previous high-profile series. But it’s a nice idea in theory.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: I don’t know, Damon Wayans? That seems alright.

Favorite Late Night Talk Show Host

Well, my favorite late night talk show host is Samantha Bee, so clearly we have a problem here.


Favorite Daytime Talk Show Hosting Team

Three of these are derived (down to their titles) from The View. That’s a pretty wide shadow for a show to cast. That said, I do actually prefer The Chew for my own preferences – food is better than talking, and Mario Batali and Michael Symon are better than television hosts that aren’t Mario Batali and Michael Symon 7. I mean, they even make up for the presence of Dr. Oz’s daughter.


Favorite Daytime TV Host

I am absolutely, in no way a part of the audience for daytime television. I mean, demographically, sure, but also as a person whose interests include none of the things that daytime television does for you, I’m pretty well out of the whole thing. I think I like Kelly Ripa though? I mean, she seems funny.


Favorite Competition TV Show

I want to be sad that we live in a world where the best of these options – the best of the things that are nominated for this fake dumb award – is MasterChef, and then I realized that we pretty much live in a world where MasterChef isn’t the best of these options, it’s probably the best of all the options, and then I am even sadder. Jesus take the wheel.


Favorite Sci-Fi/Fantasy TV Actress

No, but seriously – what do the people who choose the nominees for the People’s Choice Awards have against Abigail Spencer? THIS IS WORTHY OF A MUTINY. Or it would be if she were going to win anyway. I mean, Eleven is in this category, sooo……


Favorite Sci-Fi/Fantasy TV Actor

The People’s Choice Awards: where you can come to be reminded that Teen Wolf still exists. That seems insane, right? That that is still happening? My god. Apparently its most recent season was its final one. Six seasons. That’s insane. I don’t know how to process that. It’s also more interesting than any of these goddamned actors.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Jensen Ackles. It contravenes all of my usual arguments about these sorts of things to declare him so, but it’s the People’s Choice Awards, so sometimes we have to be less rigid than we might like.

Favorite Premium Series Actress

All streaming/pay cable shows are, to the people making the nomination choices for the People’s Choice Awards, the same, and they are all dumped off into this category 8. Ah, well, I suppose it makes this a bit easier.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Julia Louis-Dreyfuss

Favorite Premium Series Actor

So the website for the People’s Choice Awards does not list the work that got someone nominated, only that they are nominated. So if anyone can tell me what premium series Nick Jonas did last year, that’d be super. I’d appreciate that a lot. He still wouldn’t be the winner, but at least I’d know why he was here.


Favorite Premium Sci-Fi/Fantasy Series

Boy oh boy. Stranger Things or Luke Cage, that is the question. I’m going to say Stranger Things because it’s more of a stand-alone operation, and also because it was better. So there.


Favorite Premium Comedy Series

Guys, it’s still The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Now and (probably) forever.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

Favorite Premium Drama Series

I suppose if the series categories aren’t all jumbled up with no regard to genre, it softens the blow that the acting categories are. Also negative points for pretending 50 Cent’s tv show is something the people want to choose. Shame.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Let’s just say Orange is the New Black and move on with our lives, shall we?

Favorite Cable TV Actress

Every year the PCA’s happen, and every year a bunch of people from Pretty Little Liars are nominated 9, and every year I think “boy oh boy I am An Old, and I am not in touch with The Youths”. Ever thus. Anyway, I’m old, so I like The Americans.


Favorite Cable TV Actor

Also two people (Vera Farmiga in another category, Freddie Highmore this time) are nominated from Bates Motel, which, y’know, is also just not going to happen. Anyway, the genres are all mixed together for cable acting again, so it’s super weird to have to decide between the Mr. Robot performance and the Baskets performance. I mean theoretically hard. It’s not hard at all for me.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Zach Galifianakis

Favorite Cable TV Drama

I’m old, I like The Americans.


Favorite Cable TV Comedy

I wish there were more good comedies here (I mean, shout out to It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, but that’s about the only one) so that I could make it clear how emphatically I believe Atlanta should have won.


Favorite TV Crime Drama Actress

CBS is the network of the procedural, see, so they can get away with making a whole category of them. The thing that makes it interesting from this particular standpoint 10 is that what you’d want out of an actor in a “Crime Drama” is a sort of in-and-out consistency – their characters are going to progress slowly if at all, and basically you’re going to have to do the same thing week in and week out, since this is part of what the audience of a crime drama is looking for  11Basically, you could be Mariska Hargitay, here nominated for her work in the 9,000th season of Law & Order: SVU, with that, like, one character arc and a lot of concerned staring. Probably a lot of folded arms. This is much easier than what, say, Pauley Perette has to do, which is be the “quirky” one every week, which sounds like literal, actual hell. Sitcom acting is on often (and especially when it concerns CBS) a similar sort of “sameness” plane, but at least that also has the measurable effect of the jokes themselves, which add a dimension. In short: when I die I will, for my sins, be reincarnated as a performer in a crime drama.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Pauley Perette, because, really, that job is terrible.

Favorite TV Crime Drama Actor

The addendum to the above, then, is that the lead actor of crime dramas has a sort of out, as generally his thing is to be taciturn and hard-boiled. That’s at least a style of performance that’s easier to tap into something to construct 12. It also means that, while I know who all of these actors are, I couldn’t really tell you what they’re doing supra to the plot (i.e. the pitch hook that makes, say, Tom Selleck’s character distinct from Chris O’Donnell’s) that makes their performance itself a different thing. All of which is the long way of saying at least LL Cool J seems like he’s having the most fun.


Favorite Dramatic TV Actress

Speaking of being alarmed by things that are still on: Grey’s Anatomy. Huh. What a world. Anyway. I like all of these women in other things, and find all of their television shows to be dull, which is why this always goes to Taraji P. Henson because, while her show is no longer any better than How to Get Away With Murder, Scandal, or Quantico, at least she is good on it. I see no reason to abandon this practice here.


Favorite Dramatic TV Actor

Scott Foley’s Wikipedia Page (as of this writing) 13 says that he is “pending” this award, rather than nominated. So either Scott Foley has been told something we haven’t, or whoever runs his Wikipedia page is real real thirsty. Unfortunately for him, I think Taylor Kinney belongs it because he’s in, like, every Dick Wolf Chicago show. He’s like the Richard Belzer of the Dick Wolf Chicago series.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Taylor Kinney, by sheer volume

Favorite Comedic TV Actress

CBS’s vision of comedy depresses me greatly (although it is, admittedly, better than it was five or so years ago), so I’m picking the best actress and moving on very quickly.


Favorite Comedic TV Actor

CBS’s vision of comedy depresses me greatly (although it is, admittedly, better than it was five or so years ago), so I’m picking the best actor and moving on very quickly.


Favorite TV Crime Drama

I guess I can’t claim that CBS’s vision of crime dramas depresses me 14, since it’s, y’know, the vision in crime dramas. That doesn’t mean I have to enjoy spending any more time on it, given that I wrote a couple hundred words about it above.


Favorite Cable TV Sci-Fi/Fantasy

You know, for all that it’s generally pretty terrible and seasons start strong and then devolve into mush and then kind of come back toward the end, I really feel like American Horror Story is the choice here. If it were only the first three and last three episodes of each seasons, it would be an absolute slam dunk.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: American Horror Story

Favorite Network TV Sci-Fi/Fantasy

No, but seriously: where is Timeless? Where, for that matter, is The Exorcist? Supernatural has been on for fifty thousand years. It’s time to stop nominating, People’s Choice Choosers.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Timeless, goddammit. Nominating body be damned.

Favorite Network TV Drama

As the television categories draw to an end, so does my patience for the television categories. Seriously choosing people. Do better.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Quantico? Does that seem right? Quantico? I don’t even know anymore.

Favorite Network TV Comedy

Remember when I used to hate New Girl? I really did. I have no idea why I hated it so much. I quite like it now. Like, a great deal. Like, even the stuff I used to hate. I have no idea what changed. I’ve done a complete and total reversal on it. Weird.


Favorite TV Show

2 random-ass CBS shows, one basic-cable (sorry) zombie and two pay-streaming-whatever genre shows. If anything speaks to the incoherent, trying-to-please-everyone nature of the People’s Choice Awards, this category is it.


Favorite Movie Icon

This – the “lifetime achievement” sort of deal – is the kind of thing that’s usually assigned a winner by the nominating body, rather than just left up to a public vote. It seems kind of weird, since the rubric is going to be so all over the place from person to person that the thing you’re measuring is basically the approval rating of any given actor at any given time. In which case the answer is obviously Tom Hanks, but probably should actually be Denzel Washington.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Denzel Washington

Favorite Thriller Movie

I mean, sharks are pretty scary in a very tense way. That means that The Shallows, which is about sharks, is the clear winner here. Ipso facto.


Favorite Family Movie

From this point forward 15 each movie category includes at least one movie that is unwatchably terrible. So that’s fun! This category has a higher-than-average percentage of terrible movies, but it’s also the people’s choice awards, so it’s clear that the prospective audience has terrible taste in movies. Because everyone has terrible taste in movies.


Favorite Animated Movie Voice

I mean, I know it’s just sort of an accident of the way the category is named, but the fact that this category says “favorite animated movie voice” makes me think that it is in opposition to a category that would be called “Favorite Live Action Movie Voice” which, to be honest, would just go to whatever Andy Serkis was doing every year. Unless it wasn’t limited to voice-only performances, in which case it would just go to, like, Denzel Washington (again) and Deborah Ann Woll (shut up. Don’t judge me. Shut up.) Anyway.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER:  Jason Bateman, Zootopia

Favorite Dramatic Movie Actress

If you are good enough in a movie about sharks, you can get nominated for a People’s Choice Award. I mean, you won’t be the person who should win, but you can get nominated. Certainly it’s good to know where the bar is.


Favorite Dramatic Movie Actor

Ben Affleck really works, y’know? Dude makes a lot of movies. I don’t have anything else to say about this category.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Ben Affleck. Dude really works. Makes a lot of movies.

Favorite Comedic Movie Actress

Did you know that Rebel Wilson is currently suing a bunch of magazines for reporting that she lies all the time? It’s true! She’s doing so in her capacity as literally a lawyer, a thing that she also is. I should explore further the idea of filling the categories I don’t care about with trivia. That’s more fun that trying to figure out who should be the winner here, especially when there’s a Ghostbuster. Internet be damned, I really liked that movie.


Favorite Comedic Movie Actor

The only real question for this category is if it’s funnier to see Chris Hemsworth playing saxophone, or Chris Hemsworth listening to saxophone.


Favorite Action Movie Actress

I want to say Margot Robbie deserves this for being far and away the best part of the worst movie, but then I remember that even if she hadn’t been any part of that movie, it still would exist, and then I remember that it makes me angry. More on this later. So anyway. Zoe Saldana, once again the balm for a bad situation.


Favorite Action Movie Actor

There are people who don’t like Chris Evans, which I guess is fair. Nothing is for everyone. I am of the opinion that he does as good a job of embodying his superhero that anyone has ever done, and that I can’t imagine anyone else as Captain America. Here’s to Chris Evans!


Favorite Dramatic Movie

At the Golden Globes, I intimated that the movies were much harder to write about than the tv part. That was true then, and it’s especially true with this category, which is full of things striving to be good, but also that are terrible. Also, while tv gets a sci-fi/fantasy category, movies don’t, which means that the Eva Green hamfest 16 Miss Peregrine’s Home For I Can Barely Stay Awake While Typing This Title Oh My God is in the same category as Sully. Which is sort of existentially funny, given that clearly “Drama” is the dump category here meaning “not comedy or action.” Anyway.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: I don’t even care. All of these are dreadful.

Favorite Comedic Movie

In the history of cinematic tragedies, what happened to Ghostbusters may not rank near the top, but it definitely deserves a place in the grand scheme, however, because I really, really liked it, and it deserved a better world to be a part of than the one it got.


Favorite Action Movie

This is the part where I mentioned above that I might have some more things to say about Suicide Squad. I do not have more things to say about Suicide Squad. I’ll say this: lord, it was bad. Like really bad. Like really really bad. It had two of the worst acting performances I’ve ever seen 17 and the rest of it did not at all make up for them. Anyway. That’s it. Deadpool was great though, wasn’t it? Like legitimately great. So good.


Favorite Movie

You know, honestly, I really like Zootopia. Superhero movies are gratifying, and Captain America: Civil War was as good a thing as it could have been, while Deadpool was a surprising, refreshing event that remains pretty good. But Zootopia wasn’t a series movie, it exists in its own well-fleshed world, and I’m very happy that it came around.


And so we come to the end of the sixty categories of the People’s Choice Awards! But Awards season continues on unabated! Awards wait for no man!

  1.  because he didn’t submit his records (there were two of them in the eligibility period) for Grammy consideration, and I’ll probably say some more about that in the future, but it basically stands as a choice Frank made, rather than any kind of institutional obstruction..  
  2.  I mean, it’s neither serious nor visible enough for him to show up for his own reasons, and his wife has no business connections to CBS, so I feel pretty safe saying that. That said, who the fuck even knows anymore?  
  3.  because I didn’t really address it in the intro, I’ll remind the reader: the PCA’s are easily the most-mercenary awards show, given that their entire existence is, fundamentally, a pander to the audience. They are impossible to take any kind of seriously, and that is apparent even down to the choices, which are clearly designed to maneuver CBS’s media interests (on the side, the corporate structure of ownership for CBS and affiliated properties – all of Sumner Redstone’s media outlets, including Viacom – is byzantine and fascinating to look at. I recommend it) into a sort of primacy, given that the awards show is on CBS. Various beliefs about who is actually voting and how much it actually matters are not for this footnote, but I reserve the right to say some more stuff about them, and I have in previous installments. 
  4.  and also, to be frank, a lot of my own typing, which is obviously not a concern for the powers that be at CBS, but is, y’know, a concern of me, the person writing this. 
  5.  all awards shows exist fundamentally to prop up their corporate interests – even things like the Academy Awards are a way to add a cachet and degree of marketability to films that require that kind of “seriousness” be bestowed upon them, which increases their revenue, which increases the revenue of AMPAS. Although more about the Oscars specifically when they roll around here soon. The point is: all televised awards shows serve an advertising function, and the thing that I like about the People’s Choice Awards is that it is so blatant. 
  6.  actually, at the time of this writing, the season hasn’t ended, and if it ends as well as it’s gone so far, then it might actually be better. Or at least just as good. 
  7. although also, in the middle of a season of Top Chef that seems purpose-built to drive away anyone with any kind of charisma or life or difference, the knowledge that Carla Hall is still out there in the world is also a great comfort. 
  8.  which is then, of course, separated out by sex, because genre and/or mode is clearly and obviously less of a factor in what makes a performance than the gender of the person performing it. Clearly. 
  9.  two this year, which I think is down some from previous years. 
  10.  i.e. that of being the person writing this thing 
  11.  the other major factor – the immediacy of a story that is told and over in forty-two minutes plus commericals – is a sort of audience-dependent one (I would argue, in fact, that it is the entire determiner of the audience itself, since the impulse to watch or not watch any given procedural has to do with seeking that kind of thing – it’s why Law & Order marathons are so closely associated with sick days by so many people, say for example), and has very little to do with the acting, and so is really sort of outside the purview here.  
  12.  I’m saying nothing more complicated than that it’s easier not to react than it is to react, in a purely physical acting sense 
  13. see?  
  14. I mean, it does, but I’m not opposed to it, I just think it’s boring. 
  15.  OK actually from the last category forward, but I had to say the thing about sharks, so I had to make this observation one category late.  
  16.  Eva Green hamfests are great, Eva Green is great, but the movie is terrible, so it’s been remembered by its best part. Which, as usual, is Eva Green.  
  17. to wit: Cara Delevingne was the worst due to sheer ineptitude. I’ve sen her in other things in which she’s just been normal bad, so I don’t know if it was the direction, or the special effects focus or what, but it was genuinely the worst performance I’ve ever seen in a Hollywood film. The other was Jared Leto’s joker, over the course of which he made a series of decisions as an actor that were just high-octane terrible, and the result was a performance that no amount of not-actually-being-in-the-movie could save. It was not at all helped by the publicity campaign that lionized his terrible, psychotic behavior in the name of “the method,” which is basically the reason I don’t like actors in the first place. 

Best of the Second Half of 2016

Every year I come to the aid of you fine people with this, a list of the 50 best songs of the last half of the year. This year is no different, despite a new blog location and everything! Please to enjoy: the best songs of the last six months, in alphabetical order. As always, there is a folder full of the songs here for your enjoyment.

Alcest – Eclosion

It’s not that Alcest were ever not good, it’s just that this – a more direct record, with more actual, direct songs on it – is a pretty welcome return to form for the French shoegaze metal dudes. It also includes their bass player, who doesn’t usually play on the records, which maybe helps. I dunno what it is, but this is the best Alcest record in a long time.

Oren Ambarchi – Hubris Part 3

Oren Ambarchi is a master of ambient music, but generally ambient music that isn’t actually particularly ambient. On “Hubris Part 3,” Ricardo Villalobos (the techno guy), Arto Lindsay (from DNA) and Will Guthrie (the drummer) come and help him take a reasonable groove well into the territory of ambient-noise-funk freakout. Which is, in my estimation, a very satisfying kind of freakout.

Daniel Bachman – Wine and Peanuts

Jack Rose himself had kind of a big year for someone who’s been posthumous for a few years now – there was a big reissue campaign that got a lot of attention, and generally we all just missed Jack Rose real hard. Whether this is a cause or an effect of there being a sort of blossoming of solo-guitar players making experimental folk music 1, and Daniel Bachman had the strongest showing of any of those this year. “Wine and Peanuts” isn’t quite the full-steam-ahead freakout that the two-part “Brightleaf Blues” is, but it makes up for it by taking its journey more directly, and being a genuinely Extremely Likable piece of music.

Aidan Baker & Tomas Jarmyr – Werl VII

Mostly improvised albums 2, like improvised anything else, range from terrible to somewhat-alright, with most of the reasonably-conjured ones being somewhere in the “I listened to this once or twice and feel that I’m ok with its place in my world” sort of quality. Every once in a while, the thing really does take off, and a two-person improvisation can turn out to have a depth, and show a surprising fulfillment of the improvisatory impulse in such a way that it is more satisfying than it would have been as a composed, rehearsed album. Werl is one such album, and “VII”, its penultimate track, very much its climax.

Banks – Trainwreck

The Altar generally succeeds despite itself – there’s a lot of Banks’ mien that seems full of affectation 3 and a general striving-ness that is sometimes compelling, but sometimes falls flat. That said, there are moments on the record that are pretty incredible, and the intense, angry ending to “Trainwreck” is foremost among them. I would love to see her move more into the realm of being mad all the time, but that’s probably bad for her health.

Beach Slang – Spin the Dial

Beach Slang’s former guitar player got them in a spot of trouble this year, and that appeared to cause some momentum problems for them, which is a shame because A Loud Bash of Teenage Feelings is about as good as this kind of straight up and down rock and roll music gets (it also lives up to its title admirably, ages of the actual musicians notwithstanding). “Spin the Dial” is the kind of big-chorus sing-along-to-the-end bit of business that works as catnip for me, so of course it’s the one that make sit here.

Blood Orange – Better Than Me

Freetown Sound is a masterpiece of smooth R&B weirdness matched in smoothness and artistic striving only by his friend Solange’s record (see below). Blood Orange continues to be miraculously consistent, and every record is better than the last.

Danny Brown – Dance in the Water

I mean, it’s probably not just the Pulsallama sample? But it might be. It’s such a darn fine sample, is all. And not since earlier this year 4 have I been so successfully pandered to by a sample! Anyway, Danny Brown might be my favorite rapper currently working, and “Dance in the Water” finds him at his frantic, adenoidal best. Over a particularly fantastic Pulsallama sample, of course.

Jefre Cantu-Ledesma – Love’s Refrain

Here Cantu-Ledesma continue to mine his apparently highly fertile load of love-oriented, extraordinarily beautiful noise.

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Girl in Amber

Well, Skeleton Tree is better than Push the Sky Away, and that’s a good sign. Nick Cave has also moved further into sort of impressionist, imagistic lyricist territory 5, and it reaches a pretty interesting high point in “Girl in Amber”, which is also one of his most interesting melodies. Which is saying something, because the dude has written more great melody’s than I’ve had hot meals. That’s probably an exaggeration.

Chivalrous Amoekons – Last Dance

Do I think the world needed a Mekons covers album led by Bonnie “Prince” Billy and including Angel Olsen and a significant percentage of the Cairo Gang? Well, as it happens, yes I do. And we got one. And it’s great. Just all of it. Great.

Cocaine Piss – Nostalgia

Cocaine Piss are from Belgium, their album is a life-affirming blast of loud guitar music featuring some top-notch shouting. Funny, noisy, and probably more musically exciting than it sounds at first blush, The Dancer was a genuinely very, very good record. “Nostalgia” is the closer, which is probably not a piece of metacommentary on the idea of a closing ballad, but might be. Eight words (“When I was a kid, nobody was dying”), some great riffing, a general percussive assault.

Ian William Craig – A Circle Without Having to Curve

Centres, from which this song is taken, is almost….normal. I mean, it’s still Craig singing over keyboards that sound like they’re drowning in other keyboards, and it’s still beautiful to a degree that is difficult to describe, but it’s also kind of….normal. It’s good, certainly, and it will be exciting to see how far he chases this down.

Dedekind Cut – Fear in Reverse

The erstwhile Lee Bannon made a jump into experimentalist, making surprisingly weird (and surprisingly pleasant) $uccessor 6. “Fear in Reverse” is especially great, gathering momentum satisfyingly, and taking the listener on a real journey.

Drive-By Truckers – Surrender Under Protest

Things that can always be counted to make the world a better place in which to live: floppy dogs (that aren’t barking) with floppy tails Donald Glover, the actor and comedy writer, onion rings, and big, sing-along Mike Cooley songs. Every single time.

Eluvium – Fugue State

I mean, I guess it’s sort of like Ian William Craig and Eluvium sort of traded their pop/experimental ratios for the year? It’s worked out great in each case, though. This isn’t as conventional as other Eluvium records in favor of being really big, which is an unexpected, but incredible, direction for this particular project.

Grouper – I’m Clean Now

She snuck one in at the end of the year! It, of course, sounds pretty much like Grouper, which is pretty much perfect.

Steve Hauschildt – Strands

A former member of Emeralds continues to make excellent, Emeralds-esque records. Hauschildt is usually a “whole album at a time” sort of guy – his tracks don’t generally stand alone as well as they do slot into their place as part of the whole. Strands (the album) is actually about as direct and assertive as Hauschildt’s music gets, which is an interesting turn, and it’ll be fun to see if he continues it. If not, “Strands” (the song) stands a pretty singular distillation of what makes Hauschildt’s music so compelling, and is one of his better single-track outings.

Mick Jenkins – Drowning (f BADBADNOTGOOD)

Angry and motivated while also being fairly smooth and laid-back in approach, “Drowning” is probably my favorite Mick Jenkins track ever, and is also easily one of my favorite BADBADNOTGOOD tracks to boot.

The Julie Ruin – Be Nice

Kathleen Hanna at the top of her health and with possibly the best band she’s ever fronted 7 is pretty much everything one could’ve hoped for 2016. Go see ‘em live. I bet they’ll do “Be Nice” and it’ll be fucking awesome.  

Lambchop – Writer

It’s impressive that Lambchop, an act never known for repeating itself, has made a record that doesn’t sound a bit like any record they’ve ever made before, but that still sounds entirely and naturally like them. Quiet, kind of rambling, very beautiful, quite relaxing, it’s everything you’d want out of a Lambchop record, plus a bunch of autotune which, while not something I would have specifically requested be in my Lambchop records, turns out to be warmer and more welcome than I would have guessed.

Loscil – Monument Builders
Monument Builders, from whence we get this here title track, was specifically designed to mimic the ideas of life itself 8, rather than his usual attempt to sound like waves, or energy in general, or other such things that move in currents, and the result is leaps and bounds more compelling than any other Loscil record.

The Men – Dreamer

I did not think we’d ever get another record from The Men like this one 9. I was content with mellower, dad-rocking-er The Men forever. It turns out they can still rip through a song like this one! Praise be unto The Men!

Mac Miller – Dang (f Anderson.Paak)

It remains the case that I have no global opinion about Mac Miller’s music. He seems fine, and there’s good and bad among all of it. But Anderson.Paak had such a shit-hot year that he makes this clearly and decisively the best Mac Miller song ever created. Dang!

Mono – Death in Rebirth

I must confess, I have nothing new to say about this great Mono song that I haven’t said about a bunch of other great Mono songs. They are the absolute picture of consistency, and this is a great Mono song in their usual “Great Mono Song” vein.

Moor Mother – Tell Me About It

Moor Mother made huge waves by combining the best things about spoken word with relentless abrasive backing tracks, and the result was one of the best, most satisfying noise records of the year. Angry and eloquent in addition to being extremely intense, the whole thing sounds for all the world like the earth getting scorched and the sound of a reckoning.

Neurosis – Broken Ground

Neurosis has been a band for thirty years! Thirty years! This is possibly their most efficient record 10, and “Broken Ground” one of their finest singles. Screeching, howling, grinding, and all the other best sound-effect words, really.

Frank Ocean – Nights

Let’s be honest. There could be a dozen Frank Ocean songs on this list. It was hard enough to only narrow it down to this one. So after you go and listen to “Nights,” go and listen to Blond(e) again. You know you want to.

Papa M – Green Holler

David Pajo playing guitar on a record means it’s probably a good record. David Pajo making his first Papa M record in a dozen years means it’s definitely a good record. This is just simple logic, really.

Purling Hiss – Follow You Around

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, said Freud. And I think he would’ve agreed, sometimes a fuzzed-out power-pop gem is just a fuzzed-out power-pop gem.

Rae Sremmurd – Black Beatles

I would have probably bet against ever hearing anything vital or worthwhile from Rae Sremmurd ever again, and I probably would have paid dearly for that. I suppose it’s yet another reason that I’m glad I’m not a gambling man.

Isaiah Rashad – Free Lunch

I suppose the two and a half year wait between Cilvia Demo and The Sun’s Tirade was worth it, even though it seemed like it took absolutely forever at the time. Isaiah Rashad is a, frankly, amazing rapper, and “Free Lunch” is his current high point.

Ricky Eat Acid – Call My Name

Sam Ray made it onto both of this year’s lists – back in the first half for his superlative Teen Suicide record, and this time for (what I think of as) his primary band’s excellent, sufficiently-groovin’ “Remember My Name”, from Talk to You Soon. I can’t imagine actually being able to dance to it, but I sure can imagine wanting to.

Run the Jewels – Legend Has It

I’m quite certain I don’t have to tell you people about Run the Jewels, right?

Emma Ruth Rundle – Protection

Hey everybody! Emma Ruth Rundle made a record and rememberedd to turn her amp up, which is all I ever wanted out of an Emma Ruth Rundle record in the first place! Huzzah!

Russian Circles – Mota

Sometimes the best thing a band can be is consistent. Russian Circles have made six albums, and they all sound like Russian Circles, and they’re all of pretty much the same quality. “Mota” is a great Russian Circles song like a lot of other great Russian Circles songs, so they’ve got your cinematic, instrumental metal needs covered once again.

Scallops Hotel – Languidity with the Moor (f Signor Benedick the Moor)

Scallops Hotel, a project of milo, continues to make woozy, off-center rap. This one has “languidity” right there in the title, which is appropriate and excellent and also has Signor Benedick the Moor on it 11, which makes this the chocolate and peanut butter of oddball Bandcamp rap.

ScHoolboy Q – TorcH

ScHoolboy Q came out swinging even bigger with this, the leadoff track from Blank Face, and also one of a handful of collaborations between him and 2016 MVP Anderson.Paak. Hopefully they remember how how awesome this is and continue to collaborate for a lot longer.

Solange – Cranes in the Sky

Y’know, I’m usually pretty inclined to roll my eyes at the general public mania for women who write songs about their bad coping behaviors 12, but I suppose I’ll have to make an exception for this one, which is a good enough song that I don’t really care. Which is, as I’ve mentioned, generally how I feel about lyrics on the whole, but there are certain things that get my attention, y’know? It just happens that way sometimes. Anyway. Great bummer R&B.

Vince Staples – War Ready

This song is so good it made me go back and listen to a bunch of James Blake (who produced it) just to see if I’ve been missing anything. I have not. James Blake’s records are, simply put, not as good as they used to be. Vince Staples, however, is super awesome, and so is “War Ready.”

SubRosa – Wound of the Warden

The trick, if SubRosa’s output is to be believed, of being an artistically-viable and not-stupid-and-annoying metal band with violins in is to be a metal band first, and then add the violins, rather than building around the violins. See also: Mono. Anyway, “Wound of the Warden.” Good stuff, from probably the best anti-Mormonism concept album ever recorded.

Swet Shop Boys – T5

On the one hand, it’s probably the case that Riz Ahmed, now that he’s The Guy From Star Wars, doesn’t have as much airport trouble. On the other hand, it’s sad that that’s what it takes.

Thalia Zedek Band – Try Again

Great voice, weird songs, good anthems. This is the Thalia Zedek way, now as ever. So here, then, is one of those anthems.

Tinashe – Company

For all those times when you are feeling like your life lacks sass. This song has a bunch of it to spare. Sass.

Two Cow Garage – Movies

As a live act, Two Cow Garage are an amazing, life-affirming rock band that makes every show feel like everyone there is your best friend, and the best moments involve a bunch of people singing along to their indomitable set of flat-out rockers. On record – even a record as immediate and well-done as Brand New Flag – the standouts tend to be the ballads 13. “Movies” then, is just another stop in the tradition – but if you go see them (and if ever there was a band you should go see, it’s this one), hope not for movies, but for “Let the Boys Be Girls.”

The Weeknd – Starboy (f Daft Punk)

There are many things that are, even after many years, surprising about The Weeknd’s ascension to bona fide pop star, but none of them are as surprising as him Trojan Horseing a Hedwig and the Angry Inch reference into the number one pop song in America. To wit: Hedwig refers to Tommy Gnosis as a “Starboy”, and the first line of the song he directs to Tommy Gnosis (“The Long Grift”) is “look what you’ve done.” Since the two things appear in that juxtaposition in only one other place, I can only assume that Mr. The Weeknd has made a super-awesome reference. Which is super-awesome.

Wilco – Locator

Ah, hell, guys. I love Wilco. I love Wilco well past the point where I’m at all capable of being objective. This may be the continuation of what seems to be a comeback after a couple of weak albums, but, I mean, I also like the weak albums. I like all the Wilco, is what I’m saying. This is particularly good Wilco, but it doesn’t mean I’m any better a reliable source in this matter.

Wreck and Reference – Powders

I suppose none of these biannual missives would be complete without a very loud, emotinally-harrowing scream fest. They aren’t usually this emotionally harrowing, but I think that’s more a point in the song’s favor than against it. YMMV.

Wrekmeister Harmonies – The Gathering

The usual Wrekmeister Harmonies duo hooked up with Godspeed’s rhythm section and made a record based on a book written about the author’s stay in Auschwitz. It’s also informed by J.R. Robinson’s, lead Wrekmeisterer, divorce and the strain on his relationship with his son. The good news is that it’s cathartic more than miserablist, and “The Gathering” especially has an uplifting, cleansing effect that makes it worth revisting again and again.

Xylouris White – Black Peak

Jim White remains possibly the greatest drummer on Earth. And I don’t really know from lute players, but George Xylouris seems to be a pretty great one. I mean, he’s definitely the best lute player with whom I am familiar. Xylouris White are, now that they’ve been around long enough for me to be used to the novelty of Greek-folk-based experimental music, clearly a duo that are doing something truly and deeply innovative with music that is tremendously old.


Honorable Mentions: BADBADNOTGOOD, “Confessions Pt II (f Colin Stetson)”, Nathan Bowles, “Gadarene Fugue”, clipping. “Baby Don’t Sleep”, Maxwell “All the Ways Love Can Feel”, Oneida & Rhys Chatham “Well-Tuned Guitar”, True Neutral Crew – “Modern Art”, Haley Bonar – “Called You Queen”, Barberos – “the Ladius”, Crippled Black Phoenix – “No Fun”, Hiss Golden Messenger – “Biloxi”

  1. Or American Primitivism, but that’s kind of a dumb thing to call it: see also William Tyler, Marisa Anderson, the Black Twig Pickers, et. al. 
  2.  which are themselves a sort of bailiwick of Aidan Baker, who releases improvised albums pretty regularly. 
  3.  not to any greater extent than any other major pop musician, just in Banks’ case it seems less seamlessly-integrated than for others. 
  4.  with clipping.’s Whitehouse-grabbing “Wriggle” 
  5. I realize that this is not the only time that lyrics will come up in this writeup, and I will say: I’ve always Nick Cave as a lyricst, so I make no apology for this.  
  6.  I guess changing his name didn’t change his access to the Pro-Era-standard “$ for S Schema”.  
  7. I mean, taken as an aggregate group of players, but also because Kenny Mellman. 
  8.  Loscil, as a project, being generally organized around thematic conceits like that 
  9. i.e. like their old records. 
  10.  it’s certainly their shortest 
  11.  Clearly, it’s a really informative title 
  12.  It’s one of those lyrical subjects that, once you start noticing it, you can’t stop noticing it, and it becomes insane how often something that people praise widely that comes from a lady-type singer is also the kind of self-lacerating self-reflection that always seems, to me, to sort of be an attempt to reinforce a general “women should be sad about who they are” mentality that makes me itch. Note that it’s not the behaviors themselves, nor the impulse to write about them, that I find troubling – it’s up to people to do and write about doing whatever the hell they want. It’s the specific, press-oriented focus on that as both a hook for writing and as a hook for praise that feels so gross about it.  
  13.  cf “Should’ve California,” “Jackson Don’t Worry,” “Swingset Assassin” 

The 74th Annual Golden Globe Awards

This year, like every year, I am putting myself through this business of the Golden Globes. “Serious” awards shows are always the hardest to do in this format – I don’t really like the same things in visual entertainment that awards-granting bodies are looking for, and never is that more apparent than when forced to consider film performances 1But the Hollywood Foreign Press continues to exist, and they continue to pick things, and so I find myself compelled to continue to write about them. And away we go.

Best Miniseries or Television Film

Right off the bat we are clearly aiming to confuse the audience with suspiciously similar titles: The Night Manager, The Night Of, American Crime, American Crime Story. The Dresser has a leg up simply by being the one with the title that isn’t like anything else. Unfortunately in this case, American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson is better than American Crime 2, The Night Manager is better than The Night Of. The Dresser is a retelling of King Lear framed as a production of King Lear, and features Anthony Hopkins Hopkinsing it up. So I guess it’s The Night Manager then.


Supporting Actress in a Series, Miniseries or Television Film

Well, land sakes. It’s Mandy Moore nominated for an acting award. I guess I understand that series and miniseries performances aren’t given separate awards in the supporting acting categories, but I think that it’s a different thing that, say, Lena Headey does in a multi-year Soap Opera-style television show than what, say, Olivia Colman does in an intermittently-produced British short series 3Anyway, judging on acting, which is clearly what we have to do here, is difficult because all of these things are things I decidedly do not like. So let’s go with the aforementioned Olivia Colman. That’s a left-field choice. Very satisfying.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Olivia Colman, The Night Manager

Supporting Actor in a Series, Miniseries or Television Film

John Travolta’s inclusion in this category really raises some questions about what, exactly, qualifies as a “good” performance. On the one hand, his resemblance to Robert Shapiro 4 is some kind of uncanny – somewhere between an uncanny transformation and the uncanny valley, specifically – but also, it’s not, y’know, traditionally good in the “effective emotionally or mentally and/or realistic and/or communicative” sense. It’s a truly singular accomplishment of…something, and it might even be worthy of rewarding. Certainly nobody else in this category managed something so weirdly accurate while at the same time being weirdly nonperformative. I suppose there’s something to be said for the fact that nobody else in this category managed to raise even half so many questions, and certainly if the goal of an acting performance is to shed light on a character in a way that raises new facets in the eye of the public than, at least as far as this small part of the public goes, will have to raise a glass to John Travolta, even if what he’s doing was just about the last thing I’d think of when I think of “good acting”.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: John Travolta, American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson

Actress in a Miniseries or Television Film

By contrast, Sarah Paulson’s performance on American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson is as traditionally effective as you could want – she really embodies Marcia Clark, and manages to come up with something tremendous as a result. Especially given that the two performances are often opposite one another, it certainly says…something.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Sarah Paulson, American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson

Actor in a Miniseries or Television Film

So Riz Ahmed, nominated here for the turgid, kind-of-disappointing The Night Of, is also the dude from rap duo the Swet Shop Boys 5 and also Rogue One: a Star Wars Story. So he’s clearly the best (like, as a human), even if The Night Of is clearly not the best. Groovy that they got two best actor performances out of it according to the Hollywood Foreign Press, though. Wrong, but groovy. That said, Courtney B. Vance was pretty good in American Crime Story, Tom Hiddleston was pretty good in The Night Manager, and John Turturro and Bryan Cranston both did what they do in The Night Of and All the Way, respectively, so why not give it to the one that’s clearly the best (like, as a human)?

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Riz Ahmed, who is clearly the best (like, as a human)

Actress in a Television Series – Musical or Comedy

Huh. No Zayzie Beats. Huh. Huh. Seems like she should be there, right? Yeah I think so too. I mean, none of these are what you’d call bad – this is perennial one of the strongest categories – so it’s hard to notice what isn’t there, but still. I remain unconvinced by Sarah Jessica Parker’s mien. Issa Rae is playing a very thinly fictionalized version of herself. Gina Rodriguez, Rachel Bloom and Tracee Ellis Ross are all the best parts of their respective shows, but, like, again they are. So, given the shocking and alarming lack of Zayzie Beats, by process of elimination, it must be Julia Louis Dreyfuss.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Julia Louis Dreyfuss (but actually Zayzie Beats)

Actor in a Television Series – Musical or Comedy

I’m going to pretty openly declare that I don’t think I can call enough of these categories for Atlanta. I mean, Anthony Anderson and Jeffrey Tambor did as well as they did every year, and there’s nothing wrong with Gael Garcia Bernal’s performance in Mozart in the Jungle 6, but I love Atlanta in ways I could never love more seriously-regarded and “important” television, and so its creator should at the very least get an acting award 7

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Donald Glover, Atlanta

Actress in a Television Series – Drama

Every year I devote some time in my writeups for acting awards shows to explaining why I am ambivalent 8 about people winning acting awards in their severalth year of playing the same role the same way, so I’ll say this: Keri Russell (along with Jeffrey Tambor in the acting category) is doing something different every year, even though she’s playing the same character on the same show. It is possible, and it’s not just an injunction against longer-running series getting acting awards. Although such an injunction could only be a good thing under the circumstances.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Keri Russell, The Americans

Actor in a Television Series – Drama

So much serious Capital A acting! So hard to care about any of it! I’m inclined to say Matthew Rhys by default, so I think I will.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Matthew Rhys, The Americans

Series – Musical or Comedy

Atlanta is the best show on television. It’s better than Veep. I mean, it’s not, like, all that much better, but it’s better than Veep. Veep doesn’t have Darius, see. No comedy that doesn’t have Darius can ever beat the comedy that does have Darius. It’s math, right?


Series – Drama

Literally the only one of these shows I legitimately care about is Stranger Things. On the one hand, I should probably have more of an opinion about important television stuff. On the other hand, those shows should have interdimensional travel and psychic orphans and stuff 9.


Foreign Language Film

I would probably, if pressed, have named some people that I thought were less likely to be nominated for a Golden Globe Award in 2016 than Paul Verhoeven, but not that many. If nothing else, he wins points for surprise. Oh, also for not making a biopic, which is what sends Neruda right out 10Toni Erdmann loses points for being a comedy-drama that mostly forgets about the comedy part 11Ah, what the hell, The Salesman is bleak and also meta (the couple is starring in a production of Death of a Salesman), so I’m pretty inclined to give it the award.


Best Animated Feature Film

I do not know how the actual heck Sing got nominated for one of these, especially given how late into the year it came out. Sometimes the present is a different country. Anyway, I like the rest of these, but I like Zootopia the most.


Best Original Song

All of these songs can go fuck themselves. Except the one from Moana.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: “How Far I’ll Go”, Moana

Best Original Score

This fares a little better because it’s not a category of the most boring, uninspired songs possible. Partly because these are, generally, nonstandard film composers (Hauschka! The guy from A Winged Victory for the Sullen!). I even actively enjoy listening to a couple of them, although in many cases that’s because I like them outside of their film work. But Arrival, in addition to its other charms, also has a tremendous score.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Johann Johannson, Arrival

Best Screenplay

It’s hard to evaluate a screenplay once it’s been produced – a bunch of decisions have been made to build the meat around the skeleton that the screenplay represents, and it can be hard to tease what’s embedded in the script and what is a directorial/actorial/producorial decision. That said, for this one time 12 I’m going to go with the one that seems the most mechanically difficult to pull off from a writing perspective, which is Nocturnal Animals.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Tom Ford, Nocturnal Animals

Best Director

Adding another layer to trying to figure out the writing from a finished project, this category’s nominees are nearly identical to the last one. Luckily, directing can be less tricky to figure out 13I genuinely think Moonlight, which gets its lead performance out of three different actors and manages to achieve a unity of vision and statement, is an impressive piece of directing, and the rest of these are not as impressive. I mean, what, was it hard to tell Casey Affleck to look sad in Massachusetts?

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Barry Jenkins, Moonlight

Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama, Musical or Comedy

None of this is specifically bad, as such, but it’s all pretty hard to get excited about. Viola Davis and Michelle Williams are sort of object lessons in acting consistency. Nicole Kidman is an object lesson in whatever the opposite of consistency is 14Moonlight is great and Naomie Harris is great, but Octavia Spencer is playing one of the coolest people ever in Hidden Figures, so she gets it because her role is the coolest. So there.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures

Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama, Musical or Comedy

Oh dear god. Well, Mahershala Ali and Jeff Bridges are the only people in this category that don’t make me want to throw up all over this category, so it’s got to be one of them. I guess that makes this easy enough, because only one of them was in Moonlight.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Mahershala Ali, Moonlight

Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy

My inclination was to point out that these women are all either very young or very old, and then I realized that that’s, y’know, the problem with movies as they are made, and now I’m super depressed about it. This is not helped by this being a pretty weak batch of movies. So let’s just throw it over to Annette Bening and stop thinking about it until next year.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Annette Bening, 20th Century Women

Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy

I will say this for the Golden Globes this year – they really chose some unlikely stuff. I’m not going to argue that Colin Farrell in The Lobster or Ryan Reynolds in Deadpool didn’t give all time great comedy performances, with Farrell’s being particularly revelatory, just that I didn’t expect to see either one of them here at awards time. So yay for seeing them! And extra yay for Colin Farrell in The Lobster.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Colin Farrell, The Lobster

Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama

Jackie and Loving are capital-I Important movies with some capital H High capital Q Quality capital A Acting performances, so obviously they’re both right out. Miss Sloane strives for the same sort of Importance and High Quality, doesn’t quite get there and is, therefore, a better gauge of the performance by Jessica Chastain, but also is still not the winner. Isabelle Huppert is probably the first actor nominated for a Golden Globe for a Paul Verhoeven movie, which is something. Which leaves us where you all knew it would: at Amy Adams, for Arrival.


Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama

I have to say, the sooner I can get done with the serious Acting categories, the happier I’m going to be as a human being. This is always the challenge with the movie-type awards shows: I just don’t have it in me to make anything like a judgment that meets them on their own terms. Anyway, it’s my damn writeup, so I say Viggo Mortensen did the least actor-y job of actor-ing, so he gets the award.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Viggo Mortensen, Captain Fantastic

Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy

I mean, three of them are musicals and two of them are comedies, so at least unlike last year’s business with The Martian, all of the candidates track to the category. That’s very exciting. And also most of them are fine! After slogging through the acting categories, this is a downright treat. That said, I laughed the most at Deadpool, although I’d be perfectly happy to see it go to Sing Street.


Best Motion Picture – Drama

And, well, it’s time to draw this to a close. I’m certainly not going to start saying good things about Manchester by the Sea or Hacksaw Ridge now. Hell or High Water wins points for being fun 15Lion looks to be suitably uplifting. I guess I’ll just predictably say Moonlight and have done with it.


And all of this is to be hosted by Jimmy Fallon, so at least we know it’ll be funny to someone 16. Tune in next year when I think I’m going to write about these the way I write about the Oscars!

  1.  television to a much lesser extent – television favors different sort of acting things, and also there’s less of it to take in at once. Perhaps if I only watched movies in 44 minute chunks I’d feel this way about film acting as well? I don’t know, but also I don’t watch very much serious, dramatic television. 
  2.  unfortunate because American Crime has the better cast in general, full of people that I like and would like to see succeed without their sunshine being stolen by a Ryan Murphy show. Alas and alack. 
  3.  I genuinely have no idea if the plan is to have more Night Manager, or when or how. But Luther and Sherlock also got nominated in these categories, so maybe these are bad examples and it’s not so different after all. 
  4.  well, actually, his resemblance to “John Travolta playing Robert Shapiro” 
  5. with Himanshu, formerly of Das Racist 
  6.  I will say, however, that there seems to be something deeply cynical about Graves, as though some networking programming manager noticed “hey, old character actors are so hot right now” and threw Nick Nolte a bone. I don’t like it, and I don’t think it’s actually any good. 
  7.  spoiler alert: I believe he should also have many other awards. See below. 
  8.  for those of you keeping track at home, the current ambivalence tracker is set to: maybe I’m wrong about all this and need to stop harping on it? 
  9.  hell, if Game of Thrones figures out how to incorporate a waffle-eating psychic orphan, I might even find my way to trying once more to care about it. 
  10.  although stay tuned for my Pablo Neruda/Naruto fanfic! 
  11.  also, this is tangential, but dramas have always had jokes in them. The notion of “comic relief” is literally as old as the theatre. This idea that a drama that has two jokes in it is somehow a comedy hybrid is not only dumb, but willfully so, and I won’t stand for it. So there. 
  12.  and probably going forward in future writing awards consideration 
  13.  Especially if you, as I do, just assume that the director is responsible for pretty much everything that isn’t directly and immediately a part of an acting performance. This is almost certainly not true, but I find this sort of ignorance makes the whole thing easier. 
  14.  spoiler alert – it’s inconsistency, it just sounded funnier to say it the other way. 
  15.  and, now that I think of it, points for having Nick Cave and Warren Ellis do the score. 
  16. By which I mean it will be funny to Jimmy Fallon, who has never not found everything funny. 

The Best Albums of 2016

Obviously this is taking the place of the usual monthly list 1. There’s fifty of them again this year, partly because I like fifty (it’s almost one a week, which seems alright, especially since the last couple of weeks don’t really have much going on). I used to be more stingy with these, but hey, list space is free, and why not like a bunch of things? So here are the fifty albums that I wouldn’t mind answering for in the future.

  1. Frank Ocean – Blond(e)
  2. Anderson.Paak – Malibu
  3. Blood Orange – Freetown Sound
  4. Alcest – Kodama
  5. Solange – A Seat at the Table
  6. The Body – No One Deserves Happiness
  7. Run The Jewels – RTJ 3
  8. Clipping. – Wriggle
  9. Beyonce – Lemonade
  10. Robbie Fulks – Upland Stories
  11. Danny Brown – Atrocity Exhibition
  12. Wrekmeister Harmonies – Light Falls
  13. Chance the Rapper – Coloring Book
  14. Two Cow Garage – Brand New Flag
  15. Moor Mother – Fetish Bones
  16. Swans – The Glowing Man
  17. Kendrick Lamar – Untitled Unmastered
  18. Eluvium – False Readings On
  19. The Julie Ruin – Hit Reset
  20. Wreck and Reference – Indifferent Rivers Romance End
  21. Sturgill Simpson – A Sailor’s Guide to Earth
  22. Oren Ambarchi – Hubris
  23. Savages – Adore
  24. Merzbow, Keiji Haino & Balazs Pandi – An Untroublesome Defencelessness
  25. Open Mike Eagle – Hella Personal Film Festival
  26. Xylouris White – Black Peak
  27. Emma Ruth Rundle – Marked for Death
  28. Nadja – The Stone is Not Hit by the Sun, Nor Carved With a Knife
  29. Oddissee – The Odd Tape
  30. Anna Meredith – Varmints
  31. Vince Staples – Prima Donna
  32. Tim Hecker – Love Streams
  33. Isaiah Rashad – The Sun’s Tirade
  34. The Avalanches – Wildflower
  35. Russian Circles – Guidance
  36. Drive-By Truckers – American Band
  37. Neurosis – Fires Within Fires
  38. Schoolboy Q – Blank Face
  39. Hiss Golden Messenger – Heart Like a Wheel
  40. Helen Money – Become Zero
  41. clipping. – Splendor and Misery
  42. Kanye West – The Life of Pablo
  43. Steve Hauschildt – Strands
  44. Death Grips – Bottomless Pit
  45. Mono – Requiem for Hell
  46. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Skeleton Tree
  47. Aidan Baker & Tomas Jarmyr – Werl
  48. Banks – The Altar
  49. Wilco – Schmilco
  50. Kevin Gates – Islah


  1. both because it would be kind of redundant and because there really aren’t that many records worth hearing that come out in December.