The Top Things of 2011

Looking through Pitchfork’s top everything of 2011 is usually filled with many artists, songs, and people I have never heard of and thus is not as enjoyable as other web sites end-of-the-year specials. This year however, I looked through their Guest List best of the year and discovered that quite a few artists had made a top things list (as well as many other strange and sometimes brilliant commemorations of the year). This inspired me to make my own top things of the year list, not only because it sounds fun, but also allows me to reflect on this past year (which is often longer than you’d think).

This list is filled with more shallow reflections of things I experienced rather than true life changing moments. For example, I got married this year, which is high and above anything else that happened to me, but it will not be on this list because ranking those moments in your life is like choosing which sibling you like best (no comment on that one).

In no particular order the top things of 2011:

Saturday Night Live’s “Someone Like You” skit:

One of my favorite songs of the year being parodied in a way that totally captures the zeitgeist and my personal feelings about it, count me in.

The Last Day of Major League Baseball:

I had casually been checking the scores of the Rays/Yankees, Red Sox/Orioles, and Braves/Phillies games all day to see what the MLB playoff situation would turn out like and to cheer on the Rays in their epic surge toward the playoffs. Most of the day it looked like it might be a no go for both teams trying to come back (the Rays and the Cardinals), the Rays were down 7-0 in the 8th, the Red Sox lead the Orioles 3-2 in the 9th, and the Braves were within 1 run of tying the Phillies. That’s when things went crazy… The Rays mounted a comeback in the 8th and 9th eventually tying the game and sending it into extra innings (7 runs in 2 innings with their life on the line!). Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon blew a save and the Orioles won it in the bottom of the 9th. The Braves would end up losing, finalizing the Cardinals unlikely comeback (that would lead to their eventual World Series win). In the 12th inning the Rays wrapped up a victory just minutes after the Sox had blown theirs. It was a frantic, exciting, and wonderful way to end the season and honestly something I don’t think I will ever witness again in my lifetime.

The Muppets

This trailer lead the way for what would become a discovery of just how awesome the Muppets are:

After seeing this and watching the original film, I became obsessed with all things Muppets. I still blast various Muppet soundtracks at least once a week.

In December drinking horchata…

I made it a goal of mine to live out the lyrics to the Vampire Weekend song “Horchata”, this is the result:

Look to see more songs lived out this year.

Jessica Chastain as the best mother/wife figure ever

For those who have seen The Tree of Life or Take Shelter (or The Help or Coriolanus or The Debt) you will recognize Chastain. This year was her year and she has collected several awards to prove it. My specific focus is the way she owns the loving, understanding, and wise mother/wife figure in the two aforementioned films. Those two performances were two of the most touching performances I saw all year and really ever. Look for her in the future.

John Cochran

Not only was this nerdy Harvard lawyer the star of the latest Survivor season, but he also made the move that was the highlight not only of Survivor: South Pacific but of the past 3 seasons. On the outside of his tribe, Cochran barely survived until the merge, where his tribe tried to use him as a mole to get knowledge from their competitors. Knowing that the vote would be split 6-6, each tribe looked for a weak point in the other. Cochran tried his best to work as a spy, but Coach, Sophie and company saw right through him leading to one of the best scenes in Survivor history with Coach calling out detail by detail Cochran’s plan, then appealing to his emotional side in order to get him to flip. It was absolutely brilliant on Coach’s part and lead to the biggest blindside since Tyson in Heroes vs. Villains all ending with Jim calling Cochran a “coward” and Brandon putting his arm around him like a bodyguard would in order to protect him from his tribe’s wrath. Survivor at its finest.

The end of FNL

What is probably my favorite show of all time came to end this year and while this is not a good thing in any way, the way that they ended it was absolutely beautiful and perfect. I won’t say much other than go and watch it (all 5 seasons are on Netflix Instant), it is worth your time.

Tacos in Mexico

This year I can say I definitely became a bit of a food geek. I’ve always loved to eat food, but this year really saw the culmination of that as I began to try to make certain things and even researched what is known to be the best food in the world. One food highlight of this year is when I was in Mexico with my church. One of the pastors cooked us tacos at the taco stand he owned. He had meat grilling kebab style wrapped around a pineapple. At one point he cut off some pineapple and grilled the meat in the pineapple juices. This lead to what just might be the best taco I’ve ever eaten. Delicious.

Fantasy Football

I had never played fantasy football until this year and I totally fell in love with it. I researched who I should “sell high and buy low”, who was supposed to play well against who, and listened to podcasts on the subject. While I finished at .500, I would say that I did fairly decent for my first time. I am a shoo in for years to come, and come Spring, look out fantasy baseball!

Chris Pratt

Chris Pratt played in two things that I watched this year. The first is a television show where he plays the dumb, loud, and innocent Andy Dweyer (Parks and Recreation). Usually dumb, loud, and innocent is not my forte (I’m looking at you Jack Black or Adam Sandler), but Pratt makes it work so well, that he and the writers of P&R have created one of my favorite characters ever. He makes me laugh the most out of everyone in a cast that includes some hilarious people. The other is a film where he plays a soft spoken, unsure, washed out baseball player (Moneyball). In Moneyball, he plays Scott Hatteberg a major league catcher whose career is basically over due to injury issues with his arm. He is given a second chance to play again when Billy Beane (played by Brad Pitt) decides he wants him to move to first base. The scene where Beane visits Hatteberg may just be my favorite scene of the film (which is a very fine film). Pratt plays Hatteberg with so much heart, that your insides burst with desire for him to succeed once again at baseball. I look forward to seeing any and everything that Chris Pratt does in the future, and I hope that more people give him the opportunity to act beyond his Andy Dweyer character, because he’s certainly got the talent to do so.

The Toy Story 3D ride at Disney’s California Adventure

This ride really does represent all the potential that 3D has outside of film and television.     It is similar to the Buzz Lightyear ride at Disneyland where you aim at targets with a gun in order to get points, but with this you watch your rockets get flown at a screen in 3D. It is an interactive experience that is worth the 45 minute wait and really is awe inspiring on many different levels. The graphics are great, the 3D is great, the game itself is fun for anyone, and the ride production all work in order to make it one of the best attractions in the park. Check it out next time you’re there.

That wraps up the year end list making! Look for my film awards sometime in February around the Oscars. And have a great year!

The Top 30 Songs of 2011

Not much to say other than these are my top 30 songs of the year. There are 22 different artists. The most songs by 1 artist is 3. Check the playlist out on Spotify: The Best Songs of 2011

30. “Hunter” by Sainthood Reps

29. “Barton Hollow” by The Civil Wars

28. “Never Let Me Go” by Florence and the Machine

27. “When Death Dies” by Gungor

26. “Virtue” by Gideon

25. “White Owl” by Josh Garrels-Not on Spotify, so not included in the playlist. Check it out here. Also check out his fantastic album “Love and War and the Sea in Between” for FREE here

24. “Helplessness Blues” by Fleet Foxes

23. “Lippy Kids” by Elbow

22. “Vice Verses” by Switchfoot

21. “To Whom it May Concern” by The Civil Wars

20. “Royal Blue” by Cold War Kids

19. “Simple Math” by Manchester Orchestra

18. “Lay Down” by O’Brother

17. “Words in the Water” by Thrice

16. “Life’s a Happy Song” by Jason Segel and Walter

15. “Magnets Caught in a Metal Heart” by Thursday

14. “Certain” by Set Your Goals

13. “Towers” by Bon Iver

12. “Bizness” by tUnE-YaRdS

11. “Blinded” by Thrice

The Top 10

10. “Only if For a Night” by Florence and the Machine-Florence’s voice telling this tale of some ghostlike lover/friend that may or may not have died which all might be a dream makes you able to forgive her for telling such a confusing story and even actually care about whatever it is she is talking about.

9. “Deer” by Manchester Orchestra-A stripped down song basically showcasing Andy Hull’s amazing voice while simultaneously questioning God and his marriage. It is heartfelt and wonderful.

8. “Holiday Makers” by Sainthood Reps-The opening riff and vocals are just so slick and catchy and smooth that it’s impossible not to like, well I think so anyway.

7. “Old Balloons” by Admiral Fallow-It starts slow with its piano and picking and builds into a rompin’ blast of a song.

6. “June Hymn” by The Decemberists-As the title shows, this is the Decemberists version of a hymn, an acoustic harmonica riddled ballad about the past.

5. “Four Bulbs” by Admiral Fallow-A definite part of my calm down playlist as it is one of the most soothing songs I heard all year. Definitely has a depressing tone to it, but at the same time feels really reflective and full of meaning.

4. “Someone Like You” by Adele-I love a sad song and Adele absolutely nails the sad song here. The sad piano, the internal argument, the power and emotion in her voice all make it great. Kind of hated that it became such a huge hit, because it made it feel as if she was cheating on me by expressing her sorrows to the rest of the world and not just me. It’s okay Adele, I’ll be here when you record your next break up song. NOTE: Apparently Adele’s whole album has been taken from Spotify, so it is not on the playlist.

3. “A Candle’s Fire” by Beirut-A perfect Beirut song, with horns, acoustic guitar, a gypsy tone, lead by Zach Condon’s booming deep voice. It has a strange similarity to “Have You Ever Seen the Rain” which is an awesome song, so it works.

2. “Perth” by Bon Iver-It’s so small, yet reaches the highest of highs from it’s soft opening to it’s grand musical crescendo with drums and horns. This intro to the album hooked me from its first few moments and lead the way for what is one of the best albums of the year.

1. “Virgin” by Manchester Orchestra-A grand scaled creepy ode to keeping a marriage together that slowly builds toward an epic children’s choir lead all the way by Andy Hull’s passionate quivering voice. Stands alone as the song of the year.