This is my last one of these. Next week, I’ll hand the keys—to this column and to Recess generally—over to our editor-elect Michaela Dwyer. Change is good, and Michaela is good, and she’ll do a good job here. Worry not for the future of Recess. I’ll get one more opportunity to use The Chronicle as my soapbox when senior columns start running, but my run of free form opining with little to no supervision in Recess ends here.
In this space, I’ve made a habit of discussing things I don’t particularly care for—the LDOC lineup, the Grammys, Drake—at the expense of those I do. Among those with the freedom to regularly write about whatever they want, I’m not unique in that habit. But in this context, magnanimity is probably a more appropriate tone than the arch exasperation; no one wants to be remembered for sour grapes. My predecessor as Recess editor, Kevin Lincoln, had this exact idea almost exactly one year ago, and used his last column to dole out awards to his favorite media of his editorship. Short on both time and creativity, I will now recycle this idea. The categories may have changed, but the prize remains (basically) the same: in Kevin’s words, “winners can take comfort in knowing I probably talk about them far too much.”
Best Album, Lily-Livered Indie Division: Hibernation, Youth Lagoon
I have a tough time trying to explain the appeal of this album to people, and often usually end up word-vomiting something about how it’s like, dude, so epic. To wit: you can’t hear the words. Most songs are pretty similar, and none sound all that good. Certainly, Trevor Powers has a composer’s ear—Hibernation is a series of organ-and-reverb peaks and dead-space denouements that manage to seem more dramatic with each cycle. And while it sounds terrible, in a sense, the bedroom-studio recording quality fits with the ongoing Tumblr-ization of pop culture. Hibernation feels almost more like an artifact of a record than a record itself, imbued so fundamentally with the emotions and experiences of its creator that it’s almost too personal to evaluate on content alone. The sum is a document of small-town angst: massive and intimate, ecstatic and melancholy, the sound of a world-sized imagination just out of reach.
(Runners-up: Bon Iver, Bon Iver, Bon Iver; Hello Sadness, Los Campesinos!)
Best Album, hip-hop/rap division: LiveLoveA$AP, A$AP Rocky
Surprise! Not Watch the Throne, although, rest assured, I did love me some Throne. For his part, Rocky has been the most buzzed-about rapper of the last 12 months by a mile, during which time he’s signed an unheard-of $3 million deal with Sony/RCA, graced the cover of Complex magazine and been recruited for studio sessions with Yeezy himself. And to his credit, LiveLoveA$AP is the rare album that justifies the hype. Curren$y is a good comparison, and not just because of the dollar signs that stylize each of their names. Rocky’s not nearly on the same level as Curren$y from a technical standpoint, but he brings a similar confidence: casual, never overbearing, delivering each bar like the punch line to a joke you’re both in on. And, unlike Curren$y—a prodigious talent who puts out more mixtapes than anyone this side of Lil B, with some detriment to quality—Rocky’s got a remarkably discerning ear. LiveLoveA$AP is riddled with positively entrancing beats: the Gregorian chant swag of Clams Casino’s “Palace,” the codeine-paced “Trilla” and the ephemeral, twinkling “Peso” stand out, but production-wise there’s hardly a misstep to be found.
(Runners-up: Habits and Contradictions, Schoolboy Q; the aforementioned Throne; not Drake)
Best Film: Drive, Nicholas Winding Refn
I’m gonna put back on my curmudgeon stocking, just for a second: nine films were nominated for an Oscar this year, and Drive wasn’t one of them. Of those, I saw seven (Hugo and The Help excepted); of those seven, only a few compared to Drive. Winding Refn’s film is so stunningly and comprehensively executed that it doesn’t warrant explaining why it’s more worthy than well-done but ultimately forgettable flicks War Horse and Moneyball. Drive doesn’t compromise or cater: it’s a doggedly stylized homage to the ‘80s with only a bit more dialogue than the Tree of Life. But it’s honest, brutal, and perfectly paced: after an inauspicious opening, it hits top gear before you know it and puts the stoic Ryan Gosling and sinister Albert Brooks on collision course. Throw in the soundtrack, and I can even forgive the lackluster ending.
(Runners-up: Melancholia, Lars von Trier; Rango, Gore Verbinski)
Best TV: Game of Thrones
I don’t bring a whole lot of expert opinion to bear on TV shows, but I know that a) Mad Men has shown exactly three episodes over the course of my editorship, which I’ve arbitrarily decided is not enough to qualify, and b) Game of Thrones is awesome. In Westeros, subtlety takes a back seat: there’s graphic sex and violence in equal parts, more than a couple totally abhorrent characters, and also dragons and zombies. And at the center is Tyrion Lannister, probably the best fantasy-epic character I’ve ever encountered.
That’s all I’ve got. Thanks, a lot, for reading.
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