The Anobium staff is proud to present what 2012 meant to us in terms of music, film, and literature.
BENJAMIN VAN LOON
Top 5 Albums
1. Gaza: No Absolutes in Human Suffering  – A soundtrack for universal entropy. Heavy and dark as the Caspian Sea.
2. Old Man Gloom: No  – I waited something like 10 years for this album, and it was well worth the wait. Functions as a mirror in special occasions.
3. Swans: The Seer  – Michael Gira consistently creeps me out, and this album—cover-art included—gives me a classic case of the heebie jeebies, arousing some kind of Lynchian pleasure-in-self-loathing.
4. Sun Kil Moon: Among the Leaves  – A Nick Drake iteration, minus the suicide (though there is a depressive current here). Plus, a song about Chicago.
5. Father John Misty: Fear Fun  – I’m not a Fleet Foxes fan, but there’s something catchy about what the FF frontman is doing here. Maybe it’s the pseudo-religious aesthetic; can’t take nothin’ seriously.
Top 5 Movies
1. Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock) – The AFI put Vertigo at #1 this year, and the Siskel Film Center in Chicago screened an ultra-rare Technicolor IB version with original soundtrack. Worth it.
2. Thin Red Line (Terrence Malick) – So it’s not very new, and it’s not a very original choice, but it was my first time seeing it, and I saw it in a somewhat altered state, which made it pretty damn affecting.
3. The Master (Paul Thomas Anderson) – Criticized for being obtuse, but who gives a fuck? Joaquin Phoenix is legit insane and cast perfectly, or imperfectly.
4. Breaking Bad: Season 5, Part 1 (Vince Gilligan) – Yes, I know, it’s not a movie, but it’s the penultimate entry in probably the most intense TV show ever made. Think of it like a serial movie, with a lot of violence and meth cooking.
5. Drive (Nicholas Winding Refn) – It came out in 2011, but I didn’t see it until 2012. Gosling eroto-mythos aside, this is a solid flick; not as solid as Refn’s Valhalla Rising, but still, totally cool (accept all nuance).
Top 5 Books
1. 2666 (Roberto Bolano)  – No, it didn’t come out this year, but it has been on my list of longreads, and I finally did it, finishing it in about two weeks. Thematically, it’s a terrifying book, worthy to be matched with that Swans album I picked.
2. Infinite Jest (David Foster Wallace)  – Following up on that list of longreads, I finally tackled this behemoth as well.
3. HHhH (Laurent Binet)  – Probably the most entertaining history book I’ve read, because it doesn’t take itself so damn seriously. A rare trait for an entry in the WW2/Nazi lore.
4. Revelations (Elaine Pagels)  – In theological circles, Pagels might have a reputation for being kind of a pop-historian, but there’s some solid mythbusting happening here, shedding light on both historical and contemporary Christianity. A good read for everyone, and also for Christians.
5. Believing is Seeing (Errol Morris)  – It’s good to know that Morris is just as good with a typewriter as he is with a camera.
Top 5 Albums
1. Bring Me the Horizon: There Is a Hell Believe Me I’ve Seen It. There Is a Heaven Let’s Keep It a Secret. – Everything about this album was a bad omen: pretty-boy former fashion designer front-man; enough studio magic to make 311 blush; and an awkward band name wrangled from an awkward movie (Pirates of the Caribbean). But the album, which aggressively pursues the massive scope of its title, is brutal and smart, vulgar and – at several key moments – astonishingly beautiful.
2. Down: IV, Part One: The Purple EPS – Sloppy and slapdash, this is the stoner super-group that improbably outlived all its members’ full-time gigs. More than a tonic against Fordist modern rock, though, these guys are the sound of the riotous and soulful New Orleans
underground, which the wrath of God itself could not silence.
3. Oh, Sleeper: Children of Fire – Unlike many similar acts, this band repaid my agnostic interest in Christian Metal sevenfold; it’s frighteningly technical and heavy as anything around, musically and philosophically. If nothing else, listen to the bellowed chorus on the opener “Endseekers” – I saw God die – and realize they mean it.
4. Solstafir: Svartir Sandar – I’m a longtime fan of Scandinavian metal (look for new Benea Reach in 2013), but Solsatfir, whose fitting name evokes Jacob’s Ladder in their native Icelandic, is a new find for me. Get drunk and watch the beautiful video for “Fjara” – it will change you.
5. Lamb of God: Resolution – Because they’re the best New American Metal band around – last year, this year and next year.
Top 5 Movies
1. Drive (Nicolas Winding Refn) – I reviewed this film earlier in the year, so to re-cap: if you’re going to stylize violence, you should do it well. Refn does it well.
2. Tucker and Dale vs. Evil (Eli Craig) – Because: (a) Tyler Labine is delightful and Reaper was a guilty pleasure of mine; (b) this film was more insightful than Cabin in the Woods, though that flick didn’t suck; (c) in this film, slapstick is an art, not a throwaway.
3. Prometheus (Ridley Scott) – Films fail through an excess of either ambition or compromise – this film managed to fail through both, striving for mythic resonance and popcorn inanity. And yet it was one of the most interesting mainstream films I’ve seen in years.
4. Searching for Sugar Man (Malik Bendjelloul) – It’s almost impossible to describe this documentary – about the musician Sixto Rodriguez – without sounding like shit-eating Hallmark movie copy. But it’s spectacular.
5. The Walking Dead: Season 2 (Ernest Dickerson, et. al.) – Last year, I made the mistake of using The Walking Dead’s first season as an example of non-allegorical story-telling. The second season’s clash between Rick and Shane made me recant and then impressed me further – it is patient, then meditative, and finally an eruption into gorgeously realized violence.
Top 5 Books
1. Growing Up Dead in Texas (Stephen Graham Jones) – Jones – the most prolific of The Velvet’s three main authors – is a rare bird, ranging freely in and out of genres, publishers, universes. One of my top five writers, period, he can be silly and he can be harrowing: this is not a silly book.
2. Gone Girl (Gillian Flynn) – Walking drunkenly on Montauk Beach, I stepped on this book – a lethal predator posing as mother-of-pearl. It left a wound I haven’t healed from.
3. This is How You Lose Her (Junot Díaz) – I have complicated feeling about the Junot Díaz show, but it is a hell of a show. See it live if you can.
4. War (Sebastian Junger) – If only for this passage: “I’m watching a titanic battle between my brother and the monsters of theunderworld…cartoonlike and murderous and it’s doesn’t matter how many he kills…Eventually he’ll just run out of ammo, I realize. Eventually the monsters will win.”
5. The Stud Book (Monica Drake) – Five years ago Drake burst out of Palahniuk-shadowed Portland and then broke my heart by disappearing. Now she’s back to make amends. [Note: this is a total cheat – since her book’s not out until April 2013, but pre-orders are a thing, right?]
Top 5 Albums
1. Various Artists: Twin Cities Funk & Soul: Lost Grooves From Minneapolis/St. Paul 1964-1979 – Beautiful release from Secret Stash Records that illuminates the hell out of a certain lost time in the Twin Cities and the great music that came from it. If you can still get the special edition pressed on purple vinyl do it!
2. Human Pyramids: Demo – These songs just make me happy for their quality and sound. Best new band of the year for me.
3. Anna Meredith: Black Prince Fury – The opening number, “Nautilus,” is groundbreaking and one of the greatest pieces of music I have ever heard. And the following three tracks are substantially awesome as well. I initially heard this last year, but it finally has an official release and is worth every bit of vinyl.
4. Petra Haden: “Psycho Main Title” (single from the 2013 album Petra Haden Goes to the Movies) – There is so much going on in this rendition. Funny, beautiful, terrifying, all in a piece I thought I knew so well.
5. Various Artists: Love Songs for Lamps: The Believer 2012 Music Issue – The music The Believer puts together for its yearly issue is always great, but the fact that they compiled a cassette tape in honor of the bands being highlighted who only release on cassette was a fantastic choice for this year. Of course, they also included a digital download, but the cassette is where it’s at.
Other Worthy Mentions: Fresh of Breath Air by Hums + Haws, Love This Giant by David Byrne & St. Vincent, The Idler Wheel Is Wiser… by Fiona Apple, Little Broken Hearts by Norah Jones, the “Peach Blossom” single by Eels
Top 5 Movies
1.Prometheus (Ridley Scott) – I geeked out over this whole thing this year. It’s a film about big ideas more than anything else which is really wondrous, but it’s also just so damn pretty; being one of two films I’ve seen in 3D that actually made it worthwhile and the blow-up for Imax was stupendous.
2.Shut Up and Play the Hits (Will Lovelace & Dylan Southern) – Fabulous documentary that requires no previous awareness of LCD Soundsystem to dig; its focus is the end, how rarely you can decide where and when it happens, and how difficult it is when you can.
3.Skyfall (Sam Mendes) – It’s the most beautiful thing to see something you assumed you knew do a magic trick and present a wondrous art. That is what Skyfall achieves. More than necessary, it crafts a beautiful experience that is also fun and what going to this type of film should be.
4.The Game (David Fincher) – I have been waiting a long time for Criterion to release this on Bluray. Always a favorite, I’ve felt I truly missed something by not seeing it in the theater. This edition rectified that.
5.Away From Her (Sarah Polley) – This year I finally saw Sarah Polley’s debut feature as a director and was astounded with the reserve and command she exhibits. It’s the type of film rarely made anymore and its existence makes the world better. With this year’s release of Take This Waltz being of equal quality and complication it would seem her abilities are not a fluke.
Other Worthy Mentions: Whip it!, Lawless, Hope Springs, 21 Jump Street (surprisingly!), the Five-Year Engagement, General Orders No. 9, the Dark Knight Rises, Shut Up Little Man!
Top 5 Books
1.Strange Piece of Paradise (Terri Jentz) – I have no memory of how this book got on my radar, but it’s one of a kind. Astounding tale of survival and recovery.
2.The Marbled Swarm (Dennis Cooper) – I am not sure what this is about. As written to our web editor Kari, it struck me as a novel about language whose “narrative” as presented is a ruse, a trick, allowing it to not really be about anything, but concomitantly about everything.
3.Turing’s Cathedral: The Origins of the Digital Universe (George Dyson) – This is a map to the world we now take for granted. Beautifully researched and written, it’s like reading the greatest myths of our origin.
4.Mortality (Christopher Hitchens) – I expected to value this book, but the last chapter, built on fragmentary illuminations, broke me down. Remembering the many beds of death sat at and how true it is that the mind flickers in and out like a film strip until the last frame jumps the track.
5.Great Journeys Series (Various Writers) – I discovered a couple of books from this series on clearance at a local book shop. It would seem most (if not all) are no longer in official print by Penguin Books, but if you can manage to grab a copy I would suggest it. Their quality writing is matched by their beautiful covers.
Other Worthy Mentions: Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed, The Flame Alphabet by Ben Marcus, Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway, The Lifespan of a Fact by John D’Agata & Jim Fingal, Destination Truth: Memoirs of a Monster Hunter by Josh Gates
1. Wolfgang Schaefer: Typewriter – One part whiskey, one part unfiltered cigarettes, and two parts ennui. His upbeat songs are catchy and have an alt-country sensibility but with enough feedback to ensure that you won’t get too comfortable. It’s a sad bastard album full of tracks that will make you feel less alone on a crowded train home to an apartment you hate, from a job that’s slowly killing you.
2. Antrim Dells – A trio from Grand Rapids, Michigan with a hypnotic sound, each member possesses a powerful voice and a mature sense of how to be powerful by being small, like bed-time whispers between new lovers. Their sound is intimate and fills the mind, heart, and body.
3. Blessed Feathers – These two have grown leaps and bounds over the past two years. They’re a folk duo (banjo and guitar) with a simple elegance whose songs paint a picture of the Midwest from the point of view of a van full of twentysomethings on their way to a weekend of hiking the Upper Peninsula and sleeping under an open sky.
1. Crips & Bloods, Made in America (Stacy Peralta) – Consisting of interviews with LA residents living in war-torn South Central, this film focuses on the day-to-day life of gang members and their neighbors, the film explores the relationship between economic development, institutional racism, and the development of the longest gang war in America.
2.The Pruitt-Igoe Myth (Chad Freidrichs) – During the economic decline of St. Louis, the Pruitt-Igoe public-housing complex slipped from being a home for working class families to one of the most iconic failures in social welfare and to some represents the death of modern architecture
1. May We Shed These Human Bodies (Amber Sparks) – Following Aimee Bender’s school of the fantastic fable with short tales full of tense moments that tease away mature eyes and force a world of adult complexity into Saturday morning cartoons.
2. The Chicagoan – This skyscraper of a magazine possesses the scale of something never seen in these parts. Part oral history, part interview, essay, story, and photos exhibit, this encyclopedic text howls to literary capitals around the world saying, “We too have belles-lettres!” It sold out within a few months and is the most important literary statement the Windy City has made in a generation.
Top 5 Albums
1. Social Studies: Developer – It’s still early for the Bay Area band and they rarely tour outside of California, but they played a show in Chicago in June 2010 so I jumped at the chance to see them, having drooled over Natalia Rogovin’s angelic vocals on the few tracks they recorded for Daytrotter earlier that year. On Developer, the band finds more of an edge and Rogovin struts confidently like Sandy Olsen dressed in skin-tight leather. I’m still smitten.
2. Fiona Apple: the Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do – Fiona Apple has never struggled to bare her soul on an album, and TIWIWTTDOTSAWCWSYMTRWED is no different, but she sings from a place of a bit more maturity, less vitriol, and (gasp) more hope for the future.
3. Big Boi: Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors – There’s something to be said for a hip-hop album that you just listen to on a loop. Big Boi’s latest is one that I’ve blasted even more often than last year’s Undun by the Roots. I challenge anyone to listen to “CPU” just once. It can’t be done.
4. The Shins: Port of Morrow – I mean, how freaking talented is James Mercer? Whether it’s his work with the old or new members of the Shins or his brilliant Broken Bells side project with Danger Mouse, it seems as though Mercer is incapable of writing a song that isn’t catchy.
5. The xx: Coexist – A notch or two below their debut, sure, but Coexist is wonderfully ethereal and delightfully experimental. No other band makes me want to throw on some headphones in a pitch black room than these masters of mood and atmosphere.
Top 5 Movies
1. Beasts of the Southern Wild (Benh Zeitlin) – I’ve only experienced something like this two other times in my life (Del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth and Jonze’s Where the Wild Things Are): a movie that expresses how an imaginative child makes sense of their frightening world with an enchanting blend of fantasy and reality. And when Hushpuppy, a six-year-old girl who lives with her father in an island community on the other side of the levees off the coast of New Orleans, talks to the animals and realizes that she is a little piece of a big, big universe, everything makes sense.
2. The Master (Paul Thomas Anderson) – In all honesty, Paul Thomas Anderson is the real master. I am in awe of the compelling way in which he constructs a world and pits two characters—here, one an intellectual and the other a mangy animal of a man—against one another as they move from strangers to partners and eventually to enemies. Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman are Foreman and Ali, pulling no punches.
3. Moonrise Kingdom (Wes Anderson) – Moonrise Kingdom is set in the ‘60s and, to my knowledge, isn’t semi-autobiographical, but it feels deeply personal and as lived-in as Baumbach’s the Squid and the Whale or Crowe’s Almost Famous. Sam and Suzy share moments that
are darkly funny, adorably innocent, and all too real: “I love you but you don’t know what you’re talking about.”
4. Save the Date (Michael Mohan) – At their core, all romantic comedies have the same basic thesis: Relationships are fucking difficult. Save the Date doesn’t reinvent the formula but it abandons the cliché of love at first sight in favor of the endlessly more relatable uncertainty, insecurity, and waffling that seem to overwhelm one’s late-20s. And the film features what might be the most charming song I’ve ever heard in my life.
5. Looper (Rian Johnson) – Simply put, there is no one on the planet more inventive or cleverer than Rian Johnson. In Looper, he takes on science fiction and brings the same snappy dialogue and unexpected narrative arcs of his previous work. Here’s hoping that he tries his hand at every film genre there is.
Top 5 Albums
1. Perfume Genius: Put Your Back N 2 It (Matador, 2012) – Mike Hadreas’ haunting ballads travel deep into the dark lands of trauma, abuse, and personal struggle, and emerge offering moments of light. A short, searing record that lingers long after the final strains fade.
2. Bat for Lashes: The Haunted Man (Parlaphone, 2012) – The production on Natasha Khan’s latest record is as stark and austere as its cover art. These songs vibrate with the intimacy of a woman processing a failed relationship and finding a kind of transcendence in its aftermath.
3. The Walkmen: Heaven (Fat Possum Records, 2012) – This album resurrects the urgency of 2004’s excellent Bows and Arrows, layered with a stately wisdom afforded by the intervening years. A dramatic slow burn.
4. The Tallest Man on Earth: There’s No Leaving Now (Dead Oceans, 2012) – Kristian Matsson’s follow-up to The Wild Hunt may displease purists with its lush instrumentation, but it is hard to resist this rhythmic, poignant, and urgent record and its elliptical and rapturous treasures.
5. Niki & The Dove: Instinct (Sub Pop, 2012) – This Swedish duo calls to mind the heat of Stevie Knicks and Kate Bush’s breathy abandon, without feeling retro or derivative. This debut album is fresh and thrilling.
Top 5 Movies
1. Into the Abyss (Werner Herzog, 2011) – Herzog follows two men convicted of a triple homicide, one on death row and one with a life sentence. He offers a sober, quiet narration of the weeks leading up to one convict’s execution and the impact on the lives of those that the murders affected, including the families of the victims and the families of the convicts in the small Texas city of Conroe.
2. Of Gods and Men (Xavier Beauvois, 2010) – French film that tells the story of nine Trappist monks who were kidnapped and executed during the 1996 Algerian Civil War. They are beheaded in winter and the final sequence of the men being marched out in the snow is heartstopping. A somber, beautiful, provocative film about faith and war and ultimately, too, about love.
3. Rachel Getting Married (Jonathan Demme, 2008) – Kym’s arrival from rehab for the occasion of her older sister’s wedding reveals the complicated dynamics of family history and dependence. This is a sad, quietly incandescent film about love and forgiveness, loss and redemption.
4. Take This Waltz (Sarah Polley, 2012) – How does the fantasy of romance and desire compete with the domestic realities of a marriage after the honeymoon is over? A young writer struggles with her desire for a handsome stranger as her five-year marriage shows signs of collapse. A touching film about love and desire and the very human impulse to be seduced by the promise of the new at the risk of what is known.
5. Melancholia (Lars von Trier, 2011) – The title describes the emotional state of a young bride and is also the name of a rogue planet that is on a collision course with the Earth. A study of severe depression that is at turns absurd and terrifying. Released at the end of 2011, this film about apocalypse – in the grandest sense as well as on the scale of personal breakdown – seems a suitable film to haunt 2012.
Top 5 Books
1. Bluets (Maggie Nelson) Wave Books, 2009 – An urgent, pulsing book composed of 240 numbered fragments. An obsessive interrogation of love and its limits. A document of struggle and despair, but ultimately, a testament to a quiet resilience that allows the writer and the reader to move forward, even if haltingly: A warm afternoon in early spring, New York City. We went to the Chelsea Hotel to fuck. Afterward, from the window of our room, I watched a blue tarp on a roof across the way flap in the wind. You slept, so it was my secret. It was a smear of the quotidian, a bright blue flake amidst all the dank providence. It was the only time I came. It was essentially our lives. It was shaking.
2. Speedboat (Renata Adler) Random House, 1971, to be re-released NYRB Classics in 2013 – Darkly comic, energetic dispatches from a disjointed social reality of decades past that in many ways, resembles our own. A witty, abrupt, cool-eyed assessment of the people, places, and times of a young journalist in the late 1960s: Nobody died that year. Nobody prospered. There were no births of marriages. Seventeen reverent satires were written – disrupting a cliche and, presumably, creating a genre. That was a dream, of course, but many of the most important things, I find, are the ones learned in your sleep.
3. Alien vs. Predator (Michael Robbins) Penguin Books, 2012 – These poems are exuberant and fearless and sharp. They suggest an utter giddy freedom with their unexpected juxtapositions and high culture/low culture mash-ups. They are vulgar and witty. They are playfulness and swagger. There is bravado and importantly, there’s also great heart: The Smallest Accredited Zoo in the Nation / Let’s go to Laurie in our Eye in the Sky / for a look at traffic. Thanks, Don. / It’s an hour in from the Hut of Intelligent Design / to the saddest tapir in the nation. / Nothing left of the Sharper Image but ashes. / All fall down, Laurie? All fall down, Don.
4. Are You My Mother? (Alison Bechdel) Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012 – Beautiful graphic novel that explores the author’s relationship with her mother. It is heady, weaving in literary criticism and psychology, but its emotional power comes from a careful and rigorous treatment of her own motivations and actions and a great sense of empathy and compassion for her family members, who are presented as whole and complicated people. Haunting and memorable: My depression at age twenty-six lasted only a few weeks. But as a child I used to experience occasional fleeting pangs of a terrible sadness. They almost happened in church… As an adult, I have continued to experience these brief spasms of melancholy — and worse — on some of the rare occasions I’ve attended church… and also sometimes after sex.
5. Three Novels (Agota Kristof) in collection, Grove/Atlantic, Inc., 1997 – A trilogy of three short novels: the Notebook, the Proof, and the Lie. Stark and brutal, the prose is stripped of all sentimentality, which makes the descriptions of the horrors of wartime all the more shocking and haunting. These books interrogate the nature of identity and truth and the act of storytelling itself: One day we hang our cat, a ginger tom, from the branch of a tree. As he hangs, he stretches and grows enormous. He has spasms and convulsions. When he isn’t moving anymore, we cut him down. He lies sprawled on the grass, motionless, then suddenly gets up and runs off. “Don’t worry, Grandmother, we’ll take care of the mice.” We make traps and down the mice we catch in boiling water.
Top 5 Books
1. Changes: a Love Story (Ama Ata Aidoo) – Aidoo is wickedly funny in this story about a friendship between two Ghanian women who negotiate polyamory, redefine rape, keep ex-husbands on as lovers, and resolve to question everything. It’s a novel of manners that insists on a fluid, continually changing relation to its protagonists’ decisions and I was floored by the elasticity – and deep kindness – of its logic.
2. Tokyo Cancelled (Rana Dasgupta) – A group of travelers trapped in an airport swap stories about their lives, building a smooth new global fabulism that raises more weird questions than it answers. I read this 2005 book of stories in January, and in March, and then again in October.
3. Little Dorrit (Charles Dickens) – A cast of weirdos play out their conflicts within the confines of a debtors prison in this darkly comic serial. Dickens father was a Marshalsea prisoner, and his bitterly too-close-to-home exploration of poverty and batshit nonsense felt especially apt alongside the Rolling Jubilee.
4. How Should a Person Be? (Sheila Heti) – Heti picks up the dour and wounded humor of know-it-alls like Alice Munro and Mary McCarthy, keeping the tone flat and a little hateful, a watertight characterization that left her open to the kinds of misunderstanding young writers should fear most. This book is sly but completely hysterical.
5. Cyclonopedia: Complicity with Anonymous Materials (Reza Negarestani) AND Balloon Pop Outlaw Black (Patricia Lockwood) – What will follow affect theory? Something has to. Right now the object oriented ontology of Graham Harman and Reza Naghastani is kind of looming, as is the possibility that affect criticism, so story-time fictive in its own slowed use of nuance, might point us right back to novels. I loved Cyclonpedia’s action storyline, pivoting on our fear of dependence, of being out of our depth, and this very same tendency to take recourse in the pleasures of abstraction. And I was moved by Patricia Lockwood’s poems, which play some of the very same ideas sweetly, for laughs.
10. (Album) Grimes: Visions – Grimes’s stylings aren’t for everyone. Even now, her Visions is no longer on my hard drive. But most days in March of 2012, Grimes’ hypno-bounce lullabies were all I cared to listen to.
9. (TV) Mad Men: Season 5, Episode 13 “The Phantom” – There are many great moments Mad Men Season 5’s twelve episodes. This season finale is one such moment in its entirety.
8. (Movie) Seeking a Friend for the End of the World: It’s a doom rom-com without too much rom or com. A film for those of us who had high hopes for doomsday in 2012.
7. (Book) Ray Bradbury: “There Will Come Soft Rains” – I consider Ray Bradbury the primal source of my interest in literature. After his passing this year, I remembered and reread his short story “There Will Come Soft Rains,” which has haunted my memory since I first read it nearly a decade ago. The version that lives in my head is perfect, but Bradbury’s rendition comes close.
6. (Album) Kendrick Lamar: good kid, m.A.A.d city – Kudos to K-Dot for a debut album which has landed comfortably in most year end lists. Kudos to K-Dot’s producers for the inventive beats, for the Beach House and Twin Sister samples, and for a song that actually made Drake bearable, if not surprisingly enjoyable.
5. (Movie) Paul Thomas Anderson: the Master – Too many reasons why this made my list. For the sake of time, I’ll invoke the simplest one: “Pigfuck!”
4. (Book) T.S. Eliot: “the Hollow Men” – “The Waste Land” has had a more enduring influence on me. But considering it this year, “the Hollow Men” that has left an impression – delayed but powerful.
3. (Book) Rainer Maria Rilke: the Selected Poetry – I passed up a copy of Martin Heidegger’s Being and Time in a second-hand San Francisco bookstore for this English/German volume of Rilke’s poetry. We’ll see in fifty years if I made the right choice.
2. (Book) Sam Lipsyte: “This Appointment Occurs in the Past,” the Paris Review 201 – Someone once told me Lipsyte’s plots were lame compared to his prose, and I’m inclined to agree here. At the same time, I’ve never been too concerned with plot. Characters are my main draw, and Lipsyte has damn fine characters.
1. (Book) James Joyce: Ulysses – Those blasted Modernists drew me in their trap in 2012. With any luck, 2013 will be the year of the Postmodern for me.
Top 5 Albums
1. Fred Frith/Massacre: Killing Time (1981) – Fred Frith has been featured on over 500 albums, usually as a guitarist, and I have become obsessed with some of these releases. Especially excellent are Frith’s Speechless, the Residents’ Commerical Album, Henry Cow’s Leg End, Golden Palminos’ Golden Palaminos, and the number one most played and favorite this year: Massacre’s Killing Time (1981).
2. Zamla Mamma Mammas: För äldre nybegynnare / Schlagerns mystik (1978) – Swedish goofballs/incredible musicians; a double album of live “prog-rock/rock in opposition” improv and skewed Swedish folk songs backed by car crashes, clockmakers, cartoon vocals, falsetto screaming, foreign jokes, and circus percussion. There’s a range of sound here different from most of their other albums but still really awesome.
3. Various Artists: Club Foot (1980) – This compilation of San Francisco club scene features greats like the Club Foot Orchestra, the Longshoremen, and Bay of Pigs. Phony-beatnik cellar jazz clipping through spy movie horns, oozing organs, and the clanking of cups and spoons; the precursor to my favorite music scene, eighties/nineties experimental music made by brilliant weirdos in the Bay area: Caroliner, Thinking Fellers Union Local 282, Negativland, and others.
4. Snakefinger: Greener Postures (1980) – Snakefinger is a former guitarist for the Residents. He turned out several personal projects and Greener Postures is the best – a weirdly catchy series of dancehall hits strung out through wrong-sounding beesting guitar. “The Man in the Dark Sedan” is sickeningly addictive.
5. Koudede: Guitars from Agadez, Vol. 5 (2011) – Koudede was a player in the amazing Tuareg guitar scene. There are just two songs on this 7″, “Golf” and “Tassakkne Tara,” but they blister ecstatically and cannot be stopped. R.I.P. Koudede.
Top 5 Movies
1. Joe (John G. Avildsen)  – An “esteemed businessman” (Dennis Patrick) kills the druggie boyfriend of his daughter, admits it to a hate-spewing hyper-conservative loudmouth at a bar (Peter Boyle), wins his approval and respect, and then becomes friends in a relationship that is based in hateful camaraderie and the fear of being caught. An odd one and if interested, you should listen to this interview for background on the bizarro screenwriter, Norman Wexler.
2. The Comedy (Rick Alverson)  – Pretty cutting depiction of insecure and aimless dudes who bury pain in ironic detachment and a series of temporary identities. I don’t think the characters are to be totally hated like some claim; there are pointedly brief moments of vulnerability.
3. American Experience, Episode “LBJ” (David Grubin)  – Lyndon Baines Johnson tries to do all that he can to be liked by every person ever. In one attempt for validation, he goes to war. Fascinating.
4. The Saddest Music In The World (Guy Maddin)  – Hilarious 1930s style Guy Maddin picture about a song-writing contest ran by a legless beer baroness in an effort to find the world’s saddest song so folks will drink more.
5. The Master (Paul Thomas Anderson)  – Joaquin Phoenix breaks a toilet with his foot.
Top 5 Books
1. Natural History of Nonsense (Bergen Evans) – Collection of essays from the 1940s in which popular misconceptions about death, mammals, bathing, are wolf children are sharply dispelled. Just the best.
2. Crying Lot of 49 (Thomas Pynchon) – Conspiracy theories, underground postal rebellions, and elaborate hoaxes from beyond the grave. Fun to read. It will make you paranoid.
3. The Genesee Diary (Henri Nouwen) – Diary entries written by Dutch theologian Henri Nouwen while staying with Trappist monks. Nouwen works with monks, gets depressed, gets sick of himself, seeks wisdom, gets it, finds transcendence in living slow and quiet, feels enlightened, then leaves and feels as if he has reverted to pre-monastery life upon returning home except now he accepts himself more and has a physical product of his stay, this still profound collection of musings from seven months spent with a bunch of quiet holy men in upstate New York.
4. The Body Artist (Don Delillo) – Woman’s husband dies, creepy drifter shows up in her house. He responds unpredictably to speech and shows little sign of understanding any forms of communication. A relationship evolves, the widow attempts to adapt, and her ability to operate as a “normal” human being disintegrates from the foundation up.
5. Varamo (Cesar Aira) – Two counterfeit bills begin the chain of events that lead Varamo to create his first and last published work, a renowned epic poem. It rules
Top 10 Songs
1. Fiona Apple: “Every Single Night” – Every single night’s a fight with my brain.
2. Lady Gaga: “Telephone” – Sometimes I feel like I live in grand central station.
3. Sleigh Bells: “Riot Rhythm” – We’re going to fight the lightning.
4. Tennis: “Origin” – Have you confused your powers with mine?
5. St. Vincent: “Year of the Tiger” – When I was young, coach called me the Tiger.
6. God Help the Girl: “Act of the Apostle” – A genius at maths and signs, I’m up for a prize.
7. Beirut: “East Harlem” – She’s waiting for the night to fall.
8. Umbrella Tree: “His Majesty Grows Suspicious” – I can’t have them worshiping something made of gold like I’m inessential.
9. The Magnetic Fields: “Andrew in Drag” – I’d sign away my trust fund, I would even sell the jag.
10. TV On the Radio: “DLZ” – This is beginning to feel like it’s curling up slowly and finding a throat to choke.
Top 5 Movies
1. Melancholia (Lars Von Trier)  – You’d better be goddamn happy.
2. The Master (Paul Thomas Anderson)  – This is something you do for a billion years or not at all.
3. Marina Abramovic: the Artist is Present (Matthew Akers)  – This is about limits.
4. Moonrise Kingdom (Wes Anderson)  – It’s true. I do go berserk.
5. Marie Antoinette (Sofia Coppola)  – Oh, you were not what was desired, but that makes you no less dear to me.
Top 5 Shows
1. Daria – Reap – reap? Reap reap!
2. Girls – I’m making your fantasies come true, why are you laughing?
3. Parks & Recreation – I’m Janet Snakehole, a rich widow with a terrible secret.
4. Breaking Bad – You’re killing me with that booty.
5. Black Butler – I don’t need to explain my actions.
Top 15 Books
1. Darling Beastlettes (Gina Abelkop, Apostrophe Books) – Like getting my hair pulled slowly by the voice of my dreams.
2. My Life is a Movie (Carina Finn, Birds of Lace) – A rouge-heavy, eyeshadowed-to-death howl of pain. A bouquet of roses made of pealed skin.
3. SPLIT (Liz Latty, Unthinkable Creatures) – Go missing with it.
4. Domestication Handbook (Kristen Stone, Rogue Factorial) – “I wake in corn country to hundreds of millions of potential consumers. I wake next to the neighbor’s soybeans, to a booming middle class.” My favorite.
5. TWINS (Megan Milks, Birds of Lace) – You are the wound!
6. Heroines (Kate Zambreno, Semiotext[e]) – The potentially eviscerating position of placing oneself in a tradition so wounded.
7. Kept Women (Kate Durbin, Insert Blanc) – On filling empty spaces.
8. Ayiti (Roxane Gay, Artistically Declined) – Throat-emptying, soul-vacating, shimmering beauty and fury.
9. Glamorous Freak (Roxanne Carter, Jaded Ibis) – A masterpiece of the gasp and the sidelong glance.
10. Another Governess/the Least Blacksmith (Joanna Ruocco, FC2) – Joanna Ruocco is a genius.
11. Pretty Tilt (Carrie Murphy, Keyhole) – I want to wear your doberman’s head.
12. Asylum Piece (Anna Kavan, Peter Owen) – Real human horror.
13. The Group (Mary McCarthy, Mariner) – Early 20th century career girl adventures are my chief vice.
14. A Queer and Pleasant Danger (Kate Bornstein, Beacon) – In praise of messy lives.
15. The Marbled Swarm (Dennis Cooper, Harper Perennial) – I want to cry. I cannot talk.