The Best Bits: 2016

The year 2016 has been strung up as a punching bag for a while now, and though it’s an understandable sentiment given the multitude of celebrity deaths and the election cycle from hell, I can’t say it was all bad for me. I’ve made fantastic progress on my book, kept this blog going the whole year, and, most importantly, I got engaged. It doesn’t hurt the year was filled with spectacular media, from albums that I played two or three times a day to movies that had me geeking with joy. If you’ve been reading my blog all year, if you checked on it only once or twice, or if you simply liked it on Facebook, I thank you for taking the time to stop by. Without further ado, here are the Best Bits of 2016.

Top 10 Albums of 2016:

1. Dream Theater, The Astonishing (Roadrunner)

the astonishing

A little bit of fantasy/sci-fi, a dash of Rush’s 2112, and the virtuosic pedigree of Dream Theater brings this rock opera to life. Never before has a concept album gotten me so caught up in its story.
2. Bon Iver, 22, A Million (Jagjaguwar)

bon-iver

The jump from “dude with an acoustic guitar in a cabin in the woods” to folktronica glitch pop could have gone poorly, but the new album from Justin Vernon and company is probably their best yet.
3. Zeal and Ardor, Devil Is Fine (Self-Released)

zeal and ardor

Blues, black metal, with a dash of trip hop. Manuel Gagneux’s one man project is bold, unrefined, and one of the most memorable albums of the year.
4. Alcest, Kodama (Prophecy)

alcestkodama

Alcest returns with their winning combination of shoegaze and black metal, creating an atmosphere that is both beautiful and chilling.
5. Haken, Affinity (InsideOut)

haken

One of the best prog releases this year, hands down.
6. Neurosis, Fires Within Fires (Neurot)

neurosis

One of the band’s shorter albums, Neurosis’ latest is not short on quality and is as dark and introspective as ever.
7. Opeth, Sorceress (Nuclear Blast)

opethsorceressfinalcd

For a while, I wasn’t sure if Opeth’s latest would win me over. But, after I found myself humming “The Wilde Flowers” to myself, I knew I had to listen to it again and again.
8. Anthrax, For All Kings (Megaforce)

anthrax-for-all-kings-album-new

We were lucky to get albums from three-fourths of the Big Four this year, but Anthrax’s followup to Worship Music was the one that stuck with me.

9. Cult of Luna (with Julie Christmas), Mariner (Indie)

Cult-Of-Luna-Mariner-47682-2_1

I am kicking myself for forgetting about this when I was putting together my list of Metal Insider. This is another fine LP in Cult of Luna’s already excellent discography.
10. Sam Beam & Jesca Hoop, Love Letter For Fire (Sub Pop)

love letter for fire

Of course any fan of Iron & Wine will like this album, but I love it more because of a certain special person who listened to it with me.

Honorable Mentions:

Hyperion, Seraphical Euphony (Blacklion)
Black Crown Initiate, Selves We Cannot Forgive (eOne)
ONI, Ironshore (Metal Blade)

 

Top 5 Films of 2016:

1. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

batmanvsuperman

Call me contrarian. Call me delusional. Tell me that the DCEU is dead in the water. I don’t care. I’ve enjoyed this movie more with each and every viewing, especially after the Ultimate Cut fleshed things out. It’s not a perfect film and I’ll be the first to admit it, but I’ve pondered over it more than any other film this year. And that Batfleck warehouse scene is just fucking brilliant.

 

2. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

rogue_one_a_star_wars_story_poster

If being blinded by nostalgia is wrong, then I couldn’t give a shit less about being right. The film was a great first outing for the standalone Star Wars anthology that is both strong in its own right pays meaningful tribute to the saga’s 1970’s origins.

 

3. Captain America: Civil War

civil war

The film that proved you can fit twelve superheroes into one movie without it being a disaster. Phase Three of the MUC looks as promising as ever as we begin to explore heroes new and familiar.

 

4. Deadpool

deadpool_ver9

While the film itself is a hilarious raunchy romp, the biggest achievement of Deadpool is that 1) it actually happened, and 2) it has opened the way for R-rated superhero films, hence there reason this year’s Logan will be rated R.

 

5. Finding Dory

FINDING_DORY_-_Key_Art

This is the odd one out on the list, but given the pure joy I experienced watching Finding Dory I believe it deserve a spot amongst the superheroes and space operas. Beautiful animation and touching themes on those differently abled make this another gold star for Pixar.

 

Honorable Mention:

The Little Prince

This technically is from 2015 and I neglected to review it on my blog, but this joyful adaptation of the beloved novella has been updated to break down what we expect of children in today’s world where cold, dead career’s take precedent over dreams.

 

Favorite TV Show:

Westworld

westworld

There aren’t too many shows with previews that make me go from zero to “I gotta watch that”, but Westworld‘s premise and stellar cast was enough to make me sit down with the original 1973 Michael Crichton film before diving into HBO’s latest hit. I’m not a binge watching kind of guy, but I was always ready to devour one episode after the next with this show. It’s one of the best shows on TV right now and I’ll be anxious to see if they can top it.

 

Favorite Book:

Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson

words of radiance

If you’re been follow my blog, this shouldn’t be a surprise. I put a lot of time into reading this book, and it was all worth it. Promises were fulfilled, paths were crossed, and the game has changed. It’s everything a sequel should be and is a confirmation that Sanderson is going to make reading these tomes worthwhile for any fantasy fan. I can’t wait for the next one to come out this year (hopefully).

 

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