Last year for my obligatory year-end “best of” post, I wrote about the best songs of 2013. It had been a pretty damn good year for music, so it seemed like a natural choice to focus on that. In 2014… well, I was a bit underwhelmed by most of the music that came out. Not all of it, mind you, but there just wasn’t as much great music as the year before. So to mix it up for the new year, I’m branching out a bit and writing about all of my favorite things of 2014.
Best Album: Run the Jewels 2
While 2014 was kind of a disappointing year for music, there was one album in particular that kicked my ass. Run the Jewels 2 is everything I want out of rap music: it’s smart, fierce, and it puts my speakers in serious danger of getting blown out. The timing for its release couldn’t have been better. It came out right around the time people were starting to get awfully pissed off about cops killing unarmed black men, and RTJ2 is full of righteous anger at a system that would let that kind of thing happen.
Runner-up: The Hotelier – Home, Like No Place Is There
Guitar rock made a bit of a comeback in 2014. New albums from Dads, Against Me!, Modern Baseball, and La Dispute all scratched an itch that had been driving me crazy for the last few years. The Hotelier made a particularly strong debut with Home, Like No Place Is There, which is a throwback to the best elements of bands like Brand New and Taking Back Sunday. It may not cover a lot of new ground, but it’s definitely my favorite feel bad album of the year.
Best Movie: Obvious Child
Who would have thought that my favorite movie of 2014 would be a romantic comedy about abortion? Well, for those paying attention, the fact that Jenny Slate starred in it was a pretty good indicator. She’s great, and this movie is great, and she’s great in this movie, and just watch it already.
I don’t love everything that Richard Linklater has done, but I like a lot of it, and Boyhood fuses all the elements that work best for him as a filmmaker and adds the pretty neat trick of having actually been filmed over the course of its star’s boyhood. It’s not a movie to watch if you’re looking for tight plotting or narrative focus, but it you want to immerse yourself in some likable characters and casual banter for a few hours then man, get on this.
Best New TV Show: Rick and Morty
Here’s a fact about me: I absolutely loved Futurama, and was pretty bummed when it was canceled for the second and last time. Rick and Morty is basically Futurama if the writers of Futurama drank a lot and were going through a severe existential crisis. The batshit craziness is off the charts, but somehow it’s grounded in characters that you end up caring about. “Rixty Minutes” was the best episode of any show this season, period, going completely off the rails with improvised alternate universe television programming and then somehow bringing it all around for an ending that was kind of sweet in a really warped and deranged way. That Rick and Morty came out of the gate with such a strong first season bodes well for the seasons to come.
Andy Daly is straight-up one of the funniest people alive today, and thank goodness he finally has a television show of his own to showcase his talents. Like Rick and Morty, Review came out firing on all cylinders and had a near-unimpeachable first season. The episode “Pancakes, Divorce, Pancakes” is one of the most devastatingly hilarious and hilariously devastating things you could have found on TV all year.
Best Comedy Album: Dan Mintz – The Stranger
Like music albums, comedy albums left me a little underwhelmed in 2014 compared to the year before. There were still a few stand-outs, though, most notable among them being Dan Mintz’s The Stranger. In addition to being the voice of Tina on Bob’s Burgers, Dan Mintz is one of the best pure joke writers working in stand-up comedy right now. He’s not a prolific stand-up comic, and in fact much of the material in this album can be found in his previous half-hour special for Comedy Central that came out years ago. Chalk that up to a busy television career, I guess. Still, the jokes on here are so strong and concisely written that it’s basically a master class in economy of words and well worth the listen.
Runner-up: Chris Gethard – My Comedy Album
Chris Gethard is a great storyteller. In fact, if you haven’t read his book A Bad Idea I’m About to Do, then I highly recommend it. But also listen to his comedy album, aptly titled My Comedy Album, because it is a pretty hilarious peek into the mind of a guy who definitely has some issues.