Sometimes I feel kind of left out of all of those ‘best of the year lists’. Why? Thanks for asking. It’s because I am a total cultural laggard. I catch less than the average amount of new stuff coming out and that is usually because I am engrossed with old stuff.
So I thought I’d share my list of the top things of 2012…that aren’t really from 2012… I hope this list is liberating to those like me who spend their time channeling through the endless wealth of culture from before what John Cusack told us would be the last year ever, 2012.
10. Justin Townes Earle, Harlem River Blues (2010)
Forget about his new 2012 album (it’s good too, but still), Steve Earle’s possibly more talented son put out what may be my favorite Americana album of the last decade in late 2010. The title track, a well-written piece on ending it all in the Harlem River with the soul of a church choir and a jiving refrain, has been stuck in my head for the better part of a month. Get this album, even if you won’t score any ‘relevant’ points. It’s stunning. (read the full post here)
9.Folkways Anthology of American Folk Music (1952)
This six CD (6 record when it was released) anthology of the best and most authentic of America’s musical history is truly one of the greatest things I have ever heard. Harry Smith, the crazy dude who went around and half-legally bootlegged all of this music in the late forties and early fifties, found music from every corner and crevice of this country. With banjo tunes written by coal miners, and entire CD of church music and original Carter Family recordings, this anthology is somewhere easy to get lost in for 6 to 8 months, as I did. Get this…it’s on Spotify.
8.Miles Davis (1950’s-70’s)
I have been listening to Jazz semi-frequently since high school. And not to sound too snotty, but I usually stayed away from anything mellow. I just assumed that Miles Davis was just boring. I am used to listening to Charlie Parker, Mingus, Dizzie Gillespie and Thelonious Monk, you know, stuff that puts hair on your chest and might damage your brain. But when I popped in Kind of Blue this summer on a road trip up to Vermont, I knew I had found something special. And I can’t believe I laughed off THE MILES DAVIS for so long.
7. Dynamics of Spiritual Life by Richard Lovelace (1978)
Of everything I read this year, this book was hands-down the most spiritual formative and personally helpful. The book, a historical and theological analysis of spiritual revival within Evangelicalism serves as an excellent base for understanding the work of God throughout church history. The theological connections made between revivalism, justification and sanctification by grace alone and obedience to the prompting of the Holy Spirit are so well stated that it seems almost to be common sense. I plan to be referring back to this 35 year-old book for the next 35 years. (read the full post here)
6. The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William L. Shrier (1960)
This year, I read the longest book that I have ever tackled cover-to-cover, 1243 pages to be exact. Shriers as-close-as-you-can-get-to comprehensive history of Nazi Germany has given me such a richer understanding of modern history and sparked an interest in European history that annoys my wife to death. If you ever get the chance, I highly recommend this masterpiece. (Spoiler Alert: Nazi totally lose)
5.Bonheoffer by Eric Metaxas (2010)
Here’s another book that I had seen floating around for a while and never got around to reading. It got some good press back when it was released and I had wanted to read it for a while, but I wanted to wait until the price dropped a little bit. Earlier this year I got around to reading Eric Metaxas’ biography of the famous German pastor/theologian/Nazi-fighter. And I must say, it was a great read. It was very well written and absolutely engrossing. Metaxas is a winsome and witty storyteller and it is obvious that he did his homework on Bonheoffer. It was actually this book that prompted me to read Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. Despite some (somewhat deserved) criticism that Metaxas made Bonheoffer a little bit too “American Evangelical-y” in the book, it didn’t come off as preachy or pushy. It is a great biography with some extremely helpful historical overviews that I would recommend to anyone. Only problem is that I was the last person in the world to read it…
4.Run Lola Run (1998)
I saw a lot of great films this year and almost all of them were not released in 2012. What a shame to rob them of their continued influence (I mean, really… who will remember The Avengers in ten years?). This German film about a couple in some hot water with a local gangster and twenty minutes to resolve it, to the tune of one million dollars, is one of a kind. It is a wild ride through alternate realities, bizarre characters and a few scenes that make you never want to drive a car again. If you get the chance, see this film (before you see The Master, which is simply depressing)
3. The Hudsucker Proxy (1994)
I am ashamed of this one. It took me until 2012 to see this Coen Brothers masterpiece and I consider myself a Coen Brothers aficionado. But now I can say that I have seen ‘em all (and I can quote most of them in full). And outside of O Brother Where Art Thou and The Big Lebowski, of course, this may be my 3rd favorite. The fast-as-lightning dialogue, literally unpredictable plot and a touch of Bruce Campbell make this one of the most memorable films I watched this year.
2. Burn Notice (2007-2012)
Okay, so this one is still ongoing, but that doesn’t change the fact that my wife and I spent most of the year watching old seasons of what may be cable’s most underrated show. Focusing on a CIA operative who gets blacklisted and stranded in Miami with a ragtag group of pseudo-friends, the writing on this show makes it shine. And although there was a season this year, I was less impressed by it than I was by the older seasons. (read the full post here)
1. Spotify (2010)
Did you know that you can listen to music online FOR FREE? What is our world coming to? I thought I could hold out and still buy all of the music I listen to in CD form…but alas, Spotify caught me up this year. And I am still not 100% convinced that it is legal