I’m not a fan of “best of x” lists. Instead, here are some of the things I experienced this year that were remarkable.
Moonrise Kingdom - Wes Anderson paints each scene with vibrant textures and colors. The movie takes place in 1965 on an island off the coast of New England and tells the story of two pre-teens that fall in love and run away together into the rough wilderness as their town goes searching for them. It tests the belief in the innocence of childhood. Anderson usually has old characters that behave like children so it is fitting that he finally had two child protagonists.
Beasts of the Southern Wild - The story of a little girl living in an off the grid town in Louisiana with her dying father. The water is rising and the town has the very real fear of being swept away. The girl and her father are played brilliantly by untrained actors. It brings another layer of grit and reality.
Klown - Technically not a 2012 release but that is when it finally reached movie theaters in the United States. This is the sort of movie that Judd Apatow aspires to make but, in my opinion, almost always falls short of. This film was considered very raunchy but the amount of heart and range of emotion that the characters display is what makes it so special. The Danish version of Curb Your Enthusiasm in film format.
The Icarus Deception - Seth Godin is at it again with this book about how everyone should be aiming higher and thinking of themselves as artists. The Icarus Deception is that Icarus was only told not to fly too high. He was actually told not to fly too low to the water either. If you want to soar in the new year you should read this book.
The Founder’s Dilemmas - This book is essential reading if you want to build a business with others. Whether a startup or a band, being on the same page with regard to goals and ambitions is crucial. Noam Wasserman examines thousands of companies and the struggles they faced.
Startup Communities: Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Your City - Brad Feld (TechStars) knows a quite a bit about building amazing entrepreneurial communities. This book is an important read for the hacker that feels like they are living in isolation. Few towns are as nice for startups as Boston and Cambridge.
Leonard Cohen, Old Ideas - “I love to speak with Leonard. He’s a sportsman and a shepherd. He’s a lazy bastard. Living in a suit.” The opening lines to the ethereal Going Home, the leadoff track to Old Ideas explain exactly why I love Leonard Cohen. His mood is always heavy and he can be a sarcastic ass but he has the wisdom of a saint. Unlike Bob Dylan’s recent music, this album sits comfortably next to older works. Cohen has lost nothing. If anything, he’s has gained an even deeper perspective.
Preservation Hall Jazz Band, St. Peter and 57th St. - One of the best New Orleans jazz groups took over Carnegie hall to celebrate their history. They are joined by Del McCoury, Allen Toussaint, Steve Earle, Jim James (My Morning Jacket), Trombone Shorty, and many others. The best NOLA jazz is recorded live because it captures the spirit, joy and sorrow of the moment in which it happened.
Chimes of Freedom: The Songs of Bob Dylan - A mixed bag (Kesha singing Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright?) but containing more than enough goodness to make a it a must-listen. Look at the track list yourself. My favorite tracks include Mark Knopfler’s Restless Farewell, Elvis Costello’s License to Kill, and Taj Mahal & The Phantom Blues Band’s funky take of Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream.
The Dwells, Fortieth Floor - After Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings there came a flood of folksy duos but few came close to what made them so special. The Dwells are less inspired by Welch and owe more to cosmic Americana such as Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris. Their music is slow, even-tempered, and sparsely arranged. Good for an early morning or at the end of a long night.
Charlie the Most, self-titled - I’ve followed this group grow from the very beginning when they were known as the “Boylston Collective” and it’s been amazing to watch their growth. The songs meet at the crossroads of southern blues, old school funk, and Zappa crazy. Keep an eye out for this band because they will be playing in your town soon.
Eleven Dollar Bills, self-titled - This is another group that has me very excited for what is happening in Boston-even though they’ve since moved to Chicago to spread the gospel. Indie rock is far from dead but there are plenty of artists trying to drown in out. Eleven Dollar Bills has a timeless sound; they could have been playing this music in the 70s but they were born later and this decade still suits them fine. Imagine heavy rock and roll mixed with bandleader Jordan Casty’s voice that sounds like a distant relative of both Roy Orbison and Jimi Hendrix.